The Balancing Act Continues

I spent 5 hours today purging crap out of my home office, cleaning it from top to bottom, and rearranging it.  That should give you an idea about how keeping the weekends free to do with as I please plan I talked about last week is going. After nearly a week to think about and revise my plan of action on trying to get my home life and my work life on more even footing, I think I’ve formulated a plan that will still work it’ll just take a few weeks to finish Phase 1.

I decided it was easier to work from a cleaner slate before really keeping weekends to myself.  Each weekend, I’m taking one of the days to reset a room, and catch up on the chores that didn’t get handled during the week.  I may have moved here a little less than a year ago, but have found there was stuff I should have purged before I moved, accumulated stuff I don’t need, and have really figured out what should go where.  After a few weeks, I realistically should be able to begin the keeping up with most tasks on the weekdays.

My house isn’t a complete mess by any means, but I really struggle with things feeling like they are cluttered and disorganized, and it’s something that seems to bother me more and more as I get older.  To be blunt, there are hoarding tendencies that run in the family, and I saw how my Grandmother lived.  She wasn’t one of those people you would have seen on the show Hoarders with the rotting garbage and a blessing that smell-o-vision doesn’t exist, it was a clean hoard, well if you could call a hoard clean.  It was mostly boxes on top of boxes of paperwork associated with her running her own tax services for decades, magazines, and just odd ball stuff she couldn’t part with.  It grew until she had only little pathways to walk through.  If you’ve not had to deal directly with trying to clean up a hoard, you have no idea how not only physical it is, but how emotionally charged it can be.  The emotional charge behind all of that is probably a big part of the reason I’ve grown to really hate clutter and struggle with feeling closed in.

The office really needed to be first on deck.  I have a hard time focusing in a space that feels disorganized, and over the past few months, my office had begun to look more than a little disheveled.  Workload is at a place right now where I can’t afford to be unfocused.  It’s been reclaimed, and I even moved my reading chair into one of the corners.  The office is actually one of the quietest rooms in the house, the fur kids only drop in here periodically, and my small collection of house plants are there, so it made sense to move the reading chair in there, instead of continuing to let it live next to the front door and be a catch-all for dog leashes, bags, and an ambush point for the Severus to to taunt Sandor.

That’s the boring part of my weekend.  I did keep yesterday to my own shenanigans.  It’s been hotter than Hell’s front porch lately, opting to stay inside streaming The Golden Girls and throwing row after row into a richly textured shawl project was just what I needed.  My mind is still recovering from my mini-meltdown last week, and that happens sometimes, so I didn’t feel like working on an easier project leaving my mind with time to over-think all the other things going on around me.

192F318D-1CA9-4CE0-B8F9-9A227D49D68BI’m working on a pattern called The Philosopher’s Stone, and I’ve been really impressed with how well it’s been written and charted.  Even though it’s on the complicated side, it’s a good project for an intermediate knitter.  There are cables, beadwork, lace, and textures galore so there’s not much opportunity to start predicting how the next row is going to work.

This is being worked up on a yarn I was introduced  to in a LYS I found just outside of Orlando after a short work trip a couple of weeks ago.  There’s more coming on that shop in a later post.  The yarn is Illimani Sabri, and is a cotton and alpaca blend.  It’s lending itself to this type of project with the cotton capable of holding amazing stitch definition and the alpaca softening up the feel of fabric.  The Sabri was also amazingly priced at approximately $15 a skein at 400+ yards.  I’m heading back to that project in a little bit, after I fold a couple of baskets of laundry and take care of the kitchen.

Things are better since my last post, but feeling out of your element all the time for months on end really wears on you, all it took was one particularly shitty day and hell finally broke loose.  I appreciate the people that were kind enough to reach out and offer to help me handle a few project, offer to kidnap me and ransom me back to get me out of work for a while, and those that just responded that they understood and have been there too.  The things that have been bothering me lately are all things we struggle with at one point or another.

Knitting Goodies – Namaste Train Case

I’m a huge fan of buying a gift for myself sometime during my birthday month.  It may seem a wee bit selfish, but I chalk it up to a self-care.

Being the knitting junky that I am, I saw the Namaste Knitter’s Train Case and my reaction was an instant ooooooooohhhhhhhh pretty, it may have been the dark teal that caught my eye.  I’ve seen Namaste’s products throughout the years and considered them a little too girly for my taste.  I’m more utilitarian than I am “fancy”.  This particular case came out last October, so it has been on the market for a little while and in general has had good reviews.  My case arrived this afternoon, and I’m glad I gifted this to myself. My initial impressions are it’s well designed, beautiful,  well made, and a good choice for a knitting tool.

This case will be great for long-term projects that require the entire arsenal of tools it would take to complete it…think sweaters, multi-color work, or intricate lace work.  The train case is designed for knitters on the move.  I may be traveling less this year (I hope) but this case is designed with travelers in mind.  The size will easily fit under the airplane seat (honestly, it’ll fit under most seats or floorboards in typical travel situations) in front of you, or on the tray table when you are allowed to have it down. It will also travel well to your local coffee shop, knit shop, or pub for those knitting sessions with friends.  The magnetic closure on the front is solid, and it holds a surprising amount of yarn and goodies. Currently, I’ve loaded up the 2nd sleeve of a sweater I’m working on, tools in the included mesh bag, a Namste Buddy Case (more info below) and 5 caked skeins of yarn, and a ChiaoGoo needle set. I could cram more in, but didn’t feel the urge to stuff it full. As soon as that second sleeve is finished, I’ll be able to roll right into the body of the sweater without having to hunt for anything.  When opened, the lid easily accommodates holding a pattern with a few included magnets for easy access on the go, or you can work with the case lid closed and feed yarn through a U-shaped hole on the side, perfect for those long periods of mindless stockinette or garter stitch knitting. I can see this as a solution to the crazy bag lady problem a lot of us knitters have, just load everything you need for your WIP into this case and go, leave the bag for the tools, the bag for the extra yarn, and the bag for the project itself at home.

As far as pricing, it’s not the cheapest knitting case, but it’s the most reasonably priced online, as far as reputable sellers go, over at Jimmy Beans.  If your local yarn shop has a few of these on hand, please consider buying from them instead of online.  The case is constructed of vegan leather, which looks better than I imaged it would after it arrived, and includes the magnets to hold a pattern to the lid, a darning needle, and a button closed pouch for all the little things that you wouldn’t want running wild.  I ordered the matching  Namaste Buddy Case as well.  I’ve had a little tin case that I put stitch markers, and tools in for a while, but it always seemed small and for lack of a better phrase, a complete clusterfuck on the inside.  Once again, this case includes magnets to hold finishing needles, a small tin for markers, and other goodies.  Both pieces seem to be constructed to handle regular use and abuse.

So what is the first project to be worked out of this Train Case? I just finished the Mitali Shawl referenced in a previous post with the exception of blocking….a blocking day is in the near future….so it was time to kick back into the sweater I promised to make for a friend.  She bought the yarn and I’m doing the work, and yes, she is absolutely knit worthy.  The pattern is called Seachange by Jennifer Steingass and I’m working it up in Berroco Quechua (yak, alpaca, and wool blend).  The pattern called for a DK weight but I dropped down to a sport weight and made a few minor adjustments to the pattern.  I want the recipient to be able to wear this sweater more than the one freakishly cold day we get a year in Georgia, and even though the difference between DK and sport weight yarns are minor there’s just enough difference in weight it can make a considerable difference in how warm this sweater will be.  So far, so good, I’ve finished sleeve one, and well into sleeve two after having to pull out a few times and adjust needle size for not only gauge but color work.  Stranded knitting hasn’t always been my strongest point.

I’ve included a few photos of the Namaste Train Case and Buddy Case with tools and yarn included so there’s an idea about how much these two goodies hold, as well as the organization it can provide.  I hope this Train Case and Buddy Case will be part of my knitting tool arsenal for quite a while.

 

Disclamer: I am not compensated for my brief review of this product or seller. This is an unbiased opinion of a knitting/yarn product. If you have a knit related product that you would like for me to try, please feel free to reach out anytime. 

Last but not least, the coffeeandwool.com domain name will continue to remain active instead of this blog reverting to it’s original WordPress address for another year, an anonymous donor insisted on paying the renewal fees for WordPress as well as the domain name, with the condition that I update more often, so that those that enjoy this blog will continue to have easy access.

Mitali: When a Project Idea Turns Into a Brain Worm

Did I really need to cast on another project with the handful of unfinished works (some of which are now very late Christmas presents for very understanding people), yeah, I did.  Why? Soul therapy.

I’ve not mentioned it here before but the local knitting community took a real punch in the gut in early November.  Claudia Purgason, owner of Yarn Rhapsody, knitting goddess, wife, mother, and cherished friend passed.  Her cancer returned.  So many of us who knew her could speak for hours about her kindness and generosity.  For me, she was part of my adopted family, and a mentor in so many ways. As far as knitting goes, she pushed me to try harder and harder patterns, learn new skills, and encouraged me to begin teaching.  The attitude of “it’s just yarn” came from her, she taught me how to be fearless when it came to trying something over my head or skill level.  The it’s just yarn philosophy is simple, try it, if a project isn’t working just rip it out and try again, or try something else, don’t get hung up over thinking it.

Claudia and I had a handful of projects where we would start on the same day, sometime at the exact same time and race.  It was just one of the goofy things we would do.  I think there is hope for a competitive speed knitting league.  Sometimes I would win, usually she would, other times we called a draw for one reason or another.  One of the last times we talked about racing it was going to be on a the Mitali Shawl. We had both chosen Berroco Ultra Alpaca and then I went into a very busy summer with work, and then found a house and dived into the home purchase and moving process.  By the time things began to settle, Claudia was beginning to have health issues, the race would never start.  I pushed the pattern to the very back of my mind.

1huugg8mrwa66unqhlqlqgEarlier this month, the knitting community took another hit.  We lost Tom Britton too.  What time I was able to spend with Tom, was spent laughing.  He always had a quick remark or a story that could bring even the grumpiest of people to tears of laughter.  He too was a master knitter, always encouraging, and you could not have met him and not considered him a friend before you left his company.  I wish I had gotten to know him better.

This week, the Mitali Shawl began to haunt me. It kept popping into my mind at the oddest of times.  With so many other projects on needles, half done, I swore I wasn’t going to start anything else.  The yarn came out of the storage bin Monday.  The ball winder made it onto the kitchen table yesterday, the yarn was caked, there was no stopping now, out came the needles and 321 stitches cast on later I started.

Oddly enough, the word Mitali means friend.  Maybe that’s why the pattern began to haunt me.  This one is for the friends lost too soon, to be completed as quickly as I can.  I’m racing myself, my thoughts, and as the yarn flies wishes of hope for all those left behind that called these two friends.

Double, Double Toil and Trouble -Two at a Time Socks

I definitely didn’t win the lottery last night, so I’m on the road again and stashed in the travel gear is a sock project, my ever faithful travel partner…well…as long as the pattern is simple enough.

There’s a set at home that are in the UFO (unfinished object) cabinet that requires 6 pages of cable charts.  Those are NOT good travel partners.  Having neglected knitting virtually all summer I got a wild hair to work up a quick, simple pair based on the Time Traveler Socks (simple toe up – Fleegle heel) , before jumping back into Area 51 – the unfinished object cabinet – to finish a sweater, two tops, multiple shawls, the complicated socks, a blanket, and a few stuffed animals.  Yeah, I know, I might have a problem.  A lot of those projects were left over from when I was teaching on a more regular basis and as the class ended they went on the back burner to finish at a later date as time allowed.  My gut hunch…this winter is actually going to feel like winter with appropriate weather to stay home on cold days and catch all this stuff up.

So….those socks.

I had kidnaped a friend from a car dealership while her car was in for a bunch of regular maintenance and we just played the day by ear until the car was ready to go. Both of us being craft nerds found ourselves in Yarn Junkies in Hoschton, GA. We didn’t plan on going to a yarn shop…it just happened…money was spent, it happens, despite swearing I wouldn’t buy any more for at least a year.   Yarn Junkies is a well stocked shop with a good selection, and on the new arrivals wall, I saw a box with two balls of yarn.  Attention grabbed!  It was Uneek Sock hand-dyed self-striping sock kit by URTH designed to make two matching socks.  I’m lazy when it comes to matching stripes, if the yarn doesn’t do this magic trick on it’s own I’m not bothered with it.  The shop only had two boxes left in two different color ways.  I did notice something immediately though, the sample photo on the boxes does not seem to remotely match actual colors of the yarn.  I picked up sock kit 59 which shows yellow, black, purple, red, grey and maroon striping on both the packaging and the URTH website.  The colors actually in the box were purple, black, mustard, lilac, rust, and green.  My friend, purchased the second kit, and it had very different colors than the indicated photo as well.  From a review standpoint, this would be a huge turnoff if I had ordered yarn offline and received colors so vastly different, but coming straight from a shop and seeing what I was actually purchasing didn’t cause a bother.  The yarn itself is soft enough to be comfortable on one’s feet, but has enough nylon included that it should wear well for quite a while.  The quality of the Uneek lines have improved under the URTH brand name, but I’m still curious about the link between URTH and Feza, but that’s some research for another day.

pCaxb63hRN6uKjaNol96PASince these kits were split into two even balls of yarn, I thought it would be a good time to try knitting two socks at a time using the magic loop technique.  I’ve seen it done a few times, and get the logic, but oddly enough have never tried it, which is a little surprising since I have experienced Second Sock Syndrome on a few patterns.  There’s quite a few videos out there explaining the technique and how to start, this is one of the few times I’m going to let you find a video instructor that works best for you (until I get around to making a video – wink wink).

My friend and I both picked up Size 1, 40″ circular needles and headed off to go cast-on until the car was ready.

So how’s it going?

So far, so good.  Cast-on, and the first two or three rows were a little odd getting started with a toe up pattern. I would imagine this would be an issue with any experienced knitter but one that can be worked through with a little patience and practice.   Let’s be honest, the beginning of a single sock, on either circulars or double pointed needles can be a bit fiddly.  I used Judy’s Magic Cast-On.  I set up sock one, and then tied a very simple knot with the working yarn and the tail to keep sock one from running away while I set up sock two.

Eventually, you’ll fall into a rhythm with managing two separate balls of yarn and having two separate parts going at the same time.  I thought a 40″ cable would be overkill, but it does allow ample room to manage both socks without risk of sliding your project to the very end of the cable loop and loosing that divide between the front half and back half of the sock.

Even the most simple of sock pattern will require just a touch more attention, once you accidentally forget to drop the yarn from the first sock, and knit it into the second sock and realize you’ve begun to knit the crotch of tights instead of separate socks, you probably won’t make that mistake again.  The technique will begin to feel like you’ve done it a thousand times after you get a an inch or so into it.

For the heel in this case, I will have to work one heel completely and then slide over to sock two and complete that heal, I don’t see a logical way to work my favorite heel without having to move unworked stitches around from one side to another on every pass.  I could, it would insure 100% consistency in this case, but personally, I’m not sweating it.  As long as the the foot, and leg are even, I’m happy.

At least there are a few obvious benefits to taking the wee bit more effort to manage two socks at a time.

  • No Second Sock Syndrome! You’ll either have a pair at the end of this process, or you just won’t.  LOL
  • Row counts and measurements will be consistent between both socks, which should eliminate a lot of time measuring or counting between the traditional one at a time process.
  • Did I mention no Second Sock Syndrome?
  • Gauge will be more consistent between the two – there’s been an odd occasion or two that a second sock has been a half to full stitch off on gauge no matter what I do.  Same needles, same yarn, just slightly different.  It’s not greatly impacted fit for me, but it can be frustrating when you can see a slight size difference, especially if you’re gifting a pair.
  • If you make a change in a pattern you can carry it right over to the second sock then – you know – just in case you forget to write it onto your pattern (cough, cough, guilty, cough)
  • And again, no Second Sock Syndrome

If you’ve not given two socks at a time a shot, get experimental on your next pair.  If the magic looping two socks at a time doesn’t work for you, throw one sock on a stitch holder and work one at a time.  No harm done.

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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.

 

Are You Knitworthy?

I had to come up for a bit of air in the middle of a knitting marathon.

I have two projects that I need to have completed, blocked, and packaged for gifts before the 20th.  They aren’t simple projects either!

I’m working on the Knitangle Shawl  and need to start a Nine Dwindling Cables Hat.  Both will be given to work acquaintances as gifts at a conference.  The shawl is going to a woman leaving her current, very secure job, to begin her own business.  It’s a good luck gift.  The hat, it going to the wife of an acquaintance that is having brain surgery shortly before the conference.

I’ve given away more of my knit projects over the years than I have kept.  I find more joy in the act of knitting than the finished project in most cases, and in the case of these two gifts, knowing the backgrounds of the recipents, they would apreciate hand-made items.

The longer I knit, the more I realize that there are some folks that just aren’t knitworthy.  For anyone uninitiated, knitting a project can take a good amount of time, and good yarns aren’t cheap.  It’s not unusual to drop $40-70 into a shawl.  $20-35 into a hat.  Sweaters?  If you receive a hand knitted sweater from anyone you wear that thing no matter what it looks like, that knitter not only sunk tons of personal time into making it but easily sunk $100-200 if not more into the yarn.  But once again, it’s the process of making the item most of the time, cost becomes a factor when I’m not certain how the recipient feels about my handiwork.

I don’t mean to come across as snobbish with gift giving but nothing drives me nuttier than making a gift for someone and then finding out that the gift sits unused in a drawer somewhere because the recipient doesn’t want the item to get damaged or begin to look worn.  My own mother has been removed from the knitworthy list.  I even knitted very pink gifts (I LOATHE PINK) for her, she wont use them.

So, what do you folks think?  Who’s on your knitworthy list?  What will get someone removed from it?

Time to get back to work.  If I’m sitting I’m knitting until this projects are done.

WIPed: Norah’s Vintage Afghan

Has anyone noticed, I’m not a single project type of woman yet?  This one is a bit of a beast, consisting of 20 different cabled squares, and it will take a while to complete.  It’s not on a list to rush and finish,  because it holds a special place in time.

My younger brother passed in November of 2014 not long before his 30th birthday.  It was sudden, and traumatic for the family.  After receiving the worst phone call in my life at 5:15 am the morning he died, I packed up and drove the six hours home to be with my family.  The bulk of the funeral arrangements fell into my lap with the assistance of a good friend that worked in the funeral industry, we managed to get everything put together, hitting several road blocks from the funeral director in my hometown.  To put it bluntly this funeral director took the hit to his pocket book personally, since I was advised by my friend in the industry on how to make the funeral affordable for the family, and decided to take his frustrations out first on my mother, and then on me after he was told to never speak to my mother again.  I wasn’t allowed to grieve with my family that week at home, I felt the need to be the strong one, the protector, and if need be the warrior to keep as much off my parents as I could.  There was no restful sleep, little food, and a great deal of coffee keeping me going.

After a week, I told my family it was time to go back home, so I could have my own space to grieve.  Not  only was I mourning the death of a brother, I was also remembering my grandmother’s struggling last breaths just two months before. 

After making it home, I left the house to pick up a few items to get through the week, and in the hour I was gone, my neighbor put a bag full of yarn, on my door with a note saying, “you’ll know what to do with this.”  I broke down when I walked into the door, the exhaustion, the trauma, the grief, hit like a tidal wave.  My neighbor was right, she knew I needed to make something.

I tried a few different patterns, tried to create a few of my own, nothing seemed right.  I put the yarn aside, and would look at it now and then.  I wasn’t really dealing with loosing my brother, it was easier to pick back into day-to-day life and not process it.

Late this past summer, the kind neighbor passed due to several complications associated with lupus.  Another death, not as painful as loosing a brother and grandmother, bit painful none the less.  She was an amazing woman. This fall the bag of yarn came out of the stash box again, and a new pattern hunt began, and then I saw Norah’s Vintage Afghan, and it seemed to fit.  The pattern sat on my desk for a full two weeks before I knitted the first square.  Thoughts of the people I’ve lost in my life kept coming to mind.  I began to start dealing with the losses while working those needles.

The second square has been started, but this project can only be worked on a bit of a time.  Once again, memories came to mind, and there are times it hurts, and times it makes me smile.  So a bit at a time, a bit at a time, a bit at a time, and one day it’ll be finished.

Pattern:

Norah’s Vintage Afghan by Berroco.

Yarn:

Lion Brand Heartland
Since acrylics don’t block well I found gauge and then went up two needle sizes.  There is more than enough of this yarn to accommodate the increase in size, and the knit piece that’s completed is laying fairly flat.  There will be a little hot steam blocking at the end to flatten out any rolled spots but there is little anticipation of a problem.

Cast on Date: 

October 2016

Projected Completion Date:

A honest, who knows?

 

WIPed: THE Star Wars Scarf

Don’t judge.  This Work in Progress has been on the needles for well over a year.  After making a Game of Thrones themed scarf for a friend, I swore off double knitting and then I saw this pattern.  Hook, line, sinker, pull me into the boat, there was no avoiding it.

Pattern:

Stars Wars Double Knit Scarf by notanicedragon – and it’s FREE!  If the designer ever stumbles across this post…Thank You!

Yarn:

Since I swore off double knit I went down the cheap yarn rabbit hole, so if it was frogged and never finished there would be little guilt.  I Love This Yarn, Sport Weight, can be found at Hobby Lobby.  It’s actually working up quite soft and doesn’t feel like typical acrylics.

Cast on Date: 

Sometime late December 2015.

Projected Completion Date:

Ummmm maybe before Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

The Hang Up:

Double knitting is pretty amazing, since you’re constructing a single piece of reversible fabric in one pass.  Double knitting isn’t the type of project you can really do while sitting in front of the TV in the evening.  It takes some real concentration to read and interpret the pattern correctly.  You’ll read left to right on one side, and right to left on the other, all while counting stitches.  It’s tedious, but the results are worth it if your patient.