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!!