Tuesday, May 14, 2013

And Now....Back to our regularly scheduled program!

Hey folks!
I'm sorry for the delay.....LOTS going on in the past couple of months, but thanks to few prodding friends, I'm still trucking on with the socks. (correction: KNITTING on!)

Guess what!!!!  I made it to stitch 100,000! I even decided to mark it with a stitch marker, see!

Now you may wonder what I've been up to, I sometimes wonder that myself! Perhaps this will partly explain where I have been. You see....I have a new man in my life! Well.....actually more of a boy.
Andre Vincent Whipple VonSchwamp (don't ask) was born on Feb 10, 2013, and came home to live with me around the 3rd of April! 

 Andre is a German Angora rabbit, and yes....he has be wrapped around his little paw. 

I've been learning a LOT about bunnies and angoras, thanks to my new friend Vicky of Bunny Gold. She currently has over 50 of these precious friends at her home and has been coaching me along the way.

I was introduced to Vicky at a local yarn shop, and when she found out I was a spinner, she was insistent that every spinner should have a bunny companion.

I've been thinking about a pet, and while I dearly love all pets, I don't consider myself a cat person, and I don't have the right lifestyle to have a dog. 

Andre is the perfect companion! 

 Here he is a few days after his first shearing:
 That's right....I said shearing. True...there are some Angoras that can be plucked or brushed...but the German Angora was developed over years to be shorn, Much like a sheep. Except that he needs a haircut every 90 days!  Now it will take a full 12 months for Andre to reach full size, right now he's about 3lbs.  At full size he could be up to 13lbs!  That's a lot of bun!  But the really cool thing is that he'll be able to produce about 4lbs of angora fiber a year!  That's a lot of such a little guy.

Well, I could go on an on about him, but this is supposed to be about knitting.  Vicky had a booth at Vogue Knitting Live in Bellevue, Washington and she asked me to design a sweater using the DK weight 50/50 Merino Angora yarn.  What do you think?

I will tell you that after this photo, I re-worked the collar, I ripped it out and did more rows on a smaller size needle and it looked much better.  I'll see if I can get Vicky to send me an updated photo.

I will be putting up the pattern on Ravelry in June, and I will try to put a link to it here on the blog.

The sweater is a top down construction, (NO SEAMS!) and even though it is very textured, you don't need a cable needle to make this sweater!  The stitch design is all twisted stitches.

Yes....I'm getting back to the socks!

I was invited to participate in a fund raiser on Vashon Island to help raise funds for the Vashon Senior Center.  This wonderful facility is a very busy and active place on the island, but as is true with almost any non-profit, they work on a tight budget to do as much as possible for the community. One of the ways that they do this is by providing meals to some of the seniors, however...they can't prepare the hot meals in the kitchen! So they have to bring them in.  Well the LOAFERS (a local knitting guild) decided to have a fund raiser and do a marathon knitting day.  It was called....Stitchin for a Kitchen!  Isn't that GREAT! (I'm hoping that Myra or someone might put a link for the event on here)  Here is the link to their website. Now I do believe that we were successful in raising enough money for the oven, but it's going to take about $50, 000 to re-do the entire kitchen. So I'm sure they would welcome your tax-deductible contribution. (There's address at the bottom of their website.)  They told me to tell, you just to put "kitchen" in the memo of the check should you decide to help them out.

The following day......I was invited to make a couple of appearances on the island with the socks.

First at the Pharmacy:
And then over to the Island Quilter, and this is really  a WONDERFUL quilt shop!
I think they have over 3,000 bolts of amazing quilting fabrics, and they always have such beautiful displays of quilts.

And at 4:48, just about closing time.....the 100,000th stitch was reached!

So....this means that all the "foot" stitches are now completed, and it's time to move on to the increases for the instep gusset!  Stay tuned folks! And thanks for sticking around!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Meet Me at Madrona? - 83,850 stitches.

Isn't that cool!  (My friend Myra was having a little too much fun with her new Ipad - stay tuned, we are just getting started!)

I had such a great time at the Madrona Winter Retreat! If you have never gone, I would encourage you to find a way to get there. You will meet some of the most amazing fiber artists, be inspired by great teachers, and make a difference in the community. 

This year, we raised over $14,000 for the various charities supported by the Teacher Talent Show for Charity. I wish I could tell you more about it, but if you want to experience it, you have to be there.

I spent the first three days of the retreat doing demos in the Rotunda. 
The rotunda is the gathering space, where people tend to hang out and knit, spin, weave, crochet, eat lunch, re-connect with friends, and get new ideas.

As you can see, I did make some progress on the socks, but I spent a lot of time answering questions and demoing on the great wheel.

 You may notice that in this photo I'm wearing the Tuesday socks from the Week's Worth of Socks project. I also happen to have made the shirt I'm wearing in this photo.

Remember my friend Myra from the Vashon Pharmacy?
You should have seen her standing on the chair for this photo:

 I think some people were afraid she was going to fall off, but she was quite agile.
Apparently she doesn't get off the island that often and when she does, she really lets her hair down.

She was having a good time, and I was happy to be her muse, but then things got a little wacky....

So I wanted you all to see the great wheel as well.  My friend (okay maybe I'm name dropping here, but I consider her a friend) Stephanie Pearl-McPhee took some photos of me working at the great wheel. She also tried it, but we didn't get any photos of that.

This is my wheel, it is a reproduction wheel made in 1986 by Brother Albert Rudloph.
It's based on a Pennsylvania Dutch wheel from 1861. As you can see, it's a spindle wheel, if you are famliar with the Sleeping Beauty story...this is what she pricked her finger on.

When you spin on a wheel like this, one hand operates the wheel (instead of a foot pedal) and the other hand controls the fiber. When the wheel spins, the fiber bounces off the end of the spindle which puts the twist in, and makes the yarn. As the yarn is made, you draw the fiber out by walking backward, and once you have created a length of yarn, you wind it back on the the spindle walking back to the front of the wheel. That's why they call it a walking wheel!
I was spinning Alpaca on it, and I will be using it to make a shawl pattern I'm working on.

I thought I'd also show you what I was busy working on at the sewing studio this week.
I had 2 wonderful women that commissioned me to make gowns for them to wear at the Miss Washington Plus Pageant.
The lovely lady in blue was a contestant, she was first runner up, Miss Congeniality, and the winner of the Director's award! The stunning lady in the black gown is the reigning Miss Plus America, and I am so pleased to have the opportunity to work with her.

I'm sure you wonder how I'm able to do that and still find time to work on the socks.
Well...take a look below and you'll see that sometimes I get a couple extra hands.

Hope you all have a great week!  See you soon.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Hey Rocky! Watch me Pull a Knitter Out of My Hat! - 74,880 sts.

Howdy folks. 

This has been a busy week for me, and I imagine that it has been a busy one for several of you. 

That's just the way things go.

Never the less, I have been diligent and kept up with my socks!  

You can't tell from this photo, but it was actually taken at the sewing studio. Yes....I said sewing studio.

I've been busy making some gowns for a couple of clients who are going to be involved with the 2013 Northwest Plus America Pageant

I can't show you the gowns this week, it just wouldn't be fair, but I'll try to do that next week. 

I'm now up to row 28 on the foot of the socks.  I'm excited because they are looking so happy on the needle. 

Speaking of needles, my NEW needle just arrived from skacel collection, Inc!
They have generously contributed a brand new custom needle for this project, and as soon as I'm done typing this up, I'm going to move the socks over to their new home.
Addi has developed a new needle just for sock knitters called "Sock Rockets" these are turbo needles with a pointier tip. Be sure to ask for them at your local yarn shop!

Okay so back to the socks, it's been a pretty good week, and I was really hoping to be close to the heel turn this weekend, but I don't think that's going to happen.
I am going to be at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat this weekend. You'll find me in the Rotunda on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday doing demonstrations on the socks and I will also be spinning on my great wheel.  (If you don't know what a great wheel is...I'll show you next week.)

I'm going to change subjects again and brag on someone very special to me.
I got a package in the mail this week from my mom. She told me she was sending my Valentine's Day package early. I think she wanted me to have it before Madrona.

Would you believe she made me a pair of socks!  Now these aren't just any socks, these are RED socks! And they came with a book. You see.....she was channeling her inner Yarn Harlot and kept a photo journal of her sock knitting journey. BUT....this wasn't just any journey...these socks have been to Hawaii and Australia. They went there for the eclipse that happened in November. Stephanie....beware, you'll be seeing this book this weekend!  

Here's a photo of Brian with the socks, mind you....this is Brian the park ranger in Australia...

Did you notice that mom knits ONE SOCK AT A TIME on DOUBLE POINTS!!!
What can I say....we may be birds of a feather, but maybe I flew the coop too soon.
This was such a wonderful gift, and I will be wearing them proudly on Valentine's Day.

Oh....and look at the special chair she had built for knitting. (How she gets it into her carry on bag, I'll never figure out.)

What's your favorite place to knit? I'd love to hear about it!

Happy Knitting everyone! Hope to see some of you at Madrona!

Monday, February 4, 2013

50,688 Stitches = A LOT of Knitting!

That's right folks (upper right corner even). Thanks to the suggestion of my friend Marcy, I've decided to actually keep count of the number of stitches worked. You'll see the running total on the page, just in case you were curious.  I'm thinking I'm going to knit a row (or several stitches), and then un-knit to get an approximate measurement of how much yarn it takes to make one stitch. Then I'll be able to tell you how many yards of yarn I've used so far!  My high school math teacher, Miss Congioloso would be so proud. See Miss Cong, I did learn more from you than sauerkraut makes and AWESOME chocolate cake!

So...this is what the great Kohlsini has been up to!

I've worked on a whopping 11 rows so far.
To answer a few questions that popped up in the comments:
1. The needle is a 120" circular Lace Point a ddi needle, from skacel, inc.
2. It takes an hour and half to two hours to knit a complete round.

3. Yes, I knew this going in.
4. No, this is not more practical.
5. Yeah....I do things that are out of the box, ask anyone who knows me.
6. Working on anything else?

I'm so glad you asked!

Yep! I am.
As much as I love knitting, when I want to really take a mental vacation, I spin. (Sorry jocks, not that kind of spinning.)

In the photo you can see me plying some lovely green stuff. My mom won't believe I'm actually working with green, in fact, the color is called (ugh - avocado).  Don't get me wrong, I think that there is a place in every kitchen for avocado...in my kitchen, it would be the garbage disposal. 

So...that's the state of the socks for now.

I'll be teaching again at Makers' Mercantile on Saturday - this is part three of my entrelac class. 
If you've done entrelac before and you just need a refresher, you might want to take the class.
You'll get a lovely patten for a scarf!

By the way...they have a great selection of sock yarns....just sayin.

I hope to see some of you at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival - I'll be teaching there, and I believe there are still a few openings in my class if you are interested. 

I do look forward to reading your comments.  Tell me...what do you do for your mental vacation?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Oh the tangled web we weave? Nah! This is Knitting!

Well, the toes are done, the yarn is wound...I guess it's time to get this thing going.


One of the most common questions I get asked is "How do you keep this from getting tangled?"
The photo above certainly doesn't help to support my next statement, but...it's actually easier than you would think.

In all fairness, I should probably start with this photo:

As you can see all the strands are behaving themselves quite nicely here.

Each strand goes down to the needle and it's respective toe. Since the toes stay in the same order, it's not all that difficult to determine which strand is next. It's patiently waiting its turn on right next to the start of the row of that particular toe.

Perhaps a video would help...I'll try to remember to do that.

One of the drawbacks to doing the toes in a separate color....I'm going to have LOT more ends to weave in.  Maybe I'll have a good ol' Tom Sawyer moment and invite a group of knitters together to help with that. Hmmmm.

Okay okay...that's a LONG way off and I have other things to think about before then.

I knit the first row on the socks in preparation for talking to the Vashon Knitter's guild, and sharing the project with them. Word to the wise....when you start a project like this...DON'T start the first row at 10pm!

How I managed to do this without ripping out, I'll never tell. I will however, talk a little bit about one of my favorite parts of this project.  With the magic loop, each sock is divided in to a front half (instep) and a back half (sole). When working this project, I knit across all of the insteps first.  not that bad, all the yarns are sitting happily in their pockets, minding their own business. Now it's time to knit across the soles, um..., Houston...., now all the yarns are in reverse order.  The solution looks much worse than it actually is.  The first time I tried it (when doing the week's worth of socks) I had to be reminded to breathe.  Okay, here we go.

Looks intimidating doesn't it?  Trust me, after a few hundred times, it gets to be old hat.
Once again, each strand is waiting at the beginning of the row of each toe, so it's not as hard as you would think.

"So...how do you know which way to flip it back?"

I'm SO glad you asked that question!  Thing is...when you have 26 strands of yarn crossing each other, it's really obvious which way it needs to flip to prevent a major mishap. (Also, I strongly recommend that you keep this out of the reach of your feline family members.

Once the row is done, flip it back and you are ready to start the next row.  It's THAT easy!

As I mentioned, I did get the opportunity to share the project with the fabulous members of the Vashon Knitting group.  Here's a couple photos for you:

If you are in the area, I'm going to be teaching a class at Makers' Mercantile this coming Saturday.
The class is all about knitting from one side, although it's more commonly referred to as knitting backwards. This is a really handy technique for sock knitters!  When it comes time to turn the heel, you start working in rows instead of rounds. If you have multiple socks on your needle, knitting from one side can save you many a heartache.  

I'll also be at the shop for knit night on Thursday from 6pm - 8pm with the sock project, please feel free to bring your project and hang out with us!

Here's the topic for discussion, or feel free to leave a comment or question of your own.
Why are there 26 skeins of yarn?  If you've seen the project in person, or you are a family member (MOM), you already know the answer...so let's give someone else a chance!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Let's Go! On with the Toes!

Curtain Up! Light the (Ott) Lights! We've got nothing to knit but some tights (okay - socks)!
Honey every thing's coming up Toesies!

Can you tell I like Broadway musicals?  The winding is done and now it's time to explain the mystery behind "RED TOE" diaries.

Let's go.....on with the toes!
That's right folks - I decided for several reasons to make the toes on all of the socks out of RED yarn:
1. It's my favorite color.
2. Most sock yarn is designed to make a pair of socks for the average woman's foot, not a man with size XL. (Hey...I can't reveal every detail - this is a public site you know.)
3. It's my favorite color.
4. I wanted the socks to have something to tie them all together and make them a set.
5. It's my FAVORITE color!

Toe-night, Toe-night, I'll knit more toes Toe-night... 
So here is the yarn I selected - Admiral by Schoppel Wolle distributed in the US and Canada by Skacel Collection Inc.
 One thing that makes this particular yarn even more special is that Skacel had this color specially created to make Johnny's socks.  When you purchase either the sock kit or the yarn - 100% of the skacel proceeds are donated to the National Institute of Health's - The Heart Truth® program, which I think is pretty darn cool.

I want to thank one of my sponsors, the Vashon Pharmacy Yarnacy, for supplying the yarn for the toes!  Thank you Myra and gang!   If you get to Vashon Island - you will want to be sure to stop in.
The yarn selection may be small, but it is top notch!

I knit sixteen, going on seventeen, when will this project end?
I have a confession to make - I actually knit all the toes individually, and then move them on to the needle.  I know you probably consider this cheating, but I'm not really trying to set any world records.  (I did try with the Week's Worth of Socks - but that organization that does world records told me that there wasn't enough public interest to merit it as a record.)  Since I didn't know exactly how much yarn it takes to knit a toe, I didn't really want to wind off mini-balls of yarn and try to make that all work.  So..the toes were done one at a time.  If you want to know....using a size one (2.5mm) needle and working the toe by casting on 16 stitches and increasing to 72 stitches, it is possible to get 23 toes out of one ball of Admiral.

I could have knit all night, I could have knit all night, and still I'll knit some more!
Sorry, I can't help myself! 
The cast-on can be a tricky part of a toe up sock, be we must all thank the amazing Judy Becker for creating Judy's Magic Cast On. This technique is so wonderful because it just disappears and looks like regular knitting. While it's perfect for socks, there are many other ways this cast-on can be used as can be found in Judy's book: Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures With Judy's Magic Cast-On.
I don't own the book myself (yet), but I've had a chance to look at it, and I must tell you,  it is the perfect addition to ANY knitter's library. 

How do you stop a knitter like Maria Brian?
Well I think I've rambled on enough here for now. I've got to get back to my socks! 
I hope to see some of you at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat coming up in February.
Here is what you've been waiting for - the first photo of the socks:

 Do you have a favorite song from a musical that you can apply to sock knitting?  I'd love to see your ideas in the comments below. (Can you figure out where all mine came from?)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winding - winding - winding

Guess who?

Okay, so we had some fun with the photo shoot.  It's the only chance I'm going to have to be literally buried in these skeins, although I'm sure I'll feel like I'm buried for a while.

A big huge thank you to my friend Allison Harding for her assistance in the preliminary photoshoot.  She certainly had a vision for how to put this all together and I will always be grateful for her friendship, prodding and encouragement.  It's good to have a friend like Allison and I feel blessed to have people like her in my life.

So....all the yarns are here, I'll give you a quick look at all the yumminess:
I know you will want to know more about these yarns, and I will tell you more as we go on this journey together.

So now that the yarn has been photographed, it's time to get to work.  That means all this yarn needs to be wound into balls.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to wind 26 balls of yarn (yes...26)?
A long long time!

I had the wonderful opportunity to go over to Vashon Island for part of the weekend and hang out with my friends Myra and Dave of Vashon Pharmacy.   Myra is the proprietor of the "Yarnacy" a small section of the pharmacy that has been devoted to all things yarn and fiber therapy!

Myra hosts a spinning group at her house once a month, and while it's not actually spinning...I thought winding was close enough.

 If you look closely at this photo, it looks like the yarn has disappeared, but there is a black section of the yarn that blends in with the fire screen.

I elected to wind all of the yarn into center pull "cakes" because it keeps them all uniform and helps me in loading the frame that I use to manage all of this yarn.

I have elected to use a clothing rack that we got from the container store, as it's a bit more industrial than the one that I used the last time, and the bar is longer, so it's easier to hang the organizers from it.

The next piece of equipment needed is the organizers - I use closet shoe organizers,  I had the two I used on the previous project, but I needed one more. Try as I might, I could not find an exact duplicate.

So...here it is....all the balls wound up and loaded into the organizers.

I will confess...I had to do it twice.   When I was loading the yarns I loaded them in order of the way you read....from right to left.  Sounds reasonable right?  Unfortunately I knit from the left needle to the right needle, so had to take everything down and re-do it.

Glad I figured that out before I cast on!

The next post will explain the toes (you can see them on the coffee table in the back - yep they are all RED!