All posts by lita

Mom & Grandmom. I don't mind frogging, and I love exploring and mastering new techniques. My favorite yarn brands include Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, and Twisted Sisters. My yarn super power is telling which yarns have silk content from a single touch.
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The babies are coming….the babies are coming….

It seems like so many acquaintances are looking forward to the birth of a baby in the near future. Mackenzie just knit up 3 baby sweaters and I knit 2 recently. I absolutely couldn’t wait to knit the first one because it was designed by Mackenzie. I mean, how many times do you get to knit a pattern your own daughter designed? A real, published, actual pattern?

image1I knit it out of Malabrigo Sock Yarn in the Aguas Colorway. I found some awesome unicorn tails by Madelintosh for the contrasting colors. The unicorn tails are crazy amazing because they are small skeins of yarn so you don’t pay an arm and a leg for a large skein, using only a fraction of it for the contrasting colors.

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While I was knitting the pattern I kept telling my husband “Mackenzie is so smart.” Creating a pattern is no easy task: coming up with the design, figuring out the pattern repeat while keeping in mind the gauge of your yarn and having it come out the right size is just the first thing to think about. How big does the neck need to be to go over a head? How do you compensate for colorwork size versus your normal gauge on the body? How do you write it all down so someone else can follow and understand the pattern?  I got the right gauge and ended up with the correct measurements. I am pleased as punch with the end result! At the baby shower the sweater was passed from person to person for closer inspection accompanied by many oohs and aahs. It is a lovely top down raglan  pattern that would be great for beginning color work knitters. I think the best part about this sweater is that it lends itself to either gender and changes appearances greatly depending on the colors chosen.

My second sweater was a bit complicated. It’s called Dragon-skin Wrap by Angela Hahn. I tried to knit this one other time and felt is was too complicated, so put it away. Then 2 weeks ago my sister-in-law contacted me and asked if I would knit a sweater for a girl baby shower. I had some coral colored cotton blend yarn in my stash that I had orignally bought for socks. I saw it and remembered this pattern and decided to give it another try. This time my mind grasped the design and I got it done – along with a hat. The flowers were the funnest part of the whole project.

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So, two babies done and several more to go. The world is exploding with children and joy. I am thankful every day for my children and the people they have turned into. Blessings to all those little ones coming into the world.

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To infinity and beyond

I made several infinity scarves for Holiday gifts this year. I had NO IDEA there were so many ways to knit a circular piece of cloth.

1) Knitting in the round from the start.
2) Knitting the scarf starting with a provisional cast on, picking up the stitches upon completion, then joining using kitchener stitch.
3) Use a permanent cast on then join by using mattress stitch.

I discovered I really like the reversible look. There seem to be many ways to accomplish this as well:

1) Double knitting – I tried this and totally failed because I couldn’t figure out a way to keep the tension equal on both sides. That was a project that was totally frogged and is currently awaiting a rebirth.
2) Knitting a piece twice as wide as you’d like in the end, making a purl stitch column/row in the middle so you can fold it in half when wearing.
3) Knit the scarf twice – but the inside version was 2 inches shorter than the outside version. Join the two to create a reversible look.

I can’t say as I totally won with my projects. Once they were knit I ran into another challenge – how do you wash and block an infinity scarf? Here’s what I did:

1) If knitting then joining by mattress or kitchener stitch, just wash and block, then join as the last step.
2) If knitting in the round, use your yarn swift.

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Do you have any insights into infinity scarf knitting? I could definitely use all the help I can get!

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Little Bit of Good

I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store last night. A cookie pack in my hand was my contribution to the lock-in at my local yarn store (Stitching Memories).

Lock-ins occur one night a month and consists of  knitting, eating, laughing, and sharing – while knitting with fellow knitters, of course. It’s a great time to escape the grind and connect with fellow pickers and throwers.

As I was waiting to pay for my pack of cookies, the gentleman in front of me was getting ready to pay for his groceries. When the total cost of his groceries was tallied, he was short. I looked away, thinking that by looking away I would ease his discomfort at having to go through his groceries and figure out what to leave behind and what to keep. Inside I was thinking “I’ll do this man a favor by acting as if nothing is happening. This will make him feel less uncomfortable.”

The process of picking out one item at a time and re-tallying his total went on for 5 or 6 items when the lady behind me spoke up and said “Excuse me, but how much are you short?” The gentleman said “about twenty – two dollars” at which the lady replied “I’ll pick it up.” The gentleman expressed his thanks and the lady picked up the rest of the tab. I could have said things like “but you were buying chips and lemonade mix and things that aren’t essential, so why should I help?” or “everyone has hard times and you have to learn how to live with whatever is given to you,” but honestly… the lady behind me got it right.

She showed compassion without judgment. Every time I think of compassion lately, I also think of all the news stories of so many refugees fleeing such horrific living situations that they are willing to risk their lives to escape. That’s a fast track to becoming totally overwhelmed with the needs of so many. So the subject of charity has been swimming and swarthing (that’s a made up word, by the way) in my head and heart.

I have come in contact with so many knitters that knit for others, out of pure compassion.  Making hats for preemies, for instance. I recently ran into someone who knits blankets and outfits for stillborn babies in the hospital. Western Michigan University has a special scholarship program for kids who have graduated from foster homes. That may sound great, but these kids are basically too old for foster care and have not been adopted – so a local group knits items to give to these young adults for Christmas each year. There are so many ways for knitting to touch the lives of others.

I have been knitting several items for a nonprofit organization that provides coaching and support to missionaries. This organization (Coaching Mission International) has a fundraising Christmas Bazaar each year. I have a lot of time to knit in the evenings so why not use some of my knitting time to turn yarn into items to donate for this cause? So here are a few of the items that I made this year:

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And as I keep stitching and shopping and moving through my life, I’m going to keep working on this compassion thing and hopefully get it right more often.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

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He made my dream come true

I was brave today and tackled the refrigerator.  A frustrating, hit-my- limit-ready-to-explode week at work had ended.  So what better thing to do on Saturday morning? The fridge hadn’t been cleaned in months …yes months (I am not proud to admit this).

And oh my…. it was a true adventure: 4 containers of sour cream with small amounts of green goo, a small pitcher with what must have been some sort of sauce that boasted its own ecosystem…. I don’t need to go into great detail.

The upside was a lunch consisting of wonderful finds: 1 canned peach, a small sliver of almond paste, a small glass of homemade grape juice.  I think cleaning the fridge was my way of taking control over a small part of my life after feeling so out of kilter all week.

Another get-my-life-back-in-order task was organizing my yarn stash.  I had skeins of yarn hither and thither throughout the house in various drawers and closets.  My first year of knitting I was monogamous – 1 project and 1 yarn.

This soon deteriorated – kind of like my fridge.  I didn’t know what I had where and how much.  As I was walking through the grocery store one day, a wine bottle rack caught my attention and an idea struck me – this is exactly what I needed for organizing my yarn – only bigger.

I am blessed to be married to a handy man, woodworker, artist, photographer, birder, luthier, computer guy.  Upon returning home from shopping I chattered and chattered about this great idea.  Well, you know what he did?  Yup…. he made my dream come true.  All my yarn is now in one spot right by my chair where I knit at night, beckoning to me and whispering dreams of projects ahead.

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Hoodies for Life

A dear friend of mine recently passed away at the age of 93.  She was a bright, smart, pragmatic woman.  She insisted on being called Mrs., becasue this was how it was done in Germany, her land of origin.  Once you became her friend, you were given the privilege of calling her by her first name.

She was also a patient of mine, who came to see me every 4 months at the office.  When she came, she would bring a knitting project she had completed or I would smuggle my latest project into the exam room to share with her.  She sent me a hoodie pattern that was a long standing favorite.  We would talk and laugh about current events, people in our lives, the latest struggle we were experiencing. I must admit,  I looked forward to seeing her as much as she looked forward to coming.  She would laugh during her visits and say “Imagine looking forward to coming to a doctor’s office!”  I would laugh and reply “What we do behind closed doors remains a secret.”

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Her heart started failing.  She called to tell me, “Lita, I just wanted to let you know… my health is heading West and I wanted to let you know how much I have treasured our time together.  If my health does not hold up until my next visit, I hope someone has the common sense and decency to let you know.” She came one last time to my office against my advice,  so tired that any little movement made her gasp for breath.  We again laughed and talked.  She said “you know… they told me the other day that my heart is getting worse.  I am so overjoyed.  What am I going to do at 93 anyway?  I am ready.”

I then went to see her one last time a week later after she had been transferred to a hospice facility.  She was asleep when I entered the room. I sat for 20 minutes in silence absorbing her presence.  Then her eyes opened and suprise and pleasure flooded her face.  We talked for awhile and she said, “You know… I always wanted to have you come and eat lunch with me and we could be friends.” My reply: “We are friends, we have always been friends.”

What else can you do to honor a knitting friend? Except knit a hoodie for a baby who has entered the world – to complete the circle of life.

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Pattern: Sweat Pea Cardigan from 60 Quick Baby Knits Yarn: full o’ sheep 100% peruvian wool ( Red Heart) weight #4 Needles: size 4
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The projects just kept flowing (pun intended)

Artesian: relating to or denoting a well, drilled perpendicularly into water-bearing strata lying at an angle, so that natural pressure produces a constant supply of water with little or no pumping.

Synonym: flowing  (Google search)

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Yes, Romi Hill’s Artesian shawl is just that:  flowing asymmetrically off the shoulders to points.  What a brilliant pattern and yet so simple and quick to knit – just knits, yarn overs, and short rows.  Time from start to finish?  A neat 10 days of evening knitting.

So much fun… I knit three in a row. A knitting record!

The first creation, intended for my sister Diane, was knit from Madelinetosh lace weight, color Spectrum (the blue above).   I tried it on, wore it to a dinner …. I LIKED it a lot!!!  I never considered myself a shawl-bearing person but its beauty and simple elegance captured me.

The shawl insisted on staying with me.  We had multiple discussions – it was supposed to be a gift! – but the shawl would not relent.

No sweat. I had purchased 2 skeins of Spectrum and used only one.  I could just knit a replica for my sister.  But where is that other skein you ask?  Hmmm…. if only I could find it.  BUT… 2 partial skeins of Madelinetosh Wicked (the deep purple above) peaked out from my stash so…  a second Artesian was born.

Then the missing Spectrum reappeared on the floor behind my knitting chair while vacuuming (yes, cleaning does have some benefits).  The first Spectrum shawl was so lovely and I knew my sister would love one just like it.  I checked in with the original and indeed, it was adamant about remaining with me.  So a third Artesian shawl was born.

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New technique learned:  Russian splicing.

When I first started knitting with lace,  I joined new yarn by knotting it to the last of the old yarn.  I couldn’t figure out how to hide the join – with heavier weight knits I would knit the 2 yarns simultaneously for a while, then weave in the ends. Hiding the ends in an open lace pattern is much more difficult.

Then I came upon Russian splicing.  This method looked a little unnerving at first, but I bought  a sewing needle with a sharp end and a large eye and found that if you slightly untwist the yarn as you thread the needle through the strand, you end up with a fabulous, strong join that is imperceptible.  Nice! You also have to make sure you thread a long piece of strand through.  If it’s too short, then it is not strong and gives way. Give it a try!

For visual learners:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0103qC6GH8I

For written instructions:

Increases- Techniques with Theresa: Knitty Spring+Summer 2010

http://knitty.com/ISSUEss10/FEATss10TT.php

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Crazy

Christmas came and many knitting gifts were given.  I completed the last of 3 projects  two  days before Christmas, so felt “in complete control”!

I was most nervous about my son Aaron’s sweater.  Here’s the saga.

I found this no-longer-in print sweater pattern  on  Ravelry and through communication with the person that posted the picture, was able to find and buy it from a vendor on Etsy.

As I was knitting, I was convinced the sweater was going to fit the Jolly Green Giant.  The back measurements seemed to be fine, but the front measured 4-5 inches more than the extra ease recommended for a contemporary cardigan.

Add to that the yarn: a 75% wool, 25% angora mix. On the skein, it seemed springy with a lot of life.  After listening to knit.fm, I washed each individual piece first and then assembled it using mattress stitch. The yarn softened a lot and created even more ease.

When Aaron put it on, I was right – too big!!!  Here is the saving grace – the back and shoulders fit well.  The sleeves were 1 inch too long and the front panels were  each 2 inches too wide.

Here’s the cool part – I had just finished watching a Craftsy class about sweater surgery.  Here was my chance to practice those new mad skills!  Forget that I had never practiced on anything before. Knitting that recommended baby sweater and following along with the instructor?  Ha!!  Why not start with a  real sweater just given as a gift instead?!?!  That’s how I roll.

The first thing I realized was that the pockets in front did not allow me to take in the side seams  from the bottom.  The hips fit well anyway, so that was no big deal.  I had Aaron put the sweater on inside out and then pinned the side seams to find the right fit.  I  better visualized this line by basting with bright green yarn.

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Then off to sewing machine I went.  Who knew that knowing how to sew would come in handy with a knitting project?  I followed the green line in order to sew the new seam, using a small enough stitch to be sure and catch all the yarn.  As I approached the green yarn, I would pull it out so that it did not get caught up in the sewing.

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Then I sewed a second seam just to reinforce.  Having a walking foot on my sewing machine proved key, since it kept the yarn from pulling out of proportion while sewing.

Next…… cutting the yarn.  I have to admit that I talked this through with myself and all those in my proximity multiple times prior to the actual cut.  Then snip!!

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Next the sleeves – an inch too long.   The first step was undoing my mattress stitch in the sleeve so that I could work with the sleeve laid flat.  Next, I  snipped one leg  of a knitting stitch and unraveled the sweater close to the  ribbed cuff.  The cuff  became totally detached from the arm.  I unraveled the arm for 1 inch.  Then I grafted the cuff back onto the sleeve using kitchener stitch.  Voila!

A couple of other modifications I made while knitting the cardigan: The pocket edge called for ribbing  but I didn’t like the look of this, so instead knit the pattern for the body and used i-cord bind off  to finish the edge.

The collar was also a ribbed collar and I found it very heavy and bulky, so I picked up stitches around the neck opening once the sweater was assembled and knit the pattern used in the body.  After completion, I picked up stitches along the outside edge of the collar and used i-cord bind off to give it a more finished look.

All in all, another crazy, fun, nerve racking adventure.    Here’s the final product.

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1966 Shawl- Collar Cardigan using yarn from Kimmel Croft Fibers “Softie” 75% merino, 25% white angora , 2 ply DK weight yarn.

What I have learned and enjoy most about knitting  is that it’s not permanent once knit.  There was a time when I would have cried, ripped this sweater out and called it a failure.   Listening to podcasts, enrolling in classes, hanging out with fellow knitters, haunting the local yarn shop ( I have a great one in my town:  Stitching Memories) – all brings about a new understanding and development of skills.  And I suppose it doesn’t hurt to be a little on the crazy side as well.

 

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Chocolate Chai

While Mackenzie is using her acute night vision to work on her lace and bead shawl, I have created a new beverage – well it may not be new but it’s new to me and I thought it up this morning when I got out of bed: Chocolate Chai.

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I bought some Bengal Spice Chai tea and found that if I heat up milk in the microwave and steep a chai tea bag I have chai tea made easy.  When I woke up this morning, I thought “why not add chocolate to the chai tea?”  So I mixed up some powdered sugar with a little cocoa powder and added it to the steeped chai tea.  Voila!  My tummy was very happy this morning.

My brain is always thinking of ways to change something.  I never follow a recipe, I try recipes never tried before on company (they are, of course, improvised out of the gate). This also holds true for my knitting.

One example is this Color Affection scarf I knit for Mackenzie.

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Color Affection by Veera Valimaki in sock weight yarn

The pattern called for changing the colors every other row, but I found that my colors were similar enough that they blended too well and the striping effect was lost. I knitted 4 rows for each color before changing to make the stripes more distinct. It was a small change that made a big difference.

Flexibility and learning skills that help the execution of my ideas are my latest goal. I just finished watching a Craftsy class that was fabulous: Sweater Surgery. I feel so excited to think that the sweater that I have almost completed for my son Aaron will fit him in the end – regardless of how it fits him initially.

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The problem with knitting for others is the fit issue. I took measurements prior to starting the project, but failed to obtain all the ones I needed – part of the learning process. Because of this class, I now know how to lengthen or shorten, widen or narrow an item after it has been completed. When I finish assembling this sweater, I will post the pictures of how it fit initially and then keep you posted on the adjusting event. Now I can look forward to Christmas, and the anxiety cloud that follow me wherever I go is much smaller. I think another cup of chocolate chai is in order.

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Intoxicated

I thank my daughter, Mackenzie, for allowing me to be part of Rain and Moon. I’m not sure if I’m the rain or moon, but I am, with great pleasure, part of the environment.

My knitting life was born three years ago. I had completed a stint of 22 years of homeschooling my three children while working evening and weekend shifts in the hospital as an RN. Those years were packed full of teaching, nursing, being a wife and mother with no time for the development of hobbies. My one side interest was flower gardening. (I found this very therapeutic since the children soon discovered that if they came out in the garden to ask a question or need help, they were put to weeding. Thus, small amounts of quiet time were captured in my too-busy-life.)

When my youngest son , Avery, was a Junior in high school, I realized that I could think beyond hospital work and imagine going into other avenues of medicine. This brought about 2 years of nurse practitioner training in my early 50’s. This in turn took me to an 8-5 Monday through Friday job with evenings and weekends free. I had no hobbies other than gardening. I felt many losses but also joy – children in college or graduated and doing well. My son, Aaron, said “Mom, you need a hobby.” I joked and said the first hobby I had in mind was developing a tolerance for alcohol. (I am proud to say I can now drink 1/2 beer with success.) My daughter, Mackenzie, said “I think knitting is for you.” She had decided to pick up knitting, and through watching you tube videos  became an accomplished knitter. She knit this pair of mittens for me and I found them truly enchanting.image image(1)

They are the warmest mittens I have ever owned. Their intricacy and beauty are beguiling. Every time I wear them I think of my daughter.

Learning to knit a pair of socks was my ultimate goal. My first project was a pair of felted slippers for my husband. These were a grand start because the felting hid all failures. A pair of socks was my next conquest with much assistance needed. Then lace knitting? Sure, why not? The Leda scarf followed.

Soon I found myself knitting this sweater for my mother – with massive revisions, of course. (I wanted to desperately make something for my mother, as she had devoted and still devotes so much time making quilts and food for others.)

Jali Cardigan by Pam Powers Knit with Sublime baby merino silk dk. 75% extra fine merino, 20% silk, 5% cashmere.
Jali Cardigan by Pam Powers Knit with Sublime baby merino silk dk. 75% extra fine merino, 20% silk, 5% cashmere.

Every evening now finds me anxious to get home from work and start on my next knitting project. The feel of the the yarn, learning about fibers, figuring out which one works best for the project at hand, and the feeling of my hands moving and swaying with yarn: slipping, looping, sliding….. the finished project, the smiles when something is given away…. I am intoxicated! Thanks Mackenzie – you were right. Knitting is for me. And my knitting tolerance far exceeds my alcohol tolerance.