Friday, April 30, 2010

Oops I did it again

As I believe I have mentioned before, I usually post by e-mail. I foolishly sent my last post to instead of And I foolishly didn't save the draft, because I suffer from a chronic failure to learn.

So, here's a recap.

I bought beads. I went to Star's Beads and took the Phoenix Rising yarn with me, as well as a small sample of the Evenstar yarn. I came back with 3 possibilities for Phoenix rising, and the perfect beads for Evenstar. Except I need 3,000 beads for Evenstar, so what I really came back with was a small sample of the beads I wanted, which I then had to order.

Star's Beads is a cool place for jewelry makers. Her seed bead selection is a little smaller than Bead Obsessions and the tubes are smaller...but it's SO much easier to get to.

The problem with brick and mortar craft stores, and it is a problem I have observed universally amongst scrapbook stars, yarn stores, bead stores, whatever - is that you can only carry so much stuff. A store owner has to be selective about what he or she carries because they have only so much space and so much inventory money. So, they have to choose what to focus on - what they like and what they think will sell. And, if your main audience is jewelry makers and not knitters, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to take up a huge amount of space with no. 8 seed beads on the off chance that a snillion knitters will come through and buy you out.

I generally go shopping in one of two states. I either know exactly what I want, or I have no clue. In either case, selection is very important to me, and I often get frustrated because there is something CLOSE to what I want, but it's just not quite right.

Of course, the risk of shopping on the internet is that you won't get what you want (see previous issues with Evenstar yarn color). When I bead shop on the internet I end up ordering six or eight colors to see what they look like, and they might come and none of them be what I want and I have to start over again.

The purpose of this long-winded tangent is to say that I am really thrilled I went to the store because found the perfect beads for Evenstar, because I never would have selected them over the internet. They are Toho size 8 beads in Ceylon Smoke. They are sort of a pearlized grey with a hint of blue that really picks up and brings out the blue in the yarn. It's not quite got the glitz that I sort of wanted, but I think it's a much better fit than the sparkle I had planned. I'm excited. Artbeads was the only store online I could find that actually carried the color (usually I have success with BobbyBeads

I'm really pleased as well with the possibilities I brought back for Phoenix. I'll need to swatch to pick the one I want. One is gold with a pink tint, and two are a couple different shades of bronze.

I finished Brandywine. I haven't really been in love with this project, which was disappointing to me because I loved all the pictures I was seeing of finished Brandywines. I decided my yarn selection was off. I didn't like the color, and because Schaeffer Ann contains mohair it was pretty fuzzy. Now that I've finished it and blocked it out, though, I've changed my mind and it's beautiful. From a distance and taken as a whole, the colors mix and look much better than I expected, and it puts me in mind of a grove of trees changing at the beginning of fall.

I spent last night making card pieces. I have been distracted from my paper crafting by all the knitting, but I'm still making stuff to donate to the church for the deadline this Saturday, and since I really don't have time to finish any more knitting before then, I thought I would donate some handmade cards. I dragged all my stuff out and just experimented with different stamps and coloring techniques. I was trying to get as many items done as possible so I didn't use techniques that took a lot of time - no coloring with my copics, or anything like that. I used my color dusters a lot, and my versamark pad and chalks. I just kind of fussed around with things and I got some really neat outcomes. Tonight I plan to put the pieces together into actual cards.

One of my church friends invited me to her charity knitting group, and that was fun. They're making washcloths this summer to donate to SERVE, so I've been working on some of those. Right now I'm basically just making garter stitch squares. They are perfect hockey knitting. I can cast on before the game starts and finish right around when it ends. Sadly the Capitals are out of the playoffs now, but I've gotten at least four washcloths made in the last week or so. I will have to switch it up a bit and do something fancier than garter stitch eventually, but for now I'm just enjoying the mindless comfort. They're nice for knitting while reading, too.

Last summer the group was knitting bandages for lepers. This intrigued me so I googled it and got the guidelines. So now I have a bandage on the needles too, for another quick, mindless, and fairly comfortable project. I am well-equipped for any future trips to the movies now. I'll just grab a washcloth or the bandage. To tell the truth I find the bandage knitting surprisingly gratifying. Since it's only three or four inches wide it grows very quickly, even though the crochet cotton used to make it is pretty fine. I like knitting with fine yarns so that doesn't bother me at all.

So that's all the news that's fit to print, and hopefully I will have pictures for the next post.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


It appears I messed up some of the html in my previous post, which cut out a chunk of text. I've now fixed it. I didn't notice it when I checked the post the first time because the sentences happened to be cut in such a way that they actually almost made sense, so it didn't jump out of me. Apologies and please enjoy the corrected post!

All aboard the Slowpoke Express. You know, when you're ready. No rush.

I have not much at all to report despite the length of time since my last blog post. My job is deadline-oriented, so every once in a while I lose the rest of my life while I try to meet a deadline, and that's been the case for the past few weeks. I had more than one deadline to meet and I really didn't have time for much else. I have been plugging along at a snail's pace on my existing projects - a pair of plain socks (remember those self-striping Olympic socks? I had two skeins by accident, so I'm making a second pair), the Brandywine shawl, and the somewhat neglected Evenstar.

The Brandywine shawl has proven much more difficult for me to do than I expected. I'm not entirely sure why - the pattern is not really difficult. It's a little fiddly in the beginning, but nothing really mind-bending. I'm still not really in love with the colorway I've chosen, although several others have expressed that they like it, so I have hope that someone will want it. But you know what really aggravates me? REALLY REALLY aggravates me? It's got a lace border, and some thought is required for the border, it's not something that's mindless. And then there's the garter stitch field in the middle. Lace border. Garter stitch middle. GUESS WHERE I MESSED UP.

Apparently I need to go back to knitting kindergarten, because garter stitch is clearly too much for me. I think what is happening is that I get cranking along and accidentally knit into the stitch below the stitch I want. Sometimes I notice - sometimes I don't. I've already fixed this same mistake in several different places, but there is one spot that I thought was fixed that clearly isn't, and it is waaaaaaaaaaay down the shawl. I can ladder stockinette all day long but laddering garter stitch is a little harder. Sadly, I don't think I'm the type of person who can just ignore this problem. To me, it's just really freaking obvious. The very regularity of garter stitch makes the problem stand out. I could maybe block it into some semblance of correctness - but I would rather just fix it. The real question is, will I make a bigger mess trying to fix it? I don't think it matters. I think I'm going to be fixing it no matter what, because I am just that way.

I got a little bogged down in Evenstar clue 4, because it's 4 rows that you repeat 6 times, and it involves twisted stitches. Well, we all know I have difficulty repeating the same pattern multiple times, and the twisted stitches and twisted decreases made things a little tough at first. After I got the first two repeats done I put it down for a bit to work on other things, and now I've picked it back up and the rows don't seem nearly as difficult as they did, so I'm doing much better. I have one more repeat to go. This means I will stay about one clue behind. Clue 6 is to be released this Friday, I think, and I think that's the last clue for the body and the edging will be next. I still haven't picked out beads for the edging. I need to do that, but I can't decide if I should do something mostly clear and sparkly, or if I should use something with actual blue in it. I mean, if the shawl's going to be pretty much white, I might as well go with it and just give it a little sparkle without adding color, but if the blue is going to be visible - I don't know. I'm still pondering this one.

This past Monday was my birthday and we took a trip down to Hunt Country Yarns to celebrate. I came home with two skeins of Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace and a beautiful shawl pin. I have Plans for these yarns. Well, actually, I have Plans for one of these yarns. I picked out two colorways, one called Maple that just begged to be made into something with a flame theme, and one that is blues and blue-greens and very very oceany.

I'm going to use the Maple skein to make the Phoenix Rising shawl from Sivia Harding.

The other skein...I'm not so sure of. I wanted to do something ocean-themed and my first thought was the Mystic Waters shawl, but I'm not sure that's right. It's designed to celebrate water in all forms, and I think I want something more specifically ocean - something more undulating and less geometric. I thought of the Creatures of the Reef shawl, but that's not really what I want either. I'm thinking...I'm thinking...I'm CONSIDERING...maybe...possibly...I might need my own? Woo, that's a scary thought. It frightens me even to write it. But it is a thought I'm having.

I also bought for myself some Elsebeth Lavold Baby Llama that was on sale at LittleKnits, because that is the yarn used to make the Simone sweater in French Girl Knits, which I have loved from the moment I laid eyes on it. I wavered for some time between Linen and Venetian Red, and finally decided to be daring and get the red. I prefer dark colors to bright, so I often avoid red - it wears me out a bit to look at it. However...I look really good in red. So I try not to dismiss it out of hand.

That will be my last yarn purchase for a while, I think - I have enough yarn to knit at least four sweaters and four or five lace shawls, so I think I had better buckle down and try to keep the spending under control. Thus...I will not be going to MD Sheep and Wool this year, I think. Woe. But I still have everything I bought last year sitting upstairs virtually untouched, so...I can live without (sob).

And that, dear readers, is pretty much all the news that's fit to print. Very boring, I know. No progress, no pics, no nothing...I apologize. I will try to be more interesting next time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blog? What blog?

Ugh, I've gotten busy. This month is kind of packed. There was Easter, and my birthday is coming up and the festivities are spread over a couple of weeks because of availability issues in my various groups of people. I have major deadlines at work this month, too.

I've been asked to donate some knitted items to my church for an event on May 1, so I have been working on stuff for that. This has really cut into my Evenstar knitting time, which is disappointing, but it's not that big of a deal if I get behind (so I keep telling myself) and it's for a good cause. I've knit a couple of hats (well, I've knit one and I'm 90% through the other) and I've got supplies for some beaded ornament covers. I also started a Brandywine shawl out of Schaeffer Anne, but I'm not sure I'm happy with it. I'm going to work a little farther and if I'm still not liking it - well, I don't see the point in torturing myself by knitting a project I hate, so if I don't like it I will frog it and save the yarn for something else. The colors just aren't working up in a way that I like. I have another skein of Anne in greens that I think would be really pretty, but I was saving it for socks for me. But...I may just break down and use it. We'll see. I'm actually not sure I would like Anne on my feet anyway, it's not the softest yarn I've worked with and I have really spoiled myself with supersoft yarns up until now. I wish more people carried Schaeffer Heather - it has a much nicer feel.

I finished Hanami. That was a great knit, so much fun and it went by so quickly once I got started. I really like the yarn, too, Schaeffer Trenna from Little Knits. Sadly LK looks a little low on stock. Oh well, I've already spent way too much money on yarn this month, and it's only the fifth.

I'm really pleased at how Evenstar is working up. I really like it. At the risk of stating the obvious, you're always taking a risk with mystery knits. You never know if you're going to like it or not. Happily, the designer's aesthetic seems pretty in sync with mine, and I'm loving both the design itself and the thought that went into it. The area of the design I'm in now has lines of twisted stitches in it with purl stitches on either side, and I had my doubts - I thought, why put such an architectural element in a lace design? But as it's working up I think I see where she's going with it and I love it. These twisted stitch lines make rays out from the center star design. Very cool...if something of a pain to knit.

There have been a lot of errata coming with the shawl, so I have taken to waiting a few days after each clue is released to begin it. Since Friday nights are not generally ideal brain-intensive knitting time for me anyway, this has worked out well.

I'm looking at other projects, though, that I may want to knit next. I have one pattern in mind that I want to try to get a jump on Christmas knitting. I ordered yarn for it this weekend.

I'm also looking hard at the Heere Be Dragones shawl. I really want to knit this, but I am also really intimidated by it. Now, in my experience most knitting is not that difficult if you break it down into its component pieces. Work step by step and try not to worry too much about the whole, and it's really not that complicated. It's a metaphor for life, really - focus on the step you're taking right now, and trust God's design to put those individual pieces together into something beautiful. Don't worry about the big picture, just follow directions and it will come out all right in the end.

However, even though there's not that much that's difficult to knit, there are things that are tedious and annoying to knit. That's my fear - that I will get into it and be so frustrated by the fiddlyness of it (and the size - the thing is HUGE) that I won't enjoy the knitting of it.

The other issue is...I'm really taken with the idea of knitting it in one of Blue Moon's Raven Clan colorways. Can you imagine a black dragon with shimmers of color throughout? So awesome. Blue Moon offers a couple of laceweight options, one that is entirely wool and two that are entirely silk. I don't like to work with 100% wool laceweight yarns, they are usually rather delicate and, since I am not a delicate person, I am forever in terror of ruining the finish product. But, we all remember how much difficulty I have had with the 100% silk I am working with now. I'm hesitant to take on a design that involves heavy stitch manipulation in 100% silk (not to mention picking up stitches for the border, which sounds like a complete nightmare to me no matter what yarn you attempt it in. Wool-silk blends like Jaggerspun Zephyr and Schaeffer Trenna are my preferred yarn choices. Maybe I will surf etsy and see if I can find an indie dyer with something similar. I really like Thraven or Rauen as a possible color concept...Maaaaybe Corvid.

I could go with a slightly heavier weight yarn and try their wool-tencel blends in fingering weight, but the shawl is already so huge I kind of hate to increase the size any. Plus, I will worry about having enough yarn.

What I may do, and what a smart person would do, would be to finish Evenstar and then use the leftovers to swatch with the funky stitches in the pattern to see whether I can manipulate the stitches the way I need to in the silk. It's the horizontal stitch that worries me. If I can make that one work, I think I can make the others happen too. Picking up stitches along the edge still might kill me, but pfft - that's at the END of the project. I can worry about that later.

You there, in the back - stop laughing.