Sunday, February 24, 2013

Learning Something New

Yesterday I got the chance to attend the Gathering of the Guilds event in Harrisburg. Several fiber and needlework-based guilds came together in this annual event to share their talents. It was a great day - I even got to take a class on beaded knitting. I've been fascinated with the thought of adding beads to my knitting for a while. I thought it would look especially nice on the edge of a shawl, but I was hesitant to give it a try since I'd never actually seen it done. I could never figure out how they got the beads onto the yarn!

So yesterday I finally got to try it. And, as with most things in knitting, it was actually much easier than it looked. Here's my first attempt:

It's pretty slow going. I'm usually a fairly quick knitter, but I have a feeling that it would be very hard to go back and fix any mistakes, so I'm taking it pretty slow. I think it's going to be very pretty eventually - but as you can see, I've got a lot of beads to go!

I also met a very nice woman who has alpacas. She had some wonderful yarn for sale in a variety of colors (natural and dyed). It was really interesting to see the difference in the fiber produced by each animal. I brought home a lovely hank of black alpaca yarn. It's so soft! I'm still debating what it should become, but right now I'm considering either a cowl or a pair of fingerless mitts that have been in my Ravelry queue forever.

There's a lot of stealth knitting going on here, so unfortunately I can't share any finished projects today. But rest assured, there are some very cute little creatures sitting on my shelf right now!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finished Sweater!

Here is my first finished sweater of 2013 - the Aidez Sweater. Check out my Ravelry project page here.

I really loved working with this pattern. I was inspired to knit this particular sweater after reading about the sweater knit-along on the Celtic Cast On blog back in the fall. Every finished sweater featured on the blog just looked so cozy. I didn't have time to start it then (Christmas knitting was far more important) but it seemed like the perfect sweater to knit in January and I am loving it.

When I knit sweaters for myself I typically have to lengthen the entire pattern by two inches (or more) but this time I knit the body of the sweater as written and just lengthened the sleeves and it turned out great! In my opinion, the ability to customize a pattern is one of the best things about knitting your own sweaters. I'm a little taller than the average woman and I often find that off-the-rack sweaters just aren't as long as I'd like (especially in the sleeve area). It's so nice to be able to have sleeves that fit! My wrists get cold this time of year.

Of course, if you do plan to lengthen any part of your sweater always remember to get more yarn than what is called for in the pattern. If I'm just planning on lengthening the sleeves, I can usually get away with just an extra skein, but if I plan to also alter the body sometimes I'll get 2-3 extras, just in case. My motto is that it's always better to have too much more yarn than not enough! It's terribly stressful to be happily knitting away on a project and suddenly realize that you might not have enough yarn to finish. I've actually found that I start knitting faster at that point (as if that's going to make the yarn last longer)!

What's your favorite go-to customization?

As you can probably tell, it was cold and a bit windy that day. But, it wasn't raining or snowing, so we seized the opportunity to get some pictures. Many thanks to my wonderful husband who helped me get some lovely shots.

And of course, since it's the day after Valentine's Day, I have to share a picture of the beautiful tulips that surprised me at work yesterday. Aren't they beautiful?!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

FO: Apple Cozy!

Just quickly stopping by to show you another finished project. I've wanted to knit an apple cozy for quite a while (pretty much ever since I saw it on Ravelry) but just never found the right moment until this weekend. I whipped up this little project in just over one evening (had to take a break overnight to block the leaf so it didn't curl up).

Ravelry project page can be found here.

I'm going to have fun taking this to work tomorrow!

Friday, February 8, 2013

FO: Jayne Cobb Hat

I have a finished project to share with you today. Jayne Cobb is a character in the amazing (and short-lived) tv show "Firefly." For anyone not familiar with the show, Jayne is part of the crew of the space ship Serenity and is a fairly rough character. But in one episode, he receives a hat knit by his mother in the mail and then proceeds to wear it through the entire episode. I thought it was really cute that this tough guy would proudly wear the hat his mother knit for him.

A friend of mine at work, Aimee, is a huge fan of Firefly and she is celebrating her 30th birthday on Saturday. So as a surprise, I knit her a Jayne Cobb hat and gave it to her yesterday. By some fantastic coincidence she was wearing her "Browncoats" t-shirt (another aspect of Firefly). She was so excited when she opened the box and found the hat! She put it on immediately and didn't stop wearing it the entire day. As I'm sure other knitters can attest, I just love it when people enjoy wearing the gift I knit for them. It made me smile every time I saw her in it yesterday.

I knit the hat using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. It's a worsted weight yarn, but the hat was knit with two strands of the yarn held together. The pattern called for two different colors of yarn to be held together to create a marled effect (the red & orange and then the orange & yellow) and I did start out that way. But I didn't like the way the hat was turning out, so I ripped it back and held two strands of the same color together instead, which I think is actually a bit truer to the hat in the show.

Check out my Ravelry project page here for more details on the hat.

Coming up next time: pictures of my finished Aidez sweater (if we can ever get some decent weather to take nice photos)!

Love the giant pom-pom!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Maybe I Need A Sign

Today I made a trip to the allergist for my monthly allergy shot. It's not as bad as you might think - I got accustomed to the shot a long time ago (a necessary evil) AND the mandatory 30 minute wait time after the shot is prime knitting time. I usually pack a little project to pass the time. Today, I took along the second sleeve from my Aidez sweater. It's a fairly small project, easily transportable, with a simple pattern that I have pretty much memorized. Perfect for waiting room knitting.

But have you ever noticed what happens when you pull out your knitting in public? People start to watch. They probably don't mean to stare, but since they're basically trapped in the same room for a 30 minute period, one can hardly blame them. The braver ones will strike up a conversation (usually beginning with "What are you making?" or "What are you doing?" which is then followed up by "Is it hard?") Of course, I always tell them that "no, knitting isn't hard" and then wish I had a spare pair of needles in my bag to let them try it out.

This afternoon, however, the "watcher" was a teenage girl - she was probably 16 or 17 years old. She watched me knit for quite a while but never actually said a word to me. I was tempted to start a conversation with her since she seemed interested and she and her grandmother were (loudly) discussing the various doctor appointments she would need to attend in the next month. I got the impression that she would have quite a lot of time on her hands in the near future. I can't imagine it would have been that strange - I've gotten used to teaching near-strangers how to knit at the library. That's actually how I named my blog. You see, everyone at the library calls me "Miss Paula" and our library team is a very helpful bunch, so when someone checks out a book on knitting or mentions that they might be interested in learning the craft, invariably someone will say, "Oh, Miss Paula knits! She'll teach you." After a while, "Miss Paula Knits" became the phrase.

Anyway, back to the bored teen at the office. I began thinking to myself that perhaps I needed some sort of button or sign - something that said, "yes, I'm knitting... no, it's not hard...yes, I can teach you" but in a succinct way that allowed us to jump past all of the repetitive questions about what I was doing to pass the time in the allergist's office. I mean, really, I think it's surprising more people don't knit there. The 30 minute mandatory waiting requirement has got to get old after a while, especially if you're passing the time by reading three-month-old magazines. I would think that people would bring something productive to do to keep busy, because if you're getting monthly shots that's 360 minutes wasted every year reading about old celebrity gossip. I'd hate to think what the poor people who have to get weekly shots are doing with their time!

So I've decided - next trip to the allergist I'm going to go armed with an extra pair of needles and a spare ball of yarn. We'll see what happens. Perhaps I'll introduce another person to the world of knitting... or I could look like a nut who carries spare yarn in her bag to hand out to others. But here's a question - after you teach the person how to knit, how do you nicely retrieve your knitting needles? It seems cruel to introduce someone to this wonderful craft and then take away the needles when my 30 minutes is up and I have to go home. Most of my needles (I prefer bamboo) are a little too expensive to give away to strangers. Maybe I should start some sort of knitting needle rescue to collect unwanted needles (if such a thing actually exists - not wanting to keep all of your knitting needles is difficult for me to imagine). So if you have unloved knitting needles at your house, send them my way. I'll be sure to find them a loving home with the next unsuspecting person at the doctor's office who asks about my knitting.

Getting closer!

ps: I finished the left and right front pieces of my Aidez sweater. I was proud that I managed to successfully reverse the pattern stitches on the right front on my own. I've never had a sweater pattern before that simply stated that you should reverse all the shaping and pattern stitches instead of writing out the instructions. I'm hoping to finish the sweater this weekend. The Super Bowl on Sunday should provide lots of knitting time!