Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Knitting Throwback

The daily prompts in the Yarn Love Challenge have taken me back through my knitting history-  from those days when I knew no crafters but said I wanted to learn to knit so my husband gave me a booklet from Joann called How to Crochet for Christmas all the way to today, where I have appropriated my daughter's old room as my personal yarn abyss.  I can easily chat with a knitter from any country at any point of the day or night.  It's really all due to one thing:

Day 5: Community.

I hope you're not tired of hearing that phrase.  You know the one: "knitting community" because what else could I call it.  Guys, I live in Texas.  Almost no one knits and even fewer seem to wear sweaters.  I'm obviously holding out for that dream relocation to the mountains because I just keep making stitches like a freak.

As a young mother who had relocated a couple of times, I didn't have a lot of friends.  So I certainly didn't have a knitting community.  That wasn't even a term, I don't think, until Ravelry and Craftster.  I think I first heard of Ravelry on Stefanie Japel's old blog, Glampyre.  She was going to try it, so I decided to see what the deal was.

I didn't use most of the functions for a year.  I remember the first time I made a Ravelry friend (Hi, Jennifer!) I didn't even know you could do that.  Then there were all of the late nights, just scrolling through version after version of different patterns, my brain filling to capacity with plans.  I looked for obscure non-knitting themed groups like Martial Arts Knitters and Arrested Development knits.  Then there was radar.

All of the brain and queue expansion has made the needle and pattern libraries indispensable.  Seriously, I am thankful for them every time I know where to look in my home for the right yarn for a project.  They have kept my house from looking like a messy crime scene.

Knit-alongs were inevitable.  My first was with the Holla Knits group.  It brought me a step closer to my knitting friends because we were all working on things at the same time, sharing tips, and chatting  frequently.  All of these KALs have given me good conversation and new perspectives from people, across the world, that I wouldn't have had a chance to know before.   There's no doubt that my Ravelry friendships have enriched my life, but they've also shaped the skills I have today.

If I hadn't ever met other knitters online, I'd probably only be finishing a couple of projects a year.  As it is, I'm cranking out 30+ things I can't wear in Texas.  Some of them are knit within a single movie, like these Dreiecke  hats.

Like Day 4: Speed  

They were among my speediest knits.  The green one is Andes Del Campo, a rustic feeling wool.  I knit it for my daughter's best friend, Becca, while watching a movie.  I was so delighted when Becca saw my post for the photo challenge on instagram and posted her own photo of Dreiecke being worn.  And it's beautiful!!

The brown one is my hat of choice for running on our few cold winter mornings.  It's knit in natural Alpaca from Red Comb Vintage.  They have two alpacas name Indy and Hayden that produce a bit of fiber each year and I happened to get some via Etsy.  I loved that the tag had a photo of the alpaca the yarn came from.  I would never have known about this yarn without the influence of online knitters.  I would still be using whatever yarn my nearest Joann store has in stock, which would only be a couple of brands.  Now, I'm not knocking cheap yarn.  I still get lots of wear out of Patons sweaters.  I even knit a sweater out of the pink Lion Brand Landscapes, below.  But finding a variety of colors there is difficult and a sweater's quantity is rare.

Day 10: Oldest stash

And sweaters were quickly my knit of choice.  Here's my first wearable one- the Big Sack sweater from Debbie Stoller's first Stitch n Bitch book.  (I think I knit a bolero first, but one of the arms was bigger than the other, so I never even wove in the ends.)  I still love this mohair blend from Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride.  I got it at Hill Country Weavers in Austin.  I'm sure you've read about them online.  But, back then, I only happened to find out about them from the index in the back of Debbie's book.  It was the only yarn store listed in Texas and, I think, the first one I ever went to.

Day 23: Throwback

A few years later I was ready for a more ambitious cabled project: Norah Gaughan's Beatnik, a Knitty classic that was big on Ravelry.  I loved it so much I knit another one, seamless to the arms, in Patons Classic Tweed.  I had an arsenal of blog posts chronicling a past Beatnik KAL to guide me through the process.  At this point my Blogroll was about a million strong.

Day 28: Favorite Knit

Instagram may be replacing knitting blogs now, but I mostly use it to kick through to blog.  I seem to learn about new sites and yarn sellers there daily.  I've have to curb my desire to support small business.  See how I did that?  My materialism is now noble and patriotic.

I really do like buying from individuals as often as I can.  But I'm always going to love a bargain and  this Lana Grossa Alta Moda Cashmere Fine is my newest one.  It's only a little cashmere, but I haven't used a blend like this before and so I'm antsy to cast on.

Day 26: Newest stash

It's a German yarn I ordered from England via LoveKnitting.com  and I don't think that would be happening without... you guessed it... the community.  (I'm making it sound ominous, like The Path or The Crucible.)

I've also tried new color combos.  Instagram has totally fueled my need to knit an Exploration Station this year or perish.  Below are most of the striping things I've knitted since the beginning.  I kind of love stripes, so learning brioche is a priority and, since Youtube tutorials and podcasts abound now, my learning process for this knitting technique should be a far cry from the "How to Crochet" pamphlet. 

Day 7: Stripes

Knitting podcasters are solely responsible for subliminally coercing me into knitting 12 pairs of socks in one year.  I would never have knit a sock otherwise and I'd probably be substituting long-tail cast on for every technique I hadn't heard of.

Without my knitting people, I wouldn't have tried knitted shorts or skirts, shawls, fingering weight knits, two-handed Fair Isle, or intarsia.  And if I had, for some reason tried intarsia, I wouldn't have known to steam press it for a polished finish.

Day 24: Favorite Tip

I probably would've branched out into crochet, but I'd never have thought to crochet a scrappy blanket.  Oh, and this blankie made me so very happy to crochet.  I had a little hand holding on instagram and Ravelry with the Christmas to Christmas Crochet-along.  Thanks to this group, I also got a few magic knot and edging ideas for in the future.

My crafty friends have made me a better crafter in every way, except one:

Day 27: Blocking

The thing is, we aren't just encouraging each other to try new yarns and patterns.  We're encouraging each other to just try something, for the sake of trying.

One of the biggest changes my online knitting friends have brought to my life is encouraging me to knit summer-weight tops.   Holla Knits started it, and the Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL keeps it going.  It is the answer to my very large stack of pristine sweaters that I never get to wear.   This Reef Knot Tank is what I was wearing on the 22nd of February.  Nuts.

Most importantly, without the knitting community, I wouldn't laugh or smile as much.  I remember feeling kind of low one morning and then read one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me in an instagram comment.  It lifted my spirits so much.  That wouldn't have happened without you guys!    Thank you for making my life so rich.  And here's a random dog photo.

Day 25: Routine

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yarn Love Challenge: Intros and Such

The Yarn Love Challenge on Instagram started this month, with intros.  I joined a few days late and threw a selfie up on instagram as Day 1 but didn't really introduce myself.  Eh, I don't know if I'll actually do that now either.

I had this super long post I wrote late one night and it read like something you ramble late at night.  So this is the abbreviated version:

 (yarn love challenge day1: intro)

I started blogging 8 years ago to have something to do in the evenings as my kids got older.  It was a natural progression from doing a Flickr 365 project and being on Ravelry too much.  Isn't that kind of how we all did it?  I used to post on different parts of my life.  I looked like a very "can do" kind of gal, but after ending my 365 projects and finding my family sick to death of photos, I focused mostly on knitting.

I also went through some personal health issues (nothing detrimental) and stressful times with older family members that left me with zero energy for all the many projects.  Side note: I'm feeling so much better.  So, it became a knitting blog, I guess.

(yarn love challenge day 15: family)

I turned 43 this year.  I find that hard to remember, since it seems like I was an angsty 19 yesterday.
I'm also the mother of a teenager and an adult.  I go along with the maturity charade, but they're perpetually 4 and 1 in my mind.  And in my dreams.  I cannot tell you how many of my dreams focus on my family at that period of time.  I guess it's because we were all here by then.  Those dreams often have to do with me trying to evacuate everyone from a natural disaster, tornados being the storm of choice, while kittens escape into the yard.  My dreams, I swear.  If I'm not trying to rescue kittens, I'm doing something as mundane as trying to find a matching shoe or remember a table's order at The Olive Garden, with the same sense of urgency.

I was born in Texas and am still here.  I don't mind that, because I need to be where I am right now, but I'd like to be in some wooded mountains one day.  We live in a very small, older home we're forever renovating, where we keep more pets than we should.

(yarn love challenge day 8: where I craft)

(yarn love challenge day 17: fiber friends)

 (yarn love challenge day 20: handmade home)

I am a Christian, which is a huge part of my life, but it doesn't often end up on this blog.  I guess it feels too important a thing to just throw out here in a rambly post.  Also I feel a responsibility to "represent."  I mean, I can try, but ultimately, I'm human and my flaws are going to shine through.

I have intense feelings about Jesus.  Maybe I hesitate to post more because I can't bear the thought of someone reading this and hearing, "Jesus!" shouted in my southern voice like a joke.  Also, the last few years have been intensely difficult for me and thinking about Him, and how He has loved me through it, gets me very emotional.  And I don't often want to feel all the feels in the evening, before bed, when I write here.  In short, He is my closest friend.  I believe all of that stuff in the Bible in a literal way.  I believe in miracles, in Him knowing my thoughts, in spiritual rebirth, and Heaven.

Some of my favorite things to do are have really good conversations, where everyone has space to contribute and my mind gets blown.  I also love listening to my records while I clean or cook, running with the sun on my back, trails, and making things with my hands.  Surprise.

I tend to collect, which is tricky in a little house- things like rocks, shells, kitchenware I don't need, magazines, knitting books (even though I swore I'd go digital with all my patterns), and old Avon perfume bottles.

(yarn love challenge day 16: happy color)

(yarn love challenge day 21: library)

Oh, yes, and yarn.

(yarn love challenge day 14: yarn love)

That's Spark Notes on me.  My stuff is on Ravelry, Kollabora, Flickr, and Instagram.

Please tell me something about yourself or, if you've blogged a similar post, please link to it in your comments!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Think I'm a Crocheter

There was that baby Superman cape and there was that really cool Holla Knits scarf, where I did feel like I had a rhythm going by the time it was finished.  Those are my only real experiences with crochet.  It felt like I was fumbling my way through those projects, my stitches just happy accidents.

But now, I am finishing stripe after stripe on this baby blanket in a fluid, effortless way.  I think I am a crocheter.

I knew I wanted to start a granny stripe blanket out of sock yarn scraps, with Nicky's Christmas to Christmas Crochet-along.  But there was someone I really wanted to make a baby gift for and a worsted scrap blanket is a baby gift I know that I'd love to receive.  I like baby knits that aren't in the traditional baby pastels.  I also knew worsted weight yarn would crochet up fairly quickly.  I think I'm over a quarter of the way through today.  That's in four days of crocheting.  That's insane!!!

Um, yeah, I'll be knitting one with sock yarn too.  You know how on podcasts knitters will show you each individual square and say what yarn it is?  My husband squints like he's listening to nails on a chalkboard when they do this, and, if I'm honest, I usually tune it all out.

So you completely have that option.  Squint away or scroll on down past where I make note of the yarns I'm using for my own neurotic pleasure.

From the top where I'm working to the bottom:

WotA Tweed from my Bradway shawl,
Up in Yarns Murkwood from my Laura + Maddy Mitts,
Gynx Yarns Targhee dk in Goth Girl from Goldfinch,
Cascade purple from Everett Henley,
Patterns Classic Tweed in Aran from Blowing Snow,
Quince and Co Lark in Clay,
January Yarns Olivia for the Karite Hat,
Tosh Dk in Earl Grey (sigh) from my Zelda shawl,
Beautiful Red Sock Blue Sock yarn for a Prim hat,
Malabrigo in Paris Night from my Thing to Wear Cardigan,
Junkyarn dk Diana from my Dresden Beret,
Patons in Natural Mix from my Cherry Pie sweater,
Gynx Yarns in Spanish Roof (a favorite of mine) from my Petawawa Toque,
more lark,
more Gynx Targhee in Goth Girl,
Voolenvine Yarns non-superwash in Gashlycrumb from the Quadri hat,
Malabrigo in Plomo again,
and Patons Tweed in Aran again.

Okay, now I'll go back to being cool.  Because saying phrases like "scrappy baby granny stripe blanket" is too cool for school.

I think I feel more sentimental about these scraps than I would sock yarn, just because I've been knitting with worsted since the beginning and some of these are from older projects.  The wild thing is that they can all look good together in this blanket.  When I brought them to a Stripes class with Veera Välmäki, a few years ago, they looked like puke.

The email for the class said to bring scraps, so I really brought scraps- a bag full.  When the class began, I pulled out my somewhat tangled balls of workhorse yarns in chartreuse, light purple, brown, etc.  All the other participants pulled out gleaming cakes of Madelinetosh in coordinating colors.  Bunch of kiss ups.  No, they were really nice.  They all gave me encouraging and compassionate smiles as I spazzed out with my tangled brioche section.  I think I was the remedial knitting student.

For this blanket, I am keeping them in color groups of 3 or 4 stripes- blues, purples, reds, etc.  I am using a couple of new skeins of Quince and Co Lark in Clay for unifying stripes, every several stripes.  It will probably be the edging color too.   I want a hat in Clay.  Clay, Sedum, and Damson are all colors I want to work with.

I want this to be a travel project, and maybe it can since it's a baby knit.  Dana (a crochet blanket master) had the clever idea of making a big ball of scraps, already magic knotted, so it would be more portable.  I think I'll try that, too.  But I will have to unravel one row to see what length I need for a row's worth of one color, since I am changing color with every stripe.  As it is, I would have to bring a big bag of scraps with me.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

So, what are your scrappy projects?  If you don't have any, consider joining us in Clara Peggoty's Corner.  It's not a Ravelry supergroup, with a bazillion members, but that's refreshing.  I like being part of a group that's not so overwhelming that members can't keep up with each other.  We're also on Instagram as #ChristmastoChristmasCAL

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Grandmommy's Hudson

Feyre isn't the only shawl from Very Shannon that I've been working on recently.  I also ordered a crap-ton of Cascade Eco from Craftsy, when I ordered the marled Patons, so I could knit my grandmother the Hudson shawl for Christmas.

It's always a gamble knitting for people who live around me.  We have no shared heritage of wearing wool.  The closest thing we've got is acrylic afghans our grandmothers made for us.  So many of my relatives and friends don't even wear sweaters, especially the men.  Don't even suggest a shawl.

Even my grandmother, who once spent many hours crocheting everyone in the family an afghan or two, thought the idea of me making her a shawl was funny a couple of years ago.  She asked me if I thought she looked like a little old lady.  But, I think seeing how so many women are wearing scarves and cowls, along with spending more time indoors under freezing A/C has changed her mind.  It can be miserable to shiver in a doctor's office, but not want to get in and out of a coat while in a wheelchair.

Of course, right before Christmas, a friend of hers knit her a small rectangular shawl.  Apparently, someone besides me does knit in Southeast Texas.  I was halfway through her Hudson and wondered if she would really want two shawls.  Her friend's shawl was lightweight and maybe acrylic blend, whereas mine is bulky wool and larger.  I figured there's a time and place for both of them, so I knit on.

On Christmas day, I was prepared to not get disappointed if she didn't seem sure about the weight or feel of natural wool.  Like I said, it's foreign to most of us.  And there was the whole "granny in a shawl" stereo-type.  I knew that even if she didn't love it, she would appreciate the time and love that went into it.  Showing her how much I love her was the point, after all.  But, she actually liked it!  I'm only surprised because of the fact that a year or two ago I offered to make her a hand knit sweater and she asked for a drugstore koozie instead, which shows that you can never know a person completely.

Details:  I used size US 8 needles and Cascade Eco and Eco+ in the Shire, Turtle, Chocolate, and Vanilla colors.  When I saw the color choices, I thought of some of those afghans she crocheted us years ago, and felt like it was worth a try.

Thats four of the biggest skeins of yarn you will ever see.  I was shocked that my right arm wasn't disproportionately ripped after hand winding all of them in one sitting.  Thankfully, my husband didn't mind being my Human Swift.  Human Swift is an upgrade from Human Shield.

The rest of the shawl was just following directions.  The stitch pattern changed regularly enough to make it enjoyable all the way through.  And stripes, guys!

Besides being a lot of yarn for the price, the Eco skeins were large enough that I only needed an extra skein of Vanilla to eventually knit another Hudson for myself, along with some other accessories.  It's Christmas for everybody.

Doesn't she look sweet in it!?  And shawl or no shawl, you would never guess her age.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Find Your Fade

I wasn't always comfortable with trusting my instincts, and I don't just mean when knitting a piece of clothing.  Sometime, within the last several years, I have shrugged off the cloak of doubt that doused my impulses.  I still consider and listen to other people, but I also listen to myself.  And I try to never disregard something, just because I want it.  It shows in the way I make big life decisions and, yes, even in how I knit my Find Your Fade.

Be forewarned, this is an image-heavy post because I am nuts about this shawl and I haven't been out of the house a lot recently, due to a sprain, so taking these was like a vacation.

Andrea Mowry followed her instincts in the creation of this shawl and I have so enjoyed seeing all of the other knitters doing the same on ravelry and instagram (#findyourfadekal).

It is an atypical project for me.  It's very large, requiring 7 precious skeins of yarn that I've hoarded for years.   I spent a whole afternoon digging up 10-11 possible skeins for this project.  I was grateful that I had taken the time to list my stash on Ravelry because it made narrowing the pool of potentials much easier.  I laid them out in every possible configuration, changed a few, then laid them out again.  It was neither tedious nor stressful, because instead of second-guessing myself I just enjoyed the selection process.  It was like choosing which crayon to use next when drawing with your kids.  For me it was relaxing and expressive.

I really wanted my yarn to be a mix of old and new stash.  Then the ones I wanted didn't all "fade" into each other and weren't even the same types of yarn.  But they are special to me, and so made the most special shawl possible.

I was excited to start this mammoth project.  I have never knit something so large that I could wear it while working on it.

Now that it's finished and has been worn, it's almost mythic to my mind, like knitted mithril or a coat of many colors.  It's also a little like a scrapbook.

Color 1 was from my first indie dyer to ever order from, Gynx Yarns, and is pretty old.   It was inspired by the city where my family became a family of four., taking me all the way back to the tender age of 25ish.   I already told you about casting on with DenTown, but I don't think I mentioned that knitting with it hit me with such good nostalgia it almost hurt.  I pulled out photo albums, reminisced with my husband, and cried through an episode of This is Us.

Colors 2 and 3 were picked up at my first sort-of yarn retreat.  That's when I knew I was obsessed with this craft.  It was at the Madtosh storefront in Fort Worth during Veera and Joji Knit America.  The first color was Reindeer in MCN and then a Modern Fair Isle single.  At that time, I had little experience working with fingering weight yarn and didn't know much about the difference between the two.  I was still knitting sweaters with inexpensive, bulk yarn purchases.  Madelinetosh was the first yarn to open my eyes to the indie-dyed world.  I remember seeing whole sweaters knit out of it on Ravelry and being blown away by the colors.  I also thought it was beautiful but too expensive for something I might ruin.  Wasn't that quaint?

Color 4 was Voolenvine Yarn's I am no Bird.  It sells out within seconds of an update.  It's obviously a more recent purchase from the era when I began setting an alarm on my phone for certain yarn shop updates and would type like a mad woman on my phone in the middle of the grocery store, just to score a skein.  I cringe a little that I've done that, but then I look at this wrap and think, "Heck yeah!"

I was also broadening the range of things I knitted to include shawls, so a little expensive yarn here and there wasn't such a big deal.  (Read: I was an almost empty nester and could now do these things occasionally.)  There was no fade between it and the next colorway, Chickory, but they look incredible together.

Color 5, Chickory, is my favorite Madelinetosh colorway.  Period.  It also made a good transition into deeper shades, like...

Color 6Tanis Fiber Arts' Too Tartan.  Tartan is another one of those yarns that sell out before the page fully loads.  I just happened to see it on instagram at the moment of listing.  I have had that skein squirreled away for a couple of years because it's my Precious and too important to use on socks.

Color 7 is Stroll Tonal , in Raven.  It creates a seamless blend with the The Tanis Fiber Arts.  I'm sure you know that Stroll is a Knit Picks yarn.  Knit Picks is like an old friend.  It was one the first places I ever bought non-acrylic blend yarn.  It has almost single-handedly fueled my freakish sweater-knitting passion.  A memory-filled shawl wouldn't be complete without including some.

So in one way or another, this shawl covers several seasons of my life.   I love wrapping up in it.

Details:  I used size US 4 needles to knit my Fade.  I didn't worry about gauge or modifications.  I just cast on and went with it.

A few tips: I will say that after knitting one lace section, I found it helpful to check my lace occasionally by making sure my k2tog were always directly over a knit stitch two rows beneath and that my knit stitches were lining up with a k2tog two rows beneath.  I could catch mistakes that way.

I also stretched each section out, after knitting, to look for dropped stitches.  That happened frequently in the garter when I was working with darker colors.

The biggest tip I can give is this:  If you mess up your stitch count in some way that doesn't show during the garter sections, don't rip back to have perfect stitch count for the lace.  Just change which RS lace repeat row you begin with.  When you get close to the marker, you'll be able to tell which one is appropriate.  Then you'll follow with the subsequent rows in the pattern.  I did this at least once and it saved me much frustration.  In the end I was short 1 stitch- big deal.  But frequent lace knitters probably know this already.

Just some off the cuff thoughts:

You guys!!! I adore it wrapped this way.  The fact that it doesn't perfectly fade doesn't matter when the colors are so well suited for each other.  Even the ends look nice together.

Modern Fair Isle should also be a sweater in my closet.

Trying to wrap up in this with the wind blowing was... interesting.  It made me think of being a kid and getting stuck halfway into pulling on a turtleneck or something.

My husband was a super help.  Not only did he drive me some place not my backyard for these photos, but he was super patient as I walked back up to him to see if the photos looked the way I intended, then walked away... a jillion times.

Every time I picked this project up I felt compelled to sing Mazzy Star's Fade into You out loud, in a breathy warble.  I have a patient family.

It was a beautiful day and I needed an outing.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

My other post on this shawl is here.