Other Ways

This year, with my right leg still in recovery mode (yes, it’s getting better, very slowly), I passed on going to fiber and knitting expos this month, which means missing both Madrona Fiber Arts  (which is on my bucket list) and Stitches West (which has been an easy commute  for years – and now a little longer). That’s not really a bad thing, as last year I went to both Stitches West and Vogue Knitting Live, and have the yarn in the stash to prove it. In fact, I have plenty of wonderful yarn that I’m excited to knit. I may still go to Vogue Knitting Live in May, as it is a fairly easy drive, and I can see family and friends down there too.

But seeing beautiful yarn and accessories is only one of the attractions of these events – I love to learn new things at them too. Fortunately, my local knitting guild is all kinds of awesome, and they contracted with a knitting teacher, Vera Sanon, to come to our guild to teach various ways to knit Top-Down sweaters; the guild footed half of the bill on top, plus there was no conference overhead to pay for, so the class was about a third of the price it would be if it were at a big name conference.

And we learned a lot! I’ve knit a few top-down sweaters, mostly for babies and I think one for my mom, I haven’t been wild about the usual construction – called raglan – which is best for athletics builds with no boobs. I look better in set-in sleeves, as do lot’s of women, and we got to learn a bunch of ways to do them. I also loved her warning us about certain construction methods that have downsides too – so we don’t pick patterns that will lead us to tears. There should be no crying in knitting!

The other plus with Vera is that she also lives in a warm climate so most of her sweaters are out of fingering and DK weight yarns – knit looser for drape and to keep cool. Here are some of her beautiful sweaters:

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What a table of gorgeous knitting. And this is a back detail of a sweater that I am itching to start, called the Sara Lace Cardigan (rav link), which, if you do short sleeves, can be knit out of one skein of lace-weight yarn:

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I’ve got the perfect yarn from last year’s Vogue-knitting event to use:

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In the meantime, the fronts of the cardigan I’m knitting for my cousin are now done, and conveniently, I can apply what I’ve learned in my class to knitting the sleeves top-down. The fronts of the cardigan are the feature with a twig and leaf in relief. Even Izzie was impressed:

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Along the way, I am also knitting socks for Afghans for Afghans. It’s a great organization, and we are knitting baby hats and baby socks for a maternity hospital in Afghanistan. Join me, won’t you? Our group on Ravelry is the best, and we list a bunch of free patterns to use. Baby things like these are terrific for using up odd balls and leftover partial skeins of yarn!

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Giving It Away

Recently, an acquaintance asked if I would knit her something that she had seen in a photo. It was innocently asked, but I had to make my usual reply: I don’t knit on commission. And suggested she might want to learn to knit! She took it well!

This encounter reminded me of my own approach to knitting. I knit for a lot of people, including women and children and babies in Afghanistan, schoolchildren in an underserved area of Maryland, and breast cancer patients recovering from surgery. I knit for  family and friends who appreciate the value of my knitting. I even knit for pets (although it’s usually something really fast!). I would venture to say that 3/4 of my knitting is given away to others.

But there’s a difference between giving it away and being paid to make it. When it is my gift, I have a particular intention with the giving, and it’s on my timeline, almost all of the time. Usually I start the holiday knitting way ahead of the date, be it a birthday or Christmas, so I’m not up at the last minute trying to finish something instead of spending time with the folks.

Giving it away also keeps me free for knitting things I want to knit. Unlike Irish and Scottish women of the last century who knit like the wind to support their families, my knitting is my hobby, even if I do sell a few patterns online. Because my profession is almost always intangible (writing sermons, visiting folks), I love the material-rich textures and colors of fibercraft. And then there are the mental health reasons to use needles: Happiness is a Needle and Thread Away.

I’m just now at the tail end of knitting a good spell for others – after all, holidays were coming. These are the latest things coming off the needles:

First up, a shawl called Artesian by Rosemary Hill, knit in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Baltic colorway. It’s a simple concept executed extremely well – nary a purl stitch to be found, and consists mostly of garter and simple mesh lace with some short rows thrown in. Project notes here.  Yes, a gift, but not for Christmas (this person doesn’t celebrate it anyway).

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I also finished up a pair of Christmas socks, the last pair, and of course they were for the largest feet in my family. LOL. A basic ribbed sock recipe from Custom Socks by Kate Atherley. I really like this colorway of the Cascade heritage Handpaints – works well for guys, but with more depth of color than a solid.

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The last project is a hat/scarf combo for a special young girl who loves, loves, LOVES pink and blue, and the brighter the colors, the better. I improvised this hat and scarf in brioche stitch, so it will be extra warm and has that cool reversible effect. I knit this out of an inexpensive acrylic/wool blend that is very soft and machine washable.

There was an issue with the pom-pon. The first one I make was huge! and it turned that because the yarn is somewhat slippery (acrylic, I’m looking at you!), it fell apart on me. So, I had to go with a more modest pom-pon, and hope for the best!

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Now, there are only a couple of more presents to make – neither of which should take much time, so it’s time to knit for me again. The last shipment of Ysolda Teague’s 2015 Shawl Club should arrive in a week or so, that will be perfect timing – can hardly wait to see what’s coming in an early Christmas present for me.

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Why Ravelry is my Knitting Bestie (in a virtual way)

I joined Ravelry.com all the way back in the summer of 2007, having heard about it on Brenda Dayne’s Cast On podcast. I’m apparently Raveler #5154  out of more than a couple of million account holders today. You could say I was an early adopter (for once)! Although by that point I had found a local knitting circle and yarn store, and learned about on-line knitting resources such as the free online knitting magazine Knitty, the creation of Ravelry truly has changed my knitting life for good.

Through Ravelry I have met wonderful people in person as a result of Ravelry, discovered amazing projects, finally created a knitting project notebook to track what I knit, and become part of a community that spans

It also makes my current projects possible, things that would not have happened at all in the pre-Ravelry era.

Take my latest project, a lace shawl called Linken. It began with the purchase of the yarn – a lace yarn called Ombre Lace by Freia Handpainted Yarns in the Lichen colorway. I bought it in August while I was in Western North Carolina. See?

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I just love the yellow with the gray!

I had this yarn in my mind for a Christmas present, but I didn’t have a pattern. So I went looking on Ravelry – first in my library of patterns for shawls and scarves. I found some possibilities, but wasn’t sure, so then I searched on the yarn, and that particular colorway, and there were many different good choices, including this, this and this.

Then I saw that the Linken pattern had been test-knit in my yarn, and I already owned the pattern – a double plus. The reason I own the pattern is because the designer, Romi Designs (Rosemary Hill) has been able to create many pattern and pattern and kit clubs through Ravelry to build her independent knitting design business.

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That was just the beginning – it turns out that this particular shawl has a repeatable section, so that one can repeat a particular section more (or less) times depending on the amount of yarn you have. And here I managed to score another Ravelry win – two people, including the test knitter, had not only knit the pattern in my yarn, they had also kept track of their yarn usage as they knit, so I could track my knitting and yarn usage against theirs, in order to maximize my use of the beautiful gradient.

In the old, pre-Ravelry days, I would never had access to this information, and been able to figure out that I could squeak in two more repeats into the shawl. The amount of yarn leftover after casting off — 2 grams of a total of 75! Yes, it was cutting it close, and I could only do so with the information provided by the knitting hive-mind of Ravelry.

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Two grams of yarn left.

In addition, when I discovered some small glitches in the pattern (one chart symbol not explained, for example), I searched in the community forum thread for this pattern, and got an answer to my question. In the end, a wonderful shawl, previewed and researched by the community before I even started. For more details, check out my project notes.

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And most importantly, Izzie, who noticed that the yarn matches both her fur and her eyes, has given her feline approval:

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So, Ravelry, thanks for continuing to be my Knitting Bestie, I trust we’ll have many years ahead of us!

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Finishing

Gosh, it’s been ages since I’ve blogged. Partly it’s the getting into new rhythms part, partly it’s that I’ve traveled three times since moving, and now I’m coping with a leg thing that has to be dealt with. In other words, life. Yeah, first world problems for sure!

Along the way, I’ve seen a lot of beauty:

Up at Lake Tahoe:

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In Sonoma County at the coast:

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Montreat, North Carolina (near Asheville):

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and I’ve even gotten all the things up on the walls in my new apartment:

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Sure, there are a few pesky boxes that still need to be unpacked, but I am feeling at home in my new world for the most part.

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting and spinning wise, there’s a sense of completion after a summer of slogging.

One non-slogging thing was my opportunity to teach some knitters how to make the knitted necklaces at the Sheeper Than Therapy knitting guild. I was nervous teaching over 20 knitters how to make the necklaces, but it went ok! And then the women’s group at my church has a fall boutique fundraiser, so I’ve been making a couple of them a week to sell.  I blocked a bunch of them, and sewed on buttons from the amazing dumpster stash I got for free:

Button stash for free!

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Necklaces for Fundraiser:

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The knitted knockers group is cool, and I was part of stuffing a lot of them last month:

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and I’m making bunch more, even though my pastor colleagues think this is pretty weird.

I finished another shawl from Ysolda’s shawl club, this one is called Crockern Tor with a lovely loopy crochet edge:

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And the yarn for the next one is waiting for me to start (Izzie is impatient too!)

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There is some secret knitting happening and finishing up!

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and I am just finishing up a sweater called Gisela by CocoKnits – aka Julie Weisenberger. I think I’ll like the sweater, but the process of knitting it was not very fun.

   
 And speaking of finishing up, I also am adding to the stash with souvenir yarn from Black Mountain Yarns in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Lovely store, and it is important to support the LYS, even if it isn’t your LYS. She had a couple of locally dyed yarns:

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With several things finishing up, I’m planning on plying some singles that I spun while I was preparing to move, and working on a couple of Christmas gifts. Shhh, don’t tell!

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iPod Cozy Redux

Almost exactly five six years ago, I posted and published a free iPod cozy pattern for the nano that I owned at the time. Together, they looked like this:
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The nano fit perfectly into the cozy, and for the time I had the nano, all was well, which lasted maybe a year and a half, when one winter night I had to leap out of my car suddenly, and then it fell out and I might have crunched it up. Yeah, a sad end.

So a new iPod Touch came into my life, and it was lovely although bigger than the old nano – I could tweet, and send email, and listen to podcasts and music too. It pretty much got me through my bout of chicken pox that I got before the last (and final) Sock Summit – being able to tweet, email and listen to audio books from my bed was great.

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But eventually it became obsolete – no Twitter, no email, no calendar, and I was running out of room for my playlists for music for my aqua classes. But the cozy lived on,although I had to replace the I-cord button loop with some Cascade 220.

Last summer I upgraded to a 5th generation iPod touch – basically an iPhone 5 without the phone (and without the expensive data plan). I love this one too, and because it’s now used a fair amount at the pool, it needs a shockcase, and even then, it’s still bigger than the old iPod Touch, so now we have a problem:

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The cozy is pretty much toast. Mind you, the cozy has lasted me longer than 2 generations of iPods, so I’m not complaining, but even felted wool has it’s limits on stretchiness and durability:

I’ll tinker with the old pattern, and some up with something that fits this new generation of iThings. Stay tuned!

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Knit, rip, repeat.

Have you ever looked and worked a knitting pattern as though you are a little drunk? That’s how I felt tackling size is about right for a single skein of loveliness, and variegated yarns can work with it, given there is a lot’s of garter stitch, and some ribbing. Take this little bit of the shawl:

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I must have cast-on this part about 5 times. Yeah, I am good at skimming over directions that I think I understand, only to find out that you actually have read and knit what is actually written. This is not “hard” knitting, just very specific knitting.

Then, I realized I was knitting loosely on my needles, so I thought to weigh the yarn at the half-way point, and I was about 1 gram low on about 50 grams of yarn left to finish the shawl. So I knit it tighter. About 80 percent of the way done I laid the whole shawl out and I realized that while I would have enough yarn, the difference in the gauge meant that some parts looked different – the second half was tighter and brighter. The early stitches were loosey-goosey and not-so-fine.

At this point I took a really deep breath. This yarn, although lovely, is not in my colors, it will be a gift (to someone) so I won’t have to live with any imperfections. In addition, the yarn is an almost single of wool and silk, so the re-knitting can take a toll on the yarn. But I really didn’t think it was up to my standards, nor to the quality of the yarn.

So I pulled the entire thing out, yes, 80 percent of the way through the project, I went back to the beginning. Some of the early yarn that had been knit 5 times – I cut it off because it was too frazzled, but it was only a couple of yards.

The last time I began the shawl, it was really easy to knit because by now, duh, I knew how the pattern worked. And I knit the yarn tighter on the same needle, which was really just a bit looser than the original. And finished the pattern with some few yards to spare.

The result: the knitting was evener. But the color thing was totally a product of the hand painted nature of the yarn – about half of the yarn is simply more filled with the bright bits than the other half. Not so much that anyone will notice when it was worn.

Here’s the final product. (See, the right side is brighter than the left!) It is now in the “gift FO” section of my closet, awaiting a person for whom it will be a lovely gift!

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Drive-By Posting

Wow, sorry gang that it has been a whole month without a post. Life at Casa del Revknits is pretty busy, with extra duties due to earthquake damage from the South Napa quake. I am learning lots’ of new terms and skills along the way – including how to navigate a couple of very scary ladders to get to this view from the top of the church tower:

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We have the emergency repair work done, but golly, that whole sidewalk is still off-limits until we can get some real funding from the conference to move ahead with the wall repair:

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In addition to that fun, I managed a quick trip back to my hometown to visit family friends. And I had some fun too, including a screening of a movie at the Motion Picture Academy with my friends Curtiss and Nhien, which in addition to nice theater has a couple of lovely statues of Oscar on either side:

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and I went to Dodgers game with one of my best friends in school, Bev, and her husband Jim. We had the BEST time. They played the Giants, and of course I rooted for the Dodgers because. Now they they’re out of the play-offs, I’m back to being a fair-weather Giants fan.

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With my friend Nhien, I went to Wild Fiber Studio, a lovely yarn store in Santa Monica, and we bought yarn of course! The Zen Garden cashmere, silk and merino singles in their own custom colorway haunted us and we each bought a skein. Yum! It’s that top one that glows. The other two just hopped into my basket, I pinky-swear.

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And there has been knitting too! I started and completed the Hitofude cardigan for my grown up cousin Rachel. Here I am delivering it to her and smiling because it fit! Project details here.

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Other projects have been slogging along as well. I finally finished the fingerless mittens/beret set out of my handspun (remember I had to knit three mittens to get two that kinda match?) and a bit of a commercial yarn:

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They are lovely, I can’t wait for a little cold to test them out! Project details here.  While I was at knitting group yesterday, one of the knitters looked at me and said, “I hope those are for you, you haven’t knit for yourself in a while.” And it’s true, I haven’t, but honestly, I have enough knits for the hot months at the moment (it will be close to 80 degrees today), so I haven’t missed out on wearing stuff.

As it is, I’m still wearing my summer knits. How about you knitters, what are you itching to wear when the weather turns cold?

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In which I show finished objects.

Despite the summer slumpiness (that’s a word, right?) in my knitting, I have been finishing things. One thing I finished were a pair of booties that simply needed amazing ribbon put through the laces:

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The pattern is the very reliable Stay On Baby Booties, knit out of Cascade Fixation. They are part of a set (which I’m saying work together even though that judgment should be suspect) for a beautiful little baby named Elsie, whose photos on Facebook charm me. I made her a sweater and hat set:

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The sweater is the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann, and the hat was a made-up pattern to mimic the sweater. The parents run their own stuffed toy craft company, so the more color, the better! I am happy with how they came out. Notice in the hat I varied the color order from the sweater, I wish I’d done the hat’s order for the sweater, but I was not re-knitting a striped sweater, even a baby one, again to achieve perfect color harmony.

I also completed my second Leftie. The first one I gave away and regretted afterwards that I didn’t have one. The base color yarn is Vice – a lovely fingering weight in wool and silk, with great sheen and drape. The leaves on the shawl are from sock yarn leftovers (and yes, there is still a 2.5 gallon ziplock with more where these came from). I love how it came out, and have loaned in for about the next six weeks to Bluebird Yarn and Fiber.

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This is also the season I start knitting for Christmas, because I hate knitting at the last-minute, and I do not have all that much time in December for Christmas Shopping and the like. So these socks (Hickory pattern from The Knitter’s Book of Socks, except I knit them toe-up). They don’t look like much off a leg, but check out the stitch pattern on projects in Ravelry, it adds an unusual twist, but still workable for a guy to wear.

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And now there are only secret knitting projects on the needles. I’ll need to start something public to knit asap!

 

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As Seen on Ravelry

Well, it’s been an exciting 48 hours in the land of viral pattern adoption. The Beads and Lace Fingerless Mittens pattern showed up late Friday night and Saturday on the Hot Right Now pattern page on Ravelry. The highest screen shot I got was:

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 8.19.42 AMYep, that’s my pattern at No. 3, and apparently it went to No. 2 for a brief time. Wow. That was unexpected.

It goes to show that persistent pays off in the unlikeliest ways. Midweek I designed a fingerless mitten that when I knit up the sample, I went “Ugh.” It was frogged immediately. Under the pressure of needing a pattern for the class, I whipped this puppy up (knitting on the fly and putting together the chart right afterwards before I forgot what I did).

I expect it will be a while before this lovely thing happens (if ever again!), but in the meantime, I have to admit I think maybe I’m for real on the knitting designer thing.

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New Pattern: Beads are just so much fun! (free to blogreaders)

I’m so lucky to get to teach a whole afternoon of fun with knitting and beads today with the amazing knitters at Bluebird Yarn and Fiber. As part of the class, I am teaching how to make a beaded ornament – something that you can give as a gift where size doesn’t matter. I love how this came out! The fun thing is that you knit this (including the fringe) flat, then just six stitch of grafting, a little pulling, and the fringe magically appears!

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You can use smaller beads, other kinds of yarn, and the effects will change. It’s perfect for using up scraps of yarn. Pattern details are here.

As a gift to you, my blog readers, I’ve set up a coupon code so you can download this pattern for free through Monday, October11th November 11 – after that, it will be just a $2.00. Just go here for the pattern purchase with coupon code.
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Thanks, readers, for taking the journey in stitches and life with me!

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