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February 29, 2008

Growing up in Oklahoma

Thank you all for weighing in yesterday in the comments. I hope it didn't come across that Michaels was not a perfectly acceptable place to buy yarn! I truly think it is -- but I don't look forward to a trip to Michaels with much anticipation nor do I feel delighted when I leave. Compare this to my yarn store trips . . . which I usually DO look forward to and enjoy.

I always count my knitting anniversary as December 2003; however, I learned how to knit in the 70's in Oklahoma when I was a Girl Scout. My mom bought my yarn and supplies at TG&Y in Del City, Oklahoma. At the time, I know they carried Sayelle and Wintuk (both brands have been absorbed in to Caron International). I bought pink and navy blue yarn and learned the knit stitch -- that was the extent of my knitting experience until recently.

As a knitter or crocheter, you should buy what's affordable and appealing to you -- no matter where you CHOOSE to go to get it. However, if you want to get more out of your hobby, I suggest visiting your local yarn shop. You're not obligated to buy anything but it might be a worthwhile (and possibly fun) experience.

In the U.S. your alternatives to yarn stores include Joann, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, Michaels; you can sometimes find odd lots of yarn at Tuesday Morning and Big Lots. And of course, there's always Wal-Mart (though it's my understanding they are going to eventually phase out the fabric department -- which if you read between the lines is a boon to smaller businesses that cater to niche markets).

February 28, 2008

Subversive :: Yarn and yarn shops

Due to my involvement in a school fundraiser, I've been going to Michaels a lot lately. Each time I go, I stop by and look at the yarns and patterns -- and I'm no stranger to the needlecrafts aisles at my local Wal-Mart, Joann's, and Hobby Lobby either. In the last few weeks, it appears that Michaels has revamped their yarn section and decreased the selection of novelty yarns and increased the quantity of garment yarns in Lion Brand and Patons brands. This is a good thing, in my opinion, and demonstrates a responsive shift toward what knitters and crocheters want. I found quite a bit of fresh stock of Patons Classic Merino and since it's the 2nd most popular yarn on Ravelry and the only one of the top ten brands I hadn't tried yet, I threw caution to the wind and dropped less than $5 on a ball to try. I've since swatched it (that is, I'm knitting a hat with it) and it's awesome to knit with and delicious to the touch. It's slightly softer than Cascade 220.

Patons hat in progress
Basic 80-stitch hat, ready to start decreasing

So . . . I'm clearly happy with the yarn, the way it knits and the value. What I don't get is why some knitters and crocheters refuse to cross the threshold of a local yarn store in favor of ONLY shopping at a craft chain or Wal-Mart. I do understand bad service and unpleasant experiences at yarn stores, but I don't think they're the norm. Anybody can have an off day (and I know that I have had those days in the past and probably unintentionally alienated a few customers). But at Michaels (and the other stores I mentioned), I'm never greeted, never helped while I'm at the back of the store in the yarn section, and nobody ever looks me in the eye when I check out. Conversely, when I go to the yarn shop (as a customer, not an employee), I'm greeted, helped with my selection and sometimes get quick instruction with something I have on the needles. The modest amounts of money I spend at local yarn stores help local families and small businesses. THAT is value.

I understand there are many people for whom yarn shops are NOT local geographically and have no other options -- but when there ARE options, why do you not go and experience what a local business has to offer? Is there just a general desire to be anonymous, faceless and completely divorced from who benefits from your purchase? Do you think that if you darkened the door of a yarn shop, you'd be assaulted and forced to use your grocery money to buy cashmere? Do you not trust yourself in the face of friendly people and a variety of merchandise? Educate me! I don't get why there are still so many people who do not think it's worth their time and energy to patronize a local business.

If all I had was Michaels or online shopping, that's how I would buy yarn - and I'm VERY likely go back to Michaels someday to buy more Patons (in a sweater quantity IF they have matching dyelots) - but I'll never believe it's a delightful experience to walk in a shop unnoticed and navigate my way past plastic flowers to the back of the shop to look at yarn.

Oh holy cow!! Did I even need to see the new pattern books Patons has on their site? Top Down Classics looks awesome.

February 27, 2008


Staci did hers and challenged others to do theirs -- of course, I had to try it with more than one photo!

Here's one with a 2005 photo:

And another with a 1994 photo:

February 25, 2008

All about eyes and a little about yarn

all about eyes
30 ml of AMAZING

My under-eye puffiness has now been resolved. I love this stuff -- and I just have to use a tiny bit so it's likely to last a while. On Friday, I stopped by the Clinique counter at Macy's to pick up some foundation (One tube lasts three months). One of the ladies there asked if I would like a complimentary makeover and although I always (always) politely decline, I decided to indulge this time. Earlier that morning, I'd had a traumatic 3-hour ordeal at the dentist's office, so some pampering sounded nice. She used the All About Eyes on me with a little bit of concealer and even though I couldn't see it, it FELT amazing and very lightweight. She also used a nude shade of lipstick on my lips (anybody who knows me knows I do not wear nude lipsticks!) and I loved it: Metallic Sand. Because I haven't run out of lipstick, I didn't buy anything other than the eye cream and foundation. I have incredible self-control when it's not related to yarn -- to wit:

The Patons Classic Merino caught my eye today at Michaels, so I bought just one skein to try:

Patons Classic Merino

Until I can do a proper update on the state of things around here, I want to thank you for all the comments and emails on my previous entries. By the time I post this blog entry, my mom should be happily back at home after a week in the hospital. Her going to the hospital was just what she needed -- her medications have been tweaked and next steps are underway to help her with pain management. She will be fine!

I have a million serious topics I want to blog about, but this frivolous one makes me the happiest.

February 21, 2008

The edge

Hey, look! It's an actual knitting post!

Thanks to Ann Budd, I've got an alternative to ribbing -- a hemmed edge.

Turning Row (round)

Doesn't it look neat and tidy? You might have noticed I've knit virtually NO garments for myself. Pesky waist ribbing is just one of the reasons. I couldn't bring myself to knit ribbing around my waist (however, if something is ribbed throughout, it's a bit more flattering on me). I've been aware of this nice hemmed edge and even knew how to accomplish it, but it wasn't until Ann's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns that I finally paid attention to the math.

Turning row (round)

And it makes sense -- you just start knitting (in the round, from the bottom) with the number of stitches with which you'd do the body of the sweater. There's absolutely no extra math to figure out which percentage of stitches to set aside for ribbing. (However, if you're knitting for kids, go ahead with the ribbing).

If I'm getting 5 stitches to the inch and my chest measurement is 34, I'll cast on 170, knit a few rounds (5), and purl one round for a turning row. I'll do waist shaping of course, and I still have to figure out my choice of neckline, but how easy is that? And for further edge ideas (and if you prefer to work with actual patterns), check out The Perfect Sweater Pattern. The link to the free pattern (.pdf) is in the blog entry.

Other designers who pay attention to edges are Bonne Marie, Nora, and the Zephyr gals. I like simple, neat, non-fussy tops. Socks and accessories are where I have my (knitting) fun.

And, Lisa, thank you so much for all the research you've been helping me with and for the phone calls and updates. (Y'all, I've rediscovered my love of the phone since my laptop's officially a paperweight now).

Thank you, Debbie for the award. Debbie's sense of humor really shows throughout her posts and conversely, I don't think my own twisted sense of humor comes through on my blog. I love that hers does.

Something huge I learned this past week: Take photos. Tell your story. For about a nine year span, my dad kept scrapbooks. He saved a LOT of stuff, but the scrapbooks have proved to be invaluable now that he has dementia. These aren't necessarily artistically presented, but just plain black scrapbooks with photo corners and his handwriting and artwork (in white pencil) throughout. I know that an entire industry is now built around anything you can put in a scrapbook, but I've learned they don't have to be fussy. They can be simple and prove to be valuable.

Check this out:

Douglas MacArthur 1949
click on the photo to see it larger and view additional details

Take photos. Tell your story. Blog shamelessly.

February 20, 2008

Little choices

My Mom 1933-34

We have no choice of what color we're born or who our parents are or whether we're rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we're here.--Mildred D. Taylor

In going through so many levels and layers of genealogical research, the strongest impression I have is that the biggest changes are sometimes a result of what seem in the moment to be small choices -- like the choice my father made to lie about his age in order to join the Army before he was out of high school. The most compelling reason he had was an opportunity to travel and see the world rather than become a coal miner like his father and grandfather. While he was stationed in Tokyo, he met my mother who was on the path of making some choices of her own.

Unfortunately, but probably not unexpectedly for postwar Ohio, my mom wasn't accepted by my American grandmother -- my sisters and I didn't have a relationship with her (or with one of my aunts and my cousins); it's likely I saw her only twice in my entire life. It would have been nice to have known more about my Irish and Scottish ancestry.

My mom is in the hospital right now. She's going to be fine, but she's been in a lot of pain and they're trying to help her with her degenerative disc disease.

what little knitting I've been able to do was on Sunday; I'm swatching for some simple summer tanks.

Turning row (round)

Now I just need to find the time to knit them.

Elsebeth Lavold Cotton Patine

February 14, 2008

Processes unrelated to knitting

I'm experiencing heightened intuition and perception, along with feeling extremely empathetic (to the point of weepiness sometimes) and strange maternal and nesting urges TOTALLY unrelated to pregnancy (no chance of that). And these are the GOOD parts of this female aging process. I'm not sad to be starting to experience pre-menopause, but I am a little unsettled. The skin changes and grey hairs don't bother me, but the forgetfulness and anxiety DO upset me a bit.

And to be quite honest, I wasn't going to mention this particular process at all on my blog. Then I remembered my goal of having a blog as a record for myself -- and also my desire to use this blog as a way to capture some things in REAL time that might help my daughter twenty years (or more) from now. I know that my mom doesn't remember anything at all about what she went through and I wish she did.

Knitting helps. I am able to focus and concentrate on knitting when I can't focus on anything else. On some days I feel incredibly sharp and focused and others I feel like I'm in mental quicksand. But the heightened perception -- I'll take that any day. With unexpected surprises (both physical and mental) around every corner, successful navigation requires that I have an optimistic attitude. Pollyanna? You bet.

I wait until I feel sharp enough to tackle demanding tasks and this past week has included working on our income tax returns and organizing some historical family documents and vintage photos. This one of my mom and her brothers was taken in the late 30's, presumably before the death of their father (my grandfather). My mom was nine years old when he died, so I'm fairly certain that this was taken before then:

Valentine Vintage
Keiji, ??, Michio, my mother

When a bit of time opens up and I'm able to organize my stash, frog hibernating projects or wind yarn, if I get an urge, I'll allow myself to indulge in a quick project. These two one-day projects have been enjoyable and entertaining. Oddly, they're both Malabrigo:

Drawstring Pouch 3 - LMKG
click the photo above for more information


So go ahead . . . indulge yourself.

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 03, 2008

Thoughtful awards and more

Calla Coaster :: Purl Bee
Click the photo for project details

I took a brief hiatus from project monogamy (I almost typed monotony -- so what does THAT mean?) in order to knit a few gifts last night (while watching the first two episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles). The only finished object I can show right now is the Calla Coaster from the Purl Bee.

Calla Coaster :: Purl Bee

I should mention that I've had some serious love for Purl Soho since I first started knitting seriously (obsessively?) in 2004. Back then, when Purl Soho was just a website and not yet a book, a blog or Purl Patchwork, I would visit the site a few times a day just to see the colors and the exotic fiber. And when their book was published, I had to have it -- and it remains the book from which I've knit the most patterns. I'm pretty sure that it's Joelle Hoverson's love of color and exquisite yarn that keeps me inspired.

Meanwhile . . . I just got some happy news that my laptop is ready. I got the news via a recorded message so I don't know if "ready" is synonymous with "fixed," but I'll find out soon enough.

And even more good news: I got a couple of awards! Here and here, from Brenda (Molecular Knitting) and PJ, (And Sew It Is), respectively.



Now it's supposed to be my turn to spread the love and nominate more bloggers for these awards. It's going to be tough to name just ten twenty of the blogs that I think are excellent and/or make my day, but I'll try.

The A.D.D. Knitter - Heather has some great stash and her taste in yarn is quite similar to mine -- as well as her lack of self-control. (I mean that in the most endearing way, Heather).

A Friend to Knit With - Leslie shares her Cookie(s) of the Week and some super-accomplished knitting, cooking and photography skills. Plus, she's always incredibly encouraging and generous with her feedback.

Berlin's Whimsy - a brand-new addition to my sidebar, and I think her blog, photos and projects are a treasure. I don't even remember how I found her blog, but I love reading her.

Black Dog Knits - Nora's back! I get a ton of inspiration from Nora and her constructive feedback always helps me figure out the pesky details. (I'm not so naturally good with the details -- but I count on others who are).

Cherry Blossom Hill Studio - Fabulousness - I love peeking in and seeing the knitting and the sewing - and she makes me glad I have a colour (heh) monitor.

Chronic Ennui - I go see what Kim's up to and usually feel that I couldn't possibly measure up to her knitting skill or speed, but I can't stop going to her blog. Doggie photos are a bonus!

Coiled - Kat's tagline is "some knitting and drawing and other stuff too." She's a MAJOR inspiration.

Crimson Purl - Stacey is comprehensive in sharing project notes and details -- so much so that I can usually count on her to knit something I have in my queue and help me decide if I want to attempt it myself. She and I share an addiction a love for Malabrigo.

Gotta Knit - Debbie is usually up to something fun and never fails to make me laugh. When I think of Debbie, I think of steel magnolias.

Kent's Craft - I think I found Kent via Flickr back when he was posting some great vintage photos and about the same time he was working on his lovely v-neck. He seemed to disappear for a while, but now he has a shiny new laptop and camera. Surely he'll post more now. :-)

Knitsane :: Hannabirke - My favorite adventurous experimenter turned street photographer. I love the details in her posts.

Knitting Underway - Theresa is my sock-knitting hero!

Lekkercraft - Knitting interspersed with bits of everything else I love.

Lollyknitting Around - Lolly is probably the nicest, hardest-working knitblogger out there. Community building? Lolly defines it.

Molecular Knitting - I would have given her this award even if she hadn't given me one. Even though I know that she sometimes has to make the time to blog, she never gives the reader the impression that she's too busy to do it well. I love her photos along with her taste in fine sock yarn and M's cocktails.

Stumbling Over Chaos - Yet another hard working blogger. Chris works full time and has two delightful kitties to take care of and I don't know how she finds time to knit, blog and leave such nice comments.

Superstarra - A somewhat new-to-me knitting blog - I enjoy her knits and project photos and I've been reading through her archives to find those little gems I might have missed.

V's Blog and her Flickr too - she's a Midwesterner turned Pacific Northwesterner and I love following her adventurers with T and Miss Trixie.

Very Pink - Staci's a knitting superhero. Here's a quote from her Ravelry profile: "The most unusual thing about me as a knitter - I’m a one-project-at-a-timer, and I’m STASHLESS." She's a rare species.

Zebra Knits - Another blogger I've been reading less than a year but I am hooked. Every post is a treat, and the photos are awesome. Here's one of my favorite knits of hers.

Now excuse me while I spend the rest of the day feeling anxious about forgetting those blogs that I love and read regularly but forgot to mention. Everybody in my sidebar is excellent and inspirational.