Monday, July 28, 2008

DIY Sock Knitting, Replacing RSI with Reading, New LYS

I have really had to take it easy with the knitting. Since I am still so fanatical about the craft, I have a tendency to go on knitting binges which sometimes last up to five hours in one sitting. But, hey, what is a solitary expat writer to do? It probably doesn't help that I also spend the good part of my day (when I am not knitting) at a laptop, writing things for the benefit of your reading pleasure and our bank account.

Two weeks ago, I got this dull ache in my right wrist and forearm. It started while I was trying to flick open my bicycle lock and has been hanging on hard ever since. I have even had it briefly in my left hand on occasion. So, Bearski's Caribbean Socks, the BSJ ala Brittunia, the Bigga Baby Blanket and the Spumoni Scarf are all resting nicely in my craft room awaiting my return. Well, okay, I have spent some time on a sock because I just couldn't help myself. 

I have restarted the socks after finding Ann Budd's book, Getting Started Knitting Socks (Interweave Press, 1997), at my newly designated LYS. Being the perfectionist knitter that I was, I frogged my first sock in the name of ultimate technique. What I had initially done was used an amalgamation of my own propensity to ignore what a pattern tells me to do, the free pattern that came with the wool (it was for Regia 6ply jacquard when I had bought 4ply - go figure!) and the amazing step-by-step pictoral tutorial, Socks 101, put together by Terri Lee Royea.
Photo courtesy of  Interweave Press

Well, that strategy was just too all over the place for my brain. And I wasn't happy with the transition I had made while knitting the gusset. The transition was just plain bizarre in retrospect - I knitted the first row, purled the second and knitted the third three times. It looked crap to put it bluntly, so it was unravelled. And now I am trusting Ann to guide me through the anatomy of my first sock knitted according to a real pattern!

Getting Started is a really great book with a simple, easy-to-follow layout and clear, demonstrative photos and illustrations. What I really like about this book is that it has small troubleshooting sections for each part of the sock (ie those pesky, loose stitches at the beginning/end a needle, matching lengths, and preventing holes in the gusset). It is exactly what I was looking for.

New LYS: Fibre + Clay in Knutsford

I cannot begin to tell you how amazing Fibre + Clay is! Given, there isn't much around these parts and I survived my first couple years of fiber obsession shopping outlet craft stores and big boxes. Owned by a husband and wife team and manned by several experience knitters who exude not only a love of but a passion for teaching the craft, Fibre + Clay features ceramic and textile art on the ground floor and a wool department to die for on the top floor. They have a library where, for a deposit of ten pounds, you can check out the latest knitting books and preview them. They have pattern support and amazing notions like handcrafted buttons, not to mention some really great bags. (Photo courtesy of Fibre + Clay website)

And their twice weekly knit gatherings, complete with tea, coffee and biscuits, are a really wonderful, nurturing place to soak up inspiration and new skills. Get there if you can - I managed to while they were having their summer sale...40% off some great stuff (nine balls of Regia 4ply, 10 balls of Debbie Bliss Silk Alpaca, and assorted Rowan Pure Wool for my Mochimochi Land knitlets).

Reading Replaces RSI

I don't know if RSI is something that afflicts every knitter, but I don't think it is. I decided that if I can't binge knit, then at least I can read about it in books for hours on end. I went to the Central Library this morning in search of magazines to profile for my budding journalistic repertoire and came home packing three inspirational books: 

Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy
Machine and Hand Knitting Pattern Design by Kathleen Kinder
Felt Forward by Maggie Pace
Simply Felt by Margaret Docherty and Jayne Emerson
Textiles of the Wiener Werkst├Ątte 1910-1932
Vienna 1900 and the Heroes of Modernism

I think that is enough to saturate my need for inspiration, don't you. I am really excited about all of them and will let you know what I think. I always do.

Knit well and knit often.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Domestic Miss Give Away Contest: Addi Turbo Needles and Artisan Buttons from South Africa

Yes, I know it has been over a week since my last post. I am a lazy blogger, but a binge knitter and that has led to some strange RSI symptoms. RubbishKnitter at BornKnitty suggested paracetamol (European equivalent to acetaminophin) before bed and seconded my learning Continental style.  And I spent 3 days on the back of a motorcycle ogling sheep and the amazing Welsh landscape. Hence I have been off the needles for nearly five days until today.

I had my first internet date today with DomesticMiss, one of my first friends on Ravelry, to check out her LYS, Fibre + Clay in Knutsford, Chesire and its biweekly knit-in. We had a pre-coffee and a post-coffee and talked about so many things we are both passionate about (writing, knitting, etc).

In celebration of the impressive completion of her first big knitting project, a lace scarf, Domestic Miss is giving away a pair of Addi Turbo Needles and 4 artisan buttons from South Africa. Congrats, Steph. Well done.

Fibre + Clay, BTW, is absolutely amazing! I cannot even tell you how inspiring it was to be surrounded by so many beautifully crafted objects, amazing wools, haberdashery, bags (squeal!) and an incredibly library of borrowable books. So good. Can't wait to go back. More in my next post.

The BSJ is in its second incarnation. I have changed needles and wool and am having a much easier time with the aid of Dawn Adcock's notes (hat tip to Knitlist). I am not good at reading conventional patterns, so a little help understanding the method of EZ's (ingenious) madness is most welcome. Will post pics soon once the one-piece wonder has taken a more concrete shape.

Be nice to those wrists. Knit well and knit often (but remember to take breaks!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baby's First Sweater: Women's U-Neck Vest by Mari Lynn Patrick


My labor of love is now complete...and boy, were those creative contractions ever painful.

After four semi-froggings and subsequent reknits, the U-Neck Vest is finally wearable. Well, almost.

I have to say I am mostly satisfied. It fits really nicely through the waist and bust, but the sleeves are just too long and a bit puffy. 

Maybe they will loose some volume in the wash. We'll see.

So now I am on a rampant spree of baby knitting. Man, this procreation business seems to be contagious right now. Well, I guess that is what happens when you and your friends are thirty-somethings. 

I just started EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket. Who hasn't knitted one of those? 

I also have an improvised baby blanket on the go too. It is amazing how quickly chunky yarn is knitted on 35mm needles- Above is a preview of the Bigga Baby Blanket.

Ah yes, then there was my lone attempt at hand spinning. It was yet another subtle reminder at how challenged I am in the manual dexterity department. It probably didn't help that I was doing it in public with several experienced spinners looking on while winging constantly about the migraine I'd had for almost a week at that point. 

The Kopfschmerzen are gone (thank God) and has given way to a curious pain arising in my right wrist. Is it time to learn Continental so I can switch-knit? Perhaps. With all that lovely (and cheap) roving I acquired at Woolfest, I will again pick up the lovely spindle Pen lent me, but not yet. I have to bond with Elizabeth first.

Knit well and knit often. 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Woolfest 2008

Welcome to Woolfest 2008
Alright, so I am a little late posting about my trip to Cumbria in Northern England, but I have very valid excuses. First, I maxed out my upload limit on my Flickr account in June, and I it took a while to get all my photos organized, tagged and RESIZED (so now I can upload a lot more pics than before). Who really needs all those high res images of my ever growing stash? Secondly, I was actually getting paid for writing this week, hence it became the priority. Not that I would ever neglect my two or three BrittKnit readers (who I do appreciate; especially you, Dad).

We took off from Manchester at around 10am and finally arrived at the agricultural centre in Cockermouth. We had to park in the overflow lot because it was so packed. There were tons of ladies with their packed lunches and thermos cans sitting in their cars as we were finally making our way in. Those were the hardcores that must have been there when the gates were opened.

Penny, Kate, Charlotte and I walked up the first aisle oohing and awing while looking at all the different sheep, alpacas and a lone Angora rabbit in a tiny cage. Poor thing. No wonder it seemed so neurotic´. Penny and Kate were first out of the blocks in making their first purchase. They both spin, so the endless bags of fleece and roving was of far greater interest to them at the onset. I decided to entertain the idea of starting to spin. Logic told me I already had one obsessive hobby and I didn't need another one. Passion told me that I had to try it out. I was just too enticed my all the possibilities: spindle spinning, plying, felting, dry felting with a needle, jewelry making...

What was truly unique about this experience was to finally unite for myself cognitively all the elements of our craft. From the animals to the fleece, the rovings, the spindles, wheels and their makers, the plants and dried herbs for dying, the farmers, the knitters, weavers, spinners and felters; the looms, basket weavers, and the unique hanks and skeins of hand spun and dyed yarn. There were utterly hundreds of people utterly devoted to a wool world. It was truly exhilarating.

The four of us drifted apart and then back together again through the aisles and aisles of fiber goodness. That is the thing when you go to a trade show with a group of people - you are bound to be split up at some point, but you all seem to manage to collide again eventually. After the first round or so, Kate and Charlotte went back to the car due to Kate's very unfortunate allergy to wool - but that does not stop her from going to wool shows nor from working with it constantly. Now that is passion.

Penny and I made another sweep through the aisles before retiring to a semi-isolated hallway for a cup of tea and some mini quiche we had picked up at a farm store on our way up the M6. It was much needed after all of that weaving through aisles and stand packed with wool-crazed women.
I held myself back with buying until I had surveyed the offerings every stand and compared prices. I am a thrift knitter (only to later splurge on things I really, really want), so pricing is a necessary part of any shopping ritual for me. 

On one of our passes through the aisles, I saw some really entertaining things. The picture above of the costumed women is particularly interesting to me: Little Bo Peep Meets Marie Antoinette. Everything in her costume was made of and related to the wool industry. There was a real focus here on British wool as well as self-production. The picture directly above this paragraph captures nutty knitter Ingrid Wagner from Newcastle who will very soon be attempting to break the world record for knitting with the largest needles. Those little girls were so ecstatic to be giving it a shot. I got a particular kick out of this image - a mandolin player taking a mid-concert break to eat some ice cream. When I took the shot, he satisfyingly knew he'd been caught. It was a lovely moment.

The culmination of the Woolfest experience was the tatie pot (potato/lamb/black pudding stew) and spin/knit-in that evening which were a benefit for the Wool Clip, the organizers of Woolfest. The Wool Clip is a co-op of farming and craftswomen in Cumbria. It sells materials and products made from their own sheep and goats. 

We were most likely the youngest people in the room of over one hundred. Two other younger women, looking sheepishly for a place to sit, joined us at our table. Low and behold, one of them was from Seattle too! It truly is a small world. After a surprisingly tasty meal (black pudding had scared me before that), we took out our projects. Tables started coming down and wheels began to appear. 

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the spin-in:

I like these two photos for the intricacies and details shown of the wheels, spindles and hands. They are all working separately, but somehow come together in these images to become one working unit. In a sense, we craftspeople are.

I thought this was interesting. We have a women spinning and another women drawing the spinner's portrait.

And here are just a few more gratuitous sheep pics. You gotta love 'em:

So, that was Woolfest this year. I can't wait to see what a commercial fiber show is going to be like. I wonder if I will be disappointed? Nah. 

Knit well and knit often.

PS - Check out my loot...

Roving in 3 colors (Shetland and English 56's), Merino Tops and a needle for felting, handmade birch bag handles (for that bag I shall someday make), a copy of The Opinionated Knitter (which seems to be very hard to find), Gossamer Kid Mohair in Gorgeous Plum, and a very cool necklace with dry felted black baubles from Mixed Fibres Textile Studio in Edinburgh. A close up of the fibers:

PPS - Check out Bearski's Caribbean Socks...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Holy Succotash Batman, I've been memed!

My knitting pal, Audrey, tagged me with a meme. I was just thinking about wanting to be tagged with one yesterday when I found the comment in my inbox. Happy Meme-ing!

The Rules: Each player answers the five questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1. What I was doing 10 years ago:
In the summer of 1998, I had just finished my second year at university at UW in Seattle. I was living with my first year roommate, Jen, in a 2 BDR townhouse the Northgate neighborhood. And I was going out with a frat boy. That was also the year that I qualified for the program which gave me the scholarship to Germany … where I eventually was to meet my DH.

2. What 5 things are on on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  • Post on my expat blog since I haven’t in two weeks  
  • Apply for some more writing gigs
  •  Finish an article for a travel blog on wine festivals in Germany
  • Work on a birthday gift for my darling girlfriend in SF, Alexis
  • Go through a few books on freelance writing

3. Snacks I enjoy:

  • Burnt rice from the bottom of the pot (yes, I know I am wierd)
  • Popcorn with a melted butter/margarine, garlic powder and nutritional yeast mixture
  • Oatcakes  
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Wheat Cereal Biscuits

4. Things I would do if I was a billionaire:

  •  start my book/yarn/coffee shop/arts and craft gallery
  • design and build my own eco-house in Seattle (for which one has to be obscenely wealthy)
  • take the cello again
  • fund local women’s and educational charities wherever I am
  • buy an incredible writing utensil
  •  adopt a pair of pure bread pug puppies – black, of course

5. Places I have lived:

  • Yakima, WA, USA
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • Freiburg, Germany
  •  Mainz, Germany
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Manchester, England

I am now tagging a few people I know and whose blogs I visit: Green Eyed Monsters, Wanderlustlost, Domestic Miss, Rubbish Knitter, and Snailspace .