Wrapping up 2017!

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It’s almost time for me to make those resolutions that I never manage to keep … so this year, as I enter 2018, I am resolving to be kind, to think positively, and to remember to write 2018 on my checks!

For Queen Bee Knits, that means to get the planner for next year out, get my studio (atelier) clean and organized and to keep learning more about my craft. I had a great learning experience this year with the Year of Techniques hosted by Mason Dixon Knitting here in the USA. A few things that I loved about it were that I learned a few tricks that I can pass on to my students at work, I reviewed techniques that I’ve been using – many not very often – and I got to work with yarns that I wouldn’t normally have knitted because they’re UK-based yarns. I chose to purchase the kids that were offered for each project, not that I have completed them all! The yarns were wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed the new yarn experiences!  This was a wonderful collaboration and I would join in again if it is offered.

I’ve done a lot of knitting this year but I’d dare say that it was less than previous years because of my job at the Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine. I have often dreamed about what it would be like to work in or even own a yarn shop. I am gaining experience each day that I work there and I am finding that I really do love it! Working as a clerk and teacher, I go to work happy every day and I love helping our customers find their knitting mojo! I also enjoy being part of the local movement – we are a small, family-owned business (68 years old in 2017) and each customer that I encourage to make a purchase supports our community and local business. Waterville is not a fancy, thriving, seasonal, coastal community but there are lots of family small businesses struggling along.

This week I learned that another local small business yarn shop, Over the Rainbow, in Rockland, Maine is closing its doors. My heart breaks to see another local yarn shop going out of business. I’ve visited OTR many times and will miss having it on my list of places to visit when in Rockland. OTR joins Quilt Divas that closed a year or so ago.

😦 This is me making a sad face.

We’ve had a great year personally … my daughter was married, my other daughter booked a Broadway show. The husband and I entertained a few visitors at our house and traveled a little bit to be entertained by others. Our family is healthy and thriving and we are so grateful for our health, too.

I’m finishing up a few knitting projects and am looking forward to some pleasure knitting.

IMG_2248I’m knitting a striped baby blanket for my sister-in-law to give to one of her employees as a gift. I’m using Encore worsted (baby items must be washable and dry-able) in a navy and white strip with an apple green i-cord edge. It is the nature of stockinette stitch to curl and it’s curling a bit at the edges but the baby won’t mind! It’s really cute! I’m half way around with the edge … getting there! Then I’ll wash, block and send it.

I’ve finished and will block (today!) a hat for a college friend who has a friend who is going through chemotherapy. It’s a lovely soft alpaca in DK weight. The pattern is by Susan B. Anderson, “Ruche Beret” in the Weekend Hats book. I love it’s simple lines and may have to make one for myself!

I’m also working on another hat for a customer at the shop. She bought yarn and is using the 1898 Hat (free) pattern on Ravelry. This hat is very popular in Maine in the winter – especially this winter because it’s been wicked cold! Knitted with worsted weight yarn, it’s a one-skein-wonder, too! I’m knitting “mine” in Cascade Eco Duo in a great colorway – it’s so soft and it will be super warm, too! I have some Eco Duo in my stash … hmmm. IMG_2249My little boy dog was sitting in my lap the other morning when I was swatching with the US 7 needle. He doesn’t like the yarn to touch him and he kept stretching out farther and farther on my legs. 🙂 I love him!

I have many (MANY) project bags with UFOs in them. Projects that were set aside for Christmas knitting. That’s a whole new blog post! For today, I’m done. I’ve rested my hands, had a little lunch and now it’s time to get back to knitting! I love my work!

Happy New Year to my readers … all two or three of you! 🙂 May we all be blessed with love and kindness, good health and warm yarn!

Gone knitting!

And they’re D. O. N. E.!

Three projects hit the finished projects file today. It feels good.

My daughter in Chicago asked me to make her a cowl in a dark gray, chunky yarn. I found her a lovely gray bulky merino and alpaca blend (Knit Picks Cadena) in the Kestrel colorway. The pattern wants three skeins of yarn and knits up really quickly. Of course, it’s bulky yarn! I think she’s going to love it. And it didn’t break the bank. The pattern, free on Ravelry, is the GAP-tastic Cowl. Knitting it is super simple and no seams. You cast on a bazillion stitches but it’s a short knit! It can be worn singly or wrapped double. A fun cowl – and one that I was honored to knit at her request. (She’d seen a bulky cowl in a store and thought that since it’s my business, knitting, she’d ask me to make her one!)

Gaptastic Cowl in Knit Picks Cadena, Kestrel

Gaptastic Cowl in Knit Picks Cadena, Kestrel

The seed stitch fabric is just lovely … and it feels nice and soft with the addition of the alpaca fiber.

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Next, I finished her headband.

The pattern that I used was a cabled headband, “Green Forest”. I love the seed stitch (matches the GAP-tastic cowl) and the cables. I normally would make a cabled pattern with plain yarn as the alpaca sort of softens or makes the pattern less visible but I wanted to use this yarn! So, I did. And I’m pleased at the success. I think she’s going to love wearing the headband in Chicago this fall and winter! OK, maybe fall. I added a second button hole so that she can tighten up the headband if the alpaca yarn stretches a little bit. And I made her headband 32 repeats of the 4-row pattern. I think I will have to make another one for my sister-in-law in Massachusetts.

Green Forest cabled hea

Green Forest cabled headband

Last, but not least, is the sample dish cloth that I made to teach a new bunch of knitters at work. Or at least my boss! She wants to learn to knit because she wants to knit dishcloths! I think it will be a riot and a half teaching my wonderful boss. And an added bonus will be if any of the other staff choose to join us! It has also given me a great idea for Christmas gifts for my co-workers! But, suffice it to say, it’s a secret for now!

Basic (easy) Dish Cloth

Basic (easy) Dish Cloth

I know I haven’t been blogging much since I started working and I haven’t really been knitting that much either. Life has taken on a different turn for now and I am quite satisfied by the way it’s going. I love my job and the people that I am working with. It’s already November! A couple of weeks and we have a long weekend for Thanksgiving and then before we know it, we’ll have several weeks off for Christmas! Before we know it, I’ll be heading back to Maine for the summer.

I’d rather be knitting … in Maine any day! Can’t wait to be on my summer porch!

Gone knitting!

Alpaca & Kids & Finished Objects

They're Here!

They’re Here!

It’s a beautiful gray day today and the last of a bunch of fun with my daughter who, with her boyfriend and her new rescued pup, drove from Chicago to visit us. We’ve had some great hot weather and some more typical Maine weather (gray and cool). And we’ve had a lot of low-key fun.

We had lobster twice. I bought some alpaca yarn and knitted an i-cord cover/cozy for her iPhone earbuds. I’ve done a pair before for myself with some scrap yarn. They’re fun & don’t get knotted up in your bag. (Pictures Coming)

Meanwhile, I’ve finished a Friday Knitting Group charity project and I love it!

I bought some new yarn for a charity project ...

I bought some new yarn for a charity project …

It’s a one skein project (at least it was for me) that my Friday knitting group is making for one of our members who is legally blind and having some family challenges. We’re each knitting a square and our teacher will put the squares together. I love the way my square turned out – the colors are vivid and cheerful. The pattern, the Lizard Ridge Afghan, is a free pattern from Ravelry. It only took a couple of hours. The yarn is Noro Kureyon and it’s not too horribly pricey but if you were going to make the full size (24 squares), it’s going to cost you a fortune. It might also be nice with a couple of plain blocks or pattern blocks in a solid color. It starts out looking like an egg crate but I’m told it will block out flat … can’t wait to see the finished results! I’m sure it will be appreciated.

Lizard Ridge Afghan ... one square with love from the Queen Bee

Lizard Ridge Afghan … one square with love from the Queen Bee

My grand-dog, Willow, loved her first couple of boat rides. She particularly likes sniffing all the new smells in Maine – and she loves to watch squirrels. She’s a rescue dog and just moved to Chicago two weeks ago from Missouri and has already driven to Maine. One well-traveled girl!

She is very sweet and calmer than our one-year-old chocolate lab puppy … unless her parents are out of the room! 🙂 She has some “hang ups” (she’s afraid of the dark and has some separation anxiety … howls in their apartment … ) having been a stray who lived on the streets of Saint Louis before she was picked up and has lived in a shelter and then a foster home prior to coming to live with my daughter. I think she’s going to be a great dog. She just needs a lot of love and patience. She’s already making progress.

My new Chicago grand-dog, Willow

My new Chicago grand-dog, Willow

I love having my kids around more than anything. And this visit has been lots of fun. And I even got some knitting done between cocktail cruises!

Cocktail cruise ... daughter "binocularing" and her boyfriend "two fisted drinking" ... four dogs, four adults!

Cocktail cruise … daughter “binocularing” and her boyfriend “two fisted drinking” … four dogs, four adults! Lots of laughs!

Gone knitting!

 

Wet Blocking vs. Steam Blocking vs. Spritz Blocking

Some tools you'll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

Some tools you’ll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

It took me awhile, when I started knitting, to figure out just what blocking means. There are a few (maybe several) terms that knitters use regularly that are not really clear to those who are new to the craft. So, I’m going to try to give a general description of two often-used blocking techniques – wet blocking and steam blocking.

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Blocked Shawl – wool. Wet blocked.

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Close up of what happens to garments when blocked – the lacy details just come alive!

For most sturdy fibers, I like to wet block. Wool is a sturdy fiber (and if it has a little bit of man-made fiber blended in, it’s still sturdy enough). I would also suggest wet blocking linen garments. I’ve read that some people “whap” their linen once soaked … sounds violent to me but I know it does get “softer” when washed a couple of times.

To wet block a garment, you want to immerse the garment completely in cool water mixed with a little bit of wool wash like Eucalan or Soak. Gently lift your garment out of the water and gently squeeze the extra water out. Never (NEVER) wring hand-knit garments. I usually put the garment on a clean bath towel, roll it up and then press gently to get even more water out of the garment. Then lay it flat on a blocking board or a new clean towel on your guest room bed. Or on an infrequently traveled area of wall-to-wall carpet. Gently pull the garment to the right shape and measurements and let it dry. It may take a couple of days.

An alternate method is to steam block. I set my garment on a clean bath towel and with my steam iron set to the steam setting, Pin the garment into the shape/size that you want it to be. I hold the iron over (without touching) the garment and give it a jolt of steam or two or three. The heat and moisture will relax the fibers enough to make it possible to give it a little bit of adjustment. Let it dry completely. (Another way I’ve heard some people steam block is by using a wet (clean) pillow case on top of the garment and putting the iron onto the pillow, pushing the steam button, until the pillow case is dry. This is a gentler method than wet blocking and you should get the same result.

Note: If your garment is made of hand-dyed wool, and the color isn’t “fixed” and you see dye in the water when wet blocking, you can also add a little bit of white vinegar (a cap-full or two) which should help “fix” the dye. If color is bleeding, keep rinsing with cool water until the water runs mostly clear.

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette (it’s for sale, if you’re interested)

The last method that I want to discuss is spritz blocking. If using this method (which is good for any fibers you have doubts about soaking in water or steaming with an iron … in my house that’s alpaca, silk, mohair, cashmere and anything I’m not sure of … I pin it into shape and then spritz it with a plant sprayer. Make sure the sprayer is clean (hasn’t been used for cleaning chemicals or anything) and filled with water and just spritz the garment until it’s moderately damp. Leave it there until it’s dry.

There you have it. A primer, if you will, on blocking. I hope this helps!

Gone knitting!

Finished Objects

I’ve been wrapping up a few UFOs again and thought you might like to see some photos of them and hear what I thought about the yarn and patterns, etc.

Prima Dogma by Queen Bee Knits first order is ready to go out. I’ve finished two sweaters for Jan’s fur family (they live out in the San Francisco area). Jan has two Japanese Chins and these sweaters are for her little girl.

First, my original design, “Señorita Lolita”

"Senorita Lolita" - custom knit for Jan

I originally bought some wool fingering weight yarn in a peachy pink. Jan had asked for a pink color for this sweater but left the shade to my discretion. I started knitting and decided I really didn’t like the yarn and ordered some Koigu KPPM in their solids color way. I love the way this sweater turned out. It’s pretty and feminine and the ruffle is just right. I also knitted the flower in various “scraps” of fingering yarn in KPPM and wools that I have in my stash. The first flower I knitted was way too dull but this one – I especially like the way the green leaf turned out – I think is just perfect!

"Boyfriend" a PrimaDogma by Queen Bee Knits design

Lola was kind enough to model twice – she is not the dog who loves to wear clothing – and this is the “Boyfriend” sweater knit for Jan’s Japanese Chin. I love the colors of this sweater. I knit it with Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky and it was a pleasure to knit. The yarn is so soft and will be so warm on those Northern California wintery days! This pattern is a seriously altered version of the sweater in “Dress Your Dog” by Sys Fredens. It’s designed to be bulky and loose like a boyfriend’s sweater would be. I think it looks adorable on Lola and can’t wait to see Jan’s photos.

Fingerless Mittens - I'll be knitting until the cows come home!

Three pairs of fingerless mittens that I’ve knit for my SIL, Annie, who will be gifting them to some lucky ladies! The grey pair on the left is knit with pure alpaca DK weight yarn from Maine. I bought it at an alpaca farm in Washington, Maine. It’s so soft and will be warm … but alpaca is well-known to also be very light weight. This one pair took approximately 8 hours to complete but I love the way they turned out. Needless to say, however, I had to find another pattern that didn’t take quite so long if I am going to get the rest of the 15 pairs finished and delivered before Christmas (or sometime next year!) The two pairs on the right are simpler construction and knitted in a DK weight wool from Maine, too. This is a hand-dyed wool from French Hill Farm in Solon, ME that I bought at a farmer’s market. I loved the rich ocean colors that go from purple to turquoise to limey green and then to yellow. I also love this pattern – it’s simple and lets the yarn be the focus.

And last but not least, the most recent threesome. More fingerless mittens. (I haven’t even woven in the ends of the left-most pair yet).

On the left, grey wool fingerless mittens that are about as simple as they come but I really like this pattern and will be making more of these. They knit up quickly in worsted weight wool and I will be embroidering a snowflake on the back of the hand to give it a little bit of character. The two green pairs are knitted in a more “Aran” cabled pattern – and I love, love, love cables. It must be my Irish heritage that comes out through my fingertips when I get sticks and string together. The yarn is a 50-50 alpaca/wool blend and it’s lovely yarn. Also worsted weight, this pattern knitted up in about 3 hours per glove … not too bad. I seem unable to knit up a glove in much less than that and 6 hours each pair isn’t an awful lot of time to spend. Wish I knitted a bit faster but I don’t.

I’ve discovered a great knitting in the round tip, though for knitters. If you criss-cross the first and last stitches (pass the last stitch to the left needle to knit first and pass the first stitch to the right needle to knit last – here’s a youtube video that shows you how to do this a bit better than my explanation. Love it! And she’s absolutely right, the little divot at the beginning (I always just started knitting) is gone! Woo! Hoo!

Gone knitting!

 

UFOs No More!

Woo! Hoo! I’m wrapping up some (long overdue?) projects … it feels really good to get them off the needles and into use. Socks from hell. These are the ones that I tried (and won’t try again – at least for awhile) to do two socks on one needle. It was a struggle to get the hang of knitting two socks on one needle but I’m always open to a new knitting challenge. This one was OK until I came to turning the heel. I asked Betty (my Maine knitting teacher) who couldn’t explain her method to me and did it for me. I’m sure there are others  – perhaps one person who is in my new knitting group – who like to have their socks exactly the same and that’s what this method is best known for. Perhaps, after a while, I’ll decide to give it another shot. For now, I am glad that these socks are off the needles and I may just have to put them on my feet today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Bag Blue. I have had this yarn hanging around in my stash (yes, I have a pretty amazing stash … what’s the big deal?) since my eldest daughter (now 27 1/2) was around two. My son got quite a giggle about this this morning on the phone and pointed out that the yarn has been traveling around with me for more than two decades. Well, yeah, and so?! 🙂 Anyway, this project grew out of needing a properly-fitting bag for my new Mac. I used a seed stitch for the main body of the bag and then used a more stretchable 2×2 rib (in two colors because I ran out of blue) for the pouch on front that holds the cord. I think it came out well. The black leather button seals it all up and adds a pop – different texture and different color family. I am really proud of the end result and now I need somewhere to travel!

Prima Dogma Bulky Turtle(neck) This is the first half of my first Prima Dogma by Queen Bee Knits first order. It’s based loosely on a design that I’ve made before but needed to change quite a bit in order to fit a teeny-weeny dog. Truthfully, I’ve knit this sweater twice and “frogged” it twice before I got it right. Now, I have to type up the pattern and will likely start offering these for sale in my Etsy shop. My client asked me to make it pink with grey stripes … I love the colors that I chose and I hope she will like them, too. The sweater is styled to look like you’re wearing your boyfriend’s sweater … a bit big and bulky but oh so very warm and cozy. Yarn is a bulky baby alpaca – super soft and it will also be super warm! Before I block it, Lola will model and I’ll post photos.

Next on the needles… Prima Dogma for Queen Bee Knits Señorita Lolita sweater in a pretty peachy pink wool. Not sure what the flower will be yet. Stay tuned! Also, a hat for my son. Another custom pattern in specific stripes – black, grey and orange – with cables and earflaps. Also black socks (they’re started but haven’t gotten very far) for my son.

Left to finish … my Noni felted bag. Knitting and felting is done but the lining and handles need to be added so I can tote it around. It’s so pretty … maybe tomorrow? I’m not a super-sewer!

We’re off to get outside in this beautiful cooler-but-warming-up weather! It’s already past noon! How does that happen!

Gone knitting!

 

Duck, Duck …

The sun is out today and I’m typing on my favorite desk in my favorite office … my lap is my desk and the front porch is my office. We have a new family of ducks who have been coming by to visit … and get a little bit of bread from me! 🙂

Listening to President Obama’s speech at the University of Richmond while I blog. In the sun! Just having the sun out makes my attitude so much better. I’ve finished the two baby hats that I’ve been working on and they’re really cute. I wish I had a doll or a stuffed animal to put them on for photographs. Neither my hand nor my yarn spool makes a great baby face! Regardless, they’ve turned out well.

Hat #1 is the Aviatrix Hat from Justine Turner (and a free download on Ravelry.) I knit this hat in Plymouth Yarn’s Baby Alpaca DK (colorway 753) in a wonderful grey-blue color. I love it! There are two buttons on the hat so that when baby’s chinny-chin-chin gets all pudgy and kissable, mom can loosen the strap and it will still fit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hat #2 is Garnstudio’s Dropps Bonnet in Rib in Alpaca . It’s such a cute hat and I know it’s going to grow well with the baby as the 3×3 rib is really stretchy. The reason I really like this hat is that it goes over baby’s head like a hood – and they can’t pull it off! I knit this with Reynolds Revue 100% Merino wool in (color 1431) a raisin color – it’s a pretty brownish wine color (in these photos it looks way more pink than in real life!)  that I think will be very “in” this year since it’s an organic color and found in nature. The only “issue” I have with this hat is, I think, the nature of merino wool in that it shows all the increases around the bottom of the hat. Fortunately, it will be under the baby’s jacket but it’s still aggravating for me to be able to see the “irregularity” of the stitches.

I’m having a really proud moment, though, because I tried something that I’ve never done before. (Although, my knitting friend Bob in Ohio did it for me once several years ago.) Anyway, after reviewing several videos, I did a single crochet edging around the opening of the hat and it looks great! I wish I had a doll or a stuffed animal here that I could put the hat on to show it off better … hope my new mom will send me a photo of baby in the hat and for the meantime, my photos on my antique spool will have to do. That’s life!

I found a really quick baby mittens pattern to send along with the hats … without having to knit a thumb gusset, it’s a really quick knit and very quick, indeed!

I’ve been thinking that I need to design and knit up a case for my new computer … cabled? or patterned? lined? unlined? We’ll see what I come up with. I have some really cool yarn that I bought out in northern California in December that has some cat hair in it … and pretty sparkly blue, too. I think that will be my yarn choice! I also have the “Kate Middleton” shawl that I bought some new yarn for. I’ll let you know what I decide!

So, from my porch office with the breezes blowing gently … gone knitting!