Monday, July 28, 2008

Recipe for a Knitting Morning

I will apologize right from the start and admit that I forgot to take pictures yesterday, in spite of my best intentions, and in spite of the camera sitting right here on the desk.

Yesterday morning I had a house full of knitting friends, and I wondered why I don't do this more often. Other than the fact that I seem to spend the rest of the day recovering on the couch!

First, start with good company! I invited Lynn, who has never been to our house before, Desi with Elizabeth Rose and her husband, Dave, who was the designated driver. Tia and her baby, Leia, who is the cutest thing on two legs and incredibly alert. Linda, one of my students. She is knitting a very funky, very colorful sweater that we are designing as we go along. Last week we steeked her sweater into a cardi - actually, I cut while she sweat bullets - and yesterday she got to show her project off to admiring knitters. I also invited Marianne, who is always great fun at a knitting party, but unfortunately she wasn't feeling well and decided to opt out for this time. My own DH hung out with us to keep Dave company and chat with the girls. Normally he would have made a beeline for Starbucks and stayed there til he got the all-clear from me, but he seemed to have a great time along with the rest of us. He is also absolutely indispensable for entertaining as he is always great about carting in chairs, making the coffee, and generally making sure people have what they would like. (Who knew we were out of sugar?)

Next, have some light food on hand. Desi and Dave brought some wonderful iced shortbread cookies, and I had on hand lots of cut fruit and assorted beverages, and in my own classy style, served it all up on paper plates!

Thirdly, make sure you have something easy to knit, because with two babies on hand and lots of excited adults who were delirious to talk knitting with a room full of people all at once, you can't handle distractions. I think Lynn cast on for her second sock over and over again pretty much the entire morning, and I found that even though I was witty enough to cast on my second sock the evening before, yesterday I was sitting facing our big windows and couldn't see the stitch pattern in the dark sock yarn for beans! So instead, I did the next best thing, put my knitting down and held Elizabeth Rose while she napped. DH was dandling Leia at the same time.

The conversation, as always, takes care of itself. We talked about everything from various patterns, to yarn stashes and knitting books and favorite customers. I gave the tour of my beloved new needle-felting machine and knitting machine, and showed off my first project from both, a fulled and needle-felted, embroidered and beaded pillow. I might knit up another base for one on the knitting machine this morning. My husband also loves to give the tour of the wonderfully colorful dish collection we have hanging on every available wall, thanks to the artistry of my friend Berry of Berryware.

Lynn, Marianne and Desi and I all work together at Kiwi, and although we talk about knitting a lot of the time when we see each other, having a knitting morning is a great way to get to know each other better. And it is a given that all of our co-workers know how to knit and crochet. Tia was working on a wonderful crocheted baby blanket, Desi can't knit right now because of having carpal tunnel surgery last week, with the other hand due in six weeks' time. Lynn cast on like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, and I surrendered knitting - which I do every day - in favor of babies, which I see too seldom. It was wonderful to watch Dave carrying his daughter around, she looked like an ant on the side of a mountain.

So I encourage you, who all must know some other knitters and crocheters, to set aside a morning or evening and have a pile of raucous knitters over. You'll all have a great time.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Noro SIlk Garden Sock Yarn

The much anticipated Silk Garden Sock yarn from Noro has arrived at Kiwi! You may remember that last fall Noro brought out a sock version of their much-loved Kureyon. There were some people who felt that it was a rougher yarn that they liked to knit socks with. Lynn and I both found that it blooms beautifully and becomes kitten-soft once it is blocked, and I wore my entrelac Kureyon socks all winter long to many compliments. But if you are one of those who is still looking for a softer yarn with the beautiful color changes that Noro is known for, then the Silk Garden Sock will make you very, very happy. I can't wait to get my hands on a ball of this and start knitting!

The fiber content varies slightly from the traditional Silk Garden. Silk Garden Sock has 40% Lambs wool, 25% silk - for gorgeous sheen and tensile strength, 25% nylon to add to the strength and bounce of the yarn, and 10% mohair for bloom. The texture is slightly thick and thin - like the Kureyon Sock - but I think the difference isn't as noticeable in Silk Garden Sock. Remember that these are hand-spun yarns, not machine-spun, and so some variation in thickness would be expected. To me, this is a great part of the beauty of Noro yarns.

Other than the cream-toned yarn, which stays gently neutral with tones of cream and sand, the other seven colorways that are in the shop vary greatly with the colors that one can find in each ball. As always with any Noro yarn, the colors that show on the surface of the ball are just the tip of the iceberg. I always like to look at the end of the ball, and to gently open it up like a flower, to see what other colors that have been blended into the mix. Noro yarns remind me of a good book - you simply can't put it down, you have to keep knitting to see what color comes next in the sequence.

The cream colorway will be gorgeous for lace patterns, and indeed, one of our Knit Doctor clients came in with a lace sock pattern on Friday morning and pounced on a ball of the cream as soon as she saw it. I can also see shawls and lace cardigans knitted up in these gorgeous yarns.

At nearly 330 yds per ball, just one ball is enough for the average pair of socks. This yarn is getting fantastic reviews on the internet, come in and see why!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Holiday Knitting

Yes, you did read that correctly. And you're thinking I'm crazy right now, aren't you? But how many years will it take of knitting franticly all December long before we all realize two things - A- The holidays come at just about the same time every year, and B- Maybe we should prepare ourselves in advance.

July starts the second half of the year - my favorite half, I have to confess, and ever since childhood I have started thinking ahead to the holidays while it is still warm outside (I used to drive my mother nuts when I was a kid, singing Christmas Carols in August!) This year I am planning something like four to six pairs of gift socks. I could wait until late November, realize that this is unrealistic, and cut the number in half, or I can knit one pair a month, starting now.

Consequently, I am about 24 hours away from finishing the first pair. By early August at the latest I'll start another. I may even be wild, and make the next pair be a pair of gift socks, too. Get the holiday knitting over and done with, so that I can knit some fun things for the house, for myself, and just enjoy the holiday season knowing that I'm all finished and my gifts are already mailed. My early knitting did backfire one year when I sent a basket of mittens to my sister's house, only to have her put them away until the holidays just to be safe, and then forget them entirely. It wasn't until she was putting all the decorations away in January that she came across the box again and found the gift. I did wonder why she hadn't mentioned them!

I like to give socks for Christmas, and they are handy not only for relatives who live in cooler climes, but also for loved ones here in Tucson who forget in the dead of summer that we do get cold in the winter, even without snow. I love all the new sock yarns and my bias is towards sock patterns with texture - lots of cables and crosses and twists. If I were to knit a pair of plain vanilla socks I would die of boredom. Nope, give me something interesting happening in the pattern, and I'm perfectly content. For me that is texture, for you that might be fair isle or intarsia, or even lace patterns. Nothing says Love like a pair of hand-knitted socks.

Scarves and hats and mittens make good gifts as well. I've recently become more and more fascinated with patterned tams and selbuvotter mittens. I know that before the winter is out I'm going to have to make some of these. Last year I found a beautiful lace scarf pattern and made it for my sister's winter birthday with Lamb's Pride worsted yarn. I actually had to talk myself into putting that one into the mail instead of around my own neck!

And toys! Can there be anything more fun than knitting or crocheting toys? Lynn has several pattern books and loose patterns in the shop for toys that you will love to make. I plan to make a sock monkey using leftover sock yarn for everyone who gets a pair of socks this year. Who do you know that is too old to enjoy a personalized sock monkey?

The advantage of all these things is that they are small projects, and so they are perfect for hot-weather knitting, and easy to grab and take with you everywhere you go. Knit on your lunch break, knit while waiting at the post office or the doctor's office. Even if your days are very busy, there are a few spare 15 minute intervals here and there that you can use to relax and yet be productive at the same time.

So if you are sitting there with summer doldrums and completely uninspired to start anything new, make up your list of people you would like to give knitted or crocheted gifts to this year. Drop into Kiwi and spend some time selecting the right pattern for each gift, and get started. You'll thank me for this in December!

Also - a reminder about our Kiwi Knits Blogiversary Quiz! Go read all the details and see the lovely prizes. Get into Kiwi now with your entries and get your 10% discount on yarn purchases when you bring your entry in.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Purl Decreases

Heres hoping you all had a wonderful 4th, filled with friends, family, fun, food and fireworks. And no, I didn't start out intending to be alliterative. I'm resisting the urge to change that to 'fabulous Fourth'. One has to draw the line somewhere.

Well, here we are embarking on our second year with the blog. As ever, if you have any questions about techniques, problems to solve, and curiosities, please email me at Lynda at Kiwiknitting dot com. I can always use extra blog fodder and suggestions of topics. Otherwise you are all at the mercy of my whims.

So it seems ages ago that I promised to show you purl decreases. The first one you know, it's easy-peasy and you do it all the time - the Purl Two Together (P2tog). And it is just as it sounds. Your right needle goes straight into the next two stitches on your left needle, and you purl them together as one stitch.

Now, if we remember our rule about decreases - whichever stitch the right needle enters first is the stitch that ends up on top of the pile when the decrease is finished - then we know that with a P2tog, the right needle first enters the rightmost of the two stitches to be decreased, so that is the one that ends up on top of the pile, and therefore the decrease leans away from that stitch. That makes the P2tog a left-leaning decrease. It is the flip side of the coin to a K2tog. In other words, if you had finished the previous row with a K2tog, and wanted right away to work a decrease on the other side of the fabric at the beginning of the new row, P2tog would be your choice, as they will both lean into the center of your fabric.

However, say you want a left-leaning decrease? SSP - Slip, Slip, Purl - is your answer, and it is the backside of an SSK. But the name 'SSP' doesn't tell you the whole story. This one is just slightly tricky. You start by slipping two stitches knitwise - one at a time - to your right needle, just as you do with an SSK. As we know, this slipping changes the orientation of the stitches, and for conventional knitters, now the left leg of the stitches will be in front.

Now take those two stitches from the right needle, and slip them as is back to the left needle, keeping that changed orientation.

Now, if you were to purl them in the normal way by putting your right needle right down their little throats, your right needle would be entering the right stitch first, and make a left-leaning decrease, and that is not what we want in an SSP. Instead, you are going to P2tog tbl - Purl Two Together Through The Back of the Loop. Get your right needle behind the left needle, both pointing towards the right. Go into the second stitch first, heading towards the point of the left needle, and entering the first stitch as well. Now turn your right needle so that it crosses the left needle, just as usual. Purl the two stitches together as one stitch from this position.

I have on rare occasion seen P2tog tbl all by itself to make a right-leaning purl decrease with a twist to the base of the stitches. In fact, I've been seeing this more often with short-row heel patterns. You know how I love short-row heels!

Working double decreases with purl stitches follows the same rules - P3tog is just as it sounds, SSSP, ditto. My centered double decrease for purl is to slip two stitches together knitwise, purl the next stitch, and then pass those two slipped stitches over the stitch just worked.

On another note, I've had a couple of people mention that they have stopped by the shop this week to find that we are not only closed, but that there is nothing in the shop! If you didn't get a chance to read the blog post saying that we were closed this week for vacation, then you will have been quite puzzled. Lynn told me that she is hoping that the floors will have been redone while the shop was closed, so I'm sure she had to take everything out so that the floors were clear to be worked on. Kiwi Knitting Co. should be open and ready for business at 10 on Monday morning.

In the meantime, hope you all have a great weekend and are enjoying the monsoon storms as much as I am!