Monday, April 27, 2009

A Summer Poncho

Lace is the way to go for summer knitting. Honestly, most yarn weights used for lace are so light, you can work on them in the heat of a summer baseball game and not feel like you have a sauna on your lap. Although cotton is not normally my fiber of choice when I knit, I could not help myself when my FLYS had organic fibers on sale this weekend; I bought 3 skeins of Rowan Purelife to make a lace poncho.

The owner was wearing the Easy Lace Poncho from Knitting Pure and Simple (one of my most favorite pattern companies by the way, because of their top down apparel). I was intrigue, because it was a poncho but, I think I have to knit that, I said to myself. It was the simple feather and fan pattern and I thought I could figure it out.

Long story short, I had to read the pattern to find out the CO stitches and how much to increase them. Once I had that though, it was easy to wing it. I am almost done. Barring any major lace and/or pattern oopsies, I should be done by the weekend. I am so first poncho and first summer knit!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fiber Diet

I read in Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book that the reason fresh fiber is so good for your body is because it attracts fat to itself. When your body gets rid of it, it pulls out the excess fat in your body.

I am ready to lose the extra weight I've had since giving birth (2 years ago - ugh!). No better time then now, because of all the fresh fruit that is becoming available (mmmm strawberries!), the temperature is just right (a little bit of a breeze, a little bit of sun), and summer is around the corner (always the incentive to lose weight).

I also need to cut back on the money I spend on yarn. I gave in yesterday because of the sale at Eat.Sleep.Knit. sigh I was not going to go there but they had yarn that my FLYS does not carry and there was a chance of getting it FREE so I bought some stuff. I only got 10% off, but with free shipping, it was worth it. I really cannot justify any more yarn purchases for at least a few months. Will I last that long? I am going to try my darnedest.

My Fiber 2-Prong Attack:

Buy and Eat more Fresh Fruit and Whole Wheat Products (I actually like Ak-mak, as do my kids)

Using my Knitting Skills as a Shield from Overindulging by knitting during the times that I am really craving that extra bowl of ice cream...or Doritos...or brownie...or two. I will get so many projects done!!! Who can't love that?!

I am also going to cut back on the snacks that I eat (chocolate doesn't count...), walk the dog for at least 45 minutes in the morning (very doable, because the heat doesn't kick in until 11:00 and he loves loves loves his walks, and he wakes me up early anyway), take the boy and dog out if I feel the need to look at yarn on Ravelry, lest the lust creeps up again and I feel the urge to visit Babetta's "just to take a look"- y'all know what that translates as...

Thank you Fiber my friend. I love you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hot Summer Knitting

I just came home from the midday walk with the dog. Oh my goodness I thought I was going to DIE!!! It is so hot out there!

Don't get me wrong...I love living in California. We get great weather most of the time. The problems we have where we live are the fire risk areas because we don't get the rain that other parts of the United States get. We also have earthquakes...

Right now, it is the heat. The sweltering, sweat inducing, dry, dry heat. A few months ago, when the weather was much cooler, I thought (smugly, I might add) that I could knit anywhere, anytime.

What the hell was I thinking?? Did I forget how miserable it can be here in the summertime? Did I have a memory lapse, akin to the one that mothers get after giving birth that a few hours prior, they were in the worst pain of their lives with the birth contractions? Or that just 9 months prior, they were stricken with a morning sickness that lasted 3 months, nonstop? (I give this example because I have this memory lapse at least 2 times a week)

I guess it really is time to start on those summer shawls with the cotton blends. Time to fondle and revisit the light weight yarns that if knit as a sweater would take a million years to finish.

My favorite yarn store owner was wearing the prettiest lace poncho the other day that I am going to make. It is a feather and fan pattern knit in the round with the shaping done by changing needles. I don't have the pattern on me, but I am betting that I can figure it out. The worse thing that can happen (I think) is that I can't figure it out and I have to buy the pattern...

I guess I have my summer knitting figured out. Now I have to figure out how to walk the dog without actually having to "go out"...

Why don't they have indoor dog parks, like they have indoor play parks for kids??

Monday, April 20, 2009

You may be a Yarn Snob if...

1) You look at your bank statement and every other line is from your FLYS or an online luxury yarn store

2) You secretly don't use your yarn from your "good stash" to knit clothes for your kids

3) Your mother in law keeps asking you about that boutique that you bought her cashmere shawl gift from last Christmas

4) You think nothing of living on coffee and feeding your kids pizza everyday until you catch the next update from your favorite-but-popular online yarn store

5) Your head and fingers itch when your best friend mentions that her daughter, who is learning how to knit, wants to knit you a scarf from a yarn she bought at Michael's

6) You feel obligated to assign a project to each of your yarns when your husband accidentally sees your stash..."present for your mom...present for your aunt Myrtle...present for your boss' wife..." You may even try to put the guilt trip on him by suggesting that he is ruining the surprise that you had in store for his tired and hard-working feet...

7) Your pooch's sweater is fuzzier than your pooch

8) Your daughter's teacher loves you for so generously donating 3 bags full of acrylic yarn for her class

9) You look at your Ravelry stash and realize that you are not sure how to pronounce half of the names of your yarn

10) Your stash is worth more than the car you bought last year

Friday, April 17, 2009

Handmaiden, Oh Handmaiden

I am a certified Yarn Snob and shopaholic. I try my best to not spend a lot of money on yarn and I honestly think I have a gauge in my brain telling me that I have enough yarn or that I have already spent enough money on non-essentials because there are weeks (truly!) when I do not have the urge to visit my FLYS, one of my favorite online yarn stores, or Amazon with the intention of purchasing something.

I noticed that I may have a problem when, a few months ago, I reviewed my bank statement and every other purchase listed was from my FLYS. Noting that, I tried to only visit her when I met my knitting group...when I reviewed my statement the following month, every other item listed was from Amazon or an on-line yarn store. Lucky for me, it was a sale month, so everything I bought was on sale...but still.

So I go through these yarn diet spurts where I do not buy yarn. None. nada.

And then...the withdrawal...I see my friends shopping for yarn...and then I feel some of the yarn that they are buying...and then I remember that I haven't visited my online yarn stores for awhile, especially the one that specializes in Handmaiden and Fleece Artist yarns. I go to "just look"....and I wind up with a shopping cart with skeins that I have projects in mind for. I give in... and then I visit WEBS and lo and behold they have a sale on can I not buy some at 50% off?? and then I remember that I almost have a full frequent buyer's card from my FLYS, so I go there. I figure the amount I spend in my withdrawal week isn't as much as what I would spend if I spent a little at a time...right?

This thinking allows me to sleep at night, so I go along with it. Besides, I consider it my payment for watching the kids and now the dog all day. Pretty cheap daycare, if you ask me...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hrmmmm wha?

So this is how I have been feeling. I am always off when I can't get out of the house due to the weather, kids, or both. Last week it rained. I'm not complaining...we need the rain. I don't want a repeat of the fires we had last year. I couldn't take the kids out for more than a week. As much as they wanted to play in the orange air, I didn't think a good mother would allow it. It really impedes your fun if you are coughing up all that pollution from your lungs for days after....

Anyway, flash forward to last week, you can't exactly have a fun day at the park with raindrops making your sandwiches wet. Besides that, although playing on the slide makes you go super fast because it is so slippery, it also gives the kids a fast track to playing in the mud - yuck! Also, the monkey bars are out of the question, as well as the sandbox, unless you want sticky sand all over your house, in every crevice thank you...

More recently, the past few days have been windy and cold. I'm glad that my kids don't have allergies (knock on wood) but my daughter won't play outside when the weather is like that. She would rather stay inside and curl up on the couch than have her hair whip around her face while she is trying to slide down the fireman's pole. Since she is only 7, I am not comfortable leaving her alone in the house to take the dog and my son outside to play.

Yeah, I've been stricken with cabin fever.

But today I am determined to take the boy to the indoor play park...At least I have to leave the house to get to it...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finding My Inner Ninja

This morning I was exhausted. Going to bed at midnight, sometimes later, and waking up at 6:00 in the morning to take the puppy out finally took its toll on me. My husband woke up soon after I did, thank goodness and after 10 minutes on the couch, I told him that I was going to take a nap. Two and a half hours later, I awoke in the nice warm bed, contemplating what I had to do that morning before I had to get ready to go to our friends' house for Easter brunch. Laundry...that's all I had to do...and even that seemed like a lot. Throwing dirty laundry in the washer, no problem. Throwing the finished wash in the dryer, no problem. Folding...problem. Where would I find the time and space unless I became invisible and made it a secret that I was awake, doing housework?

Momma Ninja to the rescue. I silently sneaked past my daughter watching TV, hid from my son eating his precious cereal, and quickly and quietly evaded the puppy while I slid into the garage to toss the laundry in the washer and place last night's clothes in the dryer. After carefully opening the door to the kitchen, I went back the way I came and quietly went into my bedroom where the clean clothes were waiting for me to be folded. I closed the door behind me and started to fold. I finished the first basket and started the second basket. I gasped as the door opened...phew! It was just my husband.

I finished the two loads that I didn't have a chance to fold during the week. I tried my best to finish the two loads in the washer and dryer, but to no avail. Sigh...I guess Ninja Momma can only do so much...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Top 10 reasons not to use a lifeline

1) It gets in your way while knitting. I cut off really long pieces of cord for my lifelines. Really long. Probably too long. So I tie the ends together so they don't work themselves out of my rows. Maybe this is the problem. Every time I knit the row after the row that has the lifeline, the lifeline tends to worm up into my working I focus on not knitting the lifeline instead of focusing on knitting my pattern. It drives me crazy. Plus, the lifeline (because of the length) gets tangled in my knitting, especially if I use floss or thread.

2) You enjoy frogging back. I don't mind frogging back...perfection takes time. Lots of really great things have been torn down only to be restarted again. The Model T, the lightbulb, Mrs. Fields cookies, really good cheesecake...

3) It's not a big deal if you are knitting a RS pattern row on a WS purl row. As long as you tink back carefully, you are okay...and you don't have that darn lifeline distracting you. Just watch out for your double yarn overs.

4) No matter what you do, you keep knitting the lifeline. You also keep putting the lifeline into your stitchmarkers. Gah! You are not an idiot, you are just more focused on knitting the pattern and are good at ignoring distractions.

5) Stitchmarkers are working for you. They do for me. I don't mind that my needles jingle as I knit. It's like sitting outside in the summer, listening to windchimes, without the breeze giving me goosebumps.

6) The lifeline slips out. Does this really need explanation?

7) You don't like needing a crutch when you are knitting. You are confident that you know the pattern well enough that a lifeline isn't worth the hassle. Besides, the pattern is supposed to be for beginners; why would a designer be so cruel so say that their pattern is super easy if it needs a lifeline? There is special place in knitter's hell for people like that.

8) You forgot to put the lifeline cord in your Harmony Knitpicks circular needles before you started knitting the purl row. What's the point of tinking back to reknit a row just for the lifeline if you are going to mess up the row?? Now that doesn't make sense.

9) It's too much trouble to put in the lifeline after the perfect row is knit. It's tricky but doable. I actually found a site that shows you how...but only in a stockinette row. In lace, fuhget abowt it!

10) You don't like Regis Philbin and what does he know about knitting anyway??? Wait, are you sure which lifeline I am talking about?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I really have to stop looking at yarn

I like to read blogs. Especially blogs of independent yarn dyers and spinners. I visited the Sanguine Gryphon's blog today because she had a new post....Now I am wanting to buy more yarn....and I promised myself that I would knit down my stash first....what to do...

Alright, I thought I would share my dilemma. Thanks for reading and empathizing...carry on.

Knitting Lace Tips

Knitting lace is one of those things that beginning knitters ooh and aaah at, something that seems so out of reach. At least I felt that way before I knit my first lace pattern. There are so many new symbols and techniques to learn with lace that it seems too much at one time. My first lace project was Convertible, started in Oregon during vacation last summer with Matsuri yarn from Noro. It was such a fun knit and gave me such confidence that I splurged on a locally spun wool and silk blend to make Sweet Alyssum. That pattern was more challenging and I had to restart a couple of times and relied on lifelines to keep from having to frog back a million times. But the end result was worth it. I had something really beautiful that I made with my own two hands, something that I previously thought was impossible for me to do.

It was then that my love affair with lace started. More often than not, I found myself looking for lace patterns to incorporate into the sweaters and blankets and hats that I knitted for people. I looked for every knitting lace book I could find and even purchased an out of print book that cost as much as a week's worth of groceries. I bought a play mat set from Home Depot to block my lace projects, T-pins from Walmart, scoured the internet for inexpensive tips to block my lace, studied patterns to figure out why a ssk was better than a k2tog to use in some patterns. Obsessed, that what I was.

This month, I am hosting our knitting group's first Lace KAL and I thought that I would write some tips to help our first time lace knitters.

Lifelines are my first suggestion. I am using a very thin clear plastic jewelry cord as a lifeline for my Gail. I've used dental floss before and no matter how hard I try, I somehow knit into it, so when I try to pull it out, it gets stuck and ruins what I have done. The jewelry cord is nice and slick, so there is no chance of it being knit into. However, one word of caution with it is that because it is slick, you have to have enough of it to tie at the ends so it doesn't slip out while you are knitting.

There are 2 types of lifelines. The first is one that you insert after knitting a row. There are instructions on how to do this from Heartstrings Fiberarts here. You will need a tapestry needle and floss, the cord that I mentioned above, or whatever you want to hold your row. This lifeline is easiest on projects that have full rows of stockinette stitch.

The second type is the one that you attach to your needle and you pull through the row that you are knitting currently. This one you need to plan out; you should do it on a row that you know has the best chance of not having any mistakes (usually a WS purl row). I like to place the second type of lifeline before and after a difficult row. Also, the second type of lifeline is easiest with needles like the Knitpicks Harmony interchangeable circular needles because these needles are designed with a hole through which you can insert the cord; you don't have to tape it or anything like that.

My second suggestion is Stitchmarkers....lots and lots and lots of stitchmarkers. Okay...maybe you don't need that much. But I am using my Gail as the reference. This particular pattern has something like a 14 row repeat, so it is easy to forget how many YOs and SSKs and K2TOGs you are supposed to have on each row. Plus there are some rows where you have double YOs...yes, nightmarish if you are not fully focused on what the heck you are doing. Using stitchmarkers at every section of pattern is making the changes in the pattern doable.

My third suggestion is Counting every section. Now if your pattern only has one or two sections, then this may be necessary to do every few rows, just to make sure that you have the right amount of stitches. Although now that I think about it, you will probably know while knitting a row whether or not you have the correct amount of stitches...For Gail, I count every section. This has been indispensable, as I have noted, the many YOs are easy to drop and/or forget to do. Although counting this much may seem like a waste of time, imagine the time you will lose if you finish the row and realize on your next RS row that you have the wrong number of stitches. Tinking is a pain in lace; imagine tinking back and dropping a stitch. Do you really think you can find (or do you really want to??) the dropped stitch and figuring out where it goes in the pattern?? YOs are easy to fix...after you tink back the purl row...The thought makes me shudder. I would just rather start over and be an anal row counter.

My fourth suggestion and one that I force myself to follow is not knitting lace while you are half asleep and or with friends. Focus is the important thing in knitting lace. While I agree that it is very possible to knit the easier lace patterns distracted, do you really want to risk this? Especially considering that if you are using gorgeous fingering or lace yarn spun from merino wool, silk, or cashmere, like Handmaiden, or Malabrigo, or Wollmeise, or something just as delicate, these yarns are prone to fuzzing from constant frogging (ask me how I know). However, if you are starting a lace project with worsted weight, then you are smarter than me, because frogging worsted weight isn't half as bad...I love sweaters with lace, or vests, like Talia, which my friend Liz is knitting for her first lace project.

These are some tips that have helped me in lace knitting. I hope they offer some assistance and hope that lace is something that you can do too!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cereal Pictures

It's a known fact that my son doesn't like his picture taken. He figures out when I am going to take a shot and spins his head just as my slow-as-molasses digital camera takes the picture. Well today, I discovered something...He likes his picture taken when he is eating...I guess the messier the better:

Oh, are you taking a picture?

Here's a better shot mom. I'll put the spoon lower so you can see more of my face.

(giggles) I like the funny noises you're making mom.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Oops I did it again

I started Gail again. Just ripped it all out, sacrificed a couple yards of my Mini Maiden and started the darn thing over again. This time, I am using all of the tricks in my knitting arsenal to defeat the pattern and have the finished product before the end of the summer.

Can you believe that I had a couple of false starts...again...Ugh, those double yarnovers are tricky. But I did it on the second restart.

I placed stitchmarkers after every group in the pattern. This is definitely making a difference, and it making it so easy to count after every few stitches. Yes, this anal counting is necessary to maintain the pattern. What makes this pattern so difficult is that each right side row is different from the one before. And you can't figure out what the pattern is doing until you have done the full pattern once...and even then....

So, my first helpful advice for those doing the April KAL Lace is to get some stitchmarkers and use them! Don't think that your friends will laugh at you for having so many dangling from your needles! Show them the chart and they will understand. If they don't, they obviously have never done lace and don't even know what a lifeline is...or they think it is something from that game show with Regis Philbin, and as far as I know, he doesn't knit.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I will not be defeated

I am working on Gail, having relegated Katje to the Almost Finished bag. I am using Handmaiden Mini Maiden and I thought the colorway is Vintage...I am unsure because I bought another skein from another retailer in the same colorway and they look completely different...

Anyway, Gail is HARD!!!! I finally frogged it because I got tired of ripping it back. I am going to start over and not work on it unless I am totally focused on knitting. No kids, No hubby, No TV, Nothing. Nada.

I am determined to make this beautiful pattern even if it prevents me from making a sweater for Pippin, finishing a sock for Sock Wars, making Flair. It will not defeat me!

Besides, I already told my group that I am making I am committed. Now I look back and think, what the hell was I thinking??????