Stuck in the Doldrums Again

It’s my most favorite part of a sweater.  The torso.  Nothing like knitting skein after skein of plain ol’ stockinet stitch with no end in sight.  I’m definitely not bored or anything.  Definitely not letting Grandma’s sweater sit, neglected in a box on the floor of my studio. Nope.  Definitely not doing that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s my usual process for making a top-down sweater:

1.  Casting on/neck/upper shoulders:  Exciting! I just started on a new project, and I’ve only got a handful of stitches to a row.  I’m flying along!

2.  Lower shoulders:  Sure, I’ve increased up to a couple hundred stitches, so any one row is a pain, but I get to work some cool colorwork.  It’s still pretty fun, and the added fair isle keeps it interesting.

3.  Split for arms:  I get do do some math, and even break out the stitch holders.  Excitement abounds!

4.  Body:  The worst.  Really, pattern?  You want me to knit 12 inches of stockinet over 200 stitches?  No.  I will set fire to the sweater instead.

5.  Bottom ribbing:  Hallelujah!  I am just so happy to be knitting something other than the body!

6.  First arm:  Woo Hoo! Look how fast I can knit when I only have 70 stitches to work per row!  It’s practically flying off my needles!

7.  Second arm:  Didn’t I already do this?  Hurmph.  I think I might get bored, but at least If I finish this step, I’m almost done!  I can power through.

8.  Collar and button band:  Aren’t I finished already?  I’m pretty sure I should be finished.  Oh well, I guess I’ve got to keep going.

9.  Finishing:  Yeah!  Nearly there!  Maybe I if I don’t go to bed until 2:00, I can get this finished in time to wear it to work tomorrow?  That’s acceptable, right?

 

So, wish me luck, cheer me on, and hopefully I’ll get past Step 4.  I’ve still got a looong way to go (and I have to make it before Christmas)!

While you knit: Overdrive

Let’s keep the celebration of novels going!  I love reading a good book, and I love knitting.  But, surely there must be a way to enjoy a good story without putting down my needles.  This is the 21st century, after all.

In fact, there is!  Audiobooks.  I always have an audiobook or two (or twelve) on my phone, ready for me to listen to at a moment’s notice.  They’re great for driving, doing yard-work, cooking, and of course, knitting.

But how do you get Audiobooks onto your phone without spending an arm and a leg at Amazon or on iTunes?  (Or, if you’re a cheapskate like me, the question is: how do you get audiobooks for free?)  The library!  And, you probably don’t even have to leave your house.

Most libraries these days have started online collections of digital media (audiobooks, e-books, and Kindle books) accessible through the library website.  You sign up in person at the library, and get a pin number, which you can then use to get digital media through the library’s Overdrive account.  (Think of Overdrive as an iTunes-like download service for libraries).

Overdrive%20Media[1]My library lets me check out 24 books at a time, and they automatically are returned when my loan is up (no late fees!).  There’s nothing better than discovering a new, great book.  Especially one that’s free!

So, if you haven’t already, take some time on your next trip to the library and ask about their audiobooks.  Then, spend some time curled up with your knitting and a good book.

Why Knitting is Good for You

Every few months I come a cross an article about “17 ways knitting helps your brain,” or “99 reasons you should knit,” or, in this case “5 reasons knitting is good for you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s examine what this article says and make snarky jokes about it, shall we?

1.  Fighting off dementia.  I’m not familiar with the research on this subject, but I’d  buy it.  Knitting is a three-dimensional puzzle.  Being able to read a pattern and turn it into a whole garment takes a surprising amount of brainpower.  And, being able to identify when you’ve made a mistake and fix it takes even more.   I imagine that continuing a mentally challenging hobby like knitting keeps your brain sharp through middle age and beyond.   (Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself to justify buying that extra skein of yarn.)

2.  Staying calm.  I totally get this one.  Sometimes, after a stressful day, the only thing that will make me feel better is sitting down with my yarn and a cup of tea.  I get a lovely calm feeling just thinking about it.  Aahhh…

3.  Getting fit.  I call BS on this one.  There’s no way that a sitting-down activity like knitting should be considered exercise (though if it could, I’d be a fitness model).  I have heard of more than a few knitting friends who pick up needles as a way to curtail their mindless snacking while watching TV, but I’ve never had a problem with eating while knitting. (*knit 1, purl 1, eat 1 chip.  Repeat from * until end of row.)

4.  Getting happy.  I’m not sure how happy and calm are separate categories, but I suppose it makes sense.  I know I am always excited when I start a new project, and I  get all giddy when petting a new skein of yarn at my LYS.

5.  Being trendy.  Ugh!  It drives me nuts that this is one of the reasons that people knit now (which, I realize, makes me an annoying hipster).  It’s not that I’m unhappy knitting is popular.  It’s more that I feel regret for teenage me.  I knit for years before I would admit it to anyone (other than my parents and brother, obviously).  All that heartache and sneaking around for nothing.  Dang.

So, why do you knit?  Do you agree with these “Reasons for Knitting,” or do you have your own reasons?

Pattern: Christmas Scallops Stocking

I love Christmas. I love the family, I love the gifts, I love the food, and I love the decorations. But, I’m not super-traditional when it comes to decking my halls. Red and green are a little passé, and Rudolph (and his red nose) are old hat. I’m a fan of sparkly tinsel and multicolor blinking lights.

This stocking is just what I look for in a Christmas decoration. It’s festive, but not boring. Traditional…ish. I’ve picked a deep winey red and a pale seafoam green to my delightfully chubby stocking. Experiment with the colors to make one perfect for every member of your family!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Christmas Scallops Stocking is a simple, fast knit that you can work up in a weekend. It is knit from the top down, in the round, at a largish gauge. A few easy rows of Fair Isle creates the decorative colorwork at cuff and toe. The heel is formed by a simple series of short rows in an easily memorized pattern.  You’ll have plenty of time to finish these stockings before Santa arrives on Christmas Eve.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet the pattern for free here:

Christmas Scallops Stocking

Knitting in Novels: Knit Lit

I love reading.  I love knitting.  But do I love reading about knitting?   Eh… not really, but maybe I just haven’t found the right book yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good book, and I love a good knitting cameo.  But, “Knit Lit” is something that hasn’t really appealed to me.  Maybe because the knitting books tend to be a little girly and “nice”, and I like my novels with dragons, or robots, and at least a little grizzly murder.

But I have dipped my toe in the Knit Lit pool.  And, it seems to me that Knit Lit books tend to show up in one of a couple categories:

Cozy mysteries:

4cd7db7732f63ce572fb3ebb3c1d1f0b[1]These are mysteries, certainly.  And there is definitely murder involved, but it’s not grizzly, and there’s very little real peril involved.  I know it’s weird to say, but they’re actually pretty “nice” murders.  I listened to Knit One, Kill Two a while ago, and it was pleasant enough, a fun little book, but nothing terribly exciting.  I imagine it would be perfect reading if I was feeling under the weather.

Memoirs:

thCA1Q6B4SThese are the sort of “overworked single mother learns to take back her life and get her groove back while making a cool sweater” type of stories.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these, either.  I read Sweater Quest years ago, and actually quite liked it.  It wasn’t just about knitting and self-growth, but it was also about the designer Alice Starmore, who is a character in every sense of the word.

The Serious Novel:

45f173cab7fae6842d880b2ae1ff263d[1]I admit, I haven’t gotten up the guts to read The Knitting Circle yet.  I love me some murder, mayhem, and violence in my books, but you give me a book that starts out with a dead baby and a grieving mother, and…oof.  That’s a tough sell for me.  But, it’s been sitting on my shelf for years, so I’ll probably get around to reading it some day.  But today is not that day.  (I have heard it’s good, though.)

Paranormal Romance:

dbe01b68d5ef974817ec3b5a533f9edd[1]Total confession time:  I just bought this book while researching knitting books on Amazon.  It’s probably terrible, and it’s definitely not something I would usually read.  But, look at that cover!  It’s ridiculous!  And read this synopsis from Amazon:

“Sugar Maple looks like any Vermont town, but it’s inhabited with warlocks, sprites, vampires, witches, and an ancient secret. And Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & String, a popular knitting shop, has a big secret too. She’s a sorcerer’s daughter in search of Mr. Right, and she’s found him in Luke MacKenzie, a cop investigating Sugar Maple’s very first murder. Bad news is he’s 100% human, which could spell disaster for a normal future with a paranormal woman like her.”

Amazing right?  I’ll have to read it and give you a review.

So, do you read any Knit Lit?  Or do you stay away?  What’s your favorite knitting-related book?

(Fewer Than) 50 Shades of Gray

My Dove Heather yarn showed up!  And it’s perfect!  Look!

Before:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s not blocked yet (obviously), and the picture is a little over-exposed, but you get the gist!  The dove gray is the perfect shade.  It’s light enough that it doesn’t get swallowed up by the blue, and it’s the perfect counterpoint for the pink.  I couldn’t be happier.

Now I just have to knit the rest of the sweater… Oy!

Inspiration: Charles Phoenix

I just re-discovered an awesome… performer?  Internet personality?  Cook?  I’m not sure what to call him, exactly.  He defies explanation.  He is Charles Phoenix, and on his website he describes himself as a showman, author, humorist, and Ambassador of Americana, which seems as good a description as any.

CharlesPhoenix-4-up-599x158[1]But, really what he is is fabulous.  Point in case:

Isn’t that the best thing you’ve seen in years? I want to a Christmas party this year, just so that I can make Frosty the Cheeseball Man.    If you have an hour to kill, I highly recommend looking through his other cooking videos.  They’re pretty much the best.

Let’s take a minute to share patterns that Mr. Phoenix would heartily approve of.  Fun, kitschy, and a little bit weird.

When I throw a party, I always insist on a strict dress code, even for my dish soap bottles.

Going Dancing Dish Cloth Dress by Debbie Trainor

36075428_DishclothDresses_p17_Going-Dancing-No2_medium[1]Why waste your time with boring old pot holders when you can use this adorable menagerie?

Crazy Casserole Pot Toppers by Crochetroo

2406514933_614a0f64c7_z[1]Vintage shaping combined with a fantastic bright fuchsia yarn is definitely something that Charles Phoenix would approve of.  If only there was a way to add a glittery Western String Bow-Tie…

Zelda by Joan McGowan-Michael

13611507175_a6d937759a_z[1]

 

Knitting Sweaters for Others

A handmade sweater is a labor of love.  A labor of love that deserves to be worn until it practically falls apart at the seams.  And then it deserves to be darned and worn for a little longer.  And then for another fortnight.

After writing this week about all the knitting in Harry Potter, I’ve become slightly fixated on the Weasley Sweater.

thCA0MCQT1Molly Weasley, the mother of Ron, Ginny, Fred, George (and about a half-dozen other characters), sends her children a “Weasley Sweater” each year for Christmas.  Her handmade sweaters are the butt of an annual joke to her kids, and, admittedly, the image of the extra-large Weasley family all going to Christmas dinner, sporting matching sweaters emblazoned with their initials is pretty funny.  But, I always get little pangs of sympathy for Mrs. Weasley, who must have spent hundreds of hours knitting away by the fireside, listening to the Wizarding Wireless Network, making sure that her children stayed nice and warm in drafty old Hogwarts Castle.

Weasley[1]So, how do you avoid becoming a Molly, with all your hard work going unappreciated?

First, ask if your recipient even wants a sweater.  (Unless you’re 100% sure they will appreciate it, and really want to make it a surprise, always ask.)  Mrs. Weasley has been knitting these sweaters since her kids were tiny, and now they’re expected (and kind of dreaded, like tax season).

Second, try to figure out what kind of sweater your recipient wants.  Ron always gets a maroon sweater, not because he likes the color, but because his mother likes how he looks in maroon.  If you knit a sweater for someone in a color they hate, it’ll never get worn.  Which would be lame.

Third, think about where your recipient lives.  I’m making a big, fluffy sweater for my grandmother, who lives in Wisconsin, where extra layers are always helpful.  I once made a cabled wool pullover for my husband (which actually turned out really great), but he can almost never wear it, because Seattle never gets cold enough to warrant that much wool.

And fourth, think about if your recipient will actually appreciate all the time and effort that you put into the sweater.  I limit my knit gift-giving to my family and my knitting friends, otherwise they just don’t “get” it.

tumblr_lpsdihVFdI1ql72zio1_500[1]So go for it!  Make someone you love a Weasley Sweater (or a Jones Sweater, or a Robertson Sweater… whatever your last name is.)  Just make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Knitting in Novels: Harry Potter

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought we could talk about books and novels.  Specifically, knitting in books and novels.  Sometimes it’s a sneaky, subtle part of a book, and sometimes it seems like it’s almost a main character.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I come across a mention of knitting in a book, I always get excited, as if I just saw an old friend make a cameo.

So, without much more ado, let’s jump right in to my favorite book series of all time. Harry Potter (obviously)!

Knitting isn’t a big part of these books, but it peeks its wooly head up more than a few times.

In the first book, when Harry is first being introduced to the wizarding world, Hagrid breaks out his tent-like yellow knitting on the journey.  (Just like all of us trying to pass the time on a long commute.)

Mrs. Weasley is a well-known (and prolific) knitter, who spends her days knitting sweaters for her seven children (plus Harry).   (Sure, they’re a little tacky, and the kids don’t really appreciate them the way they should, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)Ron-Harry-Potter-Christmas-Sweaters[1]Hermione even learns a knitting charm to help her knit the piles of hats that she tries to use to set the Hogwarts house elves free.  (Can you imagine how much more you could get done if you could use a knitting charm? My whole house would probably end up covered by a gigantic knitted house-cozy.)

Knitting_charm[1]And, even Professor Dumbledore, while not a knitter himself, is a big fan of the art.  More than once, he mentions his love of warm woolen socks, and once he reads a muggle knitting magazine while waiting for a couple other characters to finish a conversation.

Clearly, I have read (and re-read) the Harry Potter books a few too many times, but, you know what?  I don’t care!  They’re fun, interesting, well-written, clever, and have lots and lots of knitting in them.

What’s your favorite knitting-related book?

NaNoWriMo 2014

It’s November, again!  And you know what that means: it’s NaNoWriMo time!

nanowrimo-crest[1]Last year, I did NaNoWriMo for the first time, and it was so much fun!  I never finished my story (because plotting is hard.  My main characters kept ending up in jail.  And it’s difficult to save Chicago from a jail cell).  But, I more than passed my 50,000 word goal for the month.  I learned a lot about my writing style, and how to maximize my productivity.  (I know it’s weird, but it turns out that I am most productive when I work in my car.  Something about not being able to access the internet, combined with a not too comfortable seat.  Who knew?)

This year, I’m  feeling pretty good about my prospects.  I am taking a creative writing class about writing a novel, and while some of the information is pretty obvious, I’ve learned some things that will really come in handy.

I’m working on a small-town murder mystery, this time around, and my goal is to actually finish the story, not just make it to the 50,000 words.  So keep your fingers crossed for me!

But what that means for you, dear readers, is that I’m going to be busy writing away on my novel, and might be a little slow to respond to comments, emails and other shout-outs.  I haven’t forgotten you, and the posts will still come, although they might be a little shorter than usual,

Wish me luck!  I’ll see you all in December!