Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You can call me SIR Bam-Bam!

Just finished a "suit of armor" for the little guy ... I am in the process of making a scabbard and belt for his sword but thought these pictures too cute to wait!

Friday, May 25, 2007

New banner

So, what do you think of the new banner? Seems blogger has a new tool which makes it easier to dump the standard banner and create your own. So does mine take too long to load? Do you like the colors, layout and general look? Let me know in the comments, please!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

EZ goes high-tech

For those of you who haven't been exposed to Elizabeth Zimmermann's mode of teaching knitting ... where have you been?

As I've mentioned many times before, her books are icons of hand-knitting tutorials. Her writing is unique as she chats you through the topic and gives you the confidence to "just knit".

For those of you who are visual learners -- as is my Kotch -- Meg Swansen, EZ's daughter, is reproducing the old EZ videos onto DVDs. But Meg isn't just taking them and reprinting -- she is editing, amending and adding to these videos, suggesting improvements or better ways of doing things that Meg and her mom discovered after the original books and videos were produced.

So, if you can afford to buy them, my recommendation is to obtain both The Knitting Workshop on DVD (and the companion book, The Knitting Workshop) and A Knitting Glossary on DVD. If you can't buy them, get them from the library (make sure they're the DVDs) and renew as often as possible.

The KW on DVD and in book form is so nice as it walks you through cast on, ribbing, hat making and on to your first sweater etc. EZ is quirky and chats you through these things -- watch or read through first and then go back and watch/read periodically as you learn. I re-read EZ's books at least once per year and also reference them periodically for specific projects.

The KG will prove invaluable as you develop your techniques -- and on DVD it makes it much easier to start, stop, rewind, skip, etc to just what you need. The companion book to KG has not been updated -- the DVD has been updated by Meg to include lots of great, new info -- (and is not easy to find) so that's a good one to check out from the library.

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shhhhh, don't tell anyone ....

... but there really is no mystery or magic to knitting! There is no secret code or handshake or club dues ... other than you have to knit.

After yesterday's post, I've been thinking alot about the misconceptions out there about knitting. I think the "granny in the rocker" image has been dispelled FINALLY. But there is still the idea that knitting has some magic to it; that designers have some magic wand they wave over their yarn and then they have an haute couture design -- NOT!

Knitting is considered a craft rather than an art -- because it's not hard, you don't need some special talent to knit; anyone can create with knitting. It's an issue of self-confidence, I think. It's an issue of muscling through the initial discomfort of going outside your comfort zone and trying to knit.

One thing that I realized early on, when I was teaching myself to knit, is that the final product is much more critical than the process. In other words -- just knit. Don't worry about holding the yarn just like the pictures; don't worry about holding the needles in a certain grip; don't worry about "looking the part".

Do, however, worry about your knit stitches looking like nice, even, V's. Do worry about your purl bumps being consistent. Do worry about being comfortable and having fun with knitting. I think more people have been turned off knitting because they were told there is one way to do it and that's how it MUST BE DONE! Malarkey!

Here are a couple of books that will really illustrate what I'm talking about:

  • Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann is THE bible about knitting (IMHO). Mrs. Zimmermann is the mother of all knitters; she explains in this very readable volume that knitting is not hard, knitting is not difficult, and knitting is what YOU make it. She wrote a few other books, sprinkled with her words of wisdom and pearls of tips -- check my Amazon store-front for others. There is a blog group that just talks about Zimmermann -- and posts lovely pictures of their work.
  • Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts is a treasure trove of ethnic knitting patterns. But more pertinent to this particular post, this book also shows many different ways of knitting; methods that folks have used throughout history and the world to create with two sticks and a bit of thread. Some carry the yarn behind their necks; some use their left hand to throw the yarn; some wind the yarn 'round their hands -- the bottom-line is that the final result has knit stitches looking like nice, even V's and the purl bumps looking like nice, consistent dash lines.
  • Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns and Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd will take all the mystery out of most knitted garments. In these two books by the former editor of Interweave Knits (a magazine all should have on their shelves -- my goal is to get a design published in there, it's THAT good), you have basic patterns in multiple sizes for traditional knitted garments. The first book covers hats, gloves, mittens, sweaters, scarves, and socks -- simple, clean designs that can be made with any kind of yarn, in any kind of gauge and Budd has done the math for you. The second book delves into more design options for sweaters -- raglan, circular yokes, saddle shoulders, etc. Both of these books will free you to create your own designs -- in any size you want. Last year I posted about these books -- they'd be the 2 of the half dozen I'd grab from my collection if the house was on fire or flooding!

Bottom-line for this verbose post -- have fun with knitting, enjoy the sensual feel of the yarn and needles and the growing knitting in your lap. And most of all, relax!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In Answer to a Reader's Questions

First, let me please apologize to a dear fellow hs'ing mom who asked me some questions back in NOVEMBER (!) and I'm FINALLY getting around to posting an answer! I'll excerpt the note as I try to weave a post about how best to keep the knitting thing going, especially if you're just starting out and live in a warm climate.

So, AnaB., this post is for you!

AnaB wrote:

I only knit and purl and am working on an afghan and alot of dishcloths. I'm at a weird place in my knitting. I'd like so much to try my hand at other projects but feel I need more instruction. ... I guess I'm not sure how to build on my knitting knowledge right now.
OK, first: being able to knit and purl is ALL you need to know. These are the basic building blocks ... all other knitting comes from these, whether it's cables, lace work or colorwork. It all is basically knit or purl stitches (and technically, purling is knitting backwards!).

So we'll build on knitting and purling and get some confidence to do bigger projects. Living in a warm climate does put a bit of a crimp in the projects that are usable, but this is really not an insurmountable problem. First, anywhere there is air-conditioning necessitates a sweater, shrug or shawl to throw over your shoulders ... a great book for these is Wrap Style: Innovative to Traditional, 24 Inspirational Shawls, Ponchos, and Capelets to Knit and Crochet from Interweave Press. I love Interweave Press books -- the directions are clear, the projects are fun and cover the spectrum of easy to challenging.

Another tack you could take would be making baby things. Baby blankets are just bigger dishclothes! Baby blankets can be done in yarns from cotton/acrylic blends (like Coat's & Clark's Cotton Plus) to really lacy, lightweight yarn (like Lion Brand's Seranade) or to a heavy, bulky yarn (like Lion Brand's Jiffy Thick and Quick). Remember that doing all knit (garter stitch) or knit and purl alternately (stockinette) on big needles with thin yarn, will create a light and lofty (and even lacy) baby blanket. I just always try to make baby things that are washable -- unless I'm creating an heirloom -- than the more elegant and fancy yarn, the better! Debbie Bliss has written some fantastic baby books including: Simply Baby, The Baby Knits Book, and Baby Knits for Beginners. These should get you off to a great start with baby stuff -- and being good active Catholics, there is always SOMEONE we know having a baby!

Don't forget too that there are lots of charities that love to get knitted items -- Birthright, Red Cross, hospitals and other charities love getting baby blankets, baby booties and outfits, chemo caps, etc.

AnaB wrote:

How did you progress with your knitting? How do you fit knitting into your busy homeschooling life?
I started knitting when I was 8 -- taught myself by taking out my older sister's knitting (she was learning from a friend's mom) and try to imitate the stitches and then pulled it out so she wouldn't know. I liked knitting but switched to crochet as my brothers -- I have five(!) -- used to pull my needle out and run off. When you have lots of stitches, that's not funny. With a crochet hook, I'd only lose a stitch at a time!

But I came back to knitting in high school (when my brothers had grown up a bit!). I loved the versatility of it and have never looked back. Now, I only crochet when I need it for an edging or to join pieces.

I knit WHENEVER I can -- my dh thinks I might have a touch of ADD that needs to be curbed by the knitting. I knit at concerts, plays and meetings. If I'm going to be somewhere for a while -- waiting in the car or long road trip or doctor's office -- I bring the knitting with me. I knit at night and even in bed while dh reads to the kids. I knit in front of the TV watching a DVD or video. I knit while the kids are in quiet time. I knit when I'm on the computer, catching up on blogs. I knit!

AnaB wrote:

Would it be counterproductive to learn crochet at this point? ... It seems like knitting continental style would also be quicker, but I can't seem to get the hang of it.
I'm not a fan of crochet -- I made my quota of granny squares when I was in elementary/middle school and really don't care for it. That said, if you'd LIKE to learn crochet, it wouldn't hurt! It might even help you with holding the yarn properly and bring you back to knitting.

Continental knitting is faster but it takes practice. I continental and American knit at the same time when I'm doing color-work -- holding a color in each hand. I don't normally knit continental, however. I just haven't practiced it enough. I think once you find a way that feels comfortable -- no matter what way that is, as long as your end result is nice V's and purl bumps -- than stick with that. My way of knitting is unlike many others, but my end result is as good, if not better, than most. If you'd like to learn continental, the Wollcott sisters have a book called YNotKnit that is exceptional and easy to understand. They have a great website with lots of info and also do conferences/classes throughout the year.

That's another thing you might want to look into -- local or regional knitting classes, meetings or conferences. The Knitting Guild of America is a great site to check for area-specific courses; they also have regional and national conventions where you might get some great help. Also, check out your local yarn shop and see what they have to offer -- Michaels and some of the other craft shop chains also have hands on classes.

Bottom-line is that knitting is supposed to be a fun craft -- relax and enjoy seeing what you produce. Knitting is a relaxing, productive, creative outlet. Have a blast and keep those questions coming -- hopefully next time it won't take me six months to answer!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Now this is a CAMPING SWEATER!

This is just off the needles -- a hooded jacket/sweater for camping or just playing around !

But, which one should get it? Lego Maniac -- who thinks it's very cool -- or String Bean who doesn't care that the buttons are for a boy, she thinks she looks better ...
Kind reader, please vote ... which one of the kiddos should get this work of art?????

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just in time for next Fall ...

... or our next snow here in Denver! These were done using TLC's Heathers and Foxy (both from Coats and Clarks). Kinda cool for my first gloves,huh?