The Right Stuff

When you are doing a task, it is important to have good equipment. I remember when I figured this out, as a kid. I learned that there are colored pencils, and then there are colored pencils. I was maybe eight years old.
Lately, I’ve been working on making lots of hats, as I’ve said. I use size 1 (2.25mm) double pointed needles for the brim, and then two size 2 (3mm) circular needles for the body of the hat. One of the circs works fine. But the other was driving me crazy. No, more emphasis: the other circular needle was DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!! The transition from the needle to the plastic circular/loopy part was terrible. I was spending a lot of time, I mean a lot a lot A LOT of time pushing every stitch over the scratchy, catchy, bumpy, not-smooth transition. Every. Single. Round. It was like trying to get thoroughly awake and busy toddlers to keep their pants on and put on their shoes and get in the car when one is in a hurry. Over and over and over again.
I started to wonder how much time I was wasting, pushing stitches one by one up the needle, and then pushing them off the other side of the needle every few minutes, fighting for my life all along the way. I bet two hours or more per hat.
And it wasn’t that particular circular needle, either. I have two of them, and I tried switching. I had the same problem. The brand is Boye. And I have a lot of their knitting accessories. Most of them work fine. I have no problem with a company that sells simple, adequate quality tools for low prices. and that’s how I’ve always seen Boye – decent stuff, not fancy, but a good budget stretcher for tools I need. But these circular needles are just no good. Sorry, but it’s true. I don’t remember where I got them, but they are leaving my house after this, because they are jerks.
I went to a yarn store on Thursday during my lunch break and bought Addi turbo circular needles in the right size.
Ahhhh…. Joy. Slipping, sliding, easy, stitches moving smoothly along as I ask them to, no arguing, no tantrums, just moving uncomplainingly where I need them, no trouble at all. I feel so much better and I’m sure I’ve gained much more than two hours per hat with these excellent needles. What a good decision!
Don’t try to live with garbage equipment, boys and girls. It just ain’t worth it!

Monday Progress Report

Hats week 1

I have a commission – ten hats for The Doubleclicks. Well, for their fans who ordered hats during their dynamite Kickstarter. I’m so happy I got to have a small part in that! And now I need to pony up some toques. Since I am in production mode, there will be no new designs for a while.  I’m hoping a weekly progress report will be encouraging.

So week 1. One and 2/3 hats done. Eight and a third to go. RAWR. 🙂

Happy knitting!

A Swing and a Miss

I don’t really get baseball, but I do appreciate that the game offers some life lessons. Like nobody bats a thousand.  (I think it should be “nobody bats a hundred,” but I’ll let that slide. Slide – get it? Ha!) And when it’s important, you should get three tries. I like a game that understands you might need a couple of swings to get there.

Anyway, knitting. I’ve invested hours and hours and hours in a scarf in honor of one of my favorite movies: Labyrinth.  It’s complicated.  Double knit, but with different designs on either side (yes, that can be done – it looks like magic, and in a way it is).  In my imagination, it is beautiful. A legacy project.

I searched for the perfect yarn. One fine day, I found something I loved, a mohair/poly blend in the right colors (shades of brown), lace weight for delicacy and intricacy, and with tinsel or something running all the way through it, so it sparkles.  As an added bonus, it’s fuzzy, which I hoped might add a soft romantic look. I waited impatiently for my order to arrive from New York. All good so far. In baseball terms, I had the bat in my hand, my hat on backward, I was taking my stance, squinting at the sun and spitting whatever it is the batter spits. Time to take my shot.

I started on the project.  It was clear it was going to take a very long time to complete. Like I said, it’s a super complex pattern. It started out well.  But then, well. The worm (you remember the worm? “Come on in, have a cup o’ tea; meet the missus.”) – the poor worm did not look the same knit as he did on my pattern. He lacked definition. I kept going, thinking maybe I could use duplicate stitch to make some corrections, clear up the muddy look.  But as I knit, more and more of the motifs I had made were showing problems. Some look great. But many of them look maybe more like haystacks than Ludo, or the wise old man in the talking hat. I decided, even though the scarf was striking out, that I needed to follow through, so I could look at all the designs and see what needs to change for next time.

Now it’s done, my poor first attempt. Not worth showing to anyone yet. But that’s ok. I’m going to hang it up across the room and look at it; I’m going to examine it up close, I’m going to take pictures, with a ruler. Then I’ll put it away for a while, then look at it fresh a last time, and then I’m going to pull it apart and take another swing at it.

I feel philosophical about this.  It’s OK that a first attempt with a new yarn and a complex technique did not come out quite perfect. Holy cats, who’s perfect all the time? Nobody! So I have to re-work the pattern.  I’ll do it.

It’s OK.  Really, it is.

If I gave up every time I hit a snag, I wouldn’t be a crafter person thingy. So, hey batter, batter, batter – I’m going to swing with all my might this next time. And if I miss again, well. I have one more try before I strike out, right?

Betsy Super Warm Double Knit Hat

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Here’s the thing. Some days, when I have to walk to the subway, then from the subway to work and it’s oh-dark-thirty and the wind is knifing through the street canyons, I need a hat. A no-nonsense, seriously warm hat. This is it. The Betsy is double thick and reversible, made in double knit ribbing. It’s alpaca, which is warmer than wool and softer. It’s got a very generous brim, so I can pull it right down around my face on days when I feel like my eyelashes are frosting up. And it’s soft, skwooshy, bright and cheerful, to boot.

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Here is a fabulously warm, stretchy, stretchy hat made in double knit rib, colorful enough to spark warmth in the drabbest of midwinter hearts, and made with Eve’s grand yarn. It’s a worsted weight called Betsy (or the VIVA collection at Living Dreams Yarn & Fiber), alpaca and silk blend, so soft, so very, very warm… and pretty! I gave the prototype to Eve. We might just be teaming up to make kits for sale, though really all you need to do is pick one of her rainbow variegated yarns for one side, and a solid in one of the rainbow’s colors for the other side and you can’t go wrong.

Pictures show it’s pretty, but you have to get your hands on it to feel just how lush and skwooshy and warm it is. Yarn is at LivingDream and the pattern, along with picture instructions by yours truly on my Ravelry page.

Hangin’ with the Harlot

 

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Look! Wooly people congregated and doing what comes naturally: surrounded by books and with yarn in our laps. Disclaimer: my husband took these photos; I did not suddenly gain any ability to use a camera.

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Here is the Yarn Harlot taking a picture of her excited Portland crowd with her current sock in progress. Here’s the pictures she took.  I felt like cheering, because I have seen those pictures so very many times, and here I was in one of them. Disclaimer: I’m in her picture in that I was there. This does not mean that you can actually see me.

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Here she is entertaining us by reading from her book for the first time, on the very day the book came out! We could hear her, most of the time, despite encroaching mall sounds and the terrible speakers. By the way, I’ve been thinking about how stupid it is that bookstores and hotel ballrooms always seem to have blown out speaker systems. The sound is always, always distorted, muffled and crackling. I am guessing it’s because the two undersized speakers they have up front are never adequate to fill the space with sound, so they are always maxed out and promptly blow out and the hotel and/or bookstore never, ever replaces them. I don’t know why we put up with this, but we always do. Disclaimer: it’s OK to use ‘always’ and ‘never’ when you are frustrated and have no intention of being reasonable about it.

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And here she is being gracious to me after being gracious to about two hundred people in line in front of me. Thank you, Ms. Harlot! It was really nice to meet you. Come back again soon!

PS: Welcome back, daffodils. A thousand times, welcome!

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Meeting People. Wool-gathering People

And I mean that in the best way possible. Last Wednesday evening, my daughter and I cruised around the Yarn Ball, downtown Portland, with a couple hundred other wool hunter-gatherers. There was dessert, and music, and a nice view. It was fun, though I do wish the room had been larger and we could have had more conversations. I wanted to, you know, meet people, but it was hard to talk casually with folks (it was pretty crowded and loud). And maybe next year, name tags with affiliations underneath? But I’m not complaining. It was nice just to be in the presence of so many dedicated crafty people.

I took pictures, to show you, but they were ALL seriously out of focus. Add to list: learn how to take pictures.

We did win a door prize, which was awesome.

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Isn’t it pretty? Yes, slightly out of focus, sheesh, but still pretty, right? I have to think what to do with it. Oh – I just had an idea. Yes! You will see this yarn again some day.

And then the Rose City Yarn Crawl happened from Thursday through Sunday. Lots and lots of good wool hunting (heh, heh) by many hundreds of avid wool-gatherers. Eighteen stores were involved! I did not participate too much – I’d have liked to get to more stores, just to see them, and represent yarn solidarity and all. Long story, but it didn’t quite work out. But I did make sure to meet Eve of www.artbyeve.com, who makes wonderful colors and the softest yarn you ever cuddled. She has been very generous with me. Eve was doing a trunk show thingy at an adorable yarn store at Orenco Station called Black Sheep. We met like long lost friends. It was great! Right here is where I should have a picture of us smiling together, surrounded by yarn →

…except I was too excited and forgot to get pictures. Add to list: remember to take pictures. After learning how.

But I can show you some more of her yarn, instead. This is some of her latest creation, lovely variegated yarns. I already have a Plan for one of them.

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Dear yarn: Cathy loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

And this is some pale green silk/rayon blend that my daughter and I have decided is going to become fingerless mitts for keeping  hands warm while typing. Fingerless typing gloves! I don’t know about you, but I have cold hands all winter, so I’m really looking forward to getting that pattern worked out. They’ll be grand, just you wait.

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Is this picture actually in focus? Is that possible?

So all those wool-gatherers together, all weekend, and still all I have to give you are pictures of yarn. Eh. You’ve seen people before, right?

And then you know what is happening? The world famous Yarn Harlot is on book tour right now, and her first stop is at Powell’s Books in Beaverton – right by my house! Tonight! Yay! Add to list: at least BRING the camera…

So there will be more wool-gatherers gathered tonight, and I can guarantee there will be knitting needles out. It’s so amazing! With all this yarn fraternization, right in the open, I’m beginning to wonder about my everyday life. Most people I know can’t identify whether something handmade is knit or crocheted. They can’t tell the difference between sheep’s wool and alpaca by touch, and never heard of worsted weight. They ask how I made whatever it is I’m showing them and then their eyes glaze over after my first three words of explanation. Add to list: stop being boring. Maybe show pictures? Ha!

I’m coming to the conclusion maybe they’re all the odd ones and we’re the ones in touch. Right? You know it. Wool-gatherers, unite! Though we just did that, repeatedly. Maybe just keep knitting, then?