Thursday, May 14, 2015

cute cuter cutest!

Imagine my delight when a little stack of these adorable new books of knit toys showed up at my house the other day from KnitPicks! But the real thrill was inside...

It's my sloth! I am so excited that my pattern for a trio of knitted & felted sloths was included in this ridiculously sweet collection of knit toys. If you've been a reader of this blog for a while (a long while), you may remember when I first got excited about the two-toed sloths and decided to knit a life-sized one. Sloth was born about six years ago (around the same time as the Little Pea), and has now made the big time as a knitting pattern - with two cute little friends.   

Sloth immediately became a beloved friend in our family. I hope he'll be one for lots of other knitters now, too! The pattern is available as part of the Cute Cuter Cutest book, as a stand-alone pattern to download, or as part of a kit made with KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

i'm crocheting!

Yes, that's right, I said crocheting!

I've caught the one-hook bug for sure. Over the winter I spent a lot of time hanging out with a couple of crochet evangelists, and they convinced me to try it. With some basic instructions from a friend, and an hour in front of my laptop with the Crochet Guru, here's what I made for my first project:

I didn't make all of these... just the wonky-looking beginner penguin on the left.
Even though I'm a complete novice and I only know three stitches, I find that crochet is approximately one million times faster than knitting. That's actually the reason I wanted to learn it in the first place... I decided to knit an afghan as a gift, and I just couldn't face thousands of yards of yarn at my snail-like knitting pace. Yay crochet!

Here's the afghan-in-process so far:

I'm making it with Cascade 220 Superwash, perhaps the most versatile wool yarn ever. Such a wonderful selection of colors. I chose 9 colors for this afghan, inspired by the colors of Fiesta Ware. The pattern is a simple Edie Eckman Granny Stripe pattern I got from the internets.

My next adventure in crochet may be with Edie Eckman too... I'm itching to take her Crochet Techniques class on Craftsy. Maybe that will be my reward to myself for finishing this afghan!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

6 great last-minute gifts for knitters

Attention, spouses! You've got 5 days left til a major gift-giving holiday. Lucky for you, knitters and crocheters are easy to shop for. Here's my go-to list of last-minute gifts for the fiber lover in your life:

1. Keep their fingers flying all year with a subscription to a fiber arts magazine. Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet are obvious choices. Is s/he a relative beginner? Try Knit Simple. Fashionistas love Vogue Knitting and KnitScene. Subscribe online, print out the gift coupon, and put it inside a lovely holiday card. Classy!

Ceramic yarn bowls from Kristina Chadwick
2. One of the knitting accessories I'd never ever buy for myself, but have always lusted after, is a yarn bowl. The yarn bowl functions both as tool and decor (it keeps the yarn ball from rolling away while you work with it), so pick a pretty one that matches her/his style. There are about a million of them on Etsy in every conceivable color and style, but shipping at this point is dicey. I guarantee you that your local yarn store has quite a few in stock right now too.

The Namaste Hermosa knitting bag... drool.
3. File this one also under Stuff I'd Probably Never Buy for Myself But Would Love to Have: A stylish knitting bag. Whether you want to spend $25 or $150, you can find a great bag online and choose express shipping, or pick one up at your LYS and have it under the tree by Thursday. 

DellaQ circular needle wallet
4. Have you ever seen your Beloved Knitter struggling to untangle a pile of tangled-up circular knitting needles? Does s/he curse loudly searching for the right sized needle while digging through a drawer full of bamboo and plastic cording? S/he just might love a needle organizer - they're often called needle wallets. My favorites are made by Lantern Moon and Della Q

5. Everybody who works with their hands needs a massage right about now. It's gift-making season, and those shoulders, arms and fingers are tired. Give her/him a gift certificate for a half-hour massage. In 30 minutes, s/he will walk away with mojo restored and a smile on her/his face. This is another easy one to buy online, stick the print out in a tiny gift bag and feel like a superhero.

6. Okay, maybe this is totally obvious, but you can't do better than a generous gift certificate to your local yarn store. Support a local business, make a knitter happy, and dress it up with a shiny bow. No local yarn store? I'm really, really sorry. But there are some great online retailers too... the Webs store, Jimmy BeansKPixie and KnitPicks are full of yarn and tools that your crocheter or knitter will be delighted to browse through. 

I hope this helps! And I hope that you and your yarn lover have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 10, 2014

the new girl

This weekend we added a new hen to our backyard flock.

Michelle and Dolley can't stop staring at the new girl

(Yes we have chickens. Have I never mentioned them before? They're lovely).

The new girl's name is Abigail, named for Abigail Adams, the second first lady of the US (except that I keep calling her Abigail Van Buren because I mix up advice columnists and first ladies, apparently). All our hens are named after first ladies, thanks to our 5 year-old's interest in them. Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy and Dolley Madison have been keenly interested in the new arrival, snooping around her little quarantine coop and generally being very nosy.

Poor Abigail is a sight. Before we got her, she was penned up with five roosters (FIVE! ROOSTERS!) and a gaggle of little bantam pullets. She's awfully bedraggled, missing some large clumps of feathers, and appears to have a broken toe, the poor thing. But she's still a pretty hen, a Plymouth Rock with lovely black & white feathers, young and a good layer according to her erstwhile owner.

I hope she settles into our flock happily. Three plump nosy hens have got to be better roommates than FIVE! ROOSTERS!, right? She's going to live like poultry royalty at our house: free run of a big bug-filled backyard, organic feed, lots of yummy lunchbox leftovers, all the mealworm treats she can eat, and herbal tinctures in her water jug. Basically chicken paradise. Except for being chased by an overly-affectionate toddler who really wants a hug, because that's the price a chicken has to pay at our house in exchange for all the organic grub. Toddler love, and giving up her delicious eggs. Yay, more eggs!

P.S. Writing this post led me to find that people on Ravelry are knitting chicken clothing. Of course they are. Penguins shouldn't hog all the sweaters for themselves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

stepping out... into teaching! (gulp)

Gentleman's Shooting Stockings, ca 2006
Socktober might be almost over, but I'm not ready to move on just yet. I'd stepped away from sock-knitting for a while (get it? stepped..? nevermind) and it feels soooo good to be back.

Sock yarn! Oh man, sock yarn. For $25 you can buy yourself the goods for a spectacular, satisfying knitting project with amazing color, luxurious fibers and a guaranteed appreciative recipient (especially if you're the lucky recipient). Not to mention the portability, the relative speed, the fun of the Magic Loop....  okay, I know, I don't need to preach the Joy of Socks to y'all.

But I am going to be preaching the Joy of Socks to an unwitting group of new sock knitters in November, because I'll be teaching a sock-knitting class!!! Eep!

That's right, I'm going to be teaching my first knitting class. We're going to be knitting The Perfect Sock by Jo Torr, which is a perfect introduction to toe-up sock knitting. It's super duper exciting, and also completely terrifying. What if the students don't like me? What if I don't like them (though that seems unlikely)? What if they figure out that I ACTUALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING??? What if they hate sock knitting and spent their hard-earned money and time on a class that would have been better spent on cleaning the bathroom?!? I have all these fears and many more.

But also, I have the excitement! And also the Joy of Socks, which I really look forward to sharing. And I have the trust of Great Yarns to use wisely and not squander, so I better live up to it.

So here's what I want to know from you: Have you ever taken a knitting class? What class did you take? What did you love about it? What did the teacher do that made it a wonderful experience (or if it wasn't that, what would have made it wonderful)? What do you wish that the instructor had done differently?

Please share your wisdom... I'll be needing it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

how do your socks grow?

Child's sock / Ready to work an Afterthought Heel
So many ways to make a simple sock! I think it's time to widen my repertoire.

My standard recipe is a top-down sock with a standard heel flap. I've made them so many times that I don't need to follow a pattern at all. I have the formula in my head and I can make them in any size, any weight yarn, more or less through sheer muscle-memory. As you can imagine, I'm loath to knit socks any other way, because then I'd have to think about it, and in my experience thinking while knitting can be a really disastrous proposition.

I'm working on a pair of adorable rainbow socks right now for the Little Pea, the first pair of socks I've knitted in a while. They're made from Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, which has got to be the cutest name for the cutest sock yarn I've ever encountered. I'm loving this colorful, super-soft stripey sock yarn. It felts a little to itself, but I don't care. It's got a wonderful handle and drape, and I love the wide bands of color, each fading gradually into the next.

I really didn't want to disrupt the rainbow color pattern by knitting a heel flap, so I decided to work Afterthought Heels (or 'Forethought Heels' if you're a fan of Elizabeth Zimmerman). This is the method where you work a piece of scrap yarn into the row where the heel would start, leave it and just finish knitting the sock without a heel. Then you come back later, pull out the scrap yarn, and knit in a heel. Being a heel-flap enthusiast, I have some trepidation about my competence in this method, especially in placing the heel at just the right spot (this long and informative discussion of Afterthought Heels on Knit Better Socks boosted my confidence tremendously though). So I'm halfway through the second sock and already itching to put those heels in and see how they look (and whether they leave big gaping holes, as I fear they might).

So you toe-up knitters make lots of Afterthought Heels, right? Or do you prefer short-row heels? I've tried both and keep coming back to my tried-and-true heel flap. But I really do see the value in toe-up socks, particularly if you want to make the longest sock possible, and use up all your sock yarn without risking running out of yarn. And toe-up means no heel flap... so perhaps I really do need to make friends with a wider variety of heel-knitting methods.

I'm thinking about teaching a sock-knitting class this winter, and I'd love to know what y'all think. What's your favorite way to knit a sock? Are there any sock secrets or techniques you're dying to learn? And while we're talking about it, I'd love to know what your favorite patterns are for a great sock that's fun to knit. Please share your ideas in the comments! Thanks!