Six months ago I finished my Color Affection. In laceweight. It’s gorgeous, believe me, but by the time I’d finished juggling three different color skeins for that many rows of garter stitches (in laceweight) I’d had enough. I decided I was wearing it as is, no blocking necessary. (Because LACEWEIGHT.) But this weekend, I finally got around to blocking a bunch of things and, almost as an afterthought, I decided to block Color Affection too.

Have you ever tried blocking curved garter stitch in laceweight? What a PITA. How to block the shawl but keep the edges smooth, without making ‘points’ from the pins that aggressive blocking often creates? I was stumped. Laceweight yarn but not lace, and no straight sides for wires. Then I had a brilliant idea. I pinned the top of the shawl in a smooth, somewhat curved line from tip to tip, which ensured I blocked out the small camel hump from section one, as well as uncurling the ends of the shawl.

And then I stood the entire thing up against the wall to dry.

20140601-225552-82552915.jpg

Worked like a charm.

I’m not sure how successful this would have been if it were a much heavier yarn, but the laceweight had just enough weight that it draped perfectly, resulting in a beautiful curved edge on the bottom. As it dried, I even adjusted the top curve a bit to ensure it was smooth — I didn’t want the camel hump in the solid section, and the ends were both very curly because of the m1’s — but I’ve seen others try to block this as a straight edge, and I just feel the curve is supposed to be there. It’s part of the charm of the piece. But had I tried to pin all of that in place, I never would have gotten the same result as I did with letting gravity do its thing.

Desperate blocking calls for desperate measures, yo.

I’ve done a lot of organizing over the last couple of months as I’ve created my new work space at home. I’ve worked on making myself a space that feels warm and inviting, where I’ll enjoy spending time, and where I can have better access to the things I want to use and the books I like to read. The closed off, dark navy room has now become an airy cream room with fresh green accents and plenty of light. I’m drawn to this place and, stocked with plenty of storage, an old TV and DVD player, a recovered futon and a neglected chair and ottoman, I feel comfortable knowing that this space is all mine. It’s an interesting mix of knitting, design, and tech — probably a rather accurate reflection of me as of late. It’s a relief to finally have my go to reference books at hand — design, web, ux, testing, and let’s not forget my knitting books and patterns. Finally! Having a place of my own where my things belong and can be kept out of reach of others makes me incredibly grateful. I’m even finding that having my stash of yarn more accessible makes me far more likely to reach for something I already have, rather than buying something new — definitely a step in the right direction (although I can make the case for insanity by doing it right before Rhinebeck. We will discuss that foolishness later).

So far, I’m really appreciating being reunited with my stuff — not to mention my sanity.

While I’ve been organizing my Christmas To Do list, I pulled out all the half finished projects, hibernating WIPs, frogged bad ideas, barely started and almost completed pieces and bagged and collected them in a big basket in my work space. As I get the time, I’m even starting to slowly make my way through that basket — either to repurpose the good yarn/bad ideas, or finish some of the good ideas and regift. Very promising, since Christmas is less than a month away.

And then sometimes, you just hit a black hole.

IMG_4500A couple days ago I pulled out a skein of fingering weight Alpaca, which had started almost three years ago as a lace cowl, but somehow I’d gotten sidetracked, and then it got messy, and then I frogged the damn thing since I really hadn’t gotten farther than an inch into the pattern. But three years is a long time for lovely little piece to be left undone, and as I’m looking for easy gifts, I figured it was a no brainer. So I cast on again — three times, to be exact — and kept at it for three inches, until I hit a particularly rough patch (also, sleepy Robin gets sleepy). I had to rework one round four times until I realized where I’d gone astray (a simple matter of miscounting, believe it or not). Finally it was time to move on. Then I caught a look at the picture on the front of the pattern and realized, after all this time, I was using needles that were WAY too big. Seriously too big. Like, a US 7 when a even the US 4 I’ve switched to might still be a tad big.  So, this is now the status of my current project. AGAIN.

Sometimes, stupid Robin is stupid.

IMG_2053This weekend was the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. While we haven’t been there for several years, this festival holds a special place in my heart — it was the first Knitpistols roadtrip. It was our introduction to fiber festivals, and damn. We were overwhelmed after the first day. It’s taken me several years to be able to successfully navigate a yarn festival like Maryland or Rhinebeck. Our first year, we were all stressed. Did we see it all? Did we miss something? Plans were thrown out the window in sheer sensory overload. We clumped together going from stall to stall, always trying to keep people together. In fact, we left the first day with relatively little, and had to regroup the next day so we could go back and get what we wanted.

Now, with a number of festivals under our collective belts, we are far more comfortable splitting up and staying in touch via text, or letting the others know if we spotted something they were on the lookout for. One of our own has ventured into spinning, and this festival was a revelation for her. She signed up for the pre-festival spinning workshop, and while she’s had her wheel for three or four years now, it was like everything fell into place this year. I think the big picture is like that — we all want to think we know what we’re doing, but it takes a while of struggling before we really see our way through to the confidence on the other side.

For me, personally, I’ve learned a lot since that first festival. I’ve learned what fibers I like to work with, that I tend to go toward fingering weight rather than worsted, and I am attracted to colors. I’ve learned that closeout yarns aren’t a bargain if I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, and that I strongly prefer natural fibers to acrylics (which really aren’t commonplace at these things, but it’s still good to know). Not only do dyers and fiber farms have stalls, but many store merchants purchase stalls as well. Where the challenge arises is knowing what you can get back home and sidestep it for the more unusual yarns that aren’t carried at your local yarn store (LYS). I’ve discovered that at yarn festivals, I target hand dyed and hand painted yarns — colors and patterns that are unique to the small dye lots. Four skeins from the same dying can still be significantly different from each other, and it pays to choose those in person.

As for me, I came back with some beautiful fibers, and I actually surprised myself by not picking up some of my more standard choices. I bypassed Socks That Rocked (after standing there two hours trying to decide on a colorway) and instead picked up Dragonfly Fibers, Cephalopod Yarns, a single skein of Miss Babs, a whole lot of Neighborhood Fiber Co, and even KidLin — an odd combination of linen and kid mohair that I’m excited to try (yes, the sample they had on display totally pushed me to get the pattern too). Yes there was orange, but there were also purples, green, pinks (!!!), grays, and a one skein mix of browns witha touch of blues and purples. I picked up DK, fingering, and lace weights — weights I’m most likely to knit up. The colors are deep and saturated and beautiful. I’m relatively certain that these will all have a high chance of making it to a finished project, and that makes for a successful outing.

But the bigger picture? Loads of sunshine. Hanging with knitters who are happy to be among beautiful yarns, promising rovings, and other happy knitters. We came with friends, met up with more friends, and created new friends. It amuses me that I fit so well here. I don’t have to explain my love of knitting, and it’s acceptable to tell people their knits are amazing and take pictures of complete strangers just because they’re wearing something that appeals to you. There’s enough fair food to make you sick. There are animals fat with fiber as well as those skinny missing shorn locks. There’s a sense of happiness at a festival, and knitters are generally happy people. It might not be as big as Rhinebeck, but the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival will always be a happy place for me.

It was certainly a fabulous roadtrip — and such a merry landing.

 

It’s February, it’s cold, and the Northeast is bracing for yet another dumping of snow. And so, to appease the blogging gods despite not having a brain, I offer you this video of Ravelry’s beloved Bob and his new pair of boots. Because, seriously, I almost pee my pants each time I watch this because I laugh so hard. And I promise I’ll be back with my own damn stuff soon.

Smooches.

I’ve been doing a lot of knitting for Christmas. I have a post for that eventually, but you know how it is — when you’re knitting for a deadline, time spent blogging could be spent knitting to hit the deadline. Which of course I didn’t do anyhow. But I will recap my holiday handiness at some point — or you can just go to Ravelry and stalk see for yourself.

Right now I’m actively knitting three different things. Along with four additional WIPs that I’ve dug out of hibernation. I think I’m trying to keep my wits about me by being surrounded by yarn and stitches and lace and yarnovers and charts and cakes. If I wasn’t surrounded by all this work, attentive to patterns, I might be tempted to slow down, and if I slow down, reality might catch up to me and I will realize that there are eleven days before my youngest son is taken away and handed off to drill sergeants and the US Army.

I know this is what he wants. He is stubborn and determined and focused. Not unlike me if you listen to people who should know better than to say such a thing. But unlike me, he is looking forward to this unknown. I am terrified of it. My fear is the yin to the yang of his excitement. His anticipation is palpable as he anxiously awaits to shake this uneventful life from his shoes. My dread is lodged in my throat.

As the clock counts down, I try to appreciate my reprieve. One last Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. One last birthday with a boy before he leaves to change forever into the man he is destined to be. It will never be enough. I will never be ready for this. But I know it’s time to move on. To that end, I’ve become a paragon of support. A perfect picture of helpfulness as we go to Walmart to pick up boxes to store his worldly possessions. To help make decisions about bank accounts, and gaming systems, and books from a childhood that didn’t seem so very long ago. So many things have been thrown away, and the few remaining leftovers of the life he’s leaving behind have been boxed up for storage, to sit in a corner of the garage for years until he comes back to retrieve them. If he comes back to retrieve them.

austincroppedBut truth be told, I’m both a vastness of emptiness and a sea of wild emotions. I am the contradiction that proves the rule. I am somewhere very, very close to losing my shit and my silence, and I only pray I can remain outwardly upbeat for our last few days together. I resist my own fight or flight impulse. I want to hold my baby and rock him in my arms like we used to do so very many years ago because it made both of us feel better. I am not ready for this. I am not this strong. I don’t want to let him go early; I want the time due me as a parent, like my other kids. I yearn to be selfish, or at the very least to be comforted but, ultimately, I am alone with my fear. I am terrified they will train him and hand him a gun and send him off to some stretch of sand somewhere from which he will never return. And like everything else, I will have been left behind, forgotten, wrapped tightly shut, never to see the light of day ever again.

And so I hide in my patterns and my yarn and my needles and my focus. I hide my angst in my knitting blog, because everything else is far too public and nobody comes here but me. I know I need to write it down if I am to have any chance of surviving this, of understanding why this is just so damned important for him to do. I have no right to expect comfort, but I crave it nonetheless. I want reassurances but, like life itself, there are none.

Eleven days.

I’m working on High Line, a bulky weight wool lace shawl. Lace is always an interesting proposition when you have to join a new skein of yarn, but when you’re working with a bulky weight wool, there’s simply no way of disguising it. Enter spit splicing, a join method that works with any yarn that is at least 75% wool fiber. Since this join depends on wool’s ability to felt, you also can’t use a superwash wool, where the fiber has been coated so it won’t felt while you’re washing it. (See what they did there?) Again, this is for wool. Cottons, linens, and acrylics need not apply.
 Step 1. For each yarn end (old skein and new skein), carefully unwind about 4″, and separate fibers into two relatively equal parts. If you’re working with a plied yarn, untwist them and divide evenly. Odd number of pies? Then separate the odd ply like the picture shows. Trust me; this is totally worth it.

 

 Step 2. Now carefully take your separated yarn ends (top) and tease the yarn apart further so that you can see space between the actual fibers. The more spread out your fibers are, the easier it will felt and, as a result, the stronger your join will be.

 

 Step 3. Next, carefully tear one section of the fibers away on each end. While you can cut them, tearing the fibers creates a more natural, and less noticeable, join. Fibers that are cut to the same length can show an edge or bump to the finished join. Remember, this is more obvious with big bulky yarns, and I’m working a lace pattern. If it’s fingering or DK? Those snap pretty easy too, once you have separated the strands. As with everything, your mileage may vary.

 

 Step 4. Lay your two ends together so they overlap the 4″ you’ve removed. Ready? Spit on it. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, I really do want you to get the section wet. Which means spitting on it several times. (See? Knitting isn’t a prissy sport.) Roll the fibers together between your flat palms to cause the fibers to lock onto each other and draw them together. (What you’re doing here is actually wet felting, using the wetness from the spit and the friction created by rubbing your hands together. SCIENCE!!) Your fibers should go from looking like two separate pieces (top) to a single strand of fiber (bottom).

 

 Step 5. The end result: your next skein is invisibly joined to the old skein, and this join will simply disappear into your project. Seriously — can you even see where the two ends have become one? I can’t. This is pure knitting magic. MAGIC, I tell you!!

I’m starting to see some craaaazy inventions out there for knitting. Just thought I’d leave them here for your Friday Frolic.

ECAL Low-Tech Factory/Rocking-Knit from ECAL on Vimeo.

 

And if you don’t have enough room for a rocker, well then, tick tock!

Yes, it’s a clock that knits without you! WOWZA! One full rotation is the equivalent of one full day. Ergo, you have a lovely 365 row scarf in a year — and not even have to be present! Heck, that’s farther than I’ve gotten on some of my WIPs. You can watch an interview with the designer, too. Now, if it only did lace….

 

I’ve noticed that lately, as I finish projects and have some leftover ends, I’m becoming increasingly more interested in the remaining weights of my leftovers — so much so that I’ve finally done something I never thought I’d do: I purchased a food scale so I can weigh my yarn. I confess that this sounds ridiculous even to my ears; real knitters just have this innate sense of where to knit to so that there’s nothing left, right? That’s what I thought, but it seems I don’t have this supposed innate sense myself, and so I need help. To add insult to injury, more and more patterns tell you to knit until you have a certain percentage of weight left, or some other stupid math equation that we both know I have absolutely no interest in solving with my brain. I just want to know the bottom line: will I have enough left to finish the piece I’m knitting? Do I have enough leftover that I can squeeze another project out of that? Aye, there’s the rub.

What does it say about me that my most recent purchase is causing me such knitting joy? I’m not really sure, but I do know that I’m giddy with delight. It makes the whole concept moot: Have or have not. There is no question.

Boy is that a weight off my mind.

Ahhh, Rhinebeck. The annual October pilgrimage that yarn and fiber lovers across the east coast yearn and scheme to take. While we desperately wanted to make the trip, it seemed that one thing or another just wasn’t going to work in our favor this year. Some people were renovating homes. Some were out of town or running marathons. And some of us were just a tad scant on money and a touch large on indecision. In the end, we waited too long to find anywhere to stay, so we finally had to accept the hard realization we simply weren’t going to Rhinebeck. But that didn’t stop some of us from sitting in our houses sulking come Friday evening, not sure how we were going to manage avoiding the Twitterstream for two whole days while everyone else had fun without us.

So we hatched a plan to absolve us of our misery. If we couldn’t manage the scratch for yarnporn AND accommodations, we’d just focus on acquiring the yarnporn. Saturday morning, Audrey and I tucked Ingrid into her car seat and set off for Pittsburgh and yarn a bit closer to home. It was a much more relaxed journey, since we knew we weren’t going to be facing stiff competition for our yarn. We spent a few hours at one of our favorite shops there, kibbitzing and sharing with other knitters who had to stay back and man the shop. Of course, being bitter together was some comfort, because we could laugh and still share companionship with the knitting community. And you know what? That was okay. I think it’s really the friendship that’s important here. Being with people you trust as friends, sharing new ideas and patterns with others like you, and training young blood in the art of fibers, just makes things right with the world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to come home with some new nommy goodness too. Just, you know, for the pain.

          

I’m pretty happy with my haul; it wasn’t extravagant, but most of it is actually for Christmas gifts, which I’m now hard at work on. That’s what I call responsible shopping, and I can totally rationalize that. It made the weekend of not Rhinebeck bearable, and that was a blessing. I can even look at Westknit’s Facebook page of festival fun and frolic without shedding (many) tears. And it seems absence makes the heart grow fonder (and smarter); we’re all hard at work researching accomodations for next year’s pilgrimage. There’s just no way in hell we’re missing this twice in a row.

Sometimes, you just have to scratch that itch and share the joy.