Friday, August 31, 2007

America's Dairy Land

Now that I no longer live in Wisconsin, I appreciate the place so much more than I did growing up there.

We go back every year to spend time with my family and catch up with friends. Usually we spend a lot of time outside, hiking, biking, swimming and running around the park. But this year it rained nearly every day we were there. I tried to convince the kids that we should spend the time yarn shopping and knitting, but they weren't buying it.
This is Eau Clarie Dells where the Wisconsin River has torn through the state's hard granite creating a long stretch of rapids. It was one of my favorite places when I was a kid, but now I'm the mom and I spend a good deal of the time telling my kids not to do the very things I used to do!
The yarn is for a lace shawl I'm making for a KAL that is mostly in French. It's been interesting trying to figure out what the posters are saying. This is only the second time I've knit with yarn so thin. I'm a little concerned about it. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good News Bad News

So, I finally figured out something crucial about eyelets and yarn overs - the yarn is supposed to go over the needle counter clockwise - the same way as it does for a knit stich so that the little loop sits on the needle with its front leg forward. That way, you get nice holes for eyelets. Otherwise, you have an extra stitch but it's twisted so there is no hole. The good news is that I finally figured this out. I've been doing this wrong at least a good chunk of the time so sometimes I had a nice eylet but mostly, I didn't.

The bad news is that I figured it out in the middle of the project. I was torn - should I start doing it right or continue doing it wrong? Having figured out how to do it right, I was found myself doing it right naturally so that's what I did. I'm not sure that was the right decision. It's a lacey shawl and I fear it's going to look not good. So do I frog? Keep going and hope it turns out? I've spent hours and hours on this project - I don't want to do it all over again, but I've spent hours and hours on it and so I really want it to turn out well.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Paying it Forward

I love that the Internet has become a great place for knitters to connect. I feel like I have a wonderful supportive community to share my passion with. It's fun to give advice and it is a blessing to get it when I need it! In keeping with that concept, some fellow knitters have launched a knitters interpretation of the movie "Pay it Forward." I found it on Allison's blog (It's worth a stop by just to see her photos) Here's the deal: I will send within the next year something I make (most likely knitting related) to the first three people who respond in the comments section. (Please include an email so I can contact you.) My hope is that those people will in turn make the same offer on their blog. Per the rules on the email I found: The "gift" you send doesn't have to be handmade -- it can be anything you wish to share with another person.

I also have a new pattern to share - this is for a small accessory bag and is great to use up odds and ends.

I was in the store looking for the perfect accessory bag to carry my wallet, a small notebook and a cell phone. Too small, too big, wrong color, too pricey…then it dawned on me, I’m a knitter! I don’t need no stinkin’ store bought bag! I can make one that is exactly the size I need and the color I want. And I can do it without spending a dime by using up stash. This is the loose pattern – it can easily be adjust to fit the size you need. I used a single strand of worsted and found it to be thick enough. You could double strand it or use a bulky yarn. Just make sure that the yarn is not machine washable wool, which won’t felt.
This little bag is knit so that the stripes will run vertically. Keep in mind that it will therefore shrink more width-wise than length-wise.
Cast on 50 stitches, knit in stockinet for 11 inches – switching yarns for stripes as desired (I made random stripes to use up small bits of leftovers).
Bind off 20 stitches. The top part will be used for the flap. Continue knitting on remaining 30 stitches for 11 inches. This is the front of the bag.
Sew the front to the back and sew across the bottom.
Turn the bag inside out. Flatten the corner and sew across, one inch from the corner to make a flat bottom. Wash in hot water to felt.
To finish: add a snap or button as a closure. You could also add a short handle to make it easier to carry.
The final dimensions on my bag is 6 inches by 8 inches.

I added a handle that is just an i-cord. I cut a small hole in the bag and inserted both ends and tied a big knot on the inside. I may add an eyelet to make the opening stronger. I also used a magnetic closure for the tab, but I may go back and use a strip of velcro instead.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Quilts complete

Here are two classic examples of rag quilts that became popular around the turn of the century. Crafters in the early 2000s loved them for their simplicity and versatility. They could be made in a weekend using a wide variety of materials. They were made with the seams exposed. The seams were then clipped and the quilts and then washed producing three dimensional softness.

That's what the museum placard will read some day, if these quilts were ever to be put in a museum!

They were both made under an intense deadline. I had just one week before going on vacation to Wisconsin and I wanted desparately to get done the quilt for my daughter at camp and another to take with us for the 2 yo. Crazy, you say? Probably. I tend to do that to myself a lot. I figure the more I try to get done, the more I get done - if I haven't fallen over in exhaustion mid project.

To get the quilts done, I set everything up in the studio and stopped in whenever I had a few minutes. I'd cut a few squares until I had the piles. Then I'd pop in and sew a few squares at a time or a few rows. I carried the quilts around with me to do the clipping.

The Sweet Tweety Bird took the longest - having 90 or so 7 inch squares 6 when finished). The Monkey Business was really quick with 11.5 inch squares (10.5 inches after finishing) and just 35 of them. Both have three layers - a mix of flannel and quilting cotton with flannel in the middle. They are a nice weight without being too heavy.

Just one more to go - the Soccer Skies, which will be for the 5yo. It will have to wait until I'm back in Mass.

While on vacation, I'm keeping at least a little busy. This set is for a charity challenge for the football-a-long I've joined. I made in Packer colors in honor of the state we're visiting. It's a simple neck-down sweater with a simple hat and scarf. The charity is Cubs for Kids. The set is for a teddy bear, but we didn't have one in the right size. The hat and sweater were a great opportunity to practice the Magic Loop method of knitting. If you haven't tried it - I highly recommend it! It's a great alternative to circulars and double points.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Supporting yaks

In my "other" life, to support my yarn habit and feed my children, one of the things I do is write a column for the Boston Herald about small businesses. It is rare that my two interests intersect but yarn must be bought and sold and so on occassion, they do cross paths. This week the column is about a small company selling yak yarn:

The founders weren't knitters to begin with , but they have picked it up. They feature a few patterns on their website and are running a pattern contest. Check them out at

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Adventures in Travel

When I was a kid, I would dream of adventures - rocketing into outer space, riding wild ponies in the West, hunting for lost ruins in the Amazon. But none of that can compare to the excitement, thrill and challenge of shepherding four children age 2 to 14 through the modern day security ridden world of air travel.

Usually there are five, but one was at camp. The trip started from Boston at 5 a.m. We were headed to grandma and grandpa's house in Wisconsin.

I actually think that it is physically easier to travel with my large crew with just two young ones because the older ones can help. They do, however, add their a mental challenge in trying to keep them in line and in good spirits.

Checking in was smooth. The security line was long, but bearable and orderly. That all ended at the front of the line where there was a flurry of shoes, bags, bins, coins, watches and wallets. First, three of mine tried to go through the security scan at once. That upset the security guard who then made us wait while he took several other people. On the other side we learned that two bags had to be inspected. No problem, let me just grab the stroller... which is over there, on the other side of the security scanner. Huh. Apparently, the big kids didn't hear me when I asked them to put it on the conveyor belt. I must say, the security people do not like it when you leave something behind. I thought about crying, that sometimes works. Then I thought about having the baby cry - she almost always gets what she wants. In the end, someone took pity on us before we had to resort to tears.

The bags were flagged for a bottle of shampoo, hand cream and a fruit cup. The first two were in the bag of the teenager, who heard dad's warning to go through her bags but was sure there was nothing in them. The fruit cup was mine. It turns out they're allowed, but you should put them out in the open in a bin.

We had just enough time to grab breakfast to go and get on the plane - where we sat for the next hour because no flights were going into or out of Chicago where we had to make a connecting flight. Thankfully, we've become experienced travelers over the years and had plenty to do. It helped that the airline put on Shrek 111.

The rest of the trip was smooth. Because no flights were going out of Chicago, we were able to make the connection despite arriving so late.

I had my trusty knitting to go kit with me but entertaining the 2 and 5 year old kept me busy. I really need to teach them the art!

Meanwhile, the 14yo finished the entire new Harry Potter book! She remarkably has been able to refrain from telling the rest of us what happens.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Knusings (knit musings)

I have come to realization that it is highly unlikely that I will ever knit a pirate, even if it is really cute and would probably be quite a conversation starter.

I saw the pirate it in a magazine - a British journal that comes with a tape measure. (I'm a sucker for tape measures - it seems I can never find one when I want one so I'm always buying extras. ) I had picked out a stack of knitting magazines and I was trying to winnow down the pile. I suppose I could have just bought them all but I am trying to save some money to buy yarn to knit the things in those magazines.

I was really impressed with the little pirate. It was a darling piece of handiwork. But as I stood there admiring the cleverness of some faraway knitter I had an epiphany. I only have so much time and I have so many things I want to knit. When put up against the long list the pirate would fall to the bottom. In fact, I don't really want to knit him - I might want to buy it if someone else made it and I'd love to get it as a gift. But I want to knit cables and lace and socks and gloves and a sweater or too. Reluctantly, I put the magazine and the tape measure back on the shelf. I actually felt relieved. It turns out that not adding something to the "to do" list is almost as good as finishing a task! Now I can buy two tape measures with the money I saved.

I did pick up the latest issue of Interweave Knits - it's all about cables.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

My contribution to the economy

It all started when I went to the store to get more material for this rag quilt I'm making for my daughter who is now away at camp. The quilt is sewn with the edges revealed. The edges are then clipped creating a soft, multi-dimensional blanket (or so goes the theory). I was about 26 squares short of the backing and middle. No more than two yards of fabric - just a few dollars even if it wasn't on sale, right?

But the things is, I had to take my dds , 5 and 5 into the store. First they found one fabric they both had to have and then another and another and another and another... it was all on clearance, just $2 or $3 a yard. (Amazing how quickly that adds up) We were having so much fun putting together different combinations that I didn't stop until long, long after I should have. Pretty soon we had a huge pretty pile of matchy matchy fabric.

And then, near the cutting table, the youngest began grabbing the rolls of fleece that were in the left over bin. We don't need any more blankets, we already have more than I can fit on the shelf. But the color combo was so cool and I've made a fleece blanket for all the kids but her and so, after much back and forth, these jumped into the cart too.

I won't even mention the odds and ends that were on an incredible sale and couldn't be left behind at that price. So now I'm up to my ears in fabric. The real problem is that they don't sell time!

Here she is - Miss enthusiasm herself. She got the ball rolling with the purple fabric, "Monkey, me, mommy? Monkey, me?" she implored. Truley, how could I resist?
I thank Janice for the rag quilt craze. She featured one on her blog and it took a hold of my imagination. One thing led to another and here we are, knee deep in quilt squares. She posts some great recipes too.

On another note - I've named my knitting fantasy football team Yak Attack. Though I haven't actually knitted with yak yarn yet, I'm looking forward to it. Thankfully, the league is set up through Yahoo, which will draft a team for you. This should be interesting.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Knitting to go

A question was asked in the knitter's review forum about what knitters do as far as having projects to take on the road. I have thought about this a great deal given the number of times I've been caught without a project on hand. Just as bad, and in a way even worse, is grabbing a project and finding that the needles are the wrong size or a crucial tool is missing. My answer is this: when you have a quiet moment - not when you're getting ready to go - start a simple project - a baby hat, a scarf, a sock, a dishcloth.... do enough that you know you the right needles. Then pack it all up in a "to go" kit. I usually use big zip lock bags because that lets me see what I have and it protects the yarn from spills in the car. The kit should include:
  • the project
  • the pattern (preferably a photo copy of the original, which will be left safe at home)
  • a travel tool kit with at least scissors, tape measure, darning needle and optional stitch markers and crochet hook. (I have several such kits that I try to keep with each project)

Ideally, I'd have one of these kits in each car and in my purse. That way I'd always be covered. The hardest part is making myself thing about this when a trip is not immanent. This also requires having multiple sets of needles and other tools. I generally carry my Denise interchangeables, which gives me a lot of flexibility.

My other solution is to take knitting magazines - then you don't have to worry about not having a stitch counter. The only problem with this is resisting the overwhelming temptation to read through them as soon as they're purchased!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gooooooo Team

I'm of the firm belief that knitting mixes with pretty much anything - so why not football? Someone has actually started a fantasy football league for knitters!

I'm not a must-watch-football football fan, but I like to watch, especially if it's a team I like. I know the rules. I can follow the plays. Besides being able to talk about Sunday's game can help get conversations started.

So, despite not knowing all of the players or even all of the teams I signed up. There's a pre-season challenge ( knitting a teddy bear sweater in your favorite team's colors) and a flikr link for photos.

The sign ups are still open, so if you have any interest in football or trying something totally different - join us!