January 30, 2003

Guten morgen, y’all.

Oh, what a wonderful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. Everything’s coming up roses. Everything’s going my way. Ok. Moment over. Can you tell I’m feeling human again?

Anyway, as I mentioned, I have made some progress on the Philosopher’s Sweater. The pen lying across the fabric is standard size. Those of us in a hurry first thing in the morning can’t waste time rummaging for a tape measure… though now I see that Rob’s left one beside the keyboard. Doh! Ah, well. He’s smacking the snooze button with more force than is necessary two rooms away, and I’m in the office surrounded by yarn. Who do you think is happier at this moment?

This is the Asymetrical Vest that I’ve been claiming I was knitting on. See, it’s real. Knit from side to side, I’m about halfway through the back of the neck. I love this yarn. It’s like knitting with clouds.

Then there is my newest bright, shiny object. Rob has accused me of being a raccoon on more than one occasion for my fascination with such things, but I can’t help it. I like beauty, and it makes me feel good to surround myself with it. It also probably doesn’t hurt that I get a giggle every time I get back around to my marker and think, "oh, my. My sweater has it’s own piercing." How twisted is that?

January 29, 2003

Goodness! It’s been nearly a week since I last posted!

It’s been a ride, but it seems to be leveling out. ThreadBear is definitely becoming a full time job, and my contract web work is filling in the gaps. I’m amazed that I’m still able to work a full time office job to boot. <shudder>

My knitting has been coming along slowly, I’m afraid. I’ve gotten maybe three inches knit on the Philosopher’s Sweater. It’s fun, but it’s gotten cumbersome to transport—in part, because I’m using a sleeve as my color pattern for the body. A sleeve isn’t that big, but it doesn’t exactly fit in a #10 envelope, either. My reward/incentive for working on this project has been one of the new beaded stitch markers that we’re carrying in "the shop" made by our friend, Sarah Peasley. We became friends with Sarah a few years ago while we were living in Lansing and were members of The Mid-Michigan Knitters Guild of which Sarah was then President. She’s a great friend, an incredible knitter, and for quite some time, she’s been teaching Philosopher’s Sweater classes. For now, she’s teaching classes at The Yarn Garden in Charlotte, Michigan and in her home outside Lansing.

Ok. Now, back to me. My other recent work has been on the Asymmetrical Vest from Sally Melville’s The Knitting Experience: Book 1, The Knit Stitch. The concept is pretty slick. There isn’t a purl stitch in any of the patterns in the book (that’ll come in Book 2). I’m strongly recommending the book to new knitters for confidence-building. For now, I’m working on the Asymmetrical Vest as a shop model in a rich dark red Cascade Magnum. I love the yarn, and it’s been a while since I’ve knit anything in super bulky.

<sigh> Unfortunately, time remains of the essence. I must run, but I’ll do my level best to post more often as I settle into my busier schedule.

Oh, and thank you so much to all of you who’ve offered support and kudos on my blog. I have enjoyed this endeavor more than I thought possible when I started about a month ago. Be well, and know that your comments and compliments are deeply, deeply appreciated.

January 24, 2003

Yes, I’ve been slack in blogging for the last week, but the chaos appears to be subsiding… somewhat. For now, let’s review where I am. I’ve gotten a few more inches on the Philosopher’s sweater. I’ve started the Asymmetrical Vest from Sally Melville’s latest book, The Knitting Experience. I wound up ripping the toe-up sock in purple and green Koigu that I started, so I’m back to ground zero on that one. In all, I suppose that I’ve put everything on hold except the Philosopher’s sweater and the Asymmetrical Vest. The sock will have to come back soon, though.

Why the focusing on a few projects? Three jobs. I’ve still got my full time job for benefits. Aside from that, I’ve started a web development business that I’m hoping will take me out of the full time job so that I can focus more time on… tada, the third business, ThreadBear. Before I get flamed (at home, moreso than by readers), that order only describes the sequence of the telling—not importance.

Pending projects

Next on my list, I want to finish up the High Helen sweater. It’s a very simple sweater, and it’s nearly complete, so to leave it on the sidelines this long simply doesn’t make sense. I’m a ba-a-a-a-ad boy.

Second, I want to begin the S.W.A.K. Intarsia Workshop. I started it once before and never finished it, but I really want to do some Intarsia design and think the sampler is a great way to learn some pretty nifty winding techniques for achieving flat Intarsia. (By the way, I’d always seen Intarsia capitalized, but recently I’ve seen it several times without the capitalization. Which is right and why? I’d really like to know.)

Finally, I’ve got to work on a pair of toe-up socks. I suggested a pair for our local sock group, Sock-It-To-Me, and now I’ve set me own aside. Ba-a-a-a-ad boy. Bad-bad boy.

January 19, 2003

Good Lord, have mercy.

Have you ever had one of those days that lasted for three? It’s been like that around here. My old job is drying up, and while I’m not terribly sad to see it go, it does feel like trading the devil you know for the one you don’t. And if that’s not stressful enough, my supervisor thrice removed is being belligerent. More drama.

So you’d think a nice quiet weekend at home is just what I needed, right? You’ve never been in my house, have you?

As I stumble into the kitchen this morning and fumble around to make coffee, Rob decides he’s going to felt. Now, for those of you who haven’t felted, you should be aware that when you felt, depending on the staple of the fiber, you can get a significant amount of flotsam in the water that then has to go somewhere. When I heard Rob doing his best to recall all of George Carlin’s words that can’t be said on television, I knew that the somewhere that the flotsam accumulated today was apparently the pump that clears the washing machine’s tub during the spin cycle.

Yes, it’s happened before, and yes we know what to do. That does not, however mean that it’s an easy task or that it doesn’t make a huge mess in the laundry room floor. What we were not expecting was the wharf rat sized chunk of congealed felted wool that Rob fished out of the pump this time. I think we could have felted Connor and not have come up with much more of a clog.

Dang! She must have heard me. What a puss on that girl! Look at those eyes. You’d think she was beaten twice a day and starved… until you see the rest of her. Then you realize that, while she may yet be the most svelt individual in the house, she isn’t missing many meals.

That said, look at the results of the felting. Look familiar? They should. They’re fuzzy feet, and my baby made them just for me in Cascade 220 Aporto (a green-speckled blue– color #4009– that happens to be one of my absolute favorites of the 220 colors).

My knitting, you ask? Well, I’ve started on the Asymmetrical Vest, and I’ve managed to knit about twenty rows, but that’s about it for the last few days. As I’ve mentioned, it’s been a little hectic.

All in all, though, life is good. I do have contract on some work in San Diego that’s keeping me hopping, and I just garnered a new local client for web work. But most importantly, I’m gathering my will to push full-force into the art and business of fiber. Is it going to happen overnight? Well, that remains to be seen. The mass that the washer passed? Oh, you can see that now.

Be well (or at least better than our appliances), and we’ll talk soon.

January 16, 2003

I’m ready to cry. I’ve gotten to do almost no fiber work all week. ThreadBear’s been updated, and I’ve gotten in some new contract web work, and that’s financially rewarding, but it’s not knots. That’s where the muse lives. Sorry, everyone.

That said, guess what? Tonight is our Third Thursday Dinner and Knit-Night, and I’ll be inundated with fiber and fiber folk! I can’t begin to tell you how much I need it. I’m a little concerned, because we’ve had some snow, but it doesn’t appear to have hurt the roads. If anyone reads this and can make it to our place tonight, please come. I need my soul fix of all of us in one place at one time. Ohmmm… I’m waiting.

January 13, 2003

Oh, what a weekend.

First of all, we had a houseful of folks in attendance for a felted clog workshop Saturday afternoon. My thanks to everyone that was able to make it. We had a great time. We also had an amazing day for sales, so that’s never a bad thing.

The afternoon came to a roaring crescendo when a couple of the non-clog-participating knitters in attendance felted a tote and purse, put them outside to dry, then realized that it was below freezing in Indiana over the weekend. Rob went out to check on the felting, and realized that the bags were frozen! When the laughter (and Viagra jokes) subsided, we hung the bags in the garage for drying. Notice the highly-technical drying rod leaning against the door to the left of the table. I understand that it somehow doubles as a floor-cleaning device, but who knows?

As folks started winding down, a few friends settled in and we sat around knitting and watched Wanda Sykes’ new Comedy Central special. Between guffahs, I managed to get another inch or so knit on the body of the Philosopher’s Sweater, but I failed to get pics taken. Maybe I’ll snap a couple on my lunch break.

Then there was Sunday. Oh, my. Patsy, a coworker of Rob’s and a friend of ours who spins, knits, weaves, and probably has eight to twelve other skills that I’m too tired to recall at the moment, came over and helped me wind a warp for several scarves out of some rayon chenille that she sold me. It’s beautiful stuff, but that’s not the end of the story.

Rob and April, another of their coworkers and the relatively new knitter I mentioned recently who’s now knocking out a gorgeous Alligator Tooth Philosopher’s Sweater, came in and the four of us hit the kitchen for a little hand-dyeing. Patsy dyed a few skeins of rayon, but they dried quickly, and I didn’t get out the camera until everyone left. Fortunately, April, Rob, and I mostly dyed wool, so we all had pretty wet finished products, so I got pics of those.

I believe April dyed a hank of worsted weight wool in fuchsia, orange, and purple or navy… sorry, the photo isn’t great, and I’m too tired to remember. This was April’s very first time dyeing yarn, and the picture really doesn’t do the yarn justice. Rob dyed two and a half skeins of Cascade Bulky Leisure (cotton and llama bouclé) in purple, fuchsia, and blue for the Shape-It Scarf in Sally Melville’s new book, The Knitting Experience. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

As for me, well, I dyed one hank of the worsted weight wool in blue, green, pink, purple, gold, and orange. It looks like a tie-dyed t-shirt. But remember the warp that I wound? Look what I did with it. The wool was just prelude to the symphony. This warp is rayon chenille (16epi for anyone interested) hand-dyed, quite literally, in a rainbow of colors. I tested the colors on the wool, then dyed the warp. I didn’t finish the warp and get it ready to hang to dry until ten o’clock last night. Needless to say, it was a very long day, but I now have a wonderful project underway. There’s enough warp for four scarves, and I dyed enough of the chenille in the same colorway for weft for one of the scarves (that’s the little chain hanging to the left). What will happen to the other three? Who knows? But I’ll post pictures as they come off the loom.

Finally, we need a shop model for an upcoming class. The Asymmetrical Vest that also appears in Sally Melville’s The Knitting Experience will be featured in a ThreadBear class later this winter, and guess who’s knitting the model? You got it. And these are two of the three or four balls of Cascade Magnum that will go into the project. I guess I’ll be updating the WIP list this afternoon!

Be well, folks, and happy knitting… and weaving!

UFOs

Tonight is our local knitters guild meeting (Bloomington Knitters Guild in Bloomington, Indiana if anyone is interested), and our program is UFOs: Why are they languishing and do you intend to finish them? We’re a pretty close bunch, so I don’t mind showing off my unfinished projects at all, but I so hate that designation. I’m one of those people that production knitters love to hate. I enjoy the process, and quite frankly, I almost hate to finish an enjoyable project. It’s almost like losing a friend. I like the WIP designation, myself. And as it happens, I have several.

One that I’ll be taking tonight is a top-down turtleneck. It’s made of one strand of a mossy green cotton chenille and two strands of heavy variegated cotton thread. It’s knitting up at a chunky-weight (Cascade Pastaza or Manos del Uruguay), and I’ve gotten most of the body done. I still need to knit the ribbing and the sleeves, but otherwise, it’s on track.

Unfortunately, it’s languished for about eight months while I worked first on production knitting for ThreadBear (huge mistake– HUGE), then while I was working on the Philosopher’s Sweater and subsequent oh-I-need-to-give-someone-one-of-those and wow-I’d-really-like-to-make-one-of-these projects.

Started at about the same time (maybe even a little earlier) was another double-stranded sweater project that was a little more fiscally adventurous. It’s a top-down cardigan (the pattern is the sister of the top-down pullover used for the chenille sweater) knit in one strand of red-orange Jamieson & Smith jumper weight and one strand of Brown Sheep Original Handpaint in their Sunbaked Earth colorway.

This one got stalled when Brown Sheep changed their dyeing process for Original Handpaint. Let this be a lesson to you. Because the yarn (BSOH) was somewhat expensive and we were struggling to make ends meet, I was buying it one or two skeins at a time. Then, half-way down the sweater, they changed their dyeing process, and it became impossible to find dye lots that matched or even came close to the older skeins. Fortunately, we’ve started ThreadBear and opened a wholesale account with Brown Sheep in the meantime, and they’ve assured us that if we would like to supply a skein of the old yarn, they should be able to match it (or come close) and that we’d just need to purchase the entire dye-lot. Oh, horrors. More yarn. You know we’d hate that. BWA-HEE-HEE-HEE!!

What does concern me is that the newly dyed yarn still may be far enough from the original that it would make more sense to rip the entire sweater and start over with the new dye lot. Eh… as I said. I’m a process person. I’d rather knit it a second time that to have a finished sweater that I didn’t like.

Despite how all of that sounds, I really do have something finished to show you. I knit the cap of Kathy Zimmerman’s "Cap n’ Scarf" set that appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of Knitter’s Magazine, but I substituted my own handpainted Lamb’s Pride Bulky for the suggested yarn. I finished the project Christmas Eve at a get-together at the home of our friend, Christy. Christy was kind enough to help us put together shelving and rearrange the house when we had to expand our ThreadBear storage to fill an extra bedroom, and I wanted to do something special for her.

Actually, this hat was the second that I knit from the same yarn, and it has been customized to be knit in the round. The first was knit flat with the colorful yarn on the reverse-stockinette brim and the mottled grey on the seed stitch crown then seamed up the back. Eeeewww… It was terribly unpleasant. The colors were great, and it looked all right sitting on the table, but when worn, the seam up the back was firmer than the surrounding fabric and gave the appearance of a saggy butt on the back of the wearer’s head. That wasn’t exactly the look I was going for. This one, on the other hand showcases the handpaint yarn AND is very flattering on.

Ambitious Beginners

I was speaking with Annie of Modeknit via e-mail this morning, and it came up that we’d both started our knitting experience with what most people would probably consider somewhat ambitious projects. It occured to me that it really wasn’t all that ambitious and that had I had even the most rudimentary guidance when I started my first project, it would have turned out delightfully well.

Let me back up a bit. My first knitting project was a very detailed Aran. I had just taught myself to knit by means of a little green book I found in one of my grandmother’s crochet magazine bags, and I wanted to make something that I thought was pretty. [Those of you who know what a yarn snob I’ve become may want to skip this next part—remember that I was coming from a crocheted granny square afghan background.] I went to Rose’s and picked out a few skeins of Red Heart, grabbed a cable needle, went home, pulled out a Workbasket, and went nuts. Between the little green book and the very detailed instructions in the Workbasket, it took me about a half-hour to figure out cables, and off I went.

Now as it happens, I hadn’t yet figured out the concept of a gauge swatch, and I didn’t know many linebackers at that point in my life (damn it), so the unfinished project eventually went to live on the Island of Misfit Projects. But I was operating from a deficit. I had no instructor. I had a wonderful cheerleader in my beloved and dearly departed Granny, but she was a tried-and-true crocheter who knew as little about knitting as she did about the Cordon Bleu. These days, finding a knitting instructor is like finding a Starbucks; throw a stone—if you don’t hit one, try again… and throw harder.

My point—and yes, Rob, there really is one—is that too often, I think we tend to point our beginner’s in the craft (before you flame me, read the notes) toward simple projects with the caveat that more advanced projects are well beyond their ability. I just don’t think that’s so. To me, it’s sort of akin to watching a child fall. If you freak, they freak, and suddenly you have a crying child on your hands. If you stay calm and deal matter-of-factly with whatever bumps or bruises result from the incident, the child learns to suck it up, deal with the upset, and keep going without ever learning to fear the falling down part. If we molly-coddle beginning knitters, in some cases we really do hold them back. Some beginners learn to fly rather quickly. Others need more practice. It isn’t an issue of better or worse; it’s just a matter of learning styles.

Case in point: One of our local knitters learned to knit in the late spring or early summer. Later in the summer, she took a class with Rob and learned to make felted purses. Shortly thereafter, she started a Philosopher’s Wool sweater similar to the one that I have pictured below. Now, even I would probably not have suggested a PW sweater for a beginner, but she’s done exceptionally well. And when better to learn to knit with both hands? You’re still relatively fresh to the whole knitting experience, so learning to knit Continental (left-handed) and English (right-handed) gives you the option of being able switch back and forth depending on the circumstances, allows you the opportunity to choose for yourself which one works best for you for your everyday-knitting, and develops a deeper intrinsic understanding of exactly how the stitches are being made. I think that’s a pretty phenomenal instruction method.

Anyone have comments on the matter? I’d love to have them. Send me an e-mail.

Notes:

Rose’s was a discount/department store in the Southeastern US as late as the early 1980s. They often sported a cafeteria-style eatery somewhat more separate from the store than the McDonald’s and other snackeries that can be found in present-day discount stores. Invariably, though, by the time I was a kid, they were old, a little delapidated, and all-together charming. They were my first entrée into the world of yarn shopping.

Granny was my maternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother lived over an hour away, and I didn’t get to see her very much. But Granny lived in town. By "in town," I mean two things: first, that she lived in the same zip code, and second, that while we lived outside the city limits on a small fruit farm (no comments from the Peanut Gallery, please), she lived "in town" and had the cable television to prove it. So every Friday night, I packed a duffle bag, got in the car, and was transported posthaste to 1308 Murphy Avenue where I would watch The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazzard and eat fish sticks and crinkly fries on a little metal TV tray. Granny crocheted, and I crocheted, and her daschund and corgi barked at every car that went by with their stereos blaring. And when the time came for Dark Shadows and Night Gallery, we’d whisper conspiratorially and curl up for safety on the sofa while Papa snored softly in his recliner. Now do you see why I love this fiber arts stuff? There are one or two associations I’ve made with it over the years. Don’t think for a moment that your own children and grandchildren won’t.

Art v. Craft: I’m defining my terms like so. When I call knitting the craft, I’m referring to the learnable, teachable skill of making knit and purl stitches, increases, decreases, etc. I do consider myself a fiber artist, but that is because I have taken the craft to an artistic level by applying my own creativity to it. Comprendez-vous? Trés bien.

Oops.

I knew it would happen. I was reminded of a WIP that I forgot to record. I was designing a sampler throw pillow that got shoved aside after the Philosopher’s Sweater got underway. Rob and I were in the car this weekend, and out of the blue, he asked if I was ever going to finish the pillow pattern.

Doh!

Yes, I’ll finish it. As soon as I can find it.