Wednesday, January 31, 2007

a DIY guide

I've had some requests recently to learn how to knit, so I thought I'd put together a list of some of my favorite resources, especially those online. I think the best place to learn new techniques is Knitting Help, especially if just looking at pictures isn't enough: they have videos for nearly everything. I still go there! Learn to Knit has some good diagrams on the basic stitches, plus some articles about finding the right yarn for the project as well as some easy peasy patterns. My Craft Book has clear photos of just what you need to get started, plus the site is easy to navigate.

But then what? Knitty is by far the best place for mostly cool and flattering patterns every season, plus they have a great section of articles and techniques, and their archives are easy to navigate. Magknits is also a great resource for free patterns. Now they publish once a month, which is pretty cool. I'm not a fan of their archives page though. As for the patterns that might not make it to these magazines, there's the Island of Misfit Patterns. I love pretty much everything that's on there, plus they can be a great way for a designer to get started. There's still tons of stuff out there, so Knitting Pattern Central keeps track of it in easy to navigate pages, helping you to find the perfect pattern for just about everything. Knitting on the Net is really great too, with a huge list of patterns and stitch patterns for when you want to make something up on the fly.

Okay, so now you know what to do and how to do it. If you want to pass on some kharma, there are tons of places you can help to put your knitting towards a good cause. I think Warm Up America is one of the easiest ways to get involved, all you have to do is knit squares! You can send them in or make it a community project and put together a whole blanket with your friends, then donate it to a shelter or other place in need. Project Linus is the same sort of idea, but specifically for children, which can be more interesting for you than squares, but easily accomplished too. If you're into scarves (whether you're still learning or in need of a break from more complicated projects), look into the Red Scarf Project, that sends care packages to former foster kids in college that don't have a home support system any more. If you want to think globally, check out the Dulaan Project that sends hats, gloves, mittens, sweaters, vests, really anything to needy families in poverty stricken Mongolia. They need all kinds of sizes, especially children's. And finally, if pets are your thing, Snuggles allows you to share your knitting with homeless animals.

These pictures are some of the most famous ones depicting knitting, and because I just turned in a huge art history paper and have art on my brain. Which, I suppose, isn't anything that new, but they're pretty and I don't have much progress of my own to share.

The first Stitch and Bitch meeting on my campus was tonight. I'm leading it this year, and needless to say, I was excited. Until nobody showed up. So I ended up watching Arrested Development with the hosts of the house and drinking a beer.

Monday, January 29, 2007

one down!

The cold continues here in the middle of no where: snow and single digit temperatures again today, making me have visions of palm trees and beaches while trudging from class to class. In addition to the weather, classes are tough this term and are keeping me extremely busy (hence the sporadic updates).

I have snuck away a few times to do a little knitting though. The mittens are coming along fairly well. I'm surprised how quick of a knit this one was, all that's left is the Kitchner at the top and the thumb. Unfortunately it's a tad too small for my hand. I'm hoping some aggressive blocking will help with that and any uneven stitches and floats. The question is, how do you block a 3-D item like a mitten?

I've been feeling restless, almost lost, the last week or so. I find myself day dreaming about after college, getting my own place, doing my own thing. Which is sort of weird because I think I'm doing pretty much my own thing now. Maybe it's just the weather, or suddenly being alone most of the time.

Ah well. This weekend I'm going thrifting, hopefully to find a sweater I can deconstruct. Plus, stay tuned, I have a pattern in the works. I just have to do some laundry and felting first.

This little gem is a swatch for someone special. She picked out the yarn and the pattern. Which usually spells doom for me because the project isn't enough of what I picked out and then I subconsciously start to hate it and I never finish it. Doubly bad is this one has two complete parts. And two flaps. I supposed I could call it star crossed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Baby it's COLD outside!

Winter is officially here on the prarie. Last week an ice storm came through, and last night it snowed again, covering us in about 6 inches of snow. We'd been lucky so far this season - right around the 40s for the last couple of weeks - but now the wind and cold are here to stay, it seems.

With the exception of my two new hats, this recent cold makes me blisteringly aware of my lack of handknits (at least, handknits for me: those around me seem to have them in abundance). So I cast on for Knit Picks' Northern Lights Mittens. I'm using the recommended yarn, because honestly, who can argue with reasonably priced mittens? So far I'm getting the hang of holding a strand of yarn in each hand, and I think my tension is turning out alright. I'm looking forward to this project as something a little more portable and maybe if I'm lucky quicker than some of the other things I'm working on. Maybe it's just school and other class-related things, but this week stressed me out, put me behind, and made me think about what happens after school - probably the subject I least want to think about.

Remember the scene from The Bell Jar where Esther talks about her future as a tree full of fruit? She just has to pick which piece of fruit to choose out of all the other possibilities, but the prospect of picking just one terrifies her. I think I might be in the same boat right now. Small deadlines and due dates make me forget that graduation is coming relatively soon and then I'll have even more to do and figure out.

Anyway, I'm trying something new with my knitting... What could this possibly be?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Favorite Hat

I've never been much of a hat person. My parents were very utilitarian when it came to fashion, so my childhood was full of dreadful overalls, souvenir t-shirts, and itchy, tight watchcaps when it got cold. Of course, I wasn't the most fashion conscious either, but I hated the hat hair, the static, the dorkiness. I remember begging for ear muffs and never getting them.

Now that I have knitting though, there will probably never be a shortage of ridiculous, "fashionable" hats that I think are my own little piece of the runway, a la The Devil Wears Prada. Needless to say, my mother is proud of me.

This is the latest creation, thanks to probably my favorite blogger, Wendy Bernard:

Pattern: Le Slouch

Yarn: Unknown pure wool that's a deep blue with hints of purple throughout.

Modifications: Virtually none, though I had a bit of trouble getting the right number of stitches right at the end. No biggie though.

This was a cute, fast project that I think turned out pretty well. Definitely not as soft as my recent Odessa, but it's a great tweedy color and very warm.

In other news, I'm trying to stay motivated with my Mitered Square Blanket. Most of the knitting is done, creating quite a pile. Knitting the squares are so fun because each row is smaller than the last one, but this project is proving once again that I don't like seaming as much as I probably should. I am using the No-Sew (or nearly so) method that Kay recommends, and no doubt that will cut the seaming time in half, at least.

I'm also thinking of tackling something a little more complicated, a little more complex. I haven't really stretched my knitting muscle lately. I'm seriously considering Eunny's Print of the Wave Stole or maybe Leaves and Waves, though I haven't decided if I like using two colors or not. Any ideas from anyone who tried either of these?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Happy New Year!

While I think that most of the hype about New Years is just that - over sold hype that makes us feel bad about ourselves and at the same time that we might actually have the power to change ourselves. So I think that starting a new diet or exercise routine might not be the best idea right now, but I think that change is still possible, if we learn from the past and are brave about the future. I suppose that's what this is for me, an experiment, turning over a new leaf.

I've been knitting for years and spent the early part of that knowing only cast on, knit, purl, cast off (my toys had lots of cool blankets and beach towels). Lately I've been trying new things and having more fun than I imagined. I want to do even more though, learn more, do more, encourage more, share more, so here I am.

This is my first FO of the year:

Pattern: Odessa from MagKnits

Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted Merino in Verdes (from their varigated line)

Needles: size 9 (US) bamboo DPNs

Modifications: Since the Malabrigo has a much larger gauge than the recommended Rowan Cashsoft DK, I used the size 9 needles and cast on 100 stitches. I used size 9 needles thoughout, so the ribbing at the bottom of the hat doesn't pull in like it would if I had used a smaller size like recommended in the pattern. However, I wanted a hat that wouldn't crush my curly hair, so its bigger size and loose bottom is just great.

I loved this project because the Malabrigo is one of the softest yarns I have ever felt and the pattern was interesting, but easy to master and remember. All in all, it's a great hat just in time for the cold weather!