Sunday, April 28, 2013

Is It About the Journey, She Asked Rhetorically?

"The world is full of people who will go their whole lives and not actually live one day. She did not intend on being one of them."

I have a refrigerator magnet with the above quote. Below the quote is a woman on a red Vespa-like bike, scarf blowing behind her, clearly enjoying piloting her very own path.

In my imagination, she hasn't figured out the destination, but the fact that she's making her own driving decisions is what really matters. 

If someone would have told me I would be designing for publication way back in 2009 when I joined Ravelry, I'd not have believed it. Between 2009 and today, I've presented a paper in Pittsburgh, found some painting mojo, walked the Champs Elysee, harvested grapes in Provence, photographed amazing tulip fields, volunteered at the first Vogue Knitting Live in New York City, moderated a shawl group and made more shawls for myself and others than I can keep track of, started my own wee business, and published my first designs collection. Some things haven't always felt perfect (there were those grape vines on a sweltering late summer afternoon with no water to be had - I consider it my grapey Waterloo), but it's always been exactly where I was supposed to be.

Throughout, I have never thought about where the journey was taking me, but far more about about the free-ish spirit on the red Vespa. In real bee fashion, I may have flitted from one place here to another project there, but I've remained true to my core, and I've received valuable and cumulative information along the way.

This bee has no desire to prognosticate concerning where I'll be in 2014 (although it will probably include participating in the 5th Annual KniCroBlo week). I do expect that I'll still be inspired by the scarf blowing in the breeze behind the woman charting her own course on that red Vespa.

And if anyone would like to donate a Vespa to let me ride in style along the way, I'm game. Preferably a red one, please.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Let's Talk Tools


Today is day five six of the 4th annual Knitting and Crochet Blogging week, and we're here to talk about tools.

Hmmm ... I have not really thought about tools all that much since, well, ever. I suppose, if I'm completely honest, I did think about them in 2009 after I took a tunisian crochet class at Stitches West. I came home, wanted to make something, but didn't have a proper tunisian crochet hook, so I fashioned one from a crochet hook, a knitting needle, and tape. And then I made a whole blanket with it. Desire can be a powerful thing.

Flash forward to now, and a test knit I recently completed. The shawl is constructed bottom-up, and I needed to do some major counting right off the bat, so I gathered up all of my stitch markers. It was the first time I had laid them all out - I wanted to see how many I had. Fifty-two was the final count. I was 8 shy of what I needed, but I made due.

So, I worked my next row, placing my stitch markers as I went. And then I got extremely familiar with all of my stitch markers (most of which I had never used).  I definitely found my favorites in pretty quick order.

Believe it or not, my absolute favorites out of the menagerie were the cheap plastic split-ring markers. They're lightweight, easily removable, and didn't get caught in my knitting. Not the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch, but really functional.

My second choice was the wire stitch markers just above the bottom left-hand silver "I love my cat" markers. They are incredibly lightweight, can actually fit a wide range of knitting needle sizes, and also didn't get caught in my knitting. The only downside was the lack of a split ring. I note that they are handmade and were part of a great swap package.

Then came the "I love my cat" markers, the two simple sterling rings with blue (right below the cats) and the gold coffee bean markers. The first two are aesthetically pleasing and didn't interfere with my knitting, and the coffee beans, while long and swingy, are very smooth - nothing to catch on one's yarn.

Finally, the middle set of cats, the silver rings with the gray and yellow balls and the leaves at the lower right did not work well. All of them kept catching on my yarn, and one of then actually broke mid-row. Not good at all. They have been permanently removed.

Who'd of thunk I could be so picky about stitch markers? What are your favorite markers and from where did you get them?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hey, It's a Completed Project

Happy Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday, everyone. It might be Day 5 of the 4th Annual Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week, but I'm taking the day off to share a finished project with everyone.

Even though I'm in the middle of my own design projects, a longstanding member of the Ravelry shawl group I co-moderate, Rosalia, posted a new shawl design and was looking for testers. Even though she received plenty of takers (really!), I offered to test her pattern, and she was kind enoungh to say yes. She has not only produced some beautiful shawls over the last three years, but she's been a warm and supportive member of the group, and I was thrilled to be able to support her designing efforts. I've just completed the test, and here's the result:


It's not in the Ravelry database yet, but you can view Rosalia's sample project page. The pattern is "On the Road," and I am thrilled with how this turned out. My version is not quite as deep as Rosalia's sample, but I used a slightly smaller needle size. Additionally, I blocked my lace section more aggressively to open it up, and I added beads along the edge.
I used a wool/bamboo/nylon sock yarn for the main body and edging, and Filatura di Crosa Centolavaggi held double for the lace insert section. Short rows are used in the body and I really enjoyed working them. I only used a little over 60% of the sock yarn skein, so one could add additional rows to deepen the shawl if desired. I really love how the short rows make it hug the shoulders. It's like a sunshine-y hug - thanks Rosalia!
Now definitely head on over to Andrea at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see how much sunshine everyone else is experiencing this Friday
I'll be back to the House of Bee and KniCroBlo blogging tomorrow. I've actually got a few things to say about tools.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Favorite - Color Review!

Here we are at the high water mark of this year's KniCroBlo week - the color day. There is nothing I adore more than talking about yarn color.

Color, color, color. The best place to start is with my stash. I decided to display my stash (well, most of it anyway) in blocks of color. Not only did that just make sense to me, but I was amazed at some of the things that became apparent once I had the five blocks all set up.

So, from front to back: the red block, the gray/cream block, the green block, the pinky/peachy/rust-ish block, and finally the blue block all the way at the far end. Additionally, I could have had a small purple block, as well as an equally small brown block, but there was no more room on the table.

It is clear to me that I actually enjoy stashing across a fairly wide color spectrum. There can also be little doubt that I love the red, green and pinky/peachy/rust blocks the best. The cream/gray block was sort of a surprise, in that I didn't realize I actually had that much neutral in the stash, although I do love that color combo. The other big suprise was the blue block: I thought I'd have far more than what's there.

Notably absent from the blocks are black and yellow. So much for being a bee. Can I please be a red and peach bee? Or perhaps a green and cream bee? Is there a snowball's chance in hell Mother Nature will help me out here?

It's somewhat difficult to get an accurate read on whether or not my projects reflect my stash since I design; in many instances, the project color is not something I can control. I also haven't included the small remains from previous design projects, because it would throw off my color preferences. 

Ok, isn't the block to the left just luscious? I do about 35% of my projects from this part of the color wheel (and stay tuned for a little later in the week - I've got a new project just completed from this block o' colors); I would do far more if I could - but of course I don't want to alienate the other colors I love. Colors have feelings too. Yes, yes they do.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the color out there in stashdom. C'mon people, show us some color!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

No Fan of Today's Prompt

I really don't like today's prompt. It smacks too much of corporate power point presentations (and I'm sorry if you're one of those people that create them - I mean you, personally, no disrespect).

So this was the best I could muster:

Denise + lists = 100% Epic Fail
Come back tomorrow for more and better stuff. This bee needs to, like, fly.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day Two - A Project Befitting a Bee

Our fair Mimi at Eskimimimakes (self-identified as belonging to the House of Monkey) has decided that for our second day of this year's Knitting & Crochet Blogging Week we needed to identify a project that, in some way, personified the house to which we belong.
So, ok. How to go about this. I could sketch something, do the swatchy thing, perhaps even paint something, but that would take loads of time - time that would be well-spent but that I do not have to spare because (hey, I'm a bee don't forget) I'm in the middle of several projects.
I am also, as I mentioned yesterday, in love with knitting and crochet books (and I have a keyword dedicated to it - crafting from my shelf). I also have a weakness for the awesomeness that is the Ravelry pattern database. Talk about code monkey extraordinaire - that Casey has developed the most amazing database tool like, ever. As a result, I initially logged into Ravelry, went to the pattern database, typed in "bee," filtered for all patterns with a photo, and pressed the search button.

Wrong move. 
Out spat over something like a gazillion patterns, including all those dreaded sock patterns. Gah. What next?
Flit directly to the nectar, of course - search my Ravelry library. Ha ha! Those monkeys have nothing on us industrious bees - nope, no siree Bob. Doing that yielded 5 hits, three from last year's fall Noro Knitting Magazine that, while lovely, I'm not exactly certain why they popped up.
Fine - I've narrowed it down to two patterns, folks: a lovely Drops dress made with two of my favorite fibers - alpaca and mohair - and the Fleas & Bees Blanket. I love a good blanket, but one with "fleas" in the name? No, thank you very much. That makes the decision super easy:

Even though this pattern was published a few years ago, isn't it still excellently relevant? It turned up in the results because the bodice and hem utilize a "beehive" stitch pattern.

While I probably would skip the ribbon, I actually love this search result. I might need to make this.

But not now. I have too many other projects on the hooks and sticks.

And I might still paint something.

Embrace the Bee within.

I managed to read several blogs yesterday, including one French and the other Swiss. Maybe I'll vicariously visit a few other countries today.


Monday, April 22, 2013

I'm a Busy Bee? Huh????

Hello everyone, and welcome to my third year participating in Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week. The fact that this marks the third straight year I'll be joining in this world-wide blogging week just floors me.

Mimi, over at has provided very intriguing prompts for this year's bloggers. The first prompt: to decide in which crafting "house" I belong. The four she set up: House of Bee, House of Manatee, House of Monkey and House of Peacock.

I deliberated quite a while on this first prompt, because each house, as described, contains some portion of my crafting personality (which parts will be revealed more throughout the week). However, the House of Bee won me over because, as Mimi puts it, "Bees are busy and industrious, but can flit from one interesting project to the next as bright and shiny things capture their interest." I am definitely a flitterer. I always have several projects going at once; float an intriguing new shawl pattern in front of me and my Ravelry queue will groaningly grow. And we won't even discuss my love of knit and crochet magazines - I can meditate on new ones for weeks.

Nevertheless, I still manage to complete a large number of projects each year, so I definitely enjoy the end result. Unlike some, I have come to love finishing - seaming, finding just the right button or other accoutrement is a joy - and we all know blocking is magic. While I design my own patterns, I also make other designers' patterns I enjoy, either for myself, to give away or, infrequently, in a tester role. I gift a good amount of the projects I finish, and I also love to lead others in a-longs to support other designers, all of which I suppose fits with the House of Bee. Don't those industrious bees all work together?

And, when I need to recharge, I like nothing better than to go outside and snap a few flower photos. I know my fellow bees have no issue with that.

Anyone for some tulips?

I do hope you, dear reader, check out as many knit and crochet blogs as you can this week. It really is a great world-wide celebration of all things sticks, hooks and yarn. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else is up to throughout the week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Little Test and Good Counting Gone Bad

This yarn will become a lovely new shawl - well, mostly the right-hand ball, with just a little of the light peach Centrolavaggi as accent. (That over 1500 yard behemoth has a few projects in its future.) This shawl is knit (yes, folks, it was time for a knitting project), and it's a test.

So, I took the yarnie photos a little while ago, and started in on the test. It's just my kind of knit shawl pattern - a little bit of lace for accent, and lots of knit and purl. I do knit and purl. I do a little lace. Clearly, however, I cannot count.

This is a bottom-up shawl, so of course one must cast on a gazillion stitches. Stitch markers at the ready, I easily cast on the requisite gazillion stitches. I used my favorite cast on method (cable) and I quite enjoyed it. I then worked the first row to perfection. Excellent. Pump winning fist in the air.

And then I got to the second row, which is just a minor variation of the first row - and the variation is in pattern stitch count. Well you know I got to the end of the row and was off. I went back and checked my stitches, and they looked fine. I thought I'd complete the next row (a repeat of the first row) and see if I couldn't catch and fix my mistakes on the return. Not only did I not find my errors, but I was off even more on the pattern stitch count on the third row.

What? I am decent at math. I write patterns that work, dammit. Why oh why could I not get in the groove with the beginning of this pattern? It seems that once off on stitch count, the bad stitch counting just got worse and worse, like scratching a mosquito bite or watching an out-of-control pile up on the interstate.

Yes, I did eventually get an accurate stitch pattern count. Don't ask about the foul-language glut to be found in the immediate area. I managed to corner that market all by my little ole self. I should have this shawl completed by the end of the month and it's a pretty pattern, so be on the lookout.

Now's the time to check in with Andrea over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see what everyone else is working on (and hopefully their stitch counting efforts are better than mine).

And don't forget - next week is the 4th Annual Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week. The daily subject prompts have been posted, as well as the post tags and a neat little poll. You know I'll be taking part, and I hope all of you will too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Those Shawly April Showers

Happy Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday everyone! It's April. It's raining. Finished shawls and other shoulderwear from March's crochet part-ay.

I'll start with the finished projects that were completed at the very end of March:

This is an additional interpretation of my own Le Bouquet Stole pattern. I love the neutral (and unfortunately) discontinued Araucania Ruca Multy colorway, and yes, I had that skirt in mind when I chose the stash yarn for this project.
Next up (and also for yours truly), is a brown version of my Rustically Elegant Shoulder Warmer made during my Ravelry group's March CAL (crochet a-long for the uninitiated):
I made the widest neck opening version of this pattern. As much as I love a warm neck, I'm not a big fan of turtlenecks and other things that fit closely around the entire neck. With this version, the cowl portion actually sits very comfortably on my shoulders.
I also want to take a moment and show you one of the other finished versions from the CAL (there are a few more that didn't quite get completed prior to the end of the month):
Kristina (thanks for letting me use your photo!) used worsted weight yarn held double. Contrast that with my version, which used a light worsted weight held singly. Mine might have more drape, but her version will be uber-warm. It's amazing that we created very different fabrics for our respective projects, yet they both work really well.

Add these two projects to the two I completed earlier in March - the Icy Snowdrop shawl and  A Script for Keeping Warm, and you can see it was a veritable hooking frenzy in March. I had a very enjoyable time, but now it's on to other projects.

Wonder what it will be raining next.

Don't forget to check out what fiber is raining down with everyone else over at the Wisdom Begins in Wonder Friday link-up.

And don't forget this year's annual week-long knit and
crochet blogfest is a mere few weeks away.

Monday, April 1, 2013

We Have a Winner - No Kidding!

Hello, and happy April! I am slightly late in posting a winner of my wee bloggy giveaway, but I can now:

Here are the potential winners' names in the glass candleholder ...

I did attempt to let George Bailey choose the winner,
but he was so not interested in having his nap interrupted ...

and (sorry for the slightly blurry cell phone pic), the winner is ...
Kathryn Ray of Kathryn's Brain and Alpacamundo! Congratulations, Kathryn. Do send me an email with your address information, and I'll get the magazine and yarn out to you.

And now I am happy to pass along this year's dates for the 4th annual KnitCroBlo Week - it's the last full week in April. I've participated in the previous two years, and I'm definitely looking forward to this year's bloggy events. I have found most of the blogs I read on a regular basis as a result of previous knitting and crochet blog weeks; I've also found the daily subject prompts get my creative juices flowing (even more than usual). I expect this year will be no different. Definitely check out Eskimimi Makes' blog post announcing this year's event, and follow along as she releases more information about it throughout this week.

And (again) happy April, everyone!