Archive | June, 2012

Sock Drive for GNP

22 Jun

Beargrass grows at Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana. (not my photo)

I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I don’t think I express that enough on this blog, and it’s worth mentioning. Montana is home to the majority of Glacier National Park (it bleeds a little into Canada) and GNP is my favorite thing about Montana.

I’ve never spent significant time there, but hopefully that will change in the coming years as my life situation is much more stable. This natural wonder is just a few hours north of me, and there isn’t a bad view in the place. Even the grass is pretty (see above).

What does this all have to do with knitting? Well, yesterday I heard through Facebook that Camas Creek Yarn, the largest LYS in Montana, is holding a sock drive to support Glacier National Park. This shop is located in Whitefish, Mont., just outside of the park, and is gathering socks, boot toppers, leg warmers, etc., to be auctioned at the Fall for Glacier Backpacker’s Ball in September. The funds raised from the socks will go toward maintenance on the 734 miles of trails in GNP, according to the Camas Creek posting, here.

I can’t resist this. I’ll get to knit socks AND donate them to a cause supporting Glacier? This takes charity knitting to a whole new level for me.

Besides, if you follow the link above and read more about the sock drive you’ll see that Camas Creek is offering some amazing prize packages for the customer favorites and best-of-class donated socks. I wouldn’t mind winning a two-day $400 trip and yarn shopping package to Whitefish, would you?

If you have it in you to knit up some beautiful socks (or other footwear) to support this cause, please do. Here’s the link again, and it has all the information about where and when to send the socks. They must be received by July 31!

Twisted Flower Socks. Copyright Cookie A.

I’m planning to knit Cookie A’s Twisted Flower Socks from Knit.Sock.Love. in a gorgeous red color. Red is a common theme color for Glacier National Park, and their wildflowers are a true thing a beauty.

Since there are awesome prizes up for grabs in this sock drive, why would I be encouraging all of you awesome knitters to compete with me? Because I love Glacier National Park!

If you have some sock stash hanging around or you can afford to donate even a simple boot topper to this great cause, please do.

Our national park system is a treasure. I’m lucky enough to live in a place with abundant parks and protected areas, but they are too rare in our country, and they need our support!

Knitting is not a sport…

21 Jun

… but it takes a lot of time, effort and skill.

I’m only writing this post because my blog has seen a lot of traffic today from people Googling “Ravelympics” due to the controversy.

I won’t recap the whole ordeal (read an article here, and a blog post from the Yarn Harlot here) but the term “Ravelympics” can no longer be applied to the upcoming knitting events that happen to take place during the Olympics and are registered on Ravelry.

Basically, the US Olympic Committee took legal offense to the name (I guess they own “Olympics” and the rings) and although the events will still happen, they’ll have to be named something else.

They included a patronizing insult to the knitting community in their legal letter, and later submitted a half-assed apology, but regardless of this whole mess, I still intend to participate in my Olympic-time sweater project. Something else will likely be on TV, but I’ll participate.

To all knitters who are as saddened and personally hurt by the callous opinion of the USOC regarding our merit as champions of a craft, just remember that they have to wear store-bought socks. It makes me feel better.

Keeping myself entertained

13 Jun

It’s worth mentioning that Pan’s Labyrinth is not available on Netflix instant streaming.

As you know, lately I’ve been doing a lot of knitting. Mom’s birthday present is about 6 inches and a new ball of yarn away from being finished. While I wait for that ball of yarn to arrive, dad’s gift is on the needles and knitting up nicely.

All of this knitting has me sitting around a lot. I generally like to go for walks or bike rides, but with a deadline looming, I really need to spend as much time knitting as possible right now. This means I’ve been spending nearly all my time on my butt in my living room.

I think all knitters go through this, and we’ve come up with several ways of coping with these long periods of sitting. I need to be entertained. My husband hangs out with me most of the time, but I can’t stand when he interrupts my counting, so we mostly watch movies or TV together during this time.

Netflix instant streaming service is a life saver right now, and I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite TV shows to have on while I knit. (I can’t accurately say I “watch” these shows, but I glance and listen.)

  • Breaking Bad
  • Doctor Who
  • Downton Abbey
  • Supernatural
  • The Killing (Awesome knitwear in this show!)
  • Sherlock
  • Parks and Recreation

Most of these shows have several seasons available for streaming on Netflix, so I have endless hours of knitting entertainment available. However, I don’t always want to watch TV while I knit. Another great resource for the long-range knitter is podcasts. Here are some of my current favorites:

  • Stash N’ Burn (knitting)
  • KCRW’s Unfictional (Like “This American Life”, but better)
  • Fat Man on Batman (Kevin Smith talks about Batman with guests, explicit content)

What’s great about podcasts is that you can find them about anything that interests you, they’re free, and you don’t have to glance at a screen to keep up with what’s happening. But, wouldn’t you know it, sometimes I get bored with podcasts, too. Good thing audiobooks exist! Here are some that I’ve greatly enjoyed while knitting:

  • The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs
  • Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Audiobooks can be expensive, so unless you have an Audible account, I would recommend checking out your local library’s electronic collection. You can often download an audiobook for 2 weeks. That’s plenty of time to work on a big project!

How do you stay entertained while knitting?

My stash runneth over

7 Jun

I recently helped my good friend Kristine out with the simple task of checking in on her birds while she was out of town. They’re good birds, and her house is on my way to work, so it was truly no problem to do this favor.

Last night Kristine (and the birds!) thanked me with a gift certificate to my favorite local yarn shop! While this was totally unnecessary, I will not turn down yarn and I was touched by the thoughtfulness.

Gift certificates burn a hole in my pocket, so this afternoon I went down to Loopy Knit/Crochet and came out with two bright, electric blue skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima (440 yds total) and a Brittany shawl pin.

Brittany makes beautiful needles and crochet hooks in Northern California using sustainably harvest birch hardwood. I have a few sets of their needles, and the shawl pin looks like a short knitting needle. I love it!

As soon as I free up some knitting time for myself I’m going to make something gorgeous to go around my neck with this yarn. It might be a scarf or a shawl or a cowl, but whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

Thank you, Kristine!

Support designers, read charts!

5 Jun

You know that big project I’ve been working on recently? The one that is a secret until July 28 and is the reason I haven’t been posting much on here lately? Well, it’s not done, but it’s close.

This project, a 50th birthday present for my mom, has been challenging at times because it is so big. However, the pattern is beautifully written by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed, and it’s interesting and rewarding enough to keep me going.

This pattern, like most Brooklyn Tweed patterns, is written with charts. Charts, for those who don’t know, are the little graphs that feature different notations or colors in certain squares to denote what type of stitch you should use. It’s a great way to compactly communicate a pattern and cut down on confusion for colorwork and lace projects.

As I’ve been working on my mom’s present, I’ve been checking the pattern page on Ravelry a lot to see other people’s projects and read their notes and suggestions. It’s a relatively new pattern, but luckily no errors have cropped up yet! During my research, however, I’ve come across a lot of comments from knitters who are angry that Brooklyn Tweed exclusively uses charts for the lace, cable and color repeats in their patterns rather than writing out the instructions line by line, row by row.

Several of these knitters have expressed the sentiment that they will wait until someone steals the pattern, writes out the charts, and offers it under a different name, perhaps with slight changes to make it legal. This is essentially a bootleg pattern, which undercuts the time and effort that the original designer and publisher put into writing and testing the pattern.

I’m angry about this. I understand that some people don’t know how to read charts. I understand that it can be inconvenient when a pattern is only written in a way you can’t decipher (you have no idea how many beautiful Icelandic and Finnish patterns evade my language skills). What I don’t understand is that nasty attitude and decision to acquire a bootleg pattern rather than take a few minutes to learn how to read a knitting chart!

There was a time when I couldn’t read charts. I read written instructions line by line, row by row, often losing my place or getting confused about the future of how my pattern was supposed to look. Without a visual reference like a chart, it’s also much more difficult to identify mistakes in patterns until after you’ve knit them in. I was also sad that a lot of beautiful patterns that I wanted to knit weren’t written out, but rather included charts.

Do you know how I handled that situation? I Googled “how to read knitting charts”. It worked like gangbusters. Knitting charts are simple to read once you know how, and there are so many benefits to using charts that I will often translate written instructions into a chart for myself if one isn’t included with the pattern. They are compact, convenient, and intuitive. That’s why so many great designers write them.

So, if anyone reading this doesn’t know how to read a knitting chart and would like to take an hour or so to learn, I’ve included some helpful links below. I know I won’t be making a difference to the people who don’t understand how disrespectful it is to steal a pattern rather than educate themselves about a fundamental knitting skill (reading charts), but this is a solidarity move.

I don’t buy bootleg movies, I don’t torrent music, and I buy knitting patterns if they aren’t legally offered for free. I know that in many ways the entertainment industry is set up to line the pockets of executives rather than artists, but knitting isn’t dominated by Sony and Fox Searchlight. There is a surge of innovative, high-quality knitting patterns coming into the market, largely from independent designers and companies. Let’s not discourage these hardworking artists by shrugging our shoulders when knitters would rather use a bootlegged pattern than learn to read a chart.

Learn how to read knitting charts, and tell your friends!

Ravelympics

4 Jun

Ravelympics is fast approaching, and this year I believe I will participate.

Ravelympics is a mash-up of Ravelry and Olympics – an event that challenges knitters to complete one large (or difficult) pattern during the timespan of the Olympic Games.

During a time when so many athletes are displaying their physical prowess and commitment to attaining perfection, knitters can knuckle down and show their stuff, too. And there’s always going to be something good on TV during your knitting!

The Ravelympics kick off during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which will be taking place at 7:30 p.m. on July 27 in London. This means I can cast on my project at 12:30 p.m. (in Montana) on the 27th, and must finish by the closing ceremonies on Aug. 12.

I will be coming off a birthday knitting bender on July 27. My parents and aunt will be arriving for a few days’ visit, and my mom and dad will receive their birthday presents. (Mom’s is almost off the needles, and will be quickly replaced by dad’s)

Given that I will have knit SO much in the past few months before the Ravelympics, I think I’ll be in fine fighting form to take on a fun project for myself: A sweater.

I haven’t knit a sweater for myself, other than a quick bulky-weight vest thingy. Although a sweater isn’t really going to be a technical challenge, the time limit certainly will be.

I’m going to try to be nice to myself, but during this timeframe I will be (hopefully) starting a new job, having my family visit, flying to California to visit my in-laws, and trying to prepare my husband and daughter for returning to school!

Now, why would I be crazy enough to try to knit myself a freaking sweater during all of that? Because I am going to need it. I have a feeling that taking time to myself and working on a totally selfish project like a kick-ass sweater is going to be the thing that gets me through those two weeks.

Images copyright Veera Välimäki.

Images copyright Veera Välimäki.

The pattern I’m planning on is the Hooray Cardigan by Veera Välimäki. It’s a top-down, seamless cardigan with 3/4-length sleeves. Given the time constraints of the Ravelympics, I think this construction and size will be the most realistic. I’ll be knitting the 42” bust size to fit 40.5” with some positive ease. I plan on using some Berroco Comfort DK yarn, but I’m still undecided on the color.

I’m hoping that this plan works out and that knitting myself this beautiful sweater will actually help relax me during that busy time, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Learn more about Ravelympics here. I’m not part of a team, and I won’t be competing in any of the events, but I wanted to take the opportunity to challenge myself and hopefully get a cool sweater out of it!