June 26, 2012

Hiker Chick Socks: Test II

Just a quick post today to celebrate the completion of my second pair (size small) of the test knitting for my Hiker Chick sock kit pattern that is coming out in July. 

Considering that I have decidedly learned that I am absolutely incapable of following my own directions, it's taken me a little longer than expected to knit up this pair.  The leg went swimmingly. Then the heel and gusset ... well turns out that the first time I knit the heel I was knitting it by following the size medium directions and it wasn't until after I had knit the entire heel and gusset that I realized my mistake.  Nothing like have to knit 4 heels and 4 gussets for two socks, right?  Then I knit the foot, which was knitting up very quickly until I realized that I hadn't knit the gusset far enough and had to tear out the all of the knitting for the foot to get the correct stitch count.  One would think that by the time that I had gotten to the toe--and I mean got all the way to the kitchener stitch bind off--I would have had the sense to follow my directions and would have been counting my stitches in each row to avoid further rip-its.  But, no.  Apparently I was knitting the toe on an angry day (that would have been Saturday when I was counting the ways that I absolutely despise Dianne of Creatively Dyed for having scammed me and my fellow vendors with the fiber fair in Charlotte that she didn't even bother to attend, herself, as the promoter). I only knit the toe decreases on one side of the sock.  At least both socks matched in this regard:  small top stitch count, mammoth bottom stitch count.  Rip it, rip it!  But, home again, home again and the toes were re-knit today in one fell swoop.

I'm very pleased with them and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of more yarn blanks tomorrow so that I can dye the last colorway.  So many women commented about how awesome the Little Sister colorway of these socks is while I was knitting them incorrectly at the Charlotte Fiber Festival that I wish I had taken the Copper Kettle pair to gauge reaction to that one.  I think I will take the third colorway with me to the farmer's market on Saturday, where I have a booth for my pretty hand-paints, to do a little polling.

June 13, 2012

Dye Works: The Race is On!

My house has been turned into a virtual dye works this week. The weather has not been particularly cooperative and I have had to break down and use the kitchen--too wet, too humid outside!  Why so much dyeing all of a sudden?  I have to ramp up my stock for summer markets.  My local farmers' market booth opens this Saturday and the following Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I will be in Charlotte, NC with at booth at the Charlotte Fiber Festival.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that neither of these events will be cancelled due to weather or other calamities.  In the meantime, I'm dyeing, dyeing, dyeing!

I've known about these deadlines for weeks and weeks, but there's nothing quite like waiting until the last minute to make things interesting.  This is what Sunday looked like ... 56 skeins of wool and cotton.  Because of the torrent of rain, my knitting room had to double as my drying space.

And worsted weight merino yesterday ...

Finally, some sun!  So today was sock yarn and alpaca ...

(What's with the straw?  Still trying to get grass to grow after having the pool put in.  You would think with all the rain we've gotten this week that I would have a carpet of green, right?)

I think I have about 100 skeins left to dye before heading to Charlotte.  (Grimace)

June 10, 2012

Look at me ... I'm a Knitting Instructor!

It may sound risky and just plain nuts, but I left 15 years of teaching secondary English to disgruntled teachers two weeks ago and ended my career. Just like that.  No looking back.  Now, two weeks later, I find that I am back to teaching ... THIS time, however, it's teaching something that involves ZERO papers to grade and no idealistic parents and no students who are sitting in the class room literally against their wills and no contact logs to maintain.  Sounds like a dream, right?  Oh, yes it is! 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:  I have been hired to be the new knitting instructor for the Monroe Art Guild, and I am doing a monstrous dance for joy!  I get to knit for my job!  Should I say that again?  It sounds so awesome!  I am booked through November, and I can't wait to get started!

I know that friends and others in my community read this blog from time to time, so I am posting my schedule, to date, here for everyone to check out.  If you are interested, just contact the Art Guild to sign up.  I might be able to squeeze in an afternoon class or two this summer is there are interested participants, as well.  The specific course information should be available on the art guild website (http://www.monroeartguild.org).

Wednesday, June 20th (6-8pm) Knitting Basics: Learn to Knit
Wednesday, June 27th (6-8 pm) Knitting Basics: Stepping Up Those Skills
Wednesday, July 11th (6-8 pm) Knitting Basics: Knitting in Color 
Wednesday, July 18 (6-8 pm) Knitting Basics: Basic Cabling
Wednesday, August 1st (6-8 pm) Knitting Basics: Finishing Techniques
Wednesday, August 9th (6-8 pm) Knitting Basics: Circular Knitting

Wednesday & Thursday, June 27 & 28 (9-11 am) Knitting for Kids!
Wednesday & Thursday, August 1 & 2 (9-11am) Knitting for Kids!

Beyond the Basics: Knitting Socks Two-at-a-Time!
Wednesday, September 12th, Wednesday, September 19th, & Wednesday, September 26th

Beyond the Basics: Knitting a Seamless Cardigan!
Wednesday, October 10th, 17th, 31st; November 14th

June 08, 2012

Blackberry Jam and Knitting Law Annoyance

Let's start with this post with a very important reminder about the laws of knitting.  Perhaps the most unfortunate law of knitting is this one:  If you start a project with stash yarn and knit the entire frickin' project except for the collar, you will absolutely run short on yarn and it will be a stash yarn that cannot be purchased anywhere in the entire universe.  Not anywhere.  Oh there will be Google Search listings that APPEAR to be what you are looking for and entice you with well-crafted descriptions, but when you pay the most insane price that anyone could think of for that one skein (for which you only need about 80 yards), it will arrive by priority shipping to your mailbox in the EXACT colorway, even the exact fiber content and weight, but will be a TOTALLY DIFFERENT PLY OF YARN!  Take heed. It never fails!

Do I sound like I speak from experience?  You betcha!  I need to do JUST the collar ribbing for the sweater that I have been knitting for 2 weeks in every spare moment for the mock-up for my next Knit Picks submission and, wouldn't you know it, I have been slammed all over the place by the laws of the knitting universe on this one.  I guess I am just going to have to use some stock yarn from my shop, dye it to look like one of the three non-matching skeins that I have used for this project, and not take any close-up pictures of the collar band. If all else fails, I will photograph it and consider it to be art.

And now to something a little sweeter, though no less time consuming ... this year's blackberry jam.  We've been impatiently waiting for the local farm (I say local, but I mean that one and only farm in the region with pick-your-own blackberries that is 45 miles away) to re-grow their blackberry vines for the past 2 years.  That's a long blackberry jam dry spell.  Anyway, on Wednesday I took the kids to pick blackberries.  We picked 3 gallons of blackberries that were about the size of my palm.  See?

Sadly, I think this will be the last year of picking berries with the boys.  The 15 year-old obliged out of obligation, I think, and because he was hoping to get to take a girl to the movies this week on a date, which would be funded by mom, and didn't want to take any chances.  The 12 year-old walked up and down the rows complaining about how boring blackberry picking is and hoping that the berries would just hop off of the vine and into his bucket because bending over to look underneath the bushes for the good stuff involved effort that he didn't want to expend.  The only one to take this annual event seriously was the 8 year-old, who loudly proclaimed that she LOVES picking berries with her mom.  (This is the same kid who abandoned me last year after about 20 minutes of picking blueberries to play on the playground because berry picking was not any fun at all.)  Of course, we are going back next week to pick blueberries while the boys are at camp, so we'll see how long that LOVE of berry picking really lasts.

The end result on Thursday was 11 pints of the best blackberry jam (please let it set up!!!) ever, close to a quart of blackberry syrup, and 3 quarts of frozen blackberries. My own blackberry bushes, which produce the same gigantic berries as the farm where we pick them, are about to give up about a pint of berries.  The vines are still working on "bush" status.  We are in the growing-our-own initial phase for blackberries and raspberries.

 Ahh, summer.

June 06, 2012

And That's That!

Every year, about January, I begin putting off doing things that just need to be done but that I don't have the time for on the premise that I will worry about it when summer gets here. Things like painting the front door and mending.  The unfortunate thing about putting off things that need mending when those things are clothes that belong to children is that by the time summer rolls around, those clothes no longer fit.  I say "unfortunate" in the "Oh, darn, you mean I can just toss that in the trash after all?" sense of the word.  Anyway, the point is, that mending tasks are sort of like yarn projects.  There are just those projects that, once begun, are better off put away until either you are able to regain your sanity and composure or until they are so old that you have forgotten what you were working on in the first place during that hibernation period and you can just toss them out.

Well, summer has arrived and I have been a busy bee.  Much-needed cleaning has begun (in small doses, however, because I can always clean but once knitting time is lost, it's lost forever), my knitting room has been completely cleaned and re-organized, Honey's office has been cleaned up, the master bedroom has been cleaned and re-arranged, the garden is in full swing and just about ready for a new round of planting, the pool is in and refreshingly ice cold, the deck is 99% finished, the backyard is mostly re-landscaped, AND the mending has been done!  (Still need to paint that front door, though.)

You know what else is done?  That baby doll sheep spinning project that I began so long ago that I can't actually remember when (I tried to look it up on my past blog posts and couldn't find it, either, though I know I blogged about it!).  Yes indeed!  252 yards of 2-ply worsted weight chocolate-brown baby doll sheep is finally spun!  Why is that worthy of an exclamation point?  Well, let me tell you ...

First, these cute little sheep are, well, CUTE!  They look like stuffed animals and you want to squeeze them because they look so fluffy; don't be mislead by appearance.  Their fleece is super short and nubby and course.  To a fairly novice spinner, these sheep are a curse! (Disclaimer:  Well, not these sheep per se, but definitely the sheep from which my fleece came!  These sheep, whose pictures were provided courtesy of the internet, bear no definite fault in my months of spinning distress.) What have I learned from this spinning foray?  Not all wool is meant for me to spin. 

The baby doll sheep spinning project was one of those projects, like the mending, that ended up in perpetual hibernation. After the first bobbin was spun--252 yards--the TINY staple length and the odor of an old wooden chest that emanated from it and the lanolin that made my hands sticky ... these things began to get on my nerves.  Spinning this wool became such a chore that I had to do it in small doses.  A few yards here, a few yards there ... sometimes separated by weeks of spinning neglect, sometimes by months of spinning neglect.  I pretty much stopped spinning altogether over the last 3 months, though I would look longingly at my wheel and contemplate spinning only to be jolted back into the reality that the bobbins were full of baby doll sheep single-ply.  But no more!  I've spun it all and the finished product was, I have to say, worth all of the frustration.  I ended my spinning drama with 252 yards of perfectly balanced 2-ply worsted weight triumph!  (insert WHEW!) It doesn't look like much to you, I am sure, but it's pretty nice to check this project off of the to-do list.  The only question left is, really, what do I knit it into?

6 months worth of mending AND baby doll sheep project finished in the same day?  Sounds like I am on a roll this summer!

June 04, 2012

Monday Masterpiece: Showing Off

Currently, I have myriad knitting projects in the works, but none actually finished--close, though.  However, what I haven't shown off lately is the gorgeous dye work that I have been doing.  Since this is going to be a week of dying for my Etsy shop, etc.,  I thought today would be a good day to share what I have done in the past few months as custom orders for my Etsy customers.

This order went to a lady who is making a coat for her daughter (and who lives on "Cardigan Street"!  I'm so jealous of her address!). This is 1200 yards of 100% organic merino in a worsted weight:

These next two orders were for custom-ordered pairs of hand-knit socks.  Susan, who makes these socks, is a professional knitter of socks and has an Etsy shop, as well: The Knitting Jeepgirl.  Everyone should stop by her shop to check it out!  She makes gorgeous socks!

This skein is a silk/merino blend that was a gift for someone's mother, I believe.  Originally, this colorway was a BFL sock colorway, but I was able to reproduce it with the silk/merino (no small task if you know anything about dying silk with non-silk dyes).

This final pair of custom dye orders was done for NonasNitting on Etsy.  I can't seem to find the pics of the Blues colorway that I did for Patricia in the mohair, but here is a picture that is from her Etsy shop of the finished, sumptuous product.  I hope she won't be upset that I am promoting her shop and her beautiful sweater (You should purchase it; the yarn she made it with is undescribably soft and dreamy!) by "borrowing" this picture.  The second is my Snapdragon colorway, which I created especially for Patricia, and is done in a fingering weight merino.

So now you know what I do when I'm not knitting or trying to bring order to the chaos of my universe.  Stay tuned for more yarnie stuff later in the week.


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