gnittinK

Oh friends. Today, I had a breakthrough. Though technically it could have partly happened yesterday. I was sitting at knitting group last night and noticed that the gal next to me was knitting right to left (as opposed to left to right), and I blurted out “you’re knitting backwards!”

I’d heard of this backwards knitting phenomenon, but it wasn’t until last night that I realized that if you can knit backwards, you don’t have to purl.

Maybe you don’t have the aversion to purling that I do, but this, my friends, this is revolutionary. Not having to purl? GENIUS. I’m so thrilled. Even better, I had the opportunity to test it out today while I was in a very long (though very productive, both in terms of knitting output and business conducted) meeting.

It worked like a dream. Or it would have if the project I’d been working on had been more stockinette stitch, but whatever, I figured it out, I did it, I will never have to purl again! Okay so maybe I’ll just have to purl less. This is still a win in my book.

For anyone interested in trying out this technique yourself, check out this video by The Knit Witch.

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Color theories

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! This is one of my favorite days all year, because green is my favorite color, and I’m fairly certain I left a portion of my heart in Dublin a few years ago. So a day where wearing an abnormal amount of green is considered part of the celebration is all okay with me (for the record, I have on a green “Ireland” jacket, a green shirt, and green shoes; yes, green shoes).

Oh check it, I’ve got a picture of the shoes (this is from a while ago, when I first bought them).

Green shoes

I’m sure your life is enriched now because I shared a picture of my shoes. Anyway…

I love playing with color, in my knitting, in my wardrobe, on paper, and pretty much any other place in which color can become an integral part. If you looked in my closet, you would see an inordinate amount of black t-shirts, but that’s because they make for an excellent canvas for a brightly-colored scarf or one of my bright and happy cardigans or coats. You’d also see that I’m one of Those Girls who organizes her closet by color (and it does totally follow the ROYGBIV model). I typically don’t plan my wardrobe more than 2 seconds in advance—there’s no way of knowing what color I’ll feel like on a given day.

I’m more likely to go “ooh shiny” over a bright yellow skirt (true story: I found one on sale this weekend for 90% off) or a turquoise coat than an actually shiny piece of jewelry. I also have this crazy notion that almost any color can go with any other color (therefore rendering the idea of a “neutral” entirely obsolete, at least in my head) and have been known to wear gray suede boots, bright pink tights, and a black dress to work. (I’ve also been known to completely go slumming in jeans and a t-shirt to work on a day other than Friday; some days are more worth the effort than others.)

When it comes to my knitting, I work in an incredibly similar way. Rarely, if ever, do I put a whole lot of thought into choosing colors for projects. You know that saying “Follow your instincts?” My knitting instincts are loud and clear when it comes to color selection. I think this is one reason I stash a lot of yarn, rather than following the more sensible if not as much “fun” way of only buying yarn as it’s needed—I’ll never know when a yarn and pattern are going to say “pick us!”

With this love of color in mind, I went to the yarn store down the street from work to pick up some goodies for the contest (which, I have decided, will run until 3/26). I had no idea what I was looking for, but when I got in there, my instincts suddenly shouted “Purple!” and well, here you go (the color is a bit off; purple, like red, can be a real pain to photograph).

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The lucky winner of the contest will receive one skein of Cascade Heritage (maybe for some new socks, perhaps?), two skeins of Berocco Vintage (more than enough to make a scarf if you choose), and two skeins of Rowan Big Wool (for no other reason than it looked fun and fluffy), as well as a cute little piggy tape measure. Make sure you enter for your chance to win, and to celebrate the blogaversary! In the meantime, I’ll be figuring out what color tomorrow might feel like.

Domesticity and the Modern Gal

Like many crafters, I am constantly scanning the craft sections of bookstores for tomes to enlighten and inspire me in the ways of craftiness. I had been scoping out this book—The Gentle Art of Domesticity—for a while and I finally bought it with some money I’d received for Christmas.

This book elicits some ambivalent reactions in me. On the one hand, I am obviously a crafty gal, and the “arts of domesticity”—baking, knitting, crocheting, sewing, etc.—are art forms I enjoy and engage in on a regular basis. On the other hand, having grown up in a time when Grrrl Power is prevalent, this book and it’s pretty pink cover, “gentleness,” and “domesticness” kind of makes me feel like a Bad Feminist.

I consider myself a feminist in that I think all people, regardless of gender, race, age, ethnicity, etc, should be treated with equal respect and dignity. Along with simply playing nice with everyone, I also think that feminism is about doing what makes us happy, so long as we’re not hurting others in the process. For centuries, women (and men) fulfilled particular roles within the household. Not necessarily because someone decided “you are female, you must do this,” but because the process of surviving dictated that certain things be accomplished and that females were, generally speaking, more adept at certain chores. For instance, women, in general, have better dexterity with their fingers, which is why we, in general, are better able to manipulate small objects (like size 0 needles), whereas men, in general, have more upper arm musculature and therefore are good at opening jars. (In case I didn’t throw enough “in generals” in that last sentence, I do know that there are exceptions to every “rule” and I meant in no way to disparage men or women.)

I know that some crafters have been on the receiving end of comments about how knitting/crocheting is “anti-feminist,” comments which I think are baloney. What can be more empowering than reclaiming an act that was historically a chore, something that women* were expected to do, and repurposing it as a form of art? (I define art as “making stuff” be it with paint and canvas or peanut butter and jelly; yes I am a sandwich artist to boot.) And not just art, but it’s also fun. Even when I’m struggling with crazy mohair and beads or seem to have forgotten how to turn a blasted heel, I’m still usually having fun.

I’m only a handful of pages into The Gentle Arts…, but Jane Brocket’s book, along with her lovely website yarnstorm, so far focuses more on “domesticity” versus “domestication,” being creative versus completing chores. If you’ve ever seen my house, you know that I firmly fall into the former category and despise the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I do clean my house, just perhaps not with the regularity that my mother would prefer (not that my mother is a clean freak, but she is much more tidy than I; also, my mother, not being a routine crafter, does not allow her house to become overrun by yarn). The book so far is more about the sources of Brocket’s inspiration—movies, Victorian “domestic” novels (think Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell), her children—than anything else (of course, I think the first chapter is called “Inspiration”). I love the way that Brocket discusses what it is about these various sources of inspiration that leads to productivity in her creative life.

Still, I occasionally have trouble separating the inspiration of domestic arts from the idea that someone (not Brocket, just an amorphous “someone”) is telling me that I should be “domesticated” and clean my room. I shut up that little niggling voice by sitting down with my book and my knitting and reading a few pages.

Speaking of knitting, I now have two (TWO) sleeves for the Owls sweater, and as soon as I fix an error on the body, I will be joining said sleeves to the body and then, finally, starting on the owls themselves. Apparently in British knitting speak, “c/o” means “cast off,” not cast ON, which is what I did. Don’t worry, the abbreviations are included in the pattern (the proceeds of which, if you purchase through Ravelry or Kate Davies’ website, go entirely to the Help for Haiti fund; and yes, this used to be free, but Davies is now asking a minimal fee to help combat apparently copyright infringement). I’m just a moron who didn’t think about the British-American Knitting translations.

* I did read in a (fiction) novel set in the late 1700s that apparently some men also learned to knit, to help pass the time while they were out in the fields tending to herds. Anyone know if this is accurate?

Parallel Lines and a Contest

My first “real” design (“real” meaning “translated from my brain to the page”) saw it’s debut on Ravelry earlier this week. My Parallel Lines (PDF download; Rav link) scarf has been well-received (at least to my perception, being a first-time, no-name designer). I’m so happy that so many people are at least interested in an idea that started in my head and ended up a real project. This is a big deal to me, and I want to thank you for reading my blog and especially those of you who commented, favorited, or queued the pattern. I especially want to thank my test-knitter gals, Christy and Lois, and my friend Toni for helping me out with the photography. ::squishy hugs all around::

The idea for the pattern was born from a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park in September, when all the aspens were in their seasonal glory. Shots of gold, amber, and sunshine yellow dotted the mountains that are usually covered in green. I immediately set to work on this scarf when I got home (which would have annoyed my parents who were visiting at the time if they hadn’t had football to distract themselves). The stitch pattern is a variation of one found in an Italian stitch guide–I say “variation” because I’m not sure I’m doing it exactly right, as Italian stitch guides (and apparently patterns themselves) can be a bit iffy. That information comes from one of the Italian knitting groups on Ravelry, it is not my own observation.

Paralle Lines Scarf

The slant to the pattern comes from Left Twisting stitches. If you’ve never worked with twisted stitches, a brief explanation: twisting stitches is very similar to doing an itty, bitty cable pattern, where you’re knitting stitches out of order. A left-twisting stitch has you knitting the second stitch on a needle through the back loop, and then knitting the first stitch on the needle through the back loop. A right-twisting stitch does the same, except you’re knitting through the front of the loops, not the backs. I’m thinking about doing a mini-tutorial about twisting stitches, complete with pictures, so let me know if anyone’s interested in that.

Parallel Lines Scarf

The title “Parallel Lines” was inspired by the Blondie album of the same name. I like to name my projects after musical influences–many of my projects share names with songs that I like at the moment or that seem to fit the project. And this disclosure leads me to some more news: the first ever Threadpanda contest!

Leave a comment to this post, telling me about a favorite album of yours. One from your childhood, one that you’ve listened to over and over to the point of wearing it out, whatever. No comments that only say “Hi.” The contest will be open until Friday, November 13, 2009, at which point I’ll use a magical Random Number Generator to determine a winner.

Can’t have a contest without a prize, right? The winner of the Parallel Lines contest will receive two skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted, the same yarn I used to knit the scarf. (It’s aztec turquoise; I have a picture of it but I didn’t get a chance to upload it yet and I’m impatient. I’ll post it later.) Disclosure and disclaimer: Yarn was purchased at a LYS, as I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with Brown Sheep or any of its distributors.

Please please please, let me know what you think about the pattern, if you have any questions, if you want to be entered into the contest, whatever. Knit on!

Stranded!

I have been completely obsessed with stranded colorwork lately. I can’t get it off of my mind.

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I love unexpected color combinations, and updated takes on traditional stranded knitting, especially Fair Isle and Norwegian styles.

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And I love how people use stranded colorwork to embrace and display their creative, and sometimes nerdy, sides.

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I haven’t done a lot of stranded knitting, but as I said, I can’t get it off my mind at the moment. I just picked up Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and I can’t wait to have some time to myself to sit and absorb all of the delectable information that it has, as well as attempt to put together some of her Fair Isle stitch patterns into… something. I should probably start small.

I also very much want Ann Feitelson’s Art of Fair Isle Knitting. This book keeps catching my eye whenever I stop into the bookstore. Much like Alice’s book, Ann’s shares a lot of the history of Fair Isle knitting, as well as including patterns and instructions on choosing colors and colorwork patterns.

I don’t think I’ve seen this book in person yet, but Janine Kosel’s Norwegian Handknits also appeals to my stranded senses. As does Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by Sheila MacGregor.

Of course, I’m all about pairing crazy colors. I really love the yellow and purple (maybe brown? I can’t tell) Norwegian socks, and the orange and blue cowl and sweater. But I also have a crazy hankering for monochrome schemes. For instance, Lisa Shroyer’s Bandelier Socks are positively SCREAMING to be knit in shades of purple. Maybe you can’t hear them, but they’ve been yelling in my head for weeks.

I realize this is a common cry on my blog (and many other knitters’ blogs) but sigh. So much knitting to do; so little time.

1. Minder’s Paper Dolls; 2. MariannAn’s Red Delicious; 3. elf518’s Stem and Leaf Cowl; 4. Pinneguri’s Womens’ Stockings; 5. tsigknit’s Fair Isle Pullover; 6. ssailorss’ Norwegian Stockings; 7. elf518’s Robot Fair Isle Sweater; 8. Courtney Kelley’s Tulip Cardigan; 9. Prelapsaria’s Kids Space Invaders Hoodie

Inspiration.

As an optimistic designer-in-waiting, as I like to think of myself (so many ideas, so little time to make them actually happen), I love love love reading how other designers find inspiration to arrive at their designs. Cookie A talks a little bit about inspiration in Sock Innovation, and she recently wrote a blog post about how she was making up a pattern as she went along, which I thought was awesome (and then became very intimidated, because if that’s what she calls “winging it”… there is no hope for the rest of us).

Mari Muinonen recently posted a blog about the inspiration for her new Twist design, Luminen (you may remember the stir that her Sylvi caused last year).

I loved Mari’s little inspiration board that she shared in her post, as well as the fact that the design was inspired by the movie The Golden Compass (I’m a bit “eh” on the movie but I love the books, and I did like the artistry and overall visual look of the movie). There’s also some Princess Amidala and Matrix action going on in the inspiration board, which appeals to the geek in me.

I’ve never really thought about where I get my inspiration from. Sometimes it’s from TV or film; one of the designs floating around in my head is a pair of slipper socks to wear around the house, inspired by the shoes the character Annie wears on Being Human. I’ve even bought the yarn and have started pattern drafting in my head, and figuring out how I will finish them (to felt or not to felt? lining or no lining? fleece/roving lining or some sort of fabric lining?).

(I know that good pictures of her shoes exist, as I’ve seen people make icons and avatars that include her feet, I just can’t seem to find these pictures myself.)

I’ve also found inspiration from stitch patterns, as well as individual yarns. I picked up a gorgeously dyed one of a kind skein from a dyer-friend of mine and have a Great Plan to design a pair of socks around the yarn, it just hasn’t happened yet. Designer-in-waiting, like I said.

Inspiration is important to every person, whether they knit or not. Which has me wondering, where do you find inspiration? Not necessarily for designing or even knitting, but what inspires you to be creative or to do something that you love? Or even to just get out of bed in the morning? Sometimes I have trouble being inspired to do that.