Monday, July 31, 2006

We're making progress here people!

The pattern is in the final draft stage and Maureen, the fabu test knitter, has already started work. I've posted about Maureen's work before. Do you remember her shawls? She's not letting me get away with one little inconsistency.

Here's the small sized mitten, knit in Sundara Yarns "Firey".

For size comparison, here it is with the prototype, knit in Trekking XXL:

What I notice right away is how the thumb is curved in the large mitten, but not in the small. The curve adds something to the look, but it uncomfortable to wear because it binds. I corrected the thumb in the small size, but it's not quite as cute. What do you think, is comfort more important than style?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Friday Night Knit in Public

I had a fabulous Friday evening with the girls last night! The "girls" are a group of friends gathered together by Darian F., who we each know from a different part of our lives. This is very cool, because we get to meet people we wouldn't have a chance to otherwise, and since Darian has excellent taste in friends, they are all wonderful women.

Last night's excursion was to hear a piano recital by Clark Bryan and Marion Miller at the Aeolian Performing Arts Centre. The hall is a beautiful old building that has been around for ages and is being restored, bit by bit, by Clark who owns the building and actually lives in the lower part. The hall was set up with candlelight on tables, as Clark told us he was trying to create an intimate feeling to the performance, as though we were invited into his living room. I like to knit in people's living rooms, don't you?

Knitting on the vacation shawl, wearing
Frost Flowers and Leaves because it's so fancy!

The music they played was for four hands, and isn't often heard anymore. The composers were Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Debussy. My absolute favorite was the En Bateau movement from Debussy's Petite Suite. There was a rocking motion to the music with a little swirly turn that just carried me away to such a happy place in the sun it brought tears to my eyes. Lovely!

Bravo to Marion and Clark!

The hall was hung with beautiful artwork by Marion Drysdale and other artist's work adorned the stage. It was lovely to look at during the performance and the intermission.
The cap to the whole evening for me was discovering another knitter in the crowd. My method of discovery was quite simple:

Who could miss such a gorgeous shawl? This is Patricia C. and the shawl is from a back issue of Interweave Knits from the 1990s. Patricia's work is flawless. I know because she graciously swept it off her back and let me look it over front and back.

What a wonderful evening I had! Thanks Darian!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My FairIsle Failures

A while back I treated myself to KnitPicks Palette. While I find the colors rather flat, it is still very exciting to have so many colors to play with. So I decided to try my hand at creating my own colorways using a free pattern from Two Swans Yarns.

My results were not so good. Effort the first:

My idea here was to have the colors flow from darker to a white hot center. It didn't translate. The biggest problem is the yellow and grey are too similar and they don't track. The eye can't follow the Celtic design when the colors are too close together. The blue in the middle was a mistake too. I was imagining the hot blue center of a flame, but instead I bisected the design. All in all I felt like I was trying to accomplish far too much on too small a canvas.

I did knit the whole thing because I also used this piece for steek practice. Following Eunny's steek tutorials I tried 4 different methods of securing the knitting as follows:
  • Do nothing - I found that Palette held together just fine without anything securing it what so ever. This cut sample has traveled to Knitting Guild meetings and kicked around my knitting room and there's been nary a problem.
  • Sew with backstitch - The backstitching reduced the natural flexibility of the knitting. This may be a desirable trait in some instances. On a neck line for example.
  • Crochet a seam - This gave more flexibility than the backstitch did. It might be useful for a placket neckline that didn't require an other finishing besides tacking down the cut ends.
  • Pick up and knit - I like this one! Useful for sleeves, neck bands, or button bands. Very straightforward.
Be sure to read Eunny's tutorial for more details on selecting when to use which method of securing stitches. This was my first steeking experience, and I'm very glad I tried it first hand so I could really see what it was like. The fact that my color experiment failed made it that much easier to take the scissors to my knitting.

Effort the second:
Here I was trying to fix the mistakes in my first effort. I picked solid brown to try and make the knotwork stand out more. Then I tried alternating closely related colors every row to try and put some life into the flat shades. But the colors are too far apart in shades and my yarn changes are too close together.

This example hasn't been cut so I can easily rip it and try again. But failures are disheartening and there are so many other enticing ideas to try. I may give it a go again someday, but remove the lightest green color and also change colors less frequently.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When it rains, it pours!

Today was my first day back to work after my vacation. After an entire morning spent checking up on my e-mail, I decided to go to the library on my lunch. Our library has a pretty decent selection of knitting books and I wanted to do some research for a pair of textured mittens.

On my way to the library I had noticed that the sky was grey, but I was surprised to find that a full blown thunderstorm was pouring down when I left. I made it one block by walking under the awnings of the local businesses and then I stopped at the drug store to buy a card, thinking that the rain would ease up while I shopped.

Nuh, uh. It got worse. I went back into the store, bought an umbrella and tried to make it to the office. And then it REALLY decided to rain. I went four steps and my pants were wet to my thighs. The umbrella wasn't keeping the rain off me because the rain was coming down sideways. By the time I made it my desk I looked like a contestant in a wet t-shirt contest. So I went home.
Guess who was waiting for me there? The mail man! (I'm really sorry I didn't take his picture, because he sure was a cutie!) There was also a package was already waiting for me on the dining room table. Wow! And that's what I mean by when it rains it pours. I was expecting two packages, just not on the same day.

So here are my goodies:

Socks that Rock Club
Jamieson and Smith

I'm underwhelmed by the Socks that Rock. I don't like to use lace patterns with handpainted yarns that have this much color variation in them. I also would have liked to see a color way that varied more from the last one. Purple and green are great, but two times in a row?

The Jamieson and Smith however, impresses me all to heck! The shades of blue are so subtle and rich. Most of the colors are solids, but a couple are heathered and I can just imagine them giving a great degree of depth to the vest I'm going to knit for my dad. Wendy has knit this vest and I wanted to compare my colors with hers because she couldn't remember what yarn she used, but I can't find the vest on her site right now. Also, I notice that the pattern is knit back and forth. Forget that! I intend to do mine with steeks so I can knit it two handed. I still can't purl easily with my left. I wonder how Wendy knit hers?

I just love the red. I will either make a shawl from it, or perhaps a nice cardigan. Either way, it will be for me! me! me! Red in the winter is the best.

PS-Maureen, there was no duty on my yarn from J&S. Just tax and a handling fee that came to $16. Sweet, eh?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Too hot to handle!

I'm sure these mittens won't get lost in a snowbank!

Yarn: Lorna's Laces Bittersweet and Scheepjes in black.
Needles: 2.25mm Clover bamboo. I like to use bamboo for stranded knitting on small items like this. I feel like I get more traction.
Pattern: from Knitting Marvelous Mittens by Charlene Schurch

It was pretty hot here, so for our photo shoot we took the mittens to the coldest place we could: my freezer. Jim gets a medal for going along with me on this one.

While I love these mittens I was in a hurry to get them done. My mind is mulling over a cabled mitten pattern featuring the wool/hemp blend I bought while on vacation even while I'm working on the pattern for the fish mittens. It's a testimony to how much I loved them that I took a break to finish them up. These will go into the pile I'm accumulating for Christmas.

It's back to work for me today, so I expect my production levels will drop off.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Everything I do, I do it for you...

Kitty Kat wanted to know what color of Austerman Step I bought. Well, they only had one color, and fortunately I like it!

Also, I've been working on the fish mitten pattern, knitting up a new mitten as I go. I'm simplifying the design a bit and I'm trying to put as much detail into the instructions as I can. I'm using Microsoft Visio to create some line drawings of the mitered squares and the entrelac. The final file will be a PDF. I've written a pattern before and I'm a technical writer by trade, so this isn't such a stretch for me, just a lot of work.

Here's a progress shot.

I'm not sure how I feel about the handpainted colors for this pattern. I was hoping it would look like a goldfish but I guess I won't know for sure until I get further along into the body. This yarn is the "Fiery" that I ordered from Sundara Yarns.

Oh by the way, I learned something yesterday when I Googled "fish mittens". Don't try it if you've got kids in the room who can read. Can any one think of a better name for this pattern?

Friday, July 21, 2006

What I did on my vacation

My family went to Niagara Falls.

We rode on the Maid of the Mist.

We went in the fun house.

I knitted by the fire.

We burned Captain Jack Sparrow in effigy.

I bought yarn and some wicked DPNs at the Knitting Habit in Niagara Falls.
I found another yarn store, in what seems like a scavenger hunt, in a town I don't even remember the name of, which is just as well because they mainly stocked acrylic. However, I sniffed out some Austerman Step.

Okay, enough with the grade 2 show and tell. We had a great time, but it sure is nice to be home.

Fish Mitten Pattern
I have received many requests for a pattern for the fish mittens and I've decided to give it a go. It will take a lot of work on my part. I consider the required skills to be at the advanced level, and I want to make as clear a pattern as I can. For these reasons I would like to offer the pattern for sale at about $5. If I can figure out the technology.

My plan is to write out the pattern as I knit one fish mitten. Then I will hand it off to volunteer test knitter Maureen, while I also test knit it on the second mitten. This could take a while.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Answering Machine

Hello, Laurie can't come to the blog just now. She's away at Niagara Falls with her family. Please leave a message after the dog.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

More Fish Pictures...

Gettin' my Geek on...

Yesterday we took the family to the Port Stanley beach. Apparently, it was a really good idea.

Yes, I knitted at the beach.
This is my take-along vacation knitting. A simple spiral shawl from the Gathering of Lace, done in Knit Pics "Shimmer".

This is the first time I truly felt like a geek while knitting. What locations have you knitted at that let your knitting geek shine big?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gettin' Busy

Thursday was my company's annual picnic where we did this:

And this:

Today I start 12 days of vacation with my family. I had a lovely day and the bonus is that this came in the mail:

I spent the afternoon knitting with the lady who is watching my children this summer and look what she had in her stash:
Did you note the name on the label of the red skein? I may have squealed when I saw that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to get Creative

Thank you to everyone for your warm comments about my fish mitten. I'm still riding that nice buzz that comes from making something original.

I've been thinking about the creation process the last few days and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you.

Being creative involves putting things together in novel ways. It helps to be curious and to expose yourself to new ideas. For me, that means checking out a lot of blogs and knitting beyond my comfort zone. I find that I ask "What if?" a lot. For the fish mittens, I was thinking about how I liked the Noro patterns like Lady Eleanor and Butterfly and the way the designers worked with the self striping yarn. I also happen to really like Trekking yarn and then POW! the two of them came together for me. But at first I was thinking "What if I made a baby sweater from Trekking in entrelac?"

The creative process can't be forced. Sitting in front of a blank piece of paper as you get more and more frustrated is a recipe for disaster. If you find yourself in this situation, move on. Go have some fun instead, because ultimately, being creative is playful. So the baby sweater didn't feel fun to me. I don't know any babies right now, and I wanted to make something for myself. So I shelved that idea.

Creative ideas take a risk by going beyond what's conventional. But going too far past the edge of conventional risks being misunderstood. That's why you see a lot of art described as "edgy". After I first had the fish mitten idea, I started thinking of sequins, and long flowing fish tails (like my sweet Beta fishy) and using more than one color of Trekking. I had to rein my self in to keep it simple, but I think the concept is more successful that way, and it sure kept things easier for my first one. Otherwise, I might have gotten discouraged trying to put in all my embellishments.

I used to say that anyone could come up with all these crazy ideas that I have, but I don't any more. I've come to realize that I'm a creative person and that it's a talent. But I also believe that no matter what your natural born ability is, with persistence and practice you can improve from your current level and that is the only comparison that matters. So instead of negative thinking like, "I'm not as creative as her", you can think positively that "I've achieved a higher level of creativity than I have before."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wooly fish in a wooly pool

Here it is, my fishy mitten:

I'm very pleased with it. Okay, really, I have a warm and fuzzy feeling and I can't stop smiling. He's cute!

Things I like about it:
  • A real fish shape look and feel to it.
  • Actually wearable.
  • I made it!
Things I would do differently:
  • Much less entrelac! I should have swatched, but I was going for the organic feeling of creation.
  • The entrelac is too poofy.
  • The thumb gusset is too short. It binds at the top of the thumb.
  • I should have cast on loosely to prevent the mitered squares from curling over.
Ideas for the next one:
  • Do another in exactly the same manner, but learn from my mistakes.
  • Use a scalely textured stitch in place of the entrelac.
  • Knit a plain body.
  • Make the tail longer and more flowing.
  • Add fins on the side.
  • Do a kid sized pair. It would go much faster!
  • Use different colors of Trekking. This fish was made with 105, but I also have plenty of others:

Creation is harder than Evolution

I wish the fish mitten could just evolve! Seems like nature takes the easier route with evolution. Just try a bunch of dumb ideas and keep which ever one doesn't die. It's harder for me. Creating something takes a huge investment of time. Out of all the things required for creation, such as materials, tools and technique, I'd say time is the rarest. Nature has endless amounts of time.

So yeah, I'm not done the fish mitten, though I'm close. I don't want to show you a progress shot, I want to show you the whole damn thing! Monday night is knit night, so I got the thumb done.

Oh look! It's a
blogger blogging a blogger . And another cute dog!

Monday, July 10, 2006


The fish mittens evolved from a jellyfish.

I worked on the fish mittens exclusively this weekend. There was ripping involved a couple of times. At some point I decided that this is a prototype and I can always make another if I'm not entirely satisfied. Heh.

Oh look! It's a cute dog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sunfest Pictures

Thank you for the kind comments everyone. I felt warm and fuzzy inside.

Denise asked me "What are you going to use for flexible adhesive and where do you find it?"

The stuff is called Rug Backing and I got it at Wal-Mart. My very smart friend Holly suggested it to me. It goes on like glue and leaves a tacky feeling. Since it's white, I'm thinking of applying it in stripes or in a foot pattern.

Yesterday at lunch I went to Sunfest. I got some great pictures and even found some knitting!

Silk scarf: the colors are inspiring.
Kooky Critters: Love the wild painting with the bright colors.
This is my favorite picture!
Lace edging on a knitted shawl . This is the best part, the rest was , bleh.
The fug.
Colorways anyone?
These are great!
Reminds me of white and black knitting, which always looks so good.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Dumb Ideas

I've got a million of 'em! The hard part is deciding which ones are worth investing time and effort in.

I joined the Bitchin Mittens group cause I was knitting mittens anyway don't ya know. This morning I woke up with several of my dumb ideas coming together all at once. So I drew a sketch and knitted a swatch.

Okay, actually, it's not a swatch its the start of the mitten, but since the idea involves a gauntlet of mitered squares, it looks all swatchy. I'm also considering an entrelac body with the head done plain so that the shaping can be done and in case I want to embroider a face onto it. I may also add a fin that joins the thumb to the body. I think the Trekking colors have a nice fresh river fishy feel to them.

The ceramic fish in the photo is a piece by my mother. She went through a phase exploring fish, dragons, pine cones and anything scaly. All in clay. I feel like I'm following in her footsteps with this one. If the mittens turn out, they may make a nice Christmas gift for her.

Also, I finished the first Marvelous Mitten last night. Please note that both sides are correctly patterned.

I am however, dissatisfied with the stupid thumb!

I'm going to have to undo it and start kitchenering down a little lower. I'll take the blame on this one, cause I never bothered to check my gauge.

What? They're mittens. They'll fit someone!