Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stash Enhancement eXpedition

Is it considered stash if you have a specific project in mind for it?

My husband really needs a hat, scarf and gloves. I also need a Christmas gift for my dad, and thus a trip to the yarn shop was in order, namely Quintessence, the glorious LYS and gift shop in my hometown of Maple Valley, WA that I've talked about before. My 3-year-old came with me and helped me pick out two manly shades of Cascade 220 Superwash.



It's super-soft and they can get it good and dirty, because it's superwash. I'm continuing with my stranded colorwork obsession, and the hat and gloves will be done with a simple checkerboard Fair Isle motif. Gotta do something manly... I thought about snowflakes, but they're not manly enough. My husband and dad are both big cavemen, so a checkerboard will look great and they'll actually wear it. The yarn is also free of any wool scratchiness, further ensuring that they'll wear it.

In the clearance bin, some Noro Daria Multi has been taunting me for some time. I grabbed 2 of the 3 hanks that are there, and if the third hank is still there when I go back in a couple weeks, I am totally going to grab it, too. It's sooo pretty, and it just said "crocheted bag" to me. Part of it might end up being a bracelet, too, since I saw this pattern on Ravelry. Simple and beautiful! Too bad Noro Daria Multi has been discontinued, it's really unique and pretty.



It was 40% off, too. Gotta love that!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Still Stranded

I still can't stop with the stranded colorwork. Now that I've created two stranded designs of my own, I feel ready to tackle a project that I have wanted to do for 2 years now: the Potpourri mittens from Vogue Knitting Fall 2008. I'm not doing the colors as prescribed in the pattern. I almost never do, unless the colors are critical to the pattern or unless they really speak to me. I'm doing my own thing, using one hank of a lovely Koigu KPPPM colorway and one hank of KnitPicks Stroll in "bare" (undyed). I llllove Koigu. Adore it. I am making it a policy to grab a random hank of Koigu every time I'm in a yarn shop that carries it. Not nearly enough shops do. I hope to stop at Weaving Works when I'm in downtown Seattle for my birthday, and while I'm there, I'll grab a hank or two. The hank I'm using for this pattern is one I got there a few years ago, and it's sat in my stash just waiting to be turned into something.



And from another angle...



I am in love with it! The colorwork chart is super-easy and fun to follow. The only challenge so far was the picot cuff, which uses a provisional crochet chain cast-on. I had never done one of those before, and there was a learning curve, not to making the cast-on, but to removing it when folding the cuff together. I learned not to pull the chain out and let the stitches pop off, because they will quickly unravel. Stick your needle into each stitch one by one, and gently pull the chain out stitch by stitch. That's the way to go!

The cuff is kind of insane. You do the provisional cast-on, knit 3 rows, then do yarn-over, k2tog for a row, then knit 3 rows. You then pull out the provisional crochet chain cast-on and put those stitches onto a second set of dpns, fold the cuff together, and knit a stitch from each dpn into one stitch (like doing a three-needle bind-off). So there is a point in time where you have the stitches on SIX size 1 dpns, while knitting them with a 7th. It is beyond fiddly and challenged my dexterity, but I did it, and the beautiful picot cuff that results is totally, totally worth it.

I was inspired to use the Koigu with a plain white yarn when I saw this ingenious use of this pattern on Ravelry. I'm doing the same thing, only with Koigu instead of Noro Kureyon Sock. I think they're going to be gorgeous! They will be warm for sure, with all that stranding!

Aside from these beautiful mittens, I'm also working on a crocheted shawl of my own design that I plan to submit for publication. It uses Lion Brand LB Collection Cotton Bamboo, which is to.die.for. It's super-soft and cool to the touch. It makes a garment that would be comfortable in hot weather as well as cold. I am totally loving it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knitting Makes Everything Better

I was having a rough afternoon. I was in a vile mood, PMSing hardcore, I was tired and my 3-year-old was in super-obstinate mode. Then I got my babies down for their nap and picked Selbuvotter up from the stack of my books and library books next to my bed and all my cares melted away. I finished the first chapter, totally engrossed and fascinated. The author, a Seattleite, has a palpable passion for the topic and did exhaustive research, making this a very fun read. Since she's local, I hope to check out one of her classes sometime. I love that she self-published this book. That is bad-ass. I've seen it mentioned in a few places, and it seems to have a great reputation, which it deserves. I think it will become a classic.

The author is a fellow former software person like me. On her website, selbuvotter.com, she mentions starting to write knitting patterns in 2002 after becoming a stay-at-home mom out of a need for the "project-oriented direction" that she was used to. I laughed out loud when I read that. That's half the reason I started designing patterns. I need structure, badly! Mostly it's because the fiber and textile arts are my burning passion and I feel compelled to do it and to make it my "career." But yeah, I really need the structure that a project with a deadline and a clear goal gives.

Since I decided to write and submit a sweater design for publication a few weeks ago, which I am putting in the mail tomorrow, I've really enjoyed taking all the steps of working towards that goal. The planning, the research, the time-budgeting, the execution. This has been good for me. And when mom is happy, everyone is happy.

I'm now knitting a swatch for a second design (also stranded!) for a hat that I plan to submit for publication. I hope to have that design ready to send off by the following Monday. After that, I have a design for a pair of mittens that I plan to send to still another publication.

Aside from self-designed stuff, I am still crocheting away on the Vintage Vertical Stripe blanket, probably about 20 rows in. Aside from finishing the hat design this week, my other goal is to embroider my daughter's pillow cover and cast one on for my other daughter. Hanukkah starts on 12/1 and I plan to have them both finished by then. They are simple, so it'll be no problem!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meditative Needlework

Well, OK, this post is about crochet, but "Meditative Needlework" sounded better than "Meditative Hooking."

I am having so much fun with the Vintage Vertical Stripe Blanket! It's so easy to pick up and put down and totally mindless. Just double crochet after double crochet forever and ever, picking random colors of Mission Falls 1824 Wool and Lion Brand Vanna's Choice leftovers. I am loving the way it's turning out.



That's 9 rows so far. I have a looooong way to go and will need more yarn to finish it, and I am determined to keep it a leftovers-only stashbuster blanket. Good thing I have another blanket in Vanna's Choice planned for someone who shall not be named because she may read this blog. Tee hee. She needs a handmade blanket. I hope to have it done by the holidays, but we'll see how fast my hook can fly.

While hooking away on this blanket, I was thinking of something Julia Cameron said in her wonderful book, The Artist's Way, which I'm currently reading (and totally loving, and which I highly recommend). On page 22, she says "Needlework, by definition regular and repetitive, both soothes and stimulates the artist within." I can attest to both. I found it indispensably soothing when I was still working full time after having my first daughter and really needed some serious soothing. While knitting or crocheting, all stress and anxiety just melted away, as the repetitive actions of my hands quieted by very busy mind. I also come up with some of my best ideas while knitting or crocheting. Ms. Cameron is absolutely right!

With that, it's back to work on my stranded project, which is the first of many! I came up with three more Fair Isle ideas just this afternoon, after a couple hours of leisurely crocheting and watching Spongebob with my kids and husband (and what better way is there to spend a Saturday?).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stranded!

Why did it take me so long to try stranded colorwork? I might be a little crazy, too, to make my first stranded project one of my own design, but so far it's working, thanks to the obscene amount of reading that I did on the topic before beginning.

I found this article on knitty immensely helpful and most helpful of all was this booklet, Stranded Color Knitting by Nanette Blanchard. She tells you everything you need to know there. Reading these two things gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to take the design that was in my head and make it reality. The swatch that I intend to submit with my submission package for publication is on the needles right now and going really well!

I'm now so fascinated and obsessed with Fair Isle and other stranded colorwork, I'm reading all I can and going through my stash to look for more yarn to make Fair Isle projects with. I've got a couple possibilities in there! My favorite book so far on Fair Isle is Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting. It's comprehensive and AWESOME. I just added Selbuvotter to my queue at the library, and I imagine after that I'll devour some books on Latvian mittens. Once I get on a tangent, I stay on it until it has been completely, exhaustively explored!

Also on the needles is my second swatch for the TKGA Master Knitter program. The first is garter stitch, the second is Stockinette. I never thought I'd put such care into a simple swatch! It's actually fun. I definitely did the right thing by reading most of the "On Your Way to the Masters" articles that are available to TKGA members. I learned so much that I absolutely need to know to successfully complete this program. There is a wealth of information there to the point that the Master Knitter program feels like an open book test. Everything I need to know is all right there!

I want full mastery of my craft, so I have all the possible options for creativity that I can. Learning stranded colorwork opens up whole new worlds! After this obsession, maybe I'll give lace a real, official try. I bought yarn to make this scarf years ago, and there it's been sitting for years. Good thing I downloaded the pattern then, because it looks like it's no longer available.

And with that, I'm going to bed, but maybe a few more pages of that Alice Starmore book first...