Thursday, June 28, 2007

FO! (But not the usual type!)

This is one for the history books - I have finished a completely crochted object. I wanted to try the new Cestari Fine Merino yarn I'd just gotten in at the shop. Amanda & I had seen this cute little crocheted halter top at TNNA. So, I thought to myself, "It's a smaller project. Maybe I could do it."

I jumped in feeling pretty sure of myself after my recent Granddaughter Socks experience. Every time I finished a row I had the feeling something was wrong. I would think. And think. And think. Then I would realize what the pattern really meant for me to do. Out the old row would come and I would try that row again. I'm pretty sure I crocheted the equivalent of 2 tops because each section required two tries to get it right.

When my youngest daughter saw this work in progress she decided it was kind of cute; maybe. Ok! I decided I would just make it for her. This was daring because I had no guarantee she would really like it when all was said & done. But as it turned out, I think she likes it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Boys Who Knit Are Awesome!

That's right...I said BOYS.

This afternoon, on our way to pick up Victoria and Rhianna from Girl Scout Camp, Aaron and I stopped at the library to pick up a book that was being held for me: Hip to Crochet. During the 25 minute drive from the library to camp, Aaron looked through the book and announced that he wanted to learn to crochet. No problem. It was all he talked about all the way there and all the way home. Once we were home, I pulled out my box of leftover yarn and told him to pick whatever he wanted. He emerged with a partial ball of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted and a tiny little ball of Cascade 220 that had been dyed with lime and grape Kool-Aid.

We made ourselves comfortable on the couch and I worked a foundation of single crochet for him to work from. After three stitches, he said, "This is really hard." I replied, "Well, do you want to try knitting instead?" SURE! Out came the size 8 ten-inch bamboo needles.

Here's the proud knitter displaying his first row of knitting:

And here he is working on the next row (yes, I know he needs a haircut):

Within about 30 minutes, he said, "Okay, I can do it on my own. I don't need you to tell me what to do anymore....but you can still watch and say good job!" How cute is he?

This is where we decided to take a break because his elbow is tired. But he said he thinks he'll knit every day just like me. He said he wants to go to River Knits tomorrow so he can knit there. Twist my arm!

Oh! He just came in and said he's ready to knit some more. I better go watch!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer Sock Challenge for Akkol, Kazakhstan

When I was in Columbus for the yarn industry trade show, I had the opportunity to meet Nanci, owner of Knit On! in Bellevue, Kentucky. Nanci and her husband Dave not only own a yarn store, but they have adopted 3 teenagers from Kazakhstan. They are going back in August to adopt another teenager. You can read more about their story on their shop webpage.

Nanci runs a list for knitters who make warm woolen garments to send with adoptive
parents when they travel to Kazakhstan to pick up their kids. You can join this list too if you want to hear more about the ongoing challenges and goals. The current challenge is a big one, and I'd love to enlist your help!

When Nanci & Dave travel to pick up their new child, Nanci would like to take enough warm wool socks that every child in the orphanage will receive a them as a special treat at what we think of as Christmas. When they were in power, the Soviets outlawed Christmas in Kazakhstan, and so the people moved their celebrations to New Year's Eve instead. Every New Year's Eve at the orphanage Grandfather Frost brings the children a bag of candy, they have a dance and the older children are allowed to stay up all night. They are also allowed to eat all they want, instead of the usual single serving with no seconds. While the kids enjoy this and appreciate the bag of candy that they receive, Nanci would like for them to get a pair of warm wool socks as well. Her kids told her it is always cold there and they used to layer many pairs of thin polyester socks to try to keep their feet warm. If you follow the aboved link to the Knit On! webpage, you can read about how happy the children were the first time Nanci showed up with knitted donations.

Would you like to join me in making some socks for the kids in Akkol? These are big kids, many of whom are of adult size. Sizes needed range from foot lengths of 7" to 11.5". The younger kids are more likely to have something that can be handed down to them but the older kids are often short on handmedowns since no one is likely to have outgrown things in their size. Thick boot socks are ok and will knit up pretty quickly even in big sizes.

I've been making a pair of Joan's Socks because these are thick & warm & knit up very quickly using two strands of worsted weight wool held together. Remember to make yours out of real wool for warmth though, (not the acrylic blend mentioned in the pattern). I'm working on a pair with Araucania Nature Wool. They feel great and would be very warm & cozy. It is amazing how quickly these go! You could also make yours with assorted oddballs from your stash and get some fun multicolor socks. Just wind your balls into two equal parts and change yarns when a color runs out. Each sock will match that way. Or if you happen to have a stash of bulky yarn (like Lamb's Pride Bulky for example) you could knit this pattern with a single strand of your bulky yarn. The Men's Berlin Socks would also be good for the larger sizes and knit up fairly quickly with a single strand of worsted weight wool.

If you want to knit for the kids in Akkol, and you live in the Lafayette, Indiana, area you can drop off your donations at River Knits by July 25th (which happens to be my dad's birthday). If you are going to be in the Cincinnati area you can drop your donations off at Knit On! by July 31st. If you are far away from either place, send your socks directly to Knit On! by the end of July. Remember the goal is 250 socks! For now, concentrating on the larger sizes would be good! As that changes I'll let you know what the totals are and what is needed. Let's warm up a whole orphanage full of kids and make their festivities extra special this year!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's Next

Remember when I finished the Market Squares Entrelac Bag and wondered what's next? That'll teach me to make jokes! First I finshed these:

They are the Granddaughter Socks, a wonderful mix of crocheted granny squares to form the cuff, with a traditional knitted sock foot. I took Amanda's class at River Knits because I thought these socks where just so darn cute. (Nevermind that my youngest daughter thinks they are "kind of ugly and made with clashy colors. I'm not that easily deterred by a 9 year old with a strong fashion sense.)

Having a little success with something that had previously been mostly unknown, I was suddenly aware of the world of possibilities out there. All these things that could be done with yarn that I didn't really know about! I grabbed a copy of Two Hundred Crochet Blocks and some leftover sock yarn and you can see where that led.
I guess it falls under the "give and inch; take a mile" heading. Little socks & squares weren't enough. I had to jump into a whole garment.

This halter top is more appreciated by little Miss Clashy Colors and while in progress it has become a project intended for her. It gave me a fun excuse to try the new Fine Merino from Cestari and I think I'm really going to like this yarn. (Just wait 'til I try KNITTING with it!) If you look closely you'll see some mistakes; in fact quite a few of them. But I've learned a LOT in this project and think that now I probably know enough to be dangerous.

The pipe dream project that I'm working up to is this one from Interweave Crochet, Fall '06, the Josephine Pullover.It has a knitted bodice with crocheted sleeves & body. I THINK I might be ready to for this one sometime soon....

My Sockday!

Well folks, I've enjoyed many great moments in my life, but I can't think of many (except maybe the births of my children) that top getting SEVEN new pairs of handknit socks all in one day! But that is exactly what happened Saturday when Eight Sock Knitters ate at Nine Irish Brothers and gave me 7 Pairs of Socks. It is indescribable how lucky a person feels when that much knitting is bestowed upon oneself in one sitting.

Our "sockday" club was my brainchild one day about a year ago when I was reveling in the joy of handknit socks hanging on the clothesline. There were the socks I'd knit myself & the extra special socks knit for me by Michelle & Heather. I thought it was so nice to have socks from my friends and I found myself wishing to have more socks from more friends. So I sent a bunch of socky friends an email asking if they would be up for a really big sock exchange. And so the sockday club was born! Each participant has her own "sockday" (more fun than any birthday!) when all the other members shower her with handknit socks. With 8 people and about 3 months between each sockday, this was a 2 year commitment. I've been waiting for a year for my socks, and boy was it worth the wait! Hang in there ,Amanda (who gets the honor of being the last recipient due to being the youngest of the group).

Wanna see my socks?

I am truly rich!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I *CAN* Crochet!!

So, it wasn't my crochet skills that caused the failure of the Lacy Leaf Shrug. I found out that it is entirely possible for me to crochet something and not completely screw it up. Here's the proof:

That's the Chanson en Crochet, from Wrap Style. Also available as a free downloadable pattern from Interweave Crochet. The yarn is the absolutely heavenly Briar Rose Grace (60% merino/30% bamboo/10% nylon) that I purchased at The Fiber Event. I love this yarn and the pictures absolutely do not do it justice. It glows because of the bamboo content, but the colors are much more complex than what my camera is able to capture. Here's a closeup:

And another (the colors are closer here, but still not exactly right):

Note that this is all before blocking. I'm planning to block it tomorrow and wear it Saturday afternoon to a meal out with friends. I love it so much. And, I have enough yarn left over for some nice fingerless mitts...or sock cuffs....or something else I haven't thought of yet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jump Starting Our Creativity....with Fiona Ellis

Tuesday June 5th Fiona Ellis arrived in Lafayette in style!

After a lovely time mingling over a light buffet at the Buttery Shelf, she talked to us about how to spark our own creativity. She also showed us many of the garments from her book Inspired Cable Knits. It was fascinating to hear how the twists of the cables were not just a way to show of some fancy stitches but often were inspired by something in nature or life. I loved having a chance to try on the Celtic Icon hooded cardigan. (It occurs to me as I type this that the new and not even unboxed Wool Cotton blend yarn from Cestari might be perfect for this garment....)

After teaching us about ways to spark our own creativity Fiona gave everyone the chance to put that knowledge to work through various experiential exercises that we could choose. Some worked with color or texture patterns while others used photographs to inspire knitted samples. Some used paper and pencils to sketch a plan while others jumped right in with yarn & needles.

Everyone had a wonderful time!

Following the presentation, it is rumored that one of the participants who shall remain nameless took Fiona's inspiration to creativity to heart by un-venting a new way to exit I-65; up the on-ramp in reverse; WITH Fiona in the car! Hopefully Fiona knew that we really understand how to be creative in Lafayette!

Friday, June 8, 2007

What is it about this week???

Heather is at an impasse, Elizabeth hasn't knitted at all this week, and I absolutely hate my current project.

Don't get me wrong: I have enjoyed working on it. But with one sleeve nearly finished, I tried it on. UGH! It was awful. So awful that I'm not even going to show you a picture. Yes, it's that bad.

You're probably wondering what project I'm talking about. Here it is laying on my living room floor:

Lovely, isn't it? Sure, while it's laying flat on the floor, it's beautiful. But on my body, it looks like I'm wearing a string sack. What went wrong?

1) The pattern is written for small-ish sizes. If you look at the picture on Interweave's website, you'll see that it is supposed to fit snuggly. I thought I "knew better" and made it larger. I even scolded Annie Modesitt a couple of weeks ago on this very blog for designing it for tiny people. Well, sometimes the designer knows what she's doing. It's not supposed to fit loosely. It's not flattering on larger body types. It's not meant to be.

2) When it comes to yarn, I chose poorly. The pattern calls for a cotton/tencel blend. A lovely yarn with beautiful sheen and wonderful drape. I chose Plymoth Shire Silk. A yarn that is so crunchy it could stand on it's own. What was I thinking? I even second-guessed myself when I looked at the yarn. For a moment, I entertained the idea of using South West Trading Company Pure Soysilk. I should have listened to that voice. The garment still would have been unflattering, but at least it would drape nicely. I'm not saying I don't like the Shire Silk. I do! It was wonderful to work with. I enjoy it very much. It just wasn't right for this project. And I think I knew that when I started.

So, those two things combined to form yarny disaster. I did learn one other thing, though. The shape of this garment is wonderful. The fact that it's so lacy is what didn't work for me, I think. There's a garment of similar shape that I tried on at TNNA last year that looked wonderful on me. But, it was a solid knit, not a lacy crochet.

Now you're wondering what I'm going to do with it, right? I'm going to rip it all out. That's right. Two whole week's worth of crocheting in every spare minute I could find, and I'm going to rip it all out. This yarn is nice. I like it. I'm not going to let it go to waste on an unfinished garment I'll never wear. What will it be instead? I don't know.....I guess you'll have to stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

And so we are at an impasse...

Summer camp started on Monday, which means I spent last week training counselors, fretting about enrollment and screaming in frustration...and this week putting out first day fires, dealing with new enrollments and a counselor who didn't show up for the summer...I haven't knit for three days...

I really want to work on Thelonious...

Or this lace scarf whose name I don't remember...
But I just don't have the brain power.

Even the "mindless" projects aren't working for me this week.

Can't wait for next week.