Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stitches West 2007, Waited All Year (Part 2)

I have to admit that I went to stitches to buy specific things. Everything was wonderful to look at but much as I admire good eye-candy, I had goals in mind. I was out for laceweight yarn and not just any laceweight yarn. I wanted primarily to get to Skaska Designs. You really can't buy on the net from them. You have go to a show where they are at. You have to touch, see, smell and appreciate the beautiful and unique yarn. I got to the booth and went hog-wild. I bought enough to make me happy and that is saying something. Still, their yarn was not the only thing I bought. The red/orange cashmere is by Just our Yarn (500 yards 2/26, colorway Myne). Beautiful Merino/Silk fiber 50%/50% from Blue Moon Fiber Arts (see side-bar for link), Four skeins of cream colored 65% wool 35% silk (50 g/1,300 yds/skein) from Skaska Designs (see side-bar for link)Lavender/green hand-dyed merino from Skaska Designs (100% merino, 100 gms. 1,375 yds 25/2) Gray silk/yak (55/45)also from Skaska Designs (100 grams, 1,675 yds/skein 32/2). I picked up some dye in pinks/violets, point protectors and my sister bought me a yarn counter so I can figure out how many yards of yarn I spun. The lone white skein of yarn is tencel and merino wool called HEAVEN by Yarn Place (4.2 ounces 3,100 yds)Beautiful Baby Alpaca Lace from Lisa Souza (colorway Sun bleached Mahogany, 6 ounces/1,500 yds 100% baby alpaca). Last, but not least, glass circular needles from Sheila & Michael Ernst. They put on cables so I could have 40 inch circulars in US 3-4. They are so beautiful I can't do them justice in these photographs. They are light, slick and wonderful to work with. This should hold me for awhile:-)
For those who wonder, yes I wore Mountain Pines to Stitches. I don't look great in a shawl but it was all about showing off the work. I did get stopped several times. The questions were about the same. What pattern was it. Where could they get it. What yarn did I use. How long did it take. You could tell the new knitters from the old-timers. When I told the new knitters that I spun the yarn for it they all were shocked. Old-timers took it in stride but usually said I did a good job on the spinning. What can I say? It was Stitches for goodness sake. Ya gotta show-off. I don't have pictures from Stitches. They don't allow photographs. I also don't have pictures of the stuff Mo, Millie or Marlene bought but they did a lot of damage to their pocketbooks, believe me.
Now to actually do these beautiful products justice!
Life is GOOD!

Stitches West 2007 Feed the Muse (Part 1)

They gathered together at the crack of dawn (OK, so more like 8:30 AM). A hardened band of knitting fanatics each with their own secret agenda but with one motto tattooed on their souls. "Swatches? We don't need no stinkin' swatches!" They were the Magnificent Five (Hey. That's what would fit in the SUV).
Mo, the instigator, the one with the plan. She could multi-task a precision strike into the heart of Stitches West without batting an eye. She didn't call herself the boss but everyone took her orders and liked it. She didn't have to force her sisters into a life of knitting. The more they watched her knit, the more inevitable the outcome was. They fell like domino's and knitting became a family affair, a little like the Mafia.
Marlene, one of Mo's sisters and the newest to the group. Always saying she didn't really knit that much, had little experience but with a number of scarves and sweaters notched on her needles. She looked shy and retiring but you'd be a fool to take her at face value. She scored the luxury yarns for the lowest prices with that sweet smile still on her face.
Millie, another sister. Always friendly and pleasant but with that competitive edge. If you could do it, she could do it too but faster and eventually better than you could. You only had to show her a thing once and it was over. She liked the expensive stuff and always made sure she had the best tools.
Jane, the obsessive-compulsive one with the loud squeeing, darting from booth to booth, hands trembling over laceweight yarns like the fiber junkie she was. The embarrassment of the group. They might have gone without her but she was good with lace. Yeah, real good. Besides, she had the shawl, so they had to bring her.
May, better known to some as the "Knitting Wizard" or "Knitting 911". The calls came in at all hours of the day and night pleading, demanding, screaming for answers, "What the Hell does this instruction mean?" With a mind filled with knitting knowledge but the attention span of a monkey with ADD, her answers could be clear, they could be cryptic or they could spell the death knell for your knitting project with the words "To knit is to rip. If you cannot rip, you cannot knit!" She had infected more people with the knitting virus than Typhoid Mary. Even her own sister, Jane.
They all descended onto the Santa Clara Convention Center on Saturday to feed their creative hunger, to feed the Muse.

What can I say? We had a Blast!

When you look at these pictures, the first ones you'll see are things my sister, May purchased. She's been knitting a long time and her shopping at Stitches is much more specific than the new knitters. She updated her Elizabeth Zimmerman library purchasing DVD's so she can give away our VHS versions to our friend, Louise. She bought only good sock yarn. She got some Blue Moon yarn and some of the beautiful Lisa Souza. A few pretty patterns for some shrugs and new yarn swift (Now we have three of them). There is always something else, something special that we have in our heart-of-hearts that we really want to get when we are at Stitches. For May, that was to satisfy her lust for the beautiful glassware of Sheila & Michael Ernst. We have bought their glass pens, their glass orifice hooks for spinning, and now my sister is the ecstatic owner of beautiful double point needles. See them and weep. I know I did! I think that the pretty pastel double points are the "Lime and Violet" needles.

You will have to wait for my second post for a look at my loot!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dream of Yarn

I used to collect a type of restaurant ware called "Tepco" manufactured by a company that is now defunct. I came into it via my friend, Louise who had been hunting this hefty form of china along with JS, in her pattern for some time. There is a whole group devoted to this type of china and everyone would scour the antique shows and secondhand stores searching for different collectible patterns. I mainly searched for a pattern with pine cones and needles on it. I used to have this dream of finding a huge untouched stash of "Needles & Pine" in a second hand store and it was mine, all mine. I have enough china now. I no longer dream of Tepco. I dream of yarn. Most of the time, I'm dreaming that I'm in a huge auditorium looking at beautiful and unique yarns and notions with hundreds of other people who feel the same as I do. You got it. Stitches West is next week and my dream is going to be a reality. A flotilla of my extended family and the people they have also taught to knit, will be gathering at my sister-in-laws house in Sunnyvale to consolidate a plan of attack that is rivaled only by the invasion of Normandy. Armed with wish lists and cell phones, backpacks and bottles of water, cups of Pete's coffee and bags of trail mix or candy (pick your poison) we will saddle up the mini-vans and Highlanders and descend on the Santa Clara Convention center where we will proceed to sack and pillage. Ahhh. Life is GOOD!

Please see above a picture of a very small part of my Tepco collection. I also tried out a little more dyeing with some laceweight yarn that I think may be silk (I lost the tag) I have no idea how much of it I just dyed and it reminds me very much of the 60's and tie dyed things. I was trying to keep the yellow seperated from the rest of the colors this time and was able to managed it. I'm not sure that I'm glad I did however. I'm using the cold-dye method again. I lay plastic wrap on a plastic tablecloth, put down yarn that has already been soaked in water and squeezed out until just damp. I used foam disposable paint brushes that you can buy at the hardware store and diluted a lot of the colors I already made up for the last time I dyed. You paint the areas of the yarn different colors and use vinegar in a spray bottle as a setting agent so the dye will "strike" and hold fast onto the yarn. When I did the yellow section (I did it last rather than the suggestion to do it first) I immediately hit the yellow section with the vinegar spray. I think this helped to get the fibers to soak up the color better. At least I like to think that. I also did not saturate the entire work area with dye this time and so there was less waste and less blotting up to do. Cooked 3 hours in plastic in the old used crockpot and you have what I like to think of as "The Summer Of Love" colorway :-) You can also see my progress on Boundary Waters (Row 84). I have continued to have problems casting on the center for circular shawls. I tried with the Emily Ocker's Cast-On method but crochet hooks and I just do not get along. Instead, I did what I know how to do. I used a tatted cast-on method with picot's for the number of stitches needed. Worked like a charm! I also do something they don't tell you to do. I always do the first few rounds at the center in much smaller diameter glove needles than what is requested in the pattern. Easier to manipulate and once you have a few rows on, you go up gradually in size until you reach your desired needle size. Tough if they don't like it. It's my lace, not theirs! I'm still working on WRS but you don't get to see it until the center is all done. If you need a fix, go to missalicefaye and look at her progress on her shawl.

That's all for now. I hope to post pictures of the loot and booty we score from Stiches West!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sometimes it's not you (knitting truths)

My sister taught me to knit. She's one year older and much more patient than my mother ever was. Mom used to knit my father a vest that could, swear to God, stand up in the middle of the floor without anyone in it. That's how tight she used to knit. An actual reflection of the woman if you catch my drift. When my sister taught me to knit, there were a number of knitting "truths" that she explained to me. When I teach someone to knit, I find myself quoting her often.

  1. When you are learning to knit and you make a "mistake", it is not a mistake if you do it over and over again. It is a design element.

  2. If you have a hole in your knitting, it's not a hole, it's lace.
  3. To knit is to rip. If you cannot rip, you cannot knit.
  4. Illiterate women have learned how to knit. Don't be afraid that you can't
  5. Knitting patterns are not perfect. There is almost always a mistake in there somewhere so sometimes it's not you.

There are many more of these truths. I bet you can contribute some to this list for me. My point is, even knowing these truths and teaching them to others. I sometimes forget them. A good example would be # 5. I had tried to knit the Shetland Tea Shawl from "A Gathering of Lace". I kept getting hung up on the Madeira Lace section in this circular shawl. I could not get it right. I thought I just stank at lace and gave up in disgust for a very long time. I stopped doing any lace at all and went back to cable knitting. The shawl sat mouldering away in a bag, mute witness to my lack of knitting skill. I couldn't rip it, I couldn't knit it. To rip it under these conditions was to admit defeat. Very different from ripping because it's not a pattern you like or a color you fancy or you are bored. I couldn't knit it because it kept coming out wrong. Because I forgot about truth # 5, I never checked to see if there was a correction to the pattern. Until, that is, someone mentioned it on the Yahoo shawl knitting group. See above, there are corrections to the patterns from that book.

For any knitters new to lace. Welcome. Thank you to everyone who posted suggestions for new lace knitters that they could try. It was very very thoughtful and helpful of you all to contribute to a little list I have now put on this blog.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE any new lace knitters. Check to see if there are corrections to any lace pattern you are going to try for the very first time. Remember. Sometimes it's not you if it doesn't come out right!

Good night to all! and Good Knitting!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Boundary Waters Shawl (So I didn't spin the yarn for it. So sue me.)

Since I dyed that Crystal Palace Laceweight Yarn last weekend, I decided to try it out for the Boundary Waters Shawl rather than to try to spin something. True, it's more green than blue, but it's interesting knit up. I have a thing about wanting to do both of the shawls from the pattern book I had been carrying around for so long. I understand these patterns may be re-issued in the Fall of this year so others won't have such a tough time finding them. I didn't pin this section out very tightly as it's on a small circular needle and I didn't want to have to go to a longer cable yet.
I'm half way through the 4th pattern repeat for the Wedding Ring Shawl so Boundary Waters is a nice break for me. I suppose I could work on the Peacock Feathers Shawl but for some reason I'm not really interested in it at the moment. You know how you start a project and just loose interest sometimes? Well this shawl gave me trouble for awhile and I had to pick back 4 rows of work. That's enough to leave a bad taste in your mouth believe me. They were really long rows too. Besides, when I have time I knit on the Flower Basket Shawl and the Shetland Tea Shawl. They are much more satisfying and I can even knit them when I'm not 100% awake and still not screw them up too bad.I know I am breaking my own rule "Never knit when on drugs or stupid." but sometimes you get so bored that you just go ahead and break the rules. What can I say? Bad knitter, no chocolate!
This leads me to a question. One of the persons responding to this blog asked about a easy lace to knit as a beginner. "Anonymous" wanted a suggestion. It's been a long time since I knit something a beginner might consider easy so I was wondering if anyone else has a suggestion they want to post here for possible easy projects? Can anyone suggest their favorite lace-related book a beginner might like to use? It might help this newbie out.
Also see above a picture of the WRS on my Inox needles. One of the things I've disliked about knitting on gossamer weight yarns is the problem of getting the stitches over the transition point between where the cable is connected to the needle. The yarn's tend to get "hung up" at the join. In order to mitigate this problem I've knit looser, I've tested a bunch of different needles and I have decided to keep the yarn bunched up on the needles as much as possible so that as little of the work ends up on the cable as possible. This will work for the center at least. It won't work once I pick up all the way around the center to do the boarder but I will just have to put up with the irritation once I get to that stage.
Also see above a really pretty colorway in "Andrea" by Schaefer Yarn. Same yarn as for the Peacock Feathers Shawl, it's 100% silk, Approx. Wt:3.5 oz/1093 yds. It's from the "Memorable Women" color concept and this one is "Margaet Mead", the famous anthropologist. It says the gauge is 8st/in and they want you to dry clean it. Ha Ha Ha to that. It's going to be a shawl and it will be hand-washed and like it!
I will not buy more yarn before Stitches West, I will not buy more yarn before Stitches west, I will not..... you get the idea.
Until much later! Good Knitting!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Superbowl Sunday, a good day to frog and to dye

Say Goodbye to the third Swallowtail Shawl I had started in Schaefer Yarn's "Anne". I got the center done and realized it's really not made for a lace shawl. It's really a sock yarn with 60% merino superwash wool, 25% Mohair and a pesky 15% nylon. As a result, it has way too much bounce in it and was actually not very nice to the touch. It was frogged during Superbowl Sunday and is now history. You will see it again in the future as socks because I gave it to my sister to use. She loves to knit socks. I also took some white lace yarn from Crystal Palace and dyed it, just as an experiment. I've had the supplies to dye something since last year but never the time or incentive. More green than I intended (the yellow all turned green when it mixed with the blues), still,not too bad for a first effort. I have some Merino and BFL that I want to dye but I will do a few more skeins of yarn first as a test. This was done via the cold dye method and cooked in plastic wrap for 3 hours in a old crock pot on high. I'm going to try the hot pour method next and then I will move on to rovings. I'm still working on the WRS but it feels nice to get rid of things I really didn't want to finish. I'll do the Swallowtail Shawl again later, but having done it twice and given both of them away, I'm not in the mood to make a third one only to have it go the same way which you just know would happen. I'll wait until I get a few of the other projects done. High on my list to finish is the Peacock Feathers Shawl which I had to pick back and then put aside in disgust. I refuse to frog that. I just have to be awake to knit it, that's all.
What do I do next? Boundary Waters Shawl, Spider Queen, and maybe, just maybe the Mountainash shawl are all possibility's. I joined the Yahoo group for Mountainash and am reading all of the posts from oldest to most recent so I can get the information from those who have already gone before me. I've only made it through about 1/3 of the messages and it is unfolding that this is a pattern that can be altered to your own satisfaction. Of course, you can do that with just about any pattern but they really give you permission to do it on this one. Part of that may be the fact that no one really can read Japanese on this group though some have friends who can who try to help out. I have to become more comfortable with this pattern before I give it a try. I also have to enlarge the chart about 150% because it's so tiny. I'm not sure what I will do with this somewhat loud lace weight yarn yet but when I do knit it up, you will see it here first. Live and in color!
Good Evening to All!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"But I can't read Japanese!" (Mondnacht & Mountainash)

In case you can't make yourself crazy enough in English, perhaps you would like to try to knit from a Japanese knitting book without your knowing a second language. I was looking at Fleegles blog when she showed a picture of Mondnacht which she is planning to knit. She's nice enough to give you all the information you need to pretend you might actually be able to knit this lovely shawl including some translations for the symbols into English as well as a friendly Yahoo Group knitting one of the shawls from this book. She even gives you a link to a store to buy the book. I already own one Japanese knitting book that I bought years and years ago. I have not knit anything from it because it was only "eye candy" as far as I was concerned when I got it. I had no intention of actually knitting from it. Really. It's not like I don't have enough to knit without try to branch out into a language I can neither read nor speak. Yeah. Right.

Please see above my copy of "New Style of Heirloom Knitting". I went to "J" town in San Francisco to the Kinokuniya Bookstore and bought it rather than send for it. I was pretty sure I could find it there since I knew where the craft/knitting section was in that store and could recognize the cover picture. Since I have a little experience with knitting Shetland Lace now, I think I might actually give these shawls a try. The book also contains wonderful projects in cables and color knitting as well, but that's not why I bought it.

You can also see a shot of Fir Cone. Borrring! Take a last look because after I post this, I'm frogging it. It's "not worth the powder to blow it away" as my friend Louise would say. That poor slate grey Zephyr deserves a better, more elegant fate. We will endeavor to do it justice later. Lastly, here's a shot of Phoebe the Skip and Jake the Sheltie. Our dogs who don't understand why we sit there night after night knitting instead of throwing the chew toys repeatedly for them. They are knitting orphans, it's true.

3 Repeats Of Center Pattern (The Wedding Ring Shawl)

I just had to post my progress on The Wedding Ring Shawl even though I still have two and 2/3 pattern repeats to do to finish the center panel. After such a long dry spell, I'm delirious that I'm making headway. I'm also glad that I pined it out because I found a DROPPED STITCH! I actually picked it up and was able to tie it off to fix it. You can find it if you look for it along with the "Homer Simpson" fixes, but on the whole it still is looking pretty good. For anyone doing one of these, I highly advise you check it out from time to time for this type of thing. Better to find it now than when I go to soak and block it. Because I have been asked a few questions about the yarn I'm using for The Wedding Ring Shawl, I'm posting a picture showing the "old" and the current cobweb weight yarns that I bought from Lacis in Berkeley. I'm using the circa 1980's Cobweb weight Shetland Lace yarn from Lacis (the balls of yarn on the right side) for my shawl. The skein of yarn pictured on the left hand side, is the Cobweb weight yarn that Lacis sells now. It's labeled "Pashmina" on it so I'm not sure where it is manufactured. Perhaps not as nice and consistently spun as the vintage yarn I'm using, but it's still good enough considering the other yarn is no longer available.
I'm still working on my other shawls, knocking off a row or two for each one in turn as relief knitting for the Wedding Ring Shawl. I am beginning to detest knitting the Fir Cone Shawl however. It's not at all interesting visually. Not the fault of the shawl. My fault for knitting it in a solid rather than variegated yarn. I may actually rip it or "frog" it as the modern phrase for deconstruction goes. I hate to rip all that work but I also hate to work on things that don't move me. Maybe if I work on it really hard I can get it done and out of my site? We shall see. I have to finish at least one more shawl before I can start a new project. I have several in line to be made but every time I think of knitting a swatch my hands itch to be knitting The Wedding Ring Shawl instead so no swatches. One must strike while the iron is hot so I will continue on my quest to finish this shawl this year. My reward will be to buy The Princess Shawl pattern that I hope is to be re-released this year.
Now this brings up the idea of "Pattern Stash" which a different issue than "Yarn Stash". Patterns we collect in hopes of eventually knitting them don't take up as much space as the fiber and yarn do, but how many of them will we ever get around to making? I know I have more than I will ever be able to finish knitting in my lifetime but I know I can't promise I won't get more patterns, just like I can't promise not to buy more yarn or fiber when Stitches West comes to town. What can I say. I have a knitting monkey on my back!