Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Mind is Blown

Do you know who is teaching in London Ontario this weekend? My local yarn store, Cotton-By-Post, is hosting the Yarn Harlot for the whole weekend.

Friday she gave a speech and did a book signing. The speech was on how knitting alters the brain and not only was it funny (in true YH style) it was educational. Several things I knew instinctively, Stephanie backed up with scientific research, giving me more ammo to use against muggles who may try to deride our noble craft.

Here she is preaching the gospel of the knit.

Saturday was a six hour class on Knitting for Speed and Efficiency. I'm already a pretty fast knitter, but I figured Stephanie is such an interesting person, who has rubbed shoulders with many other interesting people, that I was sure to learn a thing or two. Ah, hell ya!  I learned:
  • lever knitting
  • norwegian purl
  • a super fast and neat kind of ssk that Stephanie invented (well possibly, most likely)
  • a toolbox of techniques to make my knitting more efficient
  • sources for some really good needles
  • and that I'm a fast knitter for my area, but slow in terms of the world.
I started the class with a knitting speed of 33.3 sts per minute. I finished with a speed of 38.6. But that's a snail's pace compared to the world's fastest knitter who goes along at a clip of 118 sts per min. Stephanie says that a product knitter's average speed is 100 sts per min.

And I'd like to get my speed up, mostly for socks. I have more loved ones whose feet I'd like to cover in wooly goodness than I have time or patience to knit for. A sock knitting machine is one idea, but too pricey. Learning to knit faster sounds like the answer.

Well, actually, the answer is a whole new way of knitting. Lever knitting, which is killing my brain to learn. None the less, I do hereby solemnly swear to pursue my homework, which is to make a K1 P1 scarf using the new technique for some amount of time every day, for 21 days. I have Noro Silk Garden, 15 inch needles, and I will prevail!

Irish folklore holds that if a master knitter puts needles into the hands of a newborn, the child will have a talent for knitting. Do you think the skill can be passed on in utero?

Tomorrow's class is called Liking Lace. A whole 'nother day to blow my mind.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Doing Double Time on Sleeve Island

My Silk Garden pullover has grown into a lovely rectangle of both front and back:

I'm now on the sleeves. I've already had to knit the first one twice, what fun. The pattern is an old Paton's design featuring the snug ribbing at the bottom and cuffs, once so popular. To tweak this design feature, I just cast on the correct number of stitches to start for the body. For the cuffs, I wanted a bit of pull in. My first attempt was too snug through the forearm, so I ripped and re-knit. It hurt, but I'm much happier with the result and I think it was worth the effort. I want to love and wear this sweater for a long time to come.

And speaking of loving for a long time to come....

My mother-in-law, who is 87, feels herself to be fading. Moving to a new apartment from her beloved house has taken a lot out of her and she's been feeling blue. Knitting teddy bears has helped. So have her family who are all rallying around her. Her grandson Evan calls from out west on Monday nights. Granddaughter Stephanie brings great-granddaughter Samantha to visit on Thursday nights. Jim and I come over on Saturday nights for a visit.

On these visits we share news, she shows us her momentos, the latest teddy bear and she makes these little requests of us. A special purchase to make, or a thing to look up. Well, a couple of weeks ago came a big request: "Laurie, would you knit me a sweater?"

Oh! this was not the easy yes I wished it could be. For one, she wants acrylic. For another, I've already got a queue of knitting lined up that it would hurt to give up.

I asked if she could wait till next year and she replied that she didn't know if she'd be around next year.

Now gentle reader, please remember that I love my mother-in-law very much, but I couldn't help but laugh at this one! All that work to knit her a sweater and she won't be around to wear it!

So, upon the wise advice of Paula, I offered to knit a sweater together with her. If she could work the plain knitting sections, no shaping, I'd work all the shaping and finishing parts. She tried to wiggle out of it. "Oh, my eye sight isn't so good." "But I knit so slow." But I persisted and last night brought her the yarn.

She was very pleased. She liked the feel of it, she liked the color. We measured up a favourite sweater, she picked a design (v-neck cardigan with a zip) and I wrote out some simple instructions. Just gauge and how many stitches to cast on for the back. And wouldn't you know it, just like any knitter with an exciting new project before her, she cast on that night. Yes!

Here's my hope for this sweater:
  • that it gives her something interesting to take her mind off her troubles
  • that she enjoys a feeling of pride in making a garment for herself
  • that she feels a sense of connection and being loved because we are working it together
  • that she'll be around to wear it for a long time to come
But you know, after I finish the sleeves of my pullover I've got to work the sleeves of her sweater. In acrylic. Yeah, that's why I say I'll be doing double time on sleeve island.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Just one more celebration...

Yesterday was Roc Day, the last of the Christmas season festivities, so my spinning buddy Alica and I headed out to the Little Red Mitten to celebrate with the other spinsters.

Here's a mother-daughter team in the foreground with a brand-spankin new spinner in the background:

And the drop-spindlers:

Joan was there, owner of the Little Red Mitten, with our local master spinner in training, Janice. Janice is in the fourth year of the Master Spinners program. Joan on the left in the picture below, and Janice, spindling, on the right.

And here's Alica and I. We're both wearing bracelets of our spinning samples as we were taught to do by Wendy of Gemini Fibers. How do you like our twin Lendrums? We can tell them apart because mine has the beauty mark (that's what I call it, Jim calls it a smear).

Joan has a beautiful store, chock full of beautiful and tempting yarns. I managed to only walk a way with some Tuffy sock yarn, which I consider a bread and milk sort of staple in my stash, and some local fiber. But that's a story for another day...

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Take a break

Okay, so it's not knitting, but we're all grown ups here. We can apprecate good fiber art when we see it: