Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moving on up!

This is the post I've been waiting for.  I'm finally announcing that I've got a brand spanking new blog, on my pretty new website!  I'll be blogging from Cambria Washington: Knitware and Designs from now on.  Come on over!

p.s.- if you follow me through google reader, or any such service, you'll want to update your subscription to the new address:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stocking done, prototype almost done, homework not done.

Last night I finally finished the second of the two Santa stockings that I was commissioned to do in November.  I still have a pair of mittens for a little girl, and one more stocking kit to do for a new mom, but after that my time is my own, to knit as I please...until the next project comes along :)  So it's back to the Apogee prototype, and then on to my husband's sweater.  Did I mention that he's agreed to wear a neck warmer??  I'm making him one ASAP.  It's taken me years to wear him down, but I'm gonna make him look like the husband of a knitter if it's the last thing I do.

School is back in full swing, which means more papers, and stupid amounts of reading every week, and lectures with overly opinionated professors, for the next four weeks.  Then I only have four more classes total so that should be about 20 weeks of school left.  I could possibly be done with classes by the fall!  But my degree plan says that I graduate in March of 2013...which I think means that we'll all cross the stage together in March but I'll be finished with classes before that.  I'll be making a call to confirm that later today.

So, back to my homework.  And my prototype.  And finally updating my Etsy shop with my latest collection (which has been out for weeks now on Ravelry).  Oh, and my blog will probably be out of commission for a few days, while we make the transition to my brand new, sparkly, pretty new blog layout :)  See you on the other side!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Philosophy and hot cocoa mix

I've been stalking the Annie's Eats food blog for a while now, and I just love her to death!  She takes beautiful photos of the food (and lets face it...that's what draws me in to the food), but every recipe is practically fool proof.  I don't think I've made a single thing yet that I haven't absolutely loved...until yesterday.  I made hot chocolate mix this holiday season and I love the stuff, but it needs to be made with milk and we were going through an awful lot of milk around here.  Then I found the hot cocoa mix and figured I'd give it a shot.  I was pretty tired yesterday (as usual) so I mixed it up as best as I could and tried it out.  Not bad, but not what I'd expected.  I had a few cups last night, trying to trick it out with a little of this or a little of that but it wasn't working out.  Then today I thought I'd try again...and use good quality powdered milk (instead of generic) and the chocolate flavored creamer to kick up the chocolate flavor that was lacking.  As I mixed it up this morning I realized what I'd done yesterday...I forgot to add in the salt!  It's crucial.  So today I mixed up another batch with the flavored dry coffee creamer, and realized that this batch would have been perfect if I'd just used the regular creamer like I did yesterday, lol.  So now i have two 32-oz jars of almost perfect hot cocoa mix and I'm sure the boys won't care a bit about how it's not exactly perfect.  Third time's a charm?...

So anyway, last night I was on the way to bed and felt suddenly philosophical about why I do what I do, and how blessed I really am.  It usually happens after I've had a big emotional parenting set-back like I had on Monday.  But I had a chance yesterday to help a brother and sister learn to knit.  They'd come in to take a class together, and they didn't fit our usual customer demographic.  I was a little on edge at first but after they picked out their yarn I took her brother over to find an appropriate set of needles.  I noticed right away that he was a little different.  A little shy.  A little hesitant and unsure of himself.  Very sweet.  And I realized that he needed a little extra care so I chose the needles for him. 

We went back and sat down and I asked him about what he wanted to make.  That was when I realized that he had a learning disorder, or a mild developmental disability of some sort.  I don't know what, and I didn't ask (because honestly it wasn't my business and I didn't care).  I only picked up on something because of my training.  So I showed him how to knit and talked about how it's like an exercise and our muscles in our hands will learn what to do and take over after a while.  He was so diligent!  He really struggled at first and it took about an hour of constant coaching and instruction before he was able to knit his first stitch unassisted.  At one point I wasn't sure if he'd be able to learn it, but the time was his...he was paying for it...and I just kept trying to show him what to do, altering my instruction where I felt it was appropriate and breaking steps down smaller and smaller if necessary.  He kept apologizing for not getting it, and I kept telling him it wasn't necessary, and cheering him on.  Every time he did something right, I got really excited for him.  At one point, their mother called to check on him and he told her that he was at the knitting shop taking a lesson, and that he was having fun :)  I couldn't tell because he was concentrating so hard, but he was enjoying himself.  That encouraged me so I didn't give up, and kept being patient; sometimes using hand-over-hand to help him learn the feeling of the stitches, and sometimes demonstrating on the piece I was knitting.  And finally, finally it all paid off when he completed a stitch on his own!  I have never been so proud of a student in my entire teaching life.  Then he did another, and another, and another.  Once he had it down, I switched with my friend who had been helping his sister, and I went over to see what she was doing, and help her out a bit, while my friend kept an eye on my star pupil.

After about half the class went by, my friend asked why they decided to take up knitting.  The sister told us that her brother was a twin, and that his twin had just passed away last month.  They were taking this class together as a way to help them heal from his loss.  We could tell right away that she was very protective of this younger brother, and she took great care of him.  He lives near the shop in an apartment of his own, and checks in with a caseworker every morning to take his medication and evaluate how he's doing on his own.  He's a success story.  And now he's become my friend, how promises to stop in and say 'hello' to me when he walks by in the mornings, if he sees me in the shop.  I'm looking forward to it.  And this is why I do what I do.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One of those posts...about kids and stress...

Look at this face.  You would never know that under this angelic face is a master criminal in the making.  This is your future Lex Luther.  He's a genius.  He's stubborn as a mule.  He will not listen to reason (and yes, I realize that he's only 5-years old, but seriously).  It's going to take every thing I have and everything that I've learned over the course of my psychology degree with emphasis on child development and applied behavior analysis, to ensure that he harness' his powers for good instead of evil.

Today, this cute brilliant so-smart-he's-actually-dangerous child managed to get through the child-safe toddler knob on the bathroom door, and climb onto the toilet seat to reach my makeup bag (which he smeared all over the bathroom floor, and drew on his chest with liquid eyeliner, but I digress...) and his brother's ADHD medication.  He took one of Dante's pills.  My 50lb, 5-year old swallowed a little green 10mg Ritalin pill...because.  This results in my freaking out and running down the stairs with a pill bottle in my hand to call the pediatrician, which then resulted in a call to poison control.  He will be fine.  I'm less fine.

This is only the latest stunt that my cat-burglar son has pulled.  He wakes up anywhere between 4 am and 7 am, so getting up before him is not an option.  He knows how to open the locking toddler gate at the top of the stairs, so there's no keeping him on the top floor.  He can now apparently open the toddler-knob-protected doors and reach items placed on 6 foot shelves.  I now have to replace those knobs with ones that lock and require keys to open, because the current locks can be opened by pushing something into the little hole from the outside and he figured those out last year.  Five-year olds have no idea what dangers lie around the corner and just can't comprehend when you try to explain, and this one in particular is just determined to do what he wants to do.  He's compelled to do it.  Punishment is not an effective deterrent, and rewarding good behavior doesn't work either, when he really really wants to do something.  So now my only option is to try to prevent (which I thought I'd already done) until he's old enough to understand what I'm saying to him.

Want to know how bad it gets?  My little genius (and I don't mean that sarcastically) looked at a box of Safety 1st latches (which I'd planned to use on my kitchen cabinets to lock up the cleaners) and figured out how to open them from the picture on the cover of the box.  This resulted in my freaking out, yelling at him about how he isn't taking this seriously and he could have died, bursting into tears, and going up to my room to cry for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, he started to cry downstairs because I'd yelled at him and left the room crying.  After my husband calmed him down, he came upstairs to calm me down.  I'm usually the level-headed one but today I'd had all I could handle.  Then Alex came upstairs to apologize to me for getting into "stuff that doesn't belong to me", promised to clean up the mess he'd made, and came over to hug me.  That cause me to cry more, and hug my sweet little boy who just doesn't realize that he's taking his life into this hands every time he does something like this.  I feel like Clark Kent, who constantly tries to talk Lois Lane out of doing something stupid which inevitably leads to her being in peril, and his having to go save her as Superman.  There's only so much "child proofing" a parent can do!

So, that being said, I appreciate you sticking with me as I rant to the internet about my stress.  I'm gonna go have something fattening and loaded with chocolate, since I can't go have a drink.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Great Design Project, Part 4

 As promised, I've finally found time to post about the progress on my Apogee prototype.  I'm very happy with the progress so far and things are coming along nicely.  I've been writing the pattern as I knit (or I'll never remember the details) and I can see from this very rough draft that I've got a lot of math ahead of me, and I'm definitely going to need testers (both tall and average height).  And it's going to be the little details that either make or break me.
 For example, I loved the idea of using cables to create the waist shaping because it kept the pattern more simple and allowed the knitter to customize how much it pulled in by simply adding more cables, or taking cables away.  No fussing about where the decreases should start and how far they should go before increasing again.  In my experience with sweater knitting, I always need to start the decreases about six inches from the underarm, but most patterns suggest starting before that (because they aren't as tall as I am).  On the other side of that coin, I always have to stop the decreases before they suggest and start working back out because even though I'm tall, I'm very short-waisted.  I only know all of this from many sweater experiments and finally getting one right.  So this method takes care of that and makes this a more simple knit...until you hit the ribbed hem, that is (but more on that in a minute).

 The OCD in me insisted on symmetry where ever possible, so that meant that the cables needed to appear to flow from the shoulder and down the body.  I didn't want all of the cables to appear out of no where and float in the middle of the sweater.  That took some serious doing to get it set up correctly, but once that was finished, it worked out just as I'd hoped and the alternating cables over the ribs kept things interesting enough to make the body work up very fast.  In fact, I averaged about a skein per night!  Once I reached my intended length, I started working on the ribbed hem.  Here's where things get complicated.

As you can see from this shot, the center cables extend all the way down the body and I wanted them to flow into the ribbing too.  That was harder than it sounded at first.  I couldn't seem to get the numbers to line up so that the center K2 column would continue down both sides (on the other side it became a P2) and when I finally decided that it didn't need to be that detailed, and that maybe I was the only one who really cared about that, I got to the end of the round and saw that it started and ended with a K2.  That's not good.  I needed to decrease two stitches so it would line up correctly.  So I decided to continue the cable-ribbing all the way down the hem, and to work a 2x2 ribbing over the front and back sts between them.  I needed to decrease the 2 sts from the front of the sweater to make that work and I think that has to do with where I started the neck shaping on the I'm not sure if it will be necessary to do this in the actual pattern.  This is where the editor and the testers will be necessary.

Anyway, the reason you don't see the hem in any of these photos is that I haven't actually knit it yet.  I worked two rows and then put the body on a holder to start the sleeves.  This is unusual, but I decided that I needed to know how many yards were used in knitting the average length sweater (in order to calculate yardage for the other sizes) and the best way to do that, other than knitting two sweaters, was to stop knitting mine when I'd reached the finished length of the average 38" an work the sleeves until they are also the correct length of the average 38", and I'd get my numbers.  Then I'll go back and finish off my tall 38", and I'll know the difference between the tall and average yardages (in theory).  I have a very large swatch, and I'll have yardage for one size (in two different lengths), and I have an excellent reference book that discusses how to calculate yardage for a once I finish and I've had some sleep (still working on that whole balance thing), I'll take a stab at it.

Oh, one more thing about the sleeves...they've got a fun surprise :)  A design element that I'm excited about and that I think you'll like...maybe.  Well, you'll either love it or you won't.  Let's just wait and see :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Great Design Project, Part 3


Today I should be working on my Juvenile Delinquency Unit 4 project (which is worth about 100 pts) but instead I thought it would be fun to create a button for my big design project :)  Feel free to take it for your sidebars if you wish (but remember to save it to your computer before uploading it).  I've organized it so that all posts related to this project should be accessible from the button on my sidebar. 
Last night, or early this morning depending on how you want to look at it, I finished the raglan yoke increases.  I put it on some extra needles and tried it on.  Success!!  I've been taking notes and essentially writing the pattern as I go because I know that I won't remember any of the details regarding what I've done or where I decided to start increasing on the neck edges, or how many stitches I decided to cast on under the arms.  I'm pleased with how the cable fit into the raglan section, and how the left-leaning and right-leaning increases crease a clean line on either side.  I'm continuing these cables down the side of the body and I'm planning to stagger more cables on either side of these (in pairs of two) to create the waist shaping.  That means that I should end up with a smaller waist in this sweater without having to work any decreases in that section.  I like that idea, and it makes it easier for the individual knitter to adjust for more or less shaping by adding or removing cables.
Now I know that the v-neck might look a little bit steep, but keep in mind that there will be a ribbed collar attached to it and that will bring it up a bit.  My plan for this sweater is to knit it to the standard length for a size 38 pullover, and then adjust the lengths up and down so I can figure out how long the average sweater should be, and approximately how many skeins will be needed for it.  Then I'll continue to knit it to the 6' measurements, and hopefully that will give me an accurate estimate of how many skeins will be necessary for the tall versions.

You know, I have a lot of school work waiting for me, and a Christmas stocking that needs to be finished by the end of January, but I'm having a really difficult time putting this sweater down, now that I've finally started it ;)  Next up, Part 4: cable waist decreases!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fly Tribe Blog Hop: Balance

 Last year, the East Coast was hit with a hurricane and we lost power for three days.  I was (and still am) in school full time, with kids in school, a husband who was having some medical issues, and I had just been asked to come back to teaching Sunday school at my church.  I was freaking out, overwhelmed, and worn out.

The storm taught me something.  When I was forced to unplug from the internet, I actually got more work done in a shorter amount of time (I know, it seems simple), but I also noticed that my boys were getting along better.  I started dinner earlier and we ate at the table together as a family.  It only took them about 12 hours to unplug and they were good.  They played outside, in their rooms, or with each other.  We went to bed early (because it was dark and there wasn't anything else to do).  We woke up early.  I cooked from scratch.  I was happy.  That was when I realized that burning the midnight oil trying to get it all done wasn't actually working.  Sometimes I needed to rest so my brain could run at full speed (see Saturday's post for another lesson on sleep, lol).  I needed Balance.
 This year, I've decided that balance was going to be my goal.  I'm still working on it, but yesterday I took the day off from school and I'm feeling more refreshed.  I'm still working on going to sleep earlier (I've tried every day for the last three night in a row, and failed).  But I've remembered to make dinner earlier and I've been creating a menu every week so that I can make a grocery shopping list for the week.  I'm hoping that if I can bring balance to my day-to-day life, I'll be able to carry that over to my creative life.
Now, about the photos, lol.  This is a pile of my current Works In Progress (commonly known as WIP's).  I struggled to come up with a way to express balance in my chosen creative form, so I decided instead to show my total lack of balance, and why I chose to go with it this year.  I have in this pile, 15 current works in progress (4 pairs of socks, two stockings, 1 sweater to repair, 1 blanket, 1 almost-finished shawl. 1 commissioned pair of pink children's mittens, fiber to be spun on my Turkish drop spindle, 2 sweaters, and a bag of sample yarns for design ideas).  This is typical of the way that I work, and I'm hoping to streamline a little this year.  And I'll admit, for the sake of full disclosure, that this large pile doesn't even represent a quarter of my current yarn stash.  I need some balance in my stash too :)
Now, I hope you enjoyed my post on balance, and I hope you'll hop on over to the Fly Tribe blog to read posts from other talented artists.