Monday, January 28, 2008

Oh yeah, I weave too. I forgot.

So why haven't I posted about weaving lately? I mean, weekends have gone by without so much as a word!

In the spirit of being fearless - I will tell you that I might have made a major weaving mistake.

The nice man at School Products sold me on some French mohair. Space dyed, soft, wonderful stuff.

So I got my 8 dent reed and was all excited to warp - a shawl - for me! Hand weaving something wearable for myself!

Warping went fine, the tension seemed good, I was excited.

Then I tried to weave the header.

And I couldn't beat! The mohair was all ratted (and I use that in the old sense, like ratting your hair) together! Argh!

So I placed the loom, warp and all, in its bag. I took a break. I've considered that the first bit of warp didn't get combed through the reed by being wound on, so maybe the other stuff will behave better. I mean, I can actually get a usable shed, I just can't beat.

The loom is still hibernating with its ratty warp. I've been pretty busy trying to plow through these socks for the man (men's socks take sooooooo ridiculously long!) and I don't want to be distracted from reaching that finish line.

Fearless doesn't mean you don't make mistakes. It doesn't mean you don't waste time or yarn. It just means you try it in the first place without too much hemming and hawing about it.

STR RSC spoiler - and other stuff

Okay, remember that post where I ranted about STR?

And remember the post where I admitted my hipocrasy and joined the Rockin' Sock Club?

Well, the first shipment was waiting for me when I got home on Friday night and it is freaking fabulous! Observe (unless you were trying to avoid spoilers - though, by this time, I think everyone will have received theirs):

Is that gorgeous or what? I probably should have photographed it in skein form, but I was too excited and made it into a cake right away. I LOVE IT!

I love fine yarns that are highly twisted, and this fits the bill beautifully. The colors are really, really extraordinary. I mean, really, really. I haven't had much handpainted yarn so I don't know if that accounts for the love or what. But I love it like I've never loved a skein of yarn before. Holy cow.

So, I stand corrected. Although I haven't knit with it yet (in the middle of some dull grey and blue socks for the man in a boring ol' rib - nothing like the RSC included pattern with its lace motifs and glorious reds!), I love just looking at it. I love it just being next to me. And I can't wait to knit it!

Its a few projects away, though. First I finish the socks for the man. Then I do a BSJ which I am totally excited about. Then (or perhaps at the same time), the RSC kit. Then another pair of Blu Baby Jeans (my sister in law and my step sister in law are both expecting!). So looks like I'm queued up for awhile - especially with the UFOs floating around the ol' knitting basket.

If only it weren't for my job taking up so much valuable knitting time...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on fearless knitting

Two weeks ago, I was at School Products buying warp yarn for the loom. While I was there, this woman came in and asked the man working there to help her choose yarn and needles because she was going to learn to knit at a free class at her local library that night. We were the only people in the store - she said to me, "I see you smiling over there - do you knit?" and I said, "I'm smiling because when I learned to knit almost 9 years ago, this was the first place I came to buy yarn and needles too. And I've been knitting ever since." She said, "Really? So is it easy? Do you have any advice for me?" and I said, "Well, yes, its easy. And my only advice for you is don't listen to anyone when they say something is hard."

Blogs and knitting sites are a great way to see what other people are doing - but sometimes, I think they can really intimidate. I hate to think of the new knitter from School Products giving up because she read somewhere or someone told her that purling is really hard. Because of course, it isn't - it just takes a little adaptation. Or maybe she learns to purl, but never knits a sweater because someone said its complicated. Personally, I don't think there is anything in knitting that can't be figured out by anyone with a solid, basic understanding of the craft. I taught myself to knit out of a book, and then I taught myself to knit cables and lace and decrease and increase and everything, and never once did it occur to me that I was trying to do something difficult or beyond my skill level.

The reason I'm thinking about this is because I ordered three (yes, three, so maybe I'm a little crazy, maybe just a masochist) Vintage sock kits to make for Christmas gifts for 2008.

I am not normally a regular reader of The Yarn Harlot. I've actually never read any of her books, and when I've stopped by the blog, I always find it amusing but I don't check in regularly.


A few days after the New Year, I stopped by her blog looking for something else, I don't even recall what, but that was the day she mentioned the Vintage sock. I (and probably 500 other knitters) fell instantly in love and immediately went to the website and ordered, without even properly mulling it over, three kits, one in each colorway.

They haven't arrived, and I don't expect them to for a good little while (such is the way when a product is mentioned by SPM). Which is fine. But in the interim, I stopped by her blog again to check in on the progress of her Vintage sock. And what do you suppose happened when I read about her trials and tribulations?

I freaked out.

I started thinking, well, if she's having problems, then I am going to royally screw this up. I mean, if the Yarn Harlot is making mistakes and feeling like its an endless process of knitting leaves and can't get the inlay right, well then, whats this mean for me?

And then I wanted to slap myself. Why would I think that someone else's issues with the sock would be a problem for me too? Why would I even let it cross my mind that the socks might be difficult just because another knitter (albeit a very famous knitter) is blogging about her troubles with them? Why wouldn't I take my own advice, which I had dispensed so authoritatively just a few weeks ago?

I read on Ravelry of people too intimidated to start a Baby Surprise Jacket. Why? Sometimes (to me, anyway) its a lot harder to try to figure out a knitting pattern or technique by reading about it. Sometimes, you just have to dive right in and figure it out as you go, with stitches on the needles and reading one word at a time. With the internet these days, and especially Ravelry, no one knits alone anymore.

But somehow, these same resources that support us can give us more to be scared of.

I really hope that woman enjoyed her knitting class.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And the weave goes on...

Lets just get this out of the way first:

Those are the finished pillows, all sewn up and in their rightful place on the couch. They look nice and I'm very happy with them. If I had it to do over, I'd be much more cautious of how many rows were thrown in each color, so both sides would turn out exactly even. But what can I say, it was a first project and a learning experience.

Project two has begun. Here is the cast of characters:

From left to right, we have very fine two-ply Shetland wool (bought this when I first started knitting to make a sweater for the man. It was on a cone), Madil KidSeta in variegated orange (so beautiful, so soft!), and the warp which is a super ridiculously strong linen I got on a cone from School Products.

When you knit, its easy to pick up yarn and needles and knit a few rows into a little swatch and see if you are happy with the results. While you can swatch in weaving by making a small warp, warping is still enough work that if you know how wide you want a project its best just to add extra length and experiment for a few inches before deciding how to make your cloth. So thats what we did. I pulled out every brown yarn from my stash and we played around before deciding we really liked the fabric that the Shetland made with tiny bits of the orange here and there. Here is the fabric so far:

and here's another view:

This project is intended for covers for cushions for the rocking chair we found, and I had it all planned out so that all the pieces we'd need could be cut from the one cloth. But this linen (paired with the Shetland) takes in way more than the wool did for the pillows, so I think I will have to repeat this again, although much smaller, to make the side panels for the cushions.

The weaving is going well so far, although I have to confess I haven't done too much of it since Sunday. Monday and Tuesday I was sort of bogged down with knitting, between projects and trying to keep something going to work on the train. The man has been doing a bit though, and I don't think we have much left. That said, I wove nearly all Sunday afternoon.

When this cloth comes off the loom, I am going to zigzag around a small piece and soak it in the bathtub. I am hoping that the Shetland will bloom and fill in the spaces better. I washed two strands of the Shetland and it was so much softer and fluffier. The question is, what might soaking do to the linen? Someone on Ravelry said that linen often "falls out of line" and gets squiggly. She said this is usually the desired effect, but I'm not sure its my desired effect! I am really eager to finish the cloth and see what happens with the washing experiment. In the meantime, the man struggles over whether or not he wants to do a light refinishing on the chair.

Of course, knitting has been happening too - its just been sorta boring. I finished the monkeys a few days after Christmas and gave them to my friend for her January birthday. Then I started a hat for the man, finished it. Ripped it. Started socks for the man in On Your Toes boot sock yarn. Finished them super quickly and he loves them and never takes them off and now they're in a dreadful state and not even photographable until they go through the washer. Then I started the man's hat again and finished it yesterday. Nothing too interesting, just a sort of improvised plain winter stocking cap. Then I tried to make something for myself out of this beautiful orange loop mohair I bought at Rhinebeck, but I didn't like my swatch. So I settled on another pair of socks for the man, these in Austermann Step, but I'm not loving it. He complains about hand knit socks being "quitters", and the Step is so soft and silky, there is very little body there to make them stand up on their own. I barely have a reason to finish them when I know he'll complain about them not staying up like store boughts. But, hey, the yarn was right there and I didn't have to open the stash trunk to get it. Which is why I'm working on them.

After looking at the very few loop mohair projects on Ravelry, I'm thinking of a Moebius scarf out of it. On big needles in a simple garter stitch. Its actually fairly difficult to find something that shows off loop mohair as much as it deserves.

And to all the knitters who hated knitting with loop mohair, go on and send it to me. I love it!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Weaving FO!


Yep, that is my first handwoven project. I warped it on New Years Day and finished it on Saturday, January 5. Those four yards worth of weaving took me probably, in total, a mere 8 hours!

This is actually three pillow covers that need to be cut apart and sewn together. Basically, whereever there are two white squares, that is two sides of one pillow.

Here is a picture of it on the loom that I was going to post, but then I got sick and didn't come to work and ended up finishing it:

I totally love weaving!

Of course, I still l love knitting just as much as ever. I'm currently working on a delightful pair of boot socks for the man (turns out, I didn't get too sick of knitting socks) that is fast and fun and easy. Next up is Dickey von Beethoven (from Knitting Around) for the man's impending trip to the far north of Michigan. A girl has to keep her man warm, even when she isn't with him...

The spinning is going great too. I bought a CD spindle "blank" at Heritage Spinning and Weaving and it's about a thousand times better than my original fancy spindle and I'm enjoying it so much. I also bought a couple ounces of some unlabelled natural wool there that I am spinning to use as weft in my next weaving project, which is covers for the rocking chair we found. Found - as in, sitting in the trash. But it was clean! And nice! And also, not the first thing we've trash-picked. Don't look so smug, people throw out all sorts of wonderful things here. Besides, it doesn't have any upholstery, its just a quality wood frame with really handsome lines and it is old, not some cheap piece of junk. Anyway, the fab thing about spinning for weaving is that I WANT it to be slubby and uneven. So I'm having lots of fun making an uneven, unpredictable yarn.

Now, crafting is like circuit training - an hour of weaving, half an hour of spinning, half an hour of knitting. Wish I had that much enthusiasm for the gym!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy new year!

It looks like a fiber-filled one looms ahead for me - and I couldn't be happier about it!

Two days before Christmas, my brother in law and his fiancee brought all their gifts to the parent's house so they wouldn't have to deal with them on Christmas day. When I saw an oblong box, about 32" long, leaning against the wall behind the tree, I checked the tag - it was for me! Could it be? Could it really be? Well, regardless, from then on, every time I passed the tree I whispered, "hello, loom" because I was pretty sure.

On Christmas night, after dinner was consumed and the children had torn through their gifts, all the adults sat their with their respective piles and someone said, "who wants to go first?" Well, by this point, I couldn't stand it anymore and I said:

"I can't stand it anymore! I have to open this one!" So off the paper came.

And even though I had a pretty darn good idea of what the gift was, as soon as I saw the Kromski label on the front, I LOST IT. I mean, really, really lost it. I was screaming and literally jumping up and down hugging the box. The whole party didn't even know what hit them! Most of them didn't even know what it was. Here are some pictures so you can see for yourself just how truly elated I was:

Yeow. And that is basically the aftermath, because not even my husband could have predicted that reaction, so he wasn't ready with the camera.

But I got lots of other delightful fibery gifts too. From my mom, I got two super fabulous buttons that she managed to sneakily buy while we were at a yarn shop together, a subscription to Spin Off, and Spinning In The Old Way (the book). My brother, prompted my mother, got me sweater blocking wires which I am eager to use.

More importantly still, everyone who received a knitted gift loved it. Mom's sweater looks gorgeous on her and she loves it. Claudia was so totally surprised by her tote bag and loved it right away. My husband's aunt from Israel received the Jaywalkers and loved them way more than I would have predicted, and the monkeys went to my good friend Linda for her upcoming birthday.

And now, I am a weaver. Ahhhhhh. I didn't put the loom together til we got back to NY. I warped it New Years Day. The warping went well. It is definitely a long process (my first project is about 19" wide and the warp is 4 yards long so I can do multiple pillows) but not an unpleasant one and once you start to weave, it goes so fast that it more than makes up for the time you invest in warping.

My first project is throw pillows for our couch. I am using Jason Collingwood rug wool in brick, olive, and oatmeal for both warp and weft. Its not actually ideally suited to warp on a 10 dent heddle, but its not too bad once you get used to it. And so far, my weaving looks not too far from fabulous (if I do say so myself! Okay, the selvedges aren't perfect. But I love the colors and the look so, fabulous it is). I'll post a photo soon, but its not easy to get because there actually isn't all that much room to weave before you have to wind the finished work on, and then you don't get a good idea of my design and color changes. Excuses, excuses. Photo coming soon. I promise.