Monday, February 28, 2011

Dreaming in Oranje

I love it, I can't stop thinking about it, I dreamed about it ALL NIGHT LAST NIGHT.

Oranje.

This sweater is so beautiful and so brilliant. Why was it a "surprise" and not the cover pattern of the winter issue? I haven't made a sweater for me in a few years and I have 4 already that I want to make this year. Oranje is one of them. I'll start it in the fall sometime. I'm a quarter Dutch, I pretty much have to.

I'm going to make mine in one of my top 3 favorite yarns, Socks That Rock Mediumweight. And because of my shy, retiring personality, I am sticking with the orange main color. I'm going to use this for the main color, one of the Raven clan colors for the black and one of the "spirit" colorways for the white. It'll be gorgeous and it'll be loads of fun.

I like this Ann Weaver chick. I like people who have the balls to go their own way and self-publish a book instead of trying to make their ideas fit someone else's criteria. I have her blog in my "Blogs that Inspire Me" section over on my sidebar now. I have a feeling I'll be knitting a few of her patterns.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Can I get an "amen"

Today on Facebook, Vogue Knitting posted a link to this article, "A Young Reader Asks: Is There an Elitist Oligarchy in the Underworld of Knitters?" It's an extremely well-written, well-researched article written by an 18-year-old (!) crocheter. In it, she says several things that a lot of us are thinking but aren't saying out loud. As I read it, I remembered the way I felt when I was a new knitter, just getting into some online communities and just starting to read the popular magazines.

I'll start with the elitism. Holy God, yes, there is a serious, obnoxious elitism in the world of yarncraft. I encountered it when I was a new knitter, and had I not been the stubborn soul that I am, it would have really put me off. There's yarn snobbery, for starters. That drove me nuts. There are those who believe that everyone should knit only with certain fibers and even then, only certain brands of those certain fibers and still more restrictive, only certain weights. Just as I don't understand why anyone cares who marries who, I don't understand why anyone cares who knits with what. Knit with what you like to knit with. If you don't like what someone else is knitting with, who cares? How exactly does it affect you? If you don't like a yarn, don't knit with it. If you don't like the sweater someone is knitting, don't wear it. I have the fibers and yarns that I prefer, but if someone else wants to knit with a fiber or yarn that I hate, I don't care one bit. You know what? They're knitting, and that's what matters.

There are also the "old hands" (who are often also yarn snobs) who seem to violently detest new and/or younger knitters. They were there when I started 6 years ago and they're still here, still bitching, branding anyone knitting with a fiber, brand name, yarn weight or pattern that they don't like a "knitdweeb" or worse. They were here when Debbie Stoller (they love to hate her) wrote Stitch n' Bitch. She addresses them specifically on page 122, in the section entitled "A Field Guide to Knitters," calling them "Holier-Than-Thou Knitters." They were here decades ago and they'll never go away. They seem to wish that all new or young knitters would go away, but I don't think they realize that if new and young knitters quit knitting and more new knitters don't get turned on to the craft, all these great local yarn stores that are now everywhere, making it convenient to get all the best yarn, will go away. Magazines will fold. Yarn manufacturers will disappear. Books will stop getting published. And what they'll have is what they had 20, 30 years ago: few yarn choices and few patterns. Why would they want that?

Then there's the difficulty of patterns. I think a lot of patterns falsely get an easier rating than they should because people don't want to admit that something was hard. They adopt sort of a knitter's machismo, a "pfft, naw, it was nothing" or "you should see the other guy" kind of attitude. No one can see you clicking that "uber-difficult" rating, but it's still hard to do. You want to be with the perceived majority that thought it was cake. You don't want to feel like a "knitdweeb."

I have been wondering a lot lately about why things are the way they are in the more popular knitting and crochet magazines. I subscribe to several. In every issue of one of the biggest ones, for the last several years, it seems like every pattern in the magazine has to be "the hardest f'ing thing you've ever knitted." There aren't any simple, relaxing, knit-in-front-of-the-TV patterns. No knitting-as-therapy patterns. No patterns you can knit while your kids are still awake. Every pattern has some crazy stitch pattern with advanced techniques and lots of (often unnecessary) shaping. Yes, we need challenges to grow as crafters, but every pattern? In the latest issue of this magazine, there's nothing for the new knitter. Were I a knew knitter, I'd run away from it screaming. It would be extremely off-putting to a new knitter or a casual knitter. Even as a more advanced knitter, I find it a bit obnoxious. There is a place for crazy-difficult, drive-you-to-drink patterns and there's also a place for simple, easy to knit garments with simple shapes. Not every sweater has to be shrink-wrapped to your body and contain cables, lace, intarsia and steeking.

One more thing that Sarah, the writer of "A Young Reader Asks," addresses is that there is a big, big difference between the world of knitting and the world of crochet. You can see it in the magazines. I subscribe to one of the biggest crochet magazines, which is published by the same publisher as the aforementioned knitting magazine. Even though it's published by the same publisher, it has a totally different look and feel. The knitting magazine is sophisticated, high fashion. It looks like it's on the cutting edge and has a big budget. The crochet magazine, while still loaded with plenty of uber-difficult patterns, looks low-budget, backwards and out-of-touch. It has a "kountry krafts" sort of feel. The knitting magazine uses mainly expensive boutique yarns. The crochet magazine uses plenty of those, too, but also includes a lot of lower-quality big box craft store yarns that the knitting magazine has never allowed in it in the years that I've been reading. Why is this? Why such a huge difference? Crochet is really versatile, does some things better and easier than knitting, and can be just as fashionable and cutting edge than knitting. Why not try to elevate it to the same level and the same popularity as knitting by treating it the same in the magazine?

On blogs, on the Ravelry forums, on message boards all over the internet, knitters blast other knitters, they blast crocheters and the overall sentiment is unwelcoming and mean. If someone dares to ask a well-intended question on a blog's comments, other commenters descend on them like jackals and tell them to go Google it instead of offering to help them. People rip on each other's yarn choices and pattern choices. It's stupid. This "mean girls" mentality is not advancing knitting and crochet and not helping anyone's cause.

The way I see it, if someone is knitting or crocheting, no matter what yarn they're using, no matter what pattern, no matter what color choice, no matter what weight, GOOD. They are furthering the art forms that we love and ensuring that our favorite local and online yarn stores and yarn manufacturers will continue to exist. So...

Stitch and let stitch.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Midwinter knitting

I'm enjoying the beginnings of a second snow day. My husband was home yesterday thanks to a snow storm, home early the night before because of it, and now today we've really gotten pasted and it looks like he'll be home a third day. I hope, anyway, because he will try to drive in it and this morning he wouldn't take my suggestion of chaining up preemptively, but instead says he'll chain up if he gets stuck.

Sigh. Men. At least he'll be wearing a toasty wool hat that I knitted for him while he digs out.

I was just on knitpicks.com stalking the next color of Chroma that I want, "Midwinter." For the longest time, it's been unavailable with a note that it will be available on 2/25. I went to see if it's perhaps available a day early, only to be crushed by the news that Midwinter will now not be available until 3/31, when winter is long over. Poop. It's the only color that's unavailable. Of course, the one that I reallllyyy want. Ah, well.

Speaking of Knit Picks, I have long lamented the loss of Parade, a wonderfully thick (sport weight), super-durable sock yarn. I got some on clearance years ago and fell in love with it, only to go back and find that it was... *sniff*... gone forever. Imagine my joy, then, when I saw that their self-striping sock yarn, Felici, comes in sport weight! And some are on clearance for $2.92 a ball!

I don't think I can resist that. In fact, I know that I am too weak. So I'll get a couple balls and to the back of the queue they'll go. I mean really, who could resist that?

That brings me to the sock yarn at my favorite LYS, Quintessence in Maple Valley. They have a stunning array of sock yarn. Truly drool-worthy. Among the ones that really blew me away when I was there last weekend are Cascade's Heritage 150 Paints, which is a soft, wonderful sock yarn in a great array of handpainted colors that comes in generous 492-yard hanks. It pained me not to buy some. It's on my list for the end of the year!

Another that I really liked was Trekking, which I'd heard of but had not yet seen in person. I have no idea which of the many Trekkings it was that I was so taken with, but they all look awesome.

Cascade and Skacel are both local (Seattle area) companies, and I love supporting both my local yarn shop and local yarn manufacturers! Knit Picks is headquartered in Vancouver, WA, just a few hours south. Washington is a GREAT place to be a knitter for so many reasons!

But back to the yarn... the last sock yarn that made my heart flutter, whose insanely soft texture I can still feel if I close my eyes, was Debbie Macomber Petals Socks. Dude. There is ANGORA in it. Angora on your feet. Can you imagine? I plan to find out when my sock yarn diet ends at the end of the year. The color selection for this yarn did not blow me away, but the texture... Omigod. That alone sold me. And maybe by the end of the year there'll be more colors.

Wow. A blog post finished and my kids are still sleeping. Time for some knitting! This day is off to a great start!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy accidents

I broke my own rule when I knitted my new slipper socks and didn't swatch. I said, "I'm so familiar with Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, I know how I knit with it, I don't need to swatch."

My slipper socks turned out comically large. They didn't seem so ridiculously huge when I was knitting them and trying them on. I thought, "Maybe they'll shrink when I block them." Nope. They grew when I blocked them. I didn't get a picture of them right after blocking, possibly out of pure shame and a desire to hide the evidence. I didn't swatch, and I received the consequences.

However, thanks to my predilection for 100% wool, I had a way out. I didn't have to frog them, I'd just felt them!

So, two trips through the "quick wash" cycle on my washer on hot with a few towels, and they're perfect, wonderful, super-cozy mukluks.



I love them! It's definitely a happy accident that I had to felt them to get them down to human foot-size, because felted wool slippers last for years, especially with soles sewn on. I have suede slipper soles sewn on one and hope to get the sole on the other later today. Either way, I can sleep in them tonight and good thing, because it's going to be 29 degrees tonight! There's a lot of cold weather left to enjoy them yet before summer.

I decided to do "me" knitting this weekend and leave the rest of my "work" knitting until Monday (not that any of it is truly "work," since I'm doing what I love), so I brought my Potpourri Mittens out from hibernation. I have 10 rows left before it'll be time to decrease for the top. I love they way mitten #1 is turning out. It hasn't been blocked, obviously, since it's still being knitted, so it's all puckery, but still... I think it's gorgeous and hope to finish it and the other one in time to wear them yet this winter.



So pretty. Speaking of pretty, I'm done knitting the I-cord for the Nicky Epstein "Learning the Ropes" Pendant Knot necklace from Vogue Knitting. I hope to do the knot tomorrow. Looking at the I-cord, I can tell it's going to be gorgeous.



Such a pretty yarn. There's a ton of this hank left over, so I'm thinking of making a headband with it before I make another Pendant Knot necklace or two to give as gifts with the other couple hanks that I have. I am so sad this yarn was discontinued! I really love it and hope to come across more of it. I'm so glad I snagged all three hanks that Quintessence had!

Speaking of Quintessence, I was there yesterday and it took all the strength I had not to buy more sock yarn. They have an amazing assortment of sock yarn! At the end of the year, I'm going to go in there and go nuts on sock yarn. More about the sock yarn that I yearn for next post.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daria... la la la la la

I can't look at my Noro Daria Multi without thinking of the brilliant old MTV cartoon of the same name. Or how Beavis and Butthead, where the Daria character originated, called her "diarrhea."

I have my plate so full of designs that I need to complete by not-very-far-off deadlines and full of knitting for myself that I want to complete soon, all I need is a distraction, right?

I was so taken with Nicky Epstein's "Learning the Ropes" knotted necklace designs in the Winter 2010/2011 issue of Vogue Knitting that I HAD to cast on for the "Pendant knot" one. The Noro Daria Multi that I bought a few months ago called to me and I had to start one with it. Since it's a DK weight yarn, instead of sport weight held double, like the pattern calls for, I am knitting with a single strand of it on size 5 needles and doing a 3-stitch I-cord instead of 4-stitch. So far, I am totally loving the results and it's working up fast. It's also not using much yarn at all. I'm going to be making many of these as gifts after I finish this one, which is all mine!

Friday, February 11, 2011

At long last

My 84-cent sock yarn's seemingly endless journey is over! The mail was uncharacteristically late today... it came at about 3:30. That's because I was waiting for something, naturally.

I've been stalking that damn mailbox all day. Only another knitter would understand this. It's only a single, solitary ball of sock yarn, but it was personal. I had waited so long, I wanted to see this yarn as badly as if it were a good friend back from a really long trip.

Here it is, photographed in front of an art print as surreal as this yarn's journey:



It's sitting next to me as I type this. It's really lovely, very soft. It will be hard to move it to the back of the line, as I knit about 7 or 8 other pairs of socks before it, but that's only fair. I've got sock yarn in my stash from lines that Knit Picks doesn't even produce anymore. I've got two balls of Dancing, two balls of Simple Stripes. I've had them for at least 5 years, and I bought them on clearance then. If I don't knit them now, they'll languish there forever.

Speaking of socks, one slipper sock is done and I've cast on for the second. Being worsted weight, they are super-fast. As soon as they're done, I'll cast on one of the aforementioned Knit Picks sock yarns and get a jump on the third pair of socks for the year.

It's been a good week for knitting stuff in my mailbox. I ordered one ball of Knit Picks' Chroma worsted to finish a project and omigod... it is yummy. Like Noro Kureyon, only soft. I am envisioning entire sweaters made of this... cables would look gorgeous. The project I'm using it for is actually Fair Isle, it's going to be the contrast color.

I also got the winter issue of Vogue Knitting after recently resubscribing. It's a GREAT issue. There are 3 or 4 sweaters that I want to make, plus this cool i-cord necklace by Nicky Epstein. I think I finally know what I'm going to do with some of my Noro Daria Multi. Bwah-hah-hah!

Also in the mail today was a very nice, very gentle rejection letter from a magazine to which I'd recently submitted a design. On it was a hand-written note from the editor, a knitting celebrity/goddess who I really admire. She wrote that it was a "very cool design and story but didn't quite fit this issue," and to "please keep submitting." I nearly had a heart attack! To have that kind of encouragement come from someone as brilliant and accomplished as her was almost, almost, aaallllmost as good as getting my design in the magazine.

This gives me the encouragement I need to keep going, keep designing, keep submitting. I'm working on one design now, starting and hopefully finishing a small one next week, and after that, I'll start another fairly big one. I'm so happy right now. Who knew that a rejection letter could lift someone's spirits so?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still trippin'

No sock yarn again today and it has the same status as yesterday on USPS.com. Federal Way to Maple Valley is like a 40-minute drive, so I should have gotten it today. This is getting weird... and annoying.

Where could it have gotten off to now? Saudi Arabia? Burkina Faso? Mars? I hope it lands in my mailbox tomorrow, even if it has to travel through a wormhole to do so.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What a long, strange trip it's been

Why does this keep happening to my yarn? Yarn I order online keeps having strange odysseys to unfamiliar lands on its way to my house.

It happened in December, when I ordered some yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts and it was sent to Federal Way, WA, then should have gone to my city, Maple Valley, but instead was incorrectly routed to Kirkland, then to Maple Valley. That was really irritating, because I was dying to get that yarn, and the misrouting added a day to its journey.

I had thought that my 84-cent sock yarn ought to be here by today, but it wasn't, so I looked it up on USPS.com. The journey that this yarn has taken is even weirder than the last time:



Um... WTF? How the hell did it go from Federal Way, WA (from which it should have gone to Maple Valley and gotten to me days ago) to Bell, CA?

California?! Really? How does it end up there when the label says "Maple Valley, WA?"

Wacky, wacky stuff. Anyway, unless it's misrouted a second time, it ought to be here tomorrow. Sheesh.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Loophole!

I found a way to buy sock yarn without buying it. Getting it for free! I noticed I had a credit of $8.11 at Jimmy Beans Wool that was going to expire at the end of this month. I wanted to use it but didn't want to spend any money, so I found this lovely sock yarn, Schoeller Stahl Fortissima Mexico Extra Doppeldruck (say that 5 times fast). On sale for $8.95, it cost me 84 cents, plus shipping. At 440 yards per ball, one ball is enough for a pair of socks.

My friends, it does not get any better than that. It will go to the bottom of the stash, where I'll get to it sometime this fall. It will make lovely socks, which will forever be known as my 84-cent socks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Socks!

Wow, I haven't blogged in a while! I've been writing like crazy, and will be for the next two weeks, on a non-blog project that shall remain nameless for now. I've been painting, too (one of these day I'll blog about that, really!) I've also been working on the shawl that I've designed (another secret-for-now project) and my socks for January, the plain stockinette Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock socks in "Black Purl."

These are my first socks knit in Shepherd Sock, and I have to say I love the colorway, but the base yarn, not so much. I'm sure they'll feel good on my feet, but all those plies... I find it a bit splitty, not twisted tightly enough for my likings. I compare all sock yarn to Socks That Rock, though, which I consider the Cadillac of sock yarn.

There are other sock yarns that I love nearly as much, like Knit Picks Imagination. THAT is a yummy sock yarn. It's so warm and soft, and the socks only continue to soften over time. These socks really, really last, too. The alpaca in the yarn felts a little with wear, which helps them last, as the stitches lock together a bit. I love it, and I love the colorways! I have made one pair of socks in that yarn that has lasted for over 3 years and I have two or three more colorways of it ready to be knitted up. It is taking such restraint not to buy more right now. I keep telling myself that at the end of the year, I can go sock yarn CRAZY, and let me tell you, I will. If I even make it to the end of the year without losing it and buying more sock yarn, that is.

If I keep making 12 pairs per year, that's a lot of sock yarn that I can buy. Socks are so great to knit. Fun, relaxing, extremely portable and one of the most inexpensive items you can knit!

I also recently decided to revisit a project that pissed me off to no end two years ago, when I had just learned to crochet and had mastered the granny square and nothing else. I had not yet learned to crochet back and forth in rows yet... I didn't know where to put my hook after I'd crocheted the first row. I also didn't understand the dc3tog stitch and just couldn't figure it out. I saw the yarn sitting in my stash recently, and decided to pick it up for those evenings where I don't feel like working on my sock-of-the-month in front of the TV. What is this project that drove me so absolutely nuts that I bailed on it?

A dishtowel.

A #$%^ing dishtowel.

I've got it about half completed this time, now that my crochet skills have considerably improved, and I'm having a LOT of fun with it. I really love the stitch pattern.

It's actually going to be for my bathroom, rather than my kitchen. I have plans for many lovely towels for my bathroom this year. Socks for me, pretty towels for my super-girly powder room. I work hard as a mom and as a homemaker and as so many other things, and these little things are a little way that I take care of myself.

Oh, and my self-imposed sock-of-the-month club (a la Yarn Harlot)? I'm not as good as she is with keeping up with it. Already, the first socks of the year are late. It's the 2nd of February, and I'm still working on the foot of the second sock for January's pair. Sigh. Ah, well. February's socks are going to be slipper socks, knitted in worsted-weight yarn, so they'll fly. Yes, I know, the purpose of this was to burn through my stash of sock yarn so I can buy more, and what do I do? I knit a pair of socks in non-sock yarn. But hey, mama needs a new pair of slipper socks.