Sunday, October 31, 2010

Current status on hats for U.S.S. Decatur

I just received an acknowledgement note that my package has been received and for those who are interested in this project, the newest blog post... with photos... from Adventures in Paradise is linked here.

My apologies for not posting more lately. I've had many not-good days of late. Several days when I was doing better, I worked on some front yard gardening... planting bulbs for spring and moving some roses from the back and side yard to the front yard. I can't wait until spring now! I feel like that old Mervyn's store commercial... I stand at the living room window and say, "spring! spring! spring!"

My BearMan has provided some hardscaping in the front yard which will be filled with flowers in the spring & summer...

There will be peonies, roses, a few iris, and tons of spring bulbs in the oval planter. I'm not certain what else will go there, but another climbing rose will be trained up the arbor on the driveway side when I find the "perfect" rose. The peonies and two of the roses were already on the property when we moved here. Surrounding the basement egress under the living room, more spring bulbs including daffodils, tulips and crocus, as well as cyclamen, bleeding heart, astilbe, and columbine have been planted. Except for the front corner where the existing azaleas remain... for now... very little sun falls in this area, so these are almost entirely all shade plants. The interior of the basement egress walls will be painted to help reflect more light into the basement, later this spring. Also later in the spring, after they have flowered and been pruned, the azaleas along the driveway, and those in the planter in front, will be moved to the property line, behind and to the left of the rose planter.

A second egress access is being constructed around the basement window on the other side of the front since I took these photos. When that is done, the other side of the front of the house will be prepared for more shade plants this spring & summer.

The hydrangea will have a new home as it was planted directly in front of the basement window, which had to be severely excavated to eventually install an egress window. By the front door is an "ancient" rhododendren. After it flowers this spring, it will be at least a third shorter. I've been "taming" it for a couple of years now. I still need to dig up the hostas and divide them. The area that is largely brown between the rhodie and the hydrangea now has been covered with a wild variety of bleeding heart so lush you cannot see anything but green and the little purple-red flowers through spring and summer. I'll keep some of it, but the entire area will likely be replanted with new shade plants once the planting area has been installed.

In addition to the gardening, on "better days," I've also been working on "behind" the scenes projects. But, I will try to do better posting... I'm working on getting all my photos backed up to a different drive, but I then have to export photos to a different folder to share them here...

It is hard to see in the front yard, but in the back yard, our neighbor has a maple tree that is almost in full fall color. The temps and weather have finally seemed to recognize that it is time to be cool and rain... I love this time of year!

Joy in the journey,


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hats sailing away...

I shipped off the hats this morning... along with a DVD of "Robin Hood: men in tights" and "Blind Side." Wish I could do more. If you've made hats or would like to send something else, and need the mailing address, please let me know. I'll be happy to send you the mailing address.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sailor Hats 1 & 2

I finished my hats for the U.S.S. Decatur sailors! They were both very fast knits... one day each! I was able to use yarn already in my stash for both projects: Knit Picks Swish Bulky in Tidepool (discontinued color) for the hat on the left, and Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Truffle for the hat on the right.

The first hat I completed is the "Waffle Hat" from the KnitHats website. I just wasn't confident after swatching that the hat would be of adequate size, so I cast-on 88 sts rather than the 76 the pattern calls for. I tend to knit tightly, but even after obtaining gauge with the suggested needle size... doing the math for the finished size of the pattern, based on the st/in measurement, just seemed on the small side. I have a 22.5 inch noggin, though, and was also concerned that "big head" guys might not have enough hats to choose from. Better too large than too small. You can fold the bottom up more to make the hat shorter, and the stitch pattern is basically a 2x2 rib, so it has plenty of stretch to fit pretty much everyone.

Still, I hate a hat so tight repairing "hat head" requires electro shock. When a hat feels like a tourniquet I simply will not wear it. I don't want it so loose it won't stay on or permits wind to blow up inside, but I don't want to require the millinery version of a shoehorn to get it on my head either. And I want a watchcap style hat to cover my ears easily, thank you, so I added an inch to the height.

My finished Waffle Hat measures 10" tall by 16" diameter and is very stretchy. It would easily fit a 24" diameter head. One full skein, and a portion of a second skein... less than half... on 5mm (#8) needles got the job done nicely.

My second hat was inspired by "Ed's Hat" from the Lion Brand Yarn website. However, that pattern was designed to be used with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn... a super bulky. The yarn I had to use was Knit Picks Swish Bulky, not super bulky, so this was gonna require math to make it work. I despise math. I'd rather be shot than do math. Since I would have to swatch anyway to make my yarn work with this pattern, I decided to design my own. I've been toying with some ideas for "tutorial knits," using a project to teach skills, so I decided to make this a "sampler hat."

It is worked in the round, using the Magic Loop technique, my preferred in-the-round knitting technique. It could just as easily be made using DPNs (double point needles or "pins," as they are charmingly referenced in Euro parlance), or two circulars, if preferred. When I get the pattern worked up, there will be a tutorial version and a simple pattern version. If one already knows how to knit in the round, or how to do Magic Loop, they can simply follow the traditional pattern.

However, if one is a "knitting newbie," ready to progress from scarves and baby blankets to a hat and other "circle" projects, everything one needs to successfully complete this hat using the Magic Loop technique will be in the tutorial version. (Less the enthusiasm & motivation the knitter must bring to the project, of course.) If you've been looking for a small, fast, project to learn the Magic Loop technique, this tutorial will hold your hand through that process. After you've used the tutorial, I'd love any feedback you might have that you feel would have provided additional support to your success, or simply to make it even easier for you.

Because time is of the essence due to the mailing deadline necessary to get donations to their destination in a timely manner, it is necessary to delay the final edition of the pattern. I'd like to consider whether to add some photos and if I do, that will necessitate a second knit of the hat. Which is fine because I'm planning on making another for myself anyway.

The tutorial version will be written for "newbie" knitters, assuming nothing. Using larger needles and yarn will cause the project to go quickly, and no more than ten rounds of any stitch pattern comprises any part of the design. All based on variations of knit and purl stitches, it is only the sequencing of the knit and purl stitches that modifies the various textures of the stitch patterns in this design. Most are based on a "rib" type stitch pattern to provide maximum stretch to the design, which will make the FO (finished object) a great gift pattern. Two types of decreases are included, k2tog (knit two together) and p2tog (purl two together), and the design encourages the use of the Cable Cast-on while offering justifications for learning this skill.

I've decided to call the pattern, "Sampler Skills Watchcap," because it is a sampler of several skills and stitch patterns. Once the first hat is completed, additional hats can easily be customized using one of the stitch patterns through the body of the hat or any other multiple-of-four-stitch patterns that equally divides eight. Maintain the 2x2 ribbing at the top and the bottom, along with the stockinette and garter stitch section, but knit the section in-between in one or a combination of the stitch patterns of the original Sampler version. Or continue in stockinette or garter stitch or use an "any number of stitches" stitch pattern. Lots of variations for a weekend knit gift hat!

With the brim rolled up, this hat measures 18" in diameter and 8" deep. It has tons of stretch though, so it will comfortably fit a head at least 24" in diameter.

Might I also say... Knit Picks Swish Bulky is a dream to work with! SO soft, it works up quickly, "frogs" and "tinks" nicely, (there is no designing without a good supply of each), is superwash... which means it can be gently washed by machine... is one of the softest 100% wools I've felt, (love Merino), and with the textured stitch patterns, will be very snuggly and warm on cold windy days and nights. This hat takes a single skein to complete. I'm not sure why, or how, the bulky version is softer than the worsted version, but it sure feels like it is.

Okay. I'm off to request the mailing address to send my hats in. :-) 
(Lynne @ if you need to get the address too.)

Joy in the journey,


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Of ships, hats, & holidays

Elianastar: My stepdad was a career U.S. Navy man and I spent a fair amount of time on or near Naval Bases growing up. A goodly portion of my 8-10 year-old years were spent on the U.S. Territory Island of Guam, and my 13-16 year-old years were spent on the main island of Oahu, Hawaii. (The main island, not the Big Island.) The rest of my 7 to 17 years were spent within driving distance of a U.S. Naval base. My stepdad retired from the Navy my senior year, weeks before my graduation. As a result, I have a soft spot for those in the U.S. Navy. I hasten to add however, that my brother was U.S. Army Airborne, my husband was in the U.S. Air Force when I met him, my son-in-love is in the Oregon National Guard, and you don't spend any time near a U.S. Navy base without meeting your share of Marines... so I've got a broad support for the U.S. Military as a whole.

Which brings me to the point of this particular blog. I follow Wendy Knits blog and she posted a couple of days ago about a blog that she follows, Adventures in Paradise. The author of Adventures in Paradise has a daughter who is in the U.S. Navy. She will be taking command of the U.S.S. Decatur sometime in December of this year. It is her goal to demonstrate support for each sailor on the ship with individual gift boxes. Central to these gift boxes, she'd like to include at least one warm, knit or crochet cap, in Superwash Wool, but she has included a list of additional items that will be greatly appreciated by the crew during off hours. There are 278 sailors on board and any overflow of gifts will be passed on to other ships in the area. 

If you have kids or are a teacher, these sailors would love letters from kids! This makes a great writing/English exercise for students and will make the day of any sailor who receives the letters!

If you have the heart and will to participate, you can get all the details @ Adventures in Paradise. You do not need to be able to knit or crochet to participate... there are lots of other things that are requested, in addition to cash which will be pooled to purchase a number of things in bulk from Costco, particularly those things that do not arrive in sufficient quantity. However, if you do knit or crochet, or know someone who does, warm hats on a ship at sea will be profoundly appreciated!

Please note: All donations must be received no later than November 1, 2010, so time is of the essence!

If you need pattern ideas, Wendy Knits wrote a second blog that includes some optional pattern ideas. If you don't have a Ravelry membership, (and if you don't, that's easily fixed), here is a Google search of potential knit & crochet patterns to consider. If you are a member of Ravelry, here is a search of free patterns &/or patterns that can be downloaded via Ravelry.

When you are deciding on a pattern, keep in mind the conditions under which these hats will be worn: at sea, on the deck of a ship, often under very windy conditions. They either need to be of a design that will hug the head fairly well (don't make them too shallow so they can be pulled down over the ears and stay put), or have some sort of ties to secure them under adverse conditions. There are no color specifications, so unlike on the battle field, you can be a lot more creative with these hats than you can with those who must remain under camouflage conditions. 

Whatever hat you end up making, it must be made ONLY in 100% washable wool... no blends, no acrylic... only 100% washable wool. This means it will be labeled as either "washable" or "Superwash" and include the word "wool" and no other fiber content. This may be merino wool, peruvian highland wool, a nondescript wool... any wool of any kind that is washable/superwash and can pass the "burn test." If you have any questions about whether any particular washable wool is acceptable, perform a "burn test" on a small scrap of the wool. (Do this outdoors and have copious amounts of water nearby... just in case.) Basically, if it is very difficult to ignite, if it smells like burning hair, it it does not "bead up" or appear to "melt" rather than burn, and if it turns to black and hollow ash, it will pass inspection by the military. Include one yarn band for each hat and tape a scrap of yarn to the label in case it needs to be tested for suitability.

If you are at a loss or unsure, these are some safe yarns you can consider:
Cascade 220 Superwash
Lamb's Pride Superwash Worsted
Mission Falls 1824 Wool
Also check out the offerings from other vendors in the right sidebar under the heading "Gathering Fleece..."

You can also do a search on Ravelry for Superwash Wool... just make sure whatever you choose is 100% wool, no blend of any other fiber content. From there, you can check with your LYS (Local Yarn Shops) or do an internet search for resources that fit your budget.

If you've got any spare Greeting Cards, toss a few in with anything else you send... and toss in a book of stamps if you can. Or maybe consider grabbing an All Occasion greeting card assortment at your local department store.

Please keep in mind that there is very limited storage space on a military ship and factor that into your choices. If you'd like to add some of the other items to your donation, you might consider some of these:
Skip-Bo Card Game (my husband and I adore this game and it is more fun with more players)
If you choose to order from any of these links, you could have them delivered directly to Lynne... no extra shipping costs for you and no hassle getting them out for delivery. Just obtain her mailing address before placing your order.

If you can find your way clear to participate in this, in any way, let us extend our gratitude to you here and now. You will be making a huge difference in the lives of people who have voluntarily chosen to leave their friends and family in service to their Nation. We appreciate your generosity almost as much as they will.

Thank you for your generosity. If you aren't able to participate, please consider sharing this with someone you know who might.

Joy in the journey!

Friday, September 24, 2010

YAY! 1,500 page views to our little blog!

We started our blog on August 9, 2010. A lot of time & effort has gone into letting people know we are here & inviting people to share in our fun. It is very satisfying that we've already been visited 1,500 times in this brief time! Thanks for stopping in! It may not sound like very many, but we've been reassured by those who know about such things that this is very good progress for such a short time online!

It is generally slow progress to get a blog going. No one knows about your blog. No one knows you are writing a blog. A bunch of people don't follow blogs. A bunch of people don't even know what a "blog" is! Even for those who do know what a blog is, that follow a blog or two, know that you are writing a blog... and care... the beginning stages of developing a blog tend to not be particularly exciting... or abundant. Which leads one right back to the "generally slow progress" observation with which we began.

"Blog" is basically a contraction form of "web log"... a kind of public diary written online. In its earliest incarnations, a blog was primarily a personal online journal, frequently created to help long-distance friends and family stay in touch in a more personal and fun way. They generally included lots of photos of the grandkids and nieces and nephews and happenings of you and your family's excursions and hobbies and such. These photos were accompanied by (hopefully) pithy and amusing notations telling the story details of said photos.

The thing about blogs – in their infancy – that made them better than phone calls and regular emails were that they were supposed to be updated frequently and were intended for the general public, or at least to be shared with as much of a specific public as one chose to share ones blog. The format included a series of posts, restricted to a single page presented in reverse-chronological order... newest post first.

All blogs are intended to represent and reflect the personality and key interests of the blogger. As such, although there will tend to be a distinct overall flavor to any given blog, there are no guarantees that you won't come across a post of philosophical observation, or social issue commentary, or personal screed of some other sort from time to time that may feel a bit "off topic." So brace yourself. Blog posts, (particularly our blog posts), may be liberally peppered with links to related topics and references elsewhere on the web.

The problem for bloggers, generally, is that, unlike email that the blogger would send to people with whom they chose to communicate, the blogger must find ways to entice others to voluntarily submit themselves to the ramblings and cogent diatribes on subjects of interest to the blogger. This means, first of all, the blogger must consider the content and presentation of content by way of presenting something of interest to people outside the skin of the blogger. Additionally, said blogger must bother to post something with sufficient frequency that anyone interested in following them will not be repeatedly disappointed with stale content, interesting or otherwise.

Blogs have grown up in many ways and now you'll find blogs by businesses & other enterprises, governmental & political blogs, social blogs, instructional blogs... and there are still those who maintain a blog to stay in touch with friends and family. We have direct links to blogs we find specifically interesting, relative to the kinds of things we talk about here, under the "Roving Elsewhere..." sidebar on the right side of every page. We would not hesitate to recommend them for your consideration.

Our blog is intended to create a sense of friendship, to provide a measure of social interaction, offer instruction & support along the way, hopefully give one a giggle from time to time, and to share a little of ourselves in ways we hope our readers will find entertaining and worthy of checking in on a regular basis. We first chose to start a blog to share crafting information that we find on the internet and/or create ourselves.

So, expect to find, in descending order, the following kinds of info on our blog most often: knitting related information; crochet related information; other fiber related information such as spinning, felting, fingerloop braiding, etc; other crafting ideas and how-tos; our gardening exploits and resources we've discovered. You will also find occasional stories about our pets and other critters, home decorating discussions, and posts about beading and painting and sewing and cooking/food... almost anything related to home & family. As we are both just beginning to venture into design to one degree or another, we will be offering pattern designs... some free, some for purchase.

You may follow us a number of different ways:
  • Obviously, the first way is to simply come here to our blog page via a bookmark in your browser(s) of choice.
  • If you have an iGoogle account, add a GoogleReader gadget to your iGoogle homepage or add our blog address, <>, to your GoogleReader. You'll find our new posts there as soon as they are posted.
  • If you are on Facebook, consider adding the "NetworkedBlogs" app and follow us via Facebook. You can also click on the link to NetworkedBlogs via the "FB Trackers" in our right sidebar. This is a great way to follow the blogs of other friends on Facebook as well.
  • We have a Roving StarPoints fan page on Facebook. We'd love to have you friend us as a fan there which will ensure you get a note when a new blog post has gone up. You can quickly get to our fan page by clicking on the Facebook sidebar icon under "RSP FB Page" on the right side of every page.
  • If you have an Amazon Kindle, you can subscribe to our blog which will be automatically downloaded to your Kindle when we blog a new post. If you don't have a Kindle device, but would like one, (Elianastar highly recommends Kindle), we'd love for you to link to Amazon via our Book~Shop and consider purchasing one from us. If you purchase one via our Book~Shop link, we will receive a small referral fee from Amazon, for which we would be profoundly grateful!
  • If you don't have a Kindle but would like to subscribe to our blog, you can download a free Kindle App for your Windows PC or Macintosh computer, Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry or Android phone. We have a direct link to learn more and download one or more of these apps in the right sidebar. We receive a pittance for your subscription on Amazon, but these days, every little bit is profoundly appreciated. 
  • If you are a member of Ravelry, feel free to friend Elianastar's Profile where you will find a direct link to our blog in the upper right of the page, and links to specific posts at the bottom left.
There may be other ways, of which we are as yet unaware. We keep our eyes open for as many different avenues to make accessing our blog as easy as possible. If you know of other ways of which we might be interested to link to our blog, please let us know.

In the meantime, we truly appreciate the time and attention you give to our blog and particularly appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments. Please don't hesitate to let us know you stopped by. If you have thoughts or ideas about topics you'd like to see us write about or comment upon, we would be particularly interested to receive your suggestions!

With our appreciation,
Roving StarPoints

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 2010 UFOs, WIPs, & DIP...

Alphabet soup. It has been a difficult year for me, personally, and I find that I am feeling overwhelmed by all the things I've started, all the things I've wanted to start but couldn't see my way clear, and a number of designs I'm either working on or have in mind yet.

Which has created my alphabet soup: UnFinished Objects (UFO), Works In Progress (WIP), and Designs In Progress (DIP). My only good news in this would be that all three of these are the same things! That makes things just a bit less overwhelming. The other good news is, most of the projects are very, very, close to being completed. At which point, I'll begin the process of getting the patterns written up so they can be tested and checked by a tech editor, etc.

I have a great project that is at the top of my list to finish... but I can't even give you a hint what it will be. Sorry, but it's just such a great idea I want to keep it "under wraps" for now. Well... at least, to me it is a great idea. Even if no one else likes it, I can't wait to finish up the design and pattern so I can submit it for consideration to Knit Picks Independent Designer Program. If it should not be accepted, I'll make it available for sale via this blog and Ravelry.

I've got a pair of short-finger gloves in which the core of the pattern is done. I've only got to knit up the fingers in the first glove and make sure the "mirror directions" for the other glove is right and knit that one up. Then I'll be able to finish writing up the pattern and begin the process of prepping necessary before unleashing a pattern on the world.

I've finished the foundational design on a pair of child legwarmers and my granddaughter is getting a little impatient for me to knit the second leg so she can wear them to school soon. I've resigned myself to the reality that the prototype pair will have to be reknit again for submission cuz there is no way a five year old will wait for the rest of the process to be complete for grandma's end plan.

I've got a cowl that I've made a number of for my own use and as gifts for the past several years, but I'd like to write it up into a pattern because I think lots of other people will enjoy the process of making it as well as using it. I've not made a decision on the best Knit Picks yarn to use for the design. I've used Lion Brand Homespun in previous incarnations, but I'm anxious to "upgrade" the design from an acrylic-based yarn and translate the design from a bulky yarn to something lighter. I've made the design in the past in both crochet and knit, and will eventually make the knit and crochet design available using Lion Brand Homespun because it is such a great, fast, project for gifts and I rarely wear any of them without a compliment before I'm back home.

I've also already purchased the yarn for a felted bag pattern to design and write up. It is gorgeous in my head! I'm still toying with the best way to design the "picture in my head" into an actual project others will like to make too.

And I've not even mentioned the other projects I have in mind for myself that will probably become patterns too. One thing I'm learning about designing projects for others to make... it is a lot more time consuming than just making something for myself! I tend to knit and crochet the way I cook: a recipe is just the place to begin. I may or may not use all the ingredients in the recipe, and I may or may not use any in the amounts prescribed. There is an excellent chance I'll bring my own sense of flavor to the finished product. Which means, unless I take careful notes as I go, I won't be able to recreate exactly the same thing myself and neither will anyone else. Which isn't a problem if it is not my goal to create a new recipe, just something to eat. Designing a pattern for someone else to recreate, requires a lot more attention to detail and thought about how to word the directions so a stranger will comprehend accurately what they need to do to get the same results. Whew! That's not nearly as easy as you think when you aren't really thinking about it. 

I wanted to start Wendy Knits Shetland Pi Shawl KAL, but another swarm of migraines and feeling guilty about the other unfinished projects have pushed that back. I've got the yarn and had already decided to make a Pi shawl of some sort, so that is still on the agenda. Perhaps, if there are a sufficient number of followers when I get to a place to start it, we can do it together. I hope to start it before the end of the year, but I probably need to be realistic that holiday knitting is just around the corner and I may not be able to start it as soon as I'd like.

I also want to start knitting socks before the end of the year. I've purchased yarn to make a few pair for my BearMan and this is primarily why I want to learn to make socks. I've got a bunch of sock yarn that I've been collecting, a little here, a little there, for almost three years. I also have designs on attending the Sock Summit in Portland, OR in 2011... so I best get to knitting! I want to have the basics down well enough that I can "pick the brains" of anyone willing to teach me their secrets and show me their tricks.

Basically, this has been a confessional. I'm hoping this will motivate me further to stay on task, wrap up all these projects, and get them in the queue towards completion and publication.

Please feel free to mitigate any of my consternation about my failure to be further along on my projects by sharing your own frustrations about yours. Heeheehee. "Misery loves company," right?

Joy in the journey,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Series ~ Why Swatch?... Dimension, Part One

The reason most often given to "swatch" is so that one can assure themselves they will "obtain gauge" with the yarn and size needles or hook prescribed for a given project. If you are new to knitting or crochet projects... and for far too many who are not... this exercise seems like a complete waste of time, not unlike washing dishes and making beds. In other words, if it gets done, great... if it doesn't, oh well. But, the truth is, swatching... done properly... serves many useful purposes, and as bizarre as it sounds, saving time, is actually one of the best. Swatch. Odd word isn't it? In the arena of "tmi" (too much information), the word can be traced back to 1512, meaning to "countercheck a tally," and later from 1612 it came to mean "a tally attached to cloth sent to be dyed." But, by 1647, it was simplified to mean "a sample piece of cloth." So, a swatch is intended to be a characteristic prototype of the fabric you will create with this size tool and this weight and texture of yarn. For the crocheter or knitter, this specimen is most frequently referred to as a "gauge swatch." This is where the time saving comes in. You create a sample fabric of sufficient size to accurately measure how many stitches per inch you will get, which directly translates into the final measurements of your project. It is the "accurate" part that is most important. If your swatch is too small, relative to your needle or hook size and the thickness of your yarn - particularly - you will not obtain an accurate measurement of stitches per inch... gauge. You create a sample swatch so that you can accurately gauge what your finished dimensions will be. Depending upon what your project is, the gauge part of making a swatch may be more or less critical. In terms of size, if you aren't making one thing that has to fit another thing in a specific way, one might be inclined to think a swatch isn't all that important. If one is making a washcloth or scarf or baby blanket, for example, there probably won't be a major problem... in terms of size... if your gauge swatch is off a couple of stitch counts one direction or the other. It isn't going to matter all that much if the finished project is larger or smaller so long as it is not dramatically so. Not "getting gauge" for these projects will matter in one of three ways more than any other:
  • you will either not have a sufficient amount of yarn to make the project the same size as your pattern dictates, or,
  • you will have yarn left over in an amount you didn't expect; (there is no such thing as "too much yarn," by the way), and,
  • your fabric will be more "stiff" or less "stiff," (have a different "hand" or "drape"), than it was designed to have; "hand" = the tactile feel of, texture; "drape" = manner of hang, flow, loose folds
You determine your gauge by creating your swatch then measuring off one to four inches from the center of the fabric, and carefully counting off (tally) the number of stitches... and portion of a stitch, fractions matter... that you have within your marked off section. Some suggest that three different sections of your swatch be marked off, measured, and then average the total of the three sections for the most accurate gauge measurement. (Add all three counts together; divide total by three.) This may be the only way to get an accurate gauge measurement with some yarns and some stitch patterns. Later in the series, we'll look specifically at the process of checking gauge with a swatch. In the beginning, I'll be focusing more on the theory involved in swatching. This number of stitches per inch is the "gauge" listed in your pattern and usually on your yarn label. Sometimes you will see it referred to as your "tension." These are not exactly the same thing but you will frequently see them used as interchangeable terms. "Tension," however, also relates to how tightly or loosely you work your stitches and although this can have a significant impact on your stitch per inch count, it is only one aspect of your gauge. The material your knitting needles or crochet hook are made of, and the yarn you are using with that material, also affect your gauge. For example, using the same yarn with slick metal needles or hook can render a looser gauge than the same yarn with wood or plastic tools that provide more resistance to your stitches. How comfortable you are, and how confident you feel, also affects the tension of your stitches and therefore, your gauge. If you are calm and not rushed, you may tend to work more loosely than you might when you are stressed and in a hurry. Some people who have been crafting for a long time have told me they try to assess their state of mind before sitting down to work, check their gauge after working on a project for a while, and once they've calmed themselves with the project, will have to change to a smaller or larger needle or hook because their gauge has changed too much. Particularly when working on a garment, this change in tension can affect the finished size of the project and the way it fits. If this description fits you, take that into account when you pick up your project. Do you have stories to share about not doing a gauge swatch... and wishing later you'd taken the time? What about a story where doing a gauge swatch caused you to realize there was no way this particular yarn would ever give you the results you expected for this project, based solely on the fabric characteristics you saw in the swatch? Is your gauge usually pretty close using the same size needles or hook recommended in a pattern? Or do you generally have to go up or down one or more sizes to obtain the same gauge? Do you find you get a different gauge depending on the material your hook or needles are made from? And/or, do you find the fiber your yarn is made of affects your gauge? Are there any other factors that you have become aware consistently affect your gauge that you could share? It might just solve a mystery another reader has been puzzled by. Next episode, we'll continue the issue of Dimension relative to gauge swatches. We'll also talk about ways your swatch can change after you've done the bind off... Joy in the journey! Elianastar
Additional comments may be found at the Knit Picks Community Etymology: swatch:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Swatch Series - Introduction

Feelings about swatching tends to be a rather polar topic... if you know what it is at all. The goal for this series is to define and explain what a "swatch" is and all the ways it can make your yarn crafting better... and more fun. Yes. I said, FUN. Most think of swatching as a chore to be avoided at all costs. It "wastes" time and yarn," the naysayers proclaim. Even though few things are less true, some make adamant declarations that it is better left undone and you'll be just fine if you give this advice a pass. It is my intention to encourage you to consider an opposing opinion. Some have learned just how valuable swatches are... even when they aren't actually working on a project. (huh?) It is my goal to place you firmly into this category by the end of this series. Set your misgivings, (or disdain), about swatching aside and give me an open-minded hearing? At least consider the varied uses for swatching and try some of them, sooner rather than later? After the Swatching Series is complete, we'll explore other ways to play with yarn and needles and test out new stitch patterns. Whether you prefer to knit or crochet, swatching is an important part of the creative process. Done properly and completely, it can save time and material... not to mention frustration and grief. This is just a teaser of things to come. I'm not entirely certain just yet how many segments this series will have, as my goal is to keep each segment to a reasonable length, but it appears right now that there will be at least four in the core series. To assist in making this series as useful as possible, I'd love feedback regarding the following questions: What are your feelings about knitting or crocheting swatches? Do you usually make gauge swatches before beginning a project? What issues have you had because you did or did not swatch before starting a project? Are there other uses for swatches that you've discovered? What case would you make against swatching before beginning a new project? Do you have any other thoughts or misgivings about swatching? Can you make a good case for swatching? Do you have any "I should have swatched first" stories you'd like to share? Joy in the journey! Elianastar
Additional comments viewable @ "To swatch or not to swatch..." at the Knit Picks Community, or @ "To swatch or not to swatch..." at the Knit Picks Lovers Group on Ravelry if you are a member of Ravelry. (Both are free Communities)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

But who is Adesinacat?

::sneaks in the backdoor, trying to not be seen:: Yes, Virginia, there is another person who contributes to this blog. I am a busy mom and it is hard to find the time to sit down and blog about my knitting. I will try to post every now and again, and get photos up. Gotta love life. A little about myself: As you will see, I have two names in my user name. The other one, Constance Wyatt, is my SCA name. What is the SCA? The SCA, or Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. is "an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.” In other words, I am a geek. You know the song White & Nerdy by Weird Al? Yeah, not that bad, but there are days where it is a bit too close to home. What I do in the SCA is mostly heraldry. Think "family crests" which really, there is no such thing. You can inherit arms from your parents, but unless you are the Queen of England or some such status, your arms are completely your own. So, please, don't pay for those "family crests" stuff you see unless it is for a Scottish clan. As far as I am concerned, those are just scams unless they trace your genealogy at the same time, showing you the paperwork that proves that you are related to that person, and even still, that doesn't mean that you own those arms and... See? I told you I was a geek. I am mostly what we call a voice herald. See, there were no PA systems back then, so they counted on people trained in being loud. I am just one of those people. I have a pin (well I had a pin; keep losing it) that says "I left my inside voice at home." Most people tell me I don't have an inside voice. I do. I just don't use it very often. Anyways, if you would like to see my geek blog, you'll find it Here. Back to knitting. I am just starting to knit again. I tried knitting years ago and loved it, but couldn't find anything or anyone that could show me that I was twisting my stitches, how to decrease and other such stuff that you need to know to make something more than scarves in garter or stockinette stitch. This was way before YouTube or Ravelry. Also, the cost for yarn was out of my price range. Also before Knit Picks. Yes, there was acrylic yarn, but acrylic yarn makes me itch. Even the really, really, soft stuff. I know this cause I got two very soft, acrylic sweaters for christmas one year. I remember sitting in my second class in high school and itching so bad, I had to call my mom to please bring me another top cause I was going crazy. I have to wear a shirt under the stuff. Now, I have a ton of places to turn for help. Including my mom who took knitting up again after I quit. I say that she started back up cause of me, but she denies it. ;-) She is the reason though that I started again. While waiting for her to pick out what knitting books she wanted at a local book store, I picked up the books she was getting and started to drool of the pretties in the book and kept stating something along the lines of "mommy, please knit this for me and I will love you always," (big cute eyes were added too I think.) After I think the fifth (or was that thousandth) one just that day, she told me that I need to start knitting again cause there was no way she could make all the stuff I wanted her to make for me. I had been saying no cause money is still an issue so getting yarn is still an issue. I also wanted to keep to more "period arts," (yes, that is my nose in the air), so that I can do them at SCA events. But wait. Knitted socks are period. And so are hats? And sleeves? And bags? Well what the hell am I waiting for! I guess those old hand-me-down knitting needles will not go to waste after all. And my mom is a yarn whore, junky, addict, collector and was willing to share some of her "and remind me why I bought this(?)" yarn. Yes, mostly acrylic, but I wasn't going to wear some of the stuff I made. I have made a few things. A bag, some scarves, a pair of fingerless gloves, but mostly small stuff. I like mobile projects. Stuff I can grab and put in my, on the small side, purse. I have a bunch of stuff I want to make. Now just the time to sit and make them. AdesinaCat (on Ravelry. What? You don't have a Ravelry account? It's FREE!) Note: I have am not the best writer, and am a horrible speller. Yes, I do know the difference between then and than, but that doesn't mean I always remember. If you see bad spelling, please just ignore it and giggle. I'll bet Elianastar will try to make some corrections for me. (yes... she did.) :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Define "Skill Level"

Don't you just love it when an article or class or anyone anywhere declares that one should "know your skill level" before jumping into a project or class... and doesn't bother to define what those levels are or the criteria with which you qualify for that skill level???

A question came up elsewhere, and I've spent at least an hour on the internet attempting to track down some basic list to answer the question, "what skill level am I?"

My experience is that most people short-change themselves in terms of what they can do or learn to do, so I'm not really a fan of these sorts of boxes, personally. But I respect the fact that other people like the safety of a "nest" that lets them know "which box to check." Such knowledge can function as a kind of "training wheels" while they test the waters and venture forth. Once they realize that all crochet, and all knitting... and all of most everything else in life, for that matter... is just one step after the other, they'll unscrew the training wheels and head for the nearest high hill, down which they'll careen with squeals of delight. But, until that "secret" is revealed to them in a meaningful way, they like to know to which pleasant nest they belong.

AdesinaCat, for example, doesn't know that as a "new knitter" she ought to be intimidated by a cabled purse pattern. Nor does she know that everyone is a "new knitter" when they come to some skill they've not tried before... no matter how many months/decades/years they've been knitting or crocheting or sewing... or whatever they come across in life. She is fortunate to have a knitting companion, her beloved mother, who knows the secret. :-) She showed me the pattern for a KAL (knit-a-long) on Ravelry and asked if she could make it. Of course she could make it. Cable knitting is nothing more complex than knitting a few stitches out of order, right? It was a simple, basic, cable... just follow the directions carefully until you get the hang of it... or test it out in some other yarn first and then start the project.

As a result, her second finished project following a pattern is a perfectly lovely cabled purse, which she finished without incident, and which you can view on Ravelry. (If you don't have a Ravelry account yet, it is free for the asking, and seriously important to have for all sorts of awesome reasons. See links at bottom of page.) She is about to embark on an Entrelac purse. I love it when people don't realize they "aren't supposed to be able to do" something, and just go and do it!

So far, the best succinct list I've found regarding Skill Level is this one from the Patternworks site:

Here is a basic description of the different skill levels:
Beginner: knit and purl, minimal or no shaping
Easy: basic stitches, repetitive patterns and color changes, simple shaping and finishing
Intermediate: variety of stitches, knitting in the round, mid-level shaping and finishing
Experienced: advanced techniques (cables, lace, Fair Isle, short rows) and color changes, refined finishing

I don't know about you, but I find this very unsatisfying and confusing. First of all, there are quite a few terms here still undefined: "basic stitches," "simple shaping," "mid-level shaping," and "refined finishing"... what does that mean? My second issue is, by this definition, AdesinaCat is an "Experienced" knitter having completed only two entire projects from someone else's patterns? Huh?

But my biggest issue is the fact that not one thing listed here is beyond the reach of anyone who has mastered at least one successful way to cast on and bind off, who can knit and purl without talking themselves through each step, can slip a stitch from the left needle to the right needle and wrap the yarn around the working needle. No one. I do concede that one must feel comfortable with these most basic of skills but only by virtue of having some degree of confidence so as not feel too overwhelmed to do something "extra" or "new." That puts anyone who has made a potholder, scarf, or baby blanket well within reach of "Experienced" crafting skills. They just don't know it yet. And if the rest of us will keep our traps shut and not tell them we are about to teach them an "advanced" skill, they'll do it and never know they've just done something they "aren't supposed to know how to do because they haven't been knitting long enough."

Here is my personal wish list for all designers:
  • provide a list of the skills a given design will require to create, and when possible, provide links to tutorials or the name of a basic reference text wherein the poor soul who gets their hands on your pattern can figure out how to do each of the skills. Your "not experienced" crafters will adore you! With so many patterns being made available as PDF downloads, links make a lot of sense to include, but even printed patterns could include a few links or reference books.
  • provide an actual, separate, swatch pattern if the pattern uses a stitch pattern &/or "not basic" technique. Meaning, anything beyond basic knit/purl, empower the knitter to play with the elements of your design before they cast on for the project.
  • in addition to the name brand yarn for which the pattern is written, provide a basic description of the yarn in the materials list: fingering weight sock yarn; any worsted yarn with which you can obtain gauge on this needle size; etc. We can't always afford the yarn in the pattern, or can't wear or work with the yarn in the pattern. Make it just a little easier to find something that might work instead... pretty please?
  • needle &/or hook sizes in MM, please, for the love of Mike. Why the industry continues to support archaic, arbitrary "sizes" rather than actual measurements of the tools that directly translate into gauge is one of my major pet peeves.
If you struggle with confidence about your knitting skill level, permit me to recommend a few reference books that will be of great help when you come across a technique with which you are unfamiliar or cannot recall how to perform.

"The Knitting Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask" by Margaret Radcliffe... and she's not kidding.

"Teach Yourself Visually Knitting" ... great for visual learners

"Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Knitting" ... a virtual knitting course in a book but also a great reference book

"The Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques" by Nancie M. Wiseman

Want a fast, almost entirely painfree course to "Experienced Knitter"? Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Jacqueline Fee's book, "The Sweater Workshop," and if you do nothing else, make The Sampler. It will transform your knitting if you will fully complete that ONE project! Your confidence to knit almost anything will be all but limitless, you'll most likely want to take at least one run at one of the Basic Sweater patterns too, but even if you don't, you'll be far less intimidated by other patterns that catch your eye! I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I do not exaggerate about the difference it can make in your skill set and confidence as a knitter.

We continue to expand the library of books in our Book~Shop, but there are already a good list of references for a Core Library, in both knitting and crochet. (I can't tell you how wonderful it is to finally have ONE place to "gather" all my favorite books and resources to share! Blogs are wonderful things for that reason alone!)

In the meantime, do not let anyone put you into a box you do not belong. If you've successfully made anything, you can learn to do everything that interests you as a crafter... (or human being). There is almost always more than one way to do almost anything. All you need are the right resources. Here at Roving StarPoints, that is our "Prime Directive." :-) Let us know if we can help you in any way. If we don't know the answer, and most likely even if we do, we'll direct you to any support resources we can find to help you achieve your goals.

Additional comments viewable @ "Comments on 'Skill Levels'?" from the Knit Picks Community