Sunday, January 22, 2012

In the Works

Poppy in her Fisherdog sweater January 19, 2012
Here we are in 2012. Seattle is just coming out of several days of snow and ice, which, for me, meant staying home from work with the dogs. I brought home work to do, since we expected the snow and this is a busy time at work, but I found myself watching the birds, playing with the dogs, reading, and being generally unproductive. It was totally relaxing and refreshing, yet I'm not looking forward to returning to work tomorrow. I had lots of time to think and make decisions.

The photos are just for fun, and are not what I'm writing about today.

A few weeks ago, talking with my counselor, I was puzzled about my style of setting and achieving goals without defining the steps, in order to take those steps to achieve the goal. She commented that my approach is that of a right-brain sort of person. I have heard the term, of course, (as well as "type A" personality) but have been confused about what that means. I am a list-maker and perfectionist from childhood, leading me to think of myself as a linear thinker. Yet, as I'm aging, lists and perfection seem tedious and not necessarily productive. 

Maverick in his lumberjack fleece
So I asked what right brain actually means and she said the right brain is the creative side; that I'm a creative thinker. We observed how our society rewards linear thinking, and she commented that in my attempts at perfection, I have continued to embrace that idea and attempt to be a linear thinker.

I think that trying to operate in a linear fashion hinders my progress - we non-linear thinkers perhaps take a longer route in the attempt to do things "correctly." Like in elementary school when doing story problems, we had to show HOW we got the answer rather than just the answer. Time to move on from elementary school rules!

Our hummingbird guest during the snow days.
My 2012 goal is to try weekend entrepreneurship. Looking toward the summer, my creative energies are toward taking a booth at one of the area weekly craft markets. The commitments required are minimal to begin, and I will have the chance to see how it feels to be in that arena with flea market sorts of items as well as some of my own creations. Some of the items are paper, so choosing the drier months will be necessary, at least until or unless I obtain some sort of cover. This gives me several months to prepare through research, collecting items, planning displays, and product development.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Intrepid needles

For my most recent post, knitting was my primary focus. Since then, other interests have emerged, and thoughts about my personal goals and direction are under consideration. Needles are involved at times, but I'm not limiting myself as my creative spirit is expanding into new and, for me, surprising territories. 

2010 was showing some creative wanderlust as I finished the year knitting small items as gifts. The yarn for many of the gifts was purchased at Village Yarn & Tea's closing sale in October. It was my LYS, and I was very sorry to lose the people and the camaraderie we had there, even while I understood the choices the owners had to make. I still miss my store today.

Also that fall, a friend joined with me to make each of us a duct tape dress form. What an adventure! We each took hours to wrap each other on a Sunday, and the finished product, while showing us as we were at the time, was shocking. I'm the red, and she is the white form. I'd like to say that I don't really look just like that, but... 

The plan was to fill them with poly-fiberfill, mount them on a stand, and use them for blocking sweaters to our exact sizes. At this very moment, mine is sitting behind me, empty and forlorn, likely because I didn't accept my girth and posture, so I wanted to change those things and make a new one. The most noticeable point is the fact of my left shoulder so much lower than my right shoulder. I knew this to be true from my flat pattern design sloper in college, yet while the 3-D example is a little scary, there isn't likely to be much I can do to change that!

Besides the knitting, my handmade gifts include creating jewelry by working with silver rings or crocheting silver wire with beads. Occasionally, I'll sew a project bag or an apron. I'm so fascinated by all of you who create items in enough mass to open stores on Etsy - it's one of the possibilities I have in the "someday" corner of my mind.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer is arriving!

Hard to believe it's July 6th. The Pollyanna in me is loving the lush greens everywhere and is happy that all the rain could mitigate the need for water rationing this summer. The cynic in me really would like to avoid the morning chill and the soggy grass. Still, living here in the Pacific Northwest is nothing if not unpredictable! The forecasters tell us summer weather will arrive after July 4th. Today, it looks possible!

A really nice thing about grey and rain is the increased motivation to be knitting instead of getting wet! I'm closing in on my Cocoknits Marta cardigan. The instructions for the body shaping are clear and the end product is beautifully invisible. I was confounded by having to choose which M1 increases on the sleeves will do the same while knitting in the round on each side of underarm "seam" and considering the best technique for the new stitch as a knit or a purl to be in pattern. My frustrations have been a little humbling, especially when I found the answer readily available on my Elizabeth Zimmerman Knitting Workshop DVD. Naomi and Melinda had both suggested I try various techniques on my swatch, but I took some time to pout before I did so and got back on track. Both sleeves are now complete (and lovely) so now after checking DVD "knitting with jean" for the shoulder seam technique (since the first two I tried, mattress and grafting, didn't give what I was hoping for).This technique is the best yet, so I didn't mind the do-over time.

While pouting, I focused on some fun socks - the Chevron pattern from pages 70-72 in Sensational Knitted Socks is knitted with Aussie Socks Fiesta color way. They were not only fun to knit, but striped better than I had anticipated and are quite comfortable on my feet. I have already recommended them to Joelle (in my BYS club class) and my friend, Pam. Joelle began knitting a pair for her sister but grew frustrated with the yarn and started a scarf instead. For now she's recovering from a broken foot/ankle and gets around on a little scooter, which also means she's got time for some serious knitting. Pam is a self-taught knitter and not accustomed to patterns, and I haven't heard how her socks are progressing. Maybe I'd better check in with her.

A pair of purl-less Monkey socks knit from Blue Moon's lightweight yarn were a quick knit, for a change. The color way is Jubilation, and while it looks lighter in the photo, it is rich browns with the earthy purples and blues of shadows. Until today's weather, I thought I'd be able to wear them all summer! At the moment I have a pair of socks for George in progress; I completed the first this weekend in the Nutkin pattern from Blue Moon's medium weight Grawk. This is the first time I've been able to knit socks on US3 needles - George says it fits beautifully.

At the same time, I couldn't resist starting the Citron shawlette in Mirasol's lovely heathered pink (#1007) merino, silk, and bamboo Nuna yarn. I bought enough yarn to knit a full size shawl, so we'll see how long I really want it to be. My only shawls have been more like scarves or wraps from rayon or cotton that I bought in Greece and Italy, so a real shawl will be a new experience.

Only knitting this time! I have lots of thought tumbling around in my head, but not yet in any form worth sharing. So now, the yard: weeding, picking raspberries, laying flagstone... I'm inspired now that the warm weather has begun!

Monday, May 31, 2010

" Takkin' and Makkin' "

I never imagined knitting would give me once in a lifetime experiences that would fill my heart... until I began having them. And last weekend, another jewel was added to my treasure chest in the form of a three day Fair Isle knitting class held at the Nordic Museum in Ballard with Elizabeth Johnston, spinner and lace & Fair Isle knitter from Shetland and Martha Owen, artist-in-residence from the John Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. I signed up for the class immediately upon learning about it, and was alternately thrilled and filled with nervous anticipation about knitting in such company. There were 13 students in the class, including very accomplished Fair Isle knitters along with those of us with less experience and a lot of interest.

The teaching style was relaxed and unassuming, beginning with a brief biography of Elizabeth's and Martha's history, a circuit around the room about student hopes and expectations, fair isle patterns discussion, and we began knitting color study swatches. 

Elizabeth's swatches are gloves, hats, mittens, fingerless gloves, tea cozies... never wasting a minute or a piece of yarn on a useless item. She was all about economy of motion, of time, and of effort. I've heard all of that before, then somehow having her in front of me, living and breathing that way of living, I understood it in a whole new way. Everything about knitting, about colors and patterns is second nature to her, and isn't necessarily the same sort of joy to her that many of us feel. She is perfectionist about the things that need to be perfect, and has let go of the things that don't need to be perfect in order to create perfectly beautiful knitted items (like tying knots instead of weaving in ends: "takes too much time, and the knots and ends get felted anyway").

I was surprised to hear her say that a Shetlander will always choose natural colors (did you notice her wonderful cardigan, above?), and no more than 5 tones are necessary - 7 at the most. A new way of thinking about the patterns and the colors opened up for me since it was sort of reduced to the amount of contrast from one to the next. Martha was knitting a vest for her husband in natural colors with just a shot of a beautiful teal, and I was inspired to choose my Jamieson's Spindrift colors in the NIghthawk tones. I showed my choices to Elizabeth and watched her deft movement to judge the contrast and tones together before pronouncing them a good assortment.

My stranded technique requires my full attention and although I'm fairly slow, I manage to produce a nice fabric. I want to develop the skill of knitting with both colors on the throwing hand since my picking is labored and I get easily frustrated. Still, I love my swatch, and plan to keep going with it for color and technique practice. I also enjoyed knitting the egg cozy - it was going to be a little sweater, but such small knitting in the round was distracting me from the color and pattern studies. I do love the color family and especially that Paprika color - I want to try more of that and to practice more patterns.

Martha was a lot of fun while adding stories, clarifications, and American perspective to Elizabeth's information. Martha describes herself as willing to be random and to try nearly anything. She is interested in all things sheep and brought yarn for dying. Fun for me since I've been thinking about dying without taking any action... on Saturday, we tried for variegated by adding natural coloring in piles instead of sprinkles on top of layers of yarn. She had cochineal, red onion skins, and madder, and the yarns were quite a variety of tones. It makes dye lot a lot easier to understand. Not like mixing paint for the house!

Jan (left) used the practice pattern Elizabeth wrote on the board for if we had no pattern in mind. With the colors she chose, it was very sophisticated and current - she plans to make a hat with her swatch. Andrea (right) is a very accomplished stranded knitter and tried different swatches - her color combinations are so elegant! I can see Barbara's colors in a sweater to wear with jeans, and the wonderful brown-gold will be fingerless gloves.

It seemed everyone in the class was affected in similar ways at our different levels - the things that were produced while there were beautiful and quite different. I've included a sampling here, but my photos don't really do the colors justice - you need to buy a Jamieson's color card from distributor Karen Campbell to really see the new range.

While I can't really do justice to the experience, I wish every knitter this sort of inspiration. And I'm looking forward to taking my inspiration into real knitted Fair Isle treasures! 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2010 is 1/3 behind us!

We had a false spring start here in the Pacific Northwest - it was just beautiful in February and reminded me why I love living here. It looked like March or April, and even the plants thought so. And now here we are with temperatures in the 50's in May... we won't have the same berry crops as last year!

A great trip to Tacoma for Madrona filled me with joy and optimism! I was one of the lucky students in Jean Wong's Tailored Knitting class, and learned quite a lot while there. It was a perfect in-depth update to learn how to design a sweater for my specific size - my high school and college training was in tailoring and clothing design due to my sewing background, so to gain this knowledge specifically for knitting was wonderful. Melinda and Naomi talk about not needing a pattern to make any sweater they want to make, and I had a rush of that joy. There was a time when that was true for me with sewing, and I'm inspired again about both skills.

After two intense days in class, I was on a relaxation retreat. After a tough January at work, the enjoyment of fiber enthusiasts, and knitting were perfect therapy. It was a great strategy, and I enjoyed every minute, including spending more $$ than I intended on so many beautiful yarns. My friend, Pam, even came down to just to shop!

Melinda and Naomi have been nudging me toward spinning and I've been resistant because I can't imagine taking the time away from knitting; I said if I win some roving, I'll try spinning, knowing that I never win anything. So wouldn't you know I would win some beautiful Blue Faced Leister?

In March, we celebrated some 1st quarter birthdays with an intimate brunch and a lot of laughter! Melinda, Joni B and Joni O gave us a reason (as if we need one) to get together with fiber and food! Joni B and I had first tries at spinning on Naomi's e-spinner and then I tried with one of Melinda's spindles... for me, it's going to be a slow process. That didn't stop me from going and completely enjoying the spin-in at Oak Harbor on April 10 with Melinda, Naomi, and Amy - when I wasn't socializing with Andrea, Rebecca and Peggy (just to name a few) I just knit and limited myself to the purchase of one skein of Blue Faced Leister sock yarn. What fun we have!


Stepson Nick's wife is due to have their third son, Joshua, in July. I decided to knit a simple baby blanket for him using Berrocco's Comfort in the denim blue color - it really does look like jeans. While I'm usually committed to natural fibers, our daughter-in-law has three boys under 6 and constantly uses the washer and dryer. The hand of the blanket's fabric is just great - it actually feels like jeans! The pattern is a customized version of a paneled blanket from a book, and this is my thought process:

The first row is a heart because from the first moment, he is there. The second row is evergreen trees because although they live in California, his parents are from the Pacific NW. The third row is his initials JJB with sailboats on either end because he will grow up with water sports. The fourth row is lightning bolts because he will be brought up with superheroes. And the fifth row is stars because he will be taught to reach for them.

The socks from yarn my friend, Pam, gave me last August are just what I was hoping for: sort of bulky and relaxed. The pattern is adapted from the Cascade Yarns B & B sock. After experimentation, I found myself using size 0 needles for the ribbed cuff, size 1 needles for the basket weave; cable stitch pattern, and size .5 needles for the sole of the sock. I'm paying more attention to the texture of the knit fabric I create. And when I was afraid of running out of yarn, Naomi gave me a wonderful coordinated yarn to use for the toes, and I think it looks planned instead of emergency fixed.

Currently, I'm in the midst of the Chevron socks from Sensational Knitted Socks using Aussie Socks Spanish Fiesta. Once again, the fabric was too dense so larger needles were in order. The result now is very comfortable and I'm ready to blaze through the 2nd sock.

My other current project is Cocoknits Marta knit from Lana Grossa's Eco. This was my lesson in finding the gauge while paying no attention to the needle size indicated. I finally am using US 9's instead of the US 5's my usual tension would call for, and the fabric is heavenly soft. Her pattern-writing is clear and simple and includes some new techniques for me. I'm going to love this cardigan! The body is done and I'm working on sleeve #1 when I'm not knitting on my socks.

Next up, I'm planning to restart the lace panel shawl because the lace edging was much too tight. I'm not an experienced lace knitter, so I had no idea I was having a problem until my lace turned out to be half as long as it should have been by the end. Yes, I should have swatched, even in lace! Painful lesson with 890 cast on stitches! I've been calling it my stupid shawl, but this is clearly not the shawl's fault.

And, speaking of swatching, I'll be doing more of that for Mitch's Irish Moss. My previously always-loose knitting seems to be getting tighter, so I can't count on having to go down two needle sizes any more. Perhaps it's just nervousness at beginning my first Alice Starmore pattern. In any case, it's worth the price of extra yarn to have enough to knit a large swatch without worrying about running out of yarn.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First, thank you to Melinda for her computer savvy and investigative skills to get me back on track with photo upload. It seems that Blogger and Internet Explorer 8 aren't the best of friends, so a switch to Firefox as my browser enables me to add photos once again. It turns out that she found an answer to this computer issue by combining her own experiences with experimentation, so, knowing that, I hope to resolve my own problem next time. I did add photos to my final 2009 blog and 2010 will continue with more photos!
First, I've been on an accessories track.

It began when I was entranced by the Leaf and Vine hat on the cover of the fall Vogue Knitting, so I used some creamy Plucky Sock Club yarn combined with a subtle Kid Silk Haze and knit a sumptuous hat. I wear it whenever there's a hint of chill (due to our very mild winter here in the Northwest) and have received compliments from complete strangers who don't even realize it is handknit. The photo is before it was blocked into beret shape. A really great thing about this hat was realizing that my somewhat overwhelming sock yarn stash can be so much more than socks or scarves.

I tried the basket weave stitch design on a pair of scarves knit from Plymouth Yarn's Grande Baby Alpaca Hand-Dye; LOVE the yarn and the wonderful colors! They were elegant and appreciated gifts this year, as shown on my brother here - he's a green kind of guy.

Next, I decided to pick up a long put off project and started Zeitgeist Yarns' Selbu Modern hat using Mini Mochi for the pattern and Baby Ull for the solid color (shown here with the Leaf and Vine hat). It was immediately apparent that with my stranded gauge, the sizing was going to be too small for my head, so I stopped and began again, adding a repeat. While that and blocking to a beret shape helped, I realized in this yarn, a snug fit is inevitable. I've been thinking of using Mochi Plus and a complimentary solid color yarn to make another one, but haven't taken any action yet. And, about this pattern... I think the designer is amazing! I loved how the pattern incorporates the decreases for the crown with such elegance - it is beautiful and ingenious!

The Mochi colors and Mochi Plus interested me enough to buy several balls of various colors and I knitted George a hat for Christmas using Lisa Ellis Designs subtly cabled hat in the worsted weight (it's great that the pattern includes child and adult hats as well as for lightweight or worsted weight yarn). I managed to knit the hat without him knowing, and when I gave it to him, he loved the colors but didn't get excited about the hat. When I got him to explain, he demonstrated how he likes to wear hats - not so snug to his head, and he likes to roll them up as needed - so I bought another ball and knit a second hat, this time with an extra repeat and adding a 2 1/2" cuff. He loves it, and my friend, Cindy liked the original, so nothing is lost.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My 2009 knitting year

First, thank you for your comments following my last post - the posted comments as well as those of you who spoke with me directly. Knitters are a wonderful group of people, and I'm very glad to be among you all.

Second, I've been unable to load any photos for a month and haven't been able to break through the "javascript:void(0)" message when I try. So I'll post the photos later to get this post up now.

2009 has been a fickle knitting year for me, from frustrations to new experiences. I randomly learned new things, and knitted smaller projects after the big sweater for George. Perhaps this has been a growth spurt of sorts...

The year began with focus on luxury yarns; I knit Melody's Shawl with Plucky's Silk Merino for my Mom, and with Misti Alpaca lace and Zephyr lace for my friend, Cindy.
Next, I cast on George's top-down in January, using the vintage DK Marl. This project was all about learning how to plan my own design within the framework of Karen Alfke's pattern. I also learned just how much tighter my knit stitches are than my purls, how to research something instead of only turning to my knitting friends, just how short-rows worked for the shawl collar, and how to seam the back of said collar to best effect. George was just as thrilled with the results as I was - he's not really a sweater person, but puts it on proudly and wears it until he is roasting.

At Madrona, I began a smoke-ring with my beautiful qiviut-merino yarn. Looking back, I'm amazed I tried even that little bit of lace with such amazing yarn, but the results were completely sublime (thank you, Naomi and Melinda - you know how you helped!). I would happily knit with that yarn again, and I would knit that pattern again. I'm developing an interest in dying... I'd love see qiviut-merino in rich colors and want to learn about how to do that.

The lace-T knit from Pima-Tencel was completed in the spring. I love the way it feels and surprised myself by liking how it looks on me. I'm a little disappointed with the way it wears though - the yarn droops quickly, so this pattern would benefit from a sturdier yarn, such as the one recommended on the pattern.

On a whim, I found some colorful Kid Seta on sale and knitted Veronique from French Girl Knits. It was quite fun to do something quick and easy that still gave me a lesson about construction and finding an edging. It was the perfect lightweight wrap to take on our trip to Savannah, and people who don't know about knitting thought I was a genious to have made it myself. Always love that feeling!

I knit a couple of baby hoodies and a stack of cotton wash mitts before picking up my Louisa Harding vest of ivory Silky Wool. The pattern was marvelous and I love the resulting garment. The only disappointment was the color from the dark blue blouse the second time I wore it that rubbed onto the underarm of the vest. I washed the vest with Eucalan, but there is still a shadow, and I will have to take more drastic action. I love the color, but may have to dye it. And knit it again another day. Sigh.
Otherwise, I've knit several pairs of socks, a couple of scarves, and several hats. I'm loving accessories right now, and will talk next time about plans for 2010.

Happy New Year!