Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Irony and "Iron" Will...

***
(... or my lack thereof.)

So it seems that all it takes for me to be swayed into finally agreeing to learn how to spin is for me to blog about how I'm trying to resist it. Not a day after that particular entry, Bess finally wore me down, broke my spirit, and lured me into her web of fiber....

What's truly ironic is that the day I finally succumbed to the siren song of spinning is the same day that's been declared "Learn to Spin" day, according to Clara's 2006 Year in Yarn calendar.

And now that I've cast off the charade of resistance and have consumed the Kool-Aid, I'm really looking forward to my lesson. Bess is coming to town in a couple of weeks and bringing a kit with drop spindle and fiber, and we'll be going to the local botanical garden to sit, knit, spin, chat, eat, and walk the grounds to see what's in bloom. I can hardly wait!

Thanks, Bess!

***

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Knitting Questions & Library Additions....

***
Yesterday morning I went to knit with Bon Air UMC's prayer shawl ministry, and had a nice time, as expected. For my particular shawl, I'm using this yarn, and after many attempts at different-sized needles (8's vs. 10's), different stitch patterns (garter vs. seed stitch vs. basketweave) and different shapes (rectangular vs. this triangular pattern), I've decided that I like this yarn best with garter stitch, on size U.S. 8 needles, and as a rectangle. Anyone who's read this blog knows that I'm more than comfortable with garter stitch rectangles, but I was actually ready to broaden my horizons to something a little more challenging. (You heard it here first!) The yarn thought differently, however, and told me to keep it simple.

Here is how it looks as garter stitch on size 8's:




I have since switched from straights to a short circular, however, as the small gauge required that I cast on a lot of stitches and I'd like to see how the knitting looks when not bunched up.

It is such a wonderfully soft and silky yarn, and although a tiny bit splitty, it makes a lovely fabric. The label that came with the yarn did not give a needle size recommendation, but I'm guessing for a garment one would want to use something smaller, like a 6 or 7, so that it will knit tighter. (I did not try a stockinette stitch gauge swatch, so that's just a guess. The garter stitch is still somewhat open and airy on size 8's.) I don't own any size 6 or 7 needles, however, and also can't bear the though of this taking any longer than it already does to knit. Lots of relatively tiny stitches per row means ones progress only creeps, at best. I don't know how you fancy knitters knit sweaters with small gauge yarns. I think I'd go crazy. But perhaps I'll get faster and better with time and then won't mind tiny gauge so much. (God help me if I start knitting socks anytime soon!)

Anyway, I left the group yesterday with a few unanswered knitting questions, and am hoping someone might be able to enlighten me:

1) One of the reasons why I didn't like this triangular shawl pattern is that I did not like how the increased stitches looked -- they seemed bigger (holey-er) somehow, and to me that looked messy. If I instead increased by knitting a new stitch on to the end of the row, (sorta like a knitted cast-on), or by doing an M1 ("Make One"), would either of those be a less obvious-looking increase?

2) I am an admitted mathophobe, and for the non-math-impaired, this is probably easy to figure out, but I can't wrap my brain around it. Does anyone know a good calculation, (or a good website that will do the calculation) for how to determine how much yarn is needed if:
the desired finished object = X inches²,
one's rows/inch gauge = Y, and
stitches/inch gauge = Z?

3) Someone brought in a shawl knitted by a coworker which was just lovely. The entire thing was knitted in seed stitch. However, what was fascinating all of us was how the long edges were knitted. It almost looked like the edges were crocheted, but upon closer inspection, it was obvious that they were just part of the knitting. If you were looking at the knitting item edge-on, it was a perfectly-even knitted stitch all the way up, like this:
V
V
V
V

that is, if the shawl is held vertically. (Not sure this is making sense). Anyway, it was the neatest (as in tidiest) edging I'd ever seen, and I theorized that perhaps it was created by slipping*** the first stitch of every row? I'd read somewhere, (in an E.Z. book, perhaps?), that that was a way to make nice neat edges. I'd really love to know how to do that edging, because once I find out I'll be putting it on all my rectangles from now on!

(***Update: I believe it is, in fact, a slip-stitch edge. Bess confirmed it in the comments, and I also found a good photographic example here.)


And speaking of E.Z., (as in the venerable Elizabeth Zimmerman, of whom many knitters speak of with hushed and reverant tones), I'd recently heard from that enabler Bess that there were a series of wonderful E.Z. videos for purchase. My response was that if they were ever available on DVD, I'd snap them up. Well, sure enough, Schoolhouse Press, run now by E.Z.'s daughter Meg, has them now on DVD, (and for much less than the video versions, and if you buy the book and DVDs together you get a 10% discount), so you probably know where this is going....

Thursday the UPS man brought me these:



And all I have to say about that is -- Yippee!

And since we're discussing additions to the knitting library, I have one more to mention. I'm really trying to be good and not buy every knitting book I see, as many contain duplicate content, many have questionable quality, and frankly, I don't have the room for more books in my house. When I get obsessive about a hobby I start accumulating books around that subject area, and I'm really trying to be better about that. I have several entire bookcases full of gardening books. I'd like to keep the knitting library down to one shelf, if possible.

But I made an exception for one more knitting book. While at Books-a-Million the other day looking for a sports almanac for my teenage nephew's birthday, I of course had to browse through the knitting book section. Fortunately there weren't too many enticements except a dog-eared copy of Vogue Knitting Quick Reference which I resisted because it was fairly beat up -- if/when I get that, I want it to be brand-spankin' new so that I alone can dog-ear it! I almost got out of that store scott-free until I saw:

As mentioned previously, Ms. Wiseman is coming to town next weekend and I'll be taking a class from her on Sunday. So many folks have said her book is fantastic, I figured I'd probably end up with it sooner or later. And now I'll have it for her to sign next week.

Whoo!, and might I add, Hoo!

***

Friday, February 24, 2006

Temptations: Spinners & 4-Tops

***
So... you're expecting a blog post extolling the virtues of Motown music?

Psych!

Don't get me wrong -- me loves me some Motown. As a teenager and college kid, I went to many parties where "Beach Music" was all that was played, and the "shag" was the only way to dance. For Beach Music afficianados, Motown is king.

But since this blog is not about music or dancing, this post shall remain in keeping with the highest standard of fiber-related content for which I continuously strive. (Ha!)

Seriously, though, the topic I'm focusing on here is something that the lovely Bess, (or, the Evil Temptress, as I now refer to her), has taunted me with lately.

It all started with an email Bess sent me in response to my post about the upcoming Camp Stitches in Asheville, NC. Turns out there's another lovely place in North Carolina, the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, that regularly holds week-long (!) craft classes. As Bess & I exchanged several more emails, I marveled at the wonderful choices in knitting classes offered, and noted that they also hold spinning classes. Bess then shared that she not only spins, but she teaches spinning classes herself.

Well, Pandora's Box has been opened. For, I've been contemplating spinning quite a bit lately. I've seen Knitty Gritty's spinning episode at least five times now, and it really seems like a craft I could not only learn, with time, but something that I could easily become addicted to ,obsessed with enamored of.

I've been resisting spinning, though, for several reasons:
* I'm still a new knitter -- perhaps I should master one hobby before picking up yet another one?
* I already have a thousand hobbies -- do I really even need one more?
* I live in a tiny and incredibly cluttered house, and I don't really have the space for a spinning wheel, the rovings, and everything else that goes with the craft.
* And if I start to spin, and fall in love with it, will I abandon knitting altogether, never to progress beyond rectangles?
I resist, but my resolve is weakening, as Ms. Bess is relentless. "You should try drop spindles", she says. And to further entice me, she sends me a link to this website, which has some of the most gorgeous drop spindles imaginable. After drooling over a few of them, I think my favorite is this one:


or perhaps this one:

But I must be strong. I must try to avoid the temptations of spinners and tops. (See, I pulled in this post's title, finally -- it makes sense now, right? I've always thought drop spindles looked a little like a top. Get it?)

And so, with waivering resolve, my somewhat tongue-in-cheek response to Bess, a fellow former Gertie Girl, has been:

Get thee behind me, Satan!!!



Who wants to take bets on how long I can hold out?

***

Thursday, February 23, 2006

See One, Do One, Teach One...

***
...or, How a Knitter is Born....

Being new-ish to knitting, I still have much to do and learn in order to advance beyond the beginners category of [rectangles]. But recently I've had the distinct pleasure of watching (and perhaps helping a little bit, and maybe even learning something myself) as another new knitter is born and develops.

If you may recall, I gave my sister-in-law, (also named Mary), a scarf for her November birthday. She seemed to really like it, which is all any knitter, especially a new one, can ask for.

On Christmas Day, I went over to their house for a few hours and brought some knitting with me. It was then that Mary told me about a prayer shawl ministry being held at her church. I've gone once and plan to go again this Saturday. Mary's attended several of their meetings, the first at which they taught her to cast-on and knit, and I believe the knitting bug has firmly taken hold of her.

Case in point:
* She's been to the KnittingHelp website
* She's visited a LYS
* Twice now she's purchased yarn at a local craft store
* She has a small supply of yarn not yet ear-marked for a project; (I gleefully educated her that this is known as a "stash") ;-)
* She's finished a project and has now started two more


(This has both surprised and delighted me, because I
didn't know she was even interested. Inside, I'm beside myself with glee.)

Twice this past week I've been at their house to knit and watch the Winter Olympics on their shiny new flat screen tv:

(look how sharply HDTV photographs)


which has been a lot of fun for me.

Even more fun, I've had the opportunity to teach Mary a few more knitterly things. On Saturday she learned how to bind off, to weave in ends, to purl, and got a refresher course in casting-on. Last night I exposed her to the long-tail cast-on, gave another refresher on purling and how to read knits and purl stitches on the needle, and also showed her the basketweave pattern, which was an absolute kick for me, since I'd not done that myself before. (Laurie would be so proud.)

What's that old saying, "see one, do one, teach one"? I just love observing and/or being a part of the process as a new addict knitter is born.

Whoo-hoo! One more for our side!

Now I just need to remember to take pictures of her knitting -- after all, she may want to blog about it someday! ;-)

***

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Olympic Knitting

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While I'm enjoying the Winter Games on television, I've not joined the thousands of folks involved with the Knitting Olympics. I do admire everyone who has picked up their needles and accepted the challenge.

And your humble efforts have not gone unnoticed -- a major publication has given you the nod.

Time magazine has a blurb about it in an article called Gold Medal Motives, but I imagine web access to it will be short-lived, so I will quote from it below:

NO IDLE HANDS - For the 16-day Knitting Olympics, some 4,000 crafty couch potatoes have set a series of stitching goals they want to reach while watching the Games. Charitable projects include making clothes for U.S. pregnancy centers and for tots in Mongolia.

I suppose if I were more thin-skinned, (and if I were actually involved), I might take offense at the "crafty couch potatoes" remark, but as they say in Hollywood, as long as they spell your name right, all publicity is good publicity.

And so I say to all you Knit-thletes -- my heartfelt congratulations, and I humbly salute you!

***

Monday, February 20, 2006

Twisted Knitting...

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...and I don't mean twisted stitches.

This is probably the least offensive image of the knitted products-of-twisted-minds displayed on their website:

(if you couldn't tell, those are Siamese Teddy Twins, conjoined at the head. It probably says a lot about me that I find this fairly amusing.)



Go there, if you dare, to view other knitted gore.

***

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Happy Day-after-February-14th

***
This would be hilarious if it wasn't so painfully true:


And lots of other anti-Valentines can be found here. Their server has been overwhelmed since yesterday, so you can't email one of these anytime soon. I guess that makes a sad but realistic statement about the prevalence of singleness in the world these days. Ironically, I could only find six single adults in my entire address book to whom to email this site's URL. I think that makes a particularly sad statement about my lack of single friends. Where are all these other single people overwhelming the anti-VD servers? Perhaps they all live in NYC and hang out with Carrie Bradshaw. Perhaps I need to move....

But, all is not lost:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Knitterly Musings

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I'm still slowly but surely working on this Sinsation scarf, and am on the seventh ball of yarn for it. Only three more balls to go, lots of ends to weave in, and then I get to felt it -- can't wait! This thing weighs a ton, though -- I hope it'll loses some weight in the felting process, or I'm liable to cripple myself wearing it!

In the meantime I've started yet another skinny scarf, using this yarn:

Plymouth Eros, color # 4796

***

Which is looking like this, thus far:

15 stitches, size 8 needles, knit every row. Makes for good Olympics-watching knitting.

***

And a close-up of the knitting:

***

What has prompted me to start this new project? Well, I'll tell you.

A friend of the family owns an upscale clothing boutique here in town and twice now has mentioned that she'd like to sell some hand-knit scarves there. I don't know how serious she is about that, but I did drop by her store last week to check out what she sells. (I was definitely out of my element there, as my normal wardrobe consists of jeans or sweats, and the last time I could fit in tiny clothes like that, well, it's been awhile).

We talked about colors and she asked me to give her a "color card". After my eyes glazed over and I explained that there are thousands of yarns out there and millions of potential yarn colors and combinations, I think I convinced her that she's going to need to see for herself the choices available at the typical LYS. She's supposed to call me this week so that we can meet at Lettuce Knit at some point, but I'm not holding my breath.

The very idea that a scarf knitted by lil' old me could be sold in a boutique is both mind-boggling and humbling, considering all the expert knitters that are out there. I would love to do it, though -- and not out of any monetary interest -- I'd be happy just to be reimbursed for the yarn. I love the idea that I could continue to knit scarves ad infinitum and not have to worry about foisting them upon unwitting family members who may or may not want or need another scarf. This could theoretically represent a limitless realm of scarf recipients -- a scarf-knitters nirvana, if you will.

So, in the meantime, I thought I'd work up this Eros scarf so she could get a sense of a novelty yarn scarf that could be worn as an accessory.

And in knitting this scarf, I can't help but think of a woman named Judy I met last year. We were both working at a client site in Georgia, helping them with their new system conversion. During that stressful time Judy took it upon herself to take care of all of us in the "war room" -- bringing in meals, drinks and snacks several times a day for almost a week. She represents the vendor as a client manager of sorts and was a pleasure to work with. I felt very "mothered" and taken care of during that time, thanks to her. And then late that week, as we were walking back to the war room from another part of the hospital, a fellow consultant shared with me in hushed tones that just two weeks prior, Judy's husband had committed suicide. I was floored. To think of all she was dealing with, and yet she was taking care of all of us and was incredibly positive and cheerful. I imagine it might have been therapeutic for her - I hope it was, anyway. I still think about her at times, and hope she's doing okay.

So what does this have to do with the Eros scarf? One day that week Judy was wearing an Eros skinny scarf in a brownish colorway, and it looked really nice, and it gave me an idea of how to use my yarn, and how one could wear it . She had it around her neck and knotted somewhat low, and it made a very nice accent against a white short-sleeved shirt. I asked her if she had knit it, but it turns out to have been a gift from a previous client.

And so, a lot of things run through my mind as I'm knitting this Eros scarf. Most importantly, here's hoping Judy is continuing to find comfort in her grief.

***

Sunday, February 12, 2006

From snow showers to flower shows

A peek at some of the pretties at today's flower show:

A few more images and lots of discussion can be found on my garden blog.

It won't much, but it be purty

***
Got about 2-3 inches of snow accumulation in my neighborhood. Not the "heavy snow" that was predicted, but then, you can almost bank on dashed hopes when the local news predicts "heavy snow". That's alright -- I'll take what I can get. It was beautiful, pristine and unblemished when I woke up this morning. Now the sun is out and it's already 34ºF, and most of it is sliding off the trees.

Ah well. We must appreciate fleeting beauty while it lasts -- a lesson for us all.

The roads appear to be clear, which means I can go hit the Maymont Flower & Garden show before it closes.

And so I leave you with this view from my front porch:


***

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bring it on!

***
I love it when the weather map looks like this in wintertime, especially on a weekend:


In preparation, I have a crock pot of soup simmering, a stocked refrigerator, a couple of knitting projects to work on, the Olympics on TV -- I'm set. Snug as a bug. Three to five inches of snow are predicted for our area by tomorrow morning. Bring it on!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Happy New Year!

***
Nope, I haven't finally lost all my marbles or lost track of time. We're in the middle of Chinese New Year, folks -- welcome to the Year of the Dog!

And in the spirit of new beginnings, and since the calendar year started off so crappy, I'm taking advantage of the new New Year to make some resolutions. (It's not because I procrastinated about making resolutions back in January - no siree, no way -- that's not it at all!)

And not just any resolutions. These are knitting resolutions. In my first New Year as a knitter, I resolve to try and do the following knitterly things before the end of the year:

  1. Learn to knit socks
  2. Knit a clapotis
  3. Knit & felt a purse/bag/tote
  4. Knit a hat
  5. Learn at least one other "challenging" technique - (cables, intarsia, etc.)
  6. Go to at least one fiber event (no problem there - Maryland here I come)
  7. Take at least one knitting class (again, no problem - taking a class in March)
  8. Better organize yarn stash and knitting paraphernalia

I'll be interested to see what I actually get accomplished by the end of the year. I hope when late December rolls around I'll remember to look at this list I made way back on February 7th!

(And now I gotta run and find some party hats and noisemakers...!)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Knitting Poll Results

***
Many thanks to everyone who participated in last week's knitting polls. The polls are now closed and have been removed from that blog entry. My apologies to those who went to view the poll results and were taken to a webpage with lots of unsavory ads -- I had no idea that would happen. Rest assured I will never use that particular polling service again.

Without further ado, here are the poll results:

Coincidentally, this week there's also been an interesting thread about Continental Knitting technique out on the Knitty CoffeeShop forum. Go here to follow along.

Thanks again everyone!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Come join me on the Knitters Short Bus

***

If you read knitting blogs at all, then you've surely read about Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics, either on her blog or on any of the over 2,000 almost 4,000 (!!!?!) other knitters' blogs who've signed up for the "competition". I won't go into a lot of explanation here since you can read the description and rules for yourself on Harlot's blog, but the gist of it is that you cast on a new and challenging knitting project during the 2006 Winter Olympics (Torino) Opening Ceremonies, and finish the project by the time the flame goes out at the Closing Ceremonies.

If I've learned one thing about myself in these past 40 years, I've learned that I'm not a fan of deadlines. And this "knit-along" falls into that category. So given that, and the fact that I'm a slow knitter and there's no guarantee my back isn't going to start acting up again, I don't think I'll be "going for the gold".

However, someone recently pointed out another "contest" that is definitely more suited to remedial knitters like me. Janis has proposed a Knitting Special Olympics, for those of us who just like to knit and don't really want to "race" to the finish line. Only rule is to cast-on during Opening Ceremonies and finish whenever you like.

She's even created a button for it:


I'm game for that! So, won't you come join me on the knitters short bus?

***

Thursday, February 02, 2006

There can't be enough knitting on TV

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(The following is lifted straight from Interweave Knits newsletter):

Don't miss Interweave Press author Lily Chin as the host of Oxygen Network's brand new knitting and stitching show, Stitchcraft!


The pilot episode airs Sunday, March 5, on Oxygen Network. Check your local listings and spread the word to your stitching friends!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blog awards

***
In the spirit of award show season, it's now also the season for the 6th Annual Weblog Awards, otherwise known as "Bloggies 2006". Voting has closed, and winners will be announced in mid-March. If you didn't get a chance to vote, it's still a nice diversion to look at the nominees in the different categories and see the quality that's out there. Of note this year is a new category -- "Best Craft Blog". There's even a knit-blogger nominee -- none other than our venerable & prolific Yarn Harlot. She has some stiff competition, but here's hoping enough knitters voted to put her at the top.

If you can't wait until mid-March to hear about the winners, the lovely ladies at knottygirls.com had an awards ceremony all their own, just for knit-bloggers. Winners were announced earlier this month, (seventy-five categories!), so go here, to see the quality of knit-blogs that are out there!