Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Ode to Self Indulgence

Anyone who has been within whine range of me has heard me exclaim - once or twice maybe, or perhaps even as much as three or four times - that I have been knitting Christmas gifts ever since the beginning of last July. That's seven months now. Seven. Very. Long. Months. It started to get on my nerves back in September or so. But now I finch and utter a little mewl of terror whenever I clap eyes on my very last, unfinished, Christmas gift project.

Don't mistake me. I love every single thing I've knitted. I've loved the yarn I've worked with. I love the people I'm knitting for. I love seeing them appreciate the beauty and the utility of what I have made for them. But dang, I'm ready to be selfish again. I've got some grandiose knitting schemes cooking in the back of my brain, just dying to be let out into the light of day and onto my needles.

Luckily, I always need to have a small project to carry with me for those times when I had better have knitting on hand to keep myself sane (would have helped a LOT this morning when I showed up for my class an hour early). And so sometime back at the beginning of September or so when I ran out of gift socks to knit, I cast on for a pair of Mermaid Mitts for myself.

I only had rare flashes of opportunity to knit them - a bit in the doctor's waiting room here, a row or two while waiting in line at the PO. It took until somewhere in December, I think, when I decided one day in a fit of pique to just get it the heck over with that I finally finished the danged first mitt. And now I am within spitting distance of finishing the second.

Mermaid mitts have hit the Ravelry world like a debilitating winter snowstorm - everyone is affected, whether you think it is pretty or not. If you are familiar with the Pomatomus sock pattern from and designed by sock designing goddess Cookie A, you will recognize the origin of the Mermaids instantly.

And if you think about it, a fingerless mitt is just a sock without heel or toe. Oh, and throw in a thumb.

I'm making mine with some gorgeously dyed and lusciously squishy Lorna's Laces sock yarn in a colorway called Baltic Sea. This is my first time working with this yarn and I have to tell you how very much I like it. The firm twist in the yarn gives great definition to textured stitches and yet it has a wonderfully soft hand that I just know, from trying on the first mitt over and over again to admire it, is going to feel really good on my hands in just a few short days.

So if, like myself, you haven't done anything extravagant and selfish for yourself lately, I encourage you to indulge in a yarn you perhaps would not ordinarily buy yourself - perhaps a beautiful cashmere or an alpaca yarn that speaks to you every time you see it in the shop, and make yourself a lovely little something to chase the winter blues on their way.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Old Pueblo Knitting Guild

I know that I have mentioned the wonders of our local knitting guild here on the Kiwi Knits blog in the past. But I see so many knitters at Kiwi that I do not see at the knitting guild meetings, that I think it bears a revisit.

I find that everyone's knitting guild experience depends on what one wants to take away from it. There are many in the guild who participate strongly in the many charity projects that our guild supports - Project Linus, preemie hats and blankets, Operation Gratitude, the Navajo Project - just to name a few. All very worthy causes, and I think it is wonderful that the guild is so heavily involved in giving back to our local and not-so-local community.

But I confess that I enjoy the guild meetings most for the educational opportunities that they offer. They can range from something so informal as one of your table mates giving you a quick demonstration of how to do a new cast-on, to sharing pattern ideas with other members and having the opportunity to pet unfamiliar yarns. I find that I always come away from a guild meeting filled with new ideas and inspiration for new projects. There is also a wide range of technique videos available to borrow for viewing at home.

The very best educational opportunity always comes from the speaker we have each month during the presentation portion of the meeting. Did you know that Amy Singer, creator and editor of and author of No Sheep For You will be speaking at our next guild meeting on February 19th? Our new Workshop co-chairs - Pat Wood, former owner of the Fiber Factory, and our own Jill Holbrook - have been organizing some wonderful workshops for this '08/09 season, along with our Vice-President, Judith Segel, who is responsible for bringing in a range of interesting presenters to talk with us each month. Now think about this - in the last few months alone, for the price of your $20 yearly guild membership, you get to hear people such as Amy Singer and Galina Khmelova speak to the guild about their journey as knitters, teachers and designers, as well hearing them share some wonderful info relating to their particular specialty.

At the January meeting of the Old Pueblo Knitting Guild our presenter was Clare Campbell Park, demonstrating the power of color and how the use of color theory can relate to our creative process as knitters. Clare is a teacher in the Fine Arts department at Pima College, and she gave a wonderful demonstration. We all got to play with packs of color cards and see for ourselves how simply arranging the same cards in various way gave a completely different effect each time. I can tell you that the differences were very dramatic, and we all had a lot of fun playing with colors, and going around the room to see what color combinations others had come up with.

In fact, Clare was so inspiring that I and another guild member are now taking her Color and Composition class at Pima, and I'm taking her Mixed Media in Fiber class as well. I am having a blast! I always joke that kindergarten was my favorite part of school, because we got to make projects all day long if we wanted to. But to be honest with you, I'm not sure how much I am actually joking. To give myself the opportunity to nourish my creative side and allow it room to grow is so incredibly rewarding. I can already appreciate how these two classes are going to influence me as a knitter, as a teacher, and as a designer.

I'm a firm believer that to be a good teacher one must first be a diligent student. The moment that I begin to believe that I have nothing left to learn is the moment that I have nothing left to teach. So I eagerly look forward to seeing how this opportunity for me is going to trickle down into my teaching experiences with all of you. As a result of that one presentation at our OPK guild meeting, my life has taken a completely different, unexpected and delightful turn. How's that for the cost of guild membership?

Now mark down on your calendars - our guild meets on the third Thursday of every month, from 9:30 am to 11:30, in the Murphy Room at St Philip's Church at River and Campbell. Visitors are not just more than welcome, they are set upon by eager knitters! Come and sit with us, see if you would like to join us, and open yourself up to new opportunities to expand your life as a knitter.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Addi Clicks Are Here!

Addi Turbos are the preferred knitting needles of many a knitter's dreams. They are smooth, the join between cord and needle is seamless, the cords are very flexible - they are wonderful to knit with. The company that makes Addi needles, Skacel, are well known for their attention to detail, the quality of their product, and the fact that they stand behind everything that they make. However, Addi Turbos, as you know if you have ever bought them, are not the least expensive circular needles that are out there in the knitting marketplace. For a knitter to stock up on a range of Addi Turbos in various sizes and cord lengths would cost a small fortune. Believe me, they would be well worth it, but wouldn't it be nice to have another way to make that work?

Well, Addi now produces the interchangeable needle version of Addi Turbos, called Addi Clicks. Here, in one neat set, Addi provides you with 10 sizes of needle tips, from size 4 to size 15. With them comes three different cords in 24", 32" and 40" lengths. There is also a connector that allows you to join two of the cords together to get an even longer circular needle length if you wish. This adds up to over 30 different needle sizes and length combinations - without even going into all the combinations of lengths one could get using the connector to lengthen the cords. Multiply that by the last pair of Addi Turbos you bought for a new project, and you can begin to get a sense of what an enormous savings one of these wonderful kits would be.

One of the biggest bugs for many knitters about various interchangeable needle sets is the way that the needles are joined to the cords. They are notorious for coming apart at crucial knitting moments. Not so with these needles. The two sections join together with a push and a turn and a click - and they are locked together and ready for business. Think of the way that you change the paddle on your Kitchen-Aide mixer. Same idea. The kit comes with a very detailed booklet explaining how it all works, but trust me, it is as easy as pie.

If you are a new knitter just starting to collect your needles as you go from project to project, this kit will save you a fortune over your knitting lifetime. If you are a more seasoned knitter, this is a wonderful gift to yourself - truly a gift that keeps on giving. As with everything that Skacel introduces in the Addi line, they are much in demand and that makes them scarce until the production can catch up with the demand. And I believe that the more knitters that see them, the more knitters that will want a set for their very own.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Taking Stock

I don't know about the rest of you, but I seem - in spite of all my best efforts to make things different from all previous years - to run through the holidays like a comet. Really breathlessly fast and with my backside trailing flames. It always feels as though I heave a giant sigh somewhere about the second of January, and feel all my limbs just to make sure everything is still there.

It's a great time, therefore, to take stock of my knitting life. For me, knitting is a major portion of my life: I'm either teaching knitting, writing or blogging about knitting, photographing knitting, or - knitting. Okay, sometimes I stop to eat.

First, and the most satisfying part that paves the way to make the difficult bits easier, I like to stop and take a few moments to look back over what I have produced in the preceding year. I make a point throughout the year of photographing every project that I make. Sometimes there are photos of the process, especially if there is a technique that I am using on the project that I want to blog about later. But I always take photos of the finished project. If I have been really good throughout my year, I have also been keeping a written knitting journal. Here I'll make notes about the pattern used, the needles used, I tape in the ball band and a small bit of the yarn I used. If I make any changes to the pattern, I note them here. It always amazes me at the end of a year to stop and inventory just how many projects I have done, and what I have learned that has helped me to grow as a knitter during the year. This is the 'Pat on the Back' section of the knitting inventory.

The flip side, of course, of all this self-congratulation is to take a good long honest look at my UFOs for the year. All those projects that for one reason or another, got started but never got finished. My photography professor, lo those many years ago, gave us a good bit of advice. He told us not to spend a lot of time analyzing the art we liked, but to spend lots and lots of time really picking through to the elements of the art pieces that we didn't like. Break them down into small facets and spend time figuring out why that piece didn't work for us. You learn more from analyzing the things that don't work, than you learn by analyzing the things that do. Because at one point, you were so excited about this project that you bought the yarn and the pattern, and you took the time to sit down and cast on. Take a good hard look at the UFO and analyze the basic elements. What went wrong? Was it the yarn? Does it split, did you decide that you hate the color, do you not like the feel of it? If so, think about starting again with a yarn that suits you and the project better than this one does. Maybe it's the pattern - is it too complicated or not explained well enough? Then go get some help from your friendly neighborhood professionals at Kiwi to get your project back on track. Did you decide that you don't really like the pattern after all? Frog the UFO and look for another project that will suit your yarn. Is it not coming out the way you had pictured? Spend some time learning new techniques that will help you to get the results you want. And either put those UFOs to rest, or put them back in the queue for finishing.

Now go over to your yarn stash and take a good honest look at what you have. Some of the yarn in your stash was probably purchased with very specific projects in mind. Bag that yarn together and label it with what it is meant to be. You can always change your mind later, but at least assign it a reason for being now. Put that project in your queue for the new year. Other yarns in your stash were probably purchased just because. Just because they are beautiful, just because they were on sale, just because you had some time on lunch break and were feeling a bit down and wanted to reward yourself. Take time with each bit of yarn and think about how you would want to use it - maybe for a lace scarf, perhaps for a sweater or even some wrist warmers. Now have some fun, pull out the pattern books, and find the pattern that works for your yarn and your needs. Put it in your queue. There are always going to be yarns in your stash that will make you wonder why you ever bought them, or where the heck they came from and why. If you bought a lot of acrylic when you started knitting and now only knit with wool, find a local knitting guild and donate it. Sell it on ebay or trade it on Ravelry or Craigslist. Drop it off at the local nursing home or community center. Get it out of your life so that you can move on.

Now sit down with all the knowledge you have just gained about yourself and your knitting, and make a list of projects that you want to make this year. Challenge yourself with your new projects, and make this the year that you finally make lace, or try cables, or fair isle, or entrelac, or intarsia, or socks, or... Expand your mind and your talents.

If you need help to learn new skills, remember that is what we are here for at Kiwi Knitting Co. - to support your growth in your craft. I think that I can speak for all the teachers when I say that we don't just teach for a living, we live for teaching. I absolutely LOVE helping people. Look through our class schedule, arrange a private lesson with one of our teachers, come in and take advantage of the Knit Dr. sessions on Friday mornings. We can provide you with every level and type of help - quick questions at Knit Dr., group classes from the class schedule, private classes for your own group geared to your needs, and private one-on-one lessons. We are here to teach you and to share our own deep love of our craft with you. We know what we know because we sought out knowledge, and others were generous enough to teach us. Come pick our brains.

Happy New Year!