Quiet for a reason

- Leaving my old job
 - Spring Carnival at my alma mater
 - Spring break
 - Easter
 - Starting my new job
 - My son’s 5th birthday
 - Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
 All of that is happening in a 3 1/2 week time span. So, if things are quiet around here, you can understand why.
 I will try to post some relevant things, but I just finished that long sleeved, wool sweater right before a weekend that felt like summer, so it might take some effort for me to post something seasonal!

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In the Works: Crackerjack

The one thing that I don’t like about designing knit and crochet patterns is that I don’t have (or make) a lot of time to make other people’s patterns. I always like to have something on the needles that doesn’t take a lot of thought, especially now that soccer season is upon us. Sometimes this takes the form of a second sample or second mitt. Sometimes this takes the form of a top down sweater for which the math is all done. And sometimes I can squeeze in a project in someone else’s pattern.
 A few days after the start of baseball season, a friend told me about a new pattern on Ravelry called Crackerjack. This free pattern is a recipe that allows you to create an infinity cowl based on the wins and losses of your favorite baseball team. Once I read the concept, I wanted to buy yarn and cast on immediately. I have been a Cincinnati Reds fan since I was 8 or 9 years old, and I have always enjoyed baseball. Combining baseball and knitting seems like a great idea!

I’m knitting 3 rounds of red stockinette stitch for each win (home or away), 2 rounds of garter in white for home losses and 2 rounds of garter in grey for away losses. I’m going to put 2 rounds of seed stitch between consecutive wins. That has sadly not yet been necessary. :-/
 The yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk (red) and Sock (grey and white), which is a fingering weight. So I’m knitting 80 stitches per round on size 1 needles. I would normally not be interested in that combination for a cowl, but since it is just 2-5 rounds per day, I think it is totally doable as long as I don’t get too far behind. (Famous last words.)
 The Reds have lost a number of games by a very small margin. I hope that they can start to flip some of those close games the other way in the coming weeks. It would be nice to have a mostly red cowl. ;-)

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Do you remember my New Year Ramblings?
 Well, the introspection continued for weeks after I wrote that, and I settled on two possible paths that I could follow by the end of the year. I took stock of my skills, what I enjoy, and how much of my time is scheduled right now. The answer to the last question is “too much”. I enjoy all of the things that I am doing in my free time, but it is just a bit too much. Mostly because it is hard to accommodate more kid activities or more spontaneous things like going to a movie. It’s not that we don’t have enough quality time as a family, it is more the issue that a lot of things have to be planned in advance.
 Anyway…in an effort to avoid a long and rambling post, let me cut to the chase. I’ve accepted a new job! The new position is at an architecture firm similar to the one I previously worked at for 11 years. I think it will be a better fit than my current job, and I am very excited.
 The reason that this is relevant to Structured Stitches is that I have decided to stop teaching knit and crochet classes. The last classes that I will be offering are now posted on the Natural Stitches website. We can cover any topics you want in my Student’s Choice classes – an independent project, the subject of one of my regular classes, general help and advice, etc.
 Friday, April 4th – 8-9pm, Drop-in Help
 Sunday, April 6th – 2:30-4:30pm, Into to Fair Isle
 Monday, April 7th – 8-9pm, Drop-in Help
 Monday, April 21st – 6:30-8:30pm, Student’s Choice
 Friday, April 25th – 6:30-8pm, Knit or Crochet Refresher
 Sunday, May 11th – 12-2pm, Student’s Choice
 Sunday, May 11th – 2-3pm, Drop-in Help
 Sunday, May 18th & Sunday, June 8th & Sunday, June 22nd – 11:30am-2:30pm, Top Down Sweater Workshop
 This was not an easy decision. I really love teaching. I taught great students, the staff at Natural Stitches is a wonderful team, and I have learned SO MUCH about knitting and crochet by teaching it to others. Not to mention that teaching is what really gave me the push to start self-publishing my designs. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that experience.
 But, I have reached a point where I can’t be as good as I want to be at teaching, designing, parenting, and working all at the same time. I have great ideas for new classes, and designing gets in the way of planning them. Designing time gets interrupted by parenting responsibilities. Family plans are complicated by my teaching schedule. A long designing and teaching to do list is distracting my brain while I’m at work. I would rather let go of one venture in the hopes of doing the rest even better. And maybe, just maybe, spending a little more of my time on rest and relaxation.
 I will continue self-publishing knit and crochet designs, as well as blogging here. I have a LOT of ideas and I look forward to sharing them with you. There is no way to know for sure where this path will take me, but I am enjoying the trip.

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Weekend Away

Each spring I go away for the weekend with a group of wonderful ladies. This past weekend was our 6th annual trip and we have certainly found our groove. The original reason that we used to all get together was to knit. That was how we all met. Over time, knitting has been the focus of the group less and less, though most of us still used the weekend away as a means for some crafting time. This year there was knitting, crocheting, quilting, digital scrapbooking, needle felting, wreath making, and donut making. (That’s a craft, right? Ok, maybe not, but they were DELICIOUS donuts!)
 When this group began ten years ago, I was primarily doing cross-stitch and most of the other members were knitting. I admit that knitting didn’t grab my attention at first…until I saw the books with sweater patterns. I forced myself to finish the wedding sampler that I was working on before learning to knit. I knew how many unfinished cross stitch projects were in my office, and I knew how important it was to finish a present with a deadline first.
 Ten years later, and I am the one in the group most obsessed with knitting and crochet. I knitted on the drive there, knitted and crocheted through movies, crocheted while watching Harry Potter, knitted all through the evening, and crocheted on the drive home. For the most part, if I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I had yarn in my hands. My only issue is the fact that I take a week’s worth of projects with me instead of just 48 hours worth. God forbid that I would run out of projects!
 Here are the accomplishments of the weekend:

 A few inches of a hat, knit on the car ride there. This is another sample of the hat I made for my Sister-in-law. Given the current season change, it is unlikely that I will publish this before the fall. Though I am hoping to get the sample done before it is too warm so I can get some modeled photos that look appropriate for fall.

 (See how much my cat missed me while I was gone? He really wanted to “help” with the photo shoot.)
 I knit on this sweater Friday evening through Saturday morning. I decided last weekend that I would like a broken ribbing rather than a regular ribbing. So I pulled back the hem last week and reknit it before dinner. After that I worked on the first sleeve. When I was a few inches from finishing, I tried it on noted that I had not decreased enough – there was too much extra fabric at the wrist. I ripped back to the elbow, knit and few rows and went to bed. Saturday morning, with a fresh mind, I recalculated how frequently I needed to decrease. I finished that first sleeve soon after finishing a super-yummy brunch. I was a little tired of purple yarn in stockinette at that point, but I picked up the stitches for the second sleeve and worked the first two inches. In the hope of keeping this from being a WIP forever. I started this sweater in 2012 and I am at the point that I just want to wear it!
 To do something completely different from worsted weight purple yarn in stockinette, I switched to crocheting with laceweight for the afternoon. :-)
 Things were quieter Saturday afternoon. Some people napped, some people read, and there was generally less chatter. So I decided it was a reasonable time to try to work out the fingerless mitts I’ve started designing. I had already worked and washed my swatch. I had a general design in mind – it just needed implementation. The house was quiet just long enough that I was able to work out the design that afternoon, and write it down as I worked.
 Even better…

 …I finished the first mitt on the ride home, a few minutes before I was dropped off! And I am thrilled with the results!

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Ripping out and Redoing

When it comes to mistakes, there is a spectrum of responses that I see from knitters and crocheters. Some keep going and find a way to cover up the issue. Some can ignore small issues but fix larger ones. And I’ve met some who rip back for every issue no matter how minor so that the finish item is as perfect as possible, even before blocking.

The more years I have spent making things, the more prone I am to ripping back to fix mistakes. Granted, if I am knitting and I can fix my mistake by dropping down stitches, I will absolutely do that instead of ripping out full rows. But that really isn’t an option in crochet. And sometimes the only way to get the result you want is to redo.

That is the preamble for today’s tale of ripping out and redoing. ;-)

A few weeks ago,  I made time on a regular basis to put together the baby blanket I started late last year. I was excited about the prospect of having two blanket samples to show off in class t the festival. I didn’t lay out all of the squares and put thought into their order, I just got going. By last weekend, I had all of the squares together and half of the border done. Great! Until I looked at the blanket during my color selection class and realized that I wasn’t actually happy with it.

When I purchased the yarn, I knew I liked the colors as a group, but I didn’t love the light blue right against the avocado. I made a mental note that I would assemble the blanket so that those two colors didn’t touch. Can you see where this is going?

Yeah, I forgot all about that plan and just assembled the blanket according to the diagram in my pattern. Which does not allow for the separation of two colors.

So last night at knit night I stared at the blanket for a few minutes…realized that I would not be thrilled to either put pictures up on my ravelry page or gift the blanket…and I ripped off the edging and detached the squares. Props to my friends for not gasping at the destruction! I decided to reconnect the squares using alternating slip stitches into each square with the border color.


After 2 hours of ripping and crocheting:

While somewhat upsetting to undo my work, it is going back together quickly and I am getting an effect that I am much happier with.

Close-up before:

Close-up after:

The fact that I like the result so much more has re-energized me to finish the project, and I think it will carry me through until I’m done!

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Festival Shopping

Teaching 4 classes at the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival meant previous little time to shop. I had an hour on Friday night, an hour on Saturday afternoon and about two hours on Sunday. When you consider that at least half of my “shopping” time was spent socializing with fiber friends, I really couldn’t do justice to the whole market.

I had a few strategies:

I generally skipped booths of local yarn shops. Not to dis them, but it’s not likely that I’m going to buy commercial yarn at a show with indie dyers and farmers.

I also skipped the booths when I have yarn from that vendor in my stash from a previous year. No matter how much I love their yarn. I wanted to focus on new-to-me yarns and vendors.

Wandering Wool, Heights Worsted
In Gray Matter and Sugar Plum
100% Superwash Merino
218 yd/100 g

Planned to be another sample of the hat I designed for my SIL.

Ross Farm Heritage and Rare Breed Fibers, Jacob yarn
“Windy”, sport 2 ply
250 yds/3 oz

Yarn support from my favorite enabler, for swatching and inspiration.

Apple Tree Knits Yarn
Silk Fingering, Jewelbox Gradient
100% silk
3.5 oz/ 434 yds

I was sucked into her booth by the gorgeous gradients. I haven’t dared look at her etsy shop yet for fear that I might go a little too crazy with the credit card.

Brooks Farm Yarn
Solo Silk, sport weight
50/50 Fine Wool and Silk
4 oz/ 400 yds
Natural and LC20

Destined for colorwork in some form.

Four Play, worsted
50/50 Fine Wool and Silk
4 oz/ 270 yds

Tenino, worsted
50/50 Fine Wool and Tencel
6.5 oz / 400 yds

Colorwork for these as well. Possibly yet another hat. Maybe with mitts given the yardage.

Last, but not least, a bag and circular needle case from KSC Designs. So many pretty fabrics, it was hard to choose…but I kept going back to the chairs! It was also hard to choose which needle case to get. They were all lovely and I was taken by the compact nature of the interchangeable version. But I was practical and I started with the case that I needed the most. I can’t say that I will be practical in the future.

Like I said yesterday, I may need to go on a yarn diet until Maryland Sheep and Wool. ;-)

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Festival Recovery

In some ways, this whole week will be about recovering from teaching 4 classes in 3 days. Although I don’t like the word “recovery” because it makes it sound as though I need to deal with something bad that happened and there was nothing bad at all about this past weekend.

You know when things are great, but they are great in a way that is completely and totally exhausting? Like birthday parties, and Christmas, and weddings. That is how I feel after teaching all weekend at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, and I assume that it is a similar feeling after other fiber festivals.

There is so much about the weekend that is exhilarating – sharing knowledge with other fiber enthusiasts, seeing that moment when your students “get” the concept you’re teaching, converting crocheters to love crochet charts, talking with vendors & friends, petting gorgeous yarns, and bringing home amazing hand-dyed yarns. Not to mention hearing compliments on my designs, and selling multiple copies of my patterns. Ross Farm sold out of the Primero kits on Saturday and had to wind more for Sunday! (I felt a little bad that they had to do the work Saturday night making up the kits, but I’m thrilled that Primero has found an audience with their customers.)

My students were terrific and patient with my desire to pack as much information in my classes as possible. I had a few returning students and it was very gratifying to hear compliments on my teaching skills. Although, I think in the future I will try to stick with shorter classes for this festival. It isn’t that I think the students can’t handle the information or intensity of a 3-4 hour class, but I have found that the draw of the market is very strong and I’m probably better off planning a shorter class. There are also a LOT of women who come with their friends for a girls’ weekend, and their desire to socialize is as strong as their desire to learn. So somewhere between the 2 and 3 hour mark, many of them seem ready to switch back to socializing and shopping mode. This is not a criticism of my students in any way. I’m just trying to learn from my experiences and plan the best classes that I can for this crowd. :-)

I can’t blame my students for wanting to return to the festival market. The booths were great this year and there seemed to be a lot of new vendors. I will do a wrap up of my purchases in another post. But let’s just say that there were a few vendors that received a nice chunk of my teaching fee because I COULD NOT RESIST what they were offering. I think I will need to stay on a yarn diet until Maryland Sheep and Wool…

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