28 December 2008

Preparing to Leave

I'm a little confused about the difference between fair isle, color work, and stranding. Are these all words for the same thing or are there subtle differences that define each practice?

Regardless, this is a photo (a bad photo, but a photo all the same) of my first fair isle/color work/stranding piece. This is the Leaping Stag hat from Nordic Heart Designs. I was looking for a hat for my stepdad and, being the hunter he is, thought this would be perfect. The hat was knit up in the course of about four weeks although I can honestly say I didn't spend a ton of time knitting at any one time. This is the piece I worked a row here and there as the end of the semester allowed. It could probably be finished in a fraction of the time if deliberate time were spent on it.

I loved the colors - it's knit up in Cascade 220 Superwash, colors straw and maroon - and matches a scarf his girlfriend brought back from Scotland for him this fall. I wish I had checked my gauge as I knit the piece - when I knit my swatch, it was perfect, but the hat itself is just a smidge too big. I used sevens but would probably change to a set of sixes the next time I make this pattern. Also: blocking this item was tricky... it's still not perfect, but it's something else to experiment with. Overall, a lovely pattern and a great first-time knit in this style.

Claire Boissevain-Crooke, the mind behind Nordic Heart Designs, has lots of lovely patterns for great hats. Unfortunately, her website isn't up yet but can be seen via Bloomington's Yarns Unlimited site here. I have a little crush on her Nordic Star pattern. I can definitely see one of those in my 2009.
How lovely it has been to lounge about! I'm unsure I've ever had such a semester as this past fall semester and am more than thrilled for it to officially be over. My break, thus far, has consisted of much visiting, even more laughing, and more eating than should be allowed. And there's knitting. Always with the knitting.

I'm still knitting holiday presents, actually. My friend Joanna and I have a holiday tradition: we don't celebrate until February. This is usually because she is working on something lovely and homemade while I shopped around for the perfect book for her. This year, it's because she's having a baby and I'm knitting. Her scarf, an entrelac pattern done in Boku yarn, is a bit more along than the picture, taken before finals week when I still had spare moments to knit, and is turning out really nicely. Entrelac knitting is really great for those yarns that self stripe, like Boky and its more expensive cousin Noro, and is a great pick-up, put-down project. For this particular pattern, you're only working eight stitches at a time, making it easy to work on it for fifteen or so minutes, put it down, and return to it later marveling at how much progress you've made. It took me a little bit to figure out how the actual knitting works but find myself zooming through it now. I did happen upon a tutoral on entrelac knitting, in case you're curious.

This is the last of the holiday presents, thankfully. The majority of my knitted tidings have been passed out to happy (and hopefully warm) friends and family. I can, perhaps, begin working on a project or two for myself. Up for my 2009 knitting: the Lizard Ridge blanket and a new pair of mittens.

Now, however, it is time for me to go to bed.

15 December 2008

Fiber Voyeur: Knitting Off Broadway

I just got back from a quick jaunt to Michigan to celebrate the holidays early with my aunt and uncle before they leave for Arizona. By celebrate, I mean I spent the weekend in their kitchen near their wood stove working on my laptop. Oh, finals, how I will be thrilled for you to be done.

When I drove home yesterday, I realized most of the local yarn stores on my route would be closed - Sundays tend to be a bad day to run out of yarn - but remembered I had visited the lovely Knitting Off Broadway on my way home from Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. This deceptively small shop is located in Indiana's second-largest city, Fort Wayne, and features a lovely selection of yarn, both artisan and pragmatic. I say deceptively small because the space itself is tiny but Jan Bell and her daughter Natalie cram an insane amount of yarn into the space, filling openings and shelves with worsteds, chunkies, and sock yarns galore. (Special emphasis on the sock yarns - it's like a sock yarn mecca!)

This is a store that is meant to be enjoyed. The space is light and airy, filled with wonderful fibers but not overwhelming. Perhaps the most enjoyable element of the store is the staff. When I happened to stop in, both Jan and Natalie were in the store and were both absolutely lovely. Knitting Off Broadway is one of those stores I would feel comfortable walking into, cozying into a chair, and knitting for the rest of the afternoon, not something that can be said for every LYS out there. Sadly, I had just shopped at my own LYS in Bloomington before leaving for the holiday so my yarn needs were few. That didn't stop me, however, from walking out with a ball of chunky Rowan in the most interesting shade of blue - somewhere between a seafoam and sky blue. Felt amazing and made a great cable hat for holiday giving. (They have a great basket of last skeins at cut prices - perfect for small projects!)

Knitting Off Broadway is a nice surprise: helpful staff, dedicated owners, and a really great selection of yarn. When talking to Jan about her yarn selection, she replied that Natalie only ordered yarn she truly loved and that was so apparent: the feel and colors of the yarn was lush and deliberate. Every yarn had been chosen for a particular reason, placed in a particular spot. This is a yarn store where they truly care about the craft of knitting, fostering community amongst knitters, and providing high quality yarns to knitters.

10 December 2008

When I left my one and only knitting class ten months ago, I felt strangely energized. In my hands, I held my Brittany needles, size eight, and a small square of gray scarf in garter stitch. The stitches were uneven, stitches had been picked up giving it an odd trapezoid shape, but it was, in all of its ugly beauty, mine.

The creation of something solid was refreshing. Entering my second semester of doctoral study, I had almost forgotten what it meant to create something physical. My creative energies were spent writing, making sense of ideas and fleshing out those of my own. Writing is as important as breathing but I missed creating things corporeal. I resolved, as I walked back to my car that February morning, to knit something for everyone on my holiday list. This resolution, with the holidays a not-so-distant memory, made sense in February. With Christmas currently right around the corner, it no longer seems like such a brilliant idea.

In the course of ten months, I've knit scarves, pairs of mittens, hats, and a single sock that has yet to have a mate. These gifts, soon to be sent out to loved friends and family, were spread out on my living room floor earlier this evening to be sorted into piles. These would go with me to Michigan. These would stay in Indiana. This would need to be mailed. These belonged in Wisconsin. These garments were a physical cartography of my knitting education: the scarf I first learned how to stripe, the mittens I first figured out color work, the very first hat I knit in the round. Each project has taught me something new about the craft, which makes total sense in light of my friendships.

Each friend has taught me something about how to be a good person in the world. It is only fitting that I give them a garment (albeit a small garment) that has taught me about moving string and needles to create something resembling beautiful. I have always struggled with the holiday season; it seems to have become simply a marketing machine with people trampling other people in Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving and exchanging gifts with close to no thought put into them. Knitting has reinforced my holiday spirit. When my friends and family open their presents, I hope they know how much I thought of them as I selected yarns, manipulated my needles, and wrapped their garment ever-so-carefully in brightly colored papers.

I will not be knitting for everyone on my list next year, though. After ten months of insane knitting, it will be nice to relax a bit. Perhaps I'll even cast on a square for a Lizard Ridge.

07 December 2008

Here It Goes Again

It snowed yesterday. After last winter, I wasn't expecting snowfall this early in southern Indiana yet woke up to light, fluffy flakes drifting down outside my window. There's nothing like snow, especially around this time of year. It reminds me to slow down, to really be thoughtful about what I'm doing. In the middle of finishing coursework and attempting to tie up loose ends before the semester concludes, it was a welcome reminder to breathe, to take stock.

I've missed blogging. In the past, I blogged frequently, mostly about teaching elementary school and then the application to graduate school and then my blogging habits took a backseat to all the insanity that is the actual graduate school experience. I miss it. So here I am. Starting it over again. Yet another Neurotic Knitter starting their own little place on the Internet. Despite the title, I'm unsure this will be solely a knitting blog - how many of us are solely knitters and nothing more? - but a place to dump my thoughts about the goings-on of the world, what's currently gracing my iPod, the books that find their way onto my night stand, and my attempts to figure out what I am doing with my life. Of course there will be knitting, but there may be other things as well. You've been warned.