Thursday, December 29, 2005

Post-Christmas Knitting and Cleaning

I realize that I haven't posted anything since December 12. I've spent my knitting time since then finishing up 4 pairs of the Urban Rustic Gloves from the Winter '05 issue of Knitty for last minute gifts. After the first pair, I decided that instead of the vent I wanted solid wrist coverage and I added to the wrist length by three stitches. I neglected to take any pictures of the ones I made for my mom. D'oh! Maybe I can get her to take a pic and send it to me.

I took some days off of knitting to rest my wrists, but the time was well spent cleaning out my big closet. You wouldn't believe how much yarn I found buried in there. I also found quite a lot of spinning fibers and (gasp!) some moth damaged items. Here's why knitters and moths are natural enemies. Yikes! I have decided that these mittens deserve a rebirth so I will be re-making them from some lovely brown and cream alpaca that I bought at a yarn shop in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Take that, moths!

I found lots of lovely spinning fibers in the closet too, so I was compelled to dust off my Ashford Traditional and spin a bit. I forgot how engaging it is. I invested in some organizing drawers and space bags, the combination of which now nicely contains my yarn and fiber stash. I'm ready to get snowed in. Food? who needs it, I have yarn!

Space bag full of fiber

Different forms of silk. Some cocoons, some fibers ready to spin, some of my handspun silk yarn. What can I make from that?

Wool and alpaca fibers, including a skein that I spun several years ago from some really great New Zealand wool. Oooooh! It's going to be a good new year!

In the closet, I found some Dale of Norway Tiur, sport weight mohair and wool in dark purple. I'm trying to duplicate Sophie's "Prithee, which way to the monastery" Moebius with it. I'm knitting it on Size 10 needles, but because of the mystery of the magic moebius technique I won't know the finished size until it's off the needles. I'm hoping for the shoulder hugging size like Sophie's version. Stay tuned for pictures! My dear family was good to me for Christmas (as usual) and I got many gift certificates for yarn and whatnot. I don't know what is more fun, shopping or the anticipation of shopping.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another Weekend Off From Knitting

Knitting hand
Originally uploaded by Loretta.

After finishing the Urban Rustic Gloves I was trying to decide what to knit next. I have a Wonderful Wallaby started in purple Cascade Sierra. The body is done up to the armpits and I'm comtemplating doing a cable pattern at the bottoms of the sleeves. I can't seem to decide on a cable pattern, so I've set it aside for now until I find something that strikes my fancy.

I always feel lost when I don't have a work schedule or a school schedule. The school break is only 3 weeks, but some days it feels like forever. This weekend, I spent several hours reading about drawing, getting supplies, and doing pencil drawings. I'm particularly having fun with drawing my hands. I remember a really intricate hand drawing that someone did in a drawing class I was in about 25 years ago. It made enough of an impression on me that it has stuck in my mind to this day. One thing that was really interesting was that she showed both of her hands in the drawing and her hands were sewing with a needle and thread on a cabbage. As I remember, the assignment was a to draw vegetable out of context. I haven't tried drawing my right hand yet. After drawing the left hand mudra, I thought of my left-handed friend, LisaTV, who got taken to task in a yoga workshop for wanting to use her left hand in a traditional mudra.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Insomnia Sucks

Even if I can't sleep, I'll usually just lie in bed "resting" until such a time as I either a) eventually fall asleep or b) estimate that it is officially morning and I can go ahead and get up. Option b happened for me this morning at 5AM. Of course I have to put on my glasses and stumble out to the living room to figure that out without turning on the light in the bedroom, which will wake the other members of my tribe. But this time of year it's frickin' dark at 5AM or even 6:30AM. Whoever decided that it was a good idea to make people go into work at 7AM or some such should be hunted down and bitch slapped. Luckily I don't have to go into work at 7AM, unlike some of my unlucky fellow human beings. I know they are out there brushing their teeth (hopefully) right now. Sometimes in the summer I can't sleep when it gets light too early. So whatinthehell is my problem now? TOO DARK?? It's always something.

For the last hour and a half I was attempting to amuse myself by reading people's knitting blogs, something for which I don't usually have very much time. I saw one person's comment about the madness of trying to finish knitted Christmas presents in December and how people don't appreciate how you knit your fingers to the bone for them. However, I learned a long time ago, that it's a waste of my time and effort to knit for people who don't appreciate the work that goes into knitting. A corollary of this universal law, is that it's a waste of time to knit for people who will not wear or care for your knitted pieces, or even those who might (gasp!) banish them to a thrift store. This is why my two fabulous sisters are the lucky recipients of most of my hard work. They appreciate the art and the work. They cherish and care for even the most delicate of knitted pieces. And they WEAR them. Well, it's also lucky that they happen to live in Colorado where it's freezing in the winter. So I can knit them the warmest of sweaters (and socks, hats, mittens, scarves, blankets, etc, etc.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Urban Rustic Gloves

Urban Rustic Gloves in work
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
There's lots of cute stuff in the new winter '05 issue of, but the Urban Rustic Gloves caught my fancy.

I was looking for a quick diversion for my Tuesday night sit & knit group. These are quick, fun and can even be knit with some distractions. It looks like the one ball of Crystal Palace Yarns Iceland will make a pair. I love projects with unusual construction and these definitely fill that bill. They could even be a last minute Christmas gift.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weekend "off" from knitting

For some reason I found myself wanting to make lip balm. My friend who owns , a lovely soapmaking supply company, has told me that lip balm is about the easiest thing to make (and incidentally, has a huge price markup.)

So with a little inspiration and a recipe from, I went down to Brambleberry's retail shop, Otion. I ended up making a few colors of lip balm and lotion bars for stocking stuffers.

So if you have a half hour or so and want to whip up some fun gifts, lip balm fills the bill. You can make girly colored and/or flavored balms. Or you can stick to a basic recipe that even men will love. Hey! guys get chapped lips too.

The lotion bars have slightly different proportions of the same basic ingredients as the balm. And are made by pouring the melted lotion balm into molds. I also picked up some pretty little organza bags at Otion and card stickers at JoAnn's for a nice gift presentation.

Besides knitting, I'm not one of those artsy-crafty people. I generally don't like stuff that makes a mess (or has mess making potential.) But this little set of projects had very little mess involved and it took only a relatively small space on my kitchen counter and simple tools to assemble and process all the ingredients.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Winter is here

We have snow on the ground, a rare occurence for Bellingham . I know that the grass is still peeking through in this picture and that people who live in snowier parts of the world are not impressed. But it's a little deeper today and any day when I get to wear my Sorels is a good day. The kids across the street somehow managed to get enough snow together to build a massive snow woman, complete with strapless evening gown. But she didn't survive the night and is now a massive blue cone.

The multicolor moebius is now off the needles and I've started a pair of silk/wool blend socks. I'm long since bored with plain, rectangular scarves, but I'm finding these moebiuses (moebii ?) endlessly fascinating. There are so many posssibilities for color, style, size and form. Cat Bordhi is correct in her two moebius books A Treasury of Magical Knitting and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting, this is magic. I have done a couple moebius scarves in Elizabeth Zimmerman's style, where you basically knit a long rectangle, then join the ends with a twist, creating the moebius. But Cat Bordhi's cast on to a long needle with the twist built in adds magic to the knitting. I'd like to think that Elizabeth would have loved it, had she lived to see it. I'll try to get some pictures up this weekend of some of the various moebius projects I've done this year.

Well, with me in my moebius and pa in his cap, the kitties are tucked in for a long winter's nap. Not that they confine their napping to winter! Smokey is doing her monitor top impressionist/Mona Lisa impression and we're about to head out for winter provisions (AKA cat food and yarn). The school quarter is all but wrapped up and I'm trying to talk "pa" into a downtown gallery walk tonight sponsored by the Whatcom Museum.

Despite the darkness and the cold and the short days. I really love winter. It's the height of the knitting season. It's easy to find plenty of days to curl up on the couch with yarn and needles. Cats, yarn, books...Life is good!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Well, it's snowing outside, not as those of you who live in colder climates actually experience snow. But the snowflakes are swirling around in the air and making the road wet. I'm hoping that since it started early it'll be cold enough tonight to actually have some accumulation overnight. It's fun to have a few days to actually put the Quattro all-wheel-drive through its paces. The scary thing is that so many people here don't know how to drive in the snow because they never have had to. I'll probably ride the bus to school tomorrow so I can finish the multicolor moebius.

On the needles this Monday

Moebius in work
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
It's cold outside. There was frost on the ground this morning which is a rare occurence here. So I trundled off to the bus stop wearing the new yorrick scarf, the new lotus moebius hat, mittens, and a sweater under my coat. I felt like Ralphie's little brother on A Christmas Story. But it was a good opportunity to bundle up in my handknits and you never do know how long you'll be at the bus stop or what the angle of the sun will be there.

For knitting on the bus I'm working this moebius scarf out of some hand spun yarn I bought at the local weaver's guild show a few years ago. I'll probably have enough of this for another scarf. Maybe I'll add in something fuzzy for the second one.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Felted yorrick

Felted yorrick
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
It's finished and the Lush did felt really well, all the while keeping it's angora fuzziness. It's going to be fun wearing it when it's dry.

Finished Yorrick

Finished Yorrick
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
It's Sunday and the knitting on the yorrick and my lab reports and pathology presentation are all done. Not a bad weekend considering that all I did on Saturday was go to yoga class and then sit on the couch watching movies and the history channel on TV.

The scarf is in the washer right now felting. I checked it after 10 minutes to cut out the eye & nose strings and it's looking really great. I guess that sometimes it does pay to use the yarn called for in the pattern. Classis Elite Lush really felts great. I think it's going to be soft and warm, which is great as we are getting our obligatory week of cold winter weather. I know that people living in really cold places would be thrilled with just one week of cold weather but what can I say we're spoiled in Western Washington.

Half a yorrick

Originally uploaded by Loretta.
Friday night's knitting. Now all I need to do is knit the other half. Really I love knitting with this soft yarn so much I keep thinking of other things to make out of it as I knit.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Last night's knitting

Another pair of Yorricks
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
I wound the moss green Lush and started the third Yorrick. I knit the two skulls at the same tim with two balls of yarn. Then I moved one to a holder and I'm knitting the plain stockinette section on the first one.

It is kind of a strange pattern because you leave strands and dropped stitches in the eye and nose holes that don't get cut out until after the felting. I promised myself that I'm not going to work on this until after I've written my two labs reports which are due on Monday. So I'd better GET TO WORK!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I guess I'll wind up the rest of that yarn

Umbrella swift in action
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
The moss green Classic Elite Lush that I'll use for the next Yorrick scarf. The kitties are afraid of the yarn swift and looking at this picture, who can blame them. This picture was also taken in the summer, a fact made obvious form the light streaming into the windows. Light just doesn't stream like this in late November.

Lotus flower moebius hat

Lotus flower moebius hat
Originally uploaded by Loretta.

I guess I did make something else this week. But I'm cheating on the pictures since I made and photographed the same hat in June. The light is never this bright in November. That's the dead giveaway.

Anyway the hat is made from the pattern in Cat Bordhi's A Treasury of Magical Knitting in Classic Elite Lush (which I don't know if they make anymore, but it's an angora/wool blend). I got several skeins of this on clearance in purple at the Fiber Factory in Mesa,AZ while I was there last November for the Manuso Manos workshop.

The pattern knits up really quickly with medium weight yarn on size 9 needles, but be aware that there is an error in the pattern in the book. The p3tog parts of round 6 and 8 are transposed. But if you are paying attention to how the pattern progresses you will spot the error (and the fix for it) right away. This is good because you have to repeat those round three times in the crown of the hat.

For me it's pretty much a one day hat. I did the moebius cast-on in the morning and finished the moebius hat band on the bus on the way to school. Then I started in on the crown pattern before my afternoon class and worked on it on the bus on the way home. Here is my chance to plug my favorite needle set, the Denise Interchangeables. With the Denise set, the switch from moebius knitting on the band to circular knitting on the crown is so much easier. And you don't have to carry around an extra needle. You can also do the smaller part of the top on two circular needles with one Denise set if you use two cords and make sure that the larger (size 9 needles) are on the right-hand needle side of the circ and you can use any of the smaller needles for the left-hand side of each circ. It works to knit with two different size needles because the right-hand needle determines the size of the stitches (if you don't believe me, try it yourself.) Not that I don't have two sets of Denise needles; my old reliable ones from the 80s and the new set that I bought when the new ones came out. With two sets, there's nothing I can't knit on size 5 or above.

I went to sit & knit Tuesday evening at my LYS for the first time in about 6 weeks and finished the hat there, despite much chatting and looking at other people's projects. It only takes one skein of Lush and I have one more left, so I'll probably make another one soon.

Almost finished sweater

Almost finished sweater
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
This is my next to last finished project. Gee if I did this in reverse chronological order I'd almost have a knitting log. Aside from the difficulty of located all of my knitted pieces, and the time involved, it's a great idea.

Anyway, this sweater is made from Reynold's Lopi from the Lopi Toggle Cardigan pattern. I started it this spring and then somehow between the bottom color chart on the sleeves and finishing the unpatterned body, I lost the pattern. I even lost the copies I made of it to enlarge the tiny little writing and the tiny little chart. I spent many hours looking for the pattern. I even looked in all of my knitting books because I have a habit of tucking single sheets inside of books. No luck.

So I finally decided to just buy another copy of the pattern so I could finish the darn thing. It was worth it, because the sweater is fabulous.

I did change my mind about the closure and will sew in a zipper instead of the toggle buttons called for in the pattern. I haven't been to my local sit & knit for a while, but I'm glad I went this week because I got some great zipper sewing in tips from Frank, a fisherman & knitter, who knits the traditional Salish Coast/Cowichan sweaters. I might even put in some side seam pockets. Which leads me to a question. Is a sweater ever really done?

Cats and yarn

Smokey snuggling yarn
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
As much as I love knitting, my cat, Smokey, loves yarn.

Alas, poor...

Alas, poor...
Originally uploaded by Loretta.
This felted skull scarf is Yorrick from I knit it from Babajoes Woolpak which felts quite nicely. I gave it to my Anatomy & Physiology professor who is now using it not only to keep her neck warm, but to make the other Bio profs jealous. I liked it so much that I made a garter stitch version for myself. The GS version went a lot faster, but I think I like the original better. I may just make another one from Classic Elite Lush, the yarn called for in the original pattern. But mine will be in a pale green 1) because I already have the yarn and 2) because the real human bones that we study in A&P lab look a bit pale greenish to me.

OK I'm just figuring out how this works

Bear with me

Inspired by Sophie

Seeing my friend Sophie's knitting blog makes me think I need to do this. I'm not good at keeping a knitting journal, even though I recommend the practice to my knitting students. I've been knitting for around 30 years (some of them continuously).

I started as a kid with a bunch of library books. I don't know where I got the idea that I wanted to knit. My mother's hobby of choice has always been sewing. But I knew only one person who did knit, a school friend's mom. I was way too shy to ask her to teach me to knit. So I turned to my reliable old friend the library. I checked out every book I could find on knitting. It took me a while to figure out a method. I thought that everything started with ribbing, so I learned ribbing first. Talk about doing things the hard way. No one was there to tell me otherwise. I found out years later, and many books later, that the method I taught myself now has a name, "combination knitting". It is described in the self-published Confessions of a Knitting Heretic by Annie Modesitt. I never ran into the "knitting nazis" that Annie describes in her book who would tell me I was knitting "wrong", because, being an introvert, I never exposed myself to such public display.

Throughout junior high, high school and college, I never had much money to spend on yarn. But there were always well meaning adults who would give me their leftovers. And there was always the library for more books about knitting. I probably spent more time reading about knitting than actually knitting, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

After college and all the way on the other side of the continent I discovered three things that changed my knitting life; 1) REAL yarn stores; 2) Maggie Righetti's and Elizabeth Zimmerman's books (you guessed it, at the public library); and 3) Patternworks mail order catalog, at the time called Hard-To-Find Things for Knitters. Maggie took me down the path of continental knitting and really looking at my own work. Elizabeth Zimmerman opened my eyes to many things, not the least of which was the beauty of circular knitting. My Knitter's Rule Jr from Patternworks got me thinking about the correct gauge and actually making things that fit. I still was not to have any contact with other knitters until I moved to Washington state 8 years down the road.