Thursday, October 17, 2013

Yarn Junky

Hi, my name is Cindy and I’m a Yarnaholic.  I wasn’t always an addict.  There was a time when I could walk into a local craft store and purchase just a skein or two of acrylic and be on my way.  Then a so-called ‘friend’ of mine told me about some wicked Merino that could be found at the local yarn shop around the corner and I was hooked.

At first I could control my purchases… just buy a skein here and there to add to my stash.  But then I visited a shop that was going out of business, everything was 50% off and my addiction kicked in full throttle.  I think I lost consciousness for a bit and when I came too and emerged from the shop I couldn’t even bear to look at the receipt and the damage I had done to my credit card.  Yes, it was shameful but did it stop me?  No.  Somehow I was able to justify the purchase... “It was just this once” and “It’ll never happen again.”  But it did happen again!  Within a few weeks I was scoping out other yarn shops and I was no longer satisfied with simple wool.  I moved on to wonderful blends of alpaca, silk and cashmere.  My baskets at home were overflowing and I had to purchase shelves and storage bins to accommodate my bounty.

Then one day another ‘friend’ pointed out to me that I needed to buy enough yarn at one time to complete a PATTERN.  What a great concept!  But now, not only did I need to purchase more yarn, I also needed to have a multitude of patterns that would accommodate any quantity of yarn that found its way into my life.  If yarn is like crack, then patterns are heroin.  I started out slowly by going to libraries and buying back issues of magazines.  This quickly lead to my setting up a knitting book search on Paperback Book Swap and purchasing actual magazine subscriptions.  Before I knew it I was becoming too impatient to wait for books on PBS and started ordering them directly from Amazon.  They quickly started piling up… more shelves and more storage were needed.  To date, counting the book I got in the mail yesterday, my library includes 94 books, 45 magazines and 77 single patterns for a total of 3,183 patterns (I am forever indebted to Ravelry for helping me keep track!!!).

It’s comforting to know that there are others out there like me, we go to meetings on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we talk about our addictions and where we got our last ‘fix.’  We pass around luscious skeins of yarn and covet each other’s stash.  If a rehab exists we will avoid it at all cost and will happily live out our days like the yarn junkies we are.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New to Tunisian Crochet!

Just finished my first project AND learned a new skill!   While it was as easy as I had expected, I did have to refer to one book and one YouTube video to get me through it.  The pattern I used was Tara’s Tunisian Scarf with Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK yarn in turquoise.  OK, it doesn’t look EXACTLY like the picture, but close enough.  After all, I'm not a perfectionist and 'Close Enough' is one of my mantras...  it makes life so much easier!  One side of the scarf is much stretchier than the other which gives a somewhat diagonal look (I actually kind of like that) and the reverse side is every bit as nice as the front - bonus!  All in all, I’m very happy with the results.

So here’s my take on Tunisian Crochet…

1    1)  It’s super easy, especially if you already know how to crochet, although it’s a bit more complicated (but not much). 

      2)   It’s a bit monotonous… you crochet stitches onto the hook, you crochet them off of the hook.  Kind of like wax on, wax off for Karate Kid fans.  But does the monotony come from the Tunisian Crochet technique itself or because it was a scarf and scarves are typically boring?  This may require more investigation. 
      3)  It’s super quick!  Once I got the hang of it I flew through the project.  And the best part is that if you screwed up, you just had to rip it out to the beginning of the 'wax on' row where you only had one stitch on the hook and take it from there.

      4)  I love the look and the weight, heavier than knitting and more dense than typical crochet.  I blocked it last night (well as much as you can block bamboo) and added some beaded fringe to jazz it up a bit and really love the results.

My conclusion?  I need to break out the Tunisian Crochet book I bought and try a pattern that’s more challenging. There's an afghan in there with several different stitches and a sweater that I absolutely adore.   Someone at our knitting group last week said that she had great results doing Tunisian Crochet Entrelac, but I’m not sure I’m ready to try that.  Mostly because I don’t want to spoil the fun of the knitting Entrelac class that I’m taking at the end of the month.  I know that makes absolutely no sense since they are two different techniques, but somehow it would feel like cheating.

So now what?  Well, I have a trip to Boston in a couple of days and trying to navigate a new subway system seems like enough of a challenge so I'll be 'chasing butterflies' for awhile...  Maybe just grab one of the hundreds of projects I have in my stash to take along.  (Of course if my husband is reading this the number would be much lower.) Needless to say, I've already mapped out a couple of local yarn shops to visit in Boston where I intend to make purchase of my typical yarn souvenir.  At first I thought I would just peruse the aisles, petting the yarn and purchasing whatever spoke to me in the softest, dreamiest 'voice.'  Then it came to me...  I need to get some red fingering yarn.  Yep, I'm going to knit a pair of Boston Red Sox!  :-)

 Photos are taken with and without flash.  The flash shows off the color better but I think the stitches are more distinct without it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Knitting Bucket List

Given my focusing disability I decided that I need to start a list of exactly what I plan to work on in the coming year because if I don’t I will continue to chase butterflies (which is a euphemism for mindlessly knitting one pattern after another).  So here goes…

1   1)      Tunisian Crochet – I have the yarn and pattern so I am hooked up and ready to go!!!  I also have a book to help me through the hard stuff but I don’t expect there will be much of that.  I know, famous last words.

2   2)      Entrelac – I’m signed up for a class at the end of October with Amy…  can’t wait!  I took a class before and was impressed with my ability to learn to knit backward since attempts at backwards stuff has always proven to be somewhat detrimental for me (roller skating springs to mind).  My daughter was able to march backward in formation while playing the saxophone in the marching band and I was absolutely fascinated by that.  I bet she’d make a great Entrelac knitter.  Except she doesn’t knit.

3   3)      Colorwork – Stranded/Fair Isle, Intarsia, Brioche…  LOTS to learn here!  From my brief (I’m talking no more than 10 minutes) attempt at Fair Isle I’m pretty sure this is going to require a class, maybe some one-on-one instruction and possibly therapy.  I’ll see what Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet festival has to offer, I’m sure someone there can get me through it…  well, maybe not the therapy but that’s not really yarn related anyway.

4   4)      Dying yarn with natural ingredients – I bought some undyed yarn and an Indigo plant at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival in the spring.  The plant is doing great but it’s still very green, isn’t some part of it supposed to turn blue at some point?  There was an article in a spring magazine that gave instructions on how to dye yarn in big jars of water set in the sun, kind of like sun tea.  That was my purpose for buying the plant and yarn, but it’s October now, not much sun so I guess this one will have to hold off until spring or summer as long as the plant doesn't die.  That’ll buy me some time to figure out the whole green to blue dilemma.

5   5)      Spinning – I bought a drop spindle last year and received a spinning book as a gift AND I have roving.  Originally my husband Jerry thought he’d like to learn how to spin yarn but that was very short lived.  One of our members was spinning at SnB last Saturday.  She made it look really easy.  I’m pretty sure it’s not.

6   6)      Knitting Math – From what I can tell, this is very similar to Algebra or Trigonometry or one of those math courses that I was able to avoid in college.  Then you add in increases and decreases and right slanting stitches and left slanting stitches and my head starts spinning again.  Are there formulas involved?  Do I need a special calculator?   

7   7)      Design a cable pattern – See ‘Knitting Math’ above…  with the added bonus of graph paper and cable needles!  Can my Scottish heritage be revoked if I screw this one up?

8   8)      Double Knitting  - Another technique for which I’ve already taken a class but you know us old dogs, if you don’t use it you lose it!  (I actually lost it a long time ago)  This technique brings to mind a guy I dated in the 70s that always wore stretchy polyester pants, whom I sometimes now refer to  as the ‘Double-knit Wit.’  I know, that’s not nice and it has nothing to do with knitting, but when you’re an old dog you tend to not care.
Wow, isn’t that a great list?!   I can feel myself getting better and smarter by the minute! :-)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Knitting Books... Necessity or Obsession?

I counted the other day and I have 70+ knitting, crochet and needlework books...  and that's not including knitting fiction & essays. In my defense, I acquired many of them through Paperback Book Swap (great website!) so they didn't cost me anything, not technically anyway.  I just can't help myself!  I love my knitting books almost as much as I do the yarn itself...  well maybe not quite that much, but pretty close.

My favorite books are ones that walk me through a new technique or teach me something I don't already know.  Please note that I have not actually read any of these books, hence my reason for taking a year to become more proficient at needle arts...  I have to somehow justify their purchase!

So here are just a few of my favorites (or what I think will be my favorites once I've read them... they all have great pictures!):

The Knitter's Life List by Gwen W. Steege - 'To do . To Know . To Explore . To Make - 1001 Inspirations for Every Knitter - 122 Techniques & Tips to Learn - 69 Styles and Traditions to Explore - 64 Personalities to Meet - 33 Yarn Fibers to Try'...  WOW!  I could probably spend my next year just working my way through this book.  There are check lists with each chapter that list designers to get to know, techniques/patterns/yarns to try, things to learn and places to go.  I haven't actually read any of the chapters but I have started checking off things that I've already done or know and it's helping me to identify some of the things I want to learn this year.  AWESOME BOOK!

The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes - 'Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn' - All about fiber, its properties, where it comes from, how it's made, how it knits up, what types of projects it's best suited for and some great patterns too boot.  There's a section in the back with instructions on 'Care & Feeding' as well as how to figure out yardage (WPI).  Believe it or not, I have actually read a portion of this book and it has helped me tremendously when selecting yarn for a specific project.  Highly recommended!

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe - A great book for those us who LOVE lots and lots of colors and need to better understand how they compliment each other (or don't).  But it goes way beyond that!  It also explains about striping, variegated yarn, stranded knitting, intarsia, helix knitting (I have no idea what that even is!), twined knitting, double knitting, modular knitting, entrelac...  wow, I have more to learn than I thought!  This is going to be another great reference for me this year.

Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague - The first almost half of this book is all about body measurements, sweater construction and creating a perfect fit.  Each sweater pattern in the book is accompanied with constructing & fitting notes, approximate finish measurements, yarn requirements and recommendations for each size, as well as the usual gauge, instructions and charts.  You're also provided with a free e-book (scratch off code in the back) from which you can print out the charts for customizing, as well as anything else you might need.  Absolutely brilliant! 

Big Foot Knits by Andi Smith - The 'Little Red in the City' for your feet.  For anyone who has a desire to knit the perfect sock, this one is for you.  Andi explains how to measure your foot and how to adjust a sock pattern to your measurements.  The book includes step by step foot measuring instructions as well as several amazing sock patterns.  Can't wait to get started!

I also have books on Tunisian Crochet, Entrelac, knitting design, felting and embellishing as well as several needlework books (some vintage) that I plan to use throughout the year.  I'm quite anxious to get started and have selected Tunisian Crochet as my first project since I think it will be the easiest for me.  Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Full Speed Ahead Without a Map!

ENFP=Ne, Fi, Te, & Si

So I've made the decision to spend next year honing my knitting skills and learning new techniques.  But where do I start?  For those of you familiar with Myers Briggs personality scores, I'm an ENFP.  Which means I tend to plow full speed ahead without looking at the map.  I seldom (by seldom I mean never) read a pattern all the way through before I start knitting, which has led to more than a few hours of frogging and reknitting.  And swatching is pure torture.  I'm a big picture kind of person, let the details be damned.  The motto of an ENFP is 'If you're in control, you're going too slow!' 

When I say I want to learn new techniques I don't necessarily mean I want to LEARN them, I just want to know how to do them.  Learning means having to read a book or watch a video or take a class and pay attention and then apply that lesson to whatever it is I want to know how to do.  That takes way too much time!  I'm OK with reading patterns because they are in steps and I'm good at following step by step.  As I stated before, I don't read ahead so as long as the steps are in the correct order we're good to go. And pictures are even better.  If there's an illustration or photo of what I'm supposed to do that means I don't have to pay close attention to the directions!

Some of the techniques I want to learn / know how to do are:

Tunision Crochet - I already have some gorgeous bamboo yarn and a beautiful scarf pattern that were gifted to me.  Still need to get the hook but I think this one will be easy for me since I already know how to knit and crochet.  Or maybe it will be harder because I'll skip over things thinking I already know that part.  I did buy a book... it has nice pictures.

Entrelac -  I like the woven look of Entrelac, especially if it's done in self striping yarn.  I did take a class a couple of years ago and it didn't seem too hard... and I learned to knit backwards!  A skill that I can't necessarily work into my resume, but I was quite impressed with myself.

Fair Isle/Stranded Knitting - This one I can tell is going to be a huge challenge for me because of the attention to detail that must be required for something that awesome.  I'll most likely save this one for last...  or next year (which means 2015).
enfp | Tumblr

There are several others but my head is spinning right now from thinking about all the focus and details and time that will be required for this whole learning process and I can't think of what they are.  I'm sure I'll come back to them later, maybe after a glass of wine... or two. 

Follow the link below if you're interested in discovering your personality type.  It's amazingly accurate and really helped me to understand myself a little better. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Yarnin' is what my granddaughter Mattie called knitting when she was three.  She was always wanting to 'yarn' with me so I would give her a fat crochet hook and a ball of yarn and she would wrap it around and around the hook.  She's 9 now and over the years we've progressed to a bit clumsy but recognizable version of crocheting and knitting, although her attention span has not progressed enough to actually make something.  I'm guessing that will come soon enough and when it does I will rejoice in the fact that I've FINALLY won someone in my family over to the wooly side!

I learned to crochet when I was about 10 years old.  We were visiting my Aunt & Uncle in Security, Colorado and on the long drive from Ohio I had brought along a spool of string with which to make a very long chain.  I didn't know it was crocheting and I was using my fingers to reach through the loop and pull the string through.  My Aunt Linda gave me my first crochet hook and showed me how to use it to, not only create the chain, but to make the turns to create rows of single crochet.  I was hooked!!! (No pun intended...  well, maybe a little)  So the trip back was spent getting the knack of using the hook and perfecting my single crochet stitch.  Although at the time I didn't know that you were supposed to chain one at the beginning and so my projects always took the shape of a lop-sided triangle.  Eventually I bought a book and it was all downhill from there.

Crocheting was fun and relaxing and creative!  And I was constantly making something...  arm chair protectors, afghans, doilies, baby blankets...  I even designed and crocheted curtains for my back door.  Once I made a lace table cloth which turned out beautifully!  Unfortunately that was back before I knew about yarn weights and gauges and when I was finished it touched the floor all the way around the table.  Thinking back, I wonder how it was that it never occurred to me to measure the size of the project against the size of the table I was making it for.  But then again, at the time I was a strict pattern follower so I just kept on going.  No coloring outside of the lines for me!  For a time I used the table cloth as a decorative bedspread but now it just sits in a beautiful pile in the corner of my closet.

Some day I'll figure out something to do with it, or maybe I'll just will it to Mattie.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yarn Discovery Tour 2013

Seventeen yarn shops and approximately 531 miles of driving all over Northeast Ohio in 6 days!  There were 3 days when I only went to one shop so the vast majority were covered over 3 days.  Whew!  I can't bring myself to admit how much I actually spent, suffice it to say that I was required to spend at least $10 at each shop to get my passport stamped and I more than met that requirement.

I have to say we are extremely fortunate to have so many shops in this area and each one of them has something unique to offer.  For instance, one shop focuses on catering to small independent yarn companies, another is loaded with specialty yarn and a third apparently offers us a glimpse of the past.  I kid you not, the books on display were copyrighted in the 1980's and the newest magazine was dated 2009.  I can't remember the name of the shop off hand, I've just taken to calling it the Flashback Shop.  If you ever do the tour you will know immediately which one it is because the books will look like this...

There were vast shops with mountains of yarn and tiny shops who barely took up a corner within a larger business.  Some shops were very orderly and others...  well, not so much.  Each shop provided us with a pattern and many were patterns that I would definitely make, a few of them I even bought yarn for on the spot!  Then there were some that gave you faded photocopies of patterns with no photos...  the Flashback Shop's pattern was for a striped cardigan, no photo, no yarn requirements...  I threw that one away.

And the ladies!!!  Lots and lots of happy ladies, laughing and shopping and oooohing and aahing and petting the beautiful yarns.  The shop keepers (with the exception of a couple) were welcoming and helpful and interested in hearing what everyone was working on or what was next on their list.  

Needless to say, I look forward to this event every year and wouldn't miss it for the world.  But I think I need to start saving now for next year's tour.  :-)


Friday, September 13, 2013

The Generosity of Knitters

First I have to say that the ladies in my knitting group are some of the most talented individuals I've ever met, and that's on top of being exceptionally thoughtful and generous!  Many of them have been in the group for several years and know each other very well which was reflected in some of the gifts.  I, on the other hand, have only been meeting with them for about 9 months so I really depended on the questionnaire that Amy filled out to help to know her likes and dislikes (unfortunately there was no mention of afterthought heals!).

The person who got my name was Juniper.  I'm told she is the only original member left in the group which is hard to believe because she can't be much older than 30.   I received 6 stacked boxes full of goodies.  The first contained 4 adorable little wine cork gnomes with knitted hats and sweaters...  I absolutely love them!!! The second, a bag of chocolate covered espresso beans (my favorite!) and then third held a gorgeous hand painted scarf from Indonesia...  amazingly stunning!  Boxes 4-6 each held a skein of beautiful, soft, turquoise bamboo yarn with which to make a Tunisian crocheted scarf.  I've been wanting to learn this technique for some time now so I'll put it at the top of the list for my first 'learning project.'  Oh, and there was also a beautiful hand stitched birthday card that a friend of Juniper's had made.  Yes, I was duly spoiled!!!

So then, it was time for Amy to open her gift and I was holding my breath.  Would she bust out laughing at my freakishly humongous socks?  Would she politely say they were nice and then shove them in the back of her sock drawer?  Would the rest of the girls struggle to hold back their snickers at my fiber fiasco?  Amazingly enough, she didn't think the socks were too big at all and she tried them on immediately and said they fit wonderfully.  So, either she was just trying to spare my feelings or my judgement of the socks was way off base.  Either way, I was tremendously relieved!  The socks themselves received lots of compliments as did the yarn (you can't go wrong with Three Irish Girls!).  

This weekend we (Pam & I) will finish up the Yarn Discovery Tour.  I already bought everything on my list at the first 8 shops so I need to get busy and make a new list!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Socks!?! :0(

Tonight is the birthday swap for our knitting group and boy will I be glad when it's over!  Here's why...

The person whose name I received to 'spoil' is Amy who, coincidentally, taught the sock knitting class I took several years ago.  This was actually the turning point for me as far as knitting goes.  Before then it was all scarves and ponchos and afterwards, endless possibilities!!!  So I decided that I would knit a pair of socks for her regardless of the fact that I'd only knitted two more pairs since the class and one pair was so big I had to give them away.  Oh, if I could only go back and rethink that decision!

In the meantime one of our fellow group members, Andi Smith, published a sock book called 'Big Foot Knits.'  Perfect timing!  So I selected a pattern from the book and attended a foot measuring party hosted by the author (unfortunately Amy wasn't there), bought some luscious cashmerino yarn from Three Irish Girls and cast on.  It took a few tries before I got the pattern down but before long I was on my way.  I had never tried an afterthought heel but that's what the pattern called for so, 'What the heck' I thought, 'I'll give it a try!'  I was at the point of starting my toe decreases when we met for our next knitting group.  Of course I had to take another project with me but the subject of socks coincidentally came up so I joined in and mentioned afterthought heels.  Amy immediately responded that she didn't like the way those felt on her foot.  Oh No!!!  She then proceeded to talk about how she only like plain socks because anything with a pattern is uncomfortable and once even gave her blisters on the top of her foot!!!  :0( 

The next day I was observed ripping out the whole foot of the sock and Googling sock heels.  I settled on a reinforced heel which was fairly easy but I'm apparently a terrible guesser when it comes to determining the depth of a heel, turns out that 2 1/2 inches is too long for a heel flap.  So I knitted the foot in straight stockinette and tried to compensate the humongous heel by doing some decreases on the instep, which helped but not much.  By this time I had less than a week to go so I had no choice but to knit another one exactly like it...  which I did.  Until I ran out of yarn with only 6 rows left to knit the toe! 

In a panic I emailed the distributor I purchased the yarn from and she said that she had another skein in stock and could ship it next day so I would get it by Tuesday (the day before the party) but I couldn't justify the cost and resigned myself to giving Amy a single sock for her birthday with the promise of a matching one at some later date.  But it turns out that Audrey at Smitten Yarns is an angel in disguise and she took it upon herself to ship the yarn next day anyway because she couldn't stand the thought of my being so close and not being able to complete my gift on time.  I'm forever indebted to her!

So I will give the socks to Amy tonight and, although I have a great story to tell, the bottom line is that they are still waaayyy big.  My only possible saving grace would be for Amy to get pregnant (they're trying) and they can be reserved for keeping her swollen pregnancy feet warm.  

And to prove what a glutton for punishment I am, I just purchased some bison/wool yarn to knit a pair of socks for my husband for Christmas.  And yes, I have lost my ever-lovin' mind!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Old Dogs and New Tricks!

Well it seems that 2 1/2 years ago I started blogging!  I have a vague memory of it but it cut into my knitting time so it was very short lived.  

So, recently I decided that after my current projects I'm going to take a year to REALLY learn how to knit.  I constantly find myself perusing Ravelry or knitting magazines and books and thinking 'I'd love to be able to do that.'  So that's exactly what I intend to do...  learn!  Now, my brain is pretty old and it might put up a fight, but I'm pretty sure I can persuade it to go along with this crazy idea.

A friend of mine who is very tech savvy suggested that I blog about the coming year and so I typed 'how to set up a blog site' into Google and it was quick to remind me that I already had one, which is how I came to find my way back.  Google is so smart!  If I were Google I'd probably already know how to do all of the things I want to learn this year.  But I'm not, so here goes!