Thursday, March 31, 2011
So today I'm supposed to talk about how my knitting skills have improved over the last year.
I can't even remember what I was knitting at this time last year. I do keep a knitting journal of sorts- at this point it's more a design workbook- but I'm not so good at dating the projects. I need to start working on that.
If I remember correctly, over the last year, I have worked on a few new skills.
I've definitely been knitting faster since I took the YarnHarlot's Speed Knitting class at Sock Summit 09- granted, that was almost 2 years ago, but it took several months to get any sort of speed with it because it changed the way I knit.
I knit/designed my first knee-high sock. That was a fun new skill to learn. Lots of research went into that one in an attempt to not frog constantly. I also took a class on knee-highs at SS09, so I was happy to be able to use the lessons I learned.
It seems like I've knit/designed mostly socks over the last year. A couple non-sock projects that I got to do something new in really stand out-
I used my first lace-weight yarn and knit/designed my second Cowl pattern. That was a fun one, and I think it turned out really well.
I did my first steek this past year. That was a scary one. Another that I think turned out well. Which is good. I've been meaning to learn that skill for several years now, and I'm pretty pleased that I finally did it- and with success! Enough success that I intend to use that new skill again a couple of times within this upcoming year of designing. :D
I love the fact that I am still learning in knitting. I love being challenged and doing new things. I'm sure I've said this over and over, but I love that you can knit for years and years and not learn all there is to learn in knitting. I've been knitting for 7 years now, and can't see the end of what I get to learn yet. I'm not sure there is an end. And I'm so stoked on that.
I'm also very happy that as soon as I finish this sock I've got on the needles right now, I get to turn my attention to things other than socks. I intend to not knit a sock for at least 6 months. Not because I don't like them; but because I need a creative break. I am running out of design inspiration for socks. When I start feeling like it's all been done, it's a pretty good signal that I need to rest on that one. I like socks, and I think I'll come back to them soon, but I need to enjoy these other designs that I've been shoving to the back burner for the last 2 years. I anticipate finishing this sock this weekend, and then on to sweaters and mitts, hats and scarves, pants, cardigans, and maybe a blanket or two. I have a big book of patterns to put together and lots of ideas to solidify for it. :D
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
A Tale of Two Yarns:
In case you didn't know, I really like yarn. Most yarns. A lot of yarn. I like it a lot. I invite it into my home whenever possible. Sometimes it accepts and stays, sometimes it just comes long enough for me to play with it and make it into something pretty and then it goes away and so someone else can enjoy it. Either way, I like it. There are some yarns that make more of an impression than others, though. I have learned that I am very partial to bamboo and bamboo blends. I like cotton too, but I'm a bit pickier about it. Some cottons are painful to knit with, and require very specific knitting techniques- usually the more basic ones. I really hate cabling with Peaches and Cream, for example. It's a great yarn, but the lack of elasticity is difficult to work with. But that's not the yarn I intended to talk about.
This yarn has become one of my very favorites over the last couple years:
This is The Unique Sheep's Sushi Sock yarn.
This is a wool/bamboo/nylon blend. Besides the colors that Laura and Kelly can put on it (the picture is of the remnant of my Bombadil sock), this is a really yummy yarn. It is soft and smooshy, which I really like. It has just the right amount of elasticity, and no scratchiness (which I notice in a lot of wools, as I am pretty sensitive to animal fibers). It has great stitch definition and a lovely sheen that I have found common to bamboo and bamboo blend yarn. I love that little bit of shine. You know how little kids are? So attracted to the shiny. I don't think I ever outgrew that. (Does any woman?)
I use this yarn a lot. It is truly one of my favorite sock yarns. I love it so much that I designed a pair of socks specifically for me with it - even though I'll only be able to wear them for a few hrs at a time because the wool content starts bothering me after a while. For those few hours, I will thoroughly enjoy those socks. So very warm and soft.
This is Cascade Fixation. My picture really doesn't show it very well, follow the link to really see what it looks like.I have made a couple pairs of socks for myself with this. It's a nice yarn and also has great stitch definition. However, it is a lot more difficult to knit with than a lot of yarns I've used. Maybe it would work better in a different project than socks, I haven't tried yet. It's a more difficult yarn to use because of the elastic content. It's nice to have the elasticity in cotton- but it's a lot. It's a bit like knitting with an elastic band. If you are trying to knit tight enough to make something to last- like a sock- it is uncomfortable. It's great for texture stitches, knit and purl, but I wouldn't want to work a lot of increases, decreases or cables with it. That's limiting. I do think I would feel differently if I tried it with larger needles and a much looser gauge, but then it would be harder to regulate the elasticity, and I'd probably wind up with a wonky gauge because some stitches would be so much tighter than others.
The first pair of socks I made with this yarn, I had for 3 years. I used them so hard! I washed and dried them with the rest of the laundry, and as I really only had 4 pairs of socks for 1.5 of those 3 years, those first blue Fixation socks got worked very very hard. I finally ripped out the afterthought heel accidentally. At that point, I darned them right into the trash can. They really weren't worth trying to mend.
The 2nd pair of socks I made with the red Fixation in the picture, I like a lot better. The construction is better- I actually designed a sock rather than just playing around and knitting myself a quick pair. I've had them for probably 6 months. Yesterday, a strand gave out in the toe. I really think it was just a weak strand. This yarn is pretty tough. I did mend it, it was worth it this time. But I'll stop throwing them in the dryer.
Maybe I need to be more careful with my handknits.
It was very difficult to decide which yarns to really talk about. I try to use as many different yarns as I possibly can, and I have become a whole lot more opinionated about yarn than I was when I first started knitting. I wasn't too worried about what kind of yarn I used when I first picked up needles. Now I confess, I'm much pickier. But I'll try any yarn at least once quite gladly; and change my favorites almost as often as I change my socks.
What is your favorite yarn of the moment?
Friday, March 25, 2011
So, I'm not really sure what bread and knitting have in common, other than the fact that I like both. I admit to not being as obsessed about bread as I am about knitting- but I do like it. I especially like it homemade freshly baked. For some reason, it's easier for me to resist bread after it has cooled from baking. When it's hot? mmmmmmm.
As for the knitting? Well, I was right. It took a lot less time to fix my glaring error in that sock by just dropping those sts, than it would have to frog the whole thing. I finished that sock on Tuesday night- all but the Kitchener. Did the Kitchener on Wednesday, and cast on for the next design. The last sock design that I will be doing for a while. I have some sweaters, mitts, hats, scarves, and other fun things to whip up before I move back to socks. So I'm excited.
But back to the new design: I was actually able to brainstorm, chart, swatch, and cast on for this pair all on Wednesday. This is unusual for me. But I must admit that it might have something to do with- #1, I am LOVING this yarn. It is Good Grrl, by Tempted Yarns. I've never used Tempted before, but am quite impressed. It's smooshy, I love the stitch definition, it's just all in all a joy to work with.
Another reason I was able to get that much done on one design in one day? It might have something to do with the size of my swatch:
I know, I know. Shame on me. A swatch is supposed to be at least 4"x4". I know. I hate swatching. Don't you? I have yet to meet a knitter that really enjoys it. (surprise me, tell me it's you) I recently read Sweater Quest, my year of knitting dangerously by Adrienne Martini, and in it she talks about how designers love the swatch and love making those who knit our patterns do swatches (at least I'm pretty sure that's where I read that. It may have been someone's blog post. Forgive my sick Mommy brain today, please); but I have to say, for the record, as a designer, I hate swatching.
In case you missed it- I really don't like swatches, or swatching.
It's just as much as waste of my time as it is a waste of your time. Here's the thing: as much as I dislike swatching, I have to do it. Because if I didn't, you would get a pattern that would come out in a completely unknown and probably unusable size. The difference between my swatching and your swatching (if you use my pattern), is that I get to choose the gauge while you have to match my gauge. I get to say, I want to use these needles with this yarn, and I want it to look like this (drape, tightness, looseness, etc), so if you want your garment to look like the one in the picture, this is the gauge you need to have. It's still not fun. And I have issues with it sometimes too.
When I started designing, I didn't really think swatching was all that big of a deal. I learned the hard way. One of the first designs I did, I didn't wash and block my swatch. I finished the garment, washed and blocked it- and discovered that I had knit a size XL instead of a size M. Oops. Had to re-do ALL the pattern math. Not fun. I take swatching a bit more seriously now. I washed and blocked that swatch in the picture, I promise.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We made parking garages and stables (4 actually, but here's a sample)And we made special stables.
I confess I stole this idea from my big brother.
When I was a kid, I wanted a Barbie house for my birthday so bad- but it was really expensive. My brother made me 2 Barbie houses with cardboard boxes. I wish I still had them to show my kids. They were 10 times better than what we made today. Mine had carpet and wallpaper and tables, doors, windows with curtains. My brother was the coolest.
I confess I almost left a glaring error in my knitting today.
But I couldn't quite bring myself to leave it. I also couldn't bring myself to rip out over 4" of knitting on size 0 needles.
So I compromised
Friday, March 18, 2011
Things are pretty quiet around here this week. (I shouldn't say things like that, I'm sure I've jinxed myself now.) I know this to be true because I finished up a sock (a sock with a gauge of 10st per inch on 2.0mm needles) in a week even with having to frog the first 2-4 inches of it at least 5 times. And I am glad that I went ahead and did that. I like the end result. In fact, I know the end result is good because Joel commented on it before I asked him to- and his comments were good; as in "that is a cool sock" and "the pattern really works with those colors", rather than "Yeah, it looks fine. You did great." That last is the normal comment I get, so when it goes up even a notch, I'm pretty happy. (He really doesn't care about socks, but he loves me, so he plays this sweet little game with me about the sock designs I do.)
I was good. I finished the Kitchener this morning and cast on the second one right away. For those of you who have wondered and commented in the past- I do my socks with the Magic Loop method- and I used to do them 2-at-a-time, but I had to stop. It's one thing to whip out two socks at time when you are following a pattern- but I'm usually not. I'm designing. And when I design, it is very frustrating to have to rip out and re-organize not just one sock on the needles, but 2. So while I would normally prefer to work 2-at-a-time, I don't do it when I design. It's much faster and easier to design them one at a time. Yes, it's harder because of my horrible Second Sock Syndrome, but it is a better way to go. So I am trying to be good, I've already cast on the 2nd sock- but I noticed that progress then immediately slowed way down. :shaking my head here: Oh well.
I also have the pattern pretty much written up, which is well in advance of how I normally do it. I think I'm getting excited to be done with the hard part of this big project. I already have a test knitter for this pattern- and then I only have one more pattern to design, write, and have tested for book #1. I am so jazzed. That is definitely not all the work that needs done for it, but the most time consuming stuff on my end is almost over; and then I can concentrate on something other than socks!!! Not that I don't like to design socks, because I do; but it will be so nice to have a little break so I can come back with fresher ideas in the future. I'm really excited about some sweater designs I've been sitting on for awhile(as in over 2yrs). This is so fun. :D
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
As I continue to knit away on the the things that I can't share with you, the rest of my life keeps going. This is one aspect of it that is super cool.
We homeschool, so I get to say, "Ok, today we are studying the planets, so I want you to paint Styrofoam balls so we can hang them on the ceiling so you can learn the order of the planets from the sun. " Dude, it was so much more effective than I imagined. They know so much more about the Solar System than I do!
I also get to say, "Field Trip Day!" And take them to the zoo on a Tuesday. They loved it. It was especially cool this time because it was my Roo's first time ever. The sea lions were a bit overwhelming for him, he wouldn't stand up close with the others.
Speaking of my Roo, the child is the biggest eater I've ever met in a toddler. My other kids hit this age, and didn't really eat a whole lot; kids can do that, you know. But this one? Nope. Wow. The boy can eat. So yesterday, I fed him breakfast (I honestly did, or I never would have gotten to eat mine- he'll just come over and start eating it- well, he usually does that even after his breakfast anyway, but honest, I fed him.), and about 2 hrs later, I came out of the back room from talking to another of the kids to find the crazy boy here:
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Remember the Erratic Argyle which I recently fixed so it would fit my husband? That was a case of halfway seeing something out of the corner of my eye as I drove by some pedestrians and having a complete design formed in my head instantaneously. I came home, sketched it, and when Yarn Forward put out a call for menswear submissions- there it went.
Once on a "honeymoon" trip with my husband (we take one at least once a year), he graciously took me to a yarn store. I couldn't find anything and was ready to leave, but he asked me to look again and get something. I picked up some yarn from a back corner, and it said "I will be the perfect pair of socks you have been looking for". I finally knit that yarn last year, and yes, they are my perfect pair. I love them. (You have to wait for the book)I love it when yarn talks to me like that. Fabulous designs happen when the yarn talks. Like Hanging Gardens, and Love the Forest.
I get inspiration from books (The Lord of the Rings series), from movies (Alice in Wonderland Clubs), from songs (I just finished a design based on this song), and from pictures.
This is the inspiration I am working with right now
It was pretty tough to work out just how I wanted to do it. I think I will be pleased with the results, though.
Personally, I think my best designs are inspired by people.
I love working with people to find a design that they will wear and love. The Argyle Skater Sweater was the 2nd one I did for Joel, and one of my favorites. I've designed vests for my parents and my in-laws(sorry, that was before I was good about pictures). Every once in a while, when I design something for someone else, I have to admit that I don't really like the result. But you know what? I don't care whether or not I like it- if the person that I made it for does. If they like it, I've won.
I have to watch closely. I never know where inspiration is going to come from. Must be time to go the yarn store and see if the yarn will talk....
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Karen, just from reading your blog, I can tell you love the fiber arts. You dye yarn, you knit, you weave; how did you get started on all of this? And do you have a favorite in the fiber arts?
I've been involved with the fiber arts since I was a child. I first learned to sew in 1968 when I started 4-H. In fact, I still have my original sewing machine that my parents bought for me back then. I also learned to crochet when I was a child. I don't make my own clothes any more, but I made almost all of them when I was a child and, in fact, for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary I made my Mom a dress and my Dad a suit -- jacket, pants, the whole works.
Fast forward to 1996 or so. John was doing art fairs and I loved going to them with him. I met a weaver at the East Lansing Art Festival, realized she turned her handwoven fabric in clothes, and thought: I can do that. So I took a lesson at the Weavers Guild down in Minneapolis, and never looked back. I haven't quite progressed to making clothes yet but part of my life every summer involves traveling to art fairs to sell my handwoven rugs, table runners, towels, scarves, and the like.
In 2001 I decided I wanted to try and make my own yarn, so I bought a Majacraft spinning wheel. Massives of all different kinds of fleeces soon entered the house, but I realized that I didn't have the time or inclination to clean them, so I send them off to a processor so I get them back ready to spin. Eventually I'd like to use more handspun in my weavings for but now I'm just having fun spinning. My favorite fiber has to be alpaca and I have a dear friend who owns an alpaca farm; she lets me participate in shearing and their farm tour, so I get all the fun without the monetary involvement. Other than buying a fleece from her every year!
In 2003 I decided that I wanted to learn how to knit socks. I have no idea why! (lol) The first sock was not quite pure torture when I got to the heel because I like to figure out stuff before I do it, and I could not wrap my mind around the progression of the directions, so just decided to do one row at a time -- the short row heel turning. Once I got past that, I was fine.
I really don't have a favorite, I love them all. I just wish there were 48 hours in a day sometimes.
How long have you been dyeing yarn to sell? What are some of your business goals for the future? (if you don’t mind sharing)
I've been dyeing yarn maybe 4 -5 years, more or less for fun, but last year for Shepherd's Harvest (the MN Sheep and Wool festival, held Mothers Day weekend) I dyed and sold several skeins of sock yarn so I began to thought that maybe I had something. I kinda let the sock dyeing slide during the rest of the summer because I was busy with art fairs and farmers markets, but in December I determined that either this yarn business had to succeed. Because of the economy, I had been looking, to no avail, for part time work. Nothing was out there, so on a whim I applied to Sock Summit (one of my goals) and the goal was just to apply. I thought, if I was lucky, that maybe I would be accepted in another couple of years. Much to my surprise and delight and ACK! WHAT DO I DO NOW!, I got in.
Being as I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams with my Sock Summit goal, I need to figure out new goals and am still working on that. I suspect the biggest one would be selling my yarn wholesale to a show but I'm not sure I'm ready to do that yet. Ideas are welcome, if anyone has suggestions.
Your Etsy store has some gorgeous yarns. Some are colored with commercial dyes and some with natural dyes. I know nothing about dyeing- how different are the processes with the different dyes? Do you have a preference for commercial or natural dyes? If so, why?
Chemical dyeing involves dissolving the chemicals in water. I've processed the dyed yarn a couple different ways: one involves putting the mordanted yarn in a roasting pan (dedicated to dyeing alone, I won't use it for food), and painting it with the dye and then baking it in an oven for 1/2 hour at 200 degrees. I've also dipped skeins into a simmering dyebath once last summer at a friend's house and really liked that, so I propose to do more of that this year.
Natural dyeing involves soaking the dyestuff in water for a 24 hr period, then I bring it to a simmer on the stove, then strain it, then put it back on the stove. The mordanted yarn is submerged in the dyebath and left to simmer for about an hour, then I take it out, let it cool, rinse it, then let it dry.
I have no preference really. I can achieve much brighter, more varied, colors with chemicals but the natural dyes can also produce some unexpected colors, and it's always interesting to see what I do get. I never really know until I take the yarn out of the dye bath.
these are freshly harvested walnuts. I have to cut them in half to get the seed out, and then lay the halves out to dry. My fingers end up quite brown.
What are some of the natural substances you use for dyeing; and where do you obtain them?
Most of the dyestuffs we procure from our yard or garden, or John's work shop: walnuts, goldenrod, tree bark, hollyhocks, marigolds, indigo. I've only bought one item, some brazilwood, that we proceeded to chip up.
How do you decide what color(s) to create on the fiber?
I can control the colors some when I chemical dye and try to create what I envision. Last year I had a sudden dye fit, where I had to dye yarn revolving around local birds: the loon, the hummingbird, the baltimore oriole. I think I mostly succeeded. With natural dye I can hope but nature makes the color, not me.
walnut stellina superwash sock yarn.
I understand you dye out of your home. Do you have a special studio, or is your kitchen multi-purpose?
Our kitchen is multipurpose, but I refuse to use anything toxic, like the copper and iron mordants, as they are difficult and require special procedures to dispose of. I always clean up afterwards, and anything I use for dyeing is not used for food preparation.
You’re going to be at Sock Summit, (I’m very excited to see you there and get to actually pet some of your yarns!) do you go to any other fiber festivals during the year??
This year I will be at Yarn Over (the MN Knitters Guild get-together), Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival, and of course Sock Summit. I have an application in to the Michigan Sheep and Wool Festival and I’m on their waiting list. Crossing fingers ....
Thank you so much for letting me host you on your tour, Karen. I wish you luck in getting in to the Michigan Sheep and Wool Festival!
Karen has provided a 10% off coupon for one of my readers in her Etsy store. Leave a comment here before 12pm March 12th, and you will be entered in a drawing.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I'm working with yarn I really really like. I'm happy with the pattern I'm trying to put it in. I am liking the result so far. But it is still dragging.
I could blame the lack of knitting time. I think that is definitely playing a part in it. I have been so busy this week. And I really can't tell you what I've been busy with because I'm not sure.
Does that ever happen to you? Do you run around like a chicken with its head cut off and have no clue what you've been running around doing??? I know I'm getting things accomplished, but they're not really anything to speak of, ya know? Normal day to day things like cooking, cleaning, running errands, getting groceries. Things that wear you out and take up so much of your time, but at the end of the week, you really don't have anything to show for it. Mostly because it all gets eaten up or messed up or used up. That's the kind of stuff I've been busy with lately. For some reason, this week is chock full of that kind of busy-ness.
But I can't blame the drag on the design entirely on the lack of knitting time. A lot of it, but not all of it. I think I have to blame the rest on the fact that I already knit this once. Once with a lot of problems and it's no good, and I have to rip it out, and I will rip it out when I am done with the re-do so I can knit the other sock so that I have a pair so that I don't have one cold foot and one warm foot after the photography session is done and I get to have this pair to wear because I'm making it for me because I don't have very many socks and I need more and I love this yarn and I want this pair for me. (That was some of the fastest typing I've done in a while. *pant, pant*)
I have horrible SSS (*Second Sock Syndrome for those of you who aren't into the knitting lingo). And I am demonstrating that now. I need to get a grip and just do this. I will. I should be able to have a complete sock by the end of the weekend. Then I'm giving myself a week to rip out the 1st one and re-do it. It's on US size 3 needles, not the 0's, so that will help a LOT. I'll be back to the 0's after this design is done. (Hah! The next design is going to feel like it's taking forever after working with the 3's!!! )
I know my posts are sadly lacking in pictures lately. It's very hard to share what's up when so much of my knitting is secret. I guess I'll have to find something besides knitting to talk about next week.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
2)I can be a bit clueless sometimes. I really like Malabrigo yarn, but I had no idea where it was made. It was a pleasant surprise when I recieved some yarn from them to read the return address. I must say it is the first time I've ever had a package from Uruguay.
3)I have this thing about saving the best for last. I like to savor good things. When I was a little girl, I would eat the food on my plate in a very specific order- from my least favorite to my favorite. I discovered that this was a problem, because my Dad would come through the house and grab a snack on his way by...sometimes off my plate. And inevitably, because it was still on my plate, he would get what I had wanted the most to eat! But for some reason, this never stopped me from saving what I considered to be the best to be enjoyed last.
4)Yesterday, I went to the bank. (yippee, right?) I handed the teller some money. And I walked out of the bank with Joel's van completely and totally paid off. No more payments. (note here- we actually hadn't had the loan long enough to pay more than the down-payment) This after using almost every penny in our account to pay for repairs to my van.
Sometimes, all you can do is just Praise the Lord. He always provides for us. This is just one of the many examples of His provision in our lives. By the blessing of God through the Body of Christ, we are provided for yet again. Thank you. You know who you are.