Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Look What Came In the Mail Today

Ah ha! It arrived, my Icelandic Shawl Kit from Sarah's Yarns. I am so thrilled! Sarah got this yarn kit to me to make the Icelandic Shawl, which I've been wanting to make ever since I first read about it over on Knitting Daily. It's a free pattern, and you can go to the link and download it for free. When this pattern first arrived in my email box several weeks ago, I felt like I'd been given an early birthday present. Now having the yarn kit from Sarah for only $25 including shipping - can you believe the bargain? It feels like a gift as well. She gives excellent service and an unbelievable price. Wahoooo!!!!

This is so exciting. Of course, I'm in a knitalong (through Yahoo Groups) that starts Monday for this Shawl and I'll be wanting to cast on, probably tomorrow. As all of you know, I've been in "shawl love" ever since I completed my first one earlier this summer. I can't wait to begin another one. This will be a blast.

I'm making the Icelandic Shawl in the original "natural" colorways with white, brown, and several shades of grey. This is what I'm shooting for. High expectations be damned. When it comes to shawls, you can't love them enough or enjoy knitting anything else even half as much. I'll be in shawl heaven -- and best of all, I'm off on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Bet you know what I'll be doing . . . . casting on very soon. Maybe I can hold off until tomorrow?

Cheap Shoes - As Well As Knitting Redos

In Shoes:

I don't normally shop at Walmart, but every now and then, I break down and do it. For those of you who are still wanting a pair or two of cheap sandals to show off your socks this winter - or who just can't get enough of wearing sandals, you might want to make a dash over to your local Walmart store to pick up a pair or two . . . or three of sandals on clearance. I have really ugly feet but I can't bear to turn away these Earth sandals for $9.00. Yep, $9.00! And they feel more comfortable than the expensive sandals I've bought in the past. If you don't like this style, there are many many styles on sale. They also have cute and cheap tennis shoes. I bought a pair of Danskins earlier in the summer that are my favorite pair of tennies EVER. They are beige and I wear them when I do my treadmill.

But isn't it weird when a person like me, even one with ugly feet, is so into displaying their knitted objects that they deliberately go out and try to find sandals to wear year-round merely to show off hand-knit socks? Weird, but only a knitter could possibly understand that! Four years ago, when I first learned to knit socks I even got crazy enough to go buy a pair of these awful clear rubber boots. Do you remember those boots? Aggghhhh . . . bad idea. No amount of sock pride is worth the hot sweaty walk-around in those boots.

Now back to knitting, you remember I was working on that felted bag - and I was worried that it wasn't big enough and thick enough? After much angst, I decided to rip it out and start over again with double strands of yarn this time. And I decided to make it bigger - 10 stitches bigger (these are big stitches too - on size 10 1/2 needles). Right, yeah, and now I'm almost finished with the bag's rectangular base. And it looks huge . . . really huge. I feel like I'm knitting a small truck rather than a carpet bag. I keep telling myself, it will get smaller when it felts . . . it will get smaller . . . yeah. It won't be a suitcase, it will be a knitting bag. Really. And I want it big. I like big bags. I want to be able to carry big projects, like the many sweaters I intend to knit this winter.

Yeah, and I hope I can still lift this bag when it's done. It may need to be felted 25 times with an industrial strength washing machine. Err . . . yeah, it will be okay, really it will.

Many of you still want to get on Ravelry and haven't received the invite yet. It's a fun tool, I admit it, but I wish I'd started loading my photos onto Flicker before I arrived at Ravelry. So if you haven't done that yet, you might want to start by doing that. Some really organized people like Elysbeth have even loaded all of their yarn stash - yes, photos of each, onto their Flicker account so that when Ravelry eventually opens up the online yarn swapping area, they will be able to participate. I'm not that organized yet. I'm still trying to just find, photograph and upload whatever projects I can find that haven't been given away, thrown away or worn away. And sadly, in the four years I've been knitting, I haven't produced all that many finished projects. Not as many as I imagined anyway.

But if you are more prolific than I am . . . you might want to start photographing and downloading onto Flicker while you still have time. From what they are saying, in a very short time, they are going to finish doing the Beta testing and will upload it all onto a big server and let everyone in at once. It won't be long at all.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Einstein Coat Revisited

Being on Ravelry has motiviated me to start logging in my past as well as current Projects. It is also stirring up vivid memories of past projects.

My Mom and I got back into knitting during the summer of 2003 when we took a knitting class from a local knit shop called Knitcraft. During that summer, we really fell in LOVE with knitting. We knitted a few (okay a LOT) of scarves, and a few felted bags. But then what really captured our interest was the Sally Melville book - remember this?

My daughter wanted me to make her the extremely popular Einstein Coat. It was the first sweater I ever made. Frankly, it was long and boring, I finally finished it and she wore it proudly. At the time her favorite color was Navy Blue. It had to be Navy Blue EVERYTHING.

Well, in rehashing this project and entering it into Ravelry, I found this note I wrote to my friend Phyllis via email. I had forgotten all about this! There's something to be said for keeping a detailed knitting journal, complete with 4 year old emails.

September 25, 2003

Phyllis, I stayed up last night until 1:00 a.m. working on E's sweater. I finished sewing the sleeves, the shoulders and weaving in the hanging threads. I also picked up all the stitches for the collar, so now all I have left to do is to knit 11 ridges (22 rows) of the collar. Almost done!

After I finished it, I woke husband up to show him the (nearly) completed sweater. He really liked it. But then he went back to sleep and had a bad dream that a bunch of "bad guys" stormed in our house, tied us all up and threatened us with guns as they burglarized our house. Somehow all three of us managed to escape, but as we were running down the street, he realized we'd left behind the Einstein coat! Daughter insisted that we go back and get it. And when we did, the bad guys were waiting for us again. He said it was like an episode of the Scobby Doo show, where the characters are always doing stupid things and get caught by the bad guys.

After he told me the story, I said, "Didn't it occur to you that we could just FORGET the damned Einstein coat in the face of murders and escape?" He said, "Nope, not when it took you over 2 months to finish it."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Purposely Low Expectations

Carol mentioned that since she got back from Stitches Midwest, she has been wanting to start a new project. As I mentioned before, I've been working on the Wrap Me Up, which is the wrap design I talked about a week or so ago - the mini afghan stitch sampler, designed by Knitting at Knoon. That is going slowly so I wanted a quicker "instant gratification" type project.

What better for fast and easy than a felted bag? Specifically, a felted bag that has been on my knitting "to dos" for quite some time. It's called the Harriett bag. The original design intrigued me several years ago, but my interest was strongly reignited while visiting a booth called Homestead Heirlooms, a booth of folks from Pewaukee, Wisconsin who make leather handles for bags. These vendors had a modified version that I liked even better, so I'm now working on it. Since I don't have written instructions on how to do this, I'm kind of winging it, though I'm not yet up to the winging part, so I don't know how this will go yet!

The color of the bag is black and brown - classic and versatile. The reason I haven't posted much about it is that I don't want to raise my own (or anyone else's) expectations too high. The bag they displayed at Stitches was a big, gorgeous and all-so-usable carpet bag and I dearly love a good carpet bag. I'm just afraid to expect TOO much because the last few bags I've made have been not nearly up to my expectations, so I am trying to lower my hopes so that if it doesn't turn out well, I won't be too disappointed.

The best thing about this new bag is the expert way they did the handles. Years ago, I made a wonderful carpet bag called Constant Companion - seen here in brown and cream.
I loved that bag and still store large quantities of yarn in it, but the i-cord handles are way too stretchy and flimsy to carry around comfortably. I now really dislike icord as a purse strap. My new bag will have sturdy leather handles. I'll show more as I progress.

Again, don't want to raise expectations - yours or mine. So here's to LOW expectations and hopefully purse-pleasing results.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I've Been Invited to Ravelry

I finally received the long-awaited invite to Ravelry and oh my goodness. . . . this is a whole new WORLD to explore. Wow! I knew it would be good, but it's even better than I expected. I've spent the whole evening trying to quickly post photos of my work onto my Flicker account. I can't find a lot of my old photos.

I think Ravelry will be amazing to explore. I must make sure it doesn't take up every spare minute I have for knitting . . it's 11:16 p.m. and I should be in bed already, but I'm playing on this darned computer. Okay, I'm going to turn in now, but they say that everyone is soon going to get their invite to join Ravelry once they get it up on the server.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What I Learned About Creative Knitting

Here are some nuggets I gleaned from the Valentina Devine workshop:

Yarn selection: Hold the yarn in your hands and let it tell YOU what it wants to be.

Valentina has worked with hundreds of students in her knitting career and has never seen any two creative knitting projects come out alike.

The eye will see (in order): the color first; then the silhouette and finally the design details, such as the linear or abstract image and the particular design elements.

Never hang your sweaters on hangers!!! It misshaps them. Sweaters should be folded and stored in shelves where they can be grabbed and worn often without the bad effects of stretching or distortion.

For outdoorsy type sweater jackets, be sure and include a pocket, you can add this in later in the side seam. That way you don't have to worry about putting the pocket onto the front of the garment itself to spoil the design.

The aim in Creative Knitting is to create beautiful fabric, be it through knitting or crochet or a combo of both.

If you are concerned about an assortment of colors not going together, be sure and throw in BLACK into the mix. Adding black serves to unify the piece. If you are knitting pastel shades, you can use white or natural as the unifying color.

You can even mix medium, dark and light color values if you use black to unify the different values.

Remember that different stitch patterns behave differently. For example, cables pull a piece "in" while other patterns expand it outward. Take that stitch behavior into consideration when designing your project. Also remember that different yarns have unique properties as well. Adjust your design to take these factors into account.

Garter stitch in knitting makes squares while stockinette creates rectangles. Therefore, with garter stitch, you can pick up stitches on edges and knit in different directions while still staying in a square - without bulging or puckering effects.

When picking up and knitting on swatches to add other freeform pieces, always work from right side (public side) of work, pick up from public side only. When knitting around an angle, use smooth rather than novely yarns.

Piece grows counterclockwise.

Bind off loosely when doing Freeform, or it will pucker.

Anytime you have an area you are not happy with in Freeform, just embellish over it, either through crochet or other embellishment.

Black and brown look good together! Black "tones down" colors that are too bright or obnoxious on their own or colors that would otherwise clash when thrown together.

Pull out color selections from everything all around you - art work, postcards. Feel free to use colors you normally wouldn't expect to see together. Look at every day objects through the eyes of color and be amazed.

Avoid using the word "leftover" - your yarn is your art medium and shouldn't be thought of in negative terms such as "leftovers."

To determine what yarns you'd like to use together, place them on floor with a light background beneath it and try moving different yarns in and out of the mix to see what is most pleasing to the eye.

Give a title to each piece of wearable art you create. Giving it a theme or a title helps to clarify it in your artist's mind and helps a piece come together with unity.

You can best judge how a freeform piece looks by standing 12 feet to 15 feet away to make sure how it looks at a distance. A piece looks totally different from a distance than it does up close. Some people don't even recognize their own pieces - also squint so that you get the overall effect of the piece. Also, with freeform blocks or pieces, before sewing it together, try turning each piece individually in different directions to figure out which way looks most pleasing to the eye.

The sample shown here is a linear design with a log cabin style structure, but when putting together the abstract pieces of Freeform, try laying them out on the floor and see what order you want to connect them in. Leave it on the floor for several days in a "floor collage" fashion and try moving the pieces around in various ways before determining how you want to put them together. You can connect the pieces by first chaining or edging around each piece, and then connecting with chain crochet and/or single crochet.

Back to the "Real World"

After spending 5 wonderful days in Chicago with at Stitches being mesmorized by knitting goodness, I came home to Kansas City being plunged into a heat furnace. In KC, there has been temps well into the high 90s and hitting 100 several days. Then on Monday, our air conditioner went down! The repairman had to order parts, so we're still sweating it out. But thankfully we have a small window unit in our upstairs bedroom, and the downstairs isn't as sweltering as the middle and upper floor.

On Tuesday, the air conditioning went out in my husband's truck. We had to get that fixed yesterday. Then last night our garage door started sticking and messing up - it seems we're in some kind of mechanical meltdown over here! It's weird. Is Mercury in retrograde right now - or what is it cosmically that causes such mechanical problems? I don't know. But I'm hot, I'm tired, and I'm suffering from post-Stitches letdown and withdrawal.

When can I take a vacation again? Awkkkk! I'm ready.

The other night, I suggested that we go out and rent some "funny movies set in cold places - like Alaska." I have been told that I should see "Continental Divide" and "Mystery Alaska." But Mystery, Alaska isn't a funny one - just cold. Luckily the temps are supposed to break and go down a few degrees by this coming weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stitches Recap

I went to Stitches. Whew! Finally back. What a trip. It was memorable but no trip to Stitches is ever relaxing. What was I thinking when I imagined I'd sit around and relax? It was go, go, go the whole time and I still haven't unpacked, two nights after arriving back home.

We had an 8 hour ride on the bus to Chicago. During that time, I started a new project, the "Wrap Me Up" stole. Here's a photo of the pattern and the second photo is my version. I figure this will be perfect for me to use like a lap blanket at work when I'm freezing.

Although I brought several projects on the trip, I ended up knitting on this "Wrap Me Up" the whole time, up and back on the bus from cast on and now I'm up to block 6 of the 21 block pattern. Are the colors bright enough? Jeez, I didn't realize it, but those colors are awfully bright even for ME! The pattern is easy and fun to work on.

In the market, I had a chance to talk to the pattern designer, Chris deLongpre. She explained that this pattern came about because she designed a wrap that would be a "stitch sampler" which she could demonstrate different stitch patterns to her students. The shop owners kept asking her to make a pattern of it, so she finally did. I really enjoy working on it so far.

Over the next few days, I will do my best to "debrief" on here so that I can capture some of the ideas and things I absorbed while at Stitches Midwest.

Here is a brief recap of the things that worked and the things I'd do differently next time.


Careful Shopping - I went through the market the first night without buying much - well, I did buy a set of handles for a purse that I knew I wanted to make from my "projects to do" list. Though I was amazed by the market, I didn't go "hog wild" in spending. Not at all. In fact, the only yarn I purchased was this: It's some novelty yarn I picked up at The Fold at half price. I can use that in my Freeform projects.

Travel by Coach. Went on the bus with The Studio. This alleviated the hassles of flight, and allowed me to carry plenty of bags without worrying about lugging them very far etc. I had what I needed and had a comfortable ride there and back with time to knit, relax and "leave the driving to the driver." It was a nice way to go, and a lot of fun with my fellow Studio knitters along the way! I really appreciate the Studio chartering that bus.

Stayed at the Doubletree - nice hotel with a bed that was heavenly to sleep in. I was impressed.

Selected good classes I took two classes: Friday was all day with Valentina Devine on a linear knitting/Freeform workshop. Saturday was a day spent with Susan Lazaar on "Swatch Lab." It was about how to design or adapt a garment. Both were excellent classes.

Went to the fashion show - I really enjoyed every minute of that.

Allowed for free time - by arriving on Wednesday night and staying until Sunday, I had ample days to enjoy classes, the fashion show and "people watching." It was great to have 5 days devoted to Stitches. Last time I had only two, and that felt rushed.

Next time:

Avoid all-day classes - Instead, take only two 1/2 day classes and spend even more time "people watching" and meeting and spending time with knitting buddies.

Pack less clothing, and stuff in general. Really figure out what I need and don't need in advance. Need: half the clothes I took. Don't need: 45 sets of knitting needles and 5 extra projects in case I have time to suddenly get everything done - I won't!

Take the phone numbers of everyone I want to hook up with and make more plans to get together in advance. Jeanie, sorry I missed you!!! I am so sorry I didn't bring your phone number with me in advance so we could get together.

All in all, Stitches was a blast! I don't know if I can go again next year. It really is expensive, but so worthwhile and fun. If I can do it again, I definitely will.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sanity Saver

Elysbeth reminded me that one of her favorite features on my blog is one that I haven't done in a while - it's called "Sanity Savers" and it is where I list some of my favorite books and/or products that help me keep myself serene, sane, destressed or otherwise functioning. In the past, I've discussed a few of my favorite teas, candles, books, and I see this expanding in the future. Let's make it a regular point of discussion, shall we?

It's funny, but I'm still a bit frazzled from my frantic job - even though I've changed departments, I don't know that I'm mentally adjusted to the abrupt change of pace. But anyhow, let's see if this Stitches becomes (hopefully) as much as an opportunity to unwind as to have fun, learn and shop. I really want the unwinding part to be a big part of the trip.

SANITY SAVER - have sinus problems like I do? Or headaches? Or just general stress? Run, do not walk, but run to your nearest Origins store where they carry "Peace of Mind." This is a lotion that you apply to the temples, the forehead, or whatever area of your face that you get tense or headachy. When I have sinus problems, I also apply a small amount just under the nose. This lotion has a strong minty/menthol smell, so if you don't like that smell or flavor, then it's best not to use it. Also avoid getting in the eyes. But it does wonders for a headache - tension or otherwise. If I have a migraine, I lie down with this lotion on my forehead, the lights off and a cool washcloth on my head. It really helps. I use this before turning to the Excedrin Migraine and often it helps me avoid meds. I carry a small bottle of this stuff in my purse everywhere I go. It's like magic in a bottle.

I love MANY of the Origins products, including the blemish minimizer. You can go to their website, visit one of their stores etc. to check out the whole line up.

Anyone else have other Sanity Savers? If anyone reads this blog, please take a moment to offer some of YOUR favorite "Sanity Savers" - it doesn't have to be a product, we don't have to be totally commercial here! While I'm gone I'll try to noodle up some more.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Getting Ready to Go . . . Preparations

I didn't imagine there would be SO MUCH to do to get ready for the Stitches trip. I haven't done much preparation up until now, but I didn't think it would be a big deal to get packed. What I'm finding is that the biggest deal isn't packing - it is trying to narrow down all the stuff I want to take vs. what I'll really use and enjoy while there. I can't bring my whole yarn room with me, now can I???

My goal on this trip, after all is to do more relaxing, knitting and people watching/project selection than BUYING. I know that the market is fantastic, I've been there before and loved it! But I managed to keep myself in financial check during our 2003 trip to Stitches, and I hope to do the same this time.

My only real homework for the Creative Knitting class I am taking with Valentina Devine is to bring an assortment of yarns to use for a project involved in what she teaches. I'm learning techniques, but I already know that I want to knit sleeves in my denim jacket. Although I dearly love color, I have trouble picking what I like - what yarns go together to form a color scheme. So I used my Mom's technique of picking one varigated yarn that I like and then picking colors that are within it.

Here's my colorway I'm starting with:

And the stash I am adding to it looks like this: