Thursday, October 20, 2011

Right place, right time?

So, yeah - its been a while since my last post - but not as long as the time before that!! And I have been busy!!

September saw #1 son starting Timbits hockey and in a moment of weakness, I decided to knit the whole team a toque each to match their team uniform... somehow I managed to knit 16 hats in just over a week (the rugrats might have had to amuse themsleves a bit during that time - I was a woman possessed!). Anyhow - they were well received and now normal service can resume (until, that is, the coaches decided they wanted matching ones at practice yesterday)!!

You may also remember the cowl pattern that I created to raise funds for our local play park? Well - it has raised about $200 so far - which is fantastic! Most of that was from sales at two local yarn stores - one in particular, which had a sample of the cowl and pattern on their cash desk over the summer.

It was on one of my trips to this yarn store which resulted in a conversation about whether I would be interested in designing some more patterns that could be used in kits for the store. I didn't have to think too long about this - the initial brief was simple and to the point - design a baby hat in 3 sizes which would use less than 33g of a sport weight yarn.

So - I took home some yarn, got my note book out and got cracking - and one week later, here is the result:

I call it Coriolis because that is is the name of the force which causes hurricanes to rotate (in a shape similar to the pattern on the hat). It's in kits now at The Loop yarn store in Kensington, Calgary and is also available as the pattern only through Ravelry (or course!!).

The design was very well received and the next request was for fingerless mitts using 50g or less of a DK-weight yarn and when I took them in for an initial look, a comment was made about transferring the pattern to a cowl. A little bit of tweaking was required to fit it into the yarn limit, but once that was finished, I made a hat as well.. and so the Forestry Collection was born (coming soon in kit form and available now in Ravelry)!

So - was it a case of right place, right time? I have wondered for a while if I could design more, and possibly even make this hobby of mine pay (or at least breakeven!!). This opportunity has certainly got the creative juices flowing (watch this space) and most of the knitting I have done since then has been of my own design...

It has also presented some learning opportunites - such as the importance of gauge and what happens when you use alternative yarns. I also definitively proved that I officially knit loosely, so have made a mental note to almost always use a smaller needle than recommended on patterns or at least to think about swatching before spending too long on a project that might not end up fitting!!! ;o)

Its a start, and who knows where this will go? Stay tuned for more adventures in knitting design c/o yours truly - bye for now!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Whoops! Where does the time go?

Right - so, October? Really? And its now JUNE?!?

OK - that's a long time to go AWOL.. (she says mentally running though list of excuses) by anyone's reckoning! I think I'll settle on HIBERNATION. Summer has finally arrived, but not in any kind of consistent form. Number 1 son is about to finish pre-school and I'm two days away from finding out if we win $25,000 for our community play park project.. (random thought generator in overdrive)

All sound like you've missed out on too much? So - lets try and bring you back up to speed...

OK, first up - Christmas. The gnomes were very well received (although due to a mix up at the Post Office they went back to UK via LAND and took AGES) and the hat and mittens were a hit too. Mum loved her slippers too - so I was pleased. I didn't get round to making as many things for Christmas presents as I'd intended though, so I'm guessing they will pop up again nearer to birthdays (or maybe even this coming Christmas?!) so the less said about those now, the better!!

My bulky cardi was finished in time for our cold and damp spring - its pretty warm and soft and I like the style but I think I should look for something else to use the other colourway of the same yarn up.

Big knitting news of the year is the "competition" in our knit group set up in a bid to help some of us curb the growth of (or even try to diminish) our yarn stashes. We created a set of rules for awarding points for finished objects based on yardage used with some bonus points thrown in now and then for learning new skills or taking a photo of it in the snow etc etc... we've had some really fun ideas thrown in for bonuses and the upshot is that I've been knitting like mad... 33 projects completed so far this year, with another 3 OTN and a few more ready to go... Here are a couple of pictures of the ones I'm most pleased with:

This bag (knitted in two strands of Patons Classic Wool) was all knitted up last year and was just awaiting a handle and a lining. I opted for a leather braid for a strap (although I'm still not sure about it) and I only had orange lining fabric - which actually goes GREAT!! I'm definitely going to make more of these!

This jacket had been started before #2 son was born and I was prompted to finish it because of the points bonus I got!! Its a great pattern but there are a whole mess of ends to weave in.. its worth it though! Its one of the few patterns that I bought with the yarn to match (although it would be hard to find something else which would give the same colour gradient effects).

When I first saw this Zauberball (in colourway Frische Fische), I knew I had to have it, and this simple scarf really shows off the colours. The pattern is called Hitchhiker (because there are 42 teeth when you use the recommended yarn) and is knitted in garter stitch, which means it doesn't curl and is soft and squooshy (and a great travel project)! I LOVE it!

So - I've been busy - and accrued a whole mess of points too, you may think? Well - yes... but the competition was all about using up our stashes, so point deductions were applied for yarn purchases... and...well..(sigh) - all the points I earned in the first quarter were offset by me buying more yarn... DOH!!

So - not such a great start, although I've got lots of hats and cowls and scarves for gifts now! ;o)

Quarter two has been going a little better - I finished some large projects and made some gifts for my son's pre-school teachers. So points earned are looking good... now I just have to check what the damage from attending the Grand Opening of a new yarn store in the city at the weekend... more on that in a later post when I've recovered from the shock! ;o)

Other news is the work I'm doing for a local play park rejuvenation project. A group of us in our street were a little dismayed last year when the City Parks people turned up and removed some of the play stuctures from the play park on our street (they were a danger after being vandalised). My son was especially upset as the piece they removed (a train) was his favourite. So - long story short - they have no plans or funds to replace the pieces taken away, so we got together and set up the project to do it ourselves.

You can read more about the project on the blog (which I am in charge of updating, as well as the Facebook page) which you can find here:

We are currently crossing our fingers (and everthing else) in the hope that all our voting efforts will win us a $25,000 grant for the project - only two days left and its neck-and-neck with another project shortlisted. My blood pressure is suffering - good job I can knit to take my mind off it!! ;o)

We've had some successful fundraising in the form of a recent Bottle Drive and Hot Dog sale as well as other more direct donations - even some of the local kids have handed over their pocket money!! We have other plans to put in place over the summer and I'll keep you posted on our progress.

In a bid to "do my bit", I designed a cowl pattern to sell to raise funds for the project. Its called With Teeth and its a bias knit, with a rib-effect to create a soft, elastic shape and large "teeth" around the bottom to help it sit comfortably around your neck. It uses any weight yarn from DK up to Bulky and you need to know how to make a provisional cast on and be able to graft using Kitchener stitch to complete it.

I'm selling it for C$5.00, and you don't have to be a member of Ravelry to buy it - you can click this button:

Proceeds from sales until 30th September 2011 will go directly to the project.

So - I think that's fairly up-to-date now... oh, I designed a tissue box cover too (a freebie this time) which I'll write about another time (and I may even work out how to link pdf's in here too - you never know!).

I'm too tired now to work out the "scores on the doors" so I'll get back on that next time. Hope you liked the pictures. I promise it won't be so long next time!!! :o)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting there...

So, I'm gradually ticking off the Christmas presents - the ruffled hat and mittens for SIL are now complete (and are lovely - I'm SOO going to have to make myself some too) and I'm working on some slippers for mum and Jultomten for the nieces. These little chaps will be sporting the beards I've mentioned before. They are Swedish-inspired Christmas gnomes, but these will not have seasonal colours, they will be in the girls' favourite colours (hopefully) and I've made all the pieces for the first one already. Photos to follow once I've decided which colour for the beards!!

I'm also working on projects for me too (call me selfish, but I do like to wear my own handmade items as there is little chance of me not liking it) so since my last post, I've completed a shawl in a self-striping yarn (Noro Kureyon, for those who like to know) which was very satisfying for two reasons: one - it used all but one yard of the yarn (I hate waste/leftovers) and two - I learned a new beaded bind off technique which was both stretchy and decorative. I have used beads in a knitted cardi before, but not added using a teeny tiny crochet hook or on the bind off - so I'm feeling a little pleased with trying something new, and with how the shawl turned out :o)

I've also dug out some yarn from the bowels of The Stash to get cracking on a cardi for me - its a bulky yarn so knitting up nice and fast (even by my standards) so I'm hopeful this one will not take too long... watch this space!

I think I may be obsessed with a new yarn brand that's become available recently - its called Punta and I just LOVE all their yarns. They come in all sorts of weights and the hand painted colours are just too scrumptious... I may have to avoid going to any of the LYSs until they have run out of it or the kids college fund will be in jeopardy!! On the yarn crawl we organised recently (since my last post) there were lots of OOOHs and AAAHs heard as well as me almost elbowing a fellow yarn crawler out of the way to get to fondle this new fibre... well - you'd have to have been there to see and feel it - the photo just won't do it justice - but you need to have some idea of why I love this yarn...

I am such a sucker for lovely colours and soft squooshy fibres (and sale bins!!), and quite often I don't even have a project in mind when I buy - very bad habit!! The yarn crawl was great fun and a chance to explore all the stores around the city, but I think The Stash monster needs to go into hibernation now while I get my head around what I can do with those latest acquisitions that do not have a specific destiny. Ravelry will help to seek out the patterns which will turn a few skeins of lovliness into something equally scrummy that I (or a worthy recipient) will enjoy for a long time to come. In the meantime, I will press on with the projects I do have on the needles... ho hum, lots of fun ;o)

Sanity Check: 6/10 (coming down with a cold c/o #1 son)
Stash +/-: not saying after yarn crawl but -12 skeins from current projects!!
Projects +/-: +4 (2 stash busters & 2 xmas) -2FO = +2

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back on track

Well - nearly.... With the kids back in school (or pre-school in our case) I have a chance to get into some sort of routine - which sounds terminally dull, but it does help me to remember what day of the week it is!! A lot of things have been let slip over the summer, with our visitors and occasional days of sunshine to make the most of. So now I can start to sort things out around the house and with regards to my knitting plans for a while...

I've written up and posted my first pattern to sell on Ravelry - you might remember the picture of the hot water bottle cover from an earlier post? My mum bought the one I made for her over when she visited so I could take some pictures (finishing projects and NOT photographing them to upload into Ravelry was the norm before I turned to the dark side!!) so I'm now not just published, but earning some pocket money too (well - that's the plan... I can't see me swapping my life of SAHM-dom for book signings and lecture tours just yet!!) I'm hoping to at least be able to break even on sales vs buying the odd pattern that I REALLY like... I'll keep you posted on how that little plan is going!

I'm asking 3.99 USD for it and for that you get a written pattern for two designs (as shown in the picture). It uses a gorgeous soft yarn called Sublime extra fine merino.

If you have paypal, you can buy it from here (magic, isn't it?)

Other things to get back on with are a) christmas gifts - which have been pootling along and b) learning new tricks - which has ground to a halt. In order to maximise my time, some projects will cover both, but have yet to start. Using the the stash is creeping along, but mainly hampered by recent trips to a couple of the LYSs to show my mum the yarns available over here. She hasn't knitted for a while and I'm gently nudging her down the path to Ravaholicism... just call me an enabler ;o)

Update on the Twilight Mittens - niece LOVES them!! Kudos points to me (hopefully) and maybe she will think a little differently about knitted gifts in future... although I may have just raised the bar of course!!

So, enough blogging - I need to get the kids fed and watered and drop #1 off to pre-school so I can do the grocery shopping and return some library books before picking him up, cooking three different dinners, sweeping and mopping all the floors, doing another two loads of laundry before finally sitting down to knit a few rows of the mittens for SIL before I fall asleep!!! ;o) Ho hum....

Sanity Check: start of the week confuddlement = 5/10
Stash +/-: +19 (ERK!!!) -1 = +18.....but I do have plans for all of them!!
Projects +/-: +2 (1 old & 1 xmas) -1FO = +2 (not too bad)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Early Christmas!?

No - I'm not wishing my life away - it moves quite fast enough as it is!!! But my knitting speed is not great (but I'm working on that - see last post) so I've had to make a start on items I'm planning to gift this Christmas already!
I've finished the Twilight-inspired mitts for the niece (I'll let you know if she likes them after her birthday) and I'm now working on Christmas gifts - starting with a lovely green cable bag and cloche hat with ruffles.... not wanting to give too much away (obviously) so that's enough about that (for now)!!
We are still recovering from a visitation from the in-laws - 5 additional people in the house made for mammouth logistical manoeuvres each day to get everyone up and out... reasonably successfully, I might add, but I'm now kinda glad to be back in the 'ole routine (and the calmer kids I get because of it).
I haven't had much time to knit with all the prep for the visitation (and a 40th birthday to plan for too) so I am itching to get on with all the things I have planned..

And just for fun - I decided to buy a spindle and some wool (please don't ask if its top, roving or whatever - I'm still trying to get clued up on all that!!) and attempted to spin some yarn too (see right) - it LOOKS like yarn, right?

AND in a flash of inspiration, I thought I should learn how to dye my finished yarn all sorts of fantastic colours... so my local library is stripped bare of all books on spinning and dyeing and I'm collecting jam jars to mix dyestock in... maybe its just a phase and I'll grow out of it, but I'm sorta hoping not....!! We'll see how I get on - but I think I need to get my priorities sorted!!!

Of course, all this means I am a little distracted from my plans for world (knitting) domination i.e. writing up patterns to sell via Ravelry and learning new tricks... ho hum... now where did I put my latest project....

Sanity check: chilled after an afternoon at the beach!
Stash +/-: +lots of sock yarn after a momentary laspe of reason on the Knit Picks site.. (groan)
Projects +/-: +3 Christmas projects

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Tricks

It's probably a bit late in the year for resolutions, but I have some knitting ones to share. I was taught to knit by my mother and grandmother, who both knit the same way, so I based the way I knit on them - although the way I do it looks a bit cack-handed - more like eating your dinner than knitting, but it does the job... Anyway, its only recently that I've realised there are OTHER ways to knit (ie hold the needles, yarn etc).
It was this realisation, coupled with finding lots of lovely patterns calling for new techniques, which made me appreciate that there was still so much to learn in this craft called knitting! I have already learned how to use DPNs for socks and mittens and just recently used my circular needles to make a summer top (hooray - no seaming!!!). So with that in mind, here are some of the new tricks I hope to learn (and master - eventually):
* Continental knitting (holding the yarn in the left hand - much faster and useful for stranded colourwork)
* Toe up socks - means you shouldn't run out of yarn without finishing the toe!
* Lace - the lightest weight I have knitted with so far is 4ply/fingering.
* Fair Isle (stranded colourwork which looks just amazing)
* Double-Knitting - which means you either knit two things at once or you can create great two-sided colourful designs without having to carry the colour (like in fair-isle) or wrap the colours around (like in intarsia) - by swapping the colours from front to back.
I'll be back with updates on my progress on these and my neverending task of trying to reduce the stash (or even try to keep it static!!). I have projects lined up for each of them but before I start, I've got some christmas gifts to get going on (yes I know its early, but my knitting speed is not very fast!).
Ho hum - all good fun!

Sanity check: Too early to say - need coffee...
Stash +/-: +1 fun fur for beards (you'll see...)
Projects: +1 = Twilight Mittens for neice's birthday (still WIP)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Out with the old!

And I don't mean throwing out the old either... I'm finding (and remembering) knitting projects that I made a few years ago and adding them to Ravelry. Some of the things I have added recently were made about 15 years ago. I have even surprised myself at how many things I made back then, when I wasn't as "in" to knitting as I am now.
I have had a kind of love/hate relationship with a lot of my knitted items - loving the idea of knitting things for myself and hating the results (quite often).. as a result - a handful or so of garments that I'd devoted a fair bit of time to often ended up at the charity shop or (horror!!) thrown away in disgust!! In most cases, I wouldn't even try to reclaim the yarn - I just wanted it out of my sight.
WHY - I hear you ask - well, mostly because I would use the wrong yarn or my tension/gauge was off (I have only ever made ONE swatch in my whole life) or the design I had chosen just didn't look any good (on me, anyway - the models in the pictures always looked fine enough). This kind of frustrating output did not sit well with the hoped-for knitting-karma effect.
So I started to buy patterns and the recommended yarn to match... this gave better results and as a consequence, some of those items are still in my wardrobe now!
I also had better results when I started with a yarn I loved and had an idea of how to use it in a design of my own, although this has only been in the last few years as I have felt more proficient in my knitting techniques (and attending a workshop with designer Debbie Abrahams on how to design your own knits helped too!!).
It was around the time of that workshop that I came up with the design for this hot water bottle cover. I wanted to make something for my mum and using a more "classy" yarn and I didn't want it to look too "homemade"... hopefully I acheived this.
Sadly, this is something that all knitters face when making things for other people - the prospect of the recipient's thinly disguised contempt at having received something so, so, "HOMEMADE"!! Years ago, I secretly made a pact with myself that I would NEVER make anything for anyone else that looked "like my grandma made it" - sorry grandma (god bless your soul) - but her yarn budget and choice of patterns meant that ill-fitting acrylic sweaters were the order of the day and they would pill/bobble like mad and change shape with every wash....
Thankfully, there is a far greater selection of yarn available now for every pocket and every situation. This means I can make pretty gloves for my neice in a soft (but machine-washable) inexpensive, variegated wool yarn. I certainly couldn't afford a lot of the "very posh" yarns (for that read: exotic animal/vegetable/mineral, hand-painted etc., etc... - and lets face it - there would be far too much hand-washing of finished articles involved too!!) but now that I have access to thousands of cross-referenced, fully-searchable by any attribute, free (or relatively inexpensive) patterns for a multitude of types of project, I know that if I DO "treat" myself to a single skein of that scrumptious shade in that fancy yarn, I will always be able to find something lovely to turn it into - hurrah for Ravelry!!!

Sanity check: Kids in bed by 7pm + DH out for the evening = 9/10
Stash +/- : +9 balls (only 3 of which have intended use already - erk!)
Projects: +3 (2 old ones and one original design, still WIP)