Friday, August 27, 2010

Exhaling in Salt Lake City

Okay, maybe Utah is not all bad.  And maybe knitting for sanity is not all bullshit.

My dad was in the hospital again, for the third time in three weeks.  I had to drive down to Salt Lake City to take my cousin to the airport, so I decided I would take advantage of the free time and check out another SLC yarn shop.  When I picked her up from the airport almost a week ago, we visited Black Sheep Wool Company. It was small, serviceable shop.  But, nothing special.  I bought some beautiful balls of Mini Mochi to make some socks for my cousin.  And we left.

Fortunately, Black Sheep was not the end-all be-all of knit shops in Salt Lake City.  Blazing Needles (the name makes me want to "whip this thing out") is something special.  The shop is funky inside and out.  The house that is Blazing Needles sits on a corner in a pretty residential neighborhood.  There's cool fiber-related sculpture on the lawn and front porch.

As I entered I was immediately greeted by a friendly young woman who was eager to help me find what I needed, but content to answer some questions and let me browse after I told her I was an out-of-towner just trying to get a feel for the Salt Lake knitting scene.  The first thing I noticed inside was the large collection of yarns from Habu Textiles.  Just around the corner there was a full wall of Malabrigo of all types and another wall dedicated to the Cascade 220s - workhorse of all workhorse yarns.  At the back of the store there is a beautiful sun-filled room with a fireplace and French doors leading out to a lovely little garden.  There both the same young lady who greeted me and Cynthia, the shop's owner, offered water, coffee or iced tea.  So shweet!  And the yarns.  Beautiful luxury yarns.  Some handspun.  Some hand-dyed.  Tons of ShiBui!

There were a couple of women sitting around a big, beautiful farm table knitting and chatting.  Turns out they were also really friendly.  So, I decided to sit and knit a while.  Christy and Jane really made my day.  We talked about Utah - neither of them was a native.  Christy, who came to Utah 23 years ago, was originally from Seattle but had live for some time in Boston and North Carolina, and Jane was a fairly recent transplant from Austin.  We chatted about knitting, spinning, Christy's theory on the rudeness of Salt Lake drivers, the general lack of warmth of Utahns (particularly relative to Southerners), and, of course, sick parents.  And I was thankful for the company and the normalcy of it all.

So, maybe knitting for sanity in tough times is mostly bullshit.  But the comfort of the sisterhood of knitters is real.  Thanks for being there, Blazing Needles, Cynthia, Christy, and Jane.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Hate Utah

I know.  Sounds unfair.  I don't hate the people.  I don't hate "the Church."  I don't hate the treacherously beautiful desert and mountains.  I don't even hate the depressive pall that hangs heavy over the town I'm staying in.

My father has lived here for a few years now.  He moved to Utah to ski.  And ski he does - well over 100 days a year.  68 years old.  He's a machine.  Fittest of the fit.  He had invited me out to ski with him each of the past few years.  But I never had time.  I never had the money.  I just . . . never.

Well, now that my father has cancer, I'm finally here.  And I'm hating every minute of it.  I hate the fatigue, the weakness, the shortness of breath, the pain.  I hate the very modern, beautiful, award-winning medical facility carefully watched over by mountains.  The mountains are especially gorgeous between 8 and 8:15 pm when the setting sun gives the western face of the mountains a warm, pinkish hug goodnight.  Sometimes, for a moment during that time, I forget how much I hate Utah.  But just for a moment.  Then I remember the tubes, the monitors, the (wonderful) nurses, the fourteen pills he takes each morning.  In that moment, I forget the new gauntness of his face, his distended belly, his dry, pale hands and arms, and his, now, old-man shoulders.

But it's just a moment.  I brought plenty of knitting to Utah.  I knew it would help.  That it would distract me.  Help me swallow the tears that sit constantly, just in the bottom of my eyes.  Keeping my hands busy, focusing on something else.  Creating something.  I just knew this would keep me sane.  Hmph.  It's all bullshit.

I hate Utah.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quick Promo

I have a friend who's mom is doing her thing in Loxahatchee, Florida.  Her thing is making beautiful jewelry from gold and stones.  I'm just giving her a little shout out, in the hopes that you will find the product of her passion as beautiful as I do.  

Visit her Etsy shop and show her some love!
Teal Paisley Jasper and Gold Long Wire Wrapped Necklace
Teal Paisley Jasper & Gold
Multi-Colored Gemstone & Gold

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Knitting Socks

I'm feeling a little ambitious lately - knit-wise.  And I have a lot of time on my hands.  So, I've got a few projects going on, and I'm fixin' to start a couple more.

I just finished the Teddy Bear blanket.  It took much longer than I had planned, but I was in the process of relocating to another state during that one.  I am also still working on the Every Way Wrap.  It's an "organic" knit-along so, no rush there.

The Socks

Sunday Swing socks in some sort of Koigu
I have to say that I used to hate knitting socks.  I wasn't crazy about working with teeny-tiny needles and skinny yarn.  I really hated having to use 5 itty-bitty double-pointed needles to knit a little tube in the round.  Yes, I could have used just 4, but I preferred the symmetry of using 5. Either way, that's just too many needles. That little log cabin foundation came to be known by me as an instrument of torture.  So, a couple of pair of socks were knitted early in my knitting journey.  In fact I still have them to this day, and love pulling them on on a cold night or sporting them under boots.  But I took a looong break from sock knitting.  Just didn't get the appeal.

Some months ago, I finally decided to try the magic loop method of knitting in the round.  I love it.  So simple.  So genius.  No gaggle of pointy, little sticks.  And it makes it really easy to try on the socks as you knit.  A healthy relationship with sock knitting was born!  In fact, I've knit seven (or eight) pair of socks this year - including the ingenious Francie, Arch Shaped Sock, and yoga socks.

I even bought myself a couple of books about socks:

Toe-up Techniques for Hand-knit Socks
Janet Rehfeldt's Toe-up Techniques for Hand-knit Socks.  This is a great reference if you like to knit socks from the toe up.  Or if you want to learn how to do it.
So, I have a pair of toe-up socks in my own hand-dyed yarn on the needles.


The first sock was completed over a month ago, but I got distracted and haven't even started the second one yet.  I know I'm not the only one who does this.  Can I get a witness?  I know you're out there.

Anyway, they will be finished.  One day.  I think the problem is I'm not really crazy about them even though I really like the colourway and the super softness of the alpaca blend yarn.


 Sigh.  One day.

And Knitted Socks East and West . . . by Judy Sumner.
This book is really nifty.  The patterns are inspired by Japanese stitch patterns, with each sock bearing a Japanese-inspired name.  I have to admit that I have not actually knitted any of the socks found in this book - and I probably won't.  I like to keep things simple, and there's alot of fanciness going on in this book.  Really, I bought the book just for the stories and the photos of the socks.  They're all gorgeous.

I'm almost finished with the first of a pair of socks that I'm knitting in my own hand-dyed yarn.  I was just going to let the teal and magenta colourway do the work, but as I started knitting them, I thought they could use a little texture.
So, I added a couple of cable panels and a moss stitch column to the back of the sock.  I'm really digging these socks, but I'm pretty sure they're going to be a gift.

I also have a pair of Rebekkah Kerner's Vym socks on the needles.

I saw this pattern on Ravelry and was instantly moved to try some color work - something I have always been afraid to attempt because it looked like it involved a lot of work and more concentration than I was capable of.  

Also, I didn't like the idea of the associated "floats" on the wrong side of the work.  Philosopher's Wool's two-handed Fair Isle technique took care of that.  The result is a woven, floatless fabric. Fantastic!  

I never would have thought this could be so easy (of course, it's only two colors). 
Now, I'm imagining all sorts of color work in my future - including these Fiddle Head mittens.

Finally, I have some  Noro Kureyon Sock yarn that they were giving away at Knitch - in the Virginia-Highland area of Atlanta.

Okay, not exactly giving, but it was a steal - $20 for three skeins of yarn that ordinarily goes for $19 each.  I'm thinking that I should get started on my Christmas knitting.  Whether this sock yarn will actually become socks or something else remains to be seen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Knitting Along - Organically

The knit-along. A group of folks knitting the same thing. And comparing notes and stuff. It has always seemed a little keep-up-with-the-Joneses-y to me. And I find knitting to be a very personal thing. Do I really want to make the same thing as 5 or 10 or 20 of my closest friends? (FYI: that's funny because I call so few folks "friend".) At the same time?

Until recently my answer to that was, "Hell no." Until recently my only experience with kniting along had looked like this: my friend Dianne decides she wants to make something. She looks at the pattern and sees a chart.

Knotty Chart_150x150_p1
Chart for the Knotty glove - which we made

Because she cannot or will not read charts she says to me, "Let's make this." I look at the pattern and say, "Ooh, that's beautiful!" because it invariably is something really cool. "Okay!"

So we buy the yarn. We do our best to print the (hopefully) free pattern from the world wide interwebs (thank you again for this, Mr. Gore) because there is no better pattern than a free one - especially when you're unemployed. Then I figure out the pattern and explain it to her. Sometimes this means writing out the chart into words that she chooses to understand. But sometimes (breathe) it means sitting together for hours with me reading each line of the chart to her as we knit it. I'm sure this sounds much more fun that it actually is. Okay, maybe it doesn't sound fun at all. Which begs the question: "Why do you do it?" To which I can only answer: "She's the boss of me."

Back in June (or was it late May?) a group of us were at our regular Wednesday night knit-in at At Tangled Skein, and, on a whim, we decided to do a knit-along. But we wanted there to be no pressure. It was summer, afterall. That carefree season. We all already had multiple projects on our needles. And everyone was just busy with life.

The pattern we chose was Okmin Park's "Every Way Wrap" published in Interweave Knits' Fall 2009 issue.  The wrap is gorgeous.  The pattern is relatively easy. And the whole thing is reversible - which I really love in a cabled scarf - it really is just a giant scarf, isn't it?

So, we decided to make this an "organic" knit-along. Get started when you want. Finish when you want. Make all the mistakes you want. Don't fix 'em if you don't want. Feel the yarn. Feel the pattern. Feel the project. Feel the glow of the knitting sisterhood. Whoooo-saaaah . . .

Of course, it’s difficult to be completely organic when you’ve brought together a group of highly accomplished, perfectionist, knit-prolific women, so immediately we came up with some rules - or guidelines, if you will - that were made to be broken. The knit-a-long came to be known affectionately as the “Inorganic-Organic Knit-along.”

Every Way working
Every Way Wrap in progress 

We were, most of us, a little slow in getting started - which is just fine: organic - but once I wrote out the chart in words for Dianne and organically e-mailed it to the entire group, things really took off. Some of us were already nearly half done at that point. Many of us got started then. Some didn't. And that was okay.

Every Way working
This yarn is perfect for a nice, drapey wrap
Me, myself, personally, I am keeping it really organic. It will get done when it gets done. I’m not going to worry about the fact that I knitted the whole chart on the first repeat when I was supposed to stop at row 18. I didn’t even frog back, but rather just figured out a good row to start with to keep the pattern working. organic. It’s all good.

I may be about halfway done, but i’m not counting the chart repeats. I think there are supposed to be 16 total. But I'm just gonna keep on knitting until it’s the length my soul feels it should be. Organic.

Every Way working
My cable needle is getting a workout

I haven’t even thought about button choice yet. I figure that once my soul tells me I’m done, I’ll just saunter into an LYS - may this one, maybe not - with the wrap in hand and see which buttons it picks out. Organic.

Anywhoo, on with the wrap . . . or not . . . whatever.

Every Way working


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