Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Knitting and Spinning. . .a bit crazy!

Last time I wrote was almost TWO months ago! TWO! At that point, my oldest wasn't even out of school for the summer and I was only planning a few knitting projects. Well, here we are several weeks later. . .or a few more than several. I've accomplished quite a few things, actually, even in the midst of a few days spent at the lake and a whirlwind trip to Seattle with my little family.

So, first things first. I finished my Camp Loopy Project #1. If you can remember that long ago, it was the Folded Sweater by Veera Välimäki.
 To say that I LOVE this sweater would be an understatement. The fit is lovely. The yarn is lightweight and wears well. Here it is climbing into the 80's today and I am wearing it with shorts. It is a great sweater for warm weather. I made several modifications to the original pattern, but I would not hesitate to make this again. It only needed to use 400 yards in order to qualify for Camp Loopy, but I used 775 yards! So I'm a bit of an over acheiver, I guess. Remind me next year, though, not to do more than required. When you see my next project, you'll understand why.

The next project might not be exactly "G-rated" but the story is funny enough to recount here. You see, knitters are funny sometimes. Many times, the humor is something only we would get, but this story. . .THIS is funny. If you haven't ever seen my swift and yarn ball winding contraption, you might not understand that sometimes yarn comes in large loops, and not wound into a useable state. This protects the yarn in allowing it to be in a relaxed state while being stored. But it also means that when you are ready to knit with it, you must wind it into a ball, or, in most cases, a "cake"of yarn. As you knit from it, you pull the yarn out of the middle and it collapses on itself. This can cause tangles and what others call "yarn barf" or as Shannon from my knitting group so proclaimed "A yarn baby". . .So to combat this, I knit this pattern.

It puts pressure on the ball as you knit from it so that the yarn stays a little less messy. So I was knitting in public. I know, scandalous, right? And a woman, seeing my knitting with the beautiful yarn asked me what kind of yarn it was. I said that it was a wool/nylon sock yarn dyed by Three Irish Girls. I continued to knit as she pondered the object for awhile before asking me what it was. Without much thought (come on. . .I hang out with knitters most of the time whom, when I told them, would get it immediately) I told her - "Oh, it's a ball sack." Really. That's what it is called. Without looking up, and again, not thinking about it, I just kept on knitting. She was silent for a second before asking, "Wouldn't wool make that a little itchy?" Before I could process that question, she asked, "Are you going to make him a matching sock?" Oh boy. I REALLY need to think before I talk knitting to a non-knitting audience, I think. HA!

 I started and finished this next project in about 8 days. It's pretty huge, but the drape of this is GORGEOUS. It's one of the patterns recently released by The Sexy Knitter. It's the Westport Shawl knit in the Three Irish Girls colorway Father Time on a luxurious blend of Merino/Cashmere/Nylon.

Now, most of the time, it is not a great idea to knit lace with a highly variegated yarn, like this one. And it was probably true in this case, too, but I loved the way that upper portion striped with this yarn, so I would probably do it again. I got a chance to see one of my dearest friends from high school who was visiting from Massachusetts and I gave her this shawl to take home with her. 

 This is a finished picture of the Through The Loops Mystery KAL. It still does not have an official name, but it is a really pretty pattern and I do love how it turned out.I ended up having to borrow some yarn from Sarah to finish the edging, which originally I was bummed about, but I do love the contrast for the edging and would probably do it again, given the choice.

Since we're talking about Mystery Knit A Longs (KAL), I should probably mention that I joined another one. This one by Stephen West. I am using my You Are My Sunshine to knit it. It's gorgeous so far. I can't post pictures of my progress yet, as it is still the middle of the KAL, but it's fun. I love it so far. . .but I'm pretty behind on progress. 

I used the handspun yarn that I spun for the Knitabulls/FroggyMonkey joint Spin Along to knit this for the joint KAL this month. I have a TON leftover to make matching hat and even mitts, but this is my official entry and it will probably be the only one.

It's the Twist and Flounce that I also knit earlier this year for Jodi. I love how it worked up in the handspun. While normally these are not colors I would choose, the fact that I will have a whole set and the fact that it is my handspun make it beautiful.

Another small (REALLY small) project that I finished was this. I think I need to make one for all of my keys, don't you? It was fast and easy and definitely makes it easier to grab the correct key. . .Super fun!

So you are probably wondering why I did all of these small projects in recent days . . .or at least since finishing my last camp project. That would be because I was working on this. Yes. This. All 1,114 yards of it. It's my second Camp Loopy Project.

The blanket version of the Anadara shawl that I knit in January. It is LOVELY. And almost 4 feet across. It used blue, which, while a variation of the blue in our flag, worked for the 800 yard and contains a color from the flag requirement for the second project. Yeah. It only needed to be 800 yards and I ended up using 1,114. Remember that reminder next year to not be an over-achiever? Yeah. This. PLEASE remind me. It is complete and now I'm biding my time until the third project, which must be at least 500 yards and contain two colors. I will be knitting the Different Lines Shawl by Veera Välimäki and I will be using Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Baltic and Ginger (pictured below). I love it!! And it is a much more manageable project. No overachieving here. Just completing. Hopefully.

In the middle of the summer every year is the Tour de Fleece. Yes. It coincides with the Tour de France and like the Tour de France, contains a wheel. You set goals and peddle away and spin. This was my completed TdF fiber . . . The first is from All Spun Up. It is the Mystery Fish colorways- Goldfish Wearing a Tutu and Koi Pond - plied together. It is Polwarth fiber. . .and SO soft and squishy. You can see details here.

The last little bit is still not off the bobbin. I have 8 oz. of this lovely merino blend that also contains nylon sparkle. It's from WoolGatherings. I want to spin it really thin and it is taking forever! But it is beautiful and I can't wait to continue spinning it.

 And finally, the last big news of the summer is that I will be teaching a class at Paradise Fibers. I am going to teach toe-up socks from the Scylla Sock pattern that I used to knit these for my Mother in Law for Christmas.
 It will be a four Saturday class in September. If any of you that live far away want to come take it, you should :) And I'm hoping that at least a couple of local friends will sign up for it, as well. The cool part is that I get to spend four weekends combining my love for knitting AND my experience as a teacher to pass on some of my skills to other knitters. I get to teach how to cast on for toe up socks using Judy's Magic Cast on, how to knit slipped stitches and half linen stitch to break up pooling in variegated yarns, how to size for socks for toe-up as well as measuring yarn so you can use every last inch, gusset and short rows for shaping, slipped stitch heel for sturdiness in the heel, and Jeni's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. . .all things that can and will be used again in other toe-up patterns. And I will also be presenting two methods of small circumference circular knitting- Magic Loop and/or two circular knitting. I'm really excited about the opportunity and hope it leads to other classes in the future. IF you have any classes that you would like to see, let me know, and I'll throw a pitch at the lovely people at Paradise and see if they would consider adding it to the schedule. So in preparation for the class I am knitting a sock out of Collinette Jitterbug. I am through the heel turn now, but plan to plug away at it over the next couple of days to use it as a class sample.

Thanks for sitting through a REALLY long blog on what I've done lately in my knitting life. I hope that I will find the time to blog a little more often. . .but I am enjoying my summer of knitting and spinning projects. I've been able to have several meet-ups with friends at the park too, where the boys can run and I can knit. I hope you have found time this summer to do what you enjoy too!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer is supposed to be about slowing down, right?

When I was teaching school, I thought of summer as my time to sleep in. . .sure, I might have things to get done that I couldn't do during the school year to catch up on, but it was a change from the early rising and the working late and the correcting papers and planning concerts and lesson plans. But now I'm not a teacher. I'm a mom and a knitter. Summer doesn't mean slowing down. Summer means more projects! Summer means more time with kids because there is no more preschool. Here's my 4 year old showing his muscles on the last day. . .
So in anticipation of all of the things I knew would be filling up my time this summer, I cast on and finished this sweater. It turned out well, with a few minor modifications, including switching the buttons a little to the side after this picture was taken because it grew so much with blocking. It's the Mayim pattern knit out of Knit Picks Gloss DK in the Aegean colorway. 
 Another things about summers is a lot weddings. We have been to fewer and fewer over the last couple of years, and have attended more baby showers than weddings, but we look forward to watching two friends get married this summer. I attended their wedding shower last weekend. I don't think you can ever have enough cotton dish cloths, so these five were included in the gift for them to use as they begin their new life together. I love how simple and quick they are. And how totally practical.These were made from Sugar and Cream cotton.

Remember how I said it was the end of preschool? Well Z's teacher not only oversees and teaches 22 preschool students, she also has 44 high school students in the same classroom as the preschool students (22 at a time). I always felt tired after my school year ended. I can't imagine what she feels like. So I combined the easy dishcloth pattern and some luxury linen/cotton yarn with a bar of locally made soap. I call it a "poor mom's spa package" . . . hopefully she'll get a few moments this summer to relax and enjoy and get all ready to do it again next year!

Then there is Camp Loopy. I did camp last year. It consists of three projects, the first of which started at the end of May and must be finished by the end of June. Each project must fit within the guidelines stated in order to receive credit for yarn purchased and to receive the special luxury yarn at the end. For this first project, as a tie-in to the Olympics, we had to choose a pattern that was at least 400 yards and that was written by a designer that lives in a country other than our own. I did one better! I also picked a yarn that is dyed in Australia! I am using Skein Top Draw Sock, which is a sock (fingering) weight Merino/Nylon blend. It's beautiful. I'm knitting Folded by Veera Välimäki from Finland. I made some major modifications to the pattern construction to prevent running out of yarn before it was long enough, but I love it so far and the fit is stunning. We find out next week what the second project will be. . .so I'm hoping to finish project one well before that so I can get to dreaming about the next camp adventure. Here it is before I've finished the bottom. In this photo I have about 8 inches left to go, but I'm to about 6 now.

I am also knitting a Mystery Shawl by Kirsten Kapur from Through the Loops Design. I promise to post pictures when it is complete, but since it's a mystery that I don't want to spoil for anyone, I'll leave them off for now. She releases a small piece of the pattern WITHOUT pictures every week and you have to knit it to see what it will look like. It's a fun way to do a project and knit patterns in small chunks. I'm enjoying it!

In the end though, I think it's important to stop in the middle of all the crazy and take time for family, friends and memories. I get to start enjoying daily trips to the park and the library with my boys. I have all summer to enjoy with the wonderful women who attend our local knitting group every Saturday evening. I have friends coming in to town to catch up with. And I have online friends that share a special place in my heart. This week, one of those online friends that I've also been lucky enough to meet in real life lost her grandpa. He was a special man, and in hearing her stories about him, you knew he was worth honoring and remembering. One of the things he did was break his cookies in half. He would then eat his half and place the other back in the container. Then he'd take another out and eat half and place it back. He always left the other half for someone else. In his honor, we did a cookie party this week for him. My youngest helped me. E and I made cookies and cut them in half. We ended up eating our own and then we shared the other halves with each other. It was sweet for many reasons. So while I think you have to sometimes look for reasons to slow down, I think those reasons are always worth finding.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Making Beauty Out of Pain

I received my Three Irish Girls "You Are My Sunshine" this week and I am in love. So in love, in fact, that I started AND finished a pair of socks and have been wearing them the past couple of days. As I finished up a few other projects this week, I realized that there was a theme.  I realized how yarn and beauty and pain inspire some pretty amazing things.

I love being able to turn this, a yarn inspired by pain....

Into this...
My Harvest Dew Socks. (Which IS a free Ravelry Pattern, by the way).
I love that what began as an idea to help support those suffering from the grief that comes with losing a child, became yarn with a meaning. I love that the yarn became a project that I can wear and remember and smile.

I love that this Madelinetosh Vintage yarn in the Terrarium colorway:

became these:  
A pair of gloves, knit with love for the friend of a friend who had to have her finger amputated. I love that the idea to make something special for someone who had suffered a physical loss could become a gift that was inspired AND inspirING. As I knit each stitch I thought and prayed for the young girl who would be wearing these gloves. 

And finally, this.

This is a gift that has been the labor of love of many many people. There are 30 squares in this blanket, made from the Barn Raising Quilt pattern. Each square was knit by people with varying degrees of knitting skill out of different yarns, but an equal amount of love for our friend, Jodi, who delivered and lost not one, but two babies this past year. Nina, feeling her own losses as she cried with Jodi over hers, felt that a quilt needed to be made so that Jodi could wrap herself in it and know that she is loved, so I found a pattern, dug out my own scraps, asked for people in our own group to dig out theirs and asked for some on Ravelry (and had two people who have never met Jodi pass along some yarn to add to the blanket.) And we started to knit. As I knit 8 of the squares, I thought about my own losses. I thought about the pain, the healing, the joy, the hope. . .and I prayed for Jodi through each of those things. Sarah knit 7 of them, and as she has suffered her own losses, I know that she put a lot of thought into her squares. We got together to weave in ends (our LEAST favorite job!) and when it was finished and as I looked at the pile of ends I realized how true it was that we were given the chance to weave beauty out of pain. Kirsten made 4 squares and took the task of sewing them all together. She took each of our contributions and made it into something cohesive and beautiful. Many other people contributed in big ways. Kelsie made 2 squares and used her crocheting expertise to finish the edging. Jamie and Linda, both new knitters, confronted the task head on and made not only one square, but two. . . Kristen, Molly, Shannon, Serena, and Anna each contributed a square, and we couldn't have finished without each of their fun, bright and beautiful pieces.

So remember how I said we made beauty out of pain? I think these are the perfect examples of how that can work. By a small business making a yarn and contributing in big ways to help those experiencing losses. By a friend dreaming up an idea and figuring out how to get it done. By a group of people, drawn together by knitting, taking their time and their skills to create love for a friend.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Shawls. . .not just for your grandma anymore.

 Well, maybe your super hip grandma. I mean LOOK at these! And the best part, they don't even HAVE to be worn like a shawl. I wear them around my neck sort of bunched up, like a scarf or a cowl. Or like this first one, a beautiful lace shawl, which is triangular in shape. It's too small to wrap much around the neck so I hold it on with that lovely silver shawl pin. And yes, that is my handspun yarn from fiber I purchased from All Spun Up.

This one is a long shawl. It has a great construction in that you knit until half of your yarn is gone and then you start getting smaller. It's long, so the shape of it lends itself well to draping around the neck like a scarf. The bits of leafy ribbon and the beads make this an interesting yarn to knit with. . .and while not my favorite yarn, I'm glad I tried it. The pattern, on the other hand, I will definitely need to try again. 

Then there is this one. . .it's a triangular shawl, also, but larger so that I can wear it around my neck. It's knit out of sock yarn, so it's light weight. It has a very simple center section, so the hard part is the bottom edging. This was knit from the Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock, dyed in the Glimpse colorway, which was the first colorway she dyed to benefit SHARE and support for those suffering pregnancy loss.

This one was knit for a mystery KAL. I actually blogged about it a couple of months ago. This one has beautiful turquoise brushed glass beads and lace and a whole bunch of nupps (pronounced noop, like soup). The yarn from Knitpicks also has silvery shimmer to it. Gorgeous and such a fun pattern!

I've also blogged about this one. I think the colors in this one make it one of my all time favorite shawls. This is out of another Three Irish Girls yarn with a little taste of luxurious cashmere in it. This shawl is a semi-circle, so normally this one is worn with the biggest part in the front and then the points wrapped around the back and crossed to the front.

 This is another one of my favorites. I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light which I purchased from The Loopy Ewe (see the button in the upper right of the page). I knit this one for Camp Loopy, which IS coming up again in June, so watch Sheri's blog for more info. This is another long scarf/shawl, knit in one piece and perfect for being worn around the neck a couple of times.
This is a fun shawl. It's a square when completed and knit from the center out. The neat part about this shawl is the way it changes the patterning of the variegated yarn as it gets bigger. This one is usually folded diagonally into a triangle and then worn around my neck. . .but it can double as a small shoulder wrap, too, when I'm just home on the couch. . .so dual purpose!
And finally the first shawl I ever knit. This one was designed by Carina Spencer after a friend suffered a pregnancy loss. Every October, the proceeds from this pattern go to a charity that supports those suffering from pregnancy loss. I have made three of these. One for me, one for my mom, and one for a friend. It's big. REALLY big. Probably the closest to an actual shawl that I have ever come. It's done with warm yarn and serves as a hug around the shoulders. Probably the shawl I'm least likely to wear out due to its sheer size, I love the symbolism.

So there you go. A look at shawls. I should probably mention that I'm working on not one but two right now. . . Ha! I might be an addict. . .but I love the versatility of shawls. . .I love how easy the come together. I love the wearability. . .might not be the way your grandma wore them, but I promise. . .they aren't just for your grandma anymore! There are lots of patterns on Ravelry, and there are some great books out there, too! Just take a look! (There IS an Amazon link in the upper right too :) )

Friday, March 9, 2012

Knitting Crazy!

I'm a knit-a-holic. I know it. I think knitting. I dream knitting. When Tim drives and I ride, even if it's only a five minute trip, I pull knitting out of my purse and work on it. Look at the Knit-meter over on the right hand side up there. As of today, I've knit 2.62 MILES in 2012. Yeah. That's a lot, especially considering that we're only a few days into March. I've showed you several projects in the past couple of posts that I've finished - like this one that had been on the needles only two months less than Eli has been alive (which could be why he INSISTS that it is his and wears it when we go out)

or these - the pattern is Mittens For Me by Laura Linneman, which has a really cool Latvian Braid Technique that was new to me. . .

There are still a few on the needles that need some love and a couple more that I just couldn't wait to cast on. . .Like this hat, the Norie by Gudrun Johnston. . .which the boys couldn't wait to try on until I got the camera out. . .then a ball had to do the modeling. . .of course! It's done using Madelinetosh Vintage in the Cove colorway. . .and if you haven't tried this yarn, yet, you should. It's squishy and the colorways are just stunning.

I'm also working on a few projects that are secret for right now. . ."SECRET? AS IN YOU WON'T TELL ME?" Well, no. Not exactly. I mean, I can tell you - sort of. But I can't show you. Among other things, I have TWO designs that will be published by Three Irish Girls early this summer. I will show them to you in all of their glory after they have been knit and modeled and professionally photographed. But until then, you just have to trust me when I say that they are fun. :) It's pretty crazy to me that I've only been knitting for about 3 and a half years and I'm having patterns published and knitting 2.62 miles in 2.29 months. As I signed my contracts for Three Irish Girls and read the well-written and easy to understand but much necessary 5 pages of legal jargon that accompanied what will hopefully be one of many trips into the publishing and designing world, it all kind of hit me - that I kind of, no, I THOROUGHLY am Knitting Crazy! But if you asked Tim, he could have told you that AGES ago.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Are My Sunshine

Sharon at the Three Irish Girls has done it again. . .She has made this amazing colorway, available through March 15th, dyed to order on 9 amazing yarn bases. And what it represents. . .also amazing. She is donating 20% of the sale price to SHARE, which is a non-profit that helps parents who have lost children and are grieving. Near and dear to my heart after losing my son Samuel in 2006 and having a miscarriage in 2009 I can't thank her enough for being willing to do this for us again. By us, I mean the wonderful women in the Healing After Pregnancy Loss group on Ravelry. We approached her last year and she came up with "Glimpse". You can read more about it here.
We asked her again this year and she came up with "You Are My Sunshine."

You can order some for your own stash, to knit for someone you know who has had a loss, simply to support SHARE and what they stand for, or even send the yarn to someone who needs some yarny comfort. Losses happen. They stink. They aren't the way things were supposed to be. But I love that this colorway also represents hope. . .and a little bit of sunshine. And that it recognizes that our babies, if they lived for moments or days or months. . .that they were and are a little bit of sunshine and we are thankful for them all the same.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Knitting Podcasts?!?! What's the big deal?

So what's the big deal with knitting podcasts? If you're  not a knitter, then the answer is, they aren't a big deal. . .but if you are into the fiber arts at all, if they aren't a big deal, they probably should be. There are many many knitting and fiber arts podcasts. I was taught about podcasts by Jodi and Kirsten from my local knitting group. They insisted that I would love them if I gave it a try. Of course, like any sensible person who feels like their life might already be taken up by a hobby, I had to drag my feet a little bit, or at least pretend to :). . .but not for long. On the right hand side of the blog you will now see an extensive list of video podcasts. These are the ones I watch. There are more.  . .some I've watched and don't follow religiously. . .others that I have yet to discover, but these are the ones that I look forward to every week. There are lists of them on iTunes. . .and some that are audio podcasts and not video podcasts. But I like the ones best where I can SEE the pretties, not just hear about them. And it's probably a good thing I've set that as a limit for myself. Do you see that list? Do you see how long it is? I don't even want to see how long it would get if I added audio podcasts in there too! Now here comes the warning -

WARNING: Podcasts are seriously enabling when it comes to yarn and fiber. You might just find yourself falling for things like this:

 Boho Knitter Chic Masham Fiber dyed in the Hot Thai colorway.

Or this:
Three Waters Farm Polwarth/Silk Roving in Radicchio

Or maybe some of this:
Widdershin Woolworks Shetland Fiber dyed in the Avalon colorway

Or some of the following yarns from Three Ewes Twisted in Fiber:

 Scooby Doo dyed on Ewephoric Sock yarn

When Pigs Fly dyed on Ram Worsted. . .

Yup. Watching podcasts needs to come with a warning, but also a clear message - If you're into knitting and fiber, you will learn a lot this way. . .about books, needles, yarns, fibers, projects, and lots about the fiber world and going-ons. . .and if you try them, you might just like them :)

PS - And you win things like this pattern: Patty the Pillow Pony which I won from the Knitabulls podcast! (see the link over there ----->)