Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Magic Loop: to loop or not to loop?

I have been reading in my Elizabeth’s Year Yahoo knitting group that some of the members have purchased the booklet “The Magic Loop” to learn how to knit their leggings from Knitter's Almanac using the magic loop method.

I have long been comfortable knitting socks on double pointed needles. Although there were are lot of needles (4) to manipulate, I knit a fairly snug stitch and rarely have trouble with needles falling out. I did occasionally have a stitch or two fall out, which was easily corrected.

Being the self-motivated learner that I am, I made the decision to some day learn to knit on circular needles, so that I could knit two socks at one time. I seriously suffer the from the “2nd sock syndrome” which is not wanting to start or complete the second sock once the first is finish. I struggled with this for a long time. This is why I do not make too many socks. Soo….this summer in Oakland at Knit and Crochet show I watched the demo videos being sold on knitting with two circular needles, and thought I would have a try.

It was a total disaster. I started the simple pair of socks with Trekking XXL on Size two needles. I dropped stitches on the first row and restarted. Dealing with all those wires were just too much for me. I pulled it out and restarted for a third time, and finally gave up. I concluded that if I couldn’t tackle two circulars, how in the world would I do with one extra long one.

Recently, the buzz in the forum has again been about the magic loop and how magical it is. Some have been saying that it was so easy after 5 minutes of practice and may never go back to dpn’s again. Sooo…I gathered up my courage and ordered the book “The Magic Loop”.

The book came yesterday. It so happened that I had purchased a size 5 40” circular Addi turbo (Insert you own sound effect here, {wink, Brenda Dayne} needle in Oakland to make a shawl. I thought that perhaps I needed to start out with a larger yarn. I cast on to make some easy knitted cuffs. After 5 minutes, I, too, fell in love. I am still asking myself why I didn’t learn how to do this sooner? I also found a Youtube video that demonstrated the technique: The Magic Loop.

Here is some of my beginning efforts.

Well, I couldn’t stop there…. I had started some socks for my dad with Tofutsies on size 2 needle a few weeks ago. These socks were started on dpns and were very slow going. The yarn just doesn’t seem to have much elasticity and knits more like cotton so my stitches have been very slow going. My old 29+++ eyes are having more trouble seeing these tiny stitches so I have to be careful not to drop any stitches.

After somewhat mastering magic loop on the cuffs, I decided to take the plunge and try the socks. I used the other end of the skein to cast on, since I only purchased one ball of Tofustsies of 400 yds. It is really going well and faster than using dpns. I don’t have to be afraid to lay these down and worry that a stitch will slip off. Stitches slipping off two needle ends is less likely than 6 ends. As soon as I get to the same length as the other sock I will put them both on the one circular needles and try two socks at a time. I just can’t wait. This is going to be fun!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Knitting "Trust" and "Love" Heirlooms

I was listening to David Ready’s latest Sticks and String podcast essay on “Trust”. He says, “Most of us go through life trusting people. Most people live up to that trust.” When we are knitting, there is a measure of trust we must have. We need to trust a pattern we are knitting, that it is correct and it will knit up to the picture before us. We trust that a ball of yarn is not going to have knots or strange shapes or color, unless it is intentional.
I think that the knitting and the crafting community is a community of “trust”. This trust is what appeals to me and feels so comfortable about being part of this community. Never have I seen a community that is so generous with their creativity and their time. If you have ever participated in a knitting group or Internet knitting forum, there is a measure of trust that a person must have to reveal what they are working on, good or bad. Most of the time, the responses are ones of encouragement and praise for your efforts. In signing on to Ravelry, never before have I felt more comfortable telling about myself in my profile. Is this because I know that only those who sign on, will be crafters who I can trust to share what is important to me? Is it because we mutually trust each other in our craft with similar goals? Is it because in doing this, allowing others to share my passion for my craft, I am somehow promoting its continuation throughout to generations to come?

I am glad that knitting is not considered an “old lady’s” hobby anymore. I’m glad to see so many young people wanting to learn. It’s great to see a resurgence of this long loved craft. We all need to teach someone how to knit or crochet to preserve this valuable skill. Of all my three sons, my youngest son was the only one of whom I was able to teach how to crochet when he was in Jr. Hi. He made his teacher a scarf and gave it to her for a Christmas Present. I was so proud of him. Unfortunately, shortly after his older brothers started teasing him about it and he stopped. I occasionally fanaticize the three young men being “stranded on a desert island, without any resources and of the three, there is only one who is able to crochet his own clothes out of the fibers found on the island, and the other two are naked as jaybirds. It’s a little like the story of the Three Pigs and Chicken Little, two lazy brothers and one industrious one.

Why are handmade knitted or crocheted gifts more cherished than purchased ones? The investment of one’s love and time in patiently knitting or crocheting a special gift for a friend or baby or loved one speaks volumes to the recipient. Learning a craft is much like learning to play a musical instrument. With time and practice, one perfects the skill to create a beautiful symphony of love in an heirloom that lives on for generations.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Back on Track!

I’ve recovered from my “wall” episode. Stress can make one so overwhelmed, the mind and body tends to shut down as a defense mechanism. Luckily, we have hidden resources that can reset our thinking and get one back on track. My stress related to a big review coming up in my job and my limited time to prepare for it, while attempting, at the same time to conduct all the duties of my job. Once I made a workable plan to break it in small chunks and received the approval and support of my boss, I feel a lot better.

So……I am back to my knitting. I am back to repairing the sweat pants I’ve started in September. I’ve ripped back the body and am reknitting them. My husband and I went to see a movie yesterday, and I got a lot done in the theatre. Luckily, it was all in stockinette on Size 7 needles so I did not have to look at it in the dark. I’m so glad I can do this.

I’m also working on my Candlelight scarf. This soft yarn is so soothing, but it is very challenging, since the stitches are so tiny on Size 2 needles. I tried to knit under a large magnifying glass but I still need a lot of light to see the stitches. Perhaps I should invest in one of those OPT lights.

Well, today is the day! Today I tackle cataloguing my handspun and commercial purchased stash for Ravelry. My” Stash Wall” is in need of a lot of organizing, as you can see. This is two or three years of spinning and dyeing. I could probably open up a small yarn store with all that I have. Hmmm, …..perhaps I should explore that idea!

I wanted to share this little thing I saw a few days ago that I found simply ironic. I was taking my lunch break and went to a local Taco Bell. I was sitting in my car listening to my Knitting podcasts when I saw this.

There was an owl sitting on the roof of the Taco Bell. Actually, there was two owls: one on each end of the restaurant, which are not common in my area of Los Angeles County,. It wasn’t long before I realized that these were wooden owls that the owner put up to scare away other birds that like to roost and leave their excrement on the Spanish tiles of the roof, waiting for tidbits of food to be left by customers. This is how effective they were……

…….or NOT.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hitting a Wall!

I’ve hit a wall! A knitting blogger’s wall. I can’t seem to get excited about anything right now. Christmas is two months away and I have no inspiration to knit anything. Is it because I have so many unfinished knitting projects yet to be finished? Yet, I just can’t seem to take on any of them.

I keep dreaming that it would be nice just to stay home for a week and do absolutely nothing. Is this normal? Perhaps not. At least not for me. I can’t stand doing “nothing”.

I’ve been working on one knitted Christmas present for my oldest son. I can’t really say what it is in case he is reading this blog. It has three parts to it. Very easy to knit, but I’m stuck and feeling unmotivated to finish the other two parts. I guess it’s like second-sock syndrome, where you get so excited about knitting the first sock, but you become bored with it and can’t bring yourself to knit the second and the third. Perhaps I need to change the color to give me a little variety?
Have you ever felt this way?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nutrition Creating and Finishing Up the Wishbone

This has been a very busy beginning of the week. I had to put together a Staff Development training on Designing Preschool lessons in nutrition using food. What fun we had putting an assortment of groceries together to teach children so many different things! So many creative minds in one place can be stimulating! We even had a chance to move to music waving scarves around to promote movement and exercise! We live to be kids again! (Sigh!)

Well, enough about work. With that behind me, I have been trying to figure out how to get Ravelry to read my blog. So far, no success, but I’m still working on it. I seemed to be discovering new interesting groups every day. We are surely creating a whole new world.

I’ve also been motivated to clean out bookshelves, lately, to make room for all the new knitting books I purchased this summer. I’m getting rid of all my outdated Nursing mags, which freed up a lot of room. I must have had subscriptions dating back to the stone ages (2003). I even painfully put some outdated books for the Goodwill. It’s so hard to give up these things, because you never know when you need to look up something. However, the Internet has made research easier than ever and sometimes I don’t even need the books as some are outdated a decade or so.

I also tried to sort through some of my fiber stash. I separated the raw fiber and the rovings. This was just the stash in one room. I just can’t tell you how much I have in our guest bedroom! Well, for one thing it tells me I shouldn’t buy anymore fiber. I also have a large closet sized stash of spun yarn waiting to be used. I should start planning my Adult surprise sweater with this soon.

I am so into knitting right now, I cannot seem to bring myself to spin. I am currently working on my Wishbone sweater again. I’ve completed both arms and have attached the body and I am knitting the yoke. It seems to be going fast and I can’t wait to finish it.
It’s nice to be finishing my first adult sweater. It looks quite large. Well, I like large sweaters with lots of room. Getting so close to the end of this project is allowing me to start thinking about what my next project will be. Perhaps I should start the adult surprise sweater in order to reduce my handspun stash. I also have to decide if I want to attempt the open collared shirt for my middle son. I cannot seem to decide what yarn to use. I want something that is light and easy to wear, yet cotton at 5sts per inch will be heavy and wool may be too warm. I just love the color of the superwash wool. Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and knit with the superwash(on the right). I also got a skein of Vanna's Choice which knitted up very nicely but is more bulky. I read some reviews that it was stiff but I found it quite soft and easy to knit with. I'm trying to figure out what to create with it. I know I will enjoy the superwash wool's softness and color as I knit the stockinette stitches. Here are some swatches I knit with it. It is simply gorgeous and would be perfect for Christmas.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Assembly Lines and Needle Addictions

I took a few days off at the end of this week to help my mom who was having cataract eye surgery. I packed my knitting expecting to be waiting for a while. I had a good hour of knitting. Is that all? You might be asking. I was surprised too. Apparently, there was an assembly line of patients going in and out. Things have changed quite a bit since I had eye surgery as a little girl. What used to be a 3-day hospital stay, is now an hour long out- patient procedure and you don’t even have to take off your clothes… or your shoes! Yes, believe it or not, she had all her clothes on during the surgery. I wasn’t kidding about assembly line. No time is wasted changing clothes.

One hour or so was all I needed to finish my Baby Surprise hoodie. My first results was ripped out as I thought it was a little short, and at my second attempt, I extended it two inches and put in some even space Yarn Overs to make holes I could thread a drawstring through, just in case my extensions prove to be too large. The drawstring could be pulled snug to fit her face and keep the hood on.

I’ve been keeping busy learning how to work Ravelry. I was able to put some of my projects on it with pictures. The thing I am having difficulty with, is to have it read my blog. I thought I had finally figured out how to set up an RSS feed through Feedburner, but it still hasn’t displayed the entry titles on Ravelry for members to access and read. I’m not sure what I did wrong.

I joined a few groups on Ravelry, but I am not very active yet. I spent a good time recording all the knitting needles I have that are not on any projects. You can call me a “needle addict”. Whenever I have an itch to start a project, and the desired size needle is already being used by an Unfinished Project, I would rather buy a new set of needles than finish the old project to free up the needles. Is that crazy or what? Is there a rehab for this kind of needle addict? Sure, there is…..they call them Knitting Retreats!!! Ha! Ha!. I confess that I’m hopeless. I recall buying at least 4 sets of needles at the recent TKGA Knit and Crochet show. I even bought a new needle gauge because I get crazy when I can’t find it when I need it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

How and Why I learned to Spin

I mentioned in my profile that I also spin, yet I haven’t done much of it lately. I think the reason is because it reminds me of my beautiful Chow-Chow pet dog, Aires (pronounced Air-eeze), who passed away quietly May 5th of this year. This is not easy for me to write about, even now, but necessary to my healing process. Thanks for reading.

Knitting, at this time, has a soothing and comforting aspect of healing, so I have found comfort in this as I mourn the passing of my lovely dog and my favorite cousin.

Several years ago, as my two oldest sons were preparing for college careers and leaving home, I struggled with separation anxiety, as most menopausal mothers experience. For 11 years, I had been an at-home mom and spent these fun loving years focused on my children. Having them leave home was rather depressing for me. When my youngest was starting high school, I started a part-time job and suddenly my house was so quiet. I felt I now had time and should make time to pursue something for me, to keep me from being so depressed.
I joined a local knitting guild. During one of the meetings, the group was knitting on various projects. I was just starting to get to know some of the other ladies in the group and was somewhat intimidated by them and their advanced skills. We each had a opportunity to “Show and Tell” what we were working on. One lady said she was knitting Samoyed Dog Hair, that she had handspun on consignment. Although, she did not delight in the project, I was intrigued. My thoughts went immediately to the handfuls of soft dog hair undercoat I was combing every week from my Chow Chow and throwing away.

Whenever, I get interested in something, I tend to be obsessed with finding out as much about the subject as possible. I did a Google Search and found a website: http://www.vipfibers.com/collect-store-fiber.htm.
I found out how to collect, wash and prepare dog hair. I promised myself to someday learn to spin so I could knit something from Aires’s fur.

Shortly after, my husband and I took a summer trip to Las Vegas. I wanted to find all the yarn stores in the area and stumbled a across a little shop called Wooley Wonders. Upon entering, there were wonderful colorful displays of various fibers to spin and spinning tools along with yarn and knitting supplies. I asked about how one would go about learning to spin fiber and the shop owner suggested I start with a drop spindle and some Romney fiber. She offered to give me a lesson right then, and in 5 minutes I was spinning. I was hooked ! I brought home the drop spindle and a pound of fiber and spun up a fairly consistent yarn. I learned how to ply it, and put in a skein. I experimented with microwave kool-aid dyeing and it turned out great for a first skein of yarn.

My first attempts at trying to spin Aires dog hair was a disaster using the drop spindle. The hair fibers were very fine and very short. I decided that I needed to get a spinning wheel and chose carefully the most versatile and portable wheel I could get, an Ashford Joy, single treddle. I explored Ebay to purchase a variety of fibers from merino wools to silk and alpaca. This was the fun part. As my consistency improved, I tried spinning the dog hair again. I finally spun a skein successfully, which was very tightly spun to stay together. Later I purchased a drum carder and started blending the dog hair with wool and found that this made a better yarn and fabric. My first knitted project was a pair of mittens, which were unusually warm, even warmer than wool. The mittens came in handy one morning during my son’s early morning Cross Country runs when it was 35 degrees, a rare occurrence in Southern California. Over the years, I had collected Aires undercoat, washed it, rinsed it in hair conditioner in order to give it a nice smell and softness, and spun it into yarn.

Allow me to digress a little and give some history. Aires first showed up on our back doorstep 10 years ago as a 3-month-old puppy, a chow-chow and golden retriever mix. When a search for the owners did not produce any results, we decided to keep him. He was the first dog we ever had. He was very gentle, timid around strangers, a calm and loving dog that fit our quiet family just perfectly. The Veterinarian staff said he was the one of the best Chows they had taken care of when he went for his check-ups. I loved how he would lay quietly by my feet as I knitted or spun. I loved to brush him. He was like a big teddy bear. In his last years, he developed hip displasia, a common malady that Chows are prone to and he injured his knee by rupturing a tendon. Surgery would not have cured him, so we chose to keep him as comfortable as possible over his last months, and he fell asleep at the foot of our bed on May 5 and never woke.

I miss Aires terribly. He was my dear companion. I am comforted by the fact that I saved his fur and wish to make a lace shawl of his fur. I saw the perfect pattern in an Issue of Spin Out Magazine called a Dog’s Paw Shawl, a triangular shawl. I will be blending and spinning it into yarn as soon as the weather gets colder. This will be a nice momento of him. It’s like I can still feel petting his fur and feeling his soft gentleness as he keeps me warm and warmhearted.
This is my Aires Hat, inspired by my dog. It is knit with Black Cormo, handspun and a blend of Aires dog hair and wool, in a Slip Stitch pattern I designed my self.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Something Old, and Something New

I promised you I would share about my knitting and Ravelry. Well, here goes…..

My husband and I had a very nice time driving up Interstate 5 past the orchards of almonds and fields of cotton, corn and cows, to Oakland. I knitted along the way working on my orange Wishbone sweater. I was able to knit up to the armpits and part of one arm when we arrived in Oakland seven hours later. Working with Size 11 needles makes this project go very quickly, but soon I tired of doing only stockinette stitch.

I had packed several knitting projects with me. When I was able to focus and concentrate, I worked on my Candlelight shawl. This lace pattern takes my whole concentration. I am knitting it on Size 4 needles and I had wished I had brought my magnifying glass with me. It just doesn’t seem fair to loose our sight with old age eyes, as we get older. This is when we finally have time to sit and actually do some needlework. I am finding it harder to knit with small needles, no matter how often I change my prescription of my glasses.

I also brought with me my baby surprise jacket and started to knit a hood on it. Everywhere I go, I get many compliments on it. The colors are so bold and jeweled. I am trying to add the hood without a pattern and am guessing the size of my granddaughters head. I am trying to decide whether to add a drawstring so that she can grow into it. Someone commented to me that it is a shame that for all the trouble we take to knit baby clothes, they grow so fast and cannot wear it for long. How true is that? I guess it’s the love and care of making and giving the gift that makes it special no matter how often they get to wear it.

I started the Tofutsies socks with the yarn I purchased at the Knit and Crochet show, for my Dad. I am knitting a k2 P2 ribbing. I didn’t get very far in this because my husband got sick on the way home (we suspect food poisoning), and so I had to drive home. I did, however, see some hundreds of sheep on the way home and actually picked a couple of bolls of cotton to see if I could spin it.

I brought my laptop with us on our trip and was very pleased to have some occasional wireless access in our hotel. Low and behold, I got my Ravelry invite when I checked my email. At first, I tried to leave it until I got home, but it kept calling to me. I finally caved in and set up my site. I happened to have a lot of pictures of my projects on my computer, so I immediately started to enter my recent projects. I was very intrigued with the amount of detail I could enter. Ravelry can even match a published pattern to a book. I spent several hours trying to investigate all the possibilities of using this tool. It may need a book of instructions to use all the features to its fullest extent.

Lately, I’ve been trying to learn about RSS site feeds. None in my computer literate family seem to be familiar with this so tonight I finally got a book Blogging for Dummies. I’m still wondering if it will work to increase my readers of this blog.

Monday, October 1, 2007

TKGA Knit and Crochet Show (Part II)

The TKGA is an annual event of classes and a marketplace for knitters. In recent years it has co-sponsored the event with The Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCA), which seemed the perfect partnership as many knitters are also crocheters and visa versa.

Many classes were offered at this show, but since my husband and I only spent the weekend and time was limited, I wanted to focus on the Marketplace, which had about 54 vendors, to see the newest yarn offerings and gadgets to knitters and crocheters. I probably spent more than I should have but displays were very inviting and inspiring. Here are just a few of them….

Dragon Lady Designs,Rolling Hills Estates, Ca. A beautiful Entrelac-like sweater but it is crocheted. A nice project for some scrap yarn.

Foxy Knits, Los Angeles (I hope this is correct). Of course the Koigu booth is always very popular.

Adelas Yarn, Castro Valley, CA. I just loved this beaded knit sweater. The yarn was very intriguing with beads in it. I was wondering how I could make something like this.

Village Spinning and Weaving Shop, Solvang, CA. This is always one of my favorites. They had luscious alpaca wool yarn, knitting, spinning, weaving, and crochet tools, and a wealth of every book you can imagine. I bought the books Knitted Gardens by Jan Messent and Everyday Crochet by Doris Chan.
International Freeform Crochet, Sherman Oaks, CA. This was an amazing piece of artwork.

There was also the Fastest Knit and Crochet Time Trials. Here is just one of the participants. I’m afraid I didn’t get her name but she was very fast.

Finding that perfect yarn to add to my stash was a difficult choice. I have dreamed of buying some Koigu, but I am just not yet ready for it. I am already knitting a scarf with some alpaca/silk and I was afraid I would be too impatient to start another. I finally did purchase some skeins of cashmere/merino and angora/merino/rayon wool from Newton’s Yarn Country.
I also promised my Dad to make him some socks with “Tofutsies”. This is a sock yarn that is made of soy silk, superwash wool, cotton and chitin (made of shrimp and crab shells) by Southwest Trading Co I purchased from Sheep City. This is what I call super “green” knitting. Everything is natural and biodegradable. My dad got a tickle out of the name. He loves Tofu and now he’ll have a pair of black and white socks to brag about! My other purchased treasure was a cute hat pattern from Knitwhits called the Flore Hat. It’s a really nice hat that looks like layered leaves. My granddaughter will look so adorable in this.

I’ll tell you more about the progress of my projects and Ravelry in my next blog entry. Yes!!! I got an invite! More to come……..

By the way Thank you Sharon, from Sheknits for your comment. I love to listen to your podcast! Keep up the great work. I love hearing about your knitted bags and family adventures. Although I’m now a somewhat empty nester, I remember those days of trying to juggle family, work and hobbies and trying to be remain sane. Hang in there. Someday, all too soon, they will be on their own and you will wish for these good old days.

TKGA Knit and Crochet Show

My husband and I just got home from the TKGA Knit and Crochet Show in Oakland. I mainly went to visit the Marketplace and do some shopping. We drove in on a very overcast afternoon but the very next day was bright and sunny. Old Oakland is very beautiful with Old Victorian architecture. Many of the older business areas are being remodeled.

We stayed in the Washington Inn, which is one of the first hotels of Oakland. We loved it there. It was very quiet, just right for our needs, and right across the street from the Marriot City Center Convention Center, where the Knit and Crochet Show was. A walking distance away are many modern type downtown businesses and food courts. The only thing I didn’t like was the lack of parking for our hotel. The choices were either park on the street with metered parking until 6 pm or across in the Convention Center parking at a rate of $22 a day with no in and out privledges. Needless to say, we reluctantly chose the later to be safe, and walked around the local area. My feet were rather sore after all the walking we did.

It’s rather late and I’m tired, so I’ll have to tell you more about the Show in the next blog entry. Nighty night!