Friday, April 27, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Something different

For my 'Something different' post, I'd like to insert a little surreal randomness into your day. Nina the pit-bull terrier mix investigates a tiny snowman in the yard at the Dane County Humane Society earlier this winter...


Inspiration can come from anywhere. Volunteering and working with these gals in their coats (Nina probably should have had one on in her bout with the snowman!):

Led to designing and knitting this jacket/sweater:

Despite all of the generous contributions from the community, money is always tight for non-profit animal rescues, which inspired me to offer up my knitting patterns for sale in support of the ASPCA. I've only raised about $50, but it's better than nothing and encourages me to keep designing. Keep your eyes peeled: creative inspiration can come from the random-est of events and places!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Are you a knitter for all seasons?

Short answer: (via Lana Kane of Archer) Noooooope. Longer answer, my knitting habits wax and wane through the year. Wisconsin and the Midwest in general see the full range of seasons, with negative temps and blizzards in the winter, and melt your face off heat and humidity in the summer. I've historically bitched and moaned each summer about the heat and how little I feel like knitting. Hats, socks, sweaters, scarves and mittens make up my lifeblood, and aren't ideal.

I find that I have the problem of starting a piece in one season, and finishing it as soon as it's out of season. I keep swearing that I'm going to plan better, and actually made a tiny step in the right direction recently.

Last summer I tried to use up some cotton yarn that I'd bought at a fire sale (can' I plugged in all of my parameters into the pattern search on Ravelry, and came up with a winner. It was a shortsleeved sweater, so I thought it was something that I could actually wear in the season that I was knitting it.

Long story short, of course I finished it as soon as it was too cold to wear a short sleeved sweater.

I had my doubts already.

I wasn't super excited about the finished product, and chalked it up to finishing in the wrong season. A nagging feeling lingered in the back of my mind, and I slowly came to terms with the fact that I hated it.

But you know how a lot of times you look back on a pattern and you know exactly how you wish you could have done it? That's how I was feeling about this one. So in the middle of winter, I picked out a nice springy color in a light yarn, and went for it with modifications.

And here I am with a sweater just in time for spring! I'm learning.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Inspiration

Who inspires my knitting? That's an easy one. None of my friends 'in real life' are knitters, so I depend upon the community of people I've met through blogging. They keep me plugged into the knitting world, show me all of the pretty things that they are creating, give me advice when I'm having some kind of fiber related catastrophe, and are all around awesome folks. So, if you're reading this--I'm talking about you!

A couple of these gals (because they are all gals...a nice feature for someone who works in a male dominated industry) provide real inspiration for me in a different way. Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts and Stitched Together are strong women crafting in the face of chronic and even life threatening illness. I've been dealing with worsening chronic pain for over a decade, and it's a topic that intrudes my thoughts too much of the time. Whether or not I'll be able to hold down a full time job. Deal with having kids. Be able to take care of myself. Live a happy life. Hearing their stories of perseverance in spite of obstacles and living their lives to the fullest is a comfort to me, and I can only hope to knit something as creative and beautiful as some of the things they've made.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Photo challenge

He loves yarn and handknits almost as much as I do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog week: A treatise on color

I've hemmed and hawed about whether or not to participate in this year's Knitting and Crochet Blog week. I just looked at the topics this weekend--it was like procrastinating on homework. But I always have such a nice time reading other people's entries, I feel like I'd be missing out if I didn't give it a whirl.

So. Let's talk about color. I used to be really bad at picking out colors. Part of it stemmed from the sticker shock of knitting that I think most people go through--by and large, beautiful yarn is not particularly cheap. I'd scour eBay for screaming deals, and convince myself that Dishwater Yellow was a good investment (this particular garment ended up at Goodwill after a co-worker commented that it looked like I knitted up some vomit). I once knitted a sweater with a combination of cream and navy blue silk yarn, which looked quite nice together, but after knitting about 75% of the way through I realized that I could probably never, ever wash it because the navy would bleed onto the cream (and a swatch confirmed as much). It's dirty and...I don't know what to do with it.

I subconsciously started gravitating towards a particular type of yarn.

The yarn I'm working with right now, I'm making a zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Fortunately, I realized I was doing this and have been trying to break out of the undyed yarn mold. Undyed yarn isn't a bad thing, but it should be a sometimes food. I still tend to gravitate towards earth tones, but I've been creeping out of my comfort zone for a while.


My shoes inspired me to turn this color into a sweater.

Fiery feet.

I love the deep, rich tones, but I'm still learning how to put them together. I usually err on the side of caution by pairing a rich color with a neutral. Baby steps!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stressing out

Guys and gals, I'm stressed. The PhD (or fud, as we like to call it) defense is coming up early next month, and I seem to be metaphorically crapping my drawers. In my college days I used to get sick every finals week simply from mentally psyching myself out, and now I'm having a month's worth of that awesomeness. It's not even like I'm rushing around at the last minute, I'm on track to get everything done early and excised a section that was looking like it wouldn't come together in time. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. And all the while, what do I really want to do? Extrapolate my dog sweater to difference sizes and put that puppy (heh) out there.

I did, however, finish my sweater. It is less bag-like than the first edition, and lighter. Check out the inaugural wearage:

Of course I didn't just roll out of bed and throw this on without showering, why on earth would you think that?

One issue I have that's not really pattern specific, but more a complaint about the stitch pattern in general, is that it's not symmetrical. This always happens to me when I have some holes created going into a knit stitch and others created going into a purl. Is this a common issue? There was a note on the pattern for this hat (which I swear I'm following up on it's janky sagginess and all of your suggestions were invaluable) that said these types of yarn overs "should even out with blocking". I even went though and tried to adjust each of the smaller ones after wetting it but before blocking. I achieved soaking my lap and not much else.

Right side /= left side...oh well.
I really struggled with where to go from here. I don't have a huge stash of yarn right now--not really an intentional thing, but more of a subconscious "You have yarn from several years ago, why don't you use that before buying more?" kind of feeling. I went through my yarn basket and some other yarn spots, and found some undyed alpaca yarn from last year's Alpaca Festival in Madison hiding in the base of a vase that our glass-blowing friend made for our wedding. What the hell? Weighting it down, I guess?

Alpaca goodness.
Apparently the 2012 Alpaca Festival is next weekend; I need to use this yarn, so I have an excuse to buy more, natch. I turned to the dependable Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls book, which is a trove of resources and tools to craft a shawl in just about any style you could want. And I realized that what I really wanted was for someone to explicitly tell me what to knit, line by line, and not have to make any choices. Seriously, the only shawl I've ever knit was in the shape of a rectangle. I'm not exactly an expert. So I'm relying on Martha Waterman to just tell me what to do.

It's a square knitting in the round (phrasing?), increases over every quarter. And it went so fast in the beginning! But then the increases. It's a little depressing that each round takes longer than the last. I keep looking at the pattern and thinking, "Oh, I'm halfway done! Except the last fifth of the rounds have stitch counts in the 600s. So...maybe a quarter of the way done. Oh."

It's hard to get a feel for what it looks like.

Since I'm using circular needles that are way too small and make it look like a ball of fabric.

Time to invest in some big ass needles!