Monday, December 28, 2009

Making plans

Now that Christmas is over it's time to finish up a few WIPs from 2009 and make plans for my knitting in 2010. Don't get me wrong, I still have an abundance of WIPs that need attention, one way or the other, after the first of the year, but I'll get to that later. Some I *will* finish but I think a few will go to the frog pond in favor of more compelling projects. I still intend to knit a few more shawls to give as gifts just as I did for Christmas. The joy of knitting something that I know will delight the receiver is the best kind of elation I know.

Thanks to Ravelry I have at least 3 knitting goals set for 2010. The first is fairly simple and straightforward -- knit 10 items start to finish in 2010. I know I can do this. The next challenge is a bit more daunting -- knit 10 shawls in 2010. Since the term shawl has been loosely defined as projects requiring a minimum of 250M of yarn, with 2 shawls using at least 500M, this goal is not as lofty as it sounds--at least for knitters like moi who use primarily laceweight yarn. All of my Christmas one week "quicky" shawls used between 400-550 yds of lace yarn. I can do this as long as I knit some smaller projects in between the 1000+ yd monsters.

The third goal I have will be my Knitting Olympics/Ravelympics project, to be knit during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February. It's hard for me to believe that it has been four whole years since I knit my very first lace shawl as a participant in the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics during the Torino Games. Little did I realize then what a lace knitting addict I would become!!! I have not chosen my Olympics project just yet. I am debating between making another shawl or knitting a doily, perhaps a Niebling or Engeln project. I have ~6wks to decide so I have time.

I have one more goal that is mine alone and not influenced by any group I belong to--it is the cabled jacket from the Winter 2009 IK. The yarn I need has arrived at The Yarn Haven and is waiting for after the 1st of the month when my budget will allow me to retrieve it. This may be my most ambitious project ever as it involves things that scare me most, such as knitting a sweater that fits and flatters and using worsted wt. yarn and big needles (US 7, 8, 9?). But I'm smitten in love with the design and I know I can do it if I really try. All my friends at TYH are behind me on this one and have promised much cheering and encouragement. What more can a girl ask for????? Courage! I will do it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Joy of Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a season of Joy, but once you grow up past the kid phase it's sometimes difficult to find true Joy in the season. Once Santa and tinsel no longer cut it then you have to work to find your own kind of Christmas spirit. In recent years I have found the holidays to be rather ho-hum and not especially jolly. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking Bah humbug here, I just want a little more Ho Ho Ho in my Holidays. The good news is I think I found it this year.

In the early part of October I found myself feeling a little depressed. I even indulged in a brief pity party. I thought I was justified and I had a decent-sized list of reasons to support my cause. I felt myself falling prey to the trap that is what believers might label "calling others to repentance." I knew it was a trap, but I indulged a little just the same. Not too long afterwards the Spirit sent the Call my way. I got the message: Think a lot less about yourself and a more about others.

In looking around I saw many wonderful examples of this true Spirit of Christ in action, but just one person really stood out for me: Alison Jeppson Hyde. Alison is the author of Wrapped in Comfort, a lovely book of lace shawls patterns knit in mid-weight yarns on moderately large needles.
The patterns are nice, but it is the stories behind the shawls that grab my soul. Each shawl was carefully created from scratch for its intended recipient -- someone whom Alison had come in contact with and felt impressed to knit for. When most of us limit our shawl gifts to only the closest of friends and family, Alison knit for folks she barely knew. She never let the fact that she was severely ill with multiple chronic diseases stop her. Once she felt impressed to knit for a person, that was it. On Alison's blog she tells little tidbits about the people she knits for. It's a feast for the soul, for MY soul.

I have been greatly inspired by Alison's acts of Christian service and have chosen to follow her example beginning with this Christmas. I started small with a few large scarves/small shawls lovingly knit for women who have blessed my life in recent years. You saw a couple of these shawls in the previous post but I've added one more this past week. I can't begin to tell you how fun it is to receive that little whisper of inspiration about who I should knit for and what color, yarn, and pattern I should use. For example, gift #3 needed to be very soft and it needed to be red. No other color would do. Once I knew about the red, then I started to look for patterns in my goodly stash. None spoke to me. Why? Because this shawl had to have hearts in it. When I couldn't find the "perfect" pattern I followed Evelyn Clark's example and designed my own. Let me introduce you to the "Let me Call you Sweetheart" Lace Shawl. The design is still a bit rough and needs tweaking, but it was perfect for it's intended recipient and that's all that matters right now.

I hadn't yet given away the red hearts shawl when learned who I was to knit for next. This one is more challenging because it has to be brown...a color I don't care for and never knit with. My 1st thought pattern didn't work out so I'm on the hunt again. This is so much FUN!!! Watching the faces of these women as they receive their gifts is priceless. I am having the most enjoyable Christmas in a very long time. Thank you Alison!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I Love Evelyn Clark

This year I decided to do something I don't normally do...knit Christmas presents for several people who have been especially thoughtful and caring towards me this year. No, I really can't knit something for everyone who has been meaningful to me lately (though I wish I could), but at least a few sweet souls will know that I love them very much. Some folks make most of their gifts, thus something of this nature would not be extraordinary. I am different. Having felt the sting of laboring over a handmade gift only to see it underappreciated on multiple occasions taught me to be excessively selective about such things. As such, I gave only little handmade things or purchased gifts to most folks on my list.

Deciding to be different this year set my mind in a whirl. What to knit that is beautiful, functional, relatively fast, and still expresses my feelings well. That's where Evelyn Clark comes in. I love Evelyn's approach to designing lace shawls. Knitting one of her shawls is a pleasure! So I did some stash diving to find the perfect lace yarns in my stash and patterns to match. I had my first project, the Sand Dollar Shawl, finished in just one week...very fast for lace shawls! I abandoned the thought of knitting a second shawl from the same pattern and splurged on a new design from Evelyn's website--the Icelandic Poppy Lace Shawl. I cast-on 3 days ago and should be finished by Monday at the latest. My body is protesting at the effort but I'm finding so much joy in knitting for others. I can't wait to start the 3rd shawl...whatever it may be :-)

I think this is what one could truly call the SPIRIT of Christmas. Merry, merry, Ho, Ho, Ho!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gosh, Thanks!

I walked into The Yarn Haven one afternoon last week and got surprised...big time surprised! You will recall that just a couple of weeks ago I was happily knitting away on preemie hats as a part of the 2009 Yarn Bowl Challenge: Alabama vs. Tennessee. Our Tennessee knitters and crocheters were absolutely amazing, creating 3,171 hats to warm the heads of tiny preemies and the hearts of loving families here in East Tennessee. Our worthy competition in Tuscaloosa, AL made 1,738 hats. That's a lot of hats folks!!! Here in Tennessee we were thrilled to win the challenge. We would have been happier is we had made that last field goal to win the football game as well, but I guess you can't win everything, right? We'll get 'em next year when the Crimson Tide comes to Rocky Top :-)

I particularly enjoyed knitting the hats because I used the experience to learn and improve upon my colorwork knitting skills. I did a little designing as well, creating girly hats with ruffles and bows and little guy toppers like a baseball-style cap. The last night of the challenge I put the finishing touches on a pair of hats perfect for any preemie-sized Vol fan. One hat supported the Vols while the other touted the Lady Vols as our favorites. It's hard to say I had a favorite hat, but I am particularly fond of these two.

I guess I was not alone in my inability to choose just one favorite hat. Apparently the anonymous, independent judge of the Yarn Haven hats also had a hard time choosing only one as well. That's where the surprise comes in. I created really cute hats (IMHO) because I was enjoying myself. I also did it because I *know* what such a simple thing means to preemie parents. My aim was for cuteness and quality, not quantity or anything else. I knew that Sandy, my LYSO, had announced there would be categories and judging at the end of the competition, but I paid no heed to all that. So when I walked into the shop that afternoon and was greeted by cheers and congratulations by my friends and fellow knitters I was stunned. I had won the most unique prize. Oh my!!! There was a nice gift certificate to the shop to go along with the kind words and cheers. What else can I say but thanks!!! The Yarn Haven is the BEST!!! It's such a good feeling to be associated with so many wonderful, caring people. I love ya'll!!!

Norris Dam State Park

I continued my search for fall colors one afternoon last week by driving to Norris Dam State Park. Located just north of Knoxville, Norris Dam is a very tall, picturesque TVA dam on the Clinch River. I've visited the dam countless times in my life, I've skied on Norris Lake, but I've never taken the time to visit the historic pioneer village area that is a part of the State Park. I use the term village loosely as it consists of two structures really, a grist mill and a hay barn. On a dark, cloudy Wednesday afternoon in November I pretty much had the place to myself. While conditions for photographing the river and dam were most unfavorable, the yellow leaves behind the grist mill provided the perfect backdrop for great photos. I was shutter-happy for the time being, that is until I realized I had forgotten to put fresh batteries in my camera and the old ones were dying... fast! Sigh! Oh well... With some careful camera management I was able to capture some of the beauty of the day.

At Norris, the bottomland just below the dam was once the site of a forestry test project. Basically they portioned out the land into sections, planting one type of tree in each section. Now the area is a maze of easy walking trails and a haven for birds, white-tail deer, and other wildlife. I caught sight of the first deer emerging from the upper ridges in where else? The apple orchard of course! It was quite the sight as a few rays of sunshine had found their way out from below the cloud cover to illuminate the deer in a golden glow befitting a fall afternoon. Breathtaking!

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Running Away from Home

I have knitting things to blog about, but they will just have to wait for another day. I want to talk about running away from home. Running away is one of my most favorite things to do. The preparation is simple: A few guidebooks and maps, a camera or two, a cooler full of diet cokes, plus some random munchies--whatever happens to catch my fancy at the time. Pile all of the above into the car, make sure the tank is filled with gas, and GO! Go anywhere that is beautiful, inspiring, scenic, restful, or just plain fun. I've been doing this for years, sometimes with friends or family, but more often than not I go by myself. I love going by myself as I get to go where I want, do what I want, and stay as long as I want before moving on.

Ever since my last major escape to Diana's in West Virgina, I have been plotting more trips in the TN/NC/VA/WV/KY region better known as the Southern Appalachians. I call it heaven. When the Ken Burn's documentary special on our National Parks aired on PBS in September, my burning desire to escape was fueled further. I couldn't go very trips or half-day trips only for now. Fortunately the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)isn't very far, only an hour's drive from my home to the Townsend Entrance. My health and personal schedule were favorable for a change, so to the Smokies I went.

It's been too many years since I visited the Smokies at the peak of Fall color. With the abundance of rainfall this year, there was an abundance of leaves on the trees and I wanted to see them in all their red and yellow glory. Better yet, I wanted to photograph this glory using my digital camera for the first time ever. I did not hold back. To see all the photos you will need to go to my web album here. I tried to add captions and descriptions as I edited the photos, but suffice it to say that all these photos were taken in just a few areas of the GSMNP-- Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Tremont, and Cades Cove. There is much, much more! Enjoy the eye candy :-)

The photos I have uploaded here represent a little of what I saw on my 3 trips to the park. The first day (20 Oct) I headed for the higher elevations in the hopes of capturing what remained of the colors after a hard frost and light snowfall the previous 2 days. The snow took it's toll, but the yellows of the mid-elevations on the North Carolina side of the park were especially beautiful. Of course by the time I got to the other side of the mountains it was late in the day, so some of my photos aren't as stunning as I would wish. Even still, the scene was beautiful in person so I was more than happy.

I made my 2nd trip about a week later on a Monday afternoon. The park was extremely crowded so I headed to a lesser-known spot called Tremont. The Middle Prong of the Little River is the hallmark of Tremont, a densely forested area which has finally recovered from heavy logging in the pre-park era. It's hard for me to believe it's the 75th anniversary of the GSMNP this year! The only folks that spend much time in Tremont are those who "hike" on horseback (there's a trailhead and horsecamp at the end of the gravel road), folks attending the Great Smoky Mtns Institute (an educational thing), and fly fishermen. On the day I was there the fishermen were invaded by the photographers. I met so many neat people who were hauling tripods and fancy (expensive) camera equipment in search of the perfect photo. The little red tree in front of the river (shown above) was the focal point of many, many photographers--many of them professionals. I was pleased to shoot lovely photos of a fellow in his hip waders fishing like no one else was around. Pretty stuff I tell you.

I went a third time, to my favorite location in the park, Cades Cove. It is an excessively crowded area in peak season, like Fall color time, but I managed to find a day where the traffic was tolerable. I stopped at many of the cabins, including some I rarely if ever stop at any more. I also hit my favorite "hidden treasures" while I was there. The deer were unusually sparse during the first part of the Loop Road, but more showed up at twilight on the back side of the Loop. While there were fewer deer than what I'm used to seeing, the wild turkeys more than made up for it. There were oodles of the gobblers scattered throughout the cove. I walked/hiked around much more than I should have, esp. late in the day when I just had to get a specific perspective on my deer photos. I came home elated with the experience and otherwise exhausted. Now, almost a week later, I'm just starting to recover. We have a cliche for such things at our house: "No good deed goes unpunished." So I punished my body..and fibromyalgia screams at such punishment...but I don't care. I was finally there and I will have the photos to re-enjoy the experience forever after. There's nothing else quite like the colors of the trees in the Smokies in late October. I think everyone should see them at least once before departing this earth. Yeah, it's that good!

Monday, October 19, 2009

KAL Progress Report: Knits from the North Sea

The Lace Knitting group at The Yarn Haven has almost doubled in size with the beginning of our Fall KAL featuring projects from the new book Knits from the North Sea: Lace in the Shetland Tradition. I have already made my thoughts about the book more than clear so I won't repeat the rant. My challenge was to edit the instructions in the book to meet the needs of group members. I have newbies, beginner, and intermediate/advanced intermediate lace knitters with a varying range of knitting expertise, thus my task has not been exactly easy.

The KAL group has had 2 meetings thus far. My 2 novice lace knitters chose to knit the simplest scarf--Carol's Peaches--but were struggling with the mohair yarn the 1st night. They weren't present at the second meeting so I'm concerned they may have been scared away. I hope not. All the beginners except one (she's an expert knitter, just new to lace) are knitting the Cockleshell scarf at my suggestion. Every knitter has struggled with some aspect of the pattern. The multi-chart pattern has been confusing as has the unclear language of some of the chart symbols/pattern instructions. AT least one has abandoned the Cockleshell pattern for a more suitable beginner lace scarf pattern (not in the book). The two knitters who have started the High Country Wrap are also finding it very challenging/frustrating but are soldiering on. One chose to use the size 1 needles recommended in the pattern (I didn't know about that until she had already started) but was having a bit of a go at it and was considering switching up to a larger needle. I have two more newcomers planning to join the group at our next meeting later this week. One decided in advance to knit something else for her project. Smart lady :-)

I'm making progress on my Cockleshell scarf. According to the book I'm done with the first side and halfway through the second side. Of course this is not nearly long enough to be a scarf IMHO so I still need to decide what I want to do to extend the pattern--just keep knitting the same lace rep or change it up to a Seaman's-style scarf with a rib knit center section. I'm leaning towards the latter but I'll make the final decision when I get there.

While this pattern books lacks much, I still love knitting lace and mentoring others in the art of lace knitting. After all...


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just a few more days...

Until the deadline for the preemie hats in the 2009 Yarn Bowl Challenge between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the University of Tennessee Volunteers. I have set aside my usual lace knitting for baby DK yarn and small circular knitting all to benefit the preemies I love so much. Each participating knitter or crocheter has their own purpose for knitting in addition to supporting our local LYS and NICUs. Some are knitting nice, functional hats. Others are knitting lots of hats to support of LYSO and increase our chances of winning the competition. some what to see if they can knit (or crochet) more hats than anyone else in the shop. Me? I want to create really cute little hats like the ones I would want my baby to wear if I were the parent of a preemie. I'm going for looks. And while I'm at it I'm learning a lot about colorwork knitting techniques, something I've been wanting to do. I'm also improving my design skills.

I lost count of how many hats I've knit. I did not count them, nor did I photograph them all. I did, however, try my best to capture decent photos of the hats I like the most. So far, so good. I started things out by trying to incorporate lace knitting into my hats, usually through knitting lacy edgings. These were sweet, but all that plain stockinette on top is mighty boring to knit so I moved on to color. At first I started knitting the brims in one color and the tops in another, then embellishing the girls hats with flowers and such. They were cute, very cute and my knitty friends at The Yarn Haven all liked them very much. I was happy.

After knitting a few more two-color hats with ties or flowers I was bored again. Time to try something else. I thought about hearts. What about knitting a row of hearts into the hat using a stranded technique? I broke out my graph paper and started sketching. Before long I had the cutest little pastel pink beanie with mint green hearts all around. Oh my!!! My lace knitting friend Paula was smitten. It looked like an ice cream parlor all that pink and green!

One success at colorwork led to another and I was hooked. I needed to do something equally wonderful for the little guys in the unit. Baseball caps came to mind. I had white and red yarn but no dark blue. Paula provided the blue and I figure out how to knit a 6-gore cap with contrasting brim. WooHoo!!! Next up was something Christmassy. Kori gave me the last of her Kelly green yarn. I found a bear motif in a stitch dictionary I had and the Christmas Bear Hat was created. This was my most complex colorwork to date as some rows used 3 colors of yarn. Thrilled by the bears I needed something in Christmas colors for the girls. I thought back to the hearts and decided to turn them into flowers by adding a green stem. I think this is my most favorite hat of all.

Last Saturday while watching the TN vs. GA football game I decided to succumb and knit an orange and white hat. Others had already done the checkerboards look...I wanted to be different. Then I changed the channel and saw Tiger Woods in a gorgeous argyle sweater--team apparel for the US PGA team at the President's Cup Golf Tournament. ARGYLE! That's it. More sketching and I had something figured out that would fit on a preemie hat. The orange diamonds were knit into the white hat and I embroidered the black lines using Cebelia crochet cotton. Fantastic!!!

I am having more fun coming up with these preemie hats. As I knit I reflect back upon my many years of experience nursing in the NICU. All the babies, the families, the blood, sweat, and tears. I miss it though I don't want to go back to the bedside any more. Maybe my knitting is a way of carrying on my legacy of love to the littlest of babies that have brought so much meaning and joy to my life. Knit on!

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Love Preemies

After months, no, make that years of knitting beautiful lace I have been putting my needles to work in a different way lately. I've been making preemie hats. Lots of preemie hats. Pretty preemie hats. Hats I know stressed Mommies will love to see on their precious little bundle of joy. It's hard to believe it's been 10+ years since I last worked in the NICU. It doesn't seem that long ago to me. Back in the day I used to crochet custom-sized booties by the dozens to outfit the kids in the unit. You can't buy booties to fit, and most kids can wear them no matter how sick or small they are. But I was a much better crocheter than knitter in those days and I never cared for crocheted preemie hats so I didn't make them. Now that I'm a vastly improved knitter preemie hats are quite fun to create.

The sudden need to knit preemie hats comes at the challenge of the LYS in Tuscaloosa, AL to my LYS here in Knoxville, TN, The Yarn Haven. It's the Crimson Tide vs. the Vols and the big football game is in 2 weeks. Which shop will create the most preemie hats???? All I can say is that I've seen the masses of hats at TYH and I know that between the 2 major NICUs here in Knoxville (East TN Children's Hosp. and UT Med Ctr.), no tiny head will go bare for at least a couple of years. Yikes!!!

I confess I haven't taken the time to photograph most of the hats I've made over the past 2 weeks. Most of the ones I did were for little girls as they fulfilled my need to knit lacy edgings or concoct I-cord flowers. I've been practicing my meager colorwork techniques by knitting stranded hearts into the hats. A pastel pink and mint green version turned out esp. cute. I'm kind of sorry I didn't take a picture of that one. One of my knitty friends gave me a partial ball of lt. blue/white Dreambaby DK yarn, my newfound favorite baby acrylic (not iccky-crylic). Thus I felt encouraged to knit a few darling things for boys too. In reflecting back on my nursing days, I think I was a primary nurse for more boys than girls so it is only fair that the little guys get some Kristina-knit loving too. I'm playing around with some red, white and blue yarn and try to knit a baseball cap. So far so good, but I don't know if it will work or not. Playing with yarn for preemies is fun :-)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Review: Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009 Issue

I thumbed through the Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009 issue yesterday at my LYS. It had just arrived. I look forward to this particular issue every year as I always find pretty things I want to make in it...esp the lace shawls. There have been lovely shawls by Karen Joan Raz the past several years as well as great sweaters and other holiday things. I was excited to see what treasure I would find this time. Sadly there were no treasures, nothing worthy of the purchase price. To say I am extremely disappointed with the content of this years Holiday issue is an understatement.

There were three items that appealed to me: lace socks, a beret, and one lace V-neck sweater. I liked the lace socks best--they were really pretty and would be a fun knit. BUT I have oodles of amazing sock patterns so I can't justify buying the magazine just for one sock pattern. There was a beret that was super cute and would also be a great knit for myself or as a gift. BUT I bought the Fall issue that has oodles of cute berets so no need to buy for that either. The V-neck sweater was designed with an all-over horseshoe lace pattern--one of my favorites. I would have seriously considered buying the magazine for this sweater but one look at the sizing stopped me dead in my tracks. The sizes ranged from an XS/SM (29" bust) to XL (40" bust). I hope the size 0-2 ladies out there enjoy this one cuz the majority of the knitters out there won't fit in the available size range. Maybe I can find another pattern that is similar one of these days...that has my size accounted for too. Typical Vogue!

I just don't get VK's obsession with super chunky yarns and super chunky sweaters, especially this Twinkle stuff that has been in every issue for at least 2 yrs. now. UGH!!! Who wears this stuff? (no one I know) Who does it flatter? (can't think of a soul) I know I certainly don't need the added bulk of super chunky yarns knit into oversized, mostly shapeless garments on my frame. Most slender or small framed women I know prefer to show off their pretty shape, not drown it in acres of fat yarn. Leave the tents to the Army or Boy Scouts and spare the sheep and fields of cotton of such insult. Beautiful fiber deserves better use.

The issue is good if you are into cowls/gaiters/wimples/neck choking stuff. There are pages and pages of patterns for these...many again knit out of super chunky yarns. I felt the need to gasp for air just looking at photos! I guess I don't get this trend either. Scarves and shawls are so much more versatile, can be as snug of as loose as you wish, and you can put them on or take them off quickly without creating a bad hair disaster. I laughed at the models' "perfect" hair flowing over these cowls knowing full well that your hair gets totally messed up every time you tug one on or off.'s a new style! You've heard of hat hair? Let me , um, let VK introduce you to cowl hair! Don't leave home without your combs, brushes, and misc. hair products or you'll be sorry...or at least very scary looking. EEEEK! I just don't get it.

The bottom line? I give this issue a big two thumbs down. Save your money and the recycle bin and just say no to VK Holiday

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This afternoon just before suppertime will be an astronomical event that I dread every year....the Autumnal Equinox. Why, you ask? I will answer in just one word. Light. That's it -- Light. I crave light. Daylight, sunlight, bright light that is not fluorescent or otherwise artificial, REAL LIGHT. And starting today there will be less of it in a 24 hour period and more of darkness. Darkness is confining, depressing, discouraging, and just plain old not fun or exciting.

After having worked far too many 12-hour shifts in windowless NICUs where it was dark when I drove to work in the morning and dark when I left in the evening, never having seen the light of day all day, I have this pathological thing about light. I have to have a window seat at restaurants, I wear light and brightly colored clothes. I don't wear black. My bedroom walls are a cheery shade of pink. I have at least 7 lamps in my room, just so it is light enough where I need it (studio table, desk, by the bed, etc.). I'll do most anything reasonable to fight off seasonal depression triggered by insufficient light.

Fall is always difficult for me. My fibromyalgia flares fiercely every year in October. This year the flare came a month early and I have been completely miserable. Mind you, I have spent one afternoon per week with my wonderful dentist, "Dr. Michael". I think I have paid for the private school tuition for one of his sons this fall with all the work I have had done. But I am now officially worthy of being called a QUEEN....and I have the gold crown to prove it. Ouch! I have coped as best I can by doing what usually helps the most...meds and knitting. But somehow my right shoulder got hurt last may have been the serious cleaning and dejunking I was doing. Whatever, the pain has been so bad that I haven't been able to do much of anything, most notably knitting. ARRRRGH! This has made me one grumpy poor family is still putting up with me though.

In my restricted state I found I could not knit on my complicated, twisting, CookieA Clandestine socks, but I could knit "plain vanilla" socks. And so this morning I finished another pair of socks for Daddy. I dubbed this pair "Ugly Man Socks" because that's what I call all of his socks. After all, I use pretty, colorful yarns and interesting lace patterns for my socks; for his I use plain stitches and dark, rather boring colors. The irony in all this is that this pair of socks is really quite attractive. I love the yarn. If I hadn't knit daddy's socks from it I would knit socks for myself from it. Awesome yarn. Sigh. I never was any good at cynicism, sarcasm, or any other of those acerbic things. I should know better than to label something "ugly" before seeing the end result. Double sigh.

Better luck next time...with the next pair...or two...of socks. Knitting on!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summertime Knitting

Since I haven't been exactly diligent in keeping my blog up to date I thought I'd start back with a progress report (or two) on what I've been doing the past 3 or so months. First I must tell you what I haven't been doing as much of....gardening. The workload is getting to be more than this old girl can handle. I did turn the big Five-0 in June you know and I guess my age is starting to show along with the limitations of fibromyalgia. I still adore flowers though so my answer is flowering trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials. I think this Forever Pink hydrangea is stunning, yet it requires very little care at all. That's a plant I can dig!

On the knitting front, it's been a super lacy summer. Things started out last spring when I started knitting this gorgeous shawl as a part of the Spring KAL for the Lace Knitters group that meets at my LYS, The Yarn Haven. Each person chose a project from the recently published Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. KLE is an awesome book and this shawl, the Lilac Leaf Shawl, was perhaps my favorite design in the book. I love the leaf lace pattern and have knit it in a number of different projects, but when combined with the restrained addition of nupps (a type of cluster stitch that is characteristic of Estonian Lace) in a diamond border, it's a real winner. I knit my shawl using a luscious shade of a soft purpley pink alpaca & silk lace yarn (Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace) and US 5/3.75mm needles. I used a generous needle size for the yarn because this design was meant to be very open and airy. The finished shawl used ~1.5 balls of yarn and measured 20" x 66" which is just perfect. Everything about this shawl was a two thumbs up for me. WooHoo!

Braced by the positive experience of knitting the Lilac Leaf Shawl I next turned to a long-time WIP that had been hibernating in a basket for a seriously long time - Evelyn Clark's infamous Swallowtail Shawl. Zillions of knitters made this shawl, including many who had never knit lace before...or since for that matter. The original pattern was little more than a generous scarf with a pretty edging, but I wanted more. I wanted a big shawl...a BIG shawl. Why? Because I had discovered that the few little shawls sat in my closet and never got worn. Oh, OK. So I added many extra repeats to the top portion of the shawl, like 10 extra to be exact. The pattern called for 14 reps. The design demanded extra reps be added in groups of 5, but one set (19 reps total) wasn't big enough so I stuck it out (BORING) until I had 24 reps total.

I was already weary by this time, but when I hit the Lily of the Valley edging I kinda lost my love for the project. Knitting nupps was a huge pain in the you-know-what. Ugh. And so the shawl sat for more than a year while I found it in my heart to forgive it for being a pain and finish. I found a few helpful tricks for knitting good nupps and pushed my way through. The completed shawl used only one 2oz. ball of white Jaggerspun Zephyr, was knit on US 2.5/3.0mm needles (tiny!), and measured 30" x 60". So, after all that the shawl is a nice size, but it still isn't big. It is pretty though and I'm glad I stuck it out.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Book review: Knits from the North Sea

I haven't done much blogging lately but I have been doing a ton of knitting. Lace knitting. I owe many explanations and photos and I promise I will post them, but I'm a bit distracted right now by a new lace knitting book that was just released, Knits from the North Sea: Lace in the Shetland Tradition by Carol Rasmussen Noble and Margaret Leask Peterson. Sandy, my LYSO showed us a flier from the publisher at our lace knitting group a couple of months ago. From the flier the projects looked wonderful and based on the success of our spring KAL using a book group members agreed that this new book would be wonderful as the source for projects for our fall KAL. We decided to go for it, sight unseen. Note to self: never ever commit to a book or pattern for a KAL sight unseen ever again. PS. Wait to see what the real contents a book are before blowing big bucks on a copy. PPS. Don't trust that a book labeled Shetland lace will indeed contain Shetland lace projects. PPPS. Never buy a lace book authored by Carol Rasmussen Noble ever again---it is bad for one's blood pressure and quality of sleep. That woman has some mighty crazy ideas about lace knitting.

I have spent a serious amount of time over the past week trying to decipher, decode, and or otherwise make sense out of the content of this supposed Shetland lace book. It hasn't been easy. I forgot to take note of the author when making the initial decision to use this book for the LK group Fall KAL. I was reminded very fast when I turned the introductory Tips and Techniques section and saw the recommendation to only use straight needles (not circular) when knitting lace. GROAN! Oh no, that crazy lady. I didn't purchase her previous lace book as a newbie lace knitter based on that blanket statement. The consensus of the online (international) lace knitting community is that using circular needles is not only perfectly fine, but frequently necessary to accommodate the large number of stitches in a project. My current shawl project, the Aeolian Lace Shawl has ~450 sts at present. That just ain't gonna ever fit on Ms. Noble's 10" straight needles. But I digress.

I knew right away I was in for trouble upon looking at the first project, Carol's Mountain Stream Scarf. The knitter is instructed to use US1/2.25mm needles to knit a popular kid mohair/silk lace yarn, Douceur et Soie. Huh??? I have always used either a size 5 or 6 needle with the yarn as it has such a lofty halo from the mohair content. Trying to knit this stuff on a sz 1 could make a sane lace knitter suicidal, really! The whole book was filled with cra* like this. To make matters worse, very few of the designs used distinctive Shetland motifs, most were either plain vanilla, simply nice, or worse, from the Orenburg Russia lace tradition. If you can explain how that fits in a Shetland lace book I'd love to hear it. Don't tell me it's because both countries touch the North Sea cuz Orenburg is a far cry from the North the whole of the Ural Mountains away. To make maters worse, all of CRN's designs are labelled and presented in such a way as to more closely reflect her Reno, NV home--not the Shetland Isles. Go figure?

My first reaction/recommendation is to save your money and don't waste it buying this book. Nothing in it is worth even the Amazon price of ~$17. But I have already committed to using this book for my KAL and the announcements are out so I have the unpleasant task of editing the errors and just plain nonsense and turning the projects into something my newbies can manage and my intermediate knitters will enjoy. Translation: much swatching and many long conversations with my LYSO on how to guide customers who plan to knit projects from the book. Martingale Press should pay me for all the work it has been fixing this mess. Never again I tell you.

I am knitting a couple of scarves from the book just so I can know how to guide the knitters in the group. The projects will be nice once I have finished editing the patterns so all is not lost. It's just a whole lot more work than I had planned on and the projects aren't what I had hoped for. Lesson learned. SIGH!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gotthold Doily

Originally uploaded by beadntat

I'm finally getting around to posting photos of my recently completed Niebling Doilies. This is Gotthold, from the folio Kunststricken: Grosse un kleine Decken that was reprinted by Verlag fur die Frau in Germany and made available in the US at Lacis. It is so nice to finally be able to access legal copies of vintage Niebling designs at an affordable price. Before then avid lace knitters either had to pay a King's ransom to buy the patterns on Ebay or they downloaded illegal copies from the internet. I refused to do either so I was out of luck. No more! Lacis says they will have another collection ready for purchase soon...and this time it will be translated into English and the patterns will all have been proofed and test-knit so they will be error-free. WooHoo! I can't wait :-)

Christel Doily

Originally uploaded by beadntat

There were many long evenings of squinting and finger stretches, but at last little Christel is off the needles. I say little not because the doily is small, at 18 inches blocked it is anything but small, but the DMC tatting thread and the US000/1.5mm needles I used to knit Christel are most definitely small. Very small. Crazy small. Forget bifocals and ditch the glasses small. That's SMALL!!! But I really love this little doily. She is so delicate when compared Gotthold knit with sz 40 cordonnet and US 0/2.0mm needles. Yes, Gotthold looks huge!!!

Gotthold was my third Niebling Doily (Starry Night/Valentine's Day was my first, Mallins 44 the second) and Christel my fourth. I am most definitely hooked on knitting these vintage German designs. So much so that I dropped a small chunk of change on ebay last night for an old magazine filled with patterns by another designer, Erich Engeln. In German Engeln means tulip so it only makes sense that his lace designs frequently featured tulips. There are several doilies plus a large tablecloth with the most amazing tulip motifs that I can't wait to knit. I'm sure Mom will be thrilled since tulips are her most favorite of all flowers. She loves many types of flowers, as do I, but she loves tulips the most. Now all I have to do is contemplate thread choices and wait on the DM (Deutsch Mail, known to be notoriously slow at times) to send my little treasure on its way to me. I can't wait!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

It's February, it's still winter (ugh!), and I, the Queen of Old Maids, have survived yet another Valentine's Day. Unlike times past I have now arrived at the age of wisdom where I know it is perfectly fine to be single and even better to celebrate the day in my own way. I did very good this year. Very good!

I started things out by doing what I love, knitting. I knit a wonderful doily known as Starry Night, but really it is the Valentine's Day doily because the center is a ring of hearts. I knit mine using red Cebelia 20 and 2.5mm needles. Sweet! I can now knit such lovely little masterpieces with reckless abandon because I am the chuffed owner of a proper blocking board. A what you ask? Yes, a board that is padded and covered with a iron-proof cloth that is imprinted with a precisely measured grid, both square and circular, which allows me to pin out soggy little starch-laden cotton strings into glorious lace. oh joy!!!

After purchasing said board at my local JoAnn's (using a 50% off coupon, of course) I went on a spree and blocked every new doily I knit last year. As if that were not enough, I then proceeded to test my eyesight and teensy tiny knitting skills by knitting more doilies...with skinnier thread...and teensier little needles...and more complex stitches. Call it the lace knitter's endorphin rush. It's been a blast!

I did have balance to my Valentine's celebrating. I do more than just knit after all. I went shopping. Mom (love ya!) took me shopping for some new jeans, and pants, and a lacy tank, and a super pink shirt. Yummy, yummy. I wore said jeans and tank with a proper orange and white sweater and hand-knit socks (my Vols Victory Lace socks, of course) to the Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee men's basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tyler Smith had a super game. Bruce Pearl's guys played better than they did the previous week and won big over arch rival Vandy. I, having degrees from both universites, could not lose as a fan...but make no mistake, I am a Vols fan all the way. GO BIG ORANGE!!!