Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stashes -- Half empty or half full?

Yup, it's the next weekend and I'm actually back. I want to thank Kenn for the nice note! Two weeks and I'll be in my seat in the arena and my withdrawal will be over. I could definitely use a hockey fix real soon...

OTN are several projects. I have some gorgeous Mega Boot Stretch by Lana Grossa in red that's going to be that textured argyle sock. This is definitely the right yarn for the right pattern. I started the first sock last night and only got the cuff done because the girls had taken my car to the Durham Fair and where is my notebook? Yup, sitting in my backseat. The family teases me that I live out of my car. Now it's truly everyone who knows this...

Also on the needles is a scarf in a simple lacy pattern. Mom had some Knitpicks Shimmer lace weight yarn in denim. She tried several times to make a lace shawl, but she can't stand counting those darn yarn overs. So she gave the yarn to me and I've had it bouncing around for about a year now. I originally started the pattern in single strand, but even with only a size 4 needles, it was too fine. I was thinking along the lines of an Irish Wedding Ring lace where, when you're all done, you can pull the scarf through a wedding ring because the yarn is so fine, but that wasn't going to work with this particular yarn and this particular pattern. So I doubled the stranding and that solved the problem. What's amazing is that it's a variegated yarn with several shades of blue and I happened (this was sheer chance and not design) to begin the skeins at just the right place so the color changes are working together. The colors change at almost the same time. Now, maybe by the time I reach the center of the scarf, they'll be out of synch, but they're working together now and it's coming out very nice.

Let's see... Shelby's fingerless mitts. Started one pattern. yech. Started another. Nope, not that one either. Finally went back to the very first pattern that I'd worked in the Latvian style and mixed up the colors of navy blue, yellow, red and white. Finally got a match. Style is working. Color changes are working right up to the base of the hand. I went from a background of white with the first design in blue and the second in red and then changed to the main part of the mitts in an intricate design of blue and yellow. But the change from red/white to blue/yellow was so sudden, it was jarring. Hmm... how to fix it? Easy. I frogged back all the blue/yellow and began the section with a braid to frame the design. Whew! Easy fix. I'm now at the point where I'm adding the plain blue gusset for the base of the thumb. Yup, it's not Latvian anymore, but I think it's going to be perfect for what I'm doing. I figure enough rows to get the thumb in there and then either one whole pattern or a pattern and a half to reach over the knuckles and a bit onto the fingers and then I'll finish it with another braid, again to define the design. So keep your fingers crossed that the end result matches what I see inside my head.

I think that's everything that's on the needles right now.

Took a vacation day on Friday so I could beat most of the crowds at the Durham Fair. Spent about $200, but I got most of my Christmas shopping done. And even a few birthday presents since my MIL's birthday is this coming Friday and oldest daughter will be 18 before the month is over. The only person I didn't get anything for was my darling hubby... I'm still trying to convince him to let me knit him an Icelandic sweater, but he's been adamant about rolling his eyes at me. No, I can't see him wearing one either, but that's besides the point... LOL!

While at the Durham Fair, I ran into my teacher, Laurie Sanford. She was co-chair for the Fiber Committee (new this year at the fair) and she yelled at me for not submitting something. I hung my head in shame and admitted that I don't get to spin as often as I'd like, but that wasn't an excuse for her. I did tell her, though, that I did look at the entries and was going to enter some of my yarn, but I hadn't gotten around to making that decision until the very day that all the entry forms were due. So I promised that I'd enter next year. A goal. That's what I need. I can enter some of my handknit items as well as some of the fiber I've spun and, maybe if I can get off my duff and actually knit up some of my own yarn, I can enter that as well. So I have some ambitious goals for this coming year.

Which brings me to a subject that I promised I'd discuss. Stash. What are they? How do we keep them from cloning whenever we turn our back?

I used to be really bad about stash control. I had huge 40-gallon Tupperware containers of stash. Worse was that I'd buy yarn simply because I liked it and it would sit there for years without even a project in mind. I don't know if anyone else can say this one, but I honestly had a stash of lavendar wool that I'd bought my first year of working (so we're talking around 1984 or so) because it was a closeout. It sat around with nothing to do and no project in mind for over a decade. I finally turned it into an afghan which I still have. Weighs a ton which is why I don't use it because it weighs enough to keep small children from breathing, but it's still in my house.

That was the yarn that turned me around. I no longer buy a yarn just because it's gorgeous. Frankly, there will always be gorgeous yarn. I'm a pain in that I have to fondle the yarn before buying. I venture into a yarn store and feel my way around the shelves. As I work more and more, I'm finding that I'm even more tactile than enticed by color. If it doesn't feel right, I simply won't work with it.

Oops. I'm meandering again, aren't I? Stash control. I don't buy a yarn if it doesn't speak to me about what it wants to be. If there's no project in mind, then I can't have it. Plain and simple. It could be the loveliest yarn since the Hope Diamond, but if it doesn't have a plan, it doesn't come home. Second is that I only allow myself so much. I usually buy in bulk as opposed to each project on it's own. When I buy, I spent $100+ or could be $200+. But, and here's the kicker, each yarn has a project and I have to complete at least 80% of the projects before I'm allowed to buy more. I might purchase yarn for a shawl or a sweater (I can't WAIT to start doing colorways in sweaters) and then yarn for 5 or 6 pairs of socks. All at once. Big bill. But then I'm not allowed to buy more until I've completed (not started, mind you, but completed) the majority of the projects.

It's hard. Don't get me wrong. I could escape to various yarn stores every weekend and drop $100 a week on yarn. But then when would I finish them? No, the purchase of more yarn is my incentive to complete the projects I've already got. And the quickest way to get more yarn is to complete the projects I've already purchased.

Example -- I have one "project" left from my old stash when I bought the yarn last weekend for the new projects. It's some lovely Lis Souza in Joseph's Coat that I know will be another pair of socks. I haven't decided on a pattern or if I'll even use a pattern for it, but I know this yarn will be socks. And I can make a pair of socks (if I really work at it) in 4-5 days. So it's time to get more yarn. Hence, my trip to Country Yarns and about $120 for new projects.

Last night, I saw a pattern for a dropped stitch shawl. I think this would be wonderful in alpaca for Aunt Lois and my mother-in-law for Christmas. Shouldn't be too time-consuming to make. A couple weeks at best. (The dropped stitch garter shawl from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle) I made a shawl for Mom last Christmas, so it would be nice to make one this year for the other two ladies in our family. Anyway, if I want to get them made by December, then I have to get to work on the projects I just purchased. See? Incentive if I want to complete the shawls in time to wrap.

I don't see the restrictions of not being able to buy more yarn as a punishment. Rather, it's all in how you view it. I know that my reward for completing projects is the ability to fund new ones. And I knit away, happy and content, because I know that there are always new projects to drool over. And since I can't get to them until I finish the ones I've got, I just keep knitting because that's the only path that will get me back to the store (or Internet site)...

Think of Dorie in Finding Nemo. Her mantra was "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." Well, I've turned that into "Just keep knitting..."

To relate back to the title of this (yet again very LONG) post... is your stash half empty or half full? I don't think of all the wonderful yarns that aren't in my stash. I think of all the ones that will be there once I complete what I've got.

Comments? Any other topic I can cover? Write and let me know if any of this helps.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Setting a record here...

There definitely be dragons here...

I'm posting twice in one darn weekend. I think a bug's gotten into me somewhere. I can feel it running around, but I'm not sure I want to get rid of it. See... I forgot to include some info in the last post...

First off, I turned the heel (almost wrote hell there and wondering if it might be a mistake or one of those Freudian slips... ) and my directions actually worked. Wasn't sure I'd written them down correctly, but I actually did. That would be a first within itself. I've adapted a lot of recipes and patterns over the years, but I've never written anything down. Or if I did write it down, I usually got it all wrong. Oops...

I tried on the first sock (only because I was dying of curiosity) and it looks dreamy. Fits wonderful and, like I said earlier, I've finally got the right pattern with the right yarn. I'll have to have Dee take a pic for me so I can post it.

Speaking of yarn, I got over to Country Yarns. The sock yarn I was thinking of is called Mega Boot Stetch and it's put out by Lana Grossa. I'm not sure the new yarn I bought will work because it's red and rather bright, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I also picked up some gorgeous Andirondack in a color called... er, what is it called? Can't remember except it's primary, rich colors. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff. Let's see... what else? I bought Cherry Tree Hill in Indian Summer. If the Mega Boot Stretch doesn't work in the Textured Argyle, this definitely will. Another yarn... I think it's another Lana Grossa. Nope, Trekking XXL. I think it's color 100. And one more. A skein of Schaefer Anne (or is it Anne Schaefer?) in color Mojave. Now that's going to be doubled and made into a gorgeous scarf for a Christmas present. I have the two grandmothers and a great-aunt and I think they'll all get scarves this year. I saw some simply devine cashmere/silk that's to die for. At $40.00 a skein, it ought to be to die for, but it's gorgeous. Soft as a puppy's butt and in soft pastels, but really saturated pastel colors. And if I can find the right pattern that will only need one skein, I don't mind the expense. Sorry, but I just can't drop $80 for a scarf. Not this year.

Anyway, I got to the store. Course, I'm driving away from the store and shaking my head at myself. I balk at the cost of purchasing a kit from Philosopher's Wool to make one of the "colour your own" sweaters, but I don't bat an eye at dropping over $100 for socks and scarves... Maybe it's because I can make several projects out of the yarn I bought instead of just one. I dunno...

Last thought before I trek off. I wanted to give an update on the Knitpicks own needles. As I said before, 6" is short for me. I'm used to working with 8" needles. I don't work with my fingers really close to my work. My fingers are fairly straight and I hold back on the needles while knitting. IOW, my fingers aren't real close to the working stitches. I leave room between my fingers and the working part of the needle. So sometimes a 6" needle will catch on my palm. (A real problem when you look down to find that you've effectively shoved your needle right out of your stitches... LOL!) But that's my only complaint. I'm really enjoying the feel of these needles. Even though they're metal, they have a "warm" feel to them. There's just a slight bit of drag that you get with the Addi Turbos. And I don't have a lot of "sweat" in my hands, so loosing my grip is really easy. I haven't had that happen with these needles.

As I said, because I work "back" from the working part of my needles, I put a lot of pressure on them. I tried working with wood and bamboo, but I break those outright. Heck, I bend my Addis. If you could see them. I couldn't roll them across a surface if I tried. I even have to replace them from time to time because they're bent enough to make working awkward.

So... I adore Addis, but I can get Knitpicks own needles for half the cost. And considering needles last me about a year before I've bent them out of shape, it's a terrific investment for me.

My next purchase will be some of their circular needles. I'm thinking of breaking down and buying the kit where you "build" your own circular. I've heard good reports, so it might be worth the investment. I had a kit by Denise years ago, but damn if the yarn didn't hang up on the connectors. And quite badly too. But I've heard that Knitpicks solved whatever the problem was in the connector and they work without hanging up. So it might be time to try if I'm going to try knitting sweaters in the round.

Time to go over and update my iPod. Cast-On has a new episode out and I'm trying other podcasts also. So far I've tried a few others, but I've been spoiled by listening to Brenda Dayne. She's the most professional of the bunch and I enjoy her mix of essays, music and news. Course, I hope I find a few others to help fill the week at work because I'm almost caught up on the backlist of episodes of Cast -On.

Remind me that my next post is going to be about stashes and my own personal thoughts. Stashing and de-stashing always seems to be a point of interest to knitters. Sometimes I stash and sometimes I don't. So let's see if we can discuss this a bit. Whatcha think?

Have a terrific week and write if you get a chance!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Another post so soon?!?

Yeah, go figure. I don't post for months at a clip and now I'm going to try and post once a week. What's been happening? Lots of stuff in my mind...

I still haven't gotten over to Country Yarns to get the yarn for the Textured Argyle. Sorry, but the only days they're open late were ones that I work late. I was only home early (before about 8PM) one night this week and Wednesday wasn't it. Monday and Friday were work at the second job. Tuesday was the first meeting for NBPOPS (North Branford Parents of Performing Students). I'm Treasurer for them, so it's kinda hard to miss with the explanation that I was off on a yarn hunt. Thursday was the night of the BBQ. QU held a BBQ for all the Season Ticket Holders to come and hear the coaches and pick up their tickets for this year's games. If you run over to the QU site, there's a pic of me and the Hubby talking with Rand. We're way down near the end of the "more photos" page and, yup, there it is for all the world to see. My big butt... Gee, I wasn't feeling exactly slim lately anyway and now I've got proof that I better get that butt back to the gym before it doesn't fit into a single pic...

What was really kewl was that Kenn Venit was worried that I'd missed signing up for the season because his tickets this year encompass the seats I had last year. So I assured him that my old seats were open because I was able to move right down to the first row at the boards.

In fact, I had to inform the ladies of POPS that I'll miss next month's meeting because there's a game that night. Ladies, I would never be remiss in my duties to the organization, but there's a seat with my name on it. And, last year, I missed one game (one single solitary game) and Dan LeFort motioned to the DH, asking where I was... Yup, the boys noticed I wasn't there and they lost to Dartmouth. Everyone assured me it was all my fault because the team knew I wasn't there. A burden I'll never live down, especially now that Mark (the DH) has gotten to love the sport as much as me.

Okay, on to fun stuff. What's on the needles?

Well, I started another Latvian to see if I could knit something to the gauge marked in the book. Size 2 needles and the gauge was right, but boy was it huge! So, in the meantime, I got the yarn from Knitpicks for Shelby's fingerless mitts so she can use them while playing with the Pep Band at the games. Navy blue and gold are the school colors, so I'm using navy and yellow. The third color for the school is red and there's a touch of white in the cuff design. Anyway, I began that project the next day and it's coming along nicely.

Course, do I ever do a pattern the way it's written? Heck no. So I'm adapting this one also. Going to add a small gusset to encompass the thumb, but I'm not going to work that in pattern. That will be in plain navy blue. And then I'm thinking of finishing the piece using the herringbone effect of purling by carrying the yarn on the outside of the piece up near the fingers. It'll give a really nice finished effect to the end and also keep the yarn from curling back on itself up near the fingers. I considered beginning the cuff with the same, but used a scallop instead. Maybe a consideration for future mitts.

Almost done with the double cable socks. Have completed the first sock and it looks very weird when laid on its side because the cables and the ribbing pulls it in tight. So it's all length and no width. But I'm almost done with the cuff on the second sock and about to turn the heel.

So I have no choice but to get out to Country Yarns this weekend and go get that yarn for the textured sock.

I also picked up "Folk Shawls" by Cheryl Oberle. There's some really beautiful designs in there and I thought I could start with the simple variation of a box shawl. I was thinking of taking... oh, hell, what was that math theory? I heard it on Brenda Dayne's Cast-On episode, "Frogging the Proverbial" in a guest spot by Lara Neel, who hosts Math4Knitters. Anyway, I thought it would be really kewl to take that mathematical equation/theory and apply it through the rows on the Box Shawl.

Course, I'm also looking at the Ruana. Would that make the kewlest coat or what? I'm not sure I mentioned it before, but I had this fake fur coat that was absolutely gorgeous. I treated myself almost three years ago with my Christmas bonus and bought this coat on site. Got it half price for $100. Everyone who saw it swore it was real. Anyway, I had to get it cleaned and it said to have it cleaned by fur method, but that was going to cost more than the jacket did to begin with. So I went with regular dry cleaning and the small sections of leather trim simply let go. I mean seams started to fall apart all over the place. So it's time to retire the faux fur jacket and look for something new. I think a ruana worn with just the right wide belt to hold it in place would be perfect. After all, if the yarn is heavy enough, all I'd need is a good sweater under it and I'd be warm as toast. Maybe a nice heathered yarn or a tweed yarn. And if I did it in "stripes" of straight garter stitch and then maybe a pattern of some kind for another stripe, it would be textured as well as tweedy. Hmm... more thoughts.

See? I told you most of the work this week was in my head... LOL!

Anyway, today have to clear out some of the summer plants that are dying with the cool nights. Want to check over at Big Y. They had some nice mums that I might put in for the fall. But I can check while on my way to Country Yarns. Tonight is a stay-at-home night and maybe work more on those fingerless mitts. Tomorrow is laundry and spinning day.

Do I live an exciting life or what?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Colorwork and other wrestling projects...

Where the heck have I been, you ask? Well, I finally finished digging out the front yard. I found the mother of all rocks buried in my front yard. I spent half the day trying to dig that baby out and even bent the blade on my hawser axe that Mark had bought two days prior. Sorry, babe, but I couldn't find the friggin' crowbar. Finally, Mark came home and I asked him where it was. He sauntered into the house and came right back with it. Uh huh. I definitely would have looked in the house for the crowbar. I can't believe I actually thought it might have been in the garage...

Well, we finally wrestle this thing out of the ground and he asks me why I just don't leave it there. "What if I want to plant a bush?!?" I mean, we're talking dead center of this huge 2000 sq. ft. area. Wouldn't I want to plant something special in the center? After all, I've cleared more square footage in my front yard than I actually have inside my house. It deserves something special, right?

Course, we get this durned thing out and I stand there, looking at it. Nope, forget a damn bush. I take all the other big rocks I've been "planting" around the garden and dump them all in the hole. Then we wrestle the mother rock right back on top of them.

Why? Because I've changed my mind. This rock is going to be my showcase. I'm going to paint the thing white and display the boulder I've dug out of this yard. Surround it with mulch and display it.

And Mark just stands there and laughs. We dug it out only to put it back.

What can I say?

I finished the yard just in time to go back to work. Now, here's the weird thing. I've started listening to a podcast called "Cast On" by Brenda Dayne. And she's inspired me. I want to expand my horizons and try new techniques. I've always been timid. Yup, I'm good at what I do, but I'm always afraid to try new stuff because I'm worried that I won't "get it".

Well, I pulled out my Latvian mitten book and started experimenting. Hey! I can do this stuff. It's not all that hard. Not once you learn a few tricks. Like I checked out the short video on Philosopher's Wool website and learned how to carry those colors without long stranding to get tangled on fingers and toes and all that. Easy stuff. Practicing knitting with both hands. (Yeah, like this stuff was really all that easy!!! )

I've been back at work for 3 or 4 weeks. I'm not sure without looking at a calendar, to be honest. But I've been practicing and knitting and stranding and doing all sorts of stuff that I've never done before. All while listening to the old podcasts of Brenda Dayne who keeps me inspired to try this new stuff. And you want to know the _really_ weird part? I actually look forward to getting into work because then I have time to play and practice. I wake up in the morning, all psyched about getting into my booth and hunkering down for the day with my skeins and needles.

Last year, I got to the point that I dreaded another day at work and how on Earth I was going to fill the time. This year? I can't wait to get there. I'm experimenting at creating my own new designs and colorworks.

I have a book called "Aran and Fair Isle Knitting" and I spent Friday taking a 16 row Aran design and adapting it for use on socks. It was a struggle. The pattern is designed for straight needle knitting. So I figured that I had to rewrite the pattern with the first row going straight across but then having to adapt the even rows because I'd be knitting them not only backwards, but in reverse (where the knit becomes purl, etc). Well, it didn't quite work out that easy. It literally took me the full 8 hours to adapt the pattern, but I finally got all the notes written down. Including notes where I have to move loops from one needle to the next so I can twist them and then later move them back. I'm telling ya... It wasn't easy. But anyway... Then I looked at the durned sock. Right and perfect pattern. Yup, got it. Wrong yarn...

I'm knitting with Lisa Souza's Earth Birth and even though I wouldn't call it a variegated yarn, there's just enough color change that it disrupted the pattern of what I now call a "textured argyle". I call it that because the diamonds are created using baby cables and the diamonds are offset as some are knitted and the others are purled. So it's more of a textured pattern than one done with color. Anyway, just enough color change in the yarn to disrupt the pattern. So I came home, frogged the sock, and I'm now working it in panels of double cables. Ten panels of 4 stitches, offset with 2 sts of purl. Every other panel on the cuff has a double cable. And the pattern is perfect for this yarn.

The Textured Argyle? I'm pretty sure I know what yarn will work. I just forget the name of it. A trip to Country Yarns should solve that since I just made a pair of socks this summer in the yarn. But it's a heathered yarn with a change so subtle that you don't even notice it until you're all done and you can see the gentle and subtle change of color in the finished product. Anyway, I'm hoping to get over there today to get the yarn so I can announce what it is...

Off to do laundry today. Yup, today is my day to hang out, spin, knit and catch up with shows that I haven't gotten to see all week. I have the last 5 shows of "The Closer" that I loaded onto DVD last night and I'd like to watch them again. Course, I can always watch "Tristan + Isolde" again. Found the movie last weekend and absolutely fell in love with the story and the historical clothing. Very rough weaving in the cloth. I would imagine much more accurate to the time period than some of the "fine" examples movie people like to use. In fact, I was distracted the first time I saw the movie, so I had to see it again... I think James Franco is excellent as the tortured Tristan, Sophia Myles does a great job as the regretful Isolde and Rufus Sewell shines as the gentle yet majestic Marke. I think Sewell could be the modern Anthony Hopkins with his fabulous voice and understated performance. The movie didn't necessarily "click" with me the first time I saw it, but the second viewing revealed some truly understated acting that could easily be missed. (And let's not forget Henry Cavill who's too beautiful to live... Masculine. Not feminine at all. But his features are simply beautiful and it's unfair to do that to us ladies who aren't gifted in the least in the physical department... LOL!)

Okay, enough. Time to start the day...