Thursday, December 25, 2008

Perfect Gift

All through the evening of Christmas Eve my dad kept going on and on about the fact that he "has found me the perfect gift". When it came to the exchange, he threw a t-shirt at me. I had to admit that I laughed when I saw the graphics on the shirt with the three little ninjas.

Dad was right; it is perfect for me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Year in Review

Never fear, I am still knitting away~ things are a bit hectic right now with the holidays and "wrapping up" my two jobs in preparation for my vacation. The going is extremely slow since I am knitting only when I have the time for it.

At this yuletide season, when the dark has reached its full power before being conquered by the light, it is that time to look back at the year that is passed, and look forward to a new year!

2008 began just like any other year, quietly and without much fanfare. I worked, took care of the home, paid the bills, and knitted. I also did a little spinning in the late winter, and came up with 5 hanks of pretty homemade yarn. Those yarns are stored away for a future project, whatever it may be.

Things started getting lively around March when I decided to do an ambitious lace project complete with beads. It took me two and a half months to finish the shawl.

The shawl got stored away. For whom? I hadn't determined the lucky recipient yet.

Things picked up even more at the beginning of May.

I got to show off one of the sweaters I designed at a Beltaine celebration.

This was also the time it was decided that the driveway in the backyard is to be demolished. I felt the contender for Paul Bunyan as I smatched the concrete to mere rubble with the aid of only a sledgehammer and a crowbar (check out the picture at the beginning of this entry). The old fences were pulled up and banished from the property along with the concrete rubble.
The topsoil to fill the gaping hole in the backyard didn't arrive until the day before I had to fly for the NorthWest. Trust me, when I got home the dirt went flying, and a prayer was recited over the topsoil after everything was raked smooth.

The end of May and the beginning of June was in Vancouver and Seattle. Had a blast.

Aunt Julie ended up being gifted with the lace shawl as a thank you in her willingness to put up with me.
The Summer was spent puttering around in my new garden where the driveway use to be. Planted a lot of herbs ~ and the fresh herbs were a nice addition to my Summer cooking. The garden did well for the most part, even though I lost the squash to powdery mildew.
I also had a job interview at the community college which went well. I was offered a position to teach American Sign Language classes offered by the college. I accepted, of course.
The Autumn was a whirlwind of working two jobs, harvesting and putting the garden to bed, and attending a couple of workshops offered by my LYS. I had a chance to learn from Cat Bordhi and Jared Flood when they were in town.
Now, I am just busy and looking forward to a long vacation starting next week. I guess my only plans for 2009 is to finish up the Aran Afghan, maybe design a few knitting projects, and complete my requirements toward a Master Knitter's certification. Wish me luck!
May you all have a great holiday and a prosperous New Year!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cabling Binge

Well, I've been on a cabling binge where I've knitted up 6 cable projects all for the month of October! Whew! The first for your viewing pleasure is my cabled winter cap using a Cashmere/Wool blend of my own making. Very thick and very warm ~ so let it snow!!!!
This is me modeling the cap.

And I've completed five more squares for my afghan project. This is 10 squares down and 10 to go (YESSSSSSS, I am half-way through!!!!!!).
This one I am calling the "Support our
Troops" square. I don't necessarily support our wars overseas, but we can't abandon our soilders who are fighting on foreign soil. Also, both of my brothers are in the military (one in the Navy, and the other in the Army and in Iraq), so I've knitted this square in their honor. Hey bro's, you rock!

I love this square with the Saxon braid.

This is a really quirky cable designed by a Quebecois.

I call this one the "Interlocking Lockets".

And, finally, the Reversible Square. This pattern is on both sides of this square, thereby making it reversible.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Trailblazer II unveiled

Well, it took a while, and putting in the work whenever I had a spare moment between two jobs. I just finished the Trailblazer II, modeled after the original Trailblazer I came up with, but using finer yarns and smaller needles. I am very pleased with this pattern ~ simple, masculine and comfortable.

Here's the simple increase along the top of the foot.

This was a toe-up pattern, which worked perfectly.

The balls of the foot and the heel are reinforced to resist wear.

I just had to add the seam along the back of the cuff. So cool and it gives the sock another point of interest.

Two more squares done!

Finished two more squares for the afghan. Here they are!
This is five squares down and 15 more to go! This means I am a quarter of the way in knitting all my squares ~ not bad!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knitting the Garden

I love how this square has turned out!
It literally looks like a scene you would find in my garden. Knitting the spider and the bugs (complete with wings) was a blast, and this square would make an appropriate addition to my dream afghan.
Well, this is three squares down, but I have 17 more to go. I am currently working on the fourth square (1/4 of the way done), and so far it is looking pretty good. Yes, I will post pics of that square when I am done with it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This & That

My Trailblazer II socks are coming along. It takes a while since I work full-time and I have other projects I am working on. The foot and the heels are done ~ now I am just working on the cuff. Easy as pie

I've decided to work on an afghan. I found some really cool patterns in the booklet The Great American Afghan and decided to go with that. I have to knit up 20 squares (12" by 12"), graft them all together for a 4 feet by 5 feet afghan, pick up the stitches on the outside edges and knit a cabled border. It is a fun project, I've already finished two squares and am working on the third.

This was a simple square to get me started.

This one was a fun and quirky project. You start on the outside and spiral in to the center as you knit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mum's Shawl & "Trailblazer II"

These are the two skeins of yarn that Mum bought for her shawl. They are both spun from mohair, and felt like butter as I was knitting them up.

The shawl is done! This was certainly a quick project considering the size of it. It is literally a triangular, warm and fuzzy blanket!

After designing my own "trailblazer" sock, I decided that I would like a pair using finer charcoal yarns and a size US1 circular needle. Since this is NOT a written pattern, I decided to knit both pairs on one needle at the same time so that they would be absolutely identical to each other ~ stitch for stitch, and row for row ~ when I cast them off the needle! So far the toes and the foot is looking pretty good. Keep your eyes open for future posts about the "trailblazer II".

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cat Bordhi was in town!!!

Well, I knew that Cat was coming to town (Lorilee, or "L2" as I like the call her, kept talking about it and trying to get people to attend Cat's "Sockitecture" workshops). I never really did plan on attending the workshops since the dates and time conflicted with my work schedule. On top of that, I didn't think I really need to attend since I've already knitted several pairs of socks from Cat Bordhi's book New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One with success. I'd figured I'll just come in on book-signing night so that Cat could sign my copy of the sock book and the novel Treasure Forest.

Things didn't quite go according to plan (story of my life). Sometime Monday night L2 (the owner of my LYS ~ City Knitting of Grand Rapids) and Cat were having a chat, and for some bizarre reason I came up as the topic of conversation. I am not exactly sure what L2 told Cat (something about my fondness for geometric forms or something), but the end result was that Cat wanted me to attend her last workshop scheduled for Wednesday. So, they both typed up an "urgent" E-mail to me with the gist of "come to the workshop or else!" I didn't open that E-mail until Tuesday morning, in which I threw in the towel and said, "that yes, of course I'll come!" That day I snuck in a 'personal day' request through Human Resources and got my Wednesday off.

I have to say that I would have regretted it if I hadn't attend that workshop on Wednesday. It was a really interesting topic of just casting on and proceeding to design ones own sock by combining patterns from her book. Cat went over the basic architecture of any sock, the proper way to do short rows for the heel turn, the really easy math to figure out your instep increases, number of wraps, number of stitches to add to the wings, etc. Needless to say, the lightbulbs where going off on top of my head! The one important thing that Cat has taught me is the confidence to toss the book and go with my inspirations. That was pretty much what I did, and I knitted up a sock that fit my ideal.

First I knitted a whirlpool toe, and then the foot with reinforced soles over the balls of the foot ~ my socks tend to wear out too quickly in that area. My instep increases was over the top of the foot using the same increases as for the standard toe. This seem to give the sock a streamlined look. I reinforced the sole again at about 10 rows before I got to the heel turn since I wanted a larger area of sturdy fabric to cup my heels. The cuff is pretty basic: stockinette ending with 2X2 ribbings.

I am so pleased with what I've knitted, how well it fits, and how surprised I was when I realized that I knitted that darn stucker without referring to a book!!!!! I am naming this sock the "trailblazer", and I hope Cat would be pleased with how much she contributed to my growing confidence in knitting from my own inner creativity. Hey Cat ~ you rock! And L2, thanks for convincing Cat to come to City Knitting!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

An Curragh

I think one of my favorite catalogs is from An Curragh. This organization allows artisans from the Northwest of Ireland to sell their wares to national and international clients. Their catalogs are a nice read, and there are two good sessions from Christmas 2006 that I want to include here. They are both related to knitting and knitwears:

"Inspired by necessity, the function of an Aran sweater was to protect from the force of the ocean. But, being a race of yarn spinners, in word and cloth, we have made it so much more. Written with needles, spun out on a thread, every sweater maps a story ~ of tightly nestled fields, bounded by the cables of the fishing trade, or the honeycomb of the worker bee hanging over a web of nets drying on stonewalls." p.50

"We say our knitting tradition started with stockings. Clever us, matching a fabric that retained its warmth when wet to the foot that spent its life ankle-deep in bogs! Then we found that the natural oil on the wool (lanolin) is waterproof, that wool draws vapor away from the body, that it readily absorbs colour and that it can be stitched into designs that capture air for insulation. But the hand-knit is more than practical. It's an art form that starts with the carding of fleece and finishes when the last stitch is cast off." p.116

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michigan Fiber Festival 2008

Yesterday morning, my friend Raven and I piled into the car, drove out of town to pick up my Mum, and then the three of us headed out to Allegan for the Michigan Fiber Festival. Needless to say, we all had a blast!

Mum saw a shawl she wanted. Unfortunately the shawl wasn't for sale, but the yarns and pattern were. So, she snapped those up and commissioned me to knit it together for her. Thankfully she chose an easy pattern that uses US size 13 needles, which would knit up in no time. I have to admit she picked a really nice color, a light turquoise that will contrast nicely to her firey red hair and pale complexion.

I bumped into a few people I haven't seen in ages, one of them being Connie Young and her husband, Bill Whelan. Haven't seen these people in ages, and they seem to be doing well.

And while at the festival, I got commissioned to do a lace shawl for Rita of Yarn Hollow. She wants such a shawl using her yarns for display at her booth, and apparently word got 'round that I do good lace quickly! Mmmmm, looks like I got a good business going here without even trying!

After I got home, I had to do some serious thinking as far as all my projects go. I think Mum's shawl is a priority since it will knit quickly and easily gotten' out of the way. My current lace project will have to be hibernated. I will do the Yarn Hollow commission once I get the yarns from them and the pattern approved. I have started a club for people who want to knit Aran-style afghans ~ I will continue with that as this will be my personal project for the winter months. It almost seems that it is time to put away writing that novel on fine needles with wispy thread, and start mapping out fireside tales using chunkier and warmer yarns. This does sound like a do-able plan, but as they say.......