August 30, 2005

VACATION

Our family spent all of last week at our cabin in the San Juan Islands. While we do have a cabin to stay in, it is exceedingly rustic: no electricity, no running water. There's a woodstove for cooking, and a woodburning fireplace for heat. If you've ever seen the book Handmade Houses, this cabin is right in keeping with the houses in that book, as it was built circa 1970, for a budget of $250. (It was built by the family of some friends of ours.) Most of the timbers are driftwood found on the beach; windows were salvaged from a house that was torn down on the mainland. The money they spent to build this cabin went for cement for the floor and nails.

So, away from telephone, television, and computer, we slow down to the pace of island time.

Which brings me to The Top 10 Signs that You're Having Fun on the Island:

(10) Sleep outside under the stars and have it never ever rain on you once, not a drop.

(9) Have your sister and her husband come by in their sailboat and bring you homemade spaghetti for dinner.

(8) Roast marshmallows in the evening fire until they are crispy on the outside, melty on the inside, and never ever burn one.

(7) Play lots of "Oh Hell" (three-handed solitaire, very fast-paced) with the kids.

(6) Have a bee crawl inside your blouse and sting you on the back -- but not so much that it swells or is too painful.

(5) Vastly entertain your family by flapping your arms and yelling "OW OW OW! SOMETHING'S BITING ME!" while being stung. It gives them something to talk about over dinner each of the subsequent nights.

(4) Find a darling little internet cafe in Friday Harbor, where you can check your e-mail. Enjoy the significance that this internet cafe is located on Argyle Avenue.

(3) Read on the beach in the morning sun. Do this every day.

(2) Enjoy how the sunlight dapples the path between cabin and beach, and falls across your favorite moss-covered rock.

And . . . drumroll . . . the number 1 Sign that You're Having Fun on the Island:

(1) Get lots of knitting done!

I almost finished sock #2 for my sister. Knitted a few rows on the snowflake lace scarf. And worked a few rounds on my Level II vest.

Now, if our border collie Lady were able to write for you her Top 10 list, her number 1 activity would be rolling in the deer poop and various dead crabs and things that washed up on the beach. And if the kids were to write their list, right up there on it would be poking the jelly fish that washed up on the beach, and getting towed behind our boat in a giant innertube. I guess you could say that we had a little something on the island to please everyone.

We were taking the kayak down to the beach for the girls, when we discovered walking up the path, my sister Shirley and her husband Bliss:

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We all continued to the beach. Scott launched the girls:

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After dinner, Shirl and I happily washed dishes at the outside worktable:

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Cold water ahead!

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On two different days, we boated over to Friday Harbor, where we used the public showers and stocked up on ice for our coolers. We bought groceries at the little store, books at Harbor Books, and yes, I even bought a ball of yarn at Island Wools.

Monday, back home, it's back to business as usual. Many new items coming in to Two Swans for the fall knitting season. But the one item that has charmed me the most, today, isn't new on the market, just new to me and my store. You see, an e-mail penpal of mine had recommended to me the book by Nancy Bush, Knitting on the Road. This book contains 17 patterns for socks, and each pattern is inspired by a place Nancy Bush has visited on her travels. I know this book has been around for a couple of years, but frankly, I'd never looked at it, and wouldn't have paid any attention to it but for this recommendation from my penpal, who has knitted 5 of the patterns. Knitting on the Road came in a shipment of books today, and the book opened up for me in the most synchronicitous way: it fell open to the page for the Friday Harbor socks!

The socks have a little criss-crossing lace panel up the front of the foot, about which Nancy Bush writes: "the pattern reminds me of the wake a sailboat leaves as it glides by on a misty morning." This pattern has just charmed me, in my post-vacation mood. Well, I can see that I'll have to be knitting these, sometime soon.

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POSTSCRIPT: A little postscript about those Friday Harbor socks -- I see Jessica Rose (from Guild!) recently finished a pair, and has a photo on her Aug 30 blog entry.

Posted by Karen at 01:53 PM | Comments (3)

August 22, 2005

LITTLE EARS

In Friday's entry, I wrote, "I keep meaning to get to the toe of my sister's sock . . . " and that kept percolating in my mind. So Saturday evening, it was like par-tay around here, as I started and finished the toe. The great thing about knitting toes on a cuff-down sock like this, is that you are decreasing and decreasing, so knitting those rounds faster and faster. Yes, it was a wild and crazy Saturday night around here, a toe-finishing frenzy. By 11:30 PM I had the requisite number of stitches remaining, and was ready to close the toe.

Now, usually I do the cheater's method of closing toes, by putting the stitches on holders, turning the sock inside out, putting the stitches back on two needles, and knitting a three-needle bind-off. It's been a loooong time since I've Kitchenered anything. But, it was late at night, and I was on a roll. I thought, Let's Kitchener this. I followed the directions in Betsy's sock book, and I gotta say, her directions are completely easy to follow, complete with the two set-up steps that you must do before you can begin the actual Kitchenering. So I Kitchenered along, and when I'd worked all the stitches and gotten them off the needles, I remembered why it was I switched over to the inside-out, three-needle bind-off method:

Little ears.

On the right-hand side, the corner was a little prominent -- not so bad. But on the stitches at the left side, the last to be Kitchenered? The corner stood up like a little ear.

I know someone posted a remedy for this on the Socknitters list, once. But darned if I could remember how to cure it, at 11:45 at night. And I was too tired to go to the computer and search through archives to try to find it. (Dear Reader, if you have a tip for avoiding Little Ear Syndrome, please post it in the comments!) I thought, My sister loves me, but -- she probably will think little ears on her socks are too weird.

Kitchener stitch isn't all that easy to tink, but I managed. Then I put the stitches on holders, turned the sock inside out, and closed the toe with a three-needle bind-off.

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As it was getting closer and closer to midnight, I heard this thump! and whack! against the bedroom door. I set down the sock for a minute, to investigate. It was Stormy, thinking she'd bagged some big game:

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I didn't have my contacts in or glasses on, as I prefer to do detail work like Kitchenering with the naked eye. So at first, I thought the spider was real. Then I noticed she'd bitten off a couple of its legs, and it wasn't moving. It was one of our gag spiders (we have several) -- dragged out from wherever she'd found it.

New arrival at Two Swans on Saturday:

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Book 2 from Simply Shetland. This book is so new, I haven't had a chance to put many of the photos of the projects on the site -- but if you click on the link, you'll see the Gerda Fair Isle sweater, and the Marguerite Beaded Shawl.

I'm a huge fan of linen stitch, and am delighted to see that one of the designs in this book, the Sonoma Mountain Wrap, uses it, in various shades of Jamieson's DK, to create a southwestern-y feeling striped wrap. (The book calls it "woven stitch," but it's one and the same with linen stitch.)

Posted by Karen at 11:15 AM | Comments (5)

August 19, 2005

THE MOST FORGIVING OF ARTS

The topic was "Knitting by, for, & about Kids" at Wednesday's Guild meeting. We had a panel discussion, with four women who teach knitting to kids speaking about the who, how, and why, and answering questions from the audience.

One of our speakers was Judith Hall, who's a math teacher at a private, all-girls high school in Seattle. She described the student population as very high-achieving, always wanting to do everything perfectly. Judy is an advisor to the after-school knitting club, the Knitting Knerds. She said that she always tells these high-achieving teenagers in her club:

"Knitting is the most forgiving of arts. There's no mistake you can make that we can't undo together, or that you can decide to live with. This is unlike cooking -- once you've burned that roast, there's no going back!"

Aside from the humor, her point was well-taken: Relax! Knitting is supposed to be a stress-reliever, not a stress-inducer.

Allegra came with me to the Guild meeting, and showed her finished pair of fingerless mitts. (She received applause, as did the several other children who came to the meeting with their knitted items.)
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Now, she's started a pair of leg warmers using the same yarn. I'm having her knit them in the round, so that is her new learning. 55 stitches on a 16" long circular needle; she started the ribbing on a size US 6, then went to stockinette on a size US 8. She came to me after knitting four rounds of what was supposed to be the stockinette part, and complained, "In stockinette, aren't the V's supposed to line up? My V's aren't lining up!" I knew instantly that I hadn't explained very well how to knit in the round. Sure enough, she was doing garter stitch in the round: knitting one round, purling the next, as if she were still knitting flat. "Knitting is the most forgiving of arts," I thought to myself as I tinked back to the rib and got her re-started on stockinette in the round. I put a marker on the public side, just as a reminder of right side versus wrong side, in case she were to set the knitting down and the tube were to flip inside out.

On my own needles, I've been knitting on Sandness, and on my vest for Level II of TKGA's Master Knitter program. I keep meaning to get to the toe of my sister's sock, but, since my sister is now living in Arizona, I have to have my daughter Jennie try on the sock to check it's length, since she and DSis wear the same size shoe. The last time I remembered to get Jennie to try on the sock, it was at night, she was in bed trying to get to sleep, and then I came into her room, turning on the lights, pushing aside her blanket, wrestling this sock full of DPNs onto her foot. She whined the whole time -- imagine!

And, I have startitis reeeaaaaallly baaaad. I really want to start this poncho from Wrap Style, in Kidsilk Haze:

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It starts with a border of Alpine lace, then you join the edges of the bottom border and pick up to knit in the round. You knit a section of Clover and Diamonds lace, then Trellis Diamonds lace, then knit a small section of lacy chevrons at the neckline. This is more complex than the Karis poncho I made last year . . . and I think it is just soooo beautiful. If I could decide on a color of KSH, I'd have this baby on the needles right now. Bleached? Pearl? Blushes? Or do I wait until some of the new fall colors come in -- ?

Posted by Karen at 08:50 AM | Comments (5)

August 17, 2005

BOOKS OLD & NEW

June brought to our Feral Knitters group on Monday evening an old, out-of-print book that cracked us all up for the inventive, whimsical patterns in it.
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Ryan cracks up over the Corgi slippers.

The book was Royal Knits: Designer Knitting for the Monarchy and Monarchists, by Nicolette McGuire. In addition to those Corgi slippers that Ryan is pointing to, it contained patterns for "Corgialia," the dog sweaters the royal Corgi must wear. And patterns for knitted British uniforms, complete with medals and sashes, all knitted. The Queen's (or would it be the Princess's?) outfit was a faux twinset in a classic pink, topped off with a strand of knitted pearls. (In the photo, the model is wearing this faux twinset + pearls, and a knitted sash.) And, Nicolette McGuire didn't overlook any corner -- she provides knitting patterns for the throne room: a toilet seat cover with a crown motif on it, and a rug for in front of the, er, "throne," with intarsia footprints that can face toward, or away . . . .

If you see Royal Knits in a used book store, buy it!

This is a fun time of year for me at Two Swans, with new items coming in practically every day. In today is Wrap Style.
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There are some fun designs in here, including a shawl by Evelyn Clark that looks like a sister to her Flower Basket and Leaf Lace shawls. Nicky Epstein has a felted capelet made from Jamieson's DK. I am really drawn to the "Lace-Edged Cardigan with Collar" (really, it's a capelet!) by Ann Budd, and Shirley Paden's "Wrapped in Tradition" lace poncho that uses Kidsilk Haze. Will get more project photos up in the next day or two.

Guild meeting tonight!

Posted by Karen at 11:25 AM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2005

EVOLUTION

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First, there was the hank. Crude, primitive, it put one step between the knitter and the knitting -- that step being to wind the yarn into a ball. This hank was a big boy, all 120 yards of him.



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Last year the hank evolved into a sleeker model, the center-pull skein you see at right. The knitter could get knitting with this yarn right away! The yardage had slimmed down, some, to about 100 yards. The color range slimmed down, too, with several colors discontinued last year.





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For Fall 2005, Jamieson's gave Soft Shetland a makeover. It's the same great Shetland worsted weight yarn with a new name, Shetland Heather Aran. It it has a fun new look, a cute put-up called a doughnut. Yardage remains at about 100 yards. The color range has been expanded -- 26 colors in all, with about half of these being brand-new colors, and with some colors that were previously discontinued now being re-introduced. And old favorites like Highland Mist, Grouse, and Lacquer are still available. At Two Swans, I'm starting with just a few of the Heather Aran colors (as there's still a selection of old favorites under Soft Shetland).

Isn't this Autumn color gorgeous?
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And yes, I did put in a loud and enthusiastic request that Autumn be introduced in the Spindrift weight; I hope it happens.

Knitting-news: Over the weekend, Scott and I went to Seattle each day. My car knitting both times was the snowflake scarf from the 1995 issue of Piecework. On Saturday we were visiting friends who just bought a fixer-upper sailboat. We had to drive down many, many narrow, hilly, winding streets to get to the spot on Lake Washington where the boat was moored; I persisted in knitting despite feeling like I was on a roller coaster. Yesterday we went to the Mariners game. Have I never noticed before how bumpy those roads are in the stadium district? All the railroad tracks, all the spots torn up and patched over for construction projects, made the streets bumpy enough to make your teeth rattle. Not to mention how challenging it was to get a needle into two stitches simultaneously, to work a k2tog. I persisted through all the bumps, though. This morning I picked up the scarf to work on it more, and see I omitted a YO three rows back. This won't be a huge problem to fix, but I wonder if I'm getting wiser about knitting projects that are best suited to car travel. Save the laceweight yarn and the size 1 needles and the lace projects for home knitting, and take the simple stockinette on size 8s on the road.

The Ferals meet tonight! And the Guild meeting day after tomorrow.

Posted by Karen at 08:55 AM

August 10, 2005

BLOGGING FOR FELINA

The Feral Knitters reminded me when we met this week that it was time that I updated this blog. In these summer days, our group is small, with many of us gone to PU (Parts Unknown) for vacation. But count the inimitable Felina Schwarz in with us. Felina, you'll recall, is a finicky knitter and everyone in our group seeks her knitting advice, but her true forte is to give everyone else a prod whenever she feels they need it. And she felt I needed a prod to get blogging.

(You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to . . . . Felina insists that nagging's her fort (one syllable). I say it's her for-tay. Whatever.)

So, here goes.

The Ferals met last week, on Monday, and here's what we were working on. (Yes, we cannot get enough of that Fair Isle knitting, and are meeting three consecutive Mondays this month.)

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Kit had been to the Stitch'n Pitch Mariners game at the end of July, and longed to have her portable radio with her. So she sat down and designed on her needles this Fair Isle bag, the perfect size for her Walkman. It's darling. It's handles are reinforced, somehow, so they don't stretch. It's purple. She was wearing an olive-green shirt at that Ferals meeting, and this bag against the shirt looked stunning -- but she wouldn't let me photograph her holding the bag. Her olive green shirt made 10 times a better background than this binder. Olive green plus red-purple . . . what a vision.

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June's self-designed Fair Isle vest, inspired by a vest in Folk Vests. She's using Spindrift, and the colors are rich, far richer in real life than my photo under cafeteria lighting would lead you to believe.

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Andrea will be entering this sweater in her county's fair in a few days. It's a Philosopher's Wool kit.

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Susanne has at least one Fair Isle project going, but that evening she chose to work on a sock. This is a Nancy Bush pattern, and Susanne is knitting it in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock.

Diana was working on a Fair Isle bag using Spindrift, but, unfortunately, my photo of it did not turn out. And I knitted a few rounds on the Sandness sweater.

That ended Monday on a high note.

Tuesday morning, I prepped for my beginning knitting for teens class. Allegra, my twelve-year-old daughter, was my assistant. We put together bags for each student, containing bamboo knitting needles, a ball of worsted weight wool, and a handout that I created that showed how to cast-on (both long-tail and backwards loop methods), how to knit, how to purl, and how to bind-off (basic bind-off). Oh, and we also included a little bit of candy, to make the lesson sweet. Allegra took photos of me knitting, and these were my illustrations for my handout. I thought this was a good solution to the problem of not wanting to use illustrations from a published source because of copyright issues, and not wanting to take the time to draw illustrations myself.

My class took place in a conference room at the public library. I had 7 teens, and, surprisingly, 2 adults. (I had said my class limit would be 10 students.) Two of the girls (twins!) came in about 5 minutes late, with little bags of garter-stitch rectangles . . . these were collars for their black Lab. These girls politely knitted away as I talked about yarn choices and needle choices and demo'd to the rest of the group how to cast on and how to knit. The twins really were there because they didn't know how to stop knitting! They didn't know how to bind-off. (Purling was new to them, as well.)

I was very pleased with my prep work; I was very pleased to have 9 students. Overall, I think the 90-minute session went well. There were a couple of things I had wondered about, beforehand, that proved true. One was whether I would get any left-handed knitters in my class. Yes, I had two lefties -- one of the twins who actually was knitting right-handed, and another teen. I was not adequately prepared to teach mirror-image knitting. I'm afraid the class was more frustrating than fun for that student.

Another thing I had wondered about was whether I was trying to cover too much information in one 90-minute session. That, too, proved true -- for those who were beginners, casting on and learning the knit stitch was as much as they could take in, in one day. (I taught purling and binding off only to those in the class who already knew how to knit.) I had forgotten how difficult it can be to pull that yarn through a stitch to make a new stitch. Knitting really is very tricky!

For instance, the complete beginner who caught on the fastest to the idea of pulling the yarn through to make a new stitch, would have her working needle about an inch behind the other. She would put her working needle into her stitch, then spread the two needles about an inch apart, wrap her yarn, then pull the yarn through. She was clearly getting the hang of it, and working well. So I had to think to say, You want to keep your needles snug together.

Perhaps the best thing that came out of the teen knitting class was the inspiration it sparked in my assistant, who came home, rooted through her stash and began knitting this scarf that very night:
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And the next day made this fingerless glove, start to finish:
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You can see that she won't suffer from second glove syndrome, as she immediately cast on for the mate. These are knitted flat, with some ribbing at top and bottom and stockinette in the main part covering the hand; then seamed up the side, leaving an opening for the thumb. Allegra sewed her own seam, using an overcast stitch. If Felina were here, she might point out other seaming techniques, but I say, Let's never discourage knitting.

Allegra made these projects all on her own initiative, from her own stash. I didn't even know she was making the fingerless glove till suddenly she was at my side, putting her knitting in my hands and asking me to help her to bind off. She got the pattern from a knitting book for kids. I love it that she feels so independent and so confident to take on these projects.

The topic at this month's Guild meeting, coming up August 17, is "Knitting by, for, and about Kids." I hope Allegra will attend, and bring her projects for show-and-tell.

Then, last week on Wednesday, the group of Master Knitter Wannabes met. Laura-Lee is just on the brink of sending in her Level I binder, and brought it to show us. Doesn't she looked relaxed and happy, here?
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And Joy showed Laura-Lee her (Joy's) completed Level I binder. Joy has passed Level I and is working on Level II, like I am.
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We sure enjoyed the weather that day!

Joy passed around an obituary of Susan Gordon Lydon, whose book, The Knitting Sutra, I've read a half a dozen times. This obit was a great springboard for discussion, topics ranging from Susan Gordon Lydon, to similar books that are memoirs centered around needlecrafts, to feminism. I admire the writing style in Knitting Sutra, but had no idea that Susan Gordon Lydon had been such an influence in the women's movement, or what her other history as a writer was.

That night after our Master Knitter Wannabes group met, I dreamed I was knitting on my Level II vest.

Well, this entry is long enough . . . more next time!

Posted by Karen at 12:25 PM | Comments (9)

August 01, 2005

FIRST SIGNS OF FALL

It's only August 1st, but already the first items that I've ordered for Two Swans's fall inventory are beginning to arrive:
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What you see here are some Fiber Trends patterns, an Ellen Originals bag and circular needle case (just representative examples of Ellen Originals items that came in this afternoon). I'll be getting these things listed on the website in the next day or two.

I am most excited about the Fiber Trends patterns by Eugen Buegler! Evelyn Clark and Betsy McCarthy met with Mr. Buegler and helped him to write up his patterns; these are now being published by Fiber Trends. Hot off the presses are patterns for his Flower Eyelet Afghan, Fuchsia Lace Scarves, and Spring Blossoms Shawl. (Maybe if I start knitting the latter now, I'll have it ready in time for spring???) Evelyn Clark showed the Spring Blossoms shawl at Guild last month, and it was gorgeous. Honestly, stunning. (You can see it at lower right in the photo.)

Ferals tonight!

Tomorrow I teach my teen knitting class!

Posted by Karen at 04:24 PM | Comments (3)