Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Being Accountable

Someone once told me that you should always do what you say you are going to do, and when you don't, clean it up with the people you told.

2014 Resolution Results

Just looked back at my resolutions for 2014, and here they are:
  1. Finish the kid alpaca blanket/coffin cover.
    • Failed - Okay, I made quite a bit of progress on this blanket, and I've even started working on the edge trim, but I didn't finish it.  Honestly, it will take me the rest of 2015 to finish it most likely.
  2. Get down below 195 pounds and stay there (or less).  It's where I'm most comfortable and feel the best about myself.
    • Achieved - Through diet and exercise I quickly got my weigh under 195 and have stayed there all year.  I've never felt better, except at 5:15 am when my alarm goes off to tell me to get ready to go to my health club.
  3. Blog on average at least twice a week.
    •  Failed - Including this post, I've blogged 103 times this year which is an average of about 1.98 posts per week.  I have to admit, I counted on doing a full of posts for a blogathon again this year, but I didn't.
  4. Publish at least one new design on Ravelry


                    5.  Finish piecing the current quilt top I'm working on
      • Failed - I grew really tired of the quilting pattern and lost all interested in it.
Overall, not a very successful year for resolutions, so I will resolve to do better next year.

Current Knitting

I started a new pair of socks using the yarn I bought in Montreal at Espace Tricot.


The yarn is dyed and wound into balls by one of the employees of the yarn store and I can't say enough about it.  Not sure if they're still carrying it, but if you can get them to sell you a few balls, you won't be sorry...it's called Scrumptiouspurl and this colourway is "Ghouls Night Out".

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Merry Christmas Indeed

I love being around my family, and Christmas is usually the time I get to spend the most concentrated amount of time with many of them.

My mom and niece Kelly

And I Get Gifts

Being known as "the knitter" in the family, my family often thinks of me when they see knitting-related items at a yard sale or flea market.  My sister-in-law in Massachusetts (she's the one the used to be my sister-out-of-law until they changed the laws) is an avid yard sale person, so I was the proud recipient of all this:

America's Knitting Book



The copy of "America's Knitting Book" by Gertrude Taylor is a great book, especially for someone looking for a great beginner's guide to knitting.  The stack of patterns/magazines were mostly Classic Elite patterns with such famous designer names as Linda Pratt, Kristin Nicholas and Melissa Leapman.  There were also some miscellaneous magazines and random designs.

Current Knitting

I finished the third of three hats, any of which my niece Sadie is welcome to have.

I have to admit, I really love Stephen West's "Westward" hat design.  It allowed me to try a new technique (to me) for the Latvian braid, and it makes a really nice hat.

I'd model it for you, but I would make it look like crap.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone

I know not all of you celebrate Christian holidays, but whether you go to your local Chinese restaurant on the 25th of December, or your local church, I hope you enjoy the day.





Gifts from the Far East (or Far West)

KiwiJames never ceases to amaze me with his thoughtful knit-related Christmas gifts each year.

Those lovely hand-knit stockinettes, are a bit distorted because they're filled with New Zealand chocolate.

Current Knitting

I finished the Cascade Scarf #4 project (with my modifications) and it turned out being a bit longer than 6 feet long.

I truly wish I could show you the soft, silky drape of this "garment"...it turned out as beautiful to feel as it is to look at...maybe more so if you don't like the look.



Finn is hoping you have a nice holiday season as well.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Craving the Quilting

A little while ago, Thaddeus and I had the good fortune to spend some time with quilting people, including Brandon and Kaffe at a little luncheon at Liza's (Kaffe raved about Thaddeus' apple pie...just sayin').

And Now...

...I either need to go to Morocco, or start quilting again (or both!).

Kaffe's latest masterpiece is Quilts in Morocco (check out the Amazon link and you can view many of the quilts in the book...they're amazing, which is no surprise).


It just amazes me that the quilts he and Brandon and Liza (and others) come up with can get better and better and come up with patterns and colors that are just sublime.

Two different versions of his Hexagon quilt from this book are advertised as kits at Glorious Colors and they're both...well, glorious.

Brandon is coming back locally soon to do workshops on color.  I've been to his workshops before and he his truly inspirational.

Life is a Party Cake…

Lecture by Brandon Mably
Brandon’s inspirational color  and design lecture.
Learn about Brandon’s knitting and quilting journey.
5pm-7pm: $25
January 20, 2015
Olde City Quilts, Burlington, NJ
Register & Info:  609-747-0075 or www.oldecityquilts.com

If you're more interested in interacting with him and getting in touch with your inner color-voice, you can actually design a quilt with him in Pennington.

Mad, Mad World of Color

Workshop by Brandon Mably
Design a unique color way within a traditional hexagon structure.
9am - 4pm: $120
January 21st Pennington Quilt Works, Pennington, NJ
Register & Info: 609-737-4321 or www.penningtonquilts.com 

Brandon's workshops usually sell out pretty quickly, so if you're interested, decide quickly.

Current Knitting

Finished my test hat, Stephen West's Westward design and it's a great hat design.


I'm debating on whether to add a pompom to the top of it or just leave it off and add it if my niece wants that hat and wants a pompom.  




I think I'll try to knit up two more of these hats before I see my niece and let her choose which she prefers.  I bought some yarn at twist the other night that I'll use for the two other hats.



I also got about a meter of edging finished for the kid alpaca blanket I've been knitting for a few thousand years.


Of course I'd choose an edging that grows even more slowly than the blanket (it's reversible, so it requires double the stitches for the cable section).





But truthfully, from a structural standpoint, I don't think I could have designed a nicer edging than this one.  Can't wait to see what it looks like when the blanket's finished.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Value of a Book

Having watched a number of my friends publish books, it was amazing to note how much work went into the project of getting a book into print.  Content, designs, photos, proofreading, etc, etc., etc.




P.C. - Pre-Computers

Can you imagine what it took to get a book published prior to the days of computers and digital images and e-mail?  That's what went through my mind when I found this little historical gem at my local flea market.


In addition to all the historical information Mrs. Lowes must have gathered, she would have also needed to gather a number of photographs or objects that could be photographed.


The display above shows that each illustration/photograph is covered with a tissue.  This one even has words printed on the tissue, but most others don't.  But you'll also note (if you look closely) that this book was printed in 1908...over a hundred years ago.  The printing, binding and finishing process must have been a lot of work as well.  You'll note below that some of the pages hadn't been completely cut during the finishing process, and not ONE of the readers of this book in the last 100 years found it important enough to cut this page open.





Given the importance of this book, I can fully understand why the author and publisher and all the contributors would have gone to such great lengths to get it to the readers.  I'll leave you with the first page of Mrs. Lowes' conclusions on Old Lace and Needlework.


Current Knitting

I did another few inches of work on Cascade Scarf #4 over the weekend.


I only have about 12 more inches to work on this scarf/wrap, so I anticipate I should finish it by the end of the week.  In fact, I might have finished it already, had I not started on a new test-hat project for my niece.


 This is the headband section of a hat by Stephen West called Westward.  Both the Latvian braids at the top and bottom and the chevrons both pint Westward.  I'll hope to finish the top of the hat sometime this week as well.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Everyone Should Have a Thaddeus

My husband is really quite amazing in a number of ways, but researching and learning on the internet is something he does better than most.

From Shopping to Computer Upgrades

Whether it's finding the perfect shirt to give as a gift to our brother-in-law, or teaching himself to upgrade the memory and hard drive in my lap top...Thaddeus is most impressive.

Recently, he noticed how slow my Mac Book Pro worked.  It's worked this slowly since we bought it in 2011, but since I do a lot of my computer work on my work lap top, it wasn't a big deal to me.  But it was completely unacceptable to Thaddeus.  He immediately set out to find out whether a RAM upgrade would fix the performance issue and how to find out how much RAM I actually had, and how much of it was being used.

He ended up doubling my ram from 4 to 8 gig and also replacing my hard drive with a solid state hard drive.  Even though he's never done this before, he was able to order the correct parts, determine he had all the tools necessary and install the new parts in my lap top.  The installation took about 20 minutes...it was quite surprising.

The result is, my computer runs like new...well...better than new...it's about 10 times as fast as it used to be.

And, he used the RAM he took out of my laptop, to add more to his iMac.  Like I said, amazing.

Current Knitting/Spinning

Zipping along on my current scarf/wrap project and thinking I may need to start a new project soon.


I've added about 15 inches since the last photo and I'm still enjoying working on this project.  My niece has asked me to knit her a hat, so I may add that in as a new project shortly.

I also started back spinning the mohair/romney blend I got from Mindy at Puff the Magic Rabbit.






I saw some brioche stitch knitting by Nancy Marchant on Facebook that I think would be a perfect use of this handspun yarn, so now I'm even more inspired to get some yarn made.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Selma writes, "Joe, you might really enjoy knitting the patterns of Hanne Falkenberg. Lots of color changes, fascinating engineering, and, often, totally garter stitch."

Actually, I used to love Hanne's designs when I was working in the yarn store...my current project kind of reminds me of her designs in a much simpler way.  I hated that you had to buy a kit to get her designs.  I thought they were too expensive for what you got.   Also, most of the women I knit for wouldn't have looked very good in her designs, so I never ended up doing any of them.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Stressless Knitting

Some folks tell me how peaceful it must be knitting and I usually tell them that I'm a pretty frenetic knitting and it's not peaceful or meditative for me at all.

This Project is Different

My current project is quite different.  Kind of.

Since it's all garter stitch, and requires very little shaping or color changes, my current Cascade Scarf #4 project is incredibly peaceful and meditative for me.

Don't get me wrong, I still aggressively work to get to the next color block and I want this project...like all my projects...to move along quickly.

But the actual knitting has been incredibly calming...I finally understand the Zen of knitting.

Current Knitting

I have gotten to the first block of the red color in the scarf, and I'm liking it more and more.


Just to give you a sense of scale, the center column is about 30 inches so far (and will eventually be about 72 inches.  The drape of the scarf is just beautiful and the fabric is soft and silky.

It's going to be a great scarf when it's finished.

Friday, December 05, 2014

More Blog Swag

See?!?!  It pays to be a hit-whore when it comes to blogging!

Another Reason to Love Australia

Cleckheaton has started putting out a new line of Superfine Merino from Australia, and they were kind enough to send me a hat kit with their new yarn.


Their yarn is the same base fiber as the yarn from KPC Yarns, with a few differences.  First of all, this is identified as 8 ply or what I'd probably call DK weight yarn (approximately).  Second, Cleckheaton thought it would be a good idea to send a "kit" which spotlighted their yarn, and I think that was a smart way to market a yarn gift.  Finally, Cleckheaton writes a lot about how much care they take with their relationship to the farms that raise their sheep, making sure to mention that they don't use any farms the use mulesing to protect their Merino sheep from flystrike.

This is definitely a company I would purchase yarn from because of their care.

Plus, the yarn is some of the softest I've ever touched and I like the colors they sent...safe and conservative perhaps, but beautiful.

Current Knitting

Worked a lot on my current Cascade Scarf #4 so I could get to the stripe where I introduce the third (and last color) into the design.






I kind of took the advice of "Anonymous Too", who suggested that before the scarf got too big, take it to my local yarn store and look at my options.  Actually, I pulled out all my DK weight yarn  where I had enough for this design (which is almost like going to a yarn store it turns out) and chose my favorite color combination.

I'll really look forward to getting to the solid red section of the scarf to see how I really like it...and confirm I have enough to finish the design as specified in the pattern (with my adaptations).


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Hand Knit Gifts

Over the years, I've given a number of my hand knits as gifts and I've decided that giving hand knits as gifts at Christmas is fine, but not for birthdays.

Here's Why

I always think that a birthday celebration should be about the person with the birthday, and not be hijacked by someone because their gift is fabulous.

I have made some exceptions to this rule, but not many (there was one time I went to a surprise birthday party for an acquaintance, and it was held by two extremely wealthy men...our gift to the birthday guy was a spectacular bonzai tree...a miniature maple tree that totally impressed the hosts, which was all we really cared about).

A number of times, before I had this rule, a birthday gift recipient would open up a fabulous hand knit and the rest of the time it was all about me, the knitter rather than the person who should be getting the attention. 

Ever since, even if someone has asked me for a birthday gift of something hand knit, I usually give them the gift, but not as a birthday gift. 

Current Knitting

With the completion of a few works in progress, I thought it might be a good time to start a new project.  One of my on-line knitting groups was considering a Knit-a-long, and I really liked the project he chose, so I decided to start my own version of it.

The pattern is Cascade Scarf #4 by Brian Smith

I decided to do a more muted version in dark gray and camel, and also do a finer gauge version in DK weight instead of worsted.  I also made the scarf/now wrap about twice as wide, although I'll probably go with approximately the same length of 72"

 I need to start a third color soon...any suggestions on what I should add in to make this scarf as beautiful as the original (or at least beautiful)?


Readers' Comments/Questions

Regarding my last pair of socks I completed, Hayes writes, "So if you were using up all the yarn you had for them, how'd you measure-out the yarn to get them both the same size?"

In a really stupid way.  I should have just written that I knit both socks at the same time...one from the inside strand of a center-pull ball and one from the outside...which is what I started doing.  I just got tired of constantly untangling the yarns and after I got both socks up past the heel, I re-wound the ball into a two-strand ball (pulling one strand from the inside and one from the outside) and then I broke the yarn at the end.  Then I re-wound each yarn-length into separate center-pull balls, untangling the mess I made frequently.  It's a good think I like knitting.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Yarn Samples

A number of times I've been approached by new or new-ish yarn companies, who are trying to get their name out there.

KPC - Knit-Purl-Crochet Yarns

KPC yarns generously offered to send me a sampling of their yarns all the way from Hong Kong.

I got four balls of their DK weight yarn (which is my preferred weight for most projects.

Using the same factors I used to evaluate MJ Yarns from Jonathan, here's how the KPC yarns rate in my estimation:

Durability - Not Evaluated.  I haven't had the chance to try out this yarn.  Four balls isn't really enough to start a project with.
Uniformity - Very high.  Exceptionally fine consistency in the two DK weight yarns I got to see (100% Ultra Fine Merino and 30%Cotton/70% Merino blend)
Color/Dyeing - High.  KPC has a wide variety of colors, many I think are beautiful.  The orange one in the photo is 100% Ultra Fine Merino in their Saffron color.  It's more orange than they show on their web site, but less orange than my photo would indicate.  But it's got a great tweediness to it that I like a lot.
Put-Up - Good to Average.  50 grams, 136 yards, in a beautifully wound center-pull ball that is secured with the logo'ed ribbon.  136 yards for me is too small, especially if I'm going to knit a sweater in all one color.  The Ultra Fine Merino is very smooth...almost slippery and the balls often unwinds, so the ribbon used to secure the balls is a great idea.
Retail Availability - Low.  The only place I could find to order this yarn was directly from the distributor in Hong Kong.  Not sure if there are any North American stockists yet, but I couldn't find one.

Tactile Pleasure - Very High.  Both yarns (Novomerino and Glencoul) are soft as cashmere in the ball.  I would imagine I would love working with either or both of these yarns, even on a large-scale project.
 

Current Spinning

I've checked off another Work-In-Progress by finishing up spinning Lulu the Llama from Teri's farm, Wunsapana Farms.
 
 
First of all, I finished spinning the singles and then the plying went very fast.


The resulting yarn is 8.3 ounces of pure llama, two-ply yarn...about 508 yards of yarn in total (which classifies it as a worsted weight yarn).




 
Despite scouring the fleece twice before carding it, there is still quite a bit of dirt in the yarn, so I will scour/degrease it once more and then I will probably dye it.   There is a beautiful haze on this yarn that will show up as a very soft and warm looking knitted fabric.  I can't wait to use this.