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