Monday, August 28, 2017

When knitting is your comfort, and I interviewed Alina Schneider

Since we are hunkered down at home, awaiting more rains from Hurricane Harvey, I have gotten quite a bit of knitting done.  (We are fine.  We may get a bit of water in the house, but nothing catastrophic.)  Of course, most of it has been ripped back, but I still managed to finish the second sleeve on my Journey sweater today.

You may remember I'm knitting two sweaters by Alina Schneider, Journey and Heritage, for the Summer Sweater Knit-along.  That was a coincidence, because both have been in my queue for a while.  But, it isn't a coincidence that I also interviewed Alina for a guest blog post on  When Shannon asked if I'd like to write a guest post, I thought it was a great chance to ask Alina some things I'd been wondering, as I immerse myself in her designs.  I also thought you guys would enjoy learning a little more about her.   She is doing some really cool things.

I thought the interview was really great.  It was good enough to soothe my frustration with myself for making a huge blunder on my Heritage that required ripping back to the armholes.  I was feeling kind of stressed, so I just zoned out, knitting like a maniac without looking at my pattern again until a few days later.  That's when I realized I forgot my increases.  There I am, below, looking so chill about wasting hours of work.

Yeah, I go all Jethro Bodean like this on about every other project I work on.  I do it because the knitting is relieving my stress, but then I screw up and feel stressed.  So then, what could I do but comfort myself with some more knitting.

When knitting is your comfort, you just have to accept that sometimes it must comfort you from... your knitting?  Yes, basically.  And so I moved back to my Journey and knocked out a sleeve and a half in two days. Sigh.

I've accepted that Heritage probably won't be finished by the end of the SSKAL, but I still have plenty of time to do it for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL.  Now, I'm going to go re-read what Alina said and work on my sweater that's not in the bad corner.

(more on ravelry, instagram, and flickr)

Truth time: What is the last project that you had to put in the bad corner?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Gingerbread Sweater aka Like Wearing Kittens, if That Were a Good Thing

I had high hopes of taking interesting photos of this sweater while on hiking vacation in The Grand Tetons.  But just because I am surrounded by landscape that's beautiful, it doesn't assure great photos of myself in knitwear.  In other words: I was often sunburnt, frizzy haired, and grungy.  It was also either very dark or very bright when I had the opportunity for photos.  This was just before our big backpacking trip.  I took it on that trip, but there was no way I'd ask my husband or son to take FO photos during that time.  If I had, they might have thrown me over a cliff and seen it as a great way to shave pack weight.  But the fact that I tried at all shows how much I think of my Gingerbread sweater, by Libby Jonson.  I simply love it.

I wanted to knit Gingerbread for the neckline.  It is unlike any of my other knits to date.  I think it is extremely feminine and delicate looking.  I am aware that my multiple straps from sports bra and tank tops, peeking out, do not highlight this fact, but I was dressed for heat and hiking, so just blur your eyes and imagine.

Trying it on as I would normally wear it, it is a great silhouette.  Not fitted, not boxy.  That amount of ease filled a gap in my wardrobe.  So, I think another version is coming, eventually.

I am so glad I put it in my backpack because it ended up keeping me from freezing on our hike.  I brought it on a whim because it is vey thin and would fit between Under Armour and my jacket.  We would sweat immediately upon donning our packs each morning, but the second the sun dipped behind the mountains, each evening, it was freezing.  In true mom fashion, I was the only one prepared for that.  I'd have loaned my sweater out if it weren't my husband and son that needed it.  That certainly would've tested the stretch potential of the Lana Grossa yarn.

Though my photos may not do the actual fabric of the sweater justice, I loved knitting it.  Had I knit it in a yarn I was familiar with, it would have flown off the needles.  This Lana Grossa Alta Moda Cashmere Fine yarn created some issues.  That name is a mouthful and sounds fancy, doesn't it?  I guess it is, for me.  I bought it on sale at LoveKnitting and was so excited to knit with something so fine.  It's just 10% cashmere, but with the merino it is much softer than the usual utilitarian 100% wool I use for sweaters.  However, it was strangely stretchy, and hard to get a good gauge read on while knitting.  I trusted my gauge swatch and cast on, knitting the second size, using US needle sizes 4 and 5.

The construction of this neckline was a little different and fun to sort out.  Then there was loads of stockinette for tv knitting.   I didn't run into any gauge issues until it came to sleeve length.  This yarn would stretch when hanging from the needles, making me think I'd knit enough.  I did slip my arm through the armhole to check this, but after binding off, I put it on and they were a decided three-quarter length!  It was weird.  After debating with myself and seeking advice on the Truly Myrtle forum, I soaked and blocked it.  With no stretching on my part, the sleeves came out the perfect length.

Alta Moda Cashmere also made for a fuzzy knit, which rates high on the comfort scale, but not so much on stitch definition.  The cute gingerbread stitch pattern at the bottom and cuffs doesn't look bad, just indistinct.

So, I have some Patons Classic in my stash that I think would make a much more predictable version, if this sweater doesn't wear well.  I'd knit it right away, while the pattern is fresh in my mind, but it is almost the same color as the one I have, so I'm letting myself be distracted by other things.

Some of those things include more of Libby's designs.  I have knit a bunch of her patterns and have yarn intentionally stashed away for 4 of her designs, besides another Gingerbread:  Timely, JossCloud Kisses, and Peck on the Cheek.  She is one of my favorite... everythings: a knitter, designer, and excellent podcaster.  And while I was driving through Yellowstone I heard her (then) latest podcast episode referencing my blog, which was a sweet surprise.

Because I love you all, I am sharing the least fetching photo of myself where I accidentally make the face I usually make on purpose, pushing up invisible glasses to mock something nerdy.  But it shows my lovely Gingerbread in the wild.  Truly.  We had just emerged from our tents, where we were camped completely alone in the backcountry of the North Fork Granite Canyon.  My son and I had trouble sleeping the night before because something very large was rooting around near our tents and over by the bear cans.   We saw hoof prints the next morning.

More posts on this sweater here:  the beginning before I got sidetracked, progress, and needing sleeve accountability.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Gathered Around Me

I'm still working on my Marley shawl, but my Gather, another Andrea Mowry design, is now complete.  It isn't easy to stand outside in a wool/ linen shawl right now.  It's not easy to stand outside, period.  I toughed it out for these pics, then ran in the house flinging the shawl from my body as if it were on fire.  Obviously that's not a reflection on Andrea's pattern.  That, I love.  It is so cool in the Madelinetosh Optic colorway, paired with a black tonal.  This shawl also saw me through a hard time.

Knitting is just knitting, I know that.  But there aren't many things we do today to distract ourselves from hard times that are creative and positive.  Even going for a run can be stressful for my body, if I'm already under a ton of stress.  Subconsciously checking my phone every few seconds wouldn't be super healthy either.  I mean, talking to someone can help... up to a point.  There comes a time in the grief process where there is nothing left to say and you just need to get through the day.  So, to have a distraction that produces good things, both physically and mentally, is a gift.

Details:  I used US size 3 needles and 3 skeins of Madelinetosh Dandelion in the Optic base, along with 2 skeins of Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in Blackbird.  The difference in fiber make-up of the two yarns doesn't hurt a thing.  The linen/flax content of the Dandelion just adds more visual interest to the garter sections.  I've been wanting to use an Optic colorway for so long.  I stalk the Madelinetosh website looking at all of the various versions, often on sale.  The Hawthorne in Blackbird did rub off on my hands a bit while knitting.  I didn't bother putting vinegar in the soak bath with it, but that would have been the more adult thing to do.

There were no modifications, just hours of garter stitch, with a little lace here and there.  It was the low-key thing I needed to work on when my brain and heart hurt.  I worked on it like a robot for a week after the funeral.  If you make things regularly, you know how therapeutic this can be.  I am feeling much better, by the way.  The initial shock of unexpectedly losing a loved one has passed and the sharpest pain has dulled some.

I appreciate all of the kind and loving things you, my friends, said to me here, on Ravelry, and on Instagram.  And this got me thinking about something I'd like your input on.  We had a conversation in Bible study Sunday about comforting others, based on 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, where Paul tells the new church in Corinth that sometimes we suffer like Christ did, but one good outcome of it, other than drawing us closer to Him for comfort, is that we can then comfort other people with the level of comfort we received from Him.

The question I posed was do you feel we are so disconnected from the people around us, due to our connection to the internet and busy lives, that we aren't available to be there as much to offer true comfort to hurting people we know.  I asked this after watching most of the young adults enter the room and immediately look at their phones.  Their heads down and engrossed, unless someone spoke to them, as they sat beside one another in a large circle.  I'd never really noticed that before.  It seemed like a ritualistic way to avoid the awkwardness of confrontation.  Or maybe it's just ritual when our bodies stop moving, to check Twitter or whatever.  I suppose sitting beside people you know and have grown up with at church could feel confrontational at times.  Hmm, this makes it seem as if we are less aware of the people around us, and so would be less likely to comfort them.

There were a few opinions offered in the group.  Some thought that we are too busy to really be there for other people.  Most didn't answer at all- they are a quiet group.  Someone else said that we pursue online friendships as if they are real, then when we are in need, those people can't comfort us because it's not true friendship. That's what I wanted to ask you guys about.  I think that could be true, depending on how genuine we are online, but is it always?

In my experience, online friendships have been very meaningful.  Most of the sympathy shown to me when I lost my grandmother came from online friends, not the real life kind.  Don't get me wrong, the people in my real life who were there for me, were truly there for me.  There were several phone conversations, when I was feeling shocked, guilty, and devastated that I wouldn't trade for anything, and seeing them at the funeral was so encouraging.  All of these sweet people made me feel very loved.  But, the compassion shown to me online, though it is from people who didn't know my grandmother, seemed no less heartfelt.  These friends offered words of sympathy and love that surprised me when I sat down, the day after the funeral, and lethargically pulled out my phone.

There is power in words.  If our connectedness with the world steals some of our focus from the world around us and makes it difficult to relate to people up close, then at least one benefit is that we can be friends to people we wouldn't have otherwise have been able to befriend when we are online.   But certainly we can manage to be mentally present for both.

I don't consider loneliness a big problem now, but there was a stretch of years where I was definitely lonely at times.  It was post-Ravelry, pre-instagram, if you need a reference.  Caring for elderly people who felt bad, raising teenagers,  and having a husband who likes to work a lot can be lonely.  I am very into nurtured relationship.  It's the best part about being in a family and, at that time, it didn't easily happen.  There were lots of tasks for me, but often very little  communication or even eye contact.  I know, the housewife's lament, right?

With God's help, I found my way through that time.  I also started getting into knit-alongs and finding the warmth of community there.  We talked about all sorts of things from the mundane to the serious, all while learning to make stuff.  I knew people were listening to me because they were posting in answer.  And I was getting some of the back and forth of thoughtful conversation that I felt was missing in my life.  It was nice.

I think there are several online friends that I could call out of the blue and say, "I'm in your city, want to grab lunch?" and they'd be happy to do so.  I know of several who are hurting right now like I was in July and they are really in my prayers each day.  Sure, it would be great if we lived down the street from one another, but since I know few people on my street, this is at least something.  

Anyway, that's what my Gather shawl makes me think of.  Rather than the heartache of those days, I think of the kindness of friends gathering around me, virtually, and I feel blessed.

What do you guys think?  Are social media friendships as good as "the real thing" or do they fall short?   Or is it just a question of who you choose for friends- online and locally?

Other posts about this shawl are here and here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Orri Shawl

I am fresh from family vacation, where I had no connection with the outside world for about 2 weeks.   It wasn't the kind of vacation that's all about relaxing.  It was more the making up for lost time kind of trip,and it was really good.  I'm not sure if I needed to be so disconnected.  I did all of the things I usually do- read, cook, knit, care for my family, get outside- but with a lot more outside than normal.

Anyway, I'm pleased to finally be showing my Orri shawl, by Lee Meredith, that I loved working on and have had finished for a couple of months.  I just put off the FO photo because, guys, it is miserably hot here in the summer.  Getting dressed in a knit and putting on makeup or doing my hair in any way other than bun hair takes dedication.  I wear workout clothes and no makeup.  Sometimes I brush my hair before my husband gets home.  I'm thoughtful like that.

On top of that, it's been raining constantly.  And our Sundays, the day I usually try to take photos because I look almost like normal people, have been crazy.  Anyway, the point is, I brought 2 shawls and a sweater with me on vacation thinking, "Certainly I will get the opportunity to wear these for photos in the mountains."  Two out of three isn't bad.

Orri was a totally for fun project.  I worked on it when I didn't feel like doing anything else because I always felt like working on it.  The lace stitch took some time to memorize, but I actually took it to the movies and worked a row or two without screwing up.  This is the kind of project that's easy on my budget too because two skeins were indie dyed and the other two were bargain yarn.

Details:  I used US size 6 needles and Lovebird Lane's Fischer Dk in the One Sweet Love colorway for the lace stitch.  I already mentioned that this lace stitch is one that requires no purling and looks really good from either side.  And just like Lee said, it looks really great in a variegated yarn.  The solid grey balanced it nicely and made the One Sweet Love colorway seem even more special.  The grey is just Patons Classic Wool from my local hobby store, which is a worsted, but I found the two yarns worked fine together.

This is a great way to use up variegated skeins in your stash, friends.  You choose how large to make your shawl based on how many grams you have to work with.  The details for how to knit a weight based shawl are all in the pattern.  It could easily translate to worsted or fingering weight.  Personally, I wish I'd used a slightly smaller needle because my superwash yarn stretched some with blocking.  I still love it, but would've liked to see the lace at a tighter tension.

Lee has a lot of patterns out that I'm sure you've seen by now.  She is the queen of color and has even released a coloring book that seems to be a cross between coloring and paint by numbers.  The images immediately make me think of intarsia knitting charts.  Her knitwear is also constructed in neat ways, like the Tionne sweater, one I've had in my favorites for a while, is convertible- two tops in one.  Also, I need to get my Scribbled Lines Headband knit up because I have lots of cotton and wool I could do this with and... bun hair...

More posts on this shawl are here and here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hipster KAL

I knew I would be taking part in the Summer Sweater KAL, that's a given.  But when I heard Brooklyn Knitfolk's Jaclyn talk about how over "fade" projects she is and how she's starting the Hipster KAL for lesser known knitting designs, I had to join in.  The only requirement is that it be a substantially sized knit and that it have less than 30 finished projects on Ravelry.  You get an extra entry in the giveaway if you knit with a yarn brand you've never used before.

This is the Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Sport- not a new brand, but still really nice.  I'll be using it for my Heritage, which will work for both SSKAL and the HipsterKAL.  It was hard for me to believe it had under 30 projects at the time I posted that I'd be knitting it, but it did.  I have a feeling it's FO count will be rising, so I'm glad I called dibs before it hit the 30 mark. 

(Heritage image via Ravelry)

Remember how I wanted Feya to come right after Heritage.  Well, it has a low project number, too.  I don't really get why.  It's classic, plus oversized- which has a huge following again.  It's an Amy Christoffers pattern, for goodness' sake.  Anyway, I'm throwing it into this KAL, too.  Being bulky and stockinette, I might finish it in less than two weeks.  

My yarn is Cascade Tivoli, a new one for me.  The color is somewhere between a blue-green mixed with a grey.  It's a wool/ silk blend, so it might keep this from veering too hard into frump territory, a place I often visit.   

(Feya image via Ravelry)

Anyway, were I to knit like the wind and finish both before the KAL ends, or even if I don't, I've been wanting a Primo Sweater, from Wool and the Gang,  for a couple of years.  I actually have some of their cotton in grey and army green to knit it.  I can see this being a lot like my Julia Sweater, but cropped and with color blocking.  

Yes, I'm making the change to cotton blends more and more.  I've accepted that I won't be moving in the next five years... or maybe ever, so cotton it is.  

(Primo image via Ravelry)

Okay, now this one, below, is just awesome.  It's a rectangular shawl by Ann Weaver that is part shawl, part wrap, part throw, part stadium blanket.  It's the perfect thing for me to wear around my neck to football and soccer games this coming school year.

And my yarn combo, also madelinetosh, includes purple and white, which is our football-obsessed town's high school colors.  I'll look like the rest of the football freaks, but I'll secretly just be a knitting freak.

(Herbawi images via Ravelry)

Just look at it unfurled!  It makes me think of another incredible, graphic shawl I saw on the Hipster KAL thread: Wild Mystic.

(Wild Mystic image via Ravelry)

How, how can there only be four of these in existence?! This would absolutely make a fantastic throw or bedspread!  

So between this post and the last, the rest of my summer, and possibly my year, seems to be mapped out.  Do you have any hipster knits that are awesome, but not so well-known in your queue?  Tell me.  Let's enable each other.