Hey! The contents of this blog (and new stuff besides) have moved to www.knit-punk.com. Hope to see you over there.
Learning to Block (slowly) October 13, 2010
Almost every author/knitter I’ve ever read ‘fesses up to a fear of blocking at some point in their knitting life. I’m definitely the same way. I understand how fiber acts when it’s on the needles – some yarns are loose, some tight, some shed. some don’t. But blocking exists in the no-man’s land between work-in-progress and finished garment. It’s right there in that stretch of impatience, when I can see that I’m aaaalmost done (finally!) but starting to get a bit nervous that I didn’t knit the pattern correctly and it’s going to turn out all wrong.
Enter the Big Montana Tunic (from IK Fall 2009), which I’ve had on my list of things I would love to make and wear since last year. I alloted the Cascade 128 Superwash in Lemon, one of my recent yarn conquests, to this project, to be made just for me and no one else. I stalked the pattern on Ravelry, reading what others had to say about negative ease and finding the right gauge. I swatched like crazy. I knitted the gorgeous thing all the way up to the shoulders, then bound off. The directions told me that to ease the curl of the fabric at the shoulders, I should…. block.
My biggest fear was of shrinking my already-negative tunic. I haven’t worked with wool much, but I know wool shrinks, right? Well… sometimes. If the first thing I had done was to look up the description of the Cascade Superwash yarn online, I would have discovered that it’s even listed as machine washable (in cold water). If the makers think a machine won’t screw it up, how likely am I to do a poor job?
I nervously looked up blocking instead – specifically, wool blocking. The primer on knitty.com seemed to indicate that it wasn’t all that hard. The main advantages were that it would relax the fibers, getting rid of the dreaded curl, making for easy shoulder seaming and a better fit. I followed the author’s advice to the letter. I turned my iron on to the wool setting. I laid out my curly, unfinished tunic:
Then I took a damp cotton cloth and pressed it into the knitting, smoothing down the curl:
I ironed only on top of the cotton cloth, never directly touching the wool with the source of heat. I moved the cloth over the various edges of the fabric, ironing until the water in the cotton evaporated. I decided to block the lace panel down the center front and back as well, for good measure:
And finally, I had a lovely, non-shrunken, relaxed fabric that smelled a little bit like wet dog!
I have one WIP photo of me in the tunic, but I haven’t happened to get a photo of me in it now that it’s finished. I am absolutely nuts about it, though. The fit is perfect – all that yarn and pattern recon made for the best fitting garment I’ve created to date! I’ll be sure to edit this post and put in a picture of the final product as soon as I remember to take one. It shouldn’t be that hard; I wear it like every other day.
My own notes on the pattern can be found on my ravelry.com profile – I’m on the site as La Luna Unita.
yarn store adventures September 13, 2010
I visited two of the three yarns store I know of in Austin for the first time and was thrilled with both of them! The three independents in Austin are Hill Country Weavers, the Knitting Nest, and Gauge. If there are any more, I don’t know about them yet.
Everyone knows Hill Country Weavers – it’s Austin’s big name independent yarn store, in an old house on South Congress. It’s fun, but a bit overwhelming. My past visits to HCW have left me reeling – yarn stuffed into every nook and cranny, twists and turns through small rooms and hallways, and ladies (some of them hefty) trying to pass by in a narrow aisle while you try to calmly compare yarn of one weight and fiber against another that you found on the other side of the store in a completely different area. In a word, I would call it chaotic.
The Knitting Nest
The feel at the Knitting Nest is completely different and I was much more comfortable at this store than at HCW. The Knitting Nest is Central Texas’ biggest distributor of Cascade yarns. I bought several skeins of Cascade 128 superwash in a cheery yellow so that I can make the Big Montana Tunic (found in IK Fall 2009). First thing when I walked in the door, the lady helped me by explaining the difference between the 128 superwash and 128 bulky. I don’t have much experience with wool yet, but she knew exactly what I needed and also very helpfully explained that the yarn I chose would definitely stretch and get bigger after washing. The Montana Tunic is supposed to be knit with negative ease, so that’s good to know!
The Knitting Nest had big, clear windows letting in lots of natural light and several couches arranged in a lounge area perfect for group knitting. The yarn was arranged by brand and somewhat by weight. There was plenty of open space and there was both two-dimensional (mural) and three dimensional (felted yarn) art on display. I also bought some Cascade Ultra Pima in Syrah to make a bonnet for my daughter. She’s hating hats at the moment, but I have hopes that a light bonnet for winter will go over with her. In total, the service was great and the selection, while maybe a bit short on variety, was great with regards to quantity. I had a great time chatting about the deceptive habits of wives buying yarn and hiding it from their husbands.
I won’t be able to visit the Knitting Nest all that often, unfortunately. It’s located in far south Austin, on South Congress. This isn’t the more central part of South Congress Avenue where HCW is located – it’s 6 miles further south on the same road. I live on the other side of town, but I’ll try to make it over there as often as I can!
Saturday started with a trip to what I thought was a yarn store… the Needle Works, near central Austin, is housed in a building that I watched come up over several months on my commute home. How exciting, I thought, a yarn store on my way home from work! So Oli and I trekked over to see the newly open store – and found out that it’s just for needlepoint arts. I also found out that it’s a store that has been around for a long time and relocated recently. The person I spoke with suggested that I try stopping by Gauge, located close by. I followed the route she outlined for me and found a quiet little shopping center in a wealthy area of west Austin. Gauge had an inviting porch out front with iron lawn furniture arranged casually near the front door. When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was color! There was a wonderful selection of yarns and lots of colors on the walls. Karly, the proprietor, was helping a young man figure out the best yarn for a pattern that he wanted to knit for a girl. I couldn’t figure out whether it was a girlfriend or a girl he wanted to impress. I think knitting is the way to go in either scenario.
I came in with a shopping list of needs – size 11 24″ circulars for my Montana Tunic and size 2 dpts for some slippers I want to work up for Oli (she outgrew her shoes a couple of weeks ago, and I think I can make do with some well-fitting slippers for a while since I have sock yarn in stash). Everything was out on display and easy to find. I picked up some Noro Furisode as well, since I’ve heard about Noro for years but never tried it as a knitter. Technically, my trip was done within about 5 minutes, but it was so nice to just wander around and look at the yarn! Karley had the yarns arranged in sections by stitches per inch – 1-3 had a set of shelving, 3-4, 4-5, and so on. I thought it was a great method, since I’m always substituting yarns and I hardly ever purchase the yarn recommended for a pattern.
Beyond the seating on the front porch, Karly also had a back room with a fireplace (knitted socks were hung with care), a table for pattern browsing, more seating, and a two-bookcase library. The whole store made it obvious that I was welcome as a knitter, not just as a customer. This impression was furthered by the fact that Karly was actively helping the young man the whole time I was there – checking websites for recommended yarn substitutions, making suggestions for color, etc.
While I appreciate the variety and vivacity of HCW, I think that I’ll be visiting the Knitting Nest and Gauge Knits much more often. They are open, airy, quieter places and that appeals to me since I don’t really do as well in crowded areas as I used to. I don’t feel like I need to hurry up and make my decision or that I need to know every single detail of what I want before asking a question. The people at both places just plain had time for me. I’m also at a point in my life where I tend to be a bit more isolated. When I go to a place like HCW, it just exacerbates that feeling because everyone seems to know everyone else and I feel like I’m not a part of the club. The ladies at the Knitting Nest and at Gauge definitely made me feel like I could (and should) come back to get to know them and their spaces better!
* the images used in this blog entry are copyrighted property of the Knitting Nest and Gauge Knits, respectively. I’m hoping they don’t get mad that I didn’t ask to use them first before posting this entry.
september inspiration September 8, 2010
Throughout August, tons of new ideas and inspirations came my way. There’s a long trail of one precious source leading to another, so perhaps I should start at the beginning and put them in order.
I got back into my podcast habit, which is easy to do with all the wonderful free podcasts available! My commute is 30 minutes either way, and I really got tired of listening to the news after a while. I first found the ever-intriguing Craftypod and followed up with Stash and Burn and Knitscience. All are available for free through iTunes.
Listening to Sister Diane’s soothing, sultry voice just full of good information on Craftypod got me really fired up to create! Also, her interviews and insights exposed me to several other awesome sources, the next being One Pretty Thing, a website that publishes round ups of crafts, blogs, tutorials, etc., by category. It’s an amazing website, sort of a “best of the best” of crafts on the internet. I’m now a junkie and must check it once a day to see the latest round ups.
One Pretty Thing gave me two more blogs to check out, both of which have inspired future projects.
The first is called Plain Vest by Pickles. Olivia will look so cute in this vest! I have a cotton worsted yarn that I bought for another project, but couldn’t use. It’s a variegated brown and orange, very mellow, and if I can gauge it right, this vest should be perfect for it.
The next is a free tutorial from Anissa at Two Little Bugs Clothing Co. It’s for a small blankie to be carried around and loved on! I have my Blankie from childhood and have passed it on to Olivia, but it’s a bit ratty and could stand to be spruced up/reworked into something presentable. It’s still the softest and warmest thing I own (or rather, that she owns)!
Nicole and Jenny of Stash and Burn have become my constant car companions and have really rekindled my knitting fire. I love that they are concerned with exactly the same things I am – namely, how to keep on track to finish things I start and the constant learning curve of how to make sure things fit after they’ve been knitted. My results in the past with knitting for myself have a fair-to-middling success rate on whether I’ll actually wear the items made. When you think about all the work that goes into something hand-knitted, it’s kind of sad if it doesn’t turn out just right. However, listening to the two of them recall item after item and talk about sending things on to Goodwill or gifting people with them actually makes me feel a lot better about my own knitting.
*images are copyrighted by Pickles and Two Little Bugs Clothing Co., respectively.
influx of good ideas August 24, 2010
This has been a good week for ideas! I visit a lot of different websites, mostly craft- or baby-related. When it comes to new ideas, I tend to be less efficiency-oriented and more interested in things that are fun or might interest Oli. However, my husband did forward to me a chain email of “home remedies.” You know the kind – each tidbit of advice is central on the screen with an accompanying picture, and there is usually the assertion “I saw this on TV and it really works!!!” thrown in for good measure.
Hokey format aside, there can be some solid wisdom in a list like that, for example, the notion of picking up small glass shards with a moistened cotton ball to make sure you get them all. One in particular worked really well for me last night: a recipe to get rid of fruit flies.
We have until recently been keeping a small compost bin in the house, to be sent into the backyard bin when it gets full. Neither of us keeps up with the rotation, so it naturally became the home to a hundred or so tiny fruit flies that have been clouding my kitchen for a couple of days (we decided to nix the bin after this last infestation). The email suggested a small dish with about a half inch of apple cider vinegar and two drops of dish soap, mixed well. I set one by the trash can and one on the kitchen window sill. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they each had a decent number of dead flies floating in the mix after about four hours. Hey, it really does work!
Another fun idea that I gleaned from babycenter.com is for a toy “shower” that Oli can use in the tub. Very simple – use an empty plastic yogurt or butter tub, poke holes in the top, then fill the tub with bath water and snap the lid on. When Oli holds it upside down, she can see little rain drops fall out and splash into the bath. I can’t wait to try it tonight!
The last idea was one I suddenly decided I needed last week – an online meal planner. I hit up Food On The Table, which offers a free login. It narrowed down three meals for me based on 1) my usual grocery store, 2) the things I checked off that we normally use as ingredients, and 3) what I felt like eating next week. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle and it came up with three dishes for me to try out, including a comprehensive grocery list for what I would need. I just crossed off the items I already had and appended the rest of my grocery list to the bottom, and was able to hit the store with no fuss. I’ve made two of the dinners so far; the recipes are really easy. They are also new to me, so we’re branching out a little bit from the regular chicken and rice/pasta and meat sauce rut.
Has anyone else come across a few good ideas lately? Just one or two little things can make such a difference in how much time we spend on the necessary versus the fun!
liver love August 20, 2010
I was thinking about our bodies and habits the other day and got to thinking about organs specifically. Most of our parts complain if we don’t treat them right. We coddle our sour stomachs after a night of beer and hot dogs, we favor our extremities if they are sore after exercising too hard. We eat foods that bust cholesterol for the sake of our hearts and drink lots of water to help out the kidneys. But what about the liver? The liver never complains, in my experience. My liver is such a champ – taking junk food and alcohol and breaking it down for me, no sweat. No whining, no odd, hard-to-place pains. So I thought I’d try to find out what I could do to reward my little trooper!
It turns out that most of my diet already is the reward to my liver. The typical rainbow-colored fruits and veggies that are recommended for our health are also recommended for our livers, to help them detoxify, produce new cells, and continue to be all-around bad asses.
Here are some stock photos of my very favorite liver friendly foods:
I also found a recipe for “Liquid Green Drink” which is supposed to regenerate your liver… I don’t know if that should be regenerate or rejuvenate, but it still sounds neat.
1 lemon’s juice
1 tbsp chlorophyll
1 tbsp aloe vera juice
8 oz water
I would add to that 1 tbsp agave nectar, unless the aloe vera juice is pre-sweetened. Sounds fairly inoffensive to me!