Sunday, January 29, 2012

Comin' Correct

It recently came to my attention that I've been using the term "Western knitting" all wrong.  In Experimentally Speaking, I talked about learning to switch between Western & Continental knitting, when what I should have said is that I am learning to switch between English & Continental knitting.  Apparently English knitting is the correct term to describe a knitter who holds her yarn in her right hand & throws it over her needle.  The term Western knitting refers to which part of the stitch you knit into.  Confused?  Well, according to Samurai Knitter,
WESTERN is how the majority of us knit in Western European-founded cultures. That includes (other than W Europe, obviously), most of N America, Australia, and parts of Africa (the sub-saharan parts). The knit stitch sits on the needle so that the front of the stitch faces left. When knitting, the yarn is brought under the needle and up, wrapping around the right hand needle in a counter-clockwise direction.EASTERN is how Eastern Europe, Arab and Arab-settled countries (Spain, and by extension, much of S America) knit. The knit stitch sits on the needle with the front facing right. When knitting, the yarn is brought over the right needle from the back, wrapping around in a clockwise direction. This is considered the oldest method of knitting, and purling with this method is very efficient.
And Grumperina describes Continental vs. English knitting this way:
"Continental" and "English" knitting refers to the way a knitter holds yarn and uses it to make stitches.  If a knitter throws the yarn over the needle and then pulls it through to make a stitch, that is called English knitting.  If a knitter uses the needle to scoop yarn through stitches to make new ones, that is called Continental knitting.  More often than not, Continental knitters carry the yarn in their left hand, and English knitters carry yarn in their right.  However, there are exceptions, especially among lefties.
So I stand corrected!

Now I don't know if anyone else does this, but I keep a small box of extra knitted items around, in case the need for a last-minute gift pops up or I need to donate an item to a raffle, auction, etc.  (This also gives me an excuse to knit all the awesome hats/gloves/scarves that I just don't need myself!)  As a board member of Women in Film Seattle, I actually find myself donating to events fairly often.  The event I recently sent a piece off to is the upcoming Post Alley Film Festival.  It's a short film festival happening on Sat. Feb. 25th made up of "female-centric & eccentric" films from around the corner & around the world.  There will also be a raffle & a silent auction & one of the items up for grabs will be my Wildflower Mitts.
The pattern is quite basic but for me these gloves are all about the yarn.  This is Crystal Palace Fjord Print in the Violets colorway.  It's a single-ply 100% wool yarn that was unfortunately discontinued last year.  It was a joy to knit with as it was incredibly soft & squishy.  The gloves came out super-cozy, though they are tighter than I usually knit my gloves so someone would need thin, small hands to wear them. 

The raffle & auction also contain some pretty sweet items from local restaurants, yoga studios, music venues, stores, etc so if you're a Seattlite who likes off-kilter short films, I hope to see you there!

Friday, January 27, 2012

I like it quiet, I like to shout

I know things have been a little quiet around here lately but it's not from a lack of knitting or spinning.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Unfortunately I've been doing a lot of knitting & spinning without much progress to show for it. 

I've finally finished most of the individual pieces & parts of my Central Park Hoodie & recently picked up the stitches for the hood.  I was making good progress on the hood at first but couldn't figure out why the cable crosses in the center of the hood were out of sync with the cable crosses along the edge of the hood.  Throughout the rest of the pattern, all 4 cable crosses had happened on the same row.  It wasn't until I'd knitted 5" that I realized that I should not have continued the center cable pattern up the hood at all!  At that point, I just wasn't about to rip all that out so I had to take a break from the CPH for a few days while I strategized about how to fix this problem.  I think I've come up with a suitable solution & I'll share the outcome upon completion...whenever that winds up being.  

While I love the idea of knitting sweaters & covet so many of the beautiful knitted sweater patterns I see, I'm finding it hard to keep my focus on this pattern for the length of time it's demanding.  At this point in the project, I'm making way more mistakes than I usually do.  For example, there are at least 2 cables that I crossed in the wrong direction & I just plain forgot a cable cross 2 rows ago so I have to rip those rows back.  As Paula Abdul so famously said, it's two steps forward & two steps back.
My other long-term project is a spinning project using the fiber & spindle I bought at last year's Madrona Fiber Arts Festival.  I got a killer deal on 8oz. of Ferndale Fiber's Potluck Roving in the Pumpkin Spice colorway & decided I was going to spin it into fingering weight 2-ply.  Which was a brilliant idea until I added the part about how I was going to do it on my drop spindle.  Now it's almost a full year later & this is the one skein I've managed to spin & ply.  There's no doubt that it's beautiful & turning out exactly as I'd hoped it would.  The only concern is that, at the ripe old age of 30, will I live long enough to spin & ply the rest of it, then knit the Citron it's intended for?

The one project I have made progress on is the final Xmas present I mentioned at the beginning of this month.  I finally blocked it last night & it's almost dry enough to put the finishing touches on. And yes, that is in fact a straight pin helping to block this garment.  It's so big that I used up all my blocking pins about 2/3 of the way through!
Hopefully next time I'll have some real progress to post about.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with some photos of the uncharacteristically wintery weather that brought Seattle to a complete standstill for 2 days last week.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Experimentally Speaking

Over the past few months, downtown Seattle has been the site of a knitbombing of epic proportions.  I'm not just talking about some lamp posts or bike stands wrapped in fiber, I'm talking about an entire park full of trees wearing sweaters.

Two parks in fact!

I stumbled upon the first park whilst driving through downtown & couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I had to get a closer look so I dragged my friend Goldie downtown one day to get some photos.  

I was baffled by these amazing creations because the seams are obviously hand-sewn but the stitches are so perfect I doubted they were hand-knit.  I mean who on earth could hand knit so much stockinette in a reasonable period of time without being struck down by carpal tunnel, arthritis & mind-numbing boredom?

Luckily my fellow Seattle blogger & acquaintance Susan Moskwa wondered the exact same thing & set out to get her questions answered!  She's got a great interview with the fiber artist responsible for these trees & others in the greater Seattle area here.
In other knitting news, between the holiday gift rush & my renewed progress on my Central Park Hoodie, I started to experience some repetitive stress in my left wrist during some marathon knitting sessions last month.  A few times it actually forced me to stop knitting, which did not sit well with me at all.  After suffering through it for a while, I started thinking about how to solve this & remembered hearing that knitting Continental can be gentler on repetitive stress than knitting Western (which is how I learned to knit).  So one Sunday evening before the holidays, after exhausting myself with Western knitting, I threaded the yarn through my left fingers & started experimenting.  Since then, I've been stumbling through my best guesses at how to hold the yarn & control the tension with varying levels of success.  Today, I decided to seek the help of the Internet & lo & behold, I found a really helpful video which might just help me solve these problems.  It clocks in at a whopping 9 minutes & suffers from some unfortunate camera-work (I think it's actually cell-phone work) but it's really detailed & informative & definitely worth watching if you want to learn this method.  After just one row of using the hand positions she explains here, I feel faster & more proficient than I did using my made-up hand positions.  She even addresses the fact that knitting Continental results in a looser gauge, which I'd noticed but thought was due to some mistake I was making.

Finally, I've been wanting to experiment with felting for a while but since I have a front-load washer, which can not be stopped mid-cycle to check progress, I could never quite bring myself to risk the yarn & time.  So imagine my excitement when a visiting friend pulled some 2 1/2 foot long knitted slippers out of her bag & asked if she could felt them in my washing machine!  I've got no problem risking someone else's knitting!  So in they went & after one cycle they were definitely smaller but not small enough.  We sent them through the wash again & after the second cycle, they were perfect!

Now, I'm thinking that there is definitely some giant-slipper-knitting in my future!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Facing the Unexpected

Last Saturday, I sat down to write what would have been a very different post but before I'd typed even a single letter, my phone rang & I learned that my partner Dan had dislocated his elbow at the climbing gym & was on his way to the hospital.  So I abandoned that post & joined him at the hospital, where we've since clocked 19 non-consecutive hours waiting on X-Rays, CT scans, a surgery and follow-up visits, with physical therapy still to come.  Dan's bones are now all back in their rightful positions and his cast has been removed.  He's still healing from the surgery though the doctors are encouraging him to begin moving his arm again immediately to ensure that he regains his full range of motion.  Needless to say, he's a sad panda right now but he's hanging in there & trying to do as much for himself as possible.  Luckily this happened in January, when I don't usually have much work (currently I have nothing lined up till the end of the month) so I can be around to help him out.  The toughest part will be the fact that he can't drive for quite a while, though we're lucky in that a colleague of his lives in our neighborhood & has offered to drive him to & from work once he goes back.  

At the very least, the 12 hours I spent waiting for Dan to go through surgery afforded me plenty of time to work on the second sleeve on my Central Park Hoodie!  It's almost halfway done!  The main color is KnitPicks Wool of the Andes in Currant.  I'm knitting the cuffs & button band from a DK-weight wool yarn (held double) that Dan's sister gave me a few years ago since one of her colleagues owns the sheep it came from!

Unfortunately it's pretty rough & just knitting these 4" of the cuff really hurts my fingers.  Luckily, I screwed up the first sleeve by forgetting an increase, which I didn't realize until I was about 6-8" past the mistake.  So I elected to leave the mistake in & just keep knitting until I had the right amount of stitches.  So my sleeves will need to be cuffed but that means the rough yarn will be folded over & will never have to touch my skin!

The only other concern I have about this pattern is that I ordered enough KnitPicks yarn to make the 32" size then realized I really should make the 36" size.  So on the suggestion of a friend, I introduced the contrasting cuffs & button band & have been hoping for the best.  Now that my sleeves use more of the main color than I was intending them to, I've really got my fingers crossed.  I've even ripped out my gauge swatch, washed it & have it drying right now in order to have every last inch of yarn available to me!

In less dramatic news, I recently got to spend some time with Erin of Doublepointed as she was passing through Seattle on a Northwest Tour anchored by the MLA Convention that took place here.  I have to admit, I had no idea what the MLA Convention was before she enlightened me, which just goes to show what different worlds we all live in based on our careers.  The terminology, politics & culture that goes with video production, which I'm totally acclimated to & which has shaped my personality over the 6 years I've been doing this, is completely alien to someone outside that world.  The same can be said about how unfamiliar other careers & their cultures are to me.  We immerse ourselves in these worlds for at least a third of our lives & spend so much time with other people who do too that it's easy to forget what isn't common knowledge.  It's very interesting to get a glimpse into another world every once in a while.

I also got to share the joys of spinning on a wheel with her, which she picked up quickly.  I started spinning on a drop spindle about a year & a half ago then got a wheel for Xmas last year from Dan.  While the wheel definitely can not be beat for speed, I still like how portable my spindle is.  And perhaps this is just my level of expertise, but I can spin much more even yarn on a spindle.  I also haven't mastered spinning fingering-weight yarn (or in fact, anything thinner than worsted-weight) on a wheel yet. 

Next time I'll share some photos of a massive knitbombing that has graced downtown Seattle for the past few months along with a link to an interview with the fiber artist, conducted by a fellow Seattle-based knitting blogger.  I'll also detail my first experiment with felting, which, incredibly, had absolutely nothing to do with my knitting!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Doing My Duty

I'm writing this today from the jury room of King County Superior Court at the beginning of the first day of my civic obligation. There are about 150 of us packed in here waiting to see how our fate will be determined over the next two days. I've got a drop spindle, a book & 39% battery power on my laptop & am ready to settle in for what I've just been informed is going to be a very busy day for the first jury pool of 2012!  I would have brought my knitting but the last time I tried to bring knitting into the court house, it was confiscated for the day, due to the potential danger caused by my knitting needles!

Last night marked the end of the holiday season in my house as I spent the evening taking down all the decorations.  While I tend to put this off as long as possible, I actually enjoy removing the decorations.  I find it to be a more thoughtful & deliberate process than putting them up.  When I'm putting them up, I'm excitedly anticipating the outcome: the entire house decked out with the tree, lights, wreath, garland, window clings, etc, etc, etc.  A month later, when I put everything away, I get the chance to really look at each item, to touch it, wrap it up & individually say goodbye to it for the year.  Then, when I look around the house, scrubbed clean of the cozy clutter of decorations, it feels very refreshing.

But there is still some holiday knitting to talk about!  This year, I knitted for my partner Dan's parents.  I like to take on only a couple of knitted gifts each year, mostly because I tend to be really busy with work during the holiday season & finding time to knit can be next to impossible.  I tried to start early this year but I still found myself frantically knitting till the last possible second.

My first gift actually started quite innocently, when I cast on for Ysolda's Veyla, after picking up Whimsical Little Knits 2 at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival in October.  I just happened to have the perfect amount of leftover sock yarn & some matching buttons so I started on them immediately, even though I knew I didn't need another pair of fingerless gloves.  After knitting on the first glove for a bit, I found myself thinking how cute these would look on Dan's mom & my first Xmas knitting project was born.

 These knit up very quickly with the only issue being that somehow, both button bands wound up facing the same direction, rather than opposite directions, like they should.  I'm not sure how I made that mistake but since the button bands get knitted first then you pick up stitches along the top to knit the hand, I wasn't about to try to correct it.  They wound up looking pretty good regardless.

Please pardon the rather dark phone photo.

It wasn't until late November that I decided to cast on for a present for Dan's dad, although it was a hat so I didn't expect it to require too much time.  And it would have flown off the needles had I not wound up working on a commercial for more than 2 weeks of prime holiday knitting season!  For anyone unfamiliar with the hours that those of us in video production keep, I usually start work between 4am & 8am & finish between 7pm & 11pm.  There are few, if any, days off before the shoot.  So Dec 6th-16th was pretty much off the table for knitting.  Once I came back online, the race was on to bind off before Dan flew home on Dec 21st!  I crammed in all the knitting I could between taking friends to the airport, getting my oil changed & all the last-minute shopping, wrapping & packing for my own trip.  An 11th hour delay to Dan's flight gave me the extra half hour I needed to bind off, weave in the ends & stick it on Dan's head for a glimpse at how it might look.  And, horror of horrors, it was too big!  But there was nothing I could do to fix it before Xmas so I threw it in Dan's bag with a gift bag, some wrapping paper & a card & hoped for the best.  And again, it didn't turn out too bad! 

See above caption.
This is the Quest for a Man pattern by Laura Nelkin, knit in James C. Brett Marble.  This is a 100% acrylic yarn, which is an unusual choice for me but I was enthralled by the subtle color changes.  They didn't show up as clearly as I'd hoped in the knitting but they do still add visual interest.  The yarn is also really soft & it formed a dense, warm fabric.  My only reservation is that I've worked with soft acrylic yarns that have worn very poorly over time so I'm curious to see how this one performs.

As I mentioned last time, I've got one more Xmas WIP but I won't be going into any further detail on that until it's completed & gifted (hopefully before next Xmas).

Since beginning this post, I've been placed on a jury & my first day of jury duty has ended.  Tomorrow my favorite of all knitting bloggers, Dr. Erin McNellis of Doublepointed fame arrives in Seattle for a short visit & you can be sure all the mischief will be recounted here!


Monday, January 2, 2012

It's a New Dawn, It's a New Day

Happy January! This blog is not so much a new year's resolution as something I've wanted to do for a while & only now have time to dig into. Winter is the slow season for those of us working in video production & many of us use this time to catch up on or start hobbies we don't have time for when things really pick up in the spring & summer. When I was traveling in Greece last year, our tour guide in Santorini told us that people who work in Greece's tourism industry spend their springs & summers working non-stop for up to 18 hours a day with no days off for 6 months straight. That sounded a lot like my work life. In exchange, they get the next six months completely free to live on their own terms & many of them take classes, start hobbies, travel & basically do whatever they want. With that as my inspiration, I've decided to set aside my excuses and forge ahead with blogging. I've had many fiber adventures recently & can't wait to share them!

Currently I'm preparing to embark on what Brenda of Cast On refers to as "selfish knitting month". Once all the holiday gifts are completed & distributed, January is her month to pick up long-neglected projects or cast on something for herself for the first time in a while. And while I do still have one last belated holiday project on the needles (or more accurately awaiting it's turn on the blocking board), I've picked up my Central Park Hoodie again, with all intentions of finishing it this year (yes, this is a multi-year project, please see my first paragraph regarding my work life). But my real goal for January is to make this "selfish spinning month". I was gifted with some Knitpicks Wool of the Andes roving in Tidepool Heather & Merlot Heather. Tidepool is a color I've been salivating over since the first time I saw it. For my partner's dad to pick this for me with no help on my part is pure kismet. I'll need to sit with this roving for a bit before I start spinning it, as I like to see the finished yarn in my head before I break out the wheel. I also purchased 2 oz. of gorgeous kettle-dyed lavender corriedale roving from Nancy's Spinning Fancies in Cornwall, NY during my annual holiday trip back east. I envision this roving as a thick-&-thin single ply & I expect this will be the first selfish spinning project I tackle.

This trip to Cornwall was one of my aforementioned fiber adventures. My mom recently took up knitting so I got her 101 One-Skein Wonders for Christmas. She chose a few projects & wanted to pick up the required needles. There are not too many LYS's in the Hudson Valley & those that do exist are a bit far-flung but she'd heard about a shop in Cornwall called the Cornwall Yarn Shop so we decided to make the 30-ish minute drive over & check it out. It's a cute little shop in a converted house in historic downtown Cornwall. There's a great yarn selection & I picked up a skein of Punta MeriSock Handpainted sock yarn.

The very knowledgeable & personable owner helped my mom find the needles she wanted & even got her to try some rosewood square needles. Neither my mom nor I had ever knitted on square needles so I'm looking forward to getting the low-down on how they feel. The shop has an upstairs & downstairs, separated by a foyer full of samples & a narrow little staircase. The downstairs has two rooms chock full of yarn plus a kitchen area that was in use for some sort of class or community knitting. Their FB calendar shows that they have a good selection of classes & events including the KnitSwirl! truck show coming up on January 21st.

The upstairs had more yarn & a back room full of beautiful in-progress samples & back issues of knitting magazines. Being in there had all the thrill of snooping in someone's stash!

After we finished up there, we walked down Main St & stumbled across Nancy's Spinning Fancies. Nancy was at lunch when we first stopped by so we grabbed some lunch ourselves & came back after she'd returned. Her shop is a delightful cacophony of wheels & fiber with a table in the center for hanging out & getting help with your spinning. Nancy hand-dyes all the fiber she sells & also stocks the occasional skein of her own handspun. The fun is in digging through the fiber to unearth these skeins & well as other buried treasures like additional colors. Her prices are very reasonable ($3-$4/oz) & I can't wait to see how this fiber spins up.

Next time I'll have some photos of my holiday knitting & stay tuned in February for some further fiber adventures, namely the Madrona Fiber Arts festival!