Tag Archives: knitting

i knit so i don’t kill people

Stress is the new smoking.  Or maybe sitting is the new smoking.  Or sugar.  Or, like, murderous rage. That’s probably it.  Anyway, we all feel stressed out in these stressful-as-fuck times, I know I do.  And there is nothing like twisting strands of sheep-fibers around sticks to really decompress, you know?  Therefore, I thought I would—and this is a bit confessional, like showing you my pile of chewed off fingernails, or my kitchen cabinets with all the labels face out, all 3/8″ from the shelf edge, in alphabetical order, no, actually I would never do that—I thought I would reveal my completed knitting pile for this last, very stressful, year.  Don’t judge me.

You might recall that I rediscovered knitting back in January 2016. It turned out that knitting was just the mind numbing relaxing hobby I needed to get through the next 365 days.  I vowed in that post to finish all the abandoned knitting projects in Ye Old Knitting Basket by year’s end or die trying, and well, I did some of that. Cough. In addition to the Lopi sweater of that post, I did, indeed, finish the green sweater that only needed a sleeve:

modeled here by the lovely Sophie.  And I finished the Koigu merino socks I’d left languishing on their needles:

so sweet and colorful, I had to add some candy to the photo.

But then…honestly, I wandered off into new yarn territories, tripping starry eyed through mountains of color and fields of fiber, grabbing the stuff up, drunk on it, rolling around naked on it when no one was looking–wait, did I say that out loud?

But seriously, knitting whilst listening to an audiobook, or watching tv, or waiting for the kids to get out of aikido—it does help calm the mind.  My stitches, at least, they will obey me.  I can exert some small control over this tiny portion of the world, just by playing with string.  Which is kind of amazing, really.  And weird.  Mental health is an uphill battle sometimes….

Anyway, next I knitted some bunnies for Sophie:

and some birds for Luc:

(forget the sweater, his braid is a freaking work of art, isn’t it?)

and a honeycomb thingy for me:

(what the heck am I doing with my hand there?)

and a manly, traditional Icelandic yoke for supercoolhusband:

such broad shoulders, oh my….

Oh, and one more pair of socks, as a kind of stripey chaser: Oh, my pretties, my precious, so much yarn so little time….

Now listen, knitting is just following instructions, really.  The people with the talent are the designers who come up with all these detailed, mathematical, structurally engineered knitting patterns for twisting yarn into these specific body-hugging shapes with these pretty decorations and colors.  I don’t deserve any kudos except for following instructions.  Well, maybe a bit for actually finishing projects (because that can be hard, when there is so much delicious yarn out there, calling one’s name and one’s wallet…).

Knitters get a fair amount of shit, knitting often portrayed as the boring past-time of old biddies, etc. But I think we should focus on the acts of violence NOT being perpetrated by angry older broads due to the fact that they had the courtesy of turning all that rage-at-life into a productive, warmth-preserving, hobby.  Be grateful we knit!  It’s for your own good!

But beyond its inner-calming properties, knitting can also be a powerful act of generosity and kindness!  Like these woman who knit massive sweaters for elephants at an abused elephant sanctuary that has cold winters.

How amazing is that???  They knit sweaters for elephants!!!  I can’t get over this, it is so wonderful.

And of course, knitting can be political.

Every one of those pink pussyhats was hand made by a knitter who gives a shit.  Three of them were knitted by me.  That is, after an exhaustive search for pink yarn which, by the time I started my quest, was sold out EVERYWHERE. I lucked into the last skein in the back closet of a Hobby Lobby, I was so pleased to find it.  Tenacity!  Nevertheless, she persisted!

Knitters of the world, uniting for world peace!

I am continuing on with my knitting in 2017.  I’ve mostly finished a muted grey and bronze sweater for myself and am already eyeing the sweater porn online for ideas for the next one.  I just love this Lettlopi, the lighter version of the Lopi I started this story with.  Icelandic yarn that is tough and also beautiful, made from Icelandic sheep that are the same sheep they’ve had there for a thousand years!  I just love the yoke sweaters that are done all in one piece and last for decades.  So, I sort of followed through on my knitterly promises of last January by finishing a couple of projects from the basket, but I did move on to new things…with the injunction that I must FINISH WHAT I START.  So far so good.

If I become a really peaceful, well-balanced human I may not need to knit anymore.  Until then, lettlopi and addi turbos are my medicine.

apparently i’ve forgotten more about knitting than most people ever learn

Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

Somehow it came up the other day that I love Icelandic knitting.  Sophie was all, whazzat?  So I did what you do in 2016 when you want to explain something, I google-image-searched it.  Because a picture is worth a million words and a million pictures pretty much says it all, only don’t scroll down too far, because that’s where things get weird.  Here is what we found:

knitting remembered 1Oh, pretty, she said, but I pointed at one moody, Nordic dude (see arrow above) and said, “I know that sweater.” And then, “Seriously, I think I’ve knitted that sweater.”

“What?” said Sophie, doubtful.  “No way.  That’s like, a really fancy sweater.”

Off to the depths of my closet and the basket that some part of my brain tells me holds my old knitting stash (like a druggie’s stash, only with more yarn).  “No, I think I did, that sweater is strangely familiar, I’m not kidding—”

And sure enough, rooting through the bags of wool and abandoned projects, I find:

remembering knitting 2

That very sweater.  Completely forgotten by me.  And abandoned only five rows from completion.  Five rows!  Okay, five rows of fancy, double-stranded colorwork knitting, but yeah, a tiny—nay, insignificant—amount of knitting left.  This poor sweater sat in the closet nearly done for probably ten years.

That is so….lame.

I decided on the spot to finish it.  Only, I had no idea how to do double-stranded colorwork anymore.  This entailed digging through many bookshelves to try to find the book I learned it from.  Which I did find.  (I don’t know why I didn’t just go to youtube, I guess it was a moment of returning to one’s roots.)  The diagrams in the book were cryptic.  I looked at them and though this is hopeless.  But then, I picked up the needles and yarn and INSTANTLY STARTED KNITTING.

Just so you understand, I’m talking about a different color in each hand, weaving them in as I go, fast knitting.  I was watching my hands do this thing that my brain had zero conscious knowledge of.  It was magic.  I finished the sweater in about an hour.

It is ENORMOUS.  Which reminded me how gauge used to really be a problem for me. Cough. Here we are, reunited after all these years (and I had to really search to find the pattern book, but find it I did).  This guy and I have traveled far together:

remembering knitting 3

Okay, I tried to take the picture with me making the same expression that Sweater Guy is making, but man oh man, Sophie and I were cracking up so hard she couldn’t get the picture. Really hooting, that gut-level laughter, you know what I mean, totally incompatible with me trying to look like Cool Blue Steel Dude.  Now that was fun.

Look at that gorgeous colorwork though!  I can’t believe I ever knitted that. Mad skillz!

But listen, I pawed through the rest of the yarn graveyard knitting basket and found:

  1. green chunky alpaca sweater done except for one arm.
  2. two attempts at knitting red wool into sweaters (a cardi and a cabled cardi, yes I could once knit cables) both abandoned mid-body.
  3. THREE sweater starts in a black silk/wool, 1-plain 2-cabled, and 3-SUPER AMAZING CABLED.  That section is GORGEOUS.  I have no memory of knitting it.  All abandoned.
  4. An entire indigo rayon sweater in pieces, waiting to be sewn together, yes, that’s an entirely completely knitted sweater, just waiting for finishing (that’s what you call the last bit, the blocking, sewing, buttons, that sort of thing).  So sad.
  5. A pair of Koigu socks, knitted to the heel flap, because I apparently, at one time, knew how to knit two socks at once, which is just a magic trick, if you ask me.  Abandoned, just these colorful toes, waiting for their heels….

It’s like the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi or Roanoke Island or the rapture, all these projects just left behind and forgotten.

Until now.  I’ve decided I’m going to finish all of these or die trying.  2016 is going to be the year I BUST MY STASH.  I am not allowed to buy any yarn or start any new hobbies.  If I don’t finish a green, a red, a black, and a blue sweater, plus a pair of handpainted Koigu socks by Christmas 2016, I have to GIVE ALL THIS YARN TO A MORE DESERVING KNITTER.

To that end, here is the NEW new start of the red sweater, one for Sophie, a top down fitted pullover.  We’ll see how it goes.

remembering knitting 5

It’s funny though, how much my fingers know about knitting that I can’t remember.  I’ll say, “I think there is some way to close off this armpit hole, but I can’t remember how you do it.”  So I go poke at youtube, think I’ll give something a go, it sounds vaguely familiar, pick up the needles, and BOOM my hands start going crazy, Kitchener stitch, no problem!  Long tail cast on, no problem!  My hands are flying and I’m watching them, bemused, saying, “I think I may have done this before….”  I really feel the current-me can’t take credit for anything I knit at this point.  It’s all previous-me that figured it out, trained my fingers, and installed the Knitter Software(TM) into my brain that apparently runs without any intervention from the current finger’s occupant (me).  I plan to take advantage of this, none the less.

P.S. Just noticed that I actually blogged about the two-sock knitting thing about three years ago.  I do kind of remember this.  The Icelandic sweater though, that’s from some other lifetime.

in which i knit two socks at the same time and live to tell the tale

Look what I made!

My first pair of socks!  Supersoft merino wool, a bit chunky for warm winter footsies.  For the knitters in the crowd, I knitted them toe-up, using magic loop, but the real trick was, I knitted them both at the same time.  That’s right, both socks on the same, super-long needle, appearing beneath my flying needles like I’m granny on Bugs Bunny.  I have to say, I’m deeply impressed with my badass knitting self about this.  Go me!

I learned how to do this amazing feat via some cool on-line videos made by Liat Gat.  I highly recommend her extremely clear, cheerful videos for all your Knitting Education needs.  Soooooo much better than trying to learn from a book.  Sell all you’re How To Knit books and get Liat’s videos instead.  She makes it super easy to learn tricky things.  I knitted these socks and didn’t have to scratch out my own eyes, not even once!  Go Liat!

Regular readers will remember that the original plan was to knit a pair of Koigu socks .  This is still the plan, but I thought I would perfect my technique on some larger yarn first.  Which I have now done.  So, I’m on to the fingering-weight Koigu (fingering weight is thin yarn, like embroidery floss), it is such beautiful stuff.

But something has become quickly obvious: if you love to knit, but can’t afford much yarn, knit fingering-weight yarn because it takes FORFUCKINGEVER to finish anything.  I might be finished my Koigu socks sometime before I turn 70.  Maybe.  Seriously, you knit for an hour in front of the tv watching Death Note or Samurai Champloo, your needles are flying, stitch after stitch, and then you look down and you’ve advanced your socks by, say, a quarter of an inch.  Sigh.

BUT I WILL FINISH THEM.  And when I do, I’ll post pictures. If there are still blogs by then, if the internet hasn’t become an implant we all receive at birth, if the coming zombie apocalypse hasn’t ended the World As We Know It.

I gave these pretty teal socks, my learning socks, to my cousin who is an all around awesome person.  She deserves some hand-knit socks.

Two socks at once—check that bad boy off the bucket list!


the knitting mushi want me to knit a scarf

So this thing happened that was kind of weird, not eye’s popping “HOLY SHIT” weird, just, eyebrows lift “Huh!” weird.  My life is full of that second kind of weird.

You might recall the kids and I got into an anime last month called “Mushishi” about a traveling mushi master named Gingko.  Mushi are these strange semi-supernatural creatures, that have a strange semi-parasitic relationship with humans, Gingko is a mushi master who has a strange affinity for them, its a very cool show, you should watch a few.  Anyway.  I was doing an image search for Gingko and was scrolling down page when I notice something odd.  There is a nice pic of Gingko in his winter gear:

And right above it on the results page is a picture of this lovely, purple yarn:

Huh?  The juxtaposition leads my brain inevitably to think: is this the very purple yarn that Gingko’s purple scarf is knitted from?

Okay, I know Gingko is an animated manga character, no actual yarn was used in the making of his scarf.  But, I mean, it’s the exact same color, is it not?  Why is yarn turning up on a Mushishi search?

Turns out there is a yarn made by Plymouth Yarn Co inexplicably named “Mushishi.”

I found some yesterday in the local yarn store.  That’s right, I was in the local yarn store, I didn’t buy anything, it was a super human effort.  But back to the mushishi.  Wool and silk, very soft, comes in giant hanks…just the right size for making a traveling mushi-shi master a scarf.

I feel the boundaries between art and reality thinning sometimes.  It can get confusing.

“Mushi” means insect in Japanese, as in the wonderful art/game Hanamushi (“insect flowers”) that the kids and I played last year.  I wonder why an American yarn company named their yarn Mushishi?  Is there a secret anime-lover in the naming department?  Is there some other definition for the word mushishi in Japanese besides “bug master”?  I am oddly curious about this, like having a song stuck in my head that I keep returning to.

And how about that exact color of Mushishi yarn showing up right over Gingko with his purple scarf?  I have now contracted an obsessive desire to knit Gingko’s scarf out of Mushishi yarn and wrap it around my neck this winter.  Even though I know yarn and show are unrelated (probably) I can’t help but feel some kind of weird link between the two, a link (or the illusion of one) created by the google search algorithm devas who put these two pictures next to each other in that image search.  Maybe it is a sign.

But I can not purchase yarn at the moment.  I have a sweater nearly knitted up out of stashed Donegal Tweed in hunter green, done-but-for-the-sleeves.  It is top-down, raglan, in the round, with negative ease.  Lovely yarn.  I must finish that first.  I also have a pair of worsted socks, toe-up, two at a time using magic loop almost at the mystical Turning of the Heel stage.  I told you I was going to learn how to do that.  AND I’ve got my Koigu all lined up for the needles when I finish these worsted puppies. I’m doing straight-up, vanilla, stockinette toe-ups on the Koigu.  It will be a dream made manifest.  So you see, my knitting dance card is full at the moment.  No room for a mushishi scarf.

Listen to me dork out on the knitting-speak!  I feel so quirky!

But it’s just too weird a coincidence, don’t you think?  Maybe I should buy this yarn anyway.  These are the stash-increasing-excuses we knitters employ when needed.  Like this: maybe I’ll buy the yarn and knit it up and something really cool will happen to me while I’m wearing that scarf.  The knitting-mushi must want me to have that yarn!  That’s the only explanation.

Sometimes I like to go all magical-thinking on my purchase decisions.  Don’t you?

Okay, okay, I’m going to stop stalling and go get my 1000 words on the nightmare book.  Have you noticed I’m up to 32,000 words?  Progress is happening!

give that girl a hat

We’ve been knitting hats.

For about a month now.  I can’t explain where these obsessions comes from, I can only report on their occurrence.

Maybe there should be a board up in the yurt listing them out, you know, arrivals and departures flipping-by, like they have at train stations.

Dig this crazy, lumpy, cool yarn!  That hat only took me an hour to knit it.  Instant gratification.  Isn’t Sophie the cutest hat model ever?

This one is made with yarn from recycled silk saris.  Beautiful colors.  Sort of a Tam style.  Hats are terrific knitting items because they are so quick, but also a certain whimsy is tolerated in headwear, even among the most conservative, allowing leeway into funky, funny yarns and bright colors.

Of course, sometimes a simple merino beanie is the thing.

I like how this one comes to a spiral at the top.

In the midst of all this hatty goodness, Sophie and I stumbled on, and enjoyed, this book:

Hat Heads: 1 Man + 2 Knitting Needles = 50 Fun Hat Designs.  It’s about a Finnish fellow who acquired a hat obsession and knitted some 200 hats over a year or so’s time.  He had so many he started giving them away, which led to designing hats for specific friends and family.  Then his photographer friend turned it into a portrait project, a delightful collaboration. The hats are mostly beanies with various patterns, cables, stripes, etc.  Some duds, lots of cuties, but the main thing we enjoyed was the feeling of the project: finding the uniqueness in each person, designing a hat just for them, and then giving it to them. And taking an awesome picture of the result.

A couple more shots from his book….

I love when people do crazy things for fun.

Back to our own hats, here is one more from the yurt…

Sophie knitted this one!  She chose the yarn and did all but the decreases.  She was so proud.

Hat lovers unite!

ghosts of tiny sweaters past

I’ve been clearing things out. And now that Sophie is five, I’m having to face that she is no longer my little baby. Sob! So, imagine my nostalgia when I ran across a box of the tiny sweaters I knitted when I was pregnant with her! I mean, when I was REALLY pregnant, so pregnant that I could do nothing but lie around like a bug on it’s back. It was February, and cold, and all I could think about was that I was about to have a baby, and while I waited for that to kick in, I knitted tiny sweaters with the hormonal ferocity of a woman flooded with 1000 times the estrogen of a non-preggo person (no kidding! If you don’t believe me, look it up). It was intense. My fingers were a freaking blur on those needles.

I started with this simple pattern from Knitting Pure and Simple (#211), a lovely design that is knitted all in one piece.

I soon found I had memorized the pattern and started adjusting it. Smaller? Larger? Hood? No hood? No problem! I could crank out one of these puppies in a couple of days. It’s a great pattern. I highly recommend it.

Now for some action shots! Here is two week old Sophie in a pinkish version of The Sweater.

Isn’t she tiny? I remember knitting on this particular sweater while I was in the early stages of labor. Can you believe that? I can’t believe that. And look, she’s sleeping on another of my craft projects, a quilt I made. That’s right, I sewed quilts. Man, I used to have a lot of free time.

(My good friend, Priscilla, once helped me revamp my resume, back when I actually did such things. I remember her asking me, “So, what are some of your hobbies?” I shrugged and mumbled, “I dunno. Knitting?” And she smartly wrote down, ‘Fiber Arts.’ Priscilla is a resume genius.)

I love this shot of Paul and very tiny Sophie in a creamy, hoodless version of The Sweater. What is she saying with that expression?

Here is a hooded version in a tweedy orange wool.

And here is a glimpse of Luc in a varigated, fall colored iteration. Little brothers always get the hand-me-downs.

But here is one I knitted just for him, brilliant blue to match his eyes.

Now, they won’t wear wool. They say it is too itchy, and that’s fine because I’m not really into knitting anymore. Ah, how these things pass! Right now they are outside playing diamond store, buying and trading different gems and crystals (rocks and colored chalk). Next week, they’ll be in college.

Maybe I’ll hold onto these tiny sweaters a little longer….

knitted purple furry monster felted ipod bag

Okay, it’s really more of a purse that can also carry an ipod. But it’s more than that, too. It’s the bag I’m making instead of getting an expensive, spiffy, 2nd gen ipod touch. Like those periodic episodes in a woman’s life when a rush to have a baby (hormonal?) becomes oddly intense…and instead she gets a pair of shoes, or a gym membership, or a new job, or a pet fish. I’m knitted a bag. Whatever works.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, I went through my aging, dusty stash, and came up with several balls of complimentary purples. And I discovered that the brain is a very strange thing. Although I had no conscious memory of how to knit, after staring at the cast-on stitches for a good five minutes, the file in my brain on ‘how to knit’ finally booted and, boom, I was knitting like it nothing. Heck, I could do it without looking. Muscle memory is awesome. And not only that, I took one look at my yarn, a chunk skien of lopi icelandic wool, and thought: this will knit up at 3 stitches per inch on a #10 needle, and shrink 30% when felted, so for a 6 inch wide bag, I should cast on 24 stitches in order to end up with the desired width. Freaking weird! Even weirder, that robotic knitter’s voice was absolutely correct.

So, after a couple of days of knitting, I had this:

Time to felt! I’m so crafty.

First, you put your knitted item into a zippered or rubberband-closed pillow case. This will protect your washer from all the fuzz that is generated by felting. Next, put your washer on the lowest water setting and fill with hot soapy water. Then throw in your pillow case and a pair of jeans (something that won’t be bothered by the dye that will come off of your yarn). The clothing item helps increase the agitation on the yarn and speeds up the felting. Put your washer on high agitation and set a timer for five or ten minutes. Go! Yarn abuse! That’s what we’re about here!

At five or ten minutes, check your felting. It’s probably starting to get fuzzy. Put it back in. Reset the timer for another five minutes, or switch to three minutes if things seem to be moving quickly. Check it again when the timer goes off. You might want to start measuring your items when you check them, if you have specific sizes you want. Keep turning the dial on your washer back—DON’T let it begin the rinse cycle.

As you check, you can do a little blocking, too, to help it get into the shape you are looking for. For example, the strap on my bag kept wanting to roll, so I would stretch it back into flat when I pulled it out. Keep checking until your item is just the size and level of feltedness that you want.

Here is my bag after twenty minutes. It’s shrinking and the knitted fabric is felting into a tough, but soft, fabric.

And it’s starting to get fuzzy! But it needs a little more….

Things can happen all of a sudden towards the end, so you may even want to check every one or two minutes when it starts to feel close to ready. On the other hand, sometimes it can taking for-freaking-ever and you stop when you’re too bored to go on with it. But just about everything will felt eventually, so hang in there.

Okay, once your pieces have gotten to the level of feltedness you like, or have shrunk to the size you want, rinse the soap out. Some people do this in the washer, some in a sink, some spin dry, some don’t, for fear of damaging the pieces. For a piece this small, I rinsed in the sink, rolled it up into a towel, and stood on it.

After you’ve got most of the water out, you’re going to block it, that is, mush in into the shape you want it to ultimately keep, and use other objects to hold it in place. The wet felt is quite malleable so you’ve got a lot of maneuvering room. A bowl or bucket for a hat, a book for a rectangular bag (wrap it in plastic), or a bag full of beans, mushed into the right shape, all can work, depending on your project. Stretch and mash the felt until it’s just right and weigh it down or prop it up with your objects. Don’t be afraid to get pretty aggressive with the felt. It’s tough stuff.

Here is the felted bag with a plastic wrapped book inside to give it some depth to it.

I tugged on the strap (hard!) to get it the right length, and I pulled the flap down to the right spot and pinned it in place. Sophie helped. Aren’t her toes cute?

Finally, you wait for it to dry. This part is really, really boring.

But finally, you get your felted item, fuzzy, tough as iron, and cute. A strange, but winning, combination!

The completed bag with the addition of a silver heart button:

And hidden ipod pocket:

Sophie said it looks like purple monster fur. She’s exactly right, of course.

For an excellent description, with photos, that I wish I had read before I had done my bag (for tips, and for confidence) go here.

Happy felting!

confessions of a former knitter

I was cruising the internet the other day, indulging in a little gizmo-porn, to be specific, a fantasy of getting one of the new, sexy, 2nd gen ipod touches. Drool, pant… Er…what was I saying?

Oh yeah. Porn.

Um, well, of course, ipods led to checking out ipod accessories, and that led to ipod cases, and somehow I ended up looking at an array of felted, knitted, ipod cozies, made by crafters everywhere.

That’s right, ipod cozies.

Well, I was so taken with the idea, that I decided right then and there to knit myself a bag, in an expression of my sublimated ipod lust.

You know how it is.

I considered buying some yarn, but then I thought surely there must be something in my old knitting stuff that would work. After all, I was quite a knitter pre-baby. Once upon a time, I had had quite a stash. Surely there must be something.

So I waded through the piles of clothes and stored items and sheer junk, all the way back into the Narnia of my closet, and I found [cue holy music] my knitting basket! And Lo! It was full, just FULL, of gorgeous yarn I had completely forgotten about. But not only that, it was crammed with half completed sweater projects I had COMPLETELY forgotten about. Crammed.

And oh yeah, part of being a knitter that I had also forgotten about, is Knitter’s Guilt—that feeling in one’s stomach when one looks at all the half finished projects, and all the millions of yards of yarn, that one has yet to knit. I wish I hadn’t remembered about Knitter’s Guilt.

Look at this:

Half a black silk pull-over.

Half a burgundy cable cardigan.

ALL of a cotton fitted cardigan—all it needs is to be blocked and sewn together.

Look at this gorgeous thing, a nordic lopi creation. All it needs is a collar of some kind.

Look at the yoke—did I ever really know how to knit like this?

Here is the yoke and shoulders of this luscious mohair cable cardigan. Fuzzy and super soft.

Look at all these single skeins, leftovers from past projects. What do you do with these things? Why do so many knitting patterns call for one skein too many? Maybe the patterns are written by the yarn companies….

What was this little thing going to be? A hat?

The back of….something. Gorgeous rust colored yarn—the picture didn’t really get the color.

Sheesh, I’m so embarrassed. I had NO IDEA this stuff was sitting back there.

Anyway, I did find some nice dark purple wool for my felted bag plan. I think it might be leftovers from a sweater I knitted my sister a million years ago, a sweater that I think turned out to be too small for her, but she graciously (almost) concealed this fact from me. The purple will make a good bag.

And I’m putting a pocket on it for my current, ancient, black and white, wood-burning ipod. Stay tuned.