3KCBW Day 7 -- Crafting Balance

Crafting Balance
Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both?  If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it?  Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook?  Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft?

A little known fact about me is that I learned to crochet before I ever attempted to knit.  When I was in high school we went to visit some family friends, one of whom, Mary, was extremely crafty.  The woman could craft anything.  As a kid when my parents desperately needed to get a night away we would be deposited with Mary and her husband for fun-filled crafting, activities, and old movies.  I learned a lot of different crafting skills from Mary.  And just like card-making, the crochet never stuck.

I have tried my hand at many crafts.  I experimented and dabbled with just about every crafty thing you can think of -- but only knitting has survived.  I don't even know where my old crochet pieces are, but I still have all my knitting, right down to the hideous and embarrassing.  As a consequence, I have no crafting balance.  Whenever I can, I'm knitting.  When I can't I am talking about knitting.  Or thinking about knitting.  Or devising ways to be able to knit next time I am stuck in this situation.  People who find this a bit overwhelming and obsessive (and there are a lot of these) did not know the child Faith, who tried to sit still and be good but was constantly fidgeting and doodling and getting herself into trouble.

In a lot of ways you could say that knitting provides it's own sense of balance.  I may not balance it out with another activity, but I don't need to because the knitting is already creating a balance.  Just take my knitting away during my lunch break and you'll understand -- the knitting is not there because I am a balanced, patient person.  It is there to balance out the crazy person who is unable to hold still, let alone stop biting her fingernails.

The above is a hint at what I have been working on this week.  I've really enjoyed participating again this year in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week and I cannot believe that it is over!  I hope all of you continue to come back to this space.  It has been awesome getting to know other bloggers over the week and finding new ways to communicate.  A big thank you to Eskimimi for pulling all of this together yet again for another year of fun! To read more on this last topic round search for 3KCBWDay7.


3KCBW Day 6 -- Improving Skillset

Improving Your Skillset
How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be?  Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base?

I don't know if I will ever consider myself to be a proficient knitter.  I joined Ravelry in the fall of 2008 and that is when I feel I became a Knitter rather than someone who knit garter stitch scarves with hanging ends because I never learned to bind off (yeah, I was that person).  One of the nice things about teaching myself to knit is that I had no concept of what was "hard."  For me everything was hard and maybe that was just because I had no idea what I was doing.  I've had some spectacular failures -- there's an alpaca lace halter top of which we do not speak.  Do not immerse alpaca.  Lesson learned.  But there have also been some great triumphs when something just clicked and I realized what I was doing made absolute sense.  Those moments are not super frequent, but they do happen more often (expect a fabulous screw up sometime soon -- I set myself up for that one).

One thing I really want to do but that I have only dabbled in is colorwork.  I've done some striped shawls and hats, and I knit the Cairn hat and mitts which use mosaic knitting, but I want to do more.  Really, I want to do a sweater in more than one color.  The dream is to one day do intarsia (complete with steeks), but stripes would be just grand.  Like say Allyson Dukhuizen's new Umbre Lovre?

Striped, mod, and done in Knit Picks.  It looks like something I'd see in a magazine and wish I had a pattern.  I have the pattern, I just don't have the yarn.

Then there's the idea of colorwork socks.  Like the Crystal Socklet pattern by Lynn DT Hershberger.  They look perfect for using up some leftovers.

But probably the only thing I will actually make in the next year or so is Ysolda Teague's Hendreary.

It's a hat with a knitted button.  It must be mine.

Don't forget to read other Knitting and Crochet Blog Week posts by searching 3KCBWDay6!  And thanks to everyone for the positive comments left on yesterday's video post.  It was a lot of fun to make!


3KCBW Day Five -- Something a Bit Different

Something a Bit Different
This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create. There are no rules of a topic to blog about but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog.

Last year's "something different" post was a rousing success with Mr Irish Bear's great Yarn Heist. This year, in an effort to step once again out of my comfort zone I decided to do something I have absolutely never done -- video

Knit and Crochet Blog Week 2012 Day 5 from Faith tVS on Vimeo.

If you like what you see please let me know by way of a comment. And if you think I'm deserving, feel free to nominate me for today's prize here.


3KCBW Day Four -- A Knitter for All Seasons

A Knitter or Crocheter For All Season?
As spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and those in the southern hemisphere start setting their sights for the arrival of winter, a lot of crocheters and knitters find that their crafting changes along with their wardrobe.  Have a look through your finished projects and explain the seasonality of your craft to your readers.  Do you make warm woolens the whole yer through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items. How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?

My philosophy on knitting is to knit as inspiration strikes.  Actually, this is not true, I usually have a plan of things I intend to make, but I never stick with them.  Instead I get myself sucked into things like the Great Cowl KAL or sidetracked by some pretty yarn that I must knit RIGHT NOW.  But as a whole, I tend to knit whatever I feel like, regardless of the season.

As a caveat, I do live in North Carolina.  Nine months out of the year I do not knit with bulky wool.  It just isn't fun.  Instead I knit mostly lighter weight sweaters and smaller items like socks, shawls, and hats.  I hear a lot of knitters, even those who love to knit socks, claim that they cannot wear their socks in the warmer months.  I work at a place that requires socks and shoes, so I've always got some on.  And to keep ahead of any blow outs, I've pretty much become a year round sock knitter.

I keep playing with the idea that I am going to knit ahead by a season, but that really is not practical around here.  I might feel like knitting a worsted weight hoodie, but only if I drape myself over an air conditioning unit in the middle of the night and have a lot of ice standing at the ready.  Looking at last year's knitting I can tell you exactly when we went from chilly to hot.

I knit Rondeur in April and did not go back to warm knits until October when I knit up Twisty Frosted Violets.

As we are moving into summer I have already pulled out my tank tops and skirts, put away my sweaters, and settled my Rocky Coast Cardi on the wip shelf until I am ready to work with worsted weight again.

To learn more about knitting in other climates, search for 3KCBWDay4 on Google.


3KCBW Day 3 -- Knitting Hero

Your Knitting or Crochet Hero
Blog about someone in the fiber crafts who truly inspires you.

I am one of a breed of knitter who seems to be unique to the internet age.  Or at least that's the impression I get when I meet people.  I taught myself how to knit with pattern kits and dusty library books.  I can't remember the name of the book I actually used, but it taught me how to bind off -- after a year of attempts can you imagine how magical that was?  There are many people who were lucky enough to be taught by a family member.  A grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, their mother.  I had no such concept of a knitting heritage.  Until my mother gave me this.

Taken in California in the late sixties/early seventies, this is a snapshot of my grandmother.  Knitting.  Evidently when my mom was a kid my grandmother was always knitting, in the same way that I am now knitting in every spare moment.  I have vague memories of my grandmother before she was diagnosed with a debilitating disease that slowly took her memories of who we were.  Put into context, these are memories from when my sister was learning to walk -- she's now turning 21 on Friday (do not get me started, I can't handle it).  But after she died I started to learn more and more about the crafting legacy that I unknowingly inherited.

For example, my grandmother was a very thrifty lady.  After she had made the year's woolies, she would take her leftovers to make mittens.  My mom talks about them every year  and she was thrilled when I made my Sparkly Skid (above) and told her it was knit from shawl leftovers.  Evidently I am fitting into a pattern I did not realize existed.  Like a fairytale character who cannot figure out why she is so different until she finds out that she is a princess and had been living with the kind woodcutter's wife all this time to keep her safe.

I do not have any of my grandmother's knitting, but I do have a scarf knitted by my mom.  Turns out that she was the only one of the four daughters to refuse to knit.  But a few years ago she asked me  to teach her.  And she's not the only one returning to her knitting roots.  All three of her sisters have once again picked up needles and hooks.  My aunt, who made the bag below, described it as a way to connect with their mother who is now gone.  She might have left us several years ago, but they find tactile ways to remember her -- and the sense memories are strong.

They might not have returned to knitting until later in life, but the women of my family -- even those who do not knit -- are a crafty lot.  My one aunt was an artistic quilter, the other two create beaded jewelry that sells in craft shows in the North East.  Even my sister and several cousins have caught the bug.

Even though I barely knew her, I do think my grandmother inspired this legacy of creation.  I keep this photo in the center of my inspiration board so that I'll always connect back to my roots.  Because even in this internet age of self-taught knitters there is still heritage -- you just have to look.

Find other knitting and crochet heroes by searching 3KCBWDay3 in Google.


3KCBW Day 2 -- Photography Challenge Day

For today's photography challenge, Mr. Irish Bear returns with another photo story all about the trials of learning to knit.

Find more great photography by searching 3KCBWDay2 or clicking here.


3KCBW Day 1 -- Colour Lovers

Colour Lovers
Colour is one of our greatest expressions of ourselves when we choose to knit or crochet, so how do you choose what colours you buy and crochet or knit with?  Have a look through your stash and see if there is a predominance of one colour.  Do the same with your finished projects -- do they match?  Do you love a rainbow of bright hues, or more subdued tones?  How much attention do you pay to the original colour that a garment is knit in when you see a pattern?  Tell readers about your love or confusion over colour.

First of all, right off the bat I think I need to point out that even though I am an American I adore the UK spelling of "color" as "colour".  It gives the word so much more flavor.  And that is what colour is really about for me -- flavor.

I'll be the first to admit that I may not be the most colour coordinated person around.  I like to take colour risks.  Sometimes it works and I feel very fashion forward.  Sometimes it fails and I am quick to blame the fact that I really don't have any fashion sense.  I wore uniforms for six years of my life and nothing will make you crave colour in your life more than navy, khaki, and maroon plaid skirts.  If you visit my high school today there are several nit-picky rules that apply to colour and come with the footnote "you can blame Faith for this one."  My favorite ways to get colour in my days was through my socks, which is something you can still say for my handknit ones today (they look much more sedate sitting together, but they're all bright and crazy when viewed solo).

A quick flip through the stash does not turn up a predominance of any one colour.  Looking at the stash I've acquired just this year shows a wide variety of shades -- and these are just the skeins waiting to be knit.

I am one of those people who looks at what they have before they buy more stash.  I don't have a large disposable income, so I have to make my purchases count.  The exception to the rule is when yarn is named after certain geeky things. This really is how I have started making my purchase decisions.  Yes it is pretty, but what is it named after?

With regards to a colour preference, I don't really have one.  As long as there is colour, I'm happy.  I did go through a red phase last year -- probably an unforseen consequence of spending so long deep in Soviet research -- and I have recently dabbled in more sedate hues, but I am fast moving back to bright colours, verigation, and maybe even just a tad bit of neon.  I have a wedding coming up, so you'd think I'd be interested in whites and pale pale pinks, but no -- I may not be able to pull off tangerine without becoming as white as a china doll, but I can rock a most shocking shade of blue.


FO: Swap Madness

I finished two small projects this week, but it feels like I got something huge off of my wip list.  Somehow I managed to get myself involved with two swaps that had deadlines within days of each other and both had knitting components.  Then I somehow managed to forget about both of them until the last second.

You have already seen this square (Lorena Haldeman's March 2009 afghan square), but now it's blocked and ready to go as my first installment of The Knitgirllls Afghan Square Swap.  I'll be honest here -- I don't know why I decided to participate in this.  I had no desire to knit a blanket.  I have knit one, but that was for someone else and was not done in individual squares.  At the same time, I think I wanted to participate because it seemed to foster some community, kind of like the Blog Hub Swap made for an entertaining set of months with a package at the end.

The other swap I joined was the Subway Knits podcast Downton Abbey swap.  In this instance I think it was a case of "there are only limited spots, I have to join now! NownowNOW!" that got me sucked into it.  I have to admit here that I am not a Victorian era girl.  I like Downton Abbey and the occasional steam punk novel, but I am not into Jane Austin, the Titanic, or anything else my brain associates with this extended period of crazy rules and morals.  But I love Downton Abbey, and since my swapee said she was a Lady Edith fan I have had a lot of fun trying to find something to send to her that is not bland or an adultress.

This bag is Veronik Avery's Leafy Knot Clutch from Knitting 24/7.  It is a pretty pattern and knit up nicely in some Debbie Bliss cotton/silk from which I had liberated my mother, but it was one of the most frustrating knits I have ever made.  Fortunately I looked at other people's projects and found some very helpful explanations from people who had more time than I did.  It's the handles, man.  They're overly complicated.  But I think the result is lovely despite the eleventy-billion ends.

Of course there's some tea and a lovely skein of Cakewalk Yarns in the color "Duckpond", because I could totally see Edith carrying this bag by a duckpond while wearing a delicate shawl.  Now I just have to find something tasty to go along with the tea.  What tastes good with peppermint?


Strange Productivity

I was reminded of something today -- The earlier I get out of bed the more I get accomplished.  When I was in graduate school I started waking up really early because I made greater progress, and more valuable progress, in the early morning than I did late at night.  By the time I was writing my thesis I was up around 430 or 5 to get writing done before work, rather than trying to squeeze it in when I got home.  Since I graduated I stopped doing this, but old habits appear to be resurfacing.  Today is my day off.  They come rather sporadically (though new developments may result in a set schedule starting next month), and I try to take advantage of them.  So why did I wake up at 4am?

Here's what I've accomplished in the past twelve hours:

1) 530am zumba class -- I decided since I was awake anyway I should give it a try.  And you know what?  There are bongos and cute old men at the 530 class!

2) Watching the first two episodes of Don't Trust the B in Apt 23.  Lucy's back!

3) All of the laundry.  And I do mean all.

4) Handwashing all of my tights to be put away for the season.  Just a head's up, it will probably snow now.

5) Reorganizing my knitting supplies, books, and magazines

6) Watching all of season one of Real Housewives of New Jersey -- Hey, a girl's gotta have something going on while she's doing all this laundry.  And nothing else was on tv.  Don't judge me.

7) Weaving in all of the ends on my Downton Abbey swap project.  That's a frak ton of ends.  In cotton.

8) Paperwork -- Really, I just made more piles and then put some in the corner and some in the trash.

9) Knitted my afghan square for The Knitgirllls Afghan Square Swap.  This little beauty is knit out of Malabrigo Rios and was almost enough to convince me that I would like to knit my own afghan -- if someone else bought the yarn for me.

Now I am drinking some tea, watching Stockinette Zombies, and trying to decide what project to cast on so I can use my new Tangerine Designs bag.

I know, right?


FO: V Junkie Socks

I have two new addictions -- Alice Yu, Socktopus, patterns and Cakewalk Yarns.  And they go so well together.  Alice's patterns are just this side of complicated with their pretty and functional design.  Plus a lot of them have an inspiration that makes my little geeky heart sing.  Cakewalk colorways are full of fun and vibrant colors that jump all over the knitted canvas.  Together I have found that they create socks that instantly catch the eye but do not lose the patterning or muddle the colors when put together (I have a second pair on the go that will further prove this point).

V Junkie, from Socktopus, in Cakewalk Yarns Footsie, Chalkboard

These are my favorite socks.  I cannot pinpoint the exact date that I finished them because I immediately wore them and have had them on my feet at least two days a week since then.  I did not even get these pictures taken before I road tested them with long hours on my feet at work.  Footsie, Cakewalk's sock yarn base, is a dream to work with.  It's very tight and does not feel overly soft in the skein, but once it has been washed it makes for super cozy sock.  The stitch definition is gorgeous and I have not had the pilling problem that I have come to accept will happen on the heel of all of my socks.  Before I had these off my needles I ordered another skein.  It really is like cake -- I can't stop at just one bite.

The pattern itself is a thing of genius.  I have never used a garter stitch heel before, but I love how it worked up.  I'm a short-row heel fan because I love the way they hug my feet.  I did modify the foot patterning a bit because I had heard that the socks themselves came out too big.  I knit the medium size and only did two repeats of the cell pattern before I started the pattern decrease.  Instead of knitting to one cell before I started the toe I started that at the one cell and knit a short-row toe that started on the top of the foot and grafted under the toes.  I am really proud of that little stroke of genius. I have never felt comfortable with my sock knitting to do more than change from one style toe to another, never mind just change things up so that it fits my foot better.

These have fast become my favorite socks ever.  I really need to finish up this next pair so that I can justify another purchase.  You know how some people get every color of Socks that Rock?  I may just start collecting every color of Cakewalk.  Cause if it's a "collection" then it really isn't stash -- right?


Getting Out There

Today is the Boston Marathon!  I love having the day off when there is a big race because twitter just goes nuts.  In honor of one of the biggest races of the year, I was going to write about how much I am enjoying running and how much it has helped me lately, but then last night I went for a run and it kicked me in the butt!  A few days ago I ran my longest run ever -- just under an hour and somewhere between four and five miles (I know, kind of slow, but I listen to podcasts while I run and the talking does not get me moving as fast as a good beat, but it does keep me moving).  Yesterday I set out to run a comparable amount, but ended up struggling just to get back home because somebody forgot to eat enough at lunch to have enough fuel to burn.

It was really disappointing to have such a struggle yesterday, but then today I went to zumba and rocked it out. I was late, so I was in the back of the room instead of my standard second/third row.  I forgot how fun and uncompetative the back of the room is.  Even though zumba is based firmly in dancing, I never feel sexy while I'm doing it.  But today I remembered why I joined the Y.  The great thing about running is that I can get away from everything and be alone for a while.  The great thing about taking these classes is that I am not alone.  The Y is a very open environment.  If you are a part of the local community, you are welcome to attend any class which you can physically handle.  And even those who can't.  We have a few not-quite elderly women who take these classes who have a blast doing what limited movements they can.  And they love it!  I got pulled up to the front with some stay at home moms for a few songs and we had a blast together.

It is amazing how much better I feel after working out.  I went up to my teacher after class and told her how much I appreciate this class.  It has been two and a half years since my car accident and this is the first thing I've been able to do, besides run, that has not hurt my back.  In fact, it helps.  It makes life so much better when I can do something that does not cause me pain.  And it gets me out of the apartment and brings me into contact with other people.

After class I felt so good I was able to sit and finish one of my deadline knits.

Francis the Llama models the Leafy Knot Clutch knit for my Downton Abbey swap partner.  He's looking very Edwardian.


FO: Dark Chocolate Froot Loops

Normally my disappearing for a time without notice would elicit some sort of apology from me.  But I'm not really sorry.  I reached a point after the last post where I could not seem to get excited about my knitting.  I had too many things on the needles and not enough time to finish them in and of course a firm mental block about accepting that fact.  I'm sure no one minds that I decided to not spread those bad vibes around our community.  But I'm back now with something finished! (Actually I have two FOs, but I only have pictures of the one)

(For some reason Blogger won't let me link that to here)

One of the knitting deadlines I was rapidly approaching was my mom's birthday.  My mom is a great sport.  She has always been on the receiving end of rather unusual undertakings that always work out splendidly when someone else makes them (Eva made her jewelry out of caps from her nursing floor) and disastrously when I try.  No matter how odd or ill-fitting, she always takes the gift in stride and accepts it as only a mother can -- with grace and an enthusiastic smile.  This year I decided to give her something I know she's been angling for and that I finally feel confident in making.

Froot Loop by Kristi Geraci in Malabrigo Sock

When I decided to make socks for Mom I had plenty of time.  So I threw the idea to that part of my brain where things live until they resurface with a plan.  Usually that happens spontaneously on a run (like the current plan to somehow have my wedding programs modeled on knitting patterns, though I've thrown that one back until it comes back with an actual image) or while I'm dealing with a crowd of people at work.  But that did not happen this time.  Instead my brain left it there until I was only a month out from her birthday.  Fortunately I had found a skein of Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Archangel that reminded me of the dark chocolate mini Cadberry eggs and just screamed Mom (I'm not the only one who thinks so).  Unfortunately it took several rejected patterns to find the right look.

After I finally cast these on they went very fast.  The pattern becomes pretty intuitive and though it seems tight on the needles, the ribbing really opens up when blocked.  I made my standard modifications, doing a short-row heel with no gusset and a short-row toe, because I have found these to fit my feet better.  Mom and I have worn the same size shoes for years and so I felt pretty confident giving her a pair of socks that fit me.

Overall?  Thumbs up on both the pattern and yarn.  I'm a little worried that these will wear out fast, but I have a lot leftover.  The risk of damage is far outweighed by both the softness and the grin on my mom's face when I threw them across the living room after weaving in the ends.