Ho! Ho! Ho! No More UFO!

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For Clark and Stephanie

I’ve just finished a long project (like any good knitter, I kept finding other projects to do) that was a true work of love. My college roommate, Mary Frances, aka Muffin, asked me to copy her lifetime Christmas stocking for her new grandson and daughter-in-love.

I had no pattern but assumed that I could copy just about anything. The stocking arrived at my house several months ago and I set about copying the stitches to make a chart. This part was pretty simple and straight forward. If you can count stitches, you can chart.

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My Chart

I knew I wanted to knit the top part of the giant sock flat so I could embellish with beard and sequins more easily. I also wanted to use the intarsia-style of knitting because stranding would be crazy wasteful. Once done with the chart, I took the original stocking to the Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine … where I happen to work … to find yarn colors that were as close as possible. Lucky me! I found Christmas Green, Red and Blue that matched in good old Cascade 220 100% wool. I knew I had a similar ivory/off white in my stash and some black, too.

When you’re knitting stockings, you’re knitting them upside down and it’s fun to watch the images develop stitch by stitch. The intarsia creates lots and lots of ends to weave in. I am so thankful for the invention of bobbins. I couldn’t have done this without them. The fact that I stitched them flat made the weaving of ends simpler, too!

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Once past the charted section, it was a super quick process to the bell at the tip of the toe. I joined the stocking at the ankle and knitted the rest of the “giant sock” in the round. At the toe, with the tail of the yarn, I attached a silver bell just like on the original stocking.

I knew that I would add the lettering, and the eyes and nose on Santa at the end in duplicate stitch. I believe that the original stocking had lettering that was stranded but with a couple of washings, the stocking has withered a bit and the lettering doesn’t stand out as well as I would like. I’m very happy with the results of the duplicate stitch lettering. Then it was time to give Santa a beard and a pom-pom on his hat. I used short pieces of wool that I looped around itself and then clipped short and steam blocked to that it “frizzed” up. I love the beards, especially!

I am so pleased with the way the Santas and the trees turned out. I sewed individual sequins on all of the Christmas trees. I am not the most graceful sewer, but the sequins add such a wonderful sparkle on the trees! A braided loop for hanging was the last addition after steam blocking and seaming the back of the stocking. The seam is a blessing in disguise – it gives some substance and stability to the back of the stocking and makes it sturdier since it will be stuffed and hung on the mantel!

I love that they’re finished … and just in the (Saint) Nick of time! Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend, Muffin! I know this will be a happy one at your house!

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All three stockings together, in public, for the first time! (LOL!)

Gone knitting!

2017! Happy New Year!

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I feel fortunate that 2016 was a wonderful year for me and for my family. One daughter bought a new home, another daughter became engaged, I married the love of my life and we had all of our children in our house at the same time (for the first time). Our children are gainfully employed, healthy and happy. We are both working at jobs we love and are paying the bills, we have food on our table, a warm home and we are healthy. What more can you ask for?

I am eager to see what 2017 brings and what opportunities in the fiber world I will become involved with. I am excited to continue teaching knitting and creating in my every-improving atelier! This year’s goal is to add some serious shelving to my studio for fabric and yarn storage. I am already realizing that my “cheap fix” is not going to work long-term … fabric and yarn multiply when packed into small spaces and despite working hard to knit from my stash, it’s only minimally smaller.

img_7778We had a quiet New Year’s Eve at our house. A summer camp (childhood) friend and his son joined us for a lobster feast and a glass or two of sparkling wine prior to midnight. The guys all stayed awake after the power went out but I claimed the black-out as an opportunity to go to bed “early”. This is our photograph, grainy though it may be, from around 10:30pm. I love selfies with this guy and can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to add to our life together.

My goals for the year are to attend and help with, perhaps, the fiber week at my old summer camp. I’m looking forward to Maryland Sheep & Wool, too. I want to do more in my community – attend events, help my neighbors, life my best life and speak from my heart (not usually a problem). I want to floss more often and remember to listen to myself and speak my truth. Having lost my voice a long time ago, it feels wonderful when I speak out and speak up and feel heard. I’ll keep working on that piece.

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Wishing you blessings in 2017. I’m hoping that it’s the best year yet for all of us!

Gone knitting.

Spider!

Spider Hat

Spider Hat

When you live out in the woods of Maine, you have to wear a bright (neon bright) orange hat around the periphery of your yard and down the road when you get your mail. It is ill-advised to go outside bare-headed. Because hunters.

One of our friends has a large piece of land and often, though their property is posted (No Trespassing signs all around), they have hunters with guns in close proximity to their house. So, to be smart and wear an orange hat during hunting season is just something we do. (We also put a bright orange collar on our dog!)

Last winter I bought some bright orange … hunting orange … yarn. I made a quick hat for my husband because he’s out more than I am and walks the dog a couple times a day. I put the yarn for my hat and one for a visitor in the stash … but it’s getting near time to wear our orange hats again. With all the nice hats I’ve made for him, he wears the bright orange one most often. Go figure!

The pattern is called Spider Hat it’s a free pattern from Kitterly. It has two yarn weights (worsted and DK) and is quite a fun knit. I am knitting with Encore Worsted yarn by Plymouth Yarns in color 479. It’s the only REAL hunting orange yarn we had in our shop (and I had to wait for it to come in last year.) There are two kinds of spiders to make and I’ve tried both in this hat. The “easy” spider body was made first and the “bobble” spider body was made second. In the next hat, I’ll do only the “bobble” spiders. They’re so much more wonderful!

It’s going to be fun to wear. Way better than the one we bought for five bucks at Christy’s that popped off my head fifteen times before I got to the mailbox!

Gone knitting.

New Friends

oldfriends

 

You’ve all probably seen these photographs on Facebook and Pinterest. The other day at the Yardgoods Center Yarn Shop I made three new friends. Three ladies came into the shop and it was clear that they had all the time in the world to shop. One spent a few minutes on the phone at the table in front making plans with family. The other two were checking out the free patterns. After awhile, and having checked on them all a couple of times and having showed them the color-changing “Abracadabra” yarn, they came to the cash register with a few patterns to purchase and a question.

Turns out they’ve been friends since early childhood and were together again for three weeks more. When one lady said they had a question, the other two ladies giggled. (It’s funny to see elderly ladies giggle like girls!) They’d spent hours (HOURS!) over the past couple of days trying to figure out what it meant to cast on stitches without a slip knot in the backward loop method. They were all beaming, eyes bright, smiling widely with the memory. I had a left-over ball of yarn and one needle left behind by a customer and I showed them what to do. They were delighted. “You made our day!”

Such a simple thing made a big impact. They made their purchases and left for lunch. Giggling that they only had a two hour ride. I smiled at them behind their backs. What a treasure their friendship is.

Old friends are the best friends!

Old friends are the best friends! We are being sharks … at 50-something.

I am so fortunate to have some old friends, too. Not that we are old, we have been friends for a long, long time. We don’t get to see each other very often, but we make an effort to meet once a year. Each time we pick up where we left. We may not party like we used to and we’re often in bed by ten but the reunion is always sweet.

I’m going to be missing the reunion this year and am so sad about it but  I am coming to realize that I can’t do it all – and that saves my sanity. Only two of us will be at the beach next weekend. I’ll be there in spirit but not in body. I commit to 2016, though. I need the girl time to recharge and renew. Old friends are the best friends. I love my girls!

Gone knitting.

Three Cheers (for the Red, White and Blue)

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day learning something new.

The Class Sample … this is what my quilt will look like

The Class Sample … this is what my quilt will look like

I took a Flag Quilt class at the Cotton Cupboard in Bangor, Maine with a friend and we had a great time. It was my first ever quilt-making class and it was a positive experience for this  once-a-failure sewer!

I’ve made a few other quilts in my life. I made several Amish Tied Quilts back when my children were little. One for each of them and a few others interspersed. They are funny to look at today … my color choices “date” the quilts with the exception of the eldest daughter’s which is red, white and blue. My quilt already shows that I was into the black and yellow “bee colors”. I have all of them here in Maine and one day they’ll go to the kids homes … when they all have room for a quilt.

My Log Cabin Quilt …  finished and on our bed

My Log Cabin Quilt … finished and on our bed

The last two summers I worked on a Log Cabin quilt which I finished and had quilted at Quilt Divas in Rockland. I love it and it’s on our bed.

The quilt that I’m working on for this class is a throw quilt and it’s got several things going on. It’s straight piecing, some appliqué and some curved sewing. I’ve never sewn a curved seam in my life! I felt relatively adept at the cutting and straight sewing although one of my classmates gave me a couple of new tips that I really appreciated. The appliqué I had done once and that was alright. I have a lot more stars to appliqué so I’ll be a professional when they’re all done! The curved sewing will take me awhile … and is my biggest challenge.

Curved seams … I did pretty well. It just takes time

Curved seams … I did pretty well. It just takes time

When I was all done, I was sore and feeling successful … I had only screwed up one star square (and have to cut a few other pieces to be able to finish my quilt) because I hadn’t been warned about making sure the squares were not all facing the same way. Fortunately I have extra fabric!

I will keep plugging along at it and I will show the pictures of the final project …. whenever I get it done (and quilted.) Since it’s a throw, I’ll plan to quilt it myself.

Gone knitting!

Fannar by Shannon Okey (aka knitgrrl)

Yarn - Cascade 220  (Color #9401 Lot #0739

Yarn – Cascade 220 (Color #9401 Lot #0739

I am nearly done with my first test knitting “job”. It’s been a very rewarding experience, and beyond the knitting, I’ve been privileged to “meet” some wonderful and fun knitters. Enough so that I am hoping they’ll take me up on my offer to host a knitting retreat at our house in Maine next September (2015).

My pattern is called “Fannar” and will be in the new book, coming out soon, called “Frozen: Aurora Borealis Mittens.” (No, I didn’t get paid, since I know you’re all wondering!) When I received my yarn, “ordinary” Cascade 220 in a lovely ivory and grey tweed, I immediately felt some relief from my perceived design-envy. First lesson learned: You don’t have to use exotic (aka pricey) yarns when you design! Who knew!? I was so excited that I nearly tinkled! 🙂

The fabric - unfelted

The fabric – unfelted

The initial pattern that I was sent was a chart. Now, I’ve knitted from charts many times before but never for an entire pattern and it was intimidating for about ten minutes. Until I realized that I knew this! I know this! I had it covered and I could do it. And I cast on with a provisional cast on to leave some live stitches for the cuff.

I knitted up the largest size and after I’d reached the thumb crotch my gut was telling me that this puppy was absolutely over-the-top humongous! I sent a photo to Shannon and she, too, was amazed at its girth. So, I frogged the behemoth and we started from scratch. As Shannon was out of town, Andi stepped in and whipped up an entirely new mitten pattern. And I started knitting again … this time a more appropriate size, even knowing that it is going to be felted.

Thumb Gusset (part deux)

Thumb Gusset (part deux) – way more normal!

The second iteration of “Fannar” is much more normal and the knitting process is super quick. Since I got the one-color mitten, I think I got the easiest job in the book. It’s been super fun to follow the secret Facebook group and watch as other test knitters knit their patterns. And to learn about the comment threads via email, used to communicate. It makes me want to knit more color work. That may be my summer challenge.

I’m wrapping up the second mitten and will finish the second thumb today. Then my job will be over. I can’t wait to see the finished product – the mitten will be felted in Ohio and a cuff will be knitted on afterward (thus the special cast on). I think I am going to have to knit up a pair for myself and felt them and see how it turns out … just for sh#$s and giggles!

What an excellent experience!

Gone knitting.

Maine Fiber Frolic 2013

IMG_1586 What a wonderful day!

We headed out early to miss the worst of the heat – who knew that Maine would be seeing temperatures in the high 80s on June 1? The natives must all have their air conditioners whirring! Windsor Fair Grounds was abuzz by 9-ish when we arrived. Eager fiber hoarders (like me) lining up to pay their admission and see what wonders were on the other side of the fence.

My Mr. N decided to tag along this year … decreeing that he’d be close but in the shade. All except for the sheep herding which he wanted to see. That was in the full sun. He reported that it was utterly amazing. Did you know that you can pick a sheep up behind its front teeth and place it on it’s butt and it won’t move? Neither did we. Nor did we know that if a sheep somehow ends up on its back that it may die. Learn something new every day! 😉

Cute babies galore!

Cute babies galore!

The Fiber Frolic was another great event this year. Lots of vendors. Lots of sheep and goats and rabbits and alpaca!

Fabulous Fleece ... and there were many!

Fabulous Fleece … and there were many

I spoke to a few new vendors like Northern LIght Fibers from Block Island, RI. I have some history there so I enjoyed hearing that there is a full fiber mill on the island now. They’re working to change the tourist-trade calendar on the island and trying to encourage people to venture out even when it’s not summer. I hope they succeed. They’re hosting the Block Island Lace Knitting Retreat the weekend of October 11-14, 2013 with Galina Khemeleva. I’d love to go. We shall see what the late summer promises!

Had a lovely chat with several yarn folks. Tidal Yarns‘, Patricia Fortinsky, from Old Lyme, CT, was particularly sweet. It was in her booth that I bought a wooden button for my Vail Island Vest. I’ll add photos later today of all my goodies! And I wanted to buy some rather bulky yarn but didn’t get back … figure there’s always the Internet, right?

I also stopped to talk with Cindy (I hope I’m remembering her name correctly. I didn’t write it down) from One Lupine Fiber Arts in Bangor. I’ve been in the shop a year or two ago and fell in love with a painted window in the gift shop upstairs. If we ever renovate this house, I’d love to paint a window or two (or better yet, have them painted by someone who knows what they’re doing!) Anyway, I have to make a trip back because their yarns were lovely and the downstairs is now devoted to fiber. As am I.

Nice Bangs!

Nice Bangs!

I bought a few things … some goat’s milk soap for Mr. N. I hope it will help his psoriasis. Some Swans Island yarn (seconds!) from Warner Graphics from Camden, ME. and finally one of the wonderful Bolga Elephant Grass baskets that I have been coveting for years. Each year I’ve seen a basket that I liked and vowed that I would come back after it upon taking one “loop” around the Fiber Frolic. And each year, the basket was gone. This year, I bought my basket and toted it around! A little surprise was what I found at Maple Lane Pottery (which is also a working farm and B&B) … they had cute mugs and bowls and other stuff with cardinals, crows, porcupines (adorable!) and other Maine critters. But as I turned the corner there was a tiny flash of yellow … bees! I was so excited to buy myself a new piece of pottery!

New Pottery!

New Pottery!

We had the most delicious gyro … they brought an old-fashioned pot belly stove to cook on … and some sweet potato fries. The most difficult part of the day was trying to stay cool! It was another great event and a fun day! And I saved some of my yarn-buying for when my friends and family come to visit!

Gone knitting!