Sunday, January 23, 2011

Icelandic Yarn, Men's Socks and a Knit Party

I was pleasantly surprised this week when friends brought back some gorgeous Icelandic Lopi yarn straight from the source on their quick jaunt to Reykjavik to see the Northern Lights.  It is a really soft Bulky Lopi by Istex and will be a delight to knit.  I will probably knit a stranded earflap-style hat out of the cream and brown, but it must wait in the project queue for now as there are many more pressing things to finish before I can start anything new.

I also finished "Mona's Jacket" and it is blocked.  Not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would.  It fits okay after extreme blocking, but the crocheted buttons seem very clownish to me.  Maybe they will grow on me.

My weekend has been spent making a large knit snack basket/container for my friend recovering from some nasty surgery and simple, cozy socks to recuperate in.  The soft basket is rather clever and is included in Joelle Hoverson's More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.  It only took 1 1/4 skeins of Moda Dea Tweedle Dee and is just the right size for plenty of Trader Joe's snacks and the cozy socks.  I will definitely make it again in the future - maybe for yarn studio storage or another gift.

The socks really knit up fast and are in my new favorite knitting book, Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein (photos by Jared Flood).  They aren't kidding in the tagline either:  The 10 Rules Every Woman should Know Before Knitting for a Man Plus the Only 10 Patterns She'll Ever Need.  The 10 rules are hilarious and so true - I took the time to read the chapters before starting the socks and laughed out loud in between nodding in agreement many times over the accurate observations.  The "Thick and Warm Socks" pattern is in the chapter titled "Rule #8 - Men Can Compromise" and were fun to make out of charcoal DK wool/acrylic.

The photos are beautiful, the projects simple, yet highly useable and cover everything from hoodies to hats to pullovers.  I like the way each pattern has options for sizing each step of the way and the socks turned out great.  Definitely a book to add to your library.  You will reach for it again and again.

Meanwhile, I am readying my place for the Knit Party scheduled this coming Saturday afternoon.  I had so many requests to teach friends and friends of friends how to knit that it seemed the most logical way to accomplish that (and drink some good wine).  I'm excited to get to use my big pine IKEA table which has always looked like a knitting workroom table to me.  I expect about a dozen women and have plenty of yarn in my copious stash to teach everyone with.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 2011 Yarn Diet

So far this year, I have managed to stick with my resolution of not adding to my yarn stash in 2011 until after President's Day (also, ironically, my birthday this year).  This resolution came from the fact that I have 100's (perhaps 1000's) of yarn skeins in my stash already and a change of residence on the horizon (I will have more boxes of yarn & knitting supplies than household goods).  I've also managed to avoid buying any new knitting tools or books.  The large snaps I bought at Joann's last weekend were necessary to complete the "Mona's Jacket" project and that darn Vogue Knitting magazine just showed up in the mailbox. 

It has been difficult for me (harder than I realized it would be) and I  feel like I'm on a restrictive food diet.  When I'm on a calorie-restriction diet, I find myself watching the Food Channel constantly, clipping recipes like crazy and thinking obsessively about when and what I will eat next.  For me, everything starts revolving disproportionately around food.  That's the main reason I don't bother dieting anymore.

Now I'm not just skimming through yarn websites daily like normal, but loading up online shopping carts while telling myself I really NEED that yarn and what a great deal it is that might not come along again. I find myself daydreaming about types and colors of yarn I would like to buy walking back and forth to work and throughout my workday.  As I'm knitting each evening, my right brain opens up and I start dreaming up new projects and designs that invariably require some yarn I don't currently own.  I'm just glad it is yarn I am addicted to and not something much worse...

Fortunately, I haven't followed through on buying anything yet, but February 21st seems like a long time from now.  At least I've been redirecting my frustration into knitting at a faster, more productive pace on my current knitting projects which uses up my yarn stash quicker.  I just finished two loop scarves to post in my Etsy shop, have one sleeve left on  "Mona's Jacket", am about 1/4 finished with Harold's vest and into the rustic child's Anthropologie-ish cardi.  I'm casting on today to make a sweet pink "Elegantly Simple Baby Blanket" for my friend Ben's new addition, Evelyn Rosemary, arriving late this spring.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Knit Hermit Weekend

I'm enjoying my first "Knit Hermit Weekend" of 2011 - three days of uninterrupted knitting bliss after my family went back to Texas last week.  Except for some brief annoyances like laundry, vacuuming and an unavoidable grocery store trip tomorrow, I have sat like a slug by the fire knitting fiendishly on multiple projects.  I watched lots of History channel tv, The Hangover movie and listened to music (right now some Bing Crosby).  The weather has even cooperated - damp, cloudy and cold - perfect knitting weather.  Life doesn't get much better for this knitter!

I will admit I'm not a particularly fast knitter (being a thrower slows me down for sure), but I try to make up for my speed with quantity.  Being borderline adult ADD, I have to rotate between projects to keep myself entertained, so tend to start a bunch at once, feel like I'm never going to finish any of them at some point and finally wrap them all up almost simultaneously.   I wouldn't recommend this knitting style to anyone else, but it is how I've always churned out my projects.

So, what have I accomplished so far this weekend?  I'm happy to say I did complete the "Treasured Heirloom Baby Blanket" (a Lion Brand freebie pattern) that I started a week ago on the car ride to check out the University of Oregon in Eugene (one of my youngest's three potential college picks).  I had 6 balls of white wool/cashmere yarn in my stash that were just enough to do it (see photo on the left).  It was brainless knitting, but turned out well and will make a good baby gift for either my friend Ben's first baby or my newest grandchild, Weaselhead (what Hudson wants to call him/her).

I got all motivated after Harold, my boss and friend, seemed disappointed at Christmas when I didn't knit him a sweater.  I decided to knit him a simple v-neck men's vest in rice stitch out off grey wool/acrylic DK from Two-Stitch Knits by Jane Crowfoot.  It will take me forever to finish this one, but I'm really liking the look and texture of the rice stitch and keep picturing how nice the vest will look under his business suits.

After selling yet another "Oatmeal Hat" in my Etsy shop right after listing, I suppose I should start another to replace it.  I have made (and immediately sold) three of them now and am considering raising the price to slow down having to churn out more.  I make them out of oatmeal Fishermen's Wool and don't like making them anymore.  Speaking of Fishermen's Wool, which I am way too fond of right now, I am starting a little girl's Anthropologie-like cardigan out of it with oversized rustic knitted flowers sprinkled here and there for my Etsy shop.  I'm still trying to decide whether I want the flowers to be bright, or done in the various natural shades of the FW yarn.  I will cast on for the cardigan tonight and see what happens...

And finally, I wanted to make a simple infinity scarf with fringe around one edge like the one I made Sayde, so used some Knitpicks Felici sport in grey and red stripes to start it (see photo).  I will probably put it in the Etsy shop when finished.  I also cast on the "Mona's Jacket" from Spring 2010 Interweave Knits out of Tweedle Dee for me.  It is done top-down and way fun to knit. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Knitting Resolutions for 2011

After a crazy flurry of last-minute holiday knitting, I'm finally ready to regroup for the new year.  Among my  completed gift projects were several afghan/throws, multiple scarves, slippers and slouch hats.  Now I can get back to increasing my Etsy shop inventory , finishing several new patterns I'm designing and making random booties, clothing and toys for my next grandchild affectionately known as "Weaselhead" (Mr. Spud's name for him/her).

I barely managed to finish the misty taupe scarf Sayde had requested I knit to duplicate one we saw at Anthropologie in Austin at Thanksgiving to give her when she came for the holidays.  I knit it out of Naturally Caron "SPA" (75% microdenier acrylic/25% rayon from bamboo) for softness and drapability, cast on 50 stitches with size 5 needles and alternated 10 k, 10 p to a 70" length, seamed into a loop and added long fringe down one side.   Love the way it turned out (see side photo), Sayde has worn it non-stop and it inspired her to get back into knitting and make one herself out of apricot Patons "Silk Bamboo."

The charcoal grey newsboy cap I knit for my daughter Jade was a big hit and looks really good on her.  She and Sayde both have excellent heads for hats and seem to look good in any headwear I knit them.  The photo of Jade in her new cap was taken in front of the Christmas tree in Pioneer Place in downtown Portland where we went to check out the new H&M store that opened recently.

I churned out a postal-y heathered blue ribbed scarf for my super postal carrier, Burt, who always goes out of his way for me and my mail.  I doubled Plymouth Encore DK so it was chunky and washable (note picture on the side).  Burt was tickled and it was fun to surprise him with a Christmas gift.

The only thing I didn't finish in time was the Star Afghan I knit for my friend/boss Werner and his family.  I used the pattern out of the Knitter's At Home book which literally starts with 7 cast on stitches and with the help of many increases ends up being 740 stitches per row at bind off.  I made it out of Moda Dea Sassy Stripes that self-patterns in browns and blues, is machine washable and looks good on their new chocolate leather sofa.  I forgot to take a photo before gifting it (although I remembered to sew on a "HipKnitizer Handknits" label). Werner has promised to take a picture of it for me to post on here later.

So, after careful consideration, here is my list of 2011 New Year's Knitting Resolutions:

1) Take at least two photos of each finished project (1 close-up and 1 from a distance) and post on this blog, Etsy and/or

2) Sew a "Hipknitizer Handknits" woven tag on every project I knit this year, no excuses.

3) Improve on my Intarsia skills and hopefully learn to love doing it.

4) I swear, swear, swear I will actually try steeking rather than just reading about it
5) I will design a minimum of 6 new knitting patterns this year (at least half of them complicated garments).

6) I absolutely won't buy more yarn until after President's Day (although I have reduced my stash substantially in the last few months with my non-stop knitting).

7) I will only knit for people that want and appreciate my knitting (or are willing to pay for my work).

8) I will manage to take 30 minutes of my daily knitting time to exercise the rest of my body.

9) I will teach and inspire at least 6 newbies to knit this year.

10) I PROMISE to update this blog at minimum once a week (and will try extra-hard to update twice a week).