Archive for knitting
See what I did there? Ha! So, I’m usually the one giving away baby knits but THIS time is different. See…I’m pregnant with my first child, little Owen Paul Scalzo, due 4/29/13. Yay!!!! (super happy dance)
It explains why I haven’t exactly been an active participant on this blog/website thing for a while. I have been designing, but getting projects finished, written, and edited while also prepping for baby AND buying our first house has been a bit of a challenge. It’s a good thing I have such wonderful knitters (and a crocheter) in my life! Behold the handmade bounty of my baby shower!!
The baby hat is my 6-year-old niece’s very first project, made on a Knifty Knitter. I don’t recall the patterns for the green and white blankets, but the blue one can be found here on Ravelry!
Who’s got four thumbs, a big ole belly, and is one lucky mama? THIS GAL!
As of late, my reading material has deteriorated to bestsellers on how to lose excess fat. This is basically a response to my upcoming wedding in July, however, it’s not exactly feel-good material before bed! Thankfully, my nightstand has now been taken over by various histories of knitting across the world. These books, celebrating women (and men) and the impact of needlework on our world, are a much more enjoyable alternative.
The diaries and letters of early American knitters are occasionally featured in Anne L. MacDonald’s No Idle Hands. First-person accounts were always my favorite thing to feature in museum exhibits. Curatorial text was always good for building context and summarizing various phenomena and events, but the actual words of the people involved are both fascinating windows into the everyday lives of others and reflections of the many characteristics we share in common. To me, those are the really valuable nuggets.
The following passage from the Civil-War-era diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Southern girl sent to Boston to finish her education with her aunts, indicates an existence filled with knitting work. ” [S]he added, ‘When I inform you that my needle work at school, and knitting at home, went on as usual, I think I have laid before you a pretty full account of the last week’” [MacDonald 1990:22]. Anna didn’t have to elaborate. She spent a lot of time knitting.
I love that passage, as it’s pretty much how my days go at the moment. With the exception of a few recent days at Disneyland for my niece’s 5th birthday, I am usually planning my wedding or getting patterns written and edited for this site. That’s a pretty full account of my time. There are so many patterns in my head and notebook, but I need to finish one at a time! Same goes for the wedding plans. I just need to keep my head down and persevere.
Really, though, there are things I can report on. For example, this heart pillow pattern. I received two free skeins of Rowan’s Big Wool at the Vogue Knitting LIVE conference and have been wondering what to do with them. They pose a bit of a conundrum for me: 1) they’re red; 2) they’re bulky; 3) there are only two. I almost never work with reds, I favor DK weight, and would prefer a pack of 12. But they were free and I am grateful! So this little guy popped off my needles while I was supposed to be finishing the editing on the Emma Mae Louise pattern.
Just so you know, it is absolutely a coincidence that yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Today is arguably the worst day of the year to post something like this, haha. I simply thought this yarn needed to hold love notes, all year long.
ETA: This used to be a free pattern, but I’ve removed it in accordance with my decision to no longer provide free patterns. Granted, hundreds of you now have it, and that’s great! I hope it provides many hours of knitting enjoyment! However, from this point forward, I will be asking for a tiny bit of compensation in exchange for the work that went into creating it for you. Thank you for understanding!
One thing I love about knitting is how it lets you hug a person when you’re not even there. Your time, your energy, your goodwill – they’re all knit into the fabric. That is why knitting for babies is one of my favorite things to do. When they’re brand new people, they don’t know anything but how they’re feeling at that moment. If you can make them feel snuggled, you’ve just made this world a better place.
Example A: My friend, Theresa, had her baby boy (named after my fiance!) and uses the blanket I knit to make him feel warm and loved. Apparently, he loves it! Look at this muffin, all sleeping and stuff, in clear contentment. How can that not make a knitter feel awesome?
It is no surprise that I would want to design for babies, since knitting for them is so satisfying. As you know, I’ve been working on a onesie and sun hat set for my friends’ baby, Emma Mae Louise (EML). I finished it poolside during Thanksgiving weekend in Palm Springs (pictured) and I gave it to her for her baby shower.
Baby EML has since been born…and she is ADORABLE. Shocking, I know. A baby being cute. But the EML onesie and sun hat design has been difficult for me to pin down for mass consumption. What size exactly was my sample? I modeled it off of a 6-month sized store-bought onesie that, apparently, deviates from most other sizing charts. But what is an actual deviation? The charts I found are all OVER the place with their measurements (and for various, legitimate reasons, I’m sure).
More info about baby sizes after the jump! –> Read More→
Ok, so not actually “live”…I’m at Vogue Knitting LIVE in New York City!! I flew in this afternoon and I’m exHAUSted. But that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of what I could before crashing for the night, which includes free yarn, camel fibers, new tools, baskets from Kenya, accidental sightseeing, and culinary delights…ahhh New York.
After unpacking, I made my way over to the Marketplace, which is an exhibitor’s hall. Row upon row of booths peddling various designs, products, services…it was so lovely! Seriously, how can you not be happy around all these colors? And the smooshiness of it all, good heavens. Buckets of cashmere appear around every corner, ready for a squish-prone thumb and forefinger. You know you want to squish it. It’s ok! You’re among friends!
I had a moment of weakness in one of the booths, though, and purchased a hank of Handmaiden‘s lace weight Marrakesh yarn, which is a blend of baby camel and silk in a very delicate seafoam color. Holy. Mama. There it was, like a newborn kitten in a box with all of its siblings on a street corner. It wasn’t the brightest colorway of the Marrakesh hanks, nor the most variegated. But it leaned up against me and looked up at me with its big, brown eyes and…wait…no, that didn’t happen.
I also scored a FREE ball of Oporto from Lanas Stop. Nice!! The rep at the Woolmark table gave it to me. It’s a soft, chunky merino wool and alpaca blend in a dusty rose color. I already want to fair isle it into some mittens with the Knit Picks Cadena I brought with me. I might have brought that for a completely different reason, but tough noogies. It’s flipping cold in NYC! And I wanna knit it, so there.
Next up: the basket booth. Mountains of handmade, unique baskets and woven bags. They were all created by women in craft cooperatives in rural Kenya and they were indeed beautiful. The designs were mostly black and brown, but my eyes couldn’t leave these two beauties. They aren’t for sale until Sunday, since they’re taking orders on them first, so I’m going to sit on that impulse buy and see how I feel then. But I’d love to keep in contact with Mary, the owner/coordinator.
At the Adela’s Yarn booth, there was a most intriguing item: the Fix-A-Stitch. It’s essentially a double ended crochet hook, but was fascinating to watch the woman who created the tool demonstrate. I know there have been tools like this out there before, but it looks easier to use than the latch hook version and sure would be handy to have around!
More about my trip after the jump! –> Read More→
This month, Vogue is hosting its bi-annual (it appears) ”conference-ish thing”, Vogue Knitting LIVE! So far, Vogue has been hosting these get-togethers for the knitting industry in the winter (New York City) and fall (Los Angeles). And this winter, I’m going to NYC!! According to their website,
“Vogue Knittingis one of a kind—an experiential fashion and knitting event that focuses on knitwear design, new products, fashion shows, master-level hand-knitting workshops, and technique courses on fit and shaping, pattern writing, lace, socks and the signature techniques of our starring cast.”
In my “past life”, conferences were places where you would undoubtedly gain, among other things, inspiration and a renewed enthusiasm for your day job. Museum conferences had that in spades, for sure, but were also chock full of long-suffering counterparts in the industry, ready at a moment’s notice to pour buckets of “everything sucks” all over the room. Differences between exhibits people, collections people, administrators, educators, etc. tended to split up a general session as if it were a middle school lunchroom (for the record, exhibits people always threw the best after-hours events).
Now, I’m back in the green seat in a brand new industry, feeling still exuberant but tempered with healthy skepticism. I’m not sure what to expect, but I intend to network, learn, and really dig into the resources available to me while I’m there. I will certainly use as much as I can on the designs and posts offered on this site.
I am super excited to attend lectures and classes by these wonderful professionals. Setting this schedule was difficult, as there are SO MANY amazing teachers and classes, but I thought this mashup was best for me at this time.
Specific information about my sessions and teachers after the jump! –> Read More→
It is almost 1:00am, per usual. Evan is sound asleep next to me, Buddy is happily nestled in the crook of Evan’s knees, and I’m clearly trying to find a new way to torture myself with excessive and complicated motif design. But really, it’s the only way I’ve ever learned anything. God knows I don’t listen to advice or suggestion. “What do they know? They don’t have the same life experiences that I do. Nobody is a better expert on me than me.” So, I learn the hard way. I am forever a teenager.
I’ve designed quite a few pieces recently, but they require some editing and tweaking before I can release them here. I’m excited to get those out! Some of them, unfortunately, began as failures or simply never made it off the ground. These failures, though, have become wonderful sources of information…but only if I choose to accept this information and use it properly. You can certainly ignore these tips and you might even be successful, but me? I should really stick to ‘em.
Ok, here’s what I have learned over the past month:
1) The “turtle onesie” I already blogged about is now just a concept…a dream I once enjoyed. I tried color work, requiring about 4 different colors on a single row. In the round. Not only were my floats atrocious, but my poor nerves were thrashed by the tangled mess of my yarn bobbins. See photo at left for one of the many sad piles of frogged yarn. I finished the onesie, in general, but without the motifs I originally planned. Lesson learned: avoid knitting with more than 2 colors per row.
2) The “commando capelet” was a pretty straightforward idea. I measured around my entire torso/arms region, it was about 42″ circumference at the meatiest part. But hello, Miss Kate, you have shoulders and elbows. Those are called “joints” and they do this thing called, “move”. Design for it. I worked up a nice, woolen straightjacket at first, then took out roughly 80% of the length for the re-do. Lesson learned: When you think you’ve considered all necessary functions for your piece, do yourself a favor and reconsider it.
3) I have been working on a felted yoga mat cover as a gift. I had a TON of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed from a failed jacket attempt years ago, as well as a few skeins of Patons Classic Wool, which I know felts like a dream. I even swatched (I’ll wait for you to finish gasping……..ok!). The tweed was a total jerk but the Patons cinched in cleanly, without a fuss. But no, I still wanted to use these various skeins (they were old, therefore free), I wanted them knit into the same rows, and they were going to felt just fine, thank you very much. Plus, I reeeeeally wanted this to be a successful stash buster. I should have known better. It felted completely unevenly, the pattern actually turned out kinda ugly, and ended up being cut up for scraps and samples. See the photo at left for a picture that is cuter than this project turned out to be. Lessons learned: Don’t force a project to happen for the wrong reasons. Avoid mixing yarns in felted projects. And don’t expect a yarn to act any differently the second (or third) time around.
Now, armed with my lessons learned, I have to actually listen to someone. Myself. In the future, I may take those lessons as evidence of previous flaws in my skill set or just some sort of error for which I have not yet accounted, but I must…MUST…learn to accept these in order to keep my sanity and avoid pitfalls in the future. Acceptance is said to be the final stage of grief, but it’s also integral to my success.
Dear friends, it’s Tuesday and my body is still all stiff and sore from Sunday’s kickball championships. No, I have not re-enrolled in the third grade. I promise, people do this now! It’s totally a thing. San Diego is a particularly nice place to join adult sports leagues. Evan and his (now “our”) friends have been playing kickball on the Vavi leagues for about 5 years now. I came along a couple of years ago and joined in the fun, usually at 1st base.
Our team, the Crazy 88s, has been crazy awesome for a while, but we’ve had a bit of a slump this season. We didn’t think we would even make the playoffs, but somehow we won a tie breaker among 3 other crap teams and got stuck playing on Sunday. Some of us were a little annoyed, to tell the truth. Let us have a free Sunday instead of getting our butts handed to us, please. Little did we know, we’d win the championship! Other seasons, sure…not a huge surprise. But this season? I think we collectively ate our Wheaties for playoff day!
In between championship games, you get a lot of down time. Here I am working on my Commando Capelet. Lemme introduce you: the Commando Capelet is a truncated poncho or capelet. A friend’s mother is having shoulder surgery soon and expressed an interest in a poncho or some sort of easy garment which can be worn without the added hassle of getting her recovering arm through any holes or what not. She didn’t even want to mess with a bra, hence the name: Commando. No need for undergarments when wearing this puppy!
The Commando Capelet is made from a thick-n-thin wool called Araucania Liwen and size US 8 needles. It has a plain ribbed collar and a large, cabled edging. I’m working on the edging separately, then sewing it on. Once it’s complete, I’ll write it up and add to the site!
As I settle into this blog and develop the vision I have for its content, I am overwhelmed but excited. The opportunity to research, write about, and derive inspiration from any anthropological or cultural topic I want is pretty awesome. Looking down at my needles, however, does not immediately appear to reflect this direction. Oh, the wonderful reminders of why I studied anthropology in the first place. If human activity intersects with something…anything…it’s relevant. How cool is that?
So, what is on my needles? A new University of Michigan hat. The previous attempt was a bit too big and the M’s too ubiquitous. Which brings me to college football culture. You’d be hard pressed to find a less qualified person to comment on this, considering I never attended a school past age 12 that actually had a football team. I have been a participant observer over the last two years, through Evan, in an extended University of Michigan Alumni-based cultural group (ie. I know and spend time with a bunch of them now).
American Football, in the tiniest of nutshells
Considered a descendant of rugby, the very first intercollegiate football game was purportedly played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. The goal of football, at its absolute, most basic level, is to successfully get the ball, being in undisputed possession by one of your players, into the end zone. The end zone is the final 10 yards of the field, on the side designated as your team’s end zone. Getting the ball into the end zone is called a touchdown. Conversely, you want to keep the ball from reaching the opposite end of the field while in the hands of your opponents. Simple. For a much more in depth description, you can do the usual wikipedia/Google route or pick up a book like, “Get Your Own Damn Beer.” But, generally, you’re trying to get touchdowns. Oh yeah, and it’s really heavy on smashing, tackling, pig-piling and other physical things at which your mother would cringe.
The University of Michigan (U of M) is part of a conference within college football called the Big Ten. The conference was originally formed in 1895 by seven schools. It was named the Big Ten in 1917 after Michigan rejoined as the tenth university. Michigan was already a founding member of the conference, but had withdrawn in 1908. Membership does fluctuate and the Big Ten conference currently includes 12 teams.
One of the biggest rivalries in Big Ten history (some would say all of college sports history) is between Michigan and Ohio State University. This is actually one of the things Evan and I bonded over early in our relationship: our dislike of Ohio State. I don’t like them because I knew some Buckeyes in grad school who were not my favorite people. Totally valid. His feelings are, apparently, rooted in actual history. Evan and I were, therefore, quite tickled with Michigan’s victory over Ohio during this Thanksgiving weekend!! GO BLUE!
The Michigan Man
Aside from the simple mechanics and history of football, the Big Ten, and the University of Michigan, the part of college football fandom (really, any type of fandom) which interests me the most is the concept of group membership and identity. People are moved to tears over losses, swell with confidence upon victory, and vest a substantial portion of their sense of selves within this brand. You see the same sort of thing in people with strong nationalist sentiments, religious convictions, corporate rivalries, etc. College football is one of the big ones.
The University of Michigan has, it appears, an actual persona attached. It is a conceptual way of behaving, a collegiate pedigree of sorts, which imbues those who have gained acceptance to this most magical of places the responsibility and expectation of being…the “Michigan Man.” Some would argue you can embody this without having attended the school. Unfettered loyalty, membership by association, and just plain good behavior can sometimes win access to this social group. According to BleacherReport.com, “when it comes to football, a “Michigan Man” is a former Wolverine player or coach.” But in my personal experience, it goes deeper. You are expected to hold yourself to a higher standard of class, maturity, loyalty, and success. As one commenter states, “A Michigan Man (or Michigan Woman) is simply someone who is a loyal and positive representative of the University of Michigan.” Plus, Funny or Die did a sketch about it…kind of awesome.
This is why it is important for us knitters to get the colors as close to the “real” ones as possible. To get the font right on the logo (I almost went with a sans serif “M”…eek!). To design something understated enough to wear everyday, but in-your-face enough to communicate that my team is awesome, I identify with the culture of its fans, and I take some measure of ownership of this team’s highs and lows. It is a stand that is taken, to be seen and interpreted by friends and strangers alike, as well as a personal declaration of character. I may not have attended the university, but I love the University of Michigan and fully support them as a loyal member of the group, decked out in my hand knitted M’s.
Conventional wisdom in the knitting community suggests you avoid knitting a sweater for your significant other (usually a man) until you’re married or engaged. There are several reasons why, such as
1) the recipient’s style/preferences being completely misunderstood;
2) a perceived lack of enthusiasm by the recipient when receiving such a gift (and the subsequent fight about this reaction);
3) the pressure behind the fact that your sweetie spent countless hours and potentially hundreds of dollars on this thing that you had better wear;
4) the suspicion that the maker is “buying more time” in the relationship by putting so much thought and time into the gift;
…the list goes on. Relationships. They’re friggin’ complicated.
Now that my ring finger is no longer bare, I am free to knit for my guy. We’ve passed that threshold. He’s ok with my third day in a row wearing the same yoga pants and avoiding the outside world; I’m ok with his occasional marathon Diablo sessions with his friends over the internet…and we’ve both agreed that he doesn’t really need or want to wear sweaters in Southern California.
So where does that leave me? Well, we agreed on two items: Hats and socks. Creative, I know. But most guys don’t need much more than basics, they really don’t. Especially if that is already reflected in their wardrobes. Any attempt to change that is doomed to failure and can demonstrate a disinterest in actually making them happy. Mash those two categories with his favorite clothing element (University of Michigan colors) and BAM. All I need is some blue and gold (eh-hem…sorry…maize) and there is peace in our realm.
YARN REVIEW: Debbie Bliss Andes
And what a gorgeous couple of blue and gold skeins they are…
Let me start out by telling you about Debbie Bliss Andes. Oh. Mah. Gah. The moment I picked this up at the store, I got goosebumps and my stomach turned (in a good way). It was that unmistakeable giddy feeling that sends my head into a spin and my wallet into hiding. Now that I’ve finished a project with it, I can expand a bit on the merits and drawbacks.
Gauge: Usually my gauge is spot on with DB yarns and I need little to no adjustments. It calls for a US 6 needle, though, and I have to say that US 4 is PLENTY big. There was a lot of air in that first swatch, but the 4s made a beautiful, soft fabric with a decent amount of drape.
Fiber content: 65% wool, 35% silk
Colors: I bought this when visiting the store with my sister and, before she even felt the stuff, she marveled at the amazing colors. She was right. It wasn’t a tough decision to buy the yarn, but the color choice was. Good thing I pulled out that gold color or I’d still be there chewing my fingernails to nubs trying to decide.
Working behavior: It is lovely, but can be splitty. I’ve worked with “splittier” yarns before, but you have to pay attention to this stuff. It will not be ignored. It also gathers what my sister and I charmingly describe as “dingleberries”, which are the little tufts of wool that gather around your working yarn as you knit, eventually creating a big donut of fur. Another caveat I have to offer is the tendency of the yarn to stick to itself. While working two colors, they would rub up against each other for a while and then stay that way. I had to rip or cut them apart a few times where they would spontaneously form a join. If you’re diligent about keeping the fibers apart, you’ll be fine. This also makes frogging pretty difficult so try to get it right the first time.
Finished behavior: Thanks to the silk content, this stuff stretches and doesn’t look back. Before blocking, it had bounce and shape. It fit nicely around my noggin and looked like a hat. After blocking, it was like a lampshade on my head. The ribbing was flat and the piece just hung there. Very sad. I had to re-dampen it and put it on high in the dryer for an hour so the wool portion would come back to earth and, hopefully, bring the silk with it. I partially blame the large sizing on my huge gauge from the colorwork section, but really…the silk was a double-edged sword for me.
The other edge of that sword, though, was wonderful! It was still bigger than I wanted it to be but, as a general note on the knitted fabric itself, the yarn really came together and had lovely stitch definition, drape, texture, color…I instantly wanted to put it into a larger garment with more skin contact. Luxury right there.
Final thoughts: Consider this one a 7 out of 10. The best part is the texture. This feels like you’re knitting thin, cool streams of water together. It’s to die for. If knitted into the right garment with the appropriate care and fully blocked swatches, I’d recommend it whole-heartedly. But there were some drawbacks, as you can see, so I have to bump it down a few notches.
Is there any happier news to a knitter than a new baby in their life? Doubtful. Babies are small. Babies are impossibly cute. And the babies are usually someone else’s, so they maintain their “newness”.
I just shipped off a set of handknit baby items to my friend, Theresa, who is a HUGE Virginia Tech fan and due in December. Her future son will, I hope, enjoy his VT colored blanket, hat, and cardigan. I believe these were all Debbie Bliss patterns. Debs, as I call her, is always good in a pinch.
For all new babies, however, I am going to design the gift and add it to my body of work. Enter Emma May Louise, the baby girl to our friends Carol Ann and John. Carol Ann is due in late January, so I have to hop to it! She loves the beach and a general Hawaiian vibe. Her baby girl will be surrounded by inanimate sea turtles of all shapes and colors and, like me, Carol Ann prefers the blues, greens, and browns of the ocean to bright pinks and yellows. A turtle-themed sunsuit, it is!
I’ve chosen my current favorite baby yarn, DB’s Baby Cashmerino and I’ll give you a couple of reasons why.
1) It is a light weight: At first glance, using a wool blend might be a poor choice for a beach outfit, but it’s not a terribly thick or warm garment. The arms, shoulders, and legs are all open.
2) Wool holds its shape: I prefer the piece to have a bit of “memory” instead of cotton which stretches and tends to stays that way.
3) DB colors are beautiful: Another positive attribute of her yarns are the gorgeous, classy colors. You can be assured that your piece will look like it came from a very tasteful individual, even if thats not really the case. Ha!
I spent the past couple of days working on the turtle motif before putting it into the larger design. Evan was a model of patience as I spent our “free time” furiously swatching (and complaining about swatching). He does not suffer from design and color obsession, so he tends to give very straightforward and helpful feedback. A simple, “yeah, that looks like a turtle,” or “eh, looks kind of off” is more than enough information.
My “turtles” ended up looking like poptarts with spiked edges or little green beetles, but by the end of the night: SUCCESS! Add to it some inspiration for a spin-off project, too.