What the heck happened??

I even put loads and LOADS of cream in it and it’s still that dark coffee color… that’s a STRONG COFFEE!  It’s like an unexpected gift!  My coffee every morning comes from the same place, made by (for the most part) the same guy in the same way… it’s always divine (otherwise, why would I go out of my way to go there), but today it’s extra super duper awesome!  He must have known that the life is slowly being sucked out of my body by my allergy to cherry blossoms and the fact that I feel I can’t sleep enough lately… I blame that mostly on the allergies and a little on being depressed… being depressed usually means that I WANT to sleep my days away, but my allergies and pure exhaustion prevent me from actually staying awake… it’s the depression that makes it impossible to talk myself out of going to bed for a two hour nap at six pm!
I digress!  The coffee is fantastic and MUCH needed and I am now armed to get through my day!

Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

There are a lot of different aspects to look at when looking back at a knitting project and it can make for interesting blogging, as much of the time we blog about items recently completed, new and freshly completed. It is not so often that we look back at what has happened to these items after they have been around for a while.

How has one of your past knits lived up to wear. Maybe an item has become lost. Maybe you spent weeks knitting your giant-footed dad a pair of socks in bright pink and green stripes which the then ‘lost’. If you have knit items to donate to a good cause, you could reflect on the was in which you hope that item is still doing good for it’s owner or the cause it was made to support.

As has been made abundantly clear over time, I generally do not knit for other people…It’s not that I don‘t believe them to be worthy… it’s more that I sincerely don’t care if they’re worthy.  My hobby is mine to do with that which I please and that’s really all there is to it.  Now, that’s not to say that I don’t knit for other people, because my mom, girl bestee, my sister, my man, my dad, boy bestee, girl bestee again, my two other friends and a new baby have all been recipients of my knitting.  I knit each item for them because I wanted to and the rest of alllllll of my knitting has gone to the most grateful recipient of all… me!
Most of the things that I make for me I know exactly what happened to them… they’re all sitting in a neat pile in the bottom of my side of the school lockers that we use for our coat closet (one day I’ll take a picture of that for you!).  I wear exactly three shawls in rotation for the most part… one of which I didn’t even make!  My Candy Shawlette from PJ www.kneadsknitsandknothing.blogspot.com, my Terra that I just finished and my Haruni, because it’s so junky now that I don’t care if it gets ruined (knitpicks and I are not friends!).  Now, this is not to say that I don’t love and cherish all the other ones, and I would certainly not give them away… each is perfect in it’s own way for something… just because that ‘something’ hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not still perfect. (and don’t worry, I’m not a plastic on the couch, unburned candles sort of person… I don’t ‘save’ things for a better time… but really, how many shawls and hats can one person wear at a time!).
The items that have been knit for the above mentioned people are all, so far as I know, in great condition.  Hats went to the girl and boy bestee, one friend, the man, my sister and my dad.  My sister wears hers all the time, boy bestee wore his all winter and apparently my dad wears his, altho the picture is as yet not forthcoming.  Lace scarfs went to girl bestee and my mom and I know that my mom wears hers and keeps it wrapped in a napkin in her lingerie drawer when not in use… girl bestee keeps hers all folded up when not in use as well.  One pair of mitts went to my friend and since we work together, I’ve seen her wear them a lot… they’re even pilly, which I love in a mitt because it means it’s being used!
I used to do a lot of ‘crafting’.  I painted, made stuff, invented stuff, did woodworking etc… and I have nothing to show for it.  I gave everything away when I was younger because the giving made the other person feel good and I didn’t know that keeping would make me feel good.  Socially we’re considered selfish if we don’t hand over whatever it is we have that someone else wants (within reasonable value, and unfortunately most of the world doesn’t give the proper value to hand made items).  I like keeping all these shawls and hats and scarves for myself.  Not because I may ever use them but because making myself something feels good and for me, looking back on the items that I made by actually looking at the physical item is rewarding to me!
So I’m happy to say that I know EXACTLY what has happened to every item I’ve ever knitted and I hope to be able to say that next year as well!

You have how much stuff and it goes WHERE?!?

My knitting ‘accoutrement’ sort of grew at an accelerated rate when I first started knitting two years ago…  At first I had a basket… wicker and cute with balls of yarn in it… and then I found all the balls of yarn on the floor and realized that some sort of ‘cat keeper outter device’ would be a good idea so I exchanged the basket for one with a lid.  Oddly, since the basket with a lid was larger than the basket without, I felt some sort of compulsion to fill it up… not hard… altho to be fair, i’ve since given away most of the yarn that was originally used to fill up the basket… it was ugly and the product of an unknowledgable knitter with no yarn direction or personal knitting taste.  Once that basket was at it’s limit, I bought two small ‘storage ottomans’ which live under my coffee table.  There’s a ‘red/orange/earthtones/natural’ one and a ‘blue/green/variagated’ one.  They’re both full to the brim with yarn and roving and ends of yarn that need to be made into a scrappy blanket of some sort… ‘remnants’ take up a lot of room!
And then besides that, I have two large six bottle wine boxes (like the one posted below, only six wide) with all the ‘really good’ yarn in them and one two bottle wide box that has some yarn in it for projects that I’m currently working on (so I dont’ have to go digging to get the next ball).
As far as my needles and patterns go, i JUST organized those… I bought a 3″ three ring binder and clear plastic page protectors and all my patterns went into their own protector…  Circular needles also went into their own plastic holder by size (all US7’s together etc…) and then I bought a set of 10 CD holder pages (two to a page, fits right on the 3ring binder) which holds my interchangeable tips (two sizes per pocket) and the interchangeable cables (each length to it’s own pocket).
All of this (needles, cords and patterns) go in the same binder, which seemed like a good idea but it’s a bit hard to operate… I’m considering getting an Offhand Designs interchangeable needle case in Cosmo Bloom so that the patterns are in the binder themselves… 
I try and keep my knitting area (henceforth known as ‘craftland’) relatively neat and tidy… as with any sort of hobby that has a lot of ‘pieces’, if you don’t keep it as tidy as possible, it can start to look like a bomb went off….
I also (ALSO!) have a very cool antique accordian sewing box (exactly like these two pictures) that I keep pins and ribbon, dpn tube, extra graph paper, buttons (some, not all), samples of wool wash etc… in.  On top of that sits a small basket that has the ball winder, some threads and other ‘junk’ that I can’t even picture right now.  And I have two large decorative bowls (like soup bowl sized) that have more bits and pieces… beads, markers, cable keys, yarn labels etc…. I usually just pile stuff into the bowl until it’s full and then organize stuff into it’s proper place from there. 
I keep all my yarn labels (for everything I’ve ever made) in a ‘coupon accordian’ and that goes on the bookshelf beside all the knitting books and mags…
That’s about it… It’s a wild and wonderful place, craft land!

She’s got mad Skillz yo!

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

The last year… Last year I made 10 shawls, 11 hats, 2 cowls, 1 pair of mitts and a toy. The year before that (which is what I assume we’re comparing to ) I made 2 cowls, 2 shawls, three scarves, 1 hat, 1 pair of mitts and 3 handbags.

In comparison, the first thing I notice is that I doubled my output of items, which while being a substantial improvement, is even moreso when you consider that the 25 items last year are all bigger and more complex (for the most part) than the items in my first year. Most of the 11 hats I knit last year were from my own pattern and the same can be said of three of the shawls.

Somewhere in between the beginning of my knitting career and the beginning of last year I decided that I hated purling. I intentionally sought out projects that were either garter stitch or knit in the round (hello 11 hats!) I didn’t like the way purling felt in my hands and it made my progress slow considerably, so I just avoided it. Which, as I’m sure you can guess helped to make me better at it! (sarcasm!). Right around the time I was designing my own shawl pattern (oddly enough, to use a covetted skein of the now reviled Wollmeise), I decided that the only way to get the gorgeous colors to show and the pattern I wanted was to purl. So I cast on for my triangular shawl and determined to finish it in such as way that it looked good, I purled. I swore and bitched and moaned through the stst sections… I cursed myself for deciding to purl on a triangle shawl (where the rows get insanely long) instead of on something small…. and then, before I knew it, I was done and it looked amazing!

Around the middle of last year, I decided that since I loved knitting lace, and not many lace patterns I like are in garter stitch, that I would have to purl again… this time on EVERY. OTHER. ROW…So I cast on Haruni as the first installment of a knit along with a group of people that I now count as some of my favorite knitters and people… I decided also, since I was going to put all that work into purling, that this was going to be the project that I also actually fixed mistakes in… that I learned what it looks like to tink back, or even rip out whole sections… and I decided that stitchmarkers are not for me, so the entire thing was done by reading my knitting… there ended up being a few mistakes that my local knitting friends helped to fix, and many I fixed myself, but around the end of the summer I had succcessfully knit a stockinette based lace shawl with no mistakes! It had taken me almost 3 months (altho not straight knitting… I took about a month break at one point) but I had done it!

There’s no looking back… all those shawl patterns and stitch patterns that need purling and need to be lined up and mistake free are now my oyster… I can pick any one that I want because I know that with a little confidence and patience, I can do it!
This year my goal is to learn things that have so far been unnecessary, such as ‘three needle bind off’ and ‘kitchener stitch’ (altho I did a 12 stitch kitchener already… doesn’t look good!). I am going to knit a sweater and continue on with my designing (and actually write up the pattern for my swim cap hat!). I also have the goal to do a proper crochet item (probably a blanket with scraps) instead of just the border on something… I guess come back next year at this time and we’ll see how far I got!

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week – Day 1

Day One: 28th March. A Tale of Two Yarns.
Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

Tips: It is a good idea, if possible, to choose a yarn that you adore and a yarn that just didn’t work for you. You do not need to be critical of any yarn if you do not feel comfortable in doing so, but perhaps you came to realise that one yarn wasn’t suitable for a particular project, if possible you could blog about what you have come to learn about choosing the right yarn, or your love of experimenting with fibres.

As mentioned in a previous post last week, I started knitting BECAUSE OF the yarn… All the fibres and textures and colors were such a draw that I felt the urgent need to learn a new skill so I could justify buying them!  I should probably come up with some sort of new justification because I am compiling yarns quicklier than I can knit them.
One could argue this point, due to my intense dislike of acrylic and most man made fibre yarns, but I am not a yarn snob.  I love all animal fibres and I love them closer to their original form than not… (as we all know by now, I’m not the biggest fan of superwash yarns!).  I’d have to say that one of my favorite yarns in my stash and one that I turn to more and more is the ever loveable, but barely ever loved in that ‘OMG I love this yarn!’ way is Cascade 220!  No, I’m not kidding!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have and love yarns in my stash the likes of Handmaiden SeaSilk and 100% cashmere laceweight.  I lust after amazing skeins of Fleece Artist (and own some gorgeous ones too!) and Handmaiden and local indie dyers such as West Coast Fibre Works, but Cascade 220 does such an unparalleled job of being whatever you want it to be. 
When I first started knitting, I made a cabled handbag at a super tight gauge and the cascade held up wonderful!  It gave gorgeous stitch definition in the cables and the colors to choose from were second to none!  I made a gorgeous grey slouchy beret held together with a skein of Rowan’s Kid Silk Haze and I can’t imagine what a better yarn would have been to get that look! 
And most recently I bought 880yards of Cascade 220 Heathers in a gorgeous blue/green to make the Guernsey Wrap.  (picture borrowed from http://www.bluecorona.blogspot.com/) I knit this at a VERY loose guage (size US9) and blocked it to within an inch of it’s life and it has the most gorgeous drape and flow!  The stitches are perfectly defined while still giving a lovely hand!
There are many gorgeous yarns on the market and I do own a lot of them, but I adore the consistency and versatility of the Cascade 220!  Plus, at around $8CDN a skein, it’s an excellent, price savvy yarn to boot!
Ironically, the yarn which I don’t particularly care for so much is on the high end, impossible to get end of the scale.  Where Cascade is carried in hundreds of colors in almost every yarn store in the country, Wollmeise is only available from one or two online stores and a brick and mortar store in Germany!  The draw of this yarn for me (because obviously there’s always a draw if you’ve bought the yarn) is the color combinations and her dyeing technique. 
She somehow manages to get the most vibrant and intriguing colors and then is able to consistently recreate them!  The problem with this yarn for me is many-fold.  First, it’s superwash and I’m not a fan of superwash yarns.  For those that don’t follow this blog (and why aren’t you??), I find superwash yarns just a little too far away from the sheep.  Superwash uses chemicals and processes that melt or burn off the scales of the yarn (just like the scales of your hair), meaning that when the finished item is washed, it doesn’t felt because instead of the scales being engaged, they’re flattened off so that they can’t interlock with one another… It’s an environmentally shoddy process that changes the genetic structure of the yarn.  I don’t like it…
Superwash yarn is not ideal for lace knitting.  Lace knitting needs to be blocked and superwash yarn, while being easy to block, doesn’t hold it’s shape (consider that the fibres are all now smooth and slippery… there’s no tooth there to hold it in shape) and it sort of (in my experience), shrinks back into it’s unblocked shape rather quickly.
That’s one of the things that I don’t like about the Wollmeise yarn.  I have knit lace out of it, and while it looked absolutely gorgeous at first, it’s now a limp, unshapely mess that I don’t even care to reblock…
It’s also a VERY twisty yarn… at 10 plies in a fingering weight, it’s got one of the tightest twists on the market.  Ideal for sock knitting or so I’ve heard, it feels a bit like cotton in your hand as you knit it.  The lastly thing that I don’t care for and it’s not exclusive to Wollmeise is the high demand… not because people are demanding it to knit with, but because it’s become a bit of a commodity in the knitting world, which means that if you have the perfect project in mind for that perfect color and you’re (I’m) willing to overlook all the things that make it less than my ideal yarn, you can’t just go out and buy what you need.  You have to hunt and beg and trade and finagle you way into owning it, because that demand is caused by people hoarding it, knowing it’s value to the few that eventually want to knit with it.  I have two skeins in my stash currently, one of which I overdyed myself to get a nicer color and while I originally had plans for both, the negatives are far outweighing the positives, when I have a stash ful of the most gorgeous yarn to knit with… Eventually the right project will come along and those yarns too shall shine, but in the grand scheme of things, they may wait until I haven’t an inch left of anything to knit with…
THIS IS A TINY FRACTION! (taken over a year ago… and exponentially larger now…)

The HEIGHT of indulgence!

I had the most soul refreshing visit with my bestee last night!  She’s been in South America climbing mountains for the last five weeks so it was nice to hear all about the trip and have some couch time!
We also had wine time, which was fabulous, and had we planned better, I would have stayed overnight and then we could have been even more indulgent.  As it was, I was drunk by about 530 (um hello, red wine and popcorn!)

The first picture is courtesy of my iphone and while we said we were going to hide it, it’s just too good not to share… Kathleen brought Dulce de Leche home from Argentina and I went to Capers and bought a peanut butter sandwich cookie, an oreo sandwich cookie, (from Butter) and some truffle cookies (because I couldn’t decide what we wanted and I didn’t know she had the DdL) and the crackers are a flakey butter crackers… In our defense, we didn’t eat it ALL!
The second picture is courtesy of Kathleen.  She knows how much I love kitties so she takes pictures of them whenever she runs into them on her travels.  This kitty lives in a cabin in the mountains of Argentina… This has quickly become one of my favorite pictures of all time…  (click to make it bigger)
Thank you Kathleen!

Decisions decisions!

Oh… you appear pretty!… You appear soft and pink and so sweet… You’re tiny now, but soon you’ll grow and multiply… You’ll join forces with other small sweet pretties… You’ll look gorgeous!  And I will want to take a flame thower and burn you down!
Allergies!  WHY????  You make my eyes itch and burn and it feels like there are itchy crawlies jammed up my nose… I’m exhausted and am being tortured!  I’m a face toucher and now, in order to avoid conjunctivitis and a nasal infection again this year, there can be NO eye rubbing or nose rubbing…. Right now I want to attack my face with a wire brush… I suspect that would be ill advised!  I’m totally going to buy Vicks scented tissues today!  They probably won’t help with allergies but they make you feel better becuause VICKS!  YUM!
In other news, Glenda and I blocked our shawls last night… We layed down 24sqft of foam blocking mats in an L shaped configuration and danced a jig on huge towels soaked with wooly water…
14 blocking wires, around a hundred pins and two hours later and we had all three shawls perfectly blocked out.  My purple sugar (magic carpet) is a little over six feet long and about 14″ wide (I think… I didn’t measure and they’re still pinned to the floor drying).  My GW blocked out to be over 8′ long and 20″ wide.  The stitch definition worked out perfectly in the Cascade Heathers and the color is phenomenal.  I’ll let Glenda tell you about hers, but suffice it to say that it turned out GORGEOUS! 
I think what I’m shocked by is that I got it into my head to knit the GW and I stuck to it (stopping only to finish off Terra and the baby blanket) to get it done in a reasonable time!  As well, the magic carpet, which was cast on in September 2010 was given a good dose of ‘just get it done’ and I’m so glad I did!  I now regret having not knit the last two repeats, but I stand by my decision to get it done for yesterday… the tassels are going to look… um… weird?  But they’re going on anyway!
So I’ve been convinced, mostly by me and a little bit by supportive friends that I SHOULD have whatever sweater I want!  Originally I wanted the Central Park Hoodie, but I just bought the pattern for the pattern below… to be made out of Blackstone Tweed Chunky in Concord (purple tweed)  I’m actually terribly excited about it!

Body Image… wrapped in a sweater…

So I’ve been knitting for exactly two years to the day today!  I had actually forgotten that until I just started typing.  I had known all along that today I was going to write a post regarding the above title, but as I started to type up the pre-amble, I realized it’s my two year knitting anniversary.  What a fortuitous day to write this post then!  Ahem… sorry… 
Okay, so I’ve been knitting for exactly two years to the day today.  I originally started knitting because Pat and I wandered into Urban Yarns in Point Gray one late Wednesday evening (when that was their late night) and I figured that I couldn’t buy and keep yarn if I didn’t know what to do with it.  But I really wanted the yarn because damn, it was all so pretty!  I signed up for a class, took one more class (that I sort of didn’t need, but I liked the people in my class) and then it was off to the races.  I never looked back… I learned what I didn’t know how to do off Youtube, found a knitting group to hang with, first on Thursdays and now on Mondays and have had knitting in my hands almost every day since.  I make scarves and shawls (oh, so many shawls!) and hats and mitts (not so much with the mitts… two pairs in two years, only one for me).  I love lace knitting… mostly because it looks so complicated once it’s blocked and finished, but really, it’s just one stitch after the next.   My taste in yarn has changed in two years… I stocked up my stash with wild colored sock yarns to begin with… one skein at a time… now I hardly ever knit with varigated yarn and I sure don’t like superwash… my tastes have evolved in pattern and in yarn and I think, even in two years, I’ve become a knitter with fine taste! 
But even with all that… my love of knitting… my big blanket that will eventually be done and gorgeous… all my gorgeous lace shawls and my own hat designs… what’s could be missing??  A sweater.  Well, a Cardigan to be more specific. 
Why don’t I knit sweaters?  It can’t be the work because I’ve knit stoles and blankets that have more yardage and complexity than a simple sweater.  I have the endurance and the ability to knit large projects… I can read charts and complex patterns and almost always come out on top the first time around.  I know how to swatch (even tho I mostly don’t, since shawls don’t care about your gauge).  What’s the hangup then to knitting up a simple cardi?  Well, my brain and my emotions mostly. 
At first I thought that I’d learn how to knit and then when I lost a few (lot) of pounds, I’d knit a sweater… after all, a sweater for a smaller person means less yarn, less expense, less knitting time.  A sweater for a smaller person would be easier… Plus, if I lost those pounds, then I’d deserve a nice sweater… a nice hand knit by me sweater.  The problem is that even when I WAS the size that I would now consider knitting a sweater for, I didn’t deserve it then either.  I mean, in all fairness, I deserve to have whatever I want… but we’re talking emotionally deserving here… it’s not logical at all! 
Let’s back up… My story in one line is this:  I weighed a lot… I went to the gym every day and ate properly for 9 months and lost 80 pounds.  I then experienced an incredibly traumatic event and proceeded, almost without noticing, to gain it all back.  In May of 2006 I joined a bootcamp, went every day at 530am for 18 months and was as thin as I’ve ever been.  Strong, healthy and in retrospect a pretty awesome body.  Bootcamp left town and life happened and now I’m right back (not quite, but almost) where I started.  But it’s the end of bootcamp and my bangin’ body that I want to focus on right now… because I felt the same way about it then that I do about it’s different look now.  I felt that my arms were fat, that my quads were huge (well they were… all muscle, but that doesn’t make you feel better when you’re trying to get a pair of jeans on)… that my stomach wasn’t as flat as it should be (all these pictures are of me then…)  If I’d seen someone with my body then (or now!), I’d notice their gorgeous hair, their electric blue eyes… their winning smile and that gorgeous hand knit sweater they’re wearing.  I’d be proud of them for knitting it and proud of them for knowing that they deserved it.   
I think we’re harder on ourselves by about a billionty than we are on others.  I didn’t have fat arms then… I had strong muscular quads and a flat stomach… I had a winning smile and electric blue eyes and freckles everywhere from how much time I spent outside (man, those 530am runs along the beach were the bomb!)  But inside my head, I was fat and ugly and had I been a knitter then, wouldn’t have knit myself a sweater either. 
So if I’ve been the size my fantasy sweater body is and didn’t think I deserved it then, I’m sort of screwed, aren’t I… if I want a sweater that is… which I do!  The funny thing is that if any of my friends or aquaintences told me this story, I’d sit them down and tell them how beautiful they are and that you can’t live life for the what ifs… what if I lost 50lbs… what if I waited until I was married… what if… what if… what if… half the time we never realize we’ve reached the ‘what if’ until it’s well happened… and then that ship has sailed right?? 
I think I’m going to start looking for yarn to knit my Central Park Hoodie….