Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shopping For Bargains

I bought some goodies at JoAnn’s today, and was reminded of a very real fact. There is no doubt that I am yarn wishy-washy. I like all kinds of yarn—yes, acrylics too. I only become a wool purist when it comes to socks. The sock yarn has to be good stuff, but all other knitting can run the gamut from silk to kite string, which I once used to make a big summer tote with silk flowers stitched all over it. I like seeing the result of knitting with junk yarn, and frequently buy mystery yarns. I made a large afghan for my Mother once—so large she, being five feet tall, called it a blanket. It was made from fluff I bought in a little German shop in Bayreuth (where Richard Wagner built his Festspielhaus), and as I recall, it wasn’t even a yarn shop. I didn’t know then, and I still do not know what the composition of the yarn was, because it didn’t have any labels attached. It was thrown into a bin, and could well have been made of dust bunnies, except that it was a beautiful light blue. Through the years it machine washed and wore like steel. It was still on Mother’s bed the day she left us. The afghan now resides with DD in her upstairs window seat, where she sits to read.

No one can tell me that plain old acrylic yarn doesn’t have a place in knitting. If acrylics and acrylic blends did not exist, my kids would never have had hats and gloves to ward off the Chicago chill. I could not afford wool when raising six children. All the blankies, afghans, sweaters, leg warmers—nope, no $10 to $20 a pop wool used there! I used whatever I could find in any $1 sale bin, and developed a real appreciation for cheap, easily washed, long wearing yarns.

I only bought a Chibi, cable needle, and two half-priced Susan Bates needles today, but it made me realize that a trip to JoAnn’s is like going home to me. It’s not quite the same, because they have real wool there now, but there are still enough “garbage” yarns to bring back memories of ski caps and leg warmers in school colors. Those were the days….

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good Friends, Good Yarn, Life Is Good

Isn’t this just the cutest needle case? I love it! Friend Wendy of Intertwinement sent it to me, along with the wonderful yarn shown here. The case is made to fit Comfort Zone needles. If you haven’t seen Wendy’s yarn, you must go the Intertwinement site and peruse the goodies there. I want everything there—gorgeous stitch markers, too cute charms, needle cases, and some of the yummiest yarn you will ever see!
I ordered the Lady Bird Beetle yarn for socks for GD #4, who loves anything vivid and exciting. I’m going to make them long and in a pattern that will encourage some interesting pooling on the legs. When I received the yarn, I found the needle case included, and immediately added some CZs in matching colors. I’ll use the red needles on the Lady Bird socks.

My life incorporates so many lovely, delightful things—I am truly blessed. I have a loving husband, amazing children, terrific grandchildren, wonderful friends, my sweet dog Macy, and yarn. Of course the yarn leads to knitting, but yarn in itself is enough! I love to pet it, smell it, squeeze it—I could sit happily for hours with a lap full of glorious fibers. Just as I am never far from my loved ones, I am never far from yarn in some form. Stuck to the front of my computer monitor is a blob of mystery yarn. It has been transferred from one monitor to another, as I purchased new monitors through the years. It is purple and gold and getting a little dingy, but it represents where I could be and what I could be doing if not glued to computer tax and accounting programs. That little piece of yarn represents who I am down deep inside: a knitting entrepreneur, a designer, an artist, a grandmother with sock yarn, knitting socks for one of the GDs. I’m a happy woman!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is Anybody Listening?

Funny thing about blogging, it is sort of like talking to yourself. I talk to myself all the time. My assistant once said she learned how to do General Journal entries by listening to me talk my way through them. My Mother would talk to herself, and my Dad would ask, “What did you say honey?” She would answer, “I was just talking to myself. I needed a little intelligent conversation.” I learned from the best!

Another thing about blogging is that some posts result in great comments, and others, seemingly, are never read. In those cases, we are very much talking to ourselves. Since that is apparently how I organize my thoughts I guess it’s okay. This little critical assessment leads to my purpose today—to discuss Comfort Zone double pointed needles. A few things come to mind that might help my CZ using friends make the transition from other brands of dpns to CZs:

1. They are extremely flexible. They will bend as you use them and your hands heat the polymer. Because there is a large nylon content, they will also bend back to straight with a little encouragement. I have heard from a few users that they let them stay bent, because they have conformed to their hands, which adds to the comfort. Best advice: don’t fight them, join them! Let them bend and conform to your style of knitting.

2. The comfort element comes from the fact that they are so flexible. They don’t fight your hands, or bite into your skin. When they were first produced, we had a little problem with points breaking. It was back to the drawing board for a bit, and the result was the addition of nylon to the polymer, producing a more resilient needle. Best advice: if your knitted stitches are tight, these needles have sharp points that will slide in easily and get the job done. They won’t break if the points are twisted around in the stitches. Just knit the way you usually do and don’t worry about them breaking.

3. There is a fair amount of drag created by CZs. The sides of the needles are a little rougher than most plastic needles, a lot rougher than aluminum, and maybe a little more than bamboo or rosewood. Some users have told me that it took some practice not to object to the drag. It has never bothered me, and others have gotten used to it. The purpose of the drag is so they will NOT fall out of stitches. One customer wrote to tell me that she throws them into her backpack, and never worries about them falling out of stitches or breaking. Best advice: knit a whole pair of socks with them, under the best and worst circumstances before you decide you don’t like the drag. Leave them lying around, throw them in a purse or knitting bag, knit with them in the car. I think you will find that their staying power is extraordinary.

4. Comfort Zone needles were developed by my son-in-law, a plastics manufacturer, so that I could knit socks for the family without the hand pain caused by other types of needles. I found that friends I shared them with wanted more, and that led to the E-business. We’ve done our best to offer a solution to all the reasons knitters don’t like dpns. We even package them in sets of six, so if you lose one your project doesn’t have to be put on hold until you buy more.

Questions anyone? Or am I just talking to myself? If so, it’s okay—my thoughts are really organized now. I feel so much better!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Good News and Bad News

First the good news… this sock is turning out even better than I expected, and because of the STR Fire On The Mountain yarn, which I love, my expectations were high. The colors are bright and beautiful, and the pattern, while not too visible due to the variegation, is visible enough to be pretty. It’s sort of a rib-lace-rib-lace etc. pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks.

It’s really good when a plan comes together. My knitting projects have been going well lately. I have been finishing socks quickly. Something Red has been going more slowly, only because knitting with Addis for more than a couple hours really hurts my hands. I’m spoiled by my Comfort Zone needles, which I can knit with for many hours without hand pain. Knitting with circs is something I put off until I start to feel guilty about the UFO lounging in my knitting bag

I can’t wait until the Comfort Zone circulars are ready sometime around the end of the year. Which brings me to the bad news….I always hear such wonderful, complementary comments about Comfort Zone needles. I guess that now I have to face the fact that there are those out there, who have purchased them and really don’t like them much at all. I heard from one such person yesterday. It was the first time anyone has said to me, “I am very, very disappointed.” (One “very” would have been enough). I cried!! I know it is all part of selling a product—no, it’s more than that! It hit me hard because I love these needles. They are my babies, and I want everyone to love them as much as I do! They are different from other dpns--maybe I need to furnish, on this blog and the web site, a short tutorial on how to become accustomed to the differences in CZ’s and other dpns, how to use them to individual best advantage, and a little of the history behind them.

Until then, I guess I'll just go cry some more….

Monday, April 17, 2006

Perfection Anyway...

I had the most wonderful weekend of sitting in the sun and knitting, napping then knitting, eating after watching the men cook, then knitting, watching the Easter egg hunt while knitting. What could be better? I’ll tell you what—sock perfection. Once again, I refused to cave to the fight against pooling and self-striping disasters by letting the yarn do its own thing. I cut off the Regia at the toe of one sock, and immediately started the second sock, casting on with the cut end from the first sock.

As I’ve mentioned, I have become accustomed to comments about my mismatched socks. I always answer such comments with, “They both came from the same skein.” Anyway, I like to let my socks speak to me about their individuality. Now, at last, I have given birth to twins! Two matching socks! Identical in every way! The truth is in the photo above. And the best part—perfection without even trying! They were made for DD, and I have threatened her with flogging at dawn if she destroys them by wearing them around the house without shoes.

Really, I think they should be framed and hung on the wall. Then, when DH finally makes a hole in one, he can frame the golf ball in a shadow box and hang it right beside my perfect socks. They should win some sort of prize. Is there a prize for perfect socks? Well there should be. I must work on that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gone Fishin'

I won’t be posting over the weekend,
I’ll be here…

In this...

But, I won’t be fishing. I may sit on the dock and watch DS fish while I knit. Oh yes, there will be a whole lot of knittin’ goin’ on! This is our annual Easter camping trip. I didn’t name it "the camping trip," that was DD who decided that while she, hubby and the kids are in a 32 foot RV with a king-sized bed, and DH, DS and I are in a semi-luxurious cabin, we are camping. I wonder what she calls sleeping in a tent? This place is called Thousand Trails, and is the best of all outdoors. Top it off with what is predicted to be fantastic weather for the weekend and it doesn’t get any better. They even have a wonderful little Chapel and a Sunday morning service that is lovely!

Let’s face it—I am quite close to being frazzeled after tax season. The mad rush to get to the April 17th finish line is OVER. I decided a long time ago that I would not play the “last minute” game, and make myself available to clients who wait until the day before the return needs to be mailed. I start sending out extensions on the 10th of every April. Done and done!

So, I’ll be back to Knitting Thoughts on Monday, after spending the weekend with Socks That Rock-Fire On The Mountain, and an attempt to finish Something Red. My mind will be sooooo clear that it will be a whole new ballgame. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Looking For STRA (SocksThat RockAnonymous)

You can see why I need help—I’ve wound the Socks That Rock in the Fire On The Mountain colorway into a neat little cake in order to start my next pair of socks. The other two are Falcon’s Eye and Marbles, and I expect to receive Ruby Slippers and Queen Rock in the mail any day. And, I have already made socks in Carbon and Cobalt Bloom. I know, I know, that’s a bunch of precious fiber. I told you I had been trying to cut back, “trying” being the operative word. But this stuff is soooo beautiful, soft, sproingy—it is fun to knit with and dreamy to wear. I told myself I was buying it to knit Christmas socks for DD, GD#1, GD#2, GD#3, and DIL#1 and DIL#2. Oh look! I’m one skein short—actually two, because I had already claimed Fire On The Mountain for myself. I want to keep going until I have used every colorway they make.

I need all of my knitting friends to tell me, “Get a grip Kat,” or “Don’t buy anymore Socks That Rock yarn. You can’t possibly use it all before Christmas.” Please, help me I’m bonkers over this stuff! I’m not thinking clearly, and when I don’t touch it for an hour or two I start shaking all over and get queasy. I whine a lot! Is there hope for me? Is there a Socks That Rock intervention group? STRA?

I’ve got it! It doesn’t count if I buy it to make a scarf or hat. I’m sure I read that somewhere. I feel better already.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Needles In Haystacks

DD’s Regia sock number one is past the heel, so I’ve spent some time on the “Something Red” sweater. It is difficult to work on it because I feel my circular needles are too short. I’m using 32 inch needles, because that is all I could find. I should say, that is all I could find in an Addi Turbo, US size #7—hard to find needles.

Looking at this picture, wouldn’t you think that somewhere in there I would have some longer circs. Nope. Thirty-two inch is the longest, and most are shorter.

A friend told me I could get Addi Turbos on eBay from a man named Jeff Wonderland in Great Britain. I’m game, although I never enjoy shopping on eBay. Etsy I love, but eBay gives me nightmares. I ordered two sets of 40 inch Addi’s in US size #6 and #7. All went well until checkout. I was supposed to have noticed the shipping and handling charge back on the first page, which incidentally was in GBP. So, when I went back to find the charges I backed up to the product page, thinking I could then go forward to the checkout page again. No can do! I lost the whole thing and had to start over. On about the third try I finally checked out and ended up paying a fraction of what I would have paid for the needles in Fort Worth if I had been able to find them, which is good. Am I the only person in the world who finds eBay convoluted and difficult? I think there is just too much going on at each site, that there is no easy go here, click this, pay there capability. Anyway, the needles are on the way and I will be able to finish Something Red with ease.

Then this lovely blue yarn will be put to use in the Debbie Bliss Classic Jacket. I opted for wool instead of the cotton cashmere, mostly because it was cheaper and I've bought a lot of Socks That Rock yarn lately. (Give me some credit here--I'm trying to be good). Can’t wait to start.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jump Right In...

I have spoken out on many occasions, in many venues, about the problem of pooling in hand painted, variegated, and self-striping sock yarn. I guess the problem is that I don’t see it as a problem! I believe it is the yarn speaking to me—telling me who it is and what it wants to be. Who am I to argue? I have knitting friends who can’t stand pooling and will go to great lengths to stop it, rearrange it, stifle it, and force it to be something it is not. Well, that’s okay. I don’t even mind when I am described as that odd person who wanders around Fort Worth in mismatched socks. Yup, that would be me. The socks are the same color mind you. They just don’t have the same design. Each one is an original—each one with a different pattern, and a different personality.

So now I come to the Regia in denim shades, currently on my colorful CZ needles. The first sock is turning out…mmmmm, do I dare say it…perfect. I couldn’t have planned it to be more perfect if I had fudged on where I started with the yarn, giving up yards of precious Regia to make the pattern do what I wanted. Which I didn’t! All of which presents my first ethical design problem. Do I do all of those things to the second sock which I didn’t do to the first sock to make it just right, or do I let the chips fall where they may, and give the yarn its way?

I decided not to play that game, and anyway, I will not be recognized, even by close friends, if my socks match. So, stay tuned for the second sock and let’s see what it says together.