The Sweater that launched a thousand funks

You might remember the Sea Princess Sweater that I made for the Kiddo. It’s pink…very pink. I was super proud of how it came out. The Kiddo loved it. Even though it was probably a bit too warm out to be wearing a wool sweater, she wore it every chance she could get.

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Although it’s a washable wool, it still needed to be handled with care. I washed it a couple times  – with maybe one or 2 other items and in cold.

And then….this

It's a little hard to see here, but it looks terrible in real life.

It’s a little hard to see here, but it looks terrible in real life.

It got mixed into a full load of laundry somehow & washed in what was clearly water that was WAY TOO HOT for it. Now I have a weird looking pseudo-felted, cabled sweater. I’m not sure what to do with it. I worked too hard on it to be willing to just throw it away. What I know is that it sent me into a crafting & blogging funk the likes of which I haven’t seen in a couple years. Combine that with working full time and you can imagine how much I’ve gotten done.

BUT about 2 weeks ago I finally started to come out of it. I made a pair of baby pants, I finished the puppy hat of eternity, and I made a lovey blanket (pics & stories to come).

And now I have ideas…so many ideas! I have some really nice yarn that is just screaming to be used. A cowl, socks, washcloths…oh my. Now I just want to MAKE ALL THE THINGS!

On a separate note, what the heck does one do with a pseuo-felted, cabled sweater when it is totally unwearable?

These are a few of my favorite things

Nope…no raindrops or whiskers, just knitting stuff.

I’m sure like anyone else with a hobby, there are a few particular tools in my knitting bag that I don’t think I could live without (including a couple recent additions).

Knit Counter App

I used to use a little red clicker to keep track of my rows. And I nearly throttled my husband’s best friend when he saw it on a table and just started clicking away because it was there. A much better solution came along for me after I got my iPhone. The Knit Counter App. This is, by far, my favorite app and the one I use the most (aside from The Weather Channel). It’s a pretty bit step up from my little red clicker.

I really love that you can track multiple projects at the same time. Another nice feature is that you can automatically count repeats of a pattern. I haven’t used it yet, but you can even track stitch markers.

Interchangeable circular knitting needles

I’ve talked about these before. My interchangeable circulars are Knit Picks Options in Harmony Wood. I have them in nearly every frequently used size and even have a couple doubles so that I can keep multiple projects on the needles at the same time. I don’t use regular straight needles anymore.

I prefer using these to straight primarily because the weight of a project distributes a little more evenly between my hands as I move back & forth. As for knitting in the round, I like the Options cables because they are very flexible and don’t have a memory (i.e. when they are wound up for storage you can still pull them out straight and they won’t spring right back).

Tiny “fix-it” crochet hook keychain thingy (Emergency Fix Keychain)

This thing is awesome! For a LONG time I used a small crochet hook to fix my dropped stitches, but about 6 months ago I bought this little keychain crochet hook “fixer” as an impulse addition to one of my orders (yes Knit Picks again). I heart this tiny keychain. I don’t think there are really any major pluses to using this as opposed to a regular crochet hook, I just love how cute and little it is and how nicely it fits in my accessory pouch.

Swift & Ball-winder

Another pretty recent addition to my “bag of tricks,” I have no idea how I managed without for such a long time. Actually I do know…I just avoided buying really nice yarn that had to be wound up. Well, no more. Yes, I will still be a frequent shopper of the craft stores and online places that sell less expensive, pre-wound yarn, but now I can go to the nice yarn stores and easily use my purchases. Yay!

PS – Trust me, Knit Picks still has no idea who I am and they have given me nothing. I just happen to enjoy their stuff and spend WAY too much money on their site. Oh, also Apple and the maker of the Knit Counter App have never heard of me.

Stuff I’ve learned, the “philosophical” edition

I decided to start knitting back in (*ahem*) 2004 after we got a cat.  I know that seems counterintuitive…typically yarn + cat = what are you thinking woman?  However, up to that point my main crafting hobby was cross-stitching and there were WAY too many pieces of embroidery floss and other scraps of things going on with that for it to be safe to do around a still-curious 9-month old kitten.  Knitting was far more self-contained and easy to keep track of.

So, what have I learned since then?

Well, #1 is that knitting with a cat around isn’t as hard as you might think, at least not for me. Mine is more interested in sitting next to me while I’m knitting than trying to get into the yarn (though she’ll poke at it sometimes). The bigger issue is that my mother is TERRIBLY allergic to my cat so anything I make for her has to be thoroughly cleaned before gifting (not that I make her things often see #4).

#2 – It is impossible for me to be stressed about anything in life while knitting. There is a fundamentally relaxing aspect to the repetitive nature of knitting – knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl – that makes it terribly difficult to focus on anything besides the task at hand. And although I might occasionally get frustrated with the object I am making, I wind up feeling as though all of the other stressors have melted away.

#3 – Practice makes better. Okay, this isn’t one I learned just from knitting, but the sentiment is just as valid. It easily took me a year to complete my first real knitting project. Before that I had made various squares of things – this was before I discovered Ravelry and the wonderful dishcloth patterns I could have been trying – but had never completed an actual “project.” I set my sights on making a bag from a pattern book I had fallen in love with. The pattern itself wasn’t hard at all…essentially a long rectangle in stockinette stitch. However, I wasn’t very good at making sure all of my rows had the correct amount of stitches at that point so it came out a little crooked. BUT, I had finally finished it and that’s what matters. Eventually I found ways to train myself to not lose count (think stitch markers every 10 or 20 stitches) and after a while I found I didn’t need those “tricks” anymore. Now, I can even finish a pair of mittens or a hat in less than a week.

#4 – No matter how much love and care you put into creating something, some people just will not appreciate the gift. This was a hard one for me for a long time. I was so proud of myself for learning a new skill and for being the only one in my family to be able to do it. (I come from a family of crafty people…sewing, cross-stitching, crocheting – but no knitters.) Over the last few years I’ve made things for many members of my family and almost everyone has really enjoyed and appreciated what I’ve made. Others…eh, not so much. My mom appreciates the thought & skill, but won’t use anything I’ve made – it’s always “too itchy” (wool or wool-esque) or “too hot” (a hat). My husband just doesn’t wear hats or scarves or gloves. So I do my best to make things for people who I know will appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating a hand-knitted item and for anyone else…ah well, they can have gift cards (just kidding…mostly).

#5 – Pace yourself. Sometimes I’ll get on a full-blown knitting kick where I work on project after project without stopping in between. Some people can pull this off without repercussion. I am not one of those people. After a couple weeks of “intensive” knitting, I have to step back. My hand/wrist is usually the first indicator. It starts aching and my fingers start to feel uncomfortable. Then my brain starts to go. I start making stupid mistakes and wind up having to go back and fix the same row 3 or 4 times. This is when it’s time to walk away for a couple days. I think this happens with a lot of hobbies (and even some jobs)…sometimes you can only push yourself so long.

#6 – Find someone to play with. There are a lot of knitters out there and what seems like a solitary hobby isn’t really one at all. Quite a few people join groups that meet to chat & knit together on a regular basis. I would love to find a time and place for this, but it hasn’t been in the cards for me at this point. However, I have found my Nerd Wars friends on Ravelry and it’s been great. There are so many people on different skill and talent levels that it’s given me a chance to learn a lot and, more importantly, the courage to branch out and try to techniques and skills.

It may sound silly, but I think I’ve learned a lot about myself through my knitting hobby. I’m not always a “stick with it” kind of person – I frustrate easily. But you can’t just wear one mitten, so stick with with, I must. Besides, there’s just so much pretty yarn out there that is asking to be knit into fun things.

Monster Chunks, here I come!

Birthday Yarn

Today is my birthday.  Today I did pretty much nothing but yarny things and I didn’t have to feel bad about it…because it’s my birthday.

After my husband left for work and took the little girl to day care, I sat and worked on my Leaf & Acorn shawl for a while.  Then I went to the store closing sale at A Yarn for All Seasons.  I bought $100 worth of Berroco Ultra Alpaca Tonal in Strawberry (#6336) for $50 – that would be 10 skeins.  When I got home, I knitted some more and then the little girl and I went out to dinner with some of the family.

Now that the kiddo is in bed, I’m able to knit some more.  Yay!

Tomorrow, I’m going to take my birthday money to another yarn shop and make some additional purchases.  Yay for me!

Knitting needles – it’s a personal choice

When I first decided to take up knitting the one thing I was a little overwhelmed and intimidated by was the amount of needle sizes and types to choose from.  On top of that, I was totally freaked out by the potential cost of my new pursuit.  So, I took the suggestion of the internets and went with one set of needles – a 10.5.  I chose a pretty purple acrylic set,  got one of the cheapest worsted weight yarns I could find, and set out to pursue my new hobby.

Holy crap!!  It was awful.  I think it took me two days to figure out how to cast on.  And when I finally started to knit, it was nearly impossible for me to keep the yarn on the needles.

Over time I’ve learned what works best for me and what I like using the most.  I say what works for me because it’s really all a matter of personal preference.  Some people love their acrylic needles, some people change depending on the type of yarn they use…all of the options exist for a reason.  Here’s what I like and why:

  1. Wood and Bamboo.  I’ve learned that acrylic and aluminum are way too slippery for my taste.  Wood and bamboo have a little bit of texture to them that allows the yarn to “grip” a little and not slip off so easily.
  2. Circular needles are your friend!  I was SO intimidated by using circular needles that I wasted a fairly large sum of money buying nearly every size of straight needles.  Ooops.  Circular needles can be used as straight needles or for circular projects.  I don’t think I’ve used a straight needle in three years.
  3. Interchangeable circulars are the way to go.  This was an excellent investment and is a great way to get the most for your money.  Personally, I use Knit Picks Harmony Wood interchangeables.  I have nearly every size they carry at this point and the set comes with two sizes of cables which are great for medium and large size projects.  As I said before, you can use them as circular or straight needles – which I love.
  4. Small circular projects require double-pointed needles.  Another thing I was terrified of.  Here’s what I learned pretty quickly.  As much as I love wood for my circular needles, I need the flexibility of bamboo for double-pointed knitting.  I bought one set of wood DPNs and they tore my fingers up.  My only exception to this are my sock needles (the teeny tiny sizes)…those I have in wood.
  5. Small circumference fixed circulars.  I’ve just started knitting with these recently and I am in love.  For a long time I just couldn’t see the point of them.  If you have something small and circular to knit, just use the DPNs…which is what I’ve been doing for a couple years now.  However, making hats for my daughter has changed my mind.  DPNs are great, but the because there is no “needle change” on the small circumference circulars you don’t get the weird little line/gap running up the sides of your hats like you do with the DPNs.  I’ve bought them in two sizes so far…4 and 7 (from Knit Picks and in wood, but you probably already guessed that).  The total size is 16″ and the needles themselves are smaller than your average needle to allow the most flexibility in the round itself.

Side note – I know I mentioned Knit Picks like a thousand times.  I don’t receive anything from them for free and I highly doubt I ever will, although if I ever do I will be sure to let you know (and I just provide the links so you can see what I’m talking about).  Honestly I just find their products nice to use and easy to order.  I don’t have a local yarn store super close to me & there are only so many needle choices available at the big craft stores (you know who I’m talking about…A.C. Moore, Michael’s, et al).