Monday, December 28, 2009

Fiber Holidays

This past $WinterHoliday, we drove down to see family in the southern part of the state. So, per usual, I packed up my holiday knitting (socks, what else?) along with two spindles and extra yarn (just in case).

I managed to finish 1.5 pairs of socks on the trip (my socks as well as started a new pair for DH).

But, on the way back home, we stopped by Village Spinning & Weaving in Solvang. What a *wonderful* fiber shop. I walked inside and was really pleased. They had a very healthy selection of coned yarn for weaving and a rather ample section of fiber all neatly bagged and assorted. There was a nice assortment of merinos of various counts, BFL, Jacob, different alpacas, colored tops, and assorted luxury fibers (yak, bison.....). They had a gold wrapped ounce of quivit! Oh, and they had some lovely lovely yarn, but I was there primarily for FIBER!

It was like being a kid in a candy store. I didn't know where to start!

Unfortunately, I had totally forgotten my list of what I wanted, so decided to just go with some pretty fibers that caught my eye. I picked up some lovely soft merino, some nicely dyed merino (purples & dark reds), and a LOVELY mottled BFL (oatmeal, dark, and white). I seriously debated on the quivit, but knew that I had no knowledge of spinning short fibers so it would have to wait. However, the already-spun quivit from Musk-Ox farms was SORELY tempting....But I held myself back.

DH started a lively conversation with the owners about sheep and indigenous species, which tangented onto man's involvment in breeding & environments. They were lovely people and very helpful.

So, now, I think I shall have to make this stop on our trips whenever we go and visit family. The shop was lovely, well-organized, and had a healthy selection of fiber-y goodness, AND the owners are just nice, nice people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Charity Knitting

Charity knitting is a wonderful idea. The thought of knitters getting together to help make the world a better place is great. It combines the love of knitting with the kindness of giving to others less fortunate.

However, this past week, I read on Ravelry someone being "guilted" into doing charity knitting. No one should ever be guilted into doing something they might not be able to do.

Perhaps that one lone knitter doesn't have enough time to complete their own knitting let along anything for charity.

Perhaps they are helping in other ways, by giving a monetary donation or donating time (like helping out in a soup kitchen).

You don't know and can't assume otherwise. And it would be wrong of us to assume that just because they're not doing charity knitting that they aren't otherwise contributing to their chosen charity.

We all love knitting. It provides a relaxing way to unwind and to create something. However when we are *forced* to knit something, we start to look warily on knitting or the knitting groups to which we belong. It's the reason why some knitters don't like to knit gifts -- it causes too much stress and worry to the point where knitting is no longer enjoyable, but a chore. I don't see knitters "guilting" others into gift knitting. So, why should charity be any different?

Charity should be given from the heart and provide the giver a sense of doing good in the world. Being forced to *do* something makes people resent not only the process, but the end product as well. And we don't want someone to resent a charity or their knitting.

We all give in our different ways. We need to respect each others' abilities to do what we can, when we can, and not force the issue just because everyone else is doing it. It makes that person not only resent knitting, but the person or group that is forcing the issue.

And, that is not in the spirit of charity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Night Sky Karius

I finally took some photos of my Night Sky Karius project. I've been a total slacker. It knitted up rather well. The Karius pattern formed some nice striping that I hadn't expected at all. I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.

At first, the knitted fabric from the handspun was a bit 'coarse', but a good soaking in wool wash softened up the handspun by quite a bit.

Nighty Sky Karius

Nighty Sky Karius

This was spun from my Night Sky handspun that I created for the Ravelry Spindler's SAL.

Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Re-purpose & Re-use: The making of a cable needle

I'm working on the Trilobyte hat from's Summer '09 issue for my BIL who is a geologist. He has a lot of fossilized trilobytes at their house.

However, it does require cabling, and I walked out of the house without a cabling needle. My crochet hook is just too awkward and long to use and I'm incapable of just taking the stitch to be cabled off the hook without it laddering downwards. I was a tad frustrated at what should be a simple cabling project.

As I was eating lunch with chopsticks, I thought, "Hmmmm....." So, after lunch, I washed said chopsticks and used my scissors to score the wood so I could break it. Then using a handy-dandy pencil sharpener to give either end a point, I made myself a small cable needle.

It works just fine.

Photo taken with my mobile.

Letter to Myself

Dear Self,

Starting a last minute gift is probably not the best idea. But you're going to probably try and get it done anyways, right? Not that you need the additional stress and stuff. I don't care if it's a "quick knit". It's not a good idea.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Day without Knitting?! Perish the Thought!

The other day as I was packing for work, I found myself almost done with a knitting project (with only several rows to go) and realizing that it would only take me a short time to finish.

As I do a lot of my knitting on my daily train commute, this would mean I would finish my project on the train even before I got to work. I'd have *nothing* else to work on for the rest of the day.

Obviously, this was a horror I couldn't imagine going through, so to save myself the hassle, I quickly finished up the last few rows, then cast on another small project that I had thought about starting.

Knitting has saved my already frail sanity on many occasions (when my train was delayed by OVER TWO hours) or when I find myself waiting in line that should have been "fast". Even for short errands, I find myself grabbing one of my knitting project bag (REI ditty bags in assorted colors) and stuffing it into my satchet before heading out the door.

One time, I accidently left the house without my knitting and had to wait...boringly.....bereft of reading material (magazine or book) and felt myself slowly go mad....I vowed *never* to do that again.

I find it amusing that short amount of time that I've been knitting (less than a year), it has become a part of my daily routine. Yet I had been crocheting for the better part of 20 years and it never grabbed my attention like knitting. I surmise it's because extended bouts of crocheting actually cause my hands to ache just a tad, whereas knitting does not.

DH laughs at me sometimes. I brought a knitting project to the movie theatre and I sat knitting during it. He says I've turned into one of those grandmothers that can knit through anything....Now, he barely blinks an eye and just chuckles. He did this the other day when we were at the Dicken's Fair and I pulled a small knitting project out of my muff.

As I've mentioned previously, knitting is a very active form of Zen; something that keeps my hands busy and lets my mind go into a meditative state (that is until I make a mistake or foobar a pattern....but I digress).

It's something I won't leave the house without, much like my wallet, cel phone, or house keys.

I find this particular comic strip rather apt:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Knitting

Normally, I'm not the type to do holiday gift knitting, because it's just too much stress on ones nerves. But, this time around, I felt like I needed to make something for that one person, just because. (I'm not mentioning said gift or person until *after* the receive said gift)

I knew what this person's favorite color, and s/he had mentioned being cold during certain times despite the warm weather climate where s/he lived. S/he had tried on a knitted item I had with me and said that s/he might actually wear something like those.

So, knowing that, I got the right color and found a wonderfully quick knitted project. Each of the pair (you get that clue) was a very very easy knit and only took 2 train rides (30 minutes a piece) to finish. There was no complicated stitches, but it wasn't a boring knit either. I made a few changes to the pattern (specifically a gusset) much more to my liking.

Now, they're currently blocking so I can ship them off by Tuesday to the unsuspecting person.

But, if I ever have to do any holiday knitting, this is one relatively quick project that takes less than 1 skein and about 2 hours to make.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Practicality of Knitted Items

Today's blog entry is about practicality versus beauty of knitted garments.....

Some time ago, I knit myself a variation of the Cigar Gloves (ravelry link). I added 'removable' fingers to the thumb, index, and middle fingers. (They attach on the top of the hand, and I can slip my fingers out of them). I wanted to make them for use on my photography outings, when hands can get cold, but mittens are highly impractical; camera controls *need* to have the deftness of ungloved fingers.

Photographer Gloves

But, I've find myself wearing them on a regular basis despite how "dorky" they look with the dangling fingers because of the practicality of using them.

The other day, I walked into a store to buy part of a birthday gift, and slipped off the fingers in order to pick up a box. The store was part of an enclosed open mall so it was cold in the store, so I didn't want to take my gloves off.

The store clerk looked at my gloves and said, "OMG, those are so practical!".

Now, she didn't say, "Those are lovely!" or "That must have been a lot of work" or "Wow, that's some fancy stitch work!" or "That's beautiful yarn"

I've heard those things about my other knitted projects. This was a brand new compliment indeed, and it took me slightly aback. I thanked her, and admitted that they were quite practical indeed.

Now, granted, I didn't do a lot of fancy cabling or stitching on the the gloves, but the yarn (Socks that Rock Heavyweight) is pretty darn colorful and it's superwash. An important thing when gloves can get dirty when working in the field with a camera.

Admittedly, the dangling extra fingerrs can be rather weird at times, but I've been glad of them on many many many occasions as I slip them over my very cold fingers. Yet, I still hadn't quite expected to hear someone gush about the practicality of my knits.

But, then, I thought about it briefly, especially given the cold weather we've been having lately. What was the purpose of original purpose of knitting? --

The purpose of knitting was to provide someone with something warm, practical, and function to use day to day in a time when commercially available clothing was too expensive or not available. The knitted item might or might not have been 'pretty'. The yarn used to make said item might or might not have been colorful. Practicality & functionality were the primary purpose.

Today, with the advent of so many types of yarn (from luxury wools and silks) and so many colors, we can now choose to make our knitted items works of art.

But many knitted items still serve a practical purpose, especially in cold weather environments. And herein is where the strength of knitted items lie. Imagine going out into the cold blustery day without your scarf or hat or gloves, and only a jacket. How much warmer would you be with these items? I, for one, have been immensely glad that I made my own scarf, hat, and gloves now that the weather has turned. I've made them with nice warm wool and they've been instrumental in my not turning into a popsicle on those particularly cold days.

So, in that sense, noting the practicality of an item is a wonderful compliment.

No, my gloves aren't exactly wonderful work of art compared to some of my other knitted items, BUT, they keep me warm during this cold season and are immensely practical.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Continuing Looking at Wool Types & Micron Counts

Previously on another blog post, I was looking into micron counts and wool types in order to learn about "micron counts" and why they are or not important. I also wanted to research some of the wools that fall into the Fine/Medium/Long (Coarse) categories as suggested by the guidelines so that I would have a better idea when planning on projects on exactly what wool types would be best suited for it.

There are apparently two books on the subject of wool types that I need to acquire:The Knitter's Book of Wooland In Sheep's Clothing: A Handspinner's Guide to Wool.These have been recommended on the Ravelry boards by a multitude of people.

However, Ravelry and the general Internet has been a wealth of information. You just need to go to many sites and piece things together; and even then, you still have an incomplete picture.

But, here's what I've determined thus far in terms of wool (I'm not including things like silk and plant fibers):

Fine wools (16- 22 microns): most Alpacas, Merino, Cormo, Rambouillet, (some) BFL(x), fine shetland(x), camel, angora, possum, quiviut, cashmere, vicuna

Medium wools (22- 31 microns): Corriedale(x), Falkland(x), BFL(x), mohair(x), (inner) Icelandic(x), Shetland(x), Dorset, Cheviot, Jacob

Long wools (31- 36 microns):Romney(x), Wensleydale, Border Leiscter, Lincoln(x)

(X)s mark those wools I've already spun as part of my Spinning Study.

When correlated with the information from the previous post, it gives me an idea of what projects to use with different types of wool:
  • 16-19 Fine worseted & intimate wear
  • 19-23 Apparel, outerwear, quilt batting / felts
  • 23-28 Sweaters, light upholstery coatings, fiberfill
  • 28-32 Upholstery, tapestries, some carpets
  • 32-38+ Carpets, industrial use.

  • Obviously, these are only guidelines. There's nothing preventing anyone from using one type of wool to make something out of the "category",

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Fabric Goodness

    This past week has only been partially filled with fibery goodness, but lots of fabric goodness.

    I'm currently working on an outfit for Dicken's Faire, which is an event that runs from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas eve. It recreates the time in England during Charles Dicken's life. People dress in period appropriate clothing, and the actors stay within the confines of the speech and mannerisms of Dicken's England.

    It's a lot of fun. My previous Dicken's outfit needed upgrading, so I worked on creating a Spanish jacket & matching waist belt. I'm currently building up layers of trim on both the jacket & belt.

    Spanish Jacket & Waist Blet

    Of course, this doesn't mean I haven't been knitting or spinning. My knitting bug gets satisfied on my daily two hour commute, plus last night, I took to finishing off a bobbin of two-ply that I had kept putting off.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    That Shrinking Ball of Yarn....

    Ever look on with dread at a shrinking ball/cake of yarn and know that your project isn't quite yet done? While hoping that you might have just enough to eek out?

    I had that happen to me this past Saturday as I worked on my Lacy Karius project with my handspun. And I realized I definitely was *not* going to have enough yardage.

    I love handspun, but if you start to run out of yardage, you can't exactly run to your LYS and find another skein. I had two skeins of yarn (3oz/85 grams and 2 7/8 oz/81 grams) of my Nightsky handspun which totaled about 200 yards. The nice thing about the Lacy Karius/Baktus pattners is that you don't need an exact amount. You knit increases until half the yarn is gone, then knit the decreases.

    Unfortunately, I started with the 3oz/85g ball of yarn first and went a wee bit too far past where I should have stopped midpoint before starting the decreases. But, I hadn't thought about it until almost completed. ICK.

    So, I had to completely frog back to the half-way point, then frog back another inch or so. Then I started knitting the decreases again. This time, I should have enough yarn (*knock on wood*)

    Luckily, this is a relatively fast knit, and I'm almost done with it.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Cozy Bed Warmers

    I saw something on Craft magazine that had me intrigued. I, of the perpetually cold feet, needed something to warm up the bed without a wasteful blanket heater (because I always forget to turn it off although the cats love it).

    It was a Cozy Bed Warmer that used corn feed from the Pet & Feed store and a bit of fabric.

    Well, I have excess fabric in spades, and I always make a trip to our local Pet & Feed Store to pick up food for the cats. On my last trip, I picked up some whole corn feed (about 3-4 lbs) which is incredibly cheap. Then I took some scrap muslin and made myself a Cozy Bed Warmer. I didn't feel the need to make it out of fancier fabric because a) it's not a gift and b) I'm going for functionality and ease of making. Trim? I don't need no stinking trim! Plus muslin was the most copious and easily readible fabric in my whole stash (plus I have quite a bit left over from various mockups)

    With cutting and sewing, it took maybe 8 minutes top on the sewing machine.

    Love, love, love this thing. It goes into the microwave for about 3 minutes (while I'm brushing my teeth, etc) then gets shoved in under the covers just as I crawl into bed.

    It stays warm an incredibly *long* time, and (not) surprisingly, with my feet warm, the rest of me isn't as cold. And of course, the cats love it, and they have a tendency to sleep around my feet now. I can also see using it as a nice warm heating pad for aching muscles.

    If I make any more to give as gifts, I'll definitely be using much nicer fabric than my plain muslin, as well as some trim :-)

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    On Saving Money.

    With the economy the way it is, I'm trying very hard to stay within the confines of my Stash -- both Fabric & Fiber -- in order to save $$$.

    Staying within the Fabric Stash is easy, because I have an entire garage wall full of fabric with which to play, garnered by years of hoarding and purchasing (although in fairness half of the fabric belongs to DH).

    Staying within my Fiber Stash is a bit more difficult, because I've tried to contain the yarn to one 32-gallon Rubbermaid bin, and the unspun fiber to a bin half that size. Plus I've only been actively knitting & spinning for less than a year. So I haven't had much of a chance to increase the Fiber Stash as much as the Fabric Stashes. But my LYS is such a place of temptations, plus everyone seems to be having really good sales on fiber/yarn.

    And I think, "Wow, that's a good price!"

    But even with a good price, you're still spending money ($$$) no matter "how" much you save from the full retail price. And spending money means you're not actually saving any money at all.

    I've mentioned my Backlog of Fiber before, which should keep me busy for at least several months without needing to buy additions to the Stash, so says the Logical & Practical part of me. But, that doesn't stop my inner ferret from looking at all the pretty pretty yarn/fiber and squeaking, "PRETTY SHINY!"