Luscious Gracious! Look What We Made Today!

A blog devoted to the art of the Luscious Gracious clan.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hello Amyville Baby Sweater

Ahh, the joys of Navajo plying.

Ok, I learned to spin a few years ago, and immediately decided that Navajo Ply wasn't for me. I kept getting my fingers tangled in the wool. I had soooo many problems with it, including cutting off my circulation and getting all of these annoying little twists of one ply (coils) that wouldn't stay within the whole of the plied yarn. "Bah!" I said, "It just isn't worth it!"

So, I sighed deeply every time I "ruined" a perfectly good batt with great color breaks (mostly ones from Stephanie at Spritely Goods and Adrian at Hello Yarn). I either left them as one-plies, which was somewhat ok, or I plied them into muddied oblivion and complained to all of my spinner friends.

"You could always Navajo Ply it," Stephanie said, over and over, patient as she is, hoping one day I would listen to her. Maybe so I'd stop my crybabying, but probably not. She's very Zen.

"I hate Navajo Ply," I'd say, (and think, "and it hates me"). So I'd spin a batt or two of something plain. Ahh, plain. I do adore plain.

But recently I started to get angry, which usually means I'm about to learn something. I decided to give it another try, on some singles that didn't have another purpose and could be, if needed, trashed. I tried again, with the same results. The more I twisted, the tighter the loops became, until I was AGAIN wrapped up in the yarn and unable to do anything but curse and cut.

For the life of me, I can't remember who told me to, or why I decided to go to YouTube to see if there was a video. Maybe it was Divine Intervention of the Knitting Goddesses. Behold! The first one that came up when I Googled "Navajo Ply Video" had good reviews. So I downloaded me my very first YouTube video.

The heavens opened up!! Maybe you'd like to see it. Look here.

Suddenly, I understood! Maybe I was one of those people who needed to hold her hands out to the side of the wheel, making BIG motions. Instead of the tiny, right in my lap, loops that I had been making, I understood that I needed to hold the three plies with one hand while controlling the twist with the other. My feet followed along like they knew what they were doing. I couldn't believe it! Real yarn! Looked like it came from a store! The plies snuggled against each other, no coils, and the colors stayed separate!! A dream come true!

Long story short (too late), I now Navajo ply everything. Whether it needs it or not. I was even able to teach a new friend (Hi Jodie!) how to Navajo Ply from across the table the other day. Quite a moment for me!

Betsy and I have been spinning together when we can, which is never often enough, but is always fun! She and I also split fiber sometimes, including the Hello Yarn Fiber Club. I traded her a Spritely Goods "Tulips" batt for the Feb. installment of Hello Yarn 2009 club's "Thrive", a Corriedale wool top. After Navajo plying, I got about 175 yards from the 4 oz, which is VERY thick for me, but what I wanted.

Look how pretty!! Thanks Adrian! For being a genius. There's a tiny skein of Begonia-colored pink merino in the bowl too, which I spun as an accent yarn, originally planning a Lucy-sized vest, which would require a skein or two of another handspun. The pink was one of many I tried out, and the most successful. The more I work with color, the more I admire my friends who get it right so often!

It didn't really matter....the yarn was not destined for Lulu after all. The day I finished drying the skeins, I got the news that Amy is having a baby this November, and baby is a GIRL, which always doubles the knitting fun! (Sorry baby boys everywhere). I dug through my notes and found the info from a baby sweater I designed for Lucy's teacher two years ago, and made a gauge swatch from "Thrive".



Here it is, in all of it's rainbow-intact glory! It's a simple raglan cardigan with seed stitch borders (my own pattern, but not hard to find one similar if you need one...just pick up any knitting book with a baby in it somewhere).

We were lucky enough to meet the expectant couple and other knitting friends for brunch over the weekend, and Amy really liked the vintage buttons, which she thought look like M&M's. We had a wonderful time catching up and talking about baby girls. She also brought gifts. THIS ring for me (couldn't you just die? Pink Cupcakes! Two of my favorite things!) and lollipop necklaces for the girls. They've been wearing them already! Also, Lily made a cool box, and Lucy created a fabric flower on a bag from the new books Stephanie brought for us. Generous, lovely people all of them!

Life is good!
Knit on, and get ready for that Needle Harvest!
-Kiki


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Look Ma, no seats!!


Today, while the kids were at school and Stephen was at work, I spent the day digging through boxes and bags of yarn-y goodness. It took me the entire day, but I managed to get through what I think is everything for the Needle Harvest. All of MY stuff, that is. I didn't even attempt to look for the other LusciousGraciousClans' projects. Their knitting bags scare me.

Our poor new couch. I imagine that it will look like this for the month of September. Good thing that we don't have any visitors coming until October! The sheer amount of yarn and other knitting supplies makes my heart race. I had no idea that there was this much lurking beside the bed, next to my knitting chair, and in the purse closet (AZ is too hot for a coat closet. Ours holds purses, bags, and Halloween costumes).

Before we kick off the actual Needle Harvest on Sept 1, I wanted to get organized a bit. Please note: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THIS TO JOIN THE GREAT SEPTEMBER NEEDLE HARVEST!! I am just a typical Type A, and was anxious to see just what I had to work with. I also had the day to myself and have been under post-op orders to take it easy. Moving yarn one ball at a time wasn't very strenuous, but I did NOT expect to have so many UFO's! Can you tell how many are shown on the couch?

I listed 48 total projects. That seems like plenty. I hope that I don't come across any more, but chances are I have forgotten something! Most are under a year old, but a few go back a few addresses. I think that there are two or three that have followed us from Indiana (pre-2004). When I opened up the bags and crates, I did a little test harvesting. I decided that I would not count some items that were in my pile as actual UFO's. You may decide on different criteria. There are really no hard and fast rules other than having fun while emptying those needles!

So, I first separated the items into UnFinishedObjects and ThingsIAmNotCountingAsProjects. These Non-Eligible (for me, remember. You do what you like) items include anything at the yarn and pattern stage, or even the swatch stage. That yarn, even if it has been earmarked for a specific project, is still considered stash yarn to me. I also set aside any project that exists only in my notebook, as a sketch on the back of an envelope, as a favorite bookmarked in a knitting publication, or as a promise to someone made in a moment of weakness. You know what I mean....your tiny niece made such a big deal out of the fact that you spin yarn just like Sleeping Beauty that you promised her a pair of socks for every day of the year. In my case, those 730 imaginary socks are not part of my Needle Harvest. At least not this year!


This probably sounds very elementary to you, but my name tag should read, "Hello. My name is Kiki. I have problems." I'm attempting to keep my organizational freakiness in check. If I don't draw the line somewhere, I will be taking notes about projects that don't even exist until next September's Needle Harvest! No matter how much I would love to dive right in, I am reminding myself that the above are only projects-in-theory. I have enough of the real ones with which to contend!

For my own records, I took some basic notes on each project as I put them on the couch. First, I divided them into these categories:

SWEATERS (15 of them)
SOCKS (8 pairs)
BABY THINGS (3 items)
ACCESSORIES (19 scarves, shawls, pairs of gloves, etc.)
OTHER (SECRETS/GIFTS/TOYS/ETC) (3 surprises).

Then I decided, or tried to decide, whether I want to finish the item, rip it out for yarn, or change it in another way. RIGHT NOW (this is bound to change, of course, as September moves on, or as I get involved with some of these projects again and remember just why I put them aside in the first place!) the results look like this:

FINISH THE PROJECT: 29 of the 48 pictured here.
RIP IT BACK: 11 items.
UNDECIDED: 7 total items. Or,
MAKE IT INTO SOMETHING ELSE: 1 item (a tiny Fair Isle mitten that could make a nice ornament if I felt it).

It was easy to decide for some of the projects. Especially the sweaters that fit wonderfully and only need a bit of sewing up or a hem. But some of the other pieces, such as the darned lace shawl that I spent 10 million hours beading, only to find that the beads don't show up against the yarn, are a little harder to categorize. Should I just rip out the whole thing? Should I turn it into a lace edge of a pillow? I hope that our fellow needle harvesting friends can offer an opinion once I photograph the items and think about it some more.

When Illanna and I first started thinking, talking, and texting about finishing a bunch of projects in September, I wanted to be brutally honest about what works for me and what doesn't. I think that after all of these years of knitting, I am at least aware on some level of what is a good use of my time and what is a complete waste. For instance, I used to finish any project that I started, even if the pattern was a disaster, I was allergic to the yarn, and the color made me look like last year's zombie! (I also used to read every book I picked up all the way through, even if I hated it after the first 2 pages. I actually felt sorry for the author). Well, NO MORE! I guess that age and experience bring some sort of wisdom, or just a new type of impatience. Mostly I think that many of us are so excited by knitting that there just isn't time to do all, or even a fraction, of what we'd like to do. We have to pick and choose. I don't know how YOU do
that, but I'd like to learn!

In order to pick and choose during this specific project (Needle Harvesting), I decided to ask myself some questions about the validity of the projects that are still a part of my life. Why do we carry around the things that we do? Is knitting baggage really any different than emotional baggage? I hope that it is more fun! That's something I'd like to explore this month. You will probably get something else out of the experience; I'm so excited about the energy people are bringing to this KAL, and it hasn't even started yet! We may not accomplish the same things, or even what we set out to, but it doesn't matter! If you do find yourself stuck with a particular project at some point in the coming weeks, maybe one or two of the following questions will help you decide which direction to take on your Road to Needle Liberation.

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN DECIDING WHAT TO DO WITH A GIVEN PROJECT
-Will I wear it? Really?
-If it's not a wearable item, will I be able to use it?
-How old is it? Will it still fit me? After trying it on, if the answer is "no", or "not really", can it be altered at this stage? Is it worth finishing for someone else? Will it fit them?
-Do I still like this design, yarn, pattern, item?
-Do I even know what it is? And do I still have the pattern and/or my notes that I will need in order to complete this project?
-Was this an example of a knitting fad? Is it outdated? If so, do I care? (Have teenage daughters look at it...if there is eye rolling, rip it out!)
-What do I remember about knitting it? Was it fun? Did I put it down just because something else caught my eye, or was it because I hated knitting on it? Were there mistakes in the pattern? Something else that slowed me down?
-Could it be turned into something else, something other than the original purpose? Could I give it away, unfinished, to someone who may like it, want to finish it, or would want the yarn?
-If I am really on the fence about whether or not to rip it back, try to imagine what the yarn could be used for that isn't this project. Would fresh, re-claimed balls of this yarn make me happier than the partially-finished project? If I can't come up with ideas for the yarn, now is the time to consult the NEEDLE HARVEST GROUP. Ask their opinions! Show pictures and beg for ideas!
-And finally, again, will I really wear it (or use it, if it is not a wearable item)? Take a breath and look again. Use those mindfulness (or Jedi Master, if that applies) skills and be honest. Will I wear it?

I imagine that I will go back and forth several times as I try to make some final decisions. But for now I feel strangely calm and collected. It was a full day's work for me, but I loved every second of it! In a way I envy those of you who will just pull out one project at a time in September and liberate your needles. But then again, I wouldn't trade my neurosis for a different set! Unless it's for a set of the Addi interchangeable needles!! (BIG BIRTHDAY CLUE!!!!!! WISH WISH WISH!!!) And I have so much to look forward to, such as adding each project individually to the Ravelry site!

Most of all, I look forward to learning more about the other members, and seeing how they manage to increase their needle inventory.

In Needle Harvest News, we officially have our first Sponsor!! Amy has joined the group AND donated four sets of her gorgeous AMYVILLE stitch markers!! Cupcakes and sushi and breakfast, Oh My! Thank you, Amy!

If you haven't stopped by to introduce yourself on the Ravelry site, please do so! We'll be adding different threads in the days to come. For now, we'd love to meet everyone, and find out what you'd like to accomplish during your own Needle Harvest! So far, lots of us want the freedom to start a new pile of projects! Sounds good to me.

Illanna and I welcome you all! We are thrilled to have so many members, and to learn how far-flung you are! Today we had people join from Alaska, Great Britain, Denmark, and the Falkland Islands. Wow! Maybe Illanna can make us a map, Hint Hint!

Have fun, everyone! See you at the Harvest!

-kiki

P.S. In case anyone is curious, that hulking mass behind the couch covered by a green sheet is part of my fibre and handspun inventory-in-progress. Which I also did not include in my Needle Harvest count. Perhaps I'll have my own personal Fibre-Slim-Down in October.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE GREAT SEPTEMBER NEEDLE HARVEST


THE GREAT SEPTEMBER NEEDLE HARVEST It's that time of year again! Here in Phoenix the temperatures have plummeted to a brisk 98 degrees, and in New Jersey it's even colder. Illanna says it's only 90 there!! Brrr. She's knitting a thick scarf....while sitting right in front of the A/C, of course! Most knitters are looking forward to the cooler weather because we can get back to what we really love....knitting with wool!!! Wool Fair Isle sweaters, cashmere scarves, alpaca hats and mittens....those are the things that make our hearts race. And during the long, hot, sticky summers we miss them. Sure, we can continue knitting all summer long with cotton and silk, rayon and bamboo, and often we do just that! But no summer tank, no matter how cute and cool, can compare to a fuzzy, sheepy pullover that just oozes warmth and love. Fall and winter bring about so many knitting opportunities that it makes our wooly heads spin. First there are all of those projects we've been wanting to make for ourselves, such as stylish cardigans for school or the office. And once the fall and winter knitting magazines appear we get lost in their pages, imagining each warm item in turn, first on our needles and then on our bodies.

It is usually not long before our thoughts turn to something else. We may even panic a bit. Holiday knitting! Should we, or should we not? We remember how quickly those days come and go each year, and maybe, just maybe, this year will be the one for us! We'll start early! In September! We'll get a good little pile of gifts made, long before Thanksgiving! Hey, if we start immediately, we can even have most of it done by Halloween!!!

It's just so exciting, all of this dreaming and scheming! We can't wait! What shall we do first? Gather yarn and our favorite books? Should we start swatching? Head to the yarn shop? Look on Ravelry to see who else has been bitten by the wool bug?


Illanna and I have an idea. Join us if you like. We like to start the official knitting season with a little something we call the September Needle Harvest. You know what we mean. All of your needles are in current projects (see photo above-yes, that's 2 complete Denise sets, PLUS the bags from extra cords we've bought, all mysteriously missing). Some of these projects are so old and/or neglected you can't even remember if they were supposed to be a scarf or the sleeve of a jacket. Needle Harvesting usually starts with the Needle Hunt. You need to start that perfect sweater IMMEDIATELY! But you know that your favorite size 7 Addi Turbo is stuck in last year's must-have project. Still there, after 7 months of neglect. You feel shameful. You really do want to finish the old thing, but you also really, really truly want to start your new love! Oh the guilt! What do you do? Sometimes I put the stitches on a piece of string with a note reminding me what size needle I was using. But every time I do that, I know deep down that I will probably never get back to the poor project. It's too easy to be seduced by something new.

Kiki Luscious and the Gorgeous Ms. Illanna are teaming up to propose a support system for this year's Needle Harvest!! Help us out! Let's gather all of our projects on the needles (or as many as you feel comfortable admitting to at one time) and we will harvest those needles together!! Remember, the main objective of this project is not to stir up guilty feelings or even to finish projects, it is to Free The Needles!!! We're working toward empty needles, lots of empty needles! It's all to provide a clean slate for all of that winter knitting we want to do.

THE GREAT SEPTEMBER NEEDLE HARVEST will officially begin on September 1, 2009 and will finish on September 30. We are challenging ourselves, and you, to see how many needles we can empty in those 30 days. Please sign up if you are interested. Just leave a comment any time between now and the end of September, just so we know how many people are participating. You can also sign up on our Ravelry group by clicking the icon below. In addition, we will be awarding random prizes as incentives to Free The Needles! Illanna suggested sending you our unfinished projects, which is a creative way to get rid of them!

So, how do you harvest knitting needles? There are several ways, and I am sure that everyone has a favorite method. I mentioned the "string in the loose stitches" way, which has been only marginally successful for me. Illanna tends to actually finish projects in order to rescue (or harvest) the needles she needs. You could swap out your favorite needles for ones that you aren't so fond of, but work fine as stitch holders. You could use actual stitch holders, or just rip that needle out of your knitting and laugh like the mad rebel you are!

For the purposes of this pseudo-KAL, we will accept any method you choose. Some of these choices have added bonuses, such as:

A: completing the actual project. You may want to do this if you are almost finished with it, or if you remember just how much you love the piece, or are surprised to see that it will take only 2 or 3 hours to have another beautiful sweater in your collection. Illanna and I are hoping to do this at least a few times this September. We'd like to have a small stack of finished items to replace at least part of the huge stack of neglected knitting in progress we have right now.

B: reclaiming the yarn. This option may be the most fun of all! Talk about stress relief; you just have to rip out the needle AND the stitches. No worries! Re-wind the yarn into hanks or balls and you suddenly (Tah-Dah!) have the main ingredients for a new favorite project-empty needles and free yarn!

Other needle-freeing methods include:

C: placing the stitches on stitch holders, Denise cords, or waste yarn. Make sure to make a note of what needle size you were using, and pin the note to your knitting. You may think you will remember. You won't. Trust me. You may want to think long and hard before choosing method C. You will free a needle, at least temporarily, but you will still have the unfinished item. Make sure that you are OK with this! You may want to reconsider, and use the GREAT SEPTEMBER NEEDLE HARVEST as a reason (or excuse, if you'd rather) to get rid of the project once and for all.

If you don't want to finish it or reclaim the yarn, you may consider getting rid of your UFO in another way, such as:

D: turning the item into something else. Have the body of a wool sweater almost done, but it isn't turning out the way you'd imagined? Instead of being disgusted and stagnated every time you look at it, bind off and toss it into the washer. After felting, sew it up into a cute tote bag. Sleeves can become legwarmers for a little ballerina. Almost any rectangular piece of knitting can be sewn into a small bag or decorative pillow. At the LusciousGracious household, we have turned out our share of pet and doll blankets, eyeglass cases, and fabulous creatures made from cast-off or failed projects. See what you can come up with-just look at the piece in a new way!

E: getting the UFO out of your house, out of your stash, out of your life. This method may offer you the most relief. You may be able to pass the unfinished item on to a willing friend who would be happy to finish it or reclaim the yarn for something different.

And finally, you can always:

F: throw it out. Drastic? Maybe. Consider how much you want to never see that darned thing again. It happens. You can keep it to yourself. Just take the needles out, open the trash bin, and never look back.

If you come up with any other ideas, share them with us!! We want to work together. Freeing needles takes a village. It's harvest time!

Please keep us apprised of your progress!! Every time you free some needles during the month of September, you can be entered in our drawing! Just send us a photo or a link to a post about what you've done and how you did it. Take lots of photos...you should be proud! If you don't have a blog, or are neglecting the one you do have (did we mention that LusciousGracious has been dormant for a LONG time?), just leave a comment here with the specifics of what you did and we'll enter you in the drawing. Or check in weekly on the Ravelry Needle Harvest site.

For now, while we are waiting for these last lazy days of August to pass, Illanna and I are going to make a list of what we'd like to do with our unfinished projects. We may even count them, if we feel brave enough! Let us know what you think, and please join us! Get ready for September 1 - we'll see you at the Harvest!!!

Love,
kiki, illanna, and the other needle junkies