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!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Here and Gone

I was happily knitting along on the colorwork section of my mom's Blathin sweater when it happened.  I made it through two rows of flowers and two decrease rows when I decided to turn it right side out (I was knitting it inside out to stretch out the floats so they wouldn't get too tight) to measure it and try it on.  Well, it was flippin' huge!  HUGE!  The colorwork was lovely - not too tight or too loose, just plain old too big.  In all honesty I was devastated.  The thought of taking a picture of all the work I had completed that I would then be ripping out was too much so I have nothing to show you.  I frogged it all, wound the yarn back into balls and put it all away in my knitting basket to sit.  I know it seems a bit dramatic of me, it can be knit again and there is no real harm except loss of time, but it felt like a huge setback that shouldn't have happened.  Having taking all these precautions so that the colorwork would come out right gave me a false sense of security, but I guess I've changed enough in the two years since the first time I knit this sweater that they were unnecessary to begin with.  That and my gauge lied to me. 

The sweater will stay in time out until we get back from our little trip to WI.  When we return I am going to start over using the same US size 8 needles I used to knit the body.  Then after the first decrease row I am going to go down a needle size to US 7's.  If the neck still seems too wide after the 2nd decrease I am going to fit in another decrease row after the last section of flowers like I've read from other Raveler's project notes.  Hopefully, all this will work out in creating a fabulous fitting sweater.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, I thought I could use some more stranded colorwork practice and am now back knitting on my Oluffa Doorstop.  The pattern is part of a great collection in the book Northern Knits Gifts by Lucinda Guy.  I'm using yarn leftover from my toy making business - a white angora, indigo dyed Lamb's Pride and madder/weld dyed Lamb's Pride for the orange accents.  It will be a pillow instead of a doorstop as we have no need for a doorstop, or a pillow for that matter, but I simply love the pattern so it must be knit.  Since my yarn is worsted weight I went up to US size 6 needles which I thought would give me a nice dense fabric.  So far so good.  They don't mention blocking it, but I think I will do so before I stuff it to help the colorwork relax and the yarn bloom.  This will be my car knitting for our trip.  It's small enough to stay neatly in my lap, interesting but not too hard and there's a good chance I'll finish knitting it by the time we return.  Honestly, I've spent more time trying to figure out what knitting to take with me on this trip then planning or packing for it.

I hope all your knitting projects are coming along swimmingly as they say and I'll see you all next week!

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

Sunday, September 6, 2015

All Together Now

Ping pong comes to mind when I think about how my knitting went this week.  First, I knit on my poncho, then my turtleneck sweater, then a random scarf, then thoughts about starting up some socks and last knitting my mom's sweater.  By finally focusing on a project I managed to make some visible progress.  My mom's Blaithin now has both sleeves attached to the body and lays waiting for the colorwork yoke section to commence.  Whew!  The plain stockinette section is complete at last.  I'm excited to start on the colorwork and use a few tips I have learned since knitting my mom's last Blaithin sweater whose stranded knitting was rather tight.  The tips I'm gong to try are as follows:  knit the piece inside out, go up a needle size and stretch out the stitches in between changing colors.  Now that I know what to look for I think I can catch early if I'm getting the right tension in the strands and make adjustments accordingly (at least I hope so.)  Do any of you more experienced with stranded knitting have any other advice?  Above you can see the colors I will be using:  apple green for the flower stems, bright teal and the main body color for the flower petals and dark navy for the background. 

This was also a week with a few new purchases.  Seems funny to buy things before going to a Wool Festival, but each of the above items was love at first sight, which doesn't happen that often for me.  The sock yarn is a rich mix of navy blues from Leading Man Fiber Arts called Dames at Sea.  This will be the first skein of immensely practical sock yarn that I've ever bought.  Usually, I get sucked in by fabulous color combinations that don't exactly combine with my wardrobe.  Next, are some stitch markers made by Lantern Moon (who also made the flower stitch markers seen in the first photo) of little crocheted squirrels and acorns.  I like soft stitch markers for my main beginning of row marker and these were too cute to pass up.  Last, is my favorite of the three.  A Star Trek large wedge project bag.  It has the original Enterprise on one side and the Next Generation Enterprise on the other.  I've been a Star Trek fan since I was four watching the original show with my Dad and older brother.  We even had dolls of all the main characters and the Enterprise Bridge to reenact the show as well as acting out our own stories.  So, I completely flipped when I saw this on Stitched by Jeesalu's website and had to get it. 

That about wraps up this week's Year of Projects Update.  With both my turtleneck sweater and my mom's Blaithin on the list I'm feeling pretty good about myself even if I did start out rather scattered brained.  Check out the other YOP contributors by clicking here.  Have a awesome week everyone! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Thing About Turtlenecks

It drives my husband nuts that I have a thing for turtlenecks.  Make that a deep resounding love of turtlenecks.  Cowls are a close second, as they almost do the same job, but turtlenecks oh they snuggle my neck, take away some of my chin and keep me pleasantly warm.  My husband though, likes to sneak up behind me while I'm busy in the kitchen to give me a ticklish kiss on the neck (which always makes me jump and give a little shriek), but with turtlenecks he's instantly thwarted.  Ha! So, now that you know how much I adore turtlenecks it won't be a big surprise that I am currently working on two turtleneck knitting projects.

The first is the lovely Hugo turtleneck poncho I talked about last time.  He has since been put in time out for the moment.  His issue, because of course it couldn't be my fault, is that the purl, ktbl, ktbl, purl detail I used to replace the cable pattern is looking rather wonky.  The increases occur on either side of this "seam" and as you can clearly see the one side is nice and tight and the other is all gaping.  I knew this for some time, but kept on knitting thinking it would go away if I knit fast enough, but alas it's here to stay.  Since it really irks me I will indeed be frogging back to the collar section to begin again, probably to use the original cable patterning.   With there being quite a bit knitting to frog back I need to steel myself to do it hence, the time out he's taking in his project bag.

Because this girl can't go without knitting for more than a few minutes I grabbed the nearest project and volia! another turtleneck found it's way into my hands.  This is Thea Coleman's White Russian pattern which I last knit and blogged about this past June.  I have only progressed about 3 pattern repeats since last time, but I'm only 5 more repeats away from separating the sleeves from the body.  That will be an exciting moment dropping those extra 160 stitches.  It should make the body rounds feel like they just fly by right?  Since this project and I are getting along well I think it will become my project for our upcoming road trip to Madison, WI.  Five wonderful hours of car knitting there and then another five coming home - yay!  We're going to the WI Sheep and Wool Festival which is about a 1/2 hour to the east of Madison.  My husband and I both went to UW Madison for college so it will be fun to show our old haunts to our son.  I'm taking an all day class on natural dyeing at the Fairgrounds while the boys go exploring in Madison.  Then we will spend the next day at the Festival and round it off with a night in a hotel in town (we're camping for the first 2 nights.)  Leaving us a final day with all three of us together in Mad town.  I hoping it's lots of fun for everyone and not just this the fiber enthusiast.

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