Monday, February 25, 2013

Teaching AND Learning. . .

I have had THE BEST TIME teaching classes this past month. Ask my knitting girls and you would find out that ruffle yarn is NOT my favorite. . .but you know what? I've even had fun teaching THAT class and I will be teaching another one on Saturday. I love teaching people how to knit. I love watching them figure out what works for them. And I love being able to share my love of the fiber arts with them. It's tons of fun. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to use my teaching degree AND my love of knitting . . .all packed in to a class on the weekend.

The coolest part, too, is LEARNING while I knit. Whether it's a new way to present an idea, or a way to do something that makes sense to someone else. If you are a knitter yourself, I'm CERTAIN, that you've been told at times that you were doing something wrong. But here's where I tell you to give yourself permission to figure out what works for YOU. Figuring out your knitting preferences goes a long way in helping you pick projects that you will not only love knitting, but that you will use once they are complete. I know for me, I'm not happy with knots in my knitting. I also want the back side to look as nice as the front side. And I know that I have never seen a sweater that's seamed that looks as nice and finished as a sweater that is unseamed and knit instead in one piece. I prefer shorter tips on circular needles, and when paying for tools, while I don't buy the cheapest, I also cannot justify spending $40 on a pair of needles when there are other things out there I love just as much. I know that when knitting, blocking takes care of a ton of issues that arise when I knit, but I ALSO know that my stitches are really even. I have no qualms ever about gifting something that has not been blocked, and even my knitting friends with trained eyes can't usually tell.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because knitting is about me. Well, MY knitting is about ME. If you've ever asked me my opinion on something, you KNOW I will give it to you fifteen different ways. But in the end, YOU are the one that has to be happy with it. And as long as your stitches come off of the needles the right way and you end up with a project you love, you are doing what you should be!

So here are my tips (okay, my opinions).

1) When choosing needles, pick the ones that work for you. Straight needles, double pointed needles, wooden needles, circular needles, metal, pointy, blunt. There are so many choices out there. I, personally, see absolutely no reason to spend $40 on a single pair of needles. For me. I have really even stitches and my Hiya Hiya Sharps interchangeable needles give me perfect stitches and cost a mere fraction of that price. When it comes to money and how much you spend on your tools, as long as you can justify it for YOU and you end up with the tool that does a good job for YOU, then YEAH! Don't let anyone tell you that it is or is not a good choice without hearing their reasons why and then deciding if those reasons mesh with your knowledge of your preferences. Here are why I love my Hiya Hiyas: They have pointy tips, a flexible cable, a smooth join (that also swivels), and they are metal, so my stitches can just fly off of them. But maybe you don't like pointy needles. Or you don't like metal needles. Find ones that work for YOU. I know you can't really see the needle points, but these are one of my fixed sets of Hiya Hiyas (I purchased these from The Loopy Ewe and they JUST stocked more today! Link is over there ---->). The cables are perfect for magic loop and look at the join up there in the upper left. Smooth as can be. (and since we all love to know where the yarn came from, this yarn is the Oh Happy Day colorways from Lollipop Yarns)

2) When choosing yarn, don't let price decide what you buy. Instead, do your homework. I don't mean go into debt to buy really expensive yarn every time. . .but also, it's okay to buy less yarn that costs more than stocking up on really cheap acrylic. I'm not telling you here that acrylic is the devil (even though I don't really like knitting with it myself). But when it comes to yarn, you often get what you pay for. Find a dyer you like on Etsy. Go to your local yarn store and touch and feel what they have available. Check out Ravelry and see what other people have to say about the yarn you are looking at. Don't be afraid to do your homework. If you don't have a good yarn store close to you, check out a place online like The Loopy Ewe (link over there on the right) or Paradise Fibers (who IS my local yarn store!!). While I know that Joann's and Michael's and Hobby Lobby might have yarn, this is NOT what I'm referring to when I say "good yarn store". Ask around. Talk to friends who knit. Read through reviews on Ravelry and search the comments to see what people are saying and what they are making. And know your project well enough to know how much abuse it will take each time it is worn. If I'm knitting socks, I know that I like nylon in there. It helps the wool hold up with wear. I buy a ton of sock yarn from Three Irish Girls. Her Adorn Sock base  (wool/nylon blend) is amazing AND she will dye it to order with any of her available colors.

When I'm knitting a sweater or an object whose purpose is to keep the cold away, I want something warm and squishy. I love Madelinetosh Vintage Yarn. LOVE it. I just finished a hat out of it and I had to get the same yarn to make a sweater.

And I knit the sweater below out of Malabrigo Rios. This is an AWESOME machine washable wool, as well.

3) Know your knitting. What does that mean, you might ask? Are you a loose knitter? A tight knitter? Do your stitches look the same in the round as they do flat? How about your purl stitches? Are your stitches all about the same size, or does it take some blocking to make them match? I tend to be pretty much right in the middle with my gauge. None of the objects in this post have been blocked, and to be honest, I rarely block before wear unless there is something that really needs help. You are seeing my knitting AS IS. My stitches are pretty even, and my knit stitches match my purl stitches pretty well. But even designers have to pick the gauge that they get when they test knit an object, and sometimes that gauge is quite different than I would get if I used those same yarn and needles. . .and you know what? That's okay. Right now, I'm working on a sweater for a mystery Knit Along (KAL) and the pattern called for size 8 needles. I'm knitting it on size 6 needles to get gauge. And I like the fabric and the sweater is turning out lovely on that size for me.  By the way, it's the Hoaloha Sweater, which will be available to the general public mid-March. It's still a work in progress, but it's awesome! (and yes, those are my beloved Hiya Hiya Sharp needles). I will have to block this sweater because the neckline wants to roll.

And no, the color is not that color, REALLY. It's just a bad indoor picture. Sorry.

4) Choose colors you love. Together with yarn you love, colors you love make the finished project that much more enjoyable. . .but they also make the PROCESS that much better too. I chased my winter blues away recently with this project. It's the Whippoorwill that I got to knit with a few friends. While I tend to be drawn to teals and turquoises and grey and brown, this was the perfect color combo for this pattern and I love it. Color has as much to do with the finished outcome as the type of yarn, I think, so choose carefully!

So go and figure out your tools, your yarn, your knitting and your colors. Get those things figured out and I bet you'll be happier with the process AND your finished objects. But like I said in the beginning, don't let ME tell you how to do it. Figure out what works for YOU! And figure that out by asking and looking and learning.

As a reminder, you can see all of these projects and their details on under my username: KnittingAmyK .

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Knit-tle Bit of Everything

Wow! Life happened. And must have gotten away from me with as long as it's been since I updated last. What has the past several months given me? These awesome photographs are from the dear Hannah Stevens, a local friend and former student, who is passionate about her life, her impact, her photography. She took these photos so I could include them in my published patterns (more on that later) and I am unusually happy with how they turned out. If you're like me, you know that photographs of yourself are none too flattering and you usually find yourself behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Like I mentioned, my patterns are in the final stages prior to being published. Again, since they are not released yet, I can't post photos of those projects just yet, but I had the chance to work with a tech editor to make things clear and concise. It was fun to be on that side of a pattern! I really enjoyed the process, though stressful at times, of writing out instructions and then watching them take shape in a way that would allow others a clear understanding of my ideas. I had to whip out three projects in about three weeks and work on the pattern itself, but overall I'm happy with it. In my last communication with the publisher, they are working on the final pattern layouts for all of the patterns from other designers that will be released with mine, so I'm hopeful that they will be available soon. As a teaser, I got to use some great yarn for my projects from Three Irish Girls.

One project was done out of those two colors. That is Elenya Alpaca from Three Irish Girls in Fireside Chat and Guinness.

One project was done out of those two above. Those are Orange You Glad and Everlasting Gobstopper on Springvale Bulky.
And finally one was done out of this. Here's Looking at You Kid on Springvale Bulky. I actually got to do an adult version and a baby version of that last one, since a friend commissioned me to knit a hat for her little girl and that's the yarn she chose.

Three Irish Girls is also sponsoring Knitters For Newtown. Not only did they raise over $10,000 for the families who were directly affected by the tragedy, they are also collecting 8x8 blanket squares to make blankets for each family. The goal is to have the squares in hand by the end of March and the blankets delivered by Mothers Day. It's amazing what the knitting community can do! If you would like to pitch in and knit or crochet a square, please check out the facebook page , join the Ravelry Group, or send them an email (Threeirishgirls AT gmail DOT com) for more details.

I have also taught several classes at my local yarn store, Paradise Fibers. In September, I taught some old friends and some new friends how to knit socks. Over four classes they each were taught the skills and given tips to end up with something like this:

It was really great to be back in the classroom again and sharing my knitting passion with others. In fact, that was the first of many classes. I taught a one day techniques class - how to fix mistakes, which cast-on or bind off to choose, picking up stitches, catching dropped stitches, etc. I taught a ruffled scarf class at Paradise, but through the Corbin Art Center. I taught a beginning hat class this past weekend and used the Be Loving hat pattern to teach knitting in the round. Here it is knit out of Madelinetosh Vintage in the Cove Colorway.

And I now have three more ruffled scarf classes, a beginning knitter class and another sock class coming up in the next couple of months.

That has been so fun to meet new people and pass on my love of something to them. It reminded me of why I went into education to begin with and I hope that people leave with a sense of confidence about their art and skills that they can apply to other projects down the road.

Some of my favorite projects the past few months have been my Owl Sweater (by Kate Davies) done out of Cascade Eco wool.

I also love my Color Affection, done out of Yarn Love Elizabeth Bennett, in Granny Smith, Orchid and Twilight. THAT is a ton of knitting and no purling, but the result is beautiful.

So it's been a full few months. Like I mentioned above, it's amazing what the knitting community can do. And it been fun to track my own accomplishments, but I would be missing out on some of the most important things in my knitting life if I didn't mention the amazing people who are a part of my knitting community on Saturday night. I get to go on Saturdays and lay aside my teacher role and just be with them. (I often end up helping people, but there's no expectation that that's what I'm there for. They recognize that they can ask, but that Saturdays are my time to enjoy, too). These ladies are great. They are funny, fun, full of laughter. . .and most importantly REAL. We share our lives - joys, triumphs, fears, frustrations. They (we) know that we'll get real feedback from each other, and while that isn't always easy to hear, it's more often than not the thing we needed to hear. And not always about knitting, either. Being a part of a group with REAL people reminds me often of how UNreal some people are. It's so refreshing to be a part of a group where love and respect and caring are at the heart of the matter and fully entwined with Truth in the response. While many people think of a group as a way to have THEIR needs met and THEIR agendas pushed forward, this group is so the opposite of that. I've heard complaints too often of members of groups feeling used and abused by others there. I am so glad and so thankful that the weekly members of this group are not like that. I wish I could pick you up and bring you here so you'd have a chance to spend a moment with my girls. We aren't perfect but we love each other anyway. IF you are reading this and you are one of them, THANK YOU! Thanks for accepting me and my imperfections. For encouraging my strengths and challenging my weaknesses. For loving me enough to tell me the truth and trusting me enough to know that's what I want from you. And thanks for the support you provide each week. You guys are the best!!