Sunday, February 27, 2011


Yesterday I went to SPA-- not the place where you get a facial and salt scrub, but the difficult-to-describe annual fiber arts event put on by the New England Textile Arts network. It was awesome, in spite of the lack of beauty treatments. And really, how can you go wrong lounging all day in a hotel lobby in front of the fire, surrounded by knitters and spinners, discreetly gawking at knitting celebrities and fondling lots of delicious fiber? You can't.

Lovely people kept giving me things-- I walked off with a bag of Reynolds Lopi and these:

There was also a table of free stuff! I missed out on some Interweave Knits back issues, but I caught up on the hat stylings of the 1940s and 1960s:

Not everything was free. Decidedly not:

This is destined for hat 52! Looks like I'll be shopping my stash for a while...

Finally, my knitting buddies gave me this:

That's the back side-- I shudder to think what would happen to me if I revealed the super-secret knitting group name. I was also told the pin would know if I was crocheting...

Does that mean I can't make this? SIGH. I guess it's worth the sacrifice...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rule of Three (Plus One?)

Is there such a thing as too much knitting? I used to think I knew the answer, but this week I'm not so sure. There are quite a few things piling up in my work basket, and for some reason, it's making me sad.

This one has been the major trouble maker. It was a last-minute addition to the February hat line-up almost three weeks ago, and has now been frogged and restarted-- twice! Trouble is, each time I decided to start over, I also cast on another hat:

True, these are almost done. An hour's more work will bring them across the finish line. But I just don't wanna.

This one may appear to be finished-- but don't let that fool you. I'm still trying to write up the pattern, get some nice pictures of it, and figure out how to get it onto Ravelry. This is all new to me, and therefore seems a lot more daunting than it probably is in reality. I hope that by the end of next week, I'll be kicking myself for not getting it done sooner.

Now, depending on your level of comfort with unfinished projects, four WIPs may not sound like a lot. For me, it seems to be perhaps one too many. With three WIPs, I feel energized and productive-- with four, I get cranky. I start thinking about all of the other things I'd rather be knitting-- magical NEW projects with NEW yarn. And the more time I spend daydreaming, the less time I spend knitting-- the less I knit, the more stale and unlovely those WIPs become.*

Then there's this:

It hasn't grown much since its blog debut and that doesn't bother me one bit-- the process of knitting it is so delightful that I almost never want it to end. A project like this contributes nothing to my WIP anxiety-- so I guess my project-sanity limit is three... plus one more that is purely pleasurable and almost completely mindless. Now if I can just get my WIP count under three...

Since it's Wednesday, and I'm writing about WIPs, it seems like a darn good idea to link up with WIP Wednesday again. There's sure to be lots of pretty and inspiring craftiness on display, so be sure to stop by!

*And wasn't the plan to knit ONE hat per week... did someone not get the memo? Sheesh.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Story

Valentine's Day is my pre-marriage anniversary with my husband. It all started when he drove to my house on a snowy night bearing the hand-made card that declared his love-- which was pretty obvious at that point to everybody but me. Fortunately-- for both of us-- the feeling was mutual. That was 1996... and I turned 30 last year... yeah, go on and let it marinate. I've seen that shocked look before-- trust me, you'll be fine in a minute.

Among other things-- you know, like the extinction of the dinosaurs-- our relationship pre-dates my learning to knit, so I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the stuff I've knitted him over the years. Starting with my very first FO:

Made from the finest Lion Brand Wool-Ease-- and copied from Nicole's* GAP scarf.

I am inordinately proud of this scarf because a) I "designed" it; b) I am amazed that as a brand new knitter I understood the properties of k1p1 ribbing and stockinette-- note the handsome curled selvedge; c) look at those stitches! Did I mention that this is my first FO? Ever? Okay, I'll stop bragging.

His next gift was my very first hat:

Note the orange-- you'll be seeing a lot of it.

I had discovered Lamb's Pride Bulky, which became my go-to yarn for the next six or seven years. This dates from about December 1999-- it's held up pretty well, eh? I always liked the distinctive slant of the stitches-- which I now know is a feature of singles yarn.

I had not yet discovered knitting in the round-- I followed the pattern, knitting the hat flat and then seaming it... sort of. I did the same with the matching mittens:

I just discovered I forgot to weave in the ends-- he has never, ever complained.

After these, I gave up seaming for a LONG time-- only in the past year have I forced myself to learn how to do it the right way, and now I find it somewhat enjoyable. His next hat-- c. 2004, I think-- was knit in the round:

This is how I learned that stripes do not line up when you knit in the round

In between the first and second hats, we lived in California for a couple of years, so I wasn't forced to look at the seamed hat very much. When we moved back to Maine, I decided he needed more aesthetically pleasing (to me) headwear. I guess I was hoping that he would gratefully put hat 1 out to pasture. But no:

He just wore it inside of hat 2. To this day, he likes to expound on the virtues of wearing two hats at the same time... and I do my best to hide.

I didn't get around to knitting him a sweater until he got around to, ahem, marrying me in October 2009.** By that time, the knitting bug had bitten hard, and I had joined Ravelry. Elizabeth Zimmermann's seamless hybrid was all the rage, and I climbed aboard the bandwagon:

He has worn this at least twice a week for the past year. He's also dropping major hints that he'd like another one-- unfortunately there are some hats (43, I believe) standing in the way at the moment.

That's not to say that the 52 hats project has been of no benefit to him:

What can I say? Man likes orange.

I've been over this hat and its perceived imperfections before-- what's more important is that he loves it (and has given up the double hat-- yes!)

And haven't I seen those stripes somewhere?

He says the gray side is for when he's feeling grumpy. I guess you can take the silly hat away from the man but you can't take the silly out of the man... or something.

Hands off, ladies-- he's allll mine.

So there you have it, a love story in knitted objects-- though I think it would be impossible to show him in stitches, or words-- or anything-- how much I love him. He always gets the first of everything-- my first scarf, my first hat, my first mittens, my first sweater, my first double-knit hat-- and in my eyes it isn't always my best work. Somehow, he seems to only see the love.

*Nicole and I were freshman year roommates in college and we learned to knit together-- our friendship and mutual love of crafty things endures to this day. What can I say, I know a good thing when I see it!

**Which was, by the way, one of the happiest days of my life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Autumn in Garrison

Isn't it about time for another hat? I have been reveling in my more relaxed mental attitude, but I don't want to fall too far behind. Right now I only have one finished hat to share, but there are three more in various states of doneness, including another semi-original design! According to my calculations, when I get through my current WIP-pileup, I'll be 25% done with 52 hats-- shocking!

I made this one for my Christmas 2011 gift pile-- but it appears to be growing on me...

Project Notes

Yarn: Fibre Company Canopy Worsted. I want to have babies with this yarn-- it is the softest, most luminous, deliciously drapy thing I have ever had my hands on. It has lovely stitch definition AND a fuzzy halo AND knits like an absolute dream. And-- undeservedly lucky girl that I am-- it was in the 30% off bin at KnitWit. I'm now cursing my yarn frugality that I didn't buy the lot. Fortunately, I have enough left over to combine with another skein of Canopy for a fair-isle hat... stay tuned.

Pattern: Autumn in Garrison by Kate Gagnon Osborne. I have to hand it to the ladies at Kelbourne Woolens-- they sell fabulous yarn and they write excellent patterns to go with it-- many of them free! I love the vingtagey feel of their designs-- not surprising that there are several others in my queue-- and the fact that they provide charts. I heart charts.

Techniques: This was my first top-down constructed hat and it won't be the last-- I liked getting all the fiddling with DPNs out of the way first. I had a few missteps casting off, but in the end I learned an excellent, excellent new technique-- Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind-off. My first thought for a stretchy, non-binding edge was a tubular cast off, which I have used successfully for a sweater neckband. However, it's just not stretchy enough for a top-down hat. A sweater neckband has to stretch to fit over your head, but it doesn't remain stretched during wear; a hat band needs to stretch to fit around your head, so any tightness at the edge will be felt during wear. My next thought was Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off (tutorial here, near the bottom), which is super stretchy, but I dislike two things about this method: it requires cutting the yarn and using a tapestry needle, and it makes the edge flare out-- at least when I do it. The Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off is a godsend-- no tapestry needle required, and it leaves a neater edge than the sewn bind-off. My only caveat is that it uses a lot of yarn-- make sure you have four-five times the stretched circumference of your object before proceeding.

The Bottom Line: This is one of those magical projects that you never want to end... maybe that's why I dithered so much over finishing it. In terms of posting hats, I'm still trying to find balance between frantic and negligent-- I'm going to try to get a bit ahead of the curve this weekend by knitting up a storm. I almost wish there was snow in the forecast, though an angry mob of Mainers might tar and feather me if my wish comes true... there is nothing like being cozy inside with a pile of knitting while the winter howls.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm still here... in case you were wondering

Yes, I realize that I have only been gone for a week, but there are some good reasons for that, and as an intensely verbal person, I feel the need to explain them. Briefly, I hope-- I never quite know where I'm going to end up when I start writing.

To begin with, hat 9 is finished... but not ready for her close-up. She's very pretty and I want to do her justice with nice pictures. So no FO Friday post this week-- but that's not the only reason. I recently received a comment on one of my earliest posts here-- someone took the time to read back through my blog and leave me positive feedback, which completely blows me away with gratitude. That post was very personal-- though still knitting-related-- and it took a lot of effort to write. It's the kind of thing I haven't written in a while. In fact, it seems like I'm mainly posting about my works-in-progress and FOs. With a new project every week, I certainly don't lack for material. Well, lately I have been more interested in writing about other things, yet I still continue plugging away on the same topics. That comment really brought home what I have been missing.

Writing well is important to me. I'm proud of my work and the process of writing is-- generally-- good for my psyche. Sometimes it brings clarity to complex thoughts, though more often it uncovers layers of complexity that weren't apparent to me when I started. It can be hard to surrender to this process without worrying about the outcome-- Monday I spent much of the day writing about my recent conversion to a near-vegan diet, only to forgo hitting "publish post" at the last moment. It's hard not to feel a sense of failure in that, but like hat 9, the topic is not quite ready for prime time-- and maybe it never will be. Even though the words didn't, in the end, add up to exactly what I wanted to say, I took the time to seriously explore the topic, so I don't feel like the time or effort were wasted.

Thing is, writing well-- for me-- takes a lot of time. Lately, it has been taking time that might be better spent sleeping, or exercising, or doing any number of other things that are good for me. Reading back over my last few posts, I notice a certain brittleness of tone that, while at least mildly entertaining, worries me. Stress is creeping in. I have the ability to drive myself very hard, but only for so long. When I lay awake going over what to write, or stay up too late after work to finish knitting so I can take pictures while the sun is still out, when I tell my husband for the twentieth time, "Just a few more sentences"-- things have gotten out of hand. And that isn't an easy thing to admit to myself or anyone else.

So I have decided to give myself more freedom. I've really enjoyed linking up with WIP Wednesday and FO Friday-- it's great to feel like part of a community and get loads of visitors and feedback. But with the limited time I have available for writing AND maintaining health/sanity,* it's not realistic for me to always time my posts appropriately. I also think this blog is better when I'm really excited about what I'm writing about. In a given week, it might be a technique I'm obsessed with, or a great recipe I've tried, or yarn that I'm loving (or hating). I will continue to have hats to post about, and it seems less insane to post about them when I am decently well rested and have nice pictures to share. If the planets align, I will share my FOs on Friday.

The tricky thing will be to enjoy this freedom without excusing laziness-- which often results when I have set too ambitious an agenda and then burnt myself out trying to achieve it. I seem incapable of doing things incrementally-- it's either frenetic activity or utter lethargy and negligence. The 52 hats project is my attempt to sustain effort and commitment. The knitting part has been relatively easy and fun-- I think I have always known that writing about it would be the hard part.

However you have ended up here, I hope you will continue dropping by-- I promise I won't spend all my time blathering on in this fashion. Next week, I'm going to try my darnedest to post a hat pattern that I've been promising for a while. Now that I've given myself permission to breathe a bit, maybe it will actually happen...

*Oh yeah, and the small matter of the 52 hats I'm supposed to be knitting...