Thursday, December 17, 2009

18 Christmas's

My tree at home is filled with handmade ornaments.

This one holds particular meaning for me this year.  


It was given to me in 1991, the year Kendall was born, and is one of the first ones to go up on the tree every year.  See that sweet little face? (I know, it's hard to see...I am working on my photography skills, lol, so bear with me)  That's the face I still see in my mind every Christmas when we are putting up the decorations.  It doesn't seem that long ago that she was a little one sitting on my lap, and yet 18 times now we have shared the fun, the magic, and yes a "few" stressful moments here and there with her.  Those moments are a part of who she is now.  She's grown up and as I'm sure you've figured out by now, I'm feeling quite nostalgic and sentimental this year.  
 
Kendall has asked me for probably the last five Christmas's to change the decorations, update, go for a new look.  And for the last five years I have seriously considered doing just that.  But when we brought out all of the boxes from the basement this year I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't! 


Those ornaments represent her entire childhood.  And while I am getting used to the idea of my child becoming an adult, these are the things that I am not ready to give up, and probably never will!  Kendall will be 40 yrs. old coming home at Christmas for a visit and still see the little treasures hanging on my tree!  It's just the way it is.  
 
Here are a few others, all made by Phil's grandma.  Each one unique and each one tells a story.  


When I knit a gift for someone, it's much more to me than just knitting.  
(Like these fingerless mitts for my neice, Bodee) 

  

I hold that person in my mind as I create each stitch and let my thoughts fill with my love for that person.   

 
My hope is that I knit those feelings right into the hat or sweater that I am making for them.  Each time they wear it, they will feel warm and comforted knowing that someone took the time to create something just for them...yeah, it's personal for me.  

Creative endeavors can fill you on many levels.  Just the idea that I can take what is essentially nothing more than sticks and string (sometimes very expensive sticks and string, lol:, but nonetheless...;) and make something useful or beautiful is so satisfying to me.  And when it is a gift, well, that's taking it to another level completely.  I have to really want that person to have what I am going to make.  You can trust in the fact that I have given it a lot of thought and chosen something that I think would be "just right" for that person...down to the size, color, style, etc...  I envision them wearing what I have made.  Not very many things come close to the feeling I get when the someone actually uses what I created.   
My knitting time is precious to me.  And so are the people I knit for.
  

The ornaments hold the same meaning.  

I try very hard this time of year to not get caught up in the "have to" mentality that seems to tug at all of us so strongly.  Truth be told, that is my goal every year.  If I can stay in the moment and appreciate a few simple pleasures of the season, then I am more calm, centered, and grateful for all that I do have in my life.

My knitting allows me not only the chance to express my feelings for the people in my life, but it is the best way I know to get in the moment and stay there.  The instant mood change that comes over me when I pick up my needles allows me to slow down, process my emotions, and just BE.  I don't know what the next 18 Christmas's will bring, but I know I will have my knitting and those I knit for...and the handmade ornaments will still be on my tree.   



I wish you all peace this holiday season, and always.


 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

...but my tree is up and I am making headway on the Christmas Knit List...oh yeah, and the fire is so delightful. ;) (I settle in by the fire as much as I can since this cold front has come in!)

Quick knit Project #2 is complete and turned out cute!  The pattern is from Knitting Pure and Simple and it is called Bulky Shrug, #286.
 

Total knit time:  12 hrs, which makes this a weekend project.  It is knit in one piece, and that means no finishing, except to sew on a button.  In this case I used a handmade shawl pin.
 

I also completed an ornament for next week's Knit Night.

A Mini Sweater Ornament by Emily Lewis
I love anything in miniature, and this one caught my eye!  There is a plain sweater, a fair isle, and a cabled version.  I wanted to do something really special for the recipient of this ornament and decided to tackle the cabled version.  Ironically, it took me longer to make this little mini raglan sleeved cutie than it did to make the Bulky Shrug!  Now that struck me as funny.  The pattern and the size 2 needles are not for the faint of heart, but it was so much fun to see the sweater taking shape.
 
And so, two quick knit projects (and one ornament exchange gift) down, one to go.

#3 will be finished soon ( I just need to felt it).

In the meantime, stay bundled up everyone!  It really is cold out there.  May your knitting keep you warm and comforted!  I would love to hear what you are working on right now during this very busy time of year!  How do you manage to fit in knitting time, or do you?














Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Odds and Ends

Well, I am almost finished with Project #2 in the beautiful handpainted Burly Spun.  Here's a little preview...

It's coming along nicely and really shows off the gorgeous colors of the yarn.  More on that in the next day or two, as I only have the sleeves left and should finish it up tonight at Knit Night!  I will have to block it more than likely, but I'm close.

And remember the fall tote I was working on...going through "my process"...well I finished it up last week, just before Thanksgiving.

 
 
The felted leaves were a fun addition to the bag, as well as the needle felted branches.  

 
I also needle felted an acorn to go with the leaves, but then that little voice inside my head said "too much!", so I quit while I was ahead.  I was rather proud of that little acorn though.  It was my first needle felted-from scratch idea and a bit trickier than I thought it would be.





Bad picture, sorry, but you get the idea.  ;)


And now I'm working on this:


Any guesses?  No, it's not socks.  Try again.  Ok, I'll give you a hint....in two weeks at our Charity Knit Night we are exchanging hand made ornaments and this is the beginning of mine.  Details to come!  In the meantime, wishing you a good evening and a great week! 



 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where am I and how did I end up in this handbasket?




Being a good knitter does not necessarily mean you are a fast knitter.  I envy those knitters who are not only very, very skilled, but also very,very fast, like my friend Esther.  Watching her hands and needles flow like a well-oiled machine is truly a thing of beauty.  I am not one of those knitters.  My speed would be considered quite average in fact.  I can get in my own flow as well, don't get me wrong, but I will never win a contest for the world's speediest knitter! 

I know this is about the time you start thinking, why is she comparing herself to anyone else?  Isn't the whole idea to enjoy what you do?  Satisfaction comes from the process itself and completing the project, right?  Of course you are right.  But there are times when I wish I could knit faster so that I could complete MORE of the projects that are on my endless to knit list, especially this time of year.   

Yes, I am going there...it's the holiday knitting season and if you are anything like me that means planning and knitting all of your holiday gifts in a 6 week period, or less.  I have been known to finish a gift at 5pm on Christmas Eve a time or two!  It seems reasonable to start this sort of thing in say January, but that never seems to work out for me.  Good intentions and all that...you know...  "Where am I and how did I end up in this hand basket?" sort of thing. LOL:)  (My mom saw that saying on a t-shirt once and I thought it fit right in here.  Maybe not.  ANYway...:getting a little off topic;)  If you intend to follow this blog, though, you will have to put up with my strange sense of humor at times.  :)

So when I came into work on Monday morning and saw a gorgeous pile of newly handpainted Burly Spun (that is Brown Sheep's SUPER bulky yarn), done in absolutely rich fall colors, I was inspired.  Hmmm...If you can't knit fast, you can knit efficient.  By that I mean, choose projects that work up quickly by way of big needles and big yarn!  That's my plan this year.   

So I have 3 ideas for your holiday knitting that were inspired by the yarn... and here's the first one....

Desert Satchel by Kate Jackson
(go to her site and click on patterns then scroll down to see her bag)


I knit this bag in one evening on size 13 needles with less than 1 skein of Burly Spun!  The ball of yarn in front is what I had left over, so I will have to think of something to do with that...


Yes, one night.  And remember, I am not that fast, I've confessed that to you.  Burly Spun is just that bulky.












The next night I dug down in my box fabric scraps for the lining.  And if I hadn't wrestled with the old sewing machine for about an hour, I would have had this bag lined in about 15 minutes. 









Then I found an old belt that worked for the handles and tied it on...












And finally added a beautiful hand made wooden button from Tanglewood Studio










Total project time:  Maybe 4 hrs.















Stay tuned for Project #2...I will be working on it over the weekend.
 
 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Knitting with a Purpose

My friend, Mary, shared this article with me and I thought I would share it with you...




"Got Sticks?  Knitting with a Purpose Can Help Change the World"

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20091108/APC04/91106090

A couple of things jumped out at me as I read this...

First of all, every time I see knitting or fiber art in print, period, regardless of the details, I get a little thrill.  Do you know what I mean?  It's not just because I find reading about knitting as much fun as actually doing it (true statement; you should see my knitting book collection:),  but I love it when knitting appears in mainstream  publications where you least expect it.  Readers have an opportunity to be educated about the fact that knitting isn't just for sweet, white-haired grandmas (no offense to all of the sweet, white-haired grandma knitters that I know!  You guys rock!)  But speaking from the perspective of a knitter who hasn't reached that status yet, I enjoy every opportunity to break that stereotype; to point out that knitting is being done by men and women of all ages, children and teens...from all backgrounds, all personalities, all cultures and so on.  You get the picture. I'm sure I take this all a bit too seriously, lol, but I must tell you that I feel it is my duty to point out that the one art form/craft I choose to spend a huge amount of my life on IS serious to me and deserves a little respect! ;)

In the article, the writer talks about why this stereotype even exists:

"'Knitting and handmade crafts fell out of fashion with the dawn of the first of three waves of feminism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and also coincided with industrialization and mass production. You could get things cheap, and knitting and sewing and those kinds of things were seen as the shackles of oppression that women were throwing off,' Gates said.  

As a result some of these women had daughters who never learned the craft of knitting. Enter the second feminist wave in the 1960s and 1970s. 

The third extends from the 1990s to the present when knitting came back into fashion. Young women against mass production wanted to learn the basics, and knitting became cool."

Well, being a hardcore feminist who happens to get pure enjoyment and comfort from many of the traditional, domestic arts (not ALL mind you, but many), it helps to understand where the shift in thinking came from (knowledge is power, right?), but it does not help me sleep better at night knowing the thing I love the most is still viewed by many men and women as something "old and boring and not worth the effort."  (Yes, someone said that to me.)  It just bothers me.  Can't help it.  Which brings me back to knitting in print..now can you see why I so enjoy a well written article that portrays another dimension of the craft and gives readers a different perspective?
Did you notice this part in the article?
"In 2003, Betsy Greer, whose master’s dissertation at Goldsmith’s College in London was on knitting, do-it-yourself culture and community development, coined the term “craftivism,” a form of activism incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism and the third-wave of feminism centering most notably around knitting."   Betsy Greer's master's dissertation was on knitting...Yeah, that makes me extremely happy.  Non-knitters reading this right now might be thinking, "You are kidding...what could she possibly write about?"  There's more to it than you think, really.  Trust me. ;)

The other theme of this article that got my attention was charity knitting...who's doing it, why, and for whom. I am part of  a group that meets once a month for that very purpose.  We work on a combination of local volunteer knitting/crocheting projects such as hats and scarves for homeless children through Monument Family Connections, and national volunteer knitting for projects like Operation Helmetliner, knitting and crocheting wool helmet liners for troops in Afghanistan and Irag through the organization Citizen Sam.  I know for me it has helped immensely to have goals and to work on things as a group.  I tend to accomplish more this way.  But I also got to thinking about a term I heard not so long ago and how I could apply it in my life:  microcharity.

What's microcharity?  The idea is that one person simply gives to another in need, with no middle person or group involved.  It's as simple as noticing that a child in your neighborhood has no mittens or that the elderly man always sitting at the bus stop could really use a winter hat.  You knit it (or crochet it, or sew it or whatever), walk up to the person who needs it, and give it to them.  Microcharity.  Seems simple enough, doesn't it?  And that's not to take away from what we do as a group, either in my own town or collective as a nation.  But acting on your own, reaching out to those that you see in your world everyday in the simplest of ways, can be every bit as powerful.  Who and what would you see if you stepped out the door tomorrow with that thought in mind? How would that change your perspective?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Decisions, decisions

If you have been out to the store recently, you may have noticed a felted bag setting on the table with various parts and pieces laying next to it.


This is a felted fall tote that I have been working on.  It is a hybrid of the Oregon Tote and the Packy Sack, by Janet Scanlon of KnitKit.  (I love her patterns!) 


The fact that the bag has been laying on my work table for a week doesn't say so much about how busy I have been (which I have), but more so it's actually a glimpse into something I simply call my "process"...


Here's how it works:

#1.  I get totally obsessed with a particular yarn, color, pattern, or original idea (or any combination of these) and I can't get it out of my mind until I get it on my needles.
#2.  I cast on and I knit like a mad woman because I can't wait to see how it's going to turn out.
#3.  I reach the point where I simply need to put on the finishing details and I will be DONE...this could be buttons, beads, needle felting, embroidery, handles, closures, lining, pockets, whatever......but then as quickly as it began, it all suddenly comes to a screeching halt.  


Really.  And it's not that I lose interest necessarily (although that happens too), it's just that finishing means making those creative decisions that need to be made.  And making those creative decisions is the part I relish the most and the part I resist the most.  It's not that I can't make decisions, it's just that knitting is my art and it's quite personal (as any art is) and it has to reflect my vision and that isn't always easy to see from where I sit.  I wish it was! (sometimes I get in my own way)  I wish I could create without pause.  But as a rule I don't.



So consequently there's a #4 to my process...And here it is:


#4.  I have to have my unfinished work out in front of me in plain sight for sometimes weeks at a time while I decide what "to do" about the details.  I will glance at it, stare at it, touch it, shove it out of my way, hold it, kick it, reposition it, try to ignore it...all the while formulating in my mind that final picture of what it should look like. 

Doesn't everyone work this way?!?  Or does it sound a bit OCD?  Doesn't matter because I have come to know my process well, and any attempt to get around it or take short cuts doesn't work.  I have had sweaters and bags and other things laying out for a year or more waiting for me to complete my process.  ;)  And then all of a sudden I am inspired and I can finish it!  That's just my M.O.


So that brings me back to my fall tote and why I had to bring it to work....



 
Decisions, decisions...Will these handles look good?  Do I use one leaf?  Both?  None?!?  Needle felt branches for the leaves to hang off of?  Flowers instead of leaves?  Maybe i-cord for the branches?  Pockets inside?  Line it with a coordinating fabric?  Leave it plain and simple? 



The handles I have chosen are leather and I like the color (at least that's one decision made).  They came attached to an old purse I bought at Good Will for $2.50.  Leather handles purchased online run somewhere between $25.00 and $40.00.

(If you haven't already discovered it, second-hand stores can be an excellent source for all kinds of arts and endeavors- but more on that another day)
    

So stay tuned and throw your $.02 in, if you wish.  What's your process? What motivates you to finally finish a project?  I will eventually get it all put together and I will post the results (hopefully it won't take a year! lol:)  I really want to put this bag in my fall display.  In the meantime, if you come out to the store and still see the bag setting there, you will know why, right?

Now, how long has THIS bag been on the table?!?

 

  




Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here we go...

Ok, so I have put this off long enough.  I decided to start a blog.  I have been thinking about it for a very long time in fact.  The problem is I keep finding excuses not to publish my first post.  I keep tweaking my settings, colors, gadgets and so on, and all the while tell myself I will post something when I get this all "just right".  It's a bigger deal than I thought, going "live" with your words and your life, isn't it?  My heart is actually pounding.  How funny.  Well nonetheless, here we go...I am taking the plunge...

And it seems only fitting to begin with a recent event that I am quite proud to be a part of: 
The
1st Annual
Scotts Bluff Valley 
Fiber Arts Fair
It was held on Oct. 17th at the Farm and Ranch Museum in Gering, NE

The website for the fair is still under construction, but I will soon have a photo gallery set up there soon, as well as next year's date, vendor and demonstrator applications, etc....so visit often for updated information.  It will be there eventually, I promise!

But just to give you an overall idea of the day, here are a few pictures that Kendall, my daughter, took for me:



 
These are some of the items that we collected for our display boards.  Fiber art encompasses so many different things, and our goal here was to show the public what is being done with yarn, fabric, roving, thread and much more.  

Fiber fairs and festivals can be found all year round in almost every single state.  In fact there are over 70 different events held around the country every year!  I was actually surprised by that number.  However, after a bit of research, we realized Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, and Colorado were not among the states that host a big fiber art event.  So we, { Myself, Peggy Wells, Vice President of Brown Sheep Co., and Cher Maybee, Owner of Barn Anew Bed and Breakfast,) decided to remedy that...

In 5 short months we were able pull together vendors, demonstrators, and breeders from 4 different states to come and participate in our first fair.  And I must say, the turnout was unbelievable!! 


Vendors sold everything from hand spun, hand dyed yarns and supplies, to beautiful finished works of wearable art.

 
Here I am (in the brown shirt) looking on with another participant, as Deb Barrett, from 
Longmont, CO, demonstrates Australian Locker Hooking.



Tracy Kreie, another Brown Sheep employee, demostrating spinning on the drop spindle.


 Learning to knit...




Kim Schiffmacher of Dillon, CO demonstrating the spinning wheel.
 

Jim Schmucker and Pat Roberts showing the art of tatting.

And I could go on and on!  We also had demonstrators for crocheting, needlepoint, weaving, needle felting and more.

In addition, the breeders brought fiber animals for everyone to pet, interact with, and learn about.  Here are a few of them:



 
 
From the top down:  alpaca, angora goats, French angora rabbit, and a yak

 There are so many pictures to share, which is why I will be putting more on the website as I get that figured out!  (As it turns out, that website may just be my nemesis, but I will keep at it, so don't give up on me! :)

I think everyone enjoyed and learned something new that day.  We had people attending from 14 different states and estimate that over 1000 participants walked through the doors that day.  We were truly amazed at the turn out!  I believe this area was really ready for this type of event.   

The opportunity to be a part of all of that truly warmed this knitter's soul.   I am right where I belong at the moment.  Can you tell I love what I do?  


Thank you again to all who participated and made this possible!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the fair, this blog, or any other fiber related adventure you'd like to share! 

I will leave you with a couple quotes that have been especially meaningful to me in the last year or so (they currently adorn the top of my computer):

When you follow your bliss...doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors...and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.
                                                                                          --Unknown
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not...genius will not...education will not...persistence and determination are omnipotent.
                                                                                          --Calvin Coolidge