Knittin' mittens for ma kittens!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A good day for mail!

I arrived home yesterday to find not one, but TWO bags of beautiful yarn on my doorstep.

Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb

This stuff is out of this world. Unbelieveably soft and smooth, I can already tell knitting with it is going to be akin to a religious experience. The colors are so gorgeous! Though I'm resisting the urge to cast on for Clapotis until I finish my Lotus Blossom shawl, I couldn't resist winding up a ball by hand just to feel the yarn in my hands. It has that funny silk smell, but even that is charming. This yarn is fantastic.

Jaywalker KAL prize

And this is what I received from Cara at januaryone as a prize for the Jaywalker Knit-Along! Not just the promised skein of Socks that Rock (I selected the Rolling Stone colorway) but also a bonus Chibi and the most gorgeous card I've ever seen! The card is currently sitting on the shelf by my computer at work...I'm sure my coworkers will wonder what it is about me and yarn, seeing as I also have a fiber-related desktop! Thank you so much, Cara, this was a great prize!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fuzzy lace

I'd just like to say that yesterday I said to hell with the season and wore my Norwegians to the Atlanta Dogwood Festival! Unfortunately, I failed to consider the fact that one does a lot of walking at the festival; let me tell you, while those brown pumps looked cute as hell, they did not make my toes happy by the end of the day. No sir. The cushiness of the stockings did help somewhat, but next year I think we'll stick with sneakers--no matter how badly we want to show off our knitting.

Speaking of showing off, if this thing ever looks like what it's supposed to, I think we'll have cause for celebration.

Lotus Blossom WIP

You know there's no point in trying to take a decent picture of unblocked lace, right? But you get the idea. By Sunday night I was through with chart 2, and it appears I have only three more very short charts to get through before being done. I wonder how big this thing will end up being? I can already tell I'm going to have a *lot* of Helen's Lace left over--maybe even enough for a small shawl or stole. Wouldn't that be nice?

And look what arrived on my doorstep Saturday morning...

Knitpicks Merino Style

...some very inexpensive, very soft, very lovely wool from Knitpicks, for Eunny's Deep V Argyle Vest. I just couldn't help myself...I mean, for less than $30, I have the yarn and the pattern--how could I say no to that? I should be shamed into finishing the Veste Everest, I know, but I just can't bring myself to pick that project up again any time soon. Who knew cables could be so damn boring? (Though I suppose I should at the very least finish the last few rows I have to go for the back. Then it can be stuffed away out of sight again, to be either resurrected or frogged at a later date.)

I had to reorder my Lion and Lamb for Clapotis off of Ebay, after the store I'd originally ordered from called to say they no longer had Sandridge in stock. I can't wait to get my hands on that, why can't we have another few months of cold weather so I can justify knitting with it!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just some thoughts on art

As I approach the one-year "anniversary" of learning to knit, I find myself thinking about the progression of my artistic and creative pursuits. For me, art has always been a constant, though the media has changed; when I was a child I made little dolls using scrap fabric and string, took oil painting classes, created scrapbooks. My parents were always supportive and signed me up for all sorts of classes, and wondered where I'd gotten my creative streak from.

But for a while, especially after high school and during my first few years of college, I started to feel that I'd lost the creative spark that had fueled me for so long. Most of my energy was being put into classes and studying Japanese--the year I spent in Japan was life-changing, but marked by a significant lack of creativity and artistic pursuits. All my energy was going into trying to cram as much vocabulary and grammar into my mind as possible, not to mention memorizing Chinese characters by the hundreds. Art fell by the wayside, and it wasn't until I got back to the US that I was able to concentrate on reconnecting with that lifelong passion.

Drawing and painting were my passions in high school, but self-expression with those mediums was difficult for me. My drawing was always as precise as possible--I was probably the most skilled at recreating portraits from photographs, and doing still-life paintings. But there was always a level of anxiety and stress that I felt while drawing, as I struggled to depict what I saw exactly as it appeared before my eyes. The end results seemed impressive enough to others, but to me, there was not a lot of myself in those finished drawings and paintings. I'm sure that part of the problem was that I was very serious about my art class, and my projects became less about enjoying the process and more about having a polished finished piece that would receive high scores.

In college, after returning from Japan, I began to gravitate towards more "functional" types of art. I was getting back in touch with the love of crafts I'd had since childhood, rediscovering my passion for art--and creating things I could put to use. In my senior year, I had the money to take pottery classes at a local studio, and found a fulfillment and pleasure in it that I hadn't found in other kinds of artistic mediums. I never became that great at it, but to me it didn't matter if I ended up with a finished product on the wheel or not--at last, it was the process that was appealing, not just the end result. I began to love the way that pottery fuses art and function (much like knitting!): you use your two hands to create something beautiful that is also of value in your daily life, something you can use rather than just look at admiringly.

Though in the last year I've become more obsessed with things like yarn and fiber than I ever would have imagined, it's been a natural progression of my love of crafts and functional art. I still occasionally draw, but only when the spirit moves me. I drew a portrait of my boyfriend and I from a photo I particularly liked as a gift for our one-year anniversary, and enjoyed every moment of the process. Though I haven't done any wheel throwing or other types of pottery in about a year, I definitely plan to take it up again in the near future--though I certainly would need to set aside money that would otherwise be spent on yarn to sign up for a class or workshop!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Norwegian Stockings, over and out

*prance prance* Why hello there! I just skipped down off a mountain covered in flowers and butterflies...

Completed Norwegian Stockings


Notice the fraternal toes? :D


Completed project: Norwegian Stockings, Nancy Bush, "Folk Socks"

Yarn: Dalegarn Baby Ull. Grey (two balls), Watermelon (one and a bit more), and Peach (less than a quarter of a ball.)

Needles: 2.75 Bamboo double-points.

Modifications: A shitload!

-Knit inside-out to improve tension, especially at the corners of the doublepoints.
-Knitting in fingering weight yarn meant I had to change just about every number in the pattern. I cast on 100 stitches, decreased to 98 for cuff motif, then to 96 for leg motif--beyond that, I couldn't tell you what my numbers were. Gauge was about 8 stitches/inch. Getting patterns to line up correctly, such as for the heel flap and foot, required several rounds of ripping and reknitting.
-I began calf shaping after one full repeat of the two leg motifs; The stockings measure about 15" from top of cuff to bottom of heel flap, because I have short little legs.
-One toe is knit as the pattern specifies, the other is patterned slightly differently (due to my impatience and inability to read directions!)
-Elastic has been sewed into the cuffs, not the best craftsmanship, but it will do the job.
-Heel shaping: I ditched the Dutch heel and did a regular heel turn for a better fit.

Overall thoughts on the project: Despite all the fussing and ripping, the reknitting and reconsidering of everything from colors to tension to sizing, I am VERY happy with the finished product. As my first major fair isle project (I don't really count the Fairly Easy Fair Isle cardigan because I had no earthly idea what I was doing) I think I came through with flying colors. (Heh heh.) Once I grasped the mechanics of working with two colors in one hand, continental-style, I was able to concentrate on perfecting my tension and building up speed and rhythm. There were some rough spots towards the end of the second stocking's leg where my hand simply refused to feed the yarn smoothly, but blocking helped even it out quite a bit.

There are, of course, a few things here and there that could be improved upon. Certainly if I reknit these I'd do a more careful job with the feet, so as to improve the they are now, they are a bit loose, but still look fine when stuffed into my shoes. I could definitely have gotten away with more gusset decreases. I'd also like to the try knitting the elastic into the ribbing, I've heard tell of such a technique and I think it would look nicer than sewing it in post-knitting. I'm still undecided about whether or not doing these on dpns was the way to go...inside-out knitting was a HUGE help in keeping an even tension on the floats, but I had such awful ladders (which I usually can avoid on dpns) that next time, Magic Loop might be the best way to go. I think I'll try my next fair isle project right side out, and from there I should have a better idea of what works best for me.

Overall, I think these are just fantastic. I'm ridiculously proud of teaching myself fair isle. I can't believe I managed to get these to fit as well as they do. I'm proud of sticking with the project and enjoying the process as much as product. I think they make my legs look sexy as hell. And they were a ton of fun to knit.

But guess what?


Flash Your Stash 2006!

While I finish selecting and cleaning up the Norwegian photoshoot, here's my addition to Flash Your Stash 2006. I hadn't planned to participate, but thought it might not be a bad way for me to take inventory of my stash and do a bit of reorganizing. And the weather was so nice this weekend, how could I not take advantage of that beautiful natural light?

First off, here's where I keep the majority of my stash (forgive the blur, I promise the rest are better):

Stash storage system

Both the basket and the wicker cabinet are from Target.

Now, the yarn...all of these pictures have those nifty Flickr notes about type of yarn, colorways, and destined projects, so please give 'em a click and read on!

Sock yarns
The top basket in the cabinet holds my nice sock yarns.

More sock yarn
The second drawer holds leftover Fair Isle yarns, and a little more sock yarn.

Luxury yarns...*shame*
The bottom holds my more extravagant yarns...thank god it only fills one basket! But oooh, these are nice.

The top layer of the wicker basket...

...and the bottom.

Of course, I have a couple of other stash places, namely a bag in my closet full of acrylics, and miscellaneous bags of leftover sock yarn. But other than that, this is my entire stash! Small and sweet, manageable but still indulgent. That's how I like it! Hope you enjoyed the yarn porn, and check in later for pictures of my completed Norwegians!