Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thistle Mitts: Day 7 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - 4KCBWDAY7

Eskimimi's assignment for Day 7 asks participants to consider where their crafting will have taken them one year from now, when the 5th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week rolls around.  Before looking ahead, though, I think I will look back on some highlights of the past week:   

Having to take my car to the dealer for repairs last weekend, leaving it there, and picking it up on Monday after paying a tremendous bill.  When can I retire from teaching and pursue my knitting passion full-time?  At 85, maybe?

Knitting and frogging and knitting and frogging and knitting and frogging my Thistle Mitts (for Eskimimi's "extra credit" assignment) due to continually making mistakes as I worked the absurdly simple thistle pattern (only a school teacher nearing the end of the school year can understand the kind of mental fog that causes such lapses and only a  type A English teacher would attempt anything labeled "extra-credit" at this busy time of the school year).

I like the tartan pattern (especially the way it compliments the color of the
African violet blossoms), but think the mitt is a little too long and unfeminine
for the design.

Deciding to frog the completed and seamed first mitt as I wasn't happy with the fit and color combinations.

Redesigning and reknitting the mitts. 

Attending my Tuesday night social media class and watch the instructor hand out a huge packet and telling the class that we have to complete an extensive internet marketing plan for a hypothetical business.  

Losing assignment packet between school and home.   

Experiencing relief that my instructor is an artistic (hence mercurial) type, as she tells the class on  Thursday night to complete blog posts for an upcoming art show in lieu of writing business plan.  Want to hug her when she tells me I can use posts I've been working on for Blog Week, rather than create new ones with blog platform other students are using.

This thistle plant is growing by the front walk of my school.  I might not have noticed it if I didn't have
thistles on my mind. 

Posting the wrong topic on Day 5.

Quickly trying to make a video to use on a Friday afternoon (Day 5), as a result of completing the  wrong daily post assignment for that day, only to garner shocking and scary results.  (A red-haired woman with marionette lines and an off-kilter smile mysteriously appeared in the video.) 

Having an epiphany where I realize that something is deeply wrong with my character.  Why do I feel compelled to finish blog week?  Will the knit police come get me? 

Deciding to make a crossword puzzle and scrap the video idea.  First drop car off at dealership again (for more costly repairs), stop to buy hair gel and hairspray and spend time using aforementioned items to slick my younger son's blond mane away from his face.  Attend his school drama performance where he plays a troublemaking greaser stuck in after-school detention--note, a tad uneasily, how he seems comfortably familiar enacting this role.  Create the puzzle at around 10:00 at night after returning home. 

James turned 13 today.  He looks quite grown up dressed up for his school performance.

Waking on Saturday morning and actually bothering to work the puzzle.  Find three mistakes in it.  Redo.  Relink.  Repost.  On that same day, go to Cottage Yarn for knit therapy, take son to swimming lesson and to lunch with my husband, go food shopping, return home, and then drive 16 miles to work the late shift at my school's senior prom.  Return home at midnight filthy from cleaning chocolate fountains.  Wonder why graduate education classes did not cover industrial restaurant kitchen work. 

Deciding to post pictures of my Thistle Mitts but to forgo posting the pattern until I can edit it with a well-rested eye.  Maybe in July?  No, I should have the PDF up and ready to go in a day or two.  But for now, it's Sunday, and I deserve a rest. 



Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Harmony: Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 6 - 4KCBWDAY6


Worth the Cost

When I traveled to Vogue Knitting Live in January of 2012, I proudly packed up my new set of Harmony interchangeable needles to take with me. I’d purchased the needles a few weeks earlier, using a gift certificate my husband had given me to to Cottage Yarn, my local shop. When I sat down to take a class with Debbie Bliss, armed with my neat needle case and its tidy contents, I felt like I’d truly arrived. Women seated on either side of me commented on my set, and I was able to easily find the correct size, screw on the cord to each needle, and begin to work on a practice swatch for the class.

Since that time, my needles, while not organized nicely in their respective little sections of the bag that came with them, have been an invaluable implement--allowing me to easily cast on whenever the whim strikes me . . .  all too often, I have to confess.

Constrained by financial limitations, when I teach knitting to the students in my fiber arts class, I have the girls use a mishmash of metal and wooden needles I've scrounged up at yard sales, purchased at Wal-Mart, or had previous students make out of dowels and beads. The girls in the club are able to learn to knit and to create a few items, but sometimes I'll dig into my own supplies and loan them a set of circular bamboo needles--not interchangeable but not cheap to purchase, either--so that they can make a hat or fingerless gloves without having to seam them up afterwards.

It would be nice if each student who is genuinely interested in knitting were equipped with a case filled with interchangeable needles. Having the right tools, whether building a house, baking a cake, or knitting a sweater makes all of the difference in the world in the ease of completion and in the finished results.


Buyer's Regret

Conversely, the item (actually items) I most regret buying are the Knifty Knitter looms I purchased for my fiber arts club several years ago. While I have had a few students in my regular classes enjoy making some hats with them, ultimately the limitations of these looms in terms of the weight of the yarn required to complete garments makes them a bit financially prohibitive to use. Chunky weight yarns work best, but the cheapest yarns available tend to be worsted weight. Of course students can double up yarn, but sometimes even a small step like doing that will discourage them from starting a project.

Presenting teenagers with these looms is also underestimating them a bit. I taught a class of seniors to knit last school year, and only two students--a boy and a girl--chose to use the looms. The girl, after much instruction, had seemed incapable of learning to knit, so she'd switched to the loom, calling herself a "lazy loomer." However, a few days into the school week when I'd taught them, she arrived in my classroom with needles and yarn and several rows of completed knitting. She talked about her "mystery" male teacher and would never divulge how she'd learned to knit--but she worked away on a future scarf and retired the loom.

I think that this student's story reveals how we shouldn't underestimate our abilities or those of others. While the one boy remained a "lazy loomer," everyone else, male and female, learned to knit, albeit with simple inexpensive tools.

Even a male student, who enjoyed playing rugby and cutting up in class, learned to knit (albeit a little sloppily). 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Terms of Endearment: Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 5 - 4KCBWDAY5

Print out the puzzle and spend some quiet time solving it. 
Photo by John Althouse Cohen through Creative Commons. 

Note:  Zombies are no good at knitting, nor, apparently, are they too talented at creating crossword puzzles.  The puzzle that was here yesterday had several errors I discovered this morning.  I'd created it on Friday night, after completing a busy work week and attending my younger son's Friday evening drama performance.  Today's puzzle posting is cleaned up, and I believe error free.  Sorry for any inconvenience.

It is nearly the end of the school year, and I'm tired and befuddled.  The heavy pine pollen in North Carolina that deposits a soft green film on my windshield seems to have clogged my thinking as well.  Early this morning I posted my response to the topic for Day 6 of Eskimimi's Knitting and Crochet Blog Week--only to realize later that today's Day 5--the tricky assignment to do something different.  (I'll repost the Day 6 tomorrow.)

This afternoon, after a long week of dealing with antsy teenagers hit by spring fever, I attempted to create a video for today's contribution.  The Ipad camera and Imovie app worked just fine, but a dragged out teacher with too many lines around her mouth from scowling at students while admonishing them to READ and STUDY all week long didn't make for a very appealing video.  So here's a little something instead--a crossword puzzle featuring knitting terms.  Click HERE to access the PDF.  When I have more time, I'll see if I can't find a more interactive puzzle program, so young knitters who eschew pen and paper won't be put off. 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Language of Flowers: Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 4 - 4KCBWDAY4

As a redhead, I am invariably drawn to warm earthy colors—rusts, burnt oranges, forest greens, and deep claret colors.  I have made an orange tweed vest, a green poncho, an oversized deep green shrug with flecks of rust, a green sweater dress, and numerous green scarves, as well as a deep burgundy and brown shrug—to name a few items.

Yet when I look at my finished projects, I seem to also have a great deal of lavender, reflecting how again and again I am drawn to that soft shade.  According to Jacci Howard Bear's “Desktop Publishing Colors and Color Meanings” excerpted in an article found on,Lavender has long been a favorite flower and color of genteel ladies. This shade of purple suggests refinement along with grace, elegance, and something special.”  She adds that it is “the color of feminity” and calls this shade “a grown up pink.”  As I’ve always been a fan of uber feminine Victorian interior design, it didn’t come as a surprise to me when I counted among my finished items a lavender lace shrug, a cabled heathery sweater, and a very girly soft purple capelet (from a pattern by the very girly designer Louisa Harding).

When examining my yarn stash, I find a dearth of lavender, though, probably because I like this hue so much that I tend to immediate cast on when I have some at hand.  I’m not a big stash acquirer, though, and tend to buy yarn for specific projects and then use it.  My yarn collection is more of a mixture of odds and ends left over from other projects.

I showed off this recently completed shrug a week or two ago on my blog. 

Interestingly, I hadn’t really thought about my affinity for this color until writing this blog post.  Immediately when pondering this topic, I realized that even my blogger page’s design reflects a predilection for this color.  My post on Tuesday of this week, discussing my thistle design for fingerless mitts (inspired by my Border Collie mascot), also echoes my attraction for this shade.

My affinity for this color is also reflected in other areas of my life, aside from knitting. 

I’ve heard that lavender is the favorite color of teenage girls, so I’m not sure how my attraction for it reflects my inner being.  Maybe I’m immature or perhaps sentimental, yearning for more innocent times.  This color certainly reflects my love of 19th novels and costume dramas which are rife with “genteel ladies” who live in worlds of grace and elegance I can only admire from afar. 

Note:  the photo of the leaves in the collage at the top of this page, and the apple in the collection at the bottom are not my own.  They were used with permission of CreativeCommons. 

Leaves photo credit: Stella's mom

Apple photo credit: leoncillo sabino">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

To Err is Human, To Knit Divine: Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 3 - 4KCBWDAY3

The infographic above displays a breakdown of knitting mishaps and mistakes, revealing the frequency of each category (shown as a percentage of the total number). 

The Brain Wave

Philosophizing about the meaning of life?  Musing about retiring from your job and opening that knitting store?  Reviewing a mental list of items in your refrigerator?  Suddenly you find you’re lost.  Wait, what stitch am I on?  What row?  Like some techie Geek who finds himself in the bush without his GPS, you are hopelessly floundering, looking for a solution to your dilemma.

The Read-the-Directions-before-Attempting-this-Test Phenomenon  

In the throes of passionate longings for your new yarn and pattern, you dive in full force, and neglect to review instructions carefully—such as changing to larger needles for that all-important increase row. 

The Starbucks Effect  

You attempted to knit an Estonian lace shawl in the finest dental-floss thin yarn, while sipping latte and chattering with your pals.  Later at home, you find that the time you spent crying and tearing out your work far exceeded the length of your social get-together. 

The Impulse Buy Byproduct  

You couldn’t resist the novelty eyelash or chenille on the clearance rack, the sentimental sucker in you drawn in by its sadly neglected and tossed about look, but you wouldn’t be caught dead in the resulting ill-fitting, unattractive, or dated item you produced—if you even had the heart to finish it.

The Interruption Factor

The cat leaps on your instructions, your children erupt in a bloody battle, your husband asks you a tiresome question, such as a shouted, “Hey!  Where’s the fire extinguisher?”  A few expletives fly from your lips and you begrudgingly get up, losing your place in the process. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Prickly Project: Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 2 - 4KCBWDAY2

There were lots of thistle-themed items at Sunday's Scottish festival in Huntersville, NC. 

Yesterday, I discussed how, as a knitter, I am like a Border Collie, passionately driven to pursue what think I was born to do.  When I think of these creatures, Scotland immediately comes to mind  and then, naturally, tartans.  Since I love tartans made with purple, when I contemplated related projects, I fixed on the thistle.  Armed with my new Ipad and the Stitchsketch app, I charted a simple design for a thistle as well as for a simplified tartan pattern.

I also contemplated how to use these designs, and fingerless mitts came to mind—as the thistles could be cunningly displayed on the face of each hand.  And I’d anticipated these items could be knit up quickly.  I sketched out a simple drawing and ordered some yarn from  Inadvertently, however, I purchased superwashwool, which—with its scales softened—doesn’t quit have the wild and woolly effect that I think a Scottish-related project should possess.

I don't know why my thistle is pink here.  The app page shows a purple flower. 

The superwash wool, however, is wonderfully soft, and would be ideal to use for baby items.  Also, I do think that it will be very comfortable on the hands.  With only a few short strands needed for contrast colors, I should have enough for a soft cap to match—a Scottish inspired tam, perhaps. 

This is the modified tartan design I scrapped for now.  Again, the pink should be purple.

Motivated by the Blog Week assignments, I attended a the Rural Hill Scottish Festival and Loch Norman Highland Games in Huntersville, NC this past Sunday—to see if I could capture some photos or videos related to my “house” and to my design project. 

I have to confess that I already started knitting my item—and actually finished a left-hand mitt last night and then ripped out most of it. The black used in the pattern seemed a little out of place amidst the other soft heathery tones. I’ve honed and refined my design,though, and hope that I can knit something up for later in the week to display here. 
I wanted one of these bags that were for sale, but restrained myself. I don't think I have anymore room for knitting bags in my house.

Pat Thurston of StoneHouse Cottage Industries, sells hand knitted kilt hose, tams, and fingerless gloves.  Her work is beautiful and detailed.  The purple hat she is wearing is fully lined and has a Velcro band, so that Pat can attach different tartan bands for different occasions.  She knit the hose the man in the picture is wearing.  (Pat doesn't have a website, but if you are interested in purchasing items, contact me and I'll send you her email.)

Pat Thurston also does cross stitch.  I love the purple in her design (and in her tartan wrap).

The festival was held at the site of a living history museum.  Here, inside of a small log cabin, one of the docents knits.

I couldn't get close enough to the Border Collie to get a very good shot, but had to include. 


Monday, April 22, 2013

The House Cup (Knit and Crochet Blog Week Day 1 - KCBWDAY 1)

The House of Border Collie:  Driven by a single-minded obsessive nature, Border Collies pursue their passion with sometimes fanatical intensity.  These folks may possess traits shared with members of other houses, but, ultimately, what singles them out from their peers is their daily devotion to their craft.  Even when in ill health or with little time to spare, collies will make that trip to the distant yarn store or stay up late to analyze a detailed lace pattern.   

Kathy Davis a “Canine Behavior Series” at states that “the Border Collie’s hunting behavior has been selectively bred to create a dog extremely trainable to herd livestock, sheep in particular—all day, every day."  She adds, “Is it any wonder that dogs bred to do repetitive behaviors vigorously for long periods of time could easily develop obsessions if not given enough to do to keep their minds and bodies occupied?”  Perhaps her words sum up what would surely be my plight if I didn’t have an English teaching job and a family with which to occupy a large portion of my time and energy.  Like a collie fixated on a stray wanderer from the fold,  as I leave home each day I carefully make certain that at least one knitting bag is placed in the rolling cart I drag behind me through my school’s parking lot.  At work I never touch my knitting—except maybe for a few moments when I have outside lunch duty—but am always painfully aware of my bag's presence and of my yearning to sketch knitting designs and create chart patterns. 
 Here a border collie enthusiastically performs his duty.  Image used with permission of Creative Commons. (Border Collie Exhibiting Collie Eye, Date=14 August 2006, Author C. MacMillan)
By the end of the day, when I’ve returned home, I’m usually too tired to do much but sit on the couch and knit.  I wonder what designs I could create if I had time and money to allow me to pursue my passion “all day, every day.” Perhaps I'd end end up like the canines Davis discusses, creatures who require the following techniques to curb their obsessive behaviors:  interruption, supervision, alternate behavior choices, confinement, attention, and exercise.  Wait, I already could benefit from such intervention strategies, so I can only imagine how I would be if I have the leisure and luxury to devote myself full-time to my hobby. 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

21st Century Knitting

I took this with the Ipad camera. 

Sketching ideas, graphing charts, and writing instructions for a knitting pattern are such time consuming activities, especially for a full-time English teacher with limited math skills. Keeping track of a vast library of digital knitting patterns created by other designers--patterns stowed in Ravelry and in a variety of folders in an assortment of places--is also a challenge.  Maybe someday if I find myself incapacitated (and less likely to  get distracted by laundry, dishes, and yard work) I might be able to organize photos from my Snapfish, Windows Live, Amazon Cloud, numerous flash drives, two external hard drives, and desktop and laptop computers.  Actually my photos that were on “my” laptop are now on a flash drive as I moved them there after last week's unfortunate ant incident (when an army of these critters crawled out of the keyboard).  Note, my entire house isn’t infested with vermin, but the potato chip bags, banana peels, cellophane cracker wrappers, and odd sticky plates that often litter my fifteen-year-old’s room (where he likes to use the laptop to download awful music and sometimes do homework) obviously attracted some visitors.  Anyway, I digress.   The point is that this past weekend I purchased an Ipad (a personal device for me—at least until the newness wears off), and I can see already how this item will facilitate all aspects my knitting hobby.

Right away, I downloaded a few knitting-related apps that were very inexpensive (both under $5.00) and am now spending awe-struck hours engaging in yet another way to eat up the abundance of time I have left after teaching all day.  One is StitchSketch, which allows the user to design her own color work charts or to upload and convert a photo to a knitting chart.  I haven’t tried the second option yet, but did spend some time entranced by touching my fingers on little boxes and creating a colorful pattern I’d first drawn out on graph paper.  (This design is something I’m cooking up for Knit and Crochet Blog Week, an annual event for knitters and crocheters sponsored by Eskimimakes).

This is part of a design I'm working on using StitchSketch.  Excuse the fingerprints on the screen. 

Another program I purchased is KnitDesigner, where I can not only graph charts, but also create a knitting pattern in its entirety—with directions, gauge, etc.  I haven’t seen the finished product yet, but the emotions I experienced when I saw that this app has a special “knitting keyboard” with keys for “st” and “over” and other craft-specific terms and abbreviations are akin to those I underwent when I was a high school yearbook advisor and learned that students would no longer have to provide the "link" to individual photo files when turning in online layout submissions containing many images.  Teenagers, working on computers all over a school campus and at home, aren't exactly punctilious in keeping track of original photo files (something they have in common with me.) 

I used Snapseed to edit this photo of a vest I'm making using beautiful Rowan spring yarn.  I still have to play with working on tuning the overexposed areas of the image. 
In addition to knitting apps to help me while away the hours, I now have a high quality digital still and video camera, a product of sophisticated Apple technology.  To accompany the camera, I downloaded the Snapseed app, a free photo editing program Louisa Harding demonstrated in a class I took at Vogue Knitting Live last January.  Using a simple snapshot of a young woman, before our eyes she transformed a dull picture taken in a room with harsh fluorescent lights into an aesthetically pleasing work of art. 

I traded in my Smartphone to offset the 3G service fees of my Ipad and I’m not disappointed so far.  I now have a cheap freebie phone (one which is much easier to dial), and in its place I have a tablet full of endless possibilities—if I keep it away from invading ants and boys pulled by the irresistible allure of innovative technology. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Break and Fast Breaking

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.
Jane Austen
This is the first yarn I bought for myself in some time.  The dress I bought  is its backdrop. 

For many people in my area of the country spring break is a time for vacations to places such as Myrtle Beach or Orlando or for visiting relatives back home (usually up north for the many transplanted families living in North Carolina).  But for working mothers like me a week off is time to catch up.  With three medical appointments for my children (and a subsequent guilty conscience as I learned my older son has been walking around for months with a dislocated shoulder) as well as haircuts and shoe shopping trips along with and hours and hours of cooking, doing laundry, and purging ancient spices and canned food from a messy pantry, “break” isn’t exactly an appropriate term for my week-long hiatus from teaching school. 

However, some of the “work” I did this past week was not truly necessary. Knitting and sewing used to be considered practical skills women needed to possess in order to properly take care of their families, but they are now more akin to expensive leisure time hobbies. I spent many hours this week sewing an almost finished jacket and also knitting several projects. Finally, I was also able to make a few unhurried trips to yarn shops, as the beginning of last week was Easter—a holiday which marked the end of my Lenten yarn fast. I had decided not to buy any yarn for myself during the 40 days prelude to the holiday. 

This shrug, with worsted weight wool, knit up very quickly.

This finished shrug would look much nicer modeled on a person . . . I'll try to include a picture with my next post.

I also completed this baby sweater for my niece's son Lucas during break.  It's made with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarn.  I had fun trying the argyle pattern found in Cascade's 60 More Quick Baby Knits.

I didn’t have definite plans about which day to go yarn shopping, but on Tuesday morning, while browsing in a shop, I spotted a reasonably priced long cotton summer dress in a batik pattern.  I bought the dress and then traveled to Rainy Day Creations in Pineville and purchased some wonderfully soft cotton Cascade Luna yarn to make a shrug to pick up the purple and lavender colors in the dress.  On Wednesday, I visited Cottage Yarn.  Its former owner Sara had just retired, and the shop had been closed for a few days for the changeover.  I met the new owner and spent too much time perusing the new stock of fresh springtime yarn.  Wanting to support my local shop and still not yet sated in marking the end of my fast, I splurged on some Rowan yarn to make another lacy summer shrug or maybe a vest. 

I am going to make a vest with this yarn, using a pattern found in
this  Louisa Harding pattern book. 

On Friday, several women and I had plans to meet for lunch, but a series of complications led to just two of us getting together.  While I missed catching up with the former co-workers who could not go that day, fortuitously for me, my lunch companion ended up being Tonya, my novice-knitter co-worker who’d traveled to New York with me in January to visit Vogue Knitting Live.  We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant, and then decided to drive uptown to visit Charlotte Yarn in the quaint Dilworth area.  While I had to refrain from buying anymore yarn—the previous day’s Rowan purchase was pricey—I did find a Louisa Harding pattern book that includes a pattern for a lacy vest that’s just perfect for the yarn I’d indulged in the day before.  (Note:  If you go to website for Charlotte Yarn, there's a cute free pattern posted for a springtime cardigan.)

I finished knitting  this capelet using Debbie Bliss's Como yarn many months ago, but the item never fit correctly--plus it is way too warm for Carolina winters, so I used my spring break time to frog it. 

My ball winder came in handy. 
I think I'll make some smaller items with the yarn. 

Break ended yesterday, but now it’s the countdown to the end of the school year.  I could happily keep myself busy at home with all of my projects but for now I'll sustain myself with plans for creative endeavors to pursue during summer vacation.  I'll also keep myself busy with the stacks and stacks of student papers that rested cozily and happily in my briefcase during my week off. 

Here are a few more pictures from break:

I made significant progress on a jacket I am sewing, but still have a ways to go. I want to finish it so that I can take it on a
trip to England this summer.  (I know this is a knitting blog, but I had to share.)

 One of the things I also enjoy about time off is being able to do some baking. 

I make my crust with real butter, using Martha Stewart's recipe.  Click here to access it.  The trip to not ending up with very tough crust, is to only process the mixture for the time that Stewart gives.  Too much mixing, and the crust is a glutenous mess and is very hard when it comes out of the oven. 

I scooped out a bit of this blueberry pie (on the left side) and tasted it before
remembering I wanted to take a picture.

I didn't find the time to work on these two projects--a jacket and dress.