Rocking the Week #2: Knitting, Weaving, the Super Tuesday Caucus, and a trip to a Howitzer.

Here we are again: not even one little finished object for the dang exhausting week. Every day was a whirlwind of activity, however, so once again I’ve decided to share the journey with all of you with pictures of the highlights.

Colored Mitts
This pattern is Dueling Gradient Mitts being knitted in Kauni bought years ago. 

 

I kept knitting on the Dueling Gradients Mitts that I started the week before, but the colors are changing really slowly in the yarn and I started to get bored. I played with the color placements and am thinking about doing a little Fair Isle somewhere in the mitt. I have more balls of this yarn and can introduce another color (or two) earlier in the mitt. I’m still thinking things over, so the project got parked. I’m considering a little rippage for this baby. Maybe I’ll put a band of Fair Isle above the thumb on this mitt and below the thumb on the next one. Hmmm…

 

While the Duelling Gradients are
This is my own simple pattern. Here it is on Ravelry.

While the Dueling Gradients are hibernating and growing up some new ideas I pulled out some Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 to make some mitts for the Scleroderma bin. These are the mitts that I sell to other patients in my support group for the cost of the yarn. Simple, lightweight, warm and absolutely mindless knitting.

Tuesday was Super Tuesday here in the United States. Along with 150,000 other people I went to caucus for my candidate that night, Yowza! What a night!

Sock
Purple Dragons for my feet. Take that Raynaud’s!!

On Wednesday I go to my knitting group at a local yarn shop and for some reason I wanted a little wild color along with simple knitting to take to that. Hello Vanilla Socks!  These socks are toe up and have an afterthought heel. I keep seeing other people making these socks in their blogs and decided that I should jump on that bandwagon too. Look at how cute they are turning out! This yarn is from MJ Yarns and is Simple Sock Fingering Weight. This colorway is Purple Dragon and I absolutely love it! I bought some Purple Dragon to make some mittens too, but that is for another week’s post.

Howitzer
My son tells me that this is a self-propelled Howitzer

Yesterday I hit the road to return the materials from the Project Learning Tree workshop I facilitated for the school district I live in. How fun! I had to drive across town to historic Camp George West near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The old buildings of the base are now used by many Colorado State agencies, but they still have old armaments out on display.

It sure does fill like Spring, although March is traditionally our snowiest month. The plants in my garden are starting to come back to life. The prairie dogs are barking and playing in open lots across town. We’ll be seeing baby dogs before long; I always think that I should bring leftover veggies to these little guys but it is probably best to leave wild critters be, 🙂

Bag and flowers.
How could I resist the cute floral tote and some flowers from the nursery! The rose will have to stay indoors with me but the pansies are the type that can survive snow so they go into the ground next week. 
Dishtowels on loom
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot! The major activity of the week has been weaving. I’ve been binge watching Shades of Blue and throwing my shuttle to make dishtowels. This towel is using a white weft, but the next towel will be plaid with the weft in the same colors as the warp. I just love this process; throwing the shuttle, creating the fabric and winding it onto the cloth roller is just a source of joy to me. It is a little hard on my hands so I only weave an hour or so at a time, Still, I should have the whole set of towels before long. 

See: lots done, nothing finished! Even as I write this I am thinking about going upstairs to wind some more yarn and am fighting an urge to play in the stash to find yarns/colors for shawls. A whole set of shawls!!

Guess next week will be much like this one. 🙂

Mitt Madness

My son has a beautiful Maine Coon tuxedo cat. The family joke is that she controls the weather.

Maya
Here she is, Maya Isabella the Weather Queen. She actually considers herself a princess and demands regular attention from her main subject, my son. Kitty treats now! Come run my drinking water for me! Come pet me now!! Time for me to go outside to catch bugs!! She also takes instant ownership of any knitting left unattended…
Snowy yard
Bless her heart. Tuesday she sent me a blizzard, the first official blizzard in the Denver area in several years. The wind howled and shook the house overnight and this is what the backyard looked like in the morning. My cats were not amused. I should note that there was almost no snow at Maya’s house!

The cold weather and previous snow storms had already launched me into some serious mitt knitting, but this week’s storm really pushed me into mitt knitting overdrive.  Here’s what happened during this week:

Mitts
I actually finished these mitts before the big snowstorm and took the picture as the first little pellets of snow arrived. These are Sugared Maple MItts (designed by Melissa Schaschwary) knitted in Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK. Love the cashmere!! The knitted texture was really easy to knit and kind of reminds me of the waffle pattern in Henley shirts. These are really comfy mitts. If you yearn for more details here are my notes on Ravelry.
Pur;ple MItts
The first mitts were so much fun to knit and wear I just cast on and started another pair. This is Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK again, and the purple is actually as intense as in the photo. I have a cousin who can’t get enough purple so I already know where these are going when they are done.
Mitts with Cable on Top
My sister let me know that the mitts I gave her for her birthday last year were flawed: the cable just didn’t stay parked on top of her hand the way they should. My first impulse was to tell her to stop being so persnickety, but upon reflection I decided that she may have a point.  I made some changes to my generic rib and cable mitt pattern that would allow me to make her mitts that have the thumb moved over to place it under the index finger.
Underneath of MItt
Here’s the palm view of the mitts. The gusset has been moved over 4 stitches and starts at the wrist. I’m hoping that if her thumb can move without tugging on the body of the mitt the cable will behave itself. This yarn is Malabrigo Rios which is one of my favorite hand-painted superwash wools. I wrote notes to myself about what I had done and they are here on Ravelry.

I’m still not completely happy with the new mitt design. What would happen if I added more ribbing at the top and bottom of the mitt? What if I changed to a smaller needle to do that ribbing at the top? Should I make the top so long it can be folded back in a little cuff? Hmmm… I have more Rios to play with (well, duh! Yarn Stash Queen here!!) and I’m itching to CO and get started on another pair. I have some more Zen Yarn Garden that wants to be mitts, too. I try to not overthink this compulsion to create mitts. I just knit them up and put the little guys into my mitt bin where they can all hang out together and pretend to be the ultimate cool knitted items.

Box of MItts
My box of mitts: last Saturday I took the bin to my scleroderma support group meeting and gave away or sold 11 pairs! I’ll be taking the bin back to the next meeting as several people thought they might want more pairs for Christmas presents. During the week I handed out business cards to more customers who admired the mitts I was wearing and asked how they could get a pair.

Looks like things are picking up in the mitt business. All of a sudden mitts ARE the ultimate cool knitted item. Must be all the snow; it is snowing again this evening and there is ANOTHER snowstorm predicted for Thanksgiving.

Thanks Maya!

Maybe I should knit her a little something too.

Cold weather ready: socks and indoor plants

The October 2015 Socks are done!

October Socks
These are the Om Shanti Bed Socks by Alice Yu. That cool yarn is Serenity 20 by Zen Yarn Garden. They are extremely comfy and the snug little ankles keep them on my feet overnight. Perfect for the sleeper with cold feet. (Yep, that’s me. Thanks Raynaud’s!) Here are the project notes on Ravelry.

If you are interested in the history of these socks, here are the related posts:

I am almost caught up with the resolution socks; last night I shopped the stash to pick the yarn for the November Socks and am torn between two different patterns. Next week I’ll make the decision, wind the yarn and cast on. Here’s the problem: I found a wonderful blue yarn, but there is also this gold/purple/brown yarn that looks like the perfect color for November… The blue yarn works for the pattern I planned to knit, but the autumn colored yarn is so perfect that perhaps I should give it and a cute lace patterned sock a try… Maybe I should make two pairs of socks this month. 🙂

I worked like a maniac this week on the bed socks because it has suddenly become cold outside. We had a nice snowfall Thursday, and the last two nights have gone well below freezing. That was it; I had to bring some of the outdoor plants into the house for the winter. I went to the local Home Depot store and bought some plant grow lights for them, and with some care and rotation under the lights I hope to keep them going until next spring. Here’s the winners in the survive the winter plant lottery:

Pink daisy
The pink daisy-like plant moved into the bedroom by a window. Looks happy, doesn’t it.
Geranium
The geranium is also getting parked in front of the bedroom window where it will hopefully get enough light. I plan to let both plants visit the plant lights in my craft room a few days a week for a light boost.
Orchids and blooming plant
I pruned this plant back to about half its height and put it in front of the window in the craft room. The orchids have been doing pretty well in this location: both orchid plants bloomed for me last year. The (very cheap) wood shelf unit actually has three shelves; I bought clip-on grow lights that I can move around to give the plants light from different directions this winter to supplement the natural light.

I have more plants shoved onto the two shelves below this one but they are just too messy to show off right now. I need at least one more plant grow light to make things work, and the lower shelf plants still need to be pruned back. I’m pretty sure that the plants will drop a lot of leaves as they adjust to the lower light levels, but they should all make it and hopefully will manage to produce some winter blooms. One of the plants on the lower shelf is a rose bush that has survived indoors for three years in a row. I know he’ll make it! The pink flowering plants are also producing a lot of scent which makes me just happy. It’s like having a little piece of summer all year long.

All right winter, bring it on. I am ready!!

The Yarn Warrior

Last night I knitted like crazy and got my Reyna shawl (by Noora Laivola) finished. I wet blocked it overnight (hoping that sleeping kitties won’t notice it…) and this morning I took it outside to the garden swing to finish it up while I was watering the lawn. Of course my cat MacKenzie couldn’t resist helping out.

Cat chomping shawl
Oops! I didn’t realize he was hanging out under the swing… At least he’s predictable in that he never missed an opportunity to chomp!
Shawl in tree
Here it is rescued from the cat. Isn’t it a fun mix of garter stitch and mesh? Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

This shawl was a fast and easy project, but I learned a lot of new things while working on it and it led to some new insights. After all, while I love to knit, I really am more driven to play with new yarns, patterns and ideas more than I need a new shawl (or pair of socks for that matter). Every new project is an opportunity to learn something new!

I first selected this pattern because I had a skein of wickedly soft and colorful yarn in my stash. I knew that the colors would go with everything in my wardrobe, but there were so many of them in the skein that I needed a way to show them off without nasty pooling or something that looked muddy.

Yarn
This is Zen Yarn Garden’s Serenity 20 in the colorway Confetti. See what I mean about the colors? 
Closeup of Shawl
I knew that garter stitch plays well with multicolored yarn, and I was hoping that the mesh would break the colors up a little more and help each one shine. Mission accomplished! The yarn looks really different in the two sections of the shawl and the colors each stand out.

There are YO stitches to each side of the center stitch in the garter section. Hard to see aren’t they? That’s because they are hidden by knitting in the back loop of the YO on the wrong side row. Who knew? By hiding the YO stitches the garter stripe stands out better between the mesh segments.

I also noticed a difference in the mesh. Normally K2tog stitches slant to the right. In the mesh section of the shawl the K2tog creates a slant that goes to the left. Check it out!

Mesh stitch
See the left slant? This was knit by [yo, K2tog] stitches that repeated every other row (all stitches purled on the wrong side).
Mesh closeup
The right slanting mesh was created by the opposite type of decrease stitch: [yo, ssk] repeated across the row. Once again the stitches on the wrong side were purled. The designer balanced the direction of the mesh slant around the center stitch of the shawl. Cool! 
As I was knitting along I realized that my ball of yarn was starting the shrink a little faster than I wanted it to. Yikes! How can I be sure to use as much as possible while leaving enough for the last three garter rows and then the BO?  Well, this is when a yarn warrior really digs in and takes control.

Row Tracker
Look at what Noora gave us in the pattern! Wow, isn’t this a nice idea. In fact, it made me think that all patterns should be organized as a table with the rows, stitch count, the pattern, weight of the yarn and a place to make tally marks. I mean, why does the entire thing have to be written out? See how I started tracking how much my ball of yarn weighed every 4 rows? I decided to switch to the last 4 rows as soon as I had only 8 grams left. (8 rows of the mesh section were skipped)
Yarn on balance.
This is how many grams of yarn I had left over after binding off.

See, it isn’t about the final object (OK, it is a little). It’s about being a YARN WARRIOR!! Capture the learning and master the craft. Be at one with the cashmere and bond with your fellow knitters.

Isn’t this why we all do it?

 

 

Crawling Along the Rockies…

It’s been a while since my last post. It has been really busy: more doctor appointments, a new drug (CellCept) to adjust to, and an infection that just refuses to die no matter how many antibiotics I swallow. I’m working hard at knitting up mitts and writing patterns for Alpaca Farm Days. The garden is suffering in the heat and cries to be watered. I’m way behind on my book reading. The cats are shedding in the heat and coating the house with hair. Then there was Yarn Along the Rockies

What is Yarn Along the Rockies you ask?

Just the biggest event of the knitting calendar year in this part of the world!  We are talking about  a yarn tour with a tote bag, a passport, free goodies and patterns. A chance to meet new friends, crawl along with old ones, and visit unique yarn stores with unknown, hidden but possibly fabulous treasures. If ever there was a time to learn how to use the GPS function of your cell phone, this was it!

The event is held over 9 days and involves 23 yarn shops up and down the front range of Colorado. One shop is up in the mountains. There are people who manage to complete the tour in the first weekend by driving like maniacs and dashing in and out of stores without really looking at the goodies. Whatever. I am not one of those folk. I wanted to savor the tour, discover new yarns and patterns,  make new friends, and locate some great stores. I split the tour into 4 different sections and drove a different section each day. Here’s how Yarn Along the Rockies works:

Passport.
Every participant of the tour carries a passport with them. Each yarn store stamps the passport when you arrive in their shop. Most of the stores had a free pattern for a knitted project and several also gifted us with goodies like stamps, stitch markers, and coupons. At the end of the tour the passport is left with the last store to enter it into the drawing for the five grand prizes. (Baskets with hundreds of dollars of yarns and notions!!)
Bag with buttons
Almost every person on the crawl had one of these canvas tote bags. Each shop gave us a button to put on the bag to record our progress. Cool! A lot of us bought things and stuffed them into the bags while we worked our way along the tour. Even more cool!!
Stitch markers.
You also received stitch markers at each 6th shop. The green marker was for completing the tour. If all this wasn’t enough incentive to lure knitters onto the tour there were also drawings for gift baskets stuffed with yarn, patterns and goodies at each individual shop. 

You can see how I got pulled into this. This isn’t a yarn crawl, it’s an adventure!! I tried to make a shopping plan for myself; I took patterns for future projects with me and decided on a shopping budget. Whatever. Sometimes it is best to just surrender to the experience. Here is what I ended up with.

Yarn
I found this Serenity by Zen Yarn Garden at Mew Mew’s Yarn Shop. This is DK weight cashmere/merino yarn that is just begging to become winter fingerless mitts. Can’t you just feel the cashmere through the computer screen? This yarn feels wonderful!! I feel better about winter already. 🙂
Shelter Yarn
I could not walk out of Fancy Tiger Crafts without some of this Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed. I’m going to knit a winter sweater for myself that will be warm and wonderfully comfy. I decided on the Daelyn Pullover for my pattern.
Yarn and mitt pattern
The cute pattern for Tea Time MItts was a free one at Needleworks by Holly Berry if you bought the silk/wool blend yarn. Of course I bought it!
Sock yarn.
My last stop on the tour was Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, Colorado where I found a big display of MJ Yarns. The display was enough to stop me in my tracks. This stuff is Opulent Fingering yarn. Cashmere, check! Nylon, check! Happy feet this winter, check! This put me over my budget, but I’m talking about my (poor, blue colored, Raynaud’s suffering) feet here, people! Socks happen!!

So that was the tour. 9 days. 23 shops. 2 tanks of gas and a shopping budget blown to bits.

What more could any shopping knitter hope for? Oh yeah. The drawing for the grand prize is tomorrow. What will I do with all that yarn if I win?

Hey everyone. I’ll have a big giveaway!! Keep your fingers crossed for me. 🙂

 

 

 

In Pursuit of Joy: Out of Control (Part 2)

Control is a thing that is highly over-rated. I was a classroom teacher and learned to just get over it. The art is to savor the chaos and to keep steering things along in the right direction while understanding that learning, successes and growth come at their own rate. Knitting, scleroderma, life: lay your best plans, hope for the best, but know that dropped stitches, hail storms, and bad lab reports are a fact of life. Surrender to joy when you find it, and don’t sweat the other stuff.

It’s been 6 months since my diagnosis for limited systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), and for the most part it hasn’t been all that rocky. I got through the first round of medical testing with only three hospital bracelets, my doctors were nice and mostly informative, and some of my symptoms have subsided thanks to the immunosuppressents  that I am on. New symptoms have appeared, however, and some surprising results showed up in routine blood work drawn two weeks ago. (OK, I was surprised. Now that I think about it, this is why there was so much medical testing 6 months ago. My rheumatologist was probably expecting this…) Even through I was warned to stay off the internet (really, they thought that would work?), I pursued the possible causes for the test results and went to PubMed to find out if there was a correlation with my symptoms, the test results and the auto-antibody profile that I have.

Well, crap!

OK, now I have a list of specific questions to ask the rheumatologist when I go see him next week. The internet can be a scary place, and sometimes ignorance is bliss, but I think that it is best to tackle these things head on so that I can make informed decisions. Still, I was a sad puppy at the start of the week which was one of the reasons I cast on new projects that facilitated smooth knitting and a zen like calm. Three projects at once? Sure. It’ll be fun!

Yesterday I decided that it was time to fight back; I packed up my purse, my knitting, and headed out to find some joy. Where can these things be found? At the local nursery and my favorite yarn store, of course!!

Plant
This kalanchoe is moving into the bedroom to keep me company in the mornings while I drink my latte and read in bed. (Oh, I am so retired!)

Look at the plant that I found! Happy, happy colors. I bought this and a cute little cyclamen in a hot pink.

Then I headed off to Colorful Yarns in nearby Centennial, Colorado where I knew ladies gathered to knit together on Wednesday afternoons. Oh my goodness, what a good idea that was. I had a great time knitting, was inspired by the yarns and projects of the other ladies and was even was treated to a decadent snack. (Rice crispy treats made with Nutella and drizzled with chocolate! Hello… if you are hunting joy, chocolate is always a hot ticket!!  This recipe looks like what she made. Yumm!!) I made some friends and will definitely be going back next week.  And the best thing? I was in a yarn store!!

No one should ever go into a yarn store while facing down mortality-related issues linked to their health status! Ever!! You can predict what happened here…

There was a whole section with newly-arrived cashmere blend yarns. Oh dear.
There was a whole section with newly-arrived cashmere blend yarns. Some with sparkle. Oh dear.
Yarn
Gradient dyed yarn! I have to make a lace crescent shaped shawl (with beads) out of this yarn. There was a striped hat set in matching colors that will let me make a hat and mitts in the same colors. How can I walk away from something like that? Black winter coat, you never had it so good!!
Green Yarn
I had never heard of this yarn label before. Hello, beautiful. This yarn is to dye for!! It is cashmere/silk/merino, and if ever there was a yarn that wanted to become art, this is it.
Blue yarn
Same label, but all merino. Won’t this make a happy pair of socks? It’s hard to see in the picture, but the colors just glow.
Cofetti Yarn
It is not possible to walk out of this store without some Zen Yarn Garden. This is 20% cashmere, and the colors are happiness guaranteed. This colorway is called confetti. 🙂
Yarn Haul
Here is the entire yarn haul hanging out with me while I eat lunch outside with my cat MacKenzie. How much fun (and out of control) is this? You are looking at JOY, people!

Time to cast on even more projects!! It is time for me to knit, knit like the wind.

This is me spitting in the eye of scleroderma.

A Tale of Two Mitts

I bought a really fun skein of hand-dyed yarn a few weeks ago. It is another yarn from Zen Yarn Gardens Serenity 20 in the colorway Burning Bush. I cast on to make a pair of vine lace mitts a couple of days later, and here is how they turned out:

stuff
These two mitts really are the same size. It was too cold to take another picture. 🙂

Cute, huh. These mitts fit really well, and they go great with my black, grey and fushia tops. The colors in the mitt, however, didn’t really stand out the way I thought they would. The grey is almost gone. I decided to make a second pair of mitts in simple stockinette to see how that would change the way the yarn looked. Here they are:

Burning Bush MItts_Stockinette
Same yarn, totally different look. I think that these will be easier to wear over my gloves.

Wow. What a difference the pattern made. Both mitts are comfy, but the second pair will go a lot better over my black gloves and with my new grey sweater. I do think that the stockinette pair shows off the “burning bush” characteristics of the yarn. But the lace mitts are really cute. I made both pairs with the same number of stitches and shaped the thumbs the same way. Which do you guys like better?

I haven’t written up the pattern for the garter vine lace mitts, but I did write down the details in my pattern notes on Ravelry. Here’s the link if anyone is interested.