Monday, August 25, 2008

Stitches Midwest

I'm home from Chicago and Stitches and have spent the day recovering. I had an all day classes Sunday and then drove home (400 miles). I got home a bit before midnight and, after petting/hugging the boys, I crashed. Today was meant to be all the things I should have done this weekend but it ended up being a sit around watching TV and knitting day between dozing off for more sleep time. But - you don't want to hear around me sleeping, you want to hear about Stitches Midwest!

I signed up to go before all the Mom stuff happened and I'm glad I did. It gave me a weekend to forget about life and just enjoy knitting and knitters. I drove down Friday morning and got there around 2pm. Once checked in I headed over the the She-Knits booth. Sharon is a friend I met on line and has blossomed into a successful business this year. She debated having a booth and finally decided Yes, it's time. The timing was perfect because she has her first published pattern in the Fall Interweave Knits magazine. Sharon has another pattern coming out in the Interweave Felting magazine later this month.

Her booth looked great and was busy all weekend - Congratulations Sharon!!
Everyone loved the felted bags and she had a Dumpling Buffet in the booth. You could pick your own yarn and accessories for making the cute little Dumpling Bag from the Interweave Knits magazine. My Dumpling is on the top shelf - the one on the right in brown with beads around the base
For some reason I can't get blogger to work like it should - I can't highlight text, move pics around, add links, etc. So - if you want to see all Sharon's patterns you'll have to copy and paste this link since I can't make it "live".
Also - Sharon has a podcast that is like a knit group. She's very easy to listen to and will become your friend immediately. Go over to itunes and search She-Knits podcast if you want to give her a try.
Saturday I had an afternoon class with Melissa Leapman. We spent the afternoon learning about Celtic Cables and how to set up and end the cables to prevent the puckering if you try knit without proper set up. When Melissa first came in the room she was somehow aloof and spoke very soft. I started worrying that it was going to be 3 hours of a diva that I couldn't even hear. Oh was I wrong. She was obviously just getting "warmed up" to teach and once the class started she was wonderful. We got the see the cover sweater from her new book that will be out in October. WOW! Melissa had us make a small cable circle in the middle of a swatch. She wouldn't let us knit ahead of her instructions to be sure everyone got it. It was a little slow for some of us but I see the value. She didn't have to repeat the same instructions a billion times and everyone was successful. We also did a small Celtic knot and she had us design our own. We were left with a lot to think about and the ability to play around and create our own Celtic cables. Great class!
Saturday night the She-Knit gang that was able to come to Stitches got together for pizza at Lou Manalti's. It's always great to meet people in person that you've been "talking to" for a long time.

The following pics are the people at our Saturday night meet up (listed by Ravelry name)

LosetheMittens and She-Knits (Sharon, our Queen Owl)

Coggie's aunt, CoggieTM, TaffyYarn

AnitaT, Knit1purlgurl, Coggie's MIL, Nancyba, a new friend we met that night and I can't remember her name
Sunday was an all day class with Cat Bordhi - Sock architecture. The class was not on how the make any of the socks in her new book but it was on the theory of how to make all the socks. We spent the day learning her way to do short rows, how to do SSK so it isn't a bigger stitch than it's partner K2tog, how to know the perfect length of a sock before starting the arch expansion (gusset area). She shows us why you can add the increases anywhere and why it will work. We saw the Houdini sock and how it works. Cat spent time with each of us and was a very energizing person. She makes you want to be better. My best part of the day was when she and I were talking about looser bind off and I mention I always do a sew off bind off for socks and then mentioned I like to do a garter rib because it binds off looser. Cat didn't know the garter rib so I got to show her a sock I was working on and how to do the stitch. She says she's going to try it on her next grandson sock. WOW! I taught Cat Bordhi something! The thing I really liked about her was she was looking for those things she could learn from her students. Another person (I didn't hear that conversion) gave her an idea on how to explain the foot length thing in an easier way. You had to be there to know what I'm talking about but the point is - she's busy learning all the time and that's the way a knitter should be.
I didn't spend much money in the market place - I was there to go to the classes and meet my She-Knits friends. Mission accomplished!
I post pictures of the Dumpling Bag and a few other things next time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Driving to Stitches Midwest

(Blogger is being weird and not letting me move the picture -This is She-Knits booth at Stitches.)

Yesterday was fortunately a boring drive to Chicago. When I drove down for my cousin's wedding in June Wisconsin was in the middle of the flood season and we had to make a huge detour. This time - no problem. As I was driving I listening to knitting podcasts and my "friends" kept me company for the 6.5 hours When I stopped for a quick lunch and pulled up the exit ramp I was greeted with a giant elephant wearing glasses. I wish I had paid attention to where I was at and I wish my camera batteries had not died. He was quite the sight to behold! Over the road to Culver's I was greeted by a giant cow. This area has a serious hormone problem in the water. I was just glad everyone in the restaurant seemed to be normal size.

The convention center where Stitches Midwest is being held is beautiful. It's just a few years old and well planned. Friday afternoon was just walking around and getting the lay of the land. Today and Sunday will be classes and more shopping.

The She-Knits Ravelry gang is getting together tonight while a few of us already got to meet at Sharon (She-Knits) booth. This is her first time doing something like this so it was wonderful to see her booth filled with people buying kits and patterns.

If you haven't seen Sharon's patterns - she designed felted bags that are just wonderful. She has a bag called the Dumpling bag in the latest Interweave Knits and will have another pattern in the Fall Interweave Felting Magazine.

Well - off to find breakfast and have another full day of knitting and yarn.

(Oh - Chief and Bert - I do miss you boys. I had a king size bed all to myself and no kitties to get dangles up in my legs!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Off to Stitches Midwest

Mom's going to Stitches Midwest and we're stuck here. She says she'll post lots of pictures but I think she might be too busy having fun. We'll see.........

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Where's Bert - round 2

The computer is still acting up but I managed to get a few pics uploaded.
Here's a few previous rounds of "Where's Bert?" I think he must be getting ready for the London Olympics in 4 years. Is there a Hide and Seek competition?

Obviously he's pretty good at playing this game. Nitzie said it was too bad Bert didn't know transporting in closets. Sorry Nitzi - you're wrong. He has that one down pretty good too.

Bert found a box in the closet to hide in. This one took a while to find him - Man, he's good!

The Original Sweater
Here's a pic of the original sweater I was telling you about last post. As they say -a picture is worth a thousand words.
So back to the problem. You started knitting at the neck in the round. Or should I say in the square- there's 4 sections: 2 fronts and 2 backs. Every other round you increase on each side of the 4 sections creating a mitered shaping. When you get down to the underarm area (just before the coral in this sweater) you have to know how many stitches are needed to make the width what you need.
My problem was I couldn't remember I did this the first time. I decided to draw the sweater on paper and figure out the angles and triangles and get my needed number of stitches before I switch to knitting the arms and body.
Well - I have to get ready for Stitches Midwest and finish packing up my Mom's apartment so right angle triangle and stitch counts will have to wait for a bit.
Don't forget to hug your family - Mom never shook hands, she always hugged. everyone will always remember that!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Knitting Math 101

Every once in a while Bert decides to play a rousing game of "Where's Bert?" This week was no different. I decided to organize some of my knitting magazines and bought some holders at Target. Once a few magazines were taken off the shelf of the bookcase Bert saw his chance. Good try Bert but this round has to go to Chief. It took him less than 2 minutes to find Bert. Better luck next time!

Speaking of Bert - today is his birthday. My baby boy is 4 years old today. Bert joined the family on Nov 14th so we'll celebrate that day as well. For his birthday we had stinky cat food (the boys rarely get wet food so its a special treat) and we had lots of little pieces of paper being thrown around the house so he could chase after them. Hey - he's easy to please!

Geometry and Knitting

20 years ago I knit a sweater. Well, actually I knit many sweaters but - the one that's been on my mind lately is a stash sweater. I knit this one from all the leftover balls of a yarn that we had at the shop. There wasn't enough of any color to make anything so I played around. This sweater starts at the neck and works in the round in four sections with the increases in the middle of the front and back and middle of the sleeves. Every other row adds a stitch at the beginning and end of the section and there's random stripes. At one point you stop working in the round and knit the corners of each part - the front, then the back, then the sleeves. This whole thing ends up looking like a cross and is folded in half and the seams are sewn up. (Bloglines/my computer isn't behaving right so I can't get a picture of the old one posted right now).

I had a bunch of leftover yarn so decided to make a new version of this sweater. I gathered all the similar gauge yarn and cast on the neck. The neckline was fine. I started around, added stitches every other row and got about 6 inches into this and wondered how long I needed to knit before I started the corners. You can't measure the width because you're knitting at an angle. As you come around you're actually knitting from the belly button to the shoulder. So I had to figure out how long that distance had to be to know when to quit knitting in the round. CRAP! How did I figure this out 20 years ago. Then I remembered - The Pythagorean Theorem. That would give me the answer.

How the heck did I remember something from high school geometry from over 35 years ago!?! Better yet - what was this theorem? I knew it would give me my answer somehow; but, couldn't remember what it was. The Internet is great. I did a search and got the answer. If you have a right angle triangle- the sum of the square roots of the 2 sides equals the square root of the long side (the hypotenuse). Now, the fact that I remember any of this really impresses me. There's obviously some gray matter in my head still cranking away at old math facts.

There's still a problem. I have to figure out which right angle triangle in the sweater will give me the needed figures to get me the answer to - when do I switch the area I knit on. Better yet - why don't I just measure the old sweater and call it a day! Maybe if I use Elizabeth Zimmermann's percentage's and figure out how long the neck to armhole needs to be then I could use that to figure out when to switch. Maybe if I figure out the rotation of the earth and the lunar schedule I'll know when to switch. Maybe if Michael Phelps wins His next gold it will be time to switch. HELP!!!

My brain hurts - I'll think about this tomorrow.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Knitting in the 80s and my Knitting Mentor

A while ago I started talking about knitting in the "olden days" but never got back to it because of all the stuff going on with my family. Time to get back to my story about knitting in the 70s and 80s and tell you about the best knitting mentor a person could ever have.

So far in our story - I was an idiot and thought I could relearn to knit and learn to purl and make an afghan between Thanksgiving and Christmas while going to college. That afghan is still in good condition in the basement and if you ever come over, I'll let you warm up with it.

My last couple years of college were spent in my hometown after I transferred schools and majors. I switched to Nutrition and Dietetics which meant a chemistry class every single quarter and classes that melted my brain. I also worked 24 hours a week to pay for an apartment. I know I was pretty crazy but then - don't all young people think they can do everything! I needed a nice distraction from all this and ended up working part time (2nd job) for a family friend at her shop. Our two families went to the same church and were linked together by Boy Scouts. Both Dad's were leaders and Vivian, Mom and myself would stay together at the family camp of the Boy scout camp while the guys roughed it in tents. So - I got brave and asked Vivian if I could work for her cause I couldn't imagine anything better than working in a yarn shop. Bless her heart she said, "yes". For the next several years I worked Friday nights and Saturdays for minimum wage and was thrilled to do it.

Back then most yarn was plastic/acrylic stuff purchased at Target or KMart or your local drug store. There were a few other places like Lee Wards (bought out by Michaels) but Red Heart was the yarn of the day. Then there was the few place like The Yarn Shed that had the real deal - wool, alpaca, good cotton, yarn you could make something out of and be proud. I loved that place. It was my oasis from the crazy college world. You would walk in and could just smell the wool wonderfulness.

We had Lopi, Bernat Germantown, Bemidji wool, German wool, tweeds, real sock yarn, so much more. We had some yarns that I really miss today. Mirage was ahead of its time. It was a wool with a bit of tweed in it and it would very slowly change from one color on the color wheel to the color next to it. My favorite color was the one that went from deep royal blue to deep royal purple. That stuff made the best vests!

We also had books - and patterns - and magazines. But the best part was, Vivian let me read all those books and patterns and magazines. It was good for her to have staff know what was available but it was great for us. I had an education that couldn't be beat. I absorbed everything. I was introduced to Elizabeth Zimmermann at the shop through her books. I bought them all and read them all. I started designing using her books and Vivian's encouragement.

During this time I also was given a chance to teach way before I was really ready. What was she thinking?!? But I got that first class under my belt and found out how I needed to change what I did and improve. I entered outfits I designed to the State Fair and came home with ribbons every time (not always first but ribbons none the less). I even ended up corresponding with Elizabeth Zimmermann briefly. This was a great time to knit!

Vivian also introduced me to weaving through the ridgid heddle looms she had at the shop to rent. Dad made me a 4 heddle table loom from some instructions I found at the library and then I ended up going to Siever's School in Washington Island, Wisconsin one summer to learn more about weaving. I came home with one of their 4 heddle floor looms and the next few years were dedicated to learning how to weave. More State Fair ribbons followed. Through it all, Vivian encouraged me and showed me what it was to be a mentor and friend.

As time passed I had to give up my Friday night and Saturdays at the Yarn Shed because I was a dietitian and had to work Saturday's at my full time job. But "The Shed" was still the place to go and hang out when possible. About the time I decided to quit being a dietitian (10 years was enough) Vivian was deciding to retire from the shop. I opened my own business with knitting machines and sewing machines in a different part of town so she gave me advise and well wishes.

My business survived 5 years but that's a story for another day. I, sad to say, got lazy with keeping up with Vivian and hadn't seen her for many, many years until the day of Mom's funeral. I turned around and there was Vivian, still supporting me when I needed it. What more could you ask for in a mentor!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Return of knitting talk

The past week has been busy and filled with many emotions. We had to deal with the loss of Mom and all the things that accompany it: notifying people, planning the services, hosting my brother and SIL at my house, seeing friends and family I haven't seen for MANY years, helping Dad to understand what happened, packing up her apartment, and oh so many things. Before anyone worries - I'm doing great. Mom had a good, long life and she's busy celebrating with God. You can't ask for more than that.

One person I saw that totally surprised me was Vivian Skoog. She was the owner of the Yarn Shed for many years and the person who is responsible for heading me down the path of knitting that I took. There's so much to tell about her I'll save it for another post. But - it was so wonderful to see her and I'm incredibly grateful she came to the services.

While Mom was in ER and later in the hospital I always had knitting with me. The socks below are what I worked on most often. They are Opal and a simple garter rib - my favorite for simple socks. I'll give you more details when I get them completed.

There was other knitting in the evenings and some crocheting. I made another Rust Goes Green market bag. This one was made from Sugar n Cream cotton - 3 balls of 3 different colors.

The base and bottom third is a beige/white combination. The middle is a beige/white/green combination and the top is a white/green combination. I thought changing the colorways like this would be fun and I was right. I like the way to turned out. Of course, as usual, I still need to sew on a button.
Other knitting that took place the past week was the "Socks that will not get finished". Not their real name but more an attitude I had about these. I started these socks back before Christmas for my SIL who is a fire captain (stop me if you've heard this story before). Anyway - she requested tall basic socks for under her fire boots. Tall to help prevent boot chafing. I ended up getting Maizy because the corn fiber is supposed to wick away the sweat. These socks took 3 balls.

I started at the toes and did my basic sock.For the body I decided on a 3x1 rib. Once I got up a bit on the leg I started adding a few stitches by making the back ribs 4x1. Every 10 rows I'd add and couple stitched until all the back ribs were 4x1. Once I used up and entire balls and started the second ball (each sock 1 1/2 balls) I started to decrease back down to 3x1 ribs the same way. This gives a little extra width for the calf but make the top tight enough to stay on.

The last 2 1/2 inches were 2x2 rib to help pull it in. You may notice the yarn look a little squishy. It looks like it is 3 plies with each ply being 3 plies. The strands are not totally even which gives is a bit more texture. I did have a small problem with splitting not it wasn't too bad.

I'd make another pair of socks out of this yarn but 2 things would change. I'd pick a color that I liked and I'd make them shorter out of a pattern that wasn't so boring!
Currently I'm working on the bag I said I'd design in honor of Mom. It's looking pretty good and I can't wait to be able to show you!