Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Fiber Arts and Needles

Knitters and spinners are picky about their equipment.  They find what they like and are ardent supporters of their favorites.  Sometimes it takes a while to settle into what “works” best for them.

I am no exception.  When I was just picking up knitting again, I would buy inexpensive needles in the size I needed for the project at hand.  As I got to be a better knitter, I learned that better needles lasted longer and were smoother to use, but I have never been a fan of metal needles, they make my hands hurt and have an off odor.  I also have learned that I prefer the shorter 3-4 inch length tips to the longer 5-6 inch one again as they don’t seem to aggravate my arthritis in my hands as much.  One of the products that has come out in more recent years are needles with interchangeable tips so that you need fewer needles and can change the cord to suit the project.  I loved interchangeable tips until my hand strength lessened due to age and the aforementioned arthritis and I could no longer tighten the connectors enough to even knit through a single row on a sweater without them coming partially or fully unscrewed.  Reluctantly, I advertised and sold my interchangeable sets on the social network for lovers of needle crafts, Ravelry.  I have thought about this problem more and more in the past year and have wondered why the designers of this style needle don’t use reverse threaded connectors, so that as you knit, you automatically tighten rather than loosen the connection.

The problem has sent me off in search of non metal, 3-4″ fixed circular needles in a size small enough to make a hat and long enough to knit a sweater or do the magic loop technique to close up the top of a hat.  The funds from selling my beloved interchangeables will just cover the needles in the most common sizes I use in two lengths, so now instead of having one compact case of tips and cables, I will have a basket full of needles.

The hand issues have also forced me to seek crochet hooks with larger shafts or the Clover brand that has the butterscotch colored flattened plastic handle with a thumb pad.

I have never gotten adept at using double pointed needles and have told my daughter that I would teach her to use them, but I feel like I’m playing pick up sticks with them.

It is all our different opinions that keep the companies in business.  Now I’m off to find an Etsy shop that sells a circular needle case that isn’t notebook sized to store my fixed circulars in once they come.  And to work on my sweater with the craft store metal needle with long tips until my new ones come..

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The pattern is Estelle, the yarn Quince and Co. Lark in Delft.  At least I can still knit.

Success builds confidence

A few days ago, I posted about the lace cowl that I was knitting and feeling good about finally successfully completing such a project for the first time.

That success and a desire to have another knit hat for winter, urged me to design and knit a hat using the same lace pattern in the body of the hat. The yarn for the cowl was too thin for a warm hat, so I held a strand of it together with a strand of Green Dragon Sock yarn in one of the colors in the cowl yarn and set to work Sunday night.

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The lower picture is in daylight and shows off the true colors.

The hat was completed in a day. Now before I can post a pattern, I either have to determine that the lace pattern is open source or get permission from the cowl designer to use her lace pattern in my design.

I am pleased with the finished hat and that it’s colors will blend with the cowl and with another triangular scarf  that I knit a couple of years ago.

If the rest of the winter remains as cold as the past few weeks, I am sure it will get much use, alternating it with my Ruby hat and scarf and my homespun hat and scarf.

Next up is a cardigan of Quince andCo. Lark in Delft color way yarn and one of their patterns, Estella. Love, love their yarn.

Success

Yesterday it snowed off and on all day.  The forecast had been for light snow showers to begin in the late afternoon and end shortly after dark.  It started just as I was coming in from the chicken chores, having finally lured them out of their coop with warm mash and fresh straw over the snow.  This allowed for some much needed coop “cleaning.”  It snowed hard for a couple of hours, depositing a new inch or so on the snow remaining from a few days before and then we had snow showers through out the day.  Nothing was accumulating on the roads so we didn’t worry about leaving the mountain.  Just at sunset, the sun peeked out of the broken clouds while it was showering and I stood on the back deck in the 28°f temperature to see if we would have a snowbow.

As it appeared to be clearing, we decided to travel about 20 miles to the Mall to see American Hustle, feeling safe that the roads would be okay on the way home.  The movie was pretty good, hubby liked it a lot and when it was over we exited the multiplex theater to find a mini blizzard going on.  The roads were covered with about 2-3 inches of new snow and it was coming down so fast it was hard to see the road.  This is the mountains and most folks up here have either all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive if they are permanent residents, but it is also the area of the state’s largest university and it seems that most of the students have cars and many of them are not appropriate for snow driving in the mountains.  Even town is not level with rises and dips and as we drove through on our way back to the main highway out to our home, we watched as people, mostly college students slid around corners, fishtailed trying to climb the rises and slid as they foolishly applied brakes going down hill then applied them more firmly to thwart their slide, which caused more sliding.

Once on the main road for the last 12 miles, the road goes up two mountains and through two passes and this is where it got really dicey.  There were cars that couldn’t make it up and had slid into the guardrail, some sideways, some spun around in the wrong direction, some perpendicular to the road.  There were people with 4 wheel or all wheel drive that thought they were invulnerable and were passing each other and driving by the spinouts too quickly and following each other too closely.  It was a terrifying ride, even as the passenger in hubby’s Xterra with the 4 wheel drive on.  When we got to the last 2 miles, going up the mountain on which we live, there were only 2 sets of tracks.  We made it home safely, but very tense.

To unwind, I chose to work on the lace cowl that I posted about a few days ago.  I never thought that I would say that knitting lace would help me unwind, but I had added stitch markers after each lace repeat after “tinking” two half rows and it was going along smoothly.  I finished all but the last three rows, staying up way past my bedtime.

Today is supposed to be warmer, the sun is out and the wind is calming.  After chicken chores which involved more new straw to coax them out to the snow and preparing breakfast for me, feeding the dogs and starting some laundry, I have knit the last 3 rows and bound off.  I am stoked, this is the first time ever that I have successfully finished an entire lace project of any complexity and it is beautiful. It still needs to be blocked but I can’t wait to show it off.
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From this

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To this

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and finally to this. Now I feel confident and am thinking about trying to create a hat to go with it using the same lace pattern.

Attention

Growing up I would likely have been labelled ADD or even ADHD had the labels been available then.  I am bright enough to have gotten by, gotten both undergraduate and graduate level degrees, however, I didn’t perform up to my potential, often being put in the Honors level course one year, then the average level course the next when I didn’t make as high a grade mark as they Honors level demanded.  Thus went high school.  I had a difficult time being still and focused, I was a leg swinger, foot shaken, fiddler with a pen or pencil, all those activities that as an adult, trained as a school counselor, I recognize as “symptoms” of the attention disorders.

By college, I realized that I had never really learned how to study and after a dismal first semester and after having the most awesome General Biology professor, who taught us how to take notes and revealing what worked for him, I realized that I learn best by repetition and hands on.  I took notes in class on any paper handy and when back in my room, transcribed those notes neatly into my notebook.  What a great trick to have learned.

Even as an adult, I flit from one task to another.  Ask my family.  I can not just sit for long, I pop up and fold a load of clothes, sit and read for a few minutes, jump up and do another task.  Even when sick, I have difficulty staying still.

This presents itself as a problem for me as a knitter.  I can make a sweater, design a hat or scarf, reverse engineer a garment and create a pattern for it, IF it isn’t a lace pattern, especially one that has a stitch repeat of more than half a dozen stitches or more than about 6 rows.  I have tackled many lace patterns and have learned to read a lace chart, not just the written out instructions, though I do better with the written instructions.  I have never, I repeat, NEVER, completed a lace pattern successfully if it has more than a 6 stitch/6 row repeat.  I find myself off in stitch count and not wanting to TINK (knit backwards to remove stitches one at a time) back to the last row that was correct, so I generally end up finding a simpler lace pattern to complete the shawl or scarf and trying to convince myself that I am happy with it that way.  Some of the projects have turned out to be lovely anyway.

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This time, I’m determined.  The pattern is 12 stitches and 32 rows.  I worked on it at knit night last night, but only the simple stockinette with eyelet row part.  That I can do anywhere anytime and still carry on a conversation.  Once home, with hubby watching TV (surprisingly, I can tune it out), I sat and started on the lace part of this cowl.  If I got to the end of the row and the pattern came out right, I whooped and air fived.  I am counting every increase row to make sure that I have just what the pattern requires.

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Maybe I am be premature and jinxing myself by posting this, but I am 6 rows into the lace and so far so good.  I am determined, but I will not work on this project in the car or at a knit group, I just can’t be distracted.

What Do You Do When It Is Subfreezing Temperatures?

We are warm and cozy indoors, the thermostat is set at 68f, but that is not what it is like outdoors.  This is what it is:

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It is still gusty wind, so the wind chill makes it too uncomfortable to go play in the snow.  Let me qualify that and state that I have played in the snow, on skis at that temperature, wearing lots of windproof and waterproof layers, but I don’t want to put on ski clothes to take a walk, so until the sun warms things up to the upper teens and the wind dies down, I’ll stay inside and …

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Start http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/zuzus-petals, a cowl out of Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn in Lupine color for me.

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Make chili, enough for lunch and 2 quarts for the freezer.  Actually, I spent yesterday while it was snowing making this, starting with dry beans, my small crockpot, lots of onions, jalapenos, garlic, and tomatoes from last summer’s garden and a pound of grass finished ground beef from the farmer’s market.

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Collect and admire the hen gems, admiring the variation of color and size that the hens produce.  I need to enjoy this now, because come spring, I will be replacing many of the hens with more Buff Orpingtons and the variation will cease, but the flock will be self sustaining.  The collecting process involves layering scarf, hat, gloves, barn jacket and barn boots several times a day as eggs freeze and crack at these temperatures more quickly than you would believe.

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The pretty tan birds are the Buffs and again they are in their coop, refusing to step out into the snow and the cold.  The Oliver Egger, my Houdini finally peeked out and I learned how she has been escaping, chased her back in and sealed up her escape hole.  If she gets caught outside the fence with no way back in, she will likely end up with frostbite or dead.

The dogs and I enjoyed some of their gifts for breakfast.

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And read of course.  The current book is The Bloodletter’s Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) by Linda Lafferty.  An interesting historical fiction, set toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, utilizing authentic locations and some characters but playing more on their insanity that history truly reveals.

So how do you spend shut in days?

 

 

 

Collections

I don’t generally post more than once a day, but I couldn’t resist this one. As I was reading a blog that I follow, http://divineknits-infiknit.blogspot.com/ she had a post entitled “You collect what…?” a discussion of the various types of collections that people gather and what each of these types of collectors are called.  That post sent me back a bit.  As a kid, I collected postcards when we traveled which was not varied and involved an annual trip to a mountain retreat and a spring or fall trip to the Outer Banks for a camping.  Then in my late 20’s, I took up snow skiing and those trips were more varied, we wore knit caps on our heads then instead of helmets, and I started collecting the little souvenir pin badges from each ski resort and wore them on my knit hat.  The postcards are long gone, the badges might still be stashed in a drawer, but I no longer buy them when we go to a different resort.

But I do collect, functional but beautiful things now.  I do not want clutter about our home, but I love handmade items, so our home is a collection of hand thrown pottery, functional items.  All of our dishes, mugs, service pieces, canisters and crocks to make pickles or hold cooking utensils are pottery.  As well as candle holders, pitchers and platters.

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I also collect baskets, many that I made, or were made for me by a friend that I crafted with, several that are ones purchased by artisans in organisations that are attempting to aid poorly compensated artisans to a fair wage. But they don’t just hang around, they are used lovingly to gather produce or eggs from the farm or to store fiber and yarn.

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And I can’t forget the fiber and yarn that I spin and knit into beautiful garments to wear or gift.

Life is good on our mountain farm.

Selfish knitting

The holiday knitting was completed, the baby set, the finger puppets, 3 pair of kids socks, the scarf for my sister. That one required that I first spin the wool/silk blend, ply it, then knit the scarf.

Now it is my turn. A couple of years ago, I purchased a 3 13 ounce bag of wool/silk blend fiber from Green Dragon Yarns at a fiber festival.  The color way was called Tidal Pool, predominately teal with other seaside accent colors.  This bag of fiber has been in my stash since then. Today I decided to spin it into a single. Santa brought me a new wool coat for Christmas, so I don’t always look like the marshmallow man when I go out in my ski coat. My Ruby scarf and hat look great with it, but I wanted choice and decided that this new yarn to be is a good color.
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I know there isn’t enough to ply for a hat and scarf.  Recently when looking for yarn for the baby outfit, I purchased two skeins of Green Dragon Yarns fingering weight called Cypress.
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The colors looked very complementary and though I have never plyed homespun to commercial yarn before, I knew it could be done and decided that was an excellent way to extend the homespun and make a yarn that would look great as a hat and scarf.

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This is one skein of the plyed result. This is about 245 yards of yarn. When the rest is plyed, it should be enough for the scarf and bottom couple of inches of the hat, with the crown just the Cypress color.

The scarf is The Yarn Harlot’s pattern, One Row. Homespun Scarf. The hat will be a new design utilizing her stitch pattern from the scarf.

The Stockings

Growing up, the tradition at Christmas was to have Christmas dinner on the eve of Christmas day.  After dinner, stockings were hung and my sibs and I were shuffled off to bed so Santa could come.  As an adult, I have heard some tales about this gift or that requiring assembly that only a child can handle.  Our stockings were red felt stitched with white yarn and decorated with white felt cutouts, commercial and not very sturdy, fading and failing a bit more each year.

When I married and we started our family, I was committed to handmade stockings for each of us.  I bought a crocheted pattern kit for hubby and decided that the same pattern could be made for me.  The yarn for his is nice and firm and holds it shape well, mine on the other hand stretches and distorts.  As each child was conceived, I bought a crewel work stocking kit which I lined for stability and wearability for each of them and the first two children got theirs for their first Christmas, the youngest didn’t get his until his second Christmas.  Hey, after all, I had three children under the age of 7 and was outnumbered even with hubby’s help.  Each of those stockings moved with the adult child to their new home, except eldest son’s and he generally spends Christmas here.

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The tradition allowed the children to have their stockings as soon as they came downstairs to the living room, but the rest of the gifts had to wait for breakfast and the Christmas story.

When our second grandchild came along, daughter asked only a month before Christmas if I would make her son a stocking.  Not having enough time to do a crewell work one and having yet to make socks successfully to knit one, I quilted it.  It is cute, but firm and tight and hard to stuff.

Two years ago, daughter was due with her second in late November, but she asked way in advance and my knitting had improved to the point where I felt I could handle not only knitting the stocking, but doing colorwork to have a pattern on it.  This stocking led to youngest son, who had also had a child that year asking if I could do one for his two children and our eldest grandson had never gotten his own stocking, so he also entered the queue.    That meant I had 4 knit stockings to complete and send off by Christmas,

Traditionally, the toe of the stocking holds a small mesh bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins.  They have become more difficult for me to find here in the mountains, but generally I can get them at Target.  Not this year.  There will be no gold foil covered coins, but the other traditions will live on.

I hope you and your family celebrate your special holiday with love and peace.

 

Is it going to be done?

The Christmas knitting projects included

Finger Puppets to go with a book

Done!

Mickey and Minnie Mouse finger puppets – Done

Headband/earwarmer for Daughter by love

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Done

A scarf surprise for someone I love

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Done!

Repurposed sweater into a large art tote for Daughter by love

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Done.

Mismatched Batman socks for a grandson

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Still about 2 inches of knitting to go.

A pair of socks for his little sister, also mismatched.  So far these haven’t been started and I’m not sure I have time, but I will sure give it a try.

 

 

To Make Gifts Special

We have 3 children with significant others and 5 grandchildren and each other for whom we prepare Christmas gifts.  We have long ago discussed and decided with our siblings and my Dad that the children are more important and as each of us had children then grandchildren and in my Dad’s case, great grandchildren, that we would quit giving gifts to each other.  That is not to say that one of us will occasionally surprise a sib or parent with an unexpected token of our love, a “Just Because” gift.

Each of our children are trying to instill the true spirit of Christmas in their children and have asked us to not be too generous in our giving.  They also, all requested of us (hubby) that there be no electronic toys this year, nothing that requires batteries or makes noise by itself.  Two of the mom’s have asked for something knitted.

The granddaughters like finger puppets.  One is getting a book and handknit finger puppets of the characters.

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The other granddaughter is going to Disney World with her big brother this winter when they host a homeschool weekend.  She is enamored with Mickey and Minnie and I am diligently working on the design to make finger puppets of those two characters.  I think I have Mickey ready to stuff and sew together as soon as I embroider the rest of the face.  Minnie will be basically the same but with a polka dot skirt and “hair bow.”

Daughter informed me that her son made the statement that he didn’t have anymore of grandmom’s hand knit mismatched socks.  He is a Batman fan and my local yarn dying friend quickly dyed me two skeins of sock yarn to convert into Batman themed socks for him.

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His little sister will probably also get a pair of mismatched socks, but of different colors.

Along with books, some sports gear or Legos. Some costumes for pretend play for the girls, the kids are nearly done.  Their parents are always a bit more challenging and hubby is the toughest this year since we went on a cruise, we decided to go cheap on each other, but the one item I want to get him as he is now riding a motorcycle is not inexpensive.  Oh well, it is Christmas and it is only money.