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August 31, 2006

Last-Minute Knitted Gifts

Last-Minute Knitted Gifts

I was feeling dangerously close to not having ENOUGH works-in-progress so I purchased this book yesterday in order to knit the "Soft Drawstring Pouch" (in the medium size) with the Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca & Silk that I purchased a few months ago. Both the book and the yarn are incredible.

It's a simple book really; the projects are accessible and do-able. I love her chapter on color and the ideas in the back regarding knitted gifts and creative presentation of handknit goods. There really isn't a single intimidating project in this book. Joelle Hoverson's Purl Soho site was one of the first knitting sites I ever bookmarked and I still visit the site to look at and learn about luxury yarns. I don't order much from there because I'm lucky enough to work somewhere that carries almost all of the same things, but it's worth a look if you haven't clicked over there before. Even though I'm not a quilter, the fabrics at Purl Patchwork are very tempting. There's also The Purl Bee companion blog.



<Soft Drawstring Pouch - Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca & Silk

The recommended yarn is a perfect choice for the drawstring pouch and will make a wonderful gift bag for the intended recipient (with handknit fingerless gloves inside).

Attention to detail

WARNING: It's a somewhat non-knitting related post

So yesterday, I was reading the fine print in our credit card statement, the credit card we've had for over six years and use for business expenses. Due to an untimely oversight probably on MY part, we went slightly over our limit while awaiting said business expense reimbursement and Wachovia/MBNA happily jacked our interest rate up to 24.99%. I know it's probably something I agreed to allow them to do at some point and figured we'd never find ourselves over the limit . . . but holy cow! 24.99%

We quickly transferred that balance to another card and will be cancelling Wachovia/MBNA's crummy little VISA forever. And you know, it was good that I was paying attention because I started to think I should look through ALL of the areas in which there is a potential we are being nickeled and dimed to death. I found a few MORE things that probably on their own might not amount to much, but when combined, I could have a tidy little amount to spend on MORE YARN every month. (Kidding . . . sort of).

And because I tend to do this in cycles, I began to then think of my approach to time management and how I'm apt to let things slide to the point that before long, I find myself "escaping" from the responsibilities that I'm supposed to have. I have incredible self-discipline when I am functioning with a level of awareness and focus on higher goals (i.e. give me some structure and a purpose and I can do amazing things), but open-ended time has dulled the edge a bit. I'm not going to stop blogging or slow down my knitting, but I am going to pay more attention to some things and look at them more closely.

August 29, 2006

Getting things done . . .

I have to lead with this excellent quote:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. (Steve Jobs)

My blog reading focus is primarily directed to knitting blogs (others here and there occasionally, but knitting blogs almost exclusively). I've found that knitbloggers are FAR from dogmatic -- there's a wide range of experience and thought represented across the knitblog spectrum -- I don't often come across cookie-cutter women in those circles.

I realized yesterday that I've been happily influenced by some of them. Typically, I can count on being inspired, but there are those times that actual ACTIONS result from reading other knitting blogs -- those times when I get up and get things done as a result of reading a knitting blog.

Surely I'm not the only one motivated to get up and DO SOMETHING when I read Ann's Hefty Bag entry. I didn't have trash bags to fill, but there were some significant tasks that I completed yesterday -- things I'd been procrastinating for quite a while. One of my hotspots is my kitchen counter -- where a lot of crap just accumulates. I cleared a significant portion of that yesterday not by shuffling the detritus elsewhere, but by actively DEALING with it.

One of the things I've been meaning to do is share some links here so that I could easily reference them later.

1. Fluffa's DIY blocking board and a slideshow you can see on her entry here

2. Eunny's notebook

3. And randomly, this post and this post . . . just because there are things for myself there I want to remember.

Finally, here's a finished object to flash -- more proof that I'm not just a starter but a finisher when I want to be:

Mountain Colors Bearfoot Wilderness colorway


August 28, 2006

Socks and Swatches

WollmeiseBlog.jpg

You don't swatch for plain stockinette socks -- you just start. What a liberating concept. If Elizabeth Zimmermann, Nancy Bush and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee share the same philosophy about starting socks, then I should too (the worst thing that can happen is that you end up with a pair of socks that fit . . . somebody). The sock *is* the swatch. Surprisingly, I've been known to get hung up on the details occasionally and not begin something for fear of messing it up and doing something wrong, so the nice yarn sits in a corner, untouched. I couldn't stand to have the Rohrspatz & Wollmeise suffer the same fate, so I chose my needles (Clover bamboo 2.25 mm) and just started. And it's knitting up beautifully!

This weekend while I was working, a customer came in with a pattern for a baby hat and some yarn (neither of them ours, but that's okay . . . sometimes) concerned about not having gotten the pattern gauge and I suggested just starting the hat with the suggested needle size (which she already owned) instead of what she thought she needed to get gauge (which she would have to buy). The worst thing that could happen is that after knitting the hat, it would be too small or too big. The hat would still fit a baby somewhere. She had more than enough yarn and the appropriate needles. Just start the hat. Oddly enough, she didn't seem happy with my suggestion.

At some point, you just have to believe that you have everything you need and that it's okay to make some mistakes.

August 24, 2006

Rohrspatz & Wollmeise sock yarn

Rohrspatz & Wollmeise

It's difficult to express how much I love the color of the Rohrspatz & Wollmeise yarn that Marjan sent me for our sock yarn swap. I made a vague request for "reds" and she sent me this gorgeous "Brombeere" (which I think translates to "blackberry"). I've swatched for my socks with the yarn and tried a garter rib before deciding that I'd be happiest with a plain stockinette sock so that I could really enjoy these colors.

There's a great Wollmeise Blog where I found stockings -- presumably knit with the Wollmeise yarn. Those stockings are inspiring! Thanks, Marjan, for a great swap. As of today, I have no socks in progress so it's a perfect day to cast on.

I managed to complete a stripe sequence for the Santa Fe Ruana yesterday:

SF Ruana Stripe Sequence

The ruana is knit with two panels and joined with a mitered panel in the back; the vertically-striped panels are the "colorful" portion of the ruana and while I'm not too sure yet about the yellow I chose, I'm happy enough with it to see the possibilities. I really enjoy knitting with Manos and am enjoying the dark red and forest green.

August 22, 2006

Santa Fe Ruana begun

I wasn't planning to start this ruana yet, but I was fortunate enough to go to the Knit-Along at Twisted Yarns today. I'm glad I did -- there were several little tweaks and tricks I learned that will help this project go smoothly. I also needed help deciding on the sequence for the colors. While I think it's turning out a bit "brighter" than I envisioned when I chose the colors, I am pleased enough with it and hopeful that the finished product won't look clownish. I was aiming for a South American-inspired color palette and if I achieve that, I'll be happy.

SFRBlogAug.jpg


I have another finished pair of socks to share and a wonderful sock yarn acquisition, but since school started last week, I'm just a tiny bit behind on the blog posting.

August 20, 2006

Irish Hiking Scarf Knit-Along

Finished Irish Hiking Scarf.jpg
Irish Hiking Scarf Knit-Along Blog Entry

August 16, 2006

Is it finished?

Is it finished

The Irish Hiking Scarf is finished but not quite ready for its photo shoot. Tomorrow I'll be spritzing and steam blocking to correct some gauge issues. I ended up using the equivalent of two skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted and knitting the scarf on Size 8 Addi Turbos. Until I shot the photo (above), I didn't realize that Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride was "permanently mothproofed" -- did you?

Mothproof.jpg

This scarf was probably one of my favorite knitting projects to date; the bonus was that knitting all those cables helped me brainstorm some things that I've been trying to work through.

August 14, 2006

What I love

Something I love about knitting is that very early in a project, I know whether it's worthy of continuing or not. What might strike me at first is an idea -- perhaps based on a photo in a magazine or something I read on a knitting blog that sparks a desire to knit something. Or I might see a fiber or a color in a yarn store that speaks to me and makes me want to pick up needles and knit. Most often, however, I gravitate to the project that helps me learn a skill - knitting cables or lace, for example. But the primary thing that is so satisying about knitting is that I don't have to knit a thing for very long before I know whether I want to finish it. If it's not looking or feeling "right" to me, I have no problem abandoning it and unraveling it and either starting over with different materials or setting it aside altogether.

I've been listening to a wonderful new podcast at Creative Thursday. For some unknown technical reason, I'm not able to listen to more than the first four episodes, but perhaps I listened to the ones I was meant to hear -- I can figure out the technical issues later. If you're struggling with the whole idea of creativity, I urge you to at least listen to the first podcast (no ipod required -- if you're able to read this blog entry, you can hear the podcast).

I spent some time on the phone on Saturday with somebody who was going through a crisis, a breakdown. This person is in a highly creative field and surrounds herself with creative people . . . and yet . . . it was a crisis of huge proportions. And I totally understand that the source of these feelings are often cognitive dissonance and discontent -- the realization that the life one is living is not the life that he/she intended to live. While we might feel imprisoned by our circumstances, geography or our careers, the truth is that it all boils down to a making a choice to either accept something or take steps to make changes. Often that change requires our doing something about ourselves. To put it simply, it involves our doing something about our thoughts. Thoughts are the source of everything that's possible to change about ourselves.One of my favorite quotes is "Don't think about what you don't want." I'm guilty of that when I worry about things. The worry takes on a life of its own and begins to manifest itself in the way I look, the way I walk. It defeats me. Think instead about what you DO want. Think about it often. Expect good things and invite them.

I once had somebody tell me that she didn't like to go look at nice homes because it made her so unhappy in her circumstances and made her feel hopeless about her own life. I could never understand how she could be willing to deprive herself of thinking of positive possibilities, much less enjoying the fact that others were able to achieve their goals. I love nothing more than to celebrate the accomplishments of others. We are all on the journey to achievement of something -- and who do we REALLY hurt when we don't allow ourselves to celebrate the good fortune of others?

Knitting has honed my instincts about things -- about people's behavior and motivations. It also helps calm my thoughts while giving me an opportunity to do something creative and tangible. It's more productive than daydreaming but the results are the same. I think it's a lot like gardening or cooking -- you have something to show for all the time spent being in "the zone" or that feeling of flow you get when you're doing whatever it is you love. For me, it takes me to a place in my mind where I begin to believe that ANYTHING is possible. Does knitting do this for you or do you have something in your life that's similar? I'd be interested to hear.

COFFEE and a new magazine (premier issue of DOMINO)


August 13, 2006

A completed pair and more finishing

Cedar Stripe

I've spent an inordinate amount of time blogging this simple, humble pair of socks (knit for myself), but they're finished. Although the actual knitting was finished last week, I had the toe to graft and I always like to wait until I have my earbuds in and I'm listening to music to tune out distractions. I can do the grafting without written instructions now and that was a goal of mine. I grafted a toe on the Mountain Colors "Wilderness" Bearfoot sock. The colors and the knitting experience are just amazing with this yarn. Granted, I haven't yet found a sock yarn I dislike, but this tops my list for a basic sock yarn and it's a great choice for a quick pair of socks for a gift.

I also finished the few rounds and bind-off remaining on the One Day Wristwarmers I started last year (pattern can be found here). It's a finishing frenzy around here; I've freed up 3 sets of DPN's today.

One-day wristwarmers

Strangely, I've been dreaming of knitting stockings so I'm considering doing that sometime. No, I don't need them . . . I just WANT them. It might be the ideal project to work on when I'm needing something to relieve the worry and nervousness I've had while my daughter is driving. On her own. Without me. Can you imagine if I documented it like this and this while knitting stockings?

The Irish Hiking Scarf is now within a foot of being finished and it's been amazing at helping me to relax the past few days. I really need to free the needles on this one, so that's my motivation for finishing it as soon as I can.

August 11, 2006

Electronic Knitting Tools

I'm still working on the Irish Hiking Scarf and continue to lose my cable needle. Typically, I place needles behind my ear when I'm not using them (that is, cable needles and DPNs - not circs or straights!) It took me about 45 minutes to find the cable needle that was apparently in my hair when I went to bed last night.

B&W Cables

I purchased and downloaded a great new tool that I've been trying as a demo for the past couple of months: Countable. I didn't know it existed until I was reading about it here last year. It works great on a Palm Treo 650 and at $5.95 (US), it's affordable -- costs about the same as a conventional click-type counter.

In addition, I make frequent use of my Adobe Reader for Palm OS. Most of the patterns I purchase for download are sold as .pdf's. I open the .pdf and save a copy to my virtual desktop. I can then "drag" the file to my Adobe Reader and it'll be on my Treo the next time I run a hot sync operation (which I try to do daily).

Does every knitter need a PDA? Probably not, but now that I have one, I don't think I could ever live without one. Mine's great for photos on the fly (not excellent quality, but passable -- see above) and I can shoot a short video if I need to.

Typically, each sock I am working on is a task in MS Outlook on my laptop. I synchronize my tasks with my PDA so that I have specific notes about each sock in progress (number of stitches cast on and number of stitches picked up for the gusset, for example). As long as I have my phone with me, I have all my knitting notes. I've considered using a traditional knitting journal but would hate to have to carry it with me in my purse. This is a workable solution for me and I've now got identical copies of everything that's knitting-related on my laptop and phone.

Here are some helpful resources for knitters who use PDA's:

Palmsource "Knitting" article by Jaya Srikrishnan
Nancy's Knit Knacks
Notes regarding using Sweater Wizard with a PDA

Not every knitter is a gadget gal, but since I am, I find mine to be incredibly handy.

August 08, 2006

Enough orange already?

Have you had enough of my orange obsession yet?

Irish Hiking Cables

I pulled out the Irish Hiking Scarf to work on yesterday. I set it aside back when all the stuff started happening with my parents. But when I finished my Purl Soho custom-colored (Cedar Stripe) socks yesterday, I wanted something "worsted" to work on and the cabled knitting moves along oh-so-nicely while we watch movies. I'm now at the halfway point and it's knitting up fast on my Addi Turbos.

I've been in this orange / rust / persimmon / pumpkin phase and I don't see any signs that I'll stop grabbing orange yarn to knit with. For my basic wardrobe, I'm definitely a neutrals gal, but I love kicky and colorful accessories to jazz things up. Orange just looks wonderful with denim.

It's at the halfway point now. I'm shooting for 60" (152 cm) and it's right about 30" now (76 cm):

Irish Hking Scarf Progress

And now it's time for buttered popcorn, a chick flick and more Irish Hiking.

August 07, 2006

Reminiscing earlier knits - Sophie felted bag

I've been cleaning up (and backing up) some of my knitting photos (digital). I started with my 2004 knitting projects (I didn't start knitting until December 2003) and am working forward. I can look at an old photo and remember specific things that made me literally sweat remembering the difficulties I might've been having. Kitchener stitch? It totally eluded me and defeated me each and every time I attempted it and I had nightmares about it. But now . . . somehow . . . I can kitchener (i.e. graft) without sweating. How did this happen? I totally don't know. I can't remember the moment I got it, and the miracle that is felting has erased and blurred my early attempts to graft i-cord handles to a Sophie bag, for instance. I knit and felted 8 Sophies and never did a proper kitchene stitch of the handles. But now, with socks, I don't have issues. I do need a book and some quiet, but I can do it.

The single amazing TRUTH to come out of all this knitting -- the thing never attempted is the thing never mastered.

Sophie #3 - before felting

Sophie #3 - after felting

August 06, 2006

Fall 2006 Project

Santa Fe Ruana (Design Source pattern using Manos Del Uruguay wool):

Santa Fe Ruana backSanta Fe Ruana Front

And the colors I chose:

ManosBlog.jpg

Manos del Uruguay
Woodland (109, variegated) - MC
Persimmon (W)
Uranium (35)
Brick (54)
Straw (Z)
Olive (55)

And the shop model (Manos trunk show):

Santa Fe Ruana - Manos Trunk Show

Everybody who tried it on yesterday looked great in it. I have no idea when I'll be able to start this (much less finish it) but it's the perfect little something for our 3 days of winter weather every year.


August 02, 2006

DPN Comparison / Review

Elizabeth asked in my comments which DPN's I prefer and after considering it for a while, I'd have to say that I like them all for different purposes. Brittany Birch are likely to snap at smaller diameters (US Size 1 or 0's), but I like the shorter DPN's they offer.

I'm really impressed with the sharp tips of the Crystal Palace bamboo, but I'm not happy with their length. They are at least an inch too long to knit socks with comfortably. The Clover bamboo seem to be what I have the most of and it's what we carry where I work, so I'm likely to just keep buying and using them. I have no complaints about them other than their somewhat blunt tips and the tendency with the Size 1's to "bend" or "bow" a bit.

DPN Comparison

DPN Comparison

I'm still experimenting and I'll buy and use Size 1's (2.25 mm) whenever I encounter something new and affordable. Yarns behave differently on different needles and it's a matter of figuring out what's most comfortable. Blue Sky Alpacas now offers a set of shorter (5") DPNs in a metal tin. I'll buy a set and let you know what I think. (UPDATE: Mystery solved. Crystal Palace makes 8" and 6" DPNs and I have the 8").

I'd love to hear about which DPNs you all use and love!
(Comments are closed, but feel free to email me at the email address in my blog sidebar)