Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day Four 2KCBWDAY4

Today's assigned topic is:

Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

Over the course of my knitting years I've given away countless knitted items and very few stick in my mind.

In my 20s, when I and everyone else I knew were having babies, I knitted baby sweater after baby sweater for all the little babes that were (seemingly) so important in my life at the time. At the time, I had a favorite pattern, a top-down little raglan from a Bernat book and I probably made 15 or 20 of them. I have no idea where any of those babies or the sweaters are today--I guess they weren't that important at the time after all. But the thought was nice.

And for many years--10 or 12--I knit socks for Russian orphans. Adoptive parents would gather up those little socks and stuff suitcases full of them and carry them with love when they made their pre-adoption visits to visit orphans in far-flung places in Russia--back when Russia was the USSR. Why Russian orphans? Why not?

The idea was that the parents would travel to Russia to meet a child they might or might not end up bringing home and would be appalled by the living conditions the children were in. One of the things that has stuck in my mind is the fact that we were encouraged to make the socks (or sweaters or hats or whatever the item of the month's challenge was) out of pure wool. Yes, our own babies wore acrylic to avoid shrinkage, but it was unthinkable for hot water to be wasted washing an orphan's socks, so they would remain pristinely unfelted for all time. And if some hideous circumstance resulted in a sock being shrunk, there was always another orphan that would fit it, no matter the size.  I have no idea how many socks went to Russia, or whether any of them ever got there, or whether any child ever wore one of my sock pairs. But it felt good to send them off, like releasing butterflies into the wind.

Eventually, things being what they are, the cost of taking those hugely stuffed suitcases on an airplane became so outrageous that parents stopped carrying them. I'm assuming that socks are still mailed off but I don't really know. For some reason, I stopped knitting them when the push went from knitting garments to finding the money to ship them. 

There are so many amazing knitting-related charities--Afghans for Afghanistan, knitted hats for preemies, Caps for the Capital, squares for Warm-Up America. It's amazing to me that there are so many people in this world who are so selfless. The anonymity of the whole thing is the most amazing part--no one wants or needs credit. They just want to help.

Then there are the things I've made for swaps, mostly on Ravelry--little knitted bags and socks and once an IPOD case. I sort of know where they went but ... not really.

But the garments that I always wonder about are the helmet liners. Our guild has made over 650 knitted helmet liners for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Frankly, there's something wonderful  and awful at the same time about knowing your knitted helmet liner might be keeping a soldier warm in a cold war zone. The people who collect them say that they're needed because the government supplies acrylic or polyester liners that don't keep the head warm--I'm sure there's some fiscally responsible reason for this, or that they wash better, or some other esoteric reason to send something that doesn't work to someone who's defending your company, but I don't understand any of them. I've heard that sometimes medics use them to keep a wounded soldier warm as he or she is Medevaced to a clinic--that may be an urban legend but I'm clinging to it. I hope that our liners have done some good to the people who make sure we can live free.

Well, this was a way too serious trip down memory lane. I guess I should have stuck with the sweater my ex got in the divorce settlement!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week - Day Three 2KCBWDAY3

So, today's assigned topic:

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

And the answer is, in my case there's no good answer. Or, put another way, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. Let's start with the easy way.

My yarn stash is arranged decoratively in crisp white cubes, sorted by weight, then by color. Individual planned projects are arranged in clear ziploc bags, each one labeled with a copy of the pattern (in its own acrylic protector, of course) inside the bag, but visible to aid in immediate identification.

(Are you buying this?)

Each yarn is assigned a personalized identification number (a PIN for short, if you're still believing this crap) that matches an entry in the Ravelry database where, if you're still believing any of this utter fabrication, a clear photo and description of yardage and colorway and dye lot are also contained.

(Okay, this isn't working, even for me. I know that friends lie to friends all the time but this one is really pushing the envelope. We're going to have to do this the hard way.)

First of all, what do you know about tectonic plates? All you really need to know is that, as portions of the earth expand and contract, bodies of land are shifted and moved onto each other, creating crevices and mountains. Every so often a really bad movement might result in things like dinosaurs being purged from the earth, but that's really a seldom thing. Here's something that may help you understand what all this means in terms of stash management.

Okay, are we clear? No? Okay, perhaps I need to explain further.

In the master bedroom, there's an area that we'll call "The Appalachians." This mountain range consists of bags (some project bags, some shop bags) each with yarn in them. Here, for instance, is the cobalt blue Miss Babs yarn I bought at Stitches last year to make a shawl.  And the (almost the same color blue) Malabrigo worsted, also from Stitches, that was going to be a Cheryl Oberle shawl. And there are some miscellaneous skeins of sock yarn. Come to think of it, probably everything in this range came from Stitches last year. This range could be considered the "OMG! I just bought this at Stitches and I'm going to work on it right away so I need it near to me!" pile. And, yes, I know Stitches was almost a year ago. Your point?

Upstairs, "The Rockies" used to be in the extra bedroom. but got moved to "The Shenandoahs" next door when grandson Cole was there. The Rockies mostly consisted of yarn bought in the 2004-2010 era (hereinafter called The Spenderiferous Era). Lots of impulse purchases that have never come to fruition. Storage in this area consisted of lots and lots of large straw beach bags with no organization whatsoever.

Earlier this year, The Rockies got combined with The Shenandoahs. The Rockies materials date from pre-history through our move to Atlanta. Meaning there's yarn in here older than my daughters. Now "The Rockendoahs" have experienced a number of landslides and even a few volcanic eruptions. When we first bought the house, The Rockies were beautifully organized in bins on shelving (Mr. Pug took care of that!). Now just walking around in The Rockendoah area is treacherous, and requires pinions and ropes.

Okay, see why there are no photos? I thought you'd see it my way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week - Day Two 2KCBWDAY2

Day two, and I'm still blogging. Amazing!

Today's challenge:

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

That's an interesting one, now that I'm officially a Knitting Crone.
I was taught to knit at about 9 or 10 by my grandmother who was in her late 70's by that time and Older Than God in my eyes. So I wanted to knit like her but certainly not to BE like her. At that time I didn't know anyone else who knit, except for my mother who was a dabbler. (And I certainly didn't want to be her either!)
But now I'm an older knitter in a world seemingly dominated by young, fearless knitters. It's an amazing world to be a part of, surrounded by people young enough to be my grandchildren who are leading the way with incredible designs and patterns. Sometimes I see a fabulous, innovative new pattern on Ravelry or Knitty and read all the way to the bottom and read "so-and-so has been knitting for seven months now and her first book will be published next year."
Thank God for Maggie Righetti and Elizabeth Zimmerman who went before them and paved the way. They taught me the skills that have kept me knitting so I can jump fearlessly into the pool with these newer knitters.
Over the years I think I've dipped a toe into most aspects of knitting and I've had some amazing successes and some devastating failures. And 50 years after learning how to knit, I still think of myself as an intermediate knitter. There are some areas I've only recently entered (with lots of trepidation) like lace. Until about four years ago, I'd never knit lace--my excuse was that I'm really not a lacy, girly-girl, person but the reality was that I was ... SCARED of lace. Now lace is an area to be respected but not feared. I'm still not a shawl wearer, per se, but I've knit a few and I'm sure there are a few more in my future.
And for many years I knit socks. You really can't fail with socks--they always fit someone, you can never have too many, once you get the basic shape down they're all do-able. About three years ago I read an article by Ann Budd in Interweave Knits and became obsessed with toe-up socks. Since then I've made them a passion. I can cast on (Turkish or Judy's Magic Cast On) in my sleep, have perfected my short row heel, and finally have a loose bind off that I like. In short, socks have come to be my "go to" project--I keep finding them in various stages of completion all over the house and car and occasionally even finish some.
But what have I done over the past year? Well, let's see ... there's my ongoing fling with modular knitting. One sweater complete (if by complete you mean in pieces waiting for seaming together), one vest in progress (and will I ever finish it? I think not but I remain hopeful), and the infamous Jane Slicer-Smith jacket that's about halfway done and, by some horrible circumstance, is now approximately the size of a Cirque de Soleil tent. (The elephant called--she wants her cape back!)
And, of course, I dabbled with beading last year, even before Sivia Harding came to teach at our guild. She got me started playing with beads and beaded jewelry (although I guess my first beaded jewelry muse was really Betsy Hershberg). 
But what will this year bring? Well, I already know I'll be doing entrelac because we're having a very well-known entrelac designer come to the guild in the fall (sorry--can't say the name until we have the contract in hand). But I'm very excited--I've done entrelac but I'm not ready to say I'm good at it yet.
I did promise myself that this would be the year to learn Fair Isle. I want to, no, really, I do. And I truly do mean to learn it, some day. But ... do I really have to?
And then there's Waltham:
I can already hear the naysayers telling me, if you can't put together one sweater, what makes you think you'll put this one together? And I don't have an answer for you. I just know I'm going back to my roots and trying cables again. (The last cabled sweater I knit was for my ex-husband and he got custody in the divorce.)
The good news: Mr. Pug won't get this one!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week : 2KCBWDAY1

Okay, I've seriously neglected the old blog in recent months. Yes, I know ... I hear from the six people who actually read it that they miss it, but still ... it's like going back  to your ex-husband. It's a little embarrassing and one of those things you may not want to shout about from the rooftops until you know it's going to last longer than a hot, sweaty afternoon. (Don't ask how I know this one.)

Anyway, along comes Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011. What better excuse to unearth and revive the blog than that? And it even comes with suggested topics. So, here we go, first day:

So, today's topic is "A Tale of Two Yarns." And, just so you'll get the idea, here's the explanation:

Part of any fibre enthusiast's hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash, or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

The timing for this question couldn't be better, because I started a project this past weekend in a yarn that I'd heard about but had never used, Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. When Debra and I went (separately but serendipitously) to the Claudia's Handpainted Yarns Trunk Show at EatSleepKnit a couple of weeks ago, Debra took me to the Madelinetosh room and wouldn't let me leave until I'd picked out a skein (Cherry, if it matters).

Now I love a cult yarn as much as the next person, and I have to admit the color grabbed me by the short hairs right away. Do you see all those shadings? Frankly, the day of the trunk show was rainy and the light in the room was adequate but not great, and I thought it was red yarn. It wasn't until I looked at it outside that I saw all those colors. And it's a single ply, which meant I likely wouldn't be making socks from it.

In fact, I had no idea what I would make from it--probably, with my track record, nothing. I figured it would join the other approximately 493 skeins of sock yarn waiting for me to be inspired. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration but not by much!)  This weekend, the yarn told me--it had to be the Ishbel shawlette. 

I wasn't prepared for finding that using it would be nothing short of a Harry Met Sally moment. This yarn is smoothly twisted, not plied, with a little bit of attitude. (Why do I think I should be saying, "Tosh ... Madelinetosh" like "Bond ... James Bond"?)  Ishbel is a delicate balance of stockinette with a very simple lace edge. In the Tosh Merino Light, the stockinette portion is beautiful and soft. The lace portion is sharply defined--every PSSO stands out like a beacon.

Now, moving from ecstasy to irritation, my unfavorite yarn of all time: Noro Kureyon.

Oh, I love the colors! Noro yarns have some of the most wonderful colors available to a knitter. They change and swirl and move through a knitted piece with a life of their own. No argument with the colors at all.

But the texture? The rough, almost scratchy fibers, longing to make you itch? The thick-and-thin nature of the yarns that take you from a lumpy blob of yarn down to a hair-like thread that suddenly breaks off in your hand, just as you're pulling a stitch taut? And the woodiness--and by this I mean the actual splinters of straw and wood that appear in every skein? The multiple knots, never in the same color, mind you, so that you're knitting along with deep purple and suddenly the yarn ends in a knot ... and now you're knitting in turquoise blue... both pretty colors but ... they couldn't match the broken strands?

And what I hate the most about Noro Kureyon? The fact that I'm continuously seduced by it. I see it, stacked beautifully in a cubby in a yarn store, and I think, "maybe this time it'll be different."

Come to think of it, that IS a ltitle like going back to your ex-husband.  It just makes you remember why you left him in the first place. (And don't ask how I know.)

No, really. Don't ask.