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March 30, 2007

Knitting Pure & Simple Jumper Jamboree

My coworkers knit this wonderful set of sundresses from a Knitting Pure and Simple pattern:

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(clicking on this photo will enlarge it)

We were each given the broad guideline of choosing a cotton or cotton-blend yarn to knit these. I shared with you all the trouble I'd had with mine (prior to frogging and reknitting) and I was able to overcome it and end up with something satisfying. I enjoyed the pattern enough to make a Silk Garden version with a ruffle -- it can be worn as a top. Now I just have to knit the pants to go with it.

So here are mine with the others:

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Pattern: Little Girls Sundress or Jumper- Knitting Pure & Simple #266
Yarn: Plymouth Jeannee - 2 skeins (retail price is under $4 USD per skein)

And this little bundle of soft laceweight yarn came home with me yesterday:

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It was insanely economical and I saw something knit with the red version -- amazing! Last night I cast on for a Dragon Scale Scarf and confirmed that I totally do not have a quiet, lace-knitting environment even when I have a straightforward pattern. I also decided that I can't go another day without some Addi Lace needles.

Thank you all for humoring me with the Maker vs. Designer discussion. I know that many of us are called to creative endeavors outside of knitting, as am I. I just reject the idea (from the book) that we need to go to great lengths and take several weeks to determine what we are called to do. I believe we either know it or we don't -- that is, on a daily basis, we are either avoiding it or embracing it.

March 28, 2007

Are you a maker or a designer?

Today I gave up on a book I've been reading (received it as a gift a few years ago) because I just cannot reconcile some of the statements -- they don't line up with my own beliefs about what constitutes creativity and creative expression. Since becoming a knitter, I've realized that I love that somebody else has done all the work -- the designing -- and created a pattern for me to follow. Sometimes I don't choose the same color yarn that the designer chose. Often I will reject the designer's yarn choice in favor of what I am able to get from my local yarn store. Regardless, I still prefer to knit from somebody else's pattern. Within that structure there is plenty of room for creativity and many, many wonderful designers to support.

Background: I was reading this post a couple of months ago and it really made me question MYSELF as to whether I would call myself primarily a maker. More recently, I pondered this post (an interview with Alicia Paulson at Create a Connection) in which she answers the question about whether she considers herself a maker or designer. And she nailed exactly how I feel about being happy in spite of choosing to be a maker. I hope you read both blog entries.

I don't intend to disparage the book I was reading, but I'm happy to be free of it now and the concept that I should feel a spiritual responsibility to answer the type of creative inclinations referenced in the book. On the contrary, I've found that my highest creative expression comes in the form of nuturing my relationships (family, friends). Successful living means having the ability to enjoy something for its own sake whether or not there is any reward (fame, fortune, recognition, or a buying public) involved. Knitting, making things, and working with my hands helps bring peace to my little corner of the world.

Are you happy enough to be a maker or are you somebody who's haunted by a creative urge to be or do more? A designer perhaps? (There's more than enough room for both of us -- one can hardly exist without the other). Is it possible I'm missing another category altogether? Has anybody noticed that in the knitting world, we're at the point of having a happy convergence making it an excellent time to be both . . . or either?

ETA: With regard to knitting, I think that many of us don't have to be either/or -- but for me, I've recognized that I get the most joy and peace from focusing on the making -- and that it sometimes involves tweaking and changing things to make it work. I'm not rigid about rules when following a pattern.

Also, there's something I've noticed among knitters who blog -- there is usually something creative that we all pursue that might or might not have anything to do with knitting. Knitting enhances our ability to be disciplined and proficient at those other things.

March 26, 2007

Finished Object: Knitting Pure & Simple Little Girl Sundress

We likes it!

March 25, 2007

Manos Four Seasons Throw

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I've finished ONE square so far (out of the twelve I will eventually need) for the Manos del Uruguay Four Seasons Throw. I love the idea of a no-pressure knit and eleven more take-along squares -- that is, knitting I can do at Sit & Knit or while waiting to pick up kids at school.

And from this:

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I'm still excited about the idea of knitting a Block Stripe Afghan from Sarah Dallas Knitting.

It occurred to me this morning that I haven't done much in the way of blogging Project Spectrum 2007 and we're nearing the end of March (Blue, White, Gray). However, I did get out of my comfort zone (rut?) yesterday and bought and wore vibrant blue eyeshadow. My original plan involved knitting and an intention to finish and/or start something with blue, white or gray yarn from my stash. It looks like I used everything BUT those colors -- with a continued focus on brights. Obviously, others did a better job than I did.

Stash Release 2007 has gone well and I'm happy with my progress in evaluating my projects and plans. I mentioned on my Flickr something I was struggling with releasing:

GGH Mystik

and I think the struggle stems from my uncertainty about the project for which the yarn was intended. It's not me. It's too short and too low-cut. So I feel good about keeping the yarn but need a new project possibility. Mystik is the suggested yarn for the Honeymoon Cami and I have enough for that. Of course, there's also the ChicKami, which I've been wanting to knit for a while now.

Thank you all for the feedback on my loose purls entry. I generally feel good about the things I knit and the way they turn out, but the little pink sundress was really bothering me. It bugged me enough to rip out the entire thing and start over yesterday morning. I've since made up my anti-progress and will probably finish the jumper this evening. I love it now. The tipping point was reading the pattern at the height of my dissatisfaction and seeing this sentence: "The gauge needs to be quite loose." Mine wasn't. My gauge was considerably off -- and the top and bottom portion of the sundress differed by more than 1 stitch per inch. Yesterday I found this cute little number knit with Noro Silk Garden. Guess what I have in my stash? Enough Silk Garden to knit another jumper.

March 23, 2007

Keeping it real . . . my loose purls

I spent some time with Montse last night and she confirmed what I already knew and have mentioned before -- my purls are loose. She says that I can prevent them in one of a few ways:

1. Practice tightening the purl and loosening the knit stitches
2. Purl with a finer needle than you knit. This only works with stockinette stitch
3. When purling wrap yarn under needle as in plaited purl stitch. On the next row, knit-back the resulting stitches to straighten them up. Again, only for stockinette stitch and a limited number of stitch patterns.
4. Adapt to circular knitting and avoid stitch patterns with groups of purl stitches on the right side -- the odd one is not likely to be a problem.

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Thanks, Montse. I typically use methods 1, 2 and/or 4 to compensate for my issues. And while I know from experience that all these methods work, it doesn't help right now when it means I might have to rip back to the joining round on the sundress I'm knitting (and go up a needle size from the joining point) if I want it to look right. Since it's a shop model, I'm toying with the idea of leaving it as is . . . as an example of what happens when a loose purler knits stockinette flat with a cotton or cotton-blend yarn. In the round, my stitches are tight and even. And I find that my stockinette knitting is fine when I knit with wool. I don't have issues with garter stitch, ribbing, cables or lace (most of the time), but there's nothing less appealing than my "rowing out" issue on cotton yarns. For what it's worth, it's method 2 that works beautifully for me -- I just didn't do it with this pattern.

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While Montse and I both agree that it's difficult to teach ourselves a new method of knitting, I have to say that this is beginning to look VERY appealing:

March 22, 2007

The Autotelic Personality

An autotelic activity is one we do for its own sake because to experience it is the main goal. Applied to personality, autotelic denotes an individual who generally does things for their own sake, rather than in order to achieve some later external goal.

An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding.

Time stress has become one of the most popular complaints of the day. But more often than not, it is an excuse for not taking control of our lives.

From Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

March 21, 2007

Yesterday's treats

I treated myself yesterday (thanks, Jayne & Jerri!) to some "ME" time and rare indulgences. First, a trip to the store for two magazines - Home Companion and Dwell. Then, a Grande Mocha Frappucino and finally, a spa pedicure (color: OPI's It's a Doozi, says Suzi) and brow wax. It was a lovely way to welcome Spring.

The best part of my day? Knitting with friends at the coffee shop last night -- something I haven't been able to do in months!

All this, of course, put me a little bit behind in sharing the rest of the results of the impromptu contest I had last week. The lucky winner of this:

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is Isel ! Congratulations, Isel! To determine the winner, I had my husband choose a number between 1 and 31. He chose 17.

Okay, dear friends, I'm in the mood to finish something today. I've yet to reply to some lovely emails and comments I've received but I do want to let you know how much I appreciate your visits here. To those of you who de-lurked and left comments on this entry, thank you! I'm enjoying some wonderful new blog reads and the people behind them.

Finally, I feel compelled to mention that if you haven't had a chance lately (within the last few years) to pick up a copy of Home Companion, please do! There's a wonderful regular feature in there that I love -- An Artist's Life. The previous issue featured Kaffe Fasset. One of the things he said in the article stuck with me and I remember it (even though I gave my issue away so that it could inspire somebody else), "you don't have to abandon one discipline to take up another, [each discipline] informs the other."

It's Spring . . . think about creating a space for yourself (even if it's just a small corner in your room) -- a place to house your inspiration and your ideas. Write down your ideas and nuture them and stop thinking in terms of To Do lists, checklists, bullet points. It's more important to BE than to DO. Happy first day of Spring.

March 19, 2007

Music Mixes

Apologies in advance if this shows up in your feed reader:

March 18, 2007

Stash Release & Relocation 2007

Thank you all for participating in my 1000th commenter contest and a big thanks to the de-lurkers! I'll do my drawing Monday, March 19th for the skein of Lorna's Laces sock yarn so there's still time to comment to make it in to the drawing. The lovely Lisa L. won the Noro Kureyon for being my 1000th commenter -- congratulations, Lisa!

Have you all heard about Good Yarn Karma yet? Go see! This coming week, I'll be releasing my KnitPicks sock yarns there.

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I worked yesterday for the first time in several weeks and I had a good time catching up on all the wonderful yarns that are in the store now. My only yarn purchase (according to plan, of course) was this:

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It's sock yarn custom-dyed for Twisted Yarns by Mama Llama. I had to show you the colors - such a pretty combination of a blue-green, seafoam, light blue, tan and light green. And, no, I'll not be releasing or relocating this ball of yarn. It's mine!

March 14, 2007

What I already knew

I already knew that the creative act is not in the purchasing of supplies, it's in what I make with them and the activities involving the tools I have. Obviously I'm not reluctant to show my readers what I buy. I share because I love it when other knitters share in their blogs and on their Flickrs. It inspires me.

To expand on my earlier entry regarding limits -- while limits are a good thing for me, I don't believe ascetism is my answer -- something closer to simple living is my ultimate goal. I've shared all that because I just wanted to go on record that I'm not on a yarn diet and I'm not knitting ONLY from my modest stash. I'll be buying yarn and I'll be letting you know what I buy -- and if you stick around, you'll see me either knit something with it or release it another way. I'm not good at seeing what I need to work on unless I first get rid of the obstacles. In this knitter's life, my obstacles are the skeins of yarn I'll never use. I'll first remove those from the stash and prepare to release them somehow. I'll organize and take a harder look at the rest my stash (more so than I just did this past weekend) and decide whether I'll have the time or desire to complete the yarn's intended project. If not, those items will be de-stashed through my Flickr (first) or my blog -- either for sale, for trade or an outright gift to the first person who expresses an interest.

I also have a milestone coming up in my comments. I'm at 986 comments since beginning this particular blog in September 2005. The 1000th commenter will receive enough NORO Kureyon to knit a Booga Bag. As a consolation prize, I'll also give away one skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock to one lucky person commenting on this entry even if I don't reach the 1000th commenter here. Do you feel lucky?

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The Schaefer Anne from the previous entry has been wound and I tried out a few different types of stitch patterns and ideas before I decided to knit a plain sock. In the photo, you'll also see two of my favorite tools for sock knitting -- my small bent-tip tapestry needles (which you can't REALLY see them because they're in their orange Chibi holder - a set of 3); they're small enough to graft tiny stitches on lace- or fingering-weight yarns. For the inevitable dropped stitches, I keep the Addi crochet hook (3mm) nearby (Yarn Market has some great info and photos here regarding the Addi crochet hooks). I'll share photos of my knitting notebook next week since a few of you have asked to see it.

Thanks so much for the get well wishes. I have a lingering cough, but I'm recovering.

Have you checked out the Project Spectrum Flickr Group Pool yet? What about Handknit Street Style?

March 11, 2007

Limits and structure

Early last week, my doctor put me on Tamiflu since one of my sons has had the flu -- his reasoning was that it would PREVENT me from getting the flu. I've taken it before, years ago, when I actually HAD the flu but I've never taken it when I was perfectly fine (and healthy). So I don't know if what happened in the middle of the night Friday night was related to Tamiflu, but I had a sudden fever and upper respiratory distress that ended up lasting through early this morning. Today, I can hardly talk and coughing is still painful. Enough whining though. I'm feeling better (no more fever) but don't try to call me right now because my voice is as good as gone.

Since I felt too awful to knit yesterday, I started going through my yarn stash to wind skeins of yarn and look over my knits-in-progress. I found some things I need to finish and rediscovered yarn that I'd purchased with projects in mind and now I need to rethink them. There were a handful of things in there I regret purchasing -- something from Suss in L.A., a few skeins of KnitPicks yarn, and two skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn purchased online. Even though my regretful things were few and not fatal, from now on I'm going to limit myself to yarn purchased at my local yarn store. Limits are good. Within the limits, I have plenty of freedom. And it just so happens, that's what works best for me.

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I love that there are so many choices and sources for fiber, books and tools, but it can be incredibly overwhelming. I could easily waste the better part of a day just looking at knitting-related websites. When I limit myself to a handful of choices , it makes my life simpler. I know the telltale feeling I get when I'm overstimulated by too much and need a break. Time and money ill-spent has a momentum of its own but I can make a conscious effort to stop. Limits.

Since today was another sick day, I watched Lost in Translation, listened to quiet music and made some decisions. The Schaefer Anne in the first photo is for a pair of socks I'll knit for myself (I haven't decided on a pattern yet). I have a basket of sock yarn that I'm going to cull and will keep in there only the yarns I love. I don't need to be burdened with something that doesn't appeal to me. The point is to see the basket and be inspired. It's also a way to limit myself with regard to sock yarn acquisition. If my sock yarn basket overfloweth, I need to either use the yarn I have or get rid of it before I can buy more.

The Lucinda Guy book is one I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself, but Erica wants to knit the Fireside Blanket (she wants hers to be bright pink and green instead of the red/pink combo in the book). I spent some time flipping through the other cute patterns and am drawn to the cute knitted animals. If you look closely, you can see a few in the photo I took of the book cover.

Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes for Erica. She'll enjoy reading them!

March 09, 2007

18

In no time at all, this . . .

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became this:

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Happy 18th birthday, Erica

March 06, 2007

The other side: digging deeper

(No knitting content)

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My dad was born in Deep Run, Ohio in 1927. He's still alive and his home now is an assisted living center. While his memories are fading, he can recall much of his military history and the places he lived while in the USAF. I've been having a difficult time lately facing the inevitable decline of his mental abilities. There's so much I still want to know.

Both my parents' pasts are mysterious to us as neither one of them talked much about their lives prior to meeting one another. My dad was likely to have become a coal miner like his father had he not lied about his age and joined the Merchant Marine. Of Irish descent, he once told me that his father's family fled Ireland during the potato famine and that his mother's family was from England. I also remember his telling us that we're distantly related to Zane Grey. (I've yet to confirm that, but I'm hoping to learn more from my aunt as she's been an excellent and reliable source of information regarding her and my father's past). So far, I know just enough about my parents to be incredibly curious. The more I uncover, the more I understand and the more I want to know. Quiet and undemonstrative, my father always seemed to have his thoughts and attention elsewhere. He was an accomplished printer, calligrapher, photographer, and gardener. Many of the photos I have of my mother exist because of him. Still, it's a complicated relationship. We've had few deep talks and none of the four of us daughters are close to him.

It's been the recent comments about my knitting journal that made me think of my Dad -- because my sisters and I all share my Dad's love of paper, writing instruments, stationery and mail. It's a happy realization for me that we have that link to him.

“People live for the dream in their hearts. And I have yet to know anyone who has not some secret dream, some hope, however dim, some storied wall to look at in the dusk, some painted window leading to the soul.” (Zane Grey)

March 01, 2007

Schaefer Anne fingering weight yarn

I knit this swatch sock with Schaefer Anne yarn on Size 1 (2.25 mm) Crystal Palace bamboo DPNs:

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This is a 36-stitch sock knit from the cuff down so that I could have a sample of how the yarn will look as a sock and so I'll know what my gauge will be on these needles (in this case, 9 st/in). I love this yarn -- it feels wonderful to knit with. I'm not as in love with the way these colors look in a sock, but there's generous yardage for a shawl. These look like masculine colors, so if I want Schaefer Anne socks for myself, I guess I'll have to buy another skein (or two) in a different color. I'm learning to look for more subtle color changes and not drastic ones like these if I want to knit a plain vanilla sock.