Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beaded Knitting

So now that my gift has been given I can finally write a post about my frustration the process of knitting with beads for the first time.

I had wanted to try knitting with beads for a long time, but had never really found the right project.  Then I came across the Sojur Falls Scarf by Jamie Roe.  It looked so light and airy and just right for my mom.  I set about finding the right yarn, knowing I needed that before finding the beads to ensure I got the right color.  I ended up using Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere in tapestry blue.  I had used this yarn before and found it very soft and I liked working with it.

Once the yarn arrived I had to find 6/0 beads in the right shade.  Off to Micheal's I went.  Now, I will say that my choice of beads was part of what complicated this project and made it more time consuming.  In the original pattern all the beads are the same color.  I couldn't find enough beads in one color that went well with the yarn, but what I did find were a couple of tri-colored assortment packs of blue beads and I thought it would be neat to use them. (That was the first mistake.)  I had intended to randomize the beads throughout the scarf.

Notice I said intended. . . that is not what happened. 

I accidentally created a pattern of the beads and decided that I liked it so much I would keep going. (This was the second mistake.)  To make things easier, I spent an hour hand separating/sorting all the beads into different compartments in my bead organizer so that I could quickly (ha ha) grab the right color.


There is nothing quick about stringing tiny little beads onto stitches.

When I started out I was using a very small crochet hook to string the beads.  I would push the bead up on the hook, grab the stitch off the needle, slide the bead down the hook and onto the live stitch, and finally put the stitch back on the left needle and knit it.  This was working OK, but because the hook was much smaller than the yarn it kept splitting the stitch and it really slowed me down.

I decided I need to use a different method, more like the one recommended in the pattern.  I took a small bit of beading wire and bent it in half so that I could loop it through the live stitch and then slide the bead down over the closed wire and onto the stitch.  This dramatically sped things up.  However, the fact that I had to pay attention to what color bead I was grabbing each time still kept the pace slower than it could have been. (I also have to say that there are at least two places where I used the wrong color.  I didn't realize it until several rows later and I was not about to knit back to that spot to change the color.  No one will even notice.)

The other aspect of this project that kept me from finishing it quicker was I really couldn't take the project with me to either knit in the car or knit while visiting.  With the way I had chosen to bead the project, I couldn't have all my supplies in the car without risking spilling the beads everywhere (I shutter, even now, to think about the possibility of having to find them all).  As for knitting while visiting, I also didn't think it would be very polite to whip out all the supplies while chatting and start working; it just isn't the same as having a small discrete project you don't have to look at. This limited the time I could spend knitting to weekday evenings once the kids were in bed.  Not a lot of time at all.  If I hadn't taken some extra time off work before Christmas, I wouldn't have been able to get this project done in time.

All of that being said, I would still knit with beads again with two considerations:

1. I would not knit a beaded project on a deadline.  The deadline took some of the enjoyment out of the project.

2. I would not over complicate the project by trying to add an additional pattern to the bead color.

Of course, knowing myself, I don't know how realistic it is to think that I will not do exactly those two things again. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After

Yesterday was Christmas.  My husband and I awoke earlier than the kids, made coffee and waited.  Just about the time that we were starting to think we should make some noise to wake up the kids, we heard our son's alarm clock going off.  

Now, something you have to know is that he never, and I mean never, gets up when his alarm goes off the first time. (He's getting a head start on being an excellent teenager next year.) Yesterday was the exception.  He had set it for 6:30am and he was UP as soon as it started to beep.  Of course, his little sister was still sleeping. Well, she was until we gave him permission to go into her room and wake her up.  At first she was very mad, then she quickly remembered what day it was and got up and ran downstairs.

And so Christmas day 2010 began.  

Everyone was happy at the gifts the received, but, more importantly, everyone was delighted to watch as the gifts they gave were opened. 

We quickly finished our family Christmas so that we could get on the road to our larger family Christmas celebration.  This year there were 12 of us gathered.  We ate and played games and ate and talked and ate and generally just spent time together (and did I mention the eating thing?).  Then, when we could stand it no longer, we opened gifts.  The kids always go first so that they have something to keep them occupied while the adults open gifts.  This was the moment I had been anticipating for the last month.

Last week, I posted that I wasn't sure that I would finish the gift I was knitting.  Well, I managed to get it knitted, blocked and wrapped by 8pm on Christmas eve. What a great feeling that was.

 I was really happy with how it turned out, but I was nervous that my mom wasn't going to like it. (I know, she's my mom and no matter what she would like it, but still I think every knitter is a bit nervous giving a hand knit gift to anyone.) I kept asking my husband if he thought she would like it.  I guess I asked a lot, because he finally told me to stop asking and that she was going to love it.

Not only did she loved it, but my aunt also loved it and immediately said that she was going to rig next year's name drawing so that I got her name, because she wanted a hand knit gift. 

 All in all it was a wonderful Christmas. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One week until Christmas

One week from today it will be Christmas.  One week from right now, my kids will be laying in bed wondering if it is too early to get up and run downstairs to check their stockings. They'll be straining to hear if anyone else is stirring, thus giving them the green light to attack what Santa has left them.

I love watching their faces when they see their overflowing stockings.  It's a look of pure joy and delight that you really don't see any other time of year. Not to say that they aren't delighted with other things, but Christmas is a special time.  My mom is fond of telling me that I loved Christmas so much and would get so anxious and excited that I threw up every year.  I'm very glad my kids can contain their excitement better.

Christmas check in time. It's a week before Christmas and  . . .

I've finished my shopping . . .oops not even close.
I've finished my hand knit gift . . .same answer, not even close.
I at least know what I need to get to finish my shopping . . . ha ha ha (or should I say Ho Ho Ho)

We finished shopping for the kids a while ago, but my crazy work schedule has made it near impossible to get out to the stores to finish shopping for my husband.  I normally do a lot of my holiday shopping online, but somehow time got away from me on that front as well. 

I still feel like I can finish my knitted gift in time.  It may be really down to the wire, but I am confident I can make it happen.  I'm still not sure what to get dear hubby.  I do have some extra time off this next week for finishing shopping and knitting.  So . . .

I think I see a lot of frantic shopping and knitting in my near future.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pretty Project Syndrome

Every year the adults in my family draw names for Christmas presents.  We decided years ago that, while we all love giving and receiving gifts, Christmas was really about spending time together and breaking the bank to give everyone gifts was just silly.

We used to wait until Thanksgiving to draw names (as we are usually all together then too).  However, over the years as many of us (by many I mean a few of us women) have turned to giving handmade items we realized that we had to draw names earlier in order to give enough time to complete projects.  A few years ago I drew my mom's name and ambitiously set out to knit Starsky by Jordana Paige (who has since become one of my favorite knit ware designers).   I did manage to finish the sweater by Christmas that year. (Of course, I was still quickly finishing the belt on it as we drove out to Palm Springs.)

This year I decided to knit a gift again and I have chosen a project that involves beaded knitting (I can't say more for fear that the recipient may read the blog).  I'm not sure why I try to challenge myself with the knitting I choose for Christmas.  Maybe it's because I know that this special gift will be wholeheartedly appreciated.  Maybe it's because it's family and I know that if it have to wrap the gift while it is still on the needles they will understand. Maybe, and this is probably the most accurate statement, it's because I really don't think it through.  I have Pretty Project syndrome. 

Pretty Project syndrome is similar to Shiny Object Disorder (wherein the sufferer is easily distracted by shiny objects).  I see a project and how pretty it looks in the pictures, and usually the pattern has come intriguing elements, and I can't help but want to knit it for someone regardless of how time consuming the pattern actually is.  It just so happens that this syndrome is more active during the holiday season.

With this particular pattern, and I promise once the gift is given that I will share more details, it has a 6 row repeat and three of the rows involve beads and one also has a couple of cables. (If you found this post through Ravelry then you know the pattern of which I speak).  It's not a difficult pattern (in fact it was easy to memorize and a lot of fun), but having to stop every few stitches to thread beads really slows things down.  I've now had to set a daily knitting goal of number of repeats that have to be done in order to finish in enough time to block before Christmas.  

I'm pretty sure I can make it by Christmas.  No, I know I can make it by Christmas.  If I just keep saying that it will come true, right?

Only non-revealing photo of current project I could find.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaKniSweMo Closes

Yesterday was the final day of NaKniSweMo for this year. (Which by the way means today is December first and I can't believe this year is almost over.)

Did I finish my sweater . . .no.
Do I feel a sense of failure . . .no.

I spent a good deal of time thinking about the difference between NaNoWriMo (which I have completed) and NaKniSweMo (which I did not complete). The conclusion that I have come to is these two events are vastly different.

Now, you might say, "Of course they are. One involves writing a book and the other involves knitting a sweater.  The two talents aren't even related."  However, I mean in a, less obvious, and more fundamentally challenging way.

In NaNoWriMo the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel.  No one says they have to be of high quality.  In fact, they don't even have to make a lot of sense.  It is not an exercise in producing a finished, polished novel.  It is meant to get writers into the practice of writing on a daily basis. Throughout the month you are even reminded not to care about the quality as participants are fond of using the phrase, December is for editing.

Ah, editing.  That isn't something you can do once you have knit 50,000 stitches of a sweater. (Well, you can, but it's called frogging and reknitting.  Not really the same as editing text.)  In other words, you have to care about the quality of the stitches as you are knitting them and go back and fix mistakes as soon as they are discovered.  For a slow knitter like me, this makes the task of completing 50k stitches in a month very daunting. 

But then, this is where the two challenges are the same, at least for me.  NaNoWriMo did get me into a more regular writing habit and now NaKniSweMo has put me back on track with regular knitting time.  It has reminded me why I love knitting and why I should pick up the needles more often.  So in that sense, I feel like I have completed NaKniSweMo and in a few more weeks I should have a finished sweater to show for it.  One that I have been wanting to knit for a couple of years.  

Sounds like a win to me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lost and Found

It's been almost 10 months since we moved into our home.  In that time, we have unpacked . . . almost all our stuff.  It's amazing how everything gets shuffled around and "lost" when you move.

This week I took some extra time off work to make sure that our home was ready to receive guests for Thanksgiving.  I found our living room on the first day.  I had been worried that it wasn't big enough to hold all 13 of us, but after I put away all the laundry baskets and the accumulated stuff I discovered that it is indeed big enough. 

I decided that while I was cleaning and organizing I would unearth all my knitting supplies that were still packed away.  Don't get me wrong.  I have had all my supplies within reach since the moment we moved in.  It's just that they have been in bins and boxes and not really labeled and I have added to my needles and stash in that time and most of it wasn't cataloged. 

So yesterday I got out all my boxes and project bags and started rummaging through them.  I found all my needles and made sure they were all listed on my Ravelry chart.  Now, they are sitting artfully on the end table next to my knitting spot in the rediscovered living room. 

I also found many of my hibernating projects.  I have a really bad habit of starting small projects and then leaving them on the needles never to be finished.  I have now organized all of these small projects into a magazine rack that also, conveniently enough, sits next to the knitting spot.

I say this not to imply that any of these small projects will be finished anytime soon, more like they will sit there and mock my lack of progress.  But at least now I can see exactly what I have been ignoring.

There is one more thing that I had lost that has been found . . .my knitting motivation.  Party this is due to the turning of the weather, but I owe a finders fee to attempting NaKniSweMo.  I may not make the 50k stitch count by next week, but the fact that I have been knitting everyday has really reminded me why I love this craft so much.  But I'll save that for another post.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rainy Day Knitting

I love knitting when it is raining outside.  It just seems so comforting to be snuggled on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a pile of knitting.  Most of the time I end up with a cat, or possibly the dog, sitting on the couch behind me.

Today was just such a day . . .or at least it started out that way.

It rained pretty good until a little after noon and then the sun came out.  To counteract this change in weather, I simply closed the blinds and pretended that the rain was still coming down.  I have a lot of knitting left to do on my windowpane coat for NaKniSweMo.   I'm very far behind, but I am not giving up.

I've finished the back and the left front pieces and I've now started the right front.  In total, I've only knit about 19,500 stitches.  I really thought I would have a higher stitch count at this point.  Maybe that is more due to the stiffness in my wrists than to the size of the garment.  It makes it feel like I have knit much more than I have.  I'm still getting used to what it feels like to knit with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Alas, it means I have to knit slower and take more breaks than before.  Still it feels good to be knitting as frequently as I have been this month.

Tomorrow my breaks from knitting will be consumed by various cleaning chores in prep for Thanksgiving.  This will be the first Thanksgiving in our new house.  I am looking forward to celebrating with my extended family.

I know one thing I'll be giving thanks for that day . . .rainy day knitting.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaKniSweMo Almost Half Way

Nov 14th, almost half way through the month and I should be almost half way through my 50k stitch count in order to be on track for NaKniSweMo. . .Am I?  No.

In fact, I am only almost half way to the half way point.  Sick children, an injured back, birthday weekend and hectic work days have kept me from spending as much time knitting as I would have liked. Yesterday was the first day this month that I was able to spend a significant amount of time knitting.  I did finally manage to get to the armhole shaping on the back of the coat and things are moving along a a good pace now.  The pattern changes every two rows, but I've become familiar enough with the changes in the pattern that I don't need to look at it as often as in the beginning and that has helped me pick up the pace.

Aside from some random chores, that shouldn't take too much time, I have a large portion of my day today open to knit.  If I can finish the back piece and get started on one of the front pieces I will deem myself back on track. 

Considering I have the entire week of Thanksgiving off from work, I should still be able to hit the 50k stitch mark by the end of the month.  It may mean that my house isn't as neat and tidy as I would like when my Thanksgiving guests arrive, but hey, I can just pull out the unfinished sweater that took up my time and I'm sure they will understand.  Right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fiber Festival

This past Sunday was the Southern California Handweavers' Guild Weaving and Fiber Festival, so I took a break from my NaKniSweMo knitting (actually most of the weekend was a break so I am very far behind) and went to see what it was all about.

I've always wanted to go to a fiber festival, but until now I hadn't had the opportunity.  One of the downsides to being a SoCal knitter is there aren't very many festivals of this type to go to that are within easy driving distance.  Someday I hope to have the time and money to travel to some of the larger festivals that happen annually.  This was a very small festival, but still had such beautiful items.

Walking around just looking at all the colors was like a zen journey,  despite the fact that the place was very crowded.  All the other shoppers and yarnaholics just faded into the background leaving nothing but colorful palettes to admire.  Even better, was all the yarn and roving to hold and pet. 

We wandered around for bit, making sure to look at all the wears before deciding on a purchase.  It was a good thing  I am on a strict budget right now.  There was so much that I could have walked away with on Sunday.  I mean seriously, for a yarnaholic like myself, fiber festivals can be a dangerous place.   In fact, there was a woman in from of us waiting to get in that was saying to her friends, "I am not allowed to buy anything in a bag.  If you see me even reaching for it, stop me."  It is the wise fiber enthusiast that enlists the help of friends in staying on budget!

Finally, after about an hour of wandering a petting and returning to the same vendor, we both made a decision on yarn.  (The picture isn't the best, but you get the idea.)

1700 yards of 70/30 Superwash Merino/Nylon.  The colors on the picture don't do it justice.  It looks like the ocean.  I believe that this will become some sort of sweater.  I've already started roaming through patterns on Ravelry looking for just the right one.   I want something that will be simple enough that the colors of the yarn are the star instead of the stitches, but at the same time I don't want something that is completely stockinette stitch.  I know myself well enough that if it is all stockinette it will take me forever to finish, because I will get bored. 

Now. I just need to get back to my NaKniSweMo sweater and get it finished.  As much as I want to start on this new yarn, I'm going to have to wait until after the new year since I have presents to get finished (oh yeah, and my husband's sweater too.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What have I gotten myself into?

You know, that's exactly what I thought when I started NaNoWriMo last year and now one year later I feel the same way about NaKniSweMo.

Do I really think that I can knit a sweater (or at least 50,000 stitches of a sweater) in one month???  I guess we will find out. 

I started working on the Windowpane Coat by Deborah Newton.  I fell in love with this pattern when I first saw it on the cover of Interweave Knits.  I've had the yarn and pattern sitting around my house for at least a year, but I always felt like I just didn't have the time to knit the coat, or it was too hot to start on a wool coat, or some other equally viable excuse.  

Last year, one of the reasons I participated in NaNoWriMo was to prove to myself that I actually could meet such a large goal if I really committed myself to it.  It wasn't easy, but I stuck with it and it felt really good.   I am looking at NaKniSweMo the same way.   I know that given a deadline and a strong commitment to myself, I can complete this task. 

I started out a little rough.  I had to rip out and reknit the border on the first back piece and that cost me a day of knitting (OK, so it wasn't a full day, more like an hour, but that was all the time I had to knit that day.).  I also hurt my back which has made it difficult to sit and knit for long periods of time.  That being said (and trying to remain positive), my back is healing faster than the doctor said it would and I was able to catch up to where I had been in the pattern and things are moving along at a good pace. I haven't knit this regularly in a long time and it feels really good.

4 days down . . . 26 to go.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween

This is my favorite time of year.  The weather starts cooling off (although this year it never really got hot) and I can start wearing sweaters.  I love a good, cloudy sky and the smell of the air just before the rain starts to fall. (My joints don't like that rainy weather season quite as much.)  Most of all . . . I love Halloween.

I've loved Halloween ever since I was a child.  Not so much getting scared, but the carving pumpkins, dressing up in costume and, as I have gotten older, handing out the candy to the kids and seeing their costumes.  I can't remember many years in my life when I didn't wear some sort of costume for Halloween.  I delight in putting together costumes from pieces of clothes I have already and then maybe buying a few pieces to make it complete.  I also love playing with make-up.  Ever since I took a stage make-up class in college I have been fascinated with creating Halloween make-up.  It's so much fun to see other people's reaction to it.  Taking it off at the end of the night isn't always as fun.

The other part of Halloween that I love is pumpkins.  A few years ago, we started the tradition of going to the local pumpkin farm to pick our own pumpkins instead of just going to a pumpkin patch set up in the grocery store parking lot.  We head out early in the morning so that we can wander the fields of pumpkins searching for just the right combination of size, color and surface area. 

The great thing about this farm is that they also have a corn maze and hay rides, and some years they have a pumpkin cannon.  Watching those pumpkins fly through the air and go splat on the other side of the farm is much more fun than you would think.  The kids really love it. 

The kids also love running around finding the oddest looking pumpkins and taking pictures.  Pictures of pumpkins, pictures of them in the giant wood cut outs that you poke your head through, pictures of them sitting on the giant pile of hay bales and pumpkins.   You would think at their ages they would be sick of Mom taking all these pictures of them, but nope.  Which is a really good thing as I tend to have my camera permanently slung around my neck. 


Ok, so maybe it isn't so much that they like taking the pictures, but more that they are resigned to the fact that I won't let them not take them.  Either way, it's part of what makes this time of year so special.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo or NaKniSweMo???

To write or to knit, that is the question.  A least the question that sits before me this weekend.

November is both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) (writers attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days)  and National Knit a Sweater in a Month (NoKniSweMo) (knitters attempt to start and finish a sweater during the month of November).  Both are near and dear to my heart, but, alas, I cannot do both and must choose.

I've attempted NaNoWriMo many years and last year was the first time that I was actually able to complete the 50K words.  In order to do so you must write around 1,666 words a day.  It is no coincidence that the last three numbers of the daily count are 666, this task is evil. Don't get me wrong.  When you finish 50K words in that short amount of time you feel a great sense of accomplishment.  It's just the getting there that is evil.  You have to put everything else on hold.  Any other activity that you normally spend your free time on is gone for the month of November.  Family, friends, pets all take a backseat to the writing.  It is only one month, but you have no idea how hard it is until you attempt it.  I have an idea for another story that I could use this year and I have done enough prep work (which is all you are allowed to do before Nov 1) that it wouldn't be hard to take this on starting Monday.

That being said, I have never attempted NaKniSweMo.  I have a couple of other projects that I either need to finish this weekend or set aside for a month in order to do this.  I think my husband might divorce me if I don't get his sweater finished (well, maybe that is harsh, but he certainly will pout a lot).  I don't have much left to knit on the sweater, but  I have to block it, seam it and sew in the zipper.  On the other hand, I have a sweater pattern and all the yarn to knit a sweater that I have wanted for myself for a couple of years.  I could spend the rest of today and part of tomorrow finishing the husband's sweater and try to fit in time to finish it off during the month.  Maybe use that time as a little break from my sweater.

Both tasks are monumental.   Both tasks, while a bit evil, are a lot of fun.  If I can complete either one it will be a big accomplishment.

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tangled Weekend

Normally in a knitting blog the last word you want to use is tangled.  It conjures images of a snarled mess of yarn that you delicately pick at for hours before giving up and chucking across the room.

However, this past weekend the word tangled had nothing to do with a mess and everything to do with brilliance.  That is, when the word is capitalized as in the title of the forthcoming Disney movie Tangled, the 50th animated movie the company has done.



I had the great fortune to accompany my dear friend, who worked on the film, to the movie's wrap party this past Saturday night.  While I can't give any details about the plot of the movie, what I can say is that it is pure Disney magic.

It reminds me of the magic I felt when I watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time and Belle and the Beast enter the ballroom to dance together or The Little Mermaid when Ariel watches the prince longing to be a part of his world.  The sweeping beauty of the ballroom scene and the sweet innocence of Ariel is captured again in Tangled.

On top of the well written story, the animation is spectacular.  I do not believe that I have ever seen lighting that is so vibrant and alive before in an animated feature.  This movie would not have felt the same without the brilliant lighting effects.  Then there is the hair.  The hair is a character unto itself.  It is so lifelike that I often forgot it wasn't real human hair.

One of the things that I often find distracting in animated movies is the voice acting.  I feel like many times studios find a name actor to voice a character and all you end up hearing is that actor instead of the character.  That is not the case with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.  They voice the characters of Rapunzle and Flynn Rider so believable that all you hear is the character and Donna Murphy is excellent as Mother Gothel.  Her singing is as fantastic as one would expect from an actress that has performed the likes of Anna in  The King and I and Fosca in Passion on Broadway.

The icing on the cake, at least for this knitter, is the two times that the movie not only mentions knitting, but sings about it.  They may be short, fleeting moments, but they made me squeal with joy.

So, kid or adult, knitter or non-knitter, this is a quality movie that will make you glad Disney has made 50 animated movies and hopeful for what their next project will bring.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crazy Reading Week

As much as I love knitting, there are some weeks where it just has to take a back seat to everything else.  This was one of those weeks.  I think I picked up my needles once since Sunday.

This is due in part to one of my other loves, reading. (The other craziness was work, but, trust me, that you don't want to hear about that.)  Like knitting, I usually have 2 or 3 books going at once and I bounce back and forth between the stories depending on my mood.  However, this week was dedicated entirely to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

I started reading this book back in August after bowing to peer pressure.  I generally stay away from books that people are simply gushing over.  I know that may sound backwards, but I often find the book to be disappointing.   People often build up how great the book is and the expectations get set so high that it rarely lives up to the hype.  On the other hand, I am also the kind of person that doesn't like not understanding references to current happenings in pop culture. (This is why I subjected myself to watching sparkling vampires. Yikes!) Which means that in August this book hit the point when my need to get the references outweighed my possible disappointment.

I have to say that the book started out very slow.  I wasn't even sure that I was going to make it past the first chapters.  Then, about a quarter of the way through the book it started to get really interesting.  I was picking it up more frequently and getting caught up in the story.  Over this last week, I went from being fifty percent done with the book (I read on a kindle so my frame of reference is percentage complete instead of page numbers) to being eighty-six percent complete with the full intention of being done by tonight.

I will say that I found many of the scenes very disturbing (the author described in detail some very sadistic murders), but if you can get past that aspect it is a very interesting book.  I plan on reading the other two books in the series.  I have been told that the second book doesn't have quite the disturbing content that the first one does.  However, before I read The Girl Who Played with Fire, I think I will ease my mind a little by reading something like Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading is Fundamental

Ok, so I took my title from a PSA that played over and over again in my youth, but it doesn't change the fact that the statement is so true.

We start reading when we are very young.  We learn to read by first learning the individual letters of the alphabet.  We learn what they look like, what they sound like, and how they feel in our mouth.  We then learn to put them together and how they look and sound when combined.  Eventually, we graduate to the multi-syllabic monsters such as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Everyone learns to read at a different rate.  Having two kids, I can certainly attest to how true that it.  I have one child that came home from his first day of kindergarten and exclaimed, "I can read," and he hasn't stopped since.  He reads and understands words that are well beyond his grade level.  It is instinctual to him.   On the other hand, my other child struggles everyday with her reading.  She wants so badly to be able to read like her brother, but it just doesn't come as easily for her.

What does this all have to do with knitting?

Reading is fundamental to knitting as well.  Not just reading patterns or a chart, but reading your stitches.  I knit for a long time without understanding how to read my stitches.  Others would talk about knitting and being able to tell what row of a pattern they were on by simply looking at the stitches hanging from the needle and I just couldn't see it.  It was frustrating to watch it come so easily for others and not for me.

To be honest, I didn't make much of an effort to learn to read my stitches.  I didn't see the value versus the effort it was taking to learn the skill.  That is until I realized that by learning to read my stitches I was going to catch and correct issues faster.  I wouldn't have to rip everything out and start over again, because I'd actually be able to tell where I went wrong.

Just like learning to read words, I had to start with the the building blocks: knit and purl.  I figured out how to really see these stitches with the help of the book Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller. If you are still unsure of your stitches, this book is a valuable reference.  Once I had those two stitches down, then it was easier to learn what the various combination of the two look like.   The more time I spent staring at the right and wrong side of the stitches the easier it was for me to recognize them on my needles the next time I saw them.

This skill has been especially helpful with knitting lace.  If I find that I have miscounted my stitches, it is easy enough to look back through the row I am on and find the exact stitch I need to go back to to fix the work.  I have done this exact thing at least 5 times in my current project.

I don't know how I survived for so long in the knitting world without this skill, but I am so glad that I took the time to learn to read my knitting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Last week I posted about starting the Coin Lace Stole (you can find the pattern on the Elann site, but you need to register in order to view it).  After two eight hour car rides this past weekend, I am now to the second section of repeats.

At first, I thought that I was going to have to be looking at my knitting too much to really get much done in the car.  (The last thing I wanted was to get sick all over my beautiful knitting project.)  Turns out, it wasn't so much the need to look at my knitting that slowed me down, but the rough road.  It's very difficult to keep lacework on the needles when you are bouncing around.  That being said, I am very happy with the progress I made.

I wish I could say the same for my husband's sweater.  It was so hot in the car, even with the air conditioning on, that I just couldn't take having a large, 100% wool sweater sitting on my lap.  I was hoping that when we got home I could power through knitting the front and bottom bands, but we came home to over 100 degree temps and, once again, I couldn't stomach the idea of having that much wool on my lap.

I'm so close to being finished.  My hope now is that the temperature will continue to drop and by this weekend it will be cool enough to deal with the wool monster (as I now call it).  

Hey, I still have 26 days before the year anniversary of starting the project.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WIP Wednesday

This past Sunday I began a new project.  I started working on the Coin Lace Stole pattern that goes along with the yarn I just purchased.  Now, I have knit lace before, but generally the pattern has been very straight forward and the piece hasn't been very big.  For instance I knit the lace garter that I wore at my wedding as well as the lace handbag I carried.  To be honest, the hardest part of those projects was actually seaming and lining them.  I have attempted to knit a lace scarf a few years ago and got so frustrated I frogged the entire thing and the yarn I was using is still sitting in my stash . . . untouched.

This lace project just looked so beautiful that I felt compelled to attempt it. 

So far, things are going well.  I got off to a rocky start in two ways: reading the chart wrong and placing my stitch market in the wrong place.  Well, I guess the two are so closely related that I could say that I just made on really big mistake.  Luckily, I made the mistake early on in the pattern and only had to rip out 27 rows.  Since this pattern is knit starting in the corner and increasing across the rows, I really didn't have to rip out too many stitches.

The issue was that this particular stole is made with dropped stitches and I dropped the wrong stitch on the first section repeat.  Having not worked on a large project like this before, and definitely not one that was knit starting from the corner, I was very unsure of how to read the chart when it came to repeating multi-row sections.

I could have called a friend and asked for help, but I am always determined to figure it out myself.  So I scoured the internet looking for advice.  After reading many articles on how to read a chart and realizing that I already knew how to read the chart, I started back at the beginning.  I came to understand that it wasn't that I didn't know how to read the chart, but more that I hadn't counted the correct number of stitches before dropping one. In my defense, when I printed out the chart the grid lines didn't print so it makes it a little tougher to count stitches.

All in all, it didn't take me long to reknit the 27 rows and I'm now on the 5th repeat of this section, growing the width of the stole.  I have a couple of long (like 8+ hour long) car rides this weekend where I am sure much more will be done on this project.  Of course, my real hope for the trip is that I actually finish all the knitting on my husband's sweater so that I can seam it, add the zipper and finally be done . . . almost a year after I started it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Arrivals


There were two new arrivals this week.  One far more important than the other.

I'll start with the least important, but still worth mentioning, my yarn arrived from Elann.  I am very excited about knitting the free pattern that goes along with it.  I had been planning on starting the whisper cardigan after the completion of my husband's sweater, but the thought of starting another project that  involves a lot of stockinette stitch made me shiver.  Don't get me wrong, I really want to knit the cardigan, but I just needed something with slightly more difficulty for a little bit.

I am in love with the Peruvian Baby Cashmere yarn.  It is a blend of 60% baby alpaca/30% merino wool/10% Cashmere and it is oh so soft.  I just want to hold it and caress it.  I can only imagine that the coin lace stole that I am knitting with it is going to be very comfy for wrapping myself in this winter.  Being in So Cal it never really gets cold enough to wear thick knitted stoles or sweater.  I figure this yarn and stole will work wonderfully and provide a nice conversation starter as well.

The other, and far more important, arrival this week was the birth of a baby boy to some of my dearest friends.  Several posts ago, I mentioned having knit a baby blanket with a mother's love Celtic knot in it.  This is the special one for which it was knit.  It has been a long road for his parents.  Longer than many have to go through.  There is no doubt that this little man is meant to be a part of their life's journey.  He has come into this world surrounded by so much love.  I cannot wait to get the chance to meet him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WIP Wednesday

WIP, or Work in Progress, is a term used in a lot of crafts.  In knitting you might also hear On the Needles.  Whatever the phrase, it really just means what you are working on at the moment.

I've been talking a lot about my husband's sweater, which is definitely still a WIP.  Generally speaking, I have two to three projects on needles at one time.  Usually one project has been sitting for quite some time (usually because I got bored or frustrated), another is usually midway to almost finished and the third is in its infancy, maybe just barely cast on.

I try to remember to take pictures of my projects as I make progress, but sometimes I just think that a piece of stockinette stitch cloth really isn't that interesting to photograph so I end up with just a beginning and ending picture. The more detail in the stitches the more pictures I take. 

Recently, I have been contemplating the term WIP and I came to a realization.  In fact, it was a quite obvious realization.  I have two other works in progress . . . my kids. 

I see a lot of similarities between raising kids and working on a complicated knitting pattern.  They both require a lot of attention and if you aren't paying attention there is a good chance that you are going to have to take a few steps back in order to correct an issue.  You have to hope that a mistake made too far back to simply be undone can be corrected as you move forward.  It is always interesting to watch the bits and pieces come together to form a more coherent picture.  And most important, you have to trust in the process and that at the end of it all you will have a finished object you feel good about sending out into the world.

Now, unlike a knitting project, I sometimes forget the my kids are works in progress.  When I have something on needles it is easy to understand that it isn't complete and there is still more forming that needs to take place.  With my kids, there are times when I forget they need more time to absorb information and incorporate it into who they are.   I sometimes expect that they should know things that are really far beyond their years.  In other words, I have to remind myself that they are kids and still have a ways to go before fully formed.

Just like them, and my knitting projects, I too am a work in progress.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to a routine

The summer months, which should have been slow and easy, were crazy busy.  This past week the kids went back to school and I have returned to a normal work schedule (as normal as I ever get at least).

I have almost finished the yoke on my husband's sweater.  It looks like the rest of the pattern shouldn't take too long so I may actually have this finished in the next week.  Provided I get the time I think I will to knit. With homework starting up again, my knitting time in the evening may be cut a little short, but since football is back (yea!!) I will have Sundays to catch up on my knitting.

I've said it before, there is nothing so relaxing as watching football and knitting.  I have always assumed that there are more football knitters out there and that's one reason I was really happy to see this blog post on Knitting Daily titled "It's Football Season!(Not to Mention Knitting Season . . .)" which confirmed my assumption.  Being able to knit successfully on Sundays makes watching my fantasy football teams fall apart at least a little more bearable.

Homework, football and knitting are all part of my Fall routine.  I am also determined to work some dyeing time into this routine.  I have several skeins of yarn that are just calling out to be dyed.  I don't have as much space in my new home as in the last one, but I will find a way start dyeing again.

Maybe I'll even find the time to turn that hand dyed yarn into Christmas presents. I mean, Christmas is right around the corner, especially for hand knitted items.  If I start now and make it a part of my routine it might actually happen.  

I did say might, right?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sweating for a sweater

This past week, I finally finished knitting the sleeves of my husband's sweater.  Well, I thought I had finished.  That is until I went to attach them to the rest of the sweater to start the yoke.  I couldn't figure out why one sleeve had 73 stitches and the other had 77.

I read the first row of the yoke portion of the pattern and the 73 stitches appeared to be the correct number.  I just couldn't see where I went wrong.  Of course, I had already ripped out and restarted this second sleeve three times and I really didn't want to do it again.  After reading and rereading the sleeve section of the pattern, I found my mistake . . . I was supposed to bind off two stitches at the beginning of each of the last two rows.  77-4=73!

Now, I could have simply taken the stitches off the needle and ripped back two rows, but having already caused havoc with the sleeve before by trying to rip back a few rows, I decided to simply unknit the last two rows.   It didn't take as long as I thought it would and I was quickly back to where I needed to be to join all the work together and start the yoke.

With the AC on (since it was 88 degrees in the house just a few hours earlier) I started knitting all 316 stitched on to one circular needle.  This is where the sweating comes in to the equation.  I thought having the AC on would be enough to make the temperature comfortable while knitting this 100% wool sweater.

WRONG!

After about halfway through the first row I realized I was sweating.  At first I thought that maybe the AC hadn't been on long enough, but a quick survey of the kids and the husband proved that theory wrong.  I put the knitting aside and almost instantly I felt the temperature drop to bearable.

Determined as I am to finish this (insert expletive) sweater, I am not going to let a heat stop me.  Slow me down, definitely.  Stop me, no way.  However, I did tell my husband he better darn well like this sweater by the time I am done and wear it all the time.

So onward I go, knitting a row then taking a break (this also helps with my wrist pain).  Only 30 more repeats to go before the collar!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Quick Introduction

I have added a new blog to my list. This one is being written by one of my dearest friends. We started knitting around the same time. In fact, it was because she was teaching herself to knit that I finally got up the nerve to try it myself.

She is now embarking on a new knitting journey, designing knitwear. Again, she is teaching herself. I couldn't be more excited for her as she takes this step. She is a bit terrified, which is completely understandable. However, I'm fond of saying that if you aren't at least a little scared of a new endeavor then you simply don't care enough. Being terrified just means she cares a great deal about what she is attempting to do.

This is a picture of the two of us, I'm on the right, after we completed a wedding blanket for some friends. This was one of the first things she designed from scratch (with minimal help from me).

She's probably going to kill me for posting this (especially the really old picture of the two of us) and directing people over to read her new blog, but so be it. I'm just being a supportive friend. ;)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Knitting with Pigskin

Not literally of course (that would be gross). However, it is that time of year. The time of year when kids go back to school, the time of year where vacations come to an end, but most importantly the time of year for FOOTBALL!

Preseason games have been going for weeks now and the start of the regular season is just around the corner. For me this means a time of knitting while watching games on a Sunday afternoon. In my house I am the football fan and my daughter is following in my footsteps (although her reason for liking the team she does is the animal they are named after . . .currently she is a Dolphins fan).

I look forward to spending my Sundays parked on the couch knitting needles in hand. I am going through my stash and my queue of projects on Ravelry in anticipation of this joyous time.

This weekend poses a dilemma for me. I have quite a bit of free time and I am having trouble deciding between knitting and preparing for my fantasy football draft which is happening Monday. (So of course I am currently doing neither by writing this post.) Both activities are very fulfilling, but only one of them affords me control over the outcome.

Knitting while watching football keeps me in a place of zen. I am far less irritated by bad calls and even worse plays. When something in the game is frustrating, I simply refocus on my projects. Of course, because my focus is split while the games are on, I have to be very careful with the projects I choose to undertake. The patterns need to be difficult enough to keep me interested in them, but not so difficult as to force me to stare at them while I am working and possibly miss a pivotal play. Tough choices ahead, indeed.

As for this weekend, I shall be splitting my focus. A little knitting followed by a little player research. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend this will mean that I have even more done on my husband's sweater and I will have developed a solid drafting strategy.

Either way, I know I'll enjoy my time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Intentions

You know what they say about good intentions . . .well, they don't really mean that anything will happen.

OK, so it has been over a year since I have posted anything. I can freely admit that, like most people that attempt to blog, I am horrible about regular updates (and that is a bit of an understatement).

I had to give up knitting again due to an injury (though that is not the reason for the time between posts) and then I was sidelined again with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am just now finding my way back to my projects and my stash. Somehow, and I really don't know how, I found the will power to keep my stash from growing larger while I wasn't able to knit.


I am now in the middle of knitting the Avast sweater for my husband. I started the sweater in October with every intention of having him be able to wear it during the cold months . . .this past winter. I was only able to complete the first part of the body and part of one sleeve before my right hand gave out on me again. Oh those good intentions.

May was the first time I have knit anything since December. I found that as long as I wear stress gloves, knit very slowly and take breaks every 10-15 minutes I can knit for a couple of hours pain free.


I also took some time away from my husband's sweater to knit a baby blanket for a dear friend. I wanted to honor her Irish heritage so I found a Celtic knot pattern to incorporate into the blanket. This beautiful knot turned an otherwise simple and ordinary blanket into something personal and special.




I am now back to the sweater with every intention of finishing it in the next couple of weeks. (There are those darn intentions again.) I'm on the second sleeve (really wishing I had knit them both at the same time) and everything after the sleeves should go fairly quickly.

Since I now live in a home with air conditioning, I predict that even in the hottest days coming up I will be able to spend time knitting. I just have to remind myself to take it easy and not push it. After all, only being able to do a little knitting a day is certainly better than not being able to knit at all.