July 03, 2008

Oh blog, how I've missed you

Last Minute Knitted Gifts - Drawstring Pouch
Ravelry details here

From my favorite knitting book, with one of my favorite yarns, Alpaca Silk by Blue Sky Alpacas. And because inevitably, I am asked why I would knit a drawstring pouch, I use them as reusable (and luxurious) gift packaging.

I won't bore you with the long and drawn out final installment (I hope) of the cable internet saga I've been experiencing. The bottom line is that the cable company has installed brand new cable and my signal should be strong and consistently stable now. Murphy's Law is alive and well because while having no internet is really not fun, this was the week I needed it the most.

I resurrected a hibernating project but I purchased new colors to work with:


I'm going to use the free Kusha Kusha Scarf pattern as a guide, but I'm not switching needle sizes. My plan is to hold both yarns together and cast on 60 stitches on a Size 6 (US) Addi Lace needle and knit in stockinette till I'm out of yarn.

Here's a swatch:


It's a photo of the stitches on the purl side so you can see the two individual yarns better. I think I'm going to enjoy this version of the scarf much more.

June 22, 2008

The issue of worth

Pashmina Cowl (Ravelry link) from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, 2006
Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight - 3 Skeins Eggplant

I knew I would think about the issue while I was on my trip -- the fact that each one of my sisters is pursuing a successful career and earning income of her own. While my job working part-time at the yarn shop is rewarding and carries with it opportunities to see my friends and commune with knitters (and crocheters), it's pretty safe to say that my net earnings each year are canceled out by my purchases. And I'm proud of my sisters. They each have an incredible sense of duty and work ethic. I know that my sisters are also proud of me and they constantly tell me so -- and point to my parenting, my relationships and my skills as evidence. Whenever I've been given the opportunity for more (in the way of a career and a larger paycheck) in the past decade, I've respectfully declined.

So when I see things that I've knit being passed around the room and worn -- or I spy them in suitcases, it provides a little more clarity for me. The issue of worth begins to be resolved when I see proof of how I've invested my time and energy and how lucky I am to be able to do what I enjoy nearly every single day.

March 25, 2008

Feeling in control again

Malabrigo :: Ankara Green Silky Merino
Vacation + Relief from tooth pain + Momentum from finishing things = Accomplishment

There were these little tasks -- knitting i-cord, sewing on leather straps, washing and blocking some finished knits, evaluating unfinished objects -- those tasks are now complete and updated in Ravelry. The last time you saw the soft drawstring pouch I knit with Malabrigo Silky Merino, it was unwashed and had a brown silk ribbon woven through and tied in a bow. Although I love the ribbon and will use it to wrap the final package, I really wanted to use the remaining blue-green silky merino yarn to knit a thick i-cord drawstring - so I did. I just love the color and the softness. The recipient can certainly have both along with a choice of which one to use. It had a nice Soak "Citrus" bath and a few rinses before I blocked and dried it overnight. It is amazingly soft now and still Tiffany Blue.

Last Minute Knitted Gifts (Joelle Hoverson) Drawstring Bag

The silver heart necklace was a Valentine's Day gift from a family member. It made me smile to see the "Ankara Green" Silky Merino next to the signature Tiffany box. What a perfect color.


I had this long diatribe planned in my head while I was on vacation about why I don't rely on luck to take me where I want to go -- it's so much more satisfying to work hard for my achievements. However, to the casual observer or the drive-by reader of this blog, I'd be hard-pressed to convince you that I'm not "lucky." In short: I'm blessed. I'm prepared. I'm well-informed. I'm a voracious blog reader. I'm well-connected in a small but tight network of knitters. I'm willing to invest in others. I'm aware that genetics (and orthodontia) has played a huge role in my physical appearance . . . but I refuse to credit luck. Please know that I don't dismiss any compliment - I'm grateful for all of them; but I'm not lucky.

It's easy to be dismissive of people who appear to do things effortlessly (although internally I do not count myself among those who experience life effortlessly), and it's so easy to form a wrong impression based on what little I share here. Do I shamelessly stash? Am I showing off? Am I boasting? Am I a spendthrift? You know, the bottom line is that I can't be responsible for what others think, so I fully enjoy the freedom I have here to express whatever I want to express -- and that is part of what I was alluding to in an earlier post. What prompted this? I've just been observing from a distance the tendency that some seem to have (expressed in forum postings, offhand and under-the-breath comments, message boards) to be unkind and presumptive. I value frugality, minimalism and austerity, but I also want to share the things I discover along this path I'm traveling.

I'm blessed.

January 16, 2008

But will I wear it?

I've been taking a long hard look -- a very critical look -- at my list of garments I intend to knit for myself. Usually something will make it on to my list due to my falling in love with a particular yarn. It's the yarn that attracts me first; then color next and design last. It's very rare that I buy yarn without a project planned but there are some yarns that have aged a bit in my young stash whose originally-intended patterns are really not that stylish any more.

So I've evaluated the store-bought sweaters I've loved and hated through the years and aside from the unfortunate intarsia phase, my favorite sweaters were solid colored -- usually natural colored, gray, red, or white, ribbed or plain stockinette and close-fitting. The sweaters that were the least flattering were loose-fitting cabled sweaters. I look best with some shaping, but an oversize sweater can be flattering on me if the proportions are right. Most surprising was that nearly all of my favorite sweaters were either 100% cotton -- or linen, viscose, ramie, and silk blends. Nearly all of them had some cotton though. I can remember owning only a small handful of 100% wool sweaters (one of which I still own after 15 years). Finer gauges predominated also.

My conclusion for knitwear for myself? Simple is best -- but it probably won't make good knit blog fodder or Flickr photos. And I'm okay with that. I want to knit what I'll wear. Chic Knits patterns seem to represent the style I envision for myself (Ribby Pulli and Cardi, Arianne, Cece) -- along with Knitting Pure and Simple cardigans and the Hourglass Sweater (Ravelry Link) in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Accessories are another story -- I'm much more adventurous with scarves, socks (sometimes), and hats.

For future socks for a family member, a planned 2x2 or 3x1 ribbing:

Passionberry :: See Jayne Knit

It's "Passionberry" -- a blend of merino and tencel from See Jayne Knit, an Etsy seller. Last week, I also received a set of sock blockers from Fearless Fibers. I love them and how they've infused my socks with their cedar scent. (And a quick thank you to Sallie, who has hooked me up with somebody we know who has darning eggs for sale).

I also finished the first of a pair of socks knit with Pigeonroof Studios sock yarn:

Pigeonroof Studios - Cinnamon

I love her dye job. The superwash merino she uses as her base is very nice -- the yardage made me a bit nervous, but not nervous enough to become a toe-up sock knitter. I like living on the (sock-knitting) edge. I've knit up all but two of my single socks-in-progress. I'm down to just one unfinished single sock and then will finish their mates. My Gesta vest front is almost finished and then I'll seam the sides and shoulders and crochet an edging.

There are a few changes in the air here and I can't share many details about them, but they're positive changes. While I anticipate how this will affect some of my plans, I've made some decisions about some of my former goals -- the ones unrelated to knitting. I'll share those as soon as I can. For now, I'll be in list-making mode.


June 17, 2007

Soft Drawstring Pouch

This was the reason I bought Last Minute Knitted Gifts last year:


I love the idea of knitted gift packaging and the Blue Sky Alpacas' Alpaca and Silk has been languishing in my stash since August 2006. I made the i-cord tie called for in the pattern but decided to try the Hana silk ribbon instead and love it. The Blue Sky Alpacas yarns I've worked with improve noticeably after washing and blocking -- the softness and sheen of this bag makes me want to buy more (which is a bit counterintuitive to the idea of knitting what's in the stash!). I used my favorite Soak fiber wash - A Scent for Celebration - to soak the bag before blocking overnight. (For a handful of you who love all things Amy Butler -- there's a new limited edition Soak -- "Sola" by Amy Butler).

And although I'll probably jinx myself by saying it, I've been motivated to continue working on evaluating the stash and finishing works-in-progress. The stash cull has been ruthless, but I feel a lot of peace about my decisions. I'm also relieved about having frogged this. I fell out of love with it when I took it off the needles and put it on waste yarn to try it on. I noticed something unfixable that I had done in the first several rows (plus two other small mistakes I had decided to live with). So although I was nearly finished with it, I frogged it and the yarn is waiting to become something else now. Because I was knitting this for a loved one, my standards were higher -- and I had to balance whether finishing it would even yield something the recipient would love. It's probably not a good idea to give a shawl to somebody who's never worn one. (And, yes, I should have thought this through before casting on). I think I'll knit her a cardigan in a soft, feminine color and I'll make sure it's machine-washable. Have you tried Louet Gems Worsted yet? It's what I plan to use -- with a Knitting Pure and Simple cardigan pattern. Until then, I'm focusing on season- and climate-appropriate knits like sleeveless shells and tanks for myself. I'm tired of knitting for the wrong season.

And, last but not least, I wanted to share some lovely things that have been given to me as gifts or just out of pure thoughtfulness:

Lovely gifts and thoughtfulness

Thank you to my co-workers as well as Nora, Vanessa, Kim and Paul.

April 20, 2007

Furoshiki Kerchief


Kerchief from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, (p.45)

It's wearable gift wrap & furoshiki

Yarn Used:
HABU 2/10 Kusaki Zome, A4, Color 24 (100% Silk)
HABU 1/12 Silk Mohair Kusa A32B, Color 23 (60% mohair, 40% silk)
(both yarns carried together while knitting)

Size 6 Clover Bamboo Circular

Finished Size – 20” across top edge, 10” high from bottom point to top edge

Here's a Washington Post article about Japanese Gift Wrapping and another at Whip Up: Gift Wrapping, Japanese Style. I love the idea of using fabric or knitting to wrap gifts. Last Minute Knitted Gifts offers several ideas throughout the book for using your knitting to embellish your handknit gifts.

In the past, I've knit i-cord (scroll down) out of yarn scraps and used it to tie a tissue-paper wrapped bundle. Hemp and linen are great for making tassels. Fuzzy wools make wonderful pom-poms. Use your stash to create your own eco-friendly gift wrap.


December 12, 2006

Finished Cowl (Last Minute Knitted Gifts)

It's an in-progress photo of a newly completed FO (finished object):


I've wanted to knit the cowl ever since I purchased Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Sometimes the simplest things are the most classy and elegant. This cowl won't scream to be noticed, but it will be warm and luxurious.

Since it's a Christmas gift, I'm not modeling it for a photo. Right now it's blocking after a soak in Eucalan (some of the dye released, but not as much as I thought). I loved it before I gave it a bath but it's undergone an amazing transformation after its rinse-and-shaping session. I've shaped it into a taller cowl and it's amazing how magically even and pretty it makes my stitches look. Pre-blocking, my stitches looked uneven and scrunchy. I love the warmth and density of alpaca, along with the nice halo and the fine alpaca hairs that want to stick up.

For about an hour or so, I've been taking inventory of knitting projects that were gathering dust (literally) and rummaging through all my knitting bags to rescue stray projects. My swift and ball winder are getting some action today too.


Everybody tells me that they would love to knit, but they don't have time. I look at people's lives and I can see opportunity and time for knitting all over the place. The time spent riding the bus each day? That's a pair of socks over a month. Waiting in line? Mittens. Watching TV? Buckets of wasted time that could be an exquisite lace shawl.
-Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

December 04, 2005

Knit Gift Bag - Debbie Bliss Yarn

For purposes of scale, there is a votive candle inside. This was something I was experimenting with based on (and inspired by) the pattern in Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I knitted the main portion of the bag last night while watching Polar Express. I did the three-needle bind-off and i-cord this morning. Joelle Hoverson's pattern calls for Blue Sky Alpacas' Alpaca & Silk yarn (1 skein) -- after the holidays I'll choose one of the great new dark colors and make one. I used DPNs for my small bag, but when I make the larger one in the book, I'll invest in 16" circular needles.

Needles: US6 DPN's (Brittany Birch)
Yarn: Something Debbie Bliss in pale pink - perhaps cotton angora?

Knit Gift Bag