A Spring Interlude

Spring has sprung here in Ohio. I have been meaning to write about sweater fixes – since I am in the middle of a whack of them. Can I consider four a whack? I would like to. (I haven’t disappeared! Spring is always a busy time in academia.)

However – I fell in love with a few gradients and got WILDLY distracted. So distracted. (Thank goodness I managed to get ahead in my classes or else I would be in a world of scholarly hurt right now. End of term/end of program approaching!)

Bowling Green (where I live) hosts an annual fiber fair that features local farms and spinners and ohmygoodness. It is always a treat. This year, I went with a friend (her first time!)

I walked away with some fun treats. I immediately fell in love with a rainbow gradient and a “peacock” inspired colorway (lots of deep blues, greens, and purples. Oh my goodness. I love peacock coloring) and despite my sweater on the needles* as soon as Casey and I departed, I casted on. I wanted something rainbow-y and springy and happy. The day after I purchased my lovely rainbow gradient, it snowed.

I protested by immediately casting on a top-down triangle shawl (and buying tulips). With a flowering lace and sparkly pretty beads in a fluffy white cloud. The gradient is from the fiber festival and the “cloud” is made out of Berroco’s Folio – the loft is just enough of a contrast to the ply to give it a nice loft.

 20150404_164433 20150409_003655 20150409_120912

And after that was finished … I casted on another gradient project. It’s Wicker Cowl by Kate Gagnon Osborn in Freia’s Fine handpaints in the Ice Queen colorway. I am moving to a much snowier place in August … I am preparing now.

*Do not be fooled – I have a lot of other projects on needles.

Sweater Lovin’

I am a sweater knitter.

Sam recently came out in her love of sock knitting so I thought to do the same. Sweaters are my favorite knitting project. I will happily knit a sweater and not complain about the thousands and thousands of stitches. I love every moment of it. Right now, I have two on needles and a bunch that need “mending.” I love making clothing.

And I am a “designer.”

I put “designer” in quotations quite deliberately – I like to reverse engineer knitted garments I see or be inspired by and figure the math out on my own. Occasionally I will get an idea in my head re: a sweater I want and eventually math it out … but that is rare now. I have not decided if that makes me a designer or somebody who really enjoys math when applied to knitting problems. I love looking at something and puzzling out how to make it.

My first adventures in sweater making were … interesting. It was the first project I ever made beyond the garter scarves I had faithfully churned out for *years.* It was Red Heart Acrylic, in crème, because it was the only thing I could afford, and a free pattern I found. Turtleneck, with knit-one-below vertical bands up the front, and I did not *quite* understand how to read patterns (since it was also my first attempt at that) so I increased on the sleeves until the desired width and knit on. The result was an ill-fitting, every-mistake-shown, drop-shoulder, 80’s batwing inspired garment that I am quite glad that only hard copies of those pictures exist. Also – a really unfortunate hair cut.

But I was hooked. My first forays into sweater knitting did not end well – luckily I do not mind ripping back sweaters (even complete ones) and finding something that really speaks to me and the yarn. Eventually my skill set matched my imagination and I read. I read style guides to figure out my best fit for my body shape (I have an hourglass. I did not know how to style an hourglass.) and what I actually enjoyed about the sweaters I bought. I also attempted to begin to create my own personal style, which … I guess is best described as “preppy 50s housewife hipster chic.” I like neutrals for my clothing, I do not wear pants, and pops of colors in my accessories – hand knit or otherwise. I wanted my hand knits to fit this style. (And now for some gratuitous … and successful! … sweater pictures)

Audrey Hepburn insipired cotton sweaterCreme and burgundey bow sweaterCreme and Pink JCrew cardigan buttonsCreme and Pink JCrew cardiganWearing Purple and Tan sweaterPurple and Tan close up on buttons (More to come on some of the specific knitting adventures – I have ripped back, cut, hemmed, and fixed on the fly more times than I care to count. As a sneak peak – I give you the evolution of a sweater. I designed an off-the-shoulder sweater in a dark grey wool silk blend, only to realize that an off-the-shoulder neckline is not a friend to big girls. So I tried again – using a pattern out of Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel. Nope. Only to realize that the yarn and my imagination wanted a boyfriend cardigan! 😉 In between all of this, I spilled coffee on the nearly complete sweater and had a panic attack in the basement of the University of Washington’s art building. But like I said, another time!)

Sweater Collar with RibbonTweed SweaterGrey tweed cardigan - final Mending pile

(And this is my mending/frogging pile. Eventually I will get to it.)

This summer I realized that I loved wearing hand-knit sweaters more than cardigans (which I have plenty of) and I liked a much finer weight. No bigger than fingering and I set about spending most of my last summer break from graduate school knitting sweaters. Not hats, not gloves, socks, or scarves – those are my projects during the year when I thought sweater knitting would break my brain (it almost did during thesis writing.).Owls Sweater

I resized Kate Davis’ Owl Sweater (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/owls-2) to be in fingering weight. Chunky weight and big girls are not a good pairing.

Alphabet yoke

This is the yoke of my “teacher sweater” – alphabet letters! (I teach college history sometimes) Charting this out was a pain. So much of a pain. I used the basic shapes from the Owl’s sweater but added back darts to enhance the shaping. This was also pre-blocking.

Eventually, I decided that sweater knitting would not break my brain … even during the school year. I fell in love with Amanda Scheuzger’s Leadlight from Twist Collective’s Winter issue: http://www.twistcollective.com/2014/winter/magazinepage_041.php I have been drooling over the pattern for a while now but I wanted to change a few things – I learned I do not wear hand knit cardigans so I was going to make a sweater. The sweater would be tailored for my curves, add short rows for the bust, eliminate the front cables (nipple cables and big girls do not a pleasant picture make) and increase the bust hourglass cables to frame Norwegian stars – which are my favorite color work motif. Given all of these modifications, I intended to draw inspiration from to create my own interpretation:   And now for some pictures!

Coral Sweater MathCoral sweater - back Coral sweater math -chest Coral sweater updated

And more pictures to come! I tend to design-as-I-go, hence the different stages of my notes. Right now, I am a two repeats into the bust increases and about to do the short rows!

Happy knitting! lisa

Sock Therapy

I love knitting socks. I think I may be a Sock Knitter. I know there are people out there who do nothing but socks. I used to think they were nutty, but now I’m becoming one of them!

Socks are so appealing for so many reasons. Their popularity means there are endless patterns available. There’s always something new to learn, too, since there are about a zillion ways to turn a heel, knit a gusset, or form a toe. You can knit toe-up or cuff-down and do them one or two at a time, which means knitting socks socks socks doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive. You can make them as easy or as complicated as you want; if you do something complicated, the project is of manageable size–trying out a new stitch or cable pattern doesn’t have to be threatening or scary since socks are done on a small scale. They’re so fun to try on as you go, and they knit up quick even if you choose a smaller needle size for a finer fabric (gauge). And don’t even get me started on the glories of sock yarn! There’s so much variety plus you only need one skein per pair of socks, meaning that knocking out a pair won’t break the bank (I suppose if you’re knitting 2-3 pair per month, things are a little different, but still)!

When I left for Indonesia, I packed only materials for sock knitting. All that’s needed beyond needles is maybe a stitch marker or two and maybe a needle (depending on the pattern). They’re perfect for travelling with since they don’t take up much space, even when they’re nearly all knit. Most of the time, patterns are repetitive and easily memorized, adding to their travel-ability. And of course, you can knock off a pair of socks in a week or two or even faster depending on how much of a speedster you are, meaning knitting for friends and family is quite feasible. Who doesn’t love giving away handknits?

I can’t express my love of sock knitting enough. What’s your favorite sock knitting pattern? (This is my new favorite!) What do you like about knitting socks? How many pair of socks have you made?

Here’s a gratuitous gallery of my recent sock knitting, all done in Indonesia.

Baby Steps! Adventures in Knitwear “Design”

I don’t really feel qualified to say I’m designing something, but I bet Lisa would say otherwise and praise me for trying to create something (for the most part) without a pattern.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to design a pattern and submit it to Knitty for publication; though I doubt I can design something smart enough to get published, the important thing for me is the attempt. I also have this grand idea to try knitting for a set period of time without using patterns, perhaps six months or a year, to see what I can come up with. And as I’m mulling over some ideas about what I think I could produce if I actually start being creative in this way, I’m working on these socks, the cuff of which…drum roll, please!…I’m “designing” myself! Small steps, people, small steps! I gotta start somewhere, and the cuffs of a pair of socks seems like a good place to me.

Now, I need to give credit where credit is due; I haven’t designed the foot of this sock at all. I’m using the amazing Wendy D. Johnson “Toe Up Socks With a Difference” pattern, which features a hidden gusset on the bottom of the foot. It makes for a wonderfully clean sock, and for me it’s easier and quicker than the standard gusset heel. I’m using Misti Alpaca Tonos Carnavale in Desert Sunset, and the socks are being worked toe-up on size 0 circular needles using Judy’s Magic Cast-On.

The socks are turning out nicely, though I think they’re a little tight for me. I’m hoping they’ll stretch out. You can see the way the fabric stretches as my foot widens near the ankle (below). The Wendy D pattern is for a medium women’s sock only, so I up-sized the pattern but probably could have stood to add a few more stitches than I did. Still! These things generally stretch slightly with wear, so I’m hoping they’ll end up being perfect.

The slouchy cuff is what I’m “designing” myself, although perhaps a better word is “constructing” since I don’t feel like it’s a particularly involved effort or a particularly novel idea. Slouch socks have been done before and done well, it’s true, and what’s more I’m using stockinette; it’s not complicated. Just a few increases and the job is done. I have been getting 11-12 stitches per inch or so (oddly enough I don’t have a tape measurer, though eyeballing isn’t my usual habit…I didn’t bring one with me to Indonesia and have been too lazy, for some lazy reason, I’m sure, to buy one) and figured increasing the cuff diameter by a couple/few inches would create sufficient negative ease to achieve the desired slouchiness.

Starting after the ankle to make sure the slouch sock had some stability after the heel (and wouldn’t, therefore, slouch right off my foot), I increased 10 stitches per inch of cuff, so far increasing 30 stitches total over three inches. I used the make one increase and spaced them out as evenly as I could, staggering successive increases against those of the previous increase rows. I think I’ve created enough negative ease so that the socks will slouch, and I’m excited to beef up the cuff and see the result. I actually charted things out on graph paper and keep notes about what I’m doing…perhaps there’s a sock recipe “publication” for my Ravelry account in the near future! Lisa will be so proud; her knitting notebook is a thing of beauty, and I can only aspire to fill my new design notebook with such magic. To finish the slouch socks, I plan to decrease near the top of the cuff in the same fashion as I increased—10 stitches per inch for a few inches—and do some kind of ribbing for an inch or two before finishing these bad boys off.

I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I hope the result gives me a confidence boost to on my way to designing something neat once I get back to my stash and all my knitting supplies in the US!

Thanks for reading, and please share any purls of wisdom you have for me as a beginning designer!

Big knitty love,
Sammy

Hello, February! Hello, World! Hello, Knitstagram!

We’re not yet a month old as we started on January 9th, but we’re excited to move into the second month!! We’ve loved reading the comments you’ve left and checking out the blogs of other knitting/spinning/dyeing friends around the online fiber arts community. Connecting to new friends and fellow artistic types has been totally cool. I don’t know why I’m such a dullard about making friends over social media, but my mind is definitely opening!

There’s a whole magical fiber arts scene out there in internet-land; cheers to all the Instagrammers, Ravelers, Knittitors (/r/knitting), bloggers, YouTubers, and website owner/operators that have been inspiring me and making me feel super connected to the fiber arts world despite being a lone wolf knitter in my circle of friends on Java. There have also been a few who’ve given me ideas for taking pics of my knits…like this most recent FO (finished object) picture, the staging of which was inspired by some amazing Instagrammer or other. I think she was a Japanese knitter*:…

So, to the point: I’ve been quite ill for the past four or five days–undiagnosed, but I’ve decided it was the flu, which I don’t normally have and don’t really know how to recognize, but anyways I’m on the mend after a quick visit to the doctor**–and I’ve had a lot of time to goof around on the internet and find some juicy, sexy, delicious digital fiber arts “spaces,” all of which I want to share in the name of spreading the love and hopefully turning others on to the amazingness of these lovely people.

I’m going to share these with you in installments, I think. We’ve started a tab of “Places We Love” where we link to various knitting-related sites and blogs (see above), so I won’t make a post devoted to this, I’ll just try to add some details in the tab about what the sites are and why I love them. As far as posts go, I think I’ll do a post about Instagrammers, YouTubers, and…hmm, maybe one more. Etsy shops, perhaps?

This one will be about fiber arts-related Instagram accounts that make me breathe heavy. Yes, please imagine me staring at my admittedly soul-sucking smartphone with big, glassy eyes, red in the face, sweating on the upper lip and above the brow, breathing heavy and maybe drooling a little bit from the side of my mouth just from looking at some knits; it happens frequently. I’m excitable. I have a decent amount of free time on my hands plus I don’t have good cable or access to Netflix/Hulu on my Indonesian network…and I feel the passion for good-looking knitwear. #knitsexual?

Anyways, let’s not go down that path anymore. Without further fuss, here are my top knitting / fiber arts Instagram accounts, with some sample photos from each. These are listed in no particular order. Give them some love; follow if you feel piqued.

1. @knittersoftheworld

By Cassie Nedoroski, this account is a complication of various projects from knitters all over the world. She features several people each day. There are tons of badass Scandinavians as well as Japanese knitters featured. It’s cool to have even a miniscule like-based connection to people knittin’ up a storm in faraway lands. The pics are really inspiring, too, a testament to what creative knitters can do with sticks, string, and a camera or smartphone. I like that Cassie features people wearing knits alongside pics of just knits; after all, for many of us, knitting isn’t actually about the garment.

@orlaflo Lincolnshire @orlaflo Don't forget to follow!

A post shared by Cassie Nedoroski (@knittersoftheworld) on


Look at this cutie! @kokesis_g.c from Japan @kokesis_g.c Please follow 🙂

A post shared by Cassie Nedoroski (@knittersoftheworld) on


@westknits Amsterdam @westknits

A post shared by Cassie Nedoroski (@knittersoftheworld) on

(@westknits, the above feature, is a pretty cool place, too.)


2. @ontheround

Rachel Jones does a lot of amazing dyeing and spinning, and her no-nonsense style of photography is highly pleasing to me. She loves coffee and has a cute bebe. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care about being fancy and high-brow and definitely sure she doesn’t need to be because she produces cool stuff and doesn’t need to GAF!


Sneaking in a quiet spin while everyone is busy. #saturday #igspinners #spin15in15 #handspunstagram #ontheround

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3. @aaronsarans

This designer dude, Aaron Fletcher, is from the UK. His knits and handspuns stand out from the crowd. Eco-friendly, dirty, funky, sensual–the mirror opposite of so many of the sterile, pastel, dare I say basic knitting accounts out there, most of which are just not for me (sorry for being a hater, but we gotta know what to spend our precious time on and what to pass over).




4. @woolcrush

Amy Higgins Stambaugh. Sleek, simple, beautiful. Naturally dyed, homespun, elegant. Not much to say on this one–the photographs say it all.


Indigo, Eucalyptus, Iron, Exhaust bath (oaks, maples) polwarth handspun yarn. #naturaldyeing #ecodyeing #indigo

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5. @arohaknits

Francoise Danoy seems like a cool, down-to-earth person that I’d probably want to have as a real-life friend. Her talent and cleverness belie her years. Her account is interactive. Her designs are classic and accessible. She’s as cute as a button.




6. @pigeonroofstudios

Although the studio owner, Krista McCurdy, uses mostly acid dyes rather than natural dyes, I can’t deny that the results are stunning. Plus, many of her colorways mimic naturally dye results and she does do some dyeing with natural materials, so I just tell myself lies that they’re all made using plant-based materials instead of chemical dyes. Another plus: she has a lot of cats.


A very unflattering shot of Studio– she is much more svelte than she appears here in mid flop #studiothecat

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7. @sayakaish

A lady knitter and handcrafter in Osaka whose work is nice and whose pics are amusing. She does a lot of different things and I just like following her. I don’t know why, exactly. There’s something nice about following “normal” people–not professionals, not studio artists, not sellers–and seeing what they come up with.


The my first challange!! trial product knitting socks is slightly large😹 お昼からお見苦しい画像でごめんなさい(笑) #靴下編み に初チャレンジ。 キャストオン という技法らしい。 @itosakusocks さんの、爪先から編む靴下の動画を、穴が開くほど鑑賞し、再生、一時停止、再生、一時停止、、と、解説に追いつきながら、ここまできました。ありがとうございます。 本番糸は別で、試作品だからあまり糸で適当に編んでいたら、紫が入った途端に、おばーちゃん靴下みたいな色合いになり、驚愕(笑)毒キノコ靴下と名付け、適当な色合いで進める事にします。 かかと編みと、始末をこれで勉強するぞーーー*\(^o^)/* #socks #woolsocks #stockings #靴下 #試作品 #knitting #knit #handknit #handmade #crochet #yarnaddict #yarn #knitstagram #craft #wool #diy #ハンドメイド #手作り #手芸部 #編み物 #手仕事 #棒針編み #onthetable #暮らし #knittingsocks #sockyarn

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8. @loopymango 

So, this design studio in NYC is perfect. They make gigantic knits and yarns, and it is hilarious. Plus, they have Ewan McGregor holding yarn like a baby.






Regram from @kierstan_leigh #bigloop #loopymango #루피망고 #빅루프#diy #expressionofart

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8. @knitswithballs

Krystofer Dixon knits cool stuff, posts a lot of inspirational/sartorial snippits, and is super sassy. I like his style. He amuses.




9. @moekeyarns

Ioana is an eco-friendly Romanian wool company. Their pictures are beautiful: soft, often greyscale, simple. They use natural dyes and keep their own sheep. They feature knit and crochet items, and their stuff is so beautiful that I don’t even mind the crochet. Wink.




My Romanian spindle with hand spun yarn on it. I tried 🙂 #wool #yarn #spinningyarn #romanian

A post shared by Ioana (@moekeyarns) on


10. @woolenviolet

Nikki Solomon lives in Asheville, NC, and it seems she grows many of the materials she uses in her dyeing process herself. Her photographs have a soft beauty, and she posts some really stunning images of the lovely Asheville. I have a special place in my heart for that town, only having visited once and longing to go back ever since.




So that’s the list for now! I’m sure there are plenty of more famous knitting Instagrammers out there that I’m completely unaware of, but these are the celebrities of my Instagram feed. I love their work and I appreciate them. Most of these I found through hashtags, and if you’re looking for accounts to explore, I’d suggest you just start clicking hashtags that resonate with you on the images that you like. That’s what I did. Easy as that. Hashtags aren’t always obnoxious and can, in fact, be useful!

What’s your favorite knitting or fiber arts Instagram? Leave a comment below to spread the love.

Big knitty love,
Sam

PS: You can find me on Instagram here and Lisa here.

*People. Japanese knitters are on point. I think I wanna do a post about Japanese knitters…

**I went to the doctor technically insured but wasn’t able to use my insurance there, and, even as an international patient, my examination and three forms of prescription meds were only about $13 total. Thank you, decent healthcare system in Indonesia. Although I’ve been prescribed questionable medicines before by questionably trained doctors in this country, I have to say that if you know where the best quality hospitals are in your area, you can get great help without breaking the bank. The US should take note.

Heritage and Craft: Clara Sherman Spins

Those of you who know me know that I have taught on the Navajo Nation, studied issues affecting Indigenous Peoples in graduate school, did an internship with First Peoples Worldwide in Fredericksburg, VA, and continue to maintain an interest in Native American and indigenous history, politics, culture, arts, and education. For those of you who didn’t know that, well, now you do!

But many of you may not know this about me, although it probably won’t surprise you: I’m just desperate to learn to spin. I can spin poorly on a drop spindle and have created usable yarn, but I haven’t clicked with that method yet. This is probably due to insufficient training, but there we are. So, I’m making a late New Year’s Resolution to take a spinning class this year, hopefully at the Flying Goat Farm in Frederick, MD, or somewhere similar around the DC/MD area, where I’ll be relocating in six short months. I just gotta get into that spinning groove, or at least try to!

Bronze Age drop spinning reenactment - IrishArchaeology.ie

Bronze Age drop spinning reenactment – IrishArchaeology.ie

Contrary to my general operating procedures, I’m not going to jump into things and invest in the hobby before knowing for sure whether I can do it and like it as much as I do in my fantasy world, i.e. get myself an expensive wheel before actually trying to spin. I won’t weasel my mother into getting me one either, as I very nearly did before getting this grant when I graduated with my master’s degree. Mom, if you’re reading this, spinning wheel Xmas gift 2015 is totally a possibility. I know you’re just dying to spend a bunch more money on me. Let’s check out wheels together. Wink!!

Last night I started checking out YouTube videos about spinning. I found a couple of very cute and inspiring videos, and one of the top videos appearing in the search I did–which I can’t for the life of me remember; perhaps “learning to spin wool”?–was this gorgeous video:

If you have an extra ten minutes, I really recommend seeing it through to the end. Clara Sherman talks about how the wool cries, notes how we can feel things in our hands to know it’s right (so true and so hard to explain), and demonstrates carding, spinning, and skein winding. She has an amazing way of just saying “do it like that” for her technical explanations, which is totally charming. At the very end, you can see her using the wool she has spun in her latest project, a Navajo rug (the one, I believe, pictured at the end of this post, which is the one featured on the Wikipedia page about her).

Clara passed on in 2010 at the age of 96. I’m glad she consented to having these videos produced so that a record of her skills, and her, exists. I’d think there’s great potential in filming our elders sharing skills and telling stories. Some indigenous cultures have norms about what type of image-taking is permissible–often, elder Navajo people don’t consent as readily to having their photos taken as younger people do, for example, because of the belief that a part of one’s soul is carried away, some say stolen, by the image production process–but if the culture and the individual permits it, filming can be a useful tool for cultural survival.

The last time Lisa and I traveled together, it was to Rough Rock, Navajo Nation (Arizona), in 2013. We went there on a service learning trip as graduate students. We worked with local kids (including teaching knitting, which Lisa led), enjoyed some of the natural beauty of the reservation, and learned some interesting information from adults and elders in the community whom we didn’t get a chance to know enough since our trip was only for a week.

On the way there and back in our carpool from Ohio, we knit like fiends. I made a star tam like Lisa’s below, for which Lisa provided me needles and super soft blue and brown wool, and Lisa worked on a coral hat. She ended up knitting a wondrous gift for the then-principal of Rough Rock Elementary school and a hat for the university professor that organized the trip (my advisor, Dr. Frey). To create this gift–of which there are no great pictures–she used some Navajo wool that she purchased in Chinle.

For me, knitting and spinning is something that connects me to my family and my heritage, like I’ve told you before. I think European-Americans whose families have been in the US for several generations can easily feel disconnected from their roots and confused about their cultural heritage. This can lead to cultural appropriation, spiritual and religious confusion, and identity struggle. I think one of the reasons I adore cables and thick wool is because of my Irish heritage, and my friend Kate has said on multiple occasions that she thinks my knack for knitting is ancestral. Whether I have an innate attraction to wool and cables or have predisposed myself to them through the power of suggestion is rather irrelevant. I think it’s fair to assume that anyone who can trace their roots to non-aristocratic Europe has more than a handful of competent yarn “crafters” in their lineage, and dreaming back to these people helps keep history and culture alive.

I can safely assume that my Irish lady ancestors in Cork could shear, card, spin, dye, and knit, and I am happy to connect to that in some way, even if I’m not doing it out of necessity as they most certainly were.* I’m also happy to connect through my work with women’s history and to deepen my appreciation for the conveniences of my “modern” life and the freedoms I have to pursue woolcraft/yarncraft/needlecraft as a hobby rather than an obligation. I’m happy to have gone on a self-made mini-wool tour of the Irish countryside with my beautiful Irish-American mother, as well, but that is a post for another time…

For now, I reiterate: I absolutely cannot wait to learn to spin. Thanks for inspiring, Clara. Here’s to fiber arts and participating in a timeless tradition that will long outlast us all.

Big knitty love,
Sam

*Although when the apocalypse comes, I plan to be fully prepared with food growing/preservation, shelter building, wild foraging, self defense, and cloth production skills. Just sayin’.

If I Can Dream It, I Can Make It

Hello from Bowling Green! (Where it is quite cold. Very much so.)

I must be honest with you all; I did not want to write this. Putting pencil to paper (since I hand draft almost everything), eventually typing this out for the world made me cringe. Cringe. I constantly thought about this post and wrote and rewrote it in my head: during showers, daydreaming during stolen moments at work and in class, while knitting, over dinner. Several times I promised Sammy I would have something written and several times I feel through and produced nothing.

And I do not know why.

Since embarking on this adventure with Sam, I have knit (and reknit) several things. Over my winter break I decided to have a “great mitten adventure” where I attempted to knit 3 pairs of fingerless gloves and 3 pairs of wool mittens. Mittens and wool are very important where I live. It is cold. I finished two pairs of fingerless gloves: my Beira KAL with Sam and a modified Café Au Lait by Paula McKeever and one pair of mittens: a modified Mystery + Manners by SpillyJane.

I started my Rose Hiver Eyelash Ticklers…and started an experimental pair of beaded fingerless gloves. There is slow progress on my OpArt blanket so there has been plenty to write about but … I just haven’t.

I think it is because I am obsessive. I am obsessive about how I knit and this extends to how I write. Sam likes to tease me about our contrasting knitting styles since I am so anal retentive. Things must, must be done the way I like it. I will re-design a mitten cuff because the initial design was not a full pattern repeat and I have been known to rip back complete sweaters because it isn’t just right and match a pair of anything (socks, gloves, mittens) down to the stitch. Both of my KALs with Sam saw starts and restarts because I was not satisfied with the color or the density of the fabric (I cannot stress how cold it gets). I figure out the geometry for most of my projects and I am to the point in my knitting where I am ruthless about gauge and achieving the absolute perfect fit. I almost always carry a sketchbook of jotted down designs and notes and often my knitting in progress has safety pins to create notes-in-my-projects. Each stitch lovingly worked, painstakingly ripped back when it was not perfect and I am in love.

I am a Knitter. Knitting and being a knitter is integral to who I am. I cannot imagine a day without my needles (I have been knitting since I was 14. I learned in a tent in my parents’ backyard when one of my 11 year old cousins taught me. Then I ran with it. I ran hard with it) Knitting calms me, makes me angry or frustrated, is a source of pride, an indication of love, time spent, potential frustrations and annoying interpersonal interactions avoided, a means of procrastination, allows me a place to obsessively control the outcome and the product I make. I am proud that I am a Knitter and am a damn fine one too – I have spent countless hours and dollars honing my skills.

Being this confident in my knitting abilities is new. Often I downplay what I make and how quickly I can knit (which is fast). But the purpose of knitting in my life has changed so I am attempting to change my perception of my skill and, I venture to say, talent. I am in graduate school and there are a lot of “nos” – to ideas, to papers, to jobs, to programs and schools. Knitting says “yes.” My skill set allows knitting to say “yes.” If I have wool and some sticks, I can. Nothing can stop me.

If I can dream it, I can make it.

And so can you.

Thanks for reading! (Look for some math-heavy posts soon!)
Keep knitting,
Lisa

Super Sexy Mitten Magic

Hello from East Java!

Just so you know what we’re working on, here’s our progress update on Eyelash Ticklers by Rose Hiver. Ms. Rose is a phenomenal designer from Quebec, Canada, and she has been knitting for over 45 years, according to her Ravelry page! Her patterns are intricate and incredible, and I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll knit one of her designs.

There’s my progress so far. I’m working on size 1 bamboo needles, and I’m pleased to say that the cheap rayon I bought in the Malang, East Java, shopping mall for $2 per 50g ball (brand: KR Kurnia – Catalin, produced in Indonesia) is working just splendidly. The rayon doesn’t stretch much and I don’t think it will be terribly warm, but there’s plenty of room in the oversized mitt to add a knit or felt lining down the road. Or, these will just make perfect autumn/spring mitts. Other great things about the rayon: that it doesn’t split, it doesn’t pill, and it lays really flat. It’s easy to keep the tension in good shape!

Lisa’s a little farther along than the picture below shows, but that’s because she started off on the hand section in a color pairing she didn’t dig. She’s doing the cuff in grey and black and the hand in yellow and brown (rather than the red and grey she had chosen originally). Her mitt is also being knit on size 1 needles, and the cuff is in Lamullgarn and the mitten is in Jamieson Spindriff from Shetland, UK, in their Scotch Broom and Copper colorways.

So there we are! I know I promised a Beria picture, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing it yet. The colorwork of Eyelash Ticklers is so fun and distracting.

Forthcoming:

  • Knitting sites and blogs we love
  • Great knitting supplies / yarn Etsy shops
  • Queer digital knitting spaces
  • An Latvian braid trick (video)
  • On obsessive knitting

Big knitty love,
Sam

Knitting is a Terrible Habit

Hello, lovelies! I hope those of you in cold places are staying warm, and I hope those of you in warm places are staying cool. I’m currently feeling great, temperature-wise, although I did just get attacked on the foot and the arm by a vicious mosquito. Ah, the tropics! Here’s a tip: skin-friendly lavender oil is both a pest repellent and itch reliever. I mix a few drops with water and put it in a spritz bottle. Let me just go grab that…

Ah, better. So, in knitting news, Lisa and I have been working on a knit-along since December. You can check it out on Instagram using #sammylisaKAL, if you feel so inclined. A “knit-along,” or KAL, is a project multiple people knit together at the same time, and it’s great for plain old fun but also when you need to troubleshoot something in the patter.

I say that we’ve been “working on” our KAL even though at this present moment Lisa is already finished; I’m stubbornly neglecting the final bit, out of frustration and rage at making a mistake resulting in two items of a supposed-to-be-matching set having different finished lengths.

We’ve been working on the gorgeous Beira, by Liz Corke. The pattern is sexy, cable-y, and really easy to follow. I did mine on size two needles with Misti Alpaca Tonos Carnaval (I believe the “Birds” colorway, though I can’t be sure as I’ve tossed the label), and Lisa did hers on size zero needles in a lovely light green Finullgarn from Rauma’s Nordic Fiber Arts. My yarn was a little too slippery for my liking, though the fabric texture turned out to be very soft and cozy. Lisa’s quite pleased with hers because of the nice, tight, warm fabric she could create with it. She’s living basically in the tundra, so the fact that her Beira turned out to be super toasty is a supremely good thing.

Before I tell you about my Beira, please allow me back track and tell you a little bit about my knitting history. When I was about eight years old, I learned to knit from my grandmother, Ada Ilene “Nanny” Raycraft (1924-2014).

I have crystal clear memories of weekends at my grandparents’ lake cottage, sitting with Nanny on the family couch (she perched in her special spot on the far left corner and me on her right-hand side), working diligently on basic cotton washcloths, the first items I ever learned to create. I used to sit for hours in my room in the cottage working on my knitting, beyond confused about why the squares I tried to knit had holes in them and tended to get narrow when they should have gotten wider and wider when they should have gotten narrower. I remember Nanny’s collection of shining, colorful straight needles in light pinks and electric blues, and I remember gawking at her perfect finished objects: variegated slippers for uncle so-and-so, a coral owl jumper with black sequin eyes for sister, a blanket for the new baby in the family. Nanny taught me the basics: cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, knit two together, bind off–and thereby gave me a solid foundation for knitting, as many of us can surely say about the grandmothers and other important folks in our own personal histories who handed us our first set of sticks and strings (or paintbrushes or rolling pin or garden trowel, or sat us down at our first piano or wound our first fishing pole…).

So, eventually I became a knitter–a Knitter with a capital K, as they say. At some point, it transformed from a hobby to part of my identity, something I knew would always be a part of my life. I picked up the rest of the knitting skills I possess through books, online resources, and fellow knitters. I took a sock knitting class once at my college town’s local yarn shop. Mostly, though, I learned through choosing patterns to execute and picking up the necessary techniques as I went through the pattern, learning as needed.

I’m not sure how many knitters are autodidacts to the same extent–perhaps it’s more than I realize and the feelings I’m about to describe aren’t that special. Because I’m largely self-taught, I feel that sometimes I am shockingly incompetent, challenged to complete what should be basic projects without committing at least one or two serious blunders. It’s totally normal to make mistakes, but I have high expectations for myself considering that I’ve been knitting for twenty years. Besides eating, reading, writing, and basic human hygiene tasks, knitting is my longest-sustained activity thus far in my life. And though I’m proud that beyond the basics I’m self-taught, I wish I weren’t such a clumsy knitter.

Because I’m so clumsy, knitting often frustrates me to extreme and excessive levels. I chug along thinking everything is going fine and realize all to late that I’ve made a horrendous mistake that necessitates starting over completely or ripping out most of the work. I make sloppy fixes, usually do my leaning increases wrong, I misread patters and stubbornly think they’re flat-out wrong when they’re not, I cannot do the kitchener stitch or grafting of any kind to save my life, and I still have ladders in my circular knitting projects no matter how hard I yank and tug or mind my tension. I rarely check my gauge, usually choose the wrong yarn for needle size, and I’m still not convinced I actually know how to weave in ends.

There’s a light in the darkness, however: I always have fun when I knit. I do realize that I can’t make improvements if I don’t make mistakes. I’m the type of person that will mess a project horribly the first time through and do it almost perfectly the next time no matter how stressful the first go-round was. Often, I’m the type of person who obsessive-compulsively* and in a fitful rage rips out hours and hours of work because of a silly mistake that nobody will ever notice except for me. I’ll fret and fret, focus on nothing but the error, and put the project away until I can come to terms with either tearing the whole thing apart or accepting the error and moving on (the latter being far less likely, of course).

Because I’ve been knitting so long, it’s clear to me what my knitting habits reflect about me as a person. Knitting isn’t really a hobby since I’ve spent so many hours of my life with needles in my hands. It’s part of who I am, and part of me is how I knit. I can’t be satisfied, I’m a perfectionist to a serious fault, and I have unrealistic expectations about what I can produce, in how much time, and to what level. I have a hard time accepting my faults and a harder time not obsessing over stuff that only I notice when it bothers me, especially if it’s a personality or character flaw of my own. I find it incredibly difficult to knit for myself and keep my projects, since I have an equally difficult time giving myself the level of care and attention I give to others. I have self-esteem and self-confidence issues, but, in my twisted mind, perfect knitting means I am good and worthy as a person, and imperfect knitting means…something much less nice.

Knitting is not always fun, and it’s not always relaxing. It is not always a meditation, it is not always a positive outlet for stress, and it is not always healthy, at least not how I do it.

But stick with me: I’m trying to change. I’m trying to accept the flaws and take things as they come, because I’m worth the time and the project is too. I don’t want to be the person who negates the hours of fun and enjoyment spent working on a project before I realized something was going horribly wrong. I want to embrace the flaws, acknowledge the imperfections, and show myself, through my knitting and my attitude toward it, that mistakes are a beautiful and magical part of life. Forgiving myself my flaws and mistakes is sublimity.

So, let’s move from knitting and the human condition back to the less intense subject at hand, the luscious Beira…I knit my second glove when I was on vacation in Gili Trawangan two weeks ago after finishing the first one in mid-December. I didn’t bring the first glove with me since I wanted to avoid getting it unnecessarily salty and sandy because, yes, I was knitting on the beach. But even if I had had the first glove with me, I’m not convinced I would have noticed the error, because I took a photograph of them together that clearly shows the problem way before it got too serious and didn’t catch on.

So, what happened? From the outset, I had decided to knit a few more rounds of cables to elongate the gloves to my desired length, which meant I had to repeat a certain section of the chart two times. But, cleverly, I wrote “repeat once” on my pattern, blisfully forgetful of the fact that I had done two repeats. Thus, I ended up with a second glove a whole inch (one cable repeat) shorter than the first.

A week’s worth of work was more than I wanted to waste by ripping everything out. When I messed up one of the early cables on the first glove, I had decided to accept the inevitable flaws in Beira with grace and patience, and sticking to this decision when I realized what it meant for the second glove was not easy. I refused to frog (rip it all out).

So, I snipped a string near the cuff, picked up the stitches, knit the extra inch of cabling, and grafted the mess together. There’s a glaring glitch row because I simply cannot teach myself to graft–as hard as I have tried over the years–but at least they are the same length. In truth, it’s barely visible when I wear them, and if I wear them with a coat or long sleeve, it will be totally invisible. But it irks me. It’s hard to accept. I know it’s there!!!

I haven’t touched Beira since I did the graft, even though all I have to do is finish the thumb and weave in the ends, which is about an hour’s worth of work…

…but I know I’ll finish. I know I’ll want to give Beira away to someone who won’t just stare at the glitch row like I will (I wish Nanny were still around to give them to, because she wouldn’t give a damn about it and would call me silly for thinking about it this much!). And I know I’ll resist this temptation, force myself to wear these gloves, and eventually love them. This is part of my accepting-faults-and-not-being-an-obsessive-perfectionist self-prescribed therapy, and it’s difficult, but it’s working.

We are what we do, and I’m not about doing everything perfectly: these days, my goals are to accept mistakes as opportunities for growth, to accept myself as talented and hard-working despite obvious flaws and shortcomings, and to honor the journey, however cheesy that sounds.

I’m also going to knit another (perfect) Beira at some point. Ha!

So, at the end of the day, I appreciate the gift of knitting, even though it makes me crazy more often than not. I encourage you to pick up some sticks and see what you can do, because knitting can help you learn a lot about yourself, just like most other challenging activities can do. Knitting, however, is special, ‘cuz you get handmade knitwear at the end.

Thanks for reading!
Big knitty love,
Sam

PS: I will post a fine-quality picture of the finished Beira on my next post.

*I’m using this term sincerely, not intending to diminish obsessive compulsive disorder, from which I suffered as a child (and might still do).

Inaugural post!

Hello from Bowling Green, Ohio, and Malang, East Java, Indonesia! We’re Lisa and Sam, the Graduate Knitters.

We love knitting: cabling and lace-knitting, frogging and tinking, grafting and stitching, sewing and weaving, zigging and zagging, purling and knitting (through the back loops). Our favorite knits are cowls, socks, and mitts. We love good coffee, good conversation, and, of course, good fibers. We study hard.

We are so happy and excited to be starting this blog. Please like/follow and stay tuned for more juicy posts, pictures, tips, tricks, product reviews, and more!

Big love,
The Graduate Knitters