Dec 29, 2008

Why I Learned to Knit, ahem, Crochet

As part of the Ravelry Warm Ewe Up Winter Yarn Swap, we must blog at least once every other week. To help the blog-shy along, our swap coordinators have thoughtfully provided thought-provoking questions that we can answer on our blog.

Question # 1 asks, "why did I learn to knit?" Hmmmm, knit? But I crochet! Almost exclusively! But admittedly, I do knit, a bit, and just well enough to guide my 15-year old and 13-year old nieces along their knitting journey.

Ok, so why did I learn to knit? I learned as a 10-year old Junior Girl Scout where I earned my knitting badge. We're talking about the 60s now. Too many years ago and so many memories. Today's Girl Scouts don't even have a knitting badge; rather girls earn the Yarn and Fabric Arts badge, which is a sampler of knitting, crochet, macrame, cross-stitch, quilting, textiles, and other yarn and fabric crafts. Don't get me wrong; I think girls should be exposed to many different types of crafts, but not in a single six-activity badge. This cursory sampling just seems to reinforce what I see as a lack of attention span in many children today.
Okay, rant over. I picked up knitting needles again almost two years ago while watching Vicki Howell on the Knitty Gritty. Loved the show. Simple hats and scarves are the extent of my knitting repertoire.

As I said, I can knit, a bit, although I much, much, much prefer to crochet. Nothing personal, just my cup of tea. Why I learned to crochet is covered in my first blog.

Dec 20, 2008

No Longer on the Outside Looking In

As I write this, my girls are decorating the Christmas tree. Not me. Them. It's the first time they have done it on their own, from unpacking the tree from the tree bag, to assembling it and the tree stand, to stringing the lights, putting the star on top, and hanging the ornaments. I am not allowed to offer instructions, although I can point out gaps. They're doing an excellent job. We've been laughing about the traditions and funny things that have happened to us in the 10 years they have been living with me. And I realize the girls are growing up.

We (ok, me) always wait to put up the tree until the Saturday before Christmas (unless of course when the holiday falls on a weekend we do it the previous Saturday). When the girls first came to live with me, they were quite young and I was not ready to have them help with the tree, so I told them that we assembled the tree so that the elves could come decorate the tree while we slept. Made sense to them, so we would put out the ornaments and a little snack for the elves. Little did they know I stayed up to put on the ornaments. It worked great the first year but the second year I fell asleep. I did not realize what had happened until the youngest came into my room crying that the elves had forgotten us. I thought quickly and said that it was my fault -- I had heard a noise in the middle of the night, had gotten up to investigate, and accidentally scared away the elves. I assured them both that the elves would return again. That night, the youngest chastised me, instructing me to "stay in my room, even if I heard a noise." She continued to remind me every Christmas for four years.

When I thought they were old enough to help out, I let them go to bed thinking the elves would decorate the tree while they slept. Instead, I woke them up at midnight, handed them elf hats with elf ears, and told them the elves had a lot to do that night so they asked that the girls help out that year. When they fully woke up, we finished with the tree, we drank hot chocolate and watched a Christmas video. Even after the girls stopped believing in Santa and his elves, I would wake the girls up at midnight to decorate the tree, share a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows, and watch some TV.

Now, they are teens. Tonight, we have been talking about when they first realized Santa wasn't real. For one girl, it was the year I had ordered a computer and pretended that Santa had dropped it off a day early. I made the requisite hoof beats noises on the ceiling, had a neighbor knock on the door, and then encouraged the girls to help me check it out. They did not fall for it. The other one, well, she said she figured it out when all the presents were wrapped with the wrapping paper she had helped me pick out at the store the week before. Ah well, I gave it a try.

We've also been talking about the ornaments I have given them each year to celebrate a special accomplishment - learning to read, riding a two-wheeler for the first time, earning yellow belts in karate, tent camping, etc. This year's ornaments will be given out Christmas morning.

Yes, they are growing up. I hope they will remember some of the old traditions as we continue to make new ones.

Happy Holidays, everyone, and have a wonderful New Year.

Dec 7, 2008


A meme (rhymes with dream) is any idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve and can be passed from one person to another by learning or imitation. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, gestures, practices, fashions, habits, songs, and dances. Memes are not uncommon in crochet patterns, which often use asterisks to indicate when a series of stitches are to be repeated. Without them, patterns would be unending.
So *meme* this:

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now! Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST!
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence as a comment on this post, or in your own blog along with these instructions.

"It's not her fault she's old and ugly."

Whoa, what a bitchy comment. Straight from The Secret Circle: The Initiation and The Captive, Part I, by L.J. Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries, a seemingly unending series of books about teen angst depicted as choices about love between vampires, werewolves, and witches. No, I am not reading this book. My oldest Twilighter left it on the floor at my foot, along with yesterday's shoes, her current knitting project, and a permission slip for Junior ROTC potluck.

Dec 6, 2008

"Warm Ewe Up" Winter Yarn Swap

I've joined a new Ravelry swap. This is a secret pal swap, in which I must send one package a month for three months to a box buddy who will not know its me until the very end. Each package must include at least one skein of yarn. Creativity in choosing package contents our secret box buddy will love is highly encouraged!

For this swap, we have been asked to answer a few questions about ourselves. To start off, I am primarily a crocheter but can knit a bit. I learned to crochet more than 16 years ago but really only came back to it 8 years ago. I learned to knit for my Junior Girl Scout badge during the 60s but have only recently picked it up again. I am not as comfortable with knitting as with crochet. I can make hats and have learned a lot about techniques while watching Knitty Gritty. Other questions:

Do I spin? No, don't really have the desire to do so, although I do admire those who can draw pleasure from this task.
My favorite yarns/fibers: I like many fibers, including sport or DK weight cottons, superwash wool, synthetics like Berroco Comfort and Yarn Bee's Artistry.
Yarns/fibers I do not like: I am not much of a fan of novelty yarns, with the exception of narrow ribbon yarn like Katia's Grenada. Nor do I like rough, scratchy acrylics.
Yarns/fibers I would like to try but haven’t: Silk and silk blends. Never tried malabrigo, Lamb's Pride, Cascade 220 wool, or Noro.
My favorite colors: In no particular order, royal blue, lapis blue, emerald green, mustard yellow, rust orange, cream, gunmetal gray, soft buttercreme yellow (as in Reynolds Soft Sea Wool #754)
Colors that I don’t like: Easy -- pastels, unless it is the mellow buttery yellow found in Reynolds Soft Sea Wool. Not a fan of most PINKS and Lime Greens, well, you get the picture. I also have done enough things in sage greens.
My favorite types of projects to knit/crochet: Hats are a personal favorite, as are neck warmers, washcloths, and baby bibs. I am starting on larger projects, like tops, vests, and sweaters.
My current projects: These would be Christmas presents for the family, including a few hats and neck warmers, washcloths, baby bibs, and a man's vest.
My favorite Finished Object: I am proud of several FOs, including the Heirloom Christening Gown, the Vintage Neck Warmer, the Tunisian Hat and Scarf, and the AKA Medallion hat and Shawl. But my favorite would have to be the Lancer Blue Romper.
Techniques that I want to learn: slip stitch crochet, basic knit sock construction, Tunisian crochet in the round
Do I have a yarn winder and/or swift? I recently purchased a ball winder but do not have a swift, using instead the two strong arms of my kids or the back of a high backed chair.
How do I store my needles/hooks? I use several things, including a long narrow butter yellow leather bag I found at a thrift store in which I have my knitting needles and my tunisian crochet hooks. It can hold up to 14-inch needles/hooks. For portability, I have a leather zipped pouch to which I attached the plastic sleeve holding my stainless crochet hooks. I also store my extra hooks in a beautiful fabric case made by my first Ravelry Swap partner Bissa during the Twilight Knitting Swap.
Do I collect anything? Other than yarn? I collect Sasha Brastoff copper-enameld ash trays. I have several things that have images of trees and a few odds and ends of other stuff (some Sailor Moon 4" dolls and some of the McDonald's Happy Meal Madame Alexander dolls) but nothing I would call a collection. Besides, my place already is bursting at the seams.
Do I like sweets? Yes and no. Yes, because who doesn't? No, because I don't really need them. The latter aside, I do love Bahlsen Contessa, an Iced gingerbread cookie with dark chocolate from Germany.
What are my favorite scents? I love Burren Perfumery's Frond (original scent). However, due to allergies, I am not a fan of most scented candles, air fresheners, potpourri. I do enjoy incense, such as cedar, amber, rosewood, and jasmine. I am open to most scents but do not like what are for me cloying ones like vanilla, cinnamon, and other "fruity flavors"
Am I having a birthday during this swap? No
Do I have any online wish lists? No.
My living situation is simple -- I am a single "Aunt Mommy" to 2 teenage girls. No pets in the household.
My allergies: as noted above, I am sensitive to many perfumery scents and molds, which can bring on a bit of asthma. I also am allergic to certain tree barks, such as red mulberry, sweet gum, and white birch.
Is there anything else my swap pal should know? Can't think of anything.

Dec 1, 2008

Chain Reaction

Is it my imagination or are big box chain/discount stores reducing the amount of yarn they carry?

For the past six years, my "local yarn store" of choice was the A.C. Moore located just a mile or two from the house. My devotion was less about convenience and more about lust -- I blame (or is it credit) it's sizable and diverse yarn selection for helping me build my stash to the size that it is now. In fact, it was this large yarn selection that drew me back into crocheting. I had gone into the store to buy supplies for a Girl Scout project and like with any store, I wandered up and down the aisle just window shopping. I stopped short when I saw walls of beautiful yarn in a wide spectrum of colors and textures -- Katia's Grenada, Knitting Fever's King Tut Egyptian Cotton, Lion Brand's Suede, I could go on. Unfortunately, with the addition of each new store manager, the department shrunk, the aisles got narrower, and the staff grew blissfully ignorant. I hesitate to even buy yarn there because of the overwhelming, often conflicting scents of candles, potpourri, and other junk placed close by. I get a headache just walking into the store. I asked the most recent store manager and he admits that he plans to downsize even more and just carry the "thick yarn" that women seem to use for crafting, like bulky red, white, and green to make Christmas wreaths and stockings. Yukkk.

The local Joann's and Michaels stores also appear to be suffering from the same affliction. And just this past weekend, after a brief visit with my Michigan cousin, I see that Hobby Lobby's yarn department has shrunk as well. They have limited the yarn manufacturers they carry to just a few -- Red Heart, Bernat, Patons, Lion Brand -- and even then to a select few of their yarns.

What gives? Perhaps these big box stores think we are fueling our fiber addiction by buying online. Admittedly, my knitty and crochety friends and I have purchased online, but only after sampling the real stuff in person. Now that I think about it, I bought my skeins online from a LYS in Kansas City after I had visited its store. Perhaps the big box stores think real LYSs like Aylin's Woolgathers here in Northern Virginia or the handspun yarn stores that abound on Etsy will carry the load. I rather doubt it because most don't have the capacity or desire to carry a broad selection of yarns like the big box stores used to.

So, I guess I am reduced to shopping my own stash and hope that by the time I really "need" some yarn we have other options.