Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Continental Knitting is not difficult!!!

For my birthday, my husband purchased me a copy of June Hemmons Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting. Let me put a disclaimer on this post. I love this book and have enjoying reading it. For the price, I have to love this book and I really really do. I have flipped through the pages and enjoy Hiatt's matter-of-fact information and techniques. She is no Elizabeth Zimmerman or Barbara Walker but the book is an excellent reference for the overly curious knitter.

But I have a beef with Ms. Hiatt!!! She acts as if Continental knitting is a backwards, unflattering, and the illogical way to knit. She says on pages 5 and 6 "there are some problems in bringing the yarn through the stitch, which make this a problematic method of knitting , although widely used." She cited the following pros and cons with this method - 1) the way the yarn is wrapped around the finger causes problems with "precise tension"; and 2) that "many specialty stitches are a problem" because the yarn is picked instead of thrown. She does admit that this method of knitting is good for stranded colorwork.

She states that the best way for a left handed person to knit is using the mirror knitting method. Now that is a backwards way of knitting - literally!!! She states "there is no real necessity for the left-handed person to learn a special way to knit - after all, one knits with two hands. I first learned to knit English and did everything the opposite and when I started knitting more complex patterns, things really got interesting and not in a good way. In mirror knitting you have to think all the time. Now what is the fun in that. Knitting is supposed to be relaxing. I love when I get a pattern in my fingers and can zone out.

After about 2 years of knitting backwards, I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman and taught myself to knit Continental. My tension is better. I knit faster. And I purl faster. I think this a typical case of a right handed person not understanding why left handed person can't do it the right handed way. Well, Ms. Hiatt, I think all knitters - which ever hand is dominant - should learn to knit whichever way was comfortable to them. I know English style knitters and Continental knitters and I don't think that any of us hold the needles the same way or hold their yarn the same way but we all knit and purl and the final result is the same. So I say knitter's choice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arkansas State Fair

I have been meaning to post this for 2 weeks now. But late than never, right?

Well, my husband and I went to the State Fair this year. I've been many times in the past but this was his first Arkansas State Fair (he's from Tennessee). We went with a friend and we went during the free admission/free parking. I don't remember the fair doing this in the past but on week days from 11 am to 1 pm there was free admission and free parking. Have lunch at the Fair is the idea.

So we did and yes, we ate some weird stuff. Between the 3 of us we ate corndogs, gyros, deep fried Coca-Cola, beef on a stick, pickles, chocolate-dipped bacon, caramel apple, and deep fried Hershey's kisses.

This is what chocolate-dipped bacon looks like... And once you get passed the look, it is not so bad. Think salty and sweet together.

Pig Lickers aka chocolate-dipped bacon

And deep fried Coca-Cola is just fried funnel cake dough with Coke poured over it and a little (or a lot) of whipped cream on top.

Deep fried Coca-Cola
We also went to the Arts & Crafts Building (disappointment) and the Livestock barns (bigger disappointment). I had never been to the Arts & Crafts Building and there was a lot to see but I guess I expected more vendors selling yarn or roving, homemade preserves, or quilts. There was a soapmaker and he was selling his wares. The lots to see were the items that won prizes for various categories. As a city girl, I've only been to a county fair once and it has never dawned on me that you could enter your knitting or crocheting or photography or preserves in the State Fair. It was cool. I think I'm going to see about getting my knitting friends to enter some stuff next year.

The Livestock Barns were a big disappointment. I think we saw a total of 4 animals in the Cattle, Poultry, Goat/Sheep and Swine Barns. I guess since it was the first Monday of the fair nobody had arrived yet. But we did see some funny signage.

These are new signs that I haven't seen in the past. Was this a problem????

This is the Swine Barn. In front of the Swine Barn (on the right of the picture) is the Pork Chop Shop. I kid you not - they sell pork to eat right in front of the Swine Barn. No surprise for those pigs.
Then finally I got to see some fiber animals in the Petting Area. They had goats and sheep although the sheep were Mutton Sheep and not fiber sheep and then there was a llama and a Scottish long haired calf.

All in all a good day was had by all. Next year we will go on a day when more animals are in residence!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday: Beaumont Hat and Noro Lace Cover-up

I started two new projects last week - the Beaumont Tam from Jared Flood's booklet Made In Brooklyn and the Lace Cover-up from Knitting Noro.

The Tam is a class project at my LYS. There are 4 other women in the class with me and the range of color are extraordinary. The colors that I chose are so close in value that the design is not as pronounced. But we are using Classic Elites Fresco and it is so yummy that I think I will do a hat in purple for myself. This one is for my mom.

The Lace Cover-Up is been a challenge to start. It is a 4 row lace pattern with a purl back on rows 2 and 4. I started and frogged it 4 or 5 times because I got the first lace repeat right. But now it is knitting up very nicely. I am using Noro Yuzen which I got on sale at WEBS this summer. It is not the called for but I got my gauge right and I love the colors and texture.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A dream of Rhinebeck

Three years ago I discovered podcasts and became obsessed with knitting podcasts specifically. I would listen to them in the car, on the threadmill, and while I cleaned the house. During one of those threadmill walks, I was listening to a podcast by 3 sisters in New England and their trip to Rhinebeck. Sorry I don't remember the name of the podcast but the point is that it was during that walk on that threadmill listening to that podcasts that I discovered the knitter's mecca - the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York.

This weekend is the Rhinebeck Festival and I have secretly wished I could be there. A few weeks back someone in the Sit n' Stitch at the Main Library asked if another person in the group was going to Rhinebeck this year. The other knitter responded that she was skipping this year. Then several other knitters piped in that they had been in the past but weren't going this year. Arkansans are going all the way to New York State for a sheep and wool festival even if it is THE sheep and wool festival. This is awesome and amazing. As a Southerner, I have been to New York City but I've never been north of Westchester County. So I will dream of one day going to the legendary Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY; of seeing the fall leaves of New England; and of spending what little I have in a retirement nest egg on yarn - lots and lots of yarn.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finished Object Fridays: Yummy Malabrigo Scarf

Well, I guess this counts as a finished object but it was so super easy that I feel a little guilty for claiming it.

I bought the yarn at Hank of Yarn during my recent Yarn Crawl in Memphis. It is a yummy merino and it is so chunky that it took be about 2 hours total to knit it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ROTFLOL: Sweater Quest

So I gave up on Wicked on Sunday morning and picked up the next book in the ever growing "need to read" pile. It just happened to be Sweater Quest: A Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini. I haven't read anything in a long time that made me laughing out loud.

Since yesterday was Columbus Day and my federal employee husband was off, I decided to take off as well.We were going to go to the Arkansas State Fair - it was free admission and free parking between the hours of 11 am and 1 pm. Prime eating time but that is another post. I was sitting on the other end of the sofa and laughing my head off. He would look up from his nook or the TV and just stare at me. Most of my reading doesn't involve funny subject matter so it is rare that I laugh at something I'm reading. I mean Jane Austen and Charlaine Harris are witty and some would argue funny but I'm talking about ROTFLOL - rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

Adrienne Martini in her Mary Tudor.
If you don't know about this book, it is about Adrienne Martini's quest to knit an impossible to find Fair Isle sweater pattern called Mary Tudor. It was designed by the intellectual property protective, Scottish designer Alice Starmore. I may be sued for using her name - it is trademarked!Martini is not only funny but a wonderful storyteller. I didn't want to put the book down last night to go to sleep. I haven't done that since I read the Outlander series or the Harry Potter books. And this isn't fiction!!!! It's a knitting book. I feel her frustration at Alice Starmore for not allowing her designs to be more accessible. I feel her nauseousness at the price of the book. My husband brought me The Principles of Knitting for my birthday from Alibris or AbeBooks and for the price he paid, it now ranks as one of the things I would grab if the house were on fire. I understand the over organization before starting the project. I'm the queen of that procrastination technique.

I learned from the Yarn Harlot that taking your knitting out one stitch at a time is tinking but I learned from Adrienne Martini that tink is knit spell backwards. I've been knitting for over 6 years now - how didn't I get the memo!!!!

All of this and I'm not even half way through. Run to bookstore and buy this book if you don't own it already. If you do own it, play hooky from job tomorrow to read it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's with Wicked??!?!?!

Ok, I've been trying to read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West for over 2 months now and I'm just not into it. I'm only on page 45. Has anyone else started reading it and gotten tired in the first few chapters? It just seems so slow. I'm disappointed because I've heard such great things about it.

Maybe I need to get the audio version and listen while I knit?!?!?!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Finished Object Friday - February Lady Sweater

It is finished!!!! I only need buttons and I will be strutting my stuff.

In hindsight, the pattern was very easy to understand and the sweater was easy to knit. I had a few problems with the eyelet increase row and separating the sleeves but those problems were easily solved with the help of Ravelry. My biggest problem was knitting the sleeves. I just had the hardest time getting the right number of stitches for the gull lace pattern and keeping those stitches. I didn't have the same issue with the lace on the body of the sweater. 

These was 2nd attempt at this sweater. The first yarn that I selected had too much alpaca and therefore too much halo to really see the lace pattern. So I frogged that version and started afresh with Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton and Silk.What a beautiful yarn!!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I want a L.J. Kaelms bag!!!

Check out the newest Jordana Paige bag at JordanaPaige.com.

I want this L.J. Kaelms bag by Jordana Paige because... well I don't have a good reason. I just love bags and I want this one. I guess if I had to come up with a reason then it would be that I love knitting sweaters and I need a wonderful new bag that can hold a sweater project.

Please please pick me!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday: Textured Circle Shrug

Here is my Textured Circle Shrug. The pattern is available free from Lion Brand and it is also in Stefanie Japel's book, Glam Knits. I am using Lana Gatto Camel Hair yarn in a charcoal gray. This is a fabulous yarn with wonderful stitch definition. I'm truly enjoying knitting with it. The pattern has been very easy to follow and there is a knit-a-long from last year on the Lion Brand website. Stefanie's instructions on the knit-a-long were very helpful for picking up the stitches for the neck. I'm about 75% finished with this sweater and I hope to have it finished and blocked by next week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

EZ - 'nough said!

EZ (or Elizabeth Zimmermann) is a god or to be politically correct, a goddess. I think Barbara Walker put it best in her "Appreciation" in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop - "Her written instructions combine two qualities all too seldom met together: they teach, and they amuse, both at once." I am in awe of EZ (and BW for that matter but that is for another post). Unlike other knitting technique or pattern books, I can read her books over and over. I don't just read them to find a specific instruction or to find a specific pattern. I read them for enjoyment like you would a novel or a biography. She states the obvious about knitting technique but it is often only obvious after she has stated it. How many a-ha or light bulb moments have you had when you are reading her books? It was several years after I started knitting in earnest and after I had read Knitting Without Tears that I realized I was knitting all wrong. "Stop knitting English style you left handed ninny!" the imaginary EZ voice in my head screamed. "Learn to knit Continental - it is the only way to knit after all."

The reason for this rant is because my personal copies of Knitter's Almanac and Knitting Workshop arrived today. I long to be on a beach somewhere with several days to read them cover to cover. Yes, this is beach reading to me. Or maybe an alpine retreat by a crackling fire under an afghan. Or maybe in an Adirondack style chair at Lake Crescent in Washington State. You get the point - I want to play hooky tomorrow so I can read my new books!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yarn Crawl: Memphis

On Saturday two knitting friends and I trekked to Memphis (about 2 hours from Little Rock) for a yarn crawl. We visited 4 yarn shops and had a wonderful lunch. It was a great day and I think we all had a lot of fun. With each new store there was excitement about what we were going to find.

First, we stopped at Hank of Yarn in Southaven, Mississippi. It is in a nondescript shopping center but don't let the exterior fool you - Hank of Yarn is worth the short drive outside of Memphis. When we walked in, we were greeted by the owner, Henrietta "Hank" Davis. She was welcoming and warm. The shop have a great selections of yarns that we either hadn't touched in person or had never hear of. And for three educated yarn connoisseurs, that is saying a lot. The store was well organized (by yarn weight) and had a good amount of stock. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the selection. There was plenty of space to look around and not feel like you are on top of each other. There are 5 or 6 people sitting at a table in the back of the shop, knitting and chatting. I want this to be my LYS.

As to selection, Hank of Yarn had everything from Aslan Trends to Noro to Debbie Bliss to Cherry Hill. She also carries many of the accessories and knitting themed items that you see in catalogs like Patternworks and Webs. And although I look at them with fascination in the catalog, it was super cool to see them in person. And they have a card program (oh, I do love a card program). You can sign up free of charge and they give you a card and once you have spend $500, you receive a $50 gift certificate. Every LYS should have a card program. With a card program, I feel that I need to buy because I'm working toward something. We all need a goal!

So here is what I walked away with at Hank of Yarn...
  • 6) skeins of Aslan Trends Artesanal (cotton/alpaca/nylon) for the Marnier Pullover (featured in the most recent issue of Interweave Knits Weekend)
  • (1) skein of Malabrigo Rasta for a fabulous scarf pattern I got from Hank.
  • (1) knit happy Water Bottle
  • (1) knit yarn ball necklace
Next we headed to Germantown and ate lunch at a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Los Tortugas. Don't be mistaken - this is not Texmex or like any other Mexican food I have ever had. It is real Mexican food from Mexico City. No queso sauce or rancharo sauce smothering everything. Fresh local ingredients - YUMMY! Two of us had Taco Carne Asada and the other had Fish Tacos. Everything was delicious. It was standing room only but if we hadn't gotten a place at the bar then we could have just eaten in the park next door. If you are in Memphis, take the time to go out to Germantown - Los Tortugas is worth it.

After lunch, we went to Rainbow Yarns. Interesting story there. I had heard that the store was closed but was going to reopen in early October. Something about her husband got another job or was going to be transferred to California and she let the lease run out on the shop space. Three days after the lease ran out, they found out they were not moving. Isn't that the way it goes. Someone in a Memphis Ravelry group suggested that I call the owner and see exactly when she was going to open. I spoke with Bridget late last week and she said that she was opening on October 12 but that she would be at the store on Saturday until about 2 pm if we wanted to stop by. So we did and she had the most amazing fibers. It was chaos because she was trying to get all the stock back on the shelves, but she had Mission Falls, Noro and Classic Elite not to mention the most German yarns I have ever seen in one place. We didn't buy anything but we will definitely go back.

Then it was off to Yarniverse. I have to say that I was disappointed in the selection and customer service there. There were a lot of people sitting and knitting so I guess it is a popular place with the locals. The shop has two floors and the organization downstairs was ok but the organization upstairs was very confusing. No one spoke to us when we came in - not even a hi. Several other customers came in after us and no one spoke to them either. We wondered through the store for about 20 minutes. She had lots of Noro and Koigu but the organization was so confusing that I didn't know what was what. One of my friends found some beautiful, saturated green Noro that she couldn't live without and I found a hat I just couldn't wait to knit. I asked about the pattern (most of the other samples hanging around the store had wonderful, laminated pattern information tags) and no one knew what pattern it was and they didn't seem interested to help me figure out what pattern I would need to knit the above mentioned hat. I took a picture of the hat and figured I could find it. I also purchase one skein of the yarn for the hat. Then we waited and waited to checkout. I thought about just leaving but we stuck it out and left with yarn.

Aside: Ravelry to the rescue. Saturday night I searched Ravelry and found the pattern for this hat or at least one very similar to it. If you are interested, it is in the Winter/Spring 2010 issue of KnitScene (one of my new favorite magazines). For Ravelers, here is a link - Picot Cloche.

Finally we headed to our last destination - Stash in midtown Memphis. After an odd side trip (see later post for more details about stores named Stash), we arrived at a cute little 1920s/1930s cottage. We went in and were greeted by a friendly store employee. She was wearing the cool Jared Flood hat that is on the cover of his Classic Elite pattern booklet, Made in Brooklyn. There was a class going on in one room. The selection was ok but they were very low on stock - a lot of empty shelves. After a couple of turns around the room, I located the Cascade Lana O'Doro that would be perfect for the U-Neck Vest I've been wanting to make. Love Stefanie Japel!!! One of my friends found the perfect buttons for a sweater she is working on. The atmosphere was very warm - I just wish they had more stock.

The trip was wonderful but exhausting. 4 hours in a car and 4 yarn shops is a lot for any seasoned shopper to tackle but we did and our yarn stashes are better for it. Next stop, Mount Magazine in December and in the future, a crawl through the Arkansas River Valley and northwest Arkansas as well as a special trip to Tulsa to visit Loop.