Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Knitters Are Exceptionally Clever People

OK. That's a pretty obvious statement. But sometimes the obvious just has to be stated. Case in point:

My Friend Cindi & I decided to host a felted slipper contest during our cruise. We thought it would be a good way to meet some of the other 115 cruisers; we thought it would meld nicely with the planned pajama party night; and we were kinda curious about what kinds of things folks would come up with.

Some of our local knit shops and friends donated some awesome yarny goodies as prizes: Babetta's, Knitique, Lorna Miser and Fredrikka Payne from Aurora Yarns, Betsy of Cultured Purl, and VicKnitChik, a fellow cruiser. Let me tell you, those were some NICE prizes. And they took up an entire suitcase! (Which was OK with me, because after the prizes were awarded, I had something to hold all the goodies I acquired on the cruise!)

We awarded prizes in 4 categories: Cruise Theme, Embellished, Knit-In Design, and Cruisers' Choice-- to be voted on by all. Amy Singer and Brenda Dayne were gracious enough to join Cindi and me as judges for the first 3 categories. It was a lot harder than you might think!!!

Some easy eliminations: a couple of entries weren't eligible for voting because they were created by judges. Like this pair, which were mine:

And this pair, by Amy Singer, the Best Knitting Sport in the Entire World. Amy is allergic to wool, but wanted to support our contest. So she found some acrylic yarn in Seattle that would give a felted-wool-like appearance when knitted. Then she nearly wore out her hands knitting like crazy on these faux-felted slippers to have them ready for the contest-- knowing they weren't eligible!! How wonderful is that!!?

Now I want to show just a few of the stellar entries that didn't win. And I gotta tell you, every single entry was a similar work of art. (BTW-- the judging took place one night during a pajama party. We usually dressed in regular public-facing clothes during the cruise!)This is Sharon, our very talented on-board accupunturista with her Alaskan Cruise slippers. Using a variety of techniques, including needlefelting, intarsia, and embellishments, Sharon's slippers represent cruising by day and cruising by night. They feature the aurora borealis, icebergs and glaciers, sea life, high & low tides, and all sorts of wonderful tiny details that you discover only by examining each slipper very closely.

Deborah's beautifully shaded monochromatic slippers each featured a bouquet of intricately felted, embroidered, and beaded flowers -- each one a little masterpiece.

Angela's slippers were orcas, cavorting through Alaskan seas... complete with tails!! And pectoral fins!

And none of these slippers won!!

See? Being a judge is really, really hard!
In a future post, I'll show you the ones that did win.

Hold on to your needles.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In Which We Go to Sea

So my friend Cindi says, "Come on. We should do this. it will be fun!"
And you know what? She was right.

We signed up to go on an 8-day roundtrip knitting cruise: Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Victoria, Seattle.
  • There were 115 knitters on board with us.

  • We visited 6 yarn stores, including the wonderful Beehive Wool Shop in Victoria.
  • We met the awesome Brenda Dayne of the Cast-On podcast.

  • We met the awesome Amy Singer from Knitty.com.
  • We met the awesome Heather from Craft Lit.
  • We met awesome knitters from all over the US and Canada. (Hi Deborah, and Meg, and Lisa, and Melinda, and Jasmin, and Jennie the Potter and mom (hope the leg is all healed!),and Sharon, and Jamie, and the VicKnitChick, and Andrea, and ...so many other wonderful, talented, and nice knitters!)

  • Sometimes we knitted all day.

  • Sometimes we knitted late into the night.
  • Somedays we were so busy chatting and having fun, we didn't knit at all!
  • And we even managed to do some sightseeing.

We had a great time on the cruise, and the Big Lesson we took away was: If you meet great people who make your days enjoyable, then making lemonade can be so much fun you forget you started with some lemons.

(Also, yarn and goodies go a long way to make knitters happy. But you knew that already, right?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stitching & Pitching

Stitch & Pitch came to Sacramento last Thursday, and, as VP of the local knitting guild, I was asked to throw out the first pitch.
I dug through my stash and found some nice burgundy bulky Cascade, and used size 35 needles to knit up a good-sized swatch. I wound the other end of the yarn around a regulation baseball. Our guild president, Sandi, held the needles and swatch while I threw the still-attached ball ... of yarn. Didn't quite get it to the catcher -- it bounced on home plate -- but I doubt if the catcher would have caught it anyway, since he was laughing so hard.
Hey! Who says knitters don't know how to have fun? :)

BTW -- Sandi and I both knitted up the baseball hat pattern that was attached to the official Stitch & Pitch email. I am sorry to say that both of us felt that this pattern was poorly conceived and written. As an example, the pattern instructs to knit the facing in the round, then knit the attached sections back and forth. We both followed this direction, thinking there must be a reason to knit back and forth when in the round seemed so much more logical. There was no reason for it, as it turns out -- it just made the pattern more fiddly. The brim instructions were also needlessly complicated-- lots of single crochet finishing called for, when simple sewing with yarn and needle worked much better. It's a cute hat, and lends itself well to embellishments and individual design, but if you decide to make one, use your common sense when it comes to following the instructions.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Arans and Ganseys and Bears — Oh, My!

Our guild was fortunate to have a weekend of classes with Beth Brown-Reinsel earlier this month. She is a delightful lady, and a wonderful teacher, and -- coming directly from all that snow and mud in Vermont -- was a little culture-shocked in our warm California spring weather. (But in a good way!) :)

We had one day of knitting Aran cardigans from the top down (the lavender sweater photographed with California poppies), and one day of Gansey pullovers from the bottom up (the (the gold sweater photographed in the lavender blossoms).

Our sampler-style bear-size mini sweaters featured shoulder straps, welts, gussets, and a wealth of traditional patterns and methods. Everyone was knitting at top speed while listening and talking — and mistakes were definitely made! We joked that if any of our bears drowned, we would certainly be able to claim them by identifying the mistakes in their little sweaters. Myths are so much fun!

Each day featured a lovely catered luncheon, and plenty of time to relax, chat, delight in the springtime weather— and even knit a little. :)

If you ever have an opportunity to take a class from Beth, jump at it! Even if you don't have any intention of ever knitting a full-size Aran or Gansey, you will learn many useful techniques and tips that can carry over well to other knitted items.

Thanks, Beth! It was a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Christmas. Is. Done.

Remember the one knitted gift I didn't finish in time for Christmas? Well, it's finished now, and the recipient is very happy with it and said it was well worth the wait.

This is the wonderfully triple-redundant-named "Forever Classic Heirloom Cables" from the Lion Brand site. My son picked out both the sweater and the yarn: Wool Ease for mindless tossing into the washer and the dryer.
He's so happy with it that he sat right down with a stack of knitting patterns looking for his NEXT Christmas present.

He's such an optimist. ;)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring Tickle Socks

I really have been knitting socks this year -- I just haven't gotten around to taking pictures of them. :) I finished this pair in February, and they have been washed and blocked and ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille.
So today was picture day. I thought these pretty yellow and white irises were the perfect photo companions for socks in a"Spring Tickle" colorway. The angle is a bit weird, though: they really are proportionate!
The yarn is "Smooshy" by Dream in Color. I got it from The Sweet Sheep, a delightful site to do business with. The yarn is soft and dreamy as advertised -- I hope it wears well!

Here's the built-in marker. It's agate, Swarovski crystal, and tiger eye.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Milinda managed!

If you heard loud whooping this past week, that might have been me. If you heard a sigh of relief, that was probably me, too.

I finished a long-standing (3-year) UFO intended for my daughter.

Joan M-M's Milinda pattern is well-written, and the rose-leaf patterned portion knitted up like a dream. In fact, I made it a bit longer than the pattern called for. But then the project hit deep doo-doo. It is supposed to fit closely, and the intended recipient is not a single pattern size. I re-knit the top portion 3 times in different size combinations and reknit the bust short rows over and over until I had to change yarn skeins because I had nearly worn out the original skein. I just didn't like the way the short rows looked, and tried every method I could find until I finally hit on one that didn't show too badly. I dragged that project across the country for fittings several times, just to discover it was too loose here, too tight there, too big there, too small here.

Frog it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But the third time was the charm. It. Fit.

And she likes it! She really likes it! :))

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faded Glory

Never underestimate the power of a leprechaun.

Last March, I knitted a pair of green/gray Koigu socks, and accused the leprechauns of stealing the green color from my photo after I washed and blocked the socks. And I've been wearing them happily ever since.
Last weekend, I discovered a wee hole in the heel of one of these socks. Being the packrat that I am, I dug around in my sock remnants until I found the Koigu leftovers to darn the hole with.
What's up with this? I had to double-check the label to make sure it was the same yarn. Has anyone else experienced this type of fading with Koigu??

As a sanity-check, I dug out some leftover Tanzanite Socks That Rock from October 2006. I wear these socks *all the time* and they get washed in the machine at least once a week, and also needed a wee bit of TLC for a worn-thin spot in the heel..

See? Hardly any fading at all -- if any. They still look awesome.
Was it the Koigu?
Or the Curse of the Leprechauns? *
*(I should probably trademark this and offer it up on eBay as a great title for a horror movie!!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Getting a Jump on Christmas

I am lucky to belong to a very active knitting guild. We have a lot of talented members who are generous with their time and talent — which makes it more fun for everyone. And with over 100 members, there is always a group ready and willing to participate in whatever comes down the pike -- including flights of knitting whimsey.

Two of our members — Kimberly & Michele — showed up at the guild Christmas party with The Cutest Holiday Purses Ever — snowman bags. They were definitely the most talked-about items of the night! So of course, those lucky members were recuited, um..., volunteered on the spot to lead a Snowman Purse knit-along as the January guild program.

The original pattern was published in the November 2006 issue of Creative Knitting, and back issues are not available. So the guild contacted the publisher, and received permission to make 25 copies of the pattern for use by our members for purposes of the knit-along.

We started off knitting together at our monthly project night, then continued as a knit-along on the guild Yahoo group. Most of us finished our snowmen by the February guild meeting, but there are a few more still in the works. I did not get a photo of the 15-or-so completed projects, but each was as individual as its creator, and each one had a personality all its own.

This is my freshly-knitted snowman before felting.
After felting.

Drying time: it's stuffed with plastic bags, shaped with rubberbands at the hatband and the scarf top.
Embellishing was the most fun. I found some faceted square buttons that I thought looked sorta like coal, and needlefelted the eyebrows and part of the mouth. The nose is a triangle — knitted, felted, rolled up, and stitched into a carrot shape. I used buttons to highlight the mouth, and a big button as the flap closure. I knit and felted some holly leaves and sewed them to the flap on either side of the buttonhole. I Fray-Chek'ed the edges of the buttonhole just to be safe.

And now it's ready and waiting for the holiday season to roll around again! (And there are a couple more of these cuties already in progress for gifts for deserving relatives.) :) BTW-- several of our group have come up with ideas for some fun variations of this pattern for other seasons -- a jack o'lantern, for instance. Or an Uncle Sam. Anyway, I don't think we've seen the last of whimsical holiday purses in our guild...

Grand Central Station Socks

I really enjoyed knitting a pair of socks a month last year, especially when the weather turned chilly and I had a wonderful selection of toasty-warm socks ready to wear! In fact, with the extras (mostly Harry Potter-themed socks and gifts) I counted up 18 pairs of socks knit in 2007.

I'm lucky here in Northern California -- we get good sock-wearing weather for about 5 months. After that, it is bare feet and sandals all the time. Even so, 5 monthis is a respectable sock-wearing portion of the year, and I was most happy to be well-outfitted when November rolled around.

Anyway, I've decided to go for the monthly socks thing this year, as well. (Actually, my sock yarn stash could probably take me a lot further than that...) I find I really do enjoy knitting socks. They are lightweight, portable, packable, and easily picked up for a few stitches or a few rows. I usually have a couple of other projects going at the same time, but the socks fit nicely in my purse.

So. The January Socks. This yarn was a Christmas gift from Nancie Wiseman. She said she saw the yarn and "it had my name on it." (I need to find out who put that label on the yarn and thank them!) I think she meant the color. It is beautiful: mauves, greyed purples and pinks -- and it changes when the light changes.
I started the first sock just before I left on a business trip. I wanted to work with cables, so I jotted down a 66-stitch pattern that alternates 8-row 6-stitch cables with 5 seed stitches. As it turned out, our hotel in New York City was right next door to Grand Central Station. What a beautiful and awe-inspiring building it is! When I saw all the train tracks and all the people bustling about, I knew I had found the name for my socks.
The knitted-in marker is a lampwork glass bead with Swarovski crystals and gold metal spacers. I am happy to say that even with all the washing -- I wash my socks enclosed in a lingerie bag in the washing machine -- the markers have held up quite well. I have had a couple of them break, but I just replaced the stiff wire with knottable wire -- much better!
And -- I got a new camera for Christmas. It has a range of macro settings, so I am having fun experimenting with close-ups of my knitting. :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Calendar Blur

I think someone has stolen some pages from my calendar. The last couple of months have been a blur. Well, *December* was a blur. January was Recovery Month fog.

December started out in a fun sparkling whirl of last minute shopping, knitting, parties, dinners, happy Christmas preparations, and welcoming houseguests. It ended with sad and dreary holidays spent in various emergency rooms and hospitals with said houseguests. After the houseguests were recovered enough to return to their homes, I became ill. Thus Recovery January.

But let's focus on the fun part!

There was a train trip with Debbie Stoller from Sacramento to San Francisco. Debbie was promoting her newest book, "Son of Stitch 'n Bitch." She had all the projects from the book with her to pass around. As beautiful as the book photography is, it can't begin to convey the tactile experience of handling and examining the actual items. There were only a few of us on the train that day, so she decided to hang out with us for a while. She is truly delightful.

We window-shopped around Union Square, had tea at the St. Francis (and rode the glass elevator to the top of the hotel for the most magnificent view of the city).
We also visited Nieman-Marcus to crane our necks and gaze straight up at the beautiful tree that stretches 3 stories up to the stained glass ceiling. When this site -- the former location of the old City of Paris department store -- was rebuilt, the rotunda and stained glass ceiling were largely preserved and restored in the new building design. Neiman Marcus also preserves the tradition of the giant tree at Christmas.

I also managed to complete a surprising number of knitting projects in November & December. It seemed as though my knitting needles were permanent extensions of my fingers! Here are my November socks. The yarn is Synchopation in the colorway Zoot Suit from sKNITches.

This may be the only time you will see me knit with brown yarn. But that's what the military decrees for personnel in Iraq, so that's what I knit with.

Here are some of my knit projects that went into one the Christmas packages I sent to my daughter. Gloves, fingerless gloves, mitts, and socks. Yup -- she was the recipient of the October Corn Monkey socks. (OK, I cheated a bit on the brown here!) I also sent her a fresh wreath, which arrived in great shape (!) and which she hung on her trailer door -- a patch of green cheer in a blah land.

I also managed to complete my December socks. These were one of the projects I knit while hospital visiting between December 23 and January 3.
The yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit: Mega Boots Stretch Color 716. The knit-in marker is made up of Swarovski crystals and a pewter cat with a red glass bead middle.

The last *completed* 2007 knitting project is a wonderfully soft pair of gloves that I knitted for myself from Andean baby alpaca in a yummy marled purple. This yarn bloomed beautifully when I washed it, and they keep my fingers toasty warm on icy mornings.

The last *uncompleted* 2007 project is an Aran cardigan by request from my son. This is how much I had done when we got around to celebrating Christmas in January. I am happy to report that I am now half-way done with the sleeves. Then there's the front band, and 2007 will be officially complete. :)

Next time: January socks!!