Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Knitting on the Road

planeI’m escaping Georgia tonight for some shenanigans with friends this weekend.  Being the fanatical knitter that I am, there is always at least a pair of socks on needles in my purse and there is always a project bag tossed in my luggage for downtime on trips.

I’ve been asked at nearly every gate waiting for boarding about the legalities of traveling with knitting needles, so it’s time for a quick primer on air travel with projects.  My experience here is limited to domestic air travel, other rules may apply to international flights.

Are knitting needles and crochet hooks allowed in your carry-on bag?
The simple answer is yes.  But when is the simple answer ever the complete one?  All it takes is one misinformed TSA agent or a flight attendant to think your needles look intimidating and you’ve got a problem on your hands.  As much as some of us love our nice, pointy, metal ChiaoGoos or Addis you may want to leave those home.  Kick over to wood or plastic, and circular needles would probably be preferred over straight.  Besides using straights in a tightly packed airplane may be uncomfortable for you and the passengers seated next to you.

How about scissors?
This is another yes, but, answer.  Blades must be shorter than 4-inches, and the type that fold up onto themselves are recommended.  Those nifty thread cutting pendants, or anything that looks like it may have a razor style blade are a no-go.

Regular needles, you know the ones you finish projects with?
Ummmm this one is a bit gray.  I’ve flown with finishing needles with rounded points, but I’ve heard more than one person complain that theirs was taken.  So, you may want to leave those at home.

So what do I do if TSA tries to confiscate my needles or hooks?
The most important part of traveling with craft projects is to be prepared, just in case.  Carry a copy of the TSA policies related to your particular project, there are some agents that may not be clear on the guidelines, but screeners can confiscate any items they feel are unsafe despite of the guidelines.  You can find some help with this information on the What Can I Bring section of the TSA website.

If you think an item may be pushing a guideline, put it in your checked bag, or have a self-addressed, pre-paid mailer to ship your item to your destination or back home, and don’t risk flying with expensive or sentimental items.

Always be polite, and informed if questioned.  From personal experience here, I’ve only been questioned about my knitting once, and after showing the screener the policy from the TSA site all was well.

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, now what?

Bring something small with you, socks, scarves, and other items of similar size are perfect on adventures.  Just think about projects that don’t require grand gestures to manuver when flipping over to do the next row, since space is limited, and your row-mate may not want to be covered with a half finished afghan.  Simple projects are best for a couple of reasons.  Patterns that require you to reference printed patterns may become fiddly in a limited space, also it helps if your project is simple enough to be able to stop quickly (God-forbid mid-row but it happens) and is easily memorized.

Other things to consider…
Yarn:  try to have yarn caked or rolled into center pull balls so you can leave your yarn in a project bag while you work.  Having a ball fall to the floor and roll halfway down the plane isn’t as funny as it sounds. Trust me.

Needle Holders: Travel isn’t alwasy the safest things for needles, find a way to protect  your needles when they aren’t in use.

Project Bags:  I’ve always had great luck with project bags that have carry handles built in.  You can loop the bag around your arm and have the yarn feed from it while you work.  No worries about anything falling in the floor there.

Knitting in airports and on the plane is an excellent way to pass the time and maybe spark the interest of your fellow passengers, so enjoy it!

Blips in the Matrix

It’s not unusual for me to pack up a knitting project and head to a local caffeine dispensary on Sunday mornings and get a fix and some people watching in.  You see a lot of the same types of people; the college student trying to wrap up a project due on Monday morning, the mother out running errands with kids in tow, the group of friends that obviously stayed out late imbibing adult beverages the night before, the couple heading to or from church, but occasionally some variations pop up.

These blips in the Matrix are the ones that make life interesting.  Knitting has been a conversation starter on more than one occasion with a stranger.

While working away on a class sample for May, a gentleman in a red hoodie (odd for springtime in Georgia) walks by and says it’s nice to see someone making something by hand.  I said thank you, he keeps walking, and I continue my constructive fidgeting.  A few moments later, he’s back with a small rose picked from the bush outside and says “to brighten your day”.  Okay, honestly, for me this is odd, blame it on my extremely large personal space bubble and my natural distrust of people that stand out in a crowd for odd reasons (red hoodie), my hackles are up but I remain polite and say thank you again.

He plops down in the chair across from me and begins to ask questions about the yarns I’m working with, what I’m making, and how long I’ve been knitting.  I answer.  He then spills into his story, I begin to let my guard down a bit, he’s not a threat.  From here out let’s refer to this gentleman as James.

James is homeless, and does what side jobs he can to make money.  He can’t seem to find a “good job” because he had lost all forms of personal ID and can’t seem to find the help to get proper identification again.  All James seems to have in the world is a backpack with some clothes and a few personal grooming items.  He’s a former felon, openly admits to making serious mistakes in his life, and is bound to the state of Georgia, but would rather go to North Carolina.  Most of his crimes sound more like they were committed out of perceived necessity on his part for self-preservation.   He makes it clear that he’s not asking for money, he just wants someone to talk to him for a few minutes and acknowledge he’s a person.  I’ve barely gotten a word into this conversation, he obviously needed to get some things off his chest.

One of the most fascinating things I learned about James in our hour long conversation is that he is absolutely passionate about “rock hunting”.  He has the talent and knowledge to recognize where precious stones and crystals can be found in the area.  I won’t discuss his methods, because I have a hunch some of these rock hunts are on private property or within parks that could lead to more legal woes if he was caught.  I could almost swear at some point he could have attended geology courses somewhere, or possibly have taught them.  He takes his finds and sells them to a few local shops.

We wrapped up our conversation when he realized I had stopped knitting for well over thirty minutes, he felt like he was bothering me at that point.  He wasn’t.   He says bye, thanks me for the conversation and walks out the back door of the coffee house.  A minute later, he passes back through, places a piece of yellow quartz on the table where I was sitting, waves bye and keeps walking.

img_0996I believe everyone is put into your path for a reason.  I’ll admit I’ve been a bit more stressed than normal, and have felt overwhelmed to the point it’s hard to focus for more than a few moments.  I think James was a reminder that despite what happens in life be passionate about something you enjoy and be positive.

That piece of quartz, left quietly on the table, will sit on a shelf near other memories of people that have momentarily walked down my path with me.

Hot Off The Presses Shawl – Finished At Last

eda6bd61-6f1b-409a-b87a-37c99b380923Okie. Finally it’s finished.  There’s a bit of a story behind the name of this project.  When I decided I wanted to teach a mosaic knitting class at the end of March I thought I had found a great, easy pattern to use for the class.  Well, ummm, I started working this pattern up for a shop/class sample and discovered it was busted and was more of a string of suggestions than an actual pattern.  I got to work and started knitting and writing like mad to come up with something my students could learn the technique on.  The draft, (I say draft now, because a student discovered some typos) was finished about two days before the class.

First let me promise to future students, I will never teach a pattern that hasn’t been test knitted at least a half dozen times again.  Things are going fine with this class, but having a couple of typos turn up has really bothered me.  This is not the experience I want my students to have.  Mea culpa.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, all that aside; it’s finished!

img_0968I’m offering this one up for some test knitting if anyone is interested, and I have no intention of selling the pattern, but will be offering it for free since it’s my first design out of the gate.  If you have a couple of 400 yard skeins of fingering weight yarn hanging about yell, I’ll happily respond with the PDF.  After it’s been tested a few more times a final version will be released for download on Ravelry.

This project also featured a yarn I hadn’t had my grubby paws on before.  It was worked up in Feza’s Harvest Sock, an organically dyed superwash merino. I used Rubia (Red) and Oleaster (Off-White).  The two colors are striking together, and the Rubia photographs more red, but is truly a deep rusty red orange.  One of my students is using the Indigo colorway with the Oleaster and it’s amazing.  Working with this yarn is easy with sharp needles, it has a looser twist so blunt needles may split here and there.  Don’t let the feel of the skein fool you if you pick it up, this yarn creates a very soft fabric that would be great next to the skin.

Edit: At the urging of several designer friends I’ve been told this pattern should only be available free on Ravelry for a limited time.  If you are interested in this pattern the download is available here.

Knit your bit! Socks, WWI, and the Next Generation of Knitters

Yesterday, (April 8) a couple of fantastic knitters any myself combined forces to participate in an Family Day event at the Northeast Georgia History Center.   The History Center presented Over There: America Enters World War I, to commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of the United States entry into “The Great War” with living history interpretation and hands on activities.

img_0739So what does knitting have to do with WWI?

Quite a lot!  Knitting was more than a hobby during wartime.  It was an act of patriotism!  Thousands if not millions of women and children in Allied countries used their knitting needles as weapons of war.  What were they knitting? Socks.  Lots of socks. Millions of socks, to prevent a horrid condition called trench foot.  Take a moment, and google that, I’ll wait…….okay welcome back, and I’m a little sorry for the images that may be burned into your retinas.  Trench warfare was often wet and muddy, and the boots soldiers wore were not fully waterproof, or leaked like sieves.  Fresh dry socks were needed to keep trench foot at bay.  Knitters not only made socks but sweaters, vests, gloves, balaclavas and scarves, in attempts to keep soldiers warm.

Sock knitting hasn’t changed greatly in 100 years, many of us still use double pointed needles to create them.  More recent methods include knitting them on circular needles.  The patterns needed for soldiers were fairly simple, and had nothing fancy included.  Many of the free, top down patterns with heel flap constructions that you see on Ravelry (knitting heaven for the uninitiated) or how-to knitting sites, are very similar to the patterns used by WWI knitters.  These millions of hand-knit, no frill,  socks were collected by the Red Cross in the US, inspected, fixed by more experienced knitters if necessary, loaded up and sent to the military for issue.

So three brave souls did some research, packed up our socks and goodies from our favorite local yarn store, Yarn Rhapsody, started making historically accurate patterns to work on while at the event, and set up shop at the History Center.

 

I believe the three of us were left amazed by the interest our little tables drew in.  We had set up a bit of yarn on straight needles to show children how to knit a few stitches, the three stations we set up stayed full for the entire event.  One child would finish their row, and the next would sit down, occasionally an adult would make their first attempts.  Some of these children were knitting prodigies from the moment they sat down and learned the mechanics of their first knit stitch.  We had a blast showing the next generation of future knitters that they were capable of learning this craft.  At the end of the day, the three of us packed up, and left exhausted, we had no idea we would be so busy.  I’m hoping to see a few of these children pop up again with needles and yarn in hand.

 

 

Mark Your Calendars – May Classes and KALs

As promised, there’s a bit more notice on what I’m up to, teaching wise.  May scheduling has begun, and June is already being plotted.

All three of these sessions will be at Yarn Rhapsody located at 475 Dawsonville Hwy, Gainesvile, GA 30501.  Please contact the shop 48 hours prior to the first session to reserve your spot.  If at all possible please purchase yarns before the first class day so there is time to wind.

Class: Love Child LoveChild8_medium2
Designed by Barbara Benson and featured in her new book Mosaic and Lace Knits.  This shawl is a combination of mosaic knitting and basic lace work, which would look amazing in lightweight spring yarns. This class is three sessions the first three Saturdays of May,  (5/6, 5/13, 5/20) from 11am – Noon.

Price: $60 (including pattern)
Yarn to be purchased at Yarn Rhapsody.

Skill Level Needed: Adventurous Beginner (if you’ve made a basic shawl before you’ll be fine)

Now moving on to Knit-A-Longs…
If you’ve not done a knit-a-long before they are a much less structured offering.  Sessions are 1 hour, and you work at your own pace.  If you find yourself if in a difficult spot, I’ll be over to help you through it.  Yarn Rhapsody offers six knit-a-long sessions for $30 and will be issued a KAL card to keep track.    If you would like to participate in a KAL but want to use yarn purchased from somewhere other than Yarn Rhapsody, that’s okay too.  The fee changes to $60 for 6 sessions.

koch_anventure3_mediumKAL: Poison Oak
Who’s ready for a bit of stacked knitting?  If you’re looking for a healthy challenge that will end in a heck of a conversation starting scarf when you weave in those last ends this is for you.  Don’t be intimidated, stacked knitting just takes a bit of patience, and a bit of fingering weight yarn.  This KAL will be available for 6 sessions beginning on Saturday, May 6 and continuing weekly through June 10 from 1-2pm.

Skill Level Needed: Advanced (you’re going to think, and count a lot, but you’re going to get through it fine)

KAL: Nine Dwindling Cablesimg_0634
This is an amazing looking beret style hat that reminded me of a dahlia the first time I made it as a gift.  The cable process on this wonder is intriguing, your decreases to shape the hat are hidden within the cables, until they dwindle down to just a few stitches. Make it for spring with lightweight fibers, or go ahead and start preparing for winter and break out the wool, this one is going to be worsted weight and will work up fast.  This KAL will be available for 3 sessions beginning on Saturday, May 6 and continuing weekly through May 20 from 3-4pm.

Skill Level Needed: Adventurous Beginner (you’ve made a hat, you’ve cabled, you’re ready)

Individual Classes:  
If a group setting isn’t your ideal learning environment, or you’re just wanting to pick up knitting needles for the first time I do teach individual lessons on some weekday evenings and on the weekends.  I’m located in Gainesville, GA roughly an hour north of Atlanta.  Please contact me at coffeeandwoolblog@gmail.com for more information.  I promise I won’t spam you with unwanted emails.