A Tractor for Aengus

IMG_2072

I’ve never been a summer knitter.  Not in any real sense.  I may pick up a project from time to time, but the oppressive Mojave Desert heat saps any real desire to work with wool.  And I’m OK with that.  When you live in the American Southwest, knitting is not a year-round hobby.  (I am purposely neglecting to acknowledge all of the cotton and openwork patterns that litter the magazine rack at the LYS this time of year.  I’m a purist.  I don’t drink lavender lattes and I prefer my knits to be warm and wooly–cotton is for washcloths).  So, needless to say, I have little knitting to show from the last few months.  However, I have been working on some other projects around the apartment and I started training for a half-marathon in October.  There’s something.

One of the projects I’ve been working on is a gallery wall of original sketches (done by yours truly) for Aengus’s room.  I have a pretty large space that is going to need filling once he completely outgrows his changing table and I move some of the furniture around and I really didn’t have need for more shelves.  I thought artwork would be cool.  I originally thought I would try my hand at canvas painting like all of the neat work you see on Pinterest and Etsy, but the thought of pulling out my unforgiving oil paints (yes.  I have oil paints.  Why?  I don’t know.) and taking a crack at that just didn’t appeal.  What kind of painting is easy, fun, and forgiving while still lovely to hang on the wall?  Watercolors of course.  I remember the countless hours I spent watercoloring as a child.  Blending and creating colors and washing them across the white paper, discovering how pretty muted hues could be.  So I picked up some cheap brushes, watercolor paints, and a tablet of watercolor paper at the craft store and got to work.

I figured an array of nine framed paintings would be perfect to fill the wall, so I set out to sketch and watercolor nine different types of “big machines”.  Aengus has a serious obsession with trains and construction machines and wheels, as I’m sure any boy his age would, so these paintings would be perfect. And as a way to document the process for showing Aengus as he gets older, I recorded my work and turned them into time-lapse videos set to music.  A complete package.  Original “mom art” for my boy.

pullover1 (1 of 1)

FO show…Hepburn Pullover

Since I’ve been knitting, I’ve found that one of the most satisfying simple pleasures is donning a freshly blocked, hand-knit item and finding that it fits like dream.  And believe me, this isn’t always the case, so when it is, it’s a celebration.  This last piece, the Hepburn Pullover by Jennifer Wood, is much cause for celebration.

hepburn6 (1 of 1)

If you’re looking for a first sweater pattern and want something knit in one piece (who doesn’t?  I mean, c’mon) than give this a try.  It’s written up so clearly and just flies off the needles.  I also fell in love with Manos del Uruguay Maxima in the process.  It slid through my fingers beautifully and is just so cozy when it’s all knit up.

hepburn2 (1 of 1)

These cables are so flattering and just enough of a design element to add visual interest without overwhelming the simple nature of the sweater.  And look at those color variances!  Ah, the beauty of hand-dyed yarn.

hepburn5 (1 of 1)

The original pattern is shown with a turtleneck, which is quite lovely, but for me, I prefer a simple crew or boat neck.  I chose to begin knitting after the turtleneck portion of the pattern, using short rows to add a bit of height for the back neck.

hepburn4 (1 of 1)As you can see here, the cable border along the hem is half that of the cuffs.  This was a way of making the sleeves longer without having to frog back to the stockinette sleeve and knit on for another two inches.  I figured I could just double the cuff cable repeat and make gauntlet style cuffs.  It really works.  I like the extended cabling on the arm.

hepburn3 (1 of 1)

The pattern calls for both sleeves to be bound off purl wise, which is smart because they already have a tendency to curl and this gives them a little more stability.

Overall, this is a great pattern and a fun knit.  And if you do decide to give this a try, go for the Manos Maxima that it calls for.  If you’ve never knit with Manos, then this is a great pattern to take it for a test drive, and not only that, it makes such a luxurious fabric.

Happy knitting friends!

 

 

I have the need….the need for speed.

I’ve found that I can no longer rely on the poetic excuses of “calmness in the rhythm” or “throwing the yarn relaxes me” to justify the fact that my method for knitting is slow-as-hell.  I’ve seen far too many videos on Instagram of knitters flying through stitches in an almost mesmerizing blur to convince me that, even though “no method is the wrong method as long you’re enjoying the process”, my method is the wrong method.  I need to fly through stitches with the greatest of ease because I have big plans and a huge queue that isn’t going to knit itself.

Enter, speed knitting.

I found this video on YouTube that showed how to “speed knit” and I was instantly hooked.

No more letting go of the working needle, no more throwing the yarn, no more switching yarn positions to purl (or knit).  This method is pretty much seamless.  And that is what I need.

But hear this now, there is a learning curve so don’t expect to be whipping out cardigans in record time right away.  Patient, you must be.

yoda

Here is a glimpse into my learning curve…(this is not a tutorial.  just me sharing a little knitting..)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sleeve (1 of 1)

On the Needles…

I need to take a moment to take stock of what I’m working on and why I consider it a priority right now.  The last several days (like a week) have found me moping around the apartment during Aengus’s naptimes trying to figure out what it is that I need to be doing between my Master’s coursework, housework, blogging, knitting, lesson planning for tutoring, what have you.  All of this, so I’m not neglecting anything for the sake of something else less important.

And let me tell you, this is no way to mope.  Really.  If you try to sort out everything so that nothing is neglected, you will end up a beaten and conquered puddle on the floor of your living room, sobbing into a pile of unfolded laundry because IT is the only obvious and readily available thing you need to do.  Because we need to feel success.

Even if it means folding the laundry.

Or acknowledging that laundry needs to be folded…

I digress…

So some things I’m working on…

A new improvised color-block tank design made from my stashed Ella Rae Latte 

IMG_0866

I’m really loving the Fashionary Sketchbook!

_DSC0181

I also have the Latte in this lovely blue which I plan to use for a big color-block at the top of the tank.

IMG_0916

I’m playing around with the waist shaping.  When this is on, it stretches ever-so-slightly and looks lovely.

I’m also finishing up the second sleeve of my Hepburn Pullover.  I have SSS really badly right now and feel like this is taking me forever.

sleeve (1 of 1)

I have a few other things on the needles right now, but these two WIPs are taking up most of my knitting energy at the moment.  When these are finished, I’ll revisit my other WIPs.  They need love too.

 

Happy knitting!

Fodder for Thought: I’m dating my yarn…

I bought several skeins of Manos del Uruguay Maxima in a mauvy-salmony color about four years ago for the Hepburn Pullover by Jennifer Wood.  The pattern is lovely and the fiber is amazing.  It’s a superfine merino and it haunts my dreams in the best way.  However, I just recently started in on the sweater  and the color of the yarn doesn’t inspire me as much now as it must’ve when I bought it.

skeins+

Now don’t get me wrong, the color is gorgeous.  It’s not that.  It’s just that I usually don’t wear colors like this.  I tend to gravitate to neutrals.  Especially when it comes to wardrobe essentials, like this pullover.

File_008

But let me tell you, the time I’ve spent knitting this sweater has been like dating the yarn.

Yes.

You read that right.

I’ve been dating my yarn.

Every knitting session, another date.

Each time I’ve worked the yarn, it has revealed something to me that I had never noticed before.  As the fabric has developed, the subtle nuances in the hand-dyed fiber have as well, and I’ve begun to fall head over heels for the yarn.  Which makes me think: when we knit with craft yarn (as opposed to commercial yarn which lacks those special nuances), there’s so much learning and relationship-building going on.  We are growing to love (or…eh…not love.. ) the yarn—and the project as we get to know what it offers us.

Cheers, friends.

 

 

nutbutter feature

Cinnamon-Sugar Peashew Butter

One of my most cherished simple pleasures is the smell of nuts roasting in the oven.  The buttery and earthy aroma wafting through the house is just sheer coziness.

And, in my home, where there are nuts roasting, nut butter is not far behind.  It’s just one of the most simple and inviting things to make at home.  I get pretty creative too, mixing flavors and nut varieties, and such.  Maybe a dollop of coconut butter….

Mmmmmm…

So today I’d like to share with you one of my favorite nut butter recipes:

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Peashew (peanut/cashew) Butter by The Greenhorn Knitter

  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

_DSC0051_02_01

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashes
  • 1/2 cup raw, skinless peanuts
  • 1 pint mason jar
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • food processor

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Spread out the peanuts on the cookie sheet.  These will start roasting first as they roast more quickly then the cashews.  Pop them in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Once the timer reaches 12 minutes, pull out the peanuts and add the cashews to the cookie sheet with the peanuts.  Spread the nuts out evenly over the sheet.  Pop them back in for the remaining time.
  4. Now it’s important to use your nose to guide you.  If the nuts start smelling really toasty, check them.  They should have a golden brown color, with maybe a bit of amber coloring, but no darker.  If that happens before the timer sounds, pull ’em out.
  5. You don’t want to let the nuts cool.  Toss them into a food processor right away, and begin processing.
  6. Once the consistency begin to become buttery, add the coconut butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Continue to process the butter until it’s shiny and the consistency of warmed peanut butter.
  7. Pour the butter into your mason jar and let cool on the counter for about 3o minutes. (You may want to spread the warm, fresh nut butter on a slice of toast or a banana sliced lengthwise and test it for poison…if you know what I mean.)
  8. Enjoy!

* Keep refrigerated.  The coconut butter will keep the peashew butter spreadable, even when it’s fresh from the fridge.

2016 The Greenhorn Knitter

Cheers friends!

hatsandsweater

Process Knitting(and how I sometimes{read most of the time} don’t knit a whole gauge swatch).

Ok.  Yes.  I admit it.  *I don’t always swatch.  I mean I guess you could say I “check”.  (Pssst…sometimes I don’t even “check”.  I just cast on to that bad boy and take off.  It really hasn’t blown up in my face…..yet.) I cast on the number of stitches in the gauge recommendations, knit a few rows, measure the stitch gauge, and you know the rest.  If it works out, I get going with the project.  If not, I adjust.  And I’m completely OK with this.

Truthfully.

Because it means I can get knitting sooner and begin reaping all of the therapeutic benefits of this craft.

To me, there is so much to this craft-other than the project-that makes it valuable.  Sure, I knit for the FO, but I think there are a lot of times when I knit for the process.  Kristin, over at Voolenvine Yarns, talks about this in her podcast, Yarngasm.  She discusses the difference between process knitting and project knitting and I fully agree with her take on the matter.  She uses the Doodler by Stephen West as an example of a process knit.  This shawl is amazing, and the colorway of the yarn she uses really makes it lovely (she uses her own hand-dyed yarn, btw), but I can see where something like this-something so out there and unique-would make for a real diverting knitting experience.  One that keeps our interest and promotes mindfulness.  In truth, these are the knits I love the best.  The FO is really the bonus.

And my hasty gauging?  It just sets the easygoing tone for the whole thing.  It’s like kicking off your shoes before walking into the sand.

Cheers friends.

 

*If I’m writing a pattern, I swatch for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

The Nap…and a WIP

 

The Nap

(to the meter of Edgar A. Poe’s The Raven)

by Tayler Earl

The Greenhorn Knitter

 

Once upon a Tuesday early, with a WIP finished nearly;

Under many a soft and snugly throw knitted once before;

While I stitched, needles tapping, suddenly there came a slapping;

As of little hands faintly clapping, applauding my work; a wooly chore;

“But it can’t be the boy,” I gasped, “clapping, clapping, as if for more.”

He only went down one hour before…

 

Ah, now I do remember, as I wrap yarn up and under,

Of the interrupted slumber of a babe with gums so sore;

Anxiously, my brow did furrow, thinking of chances-so narrow-;

That my napping boy, not so full of sorrow, may borrow just a few winks more;

For this sock I am knitting, heel turned and almost fitting, needs just a few inches more;

For, he just went down one hour before!

 

And his sleepy, drab, and dreary bustling, of which I was certain

Will’d me-filled me with such urgency felt after naps before;

So that now, to fill my empty, wanting mug, I stood pouring

“It is one more cup of hot coffee before I open his bedroom door-

Just one more cup to warm me before approaching his bedroom door;-

That is all and nothing more.”

 

And now my will grew stronger; my knitting in my hands no longer,

“Aengus,” I said, “Little one, surely you’re up and ready to explore,

You see, I was knitting, and so calmly was I stitching,

When you started slapping or simply clapping-to alert me, I’m sure

That I nearly startled when I heard you” –and then I opened wide the door;–

A sleeping babe, curled and warm, and nothing more-

 

for he just went down one hour before.


 


 

And now for a quick shot of my current WIP, the Hepburn Pullover:

 

sweaterandbag

Also featuring my new Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co.

gaptut1

Tutorial: closing the gap…

So, I’ve been knitting for quite some time and am completely self-taught.  This means that many “official” techniques for finishing or starting knitting projects typically elude me.  Not because I purposely ignore them, but because when you’re self-taught you find that you come up with your own techniques for these things–whether or not you should (I think I hear the knitting police rapping at my door).  Sometimes, you realize later that it isn’t your technique after all.  It’s been done a thousand times before and I was just lucky enough to figure it out on my own. (Much of what we do in knitting is a recycled version of someone else’s genius anyhow.  That’s the beauty of this craft and the community.)

Anyway, this technique is not my own and I didn’t figure it out on my own.  I actually got fed up with the somewhat messy appearance of my woven ends as I finished tubular knitting projects.  I finally gave in and visited my LYS for some advice.  And boy am I glad I did.  This technique is so easy and makes for an almost invisible gap closure at the end of your sleeves, sock cuffs, etc.

Hope you find it helpful.

By the way, I am fully aware that I should have a freshly manicured set of paws before doing this, but, you know, motherhood.

Closing the Gap on Tubular Knitting: A Tutorial

gaptut1

The perpetrator in this case is the pesky gap at the end of our tubular knitting projects seen in the above photo.  Let’s get ’em!

gaptut2

Step 1: With right side facing, thread your tapestry needle and insert the tip of the needle into the closest strand from the “V” of the first bound-off stitch on the left side of the gap.

gaptut3

Step 2:  Pull the yarn through the loop and snug it up.

gaptut4

Step 3:  Bring the tapestry needle back to the front of your work and find the closest leg of the “V” of the last stitch bound off (or the stitch immediately before the gap, on the right).  In the image above, my needle is pointing directly at the strand in question.

gaptut5

Step 4:  Bring the needle down through that strand  of the stitch and pull the yarn through.  (You may probably notice at this point that we are mimicking the actual path of yarn as you knit, thus the nearly invisible bind.)

gaptut6

Snug it up.

gaptut7

Step 5:  Insert the needle tip under the two strands of the “V” of the first stitch to the left of the gap (or the first bound-off stitch).

gaptut8

Step 5 cont.:  Pull the needle all the way through and to the back of the work.

gaptut9

Step 6:  Snug it up and continue weaving in your ends down the inside of the work as usual.

gaptut10

Et voilá!  A nice and neat closure.

Happy knitting, friends!

yarnabsket+

Fodder for Thought: real wool…

A few years back, I visited Foothills Yarn and Fiber in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, located on the farm property of Cascade Alpacas (I post about it here).  It is really a great place, but my favorite part of the whole visit was the skein of DK baby alpaca that I bought tied up with a tag that had the alpaca’s name hand printed on it.  My little skein came from an alpaca named Alfalfa.

————————————————————————–

Have you ever wondered about the fiber you knit with? Like, beyond its colorway, gauge, and feel and through to its roots? When I first started knitting, I didn’t think too much about the wool.  And frankly, when I first started, I didn’t really knit with a lot of real wool.  Most of what I cast-on was acrylic based and cheap.   Quickly, however, as my passion for knitting grew, I began to develop a richer taste for yarn and an appreciation for real fiber.  I began to appreciate the softness and beautiful halo the natural fibers gave to the work and how the colors seemed so much more milky and earthy–while vibrant at the same time.  However, that was just what I experienced while I was holding and working with the yarn.  There is still so much more to the fiber than that.

handinyarn+

You see, yarn is wool in its final stages.  Once we hold the yarn in our hands, its journey (and purpose) are almost completely fulfilled.  Yarn, knitting (crocheting, weaving, what have you), finished piece, in that order.  But before the yarn makes it into our hands, it’s grown on the big burly bodies of sheep, alpaca, goats, etc. and then sheared by skilled shearers who risk injury to themselves as well as the animal, but who take such great care because they love what they do.  The wool is then sent to a mill or spinner to be turned into plied yarn or roving (and more).  Then the dying is done (or not) to create a beautiful spectrum of all kinds of colors and multi-colors, or left in its beautiful natural hue.  Of course, all this may seem like common knowledge to most knitters, but it bears emphasizing just how amazing and completely deserving it is of our attention and appreciation as knitters.

skeins+yoke_01

There is such a strong push in the direction of slow living these days, and that’s a really good thing.  This slowing of life gives us time to see things more clearly and get to know ourselves and the world around us just a little better.  Knitting is slow.  Not always, of course, thanks to the genius of super bulky yarns, but overall the craft is a slowing and calming one.  Not only that, but it’s a craft that requires investment.  Sure there are ways to knit cheaply.  We all do it.  Joann, Michaels, etc. all provide cheap alternatives to fine fiber, but at what cost?  Isn’t the time we spend with our work worth the investment in good quality fiber from a traceable source?

>>>stepping up on to the soapbox<<<

Now, I know that this may seem a bit extreme.  Why break the bank to keep on knitting?  I get that.  Believe me.  The last sweater I knit (which was only the second garment I’ve knit) was from a budget yarn I picked up at Joann.  Mostly because it was cheap, and also because I didn’t want to invest too much money into something that may not turn out the way I’d like.  And that’s really crumby.  I mean, I ought to have enough faith in my skill to take a risk and invest in good, hearty, natural fiber so that my piece lasts and lasts (and really, there is such a thing as frogging my work—not the end of the world—a post on that to come shortly).  Sooooo, I think it’s time for me to take a step back and see what I can do to contribute to the fiber community in a way that helps support the foundation as well as promoting the idea of investing in quality material over heedlessly building a stash of synthetic fiber.   AND, at the same time supporting the LYS in my area (and the small farms and yarn vendors that I can shop online).

>>>stepping down from the soapbox<<<

 

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been catching up on Woolful, listening to at least one episode every day (and if you are a knitter or crocheter {or fiber enthusiast of any kind} you need to check it out).  I guess that I really started to explore these thoughts while listening to the stories of so many people who live and work in fiber.  Their experiences and love for their work inspires me.  It makes me feel  a sense of pride in my craft in a way that transcends my WIPs and FOs that I share.  It’s a pride not only in what do with the yarn, but also in the amazing stories behind the yarn.  I’m proud to be able to share little stories of how the beautiful jewel-toned finger-less mitts I wear came from a baby alpaca that goes by Alfalfa.

bookandknitting

Suffice it to say, I’ve decided to dedicate some of my time in this woolly world of knitting getting to know and fostering a deeper appreciation for my fiber and ultimately my knitted work.  I have some really beautiful yarn in my stash just waiting to be knit into something lovely.  With each new stash-bust, I’ll do my due diligence and learn a thing or two about the source of the yarn  and share that with you here.  Maybe this will inspire you and others to take this journey with me.  If we can dig up a story in our work we will always have a story to tell.

Cheers and happy knitting!

Tayler