2013 ~ no socks & lots of garter stitch

CA1 front

Color Affection knit in Titus

Sometimes knitters want a simple knit on the needles. I needed simple a lot in 2013. Thank you, Veera Välimäki, for the pattern Color Affection. Who knew I could love knitting garter stitch so much? Usually I find garter stitch boring, e.g. Stephen West’s Daybreak (seemed to go on forever), Grace Anna Farrow’s Twinleaf (currently on the needles and I just want it finished), and yes, Veera’s Stripe Study (the border seemed endless). The shawls are lovely, but don’t have anything interesting going on during the knitting of them. Color Affection holds some excitement when a semi-mindless knit is required. It must be the ever-changing short rows combined with three colors that place a nagging question at the back of my mind: “Will these 3 colors look as good together as I think they will?” Then, like magic, they do! The colors really do look as good together as imagined: possibly even better than imagined. I knit two Color Affections in 2013: the first in baa ram ewe Titus and the second in String Theory Bluestocking; I thoroughly enjoyed both projects. Excellent comfort knitting to calm the stress life throws at us. Many knitters must agree: the count for completed Color Affections on Ravelry is at 7786 as of this writing. That’s a lot of Color Affections.

Angel

one angel

At one time I was a sockaholic knitting one pair of socks after another. A pair of socks was always on my needles. I slowed down in 2012 knitting only 8 pairs of socks. In late January of 2013, I cast on a pair of socks, completed the cuff, knit 20 or so rounds of the leg, then…. I simply couldn’t knit another pair of socks. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the pattern, Cookie A’s Gothic Spire. I knit Gothic Spire in 2012 intending the socks to be a gift for my sister, but they came out too small and ended up in my sock drawer instead of her’s. The pattern is beautiful, but a bit on the tedious side – wrapping stitches to make way too many angel heads, halos and wing tops placed so the angels look the same when turned on their heads. I couldn’t bring myself to continue and frogged the project. Am I never to cast on another pair of socks? Unlikely, but I have no desire to knit socks any time soon. Strange.

It’s time to get back into some serious knitting by picking up my Celtic Icon, a cardigan knit in pieces from the bottom-up. I set it aside when I decided to take a break from having to seriously think about the stitches on my needles. Knitting a garment that fits one’s body well is a challenge. Patterns as written typically require quite a bit of adjusting to fit my body. The project is about 50% complete. I only hope my notes make sense when I’m ready to calculate the increases and decreases for the remaining shaping to be done; i.e. the upper body, armholes and shoulders of the sleeves. Looks like the shaping so far is okay. Only some more time and knitting will tell.

Advice from Maya Angelou ~ no expectations

In an interview from years ago, Maya Angelou says she has no expectations from life so she is never disappointed. One might think, “How can I have no expectations?” But, Ms. Angelou’s outlook on life makes perfect sense: having expectations sets us up for disappointment. We often expect too much from ourselves. She is saying take the journey and delight in the wonders discovered along the way. It is a given that we will fail from time to time; otherwise we are playing it safe. So where is the knitting in all of this….

Knitting is a journey. Celtic Icon is in the planning stages and soon to be on my needles – this beautiful hooded zippered cardigan designed by Fiona Ellis shown in the photo below from Ellis’s book, Inspired Cable Knits – a book filled with patterns for gorgeous cardigans and pullovers.

Celtic Icon

Photography © by Lindsey Maier published in Inspired Cable Knits © 2006 by Fiona Ellis. Photograph is of page 127. Used with permission of the author.

I’ve chosen Cody, a sport-weight 100% merino yarn, from Mountain Meadow Wool in the colorway Pansy for this project. Cody Mt MeadowIt knits up like a dream. The yarn is dyed in batches of 12 skeins. Each label notes the ranch that is the source of the wool. My yarn is from The Cole Creek Ranch in Douglas, Wyoming. Pretty cool. I have knit the first swatch (stockinette) and am thrilled with it. Not so sure about the second swatch with the cable pattern, but I’m only on row 10.

stockinette swatch

Cody may have too much character to show the detailed knot work to its best. Keeping fingers crossed. I’m not overly concerned. If it turns out I don’t like Cody for this project, I have yarn in my stash that will work and, sadly, will look for a different pattern for Cody.

So with my knitting, rather than expect the perfect knit, I will make my best effort and hope for a lovely wearable cardigan. I will embark on this adventure and have no expectations. This doesn’t mean there won’t be frustration along the way. I won’t know until I take the challenge of this particular knit.

This morning I took Lemon, a design from Helga Isager, off the blocking board – actually the guest-room rug covered with a sheet. All that remains to do is mattress stitch a couple of inches under each arm and weave in the ends. As can be seen here, I will easily finish it today. Amazingly, I still have no expectations that I will love wearing it. However, the more I think about it the more anxious I become. Keeping fingers crossed that it will be a knit I will enjoy wearing. Okay, now I’m beginning to expect Lemon to fit perfectly when I try it on later today. Arrrgh!

A note on Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of my favorite autobiographies. She is one of our national treasures – an amazing, gifted, beautiful woman.

Knitting for those we love ~ stitching memories

Last December on Prairie Home Companion, one of the skits was about a man receiving a scarf for Christmas.  His girlfriend had knit the scarf especially for him and couldn’t wait for him to open the gift. When he saw it was “just” a scarf, he looked at it with disdain, clueless about why his girlfriend could be so excited about giving him such a gift. “You would think she had knit the Shroud of Turin!” he huffed. I felt sorry for this fictional woman. I knew the scene rang true for many of us knitters. We quickly learn to rethink who we knit for and what we knit for them.

When a newbie to knitting, I started with scarves and hats. I knit watch caps for my dad and for my brother, Steve. Love was in every stitch as I thought about the recipient during my knitting. When I excitedly presented Dad with his hat, he had a puzzled look on his face. “It’s a hat, Dad, for when you’re working outside or fishing. It’s 100% wool and will keep your head warm.” He replied, “Oh. Thanks.” I’m pretty sure he had no idea why I knit such a hat for him and I never saw him wear it. Come to think of it, I only remember Dad wearing watch caps during harsh New York winters when he and Mom lived in the Catskill mountains. The weather had to be windy and bitterly cold for Dad to wear a watch cap, otherwise he wore a cowboy or baseball-style hat. After retiring to North Carolina, he no longer needed a warm wooly hat. The hat for my brother was ridiculous: Steve’s hat could have fit a good-sized pumpkin. He put it on his head and said, “Geez, how big do you think my head is?” My expectations were too high.

My knitting has come a long way since then. I’ve gifted socks to my sister-in-law, Diane. When I recently gave Steve a pair to pass on to her he looked at me with amazement and said, “Now I know why you told me no one should have so many beautiful socks in their drawer. These socks are amazing! Diane loves every pair you’ve given her.”

Dad loved the pair of socks I knitted for him one Christmas. He was disappointed when he could no longer wear them because of swelling in his feet and ankles. He was amazed by the Girasole blanket I knit for him and his lovely wife, Helen, for their first wedding anniversary. He was 79 years young and Helen five years his senior when they married. Helen enjoys the socks I’ve knit for her and was the recipient of my first and to-date only felted hat.

This past December, Helen and I rushed Dad to the emergency room because he was having difficulty breathing. As uncomfortable as he was, Dad introduced me to the nurse, “This is my daughter. She’s a knitter.” I could hear the pride in his voice. “Is that right,” the nurse replied. Dad said, “I bet she knit that sweater she has on.” When I said, “Yeah, Dad, I did,” the nurse looked at my heavily cabled, zippered and hooded cardigan with admiration. I made Dad proud. I was proud of him, too. He understood my passion for knitting. We had both come a long way since that watch cap.

Dad and me cropped

~ Dad and me circa 1952 ~

In memoriam John Gregory – January 1, 1929 – December 23, 2012

Confession time ~ from skepticism to passion

I have a confession to make: I was a skeptic and clueless about the many facets of knitting. All I knew about knitting was drawn from my efforts as a young mother and my mother’s knitting: knitted Christmas ornaments and crocheted afghans all crafted from acrylic yarn. Then…….

In 2004 when my friend, Carol, invited me on a trip to Maine, of course I said yes. Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in September on the coast of Maine hiking, birding, and kayaking when most of the tourists were gone. The weather was perfect for a group of 5 women to enjoy the great outdoors.

I believe it was on the afternoon of the our second day, when Carol, Margaretta and Beth were in the living room enjoying the view and knitting. With a frown on my face, I said something like, “You’re knitting; I can’t believe you’re knitting. We should be outdoors. We’re in Maine!” Someone responded, “We’re taking a break and relaxing. This is fun!” I shook my head in disbelief.

Of course, we had to make a trip to a local yarn shop or two. I was clueless about that, too. While in one of the shops, I remembered knitting a few things back in the day. I decided to pick up a pattern, needles and yarn to make a sweater for my three-year-old grandson. We didn’t have a lot to do in the evening; I guessed I could give knitting a go. While Margaretta taught Carol how to knit socks (Carol later took up the nickname The Socklady), Beth taught Wendy and me how to knit; and, she taught us to knit continental style! For some reason I thought that was so much better than “throwing” or the right-hand carry method I learned as a teenager. The “Stoplight Sweater” was one result of that trip. Wendy and I were hooked.

About this time last year, Carol told me she thought I might start designing knitwear. Again, I was skeptical. What a wise woman. Only one design written up, but that’s a start. Thank you, Carol, for the wonderful trip that changed my life in such a positive way. I miss you, dear friend.

The Socklady

                           Carol Quick Porter
                  July 15, 1946 – May 4, 2012

A cable needle in my coffee ~ the how of getting there

This morning I came across yesterday’s coffee cup. A curved metal hook shone just above the surface of the day-old coffee. How the heck did one of my cable needles end up in such an odd place? People often find themselves in unexpected places. Barbara Walker thought she would be in Washington, D.C. for awhile. Lucky for us knitters, she left for New Jersey and needed an interest that would fit easily into raising a family.

Barbara Walker

Barbara G. Walker – October 6, 2012

“How I Became a Knitter” was the title of Barbara Walker’s keynote address delivered at Interweave Knits Knitting Lab on the evening of October 6, 2012 in Manchester, New Hampshire. What a story. Ms. Walker became a knitter after leaving her job as a cub reporter at the Washington Star to follow her husband to his new job at a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. What was a woman with interests outside the home to do while raising a family during the 1950s and 60s? I doubt daycare other than in a private home was an option.

Even 20 years later in 1974, daycare didn’t exist for toddlers in Fort Collins, Colorado. My 18-month-old son, Chris, attended a daycare center just outside the city limits. The center was organized by a group of women with degrees in early childhood education and located in a church annex. I would drop Chris off for a morning of painting, drawing, water play, and other engaging activities while I biked on to my morning class at Colorado State University. I would pick him up at lunch time. After less than ten minutes in the bike seat, he would be fast asleep – his head lolling gently against my lower back. Chris loved those mornings at the center. Unfortunately the church decided it wanted the facility for other uses during the week; the daycare center’s lease was not renewed. A suitable facility could not be found because of the stringent building codes for a daycare center in Fort Collins. Much of the code made sense; much of it made no sense at all. To meet code, a facility would have to either be built from the ground up or an existing building totally gutted and rebuilt. A plea was made to the town council for help. We were told we should be home raising our kids. Yes, that is exactly what one of the councilmen said, “Mothers should be at home raising their children.” I still get angry when I think of that meeting with the town council. Why would dropping my son off to play, paint, draw, listen to stories and music for a morning hurt him? Why would my taking classes at Colorado State University cause him harm? CSU had the perfect facility, tiny toilets and sinks that met code, but it told us no: no daycare on campus; the university had plans for the facility. After almost 40 years I can’t remember what CSU had planned: I do remember that it wasn’t daycare for either it’s students or working mothers. So I could complete my classes, I sent Chris to a private home. Moving from a group he loved to a private home went well until the woman caring for him had to leave town to care for her ailing mother. The second home was a disaster: the caregiver’s 4-year-old daughter liked to hit; an act my son never understood. Somehow we made it to the end of the quarter. I doubt Barbara Walker would have accepted what the councilman said which was pretty much to stay at home 24/7 unless going out was with the husband or for a cause related to the children.

Barbara Walker is an extraordinary woman with an appreciation for a craft most people think of as ordinary and fairly routine. Try mentioning some of the math involved in patterns; the typical response from a non-knitter is, “Really?” in a tone I can’t possibly help but hear as a bit skeptical. I feel honored to have been in the audience to hear Ms. Walker’s talk. So many have benefited from her research into the history of the craft, her innovations (the top-down sweater!) and her many books. I am so glad she left that fabulous job as a cub reporter to become a mother in New Jersey. What gifts she has given to so many with her work in such fields as anthropology, feminism, humanism, mineralogy, art, and, yes, knitting.

To learn more about Barbara Walker, listen to this Freethought Radio interview on YouTube. Now to locate a copy of her autobiography.

Missing Mr. Mantis ~ late summer joys

Found this guyBrown Mantis on my hummingbird feeder three mornings in a row. Each morning I moved him to one of the flowering plants that miraculously survives in my seriously neglected perennial garden. (Confessions of a knitaholic.) When Mr. Mantis didn’t appear on the fourth morning, I felt a bit sad. Did he find a mate and not survive, was he preyed upon by a bat, or did he simply relocate? I’ll never know, but at least I learned that the male praying mantis doesn’t always become a meal for his mate and that this mantis may have been a Ms., not a Mr. More surprisingly, I found that the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) has been observed preying on hummingbirds. Next time, the mantis gets relocated as far away from the hummingbird feeder as possible. Don’t think he would have had much luck snaring a bird, though. His brown camouflage was of no help on the red-topped feeder and his stature was on the small side.

Late summer spiders are amazing – big spiders building big webs. One morning large webs spanned all three exit/entries to the house. I kept forgetting to duck when I stepped off the back porch ending up with spider silk in my hair.Fall spider

The New Dawn climbing rose is in its last bloom of 2011. If I feed the poor bush and weed around it, maybe it will show signs of its former glory. I must put the knitting aside to care for one of my favorite climbing roses.Rose

The cool evenings and mornings have been wonderful. Sunday was cool enough for me to wear my newly blocked Summer Solstice, a pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier, knit up in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. I finally finished it. Love the fit, but may shorten the sleeves. Sure is hard taking pictures of oneself. Us regular folk look so much better in motion.

SS fini

I love working with the Silky Wool – a fabulous choice for this cardi. I have two more sweater’s worth of the Silky Wool. Deciding if Sigrun should be knit in the green or burnt orange. Silky Wool lt green

Silky wool burnt orange

Leaning toward the green.

No starting other projects, though; I have to get a couple of projects (my Ravelry project page) off the needles first (just a couple, not all) – 2 pairs of socks, a scarf (hibernating since March), a second hat (should have been posted as my second pattern a month ago), a shawl, a shawlette (Catkin by Carina Spencer), and a tank top (Zigzag top by Marianne Isager). What I’m hoping to finish in the next two weeks are the Catkin (a birthday gift) and Zigzag top. Kinda looks impossible since I need to cast on a pair of mittens to match the Laura’s Spirals hat pattern, socks I promised my car mechanic for his wife and a sweater for my granddaughter.

When can I possibly get to Lemon by Helga Isager, Marianne’s daughter? After seeing Helga’s Camomille shawl up close and personal, I want to knit that too. So many fabulous designs and yarn to go with them. What’s a knitter to do, but welcome the cooler weather and bring out the hand-knit socks, sweaters, shawls…….

Yes, I can teach ~ really, I can

Do I start with only a sock class? Hell, no. I’ve got to start with 2 classes held on one afternoon: one class is three 1.5-hour sessions (socks); the second is 4 1.5-hour sessions. This means teach a sock class for 1.5 hours, take a half-hour break, follow-up by teaching a class on a complicated shawl for 1.5 hours. What was I thinking? I understood going in that knowing how to knit and having knit a pattern are not the same as having the skills to teach how to do either. What I didn’t understand was all the personalities I would have to deal with as a new teacher at the LYS I dearly love.

Several unexpected things happened to make both the first sock class and the first Catkin (a beautiful shawl by Carina Spencer) class more stressful than they typically would have been. No need to go in to that here: what I learned from those first 2 classes is much more important.

For a newbie teacher, having fun the first few classes is not important: having fun hopefully comes later when students communicate their happiness and the shop owner is happy with the teaching. If fun for the teacher is not to be had, move on and drop the teaching.

What happens first to many new to teaching (please this can’t be just me) are the complaints from students and violating some shop rules. Learn from the complaints; learn the shop rules.

So given hindsight (we all know how that works), here is my list of what I believe will help me & possibly others (I know at least a few people are reading this)  as I move forward in this new venture into the world of teaching knitting classes –

  • give the shop owner a class plan – notes (no matter how good), a highlighted pattern, and a list of what is to be covered are not enough
  • have a syllabus for each class in a series – it may also serve as a good handout for the students
  • include on the syllabus an estimate of the time it may take to cover each item (and remember, it’s only an estimate)
  • ask the owner if it is possible to schedule classes to begin 15-30 minutes after the shop opens and to allow 15-30 minutes between the end of one teacher’s class and the beginning of your class
  • take a look at the classroom – try to get a feeling about how to work within the space especially if it is small and confining (typical for a small shop; space is expensive
  • meet with the shop owner one to two weeks before the first class and after she or he has reviewed your class plan: take notes at that meeting; ask the owner what you may encounter in class that you may not be prepared for (e.g. a quirky student, students missing a class and wanting a make-up class); how does the owner handle a last-minute class cancellation; what advice does the owner have; and, whatever questions I haven’t thought of to date
  • know that the unexpected most likely will happen; we can only do our best
  • screw-ups will most likely happen, too – learn from it, do the best damage control possible and get over it

The most difficult thing for me is developing a tough skin. I had a tough skin when I worked in neuroscience labs for 15 years and then spent 20 years in a business dominated by men. Teaching knitting classes is different: it’s personal. My knitting transitioned from a skill to a passion about five years ago. I can’t seem to complete projects, design knitwear, or learn about fiber and knitting quickly enough; and, it’s dear to my heart.

The real test will come during the next class sessions. Yes, I will give my class plans and syllabi to the shop owner and request a meeting a few days in advance of the classes.

I still think the Catkin is gorgeous.

Catkin

I’m teaching a knitting class ~ seriously???

Teaching is one of the best ways to learn. So why not teach. I hope I’ve learned something from the 45+ pairs of socks I’ve knitted over the past 7 or so years. I consider myself a recovering sockaholic. Being a sockaholic isn’t such a bad thing, but I need more time to knit garments for parts of my body other than my feet. Having knit over 20 pairs of socks designed by Cookie A alone, it is time to cut back on my sock knitting. Way back. Here is my drawer full of Cookies as of October 2010 –

Cookies in drawer

Of course all the socks I’ve gifted are missing and the photo only shows the Cookie A designs in the drawer. There are other sock designers and I’ve knit many of those socks; there’s just something about Cookie’s designs that I love. Maybe it’s all the math.

So last night I’m knitting away on Cookie A’s Trystero (the sock pattern I chose for the class  I am teaching) and something seems off. I knit socks top-down in tandem with 2 sets of double-pointed needles; i.e. cast on and knit first cuff, cast on and knit second cuff & leg, back to first sock to knit the leg & heel flap, etc. I compare my two Trystero socks (in fabulous Noro Kureyon Sock): the one I’m currently working is about half-way through the gusset; the second is on hold after the heel turn. Here they are –

Trystero 1

Arrrgh! The pattern on the two socks doesn’t match. They are supposed to match. I like a pair of socks to match unless the pattern says otherwise. Not that I have anything against knitters who prefer to knit two socks from the same skein of yarn in two different patterns to produce a pair of socks; I’m just one of those knitters who wants paired socks to match. I once ripped out the entire foot of a sock when I saw that I could make the color transitions on both socks match by ripping back on one sock to the instep, breaking the yarn and knitting the foot beginning with the opposite end of the yarn. (I had given up trying to match the color transitions once I got to the feet.) Matching color transitions is not an easy task with Zauberball yarn; however, when an easy solution presents itself, I say go for it!Sam

Cookie has this fabulous tutorial on sock repair. I have a few pairs of hand-knit socks that need repair. I’m gonna give this a go whenever I can put down the sock needles.

For a smile ~ when one thing leads to another, to another, to…….

A tweet from Hoxton of the Electric Sheep Podcast lead me to peruse the new Twist Collective Fall – fabulous patterns and articles; an issue not to be missed. Twist Collective lead me to Knitting in Wine Country: a blog I had not seen until today. It’s wonderful! (Yes, another blog to follow.) A brief scroll down the blog page lead to a must-watch video.

So here is a smile for today.

Woobie Woes ~ when toys attack….

As soon as I saw this pattern – Woobie Kitty by Kris Carlson – I wanted to drop everything and knit one for my 6-year-old granddaughter. Keira let me know right away that her Woobie should be knit in black and red. She even named it Ruby Kitty before we bought the yarn: Cascade 220 Sport Superwash; a fabulous yarn when washable is a must. Could not talk her out of the kitty (the zebra and the bunny seemed more interesting), nor could I get her to choose colors other than black and red. Red is okay, but I really, really dislike knitting with black.

The knitting looked simple enough. Even a 340-stitch picot hem wasn’t all that intimidating. In my opinion, the picot was a must and added to the nature of the Woobie. The recipient should have the best rendering of the pattern, right?

Picot hem was going great until the second decrease round. Made note to self, “There are critical points in a pattern that require one’s full attention.” I knit the second round of decreases too soon so they didn’t line up correctly. I tried to fix the error by dropping down, but couldn’t see what the heck I was doing. Again, I really, really dislike knitting with black. I ended up with a mess, so I ripped all the way back to approximately the 3rd rnd from the cast on; second go, was a breeze.

Finally got from this

Woobie mess 1

to this –

Woobie 50

After working alternating red and black stripes, all was well……  for a while. Had decreased to 140 stitches: exactly what I was supposed to have before increasing the decrease rate. Decreased to 108 stitches, but oh! wait! I had 107. Searched for a dropped stitch without any luck. It all looked good, but I can be really dense sometimes. I started ripping back. Stupid, stupid. This was for my favorite little girl in the world. It had to be as perfect as I could make it. Never mind that perfection is rarely achieved by humans and never in my hand knits. So I had mess #2 on my hands.  Folded it all up in a pillow case and took off to the gym for a swim. With a clear head it was easy to see I should simply do a single decrease instead of a double on the quarter of the blanket missing a stitch. The pattern does not note that the stitch-count gets thrown off by one stitch: I’m pretty sure that is what happens as noted by another knitter on Ravelry. I hadn’t even made a mistake. I hope I have taken this lesson to heart.

Fortunately I was able to take this mess and without much trouble get from here

Woobie mess

Good kitty

to here

Keira and woobiea

and finally, all ends well….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ears could easily be made to look more like cat ears by attaching more of the back side of the ears to the head to shorten them and push them forward; however, recipient insisted Ruby Kitty was fine as is and would not release her for cosmetic touch ups or the addition of whiskers.

Technique notes:
Tips (not a how to; you can google that) on working a crochet-chain provisional cast on when there are a lot of stitches (technique allows for interruptions or breaks):

  • for waste yarn, use smooth cotton string (comparable to lace-weight yarn in thickness)

  • using waste yarn and crochet a lose chain of 5 or more stitches than required for the cast on

  • use a crochet hook that is at least 1 gauge higher than project’s knitting needles

  • when ready to remove waste yarn and knit with live stitches, place provisionally cast-on stitches on a dpn (smaller gauge than using for project) 20 or 30 at a time to begin working with stitches.

Using cotton string makes it easy to see the crocheted chain and where to insert the hook or needle for casting on stitches. It’s also easy to unzip the chain and leaves no fuzz behind.

Note on short rows: have never knit short rows w/o either a wrap & turn or a “shadow” stitch. Pattern directions could have been clearer on “knit in the stitch below,” i.e. which stitch below? The right side of Ruby Kitty’s head looks good; the left side is pitiful.