Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Few Announcements

You will be as delighted as I was to hear that Lynn's latest grandson was born yesterday morning, Monday, the 31st of August. His name is Wesley Dirk Debbinks and he weighed in at 7 lb., 15 oz. He was born to Lynn's son Brian and his wife, after what sounds like a long process. I am so happy to hear of his safe delivery, and that the parents are doing just fine! Join me in congratulating the family!

This fall I'm taking four more credit hours than I did during the spring semester, and with just one week into the semester so far, I can already tell that it is going to be very busy. As I said to Lynn on the phone yesterday morning, the best time to yell for help is before the waves close over your head. Consequently, I'm going to be taking some time off of Knit Doctor for a few months. I will certainly miss everyone--getting to be part of your projects and your knitting journey for the last few years has meant a lot to me. It has been my privilege, and I've learned a lot in the process. Best wishes to all my regulars and not-as-regulars, and keep in touch!

In the same vein, I'll also be taking some time off from writing the blog. When school is so busy I find that I have very little time to knit, and my inspiration for blog topics has always come from the projects I have worked on. I may pop in from time to time, or Lynn may find someone to take up the reins--we left all of that open for the time being. Again, I'll miss being part of your knitting life, and I want to thank all of you for your support and your readership in the last two years.

Best wishes to you all, and goodbye--for now!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

New At Kiwi

Lynn tells me that the shop is getting boxes of new things in every day, getting ready for fall. Here is some of what I found when I was there last...

A big box of yarn all set for Knit A Hat Day.

Mini Mochi, a new sock yarn from Crystal Palace. It has a content of 80% merino and 20% nylon. It's machine washable, and one colorway is already sold out! Each ball is 50 grams, you will need two balls for the average pair of adult socks.

Wonderful little tool cases from Namaste, in gorgeous colors. Let's just say that there's one less green one at the shop.

The inside of the lid is magnetized. There is a lift-off layer, and then more space underneath, with a magnetized bottom.

Design It, Knit It by Debbie Bliss. Not only has wonderful patterns as you would expect form Debbie Bliss, but also several great design tips. A must for Debbie Bliss fans and those who want to play with sweater design for adults and children.

Knit One, Bead Too. I love beaded knits, and this is going on my wish list.

Booties, Blankets and Bears, also by Debbie Bliss.

Knitting From the North Sea. Gorgeous patterns, the lace shawl on the cover looks wonderful.

New Twists on Twinned Knitting. Another great way to use color in knitting.

Knitted Edges and Trims. The perfect way to add a custom finish to your garments.

Sensational Slippers. Now, haven't I been nagging you about starting your holiday knitting now?

Then there are two samples of some knitting by a couple of Knit Dr regulars, JoJo and Dee. They are making scarves using the Knit One Below technique. Dee's is a beautiful blend of neutrals. Note how pretty the back of the fabric is.

JoJo, who loves color, is using a combination of pinks.

Please pardon the lack of excessive prose this week, I've hurt my right wrist again from overuse, and am wearing a splint as we speak, and having to ice it twice a day!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sock Summit

As many of you may already know, this weekend is the first if what one hopes will be many years of an ongoing tradition: Sock Summit. Held in Portland, OR., Sock Summit is the equivalent of Shangri-la to legions of sock knitters.

It was/is organized by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, better known as the Yarn Harlot, and Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts. It sounds like one of those casual ideas that you'd toss into conversation, which then turned into a monster on steroids. Tina and Stephanie expected a larger response than the people they were dealing with did. It sounded as though those who deal with the other end of conferences thought that they were crazy when the two of them said that they expected a good response. What they didn't expect, however, was that when they were finally open for online registration, there was such an overwhelming number of people trying to register all at the same time, that all the servers crashed. That's a lot of excited sock knitters!

They have AMAZING teachers at this conference, with equally astounding classes. Including Kiwi's Heather Ordover who is teaching three classes. Big names from Barbara Walker to Cat Bordhi. Cookie A, Nancy Bush, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Sivia Harding, Lucy Neatby, Meg Swanson! Wow! To breathe THAT air!

One of my friends through the knitting lists and Facebook is Judy Sumner, whose new sock knitting book based on Japanese stitch patterns, Knitted Socks East and West has just been released. Judy wrote yesterday that she wished we could have been there to see all of the knitters stand up and applaud Barbara Walker when she came in. We all, as knitters, owe Barbara Walker more than we can ever possibly imagine.

And then there are the vendors! Geeze Louise! Everyone you can think of, and a lot you haven't come across yet.

There are events such as the opening night reception, the Sock Hop, the Luminary Panel. Have you ever heard of a conference with a swift and ball-winder area? Shipping from right there at the conference center? These ladies know how to shop! I'm getting light headed just thinking about it.

Check out the website, do some fantasy shopping and classes. Imagine yourself there next year. Hmmm... Maybe a Tucson contingent, traveling together?

Friday, August 7, 2009

New at Kiwi

Is she cute or what? And that sweet little cardi! Well, Kiwi has the greatest new yarn, and the idea is so wonderful that I found myself looking at it and trying to think of babies to knit for!

It's called Cotton Kisses and it's from Plymouth Yarns. A machine washable cotton/acrylic/nylon blend. Sound good so far?

Not only does it come with two free patterns--for a cardi and a pullover--but it also comes with three free buttons! All you need to add is the needles and a pair of knitting hands. I think this is a fantastic idea. There are times when you need a quick gift for a soon-to-be Mom, and this would be ideal. The knitted fabric is very soft and cuddly, and the yarn comes in several great baby colors. I'm thinking of picking one of these up to add to my stash, for quick gift-making in emergencies.

Also in the baby room, Lynn has added a charity sales corner. This area has many different odds and ends--yarns, needles, books--the sales of which will be donated to charity. Check it out when you are next in the store!

Two new books that are in and getting quite a buzz are Knitting in the Sun, by Kristi Porter, and Knitted Gifts, by Ann Budd. Last time I was at Kiwi several knitters where leafing through both books and really loving the patterns. And you know how I love to start gift knitting now so that I can actually enjoy the holidays without pressure? Uh-huh.

So come on in and enjoy the air-conditioned comfort and the company of lovely knitters. There's lots new at Kiwi Knitting!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Crochet Cast-On

Let's go to the movies while I show you how to work the Crochet Cast-On.

The Crochet cast-on is wonderful for several reasons, all of which I know I have mentioned here before. It makes a great cast-on when you are knitting a project that will have all 4 edges visible. Because it matches the classic bind-off, if you also work a slipped stitch edge of both side edges, you will finish with a result that has all four edges matching. I also like to use it when I am going to leave the cast-on edge plain without adding any finishing later, or when I am going to add a finish to the edge later, but haven't yet decided what I'll do (it's very easy to do a crochet edging from later).

It also makes a perfect provisional cast-on. Provisional cast-ons are for those times when you will want to come back later and knit from your cast-on edge in the other direction. I've worked a couple of shawl patterns where the pattern starts at the center of the shawl, and is knitted from the center to the outer edge. After doing this, you then pick up sts from the provisional cast-on, and repeat the pattern to knit the remaining end. Or, as I showed you recently, when I wanted to make a smoother bottom edge to the 'Flow' pattern by Norah Gaughan.

You'll want a set of knitting needles, a crochet hook one size smaller than your needles, and yarn that suits your needle size.


Click Here!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Introducing mac knits Knitting Bags!!

I will admit that there are times, as I plow my way through returning to college at the age of nevermind, when I am lacking in inspiration for subjects to bring to you here on the blog. For the most part, I write about what I am doing. Unfortunately, when my brain is taken up with Italian verbs or English grammar or algebraic equations, there aren't many brain cells left over for knitting at the end of the day. I have found myself deliberately doing projects that don't challenge my brain--quite the reverse of my usual modus operandi.

So when I am at Kiwi on alternate Friday's to play Knit Doctor, I like to trawl the shop with my camera, looking at what's new, and what's inspiring. I always find something. This week's find, however, is especially exciting!

If you have spent more than five minutes at Kiwi Knitting in the last 4 years, you know Marianne. Teacher extraordinaire, designer, brilliant technician. Marianne and I first met when we worked together years ago at another shop that has long since closed. When I found Kiwi Knitting just after Lynn opened, I called Marianne and told her to come on down and talk to Lynn about working and teaching here. Marianne had been very generous to me and I wanted a way to pay her back for that great generosity. I also knew that future Kiwi-ers would benefit greatly from Marianne's font of knowledge and experience. She would have found Kiwi on her own, I know, but I like to think that in some way my phone call has repaid a little of that generosity. But what I write here and show you today has nothing to do with debt, and everything to do with delight.

You may already know that Marianne has been designing and teaching under the umbrella of her mac knits label. Now she brings wonderful knitting bags to the mix. I've sewn since the age of five so I appreciate great craftsmanship, and you wouldn't expect anything less from Marianne. "Good enough" is never good enough for her, she only turns out "perfect" products, no matter if it is knitting, sewing or designing, and these bags fall right in line with that philosophy.

First of all, who better to design knitting bags than a life-long knitter and seamstress? Take a look at this first bag here, the messenger bag.

Really pretty, right? Fresh-looking fabric, contemporary design. Then, as I always do, take a look inside. That is where you really see the quality of a product. These bags are not only lined, but the linings coordinate with the outer fabrics in a really lovely way. Marianne says, "I am...striving for function. There are pockets in all the bags and a piece of elastic tacked down to slip your needle tips into: no more poking needles thru the bag!" The pockets faces are thick and cushy. Instead of just a single layer of fabric as with most bags, these are not only double layered, but also have a layer of batting in between to make them very sturdy and solid. The insides of the bags are finished beautifully, I know I'd be showing them off to everyone who admired my bag.

I asked Marianne to tell me more about her bags and what inspired them. "One of the reasons I am doing this is because I see many great choices online for bags but not available locally. So, I thought I would make them myself."

mac knits bags come in a really nice variety of sizes and styles, and I suspect we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. "I am focusing on lots of little sock bag types that are fun to carry. So far, every one that I've carried has gotten tons of compliments."

Marianne tells me, "I don't like bags that look like old sofa cushions!" [Lynda's note: I find that a really funny comment. I hadn't thought about it, but she's right!] "There are so many great fabric designers out there to choose from. I am trying for the middle of the road but I will definitely do quirky or kitschy such as the one with dogs or an upcoming design with pigs."

"I also know that I get bored quickly with my project bags (and sometimes my projects) and I just want a little something new," Marianne says. Personally, I think knitting bags should be like any other accessory--you should be able to change them out not only from project to project, but also depending on what you're wearing that day, if you want to. Why should they be non-fashion? Clearly, Marianne agrees.

"Additionally," Marianne says, "seasonal fabrics. We used to change our purses with the seasons when we lived in colder climates. No rattan in mid-December, so I will be offering styles in wool fabric and linen as an example. For interest, a little appliqué or hand embroidered design will appear!"

Marianne also tells me that "I really want these bags to function so am open to suggestions or wishes." She is also open to doing custom designs at her discretion.

In addition to styles found at Kiwi Knitting, mac knits bags will also be available at Marianne's etsy site.

It's hard for me not to be selfish when I look at wonderful bags like these, I want a fistful for myself! But I also know a few knitters that I buy birthday and holiday gifts for. And I know what they are getting this year!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crochet Cast-On as a Provisional Cast-On

There are any number of reasons why I like the Crochet Cast-on. It's wonderful when I am starting with an edge that is not going to be finished further later on in the project, or if I am not sure of how I want to finish my edge later and want to keep my options open. Excellent when I am making something like a scarf, shawl or blanket where all 4 edges are going to show in the finished piece, and I want them all to match. It is also pretty darned handy when I want to use it for a provisional cast-on.

I'm making the Flow tank top by Norah Gaughan, in Berroco Seduce. Because the style of the top is very simple, I wanted to keep my cast-on edge simple as well. Normally, if I were using wool, I would work this edge as a crochet cast-on, so that it would look just like a cast-off edge and look very clean. And 9 times out of 10, this would work perfectly. There's just one problem--because of its fiber content, Seduce has no elasticity. With a crochet cast-on, this results in a loose, sloppy looking edge. Not what I want here. Or ever.

I still want to use a crochet cast-on, but in this instance, I'm going to use it as a provisional cast-on, and go back and finish the edge later. I start by using the Crochet Cast-0n with waste yarn. Next, I start knitting right from my cast-on with my project yarn, but leave a very, very long tail. I measured it as three to four times the width of my piece, and tied it into a little bundle to keep it out of my way.

Now I knit a good few inches with the project yarn according to my pattern. When I have enough fabric to hang on to and work with easily, I am ready to go back and finish my edge off properly. Likewise, I could also wait until I finish knitting my piece entirely, and then go back and fix up the cast-on edge. It doesn't matter. It's just easier to work when you have a couple of inches of fabric knitted.

With a needle that is one size smaller than my project needle, on the bottom of my fabric, I pick up each stitch of my project yarn as it is held by the provisional cast-on (PCO). I like to start getting my PCO unraveled so that I can unravel the PCO stitches at the same time as I pick up the project yarn stitches from the PCO.

In essence, I am turning my project upside down, and getting ready to knit from the opposite (beginning) edge.

Once I have all of my cast-on edge stitches on a needle, I check to make sure that all of the stitches have the legs oriented to suit the way that I knit. For most of us, that means that the right leg of the stitch is on the front of the needle, the left leg is in back.

Now, remember that big bundle of yarn I left when I started knitting with my project yarn? Using that bundle, I loosely bind-off all the sts on my needle at the cast-on edge ONLY.

Voila! I now have a neat edge that looks like a crochet cast-on, but is really a cast-off!

I was pretty certain that I had already done a video on how to do the crochet cast-on, but checking my account on YouTube, I find that I'm wrong. I'll demo that for you asap!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Do Short-Rows

This week we go to the movies! After two days of trying to figure out how to make this work (let's face it, I always have technical problems), here we are.

So without further ado, I bring you two videos on how to do short-rows three different ways: the classic wrap-and-turn, Japanese short-rows, and my own technique.

Get out your needles, cast on 25 sts, and work til you have enough fabric to hang onto.

Part One

Part Two


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eddie Lizzard

Lynn and I wanted to give you an idea of the size difference between our two lizards. Lynn hasn't finished decorating hers yet as of Friday morning when I took these photos. When she is finished with hers she is ending me a photo so that I can post it for you here. I made the worsted weight version with Noro Kureyon #217. Lynn made the DK weight version with Tussock from Naturally, which is the intended yarn for this pattern.

A closer view of our size differences.

As I said yesterday, I had fun decorating mine. I started by needle-felting rings on his tail. I used a copper novelty yarn from Kiwi, and some leftover needle-point yarns. Needle-felting is fun and easy to learn, and the needles and kit are available at Kiwi Knitting. I find that I use my felting needles all the time on various projects. As you can see with the copper yarn, it will felt non-wool yarns as well as wool yarns.

After I finished with the tail, I needle-felted an orange stripe up his back. Then I decided it was time for something new, and embroidered the blue outline with a chain stich. A book with some simple embroidery stitches is all you need to get started. I find it adds another dimension to my felted projects, whether I choose to use it before or after I felt.

I also used the copper thread again to add some beading to his back. These copper-lined beads that I had in my stash were perfect for this yarn colorway. Beads are always a good way to add some glitz. Check out the bead stash in the shop, next to the buttons in the book and needle nook.

Finally, I cut a circle of felt that was slightly larger than the diameter of the eyes. I folded it in half and cut it into two pieces, and then used craft glue to attach them as eyelids. One thing to note is that the felt just sucks up the glue like nothing you've ever seen before, so be sure to add lots more glue than you think you will need. Press the eyelid in place and hold it there for a few seconds while the glue starts to set. We decided to hang Eddie on the wall in our dining room. I've already bought more Noro to make more lizards. Everyone who lives in the desert Southwest needs one of these.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Felted Gecko

This was a project that, for someone who has no time to knit, went very, very quickly. I would suggest that unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool dpn user you should ignore the part of the pattern instructions that suggest using dpns for this project. Use whatever method for knitting in the round that suits you best. I usually knit with 2 circs but didn't have a second circ on hand in the right size and whipped out my trusty dpns. For the body it wasn't much trouble but when you get to the legs it can get pretty fiddly. Just an FYI on that.

However, it was an easy pattern to knit. Later this week I hope to show you one of my tweaks, which is my favorite way to work short rows. There are a lot of them in this pattern in order to make the lizard body seem to be moving, and so knowing my easy, invisible short row method makes those far easier to do.

After he was knitted I put him into a zippered pillowcase and threw him into the washer to felt. When he was finished felting I blocked him by stuffing the body and head with two plastic grocery bags until he was dry.

The next day it was time to put in his eyes. This toy isn't going to a child, so I felt comfortable using attachable eyes on him. In fact, the eyes attach very firmly and would be almost impossible to pull out but I leave that choice to your discretion--you can always needle-felt or embroider eyes on instead.

First, get an idea of where you want the eyes to go by placing them in the head.

Move them around until you feel like the placement is going to work for you. Because Noro Kureyon doesn't felt 'hard' for me like all other yarns do I was able to follow a column of sts on either side to place them equally, although it doesn't look like they are equal in this photo.

Once you have the eye in place turn the fabric inside out and push the plastic ring firmly down over the shank of the eye stem. The eye stem has ridges on it that ensure that the ring cannot be pulled off of the shank--so once it's there, it stays. Be sure you have the eyes where you want them before you do this as there is no going back. The ring has a greater diameter than the eye does, this is why I feel it would be near to impossible to pull out afterward.

Now it's time to stuff him! I have made many stuffed animals over the years and for the first half of my stuffed animal career I was never happy with the results of stuffing - the toys were always lumpy. Then I met Elizabeth Wells through our Old Pueblo Knitting Guild. Elizabeth is the expert of knitted and stuffed toys, trust me. She makes wonderful knitted dolls and stuffed animals. So I grilled her!

Elizabeth advises that you buy the most expensive toy stuffing that you can. Toy stuffing is not very expensive anyway and it comes in bags that may look smallish but hold enough for many, many toys and will last you for years. So it is worth doing it right the first time. Get the good stuff, there is a difference.

Next, Elizabeth told me, shred the stuffing before you use it. Pull it all apart rather than stuffing it in in great wads.

Here I stuffed the tail, legs and head before stuffing the body. Pack it in well, slightly over-stuffing. As you sew the seam shut you may find that you need to add more stuffing to the toy.

Here he is with his seam sewn shut. Because his stitches are still visible I was able to mattress stitch him together.

And here he is finished...

But wait! Is he really finished? I don't think so!

Next time - decorating the felted gecko...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Odds and Ends

Am I a trendsetter, or what? Last week I talked about starting holiday knitting now, before the panic sets in. And then the summer issue of Knitty came out,and what do they feature? A whole host of Holiday Headstart patterns. Did I tell you or did I tell you?

One of the patterns that caught my eye especially was the Deadliest Crab. I'm a Cancer so I just really fell for this one, and I printed the pattern out right away. Then my husband came up with a great idea - knit it in Noro Kureyon. Hmmm... I was going to use stash yarns, and as we all know, any Noro in your stash is never without a preordained purpose, which meant that I had to buy some Kureyon in order to make the pattern. Gee whiz, what a shame.

But when I got to Kiwi and starting taking a look around at all the great new things in the shop (more on that later), I saw this great pattern from Fibertrends for Gotta Get A Gecko. I mean really, a match made in heaven. Felted lizards, and Tucson. We all need one, don't we?

I just have to make one. So the crab may be on the back burner for the moment, but the gecko is next on my list. Lynn was making one out of the yarn called for in the pattern, Tussock by Naturally. She tells me that it is a very fast project for her so far.

Lynn also wanted me to let you know that Berroco yarns are back. Unfortunately my camera battery decided to give up the ghost right after I started taking photos, so some of them will have to wait for another time. But one I leapt on right away was Berroco Sox Metallic. Each 100 gram ball has approximately 380 yards, enough to make an average pair of socks. The fiber content is 73% Superwash wool, 25% nylon, and 2% other - which I take to be the magical sparkly bits. Because boy, does this yarn sparkle! I'm looking forward to making these! Kiwi also has Comfort Sock, 447 yards with a 50/50 content of nylon and acrylic; and Sox, 440 yards with a fiber content of 75% Superwash wool, and 25% nylon.

Another great Berroco yarn in stock is Seduce. This stuff is gorgeous, and will make the most wonderful summer tops. Seduce has 40 grams per skein, and 100 yards. The fiber content is 47% rayon, 25% linen, 17% silk, and 11% nylon. It has a wonderful shimmer and the knitted fabric has wonderful drape.

Summer projects, holidays projects, great yarns and patterns. Life is good.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Knit Ahead

Every year around the first of July I like to start my holiday knitting. This is a hold-over from the twenty-something years that I worked in the salon industry. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve was an unending madhouse of 10 hour days and no time to think. Because I actually prefer to enjoy the holidays rather than watch them rush past in a blur, I got into the habit of starting my shopping and preparations for the next year's holidays on January 2nd. If I see something that I know someone on my list would like, I buy it and tuck it away. By the time the holidays roll around I usually have 3/4ths of my holiday shopping done, I have as much of my food shopping for my holiday party finished as is possible before Thanksgiving. This is not to say that I don't add to it all at the last minute, just as any normal human does (ask my husband) but trust me, I am a lot less crazy before the holidays this way than I would be otherwise.

If I plan to do any holiday knitting - and let's face it, I always do - then I begin my plan at the start of June. Begin with your list of special people that you like to knit for. Make sure that these are people who are going to appreciate your handmade gift. We have all heard the horror stories of the intricate, painstakingly knitted lace tablecloth sold at a yard sale for 5 bucks, or the Christmas stockings Granny made for each of her grandchildren that were given to Goodwill by the daughter-in-law. If I give a knitted gift to someone who does not immediately genuflect before me, then I cross them off of my knitting list right away. No point in wasting my time, money and talents again on those who don't appreciate what I am really saying when I spend 30 hours making them a $25 pair of cabled alpaca socks. Their lives and mine are happier when I just give them money or buy something from the mall. These people cannot be converted.

Once you have your list, start to think objectively. Can you really knit pullovers for 15 people between now and the holidays and not make yourself crazy? Maybe not all of them need something as involved as a pullover? Maybe not all of them need to be on the list? Remember: Quality beats quantity any time. Be ruthless in paring your list - they'll never know that they were crossed off or downgraded to an easier project in consideration of your available time and desired level of sanity.

Next I like to come up with a theme. One year I knitted mittens for everyone - felted mittens, fair isle mittens - in rainbows of colors and neutrals so that everyone in each family could pick out their favorites. Pack them up in a beautiful little basket and you have an unbeatable gift. The last two years I have knitted socks for everyone, and last year I added sock monkeys for my two sisters from the sock yarn leftovers that resembled my sisters in uncanny ways. One of my sister has knitted beautiful hats and scarves for everyone.

Think small and portable. Something that you can keep in the car for those times when you have to wait at the doctor's office, in line at the PO, school Mom at the playground, car-pooling and waiting for kids. Even just a few rows at a time are a few rows more than you had, and you'll find that your projects will be finished before you know it. Another advantage of small projects is that you don't have time to get bored - before you know it, your project is finished. It also enables you to buy a luxury yarn for your project that is a splurge, which makes the project more special - and more fun for you to work on.

If you set yourself a reasonable schedule of so many gifts knitted or crocheted per month, you can keep on track and avoid getting too far behind. I try to concentrate on one person per month, making and/or buying for that person in their birthday month, for example.

Knitting ahead also allows you time to track down a special yarn, getting your local yarn shop to special order the right yarns in the right colors for you.

Do you know a really clever knitter or crocheter? Are you afraid that they will scorn your less-than-expert efforts at making them a gift? Take heart, no one loves a hand-knitted gift more than a knitter does. No one else knows exactly how much that says. They aren't going to be picking apart your technique, and if they are the type that you suspect actually will, then get them a gift certificate to their favorite local knitting shop. They'll be over the moon at your thoughtfulness. Want to make it more personal? Buy them a special yarn for the type of project that you know they love to make - colorful sock yarn or luxurious lace yarn. That way they not only have the pleasure of opening your gift, but also the added hours of enjoyment making up a project that still comes from you.

Don't wait until November rolls around before you get started on your gift making process. Trust me, the holidays will be so much more pleasurable for you if you can sit back, relax and enjoy them with a smug smile, knowing that your gift knitting is finished.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Have You Met the Veggie Room?

There are many knitters today who - for various reasons - prefer to knit with yarns that are not based on animal proteins. If you are a vegetarian knitter, one who knits with strictly veggie-based yarns due to preference or even allergies, then you probably already know about the Veggie Room at Kiwi Knitting. If, however, you haven't wandered back to check out the Veggie Room and its treasures - or haven't done so recently - then you're in for a treat. Being a devoted wool knitter, I don't talk here on the blog as much about the vegetable-based fibers that are to be found in our wonderful room. But recently, for various reasons, I have been exploring the wonders of this Ali Baba's cave of non-protein yarns, and finding some gorgeous treats here.

The photo above shows just a fraction of what is to be found there - wonderfully dyed skeins of Cotton Stria from Manos de Uruguay. This is a delightfully soft and resilient cotton with a charming squiggle to the yarn. I have to admit that I don't know what gives it its squiggle, but I have used it in more than one project and it knits up smoothly and evenly, in a rainbow of beauty.

Diagonally across the room from the Stria are shelves full of King Tut Cotton, a classic stand-by of cotton yarns. Kiwi also stocks a sumptuous range of colors here. On the standing racks next to it are the lovely Louet Linen yarns. These are wonderful to work with, with a slightly stiffer hand as you begin kitting that softens up as you work, and then relaxes and drapes gorgeously after the first washing. If you have been part of the dishcloth/washcloth craze in knitting and crochet and have only been using cotton yarns for your creations, then you ought to indulge yourself with a bit of linen.

The shelves to the right of the King Tut cotton hold a melange of assorted yarns in a number of fibers, some conventional, some not so conventional. In addition to having some really pretty cotton or linen blends and natural, undyed cottons in an amazing range of soft colors, did you know that Kiwi carries yarns made from bamboo? Corn? Soy? Even milk! Bamboo yarn has a sheen reminiscent of silk, and an incredible drape. Corn and soy can resemble cotton. Kiwi even carries a sock yarn, Tofutsies, by Southwest Trading Company based here in Arizona, made with soy fibers. For you crocheters, Kiwi has a nice range of crochet yarns suited to delicate traditional lace work.

And if - even though some would say you would be spoiled with choice - you just can't find your perfect color among the King Tut Cotton, then just turn around and take a look through the Tahki Cotton Classic. Cotton Classic is another tried and true stand-by of a cotton yarn, also available in a multitude of colors.

Now, this is by no means a perfectly comprehensive list of all that is to be found in the Veggie Room. So come by, take a look and think about patterns such as baby clothing and blankets, washcloths and dishcloths, intricate lace doilies and cool summer garments for yourself.

On a personal note, last week I traded this view:

For this one:

If you and I have talked much, you probably know that I grew up in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State, Hyde Park, to be exact. All my siblings and their families are still in the area, and two weeks ago my parents - who live here in Tucson and spend their summers up in Montana complaining about the cold weather - made one last car trip back east to spend time with the rest of the family. Everyone was there except me. So a week ago yesterday my husband surprised me with tickets for me to fly back and spend time with the whole family.

Oddly enough, while you here in Tucson were having cooler and rainy weather, we had gorgeous weather of the kind that you forgot summer could have. I spent most of my time with one of my sisters, and we visited several of my favorite spots (she is always very good to me that way) or sitting and knitting (me) or reading (both of us) in her back garden. There is something so charming about being in a village where the library is right across the street! My ideal situation.

I returned this past Monday, and started summer school classes on Tuesday morning. And I happily report that I have a 4.0 for my spring semester classes.

So I hope that whatever you may do this summer - going on a trip, relaxing at home, or spending time with your loved ones either way - that your summer brings you the kind of special moments and irreplaceably wonderful memories that my trip afforded me.