Friday, January 31, 2014

After the Party

Yesterday was a party day as we celebrated another one of our kids joining the ranks of voters.  And as my oldest was quick to point out, her just-turned-18 brother could now get a tattoo and play the lottery. Turning 18 opens so many doors.

I had a long day of cooking and baking and cleaning up in the kitchen. It was well worth it.  It's challenging for everyone in the family to coordinate schedules and get together, so I savor the moments when we make it all happen.

In the end the birthday dessert couldn't support the weight of the candles, so we had to improvise.  Leftover waffles made the perfect platform.

Today I have a lot of work ahead of me, but before I jump in, I'm lingering over coffee.

And knitting a few rounds.

The wonders of winter have provided my color inspiration for the week.

Icy collage.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top Down

While I contemplate diving in on a sweater project, I've been working on a couple smaller things.  Hats are my number one choice at the moment.   These days I find myself wearing them around the house, so it's nice to have some variety.

Ackert Hook Hat.

A friend made this hat quite some time ago, and I liked it enough to tuck it away in my queue.  When I was browsing for a new hat pattern, this one jumped out at me.  Sorry I don't have a live model.  I couldn't bribe convince anyone to brave the cold with me.

This hat was a nice break from the traditional bottom up style.  It starts at the top with an invisible cast on. 

The lovely flower motif is followed by several inches of seed stitch.  I know some knitters complain about seed stitch, but it's never been a bother for me.  After all, this is just a hat - not a whole sweater's worth. After a quick ribbing and bind off, I had a new hat to add to my collection.  I read the comments on Ravelry and decided to drop down two needle sizes for the ribbing.  I finished it off with Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off.

The yarn is Marie, colorway Blue Jeans.  This DK weight blend has a bit of cashmere making this hat my current favorite.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Do Mistakes Matter?

Last week I read a blog post that really struck me, and I've been thinking about it off and on for several days.  Sharon Silverman, a crochet designer and instructor, highlighted several mistakes she found in crochet patterns and publications.  Then she recounted the reactions she got when she brought those mistakes to the attention of the designers.  The responses were varied - everything from posting errata on Ravelry to no public acknowledgement at all.  Sharon seemed puzzled by the lack of action to correct the errors once they were spotted.

I share that same frustration on a couple levels.  I buy a lot of patterns for kits and to have on hand in my booth.  Within the past year I discovered that a pattern I stocked contained several glaring errors. First, I pointed them out to the designer.  While the designer acknowledged the errors, she seemed to think the problem lay with the distributor.  I followed up with the distributor, all to no avail.

When I felt I'd hit a dead end, I made the decision to remove the pattern from my lineup.  The bottom line is I felt the response was inadequate, and I could no longer offer the error-filled pattern to my customers.  Months later a page of errata finally appeared online, and I trust the current copies in print have been corrected.  

By contrast I've pointed out errors to a handful of other designers. More often than not, they've graciously accepted my comments and corrected the mistakes.  In this day and age of electronic files, it's very easy to correct patterns.  In fact some designers will alert customers that there have been updates / corrections to patterns they've previously purchased.  How nice is that?

I teach knitting classes, and I'm always up-front with my students.  I warn them that patterns can have mistakes, but I also suggest they check online for errata.  There's nothing more frustrating than creating a knitting nightmare because you followed the pattern as written or puzzling out a pattern that doesn't make sense because it has errors. I know from firsthand experience that checking online for errata doesn't guarantee you'll find all the errors, but sometimes it can save a lot of knitting time and headaches.

Patterns are being produced at an incredible rate, and it's inevitable that some will have errors.  Maybe my standards are unrealistic.  I do expect that when mistakes come to light, steps are taken to get the word out with the correct information.  On a more practical level, I tend to invest in patterns from designers who have well-written, thorough instructions without a lot of errors.

But I'm curious.  What are your expectations from a pattern?

Moving along to something a little more fun . . . I donate a fair amount of yarn over the course of a year to various giveaways and fundraisers.  I've decided to shift some of those resources to the blog and share them with my readers.  Every month I'm going to run a contest, and this week marks the first one.

The Olympics are right around the corner, and I know some of you are probably setting knitting challenges to be completed during the games. What's your challenge?  Leave a comment and tell me what you plan to work on during the Olympics or any project that's captivated your attention in the new year.  The winner, chosen at random, will receive a skein of yarn from Dirty Water DyeWorks - winner's choice. The contest closes on Sunday, February 2, 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Squeeze Me

Another infinity cowl off the needles and ready to go.

Squeeze Me.  

And like those silly commercials for toilet paper, all I want to do is squeeze this cowl.

The staggered rows of knit / purl combinations create a fabric that is dense, cozy, reversible, full of texture . . . squeezable.

The pattern includes three sizes.

I made the largest, and it can easily be doubled up.

The yarn is Edna Extra, colorway Mauve.  

This blend has a bit of silk.  It's a treat to work with and creates fabric with nice drape.

While I do think I've had my fill of infinity cowls for a while, I don't think I've completely exhausted the cowl theme.  They do come in handy.

My color inspiration this week is a smattering of this and that.

A box of crayons for knitters.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Letter S

It's a sleepy, snowy day.

Perfect for snuggling, stew and seed stitch.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Museum Notes

I'm back from another delightful weekend at Slater Mill in Rhode Island.  Every winter they sponsor a Knitting Weekend complete with classes, a market and a bake sale.  Some people come to just hang out and spin or knit.  They're a very social group.

The market is held in the museum part of the mill, and the vendors are scattered among the mill equipment on display.  

No matter how many times I've been to the museum, I always find something new.

These two pieces fit together and are part of a larger piece of equipment.

I'm fascinated with the mechanics and the tooling of it all.  Textile mills are such an important part of New England history.  Slater Mill is a great resource to tell that story.

Of course when you're vending in a museum, the display comes in handy for modeling your wares.

The organizers of this event always pull together a nice mix of vendors.

This past weekend was no exception.

Part of the fun of this event is chatting with different people.  I met a couple women who opted out of Vogue Knitting Live this year and were on a little fiber retreat of their own.  There was a student from the cowl class who shared some of her own design ideas.  And there was a steady parade of beautiful handknit garments.

By the time I sat down last night, it was late.  I should have gone to bed, but I was still buzzing from the weekend activities.

And so I settled in with a little knitting of my own.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mitten Makeover

Some time ago I started a thrummed mitten project.  I don't remember when, and I don't want to dig too deep to find out.  I'm afraid it was much longer ago than I care to admit.  I do remember I set the mitten aside because I just wasn't feeling it.  Something about the project bothered me, so I put it on hold to see if a bit of time and distance would help.

It didn't.

When I pulled the mitten out of hibernation, I didn't like it any better, but I was able to pinpoint my issues with it.  The pattern is written with a loose, narrow cuff.  I prefer a cuff that's snug and deep.  This design also has several rounds of thrums from the wrist to the thumb gusset. I don't care for that chunky look.  With those issues I couldn't salvage the mitten.  There was no other choice but to rip it all out and start fresh.

Before I started round two, I looked at the suggestions in the pattern and made a few changes of my own.  And while I was at it, I changed the color of yarn ever so slightly.

For the cuff I went down one needle size for a closer fit.  I also made it deeper.  I eliminated all but one round of thrums before the thumb gusset.  The rest of the pattern I followed as written.  Now I love these mittens.

East Coast Mittens.

Wooly and warm.

A new kit was born.

The yarn is 100% Merino.  The fiber is a blend of Alpaca, Merino and Silk.  And yes, it's available in several color combinations.

My color inspiration for the week has me thinking about color names. Red lentils aren't quite red, but that does't really matter.  They're still very striking.

Spicy orange with a hint of yellow.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sizing It Up

My knitting is still going in circles, and the latest cowl now feels like a small sweater in my lap.

Squeeze Me Infinity Cowl by Anne Hanson.  Her designs are always a sure bet.  I'm enjoying this project - staggered rounds of knit and purl combinations separated by three rounds of plain knitting.  It's very relaxing and just the kind of project I need right now.  

This cowl comes in three sizes, and I opted for the largest.  I can't remember my thought process on that decision - often I choose the middle size.  I'm feeling a slight case of startitis coming on, but I'm sure this will be off the needles before it's full blown.

If you're interested in textile history, check out Fruits of the Loom.  Be sure to watch the slide show for a colorful look at textile mills.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wee Things

I have a hunch that if my knitting projects didn't have deadlines, nothing would ever be finished.  My worst nightmare is being surrounded only by "almost finished" projects with nothing 100% complete.  This past weekend was a good reminder of that.

A new baby is going to be born into our circle of friends, and it's all very exciting.  My daughter Luz is the baby's godmother, and she has been immersed in looking at all things little.  I was delighted with another excuse to knit something tiny.  The baby is due next month, and the planning and preparation kicked into high gear with a shower over the weekend. 

This baby had to have a handknit sweater.  Luz and I looked at pages and pages of patterns. There were many emails with pattern links followed by text messages discussing colors and shades.  We knew the shower was coming, but somehow the holidays came and went, and we still hadn't made any decisions.

Finally I took charge of the situation and scheduled a little sit-down. We ironed out the details, and then I got to work.  I dyed the yarn and waited patiently for it to dry.  As soon as it was ready to go, I cast on.

We had settled on a straightforward pattern in worsted weight yarn.  I was feeling relieved because surely the hard part was over.  But as I was closing in on the finish line, I had a bit of a panic.

This was all the yarn I had left for 10 rows and the bind off of 103 stitches.  I had dyed more yarn than the pattern called for, but I felt certain I was going to run short.  It was almost midnight, and my first thought was to drop everything and dye more yarn.  I decided to sleep on it and assess the situation in the morning.  

The next day I felt calm.  I looked at the situation with fresh eyes and decided to run some numbers before mixing more dye.  Sometimes the amount of yarn you have left can be deceptive.  Weighing the yarn wasn't going to be accurate enough.  Yardage can vary slightly with weight, and I had a feeling this was going to come down to inches.

Instead, I measured the yarn.  For starters I measured off 60 inches to see how far I could knit.  I didn't get a complete row out of 60 inches but did discover I needed a good 70 inches for a row.  I bumped it up to 75 inches to give me a cushion.  I calculated the amount needed for the remaining rows and the bind off.

Then I measured the last of the yarn.  According to my numbers, there was enough.  I forged ahead.

I was right.  Just enough yarn.

It's a good thing I didn't have to dye more yarn.  The sweater was finished without much time to spare.

in threes:  a baby cardigan.  This was a fun little project, and it gave me a chance to sample a new worsted weight base.  My only advice is make sure you have more yarn than the pattern calls for.  Just in case.

Somewhere during this whole process, I thought of a new baby in winter and cold feet.  As if I weren't cutting it close on time already, I decided to make booties to go with the sweater.  The pattern I settled on called for fingering weight yarn, so I dyed yarn to match the sweater yarn.

Cutest Booties.  And they are.  I finished these moments before we had to leave for the shower.  If I'd had an extra hour, I would have made the pom-poms, but I didn't.  Either way they're adorable, and the baby's feet will be warm.

The weekend filled with baby chatter is bittersweet as today dawned with the news that a dear friend has lost his spouse.  Once again we've come full circle, and I'm reflecting on the highs and lows of life.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Stacking Up

I've been adding a little color to the gray winter days.

Shimmering stacks of silk hankies.  Piles here, there and everywhere prompting questions such as, "What are you going to do with all the squares?"  

Some of the squares will be traveling with me to Knitting Weekend.  If you're near Slater Mill next weekend and need a mid-winter fiber fix, stop by.  There are classes, trunk shows and a market . . . something for everyone.

This week's color inspiration caught my eye only because of the backdrop.

Nestled in snow.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Going in Circles

Sometimes it's easy to get stuck on the same path - going around and around without making forward progress.  I get frustrated with discussions and debates that hash and rehash the same information only to end without resolution.  Usually these paths aren't productive, and I try to avoid them.  Picking and choosing your battles is an important life skill.

My knitting has been going in circles, but this path has been pleasantly productive.  Last month I knit a couple cowls for gifts, but apparently I didn't have my fill.  After the holidays I found myself on Ravelry, drawn to page after page of cowl patterns that were calling my name.

And so I gave in.  This is one circular path I don't have to avoid.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Silky Stitches

Some knitting projects are finished in a flash, and Acadia Loop Cowl is one of them.

This was a relaxing knit - a simple combination of knit and purl rounds along with a knitted hem.  I used silk hankies, so there's a bit of thick and thin to add to the texture.

Apparently this cowl didn't satisfy my silk craving because I've already started prepping more hankies.  Since there are plenty of good videos that show the process, I'm not going to document the steps.  You can find details here.

There's a certain ebb and flow to working with silk hankies.  Prep fiber, knit a bit, prep more fiber, knit a bit more.  I draft several hankies at a time and wind them onto a cone for safekeeping.  Then I knit the fiber right off the cone.  The knitted fabric is lightweight, shimmery and warm.

Working with 100% silk is lovely in many ways, but it's also challenging in the winter.  If your hands are anything like mine, they have more than a few dry, rough spots.  I strongly recommend using lotion, hand cream, body butter or a combination of all of the above. My current favorites are Trader Joe's pumpkin body butter and anything from Long Island Livestock Co.  I especially love their shepherdess salve.  They also offer 100% lanolin and great lotion, but I don't see those listed on the website right now.  

I soften my hands before I start.  I work for a little bit until the silk starts snagging and then rub in more lotion.  It doesn't take long to fall into a rhythm with the whole process.  In the end I have smoother hands and beautiful handknit silk.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Off and On

I've tried to make the most of my knitting time during this holiday week.   

Off the needles.

Bristol Hat was finished in time for my daughter's outing on New Year's Day.  This was a fun, quick project.  Originally I intended to knit this hat for myself, but somehow my daughter diverted the plan for her own benefit.  Teenagers have a way of doing that.  The yarn is Lillian, colorway Ivory.

Rather than cast on a hat for myself, I got distracted with this.

Silk hankies.

On the needles and transformed into this.

Acadia Loop Cowl.  Shimmering strands of colorful silk.

The holidays have inspired me to keep baking, or maybe it's the extra heat that comes with having the oven on.  I came across a recipe for cranberry rhubarb cobbler and had to give it a try.  Yes, cranberries and rhubarb - sour and more sour.  Not to worry.  The recipe calls for enough brown sugar to make your head spin.  I substituted a different topping but otherwise made it as written.

I'm trying to decide how long I have to wait until I can make this cobbler again.  In the meantime it will serve as my color inspiration for the week.

Rich sugary goo.