Thursday, August 30, 2007

September Project: Nether garments

I was able to get a head start on the September Project for the Knit Picks Knitter's Almanac Knit Along. Nether garments, as designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman are more like leggings, but I have adjusted these to make something I know my 19-yr old son will wear.....sweat pants. This is actually alot easier than leggings because I do not have to worry about the increases from the ankle to the thigh. I have finished one leg and just started the second. I am a little worried about how to do the crotch and joining for the hip. I hope I can figure it out. I am so glad I am knitting with cotton as the temperature has been in the 100's this past week. Working with wool or alpaca would have been unbearable.

On a personal note: It looks like it will take a little longer to say good-bye and have a funeral for my dear cousin. She had one of the rare opportunities, in her 40's, to receive a landmark pancreas-kidney transplant, which added over 10 years to her life. She agreed to have doctors study her after her death, in order to learn from this transplant. I am so proud of her for consenting to do this. This will allow for future successful transplants that will give people with juvenile diabetes hope and a quality of life. What a great gift to the world!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Knitting Solace and Comfort

I lost my dearest cousin yesterday quite suddenly after what was supposed to be a minor surgery. My cousin was 51. Although her health had been getting worse over the years, this is not easy to cope with, knowing how much she loved life and had been making plans for the future. When we were children, she lived with us, so she was the closest thing to a sister to me. I feel the world has lost a bright shining star.

To help me cope, there is family and of course, my knitting. I haven't yet been able to cry. I think I'm still in shock. Every stitch I knit in the quiet solace of my thoughts helps me remember the times we shared with eash other....the good and the bad. She too, learned to crochet from our beloved grandmother, but she didn't pursuit it as her vision worsened with her growing health problems. The bright colors of my knitting remind me of her, as a happy people person, always laughing and joking. She had a gift of talking to people into almost anything. As I click my needles, they remind me of the times at my Grandmas. We played together as children in our Grandma's awesome basement, searching for lost treasures and sometimes finding some. Her death makes me want to knit even more in order to leave something of myself that can be passed on to family members in legacy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Finished PI Shawl

Yea! I finally finished the PI shawl from Elizabeth Zimmermans book, "Knitters Almanac". This is the July project but I am not a fast knitter and this took me a while longer. I knitted it with light blue wool that I had in my stash. It didn't come out as big as I wanted it to wear as a shawl, but it will make a nice tablecloth. The next one I make with be bigger and with finer wool or alpaca.

The next project I will be starting will be the nether garments for September's Knitter's Almanac project. Nether garment are more like leggings. I've always wanted to learn how to make pants of any kind. This will be an interesting and looks rather easy.

The question I struggled with was who was to be my guinea pig. I needed some measurements to figure out the number of stitches. With my body, I don't think leggings would be very flattering. So I asked my pencil thin son if he would mind if I knit him some pants for sleepwear. He said yes and then I asked him what style he want for the legs....1) Ankle and leg snug, as the pattern is written, 2) knee snug and ankle loose, or 3) thigh snug and knee and ankle loose (aka sweatpants). Of course, he chose the sweatpants. I found a cotton yarn in my stash which I can knit and dye later if he wants. The only thing is I hope I have enough. I have about 1200 yds. I'm not sure how much yarn this project will take. I'm kind of going on faith. I do have a plan B. I could always pick up some cotton "Sugar and Cream" worsted from Walmart. It's close enough to the cotton yarn I have to substitute and then hoping the dyeing will hide everything.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fabulous Fiber Animals

Here is a cute Chinchilla.
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Fabulous Fiber Animals

My photo/video hosting site just gave me an option to embed a video so I'm going to try it. I have no idea how much memory this will use but I am hoping that it will be less since the video are already stored on the web. The videos that I want to show you are a few short clips of the beautiful animals at the Fabulous Fiber Fair. They are all so cute. It makes one want to take one home.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fabulous Fiber Fair-Santa Monica

Saturday I went the the Fabulous Fiber Fair in Santa Monica. There are so few fiber event on the west coast. We didn't attend Lambtown, USA this year, so I made sure I went to this Fiber fair.

The Fabulous Fiber Fair held at the Civic Center, has workshops and vendors designed for knitters, spinners, dyers, felters, weavers, beaders, bobbin lace, and quilters. There are demos going on all day in these crafts. This year, the number of animals displayed increased. There were alpacas, angora bunnys, a dog(unknown breed) and chinchillas. The market was filled with vendors to suit all the types of crafters. I took home some Superwash wool roving from Custom Handweaving, and a deliciously soft skein of fingering weight Alpaca Silk in the Olive tones colorway. I can't wait to knit a lace shawl with this. The colorways and yarn of this vendor, Lisa Souza Dyeworks, was simply wonderful and it was hard not to buy more. Although it seemed pricey, $44 for 750 yds of fingering wt, and the luscious softness, it will be worth every penny. I'l have to knit something very special with it.

On Sunday, I got so frustrated with reknitting again and again the border of my pi shawl, I decided to take a break. Low and behold, I finished the Baby Surprise Jacket. I just need to sew up the shoulders, and I think its just the right size of my 1-year old granddaughter. How perfect is that timing?

A strange thing happened when I tried to take a picture of the surprise sweater. It is made with a rich colored varigated Caron Acrylic Simply Soft yarn named Embroidery Print. In artificial light it looks red but in natural light it turns blue. How amazing is that?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Getting Focused

I know its been a few days since my last entry. I’m back to work and every spare moment at home is taken to finish the border of my Pi shawl. I have about a yard of edge stitches to finish. Normally, I would have moved on to something else, but I am determined to get this finished, just to show a picture of the finished shawl on this blog and my Knitter's Almanac Knit-along. I guess there are some benefits to blogging, afterall. It keeps me focused.

My other unfinished projects have been very lonely, waiting for me to pay them some attention. My poor little multicolored baby surprise sweater is just waiting and longing to be finished. All those garter stitches can be overwhelming and boring to a person. I'm about half done and I figured I can work on it when I get bored with something else. I'm embarrased to say how many UFO's (Unfinished objects) I have. I made a list once. I amounted to almost 20. Some of them I haven't touched in years. I guess I'll have to decide whether to finish or frog them.

This summer I bought a few knitting books. Each book fills me with so much inspiration and my fingers itch to start new projects. I'm trying to exercise some patience and self-control and focus on finishing the ones I have started. These are the books I've purchased this summer:

Mason Dixon Knitting, Lavish Lace, The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters, Knitter's Almanac, Knitting Around. On order is A Gathering of Lace and Victorian Lace Knitting.

I’m still waiting for an invite to Ravelry. I’m # 18,940 with over 9000 people ahead of me. Well, if its taken about two months to get to 9,000, I guess it will be another 2 months before I get invited. Hopefully, by that time I will have inventoried all my stash and fiber ready to put on Ravelry.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Vacation Work

We are back from a wonderful vacation. The Grand Canyon was beautiful. It was amazing! We had beautiful weather in the high 80's. We decided to take an extra day to rest from our all day Bus Tour. The tour was great: great narrator/bus driver, great sites along the way, i.e. Hoover Dam and a great buffet lunch in Williams, AZ. Best of all, I got to knit for 8 hours.

Once home, I have continued to knit on the Pi shawl border and the Forest Canopy Shawl. I am not too pleased with the way the border edging is coming out. It seems to be pulling. I am thinking perhaps this edging was better designed for a square or rectangle. I am hoping it will lay flat when I block it. I am half way done and I am struggling with the decision to take it out or plug ahead. It was alot of hard work to get this far.

The Forest Canopy Shawl is almost done. I have a few more motifs to add and then the border.

I've been looking through all my new knitting books for my next challenge. It is so difficult to decide. I have to order the yarn soon. I'm looking for the perfect varigated shawl weight yarn in fall colors. I'm thinking perhaps I should buy some plain superwash wool from Knitpicks and dye it myself.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Knitting Vacation

My husband and I have taken a few days away on vacation. I needed to get away, and my workaholic husband needed to rest. I looked forward to a leisurely vacation, taking my knitting for the long drive to Las Vegas.

I tried to pack several knitting projects in progress, as well as new ones I wanted to start if I got bored. I packed the PI shawl to work on the border, the handspun pink variegated merino Forest Canopy shoulder shawl I had started a few weeks ago, the UFO handspun black tencel Dog paw shawl I started several months ago, and I brought a ball of multicolored Trekking XXL to start learning how to knit socks on circular needles. I envisioned getting a lot done since I really don’t gamble much and my husband likes to read, sleep, watch TV and listen to audiobooks on his ipod. I would have a lot of free time to myself to knit. Isn’t that heavenly? We also planned a one-day bus tour to the Grand Canyon, allowing for more time to knit on the 4 hr trip there and 4 hr trip back.

Working on the edging of the light blue PI shawl has been slow going. The Zig-zag lace pattern I picked has a 16 rows per repeat and each row takes a lot of concentration. After much frogging to correct mistakes from knitting the wrong numbered rows, I finally ended up buying a row counter to help keep better track of where I was with all the interruptions.

The counter is a very handy thing. Every time I complete a row I push this clicker and it advances the number. I can wear it from my neck as a necklace. In three days, I’ve only been able to complete 7 repeats of edging out of 36. This is definitely going to take me awhile to complete.

For mindless car or bus knitting, I’ve been working on the Forest Canopy shawl. I think I received this Sherbert colored soft merino roving as a prize from last year’s Team Hand Spinning Competition at the Lambtown Festival in Dixon, CA. I spun it up into a light worsted 2-ply. It is so soft and I know the shawl will be very cozy when finished. The pattern is a shawlette but I want to make it larger to about 60 inches wide so it will cover better. I will need to increase the number of pattern motifs but the triangular pattern makes this easy. I am about ¾ ths of the way done. I will then add a nice border.

What knitter can resist visiting all the yarn shops in the area where they are? Not me. Actually, I have a very special reason for returning for a visit at one particular yarn shop, The Wooley Wonder in Las Vegas. About 5 years ago, I visited this shop to explore the yarn selection. I was amazed to see so much fiber and spinning supplies too. I inquired about the spinning and the owner, (I can’t remember her name), offered to give me a free lesson on spinning with a spindle. She had me start with some Romney roving and in a few minutes I was hooked. I came home with a Schacht Wooden spindle, ½ lb of Romney roving and an excitement to learn more and practice. On this visit, Sharon, had just opened the shop for the day. I shared with her how grateful I was for the lesson from the previous experience and it has lead to experiences and prizes in Spinning. The second year spinning, I acquired a Joy Spinning Wheel and won a Ashford Kiwi Wheel as a First place Beginning Spinning prize at the Los Angeles County Fair spinning contest. Last year I entered the First Annual Lambtown Spinning Contest and came in a decent 3rd place in Overall spinning and 1st place with my husband in the Team Competition. Sharon was thrilled to hear of these experiences.

The shop was located in the same place on Tropicana Blvd but the spinning and weaving supplies were moved to the back room. I was a little disappointed in the selection but I picked up ½ lb grey Icelandic roving. There was a limited supply of other fiber but they were packaged in small 4oz balls that seemed only for sampling or lessons. There was, however, a good assortment of yarn from various well-known vendors. I can’t remember them all. They had a very good sock yarn collection and I would think this was the focus of the shop. I inquired about books on lace, but they did not have much in stock. They did, however, have lace-weight alpaca silk.

The other shop we visited was Gail’s Knits, which had recently moved up the block. There were several women who were sitting around the table knitting various projects. Its seemed as it this was a “come and drop in” session which was open and friendly. The was an abundance of novelty yarn and solid colored yarn but very little variegated or lace weight yarn. This was more of a designer shop. The attendant was very helpful in suggesting some substitutions to a pattern I wanted to make from the book Lavish Lace, by Carol Rasmussen Noble. I bought two balls of soft soysilk.

I have one more day of vacation left. I have been inspired to knit more lace projects and have all kinds of ideas for new lace project and a spinning & dyeing project to start. I also bought the new Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters Book, which is marvelous. I haven’t made too many sweaters, since California has a short cold weather season and my attention span has not been too good on sweater making. From scanning the book, there is a wonderful table that recommends the gauge and needle size for different kind of densities of fabric, i.e. Drapey or openwork fabric, pliable or normal fabic and Dense or stiff fabrics. The colorful handspun yarns they use on the sweaters are so inspiring.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

After Party Dessert

My granddaughter's 1st birthday party was yesterday. We had about 40 guests and about 1/2 doz children under 6. There was lots of food, fun and yes, even a Sponge Bob Jumper for the kids. But now, the day after we are all tuckered out and I can't wait to get back to my knitting.

I tried the Berna's Torchon Lace pattern I found on the web for the Pi Shawl border, but found it too difficult to do. I am relatively new at applying a lace border and felt that I needed to find an easier pattern as my first attempt. I tried the "Lace Pattern for Border" which was on page 82 of the Knitter's Almanac. You can see the results on the right side of the swatch below. This was an extremely easy pattern, but I didn't like how it draped. It did not seem semetrical like the shawl pattern. I found another I liked better called the Zig Zag Edging in the book "The Knitter's Bible" by Claire Crompton. By great co-incidence this divides evenly into the 576 stitches left on the needle. It is a 16 row pattern, which makes 36 motifs. This pattern you can see on the left side. I read somewhere that I can attach it as I go by taking one shawl body stitch and knitting it together with the first stitch of the border row.

I am looking forward to the 6hr drive to our vacation. There will be lot of time for knitting.

We are planning on visiting the very first yarn store that taught me to spin on a spindle. Little did I know this small act of kindness and generosity to teach a customer a skill, would lead to a growing obsession. More on this the next time.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Pi Shawl

Wow! Three days past the deadline and I'm still working on the Pi Shawl. Some knitters in my Knit along group including our moderator, are still working of theirs so I don't feel so lonely.
Today, I finally finished the body, and I think I'm ready to add a lace border. I've been looking online for a nice pattern and I think I've found one: Berna's Torchon Lace . Now, all I have to do is find out how to attach the border as I go. I know there is a way. Back to search the Internet!
I'm afraid I won't have it for my granddaughter's birthday party tomorrow, but at least I feel I'm on the home stretch in this race to finish. Here's my progress so far....
I went with my son to his optometrist appointment today and while I was waiting, I was knitting on the shawl. The receptionist asked me very politely what I was knitting and I told her. She said she thought it was a backpack or bag. She liked the design so much she offered to pay me to make her one. I politely declined. Knitting for pay is so different than knitting for pleasure. I hated to disapoint her but if I start selling my stuff, it won't be fun anymore. It would be WORK! Isn't that why I took up knitting? relax from the stress of work?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Knit Picks Knitter's Almanac

A few weeks ago I discovered the Knit Picks Podcast a few weeks ago. I was intrigued by the challenge Kelly Petkin made to follow Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitters Alamanac and knit a project a month. The intention of this was to get over a knitting slump, which shows up from time to time. The July project was the PI shawl, a beautiful circular lace knit shawl.

I had just ordered some Cotton/Linen yarn from called Camila. I wanted to try the beautiful lace shawl, The Flower Petal Shawl, that went with it. I had not knitted many lace things and this pattern looked easy enough for a starting project. The Zimmerman PI shawl seemed too challenging for a beginner, so Kelley allowed us to knit any shawl pattern and so the Flower Petal shawl went on the needles.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy knitting this project became. I had methodically broken down how many stitches I needed to knit in order to finish within a month. I even made a weekly goal of so many stitches and rows a each week to make sure I stayed on track within the schedule. This project seemed to wiz by and I found myself ahead of schedule by two weeks. Here are the finished results after blocking:

The Flower Petal Shawl reminds me of "bat wings". I knit it on Size 6 needles, which the pattern called for, and was supposed to make it 62" in across. It ended up 52". I didn't swatch (shame on me). I probaby should have used a Size 7 or 8 needle. Nevertheless, I love the pattern and the cotton/lin blend is great for summer wearing. I finished it very early.

What do I do now? Do I have enough time to start and finish the PI shawl? What yarn should I use? I didn't want to buy more yarn, so I search my stash. I didn't have enough of anything soft to use that had enough yardage. I finally found a light blue cone of wool, but it is very scratchy. I needed a table cloth for my patio table, so I figured this would do for now. If I liked the pattern, I will probably make another in a better yarn. Well, I started it and as of now, I am working on the 576 section. That is, the section with 576 stiches in each row. I will be working on it in August. My granddaughter's 1st birthday is coming up this weekend at my house and I was hoping to finish it by then.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How I Learned to Knit

I can say that I learned to knit in high school, but the story really began when I was a child with my grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers were born in Mexico and had learned to crochet from their mothers.

My grandmothers were wonderful women. My Grandma Lucy was a survivor. The skills that she learned from her mother enabled her to survive. She immigrated to the United States wanting a good life for her five children. She went through many struggles in her life. She did some share cropping, working in the fields with her husband. She sewed all of their clothes. While her husband was working in Mexico trying unsuccessfully to farm, she lived in the US. She lost three of her oldest children in a drowning accident. She stayed in the United States because she wanted a good education for her children. In order to survive, she had many jobs and took in sewing and crocheting for other people to make some money for food.

My GrandLucy was like a second mother to us grandchildren. As a little girl, I would watch her as her hands were always busy sewing or crocheting or cooking. She would make beautiful crocheted blankets and pillows and clothes. She would crochet doll clothes for my dolls. One day she handed me a crochet hook and some yarn and taught me to make a chain. Later she taught me the single crochet stitch and how to turn it to make rows. I was so excited that I could make something like a pot holder or placemat.

My Grandma Connie was a very stylish woman. She had a lovely home. She decorated it with handmade crochet doilies made from cotton thread. These beautiful things looked so delicate and beautiful like lace. She loved crocheting things for her family. On Christmas Eve, the family with all the extended family members would meet at her house to eat her homemade tamales and wait for midnight to open one gift. She would crochet bed slippers and toilet roll covers and afghans and give them as Christmas presents. We all wondered who would get the hand crocheted gifts each year. These were cherished by all.

By now you are probably wondering what crocheting has to do with learning to knit? Well, I’m coming to that. As my grandmothers grew older, they crocheted less due to their failing eyesight or arthritis. I missed the crocheted bed slippers and gifts. Knitting at first seemed so complicated to me. There were so many loops and an extra needle to hold! I was however, intrigued by pictures of knitted sweaters and the smooth fabric it produced. I began to feel that I wanted to learn to knit around 12 or 13. I experimented with spool knitting, having made a homemade thread spool with nails, and made long ropes of knitted yarn. This wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a flat piece of fabric. Being rather independent, and without anyone around that could teach me knitting, I went to the local library for a book on knitting. I taught myself, trying to figure out the stitches with limited pictures in the books. I was very pleased with myself. I knitted just like I crocheted, holding the yarn in my left hand, knitting in the back loop, hooking the yarn and pulling it through as if I was crocheting. This seemed to produce a decent piece of fabric. I later learned that I was knitting in a Continental way in Crossed Knitting.

In High School I took a Needlecrafting class, which included knitting. We were given a pattern and taught to read it. As I knitted away, I started noticing that my stitches were not looking like the other’s who were knitting the English way. My wonderful patient and encouraging teacher, Mrs. Andrews, helped me to work out my stitches and learn how to get a straight stitch rather than crossed or twisted one. It was all a matter of purling in a certain way to straighten out the crossed stiches. Also I had to remember the ssk and knit together were reversed in my style. I had to think of these stitches as right slant or left slant. To me the SSK is a right slant decrease and the knit together is a left slant decrease. I successfully finished my first baby poncho. I was in heaven.

Over the years my needle crafting has come in phases. There was a crossed stitch phase, when I married. I made samplers for my home. There was a needlepoint phase and I created pillows and a giant Alphabet Wall hanging for my first son's room. When I started to have children, I knitted and crocheted, making my first yellow baby sweater and vest for my husband. As my kids began to grow, I became obsessed with crocheting doilies and even made a beautiful round lacy crocheted tablecloth to give as a wedding gift. I had received one as a wedding gift and I cherish it today after 31 years of marriage. Unfortunately, having to work under a deadline in time for the wedding shower to finish this cotton crocheted tablecloth, took its toll on my wrist. I was starting to feel pains from the repetition of the crocheting movement. It was devastating not to do anything with my wrist to heal. I needed to make something! My fingers itched to pick up some yarn or thread and make something. I found that knitting was less strain on my wrist. It keeps my wrist straighter, especially in my style of Continental crossed knitting. Ever since, knitting has been my main companion. Ultimately, this has lead to exploration of spinning and dyeing, but that is another story.

I am a school nurse by trade, but I love needlecrafts. Now especially knitting, has become my mental health therapy. When I feel lonely, it is my friend. It excites me, renews me and gives me a sense of accomplishment to finish a knitting project. I have discovered a whole new world on the Internet to share my knitting experiences and feel very much like I have something more to give to others. The Internet has a wealth of information to teach and motivate me. I am still learning knitting and there will always be something new to learn. I want to be like my grandmothers. Imagine my thrill when after having 3 sons, who didn’t want to learn to knit, I was blessed with a granddaughter last year. I can’t wait till she is old enough to teach her to knit.

Just Gettiing Started

Hello all!

My name is Diana and I love "fiber". Making something with my hands gives me so much joy and relaxation. Since this is my first experience creating a blog, I'm not completely sure how I will use this blog. I am sure to post the projects I am working on and FO's when done. Here and there I may share what's going on in my life and personal thoughts. I might also share some website or knitterly/spinny things I find that are exciting. I welcome all of your comments. Let's be friends.