Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day!

Last night it started snowing again here in the great Northwest which is unusual for this time of year, but we received a nice little dumping of snow late Wednesday that continued into early Thursday morning. It seems this our year for the snow - this is our second or is it our third big snow. We got somewhere between two and six inches! (doesn't sound like much does it?)  Here is a picture from my patio around noon time today - it doesn't look like much now but there was a whole lot more at six o'clock this morning - this is what happens when the sun comes out and melts it all! That is one of the major difference between living in the Northwest and the Northeast - the snow isn't so easily melted in the Northeast as it is here. But in anticipation of the large snow accumulation almost all the schools in the local area are closed today.

This is nothing compared to
the first big snow storm this year!
I grew up in the Northeast and this little bit of snow is nothing compared to what areas on the eastcoast get each year (this year being no exception), but here it is considered a lot and everything tends to shut down because they aren't prepared equipment-wise for the removal of it.

First big snow of the winter
But I think after the last big snowstorm DOT and most of the cities were a little more prepared this time and were able to clear most of the major roadways so there weren't as many accidents or abandoned cars. But there were some areas of Washington that weren't so lucky and got some major accumulation as you can see from the photos below.

Kent - big and heavy snow

North Bend

Bellevue - before many of the roads were cleared
Since, my area wasn't plowed and the roads pretty much looked like the picture above, I stayed home today as well.  If I knew that the snow would have been melted by lunch time, I would have braved the roads and gone into work, but who could anticipate the snow to mostly be gone by lunch time?

So what does a knitter do on a snow day?  Well this knitter decided to inventory her stash and log it on Ravelry.  I logged over 50 in my stash inventory so far and still have so much more to go.  I knew I had a lot of yarn, but I just didn't know how much until now.  But this is good, because now I have a more accurate account of what is stuffed in the cubby holes of my yarn shelf.  It is so frustrating when I buy hanks of yarn and then find out later that I had it in my stash all along, but just didn't know it.  The other benefit of stashing on Ravelry is that you are connected to an inventory of others who have used the yarn for projects and you have access to those projects.  So you can get ideas for your leftover stashed yarn.  I love Ravelry!

What else have I been up to on my snow day?  Well I've discovered a new skill I would like to try.  After attending the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat last weekend and seeing all the hand-dyed roving, all the different types of fiber, spinning wheels, drop spindles and beautiful yarns that were created from hand-spinning, I've been scouring the web for an inexpensive spinning wheel for beginners.  At the Madrona Marketplace, I got to watch a really cool drop spindle demonstration and as I roamed around and watched a few spinners creating some beautiful yarn from the hand-dyed roving they had for sale, I was excited! I wanted to do this, it looked like so much fun and the end product was so beautiful.

I know, I know, I don't need another hobby, but who can resist the beautiful designs that can be created from so many different fibers mixed together and dyed with such vibrant colors? Just walking around and seeing it all had me wanting to take up spinning.  Of course I may have to start with drop spinning first just to see if I'll like it, and because its a inexpensive way to get started.  After checking many websites that sell spinning wheels I realized I'm gonna have to cut down on the yarn shopping so I can save up money for a spinning wheel. 

I found a pretty inexpensive one for beginners on Paradise Fibers called Babe's Fiber Garden which comes in single and double treadle (ah yes, new jargon to learn).  This model received some pretty good reviews so I think I'm gonna save up my money so that maybe as a Christmas gift to myself this year I will get me a spinning wheel. Christmas came early and I got myself a wheel, a Lendrum and it's beautiful.

My new Lendrum
 Well I'd like to hear from the spinners out there, give me some advice on what wheels are the best, how I should get started and where I should look for basic instructions on spinning.  Looking forward to hearing from all of you and happy spinning!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Teaching Moment...

I discovered over the last few months that knitting can be contagious. You sit and knit and others will want to know what you are working on, where you got your pattern, and can you share it with them. I found this to be true at my day job.  On my breaks, I will pull out my needles and yarn to work on my current project.  The rhythm of the needles and the repetition of the patterns are helpful in relieving some of the stress I feel on the job and takes my mind off the oftentimes chaotic happenings going on in the office.  Many times over the last few months, I have had co-workers come up and ask me what I’m working on.  I don’t mind sharing because it’s fun to show off my work and what I’m learning.  From this I have gained a bit of a following at work. 

My friend and co-worker Adriann learned to knit when she was a kid but hadn’t done it in a long time, so she decided to pick up her needles again after she saw the cute baby layette set I made for our friend and co-worker, Judith.  She wanted to make a pair of booties for her sister who is due in August.  She picked a pattern (Baby’s Wool-Tencel Booties, by Linda Burt) from a book I recently picked up and fell in love with – Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Small Indulgences. She had a little difficulty with the pattern she chose, so she asked me to give her some direction. I love it when I get the opportunity to pass along my knowledge and I really love helping others learn knitting – so we walked through the pattern together.  On my lunch break I borrowed the pattern and knitted up the bootie just to get a feel for the pattern so that I could help Adriann understand it too.

Fits: 0-3 months (for very tiny feet)

My version of Baby's Wool Tencel Booties
Yarn: 100% acrylic - Lion Brand's Pound of Love
I soon discovered as I was working through the pattern that it did seem a bit difficult for a novice knitter and even though I tried showing her how to work the row she was having difficulty with, she still couldn’t seem to finish the booties on her own at home. I told her that she shouldn’t be discouraged that even I had some difficulty at first with the pattern and I’m pretty good at reading them. I’m no expert by any means, but I can fumble through it, then after a few practice runs, I get the feel of the pattern and then it becomes rote for me. But she decided that the pattern was just too complicated for her to understand and I suggested she try to find a pattern that would meet her needs and be easier to understand.  So that’s what she did, she found a simpler pattern that was more her speed – little Mary Jane style booties (which were so dang adorable) she picked soft baby alpaca wool and was able to knit them up in no time at all. And when she needed help with a particular row in this pattern I was more than happy to help her through it. I was very happy to see that she didn’t give up and seeing her face when she completed the booties made me feel like a very proud teacher. I now understand how a teacher feels when their student gets that ‘aha’ moment and really gets what they are being taught.

Another teaching moment: About a month ago, there was some transitioning happening on our floor; a small group of workers from the Community Services Department that had moved to another building was being moved back to our building onto our floor.  I didn’t pay much attention to this transition because it was happening on the other end of our floor and it wasn’t really affecting us directly. One day while showing my latest project to a few of my friends at the front desk I was approached by Carol from the group of transitioned staff.  She noticed that I was showing off a knitted item and asked if I could help her with something she was working on.  I’m always happy to help a fellow knitter and I said, “Sure, show me what you’re working on.”

As we were heading to her cubicle she was explaining how she was teaching herself to knit from video tutorials on  I told her that was an excellent way to get started; I didn’t discover video tutorials until recently. I taught myself from pictures in how-to books. She was practicing knitting and purling and she was having difficulty with the how to wrap the yarn while purling Continental style.  I personally don’t knit in that style, but can demonstrate it if necessary.  So I showed her that in continental style if you hold the yarn properly you don’t really have to wrap the yarn like you do in the English style (which many call throwing the yarn). After demonstrating the method a few times she had a better understanding of how to do it. She thanked me for taking the time to show her the method and I was amazed at how happy that little demonstration had made her.  She told me she was a visual learner and that she couldn’t learn from a book, that the videos were easier to understand. But for the life of her she couldn’t remember the purl stitch from the video. And I told her that I would be more than happy to help her if she runs across anymore snags.

These moments reminded me of when I was first learning to knit and had the help of two wonderful women who were always so patient with my many questions and my frustrations on trying to figure out what I did wrong with my project.  They helped me learn to understand patterns and if I didn’t know why my project wasn’t looking like the one in the picture they pointed out where I went wrong and showed me how to fix it (thank you so much Judy & Elizabeth!). 

Now, my friends at work send their co-workers to me when they hear that they need help with a knitting problem.  It’s funny I never thought of myself as a teacher, but I’m finding that these teaching moments have given me a great deal of confidence in my knitting abilities, not to mention that it makes me happy to help other learn a skill that I love and hopefully they will learn to love it too!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day for Knitters & Crocheters

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day for many reasons that I will not get into here, but I don’t have to be a fan to enjoy making special knitted or crochet items for my friends and family to enjoy on this commercially motivated holiday that the cardmakers make a bundle on (oops sorry I said I wasn't going to go into it here...)

Anywho, you don't have to like the holiday to want to make and give special handmade gifts like the Sweet Heart Crochet by Bella Dia (pictured below) - aren't they so cute? And wouldn't your little one like to have her very own heart-shaped Valentine's Bag card holder. And for more Valentine's Day knitting, you can check out Knitting Pattern Central and start with the pages designated for hearts and flowers; here you'll find something for everyone on your Valentine's Day list.

Sweetheart Crochet by Bella Dia

Valentine's Bag
(card holder)
Anyone can send chocolates or flowers, but you aren't like anyone, you are a knitter/crocheter, so get creative with your Valentine's Day gifts.  Why not make this cute Cupcake Pincushion for your friend who loves to sew. Wouldn't this make the perfect Valentine's Day gift?

Or you could check out the blog post I'm Seeing Red on Fiber Arts, where you will find patterns for heart garland (knit and crochet), Anna Hrachovec’s Mochimochi Land stuff tiny hearts, and a heart dishcloth.  All are creative and fun ways to say I Y you this Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Noticing Knitwear Everywhere!

Do you find yourself noticing that great scarf on the person in the grocery line in front of you? Or the cool knit cap on the guy pumping gas next to you? Do you wonder if it’s knit or crochet? What stitches were used to make it? Or could I duplicate it when I got home or find a pattern that closely resembles it? Since I’ve started my new love of knitting I’ve been noticing knitwear more and more when I’m out and about. Friends laugh at me when I approach them and ask to feel their sweaters or scarves or want to get a closer look to check out the pattern that’s used. Going a step further I’ve begun noticing the knitwear that are on screen… that is the TV screen. I watch the MoviePlex station on cable and it shows old movies that I watched as a kid and am seeing again years later, but the difference now is I’m paying more attention to the knitwear more than the story line.

I’m even noticing in my favorite TV shows the knitwear of many of my favorite characters. For instance, recently, I started watching a new show on USA, Fairly Legal, on Thursday nights. I’m into cop and lawyer shows so this piqued my interest. The main character “Kate Reed” played by Sarah Shahi is a lawyer in her father’s law firm. The premiere of the show begins with her returning to the firm after his death and she has decided she doesn’t want to be a lawyer anymore but wants to help people, so she’s the firm’s mediator. Well I really got into the show and even found it very interesting, but I found myself paying more attention to the cable knit hat she is wearing when she’s riding the ferry. It stood out to me because cables are the bane of my existence, I can’t seem to get them right and this one looked very complicated and I thought how would someone even attempt to do that? But not only did I notice Kate’s hat, but later in the show you meet her assistant Leo who sports a couple of different sweater vests and regular sweaters that I couldn’t help but notice, they were very stylish, with classic designs and great colors. Matter of fact the one he’s wearing in the photo below reminds me of the Classic Camel Vest by Tara Jon Manning from the Men in Knits book, although the one Leo is wearing doesn’t have the cables, which is what I would prefer making.

Here are some of the knitwear that I've noticed while watching some of my favorite shows:

Sarah Shahi as "Kate Reed" in Fairly Legal
Cable Hat

Baron Vaughn as "Leo" - Kate Reed's assistant
V-neck vest sweater
Candace Accola as "Caroline" on CW's
Vampire Diaries wearing short-sleeved lace shrug
Right: Meaghan Rath as "Sally" in the SyFi Channel's
new show Being Human wearing a short
front/long back cardigan
Chris Colfer as "Kurt" on Glee wearing a fair isle cardigan
B.D. Wong as "Dr. George Huang" on
Law & Order SVU wearing argyle v-neck pullover

Have you taken more notice in the character's knitwear than the actual show?  Tell me about it, I'd like to hear from you.