Exploring Carlisle.

Besides being a famous journalist and blogger, my husband plays bass for local ska legends Fink's Constant. Last week, the band played a wonderful little outdoor concert on Pomfret St. in Carlisle, PA. After telling me about the local scene, we decided to pack up Baby A.K. and explore the city a bit.

Carlisle is quite a gem - a well-kept college town with quaint shops and a nice historic district made it easy to while away a gorgeous Fall afternoon. Naturally, there was a high point: The Yarn Garden, on 10 W. Pomfret St. A wonderful little shop that manages to carry everything you need to get your knit on. They carry a wide selection of yarn from different companies, but I was most intrigued by some of the handspun, hand-dyed items from local artisans. I saw they had a class list, but sadly I can't remember what they were offering (I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you if you're interested: (717) 249-YARN). And everyone who was in the store, whether working or shopping, was friendly and courteous and didn't mind when Baby A.K. knocked some sock yarn all over the floor. I will happily visit this store again... and again...

So what did I buy (oh come on. You know I wasn't going to leave empty-handed.)? I had to keep myself in check - I have plenty of projects in the queue already. But that sock yarn that Baby A.K. "found" was calling to me. So one ball of SWTC's TOFUtsies in #730 "Light Foot" for Baby A.K., and one ball of Austermann Step in, I think, #08 "brombeer", for Husband of A.K. So come what may, I'll always have socks to knit. But I'll finish my pair of Koigu KPPPM first.

Got back to work on The Mystery Sweater last night as promised, and happily, all that's left is sewing the thing together. This might prove more challenging than usual, though... more on that in the next post.


A Memorable Anniversary... ?

Yesterday was the 5-year wedding anniversary of yours truly and Husband. We had it all planned out: secured the babysitter 3 weeks in advance, chose the perfect restaurant (we have history here), and then... a stroll down Riverfront Park? Revisit the garden where we were married? Go to our favorite hangout to read and drink coffee? The possibilities seemed endless.

10:30 am, I get a call at work from the babysitter. She went home early from her day job with a massive migraine. She was sweet - very apologetic, and even called me later that day after she slept a little in the hopes that she'd be feeling better. But it was not to be. Anniversary cancelled?

Luckily, all is not lost. Husband and I will be running away together to our favorite B&B in a few weeks for some R&R and awesome leaf-peeping. So... anniversary postponed.

In the meantime... I am so rockin' the sock knitting!

Baby A.K.'s first knitted socks came out... a little small, actually, but very cute. And she loves them... I'm a happy mommy!

And yes, I swear, I'm going to finish up The Mystery Sweater very soon, like tonight. But I couldn't help myself...

I had to start some more socks.
These are for me. Not much to see yet, but the finished product should be really beautiful. You can't tell from the picture, but I'm using the coolest DPNs for this - Lantern Moon's Sox Stix are only 5" long and super smooth to hold and knit with. I LOVE THEM! Seeing as that I can't seem to stop kntting socks, I'll probably own these in every size soon.

Alright... gonna grab a quick nap (trying to get rid of my own migraine), then we're gonna go explorin'. I'll talk about that tomorrow...


Trust Yourself, Trust The Pattern.

Last week I was at The Caring Place for the start of a new session, and I was talking to one of the administrators who happens to be a knitter.
"What are you working on?" she asked me.
"Socks for my daughter," I said. "My second pair!"
"Wow," she said, "I could never do that. I can only knit in rows!"

Sound familiar? We've all said something like this before, I'm sure. There's always some project out there that we really want to try, but then we read the pattern and begin to get nervous. It's "Advanced"! The pattern's "Advanced" and I'm just an (Advanced) Beginner! What the heck is this stitch they're talking about? Wait, what do they mean "crochet a picot edge"??? And then we throw the pattern across the room and go back to what we know.

I felt this way when I first decided I wanted to try to knit socks. When I told Dori, proprietress of my LYS, that it was time to try out some sock knitting, she set me up with yarn, DPNs, and what turned out to be an excellent basic pattern. Since I live pretty far away from her store (so yeah, I guess it's not really a LYS. It's more like a Not-So-LYS.), she kind of sighed and said, "If you have any questions or problems, give me a call, and I'll try to walk you through it on the phone."

When I got my sock stuff home, I read through the pattern and thought, what have I gotten myself into? The heel flap I kind of got, but the instructions for turning the heel were totally foreign. And I didn't really understand what a gusset was - had to look that one up in the dictionary. I was starting to get flustered, until I decided that I was just going to take the whole pattern one small step at a time. I understood the first part: cast on 64 stitches, join in the round, K1P1 for 2", K for another 8". And so I did that. Never mind the fact that I ripped it all out and started over about a dozen times - it was time well spent as I learned some valuable lessons about knitting in the round, knitting to gauge, knitting too tightly, and knitting on teeny tiny needles. But eventually I got it, and it was time to move on to that heel flap. Before it got too scary, I shifted my mindset. Let go. Trust the pattern. Do as it says, even if it doesn't make sense. It will soon.

So I followed the pattern, and suddenly the heel flap was done. Wow, that S1, K1 really makes a strong fabric. I followed the pattern some more, and to my amazement, a heel was turning. So that's how short rows are worked. I read on: PU&K around the side of the heel. Watching Knitty Gritty really helped me here - I saw numerous demonstrations on how to PU&K and managed to remember how to do it. Then I started the decreases... then knit knit knit... then decrease for the toes... then Kitchener stitch 'em up... then...

Sock! I MADE A SOCK! A huge acheivement to add to my arsenal of knitting know-how. Corny? Yeah, maybe a little, but who cares when you've made a wonderfully warm, useful, and downright handsome FO? And no pun intended.

So what's the point of all this?

  1. Challenge yourself with new, interesting patterns. Chances are they're not as difficult as they seem. No, seriously, they're not.

  2. Trust yourself, and trust the pattern, but don't be afraid to wing it a little. You're a better knitter than you think.

  3. It's only knitting. You can always start over. But you'll always learn something.


No Live Blogging...

... but still a successful LYS excursion. Especially if you consider spending only $37 successful!

Saturday was Yom Kippur, and although I didn't spend the day in synogogue, I did spend a great deal of time reflecting on the year past. I was able to focus more than usual; Baby A.K. let me... heck, she wanted me to concentrate, and played with Grandma a good part of the day. And why was I afforded this meditative luxury?

Because I was knitting Baby A.K. some socks.

Every time she came over to crawl around on me, I showed her the progress I had made on her sock. She'd get so excited about having her own pair that she'd run back to Grandma and exclaim, "Mommy make sock!" And so I was able to finish the first one real quick. The Mystery Sweater has to wait.


Live From N.J.

It's been one of those weeks... meetings, dinners, kickoff session at The Caring Place... but fear not, my loyal readers, I'm still with you. I'm heading East later today to end the High Holy Days with my family, and, if the Internet server gods are with me, I'll be blogging to you live from my favorite LYS. Sadly, due to the extravagance I heaped upon myself at KDO, I won't be spending much money there, except on DPNs for more sock knitting.
OK, place your bets - how long will I last before whipping out that credit card?

See you in New Jersey.


One (Pair) Down, Two To Go.

The socks are finished!

And they came out great, if I do say so myself. The pattern said to cast on 64 stitches, but after doing so and ripping back so many times, I knew that 64 stitches would never fit my hubby's muscular calves. 80 stitches worked out perfectly - I guess my calculations for decreases and PU&Ks were right-on. The next pair of socks I make will be for Baby A.K. - the purple Cascade Fixation is in the queue - and then I'll make a pair for myself. Luxury awaits... I've got Koigu KPPPM for that project. Nothin' but comfy, warm feet for Family A.K.!

But first, I'm going to finish... The Mystery Sweater. More on that later.


KDO '07.

Today, finally, was the annual Knitter's Day Out event at Central Penn College, the knitting extravaganza I'd been anticipating for a month now. I met up with my S&B pals at a local diner for breakfast, then we headed over to do some damage.

Newbie that I am to these yarn convention things, I have to say that I was completely bowled over by the whole event. As we walked in the door, the first thing we saw was where to leave our hats for Caps For Kids. It was hard to miss - a table and Pack 'N Play were literally overflowing with wonderful warm hats for a LOT of deserving kids. Woo hoo... go Central Penn knitters! Then we walked into the Market area... and ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh man. Gorgeous hand spun, hand dyed yarn from local artisans - I had a particularly hard time passing up Cherie Anne's offerings. Many fantastic shops selling yarns, notions, patterns, needles... everything. This will be a nice shop to visit next time I'm in Happy Valley. I had a really nice conversation with Lydia who runs Gurdy Run Woolen Mill, a working farm where yarns, rovings, fleeces and felt are all processed on-site. And finally, I think I found the one thing that I was really looking for: someone to teach me to spin. I'm going to start with a drop spindle, which I already own but can't figure out, and if I nail that, I'll move on to a wheel. And I won't be alone in my spinning frenzy: my friend Cris from our S&B is taking the plunge with me. I can't wait to schedule our lesson.

When we came up for air, this is what we owned:

Cris went nuts with sock yarn.

Joan bought a pattern for a really cute pumpkin bag. The book has some really nice knitted present ideas. And the lamb is a tape measure... hmmmm, where'd she learn about that little guy... ? ;)

And Lori bought a couple of patterns - her first lace pattern there on the right - and some speedy Addi Turbos.

As for me, I blew my budget.

Those skens of awesome, hand dyed boucle (trust me, they're awesome. I really need a better camera.) are going to become a jacket someday. Many thanks to Uncommon Threads for making it easy for me to hand over my credit card. The small ball of purple yarn will become socks for Baby A.K. someday sooner. And the pattern for fingerless gloves may very well be the holiday present I give to my cubicle neighbors (and myself, natch), who all suffer in the winter from sitting next to drafty windows.

As we were leaving, we got word that another yarn festival would be coming soon... to Pittsburgh. ROAD TRIP!


Look, I Made A Hat... Where There Never Was A Hat.

Now to answer the burning question: what did I decide to knit while I waited for my sock yarn to arrive?

OK, it's not a big stretch. I had plenty of that wonderfully soft lavender yarn left over after the first hat, so... I call them Hat and Little Sister Of Hat. Made to fit a toddler and a preemie. When I started knitting the second one, I thought I'd just give the larger hat to Baby A.K., since she loves it so much. But something rather life-altering happened to me yesterday and I decided that both hats will go to charity. I hope they find a good home/s. And I'll talk about the life-altering thing another day.

Meanwhile, guess what arrived in the mail today? No hostage situation at the post office after all - my sock yarn is here!


Need... Project! Need... PROJECT!!!

I haven't been myself these past couple days. Jittery, unsettled, can't concentrate, bored... it must be YARN WITHDRAWAL. I haven't knit a thing this week. The hat's done, I'm still waiting for my yarn to finish Husband of A.K.'s socks (BTW, this is what he does all day), I have a sweater that's been waiting to be finished for 2 years but there's no sense in getting into that since the sock yarn will be here any day and anyway I promised H of A.K. that I wouldn't touch it until his socks were done and where the heck is that sock yarn anyway you'd think it was being shipped from Siberia or somewhere that doesn't have a post office could someone at the post office be holding my yarn hostage... ?

pant, pant, pant I'm OK... really. Just... catching... my... breath... pant, pant, pant

One good thing, though - I got a copy of Lion Brand Yarn's Fall/Winter catalog today. Lots of cute patterns in there - Baby A.K. will probably be sporting a pair of the nifty Wool-Ease socks sometime soon (after my 2-year-old sweater, of course), and the Cable Luxe Tunic is so me. You know, I used to shun Lion Brand, and for the dumbest reason: it wasn't carried in LYSs that I'd visited, so I figured it must not be very good quality yarn. It didn't take long for me to get over this yarn prejudice - since my LYS isn't so L, sometimes I just needed to get a fix when I was in-between projects. Or a friend's birthday would suddenly show up on my calendar a week away, and I needed a quick gift of knitted goodness to give. I can always find it at the nearby craft stores, the quality is very good, and... well, I just like it. And I'm not ashamed of that.

Hmmmm... I think I have an idea for a knitted something while I wait for my sock yarn... tune in next time to see what I've gotten myself into...


How You Have To Finish The Hat.

The Caps For Kids hat is finished.

It's a nice hat, definitely warm and hat-like. And for my first hat, not bad. I think in the future, though, I'll try a more interesting pattern, maybe some cables or intarsia.

Baby A.K. certainly liked it - she ran around the house screaming, "MY HAT! MY HAT!" and wouldn't give it back. Better find that interesting, cables-or-intarsia pattern quick...


For Glenn.

I met Glenn during training and orientation for The Caring Place. There were a lot of us, but he stood out somehow - tall, quiet, but you definitely felt a sense of strength emanating from him somehow. We went on to become full-fledged volunteers, but we've only been grouped in the same session once (a session = 10 weeks). But we've seen each other around, during Caring Place seminars and activities, and also around the workplace (we work for the same company, but not in the same division. Not even in the same building.).

Time passed, and I noticed an article on our company's Intranet spotlighting Glenn and all of the volunteer activities he's involved with. There were, and I'm not kidding, between 15 and 20 organizations that he regularly gives his free time to. I was stunned - how does one person have that kind of free time? Or, more appropriately, how does one person have such a big heart?

More time passed, and through announcements at The Caring Place and through email, I learned that Glenn had cancer - many, many tumors throughout his body. He went through the ringer - surgery, chemo, medication - and at one point, his cancer seemed beaten. I saw him at a Caring Place quilt dedication (he, of course, had volunteered to help run the event that day), looking a little pale and tired, but he was SO happy to be there. His eyes really gave that away. He remembered me, and we chatted and I wished him continued good luck and good health.

Last week I received another email that Glenn won the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service, and was up for the national award in Washington, DC. His sister, who also works at my company, sent pictures of Glenn receiving the award from Senator Bob Casey. Sadly, this had to take place in the hospital - Glenn had been admitted for surgery to relieve some complications of his illness, which had returned. Yesterday, I got word that the surgery was not successful - he has a large tumor in his abdomen that can't be removed or operated around. He'll be moving in with his sister next week to rest and recover and... I don't even want to go there.

I could easily go on about how unfair it is that such a remarkable, generous person has to endure such suffering, but instead, I'll get to the point of why I wanted to talk about this. One of the email updates I received was from the volunteer coordinator at The Caring Place, who mentioned that while Glenn's been sick, he learned how to crochet, and has been making blankets that he's sold to raise money for organizations that support the less fortunate. Doesn't that just say it all? Even while battling cancer, enduring great pain and uncertainty, he's still giving his time to others. How many of us could, or would, do the same under those circumstances? I'm going to see if I can get some pictures of those blankets.

I may not know Glenn very well personally, but I'd like him to know he's changed my life. The hat is only the beginning.


Sock Status.

Still working on the hat for Caps For Kids, but hooray! Got word from my LYS that a nice new skein of Austermann Step sock yarn is on its way to my eager little hands. As you'll remember, this is the extra yarn I need to finish the Promised Socks for my husband, who's been patiently waiting for them for... many months. I don't remember how many exactly. And neither does he. Which means these are overdue. But c'mon... who wears wool socks in the summer (A.K fans in Iceland, Siberia, and the Arctic Circle excluded)?

Here's the answer to the question I posed on the last post. My absolute favorite musical ever.


Finishing The Hat.

So next weekend is Knitter's Day Out here in Central PA. I learned about it at my knitting Meetup, and I'm sorry I didn't know about this sooner. It's like a 2-day YA meeting (Yarnaholics Anonymous, natch). They're holding classes on tons of great knitting subjects, and they're setting up a Market for those of us who are easily separated from their hard-earned wages. I'm meeting some of my knitting pals for breakfast on the Saturday, then, since none of us registered for classes before the deadline, we're going to shop the Market and I CAN'T WAIT.

The KDO website mentions that they're accepting contributions for Caps For Kids with the admission fee (I'm pretty sure this is the right website. I Googled a few different Caps For Kids organizations, and the KDO website isn't specific and doesn't give a link (trying hard here not to be nit-picky, but c'mon, I'm a Web developer, I notice these things. Should really have a link.), so this is my best guess.). Having quite a lot of yarn in my yarn stash, and awaiting the arrival of another skein of yarn to finish my husband's long-awaited socks, I figured, how hard can this be? I'll knit a hat for a child who really needs it.

Which yarn to use? I had some leftover Zara from a baseball cardigan I made for my friend's son, but I'm not convinced I have enough. I had a lot of crazy odds and ends, but nothing really stood up and screamed "ME! ME! ME! USE MEEEEEE!!!". Then I found it - I have so much yarn left over from the Disastrous Baby Blanket (again, I'll blog about this another day. Oh, the shame...), the only way I can make amends with myself is to use this leftover yarn for a needy child. It's quite nice, too - lavender, super-soft acrylic... perfect.

What pattern to use? I need this to go quickly, so lucky for me, Caps For Kids had their own patterns for both knitted and crocheted hats. So I casted on, joined my stitches in the round, and I'm off and running. Interestingly, the pattern doesn't mention knitting this hat circularly. And uses the word "row", not "round". Please, please, PLEASE let these strange oversights be the fault of some overworked proofreader and not my inability to read a pattern... please!

What do you think? Looks good so far on Baby A.K., so how wrong can I be?

Bonus points to anyone who knows where the title of this post came from.


Craftsters Of A Not-So-Different Stripe.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. My husband, Baby A.K. and I spent an agreeable afternoon at the home of our good friends Erich and Deb, who supplied us with BBQ and a final dip in their pool before closing it up for the season. Whenever we're at their house, I try to take a few minutes to walk around and admire Deb's beautiful quilts - all handmade, the majority by her. Sadly, my camera phone doesn't do these justice, but here's a few examples:

This one is called Diamond Shimmer.

And this one is called The Block Less Travelled.

This is a work in progress - the blues and greens are incredibly striking in person. I really need to get a good digital camera.

Before Baby A.K. became too restless, Deb told me how a few of the women in her guild offered to teach her how to crochet and/or knit, to give her something to do while she waits for her son to finish his various extracurricular activities. It kind of got me thinking about how creative types have a natural affinity towards different crafty endeavors, like these quilter-knitters in Deb's guild. Quilters have amazing sewing skills and an eye for color - I wonder how many are also painters, or sew together their own wardrobes? Or maybe some other wonderful and completely different hobby. And how many knitters have other crafty habits? Well, that's easy: a lot. Crochet, anyone (gasp!)? Or felting? Or how about scrapbooking? There's thousands more, of course, and anything we do or see or experience can only make us better artisans. But even if you have only one crafty skill, it's pretty much impossible to not at least have an appreciation for other people's artistic ventures. I see other people's creations and can't help but draw parallels to my knitting; seeing Deb's pieces expands my horizons artistically and inspires me. How can it not be the same for all of us?

So... Craftsters, Unite! We're not so different, after all.

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