Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Long Day's Journey into Garter Stitch

The more I knit Garter Stitch (which is really often), the more I like it. I like to think that Elizabeth Zimmermann is nodding knowingly as she sees me, and hundreds of like-minded knitters, realize the immense beauty and satisfaction of just knitting, row after row.

I know many knitters who credit EZ as the inspiration for becoming "thinking knitters" and learning to look at their knitting instead of looking at directions. I'm not one of those! I found Meg Swansen before I'd ever even read one of EZ's books, so I guess I'm part of the next generation of thinkers. I was taking a Community Ed knitting class in Rochester, MN from Ann Swanson and Katie Nagorney (Two Old Bags, which seems a silly name because they are two, but will never seem old, and nobody who met them would ever refer to them as "bags"). Anyway, they were a great teaching team, but apparently, I asked a great many (perhaps too many?) technical questions, and they said "you really need to go to Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp" - foisting me off on an unsuspecting Meg. Obedient student that I am, I applied that summer and went. I've been going ever since, but because I get to be there for 4 sessions every summer, I'm on my 55th camp now (just a guess).

One of the suggested pre-reqs to attending camp was to have "read and digested" at least one of EZ's books. I guess I'm not that obedient, because I didn't do the homework! Once I got to camp and fell in love with Meg, I decided to read one quickly (didn't want her to be disappointed in me), but who can stop at one? Within a week of coming home from camp, I'd read the 4 that were in print. It took me a few years to ball up the courage to try to get to know Meg, because I was so in awe of her, but I did, and the rest is history. I dare her to try and have a camp without me now!

Back to Garter Stitch - here's the line-up:

1. Baby Surprise Jacket - certainly not my first, but I teach it as a class pretty often, and always want to have one on the needles. In my most recent class, one of my lovely students has a suspicious bump on her front-side, and I liked her quite a lot. So, I'm going to finish up this BS and give it to Rachel, assuming the bump will someday need clothing!

I'm using Classic Elite Waterlily in Lake with stripes of Lily Pad. This yarn is delicious to knit with and to look at. I used some left-over yarn for the Provisional Cast-On just to show my students that the cast-on edge does not remain in a straight line for very long.

2. Adult Surprise Jacket - This is the most fun I've had on my couch in quite some time. It's just sitting there like a lump, waiting for me to knit, and knit, and knit. No thinking required (as long as you remember to do your 2 double-decreases on each front-side row). Well, now I'm to the double-increase part, but "remembering" is not so taxing as "thinking". Of course, the end result is that I'll get done too quickly. Such is life!

For this, I'm using Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Aran from my stash! What a virtuous knitter I am. I bought the yarn in England probably 6 or 7 years ago, and I bought lots. It's just as spongy and wonderful as the Waterlily, which is why I decided to sneak some in. The stripes are Lake, Leaf, and Azalea. I was going to add some Goldfish for zing, but didn't get back to the yarn shop to pick it up before time to knit the 4th stripe, so ... no fishes for me!

Again, I used the Provisional Cast-On, this time in relatively garish teal. It makes me want to knit faster to get that edge off the sweater! Any inspiration in a storm, I say.

3. Pi Are Square Shawl - Kathy D from our retreat a few weeks ago was starting one, just as Amy A gave me a skein of Malibrigo Laceweight in Violetas. A sign from above that I was supposed to cast on immeditaely. It would be tacky to say "oh, that's beautiful, thank you!" and not cast right on! That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it!

First things first, I had to call The Sow's Ear (one of my local shops) and tell them to send 1 more skein of Malibrigo home with Randy, who was going to pick up coffee beans that day. When Randy got there, he and Liz decided that 1 more skein wouldn't be enough so he bought 3. What a well-trained man (and a well-trained Yarn Shop Employee)! So, I have something like 1800 yards of this super-fine yummy stuff, it's going to be one hell of a shawl!

Now that the post is written, I need to (clean off the dining room table and) photograph the projects! Knit on.

P.S. Randy loves that I have a blog... the dining room table gets uncluttered almost weekly because of this!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Enthusiastic or Chaotic?

As I think about what next to post on my blog, I am torn with a decision. Do I pretend that I haven't been knitting to avoid potential criticism, or profess to being fickle and chaotic? Self-confessor that I am, the answer is clear!

I have not been knitting on the Russian Prime. I have not been knitting on the Saddle-Shoulder Aran. I have, however:

  • swatched for an Adult Surprise Jacket (a knitalong) from EZ's The Opinionated Knitter,

  • swatched for a Celtic Cardigan, using Elizabeth's Percentage System (EPS) to follow Janine (Feral Knitter), because I have ultimate faith in her color/pattern choices.

  • begun a Pi Are Square shawl from EZ's Knitting Around,

  • received 3 huge skeins of Kauni Wool (photo at right) from Germany and been carrying them around like preemie babies! These are for Ruth's Kauni Cardigan, following advice from Melinda (Purlwise).

  • knitted a small Faroese-Style Shawl from a new pattern by Meg Swansen (not yet available, lucky me!)
I have a great many excuses for why I start new projects when I have so many on the needles already: 1) I love the process of knitting. 2) I want to have lots of just-started projects ready for Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp, where I spend the entire month of July as Meg's assistant. 3) I teach lots of classes, and always need some knitting with cables, Fair Isle, lace, and garter stitch for those examples.

The truth of the matter is, I have a common affliction known as "Failure to Finish". I have been accused by friends and critics alike as "not liking to finish". Untrue! I can kitchener, sew in sleeves, cut steeks, I-cord bind-off, and weave in ends with the best of them! The trouble is, to get to that point, you must first complete the knitting, which I seem to rarely do! I am very envious of those knitters with piles of finished garments to show off! I just don't think I'll ever be one of them.

Once I have done my swatching (such as it is), wound the wool, calculated all the measurements and knitted 6 inches of the body, I am ready to move on! I was a weaver in my misspent youth, and enjoyed warping more than weaving! I'm an ideas person, I suppose. Once I see the project start coming to life, I'm on to the next idea, and completing the previous seems irrelevant. There, having confessed, I feel ready to talk about more interesting things!

Knitting Weekend
I had promised to write more about my experiences at the Knitting Weekend with Meg Swansen a couple of weeks ago. As you can see, I was only going to be gone for 3 days, so I "traveled light". I do think the grocery bags add a je ne sais quois.

The weekend already seems a long way off, but I have been thinking about the women I met quite a bit since returning home. We had different backgrounds, skill levels, ages, and shapes. We had a judge, a yarn shop owner, an IRS agent, and an entrepreneur (OK, now I have to spell-check). The 3 days went by so quickly, I can't remember eating or sleeping, only the lively discussions, the heaps of knitting, and the beautiful faces of my new friends. I realize that I sound sappy, but it was a pretty sublime experience. I need to spend more time with knitters.

Meg is considering offering more of these smaller workshops in the future because this one was so successful. We created this weekend to accommodate people who were on the waiting list from last year's First Timers camp. As a trial run, it was wildly successful.

Oh, and I got to meet Ada Lai, proud new owner of KnitWare knitting software. I've started playing with this (and there's a free trial download) and it is a very extensive program. It has some logic built in that I feel is lacking in other programs in that price range.

Life in the Bunker

We live in a partial-berm house (fondly referred to as "the bunker"). I took some pictures just 2 weeks ago and they are so brown and grey. Everything now is green and budding, and I'm glad to see this picture to remind myself that Spring comes in faithfully every year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Refreshed, and Ready to Knit

Oh, such a wonderful knitting weekend we had! 22 knitters all together for 3 solid days of knitting and visiting, with no rotten eggs in the bunch. I will write more about it soon, before I forget how much fun it was. However...

My knitting took a hit! I was knitting along on my Saddle-Shoulder Aran and Meg commented, "there's a dark streak in your knitting". I replied that it was hand-dyed yarn and that the color variations didn't bother me. What was I thinking? After 4 or 5 inches of knitting like a mad thing, I went to splice in another ball of wool and the color variation was startling. It would have behooved me to look at my knitting in good light, don't you think? This photo was taken sereptitiously during class with my Treo, so the quality isn't great, but look at the colors! How could I have declared that it didn't bother me?

So, out I ripped! That ball has been labeled "don't use on sweater", lest I repeat my mistake (which I'm very good at). I have sorted the remaining wool to make sure that the "variations" aren't so severe. The more I knit with this yarn, the more I like it, even though I had this problem. I'm sure there is some way I can blame it on Randy (my SO), I'm good at that too - I just haven't figured out how (yet).

Randy and I have been tilling our veggie garden and working outdoors for 2 straight days. The weather has been wonderful. I have photos of our progress that I will post once I'm off deadline. I have a little editing project (knitting) that must be done today, no fooling! I did, however, run across a great photo; from last summer - it's titled Laundy Day at a Knitter's House. (Keep in mind, this was only the load of naturals/whites.) That's part of my back yard, ain't life grand? Also, that's a tree house in the background, not a deer stand!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Long Weekend of Knitting

I'm getting ready to go off to a mini-Knitting Camp in Marshfield! Last summer, we had 35 or 40 people on the waiting list for Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp. So, we offered those knitters a chance to come to a mini-workshop weekend instead. It starts Thursday and goes until Sunday. Needless to say, I'll have lots of time to knit!

I'm taking along the Saddle-Shoulder Aran (now at about 9 inches from lower edge) and my Russian Prime. Here are photos of the wonderful RP in progess. I just got started on the first sleeve.

Neck Steek for the Keyhole Neck

Here is just a whole lot of knitting!

Can you see how beautifully the pattern continues down the sleeve, even though I had to turn the chart on its ear?

3-Stitch, 2-Needle I-Cord Bind-Off on Shoulders!