Presents

I am very blessed to have a mother who is willing to spoil me with Christmas presents every year. Here we are, December 26, and I am happily playing. Unfortunately it is nearly bedtime and I have work tomorrow morning bright and early. Despite telling my husband repeatedly that I am not returning and that he will have to get two or even three jobs to support my fiber habit, I will soon be returning my wheel to its corner to get ready for tomorrow. I should have posted earlier- but – I was busy – playing.

Christmas eve I called my mother asking to open my presents early with full knowledge that my new jumbo plying head for my Kromski Sonata. After Skyping present opening, I popped that baby on and plyed two strands of bfl wool and one strand of local brown alpaca together. Not only did it create a huge skein of yarn but it looked gorgeous. The pictures don’t even do it justice. I just want to hold it and hug it and love it forever. I’ve been working on two more bobbins of wool and will have to make at least one more skein if not more to create the sweater jacket I want to knit. It should be ready just in time for next winter. Alpaca is very very warm and I live in southern Florida. I may just turn up the A/C and walk around the house wearing my sweater. If only I didn’t have to pay electric bills.

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Naples Knitting and Spinning Retreat Idea


Last week, my friend and I were hanging out spinning away and talking about ideas. We were talking about knitting and spinning events and retreats. Neither one of us have much money and now we’re both more concerned with Christmas presents but we would love to go and learn at one of these events that take place all over the country. Well, why not have one here? We joked about it and moved on to other topics of conversation.
And I keep thinking. . . why not?

Why not?

Of course there are some things to consider.
1- I’ve never been to a knitting/spinning/ fiber retreat.
2- I love to knit and spin but am certainly no expert.
3- Southwest Florida doesn’t have a lot of knitting shops in the area and no spinning fiber whatsoever.
4- I do not know how to plan events.

But on the plus side.
1- Naples is a great destination with natural beauty and wonderful weather during the winter.
2- It might be a lot of fun.

Would anyone be interested in this? Does anyone out there have any experience planning these things? Let me know. This is just a thought at this point.

Christmas Knitting

It was about this time last year when I began posting daily Christmas patterns. As much as I’d like to do that again this year, it would be difficult to do without repeating or referring to ravelry. As I mull it over, I am happy to announce that I actually worked one of the patterns that I posted last year. Mom, if you are reading this, close the window NOW!

A year later, there were a few patterns that really stuck in my head. As for the umpteenth Christmas in a row I am broke, many people are getting knitted gifts. As I don’t want to be “that gifter,” I have to change up the routine. Grandma (who is not internet savvy) is getting three pairs of socks and hopefully a pair of mittens/gloves (time is getting shorter). Mom and Lee are getting matching Candy Cane Twist Stocking Caps from Polar Knits. The pattern is awesome and so easy to make. I used a generic JoAnn’s bulky yarn but if you can afford it, buy the Polar Knit Yarn. It looks amazing just on the website. I purchased the bells from the Dollar Tree. Please forgive the picture below. I know it looks awful, but I was too chicken to ask someone to take the picture of me. The only problem I have is that I hold the yarn too tightly in colorwork so there is some puckering. I brought one hat into work with me and no one noticed.

Cap.pdf”>http://www.polarknitpatterns.com/Candy-Cane-Twist-Stocking-Cap.pdf

2 Years

I’m happy to announce that I have renewed my domain for the third year. That means I’ve already been posted for a whole two years! It is a wonderful feeling to know that I’ve been sharing my adventure in knitting and spinning. While I still feel like a beginner, I’ve learned a lot and hopefully taught others something as well. While I do have patterns up, creating new patterns is as much a learning experience as a teaching one. These are not advanced patterns that you would find for sale in a knitting shop but more of “a look what I can do and you can too” shared knowledge. I hope that I have sparked some interest to try something knew.

I was about 16 years old when I first started knitting. My high teacher thought it would be good teach a group of us who were hyperactive and overstressed. I remember sitting in the TAG room at our school with the old metal knitting needles. We three girls didn’t really listen so much as kept yacking away. I didn’t pay attention and as usual, chose to do it myself my way. A few scarves later those needles went under my bed into the mess of assorted objects.

At 18, I wound upstate in college with a roommate who knit scarves. Before I knew it, I was at Wal-Mart buying yarn and a new set of metal knitting needles. Drama ensued and after a tumultuous year at college and transferring to a closer one to my home, I was still knitting away. My grandmother told me she used to knit and also mentioned that she hated scarves. (Months after I gave her one for Christmas.) The knitting needles went back under the childhood bed.

I was 23 when a trip to Wal-Mart brought me back to knitting. I can’t remember exactly why I picked it up again but do remember that it was a difficult time for me. I made scarves for everyone I knew. In fact, I used to sit at work when it was slow and knit away (I miss THAT!) I met my now husband and remember sitting in his kitchen, talking all night long, while I knit away. We recently found the old scarf I had made for him so many years ago.

We moved to South Carolina not long after. I had stopped knitting but wound up out of work far from anyone I knew. I was tired of scarves. With the internet at my fingertips, I found a pattern for socks. I found straight knitting needles at Wal-Mart (again.) I still have those red heart, red and green, acrylic socks. They weren’t my best socks but they are my best-loved. I have been knitting ever since, learning step by step. I’ve had my spinning wheel for almost a year now and am enjoying a new adventure.

Florida Fiber In 2011

The 2011 Florida Fiber In was last weekend up in Orlando. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this all year and I wound up sick the night before and barely slept. The early morning part of the Fiber In was great. I sat and listened to the lesson on dyeing yarn. She demonstrated how to dye yarn using Kool-Aid and a microwave. It’s too bad my microwave has been broken for over a year now. I may be the only person in Florida without one. I did get a few ideas. I also learned a few other things about spinning. There were a lot of interesting people and many more vendors than last year. There was plenty of wool and alpaca. I just wish there were more fibers like cotton. I found a woman who had an old spinning wheel like I originally bought over two years ago. She only spins cotton and absolutely loves it. If anyone would like to donate cotton for me to spin I would appreciate it! By the end of the day, I was too tired to really enjoy much. I wound up leaving early a little cranky.

In the meantime, I had not unpacked my spinning wheel or even knitted anything in the week after. In fact, I’ve ripped two projects that weren’t coming out correctly and lost my size six harmony needles. I’m suffering from the fiber blues. At least today was spinning group day. I am still not feeling well and was tempted to skip it, but am glad I went. It is great being around others who think like I do. It is so rare, especially down here.

Dye Job Part 2

I have to apologize for not being attentive in my blogging. I have been overwhelmed by work/classes and housely duties that I’ve ignored for too long. I did have some more fun this weekend with food dye.

1- On my needles: 1 entrelac baby blanket still in progress. This will last the rest of my life 2- Mulberry Hat from Modern Top Down Knitting which is coming out too big and has been put down till I have the brain power to figure out where I went wrong.

2- On my wheel, brown alpaca from Nancy in our spinning group. I want to make a four ply yarn for a jacket/sweater with three parts wool one part alpaca. Florida is one of the few places where “You know, Alpaca is really warm. . .” could be a bad thing.

3- Out of my dye pot. Okay, this was never actually in a dye pot. I used the Knitty instructions with the Cold Pour Method. I thought this came out wonderful. I even created a giant niddy noddy with pvc to skein it up. I put an old plastic Christmas tablecloth on the kitchen table before I started. I wasn’t sure how messy this would get. I did put paper towels under the different colored sections to prevent mixing. As you can see from the pictures below, I wound up with blue hands and there is a green fingerprint in a yellow section of yarn. All in all, I think it was great. I’m sending this off to Mom so I won’t have finished project pictures unless she provides them.

2010-03 I-pod Cozy

2011-03 I-Pod Cozy

 2011-03 I-pod cozy

 

A few weeks ago I cracked the screen on my I-Pod. Thank goodness I had a warranty and was able to get a new (refurbished) one. However, I realized that my cover was not good enough. I had an idea of what I wanted but it was only last week that I was truly able to envision it. This is knit with my own homespun, but it is a sock weight yarn. It is a simple pattern but looks fantastic and knit in wool, will protect your I-pod from minor damage as well as getting wet.

Gauge 7 stitches 8 rows = 1 inch with size five needles or appropriate with gauge. (this is knit in homespun. Do a swatch. My I-pod is 2 ¼ inches by 4 ¼ with the case on it.)

Cast on 30 stitches.

Row 1 : Knit

Row 2: Knit 1 Purl 1

Repeat until it measures 5 inches long.

Do a second rectangle as above.

Cut a piece of cardboard out that is 4 ½ inches by 5 inches. Fold this in half and stick under a book for a few hours so it stays folded.

Using a whip stitch, seem together the two rectangles, with the cardboard in between.

 

Then fold this over and using the whip stitch again, seem just the top and bottom edges, leaving enough space for the I-pod.

Create a 2 ½ inch 3 stitch I-cord with double-pointed needles. Sew these into the inside of one side of the I-pod cozy. Sew a button onto the front of the cozy and use the I-cord to keep the case closed.

 2011-03 I-pod cozy

Spin, Dye, Knit

My Ashland Bay Blue Face Leicester Top BFL Undyed Spinning Fiber arrived from Paradise Fibers and I had one goal for this weekend. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been keenly interested in Navajo plying. I sat down Friday night, finished a bobbin of one ply yarn for the above wool. It was so easy to work with. I’m actually having to overtwist it so it doesn’t unravel on me. Then I took it off and started navajo plying. I have a few issues with this technique. 1- Starting it is difficult. I kept loosing it when trying to get it to take on the bobbin. Finally I made a knot onto the starter yarn. 2- I’m getting a lumpy yarn. I think when I’m plying, I’m loosening the fibers and creating bumps. 3-Breaking. As I was plying, it kept breaking. The finished yarn came out unbalanced and different widths but I decided to dye it anyway.

 

This is my first time dyeing. I used the instructions on the knitty page. http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring07/FEATdyeyourown.html

I read this over and over and over. First I soaked the yarn overnight in 1/3 cup of vinegar. Then, I woke up early and put the yarn in the crock pot with 1/2 cup of vinegar and just enough water to cover the yarn. I wish I had put less water in. After a little over an hour, I mixed my dyes with hot water and began covering the yarn. I was really going for a blue and orange yarn with spots of green, but the colors muddled a bit. This is really a clean process though. I had no spills or stains. I added more dye, not liking that the colors were so light. I believe this is why I got the muddled colors. By the end, there was too much water in the crock pot.

I used tongs to pull the yarn out and hung it first on my kitchen faucet over the sink. Once it cooled off, I rinsed it, and hung it outside to dry. I was a little impatient. I didn’t even wait for it to dry 100% before winding it on the homemade nostepinne. Okay, it was a size 15 straight needle. I think I did a great job for the first time using a nostepinne (Knitting needle!)

So below is half of the final product. The colors weren’t what I was trying for, but all in all, I think it worked out very well.

Frustration and Imperfection Spinning and Socks

I have been chock full of ideas in this last week. I’ve ignored the housework and have been focusing on fiber related projects. I spun up a skein of white alpaca and yellow wool plied together. This came out perfect and I’m really happy. However, I had some left over potluck wool on one of my spools so I decided to try navajo plying, which is spinning one ply into a three ply by creating loops with one hand and controlling the twist with the other. It took a little bit but I caught on and can’t wait to try it again.
I have some wool/mohair mix that friend gave me and I decided I would try a few new things that I’m looking forward to. It spins up real easily. I started this yesterday and then the hubby and I went to a neighbor’s party. I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but if I have more than one drink, I can’t sleep! So, I wake up repeatedly this morning and finally around 6 am I give up. With a glass of water and a cup of coffee, I sit in front of the spinning wheel.The rest of the wool/mohair mix spins up quickly and I go to navajo ply it. I try and try and try but I can’t get the flyer to pick it up. The yarn keeps breaking. I was really looking forward to navajo plying and then dyeing it with food coloring. Uh well.  I finally give up and pick up my socks that I’m making with my homespun.

SOCKS.
Filled with frustration, I rip out what I’ve already done. I’m using Judy’s magic cast on for toe up socks.  I love the book, Socks from the Toe Up.  I think toe up socks are easier to do and better for someone like me who tends to drift from the pattern and think, “I know how to do this.” You can try it on as you go along and can fix problems as they come up. The problem I have with the Judy’s Magic Cast-on is that it is easy to create a whole in the toe area if your cast on/knitting is not tight enough. I had tried this twice before and decided to switch to smaller needles. I am a simple sock maker and wanted to try something a little nicer. I try different patterns on the top of the sock and can’t seem to get anything to look right. The yarn is variegated (or closer to muddled) so it should be a simple pattern. I’m now on my fifth attempt trying a seed stitch pattern. Oh, and I don’t like how it looks. Sigh.

Podcasts

I’ve recently been introduced to knitting podcasts. I never knew there were people out there that took an hour of their time and talked about knitting. I have an i-pod and decided to download some of these. The first few I chose were mostly disappointing. The Knitpicks episode I listened to was informative but slow. I had to stop listening if only for the fact that they were talking about weaving and I cannot afford another hobby. Yes, I was feeling that itch of I want a loom!!! The angel on my shoulder said, “No Tracy, you have enough crafty hobbies. You don’t have time or money for another.” Then the devil on my other shoulder said, “Hehe, I want one. Credit cards are proof God loves you.” Then my boss came in, the i-pod went off and a stack of work was pushed my way.

A second podcast was quite disappointing. The girls were advanced knitters who were complaining about all the people who post patterns on Ravelry using different terms. Then they continued complaining more, interjecting apologies every once in a while in case they offend anyone. I may be biased, but isn’t it a good thing that people can learn and share on this vast resource known as the internet?

A third podcast was filled with talk of expensive yarns that even the devil on that shoulder just shook her head and said no. Sigh.

Finally, I found two thanks to good advice from new knitting/spinning buddy. Stitch It is from the same person with the website The Art of Megan. I learned to spin on my first spindle from her. Of course, she doesn’t know this. I liked listening to her talk about her garden and her house. The second was the The Knit Wits. They were hilarious! They are a married couple who moved to Oregon. I love how they communicate and the fact that the husband interjects his opinion with the crafty, knitting, spinning wife. I relate to both of these two more than the others I’ve listened to so far. I look forward to downloading lots more episodes.

Knitting and Yoga

Bella in cat pose

Knitting and Yoga go naturally together. Both have meditative qualities. There are a couple of things that I reach out to when I am ultra stressed. Knitting is the normal every day stress reliever. Then of course, there is tea. I have tea to wake me up and tea to calm me down. There is the glass of wine or a really good beer. But there are times, almost phases, when I reach out to yoga. I am not a guru or even the least bit good at it. I am a dabbler. I like yoga when the mood fits. I like certain poses but am still not fit enough to keep up with the dvds. This is something I want to work on and then life gets in the way.

I stumbled upon a pose the other night when I couldn’t sleep due to neurotic worrying over school, money, work, life and the nature of good and evil. http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2767

This is a modification of  Matsyasana (Fish Pose). If you work in an office, use a computer often enough, spend hours studying or are hunched over knitting needles you may have pain in your neck and shoulders. I do all of these.  In From the Neck Down, by Roger Cole, it states “But when pain and tingling spread beyond the hands and wrists to the arms, shoulders, or neck, the cause may be another, less commonly known condition—thoracic outlet syndrome. TOS is caused by compressing or overstretching nerves or blood vessels far from the hands, near the top of the rib cage. It can develop from repetitive stress and unhealthy movement patterns, like playing a musical instrument for long hours or typing with your head pushed forward and out of alignment with the rest of your spine, or from an injury such as whiplash.”

Think of your knitting. Does this sound familiar? I did it with just the one block and I felt the release (spasms) immediately. In the days afterward, the result was not so obvious but I believe that over time, this will benefit me. I also am trying to straighten my posture. I try.

2011-02 Baby Headband with Pom-Pom

This is really just a larger version of the other baby headband that I posted with a pom-pom on top instead of flowers. This is worked with Caron Simply Soft Acrylic Yarn on size 5 needles.

Gauge: 5 stitches = 1 inch 12 rows = 1 inch

Cast on 10 stitches

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: K1 P8 K1

Row 4: P1 K8 P1
Continue this pattern for about 12 inches (Newborn) 13 inches (0-6 months) 14 inches (6-12 months) 15 inches for (12-18 months), and 16 inches (18-24 months). Bind off. Seam together.

Take 2 different colors yarn and create a pom pom.
Pom Pom instructions:
Cut two circles from cardboard. Hold together. Wrap yarn around (inside and outside of ring). Then cut inbetween the two pieces of cardboard. Tie around center, securing the small pieces of yarn together. Attach to headband.

Entrelac

I usually wouldn’t advise anyone to take on more than one project at a time. In my experience, neither project winds up being finished and both are frogged or left in the pile of things to rip out years later. However, I’ve decided to keep a traveling project – a pair of to-be-felted slippers and a home project – the entrelac baby blanket. One is easy and the other will take this side of forever to complete. I accept this with open arms.

I decided to learn entrelac around 12 am of last Sunday night/Monday morning after finding myself wide awake. It had nothing to do with the double cappuccino drink I had at six that evening, I swear. It was just a fluke. First I searched Intralac and nothing came up. I did another search and stumbled upon a page that had the technique spelled just as wrong as I did. I kept looking around and finally snuck into my bedroom to pull out some yarn and needles without waking up the husband. Eventually I gave up in hopes of sleeping, which was fitful at best.

The next day I woke up, studied a bit, ignored the messy house that is calling for me to clean it and focused on what was really important – learning entrelac! With the assistance of the entire internet, I believe I have it down. If you’ve seen Eunny Jang on youtube then you’ve tried this to. I love her, but she really needs to slow down. I was looking for Entrelac for dummies tutorial. The about.com version was good for starting but didn’t help me in learning the side triangles. The most comprehensive website that I found was wolf and turtle.net. Please see link below. I’ve been doing some of the increases and decreases a little differently but this website gives the greatest understanding of what is involved in Entrelac. Basically you are knitting squares in two different directions and it gives this great texture but is also annoying because you only knit one block at a time going back and forth and back and forth until you want to scream. It’s a likeable torture!

http://wolfandturtle.net/Dye/index.php/Yarnpath/comments/all_aboard_the_entrelac_express/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcLxMt9GehM

http://knitting.about.com/od/knittingskills/ss/entrelac-base.htm

Isobel Skirt, Socks, Slippers and Spinning Wheel Bag

While I have not been updating my blog nearly enough, I do assure you that I have been busy. In the last few weeks, while juggling school, housework, intense summer classes and the usual drama, I have been knitting and spinning in the few and far between spare moments.

1- Finished the Isobel skirt. While this is not as pretty as I hoped, it is comfortable and a bit bigger than I would like. I sewed in elastic around the waistband so it would stay up and cinched it in by putting the buttons further from the edge than the directions called for. The good news is, if I gain another thirty pounds, this baby will still fit. I may try again with wool later on.

2- I knit this pair of small socks for Grandma with a worsted weight sock yarn that is no longer sold. I believe it was made by Paton a few years ago and discontinued. These are tight on my enormous feet but knit up in a few days. I used the toe up technique used in Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits. This is a great tool that should be in every sock knitters’ library.

3- As I mentioned before, I had asked my grandmother what she wanted for Christmas with the stipulation that I was handmaking her gift as usual. She said, “Those slippers that you made me before, you know, before. . .” One day my mother decided to teach me to crochet. I could not sit still or even pretend to listen to her. She went away for the weekend and when she returned, I had created slippers. The funny part was my mother’s dumbfounded reaction. “But you didn’t even listen to me.” Have I mentioned that my mother is the type that needs specific instructions to do anything and I’m more of the color outside of the lines- I’ll figure it out on my own type. Ha- sorry Mom! Basically, I made slippers for everyone I knew over the next few months and soon forgot how to do it. This is my attempt at making them years and years and years later. They aren’t the prettiest things but they are done.

 4- Finally, the spinning wheel bag. I was tempted to make this a pattern, but it is too simple. Basically, I cast on 51 stitches of Caron Simply Soft. I then alternated between the knit stitch and knit 1 purl 1 rows. I used about 10 rows of purple, then 14 rows of pinks, and ten more rows of purple. Once finished, I folded the panel in half, right sides together, and sewed both sides. I flipped it out so the finished side was outward and used regular string to attach it to my spinning wheel. Now I can leave my oil and other knick knacks where they won’t be lost.