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.