Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Week Day Four - Where are they now?

Day Four: 31st March. Where are they now?
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.

Ok, before I even begin telling my little project story, you should all go check out Wisdom Begins in Wonder's story for today.  It's a moving tribute to her dad and the power that an item we've made can still have.

Alrighty.  Well, this topic is going to force me to admit that most of the things I've made have gone somewhere into the ether.  Well, not exactly.  Mostly, until I started my etsy shop and subsequently, this blog, I never really took pictures and can barely remember all the things I've made, much less know where they are now!  Plus, I have this weird thing where I forget stuff.  Yup, whole events are just gone...weird.  So, this feeds into some difficulty with today's topic.  So I think I will take a slightly different approach and tell you about making my first project after re-learning to knit.

I bought some basic yellow yarn.  Bright, happy, sunshiny.  Just what I needed for my purposes.  I was going to quit smoking.  Successfully.  This time.  Mmmhmmm.  Yup.

I started a rib knit scarf with my happy yarn and got down to business.  I took that project everywhere!  To class, to the bar, to the coffee shop.  Everywhere.  I knit when I wanted a cigarette, I knit when I could have cared less about a cigarette.  I finished that scarf (two or three skeins later) in a matter of 2 or 3 days.   I then immediately proceeded to make a hat (well I hadn't gotten through my cravings yet!).  I knit that flat because I hadn't learned about knitting in the round yet and sewed it together.  It was enormous!  Way too big for my head.  I think I hadn't learned about gauge yet either!

The funny thing is, that after all that work and angst, I never really wore either one of them.  I think (key word think)  that my friend Kara adopted one or both of them.  Now Kara moved alot after that so where they are now is anyone's guess.  I hope that wherever they are, they are keeping someone warm and giving them the courage to do something as difficult for them as quitting smoking was for me.  Maybe one of my silent blog stalkers will have some insight into where these little guys ended up?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy mind, tidy stitches - Day 3 of the Knit Crochet Blog week

Day Three: 30th March. Tidy mind, tidy stitches.
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.

Yeah, anyone who knows me, knows that organization is not my strong suit.  Case in point, my mother, who is visiting, just took my african violets to water as I had completely forgotten to take care of them this week.  Now, I did just post a little post the other day about organizing my craft space.  You can see my before and after photos there.

I love to think of my disorganization as being organized in its own way, but after I cleaned up my work space, I was kind of shocked to realize that I really had no idea what yarns I had anymore.  I had the wools in with the cottons, silks with bulky blends.  Unfinished projects with bags of roving.  Ridiculous!

So I now have a loose organizational system at work.  We'll see how well it works in action as time goes on, but for now, I at least have an idea of what I have and where it is.  So I basically have organized my yarn by type at this point, or use for that matter.   All the boxes are stored under the eaves in my little attic work room like this (Can you tell I need more boxes for the fabric?).

Here's yarn box 1:

These are my designated yarns.  Yarns I have purchased for particular projects or that are really special but I haven't decided what to use them for.  The beige yarn is for a circular cardigan that was featured in Vogue Knits one months over a year ago.  The lavendar and chocolate is a Debby Bliss silk that I had to have and have yet to use.  Oh, my homespuns are kept here too, cause they're super special too!

Yarn Box 2:

My plant based fibers!  Organic cottons (and not so organic), bamboos, hemps.  Try combining the hemp and cotton for an awesome exfoliating yet soft washcloth!

Yarn Box 3:

My wools.  My merinos, sock yarns, blends, ohhh so silky wonderful wools.  These are the ones I use for wool. Not for felting, these are the specialty ones or just plain blends like the Lion Brand Quick and Easy on top.  My Malabrigos are in here for quick access (love them).  I love this box.  The mix of fibers and textures are great to bury your arms in!

And box number 4:

This is the workhorse box.  The Cascade 220's and other basic wools great for felting or color work.  Easy to access and I love the colors in this one!

There are other boxes, but these are my favorites.  I love pulling them out and just luxuriating in the wealth of having all this yarn to choose from!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Two of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Skill + 1UP

Day Two: 29th March. Skill + 1UP
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?

I've always thought of myself as an adventurous knitter.  After I re-taught myself to knit a number of years ago (in a then unsuccessful bid to quit smoking, since successful), I began to go through interesting patterns that required me to use a new skill.  I learned how to twist knit, lace knit, knit in the round, knit in 3D, felt, cable, the list could go on.  Since then, I've used these techniques in my own designs as well as in new patterns that I've had a go at.

Now, with that said, when I look back at the last year, I am amazed at how lacking in new skills it is.  Not that it is completely bereft.  I did learn to shape a triangle shawl with increases on this lovely number:

This is the Multnomah Shawl by Kate Flagg, so beautiful and easy to knit up.  It was also my first journey into the world of sock yarn knitting.  There's a new skill for ya.  Learning to use a new yarn is almost a new skill I suppose.  Feeling it run through your fingers, watching the drape develop as you knit it up.  Yup, that's a 1UP fer sure!

I also had a lovely time playing with color knitting this year.  While I loved using the sock yarn, I also wanted to experiment with chunky yarns and so bought 5 skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky to play with while I was visiting with my mom in Maine.  I created 5 different hats with various combinations and using stranding techniques.  Here's a couple of them:

A super fun project and really fun to play with one yarn over a few similar but different projects.  And certainly a 1UP in terms of color usage skill level.

It's fun actually to look back over these and to see that yes, I did learn some new things this year.  But did these grow my craft?  And if not, then how has my craft grown this year if not necessarily in technique?

Crafting has transformed from a hobby that I did here and there to keep my hands busy, make me smile, and just have the joy of creating things, to something that is part of my daily thoughts and planning as well as a small business.  That's a pretty large growth curve.  On a small level, there's things that have changed as a direct result of this transition.  Things like my attention to detail and finishing have improved as I can't stand to send something out that has shoddy craftsmanship.  And I've delved into new colors and textures as well and that has expanded my experience and creative thoughts.

But with all that, the growth that most interests me is the internal growth that I've experienced.  I've discovered that I can stick with something for longer than a moment.  I can create beautiful things.  I have good ideas.  I am a good knitter!  These little things add up to one big 1UP!!   And it's one that fills me up with joy and pride and wonder at the power of ME!

Not a bad 1UP for the year huh?  I'll take it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day 1 - A Tale of Two Yarns

Lucky Lucky me!  I follow some really great blogs out there and what to my wandering eye did appear??  No not 8 tiny reindeer, but rather lots of ladies talking about the fiber they use from those reindeer (or their relatives)!  All this week is the 2nd Annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week and I am jumping into the fray to play!!
Apparently, we get a lovely little prompt for each day to play with and here is day one's:
Day One: 28th March. A Tale of Two Yarns.
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.
Well as you know, if you've read many of my posts, I love fibers!  Give me your wool, your cotton, your silky blends!  I will find a home for just about any yarn in some project somewhere along the line.  My favorites tend to be yarns that are soft and malleable after being knitted up, but still hold a shape.  Yup, sometimes the two work beautifully and sometimes, not so much.

My true favorite, go-to yarn has got to be Blue Sky Alpaca's Organic Dyed Cotton (or undyed if I want a natural).  It has a lovely hand, is easy to work with, comes in fabulous colors and really works well for a wide variety of projects.  

From basic hats,

To functional washcloths...

To sweet little lambys, this yarn has been a staple of mine for years now.

Now, another yarn that I have had less luck with, (at least for my most typical knit projects) has been Noro's worsted.  Now, these guys make a gorgeously colored yarn!  It is also AWESOME for felting!  I, unfortunately, have found that felting is just not really my love.  So, I decided to play with some Noro with a pattern idea I had for little wool pants for Oliver based on a vintage pattern I had found in some old magazine.  The Noro knit up beautifully, and the pants looked cute, but they were a little rough and I had to felt them a little before they were soft enough to wear. 

This is a terrible picture, but you can see the two colorways I used (reversible hahaha).  Super cute, but not quite what I wanted.  I think more than anything, I learned about where I like and dislike to use this yarn.  Yes for decorative, No for wearing close to the skin.  More evidence for taking the time to really find a yarn that suits my purposes!

What are your favorite yarns??

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring is time for renew and refresh

With my renewed sense of energy last week I tackled one the most satisfying projects for me.  It's not necessarily my favorite, in fact it is so far from that, that it is almost ironic that I find it satisfying and pleasurable at the same time.  What, you may ask, could possibly be both overwhelming, yucky, and not liked, and at the same time be kinda fun, and totally satisfying?  Yup, you guessed it, cleaning!

Now, I'm not talking about cleaning the bathroom and mopping floors.  I don't think I have ever thought those tasks were fun (although loud Sheryl Crow really helps).  I'm referring to the cleaning of my studio/sewing room.  

I have been unable to find my inspiration and I would get knocked out by the mess up there.  So on Friday, when I was looking for my Fiber Arts Friday project, I found it.  Cleaning up the space in which I create!

Here's what it looked like before I started:

Massage table up from Thursday night session, poncho project strewn over the available seating...

A sewing table you can barely see (which is a shame 'cause it's pretty)

And a generally ridiculous amount of detritus strewn about where it should not be.


Project first involved taking my growing fabric stash and getting it under control.  I made cardboard holders and wrapped the fabric on pretty!

Then I sort of cleaned up the little shelves and found a home for the fabric to live...

It's hard to tell, because it's still chock full, but these are actually very organized now.  I need some more little boxes to store supplies in now.

So after that was done, I tackled the sewing table:

And then the dormer:

The poncho project even found a little home until next week when it's finished (I hope).

Ahhhhh, sweet relief!  Work well worth the effort.  I'm already feeling the fruits of my labors as I quickly get working on the finishing of these ponchos.  Can't wait to see them on the little ladies!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Muffin Making with My Muffin

It's been one hell of a week since I last posted.  I have been feeling the season of now-it's-spring oh wait no now-it's-not.  Motivation has escaped me and my projects have lapsed.  No problem.  I've allowed the lapse, and tried to be sensitive to whatever it is that my body and spirit are asking for in the moment.  It's led to some interesting thoughts about what I'm working on.  Buuut, since those thoughts aren't complete yet I'll spare you the blabbing.

So while all of that has been going on inside of Molly, Ollie has been feeling his two year old oats.  He is adamant that "Oliver do it" for 99.9% of the activities in which we engage in a day.  So, time to carry breakfast to the table?  "Oliver do it."  Time to go to dance class and get our shoes on?  "Oliver do it." (Note: he can't do it without help which is unacceptable).  Time to put peanut butter on the bread? "Oliver do it."  You get the idea.  Much of the time, this is all said in a demanding, very loud, very upset voice.  So we spend a lot of our day making sure that he is feeling capable and 'big guyish'.

So today, in a super mom moment (they don't happen very often), when cranky-no-nap-2-year-old was about to lose his marbles I turned it around with one simple activity.  Banana Muffins!!!! (I appologize for some of pictures, they were taken with my Iphone and aren't super great)

So first we had to mash the bananas:

He did this by himself with a fork and his fingers while I mixed the dry ingredients and melted the coconut oil.

and stirred the bananas...

Then we added the eggs and oil and mixed and mixed and mixed...

He took care of putting all the little cups in the muffin pans and then I filled them.  He even handed me the full pans to put in the oven.

Gorgeous muffins!!

And the joy of getting to pick one...

And voila!  Delicious!!

He even took some papers and the small muffin pan and made lots and lots of muffins all by himself!

Super fun, Super messy, Super mom, Super Two Year Old!!!!!!!

PS These are sweetener free muffins that actually taste great.  The recipe is from a cookbook called Wholesome Sugarfree cooking by Ray and Malinda Yutzy.  Some of the recipes call for honey, stevia, molasses, and some like this one called for nothing.  Since Oliver loves muffins, these are a tasty way to let him have them without all the sugar.  Oh, they also have raisins, oatmeal, and are made with whole wheat flour...can't even stand it!  Next time I'll add a little pineapple for a little tang and extra sweet.  Mmmmm, better get baking!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

At Long Last the Loom is Loomable!!

Yup, loomable.  I made it up all by myself!  And it's true!  My loom is finally up and running!  I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it is to be playing with this new tool.  As you have probably gathered from reading previous posts, I really love working with fibers.  Knitting, sewing, spinning, I just love it!  I've done some handweaving in the past and have also enjoyed that.  Like everything I make, I don't keep much of it for myself, but here's one piece I did keep because I loved it so much:

This was woven on a frame loom with copper wire, stained glass, and fishing line.

I think this was the last weaving I did actually.  Which means I haven't woven in about eight years.  That's a long time.  It's funny how that doesn't surprise me, nor does it bother me.  When I look back at the last eight years they've been full of experimentation and delicious experiences that have all led to where I am now and what I'm doing.  I mean, eight years ago I was teaching and working on finishing my masters and starting my doctoral work!    Weaving, and crafting in general, wasn't even remotely in the kitchen, much less on the back burner.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here, now.

Whew, ok, enough rambling along the shores of the memory sea (memory lane is so small and limited you know, memory sea seems to be more vast)...

About four years ago, I found a floor loom on Craig's List.  It was one of those ridiculous moments where you say to yourself, "Self, we have not the money for such a thing."  And then your other self pops up and says, "Yeah, but when else are you going to find a loom for 125 bucks?"  And then you call your husband and say, "Dear husband, I've found this wonderful fantastic loom for very cheap.  We shouldn't really do this right now, but what do you think?"

As you might guess, dear husband was all for it (I just made him sound much more enthusiastic than I think he actually was.  I think he probably said something to the effect of "Well, if you think it's a good idea...")  Needless to say, that was all I needed to hear and I was off for a 40 minute drive to pick it up.  It didn't fit in my car and so the fabulous people I was buying it from brought it home for me in their pickup truck.  With gas I think I paid about 150 dollars.  Crazy.

What's crazier is that she has been in our basement ever since because I have no idea how to use her!  So this past weekend, Patrick came over and helped me dismantle her and move her to our attic room which is where I sew etc.   Here she is in her new home:

Patrick had nice things to say and we dusted her off and got her in basic working order.

There was already a warp so we left that on so that I could play with the weaving for a while.  I have to buy some supplies and then he'll come back to teach me how to warp it and get a real project started.

Here's the heddles.  They are a little uneven yet but we will be replacing the ties and getting them more balanced next time.

This might be my favorite part. That wheel is a heavy cast iron thing and this is what holds the warp I haven't used yet on it.

And the treadles (because you tread on them) that lower the heddles to develop the pattern.

My homemade cardboard shuttle :)

And my first experiments with weaving.  It's easy, fun, and kind of intuitive once I started to play.  You can see where the original warper made some errors, but since this is just a sampler so to speak I could care less.  I've ordered a book of four harness loom patterns and can't wait to play with that a bit.  In the meantime, it's just fun and exciting to finally get to play with my new friend.

PS She needs a name!  Any ideas?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spinning again for Fiber Arts Friday!

Yup, you read the title correctly!  I got out the spinning wheel again this week!  I haven't spun in a number of months though I can't tell you why not.  I have no idea!  It might have something to do with all of the other projects I've put on my plate this winter, but it is truly hard to believe.

I love spinning.  I'm still a novice, but I love the idea of creating a stunning yarn for that amazing project that is yet to be designed.  I also love sitting at the wheel, hearing it's creaks and whirs as it spins round and round.

 I love the feeling in my leg as I treadle up and down, listening to the rhythm and trying to maintain a uniform speed.  I love the way I have to pay attention to my body to make sure that my posture is supporting me and so that I don't hurt my back as I spin for long periods of time (though most days, I'm only partially successful!). 

Those tiny movements in my back make me feel so connected.  And then the feeling of the fiber slipping through my fingers (on a good day) is so magical as I watch it twist in to something beautiful (hopefully without too many crazy spots).

I actually was starting to teach myself to spin "over the top" with this mohair/silk blend that I bought last weekend.  It was a lot easier than I thought and though the yarn was pretty crazy looking with it's overtwists and slubs, I'm well on my way to learning to spin with this slippery concoction!

I'm sure I'll have some more pictures to share when I've set the twists on the two bobbins I spun up this week!  In the meantime, check out more of the fabulous fiber artists on Fiber Arts Friday over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrating Boys Clint Eastwood Style

I have been avidly following the "Celebrate the Boy" over at MADE for the past couple of weeks, and let me tell you, these ladies have some AWESOME ideas!!  You should definitely check them out!  I decided that since my little Oliver is often the inspiration for a myriad of projects that I would post my own 'ode to the boy'!

I've been making some little girl ponchos (no photos yet) and I desperately wanted one for Oliver.  Dave suggested that I model it after Clint Eastwood's poncho in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"

Well, I've got my own little version now!!  I added a little hood and snaps at the sides for practicality and warmth, but we kept the fringe for fun and fabulousness!

I love the little bulldogs and the upside down woofs!  I also like the cozy fleece I chose to use for this one.  Oh, that's Hayden not Oliver by the way!  My measurements were off so it was too small for my guy.

Sweet boy!  Those eyes just kill me!  Love the little red peeping out from under the hood.

I think he was more into having Oliver's Thomas than modeling!

An overall hit!  Next time, I'm going to try it in wool for a really grown up effect.

Happy Celebration of the Boy!!