Archive for February, 2012

on walkabout

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

i’m on a plane at the moment, winging my way toward san francisco and a visit with our dear friend cookie. since i’m going to be in the shadow of a sock guru for the next week, i’m not only packing a couple of unfinished sock projects to take along (just to look somewhat on the same wavelength), but i thought i’d leave you all with some food for thought (i’ve been thinking a lot about socks lately, maybe as a substitute for actually knitting them? not sure . . .).

and for variety’s sake, there will be two dishes to choose from . . .

the first is from another dear friend, alice (AKA socktopus), who celebrated a big milestone this month with the birth of her first daughter. while our knitting community rallies around the new family, i though it would be fun to highlight one of her other recent achievements—the publication of her own socktopus book in october, 2011 by taunton press (she’s just had one great event on top of another this past year; go alice!).

while most of alice’s book focuses on a collection of sock design from her popular club (more on those later), she starts the ball rolling with a concise overview of sock knitting basics—things to consider when getting started that will have the biggest effect on the final results.

she delves just far enough into fiber facts, yarn characteristics, tools, fit, fabric, and constructions to begin building a knowledge base, without overwhelming the reader. this is so like alice herself that i had to smile when i read these pages—in her work, clean, clear, and to the point.

the pattern section begins with a basic sock recipe—and i love this—shown in a setting that is anything but. just to prove that you don’t need to be fancy to be effective.

a plain sock in a smashing color is at least as eye-catching as something complicated.

each design is shown at a variety of angles and distance, so that we get a sense of it both as a fashion piece and as a knitted item. i always enjoy it more when knitted items are photographed as part of our lives, instead of as pristine objects on display.

that said, in an instruction manual, we of course want to see the details of each piece to guide our own work. and this book delivers both. nice.

each pattern is accompanied by good-sized, easy-to-read charts; written instructions are provided for the construction points, though not necessarily for every pattern rnd.

in addition, many patterns include tutorials on technique or notes on unusual abbreviations or maneuvers.

the designs are by and large deeply textured with allover patterns in lace, crossed stitches, and slip stitch effects, while maintaining a mostly-girly point of view (though there are several that could bat for either team).

(i love this pair!!)

the textural choices are the perfect way for alice to show off the gorgeous colors of her handpainted yarns, making a great case for such a designer pairing.

the stitches really enhance the colors, bringing out rich background tones and glowing highlights.

if you’re a texture junkie, this collection of 17 designs should be on your shelf—just sayin’. you can purchase a copy here.

now, for those who have read this far, a special treat from the lovely folks at taunton—a giveaway copy for one luck winner. if you’d like to throw your hat sock in the ring, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm EST on sunday march 4th. i’ll get my friend cookie to do the honors and we;ll announce it as soon after that as i can (remember, i’m traveling; it might not be til wednesday next week)

now, as if all that excitement wasn’t enough i’ve got another great sock book to show you. while it has its similarities, it couldn’t be more different in some ways either, so read on.

this one—by the esteemed clara parkes, fiber guru and author of knitter’s review—also released in october (by potter craft), just about the same time as alice’s and it is also about socks.

but the knitter’s book of socks diverts from the path of the previous book in several important ways and in doing so, rightly wins equal position as a favorite new release for me.

anyone who reads knitter’s review knows that clara is a very thorough investigator. when allowed to unleash her full reporting powers on a book-length project, what she delivers is a thoughtful resource of considerable usefulness to knitters and other scholars of fiber. you want to know that answer to a fiber question? go ask clara (or better yet, read her three books).

this volume delves a little deeper into individual properties of  fiber, yarn, and fabric that will affect the outcome of your sock. she also reaches further afield to talk about factors outside the sock itself that will have an effect on your experience.

she takes the sock student from the ground floor (when the fiber is still on the animal) through the fabrication, tools, wearing experience, and finishes off the lesson with some schooling on washing up afterward. nice and tidy.

all of this takes up about half the volume (which is a nice thick hardcover totaling about two hundred pages).

the other half of the book is devoted to sock designs and patterns that explore the concepts presented in the first half (or you can flip straight to those to get started knitting, if you like).

the big difference in this collection of designs is that it is a compilation of many designers chosen by the author—myself and cookie among them. those are our socks, together in the photo above; isn’t that cute? i bet you can you guess which is which, haha. in fact, they appear together an erie number of times, as if we were following the photographer around.

cookie’s sock is really cool—a pattern of traveling stitches that cris-crosses all over the place, but not the way cables do. i really love it.

we are in good company, with nancy bush, sivia harding, ann budd, cat bordhi, and many others, for a total of twenty new and creative designs.

while many of these are indeed girly and/or focused on a fancy motif or construction, there are plenty of choices that will be suitable for men and boys.

clara’s stepping stones design is one and stephen houghton’s salted caramels is another (to point out just a couple)

i love the look of the yarn used for this design; it’s something that david would really like and supports the design beautifully.

this is another attractive pair that has a delicious moroccan feeling, due to the combination of stitch pattern and color. i could see a pastel yarn choice being equally lovely, but changing the tenor of the design completely.

each pattern is accompanied by written instructions in the construction; charts are provided for specific pattern stitches. the charts here are a little harder to read though, which is the only drawback i can see to the book layout.

all in all, a wonderful and  varied resource for the sock knitter, whether beginner or experienced—there’s always something new to learn, right?

clara has green-lighted a giveaway copy of her book as well; same rules apply. leave a comment at the end of this post by 9pm EST on sunday, march 4, 2012 if you’d like to be included in the drawing.

thank you to both authors for sharing their wealth of knowledge and skill with us!

i will be back with a report form the west coast just as soon as i gather my wit’s after landing (that could be a day or two, hee-hee and this will give me some leeway)

gray garden

Monday, February 27th, 2012

here in ohio, spring is in the sky and beginning to swell the earth, but we have a ways to go before winter is really over—it is february and windy, so we still have need of our layers.

this cozy shawlette, knit up in a lively fingering yarn, has a nice weight for this time of year.

its mostly solid fabric can be piled up and tucked around the neck to shut out that wind with cozy ripples of garter depth.

or open it up when the suns shines down and let the breeze filter through the shapely lace motifs spaced across its surfaces.

the heavier fabric has a supple hand when knit in a luxury blend that allows it to fall into soft folds; this is a great use for fingering yarn that is too soft or too precious to knit into socks.

shown here is the petite size shawlette in hazel knits divine, a luscious merino/cashmere/silk blend; the color is arroyo.

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the knitspot pattern shop. or purchase pattern in our ravelry shop.

i loved knitting with this yarn, which was a gift from wendee at hazel knits when cookie and i visited her studio last spring. it is a really beautiful yarn blend with a lovely hand for knitting delicious accessories; you should try it!

thanks also very much to our good friend phoebe, who helped enormously by test knitting the pattern. you can see her project knit in spirit trail sunna on her ravelry project page (i bet she has an update photo by now, too).

and of course, we are very grateful to helena for spending this afternoon with us on a photo shoot—she is lovely as always and such a great sport, putting up with us! (ruby, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with us or our photo shoot, thank you very much, and stayed way on the other side of the corral for most of it)

david always takes the best photos; thank you so much, dear husband.

 

 

unstoppable

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

our hyacinths are popping up everywhere now and some of them even have buds emerging already. it seems a little early for all this, but i’ll take it. even though we’ve sailed through what’s ended up being a non winter this year, i’m ready to be done with it. bring on the longer, sunnier days; i am Ready.

masses of daffodils are poking up through the mud and the remainder of this weekend’s snowfall (it comes and goes).

today i walked the perimeter of the yard and found shoots of grape hyacinth, day lilies, jonquils, and these, which i believe are the rhizomes for our solomon’s seal, up and checking the temperature.

you wouldn’t know it from these photos but it did snow all day yesterday and i took the opportunity to devote most of the day to knitting, for a change. i got up early, grabbed some breakfast goodies, and headed over to debby’s house, where we knit with susie til about 1 pm.

it’s our favorite way to spend saturday morning and i always get lots done while i’m there. it’s my joke that i have to leave home to get any knitting done these days, haha, but all too close to the truth . . . one thing i love about it is that i can only knit on non-club items when i’m with them, so it gives me a chance to catch up my queue.

i worked on the back of david’s sweater, adding about four more inches, i think. it’s getting there!for those who haven’t seen it before, the yarn is woolen rabbit sporty kashmir in colorway enchanted forest. so handsome, right?

i am really looking forward to seaming this one, but i don’t think i’ll accomplish that before i go away on wednesday. if i still have a lot more to go on the back, i’ll take it with me; it will be perfect mindless knitting for travel. if i’m close to finished, i’ll leave it home and finish it when i get back.

after a few hours work on the sweater, i switched to my grey gardens shawlette, which i’m knitting up for the second time in alisha goes around raft of otter fingering, a BFL/silk blend in the incredible amber colorway. i know her yarns are not available right now (because she’s busy having a baby), but hopefully soon; they are gorgeous.

between the fiber content and the color, it’s ssooo rich and luscious. i started this second one a few weeks back, thinking i’d just whip it out while waiting for the test knitter to work, but then got sidetracked by taxes and other non-knitting duties.

and here we are, phoebe has complete her test knit, the pattern is all proofed and ready to publish, and i’m just barely started. oh well, another item i can pack into my travel bag for wednesday.

the original, knit up in hazel knits divine (color arroyo) waits patiently on the back of the sofa though, quite ready for its photo shoot, which we’ll be doing this afternoon with our darling helena.

which means that we’ll be ready to release the pattern tomorrow; are you excited?

to be fair, i have been absolutely motoring through a bevy of club knits and patterns—i’ve got some super-cute stuff planned for the next couple of months. this barenaked concept has been been an inspirational success; working with the undyed colors makes me feel extra creative. so many possibilities.

and, in case you are wanting an update: i’m poised to begin the heel flap on basketweave sock #2 for david, which i’m knitting in zen yarn garden squooshy. and for me this is the turning point—once i get that heel done, i can’t stop til i’ve got those ends woven in. another good traveling companion, me thinks.

i’m really looking forward to my trip; i’m heading for san francisco to visit my dear friend cookie for a “stay-cation”. that is apparently where cookie stays home and i travel clear across the country. and with any luck, i’ll also get to see janel, romi, kristine, adrienne, and michelle.

we’re gonna have SO much fun and probably eat til our pants don’t fit. i can’t wait. hopefully there will be enough walking, hiking, and running to offset some of the dining we have planned—the list is long, hahaha.
(i promise i’ll knit a lot and blog as often as possible.)

i’m sure i’ll be back one more time before i fly out and for sure, a pattern release tomorrow (barring some disaster)

passing the torch

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

well, it’s official—there’s a new face in the knitspot family; welcome erica owens!

our majordomo position has grown to the point where beckie was finding it a bit too much on top of her full time job. when she decided to pass the torch, i was at my wit’s end as to how we would fill her shoes. the few people i told assured me that the right person would come along, not to worry. but still i fretted.

after weeks of searching, i happened to whine mention to erica that i was starting to panic about ever finding the right person, when she cut me off and said, “i’ll take the job”

WHOA! what??
i never dreamed she’d be interested, but now i was listening.

yes, she said, i’m needing to make some changes and i’m super interested in working with you; let’s talk it out. so we did; we had a meeting with beckie and david and shook hands all around. it was a great solution for us all.

we’re very excited about the road ahead; we think erica has a lot to bring to the table and we know you’ll love her too. she will join david and me in making sure our customers—that would be you—receive the best care and quality we can provide. she will also traffic a large share of our communications (i.e., the mountain of email that comes through here daily), manage and facilitate the teaching/travel schedule, help me with sourcing/tracking supplies for design and club work, be our eyes and ears in the knitting universe (AKA marketing guru), and manage myriad other aspects of the business, yet to reveal themselves to us.

phew—i’m so glad we figured that out; i’m thrilled with our solution.

last weekend we traveled to erica’s home in michigan for another meeting to organize her beginning workload. we got to meet her husband matt (he’s great) and of course, their dear doggie buddy

who inserted himself into david’s affections right away (who could resist?), thus managing to secure a modeling gig in the sock photo shoot (and probably others to come; move over helena).

buddy appreciates the hand knits socks as much as david does . . .

we had a very productive weekend and got lots of work done. we also got to see a little bit of the detroit area, ate some terrific food, and even test drove a car we’ve been thinking about buying. and we knit together, yay.

on sunday, in fact, we ate lunch near the rust belt market, where each weekend, a collection of local artisans, antique shops, and unique retailers gather to create an open market of their wares.

everything from vintage clothing to curiosities to pies is represented.

we may have gotten a bit sidetracked at the bath savvy booth—david and i are quite fond of handmade soap. our selections included tea tree, oatmeal, and lavender.

from another area shop, erica bought me this very cool mug for a birthday gift—it has a pocket on the side that acts as a handle, but also as a hand warmer. now THAT is something i can use; my hands are always cold. it feels really sexy too; if you’re into hot drinks, you’d like this. and it’s offered in both left- and right-handed models—check them out.

on monday we got up extra-early and headed out into the cold on a secret adventure. i can’t disclose where we went YET, but the day was glorious and the drive was beautiful. while everyone on the other side of the road was heading IN to work, we were—literally—heading out into the wild blue yonder.

as the sun rose higher in the sky, i was able to begin my favorite passenger seat occupation besides knitting—taking photos out the car window.

it was a great day for it, too, with brilliant light on frosty landscapes right up through early afternoon.

david and i had never spent any time in michigan, so this was a real treat. we got to see some of the landscape (gorgeous), and our adventure was a great success (more on that at a future date). all in all, a wonderful day.

on tuesday, it snowed heavily, delaying our start toward home by a few hours. we didn’t waste it though—we spent that time on another errand, which was test driving a car we’ve had our eye on. haha, it’s sometimes hard at home for us to tear ourselves away from work to accomplish these things.

anyway, lots to think about when we finally did hit the road home.

it’s been cold here in the midwest, but still not snowy—in fact, we’ve had lots of those brilliant days this month. the effect of all that sun on the unfrozen ground has produced a very early sprouting of crocus, daffodils, and all  manner of spring bulbs.

oh joy! i can hardly believe our luck.

hyacinth too. mercy me.

plenty of knitting happened both here and away; i’ll show you my progress photos next time.

for now, one last sprout that will knock your socks off

NOT ME, you silly gooses, haha!

it’s erica—she’s having a baby. go give her a cyber hug, ok?
(and for the record, i had no idea of all this when i decided on this month’s club knit, hee-hee!)