Lava and Socks

I don’t know what I had for dinner that kicked the crazy dream portion of my brain into high gear last night but geeeeeeeez. Actually thinking about it a bit more, it’s probably all the pollen I’ve been snorting.  Spring pollen counts in Georgia are legendary, even if I managed to not have seasonal allergy issues, there is no way inhaling that much particulate is good for anyone.

Anyway….
Crazy dream….
This one actually woke me up.
I’m driving home after a couple of errands around town on a hot summer day, and notice while sitting at a red light that it’s getting hotter.  I look over at a drainage ditch and notice lava is streaming through it and down a storm drain.  It doesnt’ even register to me that this is unusual.  I look back up at the red light.  Look back at the lava.  Look back up at the red light and then notice the road ahead is beginning to melt into gelatinous orange and red blob.  Well great, the road to the house is melting.  I’m going to have to take the long way around.  Light turns, and I’m still driving along like nothing is unusual about the road melting.

After making it home, I get into the house, pet the cats, and then sit down on the front porch with a half-done sock, and begin turning the heel while I watch as everything off my little hillside becomes covered with lava.  By the time I finish turning the heel on the sock, my house and a few neighbors are on their own little island, everything beyond that is bright orange and red.  article-0-186BC59400000578-438_964x637

Meanwhile, nothing is wrong, nothing is out of norm, I’m just working on my sock.

It was one of those amazingly vivid dreams, that leaves you sitting on the bed for about 30 minutes wondering what just happened, and if you should just get out of bed and start your day.  Maybe I should get through my workday, and finish the sock I’ve been working on.

 

Save our Soles!

Socks.

Most of us wear them, all of us know what they are.  Depending on the season they keep our feet warm and dry, or cool and dry.  Feet are pretty happy when they are comfy and dry, and with all the abuse they take, they deserve the best.  Right?

A good pair of hand knitted socks is quite possibly one of the best treats for the tootsies.   But why would we knit them when you can easily pick up a pack of six at Wally-World for about the same price as the ball of yarn required to make a single pair? 

COMFORT.  Period. End of conversation.  

Well, not really or this would be the shortest post I’ll ever compose. Comfort is a huge factor though. Hand knit socks are custom made to fit your measurements, this is awesome for folks who find store bought socks too tight or too loose.  After my first pair of socks came off the needles I immediately started knitting another pair and the collection is growing. If I’m wearing store bought socks it’s because the hand knit ones need laundered. 

Quality. Let’s be honest here, socks won’t last forever. You wear them and they take a beating. I can promise that a well made pair of hand knit foot covers will last longer than store bought, and even when they do begin to get a little thin in places they can be fixed with a little darning. 

Style. There are probably hundreds of thousands of sock patterns out there ranging from plain vanilla patterns to complicated cables and lace. Toss in the endless range of yarn choices and the perfect pair of tootsie toasters can be yours. 

Portablility. Socks are quite possibly one of the easiest projects to toss into a bag to keep handy for those situations where you would rather do something besides poke at your smartphone.  

Easy to do. Alright I can see people rolling their eyes here. Socks are actually pretty easy once you get through your first pair. They seem intimidating at first. I knitted for 7 years before attempting my first pair and laughed over the fact it took me so long to try.  Once a newbie knitter has knit, purl, and decreases under their belts, socks are a good project to learn short rows on, opening the door for bigger projects and greater skills later on.  

Seriously, stop being chicken, make socks! 

 

Sticks & Cables: Knitting Needles

When I began knitting a little over 10 years ago, my teacher bought me a set of size 8 Takumi straight bamboo needles, and I’m convinced most of us that have started knitting in the past decade probably started on those needles, others started on aluminum, some on plastic.  Those sticks with capped ends got us through those first projects, and either made us or broke us as knitters.

Then, inevitably we begin to get adventurous and begin to look at projects that require a size other than an 8 and we start buying our own needles, and find that materials and options are endless.  Bamboo, wood, plastic, carbon fiber, straight needles, circular needles, interchangeable sets, double pointed, and on, and on, the options can get a little intimidating.  But we get over it and eventually find the combination of materials and needle type that fit our own knitting styles the best.  Then we all eventually get adventurous again and start find what preferences fit us best depending on what we are actually knitting or to fit yarn preferences.  I’m sure you get the idea by now, we can be a fickle band of people when it comes to the bits of sticks we work with.

Over the years, I’ve been trying to assemble my own master set of workhorse knitting tools, and with the arrival of a surprise gift yesterday think I may have filled the stable, with virtually every size I could need.   Am I saying I will never buy another set of needles again, no, of course not.  I travel now and then, knit on the road, and have a fear of having a favorite set of needles snatched by TSA during pre-flight screening so I will pick up a wooden circular set here and there that won’t crush my spirit if they are taken or lost.  Even though knitting needles are leagal to fly with all it takes is one misinformed or cranky TSA agent to ruin your day.

Picking out needles boils down to personal preference more than anything, but here are a few options to consider if you are on your own mission to build a master set of tools.

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My personal preference has led me to appreciate interchangeable sets, tons of options, plenty of cables, all wrapped up in a cute little package that’s easy to keep all the bits organized.  After switching to circular needles, I use straights once in a very blue moon.

The ChiaoGoo 4″ Twist set is a stellar set for someone that’s getting serious enough about knitting to invest some cold hard cash.  This package comes with a lot of bang for the buck with stainless steel needles ranging from sizes 2-15, a wide range of cable lengths, tightening keys, end stoppers, needle gauge/ruler, and stitch markers, pretty much everything you would need to start any project.  I’ve owned this set for a little over two years, and have put a lot of yardage on it.  The points are sharp, making them great for lace work, or yarns that have a tendency to split.  These are stainless steel, I think they are less slippery than aluminum, but still slippery enough that yarn will move easily for tight knits, and the tink tink of metal hitting metal doesn’t seem to be as loud on steel.  The cables are flexible, and have “no memory” they can stay wound up in the case for months, and will lay flat as soon they are pulled out of the case, so there is no frustration caused by a cable wanting to stay curled or not move freely.   The joins where cables and needles meet are smooth and stay connected well.  It’s a very rare occurrence when I can feel the cable beginning to loosen up from the needle, but always in ample enough time that I can pull out the tightening key and set things right again.  If I could recommend one set of interchangeable circulars for a knitter looking for their first set of interchangeable circulars ChiaGoo Twists are it. 

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Now on to the newest addition to the knitting arsenal, a surprise gift, and what I fondly call knitting porn because these needles are bee-you-tee-ful, it was love at first sight when I saw them at the local yarn shop.  These are the Lykke interchangeable circulars.  Even though the ChiaGoo set is extremely versatile, wood has a very different feeling to them, as odd as it sounds they feel alive and feel warm.  As soon as I was off  work yesterday I switched out the ChiaGoo set that was in my current project over to the these just to see how they felt, and yep, birds sang, the sun rose, and love happened.  But like I said wood needles are a different monster from metal ones.   This set ranges from sizes 4-17 and comes with cables, tightening keys, and end stoppers.  The cables are a little less flexible than the ChiaGoo cables but it’s barely noticeable.  The joins are the same size from 4-17 which I think is a plus.  There’s a few projects in my queue that alternate rows between two different sizes, I can put both sizes I need on the same cable and not manage two different sets.  Whoo hoo!  This set is made of birch and stained to look like driftwood, they are very smooth but “grippy” stitches aren’t going to slide off this set unless you intend for them to  but the yarn moves on and off of them well.  These are functional pieces of art, which I will use quite often, but they probably won’t be my go-to-set for detailed lace work or on yarns that are likely to split.  These are great and gorgeous, but a set that may not be the best option for a newer knitter.

img_0753And last but not least, double pointed needles make it into the discussion, and this set is the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz.  Personal preference has left me making socks and small toy knits on DPNs instead of circulars.  This set ranges from sizes 0-3 in groups of five for each size.  After snapping a few wood needles or finding flaws that caused snags while working, and loathing metal DPNs (tink scrape tink scrap ughhhh sound) I thought I would give these a shot and went all in on the full set, and didn’t regret it.  The body of these are carbon fiber, the sharp tips are nickel-plated brass.  So you have the benefit of a sharp metal point where you need it, the grip of wood in the body, and Herculean strength.  The size 0s can be used without fear of them snapping like little toothpicks in your hands.  When you break a needle mid-project and drop a bunch of stitches broken needle phobias develop instantly.

No matter what type of needles you prefer, my greatest recommendation is get the best you can get within your budget, like most tools, the better the quality, the longer it will last.  If at all possible please order from your local yarn shop and support your crack yarn dealer!

 

 

It’s Started: Playing in the Dirt

melonI procrastinated a bit.  I promised myself to get seeds started for this year’s gardening last weekend, but then winter tried to rear its ugly head and north Georgia had a cold snap most of this week.  Today has been the first day I’ve been back outside without wanting to wear all the cold weather gear I own.  This past week seemed colder than most of the temps we had through December and January.

Anyway, it finally felt safe to start poking seeds into dirt. The little greenhouses came out of the basement, soil, bone and blood meal, have been mixed and it’s off to the races.

I may have gone a bit overboard with variety this year, there may have been seeds stolen from my parent’s fridge at Christmas time that doubled the original plan.  We’ll see how it goes.  If even half of these grow well I’ll be happy, and if there is an abundence of veggies, friends will benefit too.

The Pretty Things:

  • Purple Passion Flower
  • King Tut Blue Sweet Pea
  • Russian Sage
  • Chocolate Vine

The Edibles:

  • Kajari Melon
  • Black Truffle Tomatoes
  • Purple Artichoke
  • Purple Potatoes
  • Miniature White Cucumber
  • Little Marvel Peas
  • Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe
  • Blue Jade Corn
  • Red Velvet Okra
  • Early Wonder Beet
  • Cimmaron Romaine Lettuce
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Giant Noble Spinach
  • Fairy Tale Pumpkin
  • Connecticut Field Pumpkin
  • Mr. Stripey Tomatoes
  • Brandywine Red Tomatoes

 

 

The Return of Mosaic Knitting

Trends are cyclical and mosaic knitting is on it’s way back into the spotlight.  It’s a trend that unlike jelly shoes and eyelash yarn I’m happy to see reappearing.  A cult classic since the late 70s mosaic Knitting (also called slip-stitch knitting) is amazingly easier than it looks.

In mosaic knitting, you alternate between two contrasting colors, but instead of working every stitch in the row, some stitches are slipped, and you only have to manage one of those colors at a time. That’s really all there is to it.

For a beginner that thinks fair isle knitting is a little intimidating for a first attempt at color work, mosaic is a good starting point for chart reading and managing multiple colors.  More advanced folks may find mosaic patterns faster for those “emergency gift” projects that pack a punch.

A great deal mosaic patterns out there are variations on the patterns established in the 70s, BUT over the past year I’ve begun to see mosaic mixed with other techniques.  In fact Barbara Benson (another Georgia knitter that I’ve yet to run into) is releasing a new book, Mosaic & Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniquesdue out at the end of the month, mixing mosaic with lace, and the teaser pieces I’ve seen are drool-worthy.

I’m currently working on a sample for a mosaic technique class I’m hoping to get on the img_0730schedule in April or May at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, Georgia.  I began working on this sample last night during one of those time-change caused sleepless nights.  Don’t get me started on what spring time-change does to my sleep schedule, and as expected I’m blazing right through the mosaic pattern portion.  I’m also using a new yarn carried at the shop. It’s Harvest Fingering Weight by Feza Yarns.  The colorways are organically died rubia and oleaster and the photo does not quite do the colors justice.  This is certainly one of those yarns that would feel great in a garment of any sort.

If you happen to be in north Georgia or metro-Atlanta and are interested in attending classes or are interested in private lessons please feel free to contact me through the form below.  If you are interested in group classes, I will send a reminder email with upcoming classes, dates, and times.  If your interest is private lessons, this is just a little ice-breaker.

 

I’m Back…Finally

Someone has gotten a little grief about her lack of posting lately.

Things got a little busy, a trip to Oklahoma for work, more work, recovery from a respiratory infection, more work, and a couple of speed bumps here and there.  Did I mention work?  Things got a little neglected over here for about a month, and things began to slow back down to manageable levels this past week.

My knitting however has not suffered, lately, more so than usual, it’s been my go to for winding down in the evening.  Sometime in the near future I’ll get the works in progress, and completed projects written up.

While on my blogging hiatus, spring has sprung in Georgia, and the urge to grow things has taken root in my brain.  Spring seems to be taking the next week off though, oddly enough there is a chance of snow tonight.  It won’t account to much if it hits, but I’m hoping it won’t be cold enough, long enough to damage the buds and flowers that are already taking over the local landscapes.  There’s a personal goal set that by the end of this weekend that seeds will be started in tiny greenhouses, and nursed inside for a month or so.  A 4×4-foot raised bed has been assembled and filled, and the front flower bed has been de-pine-strawed and switched over to mulch.  If the front bed looks like a well cared for jungle by mid-summer I’ll be a happy camper.

So, that’s the update.  I’ll be better at updating, but for now, I’m going to go find my favorite fuzzy pajamas, pour a glass of wine, and get some good relaxation time in.