June 22, 2013

Lookie what finally came in the mail!!

Rememeber, all those months ago when I made a big deal about winning a first prize spot in the Martha Stewart knitting contest for Lion Brand? That might seem like ages ago, but the prize just came UPS. That beautiful brown-paper- bag-colored truck showed up yesterday and voila! Here is is!

I received a Martha Stewart Crafts by Lion Brand Knit & Weave Loom Kit, complete with an instructional book on how to use it for some basic knitting and weaving.

I have not been much of a loom user since I was a kid making potholders out of those nylon loops that, if actually used to remove a casserole from a 375 degree oven, would have probably melted onto the casserole dish and into one's fingers.  It was a fun activity (the weaving, not the melting), but I have not thought about it too much since then. (You can still buy those here, but with better materials)

The kit came with a nifty little letter of congratulations.
My 13-year-old daughter uses a 3-piece round loom kit I bought a while back out of curiosity to make hats for herself and others, and I myself have made a single hat on it. It was fun and I will admit that this new addition to my knitting arsenal makes me curious.
The parts inside look a little daunting!

In addition to the basics, the little book that came with the loom provides some basic instructions for a knitted hat and scarf and two other cute patterns: one for "rosettes," and one for a woven squares baby blanket.

I once checked out a book from the library with instructions for this type of knitting and weaving. My understanding is that socks also might be made from a loom. Anyone tried that? How did it work? Any other cool things to be made on a knitting loom?

I know there is more to this than potholders!

June 19, 2013

Crochet: A New Love? (Subtitle: J'ai Deux Amours, c'est d'accord?)

 I got a free sample of a newish magazine called Love of Crochet. I had a little coupon/post card for it, and I thought, what the heck? I'll try this! I sent away for it.

(They also soon have a magazine coming out called Love of Knitting. Guess I need that one, too.)

It turns out the magazine is super cute with some tantalizing pattern recipes, especailly for a pattern recipe junkie (like myself). They also provide a little section in the back of the magazine called "Learn to Crochet." I was, uh...hooked. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)

If the patterns cracked a mental door for me, then the learning section flung it wide open. My resistance was futile.

Here, in this blog post, is my attempt at a dishcloth. I worked out the stitches pretty well (emphasis on the "pretty") and, with the help of "Basic Crochet Stitches" by Interweave Press, have now got a partially finished, misshapen dishcloth. It was really fun to do and I plan on finishing it soon.

It's also good to try a new skill and be reminded of how much we should revere those are really good at it. People who can crochet super fast with precision and an incredible finished product are not to be underestimated! It is not easy
and I am reminded of this every time I split the cotton yarn with my hook, or can't find the two stitches I am supposed to be inserting the hook into.

Learning to "see" your work, especially "new work" is pretty hard, but it is fun and I think I just might want to do more.

Let me at those charts! Even if they all look like Greek to me!

Vive la de beaux-arts de l'aiguille!

 (I made that up...hope it translates...long live needle arts!)


June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

My dad, Grandpa Clyde, with his buddy
Amy Rose. 
A fun time was had by all today.

There was a great picnic in my parents' back yard with good weather and good food (provided by me, so "good," if I say so myself...), good conversation and, oh, yeah, my dad's socks fit perfectly.

He put them on. Outside. At the dinner table on a 75 degree day. And all was right with the world.

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband, my own dad (the original Clyde the Glide--we called him that before ol' Clyde Drexler even came along) and to all the important men out there who shaped the lives of others.  You are appreciated.

June 14, 2013

A "mommy moment"

Every Thursday, I pick up Amy Rose from preschool at a nearby church.

The school has a great indoor play area, a library and a fenced outdoor play yard, complete with all sorts of jungley-gym type structures to keep even the most active youngster busy. (And in the case of mine, hopefully tired by the time it's time to come home.)

Last Thursday, I pulled up to the school and noticed that the kids were all outside. I parked my truck and walked across the asphalt parking lot to the low, faded gray picket fence that calls beachwood to mind. I could see little heads lined up in a neat, but squirrely row against it. Some tiny fingers were poking out between the rough wood slats of the fence as if to feel for freedom.

At the corner of the fence, little heads to my left, I unlatched the little gate, wobbly from years of unlatching and latching. I heard the teacher as she finished counting the little ones, "...10, 11, 12! Okay, kids! Go ahead and go back to playing!" They broke from their line on the fence like runners off Olympic blocks.

I saw my Amy Rose heading down the length of the fence, away from me.

Very low, I said, "Amy Rose...." in a sing songy, playful way.
She turned.
She saw me, "MOMMY!" cried her little voice of 4 years.

She sprinted toward me, and I noticed she was screwing up her face as if holding back tears. As she dove into my arms like she had not seen me for days, I said, "Amy, honey, did something happen? Are you okay?"

"No. I am okay." She pulled it together.
"Why were you crying?"
"Oh," she chortled a funny laugh as if to brush it all off, "Those were just tears of joy."

June 12, 2013

Sock Madness Forever!

I tried it, the Madness. And I failed. And that's okay! I might even do it again next time.

Sock Madness Forever is a group on the knitting site Ravelry (we all know and love!) for those who want to try "competitive knitting."

Sock Madness is the knitter's answer to March Madness, the infamous college basketball (did I get that right?) competition, which steals husbands, fathers and sons alike from their female counterparts every year. For the ladies--and some guys--who do not participate in M.M. and also happen to be knitters, Sock Madness is a great alternative for some fun and games, not to mention some new friends and an incredible learning opportunity.

While the group says that part of their purpose is competitive knitting--and it is, which we will get to in a minute--they are also providing a fast-paced, fun learning experience for anyone who wants to try it.  They provide challenging--and some very challenging--sock knitting projects which include unusual heels, toes, other constructions and embellishments like buttons and even, this year, zippers! For those who wants to learn, you should know that the group is full of nothing but supportive people who will embrace you--they also happen to be sharp, quick, sometimes wickedly hilarious folks with whom it would be great to just hang out with.

However, if you also think the competitive knitting part sounds awesome, then here is how it works:

The moderators of the group first provide sign ups in advance during the month of February. They provide a fun warm up pattern and some fabulous dyers even create some yarn just for the competition.
These socks have a very fun
"Fleegle Heel", though they
were designed top-down
and not toe-up, like the original.

Then there are 7 rounds of knitting. The first round is to establish skill levels and to see who belongs in what group. People are placed--and very accurately, I think--into appropriate groups and then it's on!

You never know when the rounds will start, exactly, though you may have an idea. Each round,
people are eliminated until there is one grand prize winner.

It's all very fun and for more information, lookey here.

As for me, I did the warm up round, but ran out of yarn at the end of Round --and also ran out of time! I finished my socks in another color, even though I did not make it onto a team, and now have had fun reading every one's posts and seeing the incredible ninja knitters going on and on.

Who knew a person could knit so fast? I bow the the speedy folks in eternal awe of their talents.

So no matter your preference, friendships, learning, competition, you can find it on Sock Madness.

Maybe I'll see you next year. And happy knitting :)

**Interested in the patterns?  Look here.***

June 9, 2013

Father's Day Socks

Father's Day is next weekend, and so I must make something.

I wish I could make something for every awesome dad in my life, but since there are so many, and time is always so very short, I had to choose only one man. And this time I chose my dad.

My dad has been bugging me for about a year and a half (or more, and thus rightly so with the bugging) to make him a pair of socks. He wants some handmade woolly socks to keep his feet warm at night. He is 82 next month and his toes are not always the warmest. 

One afternoon each week, I arrive at my parents' house to pick up Amy Rose (she gets to spend Mondays with her favorite grandpa/play date buddy). Usually by this time of day, Amy is napping on the couch with dirty knees, wild hair and a dirty face, all signs of the fun she has been having. This often gives my parents and I a fair amount of time to talk and relax together.

While we talk, I knit socks for one thing or another, and my dad always says, "Say, I would like those socks. I like those colors!" or, "Say, I like those socks! I like stripes!" or, "I would wear
The sock has a slipped stitch rib
that looks really nice and is fun to knit
those! I think they would fit me!" He has become so desperate to drive home his message of sock desire, that he makes these exclamations about socks with everything from brown stripes to pink roses and lace trim. 

His time for socks has come. 

This weekend, I pulled out a pattern I have been saving from Lorna's Laces via Jimmy Bean's Wool. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know that there was a time when Jimmy Bean's Wool was my mainstay and sustenance for all things yarney. (You also know I tended to go a little, uh, overboard in my consumeristic enthusiasm.)

The pattern was on a mailing bag and it is for a pair of socks entitled, "Honey Do." This is ironic since my dad never--ever--has to be told to do a project. He is always working on something--that is, until it is time to relax. 

I used Ellae Rae's worsted weight wool.
I've had it for so long that it is discontinued.
I must have been saving it for this.
I have never seen someone who gets the concept that work should always be followed by relaxation better than my dad. He does it right.

He will work all day in his very large garden, for example, in the heat of the sun, never shirking. But when it is time for lunch, his favorite coffee break at 3pm (yes, a hot one...he claims it cools you off), or dinner time, he knows how to set aside work to recharge his mind and soul.

On each break, he miraculously settles completely down--an idea hardly heard of today--not making plans for the rest of the work, not talking about what has already been done, but just being. I have watched this behavior all of my life and have watched it rejuvinate him time and again without fail. It is a practice I have taken to heart and own for myself.

My dad taught me to work hard, earn my break, then take it with the full satisfaction of a job well done; no guilt allowed. And with that relaxation, my dad taught me to sit in the quiet, listen to the noises around me, no matter where I am, and just be. Be thoughtful, pensive, mindful and grateful. 

Dad, I love you. And you're welcome for the socks, even if you don't need a Honey Do list. I know you won't mind.

Meetin' Socks

At least I like the stitch pattern with the
double matching center rib
I love the t-shirt from Cafe Press that says:

"Knitting in meetings
(because falling asleep) 
is just rude"

I only resist the urge to buy it because for me, knitting in meetings is a regular activity. Why do I do it? See shirt caption above. Knitting also helps me concentrate better. It helps me to focus. It helps me to do more knitting.

I have knitted just about everywhere I can in my short, five-year-old knitterly life. I guess I am still excited about it, since I am still just a kindergarten-aged knitter, and I want to do it all the time. 

I knit in every room of my house, including my front and back porches. I take knitting on the road, in the car, to work, the library, parks, local fountains, restaurants, bookstores, airports, the woods, the beach, church, several Starbucks locations and even to the grocery store, just in case I have a chance to sit in the little grocery store deli and have a snack. If I leave home without my knitting, it feels just as weird as leaving my shoes behind...or maybe more like leaving my vital organs behind.

Knitting is pretty important to me, as it is to all you fellow Knitaddicts for whom knitting is not just a hobby or a post-apocolyptic skill, it is an appendage. Like your soul.

This is why we knit everywhere and with wild abandon and with no thoughts (sometimes) for our own safety. Yes, we knit anywhere, and meetings are no exception.

I love knitting in meetings. I get the best ideas for impromptu sock patterns during them. It's like a
The fit of this sock is pretty loose. See the baggy heel?
game where you are given limited supplies and told: make something awesome. Like the television show Chopped where would be star chefs are given a date, some brown sugar and an old boot and the game show host says, "You have 30 minutes to make a 5 course meal using all these ingredients: GO!" 

That is what is in my mind when I am faced with an 8 hour meeting. The voice in my head says, "Janelle, you have one set of needles, you only remembered to bring zero stitch dictionaries, you have one skein of sock yarn and we are providing an old dude staring you down during the next 8 hours with disdain as he decides whethere or not he is going to call you out for knitting during this his meeting. Before he sounds our giant gong and drags you out of the room, you must complete one interesting sock and retain all the information presented during this meeting: GO!"

While I do not have an old boot at these meetings, I imagine that I am charged with filling one--in a sort of "shabby chic" way--with a fabulous sock. My mind always races. 

At the last meeting I attended, I was able to complete most of one sock without being dragged off the stage by a hook in front of all of my colleagues. It is a little simple pattern in Kroy Sock gray heather. I love it, except that during the meeting the room was a bit dim (darn PowerPoints and informative slide shows) and I was knitting a bit loosely to compensate for the added blindness hurdle in the imaginary sock competition. 

This became a problem after I returned home to find that I sure do knit with a lot more tension when I have light. And also the (much) bigger sock is not as attractive as the firmer tensioned one. 

I must frog the meeting competition sock and knit it again. 

While this does not constitute a defeat, it is still irritating. Next time I am bringing light yellow yarn.
Actual size difference is about a whole inch!