Saturday, December 19, 2015

Phew! Time for a break!

I hope everyone had a great holiday!  It was nice to spend some time with my family and I tacked on a vacation from work this week to make a sort of extended holiday for myself.  To say I'm taking a "break" might be a stretch, but it certainly feels like one after last month!  My husband's birthday was the weekend after Thanksgifing so we took a trip to NYC to celebrate his still being older than me!  ;-)  We're both self-declared foodies and I had wanted to catch The Hunger Games Exhibition at the Discovery museum before it leaves in early January, so off we went!

Now, we had a FANTASTIC TRIP.  Seriously, but this blog is supposed to be about knitting, so I'll try to keep that in mind as I write.  We started out at Saturday by hitting the Natural History Museum to see the re-opened planetarium and the butterfly conservatory, then on to an early dinner at Guantanamera.  The food and cocktails were amazing and we literally stuffed ourselves silly before heading off to Times Square.

My anticipation was building for weeks to see the Hunger Games Exhibition.  I'm a HUGE fan of the books and movies, I usually binge watch the movies while knitting at least twice a week (and sadly, I'm not kidding- I'm actually watching the first film again as I write).  There was such great knitwear in all of the movies and so I was psyched at the opportunity to see some of the fantastic knits close up.  By the time we got into the exhibition, I was practically salivating and ready to cry like a pre-teen at a One Direction concert.

The exhibition itself was fantastic.  It was interactive, informative, reflected both the movies and the books, but not a single stitch of knitwear.  To be fair, I did see the famed Katniss Cowl, but it was actually woven, not knit (though you can find a really great knit interpretation HERE on Ravelry for free).  Exciting, and I was happy to be able to inspect it up close, but the cowl actually got so much attention after the movie release I couldn't find any information (or even still frames/pics) of the other knitwear in the movies, so I had been really jazzed to see some of the other pieces.   :-/

I do also want to take the time to point out that the staff working at the Discovery Museum are really friendly, approachable, and helpful.  I saw the Harry Potter Exhibition there a few years ago and had the same experience.  If you get the chance to stop by and see something that catches your fancy, don't hesitate!  If I could have afforded to, I would have bought out half their gift shop as well!  There was a whole line of kitchen/baking products marketed for "Peeta's Bakery" that I absolutely fell in love with!

Before the end of the night, we also got to stop into the Nintendo store where there were displays for their new game, Yoshi's Wooly World!  I'm also something of a Nintendo fan and it was fun to see all the knit and crocheted characters and landscapes.


Now that November is over, I can FINALLY I show you pictures of what I've been working on and my post is so late because I was trying to get pictures.  The lighting in my apartment is pretty dim though, and the weather hasn't really been cooperating- it's been warm, but rainy mostly.

I finished the last clue for the Supernatural MKAL pretty quickly but it took me a while to get around to washing and blocking it.  Anyone who watches the show will recognize the design as the anti-possession symbol the guys have tattooed to keep the demons out. I still have about a ball and a half of that yarn left and I think it's going to go great with a couple others I have in the stash.  I'm kind of toying around with ideas and think maybe I'll be designing my first shawl with them.

Yes, this is a bathroom pic I snapped as I was leaving work.
The lighting in there is AMAZING.
I also managed to finish the Snowflake sweater for NoKniSweMo before the end of November- though how I'm still not sure.  I had three days left with one sleeve to go, but I was working on it while in NYC so I was distracted and kept having to pull the cuff out.  I was actually sewing the final button onto the sweater at 11:57 on 11/30!  Now that it's done, I've got a great sweater to put into the rotation as the weather starts to cool- if it ever cools.  It's been in the 50's here in New England, which is practically tropical for this time of year.

At the start of the month, I also spent the day at WEBS yarn store completing my opt out tests for Knitting II and Crochet I and I'm happy to say I passed both!  Now that I've got a pre-requisite under my belt, it's just a matter of figuring out which classes I'd like to take this semester.  I wish I had the time and money to do all of them, but I'll have to be patient.

So, what's coming up?  Well, I'm STILL desperately trying to finish last minute Christmas gifts.  I'll be busy with some homework from the knitting classes I've signed up for, but I really hope to start a sweater that's been in my queue for some time, Norah Gaughan's "Chainlink," with the hope that I can finish it in time to actually wear it this year.   Soon, it'll be time for New Year's resolutions!  How did we hit the end of the year already?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Knovember Knitting

This is the second time I skipped a week.  I really didn't mean to, but the weeks have been getting away from me.  I can't believe Thanksgiving is on our door already!  I would like to be busy knitting Christmas gifts, but I'm still working diligently on my November "alongs."

I posted earlier on Facebook, I'm finished with clue 7 of 8 for my Supernatural MKAL.  I simultaneously am really excited and really sad that I'm so close to the end, but at least I'll be able to show it off soon!


The NoKniSweMo sweater is not doing so well.  In order to catch up on the MKAL, I sacrificed the sweater figuring it will go really quickly now that I'm down to stockinette stitch.  It is going quickly, but I'm going to have to do something desperate between now and the end of the month in order to finish on time.  It's possible, but it's getting pretty intense.

I have so many pairs of socks planned and I'm not the fastest knitter so I'm sure I won't get as many as I'd like done for the holidays.  I've been thinking about maybe making up some Hug Me Mug Cozies as gifts instead.  They always bring a smile to my face and I've got plenty of scrap yarn I could use!

I'll also soon be making progress on the WEBS Expert Knitter Program. I'm scheduled to complete the opt-out tests for Knitting II and Crochet I the first week of December.  While I'm really exciting to be making the progress, I do feel like I need to bone-up a little.  The course catalog outlines the skills covered by each class and I've realized I almost never use a long tail cast-on or half double crochet stitch.  Clearly I've got some practicing to do over the next week on top of all the other things I'm doing!  I heard the catalog for winter classes would be coming out around Thanksgiving, so I've been waiting impatiently by the mailbox for it to arrive!

I also need to give a shout out to Target for selling these fabulous two person sweaters!  Tell me this isn't amazing!  I'm seriously considering picking one up before our company "festive sweater" contest.  And what's up with the pepperoni pizza on there?  Is that meant to be something else and I'm just not seeing it?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fiber Festival of New England 2015

Clockwise from Top: Mad Color Fiber Arts (look at those colors),
hats from Bethany Homecrafts, goldfish soap.
This weekend is the 6th annual Fiber Festival of New England.  I come to this festival every year and always have a great time!  This year I was especially pleased to see an increase in upcycled products, like the beautiful hats pcitured here by Bethany Homecrafts.  They had some beautiful clothing made of up-cycled materials- the "twirly skirts" especially caught my attention.  I didn't have a very large budget this year and I've got the next several months worth of projects queued with yarn bought, so I didn't make a lot of purchases (yes, I realize this is very un-knitter-like)- just a new drop spindle and batt of roving.  Both were very reasonably priced and from Winterberry Farm in Colrain, MA.  That's my favorite part of these festivals, having the opportunity to buy from local farms and companies, goods being produced right in my back yard.  I did manage to collect a monsterous number of business cards and there are definitely some vendors that I will be following a bit more closely in the next year as I knock some more projects off of my list.  One that stuck in my head in particular was Holiday Yarns Dye Studio with their superhero inspired sock kits and some drool-worthy colorways.  I also have to give a shout out to June Pryce Fiber Arts.  I spent so much time "ooh"ing and "ahh"-ing in their booth!  They had beautiful colorways, amazing kits, and their "shawl pin without a pin" is genius!  

Let's talk about that WIP list!  I've dropped my Christmas knitting for now in an attempt to keep up with my NaKniSweMo KAL and Supernatural MKAL.  I suspect I had too much fun with my last KAL and in a moment of FO ecstacy I went a little insane and joined a handful more, now I'm stretching myself a little too thin.  I'm rightly worried I won't be able to knit all the socks I planned to gift for Christmas.  I suppose there's birthdays or next Christmas but that just feels like a defeatist attitude.  :-(  I've got a week of "stay-cation" lined up the first week of December, so maybe I can crank a few pairs out then.  I've also been trying to consciously knit a bit faster.  I've never been too impressed by speed because I'm a process knitter, I like to savor every last stitch as opposed to cranking out projects in record time, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

I've been working on Tin Can Knits' "Snowflake" for NaKniSweMo 2015.  The challenge requires an entire sweater composed of 50,000 stitches or more be completed in the month of November, that's about 2k per day.  My estimated stitch count for the finished project was over 58k stitches at a size Large with 3/4 sleeves (OMG what have I gotten myself into?!) so I'm confident it will qualify even if I was a bit off in my estimates.  I'm doing this with a friend who is participating in the original writing challenge that the knit challenge is based on, NaNoWriMo and I think we've both already fallen behind by a couple days.  I've had a seriously hectic work week requiring more overtime than I've needed to work for some time, so I really didn't have much time for anything else but eating and sleeping.  I managed to pick up about 1/2 of my missed progress after the festival yesterday and hope to catch up completely by tonight- only a couple thousand more stitches to go!

My NaKniSweMo and Supernatural MKAL projects, nestled together in my project bag.

As for the Supernatural MKAL, I'm falling way behind.  In order to catch up with NaKniSweMo, I sacrificed the shawl for a while and now I'm about a full clue behind when I should be past the half way mark.  I have been keeping up with the progress of others through the forum on Ravelry.  I'm still really jazzed about the project- still in love with the color and I'm enjoying the pattern immensely.  I tend to pick really difficult patterns to keep my mind fully engaged which might also be why I tend to knit so monogamously, so it's been a nice change to do something a little simpler for a change.

I wanted to take the time this week to share a technique I finally had the opportunity to use!  I'm sure I read about it somewhere- and I'll be damned if I can't find where.  I promise that if I find my original source, I'll come back and link it here.  Basically, it's a tip for making stripe/color changes that are clean and smooth when working in the round.  The problem is that if you just pick up and knit the next color, you have a very obvious spot where you stop using one color and pick up the other.  When you're working in rows this really isn't a problem, but when you're working in the round it's more obvious because your round never really stops- it's one giant spiral.  If you were to just drop one color and pick up another, it might not be so noticeable in a project where you were striping similar colors, but with the colors I've selected and making a change on the shoulder/bust area- that would be a pretty obvious change!

I've found the best and simplest way to deal with the color change is as follows:

  1. Knit normal/in pattern until you reach the point where you need to change colors.
  2. As your first stitch made with the new color (below, that's black)- make one extra stitch using the bar between your last stitch and the next stitch (known as a "M1" in most patterns).
  3. Slip your last stitch in the previous color (in my example, the magenta) over the new stitch (black).  This way, you maintain your stitch count and the slipped stitch looks to be on the same level as your previous color.  
I've included two shots below of my end result- the first au naturale so you can see what a clean line is made using this technique, and in the second image I circled the slipped stitch just so it's clear where I made the change.  It really disappears- especially on this pattern where the end of the round is in the middle of a raglan.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you again next week!

Ryan

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Road So Far...

I had to share this because it made me giggle when I read it on Tumblr the other day:



That's only sort of true for me.  I'm starting to realize I'm not going to get nearly as much Xmas kitting done as I would prefer, but that's really because I'm doing so much selfish kitting this year and I think my work in progress (WIP) pile is about to get bigger.   (What am I thinking?!)  It's been a while since I've made a true status report, so let's talk current WIPs before I move on to the projects in my queue.

I finished my first Drakar sock (yay) and I'm finally on to the second.  The foot may look a bit short, but these babies stretch pretty good- probably thanks to the squishy yarn, Tess' Designer Yarns: Super Socks and Baby Yarn (in Metallurgy) and the fantastic toe in this pattern!

You'll also see the socks modeling my new stitch protector. I've been seeing a lot of these from other bloggers/podcasters and thought it would be a worthy investment, so I bought one on Etsy- made to order by Pokdej.  This is the larger size.  I thought it was worth investing in the larger one now, even if I don't have any extra long double-pointed needles (DPNs) at the moment.  I'm really enjoying it!  There are great options for patterned cloth and lining and it's roomy without being too loose to hold the project.

I've also got a circular shawl on the needles, but it's part of the Supernatural MKAL by Shannon Sanchez.  Because of the mystery bit, I cant very well post pictures of it- then it wouldn't be a secret!  I'm running a bit behind on this one though.  :-/


Now, I bought the above stitch holder before the end of the Knitting Expat Rainbow KAL, not at all expecting I would win a prize or anything but that's exactly what happened!  If you've not yet watched the Knitting Expat podcast, I highly suggest it! I'm a big fan of Mina and her two feline co-stars.  Mina also makes really wonderful project bags and she can be found on Etsy as Mina Makes.  I knew the prize included the stitch holder, that BEAUTIFUL skein of Ewe Who Knits: Irish Fairy Tree base in the colorway Rainbow Dash, and some really adorable rainbow stitch markers.  What I did not expect was for her to generously include some flavored teas, absolutely scrumptious toffee candies, and a postcard of her boys, Derek and Hugo.  Those adorable felines are accumulating quite the following of their own!  Thank you, Mina, for your generosity!

So what's coming up?  I'm so tempted to use that beautiful skein of Rainbow Dash to cast on a pair of  Mystik Spiral Socks, but I think that will have to wait.  I had hoped to make at least two more pairs of socks for Xmas gifts.  There are a few Xmas knitting KALs I'm already participating in, so that's helping keep me (kind of) focused.  I've also stumbled on this idea of NaKniSweMo: knit a 50,000-stitch sweater in a month- specifically November. CRAZY you say! Yeah, I said that too, but I did hope to have a new holiday sweater for this year and I bought some beautiful yarn with this very intention back at the WEBS test sale in May.  You've actually seen it already in a previous post- that b-e-a-utiful magenta gauge swatch that I made for the Tin Can Knits Snowflake sweater.  I've even counted the stitches in anticipation!  I had to guess-timate a bit on row counts (you know, knit till you have 16.5 inches, etc), but I came up with roughly 58k+ stitches knitting up a XL size with three quarters sleeves.  I figure if I make it by the November 30 deadline that's great, but if I don't I'll still have a really great start on a Christmas sweater.

Well, now that I've gone on and on, it's time to get some of this knitting done as opposed to just talking about it! I'm going to cuddle up with some Mexican hot chocolate and see what I can do about that.  Till next week!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Trouble with Rhinebeck

I got up early, made coffee, and repacked my purse.  Then I repacked it again.  I donned my "Rhinebeck sweater" and started the 2.5 hour drive to Rhinebeck- the event of the season for fiber artists- at least in this neck of the woods but I'd be so bold to say for the entire east coast and into Canada.  This was to be my first trip and I had butterflies in my stomach for days.

The drive itself was beautiful and uneventful, my excitement growing exponentially with every mile. I got there at 9, just as planned.  I couldn't find hours of operation, but the workshop schedule indicated that things should kick off at 9 am, so that's when I would be there.  I spoke with a kindly security guard who pointed out some closer parking, and met up with my friend Sarah marveling at how few cars were there so early.  It also seemed strange that there was a $12 ticket price quoted, but no one had asked for tickets or pointed us to where we should pay.  Maybe we were just here that early?  But we were patient, we were willing to wait because this was going to be great.  Our first Rhinebeck trip!

Then it hit us- it was Friday.  For those of you who don't get the rub, Rhinebeck is a two day event that starts on Saturday.  Nowhere on the fiber festival website did it explicitly say that workshops and livestock events would be happening Friday, but the main event wouldn't start till Saturday.  That information was only posted on the fairgrounds website which we clearly had not checked before we made our plans.  We had come on the wrong day.
Barbeque Duck Quesadilla, Thai-Spiced Crab Soup,
and Sour Cherry Manhattan

For those of you who know me, this is probably not a surprise.  I get so excited about things that I just don't pay attention to the fine print and I get carried away rather quickly. I'm actually one of the only people in the world who I think actually DO read all of the fine print before signing anything simply because I recognize this about myself, yet here I am- sitting with one of my best friends, getting curious looks from the vendors who were probably wondering who the heck we were and why we weren't working.  Sadly, Saturday and Sunday were not options for me, so there was nothing I could do.  I was going to miss it. 

Even if the air was out of our balloon, gosh darn, we were going to make a day of it.  Rhinebeck, as it turns out, is a very beautiful place with lots of touristy shopping and such.  We perused the shops and had a fantabulous lunch at Terrapin- a renovated church turned bistro.  Let me tell you, the meal was a treat in itself and the building was stunning.  If you have the opportunity, seriously give them a try.  The bread pudding is to die for!

So over lunch, we made a plan.  We looked up a few local yarn shops so at least we'd have something to go home with and thanks to the ladies at Faboulousyarn, we did not come home empty-handed!  I had meant to have pictures of the new additions to my stash ready for this post but the day just got away from me.  I promise I'll have them up soon! Despite things not going as planned, it really was a great day with a great friend in a place I'd never been before.  Not too shabby at all! 
I suppose I'll be reading about everyone else's adventures in the week to come, but I suppose I had one of my own mis-advenrture and someday I'm sure I'll be able to laugh at it a little more.  The blow is also softened a bit by the gorgeous scenery on the ride home.  For some reason, by GPS (which, mind you, is about 13 years old now) did not bring me back to the NY Thruway on the way home, but gave me the scenic route.  I found myself chasing a thunderstorm at sunset in the middle of one of the most glorious leaf-peeping seasons we've had in a long time.  It's hard to keep a sour disposition when your drive home looks like this! 


Friday, October 9, 2015

Perseverance

It's a lazy Friday morning over here.  I had a good sleep in, then stayed in bed catching up on my favorite blogs and checking email- one of my favorite things to do.  I know I have other things I could and should be doing, but to be frank I really didn't care.

I haven't made all that much progress on my Drakar socks.  I've just finished the gusset and I'm moving onto the foot of the first sock.  I've been distracted because I picked up a new project on top of the socks and it's hasn't going so well.  *sigh*

I started the Supernatural MKAL (Mystery Knit-A-Long for anyone who's not up on the lingo) which kicked off with the season premier this week. I've been SUPER excited about it, counting down the days, selecting and buying yarn, petting said yarn in anticipation and now it's here.  I picked out this SUPER cute yarn, a 100% merino lace weight in this brilliant green color that practically glows.  Despite the basic pattern info calling for fingering, I decided I could make lace work and I found this on clearance.  PERFECT.  And it doesn't work. 

Well, let's be fair.  I've knit in lace weight approximately 2 times, I have never made a shawl in the round- I'm not even really a shawl person so I don't have much experience there to start with, so it really could be my inexperience that's giving me such a hard time. 

I'm only including the image because I'm so close to the start.
Sorry, the color is WAY off here.
On second thought, let's blame the yarn.  The first clue came out mid-week and I had tried countless times to get at least up to round 10.  SO. MUCH. VULGARITY.  So I think to myself if I switch to some lace weight cotton I've got lying around, maybe the sturdier fiber would be easier for me to control, but again no go.  I only have metal needles in the size I need and the yarn is slipping all over the place.  So the cotton's not going to work.  The only fingering I have on hand are in amounts that I have been meticulously selecting and hoarding bit by bit for sweaters in my queue.  Sweaters which have been carefully vetted over the last, oh, nine months or so.  After a lot of belly-aching at my husband (who despite trying to be supportive really couldn't care less), I break down and cake up the fingering while watching my project planning circle the drain.  But it works.  I'm knitting at such speed it's amazing I can still see my fingers moving, but I still have that horrible feeling in my stomach.  That horrible feeling that I need to stop and stop now before I get too invested in the project to back out.

I finally listened to my gut.  It was killing me to use that beautiful yarn that I so painstakingly selected and invested in and I wasn't crazy about the color for the mystery project either, so I thought I'd try it one more time.  I know I have this thing where I expect I'm going to pick up a medium I'm not used to working with, attempt a technique I've never used before implementing tools I've never used before (a new cast-on! Yippee!) and I have this ridiculous notion that I'm so fantabulous that the project will be flawless.  I will make no mistakes and there is no margin for error.  I know this about myself and I'm trying to recognize and work around it.  So one more attempt was not only reasonable, but I owed that to myself.

And it worked.

HAHA!  It totally worked.  I'm now on round 21 and going strong with a new tool to boot.  Balance has been restored and all in my world is right again.  It's amazing how good this feels!  Now I'm going to go toss in a safety line before I jinx myself.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

(No) Buyer's Remorse

Hey everyone! I've been so busy lately I almost forgot to write this week!  Autumn is a time of year when there are seasonal celebrations just about every weekend here in New England, and it's usually when I start Christmas knitting for the lucky few on this year's list.  I keep a kind of informal rotation going, trying not to knit for the same people every year but never having enough time or money to knit for everyone in the same year.

Deep-Fried Cocktails

The Big E is just finishing today.  I only went once this year as opposed to my usual three plus visits, but I fit in as many fabulous foodstuffs as I could (both literally and figuratively) in that one night.  That includes my annual "Crazy Burger" (a bacon cheeseburger on a glazed doughnut in place of a bun), a turducken sandwich, and deep fried cocktails (the last two pictured below).  I found the secret is a large breakfast so that I can eat a very light lunch, leaving room for lots of food stuffs.  It also helps to have some great friends to share it with!

Strawberry-Filled Wedding Cupcake


I also had a beautiful family wedding to attend on Friday.  Weddings are always a lot of fun, but family weddings are a little extra special.  I have a really big family with lots of cousins, aunts, and uncles, and we take the "cousin's table" very seriously.  Or maybe we don't.  The cousin's table is always having 10x more fun than everyone else in the joint, guaranteed!  Clearly some of us now have significant others too, so our family is just continuing to grow and we were all really excited to welcome our newest addition.

Now, on to knitting.  Let me insert a disclaimer here which is important for both me and you.  I want to make clear that I'm currently writing this blog without any financial support or compensation, so all of the opinions I offer on products/projects/etc are solely my own.  I am not paid to promote any products, people, or brands.  I'm also usually pretty stingy when it comes to my hobbies so if I'm offering an opinion about something, it's because I had enough faith in said "something" to spend my own hard-earned money on it and now feel compelled to share my experience with you fine people.

Now that that's been said, I did finish a few "firsts" this week.  My first test knit finished last weekend, so I had to take and post pictures of my finished product to the group.  Now that the pattern has been published, I feel okay about sharing with you.  I wanted something small to use up the (roughly) half a skein of Valley Yarns Charlemont dyed by Dream in Color that I had left over from someone's Christmas gift (which I won't show you because the giftee may be reading this).  I've joined a couple test knit groups on Ravelry and I came across the Emmentaler Hat.  It's part of a three piece set, but I came late to the party and so did not participate in the scarf or mitts test knits, but the hat is a really quick knit that is relatively simple.  The eyelets are formed by a really interesting stitch and once you get your head around how to execute it, the whole thing's easy-peasy.  I had a great first experience and found the designer to be really responsive, though I'm glad I chose a smaller, easier project for my first test.  I had planned on the FO being Christmas gift number two off my list and it was intended for my model, but once we had photographed the hat she refused to give it back (or even to take it off).  I'll take that as a win!

Emmentaler Hat

I also took my first official fiber class today.  I have to give props to my mom though because it was pretty much her idea.  I've been talking for a while about wanting to become some sort of fiber professional and specifically having trouble with sizing and garment construction.  Being the fantastic parent she is, Mom offered to buy us a class at our local yarn store- "Math for Knitters" for both of us as something for us to do together.  That started a kind of chain reaction which lead to me huddled over my phone at roughly 2 am the other night not only signing up for another class, but  registering for the "WEBS Expert Knitter Program."

Yes, my local yarn store is WEBS- the world's biggest yarn store and before you ask, I am aware how lucky I am to have them in my back yard.  I'll admit, it's more money than I planned on dropping this time of year (fore mentioned Christmas and fair food), but I've never for a second thought it wouldn't be worth it.  Several other knitters I've run into while shopping or attending events at the store have raved about the classes and insisted that, even if they were already very familiar with the topic of the class, they felt they had still walked away with a lot of valuable information.  The idea of the program is to take several classes they offer through the store with both in-house instructors or sometimes with really great guest instructors, and by the end of the program you would finish a "capstone project," designing, planning, and knitting a sweater using your own measurements.

I did get a little nervous after my first meeting at the store to explain the what's what of the program.  Not that it's advertised like this in any way, but it was starting to feel like going back to college.  There's homework to be completed, finished projects are inspected and approved by the Education Manager or a WEKP Committee Planner, there's an add/drop period.  I have to say though, after my "Yarn 101" class today I'm even more pleased with my investment.  I learned so much about yarns and fibers that I just didn't know or never thought to know.  I also have a much better idea of why I've had so many sweater disasters (I think mostly a combination of lazy swatching and bad yarn substitutions).  Not only did I get a lot of great information and make some new friends, but I walked away with a list of resources I can make use of in the future- which is like gold.

So knitters, let's get a conversation going!  How did you learn to knit?  Are you self taught, did you inherit the craft from a family member, or did you take classes?  Is there a tip or resource that you found especially helpful when learning a new technique?

Drakar Socks by "Sockmatician" Nathan Taylor; yarn: Tess' Designer Yarns Super Socks & Baby Yarn in Metallurgy

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gauge Swatch: A New Sweater

I was playing with one of those ridiculous Facebook surveys that's supposed to analyze your profile and list your three best attributes and one of your worst.  The positives didn't seem so bad, "goal oriented,"  "unbelievably charismatic," and "quick perception," but then came the negative: "Slacker." 

My first reaction was to get offended. "Hey!" I thought.  "Who are you calling a slacker?"  Then I thought about it... and the pile of clothes next to my bed that have been there for over a week, the pile of dishes in the kitchen that I totally plan to do right away... or after the next episode of the show I'm currently binge watching.  Remember my ratio of sweaters that fit to those that don't?  I thought about all the wasted effort I put into those full-body sweaters just because I couldn't be bothered to do an adequate gauge swatch.   They are my secret shame and I've been hiding them from my knitter mother for quite some time now.  Like I promised previously though, I'll be sharing ALL OF THE THINGS with you- so here are some of my more embarrassing sweater debacles, for your viewing enjoyment.


Perhaps my 2016 New Year's Resolution will be to reclaim all of the beautiful yarn I've mishandled.  I usually knit a few rows, eyeball the stitch to inch ratio, and decide if the fabric looks obviously flawed before disregarding what little information I've collected to just dig right into my projet du jour.  I like to pretend to be surprised when I pull the sweater on and find that I can fit a small elephant in there with me.  Keeps things interesting that way.  So what can I do to kick this bad habit of mine?  I can take my time and make a true, honest to goodness gauge swatch.  Not just any gauge swatch, a fantastic swatch.  A swatch that my mother could be proud of.  I'm not na├»ve enough to promise I'll keep this up for all of my future knits but I'm starting a new sweater soon and I vow that I will not knit this sweater twice!

Seems like there are HUNDREDS of articles on the internet for creating a swatch and I've read quite a few. Some people get really zen about swatching, like the little squares are a way for calming the mind and centering one's Chi before starting the main event. Some people just want get it over with as soon as possible and race through tiny samples.  I know it's hard to believe, but there are even some people out there who enjoy knitting swatches almost as much as the intended project.  I have also heard whispers of a magical people who knit so consistently that they no longer have to swatch, but can accurately predict the effects their static gauge will have on a pattern.  I am not one of their number, no matter how many times I brazenly declare that I am and dive head first into another woolen disaster of my own making. 

Now, of all the articles and demos and tutorials I've absorbed, I do particularly appreciate the Amy Herzog Design team's method, and I love that they took the time to provide the rationale behind it.  In case you haven't heard of them before, they've developed a system called CustomFit for knitting a sweater with  any weight yarn and your gauge instead of trying to match someone else's.  I haven't really delved into it yet to be honest, but I'm thinking it's something I could really benefit from eventually and I do follow the blog regularly because they've always doing something new and interesting!

I love that sultry raspberry color and it really pops against black!

So here it is.  Queue the fanfare.  This is my first honest effort at a useful swatch in Filatura Di Crosa Sportwool.  Not only did I knit it up, but I washed it as I would the sweater and I'm glad I did.  It's superwash wool and it felt kind of scratchy like acrylic when I was knitting it up, but the yarn softened up so much upon washing that I think it will be comfortable with direct contact to skin.  I bought a quantity in this luscious magenta and in black back in May with the expressed intent to use them for Tin Can Knits' Snowflake.  The crisp New England mornings we've had this week have reminded me that my sweater pile could be bigger and I love how simple and classy this design is.  I could wear it to Thanksgiving dinner, to the office, or out on the town afterwards.

So what about you?  Do you have a preferred swatch method or do you like live dangerously?   I've just about finished up what I expect to be my first Rheinbeck sweater, and a few Christmas gifts are off the needles now.  I'd also love to hear what other people are casting on!  Are you working on something for you, or getting a head start on seasonal gift knitting? 


Friday, September 18, 2015

Nice to meet you!

Staring at this page, I now see why so many people seem so intimidated when filming their first podcast episode, or writing their first blog entry.  It's so much like a first date!  Are you going to like me?  Am I going to slurp my soup or get spaghetti on myself?  Will I see you again?  This is EXACTLY what I hope this blog will be about- firsts.

I've been knitting for seven years and I think I can count the number of sweaters I knit on my two hands.  I think I can count the number of them that fit the first time on one hand.  I feel like I'm in a yarny rut and the only cure is to put myself out there, shove myself outside my comfort zone, and try some new things.  So here we find ourselves, munching awkwardly on breadsticks and waiting for the appetizers to come.

I can promise to you that I will always show you my flaws.  If I didn't, what would I have to write about?  I hope that we'll learn things together, even if we're only learning a little something new about ourselves.  I always felt the best way to do that is to evaluate how far you've come and how far you have to go.  It's a little early in the year for resolutions, but here's a list of notches I'd like to put in my belt in the foreseeable future.  I am the kind of date to bring a list of talking points in my pocket, in case the conversation stalls.
  • Meet New People
  • Knit with Them
  • Learn a New Technique
  • Improve a Technique I'm Already Comfortable With
  • Go to a New (to me) Yarn Event
  • Take a Class
  • Use a New Fiber
  • Design a Garment (yeah, that's a big one)
So if anyone is out there, drop me a line!  Who's up for an adventure?  Leave a comment and tell me a little about what you  would like to accomplish as a knitter.  Is it just a fun hobby?  Are you looking to make a living from your craft?  What are your yarny hopes and dreams?

Ryan