Foot Fetish

So I’ve been on a foot related knitting spree lately. For Christmas, I made my Grandmother a pair of slippers, followed by a pair of socks for myself and now I finished a pair of socks for my husband just in time for his birthday, which is today. They’ll be ready for him when he finally gets home. These are made out of a yarn my friend bought me when she visited Sweden and are soft and comfortable. I’d love to tell you what they are made of but the label is not in English. These socks took forever with my tiny size 1 knitting needles but they are finally ready for wear. Oh and hubby, if you are reading this, do NOT throw these in the washing machine.

Sweater Wear

For most of you in the Northern areas of the country, sweater season has arrived in full force. My family and friends in New York are repeatedly getting walloped by the unrelenting weather. Even here in Southwestern Florida, I am getting the sweater itch. By itch, I mean the want to knit not the want to wear itchy old-fashioned sweaters your grandmother used to give you for your birthday.

I am probably the last person who should give advice on knitting sweaters. I have made a total of one bolero and one shirt. My lovely shirt came out wide and short and I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it. When they say that gauge is important, GAUGE is Important. Think of spending your hard-earned money on this wonderful skeins of yarns, putting hours and hours of time into it and then standing in the mirror horror-struck (and in tears like me.) But don’t let that stop you. We all learn in different ways and the only way we get better is from learning from our mistakes.

I flip through patterns constantly and my latest favorite is Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. The author also writes a blog http://www.knitandtonic.net/ 

I love her book because it doesn’t just give you patterns, but explains the way sweaters are knit, how they look, the way they are designed and how you can create what looks best on you. I want to try everything immediately. I highly recommend any knitter who is interested in making sweaters, shells, or any other clothing item to read this book! It can only help in later projects.

Sunday Afternoon

It’s Sunday afternoon and after a busy week, I’m sitting on my couch with a sleeping cat curled up beside me. I have two chapters to read and outline as well as a group project to e-mail my group members about. I have phone calls to make, laundry to check on, vacuuming to be done and dinner to make. The week has flown by in a mass of to do’s. I have spent over a week working on a sock which I’m finally at the heel. I love the yarn but I’m using size 1 needles doing two rounds at a time in periods of five to fifteen minutes that I can find through out the day. If only I could knit while on the treadmill or elliptical but I have a feeling that experiment would end in a trip to the emergency room and a messy stab wound. I like sharp knitting needles. I spend dinner time talking to the hubby while flipping through knitting books and magazines that are conveniently layed out on the table. Life is busy, even on a Sunday afternoon but knitting is an addiction that can fit into even the busiest of schedules.

Christmas Gift Fjord Holiday Ornament

Gift idea #3.

This is a nicely knit up holiday ornament. This is done in fair isle or stranded knitting with two or more different colors. If you are looking for a more traditional ornament, this is it. Directions are given in both chart form as well written out. I think it would be great with a styrofoam ball in the middle, knitting the two halves separately and then sewing them together. I haven’t tried this yet, but that would be my idea.

http://www.straw.com/cpy/patterns2/accessories/Merino5-Ornament.html

Goodbye Summer

I am very sad to say my summer break is almost over. While I’ve still been working full-time, it was very nice to have the break from the classes. As I’m taking another accounting class beginning Tuesday, my juggling begins again. I really enjoyed getting to hide in my books, knit a few pillows and a sweater that came out completely wrong and a first draft of a novel that I’m down on now. Okay, so some of this summer’s projects failed miserably. However this summer I:

1. Completed two pillow patterns and began a third.

2. Finished a first draft of a novel.

3. Made my first homemade linguine.

4. Finished the entire Sookie Stackhouse novel series (yes 10 books!)

5. Read and listened to numerous more books.

6. Made chinese dumplings from scratch.

7. Made potato parathas.

8. Went to a wedding and got to visit the central timezone for the first time without realizing I was showing up to said wedding an hour early!

I’m sure I did more than that, but those were the things that I came up with. Summer is and always has been my favorite season. Things will get busier soon but I will try very hard to keep up the blogging and keep the patterns coming. I’m looking forward to the Florida Fiber In coming up. This year it will be taking place September 17-19 in Orlando. http://nomadicfiber.yolasite.com/ I look forward to learning how to use my spindle.

Ripping

After what I see as a disastrous sweater error (although my husband kindly says it looks fine) I’ve decided that I will move on to a felted bag before I go ahead and pull my month’s worth of work apart and try again. I can’t remember ever ripping a completed project before, which will be more of a pain because I already did the seaming. If anyone has any tips on the best way to do this, please let me know.

In the meantime, I want to get back to my bag project. I bought different shades of brown Galway wool with the idea of making a striped bag that would be nice enough to carry to work but casual enough to use anywhere else. I’ll keep you updated on that as I go.

Sweater Error

So, I finished my misti alpaca sweater and after spending nearly a month and $40 on it, it looks atrocious. The thing came out short and wide even though I tried to lengthen it by adding extra rows. This is my first adult sweater (shirt) and I’m not really sure where I went wrong. The gauge was pretty close.

I’m really upset and am not sure how or if I can fix this. I wish I knew about knitting sweaters.

If anyone has any advice, please help. Until then, maybe I’ll stick to scarves, shawls and things that aren’t supposed to fit to my figure.

Summer Shirt

Two weeks ago, when I was still on vacation, we took a trip to the Miami area to run errands and so that I could go to one of my favorite knitting shops. The Knitting Garden is a very nicely set up shop with a comfortable atmosphere. It’s located off of Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. I bought four skeins of off white Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton and Silk blend. I was mentally drunk at the time (you know when you feel all light-headed and giggly but he haven’t had any alcohol and you decide to do something that is against your better judgement.) Maybe I was drunk on yarn, surrounded by all those magical varieties of soft shiny material that I could transform into useful objects. So I handed my credit card over and held my eyes tightly shut.

Last weekend, we went to Tennessee for my husband’s daughter’s wedding and with so much car time, I began knitting a shirt for myself. This is my first sweater/shirt for an adult. I’ve done shrugs and shawls as well as baby sweaters but never completed a sweater/shirt. The pattern I’m using is straight off the misti alpaca site. I’m definitely leaving off the cowl and probably the sleeves. I’d rather have the sweater longer. I tried adding on to the bottom rows but when I was done with the back, it still seemed very short. Hopefully after I block it, I’ll have more length.

Here are the pictures of what I’ve done so far. I love the soft material and think it will make a great light summer shirt to show off.

Lazy Summer Days

Tomorrow is Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. In Southwest Florida, it has been summer for about a month now. The days are above ninety degrees and no one wants to spend time out in the summer. While the pool looks appealing, the air-conditioning is much more comforting. I’m about five inches into my light summer scarf/shawl after a week’s worth of work. I should have this done by Labor day if I’m lucky. Once it is completed, it’ll be my favorite summer accessory. The warm weather is a good time to work with lightweight materials such as cotton, linen, silk and bamboo. I’m using very, very fine wool. I’d love to make a skirt out of linen, but right now I don’t have the budget or the time to cover such a large project.

Summer is a great time for reading for those of us who love to delve into a novel while relaxing pool side or beach side. I recently finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is something that I could not put down. If I only had five extra minutes in the morning before rushing off to work, I spent those few minutes perusing a few more pages. This is a story of the maids who work in the deep south in the early sixties and the families that they take care of. If you like reading, go out, buy or borrow this book and tell your friends. I hope that this will change how we think of people and class structure.  Society has changes but in some ways, it never will. Kathryn Stockett allows the reader to empathize with Miss Skeeter – the upper class white woman who decided to write the stories of the black maids, as well as the maids themselves, Minnie and Aibileen. I read this in five days despite work, school and even a guest visiting (read a few pages, talk a bit, sneak back to read another page). This one will definitely win awards and hopefully be discussed in classrooms as part of regular curriculum some day.

Making Moolah with Knitting

How to make money knitting? If you find out, please let me know!!!!

There aren’t too many people who actually make money knitting. Most of us try hard not to spend too much of our hard earned cash on the prized strings in our local yarn stores. There are a few people who are making money and even a couple who earn a regular income off of knitting in general. Most of us don’t have the resources to go out there and open a yarn shop. From what I can tell, it is hard to keep up the enthusiasm after awhile. If you are a really talented knitter, there are wealthy people who will pay good money for a hand knit sweater or fancy shawl. I think bags are good too, as long as you can find someone who will pay for your labor as well as the cost of yarn. So far, I haven’t earned even close to mininum wage.
There are companies that will pay to have you test their patterns. Once again, you have to be an experienced knitter. I’m not sure how much they pay, but I’d assume the more experience, the more your income potential.
A great website to visit is etsy. On etsy, people can set up shops (similar to ebay) but can only sell vintage, supplies, and hand-made items. It is fun just to browse around or to find gifts for other people. I have my own shop set up- but I haven’t tried selling anything up to this point.

Most of us don’t knit to make money, but it is definitely a plus if possible.

Ode to Knitpicks

Most avid hobbyists have a favorite store/a favorite brand/ a favorite website to browse around. I have an activity that I liken to window shopping online. I’ll go to a webpage, add everything I could ever want into the shopping cart, and then eventually close out the page. Some places, like amazon, have a wish list so that later on I can decide if I really wanted that thing-a-ma-bob or not.

One of my favorite sites to do thing is Knitpicks. I know this is a not a new company and if you’ve ever favorited anything to do with knitting on Facebook, you’ve likely had an ad from them pop up in the right hand side of your window. Yet, I still love the site. I have the Harmony Options Interchangeable Needles. They are colorful and sharp. Some people may not want pointy objects that are that sharp, but I don’t mind the occasional jab at my fingers as long as they help me tear through some rows faster.

A favorite part of the Knitpicks site is their enormous amount of accessories. Yes, accessories are not always necessary but they are almost always wanted. I don’t mean in that -I need a stitch holder while making this collar- kind of useful way. No- I want the Crafty Critters Knitting Tool Holders because they look cool! I want something shaped like a crocodile to hold my needles. Why not? I do have a GoKnit Pouch which is very useful. I like to throw my small projects in their and I can take them in the car, to work, and to the lunchroom with me as I need to. The best part about it is that it is waterproof, so I don’t have to worry about a loose cap on my water bottle messing up my yarn.

There are tons of great gadgets and gizmos, quality knitting needles, and plenty of yarn on the site. If anyone is looking for a sturdy set of quality interchangeables, I recommend the wood harmony options set. I have no doubt that any of their products will be loved. Happy Knitting.

Sticks and Needles Part II: Shapes and Sizes

Most of us picture a pair of knitting needles, long and skinny with a knob at the end.  I’d imagine them being aluminum and purple.  Those were my first pair of knitting needles bought at the local store, Raindew.  I loved the click click sound they made as I create each stitch.  It was not until years later that I learned about the variety of needles out there.

Straight Needles: These are the long skinny needles with a knob at the end.  They are good for scarves, small blankets and smaller simpler projects.  The knob at the end prevents the stitches from falling off and the stitches are passed from needle to needle with each row.

Double Pointed Needles: These are shorter, skinny needles, usually coming in packs of four or five.  Both ends are pointed with nothing to prevent stitches from falling off.  These are used for socks, i-cords, stuffed animals and small shaped projects.  The stitches are knitted in the round, going from needle to needle with two-four needles holding yarn and one ‘working’ needle.

Circular Needles: These are two straight needles connected by a cord.  The yarn is knit from one needle onto the other, with the stitches sliding on or off via the cord.  These are used for round projects such as hats and sweaters, can be used using two needles to make objects that would normally require double pointed needles (knitting with two circulars), or can be used for knitting flat objects such as scarves by turning the work at the end of each row as if one was working with two straight needles.

Cable Needles: These are used for cables.  They are a smaller needle, usually in the shape of a hook or similar to a ‘V’.  These are used for holding stitches behind or in front of the work, while other stitches are knitted and then knitting the cable needle stitches to create a bump, design or cable.

Respite

I have a two week respite from classes before returning to the overwhelming summer schedule.  I have been focusing on school and other things and have taken a break from knitting.  Like all hobbies, sometimes people just need to take a moment to reorganize.  My felted bag has an issue that I have to fix and the chunky shawl is short of yarn.  A lot of times when you have a large project and run into a problem, it is easier to simply put it aside and take a break.  Most of the time, that problem remains in the corner for months or even years.  Then, all of a sudden, the light will go off and you’ll pick up the needles with fervor, onto the next great idea. 

Instead of writer’s block, this seems to be more of a knitter’s block.  It’s easier to leave everything alone until I get that desire back.  In the meantime I want to indulge in books, movies, writing, and guiltily- the Sims 3.  I know it is terrible and unproductive- but I love the game.  I’m trying to keep this to a minimum because it is easy to get lost in the imaginary world of the people I create and control.  Why put all the work into writing myself, when I can make my character do it and make money on it in my world.

Right now, I am enjoying The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  I am only about 150 pages into the grandiose novel but I am enjoying it.  His story is set in 12th Century Europe.  The characters are interesting and fluid.  The plot is thick but intriguing.  Tom Builder and his family are traveling across England trying to find work, preferring to work in Cathedrals.  Prior Phillip is a genuinely pious priest but also a proven leader despite his youth.  He becomes engulfed in the politics of his day.  I still have a long way to go in the novel but am looking forward to it.

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung in Southern Florida.  However, down here, April feels more like summer than spring.  The weather has finally turned and the days highs are in the mid eighties.  About once a year, I go through this period when I really don’t want to knit.  I take a vacation.  I have the chunky shawl sitting on a chair covered with shirts, books, and my ten thousand nightshirts because I can’t possibly rewear them or wash them and put them away.  I have the bottom of the felted bag that I’m working on sitting in my work purse, waiting to be continued.  I have textbooks, regular books and library books surrounding me.  My vacations from knitting usually don’t take too long; two weeks or so.  Sometimes I may stay away for as much as a month.  My hands need a vacation.  I usually come back with plenty of ideas. 

I have to clean up now.  My stash is filled and a mess, intertwined with other yarns in the gigantic plastic containers.  Part of hurricane preparedness in this part of the woods is keeping that precious yarn in water proof bins that can be covered just in case.  It’s also good to have something that can be thrown in the car, especially something that can distract you from the chaos of an oncoming storm.

My wonderful knitpick harmony needles are strewn about the house.  I even have one sitting outside on the table of the lanai.  It seems to be calling to someone to knit, but I’ve lost interest for a little while.  Maybe my cats will make me something pretty instead.  I’ll come up with new ideas soon enough to post. . . I promise.

Time

I am afraid I have been overwhelmed of late and my knitting has been neglected.  Working on two group projects with school, busy work week, and trying to write for another personal project is taking up so much time.  I still have the shawl on the needles because I ran out of yarn.  Yes, I know- I should have gotten enough when I bought it.  I think I might just pull the whole thing off anyway.  I have another project a few rows in.  I want to make another felted bag, but this one in brown.  I have so many tan and brown items of clothing and no bags to match.  I have a few shades of galway yarn that look good together.  Now, I just need time.  I think my idea in my head would make a great pattern that I can’t wait to share.  I love felting bags.  The great thing about felting is that the gauge is really unimportant.  I can even knit and read at the same time without having to focus on an intricate steps of a pattern.  Of course, now that I’m listening to books, I don’t have to do that. 

I’m trying to cover knitting topics little by little since it takes so much time to get a pattern/project done.  Please let me know if there are any topics or questions you would like me to cover.  I’ll get to more about knitting needles in the next post. 

Happy Knitting.