December 31, 2005

STRETCH YOURSELF!

HNY.jpg
New Year's is my favorite holiday. First of all, any holiday that calls for champagne has got to be a good one, right? And sure, I love the festive atmosphere.

But after the party's over, I'm a reflective person, and I most love that aspect of the holiday that's about taking stock. What lessons did I learn from 2005? What do I plan to accomplish in 2006?

I always make New Year's Resolutions, and I manage to keep them (admittedly not always, but often enough). As I wrote a few months back in the entry about 43things.com, I love setting goals. Set hard, but achievable goals -- the kind that stretch a person.

"Out with the old, in with the new" always gets me going on a round of clutter clearing, too. Every year there are tasks to be done or things around the house that I'm tired of looking at, and I think, "I'm not taking that into next year." So, I deal with those things by the December 31 deadline.

One of my resolutions for 2006 is to keep a knitting journal, with the intention that this will help me to stay focused on getting projects completed. To continue the metaphor: Keeping the knitting journal itself will be a small, warm-up stretch in service to the yoga-marathon-sized-stretch of finishing projects.

A few years ago, when I was working on earning my teaching certificate, doing a full-time internship at a junior high school, and had a tremendous amount of reading and research to do (not only for planning the lessons I was teaching but also for the thesis I was writing), I had very little time to knit. But I needed the knitting in my life as a meditative activity; I needed to set aside time every day to get lost in those knitting motions and zone out out of all the myriad other things that made demands on my time and my psyche. So to give myself some structure, I made a spreadsheet in Excel. Each knitting project that I considered "current" had its own row. Then, the first two columns contained the vital statistics for that project (needle size, pattern, etc.; date started). Then, the next columns were for recording the progress made during the days of the coming week.

I had this rule for myself -- I could knit as much as I liked on any of the projects, but at the end of the week, I had to have knitted at least a little bit on each of them. (This rule allowed me to spend more time on projects that were at the enjoyable stage of just rolling along, while still tending to the other projects that were in more tedious stages -- without feeling guilty and without losing any project to neglect.)

During this period, I actually accomplished quite a bit of knitting (relative to how little time I had to knit). I have fond memories of that Excel spreadsheet and my knitting projects that were "current" back then.

So for 2006, I want to get back to that system for keeping myself accountable. I think it will be useful to keep this knitting journal in a 3-ring binder, so that I can interleave fresh pages as needed. (During all those years I spent writing, I found that nothing gave me writer's block faster than the gift of a lovely leather-bound journal. Such a formal and pristine object required that the first word recorded in it be worthy of that book and worth recording for posterity; thus, it was easier to not write any word at all.)

Other things I'm looking forward to, in 2006 --
* Going to the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat in Tacoma, Washington in February, where I'll take classes from Jean Wong and from Sally Melville
* Going with Scott on a business trip to Orlando, Florida in March
* Taking Couture Knitting classes from Catherine Lowe, in Seattle in April
* Attending the TKGA National Convention in Oakland in April, where I'll meet up with Knit-buds Anne, Frances, Nancy, Jewel

And for you, Dear Reader, I hope that you also take the invitation that the New Year offers you to stretch yourself!

Posted by Karen at 04:29 PM | Comments (2)

December 25, 2005

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS --

Christmas 004.jpg
-- and a Happy New Year! May your holidays be everything you hope them to be.

We hosted Christmas Eve dinner for my family last night. Here's how the table was set:
Christmas 002.jpg
Allegra and I had the rather inspired idea to replace the typical place cards with Scrabble trays and tiles. Since my family members are big fans of word games in general and Scrabble in particular, this cracked them all up. (Click here to see an earlier entry about the kind of determination one of my big sisters brings to her Scrabble playing.)

Later in the night, after the guests had all gone and we were lying all snug in our beds, Scott and I thought we heard reindeer games in the dining room:

Christmas 006.jpg

Christmas 005.jpg

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays to everyone!

Posted by Karen at 12:19 PM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2005

FERAL-ING, FERAL-ING WE MUST GO

decemberopenhouse.jpg
Janine prepares to cut the Jule Log cake at the Ferals gathering last Sunday. Without any prompting from me, and to my great relief, Janine took control of the knife -- I am always a nervous wreck about cutting and serving desserts. Left to right: Norma, Diana, Ryan, Janine. Not pictured: Laura-Lee, me.

I got up at the crack of dawn to bake that Jule Log from scratch, and it took hours longer to beat all the ingredients and get the thing assembled than I remembered that it would (having not made one of these in a couple of years). It may have a certain homey look to it, but it was made with great care.

december 002.jpg
And the Ferals had their regularly-scheduled Monday meeting the following evening. Here, Ryan works on a purple sweater for a co-worker's baby; the co-worker is having twins, and Ryan is making purple and green matching sweaters.

You might notice that in the very foreground of this picture is my Level II vest in progress. Yes! Not only was I doing actual Fair Isle knitting at the Ferals meeting, I was also chipping away at that Master Knitter goal that I hope to accomplish one of these days.

Andrea was also working on a goal and taking her deadline very seriously: Trying to knit up an Estonian Garden scarf as a Christmas present for her mom. Andrea dyed this laceweight Zephyr yarn herself, one dye bath of turquoise followed by a dye bath of black. My photo does not begin to show how hypnotically this color glowed:

december 007.jpg
What you see in the photo is an almost-completed center portion of the Estonian Garden scarf, with the edgings at each end yet to come. Although she was modestly protesting that this is her first laceweight project on teeny needles, Andrea is a very accomplished knitter and the scarf was looking beautiful. I hope Andrea's mom loves it!

Posted by Karen at 09:45 PM

December 17, 2005

THE FERALS ARE COMING! THE FERALS ARE COMING!

Meet Blob:
Blob.jpg

And the whole Blob Family:
Blobfamily.jpg

(That's Blob's wife, Mrs. Blob, to the right of Blob. And at lower center, Blob's Siamese twin children Timmy and Cindy . . . .)

You see, tomorrow I'm having the Ferals over. This occasion is prompted by the fact that none other than our Founding Den Mother, Janine, will be in town -- she'll be the guest of honor. My girls wanted to make some Christmas sugar cookies to serve (among other refreshments), so they had a trial run at making these snowmen last Thursday night, hand-rolling out the dough. (No cookie cutters involved.) It's a good thing they had a trial run, as we found out just how bulbous hand-rolled snowmen can be.

Little did I know that my girls actually named the cookies until Allegra came home from school the next day. I'd been home, and with the cookies just right there on the kitchen counter all day, of course I had to eat one. I thought I showed great restraint in that I ate only one. Allegra came in through the door, took one look at the display, and said, in a tone both accusing and offended, "You ate Moodge!"

The first Blob Family has been consumed by now, of course. Tonight we'll give hand-rolled snowmen sugar cookies another try, for tomorrow is The Big Event.

The last Big Event where last I left off was the Yarn . . . er, Toaster Anniversary. You already know what I gave Scott, so here's a shot of what he gave me:

coffeecup.jpg
My very own insulated coffee cup with genuine simulated leather trim embossed with Scott's company's logo. What a sentimental guy my Dear Husband is. Let's see . . . toaster, coffee cup . . . I guess you could say this anniversary had a breakfast theme.

If you want to see a picture of the happy couple, click here.

We celebrated our anniversary by going out to dinner at the Dahlia Lounge. And here's how yarn was involved. I've been watching Vanessa churn out the Bronte scarves over there on her blog, which reminded me of the Bronte scarf that I made last year. I wore the scarf in my coat collar to dinner that evening. And it was a cold evening, so cold that the fog was freezing and dropping crystalized ice onto the sidewalks and roadways. Even in the restaurant I still felt chilled, and remembering that the Bronte is almost as wide as a stole, I got out the scarf and wore it over my shoulders. I imagined I looked a little bit like a little old lady, as the scarf didn't exactly go with my outfit -- but I was warm in it.

In knitting news, my List of Must-Knit Sweaters keeps growing. Last Monday, while waiting for Allegra's ballet class to finish, I knitted a swatch using yarns from the Ripple sweater, just playing around with the yarn:
rippleswatch.jpg
Now, when I've already written that this is my favorite sweater in the whole entire Scottish Island Knits book, and then you see me "just playing around" with the yarn, you know that the knitting on the project has just got to be commencin' soon.

In Two Swans news: I've been busy all week adding even more new products to the site. By popular request, Bryspun needles are now here, as double-points, 16" circulars, 24" circulars, and 29" circulars. Also, patterns by Susanna Hansson, many new shades of Jamieson's Double Knitting yarn, and new books. (At the time of this blogging, I don't have all of these latter two items listed yet; be patient!) And, I was probably the last person in the knitting world to know that the cute little case that Chibis come in is now clear:
cloverchibi.jpg
This surprised the heck out of me when I opened the box!

Posted by Karen at 12:09 PM | Comments (6)

December 14, 2005

PAPER . . . CHINA . . . YARN

At the board meeting last week for the Seattle Knitters Guild, I had to express my regrets that I wouldn't be able to make it to the Guild's holiday party, being held tonight. I explained that it's Scott's and my wedding anniversary, and we'd be going out to dinner.

"What year?" asked one of my fellow board members.

"The twenty-second."

"Oh, honey, that's the yarn anniversary! You just get your husband and you bring him along to the party."

This woman who's so quick with the comebacks is new to the board, and I think I'm really going to like working with her this coming year.

I don't know whether there will be any yarn involved in this anniversary celebration tonight, or not. But if you want to see what year anniversary it is for Scott, click here. (Really, he asked for it.)

Posted by Karen at 12:32 PM | Comments (6)

December 04, 2005

IF I WERE NICKY EPSTEIN....

Just as I was about to regale you with the next installment of the Making of the Felted Christmas Stocking, I got inundated with work for the Two Swans site. I never dreamed that a whole week would go by without my getting back to this blog to finish the story. (Gosh, does it feel like a month?) Amazingly, shipments of yarns and books started arriving at the end of November, just about as fast as I could handle them.

First, there was the box of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn, which brought with it the new-to-Two Swans colors Blackberry, Pine, and Pale Pink, all to be scanned and added to the site. And the next day came the new Interweave Knits magazine. And the day after that, the newly-published book from Rowan, Scottish Island Knits. And then some Jaeger yarn arrived. And then the new book Classic Knits for Real Women . . . . It almost sounds like the 12 Days of Christmas around here, doesn't it?

Daphne.jpgI know I've mentioned before how crazy the yarn business is, and Scottish Island Knits is a case in point. It is a book to provide pattern support for the Harris line of yarns, and it is a book that I ordered back in July. But then the name of the yarns got changed to Scottish Tweed. And when I ordered the book, it didn't even have a title, but it was scheduled for a "fall" release. Lo these many months later, just when I was about thinking that the book was something that existed only in some weird corner of my imagination, up shows the box of them that I'd ordered. The sweaters and other projects are pretty, and do show off the yarns. You know that I'm a huuuge fan of purple and green, and (as a Campbell by marriage) fond of thistles, so this Kaffe Fassett sweater at right is, in my opinion, stunning.

Ripple.jpg
This one, "Ripple" by Brandon Mably, is my favorite in the whole book.

Many other great designs, by Sasha Kagan, Jean Moss, and others, in this book, too. (Click on the title, above, to see more.)







Red-Green-Holly1.jpg
And in the midst of adding all of these new products to the site, December 1st rolled around, so it was time to update my Specials page. (I'm trying to be very good about changing the special every month on the first of the month . . . and this time, I met my self-imposed deadline -- yay!) Call me crazy for putting so many different yarns on sale . . . I sure called myself that, that day.

Now, to return to the story of the felted Christmas stocking: Where last I left off, the stocking looked like this. It was 20" long, cuff to tip-toe; 8" wide at the leg.

I wanted to embellish it with a poinsettia. Who knows more about embellishments than Nicky Epstein? So I perused through Knitting Over the Edge, in which she's got a chapter for appliques that includes designs for cabbage roses and other flora. But -- no poinsettias.

So I approached my design problem this way -- If I were Nicky Epstein, what would I do? (I also googled on poinsettias and studied up on what they really look like, although in a felted Christmas stocking I'm not striving for realism. The red at the top that we think of as petals are actually leaves, and, in the center, the round chartreuse or yellow parts are the actual flower. But you knew that.)

Again just designing on the needles, I ended up creating some elongated teardrop shapes. I made 5 large and 2 small ones, thinking to layer them on the stocking.

Friday, I had time to run all the pieces through the washing machine. (I enclosed the stocking in one zippered pillow case, and the red leaves in another zippered case, thinking that the red might not be dyefast. It was.) After the first wash, the sock had shrunk from 20" to 17." Seventeen inches is still a lot of sock for Santa to fill, so I threw it back into the machine for a second wash, and afterward, it measured 15" long and 7" wide, which I thought was just perfect. The felted leaves shrank from 4.25" to 3.5".
feltedstocking.jpg


When I went to sew on the poinsettia leaves, I struggled with arranging 5 leaves in a way that wouldn't look humanoid (head, arms, legs). So I ended up using 4 large leaves and 2 smaller ones. And now I get to use one of my favorite words: I used an oddment of golden-yellow Jamieson's DK to sew the French knot flowers in the center.
feltedstockingcloseup.jpg

I still intend to write up this pattern and make it available for free download on the Two Swans site. I would've done so already, had there not been this sudden influx of new items. Best laid plans, and all that.

In other news, a Dear Friend sent me this link regarding the dangers of knitting, as portrayed sumbliminally in the children's book Goodnight Moon.

Posted by Karen at 08:45 PM | Comments (4)