The things I learned today... including the secret of weaving progress

The things I learned today... including the secret of weaving progress

You can hold off on the stash intervention. I found my knitting. I can't believe I hadn't knitted anything for a month and a half and what's more, hadn't even thought of looking for the project in that time.

But I did find it tucked into the back of one of the living room bookcases on top of the maps. Just hiding innocently in the back dark corner. I think I need a nice big knitting basket that lives permanently next to my "spot" on the couch.


And the last thing I learned today? If you sit at the loom and weave for 6 hours, you get a lot woven. I am so thrilled at my progress today and hope to repeat it over Labor Day weekend three times. I might even get the first two panels off the loom if I do that. I was spurred to this feat by a course I had to watch and the fact that the rest of my computer workload was put-off-able for the time being.

I am tentatively willing to admit...

I am tentatively willing to admit...

I am tentatively willing to admit that I might need an intervention of some sort.

While shooting some video today about how to start a continuous tapestry warp so your edges don't get saggy (in the newsletter on Thursday!), I became a little obsessed by a memory. Of a knitting project. I was sure it existed. I could see myself in my room at Penland working on it. I finished filming and pulled up the pictures from those two weeks. Nothing. Until I saw this photo from the day before I left.

Stash diving

Stash diving

There comes a moment when I'm getting ready to go on another trip when I feel compelled to visit one of the excellent yarn stores here and buy the supplies for a new knitting project. The voice in my head is very strong.

"You have two long travel days and two weeks among strangers. If you run out of knitting/weaving/spinning projects, you might not survive." --Rebecca's head-voice

Resisting this voice is difficult, but I am determined to go shopping in my own yarn stash first. This is only practical. The stash is threatening to take over all available space in my clothes closet and even I need to wear clothes most days. Certainly I can find an appropriate match of knitting yarn and pattern for the upcoming teaching trip to Penland School of Crafts? Surely I can.

The hardest decisions of all...

I decided Sunday was the day to tackle the most difficult set of decisions before the upcoming extended holiday visit to family. I care very little what clothes make it into the suitcase and I know if I grab my Kindle I can always find something to read.

Nope. Which projects to bring along is the big question. This gathering of fiber is fraught with a fair amount of fear. After all, being caught without anything to spin, knit, or weave when far from home is bound to cause some anxiety. If it lasts for two weeks, I might be looking for some valium (or more likely a yarn shop).

There are many considerations. The first is space in the car. I really wanted to bring the spinning wheel, but a few sweet and well-timed comments from Emily made me realize that there wasn't room... besides, did I really want my father, nephews, and brothers-in-law to mess with it? Seriously. These people can't keep their hands off a spinning wheel even though they have no idea how to spin actual yarn. Nope. The Ladybug stays home where she is safe.

But that meant I packed the Jenkins Lark spindle. I even picked up a little Sweet Georgia braid to have something entertaining to spin (passage through the state of Oklahoma warranted this purchase all on its own).

From there things got harder. There is a definite need for simple projects. There will be much sitting about, talking, and potentially even some mandatory football-watching (though I can hope to escape that). In a football-type situation, I can knit something harder. I know nothing about football and as long as I look sufficiently jolly when the team I'm supposed to be rooting for makes the ball go through that post thingy, I can concentrate on the pattern. But there will also be a lot of people. The couch will be crowded. There is no room for a sweater or other large knit. For this situation I have packed a ball of sock yarn (which I have already swatched!) and my Two-At-A-Time-Toe-Up book. I finished my first set of sample socks and I think I'm ready to try a real pair.

For the situations involving Christmas movies with fewer people, I can pick up the larger projects I have to concentrate on. The Aventurine sweater that Emily has been waiting for for almost two years WILL get done this holiday... especially if the nieces and nephews get enough movies to watch and I am allowed some illumination. I got a little discouraged when I couldn't get the Kitchener stitched hood top to finish correctly (resulting in a lengthy stubborn insistence that this sweater didn't even exist). But eventually I decided I had to move on and maybe my mother could help me fix it. Now I'm on to the plain stockinette of the body and sleeves. Home free baby.

For the rest of the time when I have to be participatory in the family conversation, board games, or just generally look like I'm paying attention, I have packed yarn for a cowl (which I have already swatched!). This was a request from Emily and she is REALLY hard to buy holiday gifts for. I couldn't find an appropriate pattern, so I found a stitch that I liked and I'm going to make the rest of it up on my own. I already respect knitwear designers a LOT more.

And of course there has to be a backup project. What if I run out of knitting? I have finally realized that my spinning teacher is right and I have to actually use my handspun if I want to become a better spinner. My winter hat is an old purple thing I knit about a decade ago. I think it is time to attempt a new hat with my handspun. I even bought 40 inch needles to try the magic loop method.

And as always, I'm still knitting these. I pretty much have a forest now.

I also had to bring some weaving. There are a certain pair of little girls who's grandfather has made them a dollhouse. I am anticipating a sudden need for small doll blankets (thus the Zoom Loom) as well as rugs and tapestries for the new house. I believe a 6 and an 8-dent Hokett loom should be able to produce the required floor coverings and artwork.
Now all I have to figure out is how to hide the fact that I just packed nine different fiber projects for a two-week trip. Maybe I can use decorative cookie tins for project containers... then they'll just look like gifts, until someone gets hungry.

The sweater the dog ate...

There was a time in my life I lived in a rural off-grid cabin without running water. That means I peed under a tree and took a shower in town. But it was a good time and the stars were very very bright. Through a rather surreal plot twist, a friend from that time came back into my life because, well, she is in the same PhD program as my wife (I didn't marry the rural cabin owner. I'm okay with a composting toilet, but I found that I really like a shower every day a lot more than I thought I did).

And I'm immensely glad to have her back. Kelsea is a knitter. She made this fantastic sweater. Her favorite sweater. And then she took care of a dog who decided to eat one of the buttons. He swallowed the button (it wasn't found) and chewed a large hole in the yarn underneath in the process.

This is the initial mess with a few live stitches picked up.
I wasn't sure I was up to the task of repairing this. I am a fiber junkie, but I don't have the best knitting skills. I am kind of a stockinette or garter stitch sort of knitter. Sometimes I'll throw in an ssk or a yo, but really, I like it pretty simple.

This repair required picking up live stitches, reknitting a portion (I didn't have the pattern), and then Kitchener stitching the rows of live stitches together--and I had to do it backwards! I also had to secure four rows worth of severed yarn and reattach the new knitted fabric to the rest of the ribbing. I suppose the very best way to fix this would have been to rip out the ribbing back to the hole and reknit the whole thing, but I didn't have the pattern, I don't have the same knitting tension as Kelsea probably does, you would have been able to tell the difference between the older worn sweater and the new yarn, and basically I'm lazy about this kind of thing.

But I was gifted two marvelous bags of fleece from my favorite local shepherdess in exchange for this repair, and I was determined to save the favorite sweater.

So here it is.
Thank goodness that button is big. Since the button that went through a dog's digestive track was not found, this one was moved from the collar.

This project was one in the pile of UFO's which I spoke about in the Love the One You're With blog post. I'm making good headway on that pile. My bedroom floor has been a veritable sea of blocking.

Stay tuned for the last in the James Koehler videos tomorrow.

Handmade holiday

There was a lot of knitting this holiday. For whatever reason, my brain kicks into knitting obsession around the end of November every year and I churn out some small project in multiples. This year there were several. I will admit that I have trouble with big knitting projects. I can happily plan and execute a very large tapestry and never lose my mojo, but actually finishing a knitted sweater is like climbing Mt. Everest. I have a bin under my bed with THREE sweaters that are completely knitted and just need to be blocked and sewn together. They have been there for years. No, small is the right size for me.

It started with the tiny trees. I ran out of wine corks (amazingly), but between my mother, sister, and sister-in-law, I now have enough corks for years to come. A forest is what I'm going for here (and to use up the bags of odds and ends of knitting yarn clogging my closet).
You can make some yourself. The pattern is by Julie Tarsha and you can find it on her blog HERE.

There were some knitted stars for my niece's Christmas tree. (Pattern is Stjarna by Karolina Eckerdal.)

Then there were the fingerless mittens. Thus far I have made five pair. I am out of yarn, so I might be done. The pattern is Super Bulky Fingerless Mittens by Spider Laurence.

And the baby hat and leg warmers...
There is another pair of leggings in process for another niece, but I didn't quite get enough knitting time on the drive across the country to pull them out.
I also put the Zoom Loom to good use making blankets for my 2-year-old niece's little people. I had to sew some together because "their feet are so cold". The only photographic evidence of these blankets seems to be this photo where the baby is wearing one on her head. The wool stuck nicely to her wispy hair. And yes, that is Santa Claus in the background putting together a new workbench for the older niece on Christmas Eve.
My Aunt Mary Lou loves to make dolls, and this one appeared under my mother's pint-sized Christmas tree for a couple little girls. Lulu is a marvel of details. She has a tattoo on her back that says Merry Christmas 2014 and an embroidered heart on her chest. My aunt knows her way around a sewing machine.
And I received a wonderful quilt from an old friend commemorating my dog Cassy who died about a year ago. Kristi knew Cassy when she was a young dog and she gathered photos of her and sewed this quilt.
A better handmade holiday has never been had. Bring on the fiber, it is only 360 days until Christmas.

Knitting at altitude

Yesterday turned out to be quite a day. My goals when I got up consisted mostly of completing some fiber-related tasks and perhaps getting some exercise. I didn't get quite the fiber-related things done that I wanted to, but I did pack some knitting on our little excursion. Since it was such a gorgeous day, we decided to hike Windy Peak in the South San Juans not far from where we live. On the way I even lucked out and found the circular 16 inch, #7 knitting needles I needed for the project of the day. This may not sound so amazing, but it is virtually impossible to buy knitting needles in the San Luis Valley on a Tuesday. Thankfully the owner of the quilt shop in Monte Vista (Shades, Quilts, and Etc.) is smart enough to stock a whole line of knitting needles even though it is clear she doesn't knit herself and it appears that her customers are all quilters.

After watching some cranes (the sandhills are back in the valley briefly on their way to New Mexico for the winter) and slowing down for a coyote crossing the road... and an hour drive up a rocky road in my Volkswagen Golf, we reached the trailhead. Not 15 minutes into the hike we saw this beautiful black bear.

 Made my day. And I was glad he was looking for berries, not my sandwich.

A wooly friend left this on the fence on the way to the top.
Up we went and eventually made it to the top of Windy Peak which is something shortish for Colorado, but still a respectable 12,600 feet elevation. And as it was a gorgeous day, at the top I had the opportunity to sit in the sun awhile and knit on this little hat.

It is blue and red for a Mississippi baby. (I'm told these are Ole Miss colors. I may need some independent verification on that.) At any rate, they go well with the brilliant aspens.
Looking east across the San Luis Valley which was covered in haze. I'm looking straight at a string of 14,000 foot peaks but can't see them through the smudge. I haven't figured out which forest fires this brown air is from.
South San Juans and Conejos Peak from the top of Windy Peak
I love being on the top of the world. It also makes you feel like you went somewhere when your car is a tiny dot far far away.

And it also makes me feel great enough that I don't even feel guilty being up there on a Tuesday.

The aspens are all changing. Fall is here and winter is coming soon. If we have to have winter, may we have a lot of snow, a lot of yarn, some new knitted hats, and a few new tapestries to show for it.