Friday, February 26, 2010

The Calm before the Storm: Knitting with Blizzard

Faithful Reader: I have not forgotten about the 10 months to Holidays Knitting. I'll be posting about that topic soon! Thanks for tuning in!

Some people go out for bread and milk before a storm. I go out for yarn. Before the snowstorm hit Southeastern Massachusetts a little over a week ago I visited my LYS, the much-loved Knitting Circle, to be sure I was stocked with new yarn and a new project. I had been eyeing Reynold's Blizzard for a while: 65% Alpaca and 35% Acrylic. I decided to use a pattern out of Jean Frost's Jackets books: Fairfield.

One of my goals with this project was to learn how to calculate my own gauge and apply that knowledge to the project. As much as I love Sensei I must learn to be an independent knitter. Besides, as Sensei says, "My students depend on me. What are they learning?" So I'm out to make Sensei proud.
Here's the process for those who need the skill: I worked my swatch in pattern. My Knitting Sensei measured my knit stitches and then my purl stitches to determine how many stitches I had per inch. She averaged those amounts together to get my stitches per inch because I swatched in pattern. The pattern is a lovely basket weave similar to Reynold's Blizzard pattern 82331.  I duplicated that process and came up with the same numbers. Relief! The Wabi Sabi Knitter can be taught!

Sensei and I also decided to cast on stitches for the fronts and back on a circular needle (size 11) so I'd have less finishing work to do. The pattern has 8 rows that are wonderfully easy to work. The yarn is buttery as one of my friends mentioned. I recommend winding it (as opposed to knitting from the yarn pulled out of the middle of the skein) as every once in a while the yarn velcros to itself a bit. I did notice a knot early on while winding the yarn. Knots aside, the yarn is a pleasure to knit up.  I am very pleased with my choice. The irony is that I've been unable to knit because I injured my hand after slipping on some ice. I'll keep you posted on my recovery and progress on the project.

Comment with any questions and ideas! I hope you are enjoying your knitting life. Be well!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eleven Months to Christmas 2010

I am not a speedy knitter. I don't have a lot of time to knit (see previous post). The most important conclusion from these two facts: time is my friend. Lots of time. Time to plan and get a project done. I've decided to count down to holiday season 2010. This will inspire and allow me to make at least one hand-knitted gift this Christmas. So, join me as I begin this journey and countdown to holidays 2010. I know you're wondering: will the recipient appreciate hand-made gifts in particular and knitting in general? A resounding, "Yes!" I am blessed with people who clamor for knitted gifts. A blessing and a curse, really.

Let's talk about resources. I am looking first at Interweave magazine's Holiday Gift Guide 2009. It has some great ideas such as little mice ornaments and the Tapestry Mittens would make stunning gifts. I am also partial to the Wine and Roses Mitts. (Hint to my knitting buddies, I'd love a pair myself!) Also check out the Interweave website They have wonderful ideas. I just typed "Christmas" into the search box and am inspired.

What have been your favorite patterns from Christmas past? Hanukkah? Winter Solstice? Please share the inspiration. I particularly want to know the responses from the lucky ones who received knitted gifts.

Interweave is just one wonderful resource out of many. I'll be blogging about my search for a Christmas pattern this month and sharing more resources. I hope to have made a choice by February 25, 2010. I'll keep you posted. Keep knitting! Be well!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy New Year 2010: Keep Knitting!

Happy New Year and happy knitting! 2010 is two weeks old and it's time for some inspiration and updates. I want to stay connected with you in 2010 and share the wonderful journey of life and knitting. You'll find some updates here as well as a link to a great You Tubevideo that may help cure some tension problems when knitting. I'm going to post separately about the swatch you see here and (more importantly) how to see where tension problems exist and how to fix them.
The Knitting Guild of America has great advice on technique, especially when you are trying to perfect stitch tension.
I vow to knit more in 2010. You are my witness. This will be a challenge. Why? Time for you to be updated: I took on a new challenge in 2009 that will impact 2010, my life in general, and, of course, my knitting. I filled out the appropriate paperwork and declared a second undergraduate degree in biochemistry. It is a wonderful and challenging course of study. I must admit, though, classes have cut deeply into my knitting time. Also my sleeping, eating, and family time. I am on a mission, though, for most of my adult life I suffered from undiagnosed celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, andI intend to make a contribution to the field of immunology.

Having said that I must insist: being a science major is fun. Yes, I'm not only a yarn-nerd but a science nerd, too! So, extra emphasis on time management skills in 2010. Let's learn together as I am convinced we could all stand to manage our time just a bit better. I want to hear from those of you out there whose lives are quite frankly getting in the way of their knitting. How do you work around it? How do you sneak it in? I'll be giving some ideas about portable knitting and approaches to working on projects at least a few minutes a day. I hope to add an e-mail link to me, soon. In the meantime, please comment!

In 2010 you'll see some new posts and sections on the blog that reflect the marriage of yarn and science. I'll be sharing some links to podcasts and audible books that are inspirational and informative. Also, I'll share more techniques as I work my way through Lesson 1 on the Knitting Guild of America's correspondence course. Well worth it! And, my instructor understands my limited time and is working with me. Great!

One of the first lessons I've learned is to watch my tension. Or, more accurately, to learn to see how uneven tension can affect my stitches. I knit in the Continental Style. When I first learned to knit I honestly did not know there were even different ways to knit, to hold yarn, etc. I now understand that the way you knit can result in tight or loose knit or purl stitches. My instructor recommended this video from Craft Sanity -- -- to help me from making my knit stitches too tight and my purls too loose:

Watch this blog for annotated pictures of my lesson swatches to see how too loose purls show up in your knitting. Simple techniques, big effect on your knitting.

Until next time, keep knitting. Be happy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stash to Story -- Swansea Edition

A grant from the Swansea Cultural Council sponsored a session at the Swansea Public Library. Five wonderful women gathered to share stories about learning to knit and quilt.

Here's an excerpt from one story about learning to knit:

"Gramma was the one big influence in my life. In many ways I realize she encouraged me to be interested in many things -- gardening, church, and knitting. I sat for what seemed like hours on the floor at her feet, while she unwound skeins of yarn and it was my job to put the yarn into an ever-growing ball. She made sweaters for my brother and I and every afghan in the house was one she had made...once I finally learned the various stitches I made small things like blankets for my doll's cradle...Gramma's motto was one that many people lived by then, 'idle hands are the devil's workshop' so I always made sure I was busy...I still feel compelled to never have idle hands. If I'm not reading or writing, I'm knitting for embroidering. It's always rewarding to be productive. Being bored has never been a part of my life."

Knitters do have the advantage over boredom. And there is a beauty when a skill such as knitting is given to another person, especially a family member. The purpose of Stash to Story is to celebrate these moments and understand how they can lead to life-long appreciation of and participation in the arts. They can also shape a person's philosophy of life and affect quality of life for the better!

Thank you to the Swansea Local Arts Council. Thank you to Lorna, Dilia, Alice, Melissa and Marty for two wonderful evenings! Keep knitting, quilting, crocheting, embroidering, painting, crafting in all its forms. And, please, for me, tell the stories of your creative journeys so you can remember and celebrate!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Never Wear a Handknit Sweater to Chem Lab

This, my friends, is what they do not cover in the chemistry lab safety video. As you know, I filter much (if not all) of what goes on around me from a knitter's point of view. While I learned about putting out fires I couldn't stop myself from thinking, "I'm never wearing a hand-knit sweater to chem lab." Stains, acids, fires! I then remembered wool has some natural resistance to fire.

In honor of Embrace Your Inner Geek Day, which I learned about from my chem lab partner, I researched some of wool's properties and share them here with you. The following is from the American Sheep Industry Association (, Industry Facts/Fast Facts:

RESISTANCE TO FLAME Because wool contains moisture in each fiber, it resists flame without chemical treatment. Instead of burning freely when touched by flame, wool chars and stops burning when it is removed from the source of fire. Wool is self-extinguishing. It will not support combustion; this is why wool blankets are recommended for use in extinguishing small fires.

CHEMICAL STRUCTURE Wool is a natural protein fiber that grows from the follicles of the sheep’s skin. It is like human hair in that it is composed of keratin-type protein. Chemically these proteins contain 5 elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. These 5 elements are combined into 19 amino acids linked together in ladder-like polypeptide chains.

OK. Evidence seems to point to wool being a resilient, marvelous fiber. Maybe, just maybe, I'd attire myself in hand knits for lecture and lab. How about you? Ever wear wool to dangerous places? Of course, with three kids, danger does seem to lurk everywhere -- juice spills, sticky lollipops (not in my cashmere!), baby drool. Knitters beware and be brave!

Embrace your Inner Geek and your stash of wool!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Post and Brag: I Felt A Leap of Knitterly Faith

Hello friends and knitters. Take a break with me. A little tea time for the soul. Below are the kanji symbols for gratitutde. And, today, I'm grateful for the finished object I'm posting and bragging about.


Have you considered a felting project? If not, maybe this post will tempt you.

This year I resolved to report on just a few of the great craft projects that I witness. I wish I had more time to celebrate all the wonderful crafting achievements of crafters I know personally and those who give me a glimpse of their craft through blogs, Flickr etc. There is so much creativity around us. Today, I'm focused on stopping to smell the roses in the wide world's craft garden.

My life is wonderfully busy right now (caring for my children, work, studying, writing, knitting, etc) so my craft time is a little cramped and I'm glorying in the finished objects of my crafting family.

This week I feature a beautiful felted bag by Evie, my friend and Ravelry buddy. While she was working on it I saw yards of shapeless and formless stockinette. Then one day she was toting this gorgeous, functional, and (quite) sturdy bag. It struck me that felting requries good patterns, measurements, and a leap of faith. It wouldn't hurt if the spirit of faith had a good agitating washer with super-hot water as an accomplice.

So go out and appreciate the wide world of crafting. Go and visit and search "felt." There is a great "Felt This!" article. Send me your pics and I'll be glad to post and brag about your project. Be inspired to take a leap of faith and try a new project. Maybe felting. Whatever it is, enjoy!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year 2009: A Fresh Start with Finishing

Happy New Year 2009 Knitters!

Yes, 2009 is almost three weeks old but greetings are still in order. I rang in the New Year finishing up old business. Really old business. I looked back at my posts and realized it took me over a year to knit the Artful Yarns Mohair and Ribbon cardigan. The cardigan from Post # 5 The sweater from my January 18, 2008 post is now complete and it was worth the wait!

What took me so long? I decided I was going to learn to finish the garment myself. I decided that I would not continue in my knitting life until I learned how to finish a garment properly. This from the woman who had trouble binding off her first scarf.

Artful Yarns pattern 92082 for a cardigan was suggested to me by my teacher (see Dedication) and was a good start in "good" yarn for me. The pattern is easy to read and uses two Artful Yarns: Cinema (cotton/nylon ribbon yarn) and Portrait (mohair, viscose, and polyester).

I did not want to ruin a perfectly knitted sweater (I can hear you snickering) with a bad finish. So, I learned my Sensei's technique of the flat-seam finish. The book from Japan, Ondori's Basic Knit book proved invaluable.

It took me so long that my knitting buddies who would see me slaving away at my sample swatch (see post"What is Wabi Sabi" from October 8, 2008) from at the yarn shop would say, "Are you still working on that same sweater?" For months (literally) the answer was yes.

What kept me going for the miles of stitches? The following list gave me inspiration to keep at a repetitive task, and multiple unravelings (yes, my own neologism) of incorrectly joined seams:
  • Listening to the Yarn Harlot's audiobook of At Knit's End: Meditations for Women who Knit Too Much
  • Target's Archer Farms Label Dark Hot Chocolate
  • The Joy of learning a new task (the process not always so joyful, the result? Pure joy!)
  • The knowledge that I would always treasure the sweater as the first I finished

OK, regarding the last item on the list: technically, I didn't finish the whole garment. Sensei set in the sleeves. You'd be waiting another six months (minimum) if I had attempted that myself. That's a task for another day.

I urge you to learn a finishing technique or two in 2009; It'll make you feel smart, powerful! Go knitters, no matter how long it takes, I know you can do it.