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Archive for November, 2005

Sweater-to-Skirt Project

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

sweater, beforeOh, Joy! I have a skirt. And it’s cute as a button, after all that.

Here’s the chain of events that happened to make this a reality:

Last year I bought a sweater at a resale shop. Label: Ralph Lauren… and it says hand made in Uruguay. The yarn is the same colorway as Manos del Uruguay yarn I’ve seen in several shops. Price, less than $10. I take it home, even though the colors are more muted than I usually wear. (Photo 1)

I wore it once. It was raglan style and snug fitting, and it came to the waist. I like long tunic sweaters that are baggy. I sometimes buy Men’s sweaters and roll up the sleeves, I like them that big. I’m not a large woman, I usually wear a size 6 or 8 US/Medium size, and I’m short, only 5’2″ tall.

sweater, after ripping seamsSweater ages in closet wondering what it will be when it grows up.

Sally Melville Color book comes out. Rae knits a skirt from the book. I look up the skirt pattern, and it calls for Manos del Uruguay. The gears in my brain start working overtime.

I realize I don’t want Sally’s skirt. I don’t like eyelets, don’t like wearing lace. My favorite skirt in the world is a tube skirt, knitted cotton/lycra. But I take another look at the sweater.

waistband in processThe light goes on! The sweater looks a lot like a tube skirt with sleeves. I measure, and sure enough, my favorite skirt is the same circumference as the body of the sweater.

I let the idea percolate a while as I gear up the courage to rip apart a perfectly good sweater that just is not my style. One night after midnight I’m peaceful enough inside to go for it. It takes 2 hours to un-seam the sweater. (Photo 2)

I take the parts to Rae and try on the remains of the sweater body (as a skirt) for her. Looks promising! I realize I don’t want elastic at my waist, so I don’t need much yarn to knit up from the armholes to make it fit with elastic at my hips.

skirt blockingI rip the yarn out down to the armholes. I realize that one reason it was so hard to undo the seams, was that the knitter had alternated skeins of handpainted yarn to avoid pooling. Amazing how it did in fact work well! It does mean that I have a whole lot of tiny, golf-ball to tennis-ball size balls of yarn with which to work.

LynnH wearing skirtI pick up stitches around the sweater with a circular needle. I choose a needle size really a bit small for the project, but I plod on anyway. All these years as a socknitter means I love dense fabric when loose and drapey might be fine.

I knit in circles until I am out of the yarn I’d ripped from the body. I debate whether I should rip out the arm yarn as well, but I have designs on making the arms into legwarmers so I think better of the idea. I rip back one row, and re-work the row as a purl ridge for a turning edge. I knit an inch or so of fingering weight yarn in charcoal for the back facing of the elastic casing/waistband. (Photo 3)

I sew the casing shut and thread elastic. I block the waistband. I gasp at how short it looks on the table. (Photo 4)

I put on the skirt and model it around the house like I’m some movie star! I realize how short the skirt really is when I put on the sweater I thought I’d wear over it, and the sweater is as long as the skirt. Oops! I find one plum knit jacket in a fine gauge that works great for a dress/work occasion, and a fisherman knit bulky blue mohair sweater for casual. (Photo 4)

I’m very pleased that the skirt goes great with the charcoal Maggie’s Organic Cotton/lycra tights I just bought at the Food Co-Op this week. (And the hose feel wonderful and look like they will last a good long while. They even have heels knit in!)

That was fun!!! Adventures like this are few and far between. I enjoyed the ride.

Knitting Update

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

LynnH Self PortraitMy hands sure have been a knitting machine of sorts lately. I’m cranking!!!

Yesterday I knit two skeins of Noro Kureyon on Rae’s Watercolor bag sample. I just need to do the bottom and I-cord handle for that bag. And the coolest news? My music friend Edna, who plays washboard (as in Jug Band Style) has an extra washboard she doesn’t play and she’s giving it to me! Just in time to beat the Threadbear Watercolor bag into submission. Perfect!!!

But I’m also knitting on my Manos sweater-to-skirt project. For those tuning in late in the story, I found a Ralph Lauren sweater at a resale shop, knit from Manos del Uruguay premium yarn. It did not fit me well the way it was made originally so I was willing to unravel it and make something new.

It sat for a while and then it whispered to me that it wanted to be a tube skirt. So I unraveled it down to the armholes and now I’m knitting up. I want the elastic or eyelet-with-tie to fit at my hipline. I am more comfy without elastic at my waist, plus it will take less yarn and I’m going to wear it with a huge, long, tunic-like sweater over it anyway. That is just how I wear things.

So I picked up stitches on Monday and started knitting. I first thought I had too thin a needle and then decided it was fine, so I kept going. I have about 2″ done already and maybe 2″ to go. I’m going to love this thing!!!

I tried to take a photo of my skirt progress. The photos I took in front of the mirror got all blurry (glare from flash, I think). But when I turned the camera toward me, I got this funky artful self-portrait out of it, anyway! It does not show the skirt well at all, but this is what 47 years old looks like at my house! I’m pleased, I look better in the photo than in real life… now, to get rid of that poker face…

I Took the Plunge

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

You all know how much I love wool. And you all know how cold I get in Michigan most of the year. I always swear I’ll knit a pair of wool longjohns but I never seem to get around to it. Mind you I have a large collection of different types of longjohns to make it through the winter. The best ones I have right now are the cuddle duds Sue gave me. I can even wear those under a skirt, as they are slippery on the outside like a slip. But when it is really really cold, I crave wool.

In college I had a pair of the original Duofold longjohns, one smooth layer of wool over one smooth layer of cotton, but I wore them until I had a hole in the knee. Since then I have mostly had to make do with thermal-knit cotton… better than nothing, but bulky and no good when damp.

I have looked for this original Duofold fabric at the local sporting goods stores. They typically carry Duofold brand but it is that synthetic stuff everyone seems to love these days. I can’t wear polyester, it makes me itch! Just like wool can make others itch, I guess. Boo hoo…

Two years ago I swore I’d buy some wool longjohns (made with superwash wool they are neither scratchy nor handwash, they are just plain the best). And then I looked around a while to find some. SmartWool looked good but the midweight ones were $55 USD a pair (now they are $60), and I just could not stomach that idea. That brand is always excellent quality, but pricey next to similar items from other companies.

And so I surfed. No surprise, the best solution for wool longjohns seemed to be in Australia, where they really understand about great wool. At wool-underwear.com they had several styles… from feminine and lacy to lightweight to double-knitted. I was thrilled because one of the designs went all the way down to the ankle without a cuff/ridge of ribbing. I wear my longjohns under tight-fitting leggings, and the ridge that shows about three inches above my ankle with most longjohns is a hassle requiring legwarmers or big slouch socks if I want to cover it up.

So I hemmed and hawed and while doing that I got a catalog from Land’s End. They had silk longjohns for less than the wool (about half the SmartWool, actually). I caved in to financial considerations, and got a pair of the silk.

No surprise folks… I don’t like the silk. They *are* warm and they *are* thin, but the fabric sort of catches on my hands and they are very static-elictricity-prone. I may be wrong, but I swear they are not as warm as my beloved wool might be. You can bet I do wear them, but I am disappointed.

Fast forward two years. This week I got checks for my birthday from both my Mom and my in-laws. I decided I really did not *need* anything, have all the clothes/yarn/food I can use, my car is in good repair and computer parts are already coming on their way to fix the only real need I have right now.

So I went back to wool-underwear.com, where they had a page with six choices from which to choose. And I bought two pair, thanks to my two birthday gifts. For about the same as one pair of SmartWool would have cost. (I ordered style PBJ, which amuses me since in the US that stands for Peanut Butter and Jelly.)

I’m really excited to finally be able to stay warm, in my own style. Wool!!! Now I need to allow time for the mail to deliver, which is not exactly fast from Australia. I have already waited two years, though… what is another week or two?

This almost makes up for not going to Africa during the snow season!

Three Full Years of Blogging!

Monday, November 28th, 2005

early drawing by LynnHI typed my first ColorJoy! blog entry on November 28, 2002. This means I have completed three full years of blogging. In that time I have written 1128 posts. If you divide 1128 by 356 days a year, I have written 3.16 years of posts, or an average of more than one post per day. I’m proud of that record.

But writing every day is nothing without you loyal readers. I firmly believe that the strength of the Internet is relationship. It is truly amazing how we can build friendships, primarily based on black-and-white text in English.

My statistics say that in the last 697 days I’ve averaged 1005 unique visitors to my weblog folder on my website. Some of those are folks who did a Google search for something and did not really want to find me. But I would guess that a good majority of the visitors do really want to read what I say. I find this very gratifying.

You maybe have read here that both my Grandmothers were writers. My father was also a writer/journalist, and my mother is a very fine storyteller though for years she told her stories with the spoken word more often than print. It seems likely that I would love writing this column for you!

When I go to Michigan Fiber Festival and someone (Lori Konopka was the first) comes up to me and says hi, that she recognizes me as LynnH from reading my blog, it makes my heart sing. When I get email from Max, the woman in Canada, with photos of her beautiful part of the world, I know friends truly exist over the ether. (The other Max who used to write to me, the man in the USA, sadly passed away in October… may he rest in peace.)

When Marie Irshad in Wales/UK(!!!) strikes up conversations with me, first about my handpainted yarns and later to ask if she could interview me for her Knitcast program, I know I’m doing the right thing. The world is my home, not just Michigan/USA. Marie is not my only online friend outside the Americas. I really love this part of blogging!

When I go to the coffeehouse in Okemos to have tea with Sarah Peasley and someone (Barb) comes up to me and says “I read your blog every day!” I know I am doing something right. I want to share my views (of life as art and art as life) with others. And it clearly is getting through.

When I go to a yarn shop where I teach, and mention this or that about my current project to someone there, and they say “oh yeah, I read that on your blog,” well, I must be on the right track. It happens at all my yarn shops where I teach… Threadbear (especially Rob and Marti), Rae’s (Hi, Rae), Little Red Schoolhouse (Linda), Yarn Garden (Kim and Pat), Heritage Spinning (Joan and Deb). It also happens at Working Women Artists… Regina is always on top of my doings from reading here.

And how would I stay in touch with Sharon P, one of my dearest Lansing knit friends, if it were not for our blogs? In fact, I think we really became friends after we both started blogging.

I know it’s a hassle to contact me, I’ve been a full year without a comment feature. Yet today Chelle took the time to write to me. She touched my heart with these words:

I enjoy reading about your inwardly rich and introspective life not to mention your creativity, sense of style and great attitude toward life. Whenever I m down, your appreciation of the everyday world makes me remember why it s good to be alive. Over the past few years, you ve turned me onto a lot of good music, books, gift ideas, and appreciation for many things normally out of my everyday life.(snip)

Chelle, it is for these very reasons I write. I am thrilled that my intent somehow gets through. Thank you for the report card.

BarberPole Sock by LynnH Knit by Scarlet ZebraWith that, I’ll take the time to say I had a wonderful birthday today. My day started with sleeping in, followed by a phone call from my Mom. She always sings me the birthday song, start to finish, on my birthday… usually by phone. We had a great talk.

Following that, Altu took me to lunch, gave me a gorgeous light raspberry shawl/wrap, and took me to tea at Beaners. After that I went to Rae’s and knit like a fiend on her sample bag while talking yarn… then went home for a while (knit some more, this time on my Manos skirt).

Brian took me to dinner for Indian food in East Lansing, followed by a nice walk around downtown East Lansing in the wet (no longer raining) weather… and then followed by tea at the Gone Wired Cybercafe. Whew!

So we went home, and I finished the third skein of yarn on the same bag while chatting with my friend Iris C. who called from Chicago to wish me a happy birthday. Now I’m going to put down the bag for a while (I only have to knit the bottom and the handle, then do my best to felt it along with trying to felt the bag for Threadbear once more).

I’m going to start up again on the Manos sweater-to-skirt project. I started it on needles that are a bit too small for comfy fabric so I’ll rip out the 3 rows I did earlier and go for a fatter needle and see how I like it. I’m eager to wear the skirt while it’s perfect wool skirt weather. I’m saving up my photos on this project for when it’s finished… it should be soon.

Life is good. Really good. Simple, sometimes… I don’t have fancy stuff, you know? But the people in my life are just top notch, and my town is a very friendly place to live. I wish the same contentment to all of you.

Images: 1) One of the first images I ever put on my blog, a drawing I made as a tiny child (thanks to Mom for saving it). In magenta and purple crayons… no surprise, huh? 2) A photo from January 2003, my BarberPole Sock pattern knit in Cascade Fixation yarn by my friend Deb/Scarlet Zebra.


Monday, November 28th, 2005

EthiopiaIt is the Monday after Thanksgiving. A year ago, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Altu and I left for Africa.

Today it is gloomy and gray again. The thought of five weeks of sunshine sounds very good to me right now. I’m really OK with staying here with my Brian, but there is a small bit of melancholy in my heart.

However, I started my day with a phone call from my mother, and now I’m preparing for lunch with Altu. I’ve already done some knitting this morning. I’m determined to make it a good day.

Photo: Laundry day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, taken approximately New Year’s Eve, 2005. This woman looks SO Ethiopian! And check out those sharp shadows, from the strong sun near the equator. Also notice that color is not scary to Africans… pink buildings are not uncommon.

Gloomy Gray Day

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

BarberPole Sock by LynnHIt is gray and sad outside today. I woke up to rain, and the sky is our typical Lansing winter sky, gray from edge to edge. I didn’t see a single ray of sun myself, though I heard from a few friends they saw it try to peek out. I tell you, this is enough to make a cheerful person feel down.

Fortunately, I was able to distract myself much of today. I started having lunch at Emil’s Italian restaurant with Altu’s daughter. Later I then went to Little Red Schoolhouse to work out class, pattern and yarn decisions for next term. She will now be carrying my BarberPole socks pattern. Unfortunately, the only available sample I had already knit up for that design was a prototype which I knit from my own handpaints. (The sock shown at right is already at Rae’s as a sample there.)

Patterns sell best when the shop carries the yarn the sample was knit in. I don’t have time to knit her another sample. So she is buying a small group of skeins of my yarn (to put up in kits, for the most part). I have very little yarn in stock right now after my wonderful Labor Day Trunk Show at Threadbear. However, I think this will work. We’ll see.

I haven’t sold my yarn to shops before. I have avoided consignment entirely and been afraid of anything that looked like a long-term committment to supplying X amount of yarn by a deadline. In this case, I will deliver the yarn when I deliver the patterns so she can make kits. And maybe that’s it, and maybe not. I am not making any promises beyond that. My business does tend to change frequently, so who knows what will happen in time? Nobody knows.

I’m OK with giving it a shot. I have considered kits before. If this goes well, perhaps I’ll re-think the relatively small yarn part of my business and consider more kits. I have wanted to make kids’ hat kits, with yarn/button/pattern. I have not written out a pattern yet, though!

Which gets back to yesterday’s lament… how in the world can I do all the things I already have committed myself to doing? Never mind all the things I’d planned to do or hoped to do but which do not yet have deadlines attached?

Well, enough of bellyaching. I guess I can be glad to be so popular!

I do have pleasant news today, besides the previous lament. Between lunch and visiting Linda, I stopped in to Rae’s. I had promised to show her a hat, made of some yarn she has in stock. The hat is owned by a knitting student, I had made a repair to it, so I was not going to have the hat very long.

Well, Rae sure surprised me! She had a lovely wild blue gift bag full to the brim, with hot magenta tissue paper and a bow made of wonderful soft pink/magenta yarn. For me!

I tell you what, my friendships are gift enough, I never crave “stuff” from anyone… but she knew my birthday was coming (Monday). In the gift bag I found three fat (100gm) balls of Maggie’s Ireland tweedy magenta yarn with hot pink, hot green and periwinkle purple flecks in it. (In the picture here you can only see 2 of the balls, the other is still in the bag.) The yarn is magnificent.

She figures there is enough for a pair of legwarmers. Woohoo! I don’t have any pink/magenta legwarmers yet, and I have recently been contemplating this missing wardrobe link. I wear legwarmers every day for about 6-8 months of the year. Now (assuming I can find time to knit them) I will be able to have magenta legwarmers! Marvelous. Perfect. Thanks, Rae.

OK, so I’m sitting here knitting the Watercolor Bag sample for Rae’s shop when I’m not typing for you… and soon we go to an Abbott Brothers Band rehearsal. Where I will use my hands on my bass rather than my knitting needles. But somehow I’m eventually going to get all this knitting done, I just know it!

Photos: 1) Barberpole sock knit in Debbie Bliss DK Merino; 2) Birthday gift from Rae, Maggi’s Tweed Fleck Chunky, Color: Cerise.

A Great Saturday

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

You know what? The only thing that really matters in life, is the people you care about. Really. Or this is what I’ve determined in my own life of losing far too many people, far too young.

Today was wonderful. I met Sara, my Goddaughter, for lunch. She had a birthday earlier this week. She loves sushi so she told me which place she likes best and we went there. I had never been to this place and it was lovely to look at as well as full of tasty food. Fun!

Then we went to Scavenger Hunt, a resale shop in East Lansing run by some music/art friends.

I ended up with a South-American knit sweater, very fat yarn in lots of colors. It says it is alpaca, but it is scratchy rather than soft so maybe it’s very old alpacas or alpaca/wool blend. It will be warm this winter when I bundle up against the drafts in my office.

After that, we went to our regular knitting spot, Starbucks Coffeehouse. Sara gets a strawberry/cream concoction and I get tea and tea cookies. And we knit.

This time I started a pair of legwarmers for Sara, a gift she’ll get just whenever I can finish them between my work obligations. I hope it will be this holiday season. She’s a dancer and will actually wear them out in class, and she’s very excited about them. They are in Opal six-ply (sport or DK weight, I’m at 5.75st/in on size 4 needles) yarn, self-striping in sort of rainbow colors. We got it at Rae’s not too long ago. The ribbing is looking very cool.

Sara is working on a pair of my First-Time Toe-Up socks in worsted weight for herself. She has knit the foot and now is starting the heel flaps. She is knitting back and forth between the two socks at the same time on double-pointed needles, so when she’s done, she’s done.

For our next lesson she will have decreasing for gussets, and then she wants a rolled cuff so 8 more rows and she’ll be done. It should be exciting! That will have to probably wait until she is done with her Final Exams, though.

Of course, I forgot my camera. Trust me, the sushi was real art, just gorgeous. And my Sara is as pretty as they get!

After I took Sara home, I stopped for tea at a coffeehouse I’d not tried before (Mike’s, near the sporting goods store in Okemos with the cool neon sign, a person walking with a shopping cart). The woman I talked with there, was originally from Yugoslavia and then moved to Germany before moving here. She finds it very friendly here, which pleased me.

Then I went clear across town to Little Red Schoolhouse. I had not seen Linda, the owner of that yarn shop, in weeks. It was great to see her and chat about possible classes for next term. And talk about yarn and knitting and all the possibilities out there and in my brain!!!

Sigh… I just love being at yarn shops… this is where I am understood. I don’t have any explaining to do… I can talk about a three-needle bindoff, or any other procedure, any sort of yarn, and people “get it.” Sigh… I’m finally home.

Well, yarn shops close, this one did only an hour after I got there. So I went home and made a quick dinner and now I need to go back to my knitting. I’m sort of overwhelmed with it all. Too much to do, too many promises, too many ideas, and I have to sleep sometimes. It could be worse… I could have work I did not like. But I’m off now to work a little more before Brian and I rehearse.

Tomorrow is more relationship. I have tea or lunch with Altu‘s youngest daughter. She did some work for me when I was preparing for my trunk show at Threadbear, around Labor Day. She wanted me to knit her some wristwarmers in return, but she never picked out her yarn.

Sunday we’ll handle all that… and I’ll have one more knitting project on my hands… but I’m ready. I can do wristwarmers in one day and then one of my many promises will be off the “to do” list.

After lunch with the wonderful kid, I’ll be back to Little Red Schoolhouse to deliver some patterns and make more firm plans for classes in January-March 2006. Whew!

Goodnight. I’m off to print some patterns and knit, and rehearse…and, and, and…

Knit, Knit, Knit!

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Wow, I am just nuts with projects. I delivered the purple sample Guitar Herringbone Hat to Threadbear today. It looks good. I lost one test knitter earlier this week but I gained another today, the trusty AnneMarie who also was a tester for my tea cosy. We will hope to have a hat pattern for sale soon. Crossing fingers.

Project 1
I knit a bit Thursday on the Lucy Neatby Equilateral Vest. In fact, I finished knitting the back (there is a lot of mattress stitch still pending there, and then blocking). And then I realized that somehow I was all excited last spring, that I got gauge on the first try, for the smallest size which calls for 3″ triangles. Except that I tried on Lucy’s sample and it was the second size, with 3.33″ triangles. So now I’m making a vest that is expected to measure 36″ which is my exact bust measurement. I will have a tank top rather than a vest? In worsted-weight wool? Ugh.

It took me since June to knit the 80 triangles for the back. I am not going to do that again! Either I can block it larger, or I can’t. If I can not, I will try (thanks for the suggestion, Rae) knitting some triangles in a strip, which would go exactly where the side seam is designed to go. That would take the circumference from 36″ to 41″ (Lucy’s is 40″). I bet that will work just fine, although the item will be a little shorter than I expected. I just plain will not be ripping out these 80 squares! If it has to be a worsted wool tank top, so be it! I am actually sure it will be really cute even if it fits differently than originally planned. I can wear it with a skintight turtleneck underneath if I must.

It took only 2 skeins of yarn to knit the back. And the front (two sides) takes less yarn than the back. And I bought EIGHT skeins of this gorgeous yarn for the body of the piece, plus 3 skeins of Kureyon which I planned to use as the I-cord trim. We’ll see what I actually use when it’s all done. I wonder if I would like legwarmers out of the remaining yarn??? I probably have enough yarn to do that!

Project 2
I worked further on the Scribble Lace stole. Oh, such joy that brings me! I sit there just imagining how it could be used. It would be a gorgeous wedding veil. It would make a great curtain for my back door (this I really think I might do). It will definitely be a wonderful stole. And what else might it become? Only time will tell.

Project 3
At least a year ago I bought at a resale shop, a Ralph Lauren sweater. In Manos del Uruguay yarn, burgundy multi. A colorway I’ve seen in several yarn shops. With a label inside the garment indicating that it was made in Uruguay.

It was a raglan, pretty short, snug fitting, all the things I don’t really prefer in a sweater. I figured I’d rip it out and re-use the yarn. I did try to wear it once but it was not comfy the way my oversized sweaters are.

But it’s not as intensely colored as many other yarns in my stash, so it didn’t call out very loudly. Until…

Until Rae knit a skirt from the Sally Melville Color book. And I looked up the skirt, and Sally had specified Manos Del Uruguay for that item. Hmmm… And I really love knit skirts.

So I pulled out the sweater. And thought about skirts. I don’t really want to do the Sally Melville skirt, it calls for lace/eyelets and I’m not excited about that. I like my little tight tube skirts with huge sweaters over them. And then I looked again at the sweater. It was exactly the same circumference as my favorite cotton/lycra tube skirt! Bingo!

So last night I took the plunge. I ripped out the seams from the neck down to the armhole. I detached the sleeves. and pulled on the sweater, over my hips. It is going to be perfect!!! I need to rip both front and back more, so that I am at a point at the base of the armhole where I can pick up stitches around the sweater and knit up circularly into a skirt. Voila! I’ll take advantage of a bunch of knitting I don’t have to do, and create a garment I’ll really enjoy.

Project 4
The Threadbear Watercolor Bag needs more felting/shrinking. I’m bummed, but I remember that my own bag in the specified yarn even needed some hand felting and it’s still very soft-sided. I asked Rob, Matt and Rae about the bag today and all three suggest a temperature shock treatment. (Good rubber gloves, and a hot bin of water alternated with a bin of iced water. Dunk in one, dunk in the other, repeat…)

I’m not happy with this development, but I’m clear that they are right. Ugh. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t love doing, and this would be one of those times.

The bag is absolutely gorgeous, though. Totally gorgeous. The K1C2 Paintbox yarn is just lovely… pink to purple to blue to purple to pink and back and forth. Soft and even and wonderful. And the fabric, unfelted as it is, feels so soft and fuzzy and wonderful! It will be a great bag when I get it going.

Project 5
The other day I started a Watercolor Bag for Rae. It’s totally not my colors but really beautiful and rich. I started with eggplant and now I have grass green working down to eggplant again and then a lighter green, to be followed by some autumn oranges. I am only maybe 3 inches into it but it’s my “brainless knitting” right now. It could be finished soon. Watercolor Bags are really easy to knit quickly.

Project 6
Except that when I went to Threadbear Friday, I totally forgot my knitting bag. I left both Rae’s and Threadbear’s bags at home. Pooh!

So of course I found myself some Plassard Merinos washable wool in multiple turquoises, and bought some double pointed needles, and cast on right then for a First-Time Toe-Up sock. I made it extra big because I know this yarn is not supposed to be dried and it sort of settles in a bit, not really felting but denser, when I wash it. I’ve made 2 pair socks from its thinner cousin whose name I forget. Worst case, it doesn’t settle in and I wear it as oversocks in the winter when I’m at home complaining of cold feet.

So I’ve knit on those socks today while out and about, buying lunch, waiting in line for the post office. I have about 3″ done on the first sock. I have not done much socknitting at all this year, and it felt so right to have that sock in my bag!!! It’s soft and will be a great sock.

Un-Project 1
Less than a week ago I bought some Louisa Harding yarn (machine washable cashmere blend) from Rae to knit some DK-weight gloves for myself. The yarn is still in the bag.

I finally was so cold Wednesday night that I admitted I needed gloves instantly. I went to Sears and found that they had ONE single style of glove that was mostly animal fiber. Polyester makes my skin uncomfortable and wool makes me happy and warm… luckily even though the gloves were sort of thin, they cost a mere $7 on sale and I can wear them under my bulky alpaca wristwarmers. They are exactly what the doctor ordered.

Well, once more I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. My watercolor bag is now through eggplant, green, eggplant, green, yellow, orange… So I’ve done well today… and I do have photos to illustrate my column today… but I need to sleep. See you later!

My Gratitude List

Thursday, November 24th, 2005

Today is Thanksgiving. I am thankful for much. I used to have a sad life and now instead days are rich and full of friendship, art, good music, good food…

I am thankful for (not necessarily in order)..

  • Brian, and our Music.
  • My family-of-origin… Eric, who knows me better than anyone else, and Mom who is my best fan.
  • Altu, who is the truest of friends (and who took me to Africa for 5 weeks if I ever doubted her love).
  • Sara, my Goddaughter who at 19 still asks to go out for dinner and knitting.
  • All the amazing people now in my life… friends of all types, yarn shop owners, students young and old and in-between, neighbors, colleagues and former colleagues. Including you guys who read my words here.
  • The Yarn Shops who in large part make it possible for me to make a living doing what I love.
  • The arts community in Greater Lansing… no matter where I go, I know someone who dances, sings, acts, knits, does poetry… something!
  • Other folks’ children and pets. I have neither, and it’s great to get a taste now and then.
  • A decent-sized collection of good ethnic restaurants in my town, unheard of when I grew up here in the 1960’s and 70’s (unless Italian and Chinese makes up an “ethnic collection”).
  • My paid-off blue 1998 New Beetle, Joy… who is dependable as rain at over 100,000 miles.
  • My laptop.
  • The Internet.
  • My collection of warm sweaters and other wool goodies.
  • My cute little house with light purple and coral trim, and flocks of plastic flamingos… and a husband who thinks a house like that is just fine.
  • The luxury of time alone regularly, and the maturity to appreciate it.
  • My pretty-colored dishes (I lost the formal china/crystal set in my divorce, 1991, and never missed it).
  • Wool, Alpaca, Mohair… warm animal fibers to keep me happy and comfortable, and knitting stitch by happy stitch.
  • Wool socks. That fit. In bright colors!
  • Good tea. Perhaps especially good tea. It can make an ordinary moment into heaven on earth.

A more immediate gratitude is that we got to stay home for Thanksgiving. No early alarm clock, no making my portion of food for a group (I don’t like to cook), no slippery roads, no tank or two of gasoline. None of the down sides that can come with a holiday…

feast of Ethiopian foodjust a leisurely day with my beloved. And food I bought from Altu’s restaurant on Wednesday night, to heat up at meal time. I confess I bought all the supplies for pumpkin pie but have no particular interest in baking it, so maybe I’ll make it on this coming Monday (my birthday, and I really do prefer pumpkin pie to birthday cake).

Of course, I was sure I’d knit all day! Instead I slept in until I just could not stay asleep any longer. Total luxury! I read a bunch of blogs, I’m so desperately behind in my reading I think I’ll never catch up. I read a magazine. I totally love magazines far beyond their real value, but it gave me an hour of happiness anyway.

Then something that took a little bit of time, is Brian and I fussed with my laptop, which is complaining lately. I think I’m going to just buy new parts for the laptop I have rather than buying a new one. The hard drive is on its way out but the basic machine is more satisfactory than anything I can find on the market, at least in my price range.

I appreciate Brian’s viewpoints on geeky subjects like this. I now think we are just going to work together to put a new hard drive in, buy a better wireless card and live with this machine for a bit longer. I got so spoiled with my first laptop 7 years ago! It was one inch thin and only three pounds, and not ridiculously expensive. Now the only lightweight laptops with features I can live with are too pricey, and the smallest ones with a 12.1″ monitor (the perfect size in my opinion) still weigh 4 pounds or more. Pout. The one I have now is 4.5 lb so I will hang out for another time.

After the computer chat, we went for a walk. It is brutal out there today! It was about 19-20F (-6C) and sunny during our walk, but the wind was wicked!

Yesterday it snowed in earnest for the first time this season, and it kept coming down for hour after hour. Thank goodness it stopped and got cold enough to make the roads a bit safer for holiday traffic today. If Thanksgiving had been yesterday, we could have had some serious highway disasters. As it was, there were slowdowns at “rush minute” after work, but no major problems. Today, colder is better for the roads anyway.

Today we walked 5 blocks to see if the 24 hour diner was open (figuring we’d be good neighbors and have a cup o’tea there if they were open… but glad for the employees when we found the lights off). We walked a little further but then raced home to get warm.

plate of Ethiopian foodDinner was wonderful, thanks to the great cooking of my friend Altu. I bought 3 dinners last night just before she closed her restaurant. Today I just heated up the food and had the best possible food I can think of. Everything we had was from Altu… mild chicken with a wonderful onion sauce, mild lima beans (these are to die for… Americans don’t have a clue how to make them but Altu makes them creamy and flavorful), spicy lentils, collard greens and cabbage. Plus the famous Ethiopian bread, injera, with which one picks up the stews and eats with one’s fingers. Real food!!!

I’m so full I feel like curling up like a snake and sleeping until I digest it all. Brian’s listening to some turn-of-the-century marimba music he found on the Internet. It’s a bit surreal listening to that as I type on the Internet, but it is lovely background music.

Now it’s getting dark, and I have only knit a few stitches today. My Watercolor Bag for Threadbear is in the dryer after two rounds of washing in hot/cold.

The bottom of the bag (Montera wool/llama) felted really densely as expected, and there’s no real surprise that the K1C2 “Paint Box” yarn sides did not felt as much. This is just as true when I use Cascade 220 for the bottom and Noro Kureyon for the sides. It just is, I guess, and I do like a softer side on my bag most of the time.

What is odd is that I did a decent-sized sample swatch. It shrunk a lot more evenly than the larger bag is doing right now. We’ll see what happens, but that’s the extent of work I’m doing today on Thanksgiving.

I had planned to knit and knit and knit on my Lucy Neatby Equilateral vest! LOL (laughing out loud) on that one! I maybe have knit ten stitches on my scribble lace and that’s all the knitting I have done so far. And it’s dark already! I may easily be awake for another six to eight hours, though, so there is time to make up for that lost early knitting time.

My Wish to All of You
May you all find something to be thankful for today, if only a soft piece of wool, a smile, a ray of sun, a beautiful color, a good song, a friend, a story, a warm heat vent, a comfy sweater, a cup of tea…

Remember, if you wait for big things in order to be happy, you’ll likely miss the boat. Small things can bring happiness. In fact, noticing small things may be our only real chance of bringing ourselves a happy life. There are not enough big things to keep us going, yet there are so many small joys available to us, even daily, if we just open our eyes.

In fact, I’m sure that my ability to love small things is what got me through my many sad years. I somehow could forget the sadness for a moment, when I saw a flower or a sunset or a beautiful color. I sang a lot in those days… sang most of the time I was alone. The singing could change my day.

So, even if today is rough for you, do look around you. Find something that might give you a better day, a smile even. I’m aware that not everyone is in a good place right now. It’s the nature of life to go up and down. Feeling down during holidays is painfully obvious to the sad one, and often invisible to outsiders. Hang in there, and take care of yourself in any way you can.

Photos: 1) Our Thanksgiving feast for two, before serving up any food, 2) my plate after serving… center food is spicy lentils… then clockwise, from top, are mild chicken, mild lima beans, medium collard greens, mild cabbage (it’s yellow from the flavorings she uses, but it’s not spicy). Add the injera sourdough flat bread under it all, plus a cup of Twinings English Breakfast tea (unfortunately without the spices I’d have in Ethiopia) and it’s as wonderful a meal as one could ask for!

Catching My Breath

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Aaaah, I’m ready for a holiday now! Tuesday I started winding down, I guess… my friend April across the street had some leisure time for once, and invited me over for tea. What fun that was! Her baby Isabel is so fun now… she walks around like a pro, getting into everything. She plays peek a boo, by covering her eyes with her hands. She snuggles. I especially like the snuggle part! Babies are so pure and uninhibited!

hat by LynnHSince I was planning to have a work day on Tuesday (to make up for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday… I typically work Thursdays), that meant I worked into the wee hours making up for my teatime. I did not mind at all.

I finished the sample hat for Threadbear. The hat design now has a “working title.” It’s the Guitar-Trim Hat. Or the Guitar-Trim Herringbone Hat. It looks enough like herringbone trim on a guitar that Brian kept commenting on it. He was right, and the hat named itself. Of course, advice is welcome at this stage of the game… I haven’t printed any patterns yet.

I’ve done three of these hats in variations of turquoise/hot pink/hot green (the prototype, one for Yarn Garden and one for Rae’s), one hat in dark green/grass green/yellow (for Little Red Schoolhouse), and now the one for Threadbear in dark purple/raspberry/lilac.

The next version of this hat will be knit by me in natural colors of alpaca. It will use brown as the main color, with black and cream herringbone patterning, to look like wood with ebony and pale wood trim. I am hoping it will photograph OK, as black can be a real problem.

Wednesday I went to Threadbear to buy another skein of the Montera yarn I used as my solid color in their Watercolor Bag. I just need to do a little more I-cord for the handle.

I’m OK needing another skein, as I adore working with this yarn. I’ll have enough left over that I can use it for something else. I hate to admit how many skeins of this yarn I have in my stash already… plenty to do any number of projects… hmmm, stripes. I’m sure I’m on the way to designing in stripes soon… maybe this is the project where I’ll start.

While I was at Foster Center with CityKidz Knit! program Wednesday, I finished working in the ends on the Threadbear Guitar hat. I didn’t have my I-cord with me to complete with the new Montera skein. Therefore, I started back on Rae’s Watercolor Bag. It is going to be so nice and earthy, totally rich and unlike any I’ve made before in my own color style. We’ll see how far I get with that this weekend!

I figure I’ll be throwing the Threadbear Watercolor Bag in the washer Wednesday or Thursday. I’ve promised myself no knitting for anyone else on Thursday, but I am sure to be doing some laundry and can do the felting while I’m in that mode of running up and down the stairs.

After the felting I have a little bit of sewing to do (D-Rings which attach the I-Cord handle to the bag), and then my goal is to take the bag to the boyz at the shop on Friday. That’s my hope, anyway. Assuming I have all the supplies I need at home. JoAnn Fabrics will be a zoo this weekend, I know this from previous experience. It will be a madhouse to go and buy one package of D-Rings if I need some. I’m crossing fingers on that.

OK, so the I-cord is done for the Threadbear bag. I will felt it during laundry time Thursday. I will knit a few rows on my Scribble Lace project before I go to bed tonight (not sure how far that will go, as again my eyes are trying to shut as I type this). And then tomorrow? Tomorrow I knit for me! Selfish knitting day!!! Holiday!!!

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, and I will be thankful. I’ll be thankful for Brian, for my warm home, my warm clothing, food from Altu’s Restaurant (I bought three dinners to go Wednesday night, so we can heat up goodies from her for a few meals this weekend), and quiet knitting time.

We are keeping it simple, which is exactly what I love. My family is two people (at least from day to day), and this family of two will enjoy good food and relaxation together. We’ll go for a walk and we’ll eat and listen to music, maybe play our instruments together, and just relax. I’m very grateful I will not be driving on the now-slippery roads, this holiday.

I am planning to work on my Lucy Neatby Equilateral Vest Thursday. I could do that or a bunch of other possible projects, but that one requires the most concentration and the most attention to a pattern. I make mistakes on anything designed by someone else which requires a pattern! So quiet time will be great for that.

I could instead bring out my knitting machine for some fun exploration. However, right now the house can not handle one more mess and I don’t want to clean before I play. The vest will be perfect.

For those who celebrate, may you find something (or many somethings) to be thankful for this Thursday.

Tea Cosy Pattern Also Now Available!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Cozy Corner Teapot Warmer/Tea Cosy by LynnHHi, friends. I need to thank Dawn K. for writing at just the right time! My “Cozy Corner Teapot Sweater” is now available as well… and somehow I never put up that pattern on my website.

SO: I amend my offer… order three patterns (minimum purchase $15) and choose either the tea cosy pattern or the Garden Capelet pattern free. And I pay shipping.

Deadline 11/30/2005. Send email to Lynn AT ColorJoy DOT com detailing your order, and I’ll get you started.

Thanks, Dawn!!!

Knitting Away, and Garden Capelet Pattern Offer

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

I’m knitting as fast as I can, once more…

Monday night I thought I’d finish the knitting part of my Watercolor Bag for Threadbear. I ran out of yarn while knitting the I-cord for my handle. Drat! I am using different yarns for this bag than I originally specified in the pattern, and the solid I chose is a heavy worsted weight yarn with fewer yards than my original solid. Pooh!

Garden Capelet designed by LynnH, knit by RaeI do love the solid yarn I’m using this time. It’s wool/llama in a single ply, really great. So I guess I’ll have leftovers and I’ll enjoy making them into something, perhaps a hat or wristwarmers.

The down side is that I can’t finish my bag today unless I trek over to Threadbear, and I’d hoped to keep it a little closer to home. Wednesdays I’m on that side of town so now I have a one-day delay. I’ll get over it.

Other knitting: I am working slowly on my Scribble Lace Stole. Oh, my! It’s so pretty and fun. It makes me want to knit “sheer” curtains for my doors! It makes me want to run with it through the woods at dawn! (Now, THAT is something that will only happen in my imagination… but I have this picture of the sun shining through the lace at a low angle… maybe sunset will have to do.) Well, at least window covers might happen…

Garden Capelet by LynnHMy current scribble lace suffered from being taken out in public. I lost 2 stitches while working the laceweight mohair, during just 3 rows (56 stitches each) of knitting. I found one, but was lost on the other, so when I popped in to Rae’s for some yarn, Rae found my dropped stitch. I could hug her!

Speaking of Rae… she knit a Garden Capelet literally in a few days, using Louisa Harding Yarns and my pattern. It’s so pretty, so dressy, so different than the yarns I’d chosen (which were of course bold and intensely colorful). Hers are subtle and elegant. As shiny and gold as mine is fluffy and bold.

The ribbon she chose is particularly great for this design. It’s gold and glittery, thick and randomly colored. The thick ribbons give it a distinctive texture and complement the randomness of the colors. It has a soft teal green-blue as its primary solid color underneath that gold-multicolor ribbon. Gorgeous.

By the way, I just got a little home DVD video from a friend, of a small part of our performance at the Midwest Ukefest. I was wearing my own (purple) Garden Capelet, and it was very flattering as I moved to the music.

I am pleased with how this item actually wears in real life. The neckline is a beautiful curve which was low enough to show off the rhinestone necklace I wore (sentimental… Dad gave it to Mom when they first were together). In the DVD that necklace was glittering from afar, above the capelet neckline. It worked even better than I expected!

Now, for those of you who are still reading… the Garden Capelet pattern has not previously been available on my website before today. So I’m offering a special… order any three of my patterns (not the freebies, of course), and I’ll send you the Garden Capelet pattern for no extra charge, plus I’ll offer free shipping. You just can’t beat that!

I appreciate you blog readers more than you know, and sometimes I can offer you something special like this in thanks. The special expires at midnight Eastern Time, November 30 (that’s next Wednesday).

Photos: 1) Garden Capelet knit by Rae Blackledge of Rae’s Yarn Boutique, in Louisa Harding yarns. 2) Garden Capelet I wore on stage at Midwest Ukefest last month.

Watercolor Bags R Us!

Monday, November 21st, 2005

yarnI have been happily drowning in Watercolor Bags lately. I’ve been knitting the sample for Threadbear for a while now. I did cut out the section of yarn I didn’t think looked right, and grafted it together. I finished that on Saturday night, and I have pictures of the whole process once I get time to sit still with PhotoShop for that many photos.

That bag is down to the decreases for the base of the bag, and then interminable I-cord for the handle. I bet I finish it by Wednesday. I hope.

yarnSometime in the last week I was at Rae’s and realized that she also does not have a sample of this bag. This bag is in my top 3 pattern sales, and samples do sell patterns! (I’ve already knit one for Yarn Garden in Charlotte, one for Little Red Schoolhouse, and amazingly one for me.)

I need Rae to have a bag, so I had her pick me some yarn for the project. It was great to have her do that, because she chose very different colors than I would have, and this rounds out the possibilities well. The first photo here is my batch from Rae, with sort of autumn colors and eggplant solid. I haven’t knit with this Patons Classic yarn yet so I’ll look forward to that.

yarnThen on Thursday night, I started the first session of my hats & bags (circular knitting) class at Foster Center. Two of my students are making Watercolor Bags (they got their yarn at Little Red Schoolhouse). The middle photo today is the yarn picked by Lori, and last is the yarn picked by Brenda. More yarn combinations I would not have chosen, which is very exciting to me. I will be very eager to see how these turn out!

And with that, Dear Readers, I will “hit the feathers” as a friend says (go to bed). I have more photos, one of feltmaking class at Threadbear on Sunday… but I need to sleep. See you soon!

More Catching Up, Sort of.

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

Whew. Saturday I went out to dinner at Altu’s, then went to Old Town (Creole Gallery, the closest thing to Chicago we have in Lansing) for a CD-Release party/concert. The performers were Pat Madden and Sally Potter, both absolute anchors in the local music community. Actually, they used to sing as a trio (with Betsy Clinton) called Second Opinion. Second Opinion sang at our wedding nine years ago, which was a great honor.

The music was incredible, the company afterward was just plain home. Knitters/musicians everywhere, everyone was friendly and happy and it was the most fun I’ve had in a crowd in a long time. I talked forever. I got home after 1am. Now, I often go to bed around then but I’m usually home for the night at around 9pm. I’m still tired!