Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Finishes and Frogging

I had a swarm of finished objects here at the end of December.  Most were gifts for Christmas and one was a just languishing project. The gift knitting was not coming along as I wanted it too, but I did rally managing to put aside my Fair Isle Vest for the time being.  First up were the two scarfs for my friend Anna's friends, who have now become my friends (don't you love it when that happens?)  The one was a lattice design using a thick aran weight yarn, the other was simply textured in a luxurious angora/silk yarn.  When I finished those two knits I quickly wrapped them posting them just in time for Christmas.  Phew!  Then comes my biggest accomplishment - I finished my mothers' cardigan sweater.  Wow, I just love how it came out.  The best part is the colorwork was much looser this time around (I knit this same sweater for her 2 years ago and my stranded knitting came out pretty tight) so it was a breeze to block into shape.  The collar lays down much better too on this version, as I made a few discrete decreases in the last couple rows.  It is a touch big on her, but she really loves it and that's the main point.  

After that project I whizzed through making some felted slippers for my son.  He asked for them way back in September so I'm a bit late getting to them, but now they are done.  They are Minecraft themed after a famous Youtuber iBallisticsquid who my son watches.  His Minecraft character is a squid and this is what the face looks like.  You see my son already has the same size feet as I do (US sized 8 1/2 Women's) at the mere age of 9 so the "fun" slippers for children don't fit him anymore.  And being only nine he of course wants fun slippers. Thankfully they were a hit.

My last completed object is a pillow of a chicken for myself.  It's the Oluffa doorstop by Lucinda Guy.  I have no use for a doorstop, or a pillow either for that matter, but I adored this pattern the moment I saw it.  It was my Christmas Day knitting and I finished her in just a few days.  We're still thinking up a name for her - any ideas?  The only tricky thing is there are some very long floats, but I did a bit of duplicate stitch in some areas to get around that.  All in all it's a very fun knit with embroidery added and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  

I was hoping to finish my White Russian sweater by Thea Coleman as it was already about 1/2 done, but sadly I frogged it instead of finishing it.  The sleeves were really, really big and I tried to fix them twice, but decided it is ultimately a flawed design for my body shape and desired fit.  I have a large bust, but average sized arms and with a top down raglan the only way to enlarge the bust is to enlarge the sleeves as well.  After reading more about sweater designs I am going to go back to a bottom up pieced sweater with set in sleeves.  You really have lots more control over sizing when knitting all the pieces separately and seaming afterwards.  Thus I frogged it, re-skeined the yarn and gave the yarn another bath so it will be all smooth and fresh with which to knit another sweater.  This is the sweater I'm planning on with an added turtleneck.  It will be my first Custom Fit Amy Herzog sweater so I thought I'd keep it simple.  

Today I'm swatching for a fresh knit to start in January.  My first choice is a Fair Isle turtleneck sweater for myself and second is this cabled vest for my husband.  I really should do my husband's first as he did not receive a knitted gift this year for Christmas, but oh the colors for the first are fabulous!   What are you working on?  Planning for the new year or just winging it?  I'm loosely planning to knit a mix of new and old projects, taking my time and knitting only things that I really love.  Happy New Year everyone!

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Still Learning

 My mistake fix on the inside of my Fair Isle Vest (second crochet reinforcement and weaving ends still need to be done.  With slippery yarn you can never be too careful right?)

My mistake fix from the outside of my Fair Isle Vest.

I was having one of "those" moments with my son.  We were doing a simple writing exercise to work on his printing and he made a mistake.  I said not to worry there are erasers for such moments and that is why we use pencils.  He was angry at himself, me, the situation.  I got frustrated and angry myself at what I thought was blowing out of proportion a minor slip of the pencil.  He rewrote the lowercase "a" over a dozen times never quite happy with it.  I sat losing my patience until I realized he was having a perfectionist moment.  You know those moments when you can see in your mind what you want to happen and just can't seem to make your body do it the "right" way?  Well, I have had quite a few of those in my time.  In fact, they used to completely immobilize me until I learned that not doing something you wanted was worse than trying.  I needed to help him learn that lesson too.  So after calming myself down and finding my reasonable voice again I told him a story.  I asked him if he could remember a time when I didn't knit.  He said he couldn't.  I said you would think with all that time and practice knitting I would no longer make mistakes right?  He said yes.  And I followed with the following example of a big mistake I just made.  

My Fair Isle Vest that I am knitting is too big in circumference.  I did all the right things.  My substitute yarn weighed the same as the original for the same amount of yardage.  I knit a swatch in the round as I would be knitting the sweater.  I carefully measured over a large area and averaged the stitch count.  I got gauge.  But the gauge my sweater was coming out as was a 1/2 a stitch off.  How much difference can half a stitch make?  Try 5 inches difference.  Yup, too big by a lot.  What to do?  Well, I contemplated the options of 1) frogging it all and starting over.  2) finishing it as is and give it to someone.  3) cutting out the extra inches and seaming to the right size.  I chose option number three.  I went through the cast on stitch amounts for each size dividing by my gauge of 6 stitches to the inch to see which one was closest to my chest size.  I then took the difference between the stitches I cast on and the stitches for the size that would fit at my gauge and marked off the 32 stitches that I needed to remove.  By consulting the charts for this new size I would be knitting I was able to pick where to take these stitches out so the patterning would match up.  I then did a crocheted steek, cut out the extra inches and used a mattress stitch to seam the two sides back together.  On the right side of the vest it is very hard to see the seam, but on the inside it's a bit bulky with the steek salvages on each side of the seam.  So, it's a trade off, but tearing out all that knitting would have been just too difficult emotionally for me, not to mention the fact that I diligently wove in all the ends already.  

So, I closed my story with saying that by making the mistake I learned something new.  I learned how to make a repair in my knitting that I've never done before, and that maybe a "quick" in the round swatch is not the same as a true in the round swatch, at least for me.  That really I needed to slow down even more.  I needed to knit the tube swatch or hat , measure gauge, wash it, measure gauge, repeat if adjustments are needed and finally start my project.  I told my son slowing down is ok, there is no deadline and rushing is not necessary.  Mistakes will happen, but what we do with our mistakes is what's important, not the mistake itself.  As always, I don't know what he will take from this little exchange, but hopefully he'll stop worrying about being perfect and simply try.  

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Embracing the Slow Path

The swatch for Mary Jane Mucklestone's Craftsy class on Fair Isle Vests.  It's a new beginning.

I've been thoughtful as of late on the idea of slow fashion.  After viewing the movie The True Cost which chronicles the path of our clothing and how fast fashion (i.e. new clothing styles every month of cheap clothes) is costing others their health, their environment and even their lives.  Before watching I kinda knew some of the issues with cheap clothing, but this movie really brings home it's point.  It wasn't all a downer though.  They showcased some solutions.  People Tree fair trade clothing was one trying to create a new model for how their clothing is created.  I would even purchase from them if they made clothing in a big enough size (a problem I find often with fair trade clothing.)  Well, all this to say I started questioning the speed of my knitting and that perhaps I should slow it down a bit.

As I wrote in this post I went on a retreat this past Autumn to learn faster more efficient knitting techniques.  I just always seem to want to make more then I can in a year.  Sometimes even choosing simpler patterns so I can go faster - the garter stitch shawl is a good example as purling slows a lot of us down.  Social Media seems to push us all to do more, more, more as we share our projects.  It's simply not as fun showing the same knitting project week after week.  But, now I think it's time for a change, at least for me, to pick my knitting patterns with more care and only knit that which I absolutely love, will wear and that fits my life.  And if it's a really difficult time consuming pattern that is fine - I have time, there is no rush.  I'm not naked in winter needing clothing instantly.  I have a closet and chest full.  It begs the question "How many sweaters, cowls, hats etc do I really need?"

After helping a relative clean out her closet I was amazed at her amassed clothing, shoes and coats and couldn't see how she could possibly wear all of it in a year's time.  Even in my own meager wardrobe (our house was built in 1945 so closets are very, very small) there are items I do not get around to wearing in a year.  In the US we are so conditioned that more is better, but I'm wondering if the opposite is true.  I've been working on this a while with my wardrobe, but thought nothing of it when it comes to my knitting.  Out of all the items I've knit I really only wear one sweater constantly all winter, have one cowl that goes with everything, and use only 2 sets of mittens and hats.  I think part of the problem is understanding yourself and what clothing really truly fits you and your lifestyle.  I'm an at home mom who wears jeans all day, and doesn't like tight or fussy clothing, yet I find myself constantly attracted to shawls I never wear or Vintage or dressy sweaters that wouldn't suit our cold Minnesota winters.  

So, what to do?  Well, I think the main thing for me is to simply focus on what I'm knitting now, enjoy the process and bag the idea of a deadline.  I'm always planning ahead and thinking of where I want to get to, in a certain time frame and I think therein lies my problem.  I'm going to try and finish a sweater for my mom and a scarf for a friend for Christmas then back to knitting for enjoyment without a deadline or looking to the next project.  If I can stop judging myself by what I accomplish and complete I think I'm in for some major changes - some really good changes.  

Wishing you all some peace during this busy holiday season.

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When Will it End

Well, November flew by me in a blur of caring for others.  I flew Washington D.C. to be with a friend as she underwent major back surgery and right before I left my mother had a small stroke.  Both are on the road to recovery as they say and are doing well.  During these events I spent a lot of time in hospitals waiting for one thing or another.  And while I think our healthcare system is majorly messed up in this country, all the caregivers, be they nurses, doctors or volunteers, were wonderfully kind of which I am so very grateful.  You would think I got lots of knitting done during all this "waiting", but alas no.  See, when you're with someone who needs distraction themselves your knitting simply takes a back seat.

Like many others this time of year I am working on gifts.  Many, oddly enough, are for friends of my friend who had back surgery.  She herself does not like Christmas, but I told her she could make it her own and start some of her own traditions.  This piqued her interest.  I thought I'd start her off in the role of elf and have her deliver some handmade gifts to her friends who have all been so very kind and welcoming to me.  Nothing big mind you.   Just a few of the above ornaments called Whigmarleerie by Kate Davies and a couple pairs of fingerless mitts.  Two people will get a bigger gift of a scarf each.  Now, at the time I promised these scarves last Spring I might have had a few glasses of wine in me and thought to myself "Sure.  Scarves are easy.  No problem!"  But, what I forgot is that they take forever.  I mean for-ev-er.  True I picked a pattern with a lot of moss stitch which was not the smartest move, but it was simple and handsome.  And "simple" is supposed to mean it's an easy knit right?  Wrong, it just means I'm bored now with 100 yards still to go.  Will it ever end?  Of course when it does I have the other "simple" yet boring to knit scarf that is 2/3's done.  Then there's my mom's sweater, slippers for my son and a vest for my husband.  

I sound like I'm complaining, and I am a wee bit, but I do enjoy the giving of these gifts so much.  Knitting for people who I know will wear, use and thoroughly enjoy what I give them brings me great pleasure.  In my book knitting equals love.  As most all knitters say too this time of year  "I promise myself that next year I'll start earlier, stick with it and get my gifts done early."  Probably won't happen, but dreaming is half the fun I think.  Here's wishing you all a lovely holiday season! 

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

YOP Update - Mittens, Pokemon and Corn

This week has me getting no where fast on my Year Of Projects list, but my knitting inspiration is running at high speeds!  Yup, that's right, nothing has been started, knitted on or finished from my planned year list of knitting projects.  Instead, I am being inspired by Kate Davies Seven Skeins club yet again this week.  My friend's "Baffie" slipper socks are now completely done (blocked too!) and all ready for their trip to Washington DC. 

While they were drying on the blocking mat, I launched right into another of the club's patterns (they are available to everyone come January 1st on Ravelry) called Kokkeluri - a stranded pair of mittens with a flower design on the back and a twill pattern on the palm side.  The flower reminded me so much of sunflowers that I had to knit them in yellow.  Kate's 7 skeins of Buachaille yarn does not include a yellow so I used her natural grey called "Haar" for the background and purchased some Jamieson's Double Knitting in the Scotch Broom colorway for the flower line drawing.  My goal is for the mittens to match my Michele hat that I knit a while back whose matching double knitted mittens are languishing in my WIP basket.  The double knitting was just getting too tedious and boring to knit, but these Kokkeluri mittens - they just beckon you to keep going.  The only sad thing about these lovely mittens is they are a little short for my long fingers.  The pattern talks about blocking them "vigorously"by pulling them down over the tall end of a sock blocker, so I am putting my trust in those directions that in the end the mittens will emerge the right size for me.

Even though I'm getting better at stranded knitting through these projects, it still is a bit tiring for me.  Thus, for something completely different, I started on a project for my son.  He is back into loving Pokemon again and requested some Pokemon mittens.  Here is what I came up with using this hat pattern as a jumping off point.  They are pretty straightforward with changing colored yarn and a bit of duplicate stitching being the only oddities.  The mitten came out a bit long and slim looking, but it fit my son just fine (me too actually.  He's only 9 and our hands are almost the same size! Sigh.)  Now, I just need to make the second one, which I think will be pretty quick, so I can get back to finishing my own mittens.  Although, I do think I may surprise him with a matching hat as I have plenty of yarn left over.  We'll see...

This week I am leaving you with a photo from today of my husband and son who attended the Sever's Annual Corn Maze.  It is a humongous maze cut out of a corn field with a different design each year.  This year it was a firefighting truck.  It was their first time going and boy did they have fun!  Pig races, a large bouncy play area (think bouncy castle without the top and make it the size of a baseball field), zip lines, giant slide, petting zoo, you name it. They also have a corn pit you can dig, play or in my son's case bury yourself in.  Yup, my guess is this is on the Fall "to do" list for next year.

If you want to visit the other Year of Projects, or YOP for short, participants you can head on over to Ravelry and find them here.  Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dark Days = More Knitting Time!

The days are getting darker here and with daylight savings time beginning this weekend it'll be dark by 5:30 pm each night.  In December it is dark by 4:00 pm.  And while this bums me out a bit, it is the best time for knitting and boy am I back into my knitting!  This week I finished the Kate Davies Cochal cowl to match my Baa-ble hat and mittens.  I modified the length to only 10 inches high (was supposed to be 15), to keep it from covering up my whole face.  It's circumference is only 21 inches so it is a snug cowl.  There is one blue contrast row of honeycomb cells where I used that scant 3 grams of Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran yarn I had leftover from the Baa-ble mittens to help tie it in to the other pieces.  Now, I'm all set for the cold and hopefully some good sledding when we get snow.  

The next knitting project I'm tackling is another pattern by Kate Davies from her Seven Skeins Club called Buachaille Baffies.  Basically, they are what I'd call slipper socks.  They are stranded knit in two colors and while I plan to make another pair in the Buachaille yarn they are designed for, this pair I knit in an angora gray yarn and a black merino wool.  I wanted to make them extra warm (angora is 7 times warmer than wool as it's a hollow core fiber) as they are meant for a very good friend of mine who is going into the hospital for major back surgery.  I thought they'd keep her feet nice and toasty while she's in the hospital and home recovering.  I don't know what it is about hospitals but I always find them to be cold places.  

She lives in Washington DC and I will be flying out to help her during her recovery for about a week.  She's single and very independent, but I convinced her she will need help as they don't completely know what they are going to find that is causing her so much pain.  When I told my son I would be gone for a week and that his dad would be home with him (we homeschool so Dan has to take vacation time to cover for me) he got this huge smile on his face which he then quickly tried to hide and said "That's too bad Anna doesn't feel well.  I hope she feels better soon."  Uh, huh.  What was really going on in that little brain of his is PARTY with DAD!!!!  It will be Mac 'n Cheese, computer gaming and guy fun for a whole week.  I feel no guilt in leaving them.

I will be sad though to miss our story time each day as we are currently reading a great book series called The Blackwell Pages.  The first book was Loki's Wolves and the second, which is the one we are currently half way through, is Odin's Ravens and the last is Thor's Serpent.  They are written by Kelley Armstrong and as you can probably guess by the titles they are based on Norse Mythology.  My son really likes the Norse Myths and of course young kids being descendants from the Gods who have to save the world from Ragnarok - what could be better?  Or, as my son would say "It's so epic Mama!"  They are indeed. I like them too because of the myth history as well as that there are both strong girl and boy characters who need each other to succeed.  Which I feel is true in real life as well.

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

YOP Update - Inspiration Strikes!

In last week's post I was rather down and out and had been for quite a while, but oddly enough soon there after a turn around occurred.  I cast on for yet another project (I think my current WIP count is 14 - yikes!) trying to bring back a spark of excitement to my knitting.  This has been my tactic all month, but this particular time it actually worked! Yes, inspiration has struck!  I started on the ever popular Baa-ble hat pattern which Donna Smith wrote for Shetland Wool Week 2015.  I loved it the moment I saw it, but I didn't really need another hat thus I let the pattern languish in my favorites section on Ravelry.  Then, early this Autumn I realized I had two of the four colors of Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran I needed and on a quick search through Ravelry stashes I found the other two colors.  I purchased them thinking it will be a fun project to start someday, maybe after Christmas. 

Now, I'm not sure why I pulled out this pattern and started, but I am so glad that I did.  It was as if the hat knit itself it went by so fast.  After finishing the hat I really wanted mittens (I love matchy matchy sets of things) and upon weighing out my leftover yarn I thought I'd have enough.  So, I plunged right into to knitting mittens following Donna's chart and making up the general pattern as I went along.  The coolest thing happened - I had just, and I mean just enough yarn to finish with a scant 3 grams of blue Highland Mist leftover.  I simply love it when that happens!

I now have this lovely new hat and mitten set and all that is lacking is a scarf or cowl.  Well, I was pulling out the yarn I purchased from Kate Davies Seven Skeins Club (another attempt at bringing on some inspiration as the yarn come with 7 corresponding patterns) and what do you know?  The green and cream skeins match the green and cream colored yarn used in my hat and mittens.   Can we say new project?  Yes, we can!  I started Kate Davies Cochal honeycombed cowl pattern yesterday and am hoping to finish today.  We'll have to see though, as the house and laundry are in a bit of a state since my knitting has taken over again.  Maybe I'll achieve balance one day ;)

My Year of Projects list is growing instead of getting smaller, but I am just too pleased to be inspired again to mind much.  If you want to see the other YOP participants you can find them here.  Have a great, and hopefully, inspiring week everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

YOP Update - Stages

I've been unsettled this past month with my knitting and blogging.  You may have noticed an absence here as I've let my twice weekly blog schedule slide.  I derail from projects very easily.  Usually all it takes is missing the deadline for a single blog post or setting down a knitting project for another.  But, under the general malaise the cause I believe was the knitting retreat I attended.  It was a wonderful experience to be sure, but while I tweak my knitting style to be more efficient, knitting seems a bit more like work than fun.  Knitting is simply harder right now as I try to lose old habits and gain new ones.  I think that along with having a lot of obligation knitting (2 scarves, 1 sweater, mittens, and a vest.  How did I ever think my gift knitting was almost done?) hanging over my head has really dampened my knitting mojo if you will.  

I managed to push through on a project, steadily work on another (slowly) and of course add yet another project.  The finished project is the hat Tensfield by Martina Behm.  It was knit from some yarn I won in a giveaway and is destined for my friend Amy's charity which provides hats and shawls for those undergoing chemo therapy here in the Twin Cities Area.  The hat is all garter stitch with clever short rows to give it it's form.  Being densely knit made the going slow, but the end result is very pleasing and hopefully very warm.

Next up is a scarf for a friend of a friend which is my slow and steady project.  it has become my morning ritual to sip my tea (Irish Breakfast with cream and maple syrup - sooooo good) while knitting a few rows.  The pattern is His (Birthday) Scarf by Monika Steinbauer and it's putting my new Norwegian purl to the test.  It's going to be tight to get a 60 inch scarf out of my 5 skeins, but hopefully the yarn will relax some in blocking. That is when I finally get to the blocking stage.  Sigh.

On to the new shall we?  Yes, let's!  You may remember the yellow yarn I was knitting a poncho out of - Purl Soho Flax Down?  Well, it shed quite badly which I thought would continue to annoy me in a poncho, but wouldn't be so bad in a cowl.  So, I frogged the Hugo poncho, sold all but one skein of the yarn (the skein from frogging), then paired it with a leftover skein of Tilli Tomas Raw Silk to get the yarn up to a bulky weight and voila we have the beginnings of an Arika Cowl by Jane Richmond.  It's hopefully going to be a quick project being knit with US 10 1/2 needles and only using about 200 yards.  We'll see if I get distracted yet again...

Lastly, I thought I'd leave you with a few pics of my son Sam and the Mighty Mississippi River.  We went on a home school field trip riverboat ride last week on a beautiful, albeit very cold, Autumn day.  We caught the paddle boat at Harriet Island in Saint Paul and took a leisurely 1 1/2 hour trip down to Historic Fort Snelling and back again.  We met some new people, learned a bit about the river as well as river boats and had a good time all around.  

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Picot Sock

Having always knit socks toe-up after my 1st and 2nd pairs ran out of yarn on the second sock toe, I find myself knitting cuff down for the first time in years.  The class "Grok the Sock" taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the reason for this switch.  It was the heel technique she used in class that swayed me as it would fit my instep a lot better then the short row heel socks I've been knitting as of late.  The class also has me back into using DPNs in lieu of 2 circulars mainly due to this technique Stephanie taught for getting rid of ladders.  Seriously simple.  It really is a first, or near first, time for many things with this barely begun pair of socks:  I'm knitting in the picking style (continental some call it),  using a formula and not a pattern, using a picot trim instead of ribbing, DPNs, knitting cuff down, ladder ridding technique, I will be knitting a new to me heel flap and lastly I plan to decrease like you would for a hat for the toes.  All this means I'm progressing at a mighty slow pace.  Well, that and I'm knitting these at 10 stitches/inch (crazy I know, but that's what this yarn looked best at and a denser knit sock will last longer.)

As for books, my son and I are now reading Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong.  It's about the modern day descendants of the Norse gods who happen to be young kids (middle school aged) and how they must band together to prevent Ragnarok - the end of the world.  My son really loves Norse Mythology having read D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths last year as well as some graphic novels on Thor.  The book is very action oriented with a fair amount of fight scenes, but still brings up the Norse myths, their characters and meanings. 

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

YOP Update - Back and Forth


Hi everyone.  Well, it's been another week of bopping around like a ping pong ball from project to project.  Recently, I won a skein of yarn from the Great Outdoors KAL hosted by Knitting Butterflies and it arrived in the post this week.  It's very lovely and dyed by a fellow Minnesotan, but not quite my colors so I decided to knit it into a hat to donate for my friend Amy's Charity Group.  The yarn is a soft and squishy superwash merino so very well suited to a Chemo hat.  I choose a Martina Behm hat pattern that I've knit before that's garter stitch based to help me practice my new picking technique.

Speaking of new techniques, I also learned a trick at my retreat to do away with the ladders I get when I knit socks with double pointed needles.  You simply wrap or pick the yarn up having it cross over your needle in the opposite direction.  Normally I pick the yarn up from below to cross over ontop the needle.  So instead, on that first stitch of each needle I pick up the yarn from above to cross over going downwards.  This helps because it makes a shorter length of yarn in the stitch.  Does that make sense?  It also puts that first stitch on the needle twisted so you need to knit that stitch through the back loop to correct it's position.  As you can see I am only slightly into this sock so I can't say for certain how its working yet, but I'm excited to hopefully solve this long standing problem of mine.  

But, since socks are not on my year of projects list I felt I should get back to one of those projects and picked up the Dudester Scarf again.  This knitting project is the bane of my existence.  The pattern is super duper simple and yet I find myself making mistakes and having to perpetually tink back and re-knit.  I'm not sure what the hang up is but after an hour or so of frustration I decided to cast on for another project.  You see I have yet another scarf to knit for Christmas for yet another of my friend Anna's friends (as an aside don't ever make knitting commitments to others while under the influence of alcohol.  You feel good and magnanimous and forget that scarves aren't like cowls and take forever to knit.)  I was going to knit this pattern, but in the essence of time I chose this simpler one instead.  I'm knitting it with Zealana's Kauri worsted weight yarn and I really like the look; the possum hair makes a beautiful halo.  But, after purchasing this yarn it dawned on me that they kill the possums to get their hair and even though they are an incredible pest problem in New Zealand it does bother me so as I probably will not buy this yarn again. 

That's my knitting progress for this week.  I'm hoping the next one will have more focus and maybe a completed object - ah time will tell.  If you want to check out the other Year of Project participants you can find them here.  I'll leave you this week with a photo of my son and husband at the MN Renaissance Festival.  We're waiting for the jousting to begin and Sam is showing off his purchase of a dragon that can wrap around your neck or wrist to keep you company.  It was a wonderful day.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Retreat.  I took a couple.  A retreat from blogging for a week and I attended a knitting retreat as well.  The blogging retreat was out of frustration with lack of progress and general trouble I'm having with my current knitting projects.  Not voicing them out loud I hoped would make them go away, but alas they are still here.  So, not a fun retreat; more of the duck and cover kind.  Now, the knitting retreat, well, that on the other hand was absolutely, positively FABULOUS!  It was with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee the Yarn Harlot herself and wow, I learned more in those couple of days than I've learned in the past 7 years of knitting.  Really.  The woman is a positive font of knitting knowledge.  Her classes were Knit Smart, Knitting for Speed and Efficiency and Grok the Sock.  If you ever get the chance to take one I highly recommend it.  They will rock your knitting world.

The first night was the lecture style class entitled Knit Smart.  Stephanie gave us the general history of knitting and clued us in to all sorts of tips and tricks.  By far my favorite is the tip that you only have breasts on the front of your body.  Sounds silly, but she says you should measure your front chest from the middle of your side, across your breasts, to the middle of your other side then double that number.  This is the size you should knit for the "front" of your sweater.  Then do the same measurement across your back and double it.  This is the size you should knit for the "back" of your sweater.  Knit either the front or back sized sleeves - whichever is more accurate for your measurements.  Seriously this tip bowled me over.  So very simple and logical, but yet I've never heard it or read it anywhere before.

The whole next day was dedicated to her class titled Knitting for Speed and Efficiency.  We learned the 3 basic styles of knitting:  picking, throwing, and lever knitting.  You may have read in this post that I knit kinda strange.  Well, I found out I'm really a picker who is making it harder than it should be and my purl stitch is just wicked crazy.  Now, I'm picking without all the extra movements, albeit very slowly, and have learned the Norwegian Purl stitch.  I feel like a new knitter!  The lever knitting was by far the trickiest to learn, but is also considered the fastest knitting style.  It originates in the Shetland Isles.  Basically, you keep one long needle stationary either with a knitting belt or part of your body (like your armpit) and then you work the second needle with your left hand while carrying your yarn in your right hand.  I'm very, very slow currently, but I am quite enamored with it.  So much so that I ordered a belt and 40 cm long dpns from Scotland (you can't find them is the US, or at least I couldn't) to really dive into this technique.  

The last class Grok the Sock took place Sunday morning   It was a class on everything you need to know about the construction of knitting a sock without a pattern.  We made wee little socks (that were supposed to fit a baby although, as you can see mine came out much too small for that at a gauge of 10 stitches/inch!) to solidify the concepts as we knit them.  I have been a toe-up advocate, but after learning more about heel construction I might start knitting cuff-down again.  

Well folks that's it.  This was supposed to be a Year of Projects update, but since I have no noticeable progress on any of my many knitting projects to show you I updated you on my learning instead. I'm even thinking of starting over on a few projects and beginning again using these new techniques learned over the weekend.  Really my brain is still spinning trying to assimilate it all.  If you want to check out the other YOP participants check them out here.  Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Last night we marked our 15th wedding anniversary at my favorite Greek restaurant for a family dinner.  It was a very enjoyable meal with joking around and our "Would you rather be this or that" game.  Pretty mellow on the whole.  When we returned home, I went to my knitting while my husband and son did a little computer gaming.  Then right before bed I said "Oops I almost forgot" rushing downstairs to find my husband's gift - a pair of wool socks for winter.  He opened them and gave me a hug, but I felt a bit of something extra under his shirt.  He reached under his t-shirt to give my the yarn you see above.  He's tricky that husband of mine and oh so fun!  It's a pair of matched self striping sock yarn from Turtlepurl in the colorway called "OM".  Of course, I had to quick wind it into cakes, cast on and knit to see how the stripes would play out.  Really a fun rainbow progression.  The violet and indigo are a bit hard to tell apart, but other than that I just love it.  I am a pretty big rainbow fan growing up in the 1970-80's I had many a rainbow shirt and sweater.  I'm knitting the socks toe up as you can see, in a 3x1 rib and will be using a afterthought heel for these to keep the stripes nice and even.  So,that's all I have for you today.  See ya all next week! 

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lessons, Goodies and Progress

Hello everyone!  Yes, I am in good spirits after a lovely trip to WI for the Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend.  We arrived in Jefferson on cool and breezy Thursday night to set up camp.  I needed to make an early start the next morning for the class I was attending.  It was a class on Natural Dyeing where we dyed skeins of yarn, then saddening those dyes with iron and finally over-dyeing with indigo.  I've taken a natural dyeing class before through Community Education, and done some natural dyeing on my own, but there is always more to learn and I definitely picked up some new knowledge this past weekend.  We used cochineal (bugs), madder (roots), logwood (tree), osage orange (tree) and pomegranate (plant) as our dyes. Each class member dyed 3 skeins in each of the colors, then we kept one skein "as is", re-dyed another in the same pot, but with added iron which "saddens" the color by graying and darkening it.  Then we took our last skein and over-dyed the original color with indigo.  The results I think are quite stunning in shade and variety.  The pomegranate (bottom three skeins) was a bit boring on it's own, but over-dyed with indigo it makes a lovely sage green.  This class really showed me the infinite possibilities available using only alum, cream of tartar, and iron as your mordants.  True, you can get even a wider array using copper, chrome and tin mordants, but these are dangerous to use for the dyer as well as the environment.  I'm really excited to get started on some more dyeing now that I'm home and already have some black walnuts lined up with which to begin.

The other great part about the Festival, besides all their Wonder of Wool classes, is the Marketplace of all things woolly or wool animal related  There was yarn and fiber in every imaginable shade, tools to create with fiber as well as tools for removing fiber, books, dyes, soaps, cheeses, meats, baskets, wool pillows, wool blankets and comforters and the most beautiful hooked wool rugs.  Really the rug hooking work was stunning and I was sorely tempted to give it a go, but resisted as I do not need another hobby.  With all the goodies available you'd think I'd come home with an armload of stuff, but I managed to only purchase a few things.  Soap was actually on my list to purchase thus I was happy when I found Maple Hill Farm's sheep milk soaps.  They only use essential oils which is a must for my husband who is very sensitive to scents and fragrances.  I chose unscented, lavender and peppermint to take home.  While I love handmade soap I hate paying for shipping soap as it's heavy and therefore expensive so buying it in person is my only option.  I'm hoping these three last until the next market I visit.  Since I was so excited to start dyeing I was very excited to find these 2 undyed skeins from Sheepish Creations.  The first is a BFL/Nylon tweed sock yarn which I'm planning to dye with indigo and the second is an incredibly soft (like dipping your hand in a vat of melted butter soft) single ply of a merino/silk blend which will be dyed with black walnuts for a rich brown.  At the end of my visit to the Marketplace I finally braved the beauty of the Fiber Optic booth and chose a Paintbox Gradient in the Copper to Verdigris colorway to take home.  It consists of 15 mini skeins of 30 yards each and will most likely become a shawl. 

With all that was going on while at the Festival and then while visiting Madison I got very little knitting done.  Oddly, I went for a project that I had not been planning on knitting the Dudester Scarf for my friend Anna's friend.  It's a super easy 4 line pattern, but I kept managing to still make mistakes and did quite a bit of tinking back.  It's knit in Kollage Yarns Scrumptious which is 70% angora and 30% silk.  Kinda an odd choice for a man's scarf, but he's Filipino like my husband who is super sensitive to wool,  so I thought a super soft yarn might be a good choice for him too.  We'll see what he thinks come Christmastime.  The scarf is a project on my Year of Projects list so there's a bit of headway there.  No finished objects to share with you, but I'm hoping to get something done by next week.  I won't even try to predict what it will be as I seem to change my mind all too often.  If you want to see the other YOP participants you can check them out here.  That about wraps it up for me.  Have a great week everyone!