October 28, 2012

This Hank is Too Big

This hank:

is too big for my swift.  Of course it is.  Standards?  What standards?  The yarn world has standards?

That was before I tried to wind it anyway.  Now that hank is this:

That yarn barf is courtesy of attempting to wind the hank with it hanging off a door knob.  Don't do this.  It doesn't work.  Now, my first solution was to use the middle peg of the swift to also hold the hank.  This ended up kind of working, very very slowly.  Because the hank is bent weird by the middle peg, every time you hit that part of the hank you have to stop and lift the strand off of the peg.  So I got impatient and tried the door knob.

Maybe I could console myself with the fact that if the yarn hank had been the right size, I could have ended up with this:

Why do I have such bad luck winding yarn?  I've done it successfully, I swear.

October 27, 2012

The (Late) Rhinebeck Debrief

I know it's already been a week since the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival.  I also know that I got home Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon, had to do all my chores for that weekend on Tuesday (including laundry), and felt crappy with allergies all week because that's just my luck.  I also had my usually weekly stuff and then I went and saw Epica play yesterday (which was awesome, but meant I didn't get home till 3 in the morning).

Anyway, I had a blast at Rhinebeck. I'll start from the beginning.

The Class
After crashing at one of my sister's apartments and going to a brewpub with a really good pumpkin beer on Friday, I drove up to Rhinebeck early Saturday morning so I could be at the fairgrounds in time for my class.  I, of course, misjudged traffic so my first plan of grabbing breakfast and dropping my stuff off at my other sister's apartment failed. I was lucky one of the food vendors was serving food before the fair technically opened and that the workshop area had free coffee. Of course I found this out during the class, so I spent the first part of the class in a pre-coffee daze.  It could have been worse.

I signed up for the Introduction to Sweater Design workshop by Donna Kay.  Before I took the class, I didn't know the instructor or what exactly we would cover.  The class ended up being more of a lecture, but it was funny and enjoyable.  We covered tips and things to keep in mind when designing...how to swatch to figure out if the yarn you have works with your idea, how to use different types of graph paper to make sure your calculations work and everything's proportional (this would have helped tremendously for the baby sweater.  Also, I never knew knitter's graph paper existed), touched upon originality and copyright in patterns, and other many random tips to keep in mind (like don't shove every idea you have into one sweater.   I kind of knew this, but I'm also guilty of doing it). Many of the things mentioned were also conveniently given on a handout, so I didn't have to remember everything (yay reference materials).   What we didn't get to was actually doing anything with the yarn and other materials we brought.  It was obviously meant to be a longer course, yet we only had four hours and the written material covered the whole time frame.

Overall, I think I was expecting more, but I'm not disappointed that I took this class. It was enjoyable, and it did give you a method of getting from idea to complete design, which was something I needed to hear, as I'm lacking a good method right now.

The Fair
Last year, I went on Sunday only.  Because of this, it was shocking to see how crowded this event got on Saturday.  When scoping out vendors the rest of the first day (first with some friends and later with my mother), it was hard to even stop and look at stuff.  I wasn't as shocked at the crowds as my mother, though, who had 1) never been and 2) was under the impression that the Sheep and Wool Festival was simply a local fair.  I informed her that it was a big event in the yarn crafting world and people come from all over...hell, that's how I learned about it.  My local sister simply said (after the fact):  'Duchess County doesn't do small events'.

*Side Note*
The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival and Breed Ewe Sale is the official name of this event:

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture; I took this through my windshield when stuck in traffic

I think most yarn crafter attendees know this, but for some reason in our world it's called Rhinebeck.  This works fine if the context it's used in is 'major yarn crafter events'.  Calling the event Rhinebeck to the locals, however,  gets you inquisitive or odd looks, as Rhinebeck is the town where the fairgrounds are located, and the town is a tourist trap in its own right (a nice one, but it is).  Also, the fairgrounds are known locally better as the site of the Duchess County Fair, which is (I think) the biggest county fair in New York.  Therefore, calling it Rhinebeck really doesn't make sense at all (though since it's in use and it's shorter by far than the proper name, I'll still use it.  In the right context of course).  Do I get my local cred back now?
*End Side Note*

I spent most of Saturday scoping out some vendors and got some yarn.  I also helped my mom pick out nice alpaca yarn to crochet a shawl.  We also checked out the sheep, for which I got lots of pictures of because I remembered to bring my camera:

After having dinner with the family and crashing at the local sister's apartment (who lives ten minutes away; I'm so lucky), I went back to the fair on Sunday with both my sisters.  We found the alpacas and llamas (which my mom and I missed), though my camera decided to die on me as soon as I tried taking pictures of them (and I had just replaced the batteries!  Stupid me must have used bad batteries).  I bought more yarn than I've ever bought at one time because it was my birthday, I had extra money, I have tons of projects I want to do, and 'oo, pretty sock yarn...I like knitting socks!'.  I'll put that in it's own section though.

Also, I'm pretty sure I passed the Yarn Harlot in one of the vendor buildings, though she was going the opposite way and it was a little too crowded to do a good double take (or do that sneaky picture thing with my cell phone...I forget what it's called...Kinnering, maybe?).  That, and my sisters, not being in the yarn crafting world as I am, hadn't noticed and kept going, and I was trying to not lose them.  I tried slowing them down by telling them 'hey, I think we just passed someone famous in the knitting world', but they didn't care.  They were already putting up with my lingering at vendors to buy all the yarn, so I dropped it.

I also showed off my socks (which I wore on Sunday) to the vendor who's yarn I knit them from.  She liked them.

The Yarn
I'm surprised I fit all of this into my suitcase and a shopping bag:

The unfortunate consequence of this is I now have more stash than the Tupperware container can hold, even after taking out all the yarn associated with projects I'm working on.  I had to go buy another small container to shove under my futon to hold the rest of it, and a storage ottoman to hold my tools.

For one, I found a vendor selling that same damn wool I had the equal number of similar colors issue with...and it was half off.  Me, not wanting to deal with the whole two equal colors thing, bought four more skeins of black

I would have bought the charcoal color, but they didn't have it (because no one does, it seems).  Now, I'm not sure if I'm going to go with my original plan of knitting the basic sweater I have a pattern for, or still make up my own pattern.  I'll see.

I also bought enough yarn for two sweaters:

The gray skeins (its a cool smoky gray...picture doesn't do the color justice) are the first thing I acquired after the black wool. They will be a work cardigan (and unless I completely misjudged the yarn, they will be this cardigan).  The blue...well, I was looking for DK weight yarn but found this worsted weight in the perfect shade of blue, while their DK weight was slightly lighter.  So I said 'screw it, I have worsted weight sweater patterns', and bought it.  That blue wool is one of the softest I've ever felt (the woman standing behind me in line thought so too, and asked me if I was just going to curl up with it because she was tempted to do that).  It will be a nice sweater, though I have yet to decide exactly what pattern.

I also bought tons of sock yarn, because all I needed was more sock yarn:

I tried to not buy it all in blue and blue-black shades.  There's one thing I do (and it's at its worst at Rhinebeck) is that the yarn I'll be drawn to at first will inevitably be royal blue or blue dark variegated yarn  (It's worse if its cashmere.  I don't know how I know it's cashmere until I read the label, but I will inevitably find the cashmere yarn first.  Then I find the price and run away).  So I bought gray and dark purple as well.

The light blue one is alpaca and silk sock yarn, and you can guess by the last paragraph that it's not for me.  I'm not giving up on the hat pattern, but I decided that it'd be better if I set my sights a little lower and make my mom socks for Hanukkah instead.  The funny thing about this is that when I showed her all the sock yarn, she first went to the gray ones (which are rather soft wool; they're my favorite by feel) and cooed over that one.  The surprising thing to me is that she did it because she liked the color.  But it was all good when I pointed out that the light blue was alpaca.  She conceded that she would love alpaca socks, though she would only wear them in the house (we'll see how long that lasts.  She wears the $130 sweater I made her to shovel snow.  I bet you she'll wear them to shovel snow in as well). I'll have to remember to buy that gray sock yarn for her next year for real socks, though.

On the other hand, one of my sisters convince my other sister and me to try drop spindling:

That started when we found cheap small balls of angora roving.  The 'other sister' is a bunny lover, so we were scoping out angora vendors to see angora rabbits.  One of these vendors didn't have rabbits, but they had royal blue angora roving for $6.00.  What did I say about me and the jewel tone blues?  Once I pointed it out as 'pretty, but I can't spin so screw it' the conversation went from bunnies to 'you should try to drop spindle, I can teach you!  It's easy!'

Yeah, two things about that.  One, it's not that easy.  Two, my sister was talking herself up, and when she said she could drop spindle, it meant she owned one and had spun some 'yarn'. I tried after we left the fair with a little bit of the roving and I got nothing but messed up roving. Oye. I'm still going to try to learn, but I need to set some time aside and research it.  I know it can be done; someone in my knitting group had caved to the drop spindles everywhere at Rhinebeck herself, and had already learned enough in the three days between these two events to make nicer thread than my sister had.

All in all, it was fun, and I would do it all again. Hopefully I'll have most of this yarn compiled into projects by then!

It's a good excuse to see the beauty of a Hudson Valley fall anyway.  It's amazing how much you miss in the city.

This is in Ulster County, not Duchess, but the same lovely tree colors

October 18, 2012

Procrastinating and Creating

For once, I should be doing other things such as packing and maybe trying to get some rows of Crazy Cable Blanket done, but instead I'm writing a blog post and making little pumpkin breads:

(I actually don't care for cooking, but I like fresh food and saving money)
But anyway, this weekend my ass is going to be upstate, a trip for which I even took a few days off from work for (yay limited vacation time). I've stopped packing because I'm trying to convince myself that, no, I don't need to bring my whole knitting needle set because I have enough projects going that I don't need to start anything from the yarn I plan to buy at Rhinebeck before I get back home.  I'm also trying to pack for four days in a small suitcase while leaving enough room for more stuff.  Over packing (which I always do, unfortunately) is one thing.  Trying to lug an over packed suitcase on the subway and a bus is a completely different story.  My trip involves at least six staircases, crowded subways, a long distance style bus, and a long hill, and yes, you count when you're lugging bags.

I probably don't need all my projects with me either, but they're going.  Crazy Cable Blanket (of which I have 30 rows left) is going.  The spatterdashers (halfway through the second one!) are going.  Those  Log Cabin squares I make when I can't do anything else are going.  That blue crochet thing from the last post is going:

That will be my fourth posted pattern, and I swear it, because I have the pattern written down already and I'm following it.  It's a long time coming; I haven't tried making my own pattern since the baby sweater, and haven't posted one since the baby hat I did.  I'd admit, for awhile I just wasn't feeling it.  I didn't want to deal with the creative process, and I had enough projects going I didn't need to.  After really gearing up at the beginning of the year I fell flat.  I think I was hoping to get going with the design thing, but got overwhelmed with life, then said screw it and forgot about it for awhile.

Reciently, though, something clicked. It started when I went on a yarn crawl and ended up with this yarn:

I bought the blue-green yarn with the idea of making my mom's Hanukkah present out of it.  It's alpaca, of course, and the plan was another hat.  But I wasn't sure if I would find a good pattern for it.  Then an idea hit me. I knew exactly what that hat's going to look like, and I sat down and charted out the cable I wanted and drew sketches:

Now, I haven't tested the design yet in yarn, nor written the pattern (I need to figure out how I'm doing the top still, and if I want to do a contrasting brim), but I figured after I get done with the Halloween stuff I'd get down to that.  I may need extensive modification, who knows.

Then I realized that the other yarn, which I bought thinking I had three skeins of it in my stash already, was the wrong color.

Oops.  I called the yarn store I bought the three black skeins from and asked if they had any of the charcoal color I actually have in my stash. No such luck; they didn't have it.  Now I'm stuck with three skeins of charcoal and three skeins of black yarn, which killed my first idea of what I was going to do with that yarn.

Then I realized I needed yarn for that class I'm taking at Rhinebeck.  Ok then, I'll try to come up with my first sweater pattern using that yarn.  Which may or may not happen, but that yarn's what I'm bringing to class.

I did sketch out some ideas of sweaters, though.  I'm not sure how far along this class wants you, but they mentioned bringing fashion pictures.  I don't really have any inspirational pictures right now, so I just sketched, and I'm hoping to wear the jacket I want to mimic in a cardigan pattern at some point (since, you know, it's already got a hole in it).

Finally, after setting out all these knitting projects, and knitting stuff like worsted weight yarn on size 0 needles, I decided I really needed a easy, bulky, crochet project. I also decided I needed a wrap because it was cold outside and the heat wasn't on yet in my apartment (because I was totally going to get it done before the landlord got around to turning the heat on.  Didn't happen; the heat kicked in a week ago).

Luckily I have tons of Loops & Threads Charisma in my stash that really needs to stop living there.  Out comes the big crochet hook, and I started crocheting a wrap.  Then I frogged it.  Then I crocheted a square.  Then I frogged it.  Then I searched Ravelry in vein and got sick of all the repetitive crochet blanket patterns. Then I found this stitch in a crochet stitch dictionary and thought, hm, that looks interesting.  So I charted out a repeat from memory (which meant it's different than the actual stitch dictionary version), figured out the arrangement I wanted, actually figured out my gauge for it, calculated the number of chains to do to start, and went at it.  I'm actually shocked it's coming out as nicely as it is in this yarn.  I was thinking that my pattern idea may be more suited for a worsted weight, or maybe even a sport weight, but I was doing bulky first because stash.  You'll see.  When I'm done with the bulky version, I'll post the pattern.  Then maybe I'll figure out a worsted weight one (though I would have to buy yarn for that one, oye).

But I really need to pack now.  It's amazing what you do when you have something else that needs to get done.

October 13, 2012

First Socks and Too Many Other Projects

I broke my two project rule ages ago, and it's starting to bite me in the ass.

Let's see, I have multiple projects I'm trying to make for my Halloween costume (I originally was thinking of going as Ada Lovelace from this comic, but I decided just to do a generic Victorian/Steampunk thing because I didn't feel like explaining myself all night.  Yes, I'm a geek).  The first was fine, it was a crocheted top hat that took a weekend to make.  However, I then decided to make these spatterdashers (since I own no Victorian style boots), and oh boy.  Size 0 needles and worsted weight yarn.  My hands have never protested so much at a project.

I've just gotten one done, but I still have to do the other.  Not counting buttons (which I don't own yet).

It wasn't helped by the fact that I did 8 extra rows by being completely oblivious as to what row I was on, which resulted in two extra decreases.  In order to hack a fix for that, I first did two increases on the last two rows instead of one, and then made the side bands bigger.  There were a lot of other minor mistakes, but it's for a costume.  I don't care.

I also decided that I really should knit some of the yarn I bought at Rhinebeck last year before Rhinebeck this year, which resulted in this:

My first socks.  Actually, I ended up making three socks, because I messed up on the left (first) sock, but didn't realize it until I blocked it:

I know I was off a stitch on the cable pattern, but I have no clue how I ended up with a bigger ankle part.  Anyway, since I had tons of yarn left, I decided that I wanted to make another left sock so I had two great socks.

The only two things I would do differently is drop down a needle size and make them a little bit longer, because they're slightly tight lenghtwise (I made the right one based on how many repeats I did on the first left one, which was of course, bigger, though I didn't realize that then). But maybe that's because I'm so used to wearing big socks.  Hopefully they stretch a bit.

Honestly, for someone who doesn't care for socks (I'm the person who takes off their socks right after their shoes.  I either leave my shoes on or go barefoot.  I don't like walking around in socks), I really got into knitting them.  It's almost the perfect project to tote around; I can pick it up on the subway, during lunch at work, anytime.  Once I figured out the pattern (which is called Tea Time, and I had to pretty much interpret it since it's a obvious translation and there's information missing and I was Magic Looping while the instructions presume you're using DPNs), it was easy, but still required some thought.

I'm also still in love with this yarn.  Bought it for $21, but damn, worth it.  I'm almost afraid to wear these socks.

On the other hand, all that knitting has gotten me wanting to crochet again:

More on that at another time.

Oh, and yes, I'm still working on Crazy Cable Blanket.  Have 50 rows to go now.

Yarn crafts has started taking over my life.  Oh well.

October 7, 2012

The Dilemma of Classes

If any of you went to VogueKnitting Live New York last year, you probably received an email stating that you could pre-register a couple of weeks ago (turns out, you can only pre-register for the crazy expensive all-inclusive packages, so the rest of us are stuck waiting).  Ok, cool, I thought.  Now I won't sign up last minute...hm, class list; maybe I should take a class this time...

As I was looking down the list of classes, I noticed a lot of them are of the vein 'learn a this technique' or 'learn more ways to cast-on and off'.  Which is all fun and good...except I could find you instructions for ten different ways of casting on in ten minutes just sitting here at my computer.  I could even find a couple of videos for some of them if written instructions aren't your thing.  What's the point, then, of spending around $50-$60 to learn something I could just Google, or even spend at most $25-$30 for a book that has that has ten times more information that I can refer to indefinitely?

Now, I do get that there are people out there that need or want the physical presence of the instructor and the interactive instruction to learn something in knitting and crocheting, no matter how simple.  The point of this post isn't to behoove them, or make fun of the fact that the classes exist. No.  My dilemma, as an active self-teacher, is at what point is taking the class worth it?  At what point is what is being taught too complicated to detail on a web site, show on a YouTube video, or follow from a book?  What wisdom can only be found by paying $60 for a class?

It's not an easy question, though I have some notion of the answer.  You see, a couple of months ago I decided to make a mini-vacation out of Rhinebeck, partly as a gift to myself for last July (see, I *can* sign up for these things before the last minute). Since I earned overtime for that month, money wasn't so much of a concern.  So, the first thing I did was decide to take a class.  Unlike VogueKnitting Live, however, I looked through the class list for Rhinebeck once and immediately found what I wanted to take.  I'm going to be learning how to design a sweater.

Of course, I've already technically designed a sweater.  Two, if you count this disaster.  So why that class?  Because I haven't been successful in actually getting a pattern down, and I'm hoping that learning some techniques for designing will help me knock out my half-assed design-on-the-fly methodology that isn't working as well as I'd like.  Also, unlike cast on techniques or how to do stranded color-work, learning design and pattern-writing isn't a concrete, step-by-step process.   There's no 'do x, then y', so it doesn't lend itself to online tutorials, nor does it benefit designers to over-think themselves and explain it for free.  Sure, there's books out there.  I own a couple and have more in my (private) Amazon wish list. But what I've done obviously isn't enough.

So, is my self-teaching limit at the point of designing from scratch?  No, I don't think so; there's more books I can read, and I could benefit from a good stitch dictionary right now at least.  But it is the point where self-teaching becomes experimental and frustrating; where there's no straight how-to and over-researching is paralyzing so I do too little of it, ending up stuck.  It makes me realize how little I know of this craft.  So, when money isn't an object and I'm treating myself, it makes some sense to take the class.  Who knows, it may help, and hopefully it's fun.

But that brings me back to VogueKnitting.  Can I justify even taking a class on design when I have to justify spending the money?  Can I justify any of them?  That's my dilemma, and at this point that depends what I end up using from any class I rationalize myself into taking.

Knowing me, I'll end up signing up for something anyway.  It's not like I needed to attend a lecture either, but I've been to one of those already (it was more due to the pricing structure and wanting to get the hell out of my apartment that time).  I have into November 27th to decide before it costs more.