Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Are They Now?

It looks like it's going to be a short post for Day Four of Knit & Crochet Blog Week (2KCBWDAY4). I worked all day, then went to Knit Night at my LYS and have only just gotten home, with 2.5 hours left in the day.

As I was thinking about today's post, I was thinking about all the projects I've given away over the years and if the people who have them now are knit-worthy or not. I have to admit that a good number of things I've knit have gone to people who really didn't care and who didn't even bother to send me picture of them in the item before they forgot about it. I'm not naming names, but you'd better believe they're getting gift cards from now on.

On a happier note, there are many items I've given as gifts that the recipients have been kind enough to gush over and even show off to people who don't even know me. This makes me supremely happy! I love making things for people who get excited about having a hand-knit, custom-made, one-of-a-kind gift. These people will always get handknits from me, for as long as they want them.

I've also donated a few items to charities, for their auctions. In the case of two items, I know the people who had the winning bid. Both were genuinely excited to have them, and actually told me that they're so special, they only wear them when they can show them off. The person who bought my Bex Socks only wears them at home when she's curled up on the sofa. The person who bought the hat & scarf set thinks they're so nice, she only wears them with her "nice" coat. Of course I wish they felt like they could wear them more casually, but I'm definitely glad to know how much they value them.

So, there we go. Short and sweet. Until next time, then.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches, or How My Brain Works

Welcome to day 3 of Knit & Crochet Blog Week, or as we have been tagging it, 2KCBWDAY3. I can't believe I've actually posted three days in a row! I hope I can keep it up! So, today's theme is "Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches." I can cop to the tidy stitches, because I really do like to see nice, even stitches in my work. The tidy mind bit is a little more difficult to claim. I can say with confidence that I like order and that I like to organize things into groups. I also like things to have their Own Place. I like the feeling I get when my craft room is organized, when everything is put away and I can work unencumbered. It's just that I don't always keep up on the tidying of all the things.

When I first moved into my current residence, the first room I set up was the craft room. We painted over the tangerine-colored paint with a boring, neutral beige, I hung some art on the walls, and set up my sewing table. At the time I think I might only have had just one plastic bin with yarn in it. It's funny how much gear a person can accumulate in just two years. Now I have three larger (but not too large) plastic bins of yarn, in addition to the one shoebox-sized one I had then. I also have more needles and more books.

Now the yarn bins have the yarn sorted by weight: worsted & thicker, fingering (a whole bin of sock yarn!), laceweight, and odds 'n' ends (in the original small bin). What this photo doesn't show is the five balls of Cascade Lana Grande leftover from the Umaro blanket. It's in one of those gigantic Ziploc bags that hold something like five gallons. It's nuts how big that bag is - I would never have bought it for myself. My mom sent it home with me one time, full of clothing or something else she wanted to get out of her house.

Needle storage isn't especially organized - I don't have a special system, or anything. I do have all my circulars in a little tin box which was once filled with peppermint bark. It no longer has that lovely vanilla-and-peppermint smell, but it holds the needles nicely. I have all my double-pointed needles in another tin, which once held Girl Scout candy. (I bet you never heard of Girl Scout candy, did you? One of my coworkers has a daughter in Brownies, and I have been made to understand that this is what they sell in the fall when they're not pushing the cookies.) My crochet hooks, of which I have very few, are stored in yet another tin, this one an old pencil case I brought back from my one-and-only trip to Okinawa. It says "Sachiko" on the lid. It's one of my prized possessions.

The only specialized needle organizer I have is my Della Q needle roll that I bought to store my Addi Clicks. It is a lovely chocolate-colored silk case, with little pockets for the needle tips and sleeves for the cables. There's even a zippered pocket for notions, which I use for storing the connector piece and the needle gauge. I love it. I also love my Addi Clicks, but that's a story for another time.

My craft books live on a movable shelving unit that I liberated from a former employer. It originally housed t-shirts, but was going to be thrown out. I snagged it before it got to the dumpster and it has been storing my books ever since. The thing I like best about it (besides that it fits my tall books really well) is that it has casters on the bottom, allowing me to move it so I can access the closet behind it. My knitting books have the top shelf, right at eye level, and is soon to claim the second one as well.

I think that just about covers the organization of my knitting supplies. The only thing I didn't photograph are the gallon Ziploc bags that I use for individual projects. But, surely, I'm not the only one who uses them. I love that they're just the right size for a sock project and that I can see everything at a glance: yarn, needles, pattern. Pop it in my tote bag, and I'm ready to roll. So, until next time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skills +1UP, or 2KCBWDAY2

So, here we are at Day Two of Knit & Crochet Blog Week, and I'm actually posting. Whee! And while the instructions said to look over the last year's projects to gauge progress, I have to go a little further back. You see, over the last year, my projects have been of roughly the same difficulty (except for the Estonian Lace scarf, which was definitely challenging). The real dividing line in my knitting skills was my discovery of Ravelry. No joke, seeing the kinds of projects other people were making inspired me to take on projects I would never have considered before I joined the Rav.

I don't remember how it was I discovered Ravelry. It might have been after having purchased Jennifer Stafford's Domiknitrix book. I bought the book for the Bob Dobbs vest, and kept it for the additional charts and technique tips. I vaguely remember being curious about her Elfin Bride sweater, the pattern for which was only available on her website. I started there, looking at all the great photos, and then I think I kept getting directed to this Ravelry, of which I wasn't a member, and I decided I should join.

It was a revelation.

Patterns. Yarn. Message Boards. It was a complete and utter time suck. And I loved it! Here were patterns by the score, with pictures of what regular people done with said patterns. There was information about yarns, how they behaved, how they laundered and how they felt. Many of them were yarns I'd never heard of, much less gotten my hands on. And the message boards! I think I was pretty overwhelmed at first, but I loved being able to have conversations with people who were just as nerdy about knitting as I was.

Before Ravelry, I had knit a garter stitch scarf in an awful white, acrylic boucle; a 4x4 basketweave scarf in an alpaca fingering weight yarn; and the same baby hat many times over. I also made the Alligator mittens (funny, I didn't make a project page for these) from the Stitch 'N' Bitch Nation book, which were the ugliest mittens ever seen and a complete waste of what I think was Malabrigo worsted.

After Ravelry, the knitting world, in all its glorious possibility, opened up to me. Double Knitting? Bring it on! Lace? Sure! Fair Isle? Nothing to it! People were posting all their gorgeous projects and I couldn't wait to try them. But the single biggest thing that changed my life was socks. I had no idea I would be one of Those People. You know, a Sock Knitter.

Before Ravelry, I would never have considered making my own socks. Before Ravelry, socks were things you bought at the mall, in packs of three. I mean, really, who knits their own socks? Well, now I do.

The first pair pooled dreadfully, which I have documented in an earlier post. The second pair were CookieA's Monkey, which I had to do toe-up, with contrasting toe, heel & cuffs. Two at a time, I think. I always seem to have to do things the hard way. After that, I was off and running. I bought the Sock Innovation book and decided that the Bex socks looked like the most interesting ones in the book. I would guess that they're probably the most challenging socks in the book, but now that I've done them twice I feel like I can do anything. And after my truck got smashed up near the end of that summer (I wasn't hurt, but the repairs would have cost as much as the truck was worth. So much for liability-only insurance.), I started riding the bus to work every day, which gave me all kinds of time to improve my sock-knitting skills.

Last year, I even worked up the nerve to enter a few of my projects in the Kentucky State Fair. I did pretty well for a first try - I earned ribbons for each of the projects I entered (though none were for first place). It was so exciting! And a bit of validation. This year I'm going full steam ahead for the fair. I'm not saying yet what I expect to enter, because I haven't quite decided. I would like to get at least one first place.

So, there we are. I can thank Ravelry for my improved knitting skills. It's made all the difference. Until tomorrow, then.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns

They were the best of yarns, they were the worst of yarns, they were the patterns of wisdom, they were the patterns of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the knitting was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

And so I butcher Charles Dickens, in order to tell you about two yarns I've used, what I love about them, and what I loathe about them.

Yarn the First: Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted. It's a lovely wool/alpaca blend, in a lovely grey that I scored at my LYS's Super Bowl Sunday sale more than a year ago. It must have been at least 10% off (I can't remember anymore and I didn't note it on my stash page for it), so I bought what I thought was enough to make a sweater for myself: 2200 yards. Anyone with more garment knitting experience than I did at the time would realize that I bought way more than I needed. I didn't have a particular project in mind for it, but I bought every ball in the shop just to be sure.

It sat around in my stash for 7 months, waiting for a project. Then, in Twist Collective, I saw a pattern I had to knit for myself: Carol Sunday's Acorn cardigan. It was going to be great: it was knit top-down, it had an interesting stitch pattern, it called for worsted-weight yarn. I couldn't wait to get started. And that's when it all went to hell.

I recall an inordinate number of stitches in a provisional cast on, which required me to watch and re-watch a Lucy Neatby video to learn how to do it so it would actually unzip when I was ready to work those provisional stitches. Then I started with the acorns, which were so lovely on the sample, but which were just inscrutable (is this a good use of the word?) in this yarn. The problem, I think, had to do with the fact that this yarn was not plied and, therefore, offered no stitch definition. Although it wasn't going well, I thought I should knit the whole ball in the pattern before I gave up. So I kept on with it. Then disaster struck: I spilled turkey chili on it. That was the final straw. I cut the yarn and threw the project into the trash. It was liberating.

The yarn did eventually get its happy ending: it became a vest for my husband. Shortly after abandoning the Acorns cardigan, I discovered David Castillo's Schmidt vest. It looked like a simple, straightforward knit, just right for this yarn. It had an "argyle" insert in the center front which I thought would be just enough relief for the mostly stockinette vest. My Ravelry project page says it took two months to complete, and I remember it as a quick & easy project. The finished vest was wonderfully soft and looked great on the husbeast.

Yarn the Second: Cascade Yarns Venezia Worsted. This is the yarn I chose as more appropriate for knitting the Acorns cardigan. It's also a very lovely yarn, in a merino/silk blend and an unnamed color that is a kind of rusty-orangey-brown. It was, sadly, not on sale and the project required nearly 1400 yards. But the great thing about this yarn was that it was going to provide great stitch definition and the silk content gave it a beautiful sheen that looked great in the autumn light.

This time, the project went along swimmingly, with only a minor hiccup while the kind folks on the Twist Collective message board gave me some advice. There was a modification at the end, in order to get the neckline sized so that I didn't look like I was working on a Flashdance throwback cardigan. In the end, the sweater turned out nicely and was well received by my friends at the yarn shop. My only quibble with this yarn is that it has pilled substantially after less than a dozen wearings. I'm going to give it a good wash & going over with the sweater stone before I put it away for the summer.

Epilogue (instead of Book the Third): And so ends this first post of Knit & Crochet Blog Week 2011. Whew. These are both very good yarns, but they definitely require appropriate projects to look their best. I'm sure I'll have opportunities in the future to knit them both again.

Until tomorrow, I hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I love to travel.

So, last week I had a work-related trip to Atlanta. I love when I get to go out of town, especially when it's for work and I get paid for it! Those of you who know me IRL know that I work for the local affiliate of an international non-profit housing ministry (if you Google that phrase, you'll know exactly which one), at which I do design work. The conference had about a million workshops, of which I attended seven. I learned a great deal about the new Energy Star guidelines for the construction of new homes, about the dollar amount of claims paid out on various types of falls on construction sites and the kinds of things that frustrate construction guys across the country. A few of the workshops were less scintillating, so I won't bore you with that, just suffice to say that capacity-building, as it applies to the non-profit housing ministry field, is pretty dry stuff.

I did get to go out and have a little fun while I was there, though. The first night, a bunch of us went to an NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls. Once we got everyone together, got them a MARTA ticket and got them to the arena, we got ourselves some $10 seats in the very top row and watched the Hawks get spanked. I had hoped the game would be competitive, but we ended up leaving at the end of the third quarter because the Bulls were ahead by 35 points or so. I did, at least, have a very tasty $9 beer. It was good and cold and big. There was also a little hilarity as a group of out-of-shape, middle-aged men calling themselves the "A Team" danced to a song I didn't recognize. The close-up of the really fat guy shaking his moneymaker was worth the price of admission.

The second night, I got to go to Knitch, a lovely LYS that carries lots of yarns that aren't available in Louisville. I went specifically for the Habu Textiles silk/stainless steel blend yarn, but I also wanted to get a look at Jared Flood's Shelter and the Quince & Co yarns. I was so happy to meet up with my friend Jamie, who brought along a couple of people whose posts I'd enjoyed reading on Ravelry, Melanie & Olivia, and who happen to be pretty hilarious in person. It was Knitch's weekly knit night, and they had wine and pizza. Yay! They also had cupcakes in honor of someone's birthday, but that person didn't actually come, so the rest of us got to eat them. It was a balanced meal. I ended up only getting enough yarn to make the Kusha Kusha scarf, though I spent a good long time considering the Quince & Co Tern. I may end up ordering it online, we'll see.

The third night was blocked out for a trip to Ikea, for picture frames. Two of my coworkers came along and while it took us a minute to figure out where to get the free shuttle to the shopping, we did finally get where we wanted to go. We stopped for dinner at Rosa Mexicano, which was nice, albeit a little expensive. The guy who made our guacamole at our table was a nice touch, but a quick 'n dirty sandwich shop would have done just as well for me. We were so full from dinner, that the sprint to catch the shuttle damn near killed me. For second there, I was worried. Once we got to Ikea, I took a lap around the store, mostly looking at the loveseats and dining room chairs, as we don't have enough seating at our house. I didn't really find anything that I was all that crazy about, but maybe I was just tired. By the time I made it to the section of the store with the frames, I couldn't decide whether I wanted black or dark brown, so I got neither. All that work to come home empty handed!

Friday morning started with one last workshop, then the drive home. I was grateful that one of my coworkers did the driving, as I was exhausted from all the week's activities. We didn't get home until 8 o'clock that night, but it did ensure my progress on the Vesper sweater. And by progress, I mean that I've completed 6" of the 10" I need before I can divide for the sleeves. Keep in mind that these are 432-stitch rounds in DK weight yarn, with US4 needles. It's a wonder my hands still work. But progress is progress, so I'm not really complaining. Really.

During the workshops this week, I worked on my new sock project, Herringbone Rib, from Carol Sulcoski's Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. I'm using Punta Yarns Merisock hand painted, and it's lovely! The psso patterning is making all the difference and everyone who has seen them has loved them. I cast on last Monday and have knit about 4.5" since then. I can't wait to get the heel turned - I may be able to finish these socks in less than three weeks!

I think that's all I have for now. Knit & Crochet blog week starts tomorrow, so I have a lot of writing ahead of me. Until tomorrow, then.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Finally, a little success.

It's about damn time. I finished the Veronica sweater during the week, so glad! I'm mostly happy with the fit, except for the sleeves. I really should have trusted the measurement I took for the sleeve length, rather than thinking that the shortest length on the pattern would do just as well. Turns out the sleeves are about an inch too long. I won't be taking it apart to redo it, I'll just push them up, like I do with the rest of my clothes. I had hoped it would stay cool enough to wear it for a few more weeks, but I may have been about a week late. Spring has arrived, and it's felt damned near like summer once or twice. The thermometer in the car read 77 degrees at 1:00pm today.

I've also finished the Lotus socks, though I haven't gotten around to washing & blocking them. They must be the brightest pink ever dyed, but I love the yarn and need to get more, so I can make myself lots of spring & summer socks. The fabric that this yarn knits into is so soft! It's just lovely. I only wish there were more colors available at my LYS, but I can make do with what's there.

Since completing those two projects, I've cast on for a new spring sweater, Vesper, by Heidi Kirrmeier. It's a cute little short-sleeved, scoop-necked DK-weight sweater, which I'm making from Rowan's Purelife Revive. The yarn is made from recycled silk, cotton and viscose and feels a little stiff, but I think it will soften up nicely once it's washed. The swatches came out nicely, but I did them in a different color, so I hope the sweater comes out as well.

I had a little trouble with it last week - turns out I put a full twist into the round. I don't think I did it when I joined it, but on the second round. There were 432 stitches cast on, which is a helluva lot to keep untwisted. I was so disgusted! If I hadn't been at knit night, with lots of people around, I might have bellowed many more curses than the few I actually muttered. I might have been a little overconfident with the first cast on, but you can be sure I was much more careful the second time. It was not fun ripping out so much work (I estimated about 6300 million bajillion stitches).

Since the weather has been so nice, I've taken to walking home from the yarn shop, rather than riding the bus. On Saturday, I was passing St. James parish and admiring the beautiful details on the exterior of the building, so I took a bunch of pictures. I hadn't really paid that much attention to it, other than thinking that I should take a closer look at it sometime, since it's so pretty. I suspect a lot of the ornament has been painted over many times since the church was built, but I think the places where it's chipped add character. Anyway, I'm posting the pics and wrapping up, as I am packing for a work-related trip and have much to do before I sleep. I hope to post while I'm there, but I'm not sure how much internet access I'll have. Until next time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's almost spring!

And I'm taking pictures in a graveyard. It rained all day today, but yesterday and Saturday were sunny and dry. I had to take advantage of the beautiful weather, so I went out to do week one of Couch to 5K training. I even did the "running" part, which was really only brief fits of jogging between longer bits of brisk walking. It's been a couple years since I've bothered to work out on a regular basis, but I'm beginning to feel like I'm ready to get back in the groove of it. There was a time when I even completed a 5K and a couple sprint triathlons, but that's been awhile.

So I put on my spiffy new running shoes, grabbed the mp3 player, and headed out the door for some actual exercise in the outdoors. I went up the street and around the corner to St. Michael's cemetery, where I figured there wouldn't be many other people to see my re-entry to athletic endeavor. I had Podrunner's intervals workout going, which has me work out to techno music - I use the beats per minute of the music to set my pace. I am proud to say I completed the whole workout without cheating. I actually ran (if you can call it that) during the running pace. I went along the perimeter of the cemetery, which gave me a view of lots of very old markers and some that are less old, as well as seeing Beargrass Creek and some of the downtown skyline.

After my workout, I turned on the camera to get some photos of the old markers, many of which were in German, rather than English. Some of the oldest dates I was able to make out were from about 1869 or so. Some were so weathered that the names and dates were illegible. Some had lichen on them, also making them difficult to read. Some were very ornate, some very simple. I took as many pictures as I could before my camera let me know that it was out of memory. Yep, I'd left the memory card at home, so I could only take as many photos as the camera would hold. I guess I'll have to make my way back on another sunny day. It'll have to be on one of my days off, as the gates close at 5:00.

In knitting, I have completed the Veronica sweater, and I love how it fits! I still have to weave in the ends and block it, so no pictures yet. The sleeves are just about right, but I probably could have shortened them by a couple rows. I have also started a new sweater, Vesper, which will be knit from Rowan Purelife Revive in a pretty purple that the manufacturer calls Ironstone. Whatever, it's purple. I only cast on yesterday afternoon after I got back from exercising, so I've only completed the cast on and two rounds. I think that's quite a feat, as it's 432 stitches provisionally cast on. Did I mention that it's on US5 needles? (For those of you reading this who don't knit, that's kind of small. Not as small as the needles for socks, but small nonetheless.) I'm nearly finished with the Lotus socks (didn't I say that last time?), with just the toes left to do. I haven't touched them in a few days. I think that's a sign that I need to hurry up and finish them, so I can start some new ones.

Well, that's it for now. Next time, I hope to be able to post that the Lotus socks are finished and show pictures of the completed Veronica. See you then.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My name is Sharri, and I'm addicted to yarn.

So, I might have mentioned before that my LYS is closing. Going out of business. Probably forever. I have heard that there have been casual inquiries from strangers that they're interested in buying the business. But even if the shop is sold, it will be in a new location, since the lease has expired on the current location. I have a very small hope that the shop might re-open in the neighborhood under new management, but I don't want to get my hopes up. It makes me sad. And being sad is not fun.

Sometimes I think I'll feel better if I buy more yarn. (Honey, if you're reading this, you might want to stop right about now.) It helps the LYS get out of the red. I get stamps on my Frequent Buyer card (which are good until April 30). And I get yarn. At a discount. Like 20% on yarn and 50% on books. Really, can you blame me?

Here's one of the yarns I've bought recently: Brown Sheep Legacy Lace. 1500 yard of washable merino and nylon. I don't have a specific project in mind for it, but I've been exploring the idea of knitting up something intricate & epic, then hand painting some color on it. Or I might make a monster of an Estonian lace shawl. I might be scaring myself a little.

Another of the yarns from the sale: Punta Yarns Merisock Handpainted. Mmm, pretty. I've said before that I'm easily seduced by handpainted yarn, and this one made me bring it back to my place for a little heavy petting. I haven't yet started hooking for these yarns, but I'm thinking really hard about what I might be willing to do without to get my hands on some Knitivity hand dyed. Soon, baby, soon.

The last of my recent acquisitions is Berroco Sox Metallic, which is a variegated yarn with sparkly bits in it. It's not something I would normally have considered, but with the sale, and the knowing that there won't be any more, and the sale, I bought it. I will eventually knit it up. I'm not sure when, but I'll get there. Not long ago, I counted up my sock yarn and found that I had so little, I could only make 4 pairs. As of tonight, my Ravelry stash shows that I'm up to enough for 12 pairs. Whew. That was a close one.

In actual knitting (as opposed to potential knitting, which is what stash really is), I have finished the knitting on the Veronica sweater. All that's left is the seaming and the collar, which will likely happen tomorrow night. The Lotus socks continue on, slowly, as I've been working on the sweater. I think my next big needle project will be a pillow cover, to go with the Umaro blanket in the basement. The cat likes that yarn so well, that I thought it would be nice for him to have something snuggle on that won't be entered in the Fair. I just have to find the appropriate stitch pattern that can coordinate with Umaro, but distinguish itself from it. This will require some thought.

Well, that's all for now. We'll be painting some more on Monday, but I hope to be able to post photos of the completed Veronica, sewn and blocked. 'Til next time, then.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Finally! We finished painting the living room today, and this time, we achieved uniform color. I cut in all the low places while my husband did the high ones. Then I rolled on the third (and final) coat of paint. It looks so good! The original color of the walls was barely distinguishable from the trim, so I got a few gallons of ICI/Dulux's Camelcoat, which made all the difference once we got it on the walls. Now, the original trim in our Craftsman house really stands out. I love that we have such great woodwork and that it's original to the house.

Now that the walls have been painted, I can finally hang up some art! We've been here for a little longer than 18 months, and the living room walls have been bare the whole time. I really thought we'd have had it done sooner, but you know how that goes. Of course, now that the walls look so good, it shows how badly the trim & baseboards want some attention. Then we need to refinish the floors, re-do the fireplace mantel, and build the bookshelves on either side of it. There are projects everywhere I look, and that's just on the inside. Spring will be here soon, which means yard work. But I'll leave that for a future post.
In knitting news, I've started the sleeves on the Veronica sweater. I'm doing them two at time and in a daring move, I mirrored the cable on the left sleeve. Outrageous, I know. I have to shorten the sleeves quite a bit from the measurements on the pattern, and I'm hoping I get them right. At least they'll both be the same wrong length if I screw it up. I can stand them a little short - it's when they're too long that sleeves bother me. Especially since these have such a cute little cable at the wrist. I don't have a decent pic of the sleeves, so you'll have to look at a pic of the finished front of the sweater. The cable at the waist is a nice touch.

The Lotus socks continue, despite my best efforts to screw them up. I seem to see mistakes where there aren't any, and not see the ones that are there until 4 rounds later. I have begun to be very practiced at unknitting twisted stitches and lace. There's a silver lining in every dark cloud, so the cliche goes.

Well, that's all I have for now, I think. I'm starting to think a little about my essays for Knit & Crochet Blog Week, because I think they're going to require some planning. I hope they'll do me (and the folks who organized the project) proud. Until next time, then.