Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A couple of finished objects

I finished the seed stitch stripe washcloth - don't you just love a FO? Here it is in a sweet grass rice fanner basket made by one of the wonderful artisans in Charleston, SC. I finished the vase below a while back and thought I'd add it to this post. The pattern is from Knit Picks - Felted Petal Bowls by M'lyn Walther and knit in Wool of the Andes Bulky Hand Dye Spumoni. I really like the finished product but the pattern was a bit challenging. I had to try and keep the color way in the same place as I went around. I would make this pattern again but in a solid color so I wouldn't have to fuss with the color matching.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wish I could walk and knit

It is late winter here in north Florida and I am taking advantage of the balmy, mid-70s and sunny weather. I have been walking during my lunch hour - 30 minutes of power walking, up and down the hills of Tallahassee. You may be surprised that it is very hilly here - not at all like central or south Florida. The terrain in this part of the state is more like south Georgia. We have huge hardwood forests as well as palm trees.

So I am walking for my bone health (to ward off osteporosis) - I'm already short and I'd like to keep my height as best I can. I love the walking but I'm sad it's at the expense of knitting. I'm just not graceful enough to do both. With my luck I'd fall down and break a knitting hand.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cinnamon, linen and moonbows

I was in the cold, rainy, icy, snowy, Chicago suburb of Naperville last weekend to attend a family wedding. While I didn’t get to a knit shop (the one listed in the directory was no longer there), I did get to shop at the Naperville Penzeys spice shop. Yeah!!!

I have been a loyal Penzeys customer for about 12 years - mostly catalog and Internet shopping - and I’m always excited to go into one of their stores. It’s spice heaven. You can buy little amounts of every spice imaginable at very good prices. Their spice blends are the best. I bought an Italian mix that is supposed to make Italian beef similar to Portillos, Buono Beef, or Karms. I LOVE Italian beef sandwiches and I have to have one (or more) when I go to Chicago.

I did a lot of travel knitting since the plane broke in Atlanta and they kicked us off to fend for ourselves. This is the Seed Stitch Stripe washcloth pattern in The Knitter's Stash book. Theresa Gaffey has 8 patterns using Euoflax linen.
If you haven’t made and used a linen washcloth, I highly recommend it. The more you use it, the softer it gets. The washcloths knit up fast, the patterns are fun, and they make great gifts.

Did you get to see the lunar eclipse Wednesday night? We had very good conditions in Tallahassee and it was amazing. My picture does not do it justice. And my husband and I saw a moonbow!!!!! A moonbow (also known as a lunar rainbow, lunar bow or white rainbow) is a
rainbow produced by the moon rather than the sun. First time I saw one and it was incredible.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Learning to blog about knitting

Writing a knitting blog is more than writing about knitting. I have learned some pretty cool things about blogging technology and the Internet. It's sort of easy for me to blog - after all, I am a computing technology professional in my day job.

But I struggled with how to post patterns and recipes as separate things outside of a post page (what you are reading is considered a post page). Beverlyanne came to my rescue. She gave me a tip on how to set up separate documents and voila - I have a section for free stuff. Thanks, Beverlyanne, for sharing your knowledge stash. Hope I can return the favor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Noticing change – an opportunity to knit better

In my job I encounter some challenging management situations. To stay ahead of the mob I try to continually improve my management skills.

One of my favorite sources is a newsletter,
Crucial Skills, from VitalSmarts that is based on their book Crucial Conversations. A story I read in the latest newsletter struck me as being related to knitting. Stay with me – I’ll bring it all together at the end.

Steve Willis wrote in the Crucial Skills newsletter:
Last year, I had the opportunity to work for a company in Trinidad and Tobago. The company had secured the local town hall (a two story building with a tin roof) as the training site. Everything was set up properly, and the training was going along smoothly—that is until 1:45 P.M.

At exactly 1:45, rain started to fall. At first, the whole class moved to the rhythm of the falling rain—big drops hitting the tin roof at a perky tempo (somewhere in the range of 86 to 92 beats per minute; the perfect tempo to deliver a course). And then it really started to rain.

I found myself having to talk louder, then louder, and then louder still to be heard over the increasing din. Pretty soon I was yelling as loud as I could while holding my mouth in just the right way to approximate the Steve version of surround sound.

And right in the middle of yelling and projecting, I was drowned completely out by the thundering storm. I couldn't even hear my own voice. I looked around to see how the audience was reacting, only to be met with craning necks and straining ears. Needless to say, we took a break, relocated to a different area not so close to the tin roof, and repeated the lost portion of the training material.

Upon reflection, I realized that when faced with changing and often challenging conditions, many people believe they have only three choices: 1) keep doing the same thing, 2) increase the volume, or 3) better yet, keep doing the same thing while increasing the volume.
I've found over the years, that merely developing a skill set like crucial conversations isn't always enough. In order to apply the skills, we need to notice if and when conditions change. Then we can act.

So, as you consider what to do in order to improve your crucial conversations or confrontations skills, build cues and signs that will alert you to changing conditions and, in turn, help you notice opportunities to act. As you get better at noticing change, you won't have to spend the ten or fifteen minutes it took me to adjust my course.

I know you’re saying, what is wrong with this woman - how exactly does she think this relates to knitting?

This may be old hat to you experienced knitters, but I have really just grasped the concept that knitting requires noticing changes. Did I make a mistake? Is my gauge correct? Do I like the way it looks? Is it going to fit? You have to pay attention, really pay attention. No one told me about that part of knitting – that I needed to be alert to changing conditions and react.

And the part about choice number one – keep on doing the same thing - haven’t we all just continued to knit on something that we knew in our heart was not going to work?

To put a knitting spin on Steve Willis’s last sentence, as you get better at noticing change in your knitting you will be better at adjusting your pattern in mid-stream. That should reduce the chance that you wasted your precious knitting hours on something that doesn’t work.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A bit of Sweden in Florida

Last week I found out about a great new (a year old) knit shop in Tallahassee called Really Knit Stuff. The owner, Paula Zenick, is a delightful woman and while her shop is small, it is very well stocked.

I needed yarn for a throw – Garden Gate from the Little Box of Knitted Throws by Martingale. Paula was super helpful and I selected a Swedish yarn, Jarbo Garn Raggi. Haven’t a clue what the label says but Paula told me it is a machine washable blend - 70% wool 30%nylon.The pattern calls for super bulky #6 yarn but I am using 2 strands of the Raggi instead. The yarn is very soft and lush with great stitch definition. And the pattern is fun! This is one of those patterns that I find just plain enjoyable to knit. The real color is greener than it looks here - forest green.It’s a little late in the season (in north Florida) to be knitting a wool throw, but I just wanted to. I’ll knit fast and then I can use it sitting by the pool on a March evening. Don’t shed a tear for me, all you bloggers with the snow pictures.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Another way

When I was in Ohio this past July, my Buckeye pals took me to a knit shop in Columbus where I was introduced to a new (to me) style of knitting. It is way of holding the yarn around the neck or through a hook pinned near the shoulder and using your thumb to throw the yarn around the needle.
According to Andrea Wong, who teaches the “Wong Way” technique at the knit shop, this style is popular in Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Egypt and Peru.

The shop owner demonstrated the technique to me since Andrea wasn’t there. I tried it and was immediately hooked. What a great way to knit. I had been knitting in the English style (slowly) and had tried Continental in the hopes of knitting faster. I just couldn’t master the left hand, finger-sticking-out Continental thing. I felt jerky and out of control.
Andrea calls this style “Portuguese knitting” because a Portuguese woman taught her mother. I have really taken to the technique – my speed has increased and my tension is even and smooth. It took me only a day to get used to it. It seems so natural to me.
There is very little hand movement because you use your thumb to move the yarn without taking your hand off the needle. The movement is very efficient.

Andrea sells an instructional DVD and a knitting pin on her
website. It certainly is worth checking out. Both items are high quality and Andrea is very charming.

My only problem is remembering to take the knitting pin off my PJs before I go to bed. And just in case you are wondering, the pin goes through the washer and dryer just fine!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sock-ittude (noun - meaning sock attitude)

I’m ready to admit it. I’m not crazy about knitting socks. I can hear the gasp from my pal K - she who has enough sock yarn to open her own shop and has knitted 328 pairs.

K taught me to knit socks, for which I am truly grateful. I can say socks with an “s” because I did make a pair. I learned some really cool techniques making those socks. But I didn’t yearn to make another pair. I wanted to yearn, but nope, the yearn was missing.

I thought maybe the experience didn’t grab me because I was a fairly new knitter then. So I bought some pretty terrific yarn to try again. Unfortunately, I have had one sock on the needles since August and I haven’t made it past the ribbing yet.
But socks are so cool, so trendy. Sock yarn is taking over knit shops everywhere. The
Harlot’s socks are famous. Cat Bordhi has new pathways to entice me. Kelly Petkun is knitting socks for soldiers. How can I not want to knit socks????

So I fretted and pondered and came to accept that socks are not for everyone. I rationalized that I don’t wear socks that often, living in Florida. But that’s not the real reason.

I just plain don’t enjoy knitting socks. So please forgive me for having sock-ittude, cause I’m over it.