About Me

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I am a neo-Victorian Steampunk Goth. I am a professional seamstress working in Las Vegas at "Le Reve," and an avid knitter. My friend and I have recently launched a podcast about Las Vegas, Knitting, and our educational experiences with both. My Ravelry username is RedQueen. Come friend me!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Buttons, Buttons everywhere

I'm going to share a neat secret with you. Ready? Shh, don't tell anyone else, we don't want everybody else to know! :) OK: If you go to estate sales, you can get some really great buttons. What? You don't know what an estate sale is? Here: when you go to a "yard sale", "garage sale" or "boot sale", or even a "swap meet" or "flea market", you're shopping through things that people don't want anymore, or have made to sell. An estate sale is usually held when the owner of a house has died, and their family is getting rid of all the things the deceased acquired over a lifetime. That is to say, all the things that the deceased KEPT because they valued them. The good stuff. And since it's generally family members or a third party conducting the sale, they price things low to get rid of the detritus of a life so that they can sell the house and move on. So don't feel bad: you're helping them move on by taking things away. Which leads to buttons. Back in the day (think pre-1980s), people used to save things like buttons when a shirt or coat wore out. Now, we just chuck the whole thing in the trash. Dumb. So old folks tend to have jars of buttons saved. And who wants buttons? Most estate sales will let you take a jar of buttons away for a couple of dollars. Someone gave me these:

Now, as you can see from this picture, most of these are going to be those boring little white dress-shirt buttons. Which are nice to have around, but let's face it: unless you're a tailor, you're never going to need that many of them.

So let's see what we got. Jar 1, on the far left:

Yup. Junk. Oh, but wait.... What's this?

Those are pretty neat. And what've we got in jar #3 (far right)?

Now that's a good pile: looks like some fruit-shaped whimsy buttons, a whole whacking bunch of military (probably off a coat), which are always good for Steampunk accouterments. A neat horseshoe detail, some swirly ones.... Cool.

And then here's a picture of the center jar (which I've sorted previously, and only has stuff I like):

Mostly shiny. :)

So, what the heck am I going to do with all these buttons?


are going to become stitch markers. As you can see, the last time I dumped them out, I accidentally scooped up one of my markers with the buttons. Yay! Free stitch marker! Others will be eyes for stuffed toys. Still others will actually return to use as button closures for garments. So check out estate sales. And remember, don't tell anyone else! We don't want them to get the buttons before us! :)

PS -- here's an artsy photo of my needle jar. I no longer use straight needles, but I like the look, so I put them in my button jar. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I want to talk a little bit about acupuncture. (don't worry, I'll get back to the art debate in a few days -- it's really hard to decide among all the "bad" art!)

A lot of people I know are scared of acupuncture. They cite the "I'm afraid of needles" excuse, which for most people would be valid. But I'm a seamstress. I work in a costume shop, with other stitcher/crafters. So I decided to try and assuage their fear.

First, let me tell you about my job: I mostly sew on sewing machines, both industrial and domestic. A domestic machine is the one your mom has. An industrial is steel, attached to a table, and FAST. You can easily sew through your finger -- we've all done it, and yes, it hurts like a mother. The phrase "it missed the bone" is a really good phrase. I do a lot of hand-sewing, as well as cutting materials with a rotary blade or scissors. I've got crappy scissors for paper and stuff, and really sharp scissors for fabric. I've cut myself with both, and one of my girlfriends cut OFF the tip of her finger with a rotary.

I also knit. A LOT. And I type. A LOT. And I'm very right-handed: I can't even use a fork left-handed. So my right shoulder is chronically injured. As well as both my wrists and thumb joints. I decided that massage wasn't cutting it, and I decided to see an acupuncturist (which, BTW, is usually covered by your insurance!). She worked on my shoulder and wrists (among other things) and within two sessions, I felt fantastic. The other cool thing about acupuncture: with a "normal" doctor, they'll work on one ailment at a time. With acupuncture, you tell them EVERYTHING that's wrong with you, and they keep adding needles, working on all issues at the same time. In the past month, I've been able to quit smoking, my wrists and shoulder are much better, and my allergies have improved ten-fold.

OK, now for all of you who are scared of needles. A visual comparison:

The needle on the top is one I stole from the acupuncture office. The needle on the bottom is my "favorite" needle that I use to sew by hand at work. On average, my "favorite" needle stabs me about 5-10 times per day.

Here are a couple more photos for comparison:

As you can see in this close-up, my "favorite" needle is a LEAST 3x thicker in diameter than the acu needle. And this isn't a "thick" sewing needle by any means. I tend to like my hand-sewing needles thinner than most of my co-workers.

When the Doc inserts the needles, I can barely feel it. In fact, the only time I can feel it, it's a slight pinching or burning sensation, and that means that she's found a damaged muscle or energy pathway. Don't laugh it off: several years ago, German doctors did extensive studies that involved mapping a human body while the subjects were being... um... stimulated with electricity. Using the same equipment that shows you which parts of the brain "light up" when stimulated, they were able to map the "trigger points" on the body, along with the corresponding "pathways" that they affected. Guess what? They're the exact same points that Ancient Chinese dudes came up with 3000+ years ago for acupuncture. And even if you're not into Eastern Medicine, I don't really see how you can argue with German medical testing. (We don't really want to know how they test things, do we?)

So consider acupuncture. Especially if you're a knitter or crocheter with wrist/elbow/shoulder pain. Your insurance will probably pay for it, and you never know: it might be the answer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Category 2: Good Art that I Don't Like

OK, if anyone is actually following along, this is the category that will probably cause the greatest amount of people to become incensed. Before I begin, I would like to state that (except for Basquiat and Warhol) my dislike of a particular piece of art does not translate into my dislike for all art by that artist. Again, I'm using very famous examples, because these are pieces that the greatest amount of people will agree are "Good Art." If you would like to see more about a piece of art, or the artist that created it, just click it. Want to debate? Bring it on! :)

1) First, Andy Warhol. I HATE Andy Warhol. I hate "Pop Art." No, really: hate it. I don't care about innovation, I think it's cheap looking, and it sucks. I hate Warhol so much, I'm including two pieces:

That may be a well-executed painting of a can of soup, but it's a damn can of soup!

And I KNOW four-year-olds that could paint these pictures of Marilyn. I don't care if he was the first one to do it, or that it stood the art world on its ear, or opened the door to new pathways for artists. I think Warhol sucks.

2) Jean-Michel Basquiat. This guy was a homeless degenerate. Not that I think that homeless degenerates can't become great artists, but Basquiat didn't. Total garbage. I haven't seen a single piece of his that I enjoyed, and I've been to TWO museums that were hosting tours of his art. Bleaugh!

3) Edgar Degas. Actually, I like most of Degas' paintings. What I don't like are the ballerinas. I don't know why. I just don't like them. Maybe I don't like ballerinas.

4) Claude Monet's Water Lillies. I have never liked this painting. I find it boring. As far as impressionists go, I've never been impressed. Very rarely, I find one particular painting that I like, but it isn't this one. The popularity of this astounds me.

5) OK, I only like half of Vincent van Gogh's art. This is my least favorite. The thing that really annoys me is that I SHOULD like it. I WANT to like it. I just don't. I'm irritated by the swirls in the sky -- they distract me from the really well- done, creepy little village below the scary mountain. Or tree. Or whatever it is -- I can't tell.

It wasn't my intention to pick all dead artists. These were the first pieces of art that I thought of as "good," so that should tell you the level of popularity. All Good. All Art I Don't Like. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Category 1: Good Art that I Like

I'm not going to describe or explain any of the following images. I'll just give you the name and artist, and a website if available. You can do the research yourself. Why? Because better educated people with more time and a more extensive vocabulary than myself have already lauded these pieces, and I feel that my contribution would be unnecessary. So I'll just say "thumbs up" and let the pieces speak for themselves. (Oh, on a sidenote: I'm only posting images, since that's easiest for me. I feel that ALL types of art fit into these four categories, including knitting et al.)

If you would like more information on one of the following pieces, or the artist, please click the image. If the artist is living, I've linked to their official webpage. If the artist is deceased, I've linked to the Wikipedia page for more info.

(Uhm.... Don't know if you can tell, but my taste runs toward the gothic and macabre....)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Great Art Debate

So I'd like to talk a little about art. Not as in "What Makes Great Art?" but how I classify art. David Reidy of the Sticks & String podcast (see sidebar) has mentioned several times that he doesn't consider himself an expert on art, he only knows what he likes. Well, I DO consider myself an expert on art, and here are my qualifications:

My maternal great-grandmother graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

My maternal grandmother graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and was a member of Phi Mu, an artist sorortity, and was a cartographer during WWII.

My mother worked at the Santa Fe Opera as a costumer, and lived in Berkeley, CA in the late 60s - mid 70s.

My father was an actor in college, lived in Berkley CA (same time), and is a pretty great sketch artist.

My sister is a painter and sculptor, with a BFA in Fine Arts.

My brother is getting his degree in Medical Illustration.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts, concentration in Lighting Design. I am married to a Special Effects Makeup Artist and Theatre carpenter. We lived and worked in LA for almost a decade in the big theatres (Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA Opera, CLOSBC, the Geffen Playhouse, Hermosa Beach Playhouse, among others).

Not to mention having been to the Louvre, Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the National Gallery in Edinburgh, ALL the museums in the Bay Area, etc. etc.

So. I think I'm qualified to give an opinion about art. After all, I've seen and experienced quite a lot of it. That being said, I am now going to give you a synopsis of the Four Categories of Art. (This is the part that makes my sister want to strangle me until I turn blue. You'll see why in a minute.)

The Categories:
1) Good Art that I Like.
2) Good Art that I Don't Like.
3) Bad Art that I Like.
4) Bad Art that I Don't Like.

That's it. All art fits into one of these categories. If you ask anyone who knows me, no one will be able to say that I'm an indifferent person, or someone who stifles her opinion. So what about art that I'm "meh" about? Well, obviously I don't LIKE it, so it goes into either category 2 or 4.

Now then, you may wonder: "What qualifies art as 'good'?" For the purposes of argument, I'm going to say that Good v. Bad Art has nothing to do with price, popularity or age, and everything to do with talent and technical skill. The next several posts will be examples, and I hope you can join me in mocking categories 2 and 4 whole-heartedly. And category 3, for that matter. :) Don't worry if you don't agree with my assessment -- pretty much everybody I've ever met gets into arguments with me about this. But I have a card that trumps their argument every time: You can't tell me what I like or don't like. All training and experience aside, that belongs to me. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009


OK, forget the link in the last post. My roving arrived today!!! That was super fast! Four days! (They said it'd be 11.) So, thanks so much, dreamcrocheter@windstream.net! Like I said, I have no idea how good/bad/whatever this roving will be, but I know already from touching it that it's going to be nicer to spin than my Churro. It seems a little greasy, but I've heard a lot of spinners like to spin with slightly/very greasy wool, so who knows. I guess I'll find out if I'm one of them. Anyway, here's my roving:
Sweet! I'm super excited!!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Uh Oh...

So I've committed a terrible sin. I bought roving on ebay. Here it is, if you want to see it. It's a beautiful 4 oz of black and white "mystery" wool roving, which is a mill end from somewhere. Before you get all alarmed, just know that I am a BEGINNING spinner. In fact, here is a picture of my spindle:
That's right, it's a dowel, a cup hook, a rubber gasket, and two cds. I LOVE it. It spins a lot better than I would have expected. The only issue is that sometimes, the gaskets slide up when I'm being too aggressive about winding the yarn onto it. And just to complete the ghetto package, here is my first bobbin full of yarn:

Yes, that IS an empty toilet paper roll. (Many thanks to Dr. Gemma of CogKNITive for the brilliant suggestion!) I don't know if you can tell from the pic, but this is a VERY coarse wool. I spun using wool from Navajo Churro sheep. This is the wool that the Native Americans in New Mexico use to weave rugs and saddle blankets. Below is a picture of a "Two Grey Hills" Rug, woven by Lucy Begay. These rugs usually sell for well over $1,000. They wear forever, and don't really get dirty. Of course, most people don't put them on their floors. In fact, I think I've only seen one not on a wall, ever.

The reason they wear so well is that this wool is tough as heck. It's rough and scratchy. There are two lengths of staple -- the long hair, and the undercoat, which is softer and fuzzier. The two are spun together to give the yarn it's strength and fullness. Why on earth did I decide to use this wool? Two reasons: One, it's native to our region. (Well, sort of. Don Juan Onate brought the Churro sheep to New Mexico from Spain a couple of hundred years ago, and they did really well, so now they're regional.) I thought it would be really neat to start spinning with local fiber. The second reason is even more local: Pat Clauser, who owns Clauser Farms in Corrales, NM, sold me this wool. I grew up in Corrales, which is a village just to the northwest of Albuquerque proper. In fact, Clauser Farms was between my house and my high school. Pat Clauser was really nice when I called her all in a panic and asked if my mom could come buy some wool that weekend. (Mom was coming to visit me in Las Vegas, NV three days later.) She was very helpful, walking me through my first wool purchase, and giving me a lot of direction for how to clean, skirt, card and spin it. I decided to buy "in-the-grease" fleece, meaning that it was dirty, with lanolin and bits of vegetation (although not very much, she keeps her sheep clean). I wanted the WHOLE experience -- in fact, if she'd been local, I'd have asked to shear them, too. She sold me 3 lbs. of wool for VERY cheap, three different sheep so that I could compare them. I have decided after this that, while I don't mind the cleaning part, I HATE carding. It's not that it's boring or anything, it just annoys me that I can't make a perfect batt by hand, and perfection is kind of what I'm after. And I'm not going to buy a drum carder for several hundred dollars, so it's pre-done roving for me. So now you know why I'm super excited to get my mill-end roving from ebay. :)

(^--- a super cute Navajo Churro sheep. Wooly wooly wooly!!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


So my bestest html guru PJ has helped me, and therefore helped you! How? By teaching me how to fix my webpage so that it won't annoy you or hurt your eyes. Ta-daaaa! I has fixed the prollem!! OK, so use the oz/gram calculator to your heart's content! I've used it about 10 times since I posted it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Boo learning curve!

OK, if you're looking at this post today, you'll be able to see that I got the weight calculator to work over there on the sidebar <--. However, you'll also notice that the colors all crapped up over there ---> and doesn't line up right. So, I'm still working on it. Stupid html. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Gadget!

HA! I found this oz to gram calculator online, and I've added it at the top of this page! I'm going to mess with my html code, and see if I can't put it on the sidebar instead. (Right now, it's too wide for the sidebar.) I find this to be an invaluable tool. If you want it for your website, click the top of the calculator and it'll take you to the homepage. You can get a bunch of different ones! This is great for guesstimating how much roving/yarn you're about to buy off ebay....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Swatch #14 Horseshoe Cable

I don't really think this looks like a horseshoe, but I can see why they call it that. OK: Swatch #14.

<-- Here is the swatch from the front side. I don't know why it photographed all wobbly, it's really pretty straight. This is the one that I wish I'd taken a picture of before I blocked it, b/c it looked as bad a newly knit lace. All wadded up and pathetic. Blocked fantastically, though! I used the knitted-on cast-on again, since it's a forgiving CO, and I've never done this cable. I referred to Vogue's Ultimate Knitting Book pg. 154 for a photo and instructions on how to do this. The TKGA instructions are actually better, but it helps me to see the finished product. I ended this swatch after pattern row #3 (TKGA instruction row 3), which is basically the middle of the horseshoe. I'd reached the required length, and didn't want to end it in the middle of a cable cross.
For this one, I used the Traditional Bind-Off, in pattern. I'm still not sure I'm doing the "in pattern" right, but here's how I bound off: 4k, 2p, 8k, 2p, 4k, and then the last st I did the little trick I learned. It looks good to me. Actually, I think this swatch looks better than the others, having fewer "holes" or uneven sts.
Here is the back for comparison -->
Again, I don't know why it looks wobbly in the photo, as it's pretty straight in person. Whatever. This is why you send the real thing, and not a picture.
This week, I need to weave in all my ends and label everything. I got manila cards to use, and I've got stickers to put on them, I just keep forgetting to print them out.
I've done the 1st question (wow), but have been ignoring the "write a paragraph..." question #2, as I am lazy. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Section One -- First swatches

OK! So here is the long description of the following swatches.
<-- Swatch #1. I cast-on using the Knitted-on cast-on, then did a k2p2 rib for several inches. I then switched to garter stitch for 4". Garter in this case is knit every row. When I reached the end of 4", I bound-off using the Traditional Bind-off (k2, slip 1st st over second, k1, pass 1st st over second, etc.). There is a trick I learned to "tidy up" the last stitch of this bind-off: when you reach the end of the row, and have one stitch remaining on the left needle, and one on the right, SLIP the left st onto the right needle. Now, take the tip of your left needle and insert it into the stitch BELOW the last stitch of the row. Slip the slipped stitch back to the left needle, and knit these two sts together. Then, slip the 1st stitch on the right needle over this stitch, and pull your yarn tail through the last stitch to tighten. Voila! Tidy end. Oh, I forgot: I cast-on 20 sts, and at the last row of ribbing, I increased 5 sts. I used the M1 increase between the knit sts of the ribbing (not the purl ribs). The first three ribs, I did a right-slanting M1, and the last two ribs, I used the left-slanting M1. As you can see, the two left rib M1s (and the middle one for some reason) are more obvious. I may have to re-knit this using a different increase, or maybe I just didn't do it properly.

This one ---> is Swatch #2. Same deal as above, only I did k1p1 ribbing, then switched to stockinette. When I reached the last row of ribbing, I increased using the Kfb (knit in front and back of loop) method. This creates a horizontal stitch to the left of the increased stitch, which is nearly invisible in a purl row. So, I increased using this pattern: (there are 10 k ribs, and 10 p ribs) Kfb, p, k, p, kfb, p, k, p, kfb, p, etc. Basically, I increased by 5 sts, by increasing on every other knit rib. As you can see, the increases are virtually invisible. The transition from rib to stockinette is ok, but I'm going to have to check my photo against others that have been accepted. I bound off the same way as above, using Traditional.

<--- This is Swatch #3, seed stitch. A seed stitch is basically off-set k1p1 ribbing, where the knits and purls don't line up. This produces a dense, stiffer fabric that doesn't stretch very much. So I used the Cable Cast-On, which is a fairly inelastic cast-on. You make a slip-stitch, knit into it without dropping off the slip-stitch, and place the new stitch on the left needle beside the slip-stitch. Then, you place the tip of the right needle BETWEEN these two sts and pull a loop through, as if knitting. Place this new stitch on the left needle beside the first two. Now repeat, knitting between the last and second-to-last stitch on your left needle, and placing the new stitch beside the others. Continue until you have the desired number of sts.
I've been warned that "pinpricks" of light should show between the sts in Seed Stitch, when the swatch is held up to the light, but "holes" are unacceptable. I'm a little concerned that I've got some holes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Green Shopping

So, I wanted to talk a little about why we're doing a Regional podcast, in addition to talking about the classes we're taking. There are actually a couple of reasons for this, the most obvious one being that our region (the American Southwest, encompassing California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas) is under-represented in the world of knitting.

Which is NOT to say that we don't have a lot of knitting. It means that, on the contrary, we have TONS of knitting and fiber, but it's poorly represented in the Knitting World. A few examples: Stephanie Japel (Glampyre Knits), Scout (of Scout's Swag), the Taos Wool Festival, Stitches West, the Monterrey Wool Auction, and the Texas Kid & Ewe Show are all from our region. And yet. So the first order of business is to find everything and everyone here, and then tell everybody about it. This is so that people will know about their local stuff, and then support it, so that there's more of it. Which leads to the second reason:

I am "green". I have a compost bin, am struggling to grow our own veggies, recycle, turn off the air conditioner, etc. I am not always successful, but I am aware of the choices I make. One of these choices is supporting local businesses. The "green" reason is that if I buy local, from vendors who also buy wholesale locally, then we are reducing our carbon footprint by limited the amount of fossil fuel we use. Which is cool.

The economic reason is one that not that many people address. Let's take a really crap local example (totally fictional, as I haven't actually done any research):

I want yarn. So I go to Knit Las Vegas, a LYS in Henderson. I buy a skein of handpainted Danido laceweight yarn. Danido is a local knitter who also works at Knit Las Vegas, and they have recently started carrying her yarn. Let's say it's $25/skein. KLV takes their profit, and pays Dani. Dani goes to "It's A Grind" (a local 24-hour coffee shop) and gets a large latte, and tips the barista a dollar. The barista gets paid, takes his tips, and realizes that he now has enough money to take his girlfriend to that show she's been wanting to see, "Le Reve." Which is where I work. His money pays me, which pays KLV, which pays Dani, which pays him, which pays me.... Do you see where I'm going?

Of course, this is a very simplistic example, but the premise is correct. Even if Dani went to Starbucks, that barista would probably buy groceries from the local Albertsons, and their cashier would get paid, and be able to pay their sewage bill, which pays my friend's dad, who is helping my friend buy a house. You get it.

Now, I'm not going to say that I've renounced internet purchases from KnitPicks or Amazon.com. I may be green, but I'm also a cheapskate. But I am aware of my choices, and I choose to go to KLV or Wooly Wonders instead of JoAnn Fabric or Michael's for my yarn. Even if I buy Cascade 220, some of that money still goes to Christine (the owner of KLV). And I plan on spending a LOT of dinero in Taos. Hopefully most of it will stay local, but I can't promise anything when I'm confronted with yarn fumes.

So we're here, not to smack other knitters around and demand that everyone go green, but to spread information about locals. If you don't know you have an option, how can you be expected to choose? Until recently, I didn't even know there WERE "local yarn shops," or that there was any difference in what they carried. Now that I know, I can decide for myself that yes, it is worth it to pay the extra $2/skein (or yard of fabric, or whatever I'm buying) so that that business stays open another day, and gives me that choice again.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Knitted-On Cast-On

I meant to take pics of my blocked swatches and post them, but the daylight got away from me. So I'm going to talk about the "Knitted-On Cast-On" instead. This is a new-to-me technique I've just learned.

I was taught to cast-on using the Long-Tail (or Slingshot) method, which involves the most complicated hand gymnastics of any of the cast-ons. Not that that's a problem, and it's how I teach everyone. However. I tend to cast-on too tightly when I use this, and I recently (about two years ago) started casting-on over two needles held together. Then, I slip one needle out, and start knitting as normal. The loops are larger at first, but after a few rows, the cast-on row relaxes, and the extra space gives the piece just enough elasticity so that it doesn't bind up when I stretch the starting edge of whatever I've been working on. Pretty good solution. I didn't come up with it.

Then, for the Masters, I began doing a little research. And found the knitted-on cast-on. O.M.G. Ok, so you make a slip knot. Put this on the left needle. Insert your right needle into the slipknot knitwise, and knit a stitch, without dropping the slipknot off. Place the new stitch onto the left needle. Repeat with this new stitch, until you have the required number of stitches. I know, I said all this two posts ago. But I'm REALLY excited about it. Why?

OK: first, and most importantly, you don't have to figure out how much yarn to leave as your tail. There is nothing more irritating than casting-on with Long-Tail and discovering (197 stitches later) that there isn't enough tail left for you to finish casting on your 225 sts plus enough to weave in later. So you have to pull the needles out and start all over again with a longer tail. BOO. BOOOOO!

Second, it stretches! Just like stockinette, which it basically is! No binding up your first row! No compensating for the pattern that follows after! It just works! I am overjoyed with it. I've used it now on 4 swatches, all with different stitch patterns, and it's been fine for all of them. There may be some problems, but I'm too giddy to care right now. So it rolls in stockinette. So what? Everything freaking rolls in stockinette!! That right there is the main reason I don't like knitting with acrylic: you can't block the rolling out.

So, if you haven't tried the knitted-on cast-on, I'd recommend it. Here's a video to demonstrate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Watching the Graph

I get a kick out of watching the blog stats for our podcast. It's really funny to see the line drop down, down, down, UP! when we post a new one. :) Thanks to everybody who has been listening and writing to us. We're having a lot of fun, and we hope that it's been... er... educational? for you.

So, what I knew would happen did: I started knitting the first swatch for Level 1, and I became addicted. I can't show you pictures in this post, because swatches 1, 2, 3, and 14 are drying on my blocking board in the office. Workshop. I have to change how I say that. I meant to take photos of the "before and after" being blocked, but I got too excited, and blocked 'em. So maybe tomorrow I'll post the blocked photos. Right now, I'm on pins because I want to answer all the questions that apply to them in the "Questions" section, but I have to wait until they're dry before I can measure them for gauge. I used a size (US) 5 Addi Turbo (insert Brenda Dayne sfx here) to knit these swatches. I think it's the right size for the yarn, considering how loose I usually knit. Anyway, I like the fabric density. It's really pretty.

I'm trying to keep myself from going crazy and knitting all the swatches all at once, since my goal is to actually learn something here. If I knit everything all together, I'm not taking the time to really understand what I'm knitting, block it, and answer pertinent questions about it. I'll tell you, though -- at the rate I'm going, I'll probably have the whole thing wrapped up in about a month or two, and then I'll have to shell out another $100 bucks to move to Level II. Not that that's a bad thing, by any means. Just spendy.

Check out our podcast, if you haven't already -- the links are over there <-- on the sidebar. Right now, we're up to Episode 6, and it's a technically heavy one. I hope I'm not leading anyone down the path of wrong information, but I've described things as they were explained to me. Fortunately, knitters are not folks to hide their disapproval. If I'm wrong, I fully expect (and want!) someone to correct me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Swatch and musings

So, here is my first swatch for Master Level 1 in the TKGA. As you can see, it's a k2p2 rib, followed by an increase and a length of garter stitch.

I've decided to use this opportunity to try out new stitches, and already I've found a cast-on that I like a lot better than the traditional long-tail slingshot method.

I cast on using the "knit-on" method, where you make a slip knot, then knit into that stitch (leaving the slip knot on the left needle), and place the new stitch next to the slip knot. You continue this way, knit, place on left needle, until you have the required number of cast-on stitches. It's very stretchy, and doesn't distort the beginning edge of the piece the way that a too-tight long-tail can if you're not careful.

I was waffling over starting my swatches all week. I spent a lot of time reading the Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques and Vogue's Ultimate Knitting Book, trying to absorb every snippet of information that I could. And then I realized: I could be the most well-read, best educated knitter in the world, and if I didn't practice, my hands would never learn what my brain had acquired. Most of the time, my hands seem to operate independently of my conscious mind when I knit. This is true of most knitters. It's only when I'm actively following a pattern or learning a new technique that my brain and hands work together. So, I have to DO the stitches to transfer the knowledge from my head to hands. Duh, right?

So I started. :) I used the "Make One" (M1) increase on the last row of ribbing, knitting this increase between the knit stitches. The first three ribs, I did a right-cross M1, and the last two ribs I used the left-cross M1 to balance the increases. The right-crosses are less visible than the left-crosses, but I'm going to see how it turns out after I've washed and blocked it. It may relax and be fine, and if it isn't, then I'll just knit another one.