Needles, Needles, Needles

I’m working a lot knitting socks. Trying some new patterns and trying different needles, too.

Knitter's Pride Dreamz DPN

Knitter’s Pride Dreamz DPN

I have a set of new Knitter’s Pride “dreamz” 6-inch double pointed needles in US1 (2.25mm) needles and they’re going to help me knit up some wonderful socks using  Susan B. Anderson’s “How I Make My Socks” pattern and Patons Kroy Socks in Spring Leaf Stripes colorway (that I’ve had in my stash for a few months.) I am really liking these needles. They are smooth but not slippery. The tips are pointy enough but I’d like to have a little more tip … they are almost rounded off at the tip rather than pointy and pointy is better when you’re using fine yarns. At this price point, however, they are very reasonable and they are nice to work with.

Signature Needle Arts DPN

Signature Needle Arts DPN

My other socks are on my Signature Needle Arts 6-inch US1 DPNs. (One of which I seem to have lost already. I am hoping that I left it at the office on Friday and that I will find it when I return tomorrow. You’ll understand why one would worry about the loss of one needle when you are told that I paid $48 for a set of four needles. Thus, one needle is valued at $12 which, by the way, is more than a set of 5 Dreamz needles.) The yarn that I am using is Gale’s Art Wonder Sock in the Graffiti colorway. I love this yarn’s color and it was one that I fell in love with and went to buy immediately after casting my eyes upon it. That doesn’t happen often. The Signature needles, while pricey, are worth every cent. I love the stiletto points and the yarn slips easily over them without slipping off them. I’d say that these are my favorites and I will collect more as my pocketbook allows.

I’ve had many (many!) sets of needles over the course of my knitting career. From the “cheap-o” needles that you can buy on sale at the big box craft stores to my pricey Signatures. I bought my first boxed set of needles at a half-price going out of business sale in Cincinnati, Ohio. I thought spending $50 for a set of Denise Interchangeable Needles was a huge expense. And I loved the needles. Until I discovered Addis! Addi cords were so much more flexible and they’ve been through several iterations since my first circular needles. One summer I bought a set of HIya Hiya needles (around $70- $80?) and I fell in love again. The transition between the needles and cords were much smoother than the Denise needles and the single circs that I bought here and there. No matter what brand of bamboo circular needle I seemed to buy, the transitions were often rough.

And then one  year I took some classes with Annie Modesitt and discovered Signatures. I’ve often asked for them for my birthday and Christmas and mother’s day, too. I tend to buy 40″ circulars because I can use them in magic loop in so many applications. I have one pair of straights and one pair of their DPNs. They are all magnificent and the tips are nice and pointy.

Limited Edition Knitter's Pride Dreamz (well worn!)

Limited Edition Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (well worn!)

I was gifted one more lovely set of needles a couple of Christmases ago. They are a limited edition set of Knitter’s Pride Dreams interchangeable circular needles. They have been so well used for so often (and taken with me when I travel or teach) that the box is starting to show some wear. I love the needles. The cords are nice and flexible and the transitions are mostly smooth. I have a couple of needles that are not as smooth as others. But, over all, this set is a decent price point and they are pretty colors and they are great to knit with.

Needles, like friends, are a personal choice. We all have our favorites or besties. None are “bad”, some are better for different projects. Have you ever travelled with a friend who you can only take in small doses or one who snores? It makes travel a challenge! Needles are the same! When you have the wrong needles, your project will be a challenge. I like to use bamboo with “slippery” yarn (like mohair). I use circulars for almost everything these days but I still like to knit socks on DPNs, too.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

Gone knitting.

Still Learning!

I may be creeping toward “old” but I am still learning every day. The lesson that I am learning right now is self-care. I’ve spent the majority of my life taking care of others; my children, my (now ex-) husband, my work, the kids at school, my dogs. You get the drift. I know that the old airplane adage is true. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you help others… I’ve just never been very good at it. Today, my body has given me no choice. I have to stop and take care of myself.

I’ve taken myself to two urgent care offices in the last week and am not sure that I won’t be visiting my primary care physician before tomorrow ends. I have way more prescriptions than I’ve ever had on my kitchen counter. And I’m not all better in less than 24 hours. I just keep trying to remember to be patient. I’m really such a lucky girl to be as healthy as I am. Need I add the caveat, “at my age”?

Yup, they're all mine!

Yup, they’re all mine!

So, you ask, what are you doing to take care of yourself today? I am working hard to stay still. I’m working on my test knitting project. This is the first time I’ve done any test knitting and I’m excited and anxious about it. I know I know how to knit and have knitted for other people before. But I’ve never knitted a sample for a new book before. So, I’m learning to be more confident. It’s only a pair of mittens for heaven’s sake! So, that’s my big project today. To take one stitch at a time and get ‘er done! I know I can do it (and I’m excited to be offered the opportunity!) Every new knitting experience that I take on makes me grow as a knitter and as a person, too. I learn more about myself and gain confidence with each new attempt.

My pattern is called “Fannar” and it is being stitched up in Cascade 220 on my US #8 needles. I’ll share more as it is allowed. For now, this project is being kept in the project bag! 🙂

My Cooperative Press Test Knit Project … just starting!

My Cooperative Press Test Knit Project … just starting!

So, for today, I’m managing many more medicines than I am accustomed to and I’m working on a project that is challenging my knitting boundaries … and will expand them without a doubt! I’ve helped to fund an Annie Modesitt book, History on Two Needles Exploring Art History Through Modern Hand Knits and now I’m knitting samples for Shannon Okey’s new book, Frozen: Aurora Borealis Mittens, due out “soon”.

Gone knitting!

Great Class & Frustrating WIPs

I feel badly that I am not knitting and blogging more but my days are quite full with my “new” job and life after work. So, the blogging and knitting have taken a back seat for now.

I had a great sock class at The Black Sheep this morning. Five students took on the “Lesser Evil” socks pattern, learning the Magic Loop technique and a Turkish cast on at the toe. Two of the five left class with two toes all ready for knitting the foot. The other three were also well on their way to success with this pattern. I do love teaching knitting and I love sharing new ideas and ways of thinking about knitting with people. It’s supposed to be fun, too!

Noro Shawl

Noro Shawl

My knitting projects (WIP=work in progress), however, are far from satisfying. I have decided to frog the Noro shawl and use that beautiful Noro yarn to knit up a Bermuda shawl. I am not thrilled with the pattern from the Noro magazine after all and would rather have a light colored, colorful shawl/scarf that I love. So, I’ll be frogging later today.

I have all the pieces knitted for the French Press Knits Felted Slippers. And when I use all my seaming experience it still looks awful.  I know, intuitively, that the felting will make all sorts of flaws disappear. But, for goodness sake, it shouldn’t be such a battle. For today, I’ve set the pieces and the pattern aside and I’m going to tackle it again another day.

I am waiting for yarn to come from Knit Picks (duh! I somehow sent the yarn to the house in Maine instead of the house in Florida where we actually live most of the time … and where we are now!) Fortunately, I caught it and Knit Picks has re-routed the yarn to Florida (think it was Freudian?) I am looking forward to making the Gaptastic Cowl for my daughter in Chicago.

I have signed up for the 30-day Sweater Challenge. Not sure how I really feel about the project considering my time constraints BUT I may have a look and see what I can come up with.

And lastly, I have the fingerless gloves, Composed Mitts, that I found on Facebook and happened to have the pattern in a 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. The yarn is beautiful and if I could decide that I like the bobbles on the cuff edge of the mitts, we’d be in good shape. I have already tried starting the pattern twice: once knitting the pattern as written and once knitting the pattern using Annie Modesitt’s bobbles. I didn’t really like either one. Perhaps a picot cuff edge?

I have N’s slippers to be felted, too … since mine are being set aside, perhaps I should go ahead and felt his rather than waiting for mine. Or maybe not. 🙂

Gone knitting.

Call Me “Teacher”

I haven’t written a lot about knitting in the last few posts. You must think I’m not knitting …

Well, I certainly am knitting but it’s been such an odd assortment of “oddities” that you may not believe it. I’ve finished a seed stitch bordered baby blanket and a newborn hat to match. I have finished a seed stitch dog jacket, as yet unnamed, to add to the Prima Dogma line by Queen Bee Knits. It turned out really cute, if I do say so myself! No pictures yet, sorry!

I’ve also been working on samples and demos at the Michaels store where I’ll be teaching knitting in April. I am not sure whether I misunderstood or if the store managers were unclear but, whatever, we’ll figure it out! I’ve got a calendar together for April and have sent out two emails to potential students who have been interested enough to give me their contact information. Signs will go up in the store next week when I get back from my trip to Chicago – in the yarn aisle. I’ll also have a few samples … I hope! I’ll be knitting them in Chicago with my own yarn. A couple of hats and a couple of fingerless mitts … and I’m hopeful that the classes will be attended!

I’ve knitted one uterus for the “government free v-jj” project headed by Annie Modesitt and another of her friends. I’m getting political? Who knew? But it’s fun to have an opinion and take the risk of sending a knitted female body part to a couple of Florida politicians. One as a thank you and one as a “hands off my uterus!”. 🙂

I’m also knitting swatches for my certification. I’d love to get them all finished and sent off by the end of the month. Not sure it will happen but it’s a goal to head toward.

All in all, life is good and I am feeling lighter and more hopeful. It’s nice to have a job to come home to after our summer vacation. Time to get some Queen Bee Knits patterns ready for test knitting (look out Ravelry! and Knit or Knot!) and to get some pieces knitted up for my shop.

Gone knitting … well, at least I’ll be dreaming about knitting!

Annie says … On slipping and decreasing

I “promised” way back when (I took the weekend courses with the wonderful, beautiful, talented, Annie Modesitt) to post some tips that I gleaned from the classes. There were so many wonderful bits that she offered and, today, I’d like to share a couple of those with you!

Tip 1

When asked to slip a stitch, the default is always to slip the stitch purl-wise by inserting the right needle into the stitch to be slipped from the right to the left in front of the left needle.

Insert right needle as if to purl (from right to left in front of left needle) ... OMG, my thumb has dry skin!

Tip 1.1

Annie attributes the following tip to her friend Sally Melville (I have all of her books. Now, it’s time to actually read them rather than looking at the pretty pictures and reading snippets!)

When slipping stitches: if you’re going to use the stitch again in the same row, slip the stitch knit-wise. If not, slip the stitch purl-wise (the default, see tip 1).

Tip 2

Annie has her way of decreasing down to a science. When you want to decrease with stitches leaning to the left, you would “typically” be told to “SSK” or “slip, slip, knit”. To do this you slip one stitch from the left to right needle knit-wise as if you were going to knit it (see tip 1.1), slip another stitch from the left to right needle knit-wise and then knit the two together (bring the left needle through the front of both stitches on the right needle, wrap the yarn as if you were knitting, slide the new stitch on the right needle and slip the two old stitches off the left needle.)

Slip - Insert right needle into stitch from left to right as if to knit

Knit - Insert left needle left to right into the front of the 2 slipped stitches

An easier way …

SSK is very manipulative (to the stitches, anyway!) The more you manipulate the stitches, the more likely they are to get stretched out. So, you end up with the same thing if you K2togTBL (knit two together through the back loop) or as Annie writes it K2togL (knit two together left). To K2togTBL, insert the right needle through the back loop of two stitches, wrap the yarn as if to knit, slip new stitch onto the right needle and the two old stitches off the left needle. One stitch decreased. The decreased stitch leans to the left.

Insert right needle through the back loop of two stitches

Another way to think about this (decreasing to lean either left or right) is to watch your needles.

A K2tog (Annie would write this K2togR) will lean to the right (in the direction of the direction of your left hand needle) …

K2tog - right needle points to right ... decrease will lean right

SSK or K2togTBL or T2togL will lean to the left … again, watch your needles!

K2togTBL - Right hand needle is pointing to the left, decrease will lean left

The final result … whichever way you choose to make a decreased stitch … is the same. Look at the first two (on left side of needle) stitches. One is a SSK and one is a T2togTBL.

After ... two left leaning decreases (one on l. is K2togTBL, on r. SSK)

Tip 3 and Tip 4

Totally unrelated to knitting except for the fact that it’s about a knitter.

Annie uses Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals make up. I’m going to look into it because I love the idea of sunblock being in the makeup!

She also loves to knit on Signature needles. I’m coveting my first pair and will report on their beauty when the gift fairy brings me some.

But for now, I’ve gone knitting!

Felted Bag with Annie Modesitt

Bee-fore (LOL!)

This is the bag that I made in one of my knitting classes with Annie Modesitt a couple of weekends ago. I finally got around to felting it and getting it photographed. (Because we all know how busy the Queen Bee is these days?!) Anyway … you can see the stitches and the lovely orange diamond knit by Annie herself!

Orange diamond by Annie

And now, the final, finished, felted piece.

Finished and Felted

The stitch definition is all but gone! The natural wool (aka ivory yarn) was from California, straight from the farm and felted a bit differently than the other yarns, but that’s OK! I am very pleased with the way it turned out and would like to make the larger version. This one is too small to fold over and add handles to … not sure it’ll be particularly useful, but it sure it cute!

Gone knitting.

Knitted Name Tag – On the Way to Naples (FL)

My Four-legged Boy!

This was the view from my front seat – my little fur-boy in his car seat. They seem to like it because they can see out the window (if they’re to asleep). We’re on the way to see N’s mother in a nursing home in Naples, FL.  As usual, I am knitting as N drives.

A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege of knitting with a whole gang of new faces (and Annie Modesitt!) Well, it turns out that these women are all a part of Orlando’s Knit or Knot Guild (the Central Florida Chapter of the Knitting Guild Association).

Wednesday evening I’ll be knitting for the first time, post-Annie, with these ladies whose company I have really enjoyed. Well, the long and the short of it is that they’ve apparently been talking about making name tags for quite some tome … and Wednesday is the day! So, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do for my name tag. And I decided that the only thing I could do is knit one!

And when I really started to think about what I would knit … square, rectangle … I had to do a bee skep and bees (of course!) So, off I went into my stash and found some perfect-colored (honey-yellow) Cotton Ease yarn and in my “scraps” basket some black. And off I went!

Materials? Check.

I’m quite pleased with the way it’s turning out. I used one of the techniques that Annie demonstrated and, with a couple of spacing challenges, got my name “written” on it. The most challenging, however, has been the single crochet edge that I’m trying to put around it. I’ve pulled it out a couple of times and will likely do it (at least) once more.

Almost there ... got to get it home for the finishing touches!

Gone knitting (well, truthfully, single crocheting).

Annie-isms … The Rules

So, having paid for the weekend with Annie Modesitt (reasonable though it was!) I thought I’d milk it for all it’s worth! Get it? … Milk it? … Cow? (Supposed to be a joke … my kids always told me I’m not funny but I know that I can be. LOL!)

Love!

There were several knitting tips and life tips that Annie imparted to our group along the way and I wanted to share some of them with you. Because you deserve it. And because I think so often that things that apply to knitting also apply to living.

Ponder this:

Annie’s Three Rules

#1 – I’ll tell you later (Yes, this is what she said … not kidding!)

#2 – During class, I (this is Annie speaking, not me … although the rule is so appropriate for a classroom setting, I may just steal the rule!) should be the only one talking.

#3 – Don’t rip out the knitting that you’ve done in class. It’s hard to do a post-mortem without a body in the room.

And her number one rule … are you ready for it? Drum roll, please …

Don’t say anything about yourself that you wouldn’t want your daughter to say about herself (that you wouldn’t want to hear your daughter say about herself).

Saying negative things about ourselves only brings us more of the same.

Conversely, saying positive things about ourselves only brings us more of the same.

Interestingly, I found this on one of my Facebook favorites this morning.

Acting As If (with credit to happiness in your life dot com)

It’s a relatively new favorite page, but a favorite all the same. Primarily because it’s all about being positive – and I believe that you have to act as if … we believe what we tell ourselves … and if we tell ourselves positive things, we’ll attract more positive to our lives and we’ll be happier. Sounds easy, right?

One of my college friends reminded me that this was similar to the way that Abileen (think the book/movie ‘The Help’) talked to the little girl that she cared for because she never heard it from her mother. So true! That little girl (or boy, let’s not discriminate) needs to hear our mother tell us we’re special. That first intimate relationship with another human being is so important for our emotional and personal development and it’s crucial to becoming who we really are. And because so many of us didn’t hear that from our mothers, we can heal that inner little child by telling ourselves things we need to know.

So, for today, I’m practicing telling myself positive things. Anything practiced can become a   habit – and I really believe that this will bring even more happiness into my life.

Gone knitting!

A Weekend with Annie Modesitt

Knit or Knot Group

OMG! She is fabulous!

Day 1 – Friday

Classes on Friday were Embellishments and Heel! Learn Toe UP Socks with Mutt-Luks!

Embellishments Swatch

You can see we did several different embellishments. I, personally, love love love the little dreadlocks! Anyway, you’ll see that there are several rows of garter stitch (just to warm up our fingers!) and then the first embellishment was the “dreadlocks”. Next, bobbles. These are nice perky bobbles with no droop or hole underneath. I love the idea of using these as buttons. Next we did a few rows of cables … without a cable needle. A great technique because, Annie says, using the cable needles stretches the yarn and sometimes makes for a gap or hole in the fabric. This technique will not! Last, but certainly not least, we did a couple of different bind offs … a picot bind off (on the right) and an i-cord bind off (on the left). The picot bind off could be used as closure for a cardigan sweater, for example, with some lovely bobbles as buttons. The i-cord band could include i-cord loops or frogs. I’ll be playing with a few of these ideas. I’ve played with adding i-cord to a flat garment but never edging a garment with i-cord!

(PS) My swatch is sitting on one of the books that I bought at the classes which Annie has written, Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. The second book I bought was this one:

Cheaper than Therapy is a collection of stories that were gathered by Annie. Since I’m a one book at a time kind of girl, I’ve not really dug into either one yet. But I am looking forward to them both!

The second half of our technique classes on Friday was a toe-up sock with a different (and better) toe and a different heel … an after thought heel of sorts, made with short rows. We didn’t really make a sock but we started (duh!) with making the toe and then knitted several rounds of the “sock” before adding some scrap yarn to mark where the heel will go. I still need to go back and finish the “sock” and I’ll show you pictures at a later date … or I’ll add them to this posting.

Day 2- Entrelac Lace

Saturday we did entrelac. Lots of entrelac. Mind-boggling entrelac!

Entrelac Swatch

We started out with our work flat, working back and forth in entrelac. I really like the look of  the entrelac (especially in two colors). It’s such a harlequin look. With the idea that entrelac can also be worked in the round, we then joined our work and then made the squares bigger and worked the top ones in lace. It was fascinating to think about taking a somewhat complicated technique and making it more complicated but the lace skirt pattern that Annie used as her example is really lovely and I would love to make something similar!

Day 3- The Universal Mitered Bag/ Modular Knitting

Sunday we made a small Mitered Bag. Using three colors, we learned how to form the interlocking triangles in different sizes and how to construct a bag (to be felted) using the technique. I found this technique really easy to follow and really enjoyed it. Annie even knitted on my bag to show how to do some of the steps … thus, I have a bright orange and a couple of tiny gray “diamonds” (on the left) which she gave me permission to pull out – but who in their right mind would pull out Annie Modesitt’s knitting? I think it makes my bag all the more special!

My Mitered Bag

This is the bag before felting. Notice the really cool “edge” at the top where the purple and cream yarn are twisted.

Two Rounds of Twisted Edging - Looks like Herringbone!

I originally had gone around again (because this round was done by Annie. Yay!) but it was too wide and I went back, after making sure I could actually DO the technique, and tore it out and bound off. I do think I’ll buy some good wool for felting and make the next size bag because it was really lovely and a good size.

Annie also gave us some tips for felting (and told us about her online classes that she offers … I would encourage anyone wanting to learn more about our craft to check out her classes  … click here to be magically transported to her site! She’s a wonderful and thorough teacher and I learned a lot!)

So, add in a potluck lunch that lasted into the next day, some great knitting women in the Orlando Knit or Knot group – which, by the way, is the local Knitting Guild Association group – and a lot of laughs, and you get the general gist of the weekend.

I had a blast – and I’m still recovering from the mind-bending concentration. I took some notes and will share some of them with you “down the road”. But for now …

Gone knitting (maybe my heel)!

Minnesotan Knitting Heretic Visit

Well, it was an Annie Modesitt kind of weekend in Orlando this weekend. I have been fortunate enough to knit for the last few months with a great group of women who have welcomed me with open arms. Just the fix that I needed …some new friends who knit!

I signed up for a weekend of classes with world-renowned knitter and designer (or maybe she’d say designer and knitter) Annie Modesitt. Two classes on Friday, and all-day classes  on Saturday and Sunday. Suffice it to say that my brain and fingers are sufficiently exercised and I learned a lot … and, as an added bonus, added some fabulous new friends to my Florida life.

I’ll write more tomorrow after a bit of much needed time to absorb and filter all my new knowledge. But for now …

Gone … and not knitting!