Cozy Knits for a Birthday Girl

December 9, 2016

My Twitter feed is full of ideas for gift knitting. As we get closer to Christmas, there are more “quick knits” made with chunky, bulky, and super bulky yarn. Someone could probably track how the changes in yarn weights correspond with amount of time until Christmas. But that someone isn’t me because I’ve got gifts to knit.

First, a birthday gift for a beloved niece, a truly amazing young woman attending college in my hometown. She’s generous, curious, super smart, talented in so many ways — baking, theatre sound engineering, photography, poetry that touches hearts (this one’s been shared more than 70,000 times).

My heart warms whenever I think of her, which I’ve been doing a lot lately because I’ve been knitting love into every stitch of her gift.

gaptastic-cowl-fingerless-mitts

A GAPtastic cowl, which regular readers will know is a popular project for me and my knitting students, and a pair of fingerless mitts in matching seed stitch.

It arrived just a day after her birthday earlier this week (but was technically on time because it was mailed before her birthday — that’s my story and I’m sticking with it). Since the temperatures are below freezing during the day and well below at night, I’d say it arrived just in time.


Girls Who Knit

December 9, 2016

For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending Monday afternoons teaching knitting to eight girls at a local after-school program. It’s the most high-energy 90 minutes of my week!

As always when I teach new knitters, a first lesson is to spot and then fix mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, and if you can’t fix them, you’re more likely to give up. Although only a couple of the girls have tried knitting before, each of the 7 fourth graders and one fifth grader is on her way to becoming a Fearless Knitter.

They’ve started with a cotton dishcloth, casting on (knitted cast-on) about 33 stitches, and working a few inches in garter stitch.

I like seeing how each of them holds the needles and yarn, developing her own technique and muscle memory for the craft.

With each stitch, they’re becoming more competent and more confident.

“When I woke up this morning, I dreaded going to school, but then I remembered that we’d be knitting this afternoon. That gave me energy to make it through the whole school day!” A bit dramatic perhaps, but a sentiment that many knitters — including me — share.

 


Knitting Class: Small but Fierce

December 5, 2016

After several years of having 6 to 8 knitters around the table at each knitting class, I find myself with two very small sessions this fall. I don’t know what accounts for the change, and I’m not taking the lack of enrollment personally (at least most of the time!).

What these regular Fearless Knitters lack in number, they more than make up in their creativity, persistence, good humor, and ferocity. Discover a mistake (or many) a few inches into your circular scarf? Realize that the pattern on your stranded sweater is off by a few stitches? Learn the painful lesson that knitting while drinking red wine is not for the faint of heart? (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about!) These knitting students tackled each project and challenge with vigor and commitment.

Christy, she of the Fox Cowl Hood, recently finished a luscious braided cable cowl. The yarn and pattern are from Purl Soho. With the temperatures dipping below freezing here in Greater Boston, you can bet this cowl will get a lot of wear.

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Gillan’s half-way through a pair of chunky fingerless mitts. The pattern had both of us flummoxed for a while. (And by a while, I mean we each knitted and ripped it back two or three times!) Following it carefully resulted in two rounds of ribbing around the thumb gusset, messing up the rhythm of the seed stitch. Finally, I adjusted the pattern, substituting some PFB for KFB and some (P,K) for (K,P) repeats. Seems to have worked.

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Marcia’s latest creation is a striped cardigan for a lucky baby-to-be. After finishing the neck at our last class, the only thing she’s got left to do is graft the sleeves to the body (underarm grafting, what a concept!) and add some buttons.

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See the yarn near the neck? That’s all she had left — yet again, playing a high stakes game of Knitting Bind-Off Chicken.  Who says knitters aren’t risk takers?!

 


Knitting in Turbulent Times

November 16, 2016

Was Election Day really only a week ago?! Like many people in the US and beyond who supported Hillary Clinton, I’ve experienced shock, anger, dismay, disappointment, and a flurry of other emotions. For most of last week, I tuned out nearly all media. I just needed to retreat temporarily, focus on my work (which does include a lot of social media) and on the people around me.

Knitting helped a lot, starting with last Wednesday morning’s class. I told my students we’d have only two minutes of election conversation before diving into projects. Deciphering a pattern. Figuring out how to fix a mistake. Relaxing into the rhythm of stitch after stitch, row after row.

As usual, Gillan is working on several projects at a time. Here’s her chevron scarf and fingerless mitts. I know there are some knitters who work on only one project at a time and don’t start another until the first is finished. It takes all kinds….

gillan-knitting-projects

When Christy (maker of the adorable fox cowl) arrived at this morning’s class, she reported that she couldn’t bring herself to come last week. Like many, she felt the need to hunker down for a bit, eliminating the complexities of life for a little while. That included her knitting. She put aside her cabled cowl (more on that gorgeous item in a future post), took up her circulars, and stitched together a bright ribbed cowl for Darwin — her beautiful dog, who looks quite regal, don’t you think?!

dog-ribbed-cowl-christy

 


Isn’t That Cozy?!

November 13, 2016

Fearless Knitter Rachel, she of the lovely chromatic cowl among other projects, emailed recently to show off her knitted tea cozy. 


Knit in the round in garter stitch (I think), it’s bright, snug, and sure to keep your teapot warm. 

Rachel’s from England so she knows tea. Looking for a gift to knit for a friend or relative? 

Do you have a Christmas gift knitting list? What’s on it? Mine’s not very extensive and is a secret for now. 


Foxy Knits: Update from Class

November 8, 2016

Christy joined my knitting class this fall and is making an adorable hood for one of her daughters. The Failyn Fox Cowl is knit with two strands of bulky yarn and has provided Christy with several opportunities to learn new techniques. For example, knitting in the round and, as you can see, seaming.

fox-hood-cowl-seaming

The ears are knit separately and include a crochet edging that nicely masks any uneven or not-quite-lined-up stitches. Since I’ve not yet fulfilled my goal of learning to crochet (it was on my summer wish list), we looked up “single crochet edge” in one of my many knitting books and she was on her way.

ears knit separately fox hood cowl

Since she has two daughters, Christy is planning to make a similar cowl for daughter #2. I’ll be sure to update you when she’s finished.

 


Knitting Mistake as Memory Marker

November 5, 2016

I’ve written before about the inevitability of mistakes in knitting and about the many mistakes I’ve made in a variety of projects. Learning to fix mistakes is one of the key steps in becoming a Fearless Knitter.

I believe that every knitter has a different approach to mistakes, which can vary given the project, mood, or phase of the moon. Some are just fine with ripping back inches to fix a single dropped stitch. By “just fine” I don’t mean they’re happy with said ripping back, but they prefer the ripping and re-knitting to leaving the error. Other knitters prefer to think of the error as a personal “design element,” something that makes their particular project unique.

After a weekend visiting two dear sister-friends, Fearless Knitter Marcia discovered a few errant stitches in a square of her Great American Aran Afghan. Can you see it here?

aran-afghan-square-front

Hardly noticeable amidst the reverse stockinette stitch. It’s easier to see the knits (that should have been purls) on the reverse side.

aran-afghan-square-back

Now, perhaps a complex knitting project was not the ideal take-along for a girls’ weekend together since lots of conversation, cooking, and wine were on the menu. But that’s beside the point.

Marcia’s general practice is to fix mistakes, tearing back or tinking as needed. However, this time she decided to leave those four stitches. “Every time I see them, I’ll be reminded of that fun weekend,” she declared. Mistake as memory. I love it.

aran-afghan-squares


Gift-Knitting Jump Start

September 29, 2016

Just a couple of days after her new speckled, hand-dyed yarn dried, friend Shelley had selected complementary yarn. Look how great the green and blue (Encore by Plymouth Yarns) pick up the similar colors in her hand-dyed sample.

green and blue balls of yarn with sample of hand-dyed yarn

By now, I expect she’s already cast on and is creating a great hat that one of her grandbabies (-children, -nieces, -nephews) will open in late December. Christmas knitting already? Sigh.

What’s on your needles these days? Or on your gift-knitting list?


Been Dyeing to See You!

September 19, 2016

I’m supposed to be hiking the tallest peak in Maine right now, but a forecast of three days of >60% chance of rain forced me to change my plans. The likelihood that my hiking companions and I would be able to reach the summit were pretty slim and the chance of an 11.5 hour round-trip drive and two nights in a lean-to were 100%. There’s always next year….

With a “free” Sunday, I decided to visit the Stitch House, a nearby yarn store that I’d been meaning to get to for ages. Yesterday was also the final day of the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl, which means special events and sales. I found both.

When I arrived, Shelley, founder of the wonderful Sheep Ahoy Knitters Cruise, and Diane of Lady Dye Yarns were at a back table with white yarn, cups, water, gloves, and loads of little bottles of dye.

dyeing-dip

Shelley was creating an Irish flag-themed skein as Diane demonstrated the finer points of dipping and stirring.

dyeing

Shelley’s a quick study. Her next skein was speckled, not dipped. (I have no idea if “speckled” is the proper term, but it works for me.)

dyeing-speckled

As befitting a local yarn store, the Stitch House sells lots of locally-made yarns — some from Boston (like Diane’s) and others from around the Northeast US. Check out this worsted from Molly Girl.

mollygirl-rockstar

Sister-friend Cathie is a big fan of purple and pink, so I had to take a photo for her. The Rockstar colorways are named after songs. This one is named “Dancing Queen” and get this…

mollygirl-lyrics

…the lyrics are printed on the label!

I couldn’t resist a skein of Lady Dye’s worsted in Luna. I don’t know what it will become, but it’s ready to go when inspiration strikes.

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Back to (Knitting) Class

September 15, 2016

No matter how old I am, September will always be back-to-school time (at least, here in the Northern Hemisphere). Regular readers will know how much I love to teach knitting since I’ve mentioned it now and again (and again…).

fall-classes

My new fall classes are enrolling now here in lovely Newton, MA. Care to join?

Would you like to learn to knit? Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?

Or have you finished a couple of projects and are ready to learn some new techniques and become more confident — what I call a Fearless Knitter!

Now enrolling for two knitting classes, beginning in late-September.

Tuesday evenings, beginning September 27
7:00pm – 9:00pm

Wednesday mornings, beginning September 28
10:00am – 12:00pm

Beginners will develop a strong foundation of skills so that they can continue knitting many different types of projects. You’ll learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, create a border, read a pattern, identify and fix common mistakes, and bind off. When you’re done your “starter project,” you’ll select one of your choice — a chunky, soft circular scarf, a colorful hat, whatever!

If you know how to knit and are working on a project of your own and/or are ready to challenge yourself with cables, lace knitting, chart reading, socks, or other knitting skills, this is the class for you.

Cost is $75 for a five-class pass. Class size limited to 8.

Interested? Email me for details. 


Shed a Little Light

September 12, 2016

This is my first real candle jar cover, but I can say with confidence that it won’t be my last. A great way to use up extra bits of yarn — this is fingering weight — and to try new lace patterns.

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In my home, we light candles at dinner every night. In my opinion, you can never have too much candlelight — inside or outside.

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Project for a Dark & Stormy Night

September 9, 2016

Since finishing the striped shawl, I’ve been in a bit of a knitting rut. To be candid, it mirrors my present state of mind — preoccupied with challenges that leave me mentally jumping from one thing to another. But I believe I’ve found a remedy of sorts, in the form of a small, relatively quick project perfect for gift-giving and for using up small amounts of leftover yarn.

May I present a candle jar cover:

lace-candle-jar-first

This first one is pretty wonky, the result of my not paying attention to the pattern. Funny how that works. I decided that lighter weight yarn would be preferable and dug out some fingering weight that the marvelous Ann Weaver gave me on my first Sheep Ahoy Knitting Cruise. Yes, it’s more than three years ago. Don’t tell me that I’m the only knitter with three-year old yarn in her stash.

I cast on while having dinner by myself before a ferry crossing 10 days ago. I’d ordered a Dark & Stormy in memory of dear Barb (and because I like the taste) and was enjoying the sunset and nearby table conversations.

cast-on-dark-stormy.jpeg

A friend commented later how nicely the color of the yarn matched the beverage, and that’s when I knew that this project would be named the Dark & Stormy Candle Jar Wrap. What better for a dark and stormy night than a candle shining bright and safely protected in a glass jar?

dark-stormy-wip

Not done yet. Check back soon though because I’m on a roll.


Circular Needle Wrangling

August 13, 2016

I use circular needles for almost all my knitting. The only exception is double-pointed needles (DPNs) for socks.

Circulars are less cumbersome than straight needles. I can’t drop one of them — unless I drop an entire project. (It’s happened.) And circulars make projects easier to stuff into a bag.

But, as you can see, I’ve yet to find a successful solution for storing the needles themselves.  

Until yesterday, when my latest knitting toy arrived courtesy of the good folks at Webs. And thanks to the Christmas gift card from my sweet husband.  

This nifty hanging organizer, made by della Q, allows me to sort needles by size into labelled sleeves. No more guessing at sizes, which I’m horrible at, or poking needle after needle into a gauge before finding the correct size. Or discovering that I’ve got three size 5s but not one set of the needed size 6. 

Thanks, dear Patrick!


Self-Striping Magic

August 10, 2016

Self-striping yarn amazes me. Actually, the dyers who create self-striping yarn amaze me. How do they do that? How do they figure out how much yarn to dye in each color, and, more importantly, how do they actually dye it?

I know I could look it up on the Interwebs and find some videos, but I rather enjoy the state of amazement and wonder.

Which brings me to the wonderful folks at Caterpillargreen, who’ve created a small line of exquisitely striping yarns. Despite my being in New England and them in British Columbia, my skein of fingering “Concrete Remix” arrived only a week after my online order. Using Caterpillargreen’s free pattern as a starting point, I quickly cast on.

Concrete-Remix-Shawl-1

The yarn is designed for a triangle shawl started from the top-center (the back of the wearer’s neck) outward to the edges (tips of the fingers). And here’s the wonder of the coloring: the initial stripes take much less yarn than the final ones, so the yarn is dyed accordingly so you end up with stripes of the same width.

Concrete-Remix-Shawl-2

I modified the pattern a bit, knitting the bright colors in seed stitch. Three stitch markers remind me where to add stitches (yo at edge of garter stitch edging and M1 on either side of the center line). The pattern is straightforward, so I can knit pretty much anywhere — watching TV, riding in a car/bus/train/ferry, or even while a spectator at a beer pong game.

Concrete-Remix-Shawl-3


Knitting House Call

August 9, 2016

On a recent evening, Marcia — neighbor, friend, and knitting student (among other talents) — dropped by for a house call. She had a couple of skeins of lovely yarn that needed winding, and she needed a scarf-in-progress that was in need of rescue.

Like me, Marcia often visits local yarn stores when she travels, bringing home a souvenir of sorts with which she makes a new creation. This summer, her travels took her to London (England, not Ontario) where she bought a yummy skein of I Knit or Dye’s “At Last” silk 4 ply. It’ll probably be a shawl the next time you see it.

I Knit or Dye yarn "At Last" in Swizzel

She’s also picked up some “Extra” from Blue Sky Fibers (here in Ocean Deep), which will become a soft, cozy sweater. Stay tuned for that, too.

skein of Blue Sky Fiber's Extra yarn

Never one to shy away from a knitting challenge, Marcia had modified a cabled scarf pattern by adding an addition “twist” to her latest project. As an accountant, she’s very adept — and particular about — numbers, a very useful skill for a Fearless Knitter especially when it comes to rewriting a pattern.

However, while airplane flights are often fabulous knitting opportunities, Marcia discovered that they’re less-than-fabulous is the knitter has taken a muscle relaxant because of back spasms. It was no surprise that she got her cables in a bit of a twist!

With some careful tinking [to tink (knit spelled backwards) = to unknit, stitch by stitch) and picking up of stitches, we were able to put the scarf back on track.

cabled scarf close up

She can’t recall the name of this natural handspun yarn, but I can assure you that it is lusciously soft and squishy.

 


Hope There’s Nothing But Cashmere in Heaven

July 27, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t made many new, close friends in my 50s. I’m blessed to have quite a few Sister-Friends, those phenomenal women with whom I share strong bonds of trust, love, and shared experience. Most of them I’ve known for many years.

Imagine my delight several years ago when I met and made two Sister-Friends in the matter of a week, over the course of my first (their second) Sheep Ahoy Knitters’ Cruise. Cathie and Barb had been work colleagues, close friends, and stash-enabling knitting buddies for 25 years, and they welcomed me with open arms.

Barb brought us all tiaras for “formal night” in the sheep’s ship’s dining room. Of course.

barb-cathie-mah-tiaras

Cathie shared a story that illustrates Barb’s obsession with love of yarn and her sense of humor perfectly:

“One time, we went to a yarn fare in Kitchener, arriving when the doors opened. In the first 15 minutes, we had each spent several hundred dollars and had to make a trip to the car.  I said ‘this could be a problem – we’ve only been here 15 minutes.’  Barbie said, ‘I know, I’m worried there won’t be enough room in my trunk!’

The three of us snorted with laughter on a regular basis whenever we were together. I’m quite sure none of us has been able to look at almond milk without giggling. We emailed, occasionally talked on the phone, went on another Sheep Ahoy cruise, this time to Canada and Maine. Love, laughter, and knitting abounded whenever we were together and even when we weren’t.

And then tragedy struck. Last week, Barb died of advanced lung cancer that she, who never smoked, had been diagnosed with in April.

In May, Cathie and I took a road trip (me from Boston, her from Vancouver) for a weekend visit to Barb’s home in Ontario. As always, love, laughter, and knitting were in plentiful supply — along with delicious food and yarn shopping at Barb’s local yarn store, The Little Red Mitten.

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I’m trying to focus on the positive and be grateful for having been blessed with such a wonderful friend. And I am, truly. But sometimes the sadness and unfairness of it all tightens my throat and squeezes tears from my eyes.

I’ll remember her this way — with an armful of yarn, a sparkle in her eyes, and a smile on her face, giddy with the optimism and possibility of what would come next.

barb

 

 

 


Quick Cotton Dishcloth

July 24, 2016

There are times when a quick, basic project is needed. That time for me usually involves the completion of one project and some indecision on what to make next.

My go-to “palette cleanser” projects are baby hats and cotton dishcloths or washcloths (depending on the size).

Last week it was a dishcloth. Not just any dishcloth though; Mason Dixon Knitting’s Ballband Dishcloth, a simple, clever, and quick design. Lily Sugar’n Cream in Indigo and Hot Green (although I think of it as Green Apple).

Even though I’ve started a new project (stay tuned for next post or get a sneak preview on Twitter @SaltwtrHillKnit), I’ve started a smaller version, which will be a wash cloth for a lovely niece who’s heading off to two weeks of overnight camp.

What’s your go-to quick-and-easy knitting project?


Tiny Treasures

July 23, 2016

On my daily morning run or walk, my mind shifts from internal – making lists, praying, solving the problems of the world — to external, noticing the sights and sounds around me. I’ve started to pause for a quick photo to record something that captivates me, usually something natural like a sunrise, plants, clouds, wild turkeys (which are simultaneously disgusting and fascinating).

My brother Luke, a talented blogger (go check him out), regularly posts a photo under the “Beauty All Around Me” category. He says that looking for beauty in the world, no matter where he may be, helps him to see the beauty in the world. A helpful exercise any time but especially when life seems dark.

In a little “pocket park,” I came across a collection of lovely Fairy Gardens, part of a local Garden Festival. These tiny worlds were just exquisite, each carefully created from natural and human objects. #BeautyAllAroundMe indeed!

fairy garden with tea set

fairy garden umbrellas

fairy garden with tree hut


One Toe Up, One Top Down

July 10, 2016

One of my knitting goals this year was to knit a pair of toe-up socks. I’m half-way there.

A stretchy, soft self-striping yarn in blues and greens was the perfect combination for Kevin. (Plymouth Yarn’s Diversity in Deep Sea) He’s a big fan of handknit socks and those colors, so it was pretty much a no-brainer.

In my excitement to start, I began in my usual top-down way using the YarnHarlot’s Good, Plain Sock Recipe. Only after I’d started to turn the heel did I recall my goal of learning to knit socks from the toe-up. The result was the sock on the right (Kevin’s left) — top down, partridge eye heel flap, gusset heel, and toe grafted via Kitchener stitch.

KRD_socks_heels

Fortified with a toe-up sock book from the library (love, love, love the library!), I started the second sock from the toe. The cast-on and toe shaping took a few extra minutes, but then I was on my way. No seam!

KRD_socks_toes

I wasn’t thrilled with the heel flap — mostly because there wasn’t really a flap. But I carried on. I found a variety of heels in the toe-up book and expect I’ll try a different version next time. Kevin declared them “terrific and cozy,” high praise from a young man who’s pretty particular about his clothing.

KRD_socks2

 

 


Shawl: Dropped & Draped

July 8, 2016

Dropped-stitch shawl hanging out in the shade.

Thanks to Sister-Friend Cathie (she of the knitting cruise and Ontario road trip), here’s a photo of the shawl “in action.” What a wonderful evening we had with my our Mom and our unphotographed husbands!

AGH-MAH-Cathie-shawl

on Instagram: http://ift.tt/29npb97


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