With bobbins like this…

I have always been interested in weather. I even took some weather and climate classes in college, one in which I successfully predicted the first frost of the year earning me some extra credit. As nerdy as it makes me, I don’t know that a day goes by that I don’t look at weather maps. I enjoy it and because my family does so much outside, it is awfully handy to have a good idea of what to expect from Mother Nature.  While we don’t live in the Plains states in which tornadoes are most frequent, we do get our share of severe weather and that means that we have rules in place for how to react and we have since the kids were babies. In a severe thunderstorm warning, we are ready to head for cover in the basement at a moment’s notice. If a tornado warning comes through, we get downstairs first and ask questions & look at maps later. The kids know the drill and move quickly even out of a dead sleep. I am well aware that 99.9% of the time it’s unnecessary and most of the time I can look at a map and plainly see that fact, but it’s one thing for which I simply don’t take chances.

Earlier this week, we had a real doozy of a night. I awoke when our weather radio alarm when off around 11:30 or so in the evening. I put a link to the weather radio because if you live in any area that has severe weather from time to time you really should have one — they are so much more reliable than cell phone apps and the alarm is pretty impossible to sleep through. In any case, since I am me and I always take National Weather Service warnings seriously, I opened up a map and saw a big line of storms marching toward us from the south. It was utterly still outside my window. Anyone used to this kind of weather knows this is an unsettling sign.

As it started to rain lightly at my house, reports were coming in that a tornado had struck about an hour south of our house, severely damaging a school and over a dozen homes. From what I’ve read, injuries were minimal which is quite a blessing since it hit around midnight. Thank goodness. Fortunately for us, we just had an eery thunderstorm in which the winds shifted suddenly mid-way through and what started as a calm rain turned quickly to a lot of thunder and lightning & wind & torrential rains. That being said, the rest of that night and following couple have left me struggling to find a peaceful sleep. I love storms, but severe ones that roll through at night are unsettling for me.

Sluggish as I’ve been, I’ve found some peace — as always — in my craft. In accordance with the Socks with Sarah KAL, I’ve added some stitches to my Hermione’s Everyday Socks in Cloudlover yarn. They are beautiful, but I’ve found myself drawn to my Lida Shawl lately, so I’ve been clicking away on it.

20140620-094236-34956469.jpgAs with most lace work, it doesn’t really look like much right now, but I have no doubts that it will. So far, it is one of the most enjoyable lace knits I’ve knitted. It is repetitive, but not so repetitive that it is boring. And the yarn, Quince & Company’s Sparrow, is as always a delightful dream to work. If there is a better fingering weight linen out there, I have not found it.

I’ve also found spinning at my wheel to be a great way to unwind. I opted to spin up the latest braid from the Cloudlover Fiber Club, a colorway named Sashimi.

20140620-094241-34961338.jpgAs soon as it arrived in my mailbox I was in love with this Polwarth – Mulberry Silk blend. It is hot pink & salmon and every shade in between. When I posted photos raving about it, Natalie from Cloudlover reminded me that it came from a photo I posted on her ‘Wish List” thread, a place where fans are encouraged to post color themes and palette ideas for yarn & fiber.

sasimiNo wonder I love this braid (and the skein of yarn, too!) so much! Natalie’s interpretation of my photo could not be more perfect.

20140620-094238-34958792.jpgI spun it straight from the braid using my new BFF, the lace flyer. It is a great testament to Natalie’s talents that whether I organize the colors of her fibers or spin the braid as is, the resulting yarn is always beautiful. She just has such skills, I’m so lucky to always have her fiber on hand.

20140620-094240-34960140.jpgAnd despite my limited space — I actually store my wheel atop my dresser at night to ensure the dog doesn’t get any funny ideas, I still find really lovely places to spin.

Fiber on hand is something I’m certainly not lacking, so thankfully the Tour de Fleece will be starting soon. I’ll be away from my wheel for part of it and I don’t really do all that great with a spindle (*hangs head in shame a little*), so I won’t be as serious as I was last year. That’s probably for the best anyway since I went a little overboard/obsessive last year. In any case, I’m considering joining a team (or two), but I haven’t decided yet if I will do that or just go it alone. Whatever the case, I’m happy to shift my focus to a spinning-first mentality for a bit.

With bobbins like this, can you blame me?

sashimiLet’s not mention that beautiful Downton Abbey inspired color collection from Cloudlover — I’ve recently been catching up on the show and find this collection nearly irresistible… Remind me again that I have to spin my stash first for this Tour de Fleece. Remind me often.

Kit is Complete!

I am in a flurry of packing, but had to share that my beloved Kit Camisole is finished!20130615-160204.jpg

Details will come as soon as it dries, but let me just say that the finish line took its sweet time arriving today. It was a true ‘what should have taken an hour or two took more like four’ experience. I was rushing and just made some awesome mistakes – think twisting a strap as I joined it types of mistakes.  I decided that I just had to wrap it up today or it would have been hanging over me for the next week. I did try it on & the fit seems perfect…. I can’t wait to share (not to mention wear!)!

Tipping Point

I proved something to myself this week. The tipping point from feeling stalled to really starting to cruise on a sweater is not inconsequential. Two weeks ago I was starting over on my Kit Camisole thanks to sizing and gauge issues. Eight or nine days ago I had barely gotten beyond the linen stitch edge at the bottom and the ‘What was I thinking when I started this project?‘ internal interrogations began. Six days ago I literally thought I might not survive this project. Last night I joined what might be my final skein and started in on the linen stitch at the bust.20130608-081515.jpgI kind of can’t believe it.

So how did this happen? A large part was the playdate/sit & knit I went on with my daughter on Monday. It got me through the hardest middle part of this project &  f i n a l l y  let me hit my stride. Another key, is that with my kids’ school year ending I have had to switch my exercise routine from midday to evening. Now instead of winding down when I tuck my little ones in for the night, I have just gotten home from a workout and am completely wired. I end up awake for hours, clicking away late into the night. This last part is great for knitting progress, not so awesome when I have to wake up in the morning. I am hopeful my body will settle on a slightly earlier bedtime sooner than later, but for the time being I am pretty excited to have made such good progress on this project. I no longer have nightmares of finishing this beautiful linen camisole just in time for the first frost of fall. No, I will get some good wear out of it this summer. The fact that I can barely wait to do so further drives progress. What a great cycle to be stuck in!

I have opted to knit my Kit Camisole at a slightly tighter gauge, so I have had to make a couple minor modifications. Namely I had to add some length to the main body. I didn’t overthink this too much as the fit is meant to be quite loose. Once I completed the decreases I used the schematic to calculate how short I was on the overall body length. Knowing the linen stitch at the bust was to start 1.5″ short of the 17.5″ of total body length I was supposed to have, I just knit even until I was at about 16″ — in my case that was an extra 12rounds. I may throw in a little extra on the 1.5″ of linen stitch for good measure, but we’ll see what it looks like when I get there. I like longer, tunic-length shirts, so I would rather go a bit long than a bit short.

I have indeed been using my Heidi & Lana stitch markers.

20130608-090317.jpgI came across Heidi & Lana stitch markers last year while holiday shopping & along with giving them as gifts I have managed to get myself completely hooked on them. Not literally, because they are really & truly 100% snag-free, but… well, you know what I mean. They are pretty without getting in the way while I knit and come in perfect size ranges and they’re snag-free. I can’t really ask for anything else in a stitch marker!

I checked in at the Heidi & Lana Etsy Shop and there wasn’t a ton up there. I know the owner Margaret recently opened up a brick & mortar shop, so I’m not sure if she intends to keep up with the Etsy one or can still do custom orders — I sent an email asking, but it was pretty short notice for this post, so I’ll let you know when I hear back. In the meantime, if you find yourself in the Sebring, Ohio area go visit Heidi & Lana — it looks like a super cute shop & there are always lovely ideas posted up on their Facebook page. I wish I could visit!

Unfortunately the 9hour drive to Heidi & Lana is not on my agenda for this weekend, but attempting to finish up my Kit Camisole is. Did I mention I’ve already cast-on another project? Yeah, that happened in one of the darker moments of Kit knitting. It is the Midnight Shrug by Carol Feller & I am knitting it in Sweet Georgia Superwash DK in the Riptide colorway.

20130602-162025.jpgAfter a few bumps in the road to start (I’ll explain more later…), it is coming along just swimmingly. The yarn is absolutely dreamy & the pattern is turning out quite nicely. I was strong though and put it on hold now that I am moving forward so well on Kit. Sometimes it is so hard to be me, having to choose between two such lovely projects… It’s one burden I hope to bear for many years to come.

Here I Go Again…

Remember how yesterday I was very positive about the sizing of my Kit Camisole after trying it on? Remember how lovely it looked?

20130513-100258.jpg

Yep, I was pretty smitten.

Well, I ripped it out & started over. Six inches in — a big portion of that the very slow knitting of half-linen stitch — & I frogged it all. No one should be surprised by this, really, this is not really shocking if you know me. Is it disappointing? Yes. Will I be glad I did it though? No doubt. With this fresh in my mind I thought today would be a good day to talk about sizing,’failure’, and finding peace in little disappointments.

First of all, the big kahuna: sizing. To say it rather simply, getting the right size in your knitwear can be a challenge. Some garment pattern sizes are listed as ‘finished measurements,’ meaning the actual garment measurements when completed. Some sizes are listed ‘to fit bust (or chest, or waist, etc) measurement…’ meaning you are supposed to choose the size that is closest to your actual body measurement. Then you have to factor in ease — how much extra or less fabric you create in order to achieve a looser or more fitted look — which is sometimes addressed with good direction, sometimes not. Of course, all these measurements are absolutely at the mercy of gauge — if you don’t get the gauge right or at the very least understand how your gauge differs from the written pattern and make adjustments, your garment will not turn out as the pattern intends. Unless you are pretty darn lucky, ignoring the gauge issue will lead to disappointment and quite possibly some choice words at the final bind-off.

In the case of my Kit Camisole, where I ran into trouble was the double whammy of both size & gauge. First of all, I am currently measuring between a 37.5″ & 38″ at my bust — so my fear was that the 43″ would be enormous, but I was also worried that the 39″ would be too snug. Add in the fact that I have recently dropped about 10lbs and am working on dropping another 10, I went ahead with the size 39″ thinking everything would work out perfectly in the end.

Well, I tried it on yesterday and — as you know — I was hopeful as the fit wasn’t bad at all, but as I continued row by row & stitch by stitch and I knew my gauge was running a bit tight the sinking feeling in my stomach began to really grow. I was quite sure the fit was going to be ok, but tighter than I had envisioned. I also knew that if I ripped back, started over, and worked the 43″ at my slightly tighter gauge that I would be much happier. Working patterns at a different gauge is something I always advised against as a knitting instructor. It has always been my argument that unless you are fully comfortable making independent mods to your pattern, there are no shortage of wonderful patterns available that will work magically with your yarn if the gauge isn’t quite right with the pattern you are using. Why roll the dice? In this case, however, I opted to stick with a slightly tighter gauge because 1) I am certainly at the point where I am comfortable should I need to make any changes, especially with this simple pattern and 2) I also prefer the denser fabric as this is intended to be knit rather loosely & thus a bit more… ahem… revealing than I would like. A tighter gauge will help to make this a more stand-alone camisole rather than a layering one. When I really stopped and let myself consider the possible outcomes, I started re-winding the Sparrow and in a matter of minutes unwound the hours of work I had already put into this camisole. Slightly tighter gauge & size 43″ was what I needed to knit, so it shall be knit.

It’s a very common misconception among knitters that this is a failure or says something negative about me as a knitter. I watched a lot of students really disheartened by setbacks like this, their confidence taking a huge plunge if any ripping was required. Often it made them feel like they weren’t very capable when I knew the very opposite was true. I think the fact remains that even with knitting a full swatch, sometimes you will get into a project and it just won’t work according to plan. There are times you just won’t know for sure about the fabric and design until you are looking at it in your hands. In my experience, the strongest knitters, the ones who learn & grow the most are those that aren’t afraid to admit when a project isn’t quite right and take the time to correct the problem, however painful & time consuming the correction is. You simply learn so much in a re-knit and are generally so happy with the outcome because of it.

The truth of the matter is that even the knitters we all look up to make mistakes, they start over many times, and they deal with the same setbacks the ‘average knitter’ does. While it’s true, the more experience you have the more tools in your toolkit & the more options at your disposal to deal with the trouble which makes corrections easier. You also learn that a small bummer today will lead to a much happier end. Most of all, I’ve learned to have the patience to make sure each project is just right. The disappointment I had as I rewound my 2skeins of Sparrow yesterday was short-lived. Obviously it took me a while to finally decide to start over because I didn’t want to lose the precious time I used to work on those 6inches. In the end though, I am at peace with the fact that I know I made the right call. The yarn will be re-knit, the sizing will be right, and everything will be ok.

The beauty of knitting is that most things can be easily rewound and started again. Yarn is full of opportunities and on a large scale, it is very forgiving. We just have to be comfortable enough with our own needles, confident in our judgment, and humble enough to do what is right by our projects. This is what will ultimately lead us to create the knitted items we truly want to proudly wear. Correcting a mistake doesn’t mean we are unskilled, it means we are honest and ok with not always being perfect on the first try. No one — including me — is going to judge my work by the 6inches I pulled out. True proof of my abilities will be in the camisole I wear in (I hope!) a few weeks. I expect it’ll be lovely thanks to yesterday’s tough decision and all the tough decisions that are yet to pop up along the way. The challenge of knitting, the joy of knitting, the zen of knitting is in seeing opportunity & promise even in the face of setbacks and forging ahead anyways. Every project has to begin somewhere… sometimes it just has to start a couple times before we get it right.20130514-140537.jpg

Here I go again…

Tug of War

This last weekend was the first we’ve had that was truly spring-like. Warm & sunny all in the same day. Twice in a row. Needless to say it was incredible & we stayed very busy. On Saturday, the kids & I biked to the library for the first time this year & ate popsicles and played outside until they were exhausted. It was perfect!

Sunday is usually our family day, but this week my husband volunteered to cover part of a shift for a co-worker who had a make-up game to coach. We decided to each take a kid — my husband taking my daughter to work with him leaving me to hang with our son.  At my boy’s request, we started our day by taking our Moose to the dog park. It was very wet from all the rain we’ve had this spring, but wet shoes dry and labs sure do like the water! As soon as Moose saw open water he bounded into it with glee — it was so fun to watch the sheer joy of this pup on his first swim of the year.

20130429-140242.jpg

This isn’t the best photo, but you get the idea.

Less fun is the endearing way he is compelled to run back to us after each dive and shake off right next to us, but it is the lone curse of this dog — that I will be wet and filthy pretty much all summer long. He’s lucky he’s so cute & sweet!

20130429-135946.jpgReally, could you be upset with this face?

If the happy dog wasn’t enough, my son & I each managed to almost step on a snake at the park — one Common Garter snake & one Brown snake. My son is crazy for snakes, so these close encounters equaled major excitement for us.  Apparently the dog park had something for everyone this gorgeous Sunday morning!

After a stop for ice cream & a tour of the local pet store we arrived back home & my son opted to ride his scooter for a while. I wandered through my yard & gardens partly to make a mental to-do list for this spring, partly to see what perennials were popping up. I am always excited when my perennials begin sprouting for the year — many of them I have received as hand-me-downs & cuttings from friends that I have split & distributed throughout the yard over the years. In this way, it’s not just lovely plants waking up — like so many things in this life these plants remind me of special people & times in my life so I hold each of them very dear. I snapped some photos to share, of course.

20130428-183126.jpgHyacinth that my husband bought for me a couple anniversaries ago.

20130429-114729.jpgRhubarb that we planted when my daughter was a toddler.

20130429-114743.jpgThis lilac was one of the very first things we planted in our yard when we moved in. It has struggled — as do many things in our yard thanks to a giant black walnut tree on the property line (it isn’t ours — we love the shade, not so much the toxic roots & leaves).

20130429-114757.jpg

We have loads of gooseberry bushes which produce fruit prolifically. Mind the giant thorns though — my son kindly removed one from my leg before I noticed and promptly charged me $1 for the service. I happily paid as I surely would have been in a lot of pain shortly had he not caught it. Besides, he’s saving up for a pet tortoise… or snake… or a trip to Central America.

20130429-114827.jpgThese are daylilies and irises are from an dear friend who shared loads of plants with me when she remodeled her backyard.

20130429-114843.jpgAnd our honeysuckle vine that has overtaken an arbor that arches over our front walk. It blooms beautifully — sometimes twice — & the hummingbirds love it. It needs some pruning though, to be sure!

I was delighted to see lots tulips I transplanted coming up in their new locations as well as a sedum I split to multiple new spots last fall. I started a rather large-scale landscaping project with this plant last fall. It was originally just a lone potted sedum given to me as a house-warming gift and now it is about a dozen thriving plantings — hopefully more later this year. I can’t wait to finish this project, it’s going to look lovely, I just know it! I already took care of pruning back our plum and quince trees as well as our cherry bushes. I tidied up our daisy & tiger-lily bed (although they will probably need to be split, too). Mostly just the larger scale mulching project, switching over to summer-time bird feeders, and bringing out our over-the-deck-rail planters remain. I have some ideas for raspberry patch expansion & a mini-wildflower field, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself!

In the meantime when I’ve not been working in the gardens, I’ve been clicking away. I’ve finished some swatches for an upcoming class as well as my MerryKAL Chrimstas ball for April. I’ve also been cruising through the final leg of my Sixareen Cape. All this nice weather has made me think about a project I just barely started last month though… Bristol Ivy’s Kit Camisole in Quince & Co. Sparrow.

20130429-144429.jpgI love the timeless features of the design & so far I’ve been very impressed with Quince & Co’s linen. I haven’t used much linen in my day, but this one is quite lovely — soft and not prone to splitting.

 We are expecting more rain & cooler weather again the latter half of this week — it seems despite all the springing around us Mother Nature is still a bit torn between winter & summer — the tug-of-war we call spring. I am torn as well… quite torn, actually. In the time I’m not working in the garden should I finish up my cool weather knitting (I feel so close!) or spring into the warmer weather items so they are ready for summer? Or maybe just plug away at both? I think there will be a tug-of-war on my needles, too.