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When I moved to Fresno back in 2015, I learned about a charity knitting group called Knitted Knockers – and I immediately was captivated by the notion of knitters providing free, lightweight breast prostheses to women who had breast cancer surgery.

I started by knitting a few here and there (Izzie, as usual, in charge of quality control!,

and then when I moved to San Jose, it turns out that my new knitting group is my monthly Knitted Knockers group here in Silicon Valley. They are lovely group and I really enjoy getting together with them.

This year, as fall progressed, I realized that I had been knitting a lot of knockers over the months, and I set my self a goal – to knit at least 100 knockers. Well, last month, I made my goal – 101 knockers!

I’m also beginning to help with social media work for our mighty group. We tried to publicize Knitted Knockers for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by sending out press releases, but that is old school and not working. So, you can join our Facebook page, follow us on MeetUp and get alerts on our monthly meetings, or follow our brand new Instagram feed where we offer encouragement, inspiration, and knitterly beauties.

Here’s one taste of our Instagram feed:

https://www.instagram.com/knittedknockersofsv/

I’ve knit a few more knockers already, but I don’t count them until I turn them in (which will be next year), so here’s to some in the bank knockers!

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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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Beginning 2016, and what Renee knit in 2015

Ok, so it’s January 4th, and I’m lucky to get the holiday today, although work is happening here at home, I get to be fairly informal about things (shower to come later, lol). The housecleaners came today, and it is always like magic that after an hour and a half they leave it sparking and clean for me and the kitties. So, that is a good start to 2016.

My fall into grace (the literal version): A less than graceful start for me was yesterday in worship. I was just finished communion and about to put the last plate and tray of juice cups onto the communion table when I managed to miss the step down to the table, and let us say that things went flying! Fortunately, I did manage not to break any earthen vessels – but the plate went flying, I went down on one knee, fortunately my head and other parts of my body missed the deadly-heavy communion that can only be moved by four strong folks.  I was so totally surprised I stayed down, and probably worried the heck out of the congregation. A few guys came up to see if I was ok (sorta) and a deacon cleaned things up briefly, and I was given a stool, saying “Wow! Is everyone awake now??” and we proceeded through the rest of the service briefly.  The same deacon who cleaned up the table had ice packs for me by the close of the service, and a few folks came up to tell me their own stories of public falls. Such a grace-filled community I am blessed to serve!

This morning I have the already in pain right leg and the left knee is now sore and swollen – feels like a bad bruise. Sigh. Maybe God is telling me to just slow down already. Fortunately the hands are free for knitting and crafting!

I’ve also tallied up the knitting for 2015, and the stats are a little different this year:

  • total yardage (new tally): 17,340 yards (approx)
  • socks – 14 pairs (gifts and charity for the most part)
  • sweaters – 3
  • shawls – 9 (4 from Ysolda’s shawl club)
  • hats – 4
  • cat things – 10 (9 fish cat toys and one cat bed)
  • necklaces – 24

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  • knitted knockers – 40 (for the charity by that name)
  • cozy for iPod – 1
  • charity knitted bag – 1
  • dishcloths – 21 (gifts for many in my life)

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with the same general theme – most of my knitting goes to others, although two of the sweaters were for me, which I am totally ok with.

I don’t set knitting goals as that is the place in my life that is fun and not structured, so it will be interested to see what unfolds over the next year! The first FO for 2016 is:

Oh! Valencia socks – The color is great, and the lace pattern is stretchy but not too holey:

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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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The Zen of Garter Stitch

My Local Yarn Store (LYS) is Bluebird Yarn and Fiber Crafts. Sophie has run some different charity knits over the years – hats for Russian orphanages, blankets for Afghans for Afghans, nests for birds for Wildcare. This time, she is partnering with UCSF Children’s Hospital to make some blankets for babies and children.

I was in a bit of a knitting slump, so tackling this project was a kind of palette cleanser. The optional pattern was to cast on 80 stitches and then knit in garter through all the colors. While I like a basic garter stitch pattern, that was going to drive me crazy, so I pondering a bit, then remembered this project I knit a long time ago for Afghans for Afghans:

EZ Baby Blanket

complete with a lovely garter stitch border and cat inspector.

EZ Baby Blanket edging

It’s a garter square baby blanket by Elizabeth Zimmermann in Knitting Workshop. Aside: buy the book, like many of her books, there are pithy directions for good projects, you can choose your yarn and gauge and have fun! Plus there’s a lovely new color version that I might have to buy.

The major work in this project was upfront: figuring out what size to make each square ahead of the actual knitting. I am a notoriously lazy knitter, so I wanted to only knit each square once, which meant  I had to use math to calculate this. Fortunately, the photo of the basic garter blanket in the optional pattern gave me the information that I needed to do this.

In looking at the directions, I understood that 80 stitches were cast on, and in counting in the photo, there were 18 garter ridges in each color. Multiplying these two terms, it meant that there were 1440 knit/purl stitches in each color (a one-stitch garter ridge). Since my pattern is a perfect square, I took the square root of 1440, and came up with 37.95, which I – to 38 stitches for two reasons. First, I was pretty sure there was leftover yarn from the 18 garter stripes from the blanket in the photo. Second, the EZ pattern has you stop before the edges to give a slightly rounded corner, so less yarn is used.

And it worked! Yay for math. I put the complementary colors opposite each other diagonally, and used the red for the garter stitch border.

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The blanket came out about 25 inches square, and is a nice cushy fabric for a little one to cuddle under!

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Less

I’m a little more than one month out from The Great Clear Out (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,   and the final piece) and I’ve been struck by  the flow-out from this move in my life.

  1. The clearing out continues. This was always the plan, since I didn’t finish things, just got over the hump, but I have downsized twice in the size of storage unit that I need. The current one is a petite 4’x5′ (a mere 20 percent of the big one), and if all goes to plan, I may not even need  this one by the end of the year. That would be SO nice! Also, I find that random drawers that were not part of the clear-out get organized because it feels better. I got my car cleaned and sorted out the trunk of my car.
  2. Room for other things in my life. That old saw about less is more? Totally true. With less visual clutter at home, and it now being easy to get to things that I own, there is more time in my life. No longer am I digging through crap to get to what I want.
  3. New goals. Among the room created is the mental space for new goals – get fitter and lighter.  I took a sample class for a new exercise program that my Y may bring in for us to teach, and it was really, really hard, to the point that I realized if I want to teach it, I have to get in better shape. So I’m adding on more workout times, different classes (cardio dance, zumba, yoga) which are fun and I feel better, and fit into more clothes. I’m going to see how far I can get this body!
  4. Saving money. Yep, it’s cheaper now too, with the smaller storage unit, and being able to see everything I own and use that instead of buying things. Between the savings on internet and phone that I worked on in the spring, paying for things like insurance all at once to save interest and fee payments, I am now looking to save for some goals – a big trip, retirement, etc.
  5. Stash busting. I didn’t really intend this, but since the Mendonoma trip, I’ve been knitting from stash – using up a lot of little bits with the yarn in a bowl hats, socks from bits of handspun, all for Afghans for Afghans. Will I make it to Labor Day without buying yarn for me to knit? Stay tuned!

Fiber stuff

The “baby shower” for Afghans for Afghans has me a little obsessed. These hats were the result of my yarn in a bowl experiment, and some of the socks are from samples of or leftover handspun.

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Although I haven’t officially participated in Tour de Fleece this year, I must be feeling the vibes, because I finished plying some really old fiber in the stash, which I think will become a large felted bowl for Wildcare.

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Then I plied the Into the Whirled BFL. I think I had split this to fractal spin, but then the tags fell off each of the removable spindle shafts, so in fact the plying was completely random, and the skeins are different from each other. Oh well, now I know to make sure the tags stay on!

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March Madness ends, a New Class on CustomFit!

The contest over at the Afghans for Afghans group on Ravelry is now over, and I managed to punch out a couple of small items at the close, one pair of mittens, one pair of socks. Yay! It was a really good time – we made 90 pairs of mittens and socks and hats for a worthy cause.

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Super-secret knitting continues, although I can show a wonderful gradient yarn that I am using. This is Knitcircus Thrilling, fingering weight 80/20 Superwash merino/silk blend. The colorway on the left is Nightfall, and the one on the right is Summer Afternoon. I took this to Knit Night, and there was generalized oohing and aahing. You probably should check out her website at Knitcircus.com. Don’t blame me if you get hooked!

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Finally, and I’m really excited about this – I will be starting a new class at Bluebird on creating the sweater of your dreams with CustomFit! As part of the class, you’ll get your measurements taken (and totally private, right?), review the options for creating a pattern, talk about (and work on) a swatch, so that you can generate a personalized pattern just for you!

I was a beta test-knitter, so I’ve been through the program, and I gave it a review here  and here if you want to see how wonderful it is!  It’s a great way for newer knitters to knit a successful sweater instead what I knit. Yeah, never did wear that sweater!

The first CustomFit class will be next Friday, April 11th – go here for sign-ups, and know that we will be offering this multiple times!

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Ravellenics Endeth; March Madness Cometh (not what you think)

Wow, the Olympics is a total time-suck. I am so into the figure skating coverage that I managed to get up at 7 am to watch the live (online streaming) of the whole event, then race back home after work to catch the prime-time coverage.

Add in getting sick (being without a voice for six days – yikes!), a business trip, and that’s why it’s been radio silence here at Casa del Revknits.

But now that the Olympics is done, I can share my Ravellenic projects, which started with this pile of yarn:
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and I ended up with these socks:
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and these mittens:

Ravellenics Mittens for A4A
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and an original cowl pattern both designed and knit (sorry, still a secret knit for an upcoming publication).  Not much other knitting happened.

And March Madness? I confess that my days of bing-watching sports is done for now. Instead, I’ve cooked up a short-term competition we’re holding over at the Afghans for Afghans Ravelry Board. During the month of March, we’re going to see how many hats, pairs of mittens and socks we can knit up in a month.

If you participate, you have a chance to win some lovely knitterly prizes that have been donated. Here’s one lovely skein of Cephalopod Bugga! yarn that I am donating to the cause:

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Join us as we attempt to go over 100 items in total. I’m sure you can even do it while watching basketball.

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Gearing Up for the Ravellenic Games (aka the Knitting Olympics)

It’s the Winter Olympics again! And for this figure skating fan, the competition already started early this morning with the new team event. Ten countries have teams of one man, one woman lady, one dance team and one pair. Unfortunately for the USA team, halfway through the qualifying round, the USA is tied three-ways for 5th place. I hope our skaters will rally to qualify for the finals, and maybe win a bronze medal. Bring on the triple/triple jumps, the quads, the Beillmann spins, and Spandex and crystal-laden costumes. I love it all!

This also means that it is time for the ravelympics Ravellenic Games on Ravelry. I am team leader for Team Afghans for Afghans, and our mighty goal is to knit as many socks and mittens as we can for children (and their teachers) in Afghanistan, under the auspices of Afghans for Afghans. Check them out!

Along the way, I managed to turn a cold into a nasty throat infection, and lose my voice.  Now, I have managed to preach with a broken ankle, but no voice means no preaching and not much of anything else (that communication thing in ministry). Urgent care Doc was only helpful in ruling out strep (I have had strep, already knew this wasn’t it), so only after going to my ENT doc did I get a megadose of antibiotics which, 48 hours later, seems to be turning the tide. Day 6 of no voice, but hopefully I’ll get one soon.

With all this sickness, mindless knitting has been the order of the day. I knit some socks. First, a pair for me out of a really good deal at my LYS. The colorway is delightful. Project details here (rav link).IMG_1249

and I have enough leftover to make booties to wear inside as well:

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At the same time, I decided to get warmed-up for my Ravellenic competition by knitting some very basic socks. I’m calling it “pre-stockpiling” or “last-minute training.” One pair (the ones on the left) are from when I was recovering from my fractured ankle, which just needed a small part of the leg done, the others from scratch.

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I’ve also collected the stash yarns (scraps and others stuff) that I will use for the stockpiling projects. Some is bulky, other is worsted.

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Tomorrow evening, I’ll cast on for something (either a mitten if I have the brain power, or a another sock if I don’t). Should you wish to join in the revelry of the Ravellenic Games, come on by and join our team!

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Inspired

Despite all the corporate thugginess associated with the Olympics these days, I have to say that the athletes themselves are inspirational for the most part.  And this year, the uniforms are making me cry. You see, there was a big to-do leading up the 2012 games when it became clear that Ralph Lauren had outsourced the making of the uniforms to China. A petition from US labor asked the label to source the uniforms for 2014 domestically. And they did.

Last week (while I was neck-deep getting certified as a water fitness instructor), I happened on the video of Ralph Lauren’s announcement about the uniforms for the upcoming games in Sochi.

You gotta watch:

I cried a little. You might too.

And it niggled a brain neuron that fired, and voila! I found my very own skein of Imperial Yarn bought a couple of seasons ago – a bouncy, two-ply woolen yarn (tough to find woolen spun these days, let alone mulespun!):

Imperial yarn

Yep, the yarn comes from that very company whose wool is used for the uniforms.

And isn’t this message on the tag great? They think of everything:

Imperial wool tag

This will be a wonderful project to knit during the games – my homage and reminder that sometimes a corporate giant will listen to the complaints from the public, and change course. We who care about wool need to remember this!

 

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