Almost Mindless Knitting

Last summer, I found myself very briefly between Big Events in my life, and I needed to knit something that didn’t matter. Too much else mattered in my life at that time for me to also be knitting anything with emotional investment. Besides, my mind felt too soft to focus on anything that required much brain power.

What do you make when you need your hands to be active but your mind to rest? What do you make when you need to feel like you’re moving forward but you don’t want to put too much hope in the outcome?

I made dishcloths. I haven’t made dishcloths in years – they just aren’t the type of thing I typically want to spend my time on. But it turns out that all the things that make me usually shy away from them are what made them exactly the right project for me last August.

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This is the Almost Lost Washcloth, a round scalloped washcloth I find perfectly adorable. I can’t tell you what yarn or needles I used, because I kept no notes (and didn’t even log it on Ravelry until today). It was just some cotton yarn I had on-hand. I made these in almost no time at all.

And quickly followed up with a Mini Almost Lost Washcloth, equally adorable but on a smaller scale.

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The thing about knitting dishcloths is that, unless you are giving them away, it really doesn’t matter if you make mistakes in them, because they will still be perfectly useful These are by no means perfect – I think the wee one even has an extra petal in there – but the knitting was therapeutic and the final product is functional, plus the colors make me happy. Knitting therapy at its finest.

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And Then My Head Exploded

Now that I’m splint-free, my mind is reeling with possibilities for making, and it turns out I want to make all the things at once.

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From left to right:

  1. Sunday Shawl (crochet)
  2. Handspun for weaving
  3. Undyed fiber from Spunky Eclectic (for my current spinning project, which I think I haven’t shown you yet)
  4. Handspun socks
  5. Cross-stitch I apparently can’t finish

I am so close to done on the shawl (one more row!) but I really need to focus on gifts right now, so here’s what I’m committing to today:

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Socks for my kiddo. Cast on last night and am almost done with the first sock (afterthought heel will happen later). The yarn turned out heavier than I meant it to, but I’ll take it – heavy worsted yarn makes for quick knitting.

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left: Hello Yarn (for warp), right: Southern Cross Fibre (for weft)

have to get my loom warped today. I’ve been planning this for two weeks, but I keep dragging my feet because warping takes so long. But I could’ve warped it ten times by now. Mark my words, internet, today is the day I’m getting it done!

Splint-free and Ready to Knit All the Things

Two weeks from Christmas seems an appropriate time to begin gift-knitting, yes? I kid. I gave up any thoughts of handknit gifts when I broke my hand. It’s been a very weird season for me, to go through each day with no knitting for all these weeks.

I got my splint off this week, though, and I’m ready to get back to the needles. It’s a little overwhelming, to figure out where to begin – I have such a backlog of projects and ideas.

But this morning, my son asked me if I would knit something for him. He said he would like some socks, and my heart melted. I already have the yarn spun:

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They may not be ready in time for Christmas, but now at least I know where to begin.

Grey Friday

I don’t shop on Black Friday. I stay home with family and stay cozy. Today was grey and rainy so it was especially nice to be cuddled up inside. While staked out on the sofa, I decided to try something new…

  
I’ll let you know how it goes!

Handspun Sisterhood Stretcher (Quaker Yarn Stretcher)

Last month, thanks to a cancelled flight and some reshuffling, I had some extra hang time in airports on my way to Rhinebeck. It seemed to me the perfect time to cast on for something new.

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I had packed this skein of my own handspun – the first yarn I spun after my mother’s unexpected death, after weeks of not feeling like knitting, spinning, or doing anything I usually enjoyed. The yarn felt special to me, a symbol of hope and comfort as I began to try to emerge from those early dark days of devastation.

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Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

It was so deeply satisfying to knit with this particular yarn, in our cabin in Red Hook, surrounded by a circle of friends. As I’ve already written, the time with these women was nourishing and healing and strengthening, and just so, so good.

On our last night together, I bound off the project I’d started on the way there.

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It was a fast and thoroughly enjoyable knit, extremely easy and perfect for travel. The pattern is the Quaker Yarn Stretcher, a free pattern designed for using a single skein of handspun (it can be adapted to be bigger or smaller depending on your yardage).

The simplicity and texture really show off the beauty of handspun.

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I enjoyed every stitch, and now that it’s done, I love wearing it too.

It’s like a little piece of Rhinebeck I brought home with me, the hours of laughter and stories from knitter-sisters stitched into it.

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When I put it around my shoulders, I feel wrapped in sisterhood, which really helps these days.

Also, it’s just pretty!

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It is rare to find a pattern that is so deeply satisfying in both the knitting and the wearing. It’s so functional too – perfect as a scarf, it also works up easily in more yarn as a shawlette or shawl. I would highly recommend this pattern, and I will almost certainly be knitting this again.

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A Big Company And My Big Idea (Crackerjack)

I have closed comments on this thread because I don’t have the time or energy to respond to the negativity that this post has begun to generate (I’m leaving the comments there, though). It’s fairly predictable pushback, a cycle I’ve seen many times online before, and I don’t want to contribute to it. While I have been assured that my original post was not inflammatory or unfair, I am altering some of the language in it. I can’t prove that my concept was copied – is there such a thing as coincidence? sure! is there such a thing as parallel thought? sure! do I think that’s what happened with this concept? not really! But I also don’t know the individual designer and I don’t want to be unfair to her. My issue was with a big company more than an individual. 

To the question of why I didn’t try harder to reach out to the company or designer, and why I waited three months to write this post – my regular readers know that I’ve had a lot of trauma and grief in my life in these last few months. I don’t think I need to justify myself any further about that.

Last year, I was so excited to release my free conceptual knitting idea into the world. Crackerjack was initially created as a baseball-themed infinity scarf, a way of charting one team’s progress over a single season. It was inspired by other conceptual  knitting ideas, and I freely gave credit and linked to those. In my release of the customizable download, I encouraged people to interpret it however they would like – not only with baseball, but with hockey or football, or whatever sport they liked.

At the end of the 2014 baseball season, I finished my Detroit Tigers version:

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I was so happy with how it turned out. But more than that, I was so pleased with the response. I loved watching people interpret the concept for themselves, and I loved hearing from people about their own enthusiasm for baseball and for this project. High-profile knitters and designers tweeted their nice comments and sometimes their own works-in-progress. Someone even sent me this article from their local newspaper, about my design. And then, even Knit Picks posted a picture on Instagram of a Crackerjack-in-progress – what a thrill! I felt I’d come up with a genuinely unique idea, and that people liked it.

Then late this summer, 18 months after I published the concept, someone alerted me to the fact that a large yarn company was promoting a concept with a striking resemblance to what I thought was a unique and pretty specific idea.

I’ve seen this happen plenty of times before, where a large company takes an idea or an inspiration from an independent designer, profiting from their work on a much larger scale than the independent designer. We like to think the knitting community is kind and mutually supportive, but I have seen this happen many times and heard sad tales of it from others. In my case, I wasn’t making a profit from my idea – I was giving it away, encouraging people to interpret it however they would like (including using it for hockey or football). It was a concept, not a pure pattern, but with some pattern and calculation support. I did it because of my love of knitting, my love of baseball, and my love of the knitting community. However, as an independent designer, even my free designs can indirectly contribute to my livelihood, because sometimes, when a person knits one of my free designs, they then check out and purchase one of my paid patterns. Or they visit my blog, which in the past (but not currently) has had some advertising revenue linked to it.

But mostly, for me, the issue is not lost revenue but an issue of integrity. Given that the company and designer are also giving the design away for free (but presumably profiting from yarn sales, as the pattern is designed for one of their yarns), why couldn’t they give credit to the source of their inspiration, just as I gave credit to the sources of my inspiration? What would that have cost them?

edited to add: It’s entirely possible that I am wrong about all of this, and that, as suggested by some in the comments section, this is a matter of coincidence or “parallel thought.” It’s a pretty specific idea, and executed precisely like mine, and well after mine was published, so I’m not inclined to see it as a coincidence. But if it were a case of coincidence, it would have been very easy for the company or designer to say that to me when I contacted them in August.

I will say that, as a designer, I do a thorough search of Ravelry before I publish anything (and, in contrast to what a commenter says below, there was nothing I could find on Ravelry before I published Crackerjack that was a sport-themed conceptual knitting pattern – I do wonder if some of the commenters know what I’m talking about when I talk about conceptual knitting). When I search Ravelry to make sure what I’ve come up with doesn’t too closely resemble someone else’s design, I clarify for myself how my design is different, and from where my sources of inspiration came. If I were ever to be contacted by someone who thought one of my designs too closely resembled theirs, I would be very ready to make a response.

Crackerjack was an idea that was so close to my heart, my little brainchild, a genuinely fun and creative idea, and something I felt very proud of. I’m flattered that a company of some size and influence thought the idea was worthy of imitating. I’m less flattered at the lack of communication regarding the inspiration.

The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

The Best Part

In your opinion, what is the best part of knitting? Is it the planning – considering patterns, comparing yarn options, making purchases, making a decision? Is it the start? Is it the soothing nature of picking up something you’ve been working on for awhile? Is it the renewed energy and commitment that come from picking up an old project out of hibernation? Is it the ability to fix almost any mistake you’ve made (unlike real life)? Is it the finish? The blocking? The wearing? The gifting?

I love them all. But today I think the best part might be casting on.

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Handspun Southern Cross Fibre South African Superfine, “Nobby”

This will become a hat, and it’s long overdue for its recipient, but now I have cast on, and the new beginning has been begun. And it feels good.

Making My Pi and Wearing It Too (Handspun Pi Shawl)

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This post has been far too long in the making, but at last, I shall show you this thing that I made that I love.

Last November, I spun up this yarn:

"Slumber" on Polwarth/Silk

“Slumber” on Polwarth/Silk

It’s 4 ounces Hello Yarn “Slumber” on Polwarth/Silk, spun up as low-twist singles. It was one of those cases where I was suddenly struck by an idea of what I wanted to knit with the fiber and so immediately spun it for that particular project. And then as soon as the yarn was dry, I cast on for a Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Ravelry tells me I cast on almost exactly a year ago (November 7, 2014). It was such a delicious and entrancing knitting experience. Just round and round I went, throwing in the occasional yarnover row. It went with me everywhere and grew quickly.

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

I set it aside as needed to finish up holiday knits and such, and then picked it back up every time I could. Sometime mid-January I got to the end:

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I did a little picot bind-off all the way around, and then still had a little bit left and threw in some extra picots in about four or five places.

And then the shawl sat around till April waiting to be photographed. And then those pictures sat around waiting to be blogged, until now. So without further ado, here they are. (Get ready for picture overload)

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Despite all these action shots, how I usually wear it is like this:

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I want to spin and knit more of these. I want to make bigger ones and maybe smaller ones. I want to make more that are just like this one (plain stockinette) and some that have more yarnover rows and some that have lace designs in them. It is one of the most soothing knits imaginable, and highly wearable, not to mention a fantastic pattern for showing off handspun. Perhaps it will take me less than a year to show you my next effort.

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But knowing me, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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