Determined Denial

I am totally aware that for many Knitters, Gauge is a pretty major issue. But since I mainly deal in scarves, mittens, socks, and puffs… well, gauge just hasn’t been that important.

Until this happened last week:

uhhhh, WHA?

It all started so benignly. One lovely Turkish Bed Sock,

began who knows when but certainly over a year ago. Knit with lovely sock yarn from HelloYarn in a colorway called Swell, on size 2mm dpns. As I knit this first sock I get all kinds of sassypants, thinking that since it’s quite ridiculous to have to mattress stitch the sock closed at the end (and I hate finishing) I just join the sides as I go. Lovely! Excellent! Sock #1: Done!

Well, nearly. As usual, I balked at the Kitchener. So instead finishing it like a normal person, I left the toe open (because it will be less pain to do them both at one time, right?) and cast on for the second Bed Sock and knit the ankle wrap and heel. Since my contrived joining thing on the first sock was a bit fussy and time consuming, I decided to knit the second sock to pattern and don’t join as I go.  Brilliant!  It’ll knit like hotcakes. Decision made and bedtime approaching, I decided I was done knitting for the night at this point:

Sparklie things distract me the next day and the day after that. Eventually the sock parts get shoved into the UFO Knitting Projects cabinet. Before I know it, 12 months or more go by.

(Please note – all pictures from this point forward are dramatic recreations to help illustrate the finer points of this mysterious and astounding story.)

A couple of weeks ago I was overcome by a debilitating bout of finishitupitis. The Bamboo scarf came off the needles. Angelberry got several new repeats. I started rooting around in the UFO cabinet for other knitting misfits that I could quickly bust through. The Ishbel? No, too much lace left to knit. The Red Cap? Maybe… but that’s still a lot of knitting. The white mitts? Meh, too wintery.

Then I unearthed the socks.

Perfect! I convinced myself that I could pound them out in an hour or so of truly dedicated knitting.

  1. I’ve pulled out the original nearly-finished Sock and the second partially-finished one. I take a look at the pattern. Since the needles are still in the second one I’m all ready to go. I toss the original sock on the desk at my elbow, then start knitting on the second one.
    I power out the flat piece that goes across the arch of the foot. In minutes I’m cranking out rows like nobody’s business. Finishitupitis is AWESOME!
  2. I join in the round and start knitting the ball of the foot. It’s a set number of rows, and after I’m about halfway done I think offhandedly Hm, this section looks long to me.
    I glance at my first sock and it looks fine – and I followed the pattern with it, so no issues there. I keep knitting.
  3. I finish the foot and begin the toe decreases. At this point, I am definitely thinking that the second sock looks ‘a bit’ looser than the original… and possibly longer as well. I should check, but by now I’m knitting on the couch and the first sock is in my sewing room, an insurmountable 17 feet away. I keep knitting.
  4. I’m totally knocking this thing out. I’m knitting the toe. It’s nearly done. But… it does seem to be rather pointy. And big.
    Uh yeah. Really big. I wonder whether I omitted the knit rows on the first sock – a trick I’ve taken up to have socks match my squared-off feet. I can’t remember for certain when I started doing that trick, but I’m sure it wasn’t until recently and so I’m sure I didn’t do it on the first sock since I knit it so long ago. I keep knitting.
  5. Finally I’m done! Just the Kitcheners left to do! I walk the sock into my sewing room and pull out the original too. As I set them down side-by-side, I am actually stunned by what I see.

    That’s 2.5 inches of difference there, folks. And not just that – the left sock is too small for a 10 year old and the right sock is too big for a troll.  And here’s the thing: In my consciousness I knew that second sock wasn’t right, but my subconscious just kept overriding it and refusing to see the problem. Or wait – is that ‘subconscious’ and ‘conscience’? Conscious? Whatever, I’m confused enough as it is without worrying about homonyms and whatnot. And please, PLEASE, don’t get me started on Freud.

What else could this be besides a raging case of Determined Denial? I wasn’t drinking… though I probably would have done better had I been.

Turns out that at least three things were going on here – first, and possibly most importantly, the needles I left in the second sock weren’t the original needles, but a pair of placeholders that were a size larger. Second, since a year or so ago, I’ve been making myself learn to knit more loosely. I’d been knitting so tightly that I was putting a lot of strain on my hands and causing some pain. I can’t risk that with the sheer volume of knitting I have planned for myself! Third, I *did* skip the knit rows on the first sock’s toes. (OBVIOUSLY)

Seriously – I am at a complete loss to explain how I could have been surprised by this. I have no excuse, but it’s TRUE.

Do I frog and reknit? Frog and puffknit (PUFFS! WOO!)? Throw in the trash? What do you think?

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Nope, Not Me

Knitting and the knitting community goes through very definite phases of popular trends – just like quilting, cartooning, anime, clothing design, and so many other creative efforts where people get really passionate about what they do.

In fact, I have the ‘fun fiber’ scarves from about 6 years ago – fun fur or ribbon yarn knit on size Ginormous needles – to thank for my re-entry into knitting. The first time I saw a ribbon scarf on a friend, I knew I needed to have one… which meant Make It… which led to the fiber obsession you experience regularly here on CI.

Since then, I have watched a seemingly endless parade of popular projects storm through the knitting community. (Please note that unlike most posts, today’s post has many pictures from other sites – the mouseover text for each has attribution info).

There was the Noro Stripe Scarf


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/noro-striped-scarf

Clapotis


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clapotis

Pomatomus Socks


http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter05/PATTpomatomus.html

Anything by Stephen West


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/spectra

And myriad others.

For the most part I don’t knit these patterns and projects. I am a slow-enough knitter as it is and I have my own passions to follow.  But even more than that, sometimes I just can’t understand the attraction of a particular item, though obviously tens of thousands of others do. This has been true with several colorwork scarves, many shawl patterns, and dozens of sock patterns. Will I jump on those bandwagons? Nope, not me. Well, I admit that I tried Clapotis, but the idea of knitting endless stockinette and then purposely unravelling a bunch of it… I couldn’t do that to myself. The Noro scarf has never held much charm for me to knit, though I love seeing what others have knit because the colors are so pretty. One day I may knit a pair of pomatomus, but I have to learn to say it first.

One of the most recent to blast onto the scene and go from zero to Mega Popularity instantaneously has been The Beekeepers Quilt by TinyOwlKnits –  Stephanie Dosen. All I hear anywhere is “beekeeper” this and “hexipuff” that. Wah wah wah puffs. Yeah yeah. Dudes. Get a grip. It’s knitting.

The Beekeeper’s Quilt is quite cute. And Stephanie herself is darling.  If you read this post of mine, you know that I am quite smitten with TinyOwlKnits and have been appreciating those cheery puffs for a while. But knitting the actual quilt seemed kind of silly. I mean, it’s just a toe-up sock toe, and then a cuff-down sock toe, right? Then repeat x 400.  Bah. As much as I love knitting socks, those two parts are my least favorite. Starting toe-ups can be super-fiddly, and Kitchener – ew. Don’t even get me started. (Remember this?)

 Over time, I have seen endless Ravelry groups start up. Small skeins, now refered to ubiquitously as ‘minis’ are hot trade in Rav swap threads. People are going just a little bit psycho. In fact, tons of Etsy shops are selling collections of minis to help knitters add variety, complete quilts, or frankly… just feed their stash mania.

“Whatever,” I thought.

“That’s crazy,” I said to myself.

“Those people are a little silly,”  I muttered with superiority. “I’m not like those knitters. Nope, not me.”

For months I’ve been thinking about that quilt. Not so much the making of it, but how darn sweet and cute and colorful it is. It just looks soft and spring-like and full of joy. And let me tell you, no one needs those things more than a Vitamin-D deprived girl slogging her way through the end of winter in the Pacific Northwest.

I kept looking at Stephanie’s pictures. I looked at other pictures from people working on the quilt. I was ridiculous enough to waste time downloading similar free patterns using crochet or other modular (but flat) shapes to make a different type of quilt, but nothing satisfied. Weeks passed, then a few months. I still was pretty enamored by that quilt. And dude, what was the big deal about it anyway? I had to find out.

Finally I just plunked down my $5.50 and bought the pattern.

Yay! Pretty!

And just like the rest of everything related to TinyOwlKnits – even the layout and presentation of the pattern itself was just darling and silly and funny.

Right away, I knew I was in trouble:

Oooo. First step – awesome new easy seamless cast on. Humph. This would totally work for toe-up socks too. Worth the price of admission right there.

Wow. These are easy.

 
(check THAT out – handspun puff!!!)

Stuff a puff. Heh. Ooo. Check out that sweet cast off & finish in one step. Easy peasy.This is SO not Kitchener.  Ohhhh I think I understand. Addictive. Just like everyone said. Uh oh.

One two three four. Knit a puff then knit some more.

Aughhhhhh! Must make more PUFFS!!!!!!

Ok, so I’m hooked. I dream during the day about what puff I’ll make that night. Yep, I can do that cause it takes about one hour and fifteen minutes to crank out one of these little cuties, which is just about the amount of time I camp out on the couch each night with a bully in my lap and needles in my hands.

And I have the added bonus of tons of bright, cheery sock yarn just waiting to be made into puffs. As I admit on my Ravelry page, I have a tendency to buy really bright beautiful sock yarn, although I wear only neutrals and darks. As much as I love the brights, I can’t quite bring myself to wear them… which means that I don’t usually grab those yarns to make socks. So my favorites have been sitting in the cabinet like the sad toys on Misfit Island.


Don’t you want to play with US?

But no longer! Now they will become PUFFS!!

However, I will just say right now that I will NEVER go and buy a bunch of minis so I can knit more puffs. That is just redonkulous. I refuse to do it.

I wont.

Nope, not me.

Remond Yarnbomb??!

Driving through downtown Redmond (WA) today, I spied this:

A rogue Yarnbomb? I would have gotten better pictures but the truth is that it has been awful  out all day – cold and wet and dumping buckets of rain. However, seeing that made my whole day better. Yarnbomb??! Woo! If so, YOU GO, EASTSIDE KNITTERS!!!

More Yarnbomb here and here and here.

Trying too hard

Spinning the Aster yarn taught me a couple of lessons.

1. I need to spend more time studying color theory.

2. It doesn’t take much messing around to screw up a good thing.

The long color repeats of the Aster fiber lent themselves perfectly to a spinning/plying technique I wanted to try called Fractal Spinning (check out this great article describing it in more detail on Knittyspin). The structured color repeats on the Aster merino would, I thought, lend themselves perfectly to the fractal method, so off I went to spin the first half in long color sections.

That worked perfectly, and as I prepared myself to spin the other half in shorter, chirpier repeats, I got a little to big for my own britches.

Charmed by my color success with adding a ply of gold to the bright Glacees fiber for the 3-ply experiment, I decided to “tone down” the saturated Aster fiber by throwing in some undyed white merino I had in the stash. I didn’t want any stretches of white stitches in the yarn – I knew that much – so I just tore off a handful of white and every once in a while jammed a tuft against the Aster roving to attempt a marl ply.

Well, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. At all. Who knew – (well, probably everyone but me) – that these two rovings were of different microns, staple lengths, and packed densities. The Aster fiber drafted easily. The white merino drafted like cement. The result – about 80% of the times I added the white fiber, I had either Aster or White… rarely marl.

Oh well, live and learn. I treadled on.

But as I spun and watched the bobbin fill, I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that happens when I am pretty sure I’ve messed too much with something.

Turns out, the white fiber didn’t really lighten things up. It just stood out. The colors of the Aster were too saturated, and the white just plunked against it. It looked to my eyes the way it feels when you are riding in your high-school boyfriend’s manual transmission and the gears clunk into place every time he shifts.

CLUNK.

BONK.

WHUNK.

Yarn color whiplash.

But I am stubborn (and what’s more, I needed those bobbins since they’re for the new Lendrum and I have just three of them) so I went on and plied the long and short color runs.

Turned out OK, but not what I’d hoped.

I’m chalking this up as a lesson learned, particularly for me to quit trying to manhandle my fiber colors and be a little more planful and to spend better time in preparation.

On to the next one, should be off the bobbins by the weekend. Pictures to come!

Sweet Suprises

One of the greatest, unexpected joys of collecting my new generation of Possibilities is the excitement I feel when they arrive, and more than that, what I find as I open the boxes and packages and see my new treasures in person for the first time.

The standard was set for me by the lovely Kathi of 5gardenias when she sent my Favorite Cups last year.

Since then, many packages have arrived containing various things. Sometimes Possibilities, sometimes fiber, sometimes a gift for someone else… but they all have been an adventure.

The first time I received a package from England, I was beside myself with joyful glee. To have a little packet sent half-way around the world just for me, filled with little special things… and a cool international shipping label. Well, it’s hard to beat that.

Some things have arrived in shambles, or nearly so. There was an open wood crate of vintage “haberdashery” findings sold by a new mom, who was upside-down with her brand-new baby and had her husband package and ship my purchase. In his inexperience, he just wrapped a sheet of bubble wrap around the whole shebang and shoved it in a shipping box. Thankfully, other than some tangled threads and general jumble, everything survived the journey without damage.

The sweet new-mom seller and I both got a good laugh out of that one. (And I’m guessing that her husband got a “tutorial” on How To Ship Things.)

There was also a vintage wood sewing box that wasn’t wrapped well and was just shoved in a USPS flat-rate package. It arrived quickly, but because it was sliding loose in the shipping box it got a dented chip in the back of the lid. It is so sad when such things occur.

 

Yet even here there were surprises.

Needles hidden under a little lidded compartment, which weren’t shown in the listing pictures. What was a red blob in the listing pictures turned out to be an emery strawberry, quite on its last legs, but all-the-more treasured by me for it.

And the intricacies of this vintage embroidery hoop – lightly oxidized metal and the completely unexpected felt inlay on the inner hoop, which I’ve never seen before. I’m guessing it was intended to keep the fabric from slipping and also to protect it a little from creasing and the wear and tear that all hoop frames wreak upon the fabric.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Sweet Surprises. Little arrivals that soar far and away past anything else out there. These are particularly charming when you least expect them, and usually the outer wrapping is quite unassuming and no indication at all of the treasures that lie within.

One example of this is a gorgeous polwarth/silk roving, custom-dyed just for me (!) by of Three Waters Farm. I received a plain ‘ole box.

But inside….

Soft muted colors of a winter’s daybreak, wrapped in robin’s egg blue tissue with a ribbon and kind note.

There was another package from Kathi, this time of glass buttons that I will use on a stole or sweater that I’ve spun and knit myself from that polwarth and silk roving above. As usual, the whole experience was one of beauty and layers of discovery.

Most recently was an unassuming little package sent all the way from Wales.

I’d selected a few items from Sophie’s fun shop on etsy, Pratt’s Patch. As luck would have it, one of them was her 100th shop sale. This started a fun little exchange over email between us, but I was not expecting what I saw when I opened that little box. The very first thing I noticed was that it smelled like flowers.

And looked like them, too!

What a sweet woman – as a little extra gift for being her 100th purchaser, she sent me three vintage thimbles. Each is unique and beautiful.

A sweetly gorgeous collection of notions, one that I will always remember receiving.

Possibilities

When I was little and would go to the clothes-store with my mom, I had a habit of disappearing under the clothing racks. It felt like going into a shady, close forest. Sounds and light were muffled, my ears filled with the rustle of fabric. It seemed warmer and safer there than out in the open. I liked to sit in the middle of rounders and look at all the clothing hanging down around me.

And while I was there, I’d find little treasures. Innumerable things fell off those clothes onto the carpet:  straight pins, shirt clips, collar stays, tag pins, tiny little safety pins. I’d collect them and hold them tightly in my fist.

 

Eventually we’d make our way to the fitting rooms where my mom would ask me what I had.

I’d respond, ‘These are my possibilities.”

Possibilities. I’m  not sure where my 5 year-old self came up with *that*, but as I look back now I realize that it was the perfect word. I had no idea what the bits were, what they were used for, but I was fascinated by them. I wanted them, wanted to *do* something with them – I just didn’t know what or how. But I treasured them and thought about ways that they might work together or find a new purpose.

*****

Fast-forward a few decades to now.

I don’t find myself much interested in diving under clothing rounders at Macy’s, but my fascination with little bits of things hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s only grown stronger over the years. Times have changed and I’ve grown older.  I haven’t seen a plastic shirt clip in decades. Shopping isn’t what it once was… now I don’t even need to leave my couch and coffee to purchase clothes.

But even though my shopping methods have changed, there is something wonderfully similar to the magical world under the rounders. I don’t have to limit myself to picking up Possibilities under the racks of the few stores at the local mall. Instead, I have entire universes of bits and bobs at my fingertips. Ebay, etsy, Ruby Lane, and other wonderful e-sites have become a new source for finding wonderous things.

And while the items themselves may be different from those pins and clips from the 70s, the sense of wonder and discovery I feel at seeing them and pondering their uses – both past and future – never ceases to fascinate me to distraction.

In place of straight pins, I have bone stilettos and crochet hooks. Tiny mother-of-pearl thread winders. A twee brass needlecase:

Instead of shirt clips, I have vintage spools of buttonhole silk and wonderful old packets of needles:

I certainly don’t need tag pins when I have lovely old cloth measuring tapes and cloisonné thimbles:

And frankly, I’m just not sure what these are all about… but I love them to distraction:

(Someone’s going to tell me that the one on the bottom is a lady’s personal care tweezers and ear-wax scraper, right? I was afraid of that. Who knows what the brass implement is? Does it have anything to do with buttoning? Do tell!)

There are other wonder-full things that have come along with these findings, where I’m not exactly sure of their purpose… yet. Discovery and learning are all part of the process, the magic, and the enjoyment of these new Possibilities.

Breathing Easier

Right at the end of October I found out I had Diabetes. What a bummer, especially the timing. I was all set to jump into my rustic artisan bread challenge and was in full swing – and loving it – with autumn baking and cooking.

What a shock, and even more, what a disappointment to have to curtail my bread plans and other cooking projects. It seemed at that time that all of my loves – and my kitchen mysticism – were yanked right out from under me. I felt like I’d been set adrift in an angry, uncharted sea. I didn’t have a paddle. Most days I didn’t know which way the shore was. I joked with a friend that not only had most of my greatest passions (cooking and eating) been taken from me, so were my key coping mechanisms (cooking and eating). I was in mourning and doors were shut all around me.

So I had to build some new doors.

And here I am, about two months later. Time and education has helped immensely, and I feel so much better. Physically, I feel wonderful. Emotionally, I’ve travelled through some anger and loss and am moving forward with a shift in focus to continue to explore and revel in wonderful creativity and loving home-making.

More than ever, needle crafts and fiber arts are exciting me. I am finding new, beautiful, and inspiring people and crafts.

Natalie of leeleetea and her darling ‘Oh Deer’ mitts:

Adrian of HelloYarn (you may already know that she’s a favorite of mine, since I stash her yarns and fiber) and her incredible spinning prowess and colorwork designs – double mittens that are beautiful and include her signature high-contrast color combinations:

And last but absolutely not least, TinyOwlKnits and her magical concoctions:

The Beekeeper Quilt

Butterfly Catcher Mitts

Fairy Castles (with a knitterly surprise inside!)

And, thankfully, I’m re-claiming my kitchen mysticism… but with a twist. Instead of mixing and swirling foodstuffs, I’m mixing and swirling candles, fiber, and essential oils. (Sometimes together, sometimes not!) More to come on those things!