Friday, January 21, 2011

Shawls n' socks

... are all I want to knit lately. Shawls and shawl-like things, like capes and capelets. I love my Wavy Lace Capelet so much! The ladies that work at our favorite Maple Valley Starbucks complimented me on it when I went through the drive-thru the other day. That totally made my day.

I love what a great, flexible extra layer a shawl is. This one will work in spring, fall and winter here, and maybe even on a particularly chilly summer night. I have enough laceweight yarn for two more shawls, and once I'm done with the shawl I'm currently working on (of my own design and intended for publication, so I can't show it yet), I'm going to get started on a light, spring shawl with one of those yarns. I've had both in my stash for years.

It's still cold as hell here, though, and raining almost every day. We have a one-story house with a wood floor and a crawlspace, so that floor gets COLD. Slippers or slipper socks are a necessity. My felted clogs, after years of wear, are finally starting to fall apart, which sucks. I loved knitting that pattern, though, so I look forward to knitting it again.

The felted clog pattern is by Bev Galeskas, who recently passed away. I'll think of her every time I knit this ingenious pattern. I'd knit up a pair right now, but I don't have enough worsted weight wool in one or two colors in my stash, and I don't want to use scraps and make technicolor frankenclogs.

I've decided what I'm going to do. I'm going to go get two skeins of Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool in Natural, knit the clogs and then dye them. I used to dye yarn and fiber a lot until I got pregnant with my first daughter and didn't want the chemicals around. I still have some Jacquard Acid Dye somewhere in my garage. The technique that I plan to use to dye the clogs is called Jar Dyeing, and it was developed by this lady: Castle Fibers on Etsy. That's where I bought the instructions, and they are awesome. All you need is some dye (natural or acid), whatever mordant is needed (vinegar for acid dyes and protein fibers, like wool) and a big mason jar. It's loads of fun, not at all messy, like other methods of dyeing, and yields really beautiful results. I intend to knit and felt the clogs, then cram them into the jar with a series of 3 or 4 dye colors to end up with crazy, beautiful, rainbowtastic felted clogs.

Aside from the clogs, I've decided I need a proper pair of slippersocks, for variety. I have enough Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted (yummmmm) in a green and a pink colorway to pull off a pair of slippersocks. I intend to make them striped fraternal twin socks. That will be fun!

Speaking of socks, I have the first sock almost done of my self-imposed sock of the month club (a la Yarn Harlot). I just have to decrease for the toe. It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Black Purl colorway. I got it a couple years ago at the now unfortunately closed Hilltop Yarn East in Bellevue, WA. They were my favorite LYS and I was really sad when they closed. However, I've got lots of yarn in my stash to remember them by.

P.S.: Yes, I did knit my own project bag, which you can see under the sock-in-progress. I knitted that about 6 years ago, out of Lion Brand Lion Cotton. It was the first thing I ever knitted in the round, and it has served me well. It's been on planes, in cars, everywhere!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recycling hand-knit socks

I am, as I've mentioned, a sock knitter. A sock knitter with an obscene stash of sock yarn (yes, I know, it doesn't count as stash). I am also a sock knitter who has 4 pairs of holey hand-knit socks that sit in a drawer. They sit there because I put so much time into them and had so much fun making them and they're so pretty, I'm loath to throw them away. I'm equally loath to darn them, so there they sit. I knew I'd eventually do something with them, but I didn't really know what.

Then, when exiting the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in December, I saw visual artist Nick Cave's (NOT Nick Cave of The Bad Seeds, I looked it up) "Soundsuits" and I about fell over. I stopped in my tracks. I stopped breathing, my heart stopped.

There before me were giant, human-sized suits, suits designed to cover a person's entire head and body, made of cut up recycled knitting and crochet. They were so stunning, so brilliant, so beautiful. I couldn't believe it. Passionate knitter and aspiring artist that I am, I said to myself, "This is why I'm here today, to see THIS."

I kept thinking about those wonderful Soundsuits and then one day thought of my stash of defunct hand-knit socks, and it hit me: I'll cut off the leg portion of the socks, cut them open and sew them together into a quilt! Or a poncho! Or a shawl!

Now, I've only got 4 pairs' worth so far, so this will be a few years' long project if I do it using solely (hee hee... no pun intended) my own hand-knit socks. But it will be fun, it will be beautiful, and it's great to know that my hand-knit socks will have a life beyond their original incarnation as socks.

And guess what? the Soundsuits I saw in December were just a preview. A whole Nick Cave exhibit starts in March!! I am so, so, so, SO THERE!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Increasing frustration

After an oh, two-month hiatus, I'm back to knitting the swatches for the TKGA Level 1 master program. Before I started knitting them, I read through all of the "On Your Way to the Masters" articles that are available to TKGA members and learned absolutely invaluable things about weaving in ends, doing certain stitch patterns and decreases properly, colorwork and more. There is a wealth of information in there and I am a way better knitter for having read and applied the information to my knitting. Even if you have no plans to do the TKGA Master Knitter program, you should read these articles. The information in these articles alone is well worth the price of membership.

I worked the first 5 swatches with no problem, with the "On Your Way to the Masters" articles under my belt. Swatches 1-5 were a breeze, and then I got to swatch 6. I figured it too would be a breeze, but I was wrong!

This swatch has you do mirrored lifted increased. I had never done a lifted increase before, nor had I heard of it. I figured it couldn't be that bad, googled it and gave it a try. It's a bit fiddly but not hard. However, I kept screwing it up, over and over. I'd cast on the prescribed number of stitches, knit an inch of Stockinette and then try an increase row. The swatches have you place the increases 3 stitches from the selvedge on each side. First, I managed to screw this up. I placed the lifted increase wrong. Then, I'd get the right-leaning lifted increase right (by far the easier one to pull off), but then I'd get the left-leaning lifted increase totally, tragically wrong. I'd end up with something looking like a yarnover, or I'd accidentally drop it when purling the next row. ARGH! I ripped this damn swatch back 4 or 5 times, thinking similar thoughts to the ones I thought in algebra class in high school. "This is stupid. I'm never going to use this!"

Then, after all the ripping and swearing, it clicked. I got it. I learned a new increase. I got the lifted increase down!

Mind you, I still hate it and will never use it on purpose, when there are easier, lovelier increases such as my favorite M1 and of course the bar increase, a.k.a., KFB. But I learned it. I didn't let myself get frustrated and skip ahead to the next swatch and come back to this one, or bail on the Master thing altogether. I persevered and I got it.

Along with all the other wonderful things it is, knitting is character building.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

For flying short distances

I told my husband that I'm making a capelet with my gorgeous bounty of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Icelandic, and he said, "What's a capelet? Is it for flying short distances?"

I love him. And I love, love, love this yarn and this pattern! Here's how it's working up so far:

I've got the ribbing and one pattern repeat done, and now all that's left is to change to size 15 needles and knit the second pattern repeat. Since it's being knitted on size 13 and 15 needles, which are like tree trunks, it's going super fast. I can't remember the last time I knitted with yarn this bulky, but I'm going to find another reason to again soon. Icelandic is nothing short of wonderful. It's super-soft and the colorway is so pretty!

It's a singles yarn and I love nothing more than a nice singles yarn. No plies to split and each stitch really stands out. This yarn is so many of my favorite things put together... soft, singles, hand-dyed, 100% wool. Yum!

Speaking of hand-dyed yarn, I don't understand what the big deal is about "pooling." It's hand-dyed yarn. Why buy hand-dyed yarn if you want it to behave like solid-color or machine-dyed yarn? People seem to be so afraid of letting hand-dyed yarn behave like hand-dyed yarn, of letting it look hand-dyed. There are entire books out about how to avoid pooling when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. Really? It's that big of a deal?

I have never minded pooling. I like letting hand-dyed yarn do what it will. I love seeing which color it's going to change to next, what patterns, if any, it's going to make. If you're hand-making something, why fight letting it look hand-made? What's the point of hand-making something only to have it look like every other mass-produced, boring, devoid of personality thing out there? Why not let it be what it is, hand-made, hand-dyed, and embrace its unique personality and character?

I'm not afraid of pooling at all. In fact, I embrace it. Pooling can be beautiful. Just dive right in and give hand-dyed yarn a chance to be what it is!