Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Smell of Wool in the Morning

This morning has been a relaxing one.

After the past 2 weeks of having deadlines to meet, wool to prep, class projects, and errands to run, I took the time to savor this morning. I drank my tea, read some knitting blogs, knit my current project a little (I'll share after its done so I don't jinx the timeline on it), and planned the grocery list.

Today I have homework to do so after I shower I'm going to get on that and then start putting things up in the store.

Yesterday there was so much yarn at the knit night that our usual calm group of 9 took over 5 tables (2 were for yarn), and if you sat near the yarn you could not hear the people sitting near the window, though they were a mere 6 feet away. I was dealing with questions left and right, so very little knitting was done on my part, but I got my customary slice of cake at the beginning and Caren and Meghan were kind enough to help me pack up at the end.

Friday will be a special blog with a feature on my favorite skeins and new colorways that I will be carrying on a regular basis.

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Twirling Swifts

I have been super busy this weekend with Ben's mother's birthday, running errands for my grandmother, dyeing and getting ready for tonight's dye day release.

I found out last week that my smaller skein winder cannot handle the tension of 2 yarns so I've been winding all the yarn in to cakes and tonight's release will be with the majority of the yarns in cakes.

The larger cakes are 2 skeins dyed together that I will skein to split them up

I was planning on winding them into skeins before tonight, but I found a box of more dyed yarns that I'd put under next month Phat Fiber samples. So now I'm just going to wind them into cakes, which might be easier for those that do not have swifts and ball winders.

25 more skeins to ball
I'm really happy with this latest dye day and think that having my artsy friends come to dye really helps me keep yarns in stock that are all different. I have color combinations that I would have never thought of, tons of yarn that only took a day to dyed (and over a week to get steamed and rinsed) and a day with my friends.
One of my favorite lace weights with Doctor Who in the Background
After a big dye day there is always holes to fill in with the colorways. Often times we get very colorful combinations but that leaves little for the knitters that like subtle colorways, "manly" colors and more muted tones. For this reason I spend my spare time dyeing skeins that are more solid in color and established colorways that I need.

Filling in the holes
Now I need to get back to work, but tomorrow I will begin to post all of the new yarns!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Life of a House Bunny

Today is the fifth day of my being unemployed, and I gotta say I'm amazing myself by not stressing over it too much.

I've been scrubbing the bathroom, doing the dishes, rinsing, skeining and balling a ton of yarn, helping my grandmother and job hunting.

This house bunny has plans to finish scrubbing the house, go for more walks, dye more yarn and finish designing more patterns.

My method of pattern making is one that takes focus. I need a desk and computer set up with little to no distractions so I can focus on writing the pattern the first day, knitting it the second and then making corrections on the third. Right now I have about two to three weeks of patterns build up as follows:

Thrummed Mittens
Baby Halloween Socks
Wine Socks (will be my first adult sock pattern)
Fair Isle Mug Cozies
Holiday Socks

Once complete I'll release the pattern and then kits to my local shops and on my online shop so keep your ears and eyes open because there will be lots appearing in the shop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Works in Progress... Lots of Works

Today is all about getting things finished.

This is one of 3 batches
I have a bunch of yarn to skein and more drying. Yesterday was a complete wash as I had to untangle some lace weight because my skeiner had begun to warp a little from the tension of skeining the lace.

Next thing on my list of things to finish is the rest of the foot to my Pointelle sock:
I'm lucky since I have small feet
I'll also finish putting the rest of the phat fiber batts up. I had to redye some of the wool because it did not come out the right shade so I'm hoping for that to cool by noon and up by 3pm.

You see, when I'm really impatient for my roving to dry I use the Yarn Harlot's trick: 8 mins at 250F

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dye Day

Yesterday was the dye day and boy did it go!

After work on Friday I cleaned the house and got down to skeining yarn.

Anna arrived around 1am and we kept going through the night with coffee, Glee, Mad Men, and cake to carry us
Nom... Red velvet cake from the Cheese Cake Factory
I wound about 15 lbs of yarn into skeins and then soaked all of it in my washing machine.

I sadly did not get a picture of how full the washer was but I had to put towels over the top of the yarn to wick the water over the last few skeins I put on top. I even tried to press it down and found the I could not get it to go more then a half inch below the water.

Anna ended up falling asleep around 7am and after I put the last skeins into the washer to soak till 11am, I went upstairs to try and catch 2.5 hours of sleep.

Amazingly sleep never really came. I spent an hour going over everything in my head, then I tried for an hour to fall asleep. I think I dozed off for a few minutes because I suddenly woke up at 9:10am thinking I was going to over sleep and not be prepared for everyone. I at that point felt energized enough from the rest to get through the rest of the day and proceeded to get showered and dressed while Ben slept on (I blame the crck coffee I make).

The ladies got here and after a quick pot luck lunch I debriefed them on how the dye day was set up and we set off.

Around 70 skeins and 6 hours later we called it a day and everyone but Anna and I left. It was fun, there was laughter, jokes, inspiration, and support shared all around. We forgot our cameras and the only pictures are before and afters:

Anna Preparing the Dye 
Me relaxing afterwards with some of my hand dyes
Start checking the shop tomorrow to see the wonder that is the yarn of artists

Friday, September 16, 2011

Last Day

Today is my last day at West Marine.

Normally I get really stressed out on the last day of one job when I have nothing else lined up but this week I've been kind of chill about it.

I really think it has to do with the fact that I have so much else going on in my life and therefor have not really focus on it.

Here's why:
This past Wednesday I had an exam in Macroeconomics
Yesterday I was skeining yarn and making a list of things I have to dye
Anna is coming over tonight to help with prepping for the dye day (there are plans to skip sleep and just drink coffee and watch BSG)
Tomorrow is the dye day
Sunday I'm picking up grid panels for when I eventually have a booth and then I'm hanging with a friend
Monday to Wednesday I'll have tons of yarn to sort out
Wednesday night I have my Macroeconomics presentation to give
Thursday Ben and I leave for camping till Sunday

Normally this would leave me feeling stressed and I would skip camping if I was working, but with no work, just school and Radioactive Rabbit I really feel like I can get a grip on things.

My only challenge is making sure I stick to a schedule. I go a little crazy without a schedule and lose days at a time. My plan is to set alarms. I have to get up at 6:30am, I have to schedule time to workout, to eat lunch and have a to-do list. Otherwise I will spend 8 hours in my pj's watching TV while knitting and drinking beer.

But don't worry, there is time scheduled to knit because I've got to test a few patterns and it is really imperative to keeping myself sane.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WIPs Wednesday

Now that I’m back on schedule we get to celebrate War of WIPs 2011 again on Wednesdays.

Not that I’m for war most of the time, but sometimes you have to declare war on things that need to get done. Like every weekend I fight the battle of the laundry.

This WIPs Wednesday is a special one because Felicity sent in a picture of her lovely Wavy Baktus using Mini Mochi in Intense Rainbow:

It’s the perfect project for self striping yarn as the pattern has vertical pattern stripes and it is really brought out by this yarn. Since she’s in Washington I think we can all agree it will be handy with the cold weather in the next couple months.

When she sent me this picture we got to talking about our WIPs and how we rarely knit or finish things for ourselves. We’re knitters but I bet no one would guess it because we have so few knits. When she brought up that she does not make herself many things it got me to thinking.

Knitters as a whole are usually known for their kindness and how giving they are (please note that I said usually and not always). We knit for everyone we know and I don’t think it’s purely for the love of the people, because many of us donate knitted items to shelters that we know no one at.

I think it’s the fact that we love to knit and it kind of overflows to the people around us because we see things we would love to knit, but we would never wear. However, because we are giving people, we tend to also put aside our own wants to knit for those that we love.

For example I’m more likely to knit a pattern I love for someone I love than a pattern I love for myself. I might love both patterns equally but that giving nature just comes out and I feel like my time is better spent working on it for someone else then myself. It also leads Felicity to knit a Scooby-Do sweater for her grandson, when she could finish the Wavy Baktus for herself much quicker. I finished the Girasole for my grandmother in 3 months (plus 3 months of it hibernating), but I never finished my Krista sweater for myself though I started it before the blanket.

Look around and see how many of your WIPs are for yourself and think about maybe spending one day a week working on these items. You’ll be surprised on how much you can get done by just dedicating an evening a week working on things for yourself. Maybe you’ll finish that sweater you dreamed about wearing to last Christmas’s parties, or maybe you’ll be like me and start to recover all your needles:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Forests and the Moon

This weekend and next will chalk full of fiber.

Tonight I will be finishing the Phat Fiber samples and run them to the post office early tomorrow to ship. I’m so excited about the samples that I had to keep myself from spinning it all up! Since the theme is Enchanted Forest I used my local parks as the inspiration.

Living in Santa Cruz means that there are parks with giant redwoods, the San Lorenzo River with trails running with it and sometimes cross it, and there are old railroads you can follow through the forest or take a ride at Roaring Camp to see fossils in the side of the mountains.

I will also be celebrating the Moon Festival with Anna Saturday night. We’ll be having hot pot and eating moon cakes with tea. If you’re outside tomorrow night try drinking a cup of tea and see if you can spot the rabbit in the moon.

There are many legends but the Buddhist is my favorite about how the rabbit ended up on the moon.

A rabbit, monkey, fox and otter were friends. One day the Buddha came along disguised as a hermit begging alms. The monkey climbed the trees and retrieved some fruit and gave it to the hermit. The fox was able to find some milk-curd to present to the hermit. The otter took off into the water and brought the hermit some fish. The hermit built a fire so he could cook the fish while he ate the fruit and drank the milk.

The rabbit had nothing to give the hermit except some grass which the hermit could not eat, so he threw himself in the fire to become a meal for the alms beggar. Immediately the Buddha revealed himself and saved the rabbit from the flames. He then rewarded the rabbit by drawing his picture in the moon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Busy Bee

Wow has it been busy at my house.

School just started last week and I already have an exam next Wednesday. I was hoping to graduate this year, but I was unable to get the classes I need this semester so I’ll be going part time next year as well. It’s amazing how many classes have been cut due to the state budget crisis. I’ve just happy that Caren and Claire have secure jobs at their schools.

I’ve been dyeing for the Phat Fiber Sample Box every spare minute I have. But I cannot share pictures of it till the boxes go out on the 15th, so everyone will just have to wait. Though I swear if you look here on the day the boxes ship, you will see a parade of fibers I’ve been dyeing.

Then there is the preparing for the dye day on the 17th. Caren, Meghan, Caitlyn, Anna and I will all be working hard to dye over 100 skeins for my Etsy Shop and the local yarn shops. We have so many ideas for colorways that they’re coming out of our ears.

Lastly I’ve been working hard to get projects finished.

First was the shawl for Yarns by the Sea:

I knit this in a week and just got around to blocking it this afternoon. It is quick to knit, but the gauge swatch lied. The pattern called for 416 yards of fingerling weight and my yarn is 400 yards, so Chrissy and I figured I’d have enough. But when your gauge swatch lies to you and your shawl is starting to get bigger then what the pattern says it’s suppose to be, you have to realize that your going to run out of yarn. I refused to believe that I would run out till I got to the border and ran out 12 rows from completion. The shawl is suppose to be 17” along the center, but mine is 23” and since I ran out of yarn, I did not do the last repeat of the pattern. You should now realize that that means that the shawl would have been even larger if I had done the last repeat. If you knit this I highly recommend going down 2-3 needle sizes after you’ve gotten gauge.

I also wept tears of joy when I cast off the Girasole:

I have been working so had on this blanket, for so long, that it just seemed so unreal when I completed the last stitch on the border and cast it off. It, like the shawl, turned out larger then the pattern said it would be. But this time it was not just by a nice 6 inches, it is over a foot larger then what it says on the pattern. I spent all week worrying about how I was going to block the thing and then decided to not hard block it. I took the picture above while it dried in the sun and had to stand on a chair to fit the entire thing in the picture. 

Last were some socks that just needed after thought heels, and one afternoon my feet were freezing so instead of slipping on store bought socks I started on the heels:

After I finished them I soaked them in water in preparation for blocking, and they grew a couple sizes as soon as they hit the water and I turned around and started hitting me head against the wall. I had started these socks when I was new to knitting and did not know that sometimes super wash yarn grows when it hits water.
Its scary to cut the yarn in the middle of a pair of socks

Ben now has a new pair of socks and I still have frozen feet.

PS. Sorry I went MIA on the contests. I only received one response to the WIP post so I’ll be doing a special on her pattern later this week, but the yarn for the dye day is now on its way and all contests and preorders have ended. Thank you for your support and please check back to see what is dyed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Girasole

116 stitches to go, 116 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 115 stitches to go.

115 stitches to go, 115 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 114 stitches to go.

114 stitches to go, 114 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 113 stitches to go.

113 stitches to go, 113 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 112 stitches to go.

112 stitches to go, 112 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 111 stitches to go.

111 stitches to go, 111 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 110 stitches to go.

110 stitches to go, 110 stitches to go.
Cast one off and slip it around, 109 stitches to go.....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Best Laid Plans

If you’ve made it this far then you’re on your way to a less stressful Christmas (if you figure out how to make it stress free without whiskey then let me know).

Let us review a couple of familiar sayings:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go oft awry

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

These are key things to keep in mind as we start laying out the plans for the holidays.

Last year will always be named the slipper year to my friends and family as I laid the plan very carefully. You can read all about the problems I had in Christmas Has Come Early.

That Christmas was a learning experience. This year there will be swatching, back up knits and fully finishing projects before putting them aside (don’t put off felting).

Swatching is something we are all lectured to do. I admit that I skip swatching on scarves and shawls, but if something needs to fit or felt then I swatch and wash. Washing is a key thing because who knows what that sweater might do when it hits water? My mittens might stretch, my hat might bleed (finding out your red hat bleeds color when its pouring rain is not fun and people will look at you weirdly), my socks might become scratchy, or my sweater might become so fuzzy you lose stitch definition.

Back up knits are things you can easily stash dive for at 1am in the morning, already have the needles and pattern and can knit up in one day. Fingerless mittens, plain felted slippers, cowls, hats and bags are good ideas. Keep it simple, keep it quick. Plan your day around the project. Lets say you get distracted at your house too easily, grab a plain knit cowl with big circular needles, a bunch of yarn and hit the movies. There have been days I go see three movies at the theater and just knit (avoid popcorn as it can make needles slippery and stain the yarn).

Weaving in ends and felting items can be a hassle, but it takes time and the last thing you want to do is not be able to find a needle to weave in ends Christmas Eve or, I don’t know, find out the yarn you used for felted slippers does not actually felt. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

One of the other issues you might have is that though you planned perfectly, now that you’re actually sitting down and knitting the project, you hate it. The yarn squeaks on your needles, the variegated yarn is pooling horribly, or for any other reason that is not fixable with having a breather and a cup of coffee. If it’s just your not feeling it, go knit something else for the rest of the day and come back to it. If you’ve done this twice and are still not feeling it, frog and see what else you might be able to use the yarn for. Yarn that pools badly as a sock might just really want to be a shawl or a hat, (avoid mittens as the gauge and number of stitches might be similar and your back at square one).

Maybe keep a couple of back up patterns in your binder…