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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Poetry Response to a Gift

Ode to the Caged Bird, a Necklace from a Friend
by Rose Shelor
Longing for freedom, hope, prayers,
Captured in a few twists of wire,
A dove of peace, of hope,
Contained dreams.
I know why the caged bird sings. . . 
A token of friendship, kindness
Words almost never said
Echoed in every smile,
Every phrase.
A bird that stalks down his narrow cage. . . 
The expectation, the dreams
Of futures together, of long evening chats
By crackling fireside, with dogs at feet,
Tea in hand.
So he opens his throat to sing. . .
Two players at the piano bench,
Curls flowing down around shoulders,
Fingers curved at black-and-white epiphany,
Harmony.
For the caged bird sings of freedom.
This bird-in-cage pendant was given to me by a dear friend this past week. It is such a cute piece as a unique statement jewelry. And it is just that, a statement. I wrote this poem in response to the gift, in response to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The poem is about our relationship, our common interests, our shared dreams, and spending time together while discussing literature, music, and art. Sometimes, mere prose can not describe something not intended for it, so I returned to poetry. 
If my friend who made this necklace is reading this, thank you. I hope poetry can describe my gratitude for your friendship. 




Friday, January 20, 2012

A Finished Wrap-Me-Up Puppy

This puppy is another of Susan B. Anderson’s patterns from her “Itty-Bitty Toys.” It’s called a wrap-me-up puppy and is designed for children to play nap-time with. I can remember as a child playing for hours that all the dolls and animals had to go to bed, get them wrapped in their blankets, and then waking them up to do it all again. I was excited when I found this pattern because it can be both a sweet toy when the recipient is a baby, but also be a toy that can be played with for a few years after that. 
My only dissatisfaction with the pattern is part of its inherent qualities: lots of fiddly arms, legs, and ears. It is a lot of work on a set of three double-pointed needles to keep 12 stitches untangled and neat. Also, the part of sewing all those appendages takes a lot longer than would normally be expected simply because they are so tiny. As the pattern did not include a tail, and where would a dog be without his tail, I designed my own tiny tail.
I knit the puppy from KnitPicks’ sport weight, organic cotton. As this was already given to an “I-love-to-chew-all-things” baby, I’m glad that she’s not putting any fuzzy wool, or non-organic cotton in her mouth.
Even for its time-consuming nature, I still highly recommend patterns from “Itty-Bitty Toys” and the wrap-me-up puppy as some of the cutest baby gifts. It’s something different than knitting an endless parade of baby hats and Susan B. Anderson’s designs are incredibly adorable. One of my favorite designs from the book was the Princess and the Pea. I have yet to make this pattern, as the project includes knitting a huge stack of blankets, quilts, and mattresses for the Princess. 
What are your favorite patterns for baby gifts? I’d love to hear what you’re working on!
Happy Knitting!




Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Green Ruche Beret

So I finished that Ruche Beret in record time. I think I worked on it for about three days. It’s a well-written pattern, and I’m excited to have learned how to pleat in knitting. Part of the obsession was that the color breaks in the yarn gave me manageable goals. I wasn’t just knitting eight inches of plain stockinette but watching a symphonic harmony in green slide through my fingers. This ruche beret coordinates with the green scarflette I posted on here about previously, so now I have an entire green set. Wearing hand-knits is a great way to ward off the winter chill and have fun with different textures and colors.
I definitely plan to be knitting more green yarn, my current favorite color, and definitely plan to make another Ruche Beret. However, I intend to put more pleats into any future hats so that the headband is a little snugger. The Ruche Beret pattern was written by Susan B. Anderson, who wrote her own books called "Itty-Bitty Toys" and "Itty-Bitty Nursery." I have always enjoyed her designs; there are clear instructions with little details that pull the design together. 

Slouchy berets seem to me to be the most wearable hats; you stick them on, over a bundle of hair or not, and they frame your face without you fidgeting with them. What's your favorite type of hat? Do you prefer a hat or scarf to frame your face? 

Happy Knitting!





Monday, January 16, 2012

A Greenery Beret and a Ruche Beret

This week I finished a wonderful beret from the book “Weekend Hats” by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre. When I first saw the book at my local Barnes and Noble, I was enchanted. Already I could see several hats that I wanted to make and wear. Although the hats are all unique and have sufficient techniques to teach me something new and to challenge me, they are both knit-able and wearable. 
The red beret I’m modeling in these photos is the Greenery Beret from “Weekend Hats,” designed by Melissa LaBarre. The yarn used is Hollyberry Merino Style from KnitPicks. I have found yet another colorway of Merino Style that I love. The Greenery Beret surprised me by being much larger than other hats I have made. The finished beret is larger than my dinner plates! However, it's size is absolutely wonderful because it covers my ears, hair, and forehead with soft, textured warmth.
The cowl is knit from another KnitPicks yarn, this time, Wool of the Andes Sport. I happened to choose the Hollyberry colorway for this yarn as well. I did not realize how identical the yarns were. Aside from touch, where one can discern the difference in softness from the merino and the Peruvian Highland wool, they are indistinguishable. I designed this cowl with a drop stitch pattern. After seeing a beautiful drop stitch pattern on Ravelry that was selling for six dollars, I decided I could design my own drop stitch cowl. I knit the cowl in the drop stitch pattern for twenty-six inches, I cast off and crocheted the two ends together. 
I am very excited to have a new matching set in this lovely dark cranberry color. It reminds me of the fire-red leaves in autumn, and the red berries at Christmas, and now the cranberries that have made their way into my kitchen. 









I am currently knitting another hat from “Weekend Hats,” the Ruche Beret designed by Susan B. Anderson. I am knitting it in a wool/acrylic blend from Lion Brand Yarn called Amazing. It is a green yarn that slowly morphs from a light, sandy green, to the vibrant green of spring, to a brilliant, bright green of summer leaves, to the darker, deeper evergreens of winter. I am enchanted with this truly Amazing yarn. 
I am trying to make this Ruche Beret out of only one ball of Amazing. I have 147 yards. Will it be enough? If not, I will probably just buy another ball because I am already loving this hat and would not want to rip it out. 

So, my final consensus of this book is that it is excellent. I will definitely be making more "Weekend Hats" and wearing them for the entire week. There's nothing quite like a warm hat on a cold day to make you feel cozier.




Wednesday, January 11, 2012

3am Cable Hat in Dusty Rose

This hat was my first cabled project. I used Smariek’s 3am cable hat http://smariek.blogspot.com/2006/01/chemo-hat-8-completed-3am-blue-cable.html to learn to cable. Her tutorial at this link was extremely helpful, and since then, I have loved cables. I knit this hat about three years ago, with Caron’s Simply Soft. Although I now do not enjoy working with synthetic fibers as much as natural ones, I love this Dusty Rose color. Here the hat is modeled by a little friend of mine. At the time, this pattern was quite a challenge for me, learning to decrease two ways and cabling, but now I repeat this pattern for a quick, simple, and fast hat pattern that still is very cute. The cables and ribs help "hug" the head, so it doesn't fall off, or get stretched out as quickly as some other stitch patterns.

Note to knitters: over the past years of pretty frequent use, the acrylic has lost some of its stretch, whereas the same pattern in 100% wools have retained their elasticity.





She was enjoying her wooden paddle ball while I tried to take photos.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fiber Fun and Alpaca Pictures

Knitting has engaged my curiosity because there are endless creative possibilities to explore and new skills to learn. In the past seven years, I have progressed from a beginning scarf with acrylic to designing accessories, dyeing my own yarn, and spinning fiber from an animal I met. I have also grown in using my skill as a connection with people I did not know. I gained social skills by interacting with knitters that I met through knitting groups, at the nursing home where I volunteer, and through learning how to teach a class to beginning knitters. Beyond the techniques I have acquired, I have grown in mathematical skills when calculating my own patterns and in creative skills to design new projects. 
My curiosity about knitting first piqued when I saw someone wearing a hand-knit scarf when I was ten. I learned how to knit from a friend and got involved in a local knitting guild. Through exposure to the designers and farmers raising livestock for their fiber in this guild, I learned new techniques, made new friends, and took classes from them. I learned to dye my own yarn and spin from a woman in that group. I was also exposed to these women’s love for crafting that they turned into local small businesses. I observed from an alpaca farmer in my knitting group the labor-intense process that goes into each skein of yarn by helping her shear her animals. 
After learning knitting techniques, I have enjoyed the freedom to invent my own designs. I have taken inspiration from other crafters’ blog and local knitters. Once I began thinking outside the box, I realized the great potential of original knitting design. While reading other bloggers’ work, I admired some designs, but knew they were not practical. Whether I am designing hats or fingerless gloves, I want a product that will be functional as well as beautiful. I also seek to learn new techniques through my designs, but still make patterns accessible to new knitters. 
Knitting has also propelled me into other creative outlets, interested me in small business ownership, and helped me connect with my community. When I began my blog, I realized I needed to learn more about photography in order to better communicate about my knitting. Eventually learning web design and how operate a small business will help me expand my expertise. The more I research, reading about knitting in books and blogs and discussing it in local knitting groups, the more I realize that I can knit for a lifetime and never finish learning. There will always be another skill to learn, a new idea to discover, and more gifts to share. My curiosity will never be quenched. 
Here are old fiber pictures of that alpaca shearing day. Did you know that alpacas spit green slime when they're panicky? They're definitely like camels. I had a blast that day. My amazing mother took me to this alpaca farm to help a friend and ended up shearing alpaca, shoveling manure, chasing my littlest two siblings, and taking care of the extra children running wild on the farm.








These are pictures of my brother and me. Aren't alpacas the cutest animals ever? Mom and I thought we would get one as a pet, until we researched and learned how much they cost. They're about the price of a nice sports car. 

By the way, in the picture of my brother with all the buckets of fiber, he was sorting all the different grades of fiber as they were sheared. My job was to hold the alpaca's head and keep it still without choking it. I ended up getting spit on by the alpaca. :) It was just part of the fun.

The alpacas were strapped to a board that was then flipped up to form a table. The shearer, who had been doing it for years and years, could shear each alpaca in about a minute. Then we had to lower the table, turn the alpaca around to shear the other side, re-strap the alpaca, and then shear that side. It was a lot more work that it sounds like here because the entire time, the alpaca is panicking, spitting, and kicking like mad. 

It was a blast.


Do you have any fiber adventure stories to tell of your own? Do you own fiber animals? I'd love to hear your stories!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another Baby Bonnet

Here are several pictures of my favorite baby wearing hand knits I’ve given to her. I gave this bonnet to her mother at her baby shower. She so quickly filled this lavender bonnet, so it was a little difficult squeezing her back into her it. She’s at the wonderful stage of babyhood when she’s learning how to clap and wave. She posed beautifully and giggled the whole time. 

In the background of the photos of Baby Cutie in her bonnet, there's a beautiful hand knit blanket knit in the feather and fan stitch. I didn't make it, but the mother of Cutie wanted to use it as a background. I might try to get more focused pictures (with one hand knit per picture) but I really love seeing them together. Cutie put on a great performance during the photo shoot, smiling, clapping, and waving. She's probably the most kissable baby ever. . . but I digress. 

The bonnet was knit with 50% silk, 50% Merino wool from an Australian yarn called Dawn, I think. This bonnet was another one of those lace and leaves bonnets. I purchased the pattern at Great Yarns in Raleigh. I definitely have gotten good use out of this pattern. I have made four of them. They are cute as buttons, but attaching the cord to tie the bonnet is a pain. 

Occasionally, the ends work themselves loose and I just have to reattach them. There has to be a better way for a bonnet to tie. I have an unfinished bonnet that I believe I will use a white ribbon with instead of the obnoxious twisted yarn cords I've made for all the others. Although I'm kind of tired of making the bonnets, seeing them of Cutie makes me love them enough to make more. 

But probably not for a while.








Monday, January 2, 2012

Green Fingerless Mitts with Buttons, a Scarflette, and a Headband (finishing up Christmas gift posting)

I knit these fingerless mitts from the cuff up. I made the pattern up as I went based on a few proportions from other patterns I had. These mitts were knit from one of my favorite yarns, Merino Style, from Knit Picks, in the Moss colorway (probably my favorite of the colors I’ve used from Merino Style). It does have to be gently hand-washed (as it’s 100% Merino wool), but it is very soft.  It also gets fluffier and softer after washing, technically called blooming. 
I added a unique button from JoAnn’s to the cuff. It reminds me of lace, except in plastic. It’s a lighter green than the mitts, but it coordinated nicely. I made these mitts for a friend of mine who loves buttons. Have you ever spent time making something specifically for that person really hoping they love it, and you don’t really hear back from them? It’s like the item has disappeared forever. I don’t know how much she likes them, but hopefully she’ll enjoy them. 
I got these pictures a few minutes before packaging the mitts up to give to my friend. My sister is modeling. I think she was secretly hoping that I would decide to give them to her. 






In this second series of pictures, I’m wearing the fingerless mitts with the buttons (it was freezing outside, okay? and I was just wearing my pretty Christmas dress) and another triangular scarflette. I loved how the scarflette and the mitts pretty much match (both from the same company, though slightly different fiber content influenced dye adhesion). The scarflette was knit from another beautiful yarn, Gloss DK, also from KnitPicks. It is 70% Merino wool, 30% silk. The yarn is dyed after the two fibers were mixed (I don’t know if this was before or after it was spun), which resulted in a bit of sparkle. Silk does not accept dye as readily as wool does (wool just drinks it up) so the silk is a slightly lighter green and gives the yarn color more dimension and vibrancy that a 100% wool yarn.

As of yet, the scarflette has not found a new home. I’m hoping to sell it if I can figure out how to set up the business logistics and PayPal. If you're interested in purchasing it, send me an email and we'll discuss details.






In these last pictures, I’m modeling another Christmas gift for a friend. She saw the blue flowered headband for my sister and told me she wanted one in red. I was so excited. I can follow directions and I love knowing that she'll actually probably wear it. The one I made for her was smaller than my sister’s; it’s flower is smaller, more elegant, and more appropriate from a teenager than huge flower. Plus, my sister’s flowered headband is starting to flop around from the weight of the flower. My sister had literally stretched out her headband from trying it on too many times before I even gave it to her. I designed this little red headband with i-cord tails so the fit can be adjusted to fit the wearer’s head and if the headband stretches a little, it won’t be a big deal. 



So yes, I know Christmas is over, and school has started again, but I’m still catching up with posting the picture of all my Christmas knits. What have you been working on? Did you finish all your Christmas knits in time, or are you still finishing up the IOU projects? You can put your answer in the comments. 

Happy New Year!