Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring Green Vest

Thought I'd quickly update you on my progress with the bright lime green vest that Tracy Bonkers desiged. I'm following her French Mistress Vest pattern and using the hand-dyed yarn I purchased from her at Knitting in the Heartland. I've decided to rename this thing "Spring Green Vest" because I like that so much better than the REAL name.

I'm making progress. Here is where I stand with it right now. The great thing about this vest is that you don't have a lot of sewing to do, just the shoulders. Everything else is knitted in all directions in one piece. Very clever design and I'm having a lot of fun working on it so far.

Here are the buttons I purchased from Knitcraft the other day to put on this vest.

Did I mention that I TRIED making my own polymer buttons for this project? Well, I did. What did they look like? Well, crap, frankly. Here is a close up. They were huge, clunky, and looked like a kindergarten project. Plus, I ruined my fresh manicure in doing it and my hands are so dried out . . . . making buttons wasn't as creative and rewarding as anticipated, but if someone wants to try to convince me otherwise, I'll go to your house and watch you do it first.

After post note: My brilliant and creative friend, Lynn of Colorjoy is a polymer button QUEEN. Her advice to me is excellent, I'm posting it here. She teaches classes in Michigan on Polymer button making. I wish I could take her class in person and then I might actually be tempted to try this again. But without hands-on advice, I may just be buying all my buttons in the future. Thanks anyway, Lynn.

Polymer Button Advice From Lynn: I'm sorry your first try was not fun. I had trouble figuring it out alone, myself. You're normal in this learning curve, anyway.

Here's what you need to know first:

1. Sculpey III is too brittle for buttons. You will need one of the FIMO variations or Premo or Cernit, or maybe some other brand I don't know yet. I use Premo.

2. You need to "work" the clay longer than you think, to make it stronger after baking. Either use a pasta machine or roll a "log" of clay, then fold sheet or log, then roll again, and do that 14 times (the number is based on research, it's not a random number). This breaks all the molecular chains in the clay and allows it to bond back together more strongly when baked.

3. Bake for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for larger things. Up to
2 hours makes it stronger, you can't cook too long. However, make sure you are at exactly the right temp that the package says. Most ovens are off 25-50 degrees. too cool means it gets hard but doesn't get strong enough. Too hot means it scorches and becomes brittle.

So those are the 3 most important things about button making.

The other thing I recommend is layering several colors that are close to one another. Rather than blue solid , for example, choose warm blue, cool blue, purple and turquoise. Layer very thinly (think
woodgrain) by stacking sheets and then pushing down on top with your palm. Then cut stack in half, put on top of itself, push down again.
Repeat pushing and cutting and pushing and cutting. Use a good clay blade from a craft store (michael's, hobby lobby, jo ann fabric).
Careful, the blades are reeeeally sharp. Then use the cross grain to make buttons, they will look woodgrain and have much more depth than a solid color.

Hope that's helpful.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Creative Knitting May 2008 Anyone?

My favorite knitting magazine by far has always been Interweave Knits, but lately my eye has increasingly been turning to another favorite, Creative Knitting. Have you taken a peek inside of the May 2008 issue? It's fantastic! I seriously want to make every single project in there. Of course, I won't (so much stuff in the knitting queue and so little time) - but I like them all. What a goldmine of ideas.

Let's recap - okay, where I currently work, I don't dress up a lot. We wear "business casual" (slacks/blouse) on regular days, except on Fridays when we wear jeans. But if I were ever inclined to dress up just a BIT and look more professional, I'd definitely want to make and wear the gorgeous Asymmetrical Style jacket on page 20. I could really see myself wearing that to the office.

The Catch a Cable tank top on page 36 is another one. With my pale skin and slightly flabby middle-aged arms, I don't wear tanks much these days. However, for the young and young at HEART, that tank would be a winner. If my daughter would wear it, I'd make her one.

The Easy Side to Side Vest on page 33 is cute and has a bit of lace. Doesn't look too hard.

The Drop Me a Line Vest on page 34 is cute and has a lacy edging that is quite interesting.

The Lacy Leisure hoodie on page 16 is unique and cute - and who doesn't appreciate a hoodie? They really coime in handy. This is a feminine hoodie sweater.

Page 56 has a photo of one of the cutest babies I've ever seen wearing an adorable BABY HOODIE. Oh my gosh!!! The only thing that concerns me is there doesn't seem to be much detail in this pattern - and I wish it had a schematic.

In fact, I prefer every single sweater pattern I work on to have a schematic. Please editors? It really helps me visualize what's going on when the instructions aren't totally clear. For the direction-challenged among us, that's really a helpful pattern feature.

On page 62 is a felting project called Felted Accompaniments - a vase holder, and coasters. These would make really cute gifts, as would the makeup bag and beaded floral bag on pages 48 and 49. The Embossed Daisy washcloth on page 65 is nice too.

The Mitered squares and stripes throw on page 60 appeals to the part of me that loves modular knitting. It makes a 44" X 60" blanket.

Lastly, the ribbed anklets on page 51 are great and if you have little kids feet to think about, there are options for socks for the young ones on page 52.

I LOVE this issue and every time I thumb through it, it makes me want to start SEVERAL things at once, which I already tend to do anyway. Don't need to exacerbate my already active Knitter's ADD, right?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Confessions of a Yarn Collector

Sandy over at Knitting Daily (I dearly LOVE reading her), has recently been asking herself, and her readers, if they are Yarn Collectors. Meaning of course that sometimes they buy yarn without a specific project in mind, just for the sheer beauty of it.

I started thinking about it, and gee, that sounds like a nice light and FUN Friday food for thought here on the Hanging Thread. Overall, I probably fit into a Yarn Collector mentality. Although I've definitely become more project-focused over the last year or two, and I now DO ask myself the all-important question of "would I really wear this?" in selecting yarn for projects. That has helped me avoid many costly mistakes, and eliminated many yarns that although pretty and soft (i.e. Alpaca), if a yarn has a big "downside" i.e. Alpaca fuzz flying all over the room when I wear or knit with it . . . . I can definitely turn away yarn if it just isn't right for what I'm trying to do with it.

Incidently, I like the term "Yarn Collection" because don't you know, darling, it sounds so much more glamorous and artistic than simply calling it my "stash." Plus that makes me, as a Yarn Collector an actual yarn connoisseur, which is SO MUCH more artistic and enviable than "yarn addict." So I'm a YC with capital letters now, folks, and wear that label proudly.

Here are some of my acquisitions that were purchased for sheer admiration and beauty of the yarn:

And most recently, however broke, I simply HAD to had this Fleece Artist yarn (see yellow, blue and fushia yarn below) for a specific project I've been dying to make for months, the love Agatha Shawl. How could I turn this gorgeous yarn away? It was simply DESTINED to be an Agatha. Who can deny it?

Speaking of Knitting Daily, did you know that up until May 14th, you can go here and download for FREE the top five Reader's Choice patterns from Knitting Daily that were in the past year's Interweave Knits? That's really great. I've already downloaded mine, and the Top Five include wonderful projects such as: Sunrise Circle Jacket, Cable Down Raglan, Swallowtail Shawl, Nantucket Jacket and Tweedy Aran Cardigan. So go check it out . . . now what yarn could I use to make that Swallowstail Shawl . . . ? Maybe there's something in that stash, err, I mean Yarn Collection of mine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Night With the Sunflower Girls

On Monday night, I went to my Sunflower Guild knitter's meeting. As usual, it was a lot of fun. There are so many people there, that I don't know everyone by name, but I know many of them from past meetings and from Misknits and Knitting in the Heartland. I don't go very often, because it's really off the beaten path for me. Yet every time I go to their monthly meetings, it becomes apparent I should try to get there more often, because I draw a lot of inspiration from their members. Those women REALLY know how to knit - extremely well.
No matter the age or skill level of their members, they are constantly trying new things and challenging themselves to try new techniques. My favorite part of the meeting is where they have a "show and tell." They go around the whole group, one at a time, and every single person, however shy or bubbly, shows off the Finished Objects they've completed or are working on since the last meeting. They usually describe the yarn they are using, and give a heads up on where they bought the pattern. During that part of the meeting, I find myself actually putting down my knitting to make notes or to go feel up someone's luscious yarn.

At this particular meeting, Carmen brought me the sock box that she was selling at the Knitting in the Heartland conference. The demand for her bags was so great that she completely sold out of them at the market and has been feverishly whipping up orders ever since. She made me this one - and guess what? It's like the one Stephanie Japel purchased from her at market. I LOVE the bright orange shade, and it fits nicely inside my huge lime green Laguna bag. If you want one of these bags, Carmen sells them for $25 on her Etsy website.

The program at the Guild this time was done by ShannonB. She did a great job! The topic was Felted Sweater Bags. Remember several years ago, when the book Alterknits came out? Well, there was a chapter in that book about taking 100% wool sweaters from the thrift store, then felting them and cutting them out to make bags.

Shannon has been doing this and making cute bags like this one. Since she knows how to sew, she sews in nice linings, and sometimes pocketed linings, into her bags to make them even more useable. She uses 2 lining pieces and some fusible interfacing, such as Deco-Bond. Her presentation was excellent.

A couple of years ago, when we showed that book to my 92-year-old grandmother, she started buying sweaters from thrift stores, felting them, and whipping out some really cute felted bags from recycled sweaters. Such as this purple one my Mother is holding. At right, is Grammy herself holding a purse in which she used PVC pipe for the handle. Very nice. I always marvel at Grammy's talent and creativity!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Clean Up - Without Being Overwhelmed

Don't worry, I'm not getting all outright AMBITIOUS or anything. Not like LauraS who has been in the process (for what seems like weeks) of thoroughly spring cleaning out her entire house. No, no. I'm not doing that.

As you can see, I am sitting out on my deck this weekend, enjoying the spring weather.

But it occurs to me, mainly from glancing through the "Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat" book as well as just some mental stuff that I've been going through, that I need to pair-down, stop buying so much without a purpose, and to get rid of stuff I'm not really using.

Now this revelation hits, mind you, just a couple of weeks before I'm getting ready to go see Dave Ramsey live and in person, the "get out of debt" guy. It also comes on the weekend when we just went out and bought a new-ish SUV for family trips and such. (That's a whole NOTHER digression). Though I used to be a car salesman 25 years ago, I nevertheless HATE car shopping of any kind. The whole dickering process you have to go through is ridiculous and we finally purchased a Ford Escape from a dealership that was very decent, treated us right and didn't play games.

Anyhow . . . . car shopping aside, back to the main discussion here, SPRING CLEANING. It just occurs to me that now it seems spring has finally arrived - (it took the slow bus and detoured at least 5 times on the way in to visit Kansas City), I am finally feeling like purging, getting rid of stuff and actually organizing what I do have and making it more usable.

Healthy Diet report. When I was on that heathy diet this week, I learned several things: 1) I really don't want to give up coffee. The benefits and pleasure I get out of it far exceed whatever downside there might be. While it was interesting to go without it, I'm back drinking it again this morning quite happily and though I may be drinking reduced amounts in the future, I'll be fully appreciating every delicious drop. 2) I didn't miss the dairy as much as I thought I would. Replacing it with soy milk, margarine and mayo wasn't that bad. Really! I ate a cheese sandwich one night before fully thinking about it - but I did pretty good overall and will probably keep that change. It felt good and made my sinus problems better. Makes sense - milk creates more mucus. But won't go down that gross track too far. 3) I get a LOT of stress relief from exercising 30 minutes every day and it's really NOT that hard. Not when you do it every single day. I made myself do it BEFORE I went and did anything else. 32 minutes on the treadmill every day felt great!! I would have walked outside, but the weather was rainly and cold all week. I am so proud I did that. I will continue that this week and hopefuly going forward. 4) Eating a meatless diet, or at least red meat-less doesn't work for me right now. It caused me to eat more carbs, albeit whole grain. On my body, carbs are carbs, and I kept craving MORE. Carbs really do fuel my appetite. 5) I can survive quite nicely, thank you, without artificial sweeteners to sweeten up my tea. Tea is good plain, especially jasmine. 6) Getting more healthy is a long and never-ending process, like everything else in life. It's about exercising some control - it's about planning - it's simple but NOT EASY. As Peter Walsh says on p. 41 in the declutter book, "You need to actively make positive choices about what you're going to eat every day until you die. It's about making the choices that are best for you." 6) I lost 2 lbs - not bad. I lose slowly.

Looking Ahead: My goal this week is to clean out the kitchen cabinets/pantry to create a more usable space for eating healthier by being able to see and store what I should be eating. It also saves money so I can avoid buying another can of black beans when I already have 10 cans that are just hidden somewhere in the back of my cabinet.

One last insight: cleaning up isn't all about the clutter in the house - one thing that's been bothering me for MONTHS is how overwhelmed I feel from too much email. It's volume bothers me and makes me feel flustered, crazy as that sounds. And I sometimes actually miss a good email from friends, etc, because of all the lists I'm subscribed to sometimes bury the good stuff. So I put myself on web-only access to several of my Yahoo lists I subscribe too. I also have been cleaning out my email all week. Deleted a lot and reclassified the stuff I want to keep into folders in my Outlook box. That feels MUCH better. Whew.

Have a good clean week everyone, and I'm gonna clean up my life in whatever ways I can.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gotta Gush About Her

Okay, guys, I "met" this online friend of mine about gosh, I think it was back in 1996 on an old online forum called "RomEx" a forum for romance writers. At the time, I was really struggling to be a published romance writer and so was she. We quickly bonded over email and forum exchanges. We've been fast friends ever since, and this is one of those friendships that is WEIRD because we've only met in person twice. Yes, twice, but she's one of my best, most treasured friends. I seriously think we've lived many past lives together.

I eventually decided to ditch writing for knitting and reading, but she went on to actually get published. I got pubished in magazines writing articles about parenting and such, but she actually has a novel published called, "A Moment on the Lips." That book is still available on Amazon, by the way, and features a main character who not only knits, and owns a yarn shop, but stores yarn in her kitchen cabinents!!! You gotta love a character like that.

In a few months, she has a new novella coming out. Her upcoming release, “By New Year’s Day” a short story featured in the Dorchester Publishing’s October 2008 Christmas anthology, The Holiday Inn, Phyllis writes about a couple whose thirty-year marriage is crumbling under the endless demands of their adult children. I will remind you guys in the fall, when this is available.

Sorry to gush, and she'll probably KILL me for this, but she is one of the most hilarious, beautiful (outwardly and inwardly) woman I know. She just launched a new blog called, "Forty is the New 20." I am linking to it today so you can share in Phyllis' beauty tips and products she's discussing over there. If you're trying to look your middle-aged BEST, then you'll appreciate the beauty products she reviews. And she'll keep you smiling too - with whiter teeth.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My French Mistress

Well, here she is, in the making . . . . (drumroll please) . . . my new French Mistress Vest that is my current knitting project.

Ah! What were you thinking I meant? Naughty, naughty. Of COURSE it's a vest. Jeez! It's a Tracy Bonkers pattern and worsted weight ball of yarn - 900 yards to be exact. While it doesn't look quite as big and fluffy here:

It is HUGE and looked really funny carrying all over Knitting in the Heartland. (I bought it at the market but admired it all day). It was my ONE yarn splurge at the conference - oh, I did buy the Fitted Knits book too, but in terms of yarn, this was it, just the vest. The vest is knit in all directions, starting with the back panel.

Here is the pattern I'm using:
It's a darling Tracy Bonkers' design - and I really think it's fun, although probably too young for me, who cares? This vest, incidentally, was why I was asking people in my knitting group if they've ever made polymer buttons, because I will be creating some of those for these vest. I'll be making them in my kitchen soon, stay tuned!

In diet/health/exercise news: I'm doing pretty well. Not perfect, but pretty darn well. Although I don't think I've lost much, if any, weight so far, I am NOT drinking coffee or any other caffeine, I have exercised every single day for at least 1/2 hour. Those have been the two HARDEST things. I have slipped up a bit - one night I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, and cheese is clearly a dairy product. Last night I had a chicken fried steak - ah not so good when it's "no beef." But that's the only beef I had all week so far. Have been doing really good about restaurants, only ONE time this week so far, last night at Culvers, and that is where I was weak and succumbed (sp?) to the beef.

Can you tell I've been REALLY into Lime color lately? I can't tell you how many people, total strangers even, have complimented that danged bag! People absolutely love it. It's huge - it sits in it's own chair, but I love it.

Ah well, I gotta run or I'll be late to work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kinda Nuts

What kind of nut are you? Bossy Little Dog (Catherine) had this on her site, so I took the test and I think the description fits.

You Are a Pistachio

You are funky, freaky, and a total character.

You're very different than anyone you know.

There's no way you're changing the way you are...

Which is good, because no one wants you to change.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boot-y Camp

Though I've had good intentions about eating healthy and exercising, I haven't done very well lately. Honestly, it frustrates me that I have so little self-discipline. Although this year's theme of "awareness" has helped me be more AWARE of my lifestyle shortcomings, it hasn't exactly given me much self-direction. I've been playing those mental games with myself lately and really haven't PLANNED and developed a good strategy for living healthier in recent months.

I've used everything as an excuse . . . my new job . . . my crappy schedule . . . the fact that I'm tired . . . that I'm broke . . . that I need comfort in eating because I'm upset . . . that I'll be good tomorrow . . . that I'm starving . . . that my family WANTS to eat that take-out Chinese food (full of fat, sodium and sugar) and that we HAVE to eat out constantly because I don't have time to cook. All the usual lies I tell myself when I'm being self-destructive and delusional. But awareness had made me all-too-conscious of what I'm doing. So I need to changed bad habits that I've slowly slipped back into.

Several of my friends have lost successfully lost weight and gotten in shape recently - many of them are on Weight Watchers. I'm having trouble, really struggling, and don't know quite why. But I'm finally feeling fat and uncomfortable enough to commit to at least 5 days, oh heck we'll make it 7 of healthy eating and 1/2 hour per day of exercise.

I'm also reading this excellent book by Marilu Henner that is channeling this desire to change into a concrete plan. I'll commit to "Boot-y Camp" as she suggests for FIVE DAYS - actually I am making it 7, as I said. During those 7 days, from Sunday April 13th - Sunday April 20th, I commit to the following, as per Marilu's Boot-y-ful plan:

Eat small, healthy "mini meals" every 3 hours per day.

Per the Boot-y Camp rules, no dairly products, red meat, refine sugar, artificial sweetners, alcohol or CAFFEINE. (That's the big one, I'm a BIG coffee drinker, but for this week it's going to be decaf teas instead). I can eat chicken and fish, and eggs, but no beef or pork.

Drink 1/2 my weight in water per day. Yikes, that sounds familiar.

Limit myself to no more than TWO restaurant meals during the 7 days.

Eat organic and fresh veggies and fruits whenever possible.

All salads served with lemon squeeze, no dressings.

Exercise at least 30 minutes every single day.

Stop eating 3 hours before bed.

Get a good night's sleep every night.

That's it - the Boot-y Camp in a nutshell. As my friend Kaleem so often says, "I can do this!!"

I already shopped at the organic market today and my Mom and I had fun picking out healthy foods. It was a blast. Now I'm off to end my evening early with some herbal decaf tea.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Entrelac Talk - Knitting in the Heartland Continued

The second workshop I took at Knitting in the Heartland was a class on Entrelac with instructor Laura Mayes and her teaching assistant, Terri. Specifically the project they were working from was an Entrelac headband pattern called "Woven Peaks Headband" which a former Sunflower Guild member, Jeanne C. Abel designed and shared with us. While I don't intend on making the headband immediately (I have WAY too many other projects on the burner), I wanted a conceptual introduction of the technique. This workshop gave me a fantastic overview.

Entrelac is a technique that creates fabric with a woven and tiered-triangle. The fabric is worked all in one piece, rather than separately as it looks. You pick up stitches on the sides of the triangle. To make this intro easier, the instructor urged us to use two different colors, so colorwork is involved. Having the 2 colors makes it easier to figure out what you are doing and what tier you are working on.

Years ago, in 2003, to be exact, I went to Stitches Midwest and purchased this nifty Entelac Knapsack kit from Knitability that was WAY above my head at the time, so I never had a chance to even start it.
Here's a photo of the kit and the yarn. I've been wanting to get to this for 5 years now, but have never started. Maybe taking this class and getting my feet wet in the Entrelac world will give me the inspiration to finally cast on on this felted knapsack. Not immediately, mind you, but again, once I get a few pressing projects off my "to do" list. Okay, hell, admit it, I may be still at the "considering it" stage in yet another 5 years. Who is to say? But new techniques fascinate me and I want to try it. Taking this class gave me that chance to play with it and sparked several creative possibilities.

Laura is a very patient and helpful teacher. And in a non-Entrelac related comment, the Freeformer within me coveted the gorgeous combo sewn/crocheted jacket she was wearing. I have to admit that instead of concentrating on the swatch we were working on, I became fascinated with her jacket and the mental wheels kept spinning about how I could do something similar. Oh yeah, in my spare time, I could work that up - just whip it out.

But back to Entralac again:

As usual, my knitting gauge was LOOSE. If I ever want to make this headband, I would scrap this initial practice swatch and go down 2 needle sizes, to size 5 circs instead of 7's. Yeah, no question, it's too loose the way it is now. But hey, I like this color combo I am using - the brown and teal work quite nicely together.

Searching for Entrelac patterns over on Ravelry, I realized that there is a great introductory article and pattern for Entrelac Socks by Eunny Jang in the Interweave Knits Spring 2007 issue. It's a really well-written article that covered many points we learned in the workshop. I'd highly recommend that anyone really interested in Entrelac should sit down with that article and a pair of needles and just try it. It's really fun and you'll experience one of those "ah ha" magic moments you have when you grasp a new technique.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New Haircut

Here it is - had a spring cut last night. Here's the back view:

I've had a similar cut before, but it's been a while. Now if I can just remember how to style it using my flatiron. Hmmmm.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Isn't She Lovely? Cali Namaste Laguna:Lime

Here's a story . . . about a bag I've been coveting for quite some time now, and my growing frenzy and desire to have it. Ever since Elysbeth first told me about wanting a Namaste Laguna Bag in Olive and contemplating it, I started wanting one too. Only in Lime, my favorite spring/summer color. Only problem was, I soon learned, that this bag has become HOT in the knitting world, probably due to much discussion over on Ravelry, as well as just the fact that it's a great bag at a reasonable price.

The day AFTER Elysbeth received hers from Dreamweaver, I joined in the fray of other knitters who were also scrambling to get their hands on one. I ordered mine on March 6th and was signed up on a waiting list, with the manufacturer, Namaste, trying to produce the bags as fast as possible to meet the unexpectedly high demand. Natalie at Dreamweaver assured me that if I could find one in stock anywhere, that I could cancel my order with her.

Each week I waited, each day I searched for blogs who featured this bag, and started calling up every vendor, online and brick and morter, that I could find asking if they possibly had one bag in lime . . . okay maybe saddle . . . how about olive . . . then Hollywood pink? Okay, how about any damn color, even charcoal (though it wasn't my favorite by far). Well, no, no one had one, damn it.

Then ONE vendor called me back a couple of weeks ago, excited, saying she had one in saddle (a brown/caramel color - very pretty too), she charged my card, I was thrilled. Only then she called back to say, "Sorry, that saddle is in the Malibu bag, not Laguna, wouldn't that be okay?" NOOOOOOOOO. I had to have Laguna, not Malibu. She promptly apologized and credited my card immediately. Nice lady, but she didn't have the right bag.

Another vendor had a single one in charcoal, and I briefly considered nabbing it, but Elysbeth wisely advised me NOT to settle on something that would later make me wish I'd waited for the right one. Kind of like husbands, you don't want to settle, doncha know?

Nearly every vendor I called said they'd be restocked in a few weeks, probably sometime in April, but no one knew when.

I'd been secretly hoping to carry this bag with me to the Knitting in the Heartland conference on Saturday April 5th. On Tuesday, during my weekly check-in with Dreamweaver, I found out that she was to receive one bag in my color, and since I was top on the list, she could send it out on Wednesday (4/2). She sent it priority overnight mail with the U.S. postal service. I was so psyched, YAY I'D GET TO BRING IT TO THE CONFERENCE. Thursday came. No bag. Friday came. No bag. I called the post office to check on it. They were closed. Saturday, I went ahead to the conference expecting that my bag would probably be in the mailbox when I got home. Not there, but I traced it enough by email to tell that it wasn't in their tracking system anymore.

This morning, getting really testy with the postal service, I called them to give them a piece of my mind, and discovered that it had been "misdirected" to somewhere in a remote part of Kansas. Oh no. They thought they could find it. If so, they'd be sure and "redirect" it to me.

I was just about to give up, when look what finally arrived today. Isn't she/it just beautiful?

Shaped like a bowling ball bag, she is BIG - about 14 inches across and at least that tall - she has feet on the bottom. She has plenty of pockets, including a dividing pocket in the middle to separate knitting projects on one side, and regular purse stuff on the other. When not full, the top gently folds down and flops over the bag attractively. It has a shoulder carry strap as well as handles. She is made of "pleather" NOT leather.

Though I am tickled LIME (not pink) to get this thing, the whole incident has me scratching my head marveling at my own craziness. Why in all that is LIME, I mean holy, am I so obsessed with something as trivial and materialistic as a mere handbag in the face of all that is serious and important in life? I have no idea, other than I am totally neurotic. But I'm still happy. Thank you Dreamweaver, for making my neurotic middle-aged dreams come true.

Contented sigh. Yes.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Knitting in the Heartland - Stefanie Japel

I spent yesterday at the Knitting in the Heartland conference here in Kansas City. The guest speaker/designer was Stefanie Japel, author of Fitted Knits. She was phenomenal. I took the class she did on "Fitted Knits Techniques." It was excellent.

When her book first came out, in 2007, I dismissed it immediately because I figured the designs and techniques she used were just for skinny young girls who had great bodies. But after taking the class yesterday, I'm taking a fresh look at the techniques that she teaches, because I think they would make ANY sweater design fit better and look more flattering, regardless of one's size. In fact, I think that's one reason I've been so dissatisfied with the two pullover sweaters I've knitted is because they are just rectangular, with no shaping. So they look like knitted refrigerator boxes. Far from being flattering, they make me look matronly and fat all over.

Stefanie pointed out that as a designer who has always been into sewing and fashion, that many knitters don't have a sense of how to make things fit, or how to even measure themselves properly. Like when a patterns talks about "shoulder to shoulder" measurement - what the heck is that? She showed us, and even measured Christy in class, showing us how to do it for ourselves. She showed us the important measurements we need to get a good fit. The emphasis is on fitted, not clingy. I bought her book and there are several sweaters I'm excited about, especially the "Spicy V-Neck Tee" on page 31. It's adorable!

We knit a couple of swatches in class, including this one:

What she showed us was that you can take a series of increases and decreases and instead of just blindly following a pattern, you can periodically put in a lifeline, try the danged sweater on and see where it's falling, making adjustments as you go. There's a lot to be said for having confidence in yourself and knowing when something isn't falling right, making adjustments to make it fit your body better instead of just blindly following a pattern.

Much of what she talked about is along similar lines to what Sandy has been discussing in recent months over on Knitting Daily - about fitting sweaters to your body size and adjusting them accordingly. Sandy started discussing this in the middle of August 2007 and has had many articles about it since then. By sifting through the post archives, you can find these "fitting" articles because it's become a big topic on her site.

One article, called, "Are You in a Box?" features one of Stefanie's designs called the "Cable Down Raglan" (pictured here). It's a great illustration of how you can add shaping to flatter a middle-age woman's body. You don't have to look like Twiggy to use these concepts, folks.

This "Fitted Knits" book focuses on top-down knitting where you don't have to sew together separate pieces, but you start from the top down, try on the garment as you go, and make appropriate adjustments for your individual body style as you go along. She pointed out that there is a great article in this month's Vogue magazine by Lily Chin that covers some great fitting techniques. I want to get that mag. I don't subscribe to Vogue and seldom like the designs in there, but I definitely want to read that article.

I'm even more excited about Stefanie's next book, Glam Knits, which will be coming out in November 2008 because it's going to focus on 25 designs using luxury yarns such as Tilli Thomas etc. Like me, Stefanie likes bright colors and a bit of glitz, so I think that book will really hit the spot with my preference and tastes.

Tomorrow, I'm going to post some more about the Knitting in the Heartland conference. I could only get started today, and now this has run long. But tomorrow I'll write more.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

We Have Shawl

Ah ha! Finally, after two weeks, we have the Dome Black Rose Forest Canopy Shawl. (That is a Forest Canopy shawl made from the Black Rose color of Kay's Dome Hill Yarn. It's finished.

Here is is before blocking, a lifeless (not very pretty) lump of shawl measuring 43" across wingspan and 23" down the spine.

Here it is after the magic of BLOCKING, measuring 66 wingspan and 31 spine.

Ta da! Done. I love it. It's going to be visiting the Knitting in the Heartland conference at Kay's booth (Dome Hill yarns) on Saturday. I'll be bringing it home Saturday night and giving it to Aunt Renee in St. Louis the next time we go back there.

Now, there's a particular knitter in our group who was asking me about blocking shawls the other day. For those who already know how, you can skip this part. But it's really easy. Heck, even I can do it!

Give It a Bath - You take your lifeless, Ugly Duckling shawl after you've finished and cast off, and you carefully and lovingly place it in your bathroom sink in some tepid water (moderately warm/lukewarm) with just a dollop of Euculan wool wash, or whatever is your favorite wool wash. I prefer NOT to use W**lite wash. I try to soak it for about 15 minutes. Then rinse with cool water.

Wrap It in a Towel - When you pull it from the sink, have a thick cushy clean towel or two to wrap it in. Avoid wringing it out - just maybe gently squeeze the water from it, but then place in it the towels and just blot it until it's damp but not WET. Then carry it, still wrapped in the towels, to your blocking area.

Lay It Out Select a smooth surface, preferably a carpeted floor, mattress or blocking board where it rest for about 24 hours. It helps to also have a yard stick or other way of measuring. Lay the shawl out flat and shape it with your hands at first, lining up the spine of the shawl in a straight line. Smooth the shawl out, especially making sure that the top of the shawl is smooth and in a straight line.

Pin It At this point, some people prefer to use blocking wires. I have a set myself that I bought for about $20 from Joanne's on sale with a coupon. The blocking wires can be helpful, especially for getting that top line straight, but honestly, I tend to just use t-pins and straight pins to pin it in place. When you are doing this, make sure you pay particular attention to pinning each scalloped edge. The photo here shows that I've actually pulled that little scalloped edging OUT so that it form a pretty point like it's supposed to. Place pins as needed to help the lacework expand but not be stretched TOO tight.

Let it Rest for about 24 Hours, or Until Dry. Then you just remove the pins and you have a finished shawl to wear and enjoy. Note that each time you wash the shawl, it's a good idea to block/pin it again in a similar way. Once you get the hang of it, the blocking is pretty easy and fast.