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Archive for February, 2011


Getting the Most from a Surplus

Dear Ellen,

dsc02358.JPGOne thing the Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads campaign has done for me is to allow me to make a pretty good dent in my yarn surplus.  As any economist will tell you, that is important to help stave off recessionary factors.  As I will tell you, it’s important to allow me to head off to Sock Summit this summer with plenty of room in my stash for additional purchases.  All eight of my hats came out of stash.  I’m pretty pleased with that.  And I’m pleased with my latest two contributions.  dsc02355.JPGdsc02351.JPGI cast on the first one Saturday morning while up in Pennsylvania.  It’s out of Classic Elite Moss and was a very fast knit.  I bound off while watching Despicable Me with Dale that evening.  I cast on the last one Sunday morning and finished it tonight.  It’s Classic Elite Kumara in a pretty aquamarine.  I made up the lace pattern as I went.  It would’ve been a faster knit, but some of that lace was trial and error.  I’ll put all eight hats in the mail the very first thing in the morning.

dsc02348.JPGdsc02340.JPGOur trip to PA included, of course, a stop at the building site.  It may not seem to have changed much to the casual observer, but check out that soffit, those corbels, the window trim!  dsc02341.JPGdsc02338.JPGAnd inside the mud-work has transformed raw dry-wall into beautifully shaped arches and corners to define our living spaces.  (AND a laundry chute!!)  dsc02345.JPGdsc02337.JPGWe had hoped to see copper roofing on the porch, but the machine to install it didn’t get delivered.  It is now scheduled for this Wednesday.  Our wells are held up too.  The drill truck was having trouble moving around and bracing itself in the slippery red clay mud.  Ironic that too much water is preventing us from finding water.

dsc02359.JPGEnroute to PA I worked on finishing my Spiraluscious.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful thanks to a shortfall of about 10 yards of yarn.  I should have been a bit more circumspect in needle selection.  The pattern calls for size 3s, but I chose to go with 4s as my yarn choice was a bit bulkier than the fingering weight called for.  (Okay, a lot bulkier — I’d call it a light worsted.)  I also should have taken the pattern at its word regards yardage.  My choice had 3 yards shy of the yardage called for.  (Okay, so one shouldn’t convince oneself that they always add a buffer to yarn requirements.)  I ran out of yarn 3 edge repeats from the end of the project.  I thought about ripping back and eliminating some of the last repeat of the body pattern, but instead got on Ravelry and went looking for people with the same yarn in their stash.  Hurrah for Ravelry!  I found someone with a remnant left over from a project they had knit and PM’d her.  She said she would be more than happy to send her remaining 21 yards in my direction.  Knitters are wonderful!  Of course, with the success of the WHNHH campaign, you already knew that!

Love, Jan

When you least expect it…

Dear Jan,

19.jpgI got quite the delightful surprise earlier this week, which is what led to me getting to knit for a few minutes with Kathryn and has led to so many kind words from friends and colleagues.  First, the great news that a local TV station wanted to do a story on Warm Hats Not Hot Heads, our knitters’ campaign to encourage civility in public discourse.  Then, in walks the interviewer with this crazy big check - they were giving me an award for this effort!  Then - it kept getting better - up walks Kathryn, who had nominated me for the award!!

A work colleague saw the award bit as it first aired and she forwarded the link to many of my colleagues and then they posted it on the corporate home page, and boy, did my inbox fill up fast.  So many nice notes of congratulations and also of thanks - and to every  person out there who has knit a hat or passed along the word about the project, you deserve those thanks, too.

In other unexpected but delightful news this week, when one of the knitters asked about why not try to cover the Senate first, it prodded me to review the tracker.  I discovered that with a few more folks jumping in, it was feasible to do this.  And now we have!  We have committed hats to be sent to 100% of the Senate!

63.jpgMotivated by all the support, I somehow ended the week with two more hats off my needles.  The blue is Hurricane by Andrea Goutier;  I am calling it Political Fan(atic) for the Fanatic brand of yarn I used.  The second is an improvised one I am calling Three Hour Skull Cap.  It is knit from White Buffalo unspun wool, very chunky, and really does take just 3 hours if you don’t frog twice to correct the fit.

23.jpgA last bit of unexpected pleasure late yesterday  afternoon, this male cardinal like a jewel against the greys and greens of maple branches and spruce needles.  He is part of a mated pair who have just started showing up at the feeders together.  There sure is a lot of unexpected good around me these days.

I hope your weekend is unexpectedly good, too.

Who is knitting a hat for Dr. Yarn?

Dear Jan,

18.jpgThe only bad thing about Warm Hats Not Hot Heads is that it has kept me from my duties as the editor of Dr. Yarn’s advice columns.  I’d better get on it or his agent will get on my case.  Here Kathryn and I are swapping tips on using half-sized needles, inspired by Dr. Yarn.  (Why are Kathryn and I knitting together?  Watch WCCO Channel 4 news at 5:00 pm on Thursday to find out!)

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An alert male reader from Crum, West Virginia writes. “My wife asked me to pick up some 10.5 knitting needles on my way home from work. I stopped at three yarn shops and could not find any. What is the truth about half size needles?”

Dear Alert Male,

You have stumbled onto a problem that has nagged knitters for generations -  what can I do if my shop doesn’t carry needles by the half-size?   It is a matter of free enterprise. If an item doesn’t move, the store won’t stock it. If the yarn shop can’t make money, it goes out of business.

Lucky for you the problem can be solved when you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot for your weekly visit to buy tools you need. Just pick up a Knitter’s Needles Repair Kit. At $98.99 per kit, you’ll probably want to grab a couple of ‘em. It consists of a premium Dremel cutting tool, a small arc welding unit, a polishing device, and a tiny oven used to bake on a slippery finish. The directions are clear on how to make any half-size needles. Basically, for a set of 10.5 needles you would cut a pair of 10 and a pair of 11 needles in half, weld the ends of one 10 and one 11 needle together, polish them with the polishing machine (it works like a stone polishing tumbler drum), then bake on the new finish. It is easy to do a fine job in ten days.  Or maybe 10.5 days.

From then on it is up to the knitter. In simple terms, what you do is to keep switching the needle ends as you knit. Unless you know exactly how this works, you might get a garment with one side different from the other, so be careful.

Take a sweater, for example.  You wouldn’t want the left and right side to be different. However, some innovative knitters have made sweaters that are finished with 10 size needles on the front and 11 size needles on the back.   One of these knitters won first prize in the Minnesota State Fair last year for the exceptional skill needed to carry this off.
Thanks for that good question.
Dr. Yarn

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And thank you, Dr. Yarn!

If any readers have questions they would like Dr. Yarn to answer, please let us know and we will forward them on.  He has a Ph.D., you know.

Love,

Ellen

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Dear Ellen,

dsc02329.JPGWith apologies to Monty Python, I am ready for something different.  Six hats in a row kept me busy, but I’m eager to see some other shapes.  So, I’ve gotten back to work on the Sweater from Down Under — just the sleeves and collar band remain.  And I’m working on a shawl that I cast on in Jamaica.  I’m calling it the Primrose Shawl.  It’s based on the Primula coffee cloth pattern in one of my lace books.  It’s downstairs or I’d tell you which.  You may have glimpsed it in my post on Jamaica.

dsc02330.JPGdsc02331.JPGThese cushy cabled socks are coming along well.  I hope the spiraling panel of twisted stitches stands out well when I block them.  I think it will.  I’ll get project pages up for these (and those hats) soon.  Yes, I’ll write up the patterns. I won’t promise in which year!  I’m working in Socrates, one of my favorite sock yarns.  It’s a merino, alpaca, bamboo and nylon blend.

dsc02333.JPGFinally, I’m casting on tonight for Spiraluscious by Anne Hanson…love her stuff and wanted a fast knit to go along with the socks, shawl and sweater that would use up this soft ball of Moorland.  It’s a great blend of mohair, alpaca, merino and acrylic.  Another great buy from the going out of business sale of a local shop.  Don’t feel sad for them…she had owned the shop for a long time and said she wasn’t forced to close financially, just wanted to close and move on to something else.  I did some major stash enhancement, but that was a while ago…and didn’t count against my stash diet in force till Sock Summit.

dsc02314.JPGdsc02302.JPGdsc02291.JPGdsc02274.JPGThe house is progressing too…you can really picture what it will look like completed. We decided to do a coffered ceiling in the living room.  It was cool to see how they framed it and then finished it out with dry wall.  The interior of the panels will have the very palest of blues…a tint you won’t be sure is actually there.  The rest of the ceiling will be in dove white. The big guest room (most likely yours) has its walls now too.  And we’ve got decorating ideas in mind for it to capitalize on it’s size and sunny feeling.  dsc02315.JPGdsc02313.JPGWe have water in the dry bed creek…and they’re digging wells to make sure there’s water in the house too.  When you visit, I want to be sure you can shower.

Love, Jan

Return to Jamaica

Dear Ellen,

dsc01968.JPGAs I had mentioned, the Jamaica trip was fantastic.  The fact that I haven’t blogged about it is more because I’ve been underwater since returning.  (We were underwater during the trip too…4 open water dives!)  Between catching up at work and with the building site, there hasn’t been much time.  Plus I’m knitting all those hats.  Well, here are a few shots. They should certainly give you the feel of the trip.

dsc01969.JPGdsc01986.JPGdsc02033.JPGdsc02067.JPGdsc02135.JPGMany water sports….

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dsc02167.JPGdsc02088.JPGdsc02093.JPGMany drinking sports….

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dsc02025.JPGdsc02055.JPGdsc02022.JPGMany sunsets…

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dsc02016.JPGdsc02003.JPGdsc02080.JPGdsc02004.JPGMany cautionary signs…

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dsc02198.JPGdsc02176.JPGdsc02178.JPGMany stitches on my needles…even with another man.

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Many memories.

Love, Jan

Seriously? Aren’t we tired of this by now?

Dear Jan,

If you thought I was referring to hat knitting,  I couldn’t blame you.  I’m not; what I am talking about is the snowiest winter here in the Twin Cities in a long time, and that another foot of snow is expected by the time the current storm passes.

44.jpg52.jpgSounds like a good excuse to knit.  Now I am talking about hats!  This one is Lacunae by Anne Hanson of Knitspot.  I modified her pattern, using chunky yarn so fewer cast on stitches.  I think it worked rather well, though next time I’ll read ahead and make sure I use a number of stitches that will divide nicely into the decreases for symmetric pattern placement.  Still, it worked out fine.  The yarn is Misti Alpaca Chunky in forest green, with size 10 needles and a 72 stitch cast on.

62.jpgI also couldn’t resist when Jocelyn mentioned that she has cast on a shawl that has been in my queue and in my pattern library since last spring - Stephen West’s Daybreak.  I’m knitting it in Marisol Nuna (merino/silk/bamboo) in a shimmering brown and a complimentary blue.  This yarn is supple like bamboo yet has some life in it from the wool - I’m liking the way it is knitting up!   (The color in the photo isn’t right - more gold in the brown and a deeper blue would be closer.)

7.jpgAnd, because we can’t live by knitting alone, some spinning.  I’m working on the rest of Nora, all of her black wool, hoping to get enough for a sweater again.  In order to minimize variation as I spin, I’ve invested in plastic weaving shuttle bobbins and a bobbin winder (learned this trick from Jasmin of the Knitmore Girls).  I’ll spin up all the singles, then will ply them all at once.

17.jpgI love my gray Nora sweater which matches Selkie perfectly; this one will match The Poison Pawn.  I’m sure they will both keep an eye on me while it progresses.

And I’ll keep an eye on the snowfall.  Sigh.

Love,

Ellen

P.S.  By the way, the WHNHH effort is now at over 32% of Congress covered.  I am pleased!

Three More Warm Hats

Dear Ellen,

I will have a few more posts this weekend, but wanted to update you on my WHNHH efforts…3 more complete to bring me to 6.   All three are original, created as I went, patterns.

dsc02320.JPGdsc02323.JPGdsc02321.JPGI’m loving the undulation of this cabled hat.  Recognize the yarn?  It’s the leftover from TGIF (BTW, I finally found buttons I think will truly work…will try to sew those on this weekend!)  I made up the pattern which is basically staggered rows of a 2-1-2 cable.  Note the Channel Island Cast On — I’m trying to use it a lot to memorize it.  When it’s on the head you can see the “1″ which is a purl stitch.  When it’s not it looks like a standard C2F.  The staggering resulted in a nice lapping wave effect.  I may have to do it again in sea greens and blues.

dsc02318.JPGdsc02317.JPGThis poppy red one is basically a scant inch of twisted stitch  ribbing followed by the eye of partridge stitch pattern until the decreases…pattern stitch maintained during the 6 paired sets of decreases.  Dale really loves this one…the simplicity and the fact that all that slipping creates a thicker fabric.  He wants me to make another for him before next winter.  Or sooner if it gets really cold again.   The yarn is soft, soft, soft!  It’s Classic Elite Kumara — 85% extra fine merino and 15% baby camel.  I got it on sale for about $4 a ball.

dsc02324.JPGdsc02326.JPGThe grey one was a SUPER fast knit.  I was getting brain dead and just wanted to do something really mindless.  The staggered ribbing and the variation in K3P3 to K1P1 happened organically.  I think the result is very satisfying.   Knitpicks Andean Silk at $4.49 a ball for a great blend of merino, alpaca and silk and a delight to knit.

Keep up the extraordinary work with the campaign.  I will be ready to mail mine out at the end of the month.

Love, Jan

(Grass)root canal…

Dear Jan,

I had a small but profound moment this morning.  No, it wasn’t when the endodontist rasped his way nearly into my sinuses in an effort to clean out my “unusually small root canals” on the tooth that is getting crowned next week.  It was about 45 minutes earlier.

I was sitting in the dental chair, waiting for the doctor to come and start the procedure, and listening to the radio station that was playing.  Rather, I was trying not to listen, as the morning talk show in which the DJ’s were inciting Vikings fans to eviscerate Packers fans (and vice versa) was not exactly a relaxing prelim to my root canal.  And that’s when I realized - it isn’t just civility in my politicians that I’m seeking with the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign.  It’s civility with each other.

And I felt like I owed it to every person out there who is knitting a hat to simply ask to have the radio channel changed.  Not to make a fuss, or point fingers, just to point out that this nasty discourse dressed up as entertainment was not helping me relax, so it wasn’t helping the endodontist do his job, either.

I did, asking quite civilly and framing it up as the current channel wasn’t helpful to the procedure, and with no question and more than a little apology, the channel was changed.  And maybe, just maybe, some more awareness was raised.  It’s tiny grass roots efforts like this, repeated many times by many people of good heart, that will raise the standard of behavior for all.

It didn’t change the amount of ibuprofen I’ve needed to take over the course of today, but it did make me feel a lot better about myself and also about that entire office.

Love,

Ellen

From head… to toes?

Dear Jan,

33.jpgI confess to being a polygamous knitter.  Even at the rate that hats are passing through my hands this month (5 down, at least one more to go) for the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads project, I have gotten some knitting in for the other extremities.

15.jpg22.jpgI finished up my carry-along socks  last Friday night.  Nothing to write home about here, unless you want to count the fabulous Schaefer yarn in colorway ‘Toni Morrison’ that Susette brought me when she visited two years ago.  Or the tubular cast on, a la TechKnitter (TM).  Other than that, your ordinary top down stocking stitch socks.

Not so ordinary has been the recent response to some delightful publicity which the WHNHH campaign has gotten.  To remind those who don’t look in here so frequently, WHNHH is a project that Alison and I got going to provide a concrete reminder to our public servants that we appreciate their service and that we’d like them to discuss the issues respectfully, all in the best interest of our nation.

It seems to have hit a few chords.  India was quick to join in enthusiastically and to promote it to many of her knitting connections.  One of the most interesting connections was laid out today on Kristin Nichols’ blog, Getting Stitched On the Farm.  And just yesterday we had the delight of hearing India’s voice when she called in to the On Point with Tom Ashbrook program on Boston Public Radio.

nichols-hat.JPGAs a result, I’ve had the delight of reading emails and messages on Ravelry from wonderful knitters (and one crocheter!) who agree with our mission and are casting on hats, probably as I type.  And we are now at over 25% of Congress covered!

Love to all,

Ellen

P.S.  The hat pictured above is a Kristin Nichols design, Quarter’s Cap, knit by Diana in her own hand-dyed yarn.

What does success look like?

Dear Jan,

43.jpgAs the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign continues into its last couple of weeks, with over 20% of Congress having hats being knit for them and more to come,  I’ve been asking myself that question pretty regularly.

When I started this, I really just wanted a way to connect with one or two politicians, a way to get my letter noticed - the one asking them to be the best public servant possible by maintaining an open dialogue with all.

After Alison affirmed the idea and jumped in and started knitting, suddenly it seemed like a good idea to invite others to come along on the journey.  More hats arriving at roughly the same time might even engender some good conversations in the halls of Congress.   Seeing her eloquent post on the subject sure felt like success to me.

Then of course, I started worrying.  Would I be letting down any of the knitters who stepped up for this if we didn’t get tons of publicity and send multiple hats to every Representative and Senator?  What if only 3 or 4 others signed up.  Would those who did feel foolish at our small numbers?

61.jpgWell, at this point I doubt we are going to send hundreds and hundreds of hats off.  We will send over one hundred (!).  And I have learned that success might not look like lots of hats sent at all.  Success might look like what we are already seeing and experiencing before a single hat is mailed.

  1. Many like-minded knitters have connected with each other via the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads Ravelry group and Facebook pages.
  2. The call for civility has been eloquently expressed on blogs like SpinDyeKnit, She Shoots Sheep Shots, Knitting Linguist, Knitnana, Knitorious, My Middle Name is Patience, Now Norma Knits, The Feral Knitter, and Modeknit.  (I think I’ve missed some - my apologies!) Great discussion is happening in the comments of these and other blogs.
  3. The knitters themselves are finding joy in doing this.
  4. The knitters are finding themselves changing, in a good way.

Here are a few of the things I’m hearing…

“I love this idea! Finally something positive that I can do about the downward spiral.”

“I vote for people on both sides of the aisle depending on their public position.  I liked that you commented on knitting for people we wouldn’t vote for because that thought has been in my “warm head”.”

“… it feels like a wonderful, positive response to the negativity in today’s political climate.”

“Just thinking about what hat to knit for him made me feel more kindly to him.” (paraphrased from personal conversation)

I’m also hearing that this isn’t for everyone - and I completely understand.  If one of those folks listens with interest to us, hears that yes, we know most of the hats won’t end up on the heads of those to whom we are sending them, that we ask they be donated to charity if not wanted by the Congressperson, and that it is just as much about changing ourselves as changing the recipients, and then I hear them say, “I get it.  Still not for me, but I get it,” then that is a fine success, too.

51.jpgThanks to everyone who is going on this journey with Alison and me.  And a special thanks to India who has been so energized by this that she has created a Facebook page, connected with her friends in the knitting world who then passed the word via their blogs, even posted about it on The Daily Show forum, and all while knitting 5 hats herself!

I hope your weekend has been a successful chance to relax.

Love,

Ellen

P.S. My latest little knitting success, which I’m wearing above, is Haven Leavitt’s Man Hat knit of Misti Alpaca chunky on size 10 needles.  I love this hat - warm, soft, long enough to brim or just pull down over ears and neck.  The other little multicolor hat in this post is Nona’s contribution to the cause, her own design.  Nona and I knit together most Wednesday’s, and at least one more hat will come from that group before we are done.