December 21, 2012

Nearly a mile to knit before I'm done!

There are many assumptions made by non-knitters about the knitting of an afghan. I don't know many knitters who have knit afghans and, of those, I don't think I know many who liked knitting afghans. Myself, I hate knitting them. Why is this?

Non-knitters think afghans are easy to knit. Theoretically, yes they are. In reality, they are mind-numbing lay tedious and put a tremendous physical strain in the wrists, hands, and elbows.

Non-knitters think that an afghan is a "quick knit". An Aran cabled sweater is a quick knit compared to an afghan. Even if the needles are US 15 and the yarn is bulky, there are often so many stitches in a single row that it could take an hour to knit an inch. Just ask me.

Non-knitters think that afghans use a relatively small amount of yarn compared to a more intricate pattern, like a fair isle sweater. An afghan is usually somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4 feet wide by 5 or 6 feet long. That's like knitting a linebacker. Pause to think about that for a minute; then, try to calculate how much yarn it would take to knit a linebacker.

So it's been five weeks and I'm sitting here knitting on this custom order afghan, still. By the time I'm finished, I will have knit 1.7 miles (yes, MILES) of bulky weight yarn. By my calculations, I've knit just under a mile so far, which leaves me nearly a mile more to knit. I'm also going to need physical therapy.

I can say with absolute certainty that I will not be knitting another afghan in the near future. Maybe not again in this decade.

December 14, 2012

Friday FOs: Hats, hats, hats!

That afghan that I am supposed to have finished next week isn't making much progress, but I did manage to finish up a few hats.  The first is Honey's Skully hat that I was making as a birthday gift, and which, I think, is going camping/hiking this weekend.  It's still a bit damp and will hopefully hurry up and dry after it's first wash in the picture, but I wanted to share anyway.

Finishing this was a bit of a chore because the pattern that I purchased was missing the key for the final chart abbreviations and the decreases ... well they didn't actually match the stitch count of the project.  But, I persevered and Honey has a pretty cool hat, if you ask me.

Then these two hats are for nephews:

I had made several of these before the last festival that I attended and they completely sold out.  Haven't had time to make more for the shop, but I'm hoping that their popularity around here will translate to well-worn gifts for the boys.

Hope your Christmas knitting is moving right along too!  Knit happy!

December 10, 2012

Weekend Quick Knits

I stumbled upon a flowered head wrap in a department store that Rocket seemed to really like a few weeks ago and thought "I can do that!"  So, after a bit of trial and error, I came up with a pattern that has turned out to be a seriously quick knit--so quick in fact that I knit up 7 of them plus one for Rocket for Christmas in a few hours this weekend.  I even went so far as to learn to crochet flowers to give it that trendy look.  The fruits of my labors (and these are all machine washable and dryable or you can lay flat when damp and block them out to whatever size fits you best) are now available in the Etsy shop and are adjustable (21-23 inches as blocked).  I picked a bulky acrylic because it's super-soft and not everyone likes to wrap themselves in wool.

These are in the shop:

And this one for Rocket:

And now maybe I will make one for myself in wool!  Well, after I finish the projects already underway, that is. ;)

December 05, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener in December

 I am not sure how this works, perhaps that as I get older my attention span gets shorter, but it seems to me that I can never get more than 1/3 of the way into a project during the holiday season--even a project to which I am fully committed--without thinking about how I should/could be knitting something else, something more exciting.  If there's a "grass is always greener" syndrome for knitting, I've gotten it.

So with less than one chart to go (approximately 3 inches) on the Skully Hat, and 1/3 of the way into the custom order afghan (which Karma is using to laugh at me with every stitch because it's a Dawg blanket and I am, although an alumni, NOT a Dawg fan), and the second run at my Urbanista fingerless glove pattern, which is finally written and just lacks a good photo, that is being knit up with a shorter cuff in 100% alpaca but is only half-way finished, and my Irish Aran, which is scowling at me from the shelf because I haven't touched it in weeks, I dyed more yarn on Monday and thought "Ooooh! I should cast on some cable-y mittens in a red silk!"

Here's the red silk that resulted from that moment of whimsy.

It's actually a 60% silk/40% merino blend, but it's pretty gorgeous and wouldn't it make a nice pair of big girl mittens?  Does it count as knitting from your stash if it has been sitting on the shelf waiting to be dyed for the last six months, even if you didn't originally purchase it for yourself?  I think it does, especially since it's officially mine now, so that's extra points for me!  (There are definite perks to owning your own yarn company, albeit a small one.)

So, four plus hours into my new project and I am reminded that it is often the concept of a design that must be the motivating factor instead of having one's heart set on a particular pattern as being "the one" the first time out.  Although the modified woven cable pattern that I chose to use for these gloves is quite attractive, silk has zero stretch and I have found, 16 rounds into the thumbs, that this cable pattern done on smaller-than-recommended needles pulls in the hand a little too severely for comfort. So, a frogging we will go.  I absolutely love the stitch definition on the cuff, so I am thinking that an all-over cable pattern is the wrong path to take for this project and maybe a wrapped stitch cable or two just down the back is a better plan. 

With that said, I am not sure, however, how casting on for these is going to help me to finish any of the other projects with actual deadlines, but I can honestly say that while knitting these mittens I don't much care about those deadlines.  Sometimes I think my brain needs to take a break from plain ol' stockinette and do something that requires great focus. I don't think I would have made a very good cottage industry knitter.

Sidebar:  I received my package of yarn support from Knit Picks today for that Fall 2013 pattern that I am working on and it is sumptuously gorgeous, so I hope that Knit Picks doesn't have any thoughts of making me give over the final product because I really think I am not going to be willing to give this one up without a fight.

November 29, 2012

Need to knit faster!

I have been able to set aside time to knit each day this week, but I can't seem to knit quickly enough for all I have to get done.  Buying presents isn't the only rush before Christmas around here, that's for sure!

Skully continues to move along despite my snail's pace as a color work knitter. I've definitely come to understand why color work has long been done as a flat piece of fabric that is later seamed to form a tube. I've definitely been making use of the technique I picked up from X for knitting color work stripes in the round. Hopefully there line that denotes the beginning of the round will be as invisible when the hat is on Honey's head as it is while the hat is on my needles.

This morning I spent three hours devising, creating a template, tracing, cutting out, and packaging 15 pair of antlers, 15 reindeer heads, 30 ears, 16 ball ornaments, and 20 bell ornaments from sheets of craft foam. Tonight is craft night at my daughter's Girl Scout meeting and guess who is the crafty mom. So we are making ornaments, and then we will use them to decorate the troop's tree on the troop float for Saturday's Christmas parade.

In other knitting news ... I was struck by a bolt of philanthropy mid-November and agreed to knit a custom afghan that will ultimately measure 4 ft. by 6 ft. before Christmas. So far, I am nearly finished with the first third of the project and am averaging about 6-8 rows per hour. It's crazy, but the larger the needles, the more my hands and wrists ache. I am a pretty quick knitter, but this is turning into a 50-hour ordeal on top of the Christmas knitting I had wanted to do for myself this year. Remind me to reserve my philanthropic notions for Spring, when there will be months before Christmas instead of weeks. (And red doesn't photograph well on the Iphone, apparently.)

Anyway, the day is beautiful and the household chores are few today, so there's really nothing to do but knit.

November 26, 2012

A Few Things Finished

Although the week of Thanksgiving was a real doozy, I managed to make a bit of knitting progress.  I re-knit the neck band of the Amiga sweater, this time deciding to forego the button, and it turned out reasonably well.  I think it could stand a little more blocking on the neck band, but it will be a great go-to sweater for chilly afternoons.  I'm really not very excited about this pattern or the finished product, as I am drawn more to sweaters with nifty details, but it's done and ready to wear.  It was definitely a great first-sweater pattern for my knitting class, though.

Remember those ribbed socks that I was working on in my Surf Wagon colorway?  Well, they turned into the cutest pair of fingerless gloves!  Perfect for knitting around the house or wearing to run errands around town, these are just swell!  The pattern will be titled Urbanista and will hopefully be available by the end of this week.  Just want to add a larger size to what is already written.

And I made a great start on the Skully Hat for Honey, which I need to get finished for his mid-December birthday. I am mostly NOT following the relatively confusing instructions and have elected to re-order the chart provided with the pattern to add an extra inch since there are no ear flaps to this version.  My version will share some similarities to the original, but I think my Honey will like my custom-fit version much better.  He seems to love it so far.  Since it is knit in the round, it is a serious investment of time to just get around once, making sure that there is enough stretch despite the carry-overs between colors so it is taking a bit longer than I anticipated; but isn't that always the way it works out?

I also got the astounding news that Knit Picks has picked up a wrap pattern that I've been working on for a Fall 2013 special collection.  I can't go into details, but I am just thrilled!

And if you are in the mood for a giving the gift of yarn, even if it is a gift to yourself, stop by my Etsy shop today for free shipping on all international and domestic orders--today only.  Use coupon code FREESHIP12.

Happy knitting to all!

November 19, 2012

And so it goes ...

When my husband was up and out of bed before the alarm on a Monday morning and making coffee, I knew that today was going to be a little off.  I was already rather discomfited about having to go for a few annual womanly tests this morning, and I should have just stayed in bed and obsessed about it.  Instead, I got up with the idea that, since Rocket was going to work with her daddy on this first day of Thanksgiving break, I would wrap up a few loose ends and get some things done that I had been putting off.

First, after the last hair cut, which was WAY shorter than I had anticipated it would be, and the 1/2 inch remnants of the highlights I had put in last July were glaringly awful, I decided that I would save the $100 for the salon and use it for Christmas shopping season.  Honey said he thought I would look good with hair that was a little more auburn.  The hair on the box that matched mine turned a pretty dark brown/auburn shade and having colored my hair MANY times before, I figured I'd just do it up quickly this morning before breakfast.  I followed every direction to the T, including the extra 10 minutes for gray or course hair--both of which I have begun to grow now that I am 40.  My hair did not turn out like that of the model on the box.  My hair is now EGGPLANT PURPLE!  Not black, not auburn, not even some kind of shade of brown.  PURPLE!!!  (I would show you a picture, but my vanity is too wounded right now to be a good sport about it.)

Okay, so shake it off, right?  It's just hair, and mine is short and this could all be gone, if I am reasonably optimistic, by Christmas.  So I went to check on the gluten-free almond/pumpkin muffins that I had made while I was waiting for my hair to, apparently, dye itself purple.  This time--which if you know me is not how I cook/bake anything--I followed the recipe to the letter and used agave syrup, which I never use because it's just crappy but what the hell it's in the recipe, and what was that charcoal smell?  Apparently all of the agave syrup had risen through the batter to the top and then proceded to form a charcoal cap to my muffins.  There went breakfast, right into the trash can.

So Honey was pretty good about it--I think because my hair was purple and he wanted to get out of the house before that fact had completely settled into my brain--and offered to pick up breakfast for Rocket on the way into work, and I decided that the only thing that I could do to get out of this downward spiral was to knit something.  But I had just finished the neckband on that Amiga sweater that I was knitting alongside my knitting class students last night, so I figured I'd block it, sew on a button, weave in the ends and then maybe wear it today.  I did all of those things, only to discover afterward, upon putting it on my body, that I had picked up 10 more stitches on one side of the neckband than the other which then made the left side of the sweater 10 rows longer than the right side at a rather drunken slant.  Did I neglect to mention that the yarn used to knit this sweater had a healthy component of mohair in it?  Need I say more about the experience to follow of ripping out 3 hours of work and 20 rows to start the neck band again? It's a good thing that I had extra skeins left over because that one is in bits and piecese.

So now I am hoping that I am, three catastrophes under my belt before 10 am, done with being a super-magnet for all of the negative energy in the universe and that the rest of my day is going to be a wonderful turn-around.  And to begin that wonderful turn-around, I am going to purchase this pattern, Snawheid, from my new favorite fair isle designer, Kate Davies, which was just released this morning and just fantasize about knitting it for myself for a while.

And then I am going to pick up for the neckband again with all of my attention focused on the stitch count and knitting this neckband is going to get me through my round of unpleasant tests this morning because the day HAS to get better, right?

I hope everyone else is having a magnificent Monday!

November 07, 2012

Frustrating times

Have you ever LOST a knitting project that you were working on?  I mean, you've looked practically everywhere with no success and panic has set in?  That's been my underlying crisis for the last three days.  With all of the traveling that I've done and the "just pile it over there until I have time to deal with it" theme of the last few weeks, I managed to LOOSE my sock project bag and its contents:  one pair of ribbed socks in a new colorway, Surf Wagon.  I've looked everywhere--car, truck, garage, back porch, every nook and cranny in the knitting room, Rocket's room (one never knows what one will find stuffed in the closet of a 9 year-old), the boys' room, the office, under furniture. I racked my brain and all I could think of was that I left it in North Carolina in the hotel.  :( 

But, even though the next project that I am going to show you turned out less than admirably on this cold, grey, gloomy, and frustrating day, the socks are always in the very last place you accidentally look, and mine were on the inside edge of a dining room chair.  So, hallelujah!  They have been recovered and I am determined to work on them today because I am just about ready to start the heel, and we all know how much I love to knit the heel ... but then, hey, the thought just hit me that these might make a nice pair of fingerless mitts if I just start knitting in the thumb ... stay tuned.  I'll have to think about this.

And about that other project of frustration ... tie-dying t-shirts for Rocket's class has been a seemingly endless dilemma of disaster.  The first time the teacher asked for volunteers, I said I would be happy to help because, well, I dye things all the time and she was less than informed on the whole dying process.  I said, "buy the silk dye".  She said "I need cheap".  I said "the shirts won't turn out well with acid dye if you let the kids dye them at school".  She said, "I want to dye them during class".  And they all came out pink and white and crappy and every kid had a different type of shirt and acid dye doesn't set well when the water isn't boiling hot.  So then she held a fundraiser to buy new shirts and sent new shirts home with Rocket for me to dye at home.  Again, I said "buy the silk dye" and again she said "do it cheaply with the acid dyes".  I did.  When I dyed them yesterday, with water so hot that the heavy gloves I wore burned with the heat, they looked like this:

But the shirts are frickin' 100% cotton, and cotton is the enemy, no matter how well you "scrub" it before dying if you are not using silk dye.  After a night of letting the dye set, they unwrapped themselves in a rainbow of gorgeous, breath-taking colors.  And then they went through the cold water delicate rinse cycle in the wash and all the pretty color faded away and now they look like this:

So, listen up!  The lesson here is, if you want stunning color when you tie-dye shirts, A) use silk dye like you are supposed to, and B) use silk dye like you are supposed to.

And that's all there is for today, except to mention that I tore down the alpaca gloves I started over the weekend to the cuffs after perusing some antique glove patterns in my Piecework magazine collection and have decided to lengthen the cuff, reduce the width of the hand, and try to emulate this nifty little pattern that I saw for the back of the hand.  Oh, and I felt obliged to order a better pair of Harmony needles with a longer cable because these Addi's that I have really suck.  Funny how needle love is such a personal thing, kind of like fiber love I guess.

Anyway, have a knitty day!

November 05, 2012


It's been a few weeks since I last posted because I have just been busy, busy, busy with this yarn business of mine and such!  Between festivals and fiber shows I've been filling orders left and right!  Absolutely no complaints, though, because this is the kind of busy that everyone wants to be and I am happy to be able to toot my own horn. (Beep, beeeep!)

I have managed to do a little knitting (note the understatement because I did this in 6 days, flat!), and friends have been awaiting the posting of these pics of the Estonian lace "Lily of the Valley" cashmere scarf that I knit for my mother's birthday.  Viola!

And right after I finished that--literally the next day--it was off with my mom and daughter to SAFF to buy alpaca blanket fleece by the pound. 

Unfortunately, they weren't showing alpaca while we were there, but they were showing sheep and angora goats.

7 lbs. of blanket fleece in chocolate and cream for less than $13 per pound was a pretty nice score (and including 2.5 pounds of Suri).  I also picked up a wool fleece for a sheep of which I had never heard:  Tunis.

It's an interesting fleece in that it is not sticky with lanolin like most wools, but greasy like it has been oiled.  I was thinking that this fluffy, spongy fleece might be both easy to clean and easy to spin.  I have plenty (4 lbs) so I will have much time at the wheel to come to a final conclusion.

And some of that alpaca was spun up during a frenzied week of spinning, carding, and dying for my booth at the Royal Alpaca Challenge this past weekend.  I met many very nice breeders, learned a ton about the alpaca and the breeding business, and was invited to attend some additional alpaca shows in February--could be a very busy travel month! 

 The vendor snacks (see pic) and dinners were awesome!

It was all great fun and good business, except for Rocket moping around because we couldn't take a live alpaca home with us.  They are her new obsession.  If ever a child were destined to be a veterinarian ... it's Rocket.  These are a few pics of the booth and our "neighbors" next to the booth.

I even had time to cast on for a pair of light blue alpaca fingerless gloves for myself and to finish up sleeve #1 on the Amiga cardi that I am doing with the top-down cardi class that I am currently teaching. And since the alpaca bug has bitten me this Autumn, the cardi is, yes, being done with a single-ply alpaca/mohair blend.  (Pics to follow in a later post.)

I hope everyone is having a wonderfully knitty and fiber-filled fall!  Knit happy friends!

October 02, 2012

Enough to do!

Whew!  I've been so busy that I just noticed yesterday that it's been a whole week since the last blog post. Needless to say, I haven't touched that Aran sweater project even once in the last week for all of the other projects and such that I have been wrapped up with.

Knit Picks picked up Cardita, my lace baby cardigan pattern, so I've been busily test-knitting the smallest size and now am down to the technical editing of the large size and, of course, the knitting of it. Then, off to Knit Picks--hopefully by next Monday--for photos and publishing.  I'm terribly excited!

I had a booth coming last Sunday at a local festival at a local organic farm (Whippoorwill Farm), the Field of Greens festival, which showcased all things local and organic, including my yarns. That went pretty well except for the periods of drizzle. I sold a few of these beanies and had time enough during the slow moments of the festival to finish up another.

And there's a new shipment of sport weight 100% baby alpaca yarn to finish dyeing this week, as well. Some is done and getting photographed today for the Etsy shop and my newsletter. This new alpaca is Cielo in a sport weight baby alpaca.

Did I mention that I've been teaching knitting classes and we're doing two-at-a-time, top-down socks right now?  In the Hiker Chick pattern, my demonstration pair--the pair I knit along with my students-- has been knit in 100% baby alpaca fingering weight yarn from Cascade.  They are pretty and soft, but I don't expect that they will wear as well as the Rocket Sock; however, they will make a nice display for my booth at the Royal Alpaca Challenge booth in November.  I finished them in time for the last class, which was last week, but with so many novice knitters in my class attempting socks, we've extended the class one more week to try to get everyone finished up.

I've whipped up a total of 11 pints of truly the best muscadine jelly in the history of the world.  Truly.  This is like the champagne of the grape jelly world.  The first 5 pints were done with the wild muscadine from the yard, which my kids prefer to eat over the cultivated muscadine.  The second 6 pints were the result of 3 gallons of golf-ball (I kid you not!) sized purple muscadine that our farm neighbor gave us.  Really, he gave it to us for our deer rescue project, which I will come to next, but when the deer wasn't too excited about the muscadine, I had to do something with it, right?  We can never go back to regular ol' grape jelly again.

There was also the deer rescue project that stirred things up around here and goes like this ... Two Mondays ago, while coming home from Scouts, the boys and my husband passed a fawn that was curled up on the dividing line of the highway in the dark in a heavy rain storm.  They passed by it several times, unsure if it was dead or alive, but finally determined it was alive, stopped traffic (they are so lucky they didn't get run over by a tractor-trailer!), picked up the fawn that was in a serious state of shock, put it in the back of the truck, and brought it home. The mama deer was dead on the side of the road. The fawn had only minor cuts and scrapes, but was thin, wet, and pitiful.  We put it in the dog pen, which is a monstrous thing encircled by horse fence and completely wooded, and left it in the great dane's chateau of a dog house with the automatic watering system.  and by the next afternoon, the pitiful baby deer had been replaced by a REALLY angry and seemingly much bigger male deer who appeared to be a completely different deer altogether and who was not happy with the situation.  It took an entire week to get a large mammal wildlife rescue agent out here to take it on to the rejuvenation facility and give it a shot of antibiotics for the ultimately infected cuts, so I spent the week working around a house full of dogs that were mostly confined to the house and not allowed to "play" with the deer. We also had a very unhappy house cat. The house definitely needs a good cleaning after a week of dogs. But when not charging the fence, it was a beautiful animal.

The garden continues to be awesome!  I re-worked it last week for the third time this year for the fourth planting of veggies since spring. I harvested the last of the green bean crop--got two really good, long-running crops this year of those.  The black-eyed peas are still hanging on, but probably will be done in about another week. 

The second round of zucchini went badly--lots of obnoxious little white worms this second time that just wouldn't die--but the green peppers act like they are on steroids.  I think I have over 20 sitting in the fridge and another 15 on the plants.  My okra "trees" are taller than I am (pushing 6 feet), and continue to produce amazine 8-inch long okra pods.  The squash that I planted in August is taking over the yard, but I have 4 butternut and 3 acorn that look promising and gads of new blooms.  I finally pulled out the second round of cucumbers--we got about 8 really good ones and then the chickens got the rest because of this screwy weather we've had lately.  That was replaced with the just-past-seedling butter crunch lettuce and sweet peas. 

I also planted kale, red beets, and broccoli. In the seed containers there's more broccoli, winter Romaine, and Cherokee green tomatoes. The kale is already up and nearing thinning time after only a week of warm sun and two days of rain. We're going to cover the hoop house with plastic, so we'll see if we can't grow some green tomatoes through the winter in our make-shift green house. Sage, Thai basil, and oregano were also harvested for the drying, and I've a slew of hot peppers that have been dehydrated and are ready to be ground to bits. (They are in a metal bowl because they are so hot that my hands felt like they were on fire for four days, despite all home remedies and Benedryl.)

And so this week there will be the finishing of the last Cardita test-knit, a little dyeing--with luck my next shipment of Rosalina (50/50 silk/wool) and Rocket Sock will arrive and I'll get the rest of the Cielo Sport and these other two dyed up by the weekend--another pair of socks (these are a test-knit for a new Rocket Sock colorway called "Surf Wagon") on which to keep knitting, photos and listings to post on Etsy, and maybe some time for the Irish Aran.

My stack of knitting projects and I are so glad that a cool-weather Autumn is finally here!


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