Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where are they now? The three fates...

Write about the fate of a past knitting/crochet project. Something you made for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to a charity. How has one of your past knits lived up to wear. Maybe you spent weeks knitting your giant-footed dad a pair of socks in bright pink and green stripes which he then "lost."

By Jess M. Jones

Self-indulgence. Gift. Super fail. Those are the three fates of my knitting projects...

I love knitting stuff for myself! So the largest percentage of knits I've made have been for me. That's the easiest way to keep track of past projects, of coarse, because you get to wear them, use them, take care of them the right way :)

Some get more wear/use than others. Socks and hats seem to get the most play around here, but then I did make 2 sweaters last year and I wore them a lot this winter (being that I've only really been knitting in earnest for about 4 years, and I am a slow knitter, there are a lot of things I haven't yet attempted). But I may be selfish in the thought that others just won't quite hold the level of appreciation for the work, the intricacy of the pattern, the quality of the yarn, etc - so I knit for myself. Not to mention that I'm also prone to wanting to knit things that would be deemed as super strange by most! Like undies! They're great - made with sock yarn - and I feel like Wonder Woman when I wear them. Under-roos for the adult me!

When I do gift something knitted, it is probably for one of my daughters. Because they DO understand all of the details mentioned above! Still, how many things have I made for Rory, my 11 year old, which just aren't comfortable for her and therefore don't get worn? About 2 out of 2 too many, so I don't really knit for her anymore (she understands, tho, and I think that's good inspiration for her to make something for herself!). Gifting my knowledge, then, becomes the way to give. Here is a freely knit long cardigan I made for Vievy, which she actually has given good wear time to:

Outside my immediate household, I've given mostly hats. I made about 6 or 7 last Xmas (I'm slow, I know, cause I started MONTHS in advance!). These were for my brothers, my mom, sister, stepdad...they all loved them and evidenced that by truly wearing them a lot. That's great! In these cases, it's the care of the item that worries me but I know I have to try to let it go. Hard to do when you get a phone call from your're chatting...she mentions that, oh, that pom pom on the end of her hat? well, she took it off, "I hope that doesn't hurt your feelings," she says...

Besides trying to shrug off inevitable thoughts of, gee, I made that pom pom specifically for you, and I like it on the hat...I know that my mom did not CAREFULLY remove that pom pom! She has a certain strength about her that she saves for tasks like pom pom removal. Visions of the whole thing unraveling from the top down are now making me a little bit enraged, and I get quieter and quieter..."Well, mom, when it unravels don't call me about it, cause I put that pom pom on very thoroughly and you probably seam-ripped right thru a bunch of crucial stitches."

"OH NO, do you think it WILL unravel?" she shrieks. Oh, mom, I'll have a look at it next time I'm over...

If a knit of mine doesn't end up well, it turns into something else; the orange hemp yarn which I crocheted into the funky decorations on this button-up originally began its life with me on my 30th birthday trip to Georgetown with my mom, brother, and sister. There was a yarn shop! So I decided I'd make my first pair of knee-high socks with orange hemp...yep, hemp (BAD call!). I actually knitted the entire first sock, and it traveled with me for over a year until I decided there was no need to keep this one sock which was terribly un-elastic anyway. Plus I don't even think I had enough to make a second! So I ripped it out and have re-used it for all kinds of things! Those shirt decorations, stitch markers, gift wrapping twine - all were way better uses of that lovely yarn than its original intent. Now I know!

The important thing to me is that, no matter the fate of my knitting, so much was learned along the way - and I'm a better knitter and a better everything for it!

(to see other blogs also participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blogging Week and posting on this same topic today, just enter " 2KCBWDAY4 " without the quotation marks into your search engine, and browse the results.) 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy Stitches...Check! (Tidy Mind...maybe not so much?)

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organized? Maybe you are not organized at all, in which case I personally dare you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. If you are organized, blog about an aspect of that organization process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organized stash, or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.
By Jessica M. Jones aka Flying Spindle

So, ya wanna know how I organize my yarn/knitting accoutrements/spinning fluff/all of the above? The only way I know how: A little order and a little chaos mixed together!

I often dream of all the ways I'd like to have all my creative ingredients organized - well, usually I just think of this after wandering around a gorgeous yarn store where everything has a cubby and is grouped by fiber and color...but in all honesty, that's really too perfect for my taste! My real goal in relation to knitting and spinning is to have next to no stash - just piles of gorgeous, homemade things; and I've found that when I let too much excess yarn/wool into my house, my actual creative energy kinda gets smothered.

But you know, a fiber freak like me can't be ruled by reason and I have to admit that I do own a slight bit of a stash: cones of cotton leftover from my recent dabble-ment with weaving, and the wool of 4 white sheep's fleeces (purchased last spring to fuel my love of spinning) makes up a pretty space-consuming collection! I have my cones displayed on the built-in shelf in my living room (my own mini yarn library)(see, I secretly DO want to be surrounded with the stuff!) Whereas the wool is shamefully shoved into the top of my bedroom closet...nagging at me for not having used it ALL UP by NOW!!! And then wool envy comes into the picture when all my friends are spinning up gorgeous colors and all I've got is -white-

Learn to dye already, Jess...Bust that stash!

To ease the pain of my wool hoarding guilt, I recently put together my very own knitting corner. It makes me feel cozy and creative, and it has actual places to keep my projects. So much nicer than how I used to do it, which was to keep a project tucked on a shelf that didn't have room for it, or out in the open where a friend's baby could grab and unravel my undies I'd been working on for a month! (tune in for tomorrow's blog post for a peek at those undies...)

This corner is composed of 2 comfy chairs I recently picked up at the thrift shop (a project in their own right - awaiting a re-upholstering).

Between the chairs is a 2-tiered end table on which rests my wooden yarn bowl (a souvenir from our time in Germany, when my daughter, Aurora, was so little she fit in the thing!), with space below for a work-in-progress; currently a braided rug for the girls' room.

Off the window above hangs my needle basket (another souvenir from our scant year in Portland, Oregon) which is flanked with some of my photography and a drawing from a friend. Another small table holds a task lamp.

I think the award for most organized in my house goes to my collection of project bags! Last year, I finally got smart and stopped disrespecting my knitting by making these bags - now it's SO easy to have a bunch of projects going; all ready for whatever mood may strike I wanna work on my blue toe-up socks? They're in the purple and green bag! Or my hand-spun cardigan? That one lives in the "Moroccan Pocket" bag! All of them hang conveniently in the knitting corner and I love them!

I guess I'm a little more together than I realized - Too bad I didn't figure all this out years ago. (I was always the mom who forgot the diaper and extra blankie) But then that's what life is for...if things weren't ever a little outta control, would I appreciate the order as much? I don't think so :)

(To see other blogs participating in this 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week and posting on this same topic today, just enter " 2KCBWDAY3 " without the quotation marks into your search engine, and enjoy browsing the results.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill + 1 Up!

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or a crochet hook this time last year?

By Aurora C. Jones

I started knitting about over a year ago, but I didn't knit very often at all. I am 11 years old now.

I started to knit again after my mom, Jessica, joined the Fiber Guild which was last February. I still didn't knit very much, but I made a neck warmer which I ended up liking but was bummed that it had some holes in it and gained stitches along the way so it wasn't as good as I was expecting. I couldn't hold my needles right at all - I don't remember how I held them, but it made me slower to knit. Now I do much better and right now I'm knitting a wall decoration for my room with very tiny yarn and needles. It looks really cute! ♥

With the neck warmer Mama said I could just go with the mistakes and make it look more like I meant to make them.

After the neck warmer, I made a skinny silver scarf. At the beginning of that project, I still didn't know how to hold the needles right, but then mama taught me how. I also made to sure to get mama to fix when I accidentally made holes and skipped stitches or added stitches.

Then I was knitting a scarf that was turning out really good, then some how kind of bent to the other way and then I started to knit a little messy then I got better again! I've decided to use it as a waist band for a skirt which I am going to sew.

About the wall decoration, my needles are really small and so is the ♥ yarn (its like thread) and its rainbow colored but very light and it makes stripes. I'm also going to put lace at the bottom of it. I also knitted a head band for myself from the same yarn but then turned out mama told me that the yarn for my head band was going to stretch and was going to be too big for me even though i had already took it off the knitting needles.

I ended up giving it to my cousin Brittany and she loved it!

Genevieve, my sister, recently showed me how to knit cables so I have been practicing that and I have been getting pretty mad about it because I kept messing up and I would keep taking out my knitting and starting over again for like 50 times! (not really 50 times, but a lot!) I finally am doing pretty good at my cables and I can actually see the cable twist.

I am a lot better at knitting now than a year ago, and I think I will get better at knitting as I practice.

(to find other blogs participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week and writing on this topic today, enter " 2KCBWDAY2 " - without the quotation marks, into your search engine and browse the results.)

Skill and 1UP

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or a crochet hook this time last year?
 by Amy H., who is ames of Purlene

OK, so the gamer was obviously going to write for the 1UP day. For those of you who may not get the (perhaps unintended, yet fitting) reference, a 1UP in video games is a new life. You run down the street, you hit a box, and boom - an extra life, a chance for a do-over, a 1UP.

We get those in knitting as well. Every time we rip out a poorly-done cable, or tink back a row or seven, or frog an entire project to repurpose the yarn for something more fitting, we get a 1UP. And it is good! It keeps us fresh, even when we're frustrated.

1UPs in games aren't used just to redo mistakes. With enough lives, you can finish the level, go to a more challenging one, and one after that, and after that. The parallel to knitting holds true here, as with each finished project (or project that is "finished enough"), we have the opportunity to take our knitting up a step. We can try a complicated twisted stitch pattern, or knit in a different fiber blend than we're used to, or dive into the wild world of designing our own projects.

2010 was a year of many changes for me. I moved back home to regroup after a challenging end of 2009, and to be closer to my family. Many things in my life were becoming simpler, both in content and in context. My knitting followed suit - all of the changes in my life made it difficult for me to settle down with a project. But I hit a knitterly milestone in 2010 - I knit a sweater. A grown-up sweater that fits a grown-up person, and I did it WELL.

A sweater, by golly

That's right, I'm tooting my own horn. The pattern wasn't super difficult, this wasn't a 1UP in a knitting technique sense. In fact, it was really easy to knit, and if you go and get Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, you can knit one too. Why does it count, then? Two reasons. First, there was SEAMING. I learned how to seam evenly, how to set in a sleeve without bunching, how to prepare each section so they lay flat and matched up evenly.

Second, it was my first real knit-in-pieces sweater. Yes, I did the February Lady Sweater like 90% of the knitting world, but it never felt like it "counted". It's like there's a hierarchy of knitting skills. You learn a washcloth, a scarf, a hat. You graduate maybe to a baby blanket or maybe mittens. Suddenly socks enter your life, and you've changed forever. And then, at the pinnacle of Knitterly Accomplishment sits the Adult Seamed Sweater. And I DID IT. I did it, I wore it, and my mom wore it, and darned if it doesn't look better on her than it did on me, ha.

So there's my 1UP for 2010. The sweater, which reinvigorated my knitting and dragged it out of sock-and-hat land, which is a functional garment that is also cute as heck, and which has the added benefit of keeping my mom warm in the winter. It's almost April, we're well into 2011 now. I wonder what my 1UP for this year will be?

(Secret: it will probably be spinning.)

(to find other blogs participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week and writing on this topic today, enter " 2KCBWDAY2 " - without the quotation marks, into your search engine.) 

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns

Part of any fiber enthusiast's hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash, or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them

By Michaela McIntosh

At the time, I was in a hurry, wanted something to knit on an eight hour plane trip and needed to be able to finish. I wanted, for once, to buy the yarn and the pattern for it at the same time. I even was going to buy the recommended yarn for the pattern. Well, doesn't everybody?

Well, no. Not if  you are a spinner and used to making your own yarn. Nor does being a spinner keep you from buying yarn you fall in love with but don't have project for. So, this time I was going to get the pattern for the yarn I had chosen or vice versa, depending on which came first.

So, out I went to our wonderful Village Knittery in Summerville. Emily, the shops most knowledgeable proprietress, was happy to stop what she was doing and help. I told her I wanted something easy, fast, and luxurious feeling. She suggested a shrug, and produced the pattern and showed me where the particular yarns for it were. There were skeins of blue, rose, and soft sage green; all with just a touch of heathery slubs. It felt delicious.I could picture the recipient snuggling into it and thinking what a wonderful solution to the chill of a wet Northwest winter.  I selected the blue and purchased the skeins, pattern, and a few other items.

It knit up beautifully to gauge. It felt so good in my hands I didn't want to put the project down. I didn't want to give it away, but that was the purpose of this not-so-cheap foray. I got a beautiful yarn and expert advice. It was heaven, the kind of project that makes you want to keep knitting forever! When I gave it to my friend, you can imagine my disappointment when she said without enthusiasm, "Oh, now nice, homemade." Well, maybe it wasn't her color.

I took that pattern and decided to substitute some hand-spun, hand-dyed Shetland that I had plyed with sewing thread to make my hand-dyed yarn go further. At the time, my employment was as a demonstration weaver and historical interpreter from the 1700s. Using some odd skeins of other shades of hand-dyed yarns that were not Shetland, but from the plantation sheep, yarn that had been spun mostly as demonstration yarn, with much stop and go, I started another shrug.

The gauge was slightly different, but I didn't make any adjustment for it. There was really no fitting to this garment. While the texture was different, I was enjoying this project just as much as the first. The rusty, reddish Shetland I used for the first three inches, then added in madder-dyed yarn from the second batch out of the dye bath, then I totally dropped the Shetland and continued with the madder-dyed for most of the way up to where the should seam would be if there was one.

Here, I switched to a skein of light gold yarn and finally to a dark gold that I know was dyed from coreopsis plants. The fabric was quite stretchy and springy, perfect for stretching over your shoulders and very apropos of the setting I was going to be wearing it in. I can wear it with the rusty red end as the collar portion or turn it upside down so the yellow-gold shades form the collar (which I don't do, but only because yellow is not one of my colors.) I've received many compliments on its authenticity.

This project also gave me a greater appreciation for the value of spinning intentionally. None of the yarns that I used had been spun with a project in mind. It shows. In this particular instance, it didn't really matter, but I will make it matter in the future. Whether your yarn is spun commercially or hand-spun, using the correct yard for a projected outcome is key to being satisfied or even thrilled (as with the blue yarn) about the end result.

(to find other blogs participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, enter
" 2KCBWDAY1 " - without the quotation marks, into your search engine.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Knitters & Crocheters - Watch This Space

We'll be participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week March 28 - April 3. Knitters and crocheters in our guild will weigh in on the assigned topic for each day and we'll link with sponsor, Eskimimi Knits, to see what other bloggers have to say about the same topic on the same day.

The 2011 Topics:
March 28 -- A Tale of Two Yarns
March 29 -- Skill +1UP
March 30 -- Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches
March 31 -- Where Are They Now?
April 1 -- Something Different in the Way of a Blog Post.
April 2 -- Something to Aspire to
April 3 -- Your Knitting/Crochet Time

Get in touch with Sandy if you want to participate (It's fine to have more than one blogger on any day.) And, stay tuned!