Friday, February 27, 2009

The Queen of Yarn

I've decided to claim the title of Queen of Yarn or Yarn Queen for short. Not that I've done anything in particular to deserve it. I'm a good knitter, but not especially great when compared to those who really are. But I do love to knit and I don't believe anyone else has laid claim to the title. Of course, I haven't actually gone to the trouble of even doing a Google search to be sure.

What does being the Queen of Yarn entitle me to? Well, I get to rule over all the yarn in my house of course. I can make anything of it that I want. To the extent that I am actually capable of doing that, which is not always as much as I would like.

Maybe someday I'll be good enough to extend my rule beyond the borders of my four (or so since the house isn't a square) walls and rein over yarn in other places.

I will be a benevolent queen sharing freely what I learn - sometimes whether people want me to or not, although I try to refrain from giving advice not given.

In claiming this title, I in no way am declaring that I am a knitting expert or implying that I am better than anyone else. I just want an excuse to wear a tiara. Now I suppose I should go knit one, right?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stressing My Friends

I started to log in last night to post a comment about my latest unprogress on my complicated Secrets of the Stole project but I was so stressed by a disagreement with one of my lovely teens that I couldn't even think to get the password straight.

I opted instead to sit in bed and read Newsweek. Ironically, the cover article was about how stress can be a good thing - if so, I've got it made. The most interesting part was buried deep in the article about how men and women respond differently to stress. Both genders experience stress as a rise in adrenaline and coritsol. What's different is our reaction. Women are more likely to turn to their social networks, which prompts the release of oxytocin, which mutes the stress systems. If we are surrounded by loved ones when a stressor arises, there some evidence that we don't even show as much of the initial hormonal response, which means less risk of long-term harm to the brain.

It's a scientific explanation of what I have gathered by instinct - turning to friends helps my cope with the challenges (I prefer to think of the issues I face as challenges rather than problems) both big and small that make my life interesting.

Through the benefits of modern technology, I have an extended social network that is available to me even when I can't get out of the house. For you all, I am extremely grateful. I hope in response that I am able to at times relieve the risk of long term harm to your brain.

Speaking of stress - I managed four rows of the extremely complicated pattern only to find I had two stitches too few. I could have just faked it, but why bother with all the work that's already gone into this? It's not going to get done anytime soon anyway so I figured it might as well get done right. I tried tinking back and ended up with two extra stitches!?! So frogged. I am beginning to understand the zen of knitting - in knitting, it's not always about advancing and adding rows, it's about getting it right. If you've gotten no further than you were, but the project looks like it's supposed to, then your time hasn't been wasted. Tinking and frogging bring opportunities to learn more about the craft, to understand how the loops fit together, to see how the pattern forms.

Another article in the Newsweek talked about a Navy training program in which the trainees hands and feet are bound and they are thrown into a pool. Those who struggle and thrash about inevitably fail and have to be rescued. In order to succeed, you have to let yourself sink and then push yourself off the bottom up to the surface where you can get a gasp of air before sinking and doing that again. Sometimes that is how it is in knitting - relax, do the opposite of what your mind says - go back instead of forward - and then you can move ahead. Sometimes that is how it is in life. Not always. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate to run screaming from the room.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Congo socks

The socks arrived in the Congo and they fit! Yeah!

The yarn is self striping - the pattern got a bit lost in the ribbing, but it still looks good. They were based primarily on measurements and patterns in Sensational Knitted Socks - which is the book to have if you want to knit socks. It has charts to make socks in any size depending on your gauge plus patterns to try. It has instructions for top down, toe up, as well as short row heels and flap heels in both directions. I prefer short row heels, although I still struggle with them. I find it hard to concentrate and so I'm constantly losing my place. I liked the book's explanation, but I tried another way, the Lifestyle Toe Up, that I found on the web; there's even a video demonstration. It doesn't use wraps and instead has you knit an extra stitch. It was easy to follow and came out reasonably well. Any troubles were user error.

I love magic loop two at a time. I can't imagine making socks one at a time in part because I'm sure I'd lose count of the rows and because it's too easy to not make the second one. If you haven't tried it, it's not as hard as it looks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another reason to knit

It turns out there is a very good reason to knit other than to make really great things - it helps delay the onset of dimentia, according to a recent study. Watching television, however, may speed up memory loss.

There's two ways of looking at that for those of us who knit while watching television - one is that you are cancelling out the benefits of knitting by watching the box. I prefer, however, to regard it as balancing the negative of watching television with the goodness of knitting!

I've heard from DH that the luggage arrived! Whew. The socks fit. Whew. He even took pictures as requested, but the computer failed to cooperate with him and erased the pictures (or so he says, hmmmm...)

Dh says he's hearing some heart breaking stories from the victims of the violence in the Congo. He also met two soldiers who believe they are made of water and therefore can not be killed in battle. The city is devastated and yet life continues with children in uniforms going to school. In contrast, our ordinary life of school vacation, trips to the store and stops at MacDonalds feels so priveleged. Dishwashers, washing machines, stoves ... I don't think I appreciate them enough because I don't really know what it's like to live without them. Even beyond that, the relative peace in which we live - it's an amazing blessing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Socks away

I finished dh's socks with just hours to spare. I cast off at 1:15 a.m. and he got on a taxi at 4 a.m. I stuffed the socks in the front of his suitcase along with the Valentine's Day cards from the children. I figured he's going to the other side of the world - he won't get there until Valentine's Day and it will be a nice surprise.

I next heard from him when he was on the runway on Ethopian Airlines. Somehow, his suitcase hadn't made it. He's thinking about all the stuff he may not have when he arrives. Of course I'm thinking about the socks! I should have stuffed them in his carryon bag!

Maybe I'll be able to post a picture soon...fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fast and fabulous

Does it ever happen to you that a project just gets stuck in your head? Last year I made a scarf for a well-deserving friend of mine. It was a beautiful lace scarf in an oh-so-soft light green yarn. I was happy to hear that she was thrilled with it. But, she lives in Wisconsin. It is cold there. Very cold. The scarf I made was pretty and it was probably warmish, but it wasn't a wrap- around-your-face-to-keep-out-the-north-wind sort of warm. And thus I had one of those projects that lives in your head nagging to be completed. It took almost a full year. My plan for the original scarf was to have it done for Valentine's Day of last year. That proved impossible since I picked a way-complicated pattern. Somehow, it seemed appropriate then to shoot for this Valentine's Day. I found a gorgeous well endowed Laines du Nord yarn - big yarn makes for quick knitting on 10.5 needles. I made it in mistake rib on 31 stitches. After it was finished, at both ends, I picked up the stitches using some stashed navy blue yarn and knit a modified ruffle - instead of knitting f&B of every stitch, I knit f&b of ever fourth stitch.

Once the scarf was done, I realized I still had a whole lot of yarn - there was 350 yards on the skein. So, a matching hat was in order. Inspired by one recently made by the Yarn Harlot for her daughter. She was inspired by this hat - which now that I look at is what I had in my head when I knit mine. I knit a band in garter stitch, slipping the first stitch of every row, until it wrapped around my head. I tapered off the end and sewed it together with the ends overlapping. Next, I picked up stitches along one row through the back loop (to leave a ridge). On the first row I added a few stitches since the gauge of the two yarns didn't match perfectly. I wasn't sure at first that I would get it done on time to send with the scarf for Vday. But again, big yarn = wicked fast knit. I had the band done during one Scrubs episode and half of the top during the news. I finished all but the decreases during a phone meeting (really, I concentrate better when I knit!) The best part is that I'm confident it will fit. This is a great way to knit a hat if you don't want to bother with swatching.

It's interesting to note (at least to me) that I knit the scarf on 10.5s and it made for a great, light, fluffy fabric. I knit the hat on 9s, however. The fabric was a little more dense, but just right for a more structured object.

I mailed them off today even though I have enough yarn for half mitts. :) I need to move onto my other Valentine's Day project - socks for dh who is heading off to the Congo on Friday. He's going to write about some Harvard research there.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Knitting popular cultural reference

Here is a sign of how much knitting has penetrated popular culture. Note this passage from an article in the January 2009 Scientific American issue all about evolution. The article is about how some medical problems we have are due to how our bodies evolved from fish:

"The major bones in human knees, backs and wrists arose in aquatic creatures hundreds of millions of years ago. Is it any surprise, then, that we tear cartrilage in our knees and suffer carpal tunnel syndrome as we type, knit or write? Our fish and amphibian ancestors did not do these things."

This leads me to wonder - does the author knit? Is he married to a knitter? Are there other knitters in his life? Do they suffer from carpal tunnel?

What would a fish knit if a fish could knit? There is a children's story about a hand knit sock that goes missing and ends up being used as a sleeping bag for a fish.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Momma's Dolls

My mom is great. She loves me and I love to knit, so she learned how to knit again. That's great
cause now we can do knitting things together. When she was here awhile ago, we hunted down a yarn store in Salem and found this adorable kit for something called a Kuku Doll. There sure are some imaginative, creative people out there! These dolls are just darling. Initially, we were disciplined and left the store with just yarn for a new scarf. But we couldn't stop thinking about these winsome dolls and their sweet smiles. The bodies are felted and the faces are made with needle felting. Mom says it's really not that hard to do. The yellow-haired doll is George. He lives with mom now. The other one she made for a new baby boy. The scarf is done and now she's making a matching hat. Go mom!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cost Effective Knitting

Early on in my knitting career I learned to think not just about the price per skein but also the price per yard. A $20 skein with 350 yards is a better deal than a $10 skein with just 90 yards, for instance. Now I have another way to measure cost - the price per project.

In shopping recently for yarn for a baby hat for my new niece, I found four irrisistable colors in a yarn that wasn't so cheap. I was looking at a price tag of $40 for one hat! But after I finished with that one, I kept on knitting (it was too big and ended up being snapped up by the 3yo anyway) and made two more plus a doll. She is based on the pattern in the Weekend Knitting book, which I highly recommend. She is knit in pieces and then sewn up. After botching the seams badly, I am thinking and thinking about how to make her in the round.
The hats are based on a combination of patterns.
Both of the little hats are made with 72 stitches knit in the round. On the ruffled edge, I cast on 144 stitches, knit one round and k2tog around to get the ruffle. I then did a single stitch rib for 4 rounds. I had hoped that would bring in the hat a little to make it fit tighter and stay on better. I'm not sure if it worked out, but it looks okay. I didn't realize that ribbing stands out from stockinette stitch. I thought it would pull it in and make that part of the hat tighter.
The yarn is Debbie Bliss Rialto - it's a superwash merino. It is a dream to knit with. That's part of the reason I made so many things - I just couldn't stop. It's soft and springy. It is, however, very splitty. It's not the sort of yarn that holds up well to being frogged multiple times (unfortunatley, I know this from personal experience).
Now that I am all done, DSIL has requested a white crocheted hat with a crocheted flower for the baby girl. That's fine - I don't mind having another project. But, I realized that as I have been organizing and sending unused items off to bless others that I blessed her with all my crochet books! Silly me. Thankfully there are so many patterns available on line.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Smitten with Smitten

We discovered recently a fabulous book at our local library called Smitten. It's about a mateless mitten that teams up with mateless sock. The best part is when the mitten becomes unraveled and the sock high tails it to a knitting shop where he finds a knitting how-to book and puts his friend back together.
It's a delightful story that appeals to both boys and girls ( I say this from direct experience) and even the teens.