Thursday, July 9, 2009

Made My Day

My sons, L and K, have been taking violin in school. For the first few weeks of summer vacation, private lessons are available from the teachers they had the previous year. L's teacher, Nate Strick, is the son of Strickwear designer and book author, Candace Eisner Strick.

I met Candace briefly over a year ago, when I attended The Ewephoric Knitter's weekend, hosted by Marji's Yarncrafts. I introduced myself to Candance because I had two of her books on my bookshelf - "Sweaters From a New England Village" and "Sweaters From New England Sheep Farms." I found out then that Nate was going to be L's violin instructor in 5th grade. Small world! When I met Nate that September, I mentioned I had met his mother the previous spring, probably branding myself as one of those nutty knitters.

This morning was our last summer violin lesson, and when we arrived, Nate handed me some reading material - "Beyond Wool," Candace's book published in 2004, and one not yet on my bookshelf. At first I thought he was giving it to me for the duration of the lesson - until I opened the cover and found an inscription made out to me. I must say - this made my day, and I spent the next thirty minutes listening to wonderful violin music, learning about various non-wool-fibers, and deciding what to add to my Ravelry queue (the Heavenly Blue Cardigan). For someone who had once dreamed of becoming an alpaca rancher before my husband's job took us from New Jersey to a wooded property not suited for alpacas in Connecticut, and whose father raised angora rabbits for their fiber as a boy in Hungary, the book is a real treat!

I'm still smiling....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crochet Away!

My Hillswick Lumber sweater is moving right along. I've already set the steeks for the armholes, and except for the inch I had to frog last week, I think it's turning out to be a pretty quick knit. Then again, I haven't gotten to the sleeves yet.

I learned to knit in high school, taught by my maternal grandmother's sister, known to us all as Kit. Years before I was in high school, Kit would keep me and my younger sister and brother occupied by handing us each a crochet hook and a "hank" of yarn as she called it, and made a contest out of who could crochet the longest chain. It kept us quiet, and I'm not sure why it doesn't work today for my two boys...

My grandmother was a crocheter, and made some lovely granny square afghans. Because of her, I've always been fond of granny squares, although I never attempted one until last Christmas, when I became aware of a group knitting and crocheting afghan squares for the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota - one of the poorest places in the U.S. I thought I could make squares more quickly if I crocheted them instead of knitting them, plus it was fun to learn a new skill.

One twin sized afghan takes 120 6" squares - knitted or crocheted - so I decided to take Christmas break and see how many I could do. In a lot less time than it would have taken me to knit them, I finished all 120. This past June, the Ravelry group Afghan Squares for Pine Ridge held a friendly challenge between the Red Birds and the Wolves to see which group could produce more squares by midnight on July 4th. As no squares are turned away, a third team made up of friends of Ravelry members who wanted to contribute was added after the start and did quite well!

While I didn't quite make it to 120 this time before the deadline, I came close - 96 - but I should have the rest for a complete afghan done before I mail my squares to Pam in Louisiana who amazingly takes all the squares mailed to her from all over and assembles them, along with help from family and friends, into afghans.

Although the Ravelry group, and Pam's Yahoo group before that, have made thousands of squares, there is still much need on the reservation. So, this summer, if you don't feel like taking your latest big project along on vacation or to the town pool, perhaps a few afghan squares for Pine Ridge are what you're looking for!

Ravelry Group :Afghan Squares for Pine Ridge Reservation

Yahoo Group: LoveAfghans4PRR

Although I find it fun to see if I can make a full afghan's worth, any number of squares are welcome, even if all you have time for is just one.

Sister Group on Ravelry: For the Children of Pine Ridge

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hillswick Lumber

It's been quite some time since I've posted here! I've recently started my first Fair Isle, so I thought perhaps I'd write about it.

I've decided to knit Ann Feitelson's "Hillswick Lumber," a sweater I've had on my to-do-someday list since I bought her book "The Art of Far Isle Knitting" some years ago. The price of authentic Shetland yarns has kept me from knitting any Fair Isle sweaters, as I really couldn't bring myself to spend upwards of $200 on one sweater. My husband started a new job in February, for which we are very thankful, but as his company laid-off a few people just last month and everyone else had to take a pay cut, now was not the time to be placing an order for a sweater's worth of Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift.

Although I'm sure there are some folks who would disagree, I decided to order Knit Pick's Palette yarn for my sweater. My in-laws sent me some money for my birthday last month. I initially thought I'd spend it on something other than yarn, but that didn't happen!

I don't have a color card for Palette, but I do have a color card for Jamieson's yarns. Using that, a Jamieson & Smith-to-Jamieson's conversion chart, pictures on Ravelry of other Hillswick Lumbers, and comparing what Palette balls I already have to pictures Knit Picks has online and in their printed catalog, I ordered the colors I thought would best match what the pattern calls for. (I found the photos in the catalog to be the most accurate.) Palette didn't come in the blue-violet I needed, so I ordered 2 skeins of Jamieson's purple (#610). So far the yarns are playing well together!

I've gotten through the ribbing and have finished the first repeat of the first pattern. I'm quite pleased with it so far! The colors are much brighter than the photo in the book, but seem to be in-line with photos I've seen on Ravelry, and with photos Ms. Feitelson shows of parts of this sweater in examples throughout her book.

Maybe Palette will not be as hard-wearing as true Shetland yarn would be and maybe it will pill. It remains to be seen. Someday I'll get to knit a Fair Isle out of real Shetland yarns, but for now I'll be content to drool over my color card, hopefully while finally wearing my first Fair Isle that cost me less than $70!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Five Weeks Flew Fast!!!

My knitting class is over.

I ended up with three girls who are now on their way to becoming knitters. Well, they have a little bit more to learn, like how to purl, but they are well on their way and I'm quite proud of them!

I wasn't sure of the abilities of 9 and 10-year-old girls, but I have since found out that 25 minutes a week and only 5 weeks is not enough time to teach casting-on, knitting, purling and binding-off. I started with slip-knots and the single loop (e-wrap) cast-on. If I do this again next year, I think I will give each student their needles with a garter stitch swatch already started and the first lesson will be the knit stitch, just to get them going more quickly.

They were really a lot of fun to work with. I had pointed them to videos on and how-to photos from the Knit Picks Knitting Room, but these were not as helpful as I had hoped, although I think they're wonderful resources. One girl was confused by the photos, as she didn't know what the "stuff" was below the needles. I told her that was the knitting!! Another called me on the phone because she had to start over, and forgot how to make a slip knot. It's rather hard to try to walk someone through making a slip knot over the phone! I told her just to tie the yarn on the needle, but not to count the knot as a stitch. It worked...

Friends had suggested I give them a pattern to keep them interested and to give them something to work toward. I came up with a scarf with varying "picture blocks," purl stitches on a stockinette background, with each "picture" getting progressively more difficult as their skills improved. They're still working garter stitch, so I think it'll be awhile before they're ready for this. If anyone is interested in trying this pattern for themselves, I've included a link for downloading at the end of this post.

I plan on continuing to meet them at our local library until I feel they are ready to knit independently. They're not there yet, but we've got a nice little knitting group going.

Sampler Scarf Pattern (on Ravelry)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fourth Grade Knitters

I'm scheduled to teach a group of 4th graders how to knit, starting next week. These kids are giving up recess to take a class in knitting, karate, scrapbooking, fleece-blanket-making or yoga. I'll have about 20-30 minutes per class and 5 weeks to teach them how to cast-on, knit, purl and bind-off. I had asked for a maximum of six students, but they forgot to mention that in the advertisement. I had a bad dream last night that a huge group showed up, it was utter chaos, and I couldn't get anyone's attention!

I'm excited, though. I'm putting together my materials and knitting up some "samples" this weekend. I can't wait to pass along this wonderful skill to the next generation! I already had one mom tell me her daughter is really excited and is hoping she gets into the class!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A New Year Begins

Happy New Year! I don't make resolutions, but I do hope to keep up with my knitting this year, and with blogging about it!

I had hoped to spend the week before Christmas knitting and relaxing, but it was not to be. I began my cookie baking the day after Thanksgiving, but I still didn't have enough time to be done with everything early enough to be able to just relax. Next year I'm starting the day after Halloween! Cookies freeze really well...

I decided I really need to finish some WIPs that have been sitting around for few years, before I start anything new. (This is NOT a New Year's resolution - it's not!) I really don't like finishing, although in general I do like to sew.

I did, however start two new, quick projects - hats. A friend's young granddaughter underwent brain surgery last week, which required her to have part of her head shaved. A group of us decided to knit her some hats to keep her head warm until her hair grows back. The blue hat is Foliage from's Fall issue. The purple one is the Cecily Beanie from Louisa Harding's "Knitting Little Luxuries: "Beautiful Accessories to Knit." The pattern is available through Interweave Knits' "Knitting Daily."

Though you may not know this little girl, please keep her in your prayers for a quick recovery.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How About You?

A friend was recently lamenting how she was having to frog the lace she was working on. I wrote back the following, explaining all the steps and fall-backs I use to make sure I'm following the chart correctly, in order to cut down on the amount of frogging I have to do:

I bought one of those magnetic boards to mark my rows (Post-It's eventually lost their "stick"), and I also made some Excel spreadsheets to check off when I completed a row (or a chart portion of a row - that was a bit of overkill, but works well for Aran sweaters).

I found I couldn't depend on just the spreadsheet or just the row marker on the chart. I also figured out how many stitches I should have between stitch markers (remember it could change with each row). I made sure to count the number of stitches as soon as I completed a row. Sometimes more than once just to be sure. Every once in awhile, I'd also go back and read the chart to make sure what I had on the needles is what the chart said I should have. Lastly, I'd hold up the knitting, looking at both sides for any mistakes. I frogged stitch by stitch as I found just ripping back made it impossible to recreate all those yarn-overs and decreases!

It sounds like a lot of trouble, but eventually it did cut down on the amount of frogging I had to do. I'd rather count stitches than undo a "Sl1, K2tog, PSSO"!

I found that running a lifeline was too much trouble. (Maybe I wasn't doing THAT right!) Then again, a row had only a hundred or so stitches, not several hundred. I might rethink a lifeline in that case. Maybe with more experience knitting lace, I won't have to go through so much trouble.

What do you do to keep track of your patterns or charts?