Learning Never Ends

Today’s question, How did you learn how to knit?, was addressed in an earlier post on the blog. However, I was telling more of an ‘origin story’ at that point: it’s not very helpful for anyone who wants to learn to knit themselves.

I’m lucky enough that I live with someone who learned to knit before me! Having someone on hand to teach is extremely valuable in many ways – not only do you have a model there to watch you and help correct mistakes, but an in-person teacher can help you with techniques that you just don’t have the dexterity or eyes to figure out just yet. Em did casting on for me for my first few projects, troubleshot my weird errors as I got the hang of the basics, and fixed mistakes (while teaching me some of the tips and tricks as we went.)

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Your knitting teacher can also encourage your slightly weird beginner projects by posing for goofy photos!

A good chunk of my learning, however, was self-driven. Em and I have ended up specializing in very different sub-categories of knitting technique, and most things I know about lace and everything I know about colorwork, I taught myself. First and foremost, there are excellent YouTube videos for every technique under the sun (that is most of how Em learned to knit, in fact.) The website knitting.about.com also has a lot of excellently categorized articles. A lot of beginner patterns on Ravelry contain tutorials for the techniques needed to complete the pattern.Finally, the knitting blogosphere has an endless supply of tips, tricks, articles, videos, and gifsets for anything you’d need to know – we’ve collected some of the ones we like on the ‘techniques’ tag on our connected Tumblr blog.

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Yes, we do have a Tumblr! We mostly use it to collect inspiration, patterns, and techiques, although we do cross-post what we write here as well.

I’m still learning a lot. I picked up a new texture stitch for one of my Christmas projects, did a really zany colorwork brim technique I’d never seen before, and I’m planning to cast on an entirely new shawl construction method as my present to myself after the holidays. And I’m teaching – my wife has expressed interest in at least picking up the basics, and Em has started making curious noises about possibly picking up some very fine-weight stranded colorwork after all. The fun of learning never really ends… not when there’s a deep history of a craft, and an endless future of projects. And that’s exactly the way I like it.

-Kit

Spaceballs Prom Queen

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I tend to have a lot of projects going on at once. Two of my other fibercraft friends had a joking discussion about which one of them won the “spaceball tiara” for number of works-in-progress currently active; they both blew me out of the water, but then they’ve been doing this for a decade or two longer than I have. I’m still doing pretty ‘good’ (depending on your definition) at multitasking. Let’s assess:

Do you have any other WIPs (works in progress)?

  • there’s the present featured yesterday, plus four other presents still on needles (with, technically, two+ presents still in the planning stages)
  • one Etsy store project on needles, and another in the queue
  • one gift commission sweater on needles, and another in the queue
  • a half-finished purse
  • something that was going to be a Christmas present before I realized it was far more complex than was reasonable and has thus been set aside until January
  • the Duskwings and Frog Pond Melody shawls, also hibernating through the first half of winter
  • yarn arriving soon to match the sketches and notes for my wife’s birthday present this year
  • and measurements ready for me to tackle the knitter’s classic Operation Sock Drawer whenever I need small things to bust out between all the rest of this

Needless to say, I don’t think I’m running out of things to knit (or write about) any time soon!

-Kit

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No, I don’t need to go cast on one of those sock ideas… oh, maybe just for a minute.

On the Needles

Today’s question for the 30 Days of Knitting writing challenge made me grin – because the question of “what is currently on your needles?” is always a little inherently amusing to me. I am, in fact, one of those knitters… the one who keeps thinking of something else to cast on, the one who bounces between projects, the one who literally goes out to pick up more needles because the two pairs I have in that size already have projects on them but I need to start this idea right now.

Since later questions in the challenge ask about my “other WIPs,” though, we’ll focus on what I’ve been knitting most recently.

(Well, when I say focus…)

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C’mon. Did you really think I’d let you get a good look at your present? No way!

Without giving too many sneak peeks to whichever of my beloved readers I’m making this particular project for, I can say that this one’s going fairly well after a rocky start. I had to scrap the original idea I’d had in mind for this giftee because, as it turned out, the yarn I’d bought (Lion Brand Homespun, a perennial favorite) didn’t show the definition of the complex rosette stitch well. The wiggly, irregular spin does show regular stitch patterns with surprising clarity, but I have learned now that more angular shapes get a bit too lost for my taste. So, after some frustration, tears, cursing, and a dive through Ravelry, I found a secondary pattern that makes my heart happy… and also, hopefully, the recipient.

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Favorite needles and favorite yarn makes for very enjoyable knitting.

I planned for most of my gifts this year to be done in bulky or heavier yarn – partially because that weight does make some truly cosy winter knits, but also because it knits up delightfully fast, especially on larger needles. Some people look at US size 11 as if it’s huge, but one whole scarf was my first project done on size 19, so these needles feel comparatively tiny in my hands. Swapping back to delicate fingering-weight lace once the holiday rush is past will certainly feel strange!

Whatever I’m knitting right now, though, it’s an excellent feeling to know that these projects will (if all goes well) make people warm and happy. As much of an unexpected stress as Christmas knitting has been (I tried to plan ahead, I swear!), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Guess even with the bustle, this season will always find a way to make me smile.

-Kit

Holidays, Challenges, Writing, and Reminiscing

Hello all! It’s been a while since you’ve seen us here – between a lot of increased store activity (thank you!) and the abundance of Christmas knitting to do, Em and I have had our hands full of projects. And we can’t even post pictures of most of them without ruining the surprise, which just won’t do.

Since I’d like to keep writing about knitting, though, for this month, we’re going to experiment with a Writing Challenge! These questions were hosted by one of my favorite knitting blogs in the world, knitblr. Either Em, I, or both of us will check in once a day for the next thirty days and answer this day’s question about the knitting life.

So, to begin!

Day One: What was your first finished project?

I’ve written about that here before, tangentially – I quickly knitted up a bracelet out of memorial yarn and a spare button I had around. Em, as it turns out, had the same first project; when I asked her, she told me this college story.

Her RAs had been trying to do a typical group-bonding craft night, and they herded Em and her floormates into a lounge with big skeins of Red Heart Super Saver and a bunch of crochet hooks. Em was, apparently, supposed to make a scarf with this – but, as any beginning knitter or crocheter knows, scarves take a lot longer than you think they will when you’re still just getting used to working with yarn. Em gave up pretty quickly on achieving scarf mastery, and instead finished off a neat little yarn bracelet. Not too much later, Em’s roommate gifted her with yarn and knitting needles in a well-meaning Christmas present and, well, the rest is history.

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Fiyero’s first and only project – supervising yarn management.

Regardless of where we started, we’re both incredibly grateful to have the skills we have now. Above and beyond all the other benefits of knitting – which we have discussed before and will probably discuss again, knowing us – we’re staying incredibly cozy this winter, between hats and socks and our very first attempts at sweaters. We hope you are all staying warm and cozy too, and that your own crazy lead-up to whichever holidays you celebrate goes with at least a little bit of peace, love, and creativity.

Here’s to December!

-Kit

FO Friday: Baby Avocado Complete!

The time has finally come! Just as the chilly days have settled in here for good, I finished up the last stitches of my very first sweater, for my very favorite tiny man. This little pumpkin is my best friend’s son, and he is one of the most avid adorers of hand knitted-crafts; every time either I or one of his mothers finishes an item for him, we are guaranteed some delighted squeals and not to get the item back for a good long while.

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Being held is better than being on the ground! 

I knit this to the 1-2 year old size measurements provided in the Flax sweater pattern; the little pumpkin is a smallish 15 months, so he’s definitely got plenty of room to grow into it and layer it over shirts this fall and winter. Personally, I think he looks stylish as he is. He’s rocking the oversized-sweater-and-leggings fall selfie look.

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He can’t hear your fashion advice over the sound of how comfy and cute he is.

I learned a lot knitting this sweater. For all that the Flax pattern is beautifully simple and has excellent attached instructions, I still hadn’t ever knitted a full garment before. I stuck more-or-less to pattern for this first attempt, with the minor addition of learning a new cast-on and bind off for the best stretchiness for a growing, grabbing, exploring boy. I’m already brainstorming lots of ideas for future sweaters, and I’ve been reading The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe for a better understanding of the choices I’ve got for my next design. (It’s an excellent book; I highly recommend checking it out!)

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It’s a beautiful day to be a baby avocado!

I’ve actually already got another Flax-pattern sweater on needles for another friend’s daughter – this time, with a small lace addition. But I’ve got some ideas for a shaped sweater for my wife, maybe some colorwork stripes on another gift sweater, and of course the little pumpkin’s dad still needs his matching avocado-colored sweater to complete the set…

…better stop writing and start knitting!

-Kit

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Maybe baby cuddles first 🙂

Inspiration and Improvisation: an Experiment in Cabled Socks

Sometimes, I get so caught up in the potential of what I’m knitting that I drop my pattern and just make it up as I go. Often, this has predictable results: frustration, confusion, and ripping the whole thing back to start over. A few times, I’ve finished a great project- only to realize that I can’t remember how I knitted it. Recently, I’ve started taking notes as I improvise; this has been particularly helpful with mitt and sock prototypes where I need to knit a matched pair. Eventually, I hope to like a finished improv project enough to fine-tune a full pattern that can be posted and shared!

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My most recent prototype is my first attempt to incorporate cables into my improvised sock habit. The cable is fairly simple, so fitting it in didn’t require too many calculations. I drew it out on graph paper from the written format where I found it in Diana Gates’ Traveler Socks pattern.

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Experimental projects are a good use of the abundance of cheap acrylic in our stash. This lavender shade of worsted weight yarn shows the cable nicely! I’m curious how it will hold up to machine washing and drying.

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These did come out successfully sock-shaped, but I’m not happy enough with my heel and toe construction to start writing up a real pattern based on this project. With every pair of socks I knit, I’m getting better at understanding how the shaping works! I have a lot left to learn, though. Given how many prototypes are in my future, it’s a good thing I enjoy wearing handknit socks as much as I love making them!

—Em

 

 

Learning to Knit – Kit’s Story

I’d been admiring my sister’s knitting skills ever since she moved in with us. Em had even gifted me a truly excellent hat at one point, and happily chattered away about what those needles were doing and what each of the many yarns stashed in the living room were good for making. I’d turned down several offers to learn the skill myself – I was too busy, I was too stressed out, I didn’t want to pick up yet another hand-intensive craft when I’m already struggling with lingering repetitive stress injuries. I’d just watch Em knit, and be content with fluffy goodness as a gift and a mystery.

Then – and I know this will seem like a non-sequitur, but bear with me – Leonard Nimoy died.

All of our family is made out of nerds. Em and I grew up on Star Trek. I’m not sure if it’s an accurate memory, exactly, but the first “grown up” movie I remember watching as a kid was Star Trek IV, or as it was fondly known around our household, “Save the Whales.” Losing such an iconic actor and a good human being hit me hard, especially after losing one of my friends to cancer in the previous year. I came home that day, sat down in my comfy armchair, looked over at the shelves… and saw a big ball of yarn.

This one, Em hadn’t brought to the house. Our family had hosted the wake for our deceased friend Mike back in October, and there were still little things everywhere: the leftover blank index cards that people had grabbed to write him goodbye messages, collected matchbooks we’d used to light vigil candles and ignite the tiny funeral boat, and this big ball of yarn.

So, ignoring all of Em’s gentle protests that maybe I should try working with a chunkier yarn to start, or a lighter colored yarn to start, I grabbed that ball of yarn – the same yarn we’d used during the wake to symbolize how our stories about Mike connected us all – and painstakingly followed my sister’s coaching to knit the simplest little garter-stitch bracelet.

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An image of the bracelet, and the post I made to my friends that evening.

All my progress in knitting has been informed from that point. Knitting helps me make something out of nothing – I literally make sense out of tangles. It ties me to my communities: to my sister who taught me, to those I’ve loved and lost and remember, to those around me who I can make warm and happy with the work of my hands. It’s by far the best impulsive decision I’ve ever made. ❤

-Kit

New Steps: Our Etsy Shop

As Em mentioned in yesterday’s post, our Etsy store debuted this week! We’ve been debating the best model for doing custom knit requests for quite some time; the two of us began talking about doing commissioned knitting work sometime in 2015, and I hand-delivered my first commissioned knit piece to a friend in October of that year. It’s been a slow process of refining skills, discussing goals, and slowly building confidence to get where we are today.

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An image of my first commissioned shawl from October of 2015, knit in four colors of Lion Brand Homespun yarn.

Today, though, I packaged and shipped my first long-distance commission to a friend now living in Indianapolis, and she helped me field-test the new and surprisingly simple world of Etsy selling. I appreciate her patience greatly!

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The packing slip included with today’s shipment contains my heartfelt thanks along with care instructions.

So yes, you can in fact pay us to knit things for you! If you’re interested, check out which designs are listed on our Etsy store now, or email us with questions about something you’ve seen here on the blog. We’ll happily work with someone to develop something custom, and frequently be excited to recreate something we’ve enjoyed knitting before. Currently, we’re only looking to make things knit-to-order, which means that we’ll start knitting your request once we’ve worked out details with you. If some of our designs get more popular, we may start knitting up stock in advance so that orders can be shipped as soon as they’re placed, but for now, we’re taking this one step at a time.

Thank you all so much for being wonderful readers, and wonderful support people in our lives! Extra special thanks are owed to our closest support member, Kaitlyn – wife and sister-in-law to the knitting duo. ❤ We love seeing comments and reactions here and on our various social media – please feel free to keep letting us know what you think as we move forward with this knitting adventure.

-Kit

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Kaitlyn modeling the custom hat I shipped today.

WIP Wednesday: Fire and Ice

Kit and I love our local yarn shop: The Yarn Stories. On Knit Nite, I bought some absolutely gorgeous yarn to cast on a project I’ve been anticipating for a long time: yet another pair of long cabled fingerless mitts.

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I’m working with the Fire and Ice Fingerless Mitts pattern by Roz Harmon, which is both free and well-written! The pattern is adjustable for many sizes. I’m gradually collecting long cabled mitt patterns to knit for our household and our etsy shop; I think this pattern will be one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the main cable, and the small 2×2 twists on the underside are a great design feature.

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Malabrigo Merino Worsted in VAA

I love this yarn. Yes, I realize I’ve said this before, but seriously: this is the best worsted-weight yarn I’ve ever knitted with. A few hours of gleeful happy noises into the project, I figured out why. This is my first 100% wool yarn. And what a wonderful wool it is! This Malabrigo is beautifully kettle-dyed in blues and greens that accentuate the knotwork rather than overwhelming it. It’s single-ply and very very plush, which is awesome to feel while knitting, even when the mildly variable thickness surprises me. This wool is not superwash, but we’re fine with that. I don’t expect these to need frequent washing, anyway.

So far I’ve only finished one of the pair. The other mitt might have to wait until I’ve worked more on my Christmas present projects!

-Em

WIP Wednesday: Duskwings

Today I’m sharing with you one of my longest-running current projects, biggest headaches, and greatest sources of pride – my six-month-and-counting journey of knitting Renate Haeckler‘s Anna Baltzer Wings of Peace shawl pattern. Have you ever looked at the plans for a project, thought “yeah I could do that,” and found yourself regretting that sentiment once you’re fingers-deep in the work? That is exactly what happened to me with this pattern.

I promised my wife I would knit her a shawl. I showed her all the shawl patterns I’d already saved in my Ravelry library. And, based on looking at the photographs of finished objects, she picked this one – and I, not yet aware of how deeply misleading Ravelry’s crowdsourced “difficulty ratings” for patterns can be, agreed. We bought the yarn (again, my wife’s pick – a lovely four-strand worsted merino by Malabrigo) and the new needle size I didn’t own yet, and I got to work.

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When all is said and done, I’ll use three balls of this yarn. I’m also definitely considering going out and picking up a longer circular-needle cable!

There’s a concept I learned back in my earlier career path of teaching called the zone of proximal development – it’s meant to illustrate a range of difficulty at which a student will most efficiently learn new material. When I first cast on this shawl, I did four rows of stockinette for the collar, and quickly found as I broke into the lace section that this was, if at all within my ZPD, very very near the top of it. I had to learn several new lace stitches simultaneously, start keeping meticulous count of stitches and repeats in a notebook next to me, and rip back a frankly sad number of stitches again and again as I got the hang of the irregular, organic feathered patterns. Em tried to help me chart it, more than once, as the pattern only comes with written instructions, but the design seems impossible to chart out, or find convenient places for markers in the chaotic top section. At least my thorough notes are providing what ought to be an accurate stitch count for each row – once I’m done, I’ll gladly donate those notes to the pattern comments to help future knitters!

In the last month or so, I have finally gotten a sense of mastery over the tricky mix of stitches, only to hit the simpler part of the pattern. The long, repetitive flight feathers of the wing design are much easier on my mind and my hands to knit, although they are still taking some time to complete as the stitch count continues to climb past 300 per row. It will be a relief to see it done…

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My progress as of today, stretched out on holding yarn to best show the shape.

…but even as I picture binding off, I’m browsing through yarns I’d like to use when I cast on a new version. I’d love to see how I can improve now that I’m a much more confident lace knitter, and I’ve got this dream of a dawn-themed colorway to match my wife’s Duskwings.

-Kit