Starting Them Early

There is an old wives’ tale (or should I say…old knitter’s tale) that says if a Master Knitter puts a pair of knitting needles in a baby’s hands, that baby will grow up to be a knitter.  I’m going to see if that holds true.

Last night, I started little Mika on her way to becoming a knitter.  With the permission of her mommy and under my careful supervision, I placed a whopping big pair of nicely crafted wooden knitting needles into her tiny hands. I took special care to make sure she wasn’t going to poke her eyes out accidentally.  I didn’t think that would be an auspicious start.

She examined the needles with careful concentration.  Obviously she was fascinated by them.  And just because I never do anything halfway, I made sure to do all this in my craft room where she was sitting next to two spinning wheels, surrounded by a LOT of my yarn stash, and I also stuck a skein of yarn on her lap for good measure.

As she slowly sank into a blissful nap, I could tell that she was already dreaming of all those future projects that she was going to knit.  Perhaps she was considering different color combinations for those projects and what types of yarn would be best to use.  If I’m really lucky, she might have been dreaming of spinning up some of her own yarn to knit with.  I have only one variable in this little experiment that I’m not too sure about.  I don’t know if I quite qualify as a “Master Knitter” unless you go by length of time I’ve been knitting.  In that case, 50+ years will hopefully qualify me.  The rest will be up to Miss Mika.

And as a little “teaser” for my next post, my new Schacht Matchless DT arrived yesterday in the evening and the Commander lovingly assembled her for me.  Allow me to introduce to you “Valentina.”

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Picking and Pinning

Have you ever been so sore that you just didn’t want to move a muscle?  That’s my state today.  Yesterday I went outside to empty the dust receptacle from my dust broom and glanced over at our front yard.  Ugh!  The nut sedge grass is taking over the whole darn yard.  I had thought earlier that maybe just pulling out that grass would solve the problem.  And yesterday, looking at that cheeky stuff, I decided to go over and give one an experimental pull.  Hey, it came right up.  Well, one clump led to another and before I knew it, I had spent over a half hour tugging and pulling clumps of nut sedge grass out of the yard.  Man, that stuff is insidious.  It really spreads, too.  What totally frosts my cake is the fact that it came up in the area that the landscaper had seeded.  That’s the only place it came up initially.  We didn’t get grass.  We got this stuff.  The other thing that annoys me is that we have a lawn service that is supposed to fertilize our lawn and treat it for weeds.  The other day when they were treating our lawn, they left a notice on our door that they noticed we had this stuff and that they’d be happy to treat our yard to get rid of it ….for an additional fee, of course.  Well, what in the world are we paying them to do if it isn’t to get rid of stuff like this?  Grrrrr!

Anyway, back to the nut sedge grass.  I finished up with quite a pile of it and hauled it over to our outdoor yard waste can, dumped it in and then went back inside to wash off my hands and arms with soap and water.  After my last bout with poison ivy, I’m super paranoid about getting it again.

Girasole UnblockedNext on the agenda was to give my Girasole Shawl a good soak in the sink and then take it out to the sun porch to block it.  I thought you’d enjoy a picture of how it looked when it was unblocked.  It is always amazing to me how lacework looks after a good blocking.  This is my first (and probably my last) circular shawl and I must say, it was a bear to block.  The sheer size of the thing meant that I couldn’t pin it out in my usual place which is our guest bedroom.  There simply isn’t enough open floor space in there.  There’s more room in our Master Bedroom but with one or the other of us wandering to the bathroom in the dark, I didn’t want to take a chance of us accidentally walking over it.  So the sun room was the logical place to put it, especially since we now have a large open area where the table and chairs used to be that are now gracing our daughter’s deck.

Girasole BlockedHere’s a view of the shawl pinned out.  I certainly could have done a better job blocking it but my knees just couldn’t have held out any longer.  What a pain!  I spent so much time crawling around on the floor pinning this baby out that by the time I stood up, my legs were just shaking.  They still have that “weak” feeling today and boy, are my legs and backside sore!  I started pinning this shawl from the middle out.  To be totally precise, I probably should have taken a tape measure and pinned it to the center and then rotated it around, making sure that each tier was the exact same width at all points of the circle.  You know what?  I have decided that at age 60, I’m not that anal anymore.  It’s going to be partially folded over and draped over my shoulders so nobody is going to be measuring the sections when I’m wearing it.

Girasole SunflowerBy the time I got to the outer edges, I looked at all those little points and thought, “Oy, vey!”  I probably should have pinned each and every point but I ended up pinning at least every other point.  My knees were going fast and I thought I might pitch nose-first into the center of the darn shawl if I had to pin much longer.  It’s going to sit out there until it is good and dry because what gets pinned, must get unpinned and that means more kneeling.  Ugh!

I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the Girasole Shawl, as it sits out on our sun porch, blocked and drying.  Enjoy!Girasole Floor Level

Girasole Outer Tier Floor LevelGirasole PetalsGirasole Arrowpoints_0001Girasole Closeup Arrowpoints

Not Too Swift

Swift with BallwinderTwo years ago at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I purchased a large capacity ball winder.  This was going to be great, I thought.  It would let me wind larger skeins into one center-pull ball of yarn, instead of having to divide it into two balls the way I had been doing it with my smaller ball winder.    Well, from Day One I started having problems with it.  The “belt” would slip and the yarn would start winding down further along the shaft of the ball winder or because of the slippage, I wouldn’t be able to get the swift to turn.  What a mess.  When that happened (which was more times than not), I ended up having to pull lengths of yarn off the swift and onto the floor and then turn the crank of the ball winder while I applied tension through the yarn guide.   This got tedious REALLY fast when I’d be working with a skein with a lot of yardage.

SwiftWell, yesterday (which happened to be the hottest day of the summer so far here), I was up in my guest room where I have these babies located and I was getting ready to wind up five skeins of Silky Malabrigo for my next project.  I wasn’t looking forward to messing around with the “pull off and hand guide” method in the 100+ degrees that it was up in that room.  I looked at the swift and had a moment of inspiration.  “What if I didn’t open the swift up as far as it would go?” I wondered.  “Would that make any difference?”  By golly, I put the opened skein on the swift, opened up the umbrella as far as it would go and THEN backed it down a tad and locked her in place.  I threaded the yarn through the yarn guide and onto the ball winder and started to crank.  Friends, it worked like a charm.  I couldn’t believe it.  For TWO YEARS I’ve struggled with this ball winder and cursed it every time I used it.  And here the solution was right within my grasp.  It was simply that I had the swift open too far which was putting too much tension on the yarn, causing the belt on the ball winder to slip.

Lest I got too prideful, fate intervened and gave me one final little jab when one of the five skeins turned out to be a tangled mass.  Good grief!  I don’t know why a skein would come from the factory like that but I’ll tell you, it was like trying to work my way through a maze.  I had to take what was left on the swift, find the other end and start winding it in reverse until I could take the little ball of yarn that I now had in my hand and slip it in and out of the twisted strands of yarn on the swift …finally releasing the whole mess.  Ugh!  Wouldn’t you know that there would be one bad egg in the bunch?  But I got it all done without felting most of it, despite the high temps.

IMG_4217And now on to my project.  I think I’ll be taking this along with me on our vacation.  It is called the “Vine Bolero” and it was designed by Emily Johnson.  It is sized to fit a bust 30″ to 46 “.  I’ll be making it in the suggested Malabrigo Silky Merino in the “Cape Cod Grey” colorway.  There aren’t any sleeves to sew in with this project or side seams to do so it should be fairly straight-forward.  And there is a lovely little lace pattern on the front, sleeves and center back.    Then again, maybe I’ll pick some other project.  Now that I have cracked the mystery of the balky ball winder, I’m actually looking forward to winding up more yarn.

What NOT to Talk About In a Hospital Waiting Room

Yesterday I was the designated driver for my friend, who was scheduled for outpatient surgery.  Well, we thought it was going to be outpatient surgery but they ended up keeping her overnight at the hospital, so we weren’t able to bring her home until today.

Anyway, I sat in the small surgical waiting room for awhile but it was rapidly filling up with large family groups so I ended up going downstairs to a larger surgery waiting room which happened to be near a little Starbucks kiosk.  Ah!  As I settled down with my knitting, a party of 3 plopped down in the chairs next to me and started up a lively conversation.  The first topic was every person they had ever known who had had cancer and every medical procedure that had been performed on those people, in graphic detail.  Now ever since I was a kid, I have NOT been able to watch medical shows on TV because I will get sympathy “pains” in whatever part of the body the TV doctors are operating on.  I could feel my eye start to twitch as one lady went on and on about one friend who had brain surgery.  Lung cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer….they had a friend for each type right down to prostate cancer.  Thank God I DIDN’T have a body part to associate with THAT part of the discussion.

By now I wasn’t feeling too good and was seriously thinking of gathering up my bag of knitting and heading to another part of the room when the conversation suddenly shifted.  They moved on to discussing a TV special they had seen where doctors had used cadaver bones for some sort of transplant.  I kid you not!  Who in the world talks about this stuff in a surgical waiting room filled with people who all have loved ones or friends who are upstairs in operating rooms being cut open?  That’s like sitting in the pew behind the departed’s immediate family while waiting for the funeral to start and talking about embalming methods.  I grabbed my things and scooted.

Over by the Starbucks kiosk there was a small table with only two chairs.  I grabbed the one chair and put my things on Leaf Lace Shawl Birdseyethe other.  Perfect!  Now I could put my feet up while knitting and wouldn’t have to worry about anyone sitting down next to me and starting up on some topic that would set me to twitching again.  Good thing, too, because it ended up being a long wait before my friend’s husband popped in to say that she was out of the recovery room and ready for a visit.  On the plus side, I made a lot of progress yesterday on my Leaf Lace Shawl.  One of these days, I’ll be ready to start on the edging.

Just Call It a Design Element

Hey Teach SweaterI finally finished my Hey Teach sweater.  It sure feels good to have another knitting project finished, off the needles and blocking.  Now all I have to do is pick some buttons for it and get them sewn on.    However, I did notice as I was preparing to sew the parts together that something was not quite right.  Can you pick it out?

I’ll give you a clue.  It’s NOT the fact that the one sleeve looks larger than the other.  I’ve actually got both sleeves blocked pretty close to the same measurements.  Besides, the sleeve that looks larger happens to go on the arm that had the lymph nodes removed so that arm tends to be bigger anyway.  No, it has to do with the very nature of handpainted yarns.

Hey Teach Lace PanelDoes this give you any better idea of what caused me a little consternation?  Do you begin to see a little variation in the colors between one side and the other of the front sections?  Well, if you’ve worked with handpainted yarn, you know that it is wise to work an inch or so from one skein and then from another skein….alternating back and forth so that any color variations will blend together.  This avoids an obvious changeover from one skein to a new skein.  It is also wise to buy all of your yarn for a project at one time so that you can match your handpainted skeins as closely as possible, since they rarely have dye lots.    OK, I didn’t follow either rule.    Well, I THOUGHT I was following rule #2 but here is what happened.

Remember when the Yarn Harlot knit up something and blogged about it on her blog and the yarn and color were Dream in Color’s Happy Forest colorway?  I fell in love with that color as did half of her readers, making that colorway very hard to find last year.  At one point, my local yarn store (LYS) got some in and I bought 6 or 7 skeins of it.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to make with it (I was considering  the February Lady Sweater at the time) but I knew I probably wanted a few more skeins on hand.  When my favorite online yarn shop got more in, I ordered several skeins of Happy Forest from them.  At some point, I threw them all together into one storage bag.  Bad move!  A year later, I signed up for a class to knit the Hey Teach sweater and decided to use my Happy Forest skeins for the project.  I was knitting merrily along, grabbing skeins out of the bag willy-nilly and only realized after I knit up the second front section, that the two fronts did NOT match.  Wouldn’t you know…..the skeins from my LYS were a much deeper, richer color than the skeins from the online vendor even though they all came from the same yarn dyer and were the same colorway.

Hey Teach Sleeve DetailSomeone in class asked me if I was going to reknit the front and I just looked at her.   You see, I had come up with a plan.  I decided to knit the button band  and neck band from the more vibrant skein which would tie both sides together.  Then I took the one sleeve that was from the deeper yarn and sewed it on the side that was paler and I  took the sleeve from the paler yarn and sewed it on the side that was deeper.  Voila!  We have ourselves a “design element.”    As my mom always used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”  And now you know the rest of the story.

Glutton for Punishment

Girasole Readiness

I have SO many projects waiting in the wings to be knitted up and quite a few projects that are in various stages of completion. You’d think that I would concentrate on finishing up the things that I’ve already started, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. I’ve been eyeing the Girasole pattern by Brooklyn Tweed for some time and wondering if it was something that I’d ever be able to knit.

Well, along came Sheri from the Loopy Ewe who just happened to mention in her blog that she was challenging us to knit along with her as she begins her SECOND Girasole.   You can see some lovely pictures of her first Girasole going through the blocking process here.  If you scroll down to her June 3 and June 5 blog entries, you’ll be able to read all about the Girasole Knitalong details.    That was really all the extra impetus I needed to get me on the Girasole bandwagon.  I DO love a good knitalong.

The pattern is written up to give you the option of making a shawl or a blanket.  The pattern designer used fingering weight for the shawl, which is another plus for me.  I prefer to knit lace in a fingering weight rather than struggling to knit with yarn that is the equivalent of a fine string but hey, to each his own, right?    I moseyed over to the Loopy Ewe to pick out what yarn I wanted to use and settled on this gorgeous Dream in Color Starry in the colorway “Blue Lagoon.”   Next I located a nice tutorial on beginning a circular shawl since I’ve always knitted rectangular or triangular shawls up to this point.  Now I think I’m ready to cast on and give it a “go.”  I will try to post about my progress from time to time so that you can see how I’m doing (and to keep myself accountable). Why not join us and start your own Girasole?

For an extra bit of fun today, Clara Parkes, the author of The Knitter’s Book of Wool has come up with a fun little quiz called Which Ewe are You .  I took it and found out that I’m a Shropshire. Sounds good to me.

Knitting for the Sci-Fi Geek

Maybe it’s the fact that the new Star Trek movie is now out in theaters, but my mind has been drifting off to galaxies far, far away.    Or maybe it’s the fact that my front yard has taken on the appearance of the moon’s surface, with freshly dug craters and little guys in neon orange bibs popping out like groundhogs that has me wondering when the new season of Dr. Who will pop up on the Sci-Fi channel.  By the way, I’m not kidding about the yard.  Apparently, our yard is going to be one of the “hubs” for the FiOS cable that is finally coming to our street.  At any rate, my knitting radar is suddenly picking up all sorts of fun things to knit or knit with that can feed your sci-fi mania at the same time.

Eye of Jupiter Yarn

How about some socks from this “Eye of Jupiter” yarn for all of you Battlestar Galactica fans?   Or knit yourself a pair of Viper Pilots socks designed by Glenna C.    Dr. Who fans can knit themselves a “Dr. Who” scarf ,  a miniature pair of Daleks , crochet up a Tardis,  or go “whole hog” and crochet an amigurumi Tenth Dr. Who.  There are lots more Dr. Who-related patterns but apparently, the BBC is in a snit over a British fan who designed a bunch of patterns and posted them for free on her website.   They threatened to take legal action so she has since taken them off her website.

Christina Marie Potter’s Etsy shop has some fun yarns hand-dyed in different Star Trek colors.   Liberty’s Yarn has been featuring yarn dyed up in colorways honoring “hot chicks of sci fi” such as T’Pol, Starbuck, and Ellen.  Want to knit up your own pair of Spock ears?  Head over to this blog for the instructions.  My friends, there is really no end to what imaginative, creative people can come up with when they also happen to be dyed-in-the-wool (ok, maybe a little pun intended there) sci-fi geeks.  Have fun doing your own searches on the Web and see what else you can unearth.  In the meantime, I’d better transport myself to the laundry room and see if any clean clothes have materialized.