Tuesday, May 31, 2011

She Cleans Up Well Enough

Although this seems like not-a-big-deal, I was very excited last week to order and receive a brand new fridge.
Isn't it shiny?! I am pretty low maintenance about appliances, in part because I tend to focus on energy efficiency which usually means fewer bells and whistles. I had said that we would not get a new fridge until we could afford to get a Sun Frost, a $3500 investment. And not likely to happen soon. But when we were confronted with 30+ eggs a day, and no room for the iced tea, let alone the vegetables we chow down in large quantity, something had to give. My plan was to buy a small used fridge for the garage for eggs. Well, plans are subject to change. The old fridge - not very old really, although it was here when we moved in it appeared fairly new - was very loud and had a bad habit involving dripping and the perpetual need for a bowl in the back to catch run-off from the freezer. Anyway, while on my new-used garage fridge quest I called Gene and explained that all the used fridges I could find were old enough to suck about ten times the energy of our current fridge. I told him how much new fridges cost, and we decided to change the plan. Buy new for the house, and move our old one to the garage for eggs. This pleased him well enough - the constant running and noise of the old one bugged him more than it did me. Well, the plan has now changed again! In my excitement to pick our a large shiny new metal thing for my kitchen, I failed to realize that I was procuring a fridge that was 2 cubic feet larger than ours. With just the two of us at home, our fridge use has declined. Upon moving this lovely new baby in we made a wonderful discovery. We can fit about 18 dozen eggs on the lower shelf. This means, for the time being anyway, there is no need to plug in the old one, now living in the garage! This makes my tree-hugging, energy-sipping soul SO happy! AND, after some research, it turns out that this new Energy Star rated fridge, even though it's bigger, will use about 40% LESS ENERGY than the old one did!
Over this holiday weekend we got to visit the farm where our beef comes from.Wheel View Farm hosted an open house and sale - which means we also probably came home with some beef.
This farm is so beautiful, I could sit all day and look out over their pastures, watching my future food on the hoof. We are so lucky to live in this valley.
After we visited Wheel View, we drove home through Leyden to avoid holiday traffic on route 2 (the "Mohawk Trail")and circumvent the Gas Engine Show in Bernardston. This show is an annual event that I used to take my kids to when they were small (and so was the show). It's a combination flea market and antique engine show. Living where we do now it is something we tend to avoid. For those who attend, I hope you have a wonderful time. it is a lot of fun to see the old engines, and prowl the flea market sales. I just prefer to stay clear of the traffic and chaos for those two days. FedEx delivered a package up here on Saturday morning and warned us not to go that way if we wanted to leave home. Seems he could not get off of route 91 for quite some time as traffic was backed up for a few miles leading to the Bernardston exit.
Last night we were carrying in the dishes from our little two person holiday picnic and the most horrible thing happened! I dropped my official wine cup!
Watching it fall was the saddest thing ever. I was carrying a huge pile of dishes, much to high for safety. Everything started to tip and Gene grabbed, and down it all came anyway, in spite of our best efforts. I have begged Malea to make me a new set. There is hope!
On Saturday I will attend the wedding of Meg's closest friend Maria. I decided that maybe a dress was in order. I have some, but none really appropriate for a June wedding. With this in mind I headed off and found two possibilities... this is dress #1:
And this is dress #3:
I don't need to show you #'s 2, 4 and 5, because I decided against them all pretty quickly. It took me a LONG time to choose between these two. I wandered around the store clutching them in my hot little hands, wondering if I could get away with buying 2 dresses when I never wear them after the event I buy them for. That is a thing which drives Gene crazy. I have tried to explain this bad habit to him, but I don't get very far. He has pants. He wears his pants over and over and over until they fall apart. Dress shirts; over and over. Ties, the same. But I digress. We were talking about ME! Although my hair needs to be spiffed up a bit, and a pedicure would not be amiss (thankfully you can't see that in the pictures) I think I clean up well enough. Guess which dress I bought? I'll tell you after the wedding! The important part is that for a few events in the next few months I will not look like a train wreck heading straight for "What Not to Wear"!
Stay tuned - in the second week of June we will begin the great 2011 Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting Blog Tour. We have a great line-up of hosts for this online event, and each stop along the way has been given a book to give away to luck readers! Some hosts are doing interviews, some reviews, and some a combination of both. Judging by the interviews I have done so far, this is shaping up to be a lot of fun, and informative as well.
Also, I just recently learned that I will be at TNNA's summer show in Columbus, Ohio signing books on Sunday June 12 at 2pm in the R&M booth. Come and find me and say hello! I will have samples from the book along for the ride as well. I'd love to see you!
AND, if you are in New York on June 16 at 6pm, I will be at Lion Brand Yarn Studio talking about the book. I'll have samples there as well, and will sign books and answer questions! If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to Lion Brand Yarn Studio at the link above.
But before that - the official kick-off signing and Q&A for Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting will be at Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts on June 9th at 6:30pm. Please register with Webs with the link above - we wouldn't want to run out of champagne ;) This event at Webs is probably the only one where I will have all of the garments and samples from the book along with me. You'd be amazed at how much space 16 projects, each knit in 2 yarns, plus swatches can take up in your luggage!
More soon - even some knitting!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Well, look who's here!

We had a visitor this week; Kimberly Nicdao Reynolds, the Director of Social Media at XRX. She came just in time to try to save Yoshi from certain death over a skein of Artyarns he destroyed.
You can read more about his BADNESS on his blog. It was fun to sit down and talk with Kimberly. She even got to hold and kiss chickens! Most importantly? She DID save Yoshi!
After we said goodbye to Kimberly, I headed south to record an episode of Ready Set Knit with Kathy and Steve Elkins of Webs. The podcast will air on the radio on Saturday (tomorrow) morning on WHMP and then will be available for download as a podcast. I love doing radio shows with Kathy and Steve. It's a lot of fun. Give a listen!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Random Me

And now - just for fun - my answers to the daily questions:

What is your favorite circular knitting method and why?
Any involving a circular needle. Honestly, any. I often have a hard time choosing favorites of anything and knitting is no exception.

What is your dream car?
OK, up until I started learning more and more and more about energy and the environment I would have said, likely without pausing for breath or thought, a 1967 Ford Mustang convertible, candy apple red. But now I would have to say... the same car, only electric, and only if I have panels powering it up!

What was your best vacation or mini-break destination ever?
Probably our first trip to Disney, when we did the legal thing (we got married) and watched the kids youthen before our eyes. It was amazing and I cherish every minute, from the endless rain to the absent film to the seagull pooping on my mother in Tomorrowland. I would not change a thing.

How many years have you been knitting?
Eleven. I started knitting in 2000 or so as a way to use up the insane amount of yarn my daughter and I were spinning. Now I don't have time to spin!

Dogs or cats? Neither? Both? Something totally unique? What is your favorite pet?
Dogs! I love my chickens, but I don't think of them as pets. Well, maybe there are a couple out there that might make me sad if something bad happened to them, but when it comes to real pets it's always a dog!

Are you craft-monogamous or do you cross-craft? Just knit? Spin? Sew? Paint? Or collect bottle caps to recycle into sweet, hip belts? Share!
HAH! Monogamy? Me? That's like commitment, right? Not really my strong suit. As I tell Mr. W., I can only be committed to one thing. I've chosen him, which means everything else is negotiable. Hobby, lifestyle, job, wardrobe, ALL subject to change! I can, have and occasionally do: sew, crochet, spin, weave, paper mache, macrame, stencil, do crazy things to walls (although not yet in this house), stitch, glue, cut, shape, form, string. You name it, I will do it. I am not nearly as avid as I once was with things beyond knitting, but it is al still in there waiting to pop out!

Do you parallel park or do you drive around the block until a pull-in space opens up?
Parallel, baby, all the way! I got nailed with "parallel park on Main Street in heavy traffic" for my driver's test, and I passed and never looked back. Nothing like a big, high-pressure WIN to boost that confidence level. My favorite thing is to parallel park the truck, bonus if there are men nearby watching and shaking their heads. ;)

What was the first knitted project you created, start to finish?
This may be ironic, but the first thing I ever created from start to finish, cast-on to bind-off, was a sweater for Megan that was knit out of her handspun which was in about 3 different gauges. I weighed all the yarn, calculated yardage, and started knitting. Bulky rib cuffs and bottom band at about 3 sts/inch, then the body at about 5 sts/inch with her most recent (she had a whole pound of Louet roving and spun it all) and then the yoke at about 4 sts/inch. It was a FANTASTIC way to learn. I did it all with a simple pattern in a spinning book we had. I've forgotten which one. But it was a design your yoked pullover thing. Never occurred to me that most people were not out there doing this with three different gauges of handspun; I just did it, no questions.

What is your best yarn memory?
Probably that Louet sweater. Watching Megan spin the yarn herself and watching her learn as she went, watching the yarn become more and more consistent and seeing her joy at her own accomplishment was wonderful.

When you feel a little splurgy or a little down, what do you treat yourself to to perk up?
CHOCOLATE! 71% or better, preferably single-origin organic. (Favorites include Theo, Kallari (the blue one), Taza, and - although it's not organic - Michel Cluizel Grand Noir 85%, in case you ever need to know!). Chocolate beats a good single malt here, but just by a hair!

Name one thing you would never, ever leave home without.

What was your first love?
The first thing I remember feeling love for is my father. My guess is that you get what you give. He gave it, unconditionally, so I gave it right back. (Hi Dad! You can go get a tissue. No one is looking.)

Toilet paper: scrunch or fold?
Wrap and fold neatly, often with a square count of not more than 3. My grandfather said 2, but I think that's skimping a bit.

When the civil defense siren goes off, what's the first thought that goes through your mind?
Is it test time already? Wait. It IS test time, right? I am surprised by how many of you don't ever hear a CD siren. It may be that since I am downwind of a nuke plant we get them more, but they are a part of my life since childhood!

When you clean your fingernails, do you clean from pinky to thumb, or thumb to pinky?
Thumb to pinky on the left hand, pinky to thumb on the right.

Who won?

First, while I have your rapt attention, I would like to say thank you so, so much to all of the folks who participated in this amazing blog giveaway by donating yarn and bags and books. I'll list them in order here from day one to the wrap-up so I don't miss anyone:

Wiley (and really, we have a LOT to thank them for - without them there would be no book!)
Lexie Barnes
Foxfire FIber and Design
Lion Brand Yarn
Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Buffalo Gold
Spirit Trail Fiberworks
Lorna's Laces
Kangaroo Dyer

If it were not for their generosity and support, things like blog giveaways and projects in books wouldn't happen! Thank you all so very much!

Next, our winners! Winners, please email me (melissaknits@yahoo.com) if you see your comment below with your mailing address. I will do my best to find you, but it will take longer (it's Monday, there's chores to be done) than if you just shoot me an email with your name and address and day of your win. Please read the comment carefully and make sure it's you before responding!

day 1: jillian.vantuyle said...
I never thought I would be a sock knitter. It seemed so tedious with all the needles and having to do it all over again when 1 was done. 2 at a time is amazong. I love making socks now! And today, what a great day to discover your blog.
(I love that a lot of these answers were 2-at-a-Time related. I wanted to give anyone who mentioned 2-at-a-Time a prize!!)

day 2: Lemmesb said...
Black BMW with a candy apple tint. Hard top convertible. All leather seats Bose sound system. It must have a large enough trunk to fit my spinning wheel!

day 3: esae on Ravelry said...
I combined this with a work assignment - Hershey Hotel spa - sipping cocoa & watching the sun set while waiting for a massage
(I'll have what she's having, thanks.)

day 4: Rebecca said...
3 years - I had a much longer, nicer answer, but blogger ate it ;-)
(yeah, that blogger... it ate a LOT of things that week!)

day 5: Megan said...
I am a cat person....I appreciate their independence, especially when I need to be away from home. I did grow up with dogs in the house though, so I suppose some day I may become a cat and dog person. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

day 6: Julie said...
Right now, knitting is my only craft, but spinning may be in my future...

day 7: Steph said...
I parallel park. Really learned when I did an internship at the Bronx Zoo & living nearby.

day 8: ME215 said...
The first project I remember was a baby blanket. Yes......it was so long ago..... ;-)

day 9:Terri D. said...
my favorite yarn memory? dreaming of a skein of wool the color of saturated seaweed, and having an enabler...er...friend provide a source for the yarn of my dreams the very next day.

day 10:Michelle said...
There is a local business called Honest Chocolates that has the most divine handmade goodies. My luxury treat is to stop in and buy myself $5 worth (about five pieces) and eat them all myself! Their Mac Mochas are my favorite....

day 11:Angela said...
My knitting bag. I've been stuck so many times sitting somewhere with nothing to do. I have a small bag with 2 at a time socks all the time that I can work on - even in a long drive thru line!
(May I say here - I have great respect for the random number generator now! It has excellent taste in winners!)

day 12: Ruby said...
I loved traveling the world. I could go anywhere and see everything by reading books. It was so much fun. I spent special time in the mornings with my dad and drank coffee (mine was more milk than coffee), read comics and 'Aunt Annie' (Ann Landers). I had a real Aunt Annie and I was so glad to meet her and tell her I loved reading her column. Was I ever disappointed to find out the two were not the same.

All of this...which really just turned me into an avid reader. But the worlds you could live in and explore and see through books. It was awesome. It opened up so much for me.

During the summers I could hardly wait to get home from the cotton fields where we had been hoeing cotton all day to a book. During school time, it was all about staying up late at night to read. During road trips, I forgot about seeing the real world outside as we passed it by, because I had books to read.

So my first love.....The joy of reading and being a part of so many different worlds involved in so many different lives.

day 13: Katherine said...
Scrunch scrunch scrunch

day 14, winners 1-5:
1: Gina said... In my town, the sirens get tested at 11 a.m. the first Wednesday of the month. And apparently, they went off yesterday for a near-by tornado... but I didn't hear them, and no one from the library came into our guild meeting to warn us!
I think that I would be thinking about what to take to the basement with me to work on, and whether or not our storm kit is stocked...

As for the other, I start with the one that prompted the cleaning, working toward the thumb, then get which ever ones are left, starting with the pinky. Then the other hand, starting with the pinky

2: Kira said...
We don't have a civil defense siren that I know of, so I guess if I heard it my first thought would be, "what the heck was THAT?".

I actually don't clean my nails, I just keep them cut really short. I guess I cut them thumb to pinky.

Thanks for the fun contests!
(You are very welcome, Kira!)

3: Bgstoner said...
Civil Defense Siren- I figure they are just testing them again.
As for my nails thumb to pinky.

4: IndigoMuse said...
Even though I spent my childhood in Hampton Roads (the land of military bases), I've never heard a civil defense siren. And we don't have them in mountains of VA. I now wonder why...

And as far as the nail cleaning, I start with the pinky to thumb on one hand and continue across thumb to pinky on the other.

5: Pamela said...
Civil Defense Siren - "It must be Saturday - noon." Which is when it was checked in a small town I visited often. I never heard it any other time.

Thumb to pinky.

I am really enjoying browsing Circ. Knitting.

This concludes the blog giveaway promoting my new book, Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting!

To learn more about the book, or about me, stay tuned! If you didn't win, you can get your own copy by clicking here, or by visiting your local yarn or book store. Next month we are having a blog tour - you can read more about it here very soon when I post a schedule. Lots of things planned - some free books, and a mix of reviews, interviews, and podcasts all to celebrate this great new baby of mine, a book I hope becomes a classic in every knitting home across the land!

Thanks to everyone for playing along, and congratulations to our lucky winners!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Finale of Grand Proportion - Day 14

My favorite part of the 4th of July or a visit to Disney World is always the end of the fireworks show, when they throw a bunch of stuff up all at once and fill the night with light and noise and chaos. So that's what I am going to do today - throw this all at you, one right after the other, boom, boom, boom. I will choose five - count them - FIVE lucky winners from today's post. Five lucky random people will receive one of the following:

From my personal stash
A skein of delicious Ball and Skein 50% Merino 50% Tencel in the color Arbori, along with a sock pattern of my own design and choosing (I haven't chosen yet. But I will.)
One skein of Sanguine Gryphon 100% superwash merino Little Traveller Tintagel along with a sock pattern of my own design and choosing (still haven't chosen yet. But I will.)
One ball of Trekking Pro Natura 75% new wool 25% bamboo in a color that has no awesome name, but is a lovely indigo with the shine that only bamboo can create along with (is this getting repetitive yet?) a sock pattern of my own design and choosing (which I STILL haven't chosen yet. But I will.)

And for the final explosion in our finale we have some beautiful yarns generously donated by Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer:
One skein of Kangaroo Dyer 80% BFL 20% nylon, Zinnia, which really does remind me of zinnias!
One skein of Kangaroo Dyer 50% superwash merino 50% silk Golden Flower accompanied by a copy of the talented Kirsten Hipsky's Carcosa Design "A Clockwork Daisy"

To enter to win one of these awesome prizes, just answer today's question in the comments below and I will choose five lucky winners. Today's question? Well, there's TWO of them. You can answer both, or just one. I challenge you to be brave and answer both. Ready?
When the civil defense siren goes off, what's the first thought that goes through your mind?
When you clean your fingernails, do you clean from pinky to thumb, or thumb to pinky?

Don't forget to return here tomorrow for the list of winners! Thank you all for playing, and thanks most to our generous contributors:
Wiley Publishing
Lexie Barnes
Foxfire FIber and Design
Lion Brand Yarn
Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Buffalo Gold
Spirit Trail Fiberworks
Lorna's Laces
Kangaroo Dyer

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Who Does Not Love Knitting for Baby? Day 13

One of my favorite projects in this book, and easily the most adorable in my opinion, is an infant set comprised of a sweater, hat and bootie socks. One set is knit in Valley Yarns Superwash DK. The other is knit in Lorna's Laces Honor.
And may I say, it was an honor (had to go there!) to knit with this beautiful yarn, 70% Alpaca and 30% silk. It is so soft, and has a lovely halo that forms on the surface.
It's huggable, squishable, pettable and therefore perfect on a baby! (The baby here is around 40 years old. Her name is Jennifer. She is missing all of her eyelashes, and her skin has odd dirty and manky spots, but she is very quiet and I love her very much.)
Today's prize, thanks to the generosity of the folks at Lorna's Laces, is enough Honor to knit a baby set of your own for a deserving infant along with a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting. This pattern is not entirely worked in the round. The point of this project is to keep high in the knitter's mind the idea that a project, any project, can be worked on circular needles even if the project is knit "back and forth". I love that circular needles mean no lost needles. How can you lose one when they are attached to each other, like a mitten string on a kindergartner? I always loved my mitten string. I was notorious for losing bits and pieces. I still am! Circular needles mean no setting one down in the car and having it roll between the seats into oblivion. Two needles, joined by a cable, means never having to say "goodbye". Unless Mel is around and he eats one.
Random (really, really random!) question for today - Toilet paper: scrunch or fold?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Yes, I Said Cut the Knitting! Day 12

In case you didn't believe me yesterday, I have MORE stuff for you to cut into! Same shawl, same pattern, same page (198), new yarn!
Today's contribution is from the amazing and very generous Jennifer Tepper Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. There are two skeins of her luxurious Penelope, a blend of 50% bombyx silk and 50% merino. Did I mention luxurious? Yum! Love this yarn and love Jen's way with color - saturated, rich, deep jewel tones that make my eyes say "ahhh!" Love it. And you can win some of your very own, along with a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting, if you answer the question below and are the lucky winner when we draw names!
Today's question - What was your first love? (Think about it!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cut Up My Knitting? Is She Crazy? Day 11

Yes, I am. But that's not the point. I am not crazy about this! Yes, cut into it. Get a pair of scissors and show that knitting who's boss!
Steeking has been used by knitters for many, many years as a way to knit something entirely in the round and then open it up to add sleeves, front bands, or collars. But most of us may not feel so safe whacking into, say, a painstakingly constructed Fair Isle cardigan, right? So in Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting I start you off easy. First swatch. Then shawl. Then cardigan (not Fair Isle, but a cozy drop shoulder thing with richly deep ribbing, but that's another project!). Today's giveaway is a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting and enough yarn to knit a very generously sized shawl in Valley Yarns Goshen, kindly provided by Webs.
This shawl is found on page 198, and is knit in the round and then cut to make a self-fringe. You know those evenings when it's a bit too warm for a jacket, but a bit too cool for bare shoulders? This is the perfect project!
Now for the "how to win part" - answer this question in the comment section below to be eligible to win. Name the one thing you would never, ever leave home without!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Make the Most of Luxury Buys - Day 10

I think we all love the really amazing stuff like qiviut, bison, cashmere... but not all of us can afford sweater quantities of these amazing and luxurious fibers. Maybe we can spring for a skein, or two, or even three depending on the yarn and the budget. But then what to knit with it? Recently there's been a move toward cowls as a perfect accessory, and it's a move I strongly support. Cowls are extremely flexible. They can be as deep or as shallow as you want. Make a super deep cowl, and it can be pulled up over your head, snood-like, to protect you from the cold.
A smaller, more shallow one is a perfect neck warmer and a cute accessory to boot. I work outside a lot and chickens have a way of getting a hold of things like scarves. But a cowl I can pop on and be toasty warm and the knitting is safe! It was an easy choice to add a cowl pattern to this book since they are also one of the many perfect circular projects. I chose to knit three as samples, all can be found on page 124 of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting - the first is very simple, knit in stockinette stitch in Valley Yarns Northfield which is a really nice yarn, a blend of merino, alpaca and silk - YUM! The second is knit in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Geisha, made of kid mohair, silk and a tiny bit of nylon. Geisha is a fantastic yarn for lacy, open things and the cowl I designed is a reflection of that, with a feather and fan pattern knit in a loose gauge. The last cowl is knit in Buffalo Gold Moon. I adore this yarn. Actually there is not much that Ron hands me when I am near his yarn that I don't adore. But I really love Moon, especially for this project. It is luxurious, warm, and shows the cabled stitch pattern to perfection. It has this lovely sheen that conveys amazing richness. Love it.
And you, winner, will as well, when two skeins of Moon and a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting arrive and you're able to knit up a cowl of your very own!
Today's question - What is your little luxury treat? It can be yarn, or not. When you feel a little splurgy, or a little down, what do you treat yourself to to perk up? Answer below to be entered to win this rare treat of a yarn!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got Kids? - Day 9

Today's prize is another very generous one! A copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting and Blue Moon Fiber Arts has given enough of their Socks That Rock Heavyweight to make the child's sweater found on page 176; a simple drop-shoulder pullover perfect for raking leaves, or playing in them.
This book encompasses so many different types of projects. From hats to steeks, we have it all. Each pattern really builds on the previous one in terms of skill level. You could begin at the beginning and knit to the end, and find yourself in possession of just about all the skills you'd ever need as a knitter. You would also have a pretty good sized pile of finished projects! When I design things like this I think about kids I know, what they wear, and what they will wear. A simple sweater with maybe a single stripe knit in favorite colors is often a great bet for a kid. Classic, wearable, comfortable; like a cozy sweatshirt with mom or grandma or auntie's good karma knit in. Perfect!
To win today's prize answer this question in the comment section below - What is your best yarn memory? Now think about that for a minute, and let me hear your memories below!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Feet Love Cashmere - Day 8

More socks? Of course, more socks! Who's book/blog is this, anyway? What else would you expect? Today's yarn is Lion Brand Superwash Merino Cashmere, and there is enough here to knit the socks found on page 157 for most adults. The pattern makes it possible for you to knit socks for about everyone in the family, with a range of sizes (5.5 - 10 inches) and gauges (5 - 9 stitches per inch). It's a plug and play sort of pattern, or as Wiley calls them, a master pattern. The basic information is presented and you just find the numbers for your desired size and gauge, and knit away! Lion has surprised me of late with their entrance into the world of luxury, exotic and organic fibers.
This yarn is classic-worthy; a superwash merino, with nylon for stability and longevity, and just enough cashmere to make your fingers (and toes) say "Ooo...soft!" Today's lucky winner will receive three balls of this yarn in the color slate, along with a signed copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting! Lucky winner!
Maybe a knitting question today... What was the first knitted project you created, start to finish? Remember to leave a comment below answering the question of the day in order to win today's prize!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bag Crazy! - Day 7

Today is a whopper, really. Someone is going to get seriously lucky here! Today's prize, in addition to a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting we have a Lexie Barnes Lady B, the very same one-of-a-kind fabric that can be found on page 24. This is the very bag that was used in that very photo shoot.
I love the Lady B. The size is perfect, and it holds a ton. There's lots of inside pockets and such for needles, scissors, notions and an outside pocket to store your pattern. Check out "more views" on the LB website to see just how much storage there is in this bag. Love it!
The question for today - and remember you have to answer the question in the comments below to be entered to win - Do you parallel park, or do you drive around the block until a pull-in space opens up? Good Luck!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Warm Hands, Warm Heart- Day 6

The truth about working for me as a sample or test knitter is that sometimes I can hand you something scrawled on a napkin in orange crayon, and expect you to get back to me with a finished project in a week. The mittens on page 146 are an example of this rather haphazard method of tormenting these innocent volunteers. Case in point, to Katy I said "Hey, could you put a cable on there, I don't care what I trust you, just tell me what you did." She created the beautiful cabled mittens knit in Barb Parry's Upland Wool Alpaca. To me, my intrepid and longsuffering technical editor Tamara said "We need examples of these mittens in different gauges.", and I found myself knitting a pair in Valley Yarns Northampton Bulky, and a second pair in Valley Yarns Superwash DK. In three-round stripes of four colors. Kristen is one of my favorite people to throw things at. First, she throws them back. It wasn't until, I think, this project that the others found out that if Kristen decided she did not like her project she gave it back. I remember everyone slightly aghast saying "Wait. You can give them BACK? And she LETS you?". Yes, for Kristen, I will take it back. First, we appear to be (if distantly) related. Second, she's about a foot taller than me. Really, who is going to argue with someone who could step on them without much effort? I handed her Valley Yarns Berkshire and a pattern with holes in it, and said "Make mittens". They were her first. She triumphed over them, and did so beautifully!
Now you can too, thanks to the generous contribution of Webs - one skein of Berkshire will accompany your copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting, should you be declared today's winner! Oh, and the holes in the pattern? They're gone now, so you know! Just answer this question in the comments below to be entered to win! Are you craft-monogamous or do you cross-craft? Just knit? Spin? Sew? Paint? Or collect bottle caps to recycle into sweet, hip belts? Share!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Did You Say Bag? - Day 5

I have a well documented love of, one might even say lust for, bags. Any size (except super big - I am only 5' tall after all!), any shape, if it is cool, cute, adorable, practical I am all over it. So when Kim "Somebunnyslove" Reynolds told me I needed a JessaLu bag, and then told the folks at JessaLu that I needed a JessaLu bag, who was I to argue? Besides, she was so right. We met up at Rhinebeck and I met my bag. Mine has chickens on it - and you can see it on page 57 of your copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting. I love that bag. Not just for the chickens, not just because it was a gift, but because it is super practical and useful and makes a handy project bag both inside a bigger bag, and out of it. Sling the thing over our wrist and it's a project bag you can even knit and walk with! This is a durable, well-constructed little bag - and I would know; remember I come to yarn from other paths, notably a strong sewing background. Check it out:
Adorable box shape!
Cunning coordinating fabric inside! Fully lined!
And I personally am smitten with the honey bee zipper pull.
Now, as a result of some faux pas, no doubt my own, the information for how to GET these bags was inadvertently left out of the resources list (page 240), so if you want a bag of your own and fail to win the gift certificate that JessaLu has so generously provided for a bag of your own - and trust my, you need one - they can be found on Artfire, and on Etsy. And as a favor to me, write "Melissa is sorry" somewhere on your order!
Question for today - Dogs or cats? Neither? Both? Something totally unique? What is your favorite pet? Remember answer the question in the comments below to be entered to win!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You Need a Hat! - Day 4

Today we have a very special yarn to give away along with a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting. I am blessed to live where I do, smack in the middle of a region overflowing with good and better things. Barb Parry's Upland Wool Alpaca from Foxfire Fiber and Design is one of those things! Barb is a natural choice for me on so many fronts. She is an amazing woman and a tremendous survivor. She's a loving and gentle shepherd to her flocks in Shelburne Falls. She makes and dyes amazing yarns. Her yarns come into play in the book on three occasions. Hats, mittens in Upland Wool Alpaca and a lovely pullover knit in her Cormo Silk Alpaca.
Upland Wool Alpaca is a single ply yarn dyed in an amazing palate by Barb herself. I love this yarn, the heathery subtlety of the dye, the soft halo of the Alpaca that sings out on the surface of a finished project. It was a no-brainer really.
Hey, lucky winner, you get TWO skeins of this amazing yarn! If you have a smallish head and hands you could possibly get a hat (pg. 133) and mittens (pg. 146) out of the deal - not too shabby!
The question for today - remember, post your answer in the comments below to be entered - how many licks does it take to get to the center of a.... ok, maybe not. How many years have you been knitting?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Free Stuff, Day 3!

When you are just learning a technique a small project often seems like a better idea than a big one. Sometimes you just want to DO a thing, learn a skill and move on. If you end up with something useful, even better. Today's project is "just such-a-one", as the old timers might say. In chapter 4, after you have experimented with the techniques used in circular knitting presented in chapter 2, and read a bit about potential problems in chapter 3, you can cast on and knit your first circular project. Perhaps a pair of fingerless mitts or an ear warmer, or a set of potholders knit in Lion LB Collection Organic Wool! I like potholder projects. I know some people make faces when you say the word - but here is why you shouldn't: if you make a mistake on a learning project that serves such a useful and practical purpose, the blemishes that are inevitable won't bother you nearly as much as if you had turned to page 203 and started in on a steeked cardigan (yes, there is one!). The potholder is a "safe" way to practice a new skill with minimal commitment and a useful outcome!
Start small if this is your first foray into circular knitting. Make yourself a potholder. Make a stack and give them as a housewarming or shower gift with some nice kitchen stuff from someone's registry. It's win-win, really.
Did I mention it is ORGANIC? And it is dyed in six richly saturated colors with low-impact dyes. They also have two organic cottons as well. Kudos to Lion Brand!
Ok, now, remember to post your answer to the question below to be entered to win four generous skeins of Lion Brand LB Collection Organic Wool and a copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting!
The question for today - what was your best weekender, vacation, break, or mini-break ever?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Giving it All Away, Day 2!

Who loves socks? I love socks, of course! Who doesn't? (Don't answer. This here is sock territory, this is!)

There is no way that I could do a third book and not include socks. But it needed to be straightforward socks, maybe blank canvas socks for you to put your own design ideas into. In Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting there is a great adjustable pattern for making basic top-down socks in a variety of gauges and sizes. Start with a swatch and a size and build your own design, or keep it simple and work them in rib or stockinette.

One of my all-time favorite sock yarns is Valley Yarns Franklin, hand dyed by Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer.
If you haven't yet sampled some of Gail's work, you should - and here's your chance. If you're the lucky winner, knit up a pair, get a little creative with them, and come back here and tell me about it! Franklin is a durable, go-to yarn perfect for making socks for everyday wear. In fact, about half of my sock wardrobe is made in this yarn. 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon, they go in and out of the washer and seem to last about forever. I have yet to wear through a pair! The yarn is available in 15 different hand dyed colors. Today's giveaway skein, a gift from Webs, is dyed in a colorway called Camo, which is a lovely sea of greens and blues and grays that puts me in mind of the Atlantic on a hazy gray day. I love it, and you, lucky winner, will as well when it arrives at your home with your signed, personalized copy of Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting!

Today's question... yesterday's seemed a bit easy. Let's try something off topic, but still simple, ready? What is your dream car. Really. I mean it. I said they might not all be knitting questions. What, if you could have any car, would it be? Leave your answer in the comments below to be entered for today's drawing, and good luck!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Let the Celebration Begin!

I made another BOOK! It's time to celebrate the birth of my newest baby, Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting!
For the next ten days, maybe more, I am going to be giving away STUFF here on the blog. In order to WIN STUFF here's what you will need to do. I will talk a bit about each day's prize; maybe I will explain how I came up with a certain design or how I chose a yarn or why I adore someone's stuff; that kind of thing. At the end of each day's blog post, there will be a question. It may be something about knitting or it may be totally random. Post your answer as a comment on the post. When I run out of stuff to give away, I will randomly draw names to be winners from each day's blog post. Then I will mail the stuff off to lucky new homes. Remember - if you leave a comment today you are entered for today's drawing only. In order to win another day's prize you'll need to comment again on that day as well. We will draw winners from the comments on each day's post randomly when I run out of stuff. Get it? Got it? Good!

Kicking things off with a bit of a bang, today's giveaway is a Lexie Barnes Coco in a one-of-a-kind fabric! I love Lexie's stuff in general, and have a considerable collection of it hanging around my house. I could make a long list, from the Pixie backpack that accompanies me on my bike to Farmer's Market and often appears with me on trips as carry-on and teaching material bag to my McCoy overnight bag, or my Lady B the classic pattern pink parfait or my Darling diaper bag (diapers, hell. It's full of YARN!!) in the beloved makiko print. And no, the MMO personal Lexie Barnes Collection does NOT end there.

This bag is the actual bag used in the photo shoot for TYV Circular Knitting, and will be accompanied by a copy of the book when it arrives at your door, lucky winner!

Coco is an excellent bag for storing your circular knitting needles. The outside of the bag is a durable, water resistant eco-laminated canvas. With convenient, clear, wipeable pockets and 8 extra pockets for bits and pieces, you can organize your needles in almost "at-a-glance" style. Many people make labels for each pocket to add an additional level of organization to the mix.
(My circs for the photo only and are not included in today's prize giveaway. Just the Coco.)

Now for today's question... hmmm... We will begin with a knitting question. What is your favorite circular knitting method and why? Answer this question in the comments below to be entered to win today's prize!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Really Depressing Post Preceding Giveaway

***Please, after reading this post and before posting anything negative or angry, be very aware that there is nothing you can say to me that I have not already said myself, and please be also aware that this situation has been discussed among a group of very respected professionals who have all reached the same conclusion***

This has nothing to do with knitting. But next week there will be a LOT on here about knitting when I begin the VERY EXCITING blog give-away to celebrate the "birth" of Teach Yourself VISUALLY Circular Knitting. For today I am doing a bit of rather depressing baring of my soul. I haven't been able to come in here and chat about anything for a very long time comfortably, and I am hoping that by just saying all of this I can get unstuck here and in a few others areas as well. This post will also explain why I am not traveling further than 3-4 hours from home for the time being - I declined Sock Summit so I could stay closer to home. I was very, very sad about it, but did not want to end up needing to cancel classes at the last minute due to complications at home. And many more complications are pending.

I have been skirting around an issue here and on Facebook and anywhere else I "hang out" online. I occasionally come close to saying the truth and then I back off. My close friends know what's going on, but I haven't really been sure of how to handle or talk about what's going on in my life. There is a lot of stigma associated with that's happening here. I've thought about it a lot and I have come to a conclusion. It's not the things we speak that hurt us in the end, it is the things we do not speak that wound us. So I am going to speak about a topic that is painful and humiliating to some extent and certainly depressing. But it's important that I speak, for myself and for anyone else out there who is in my shoes. This doesn't make me brave. It doesn't make me smart. It makes me someone who's got a story they need to tell. There is a horse on my dining room table and I am tired of not talking about it publicly.

I am the adult child of a mentally ill parent. To the best of my knowledge my mother has struggled with varying degrees of mental illness since she was a small child under a variety of diagnoses. This means that for all of my life, as long as I can remember, as far back as I can think, my life has not been what one could call "normal". I shall spare you the details.

When your mother is "not well" (which is the kind way to say "seriously crazy-pants" or "nuts, really") you learn a different way of being. Some kids who grow up with an "unwell" parent grow up broken themselves. Others grow up well, and more or less normal, but maybe a bit resentful. This would be me. People who know me are aware of my sarcasm. Sarcasm is a defense mechanism. I developed a bit of an odd, some might say warped, sense of humor. You may have noted that above with the politically incorrect comments using words like "crazy-pants" and "nuts". But if anyone is allowed to use those words aside from a mentally ill individual themselves, its their kids.

For the past few months my mother has been experiencing an acceleration in mental health symptoms. The reasons are not of import. She has been medicated with antidepressants since the mid 1980's. She has had endless therapy. She has been in and out of a series of treatment centers, clinics, and hospitals as an outpatient and as an inpatient. She also has a host of medical conditions, ranging from diabetes to a couple of blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, a seizure disorder, high blood pressure, glaucoma, neuropathy... there's more, but I lose track. I have learned from listening and watching that when you are "just" mentally ill, there are days when it feels impossible to breathe. Nothing feels right, everything feels wrong. You don't fit in your own skin. Now imagine that in addition to feeling out of place in your own mind you have a host of complicated and uncomfortable medical conditions that require a host of medications, tests, injections, doctor visits and so on. That's where my mother is.

She has been seen and evaluated by a variety of individuals, from psychiatrists and social workers to medical doctors, nurses, her sisters, and the staff at the assisted living facility where she lives. She has been deemed "competent", which means she does not pose a direct threat to herself or others, and she is legally able to make her own decisions regarding her health care.

My mother has decided to stop taking all medications for her varying physical and mental conditions, including insulin. It is very likely, if she continues on this course, that her life will end fairly soon. Today is her 68th birthday. She has made a choice and we - her family, friends and care providers - have no alternative but to abide by her decision. It is not a decision I can relate to, but it is not my decision to make. I have done all that I can. Others have done all they can. The choice is hers, and she has made it.

When your parent is dying against their will of cancer or some other horrible disease, there's an understanding among us as people. We don't mind saying, out loud "My mother is on her 6th round of chemo and she's decided it's time to be done." We don't say that when a person is suffering mentally. I am not sure why we don't, why we can't say "My mother has been struggling with mental illness for more than 60 years and she has decided it is time to be done." Why do we insist a person keep trying if it's mental, but if it's physical we let them stop? I guess that's for medical ethicists to decide, and since I am not one, what do I know?

So if I ignore an email, or seem in a rush to get out of a classroom at the end of the day, or if I decline to appear or teach at your venue please understand that this is a very difficult time around here. This too shall pass - although I am afraid the outcome will not be a pleasant one. Please don't feel sorry for me, but understand why I may at times appear distracted, distressed, or unhappy.

Now, although this has been quite depressing, please bear with me. Next week will bring the joy of giving away a lot of yarn and books here on the blog. My life moves forward - modified certainly, (see my crying in my tea over the whole not making it to Portland in July thing? That's a modification made to accommodate the situation. But I still live on!) but forward.

And if there is anyone out there in a similar situation who feels very alone - you are not alone. Not by a long shot. Everyone's just too embarrassed to speak up. Lucky for you I have no such scruples! :)

***Edited to add - I have an amazing group of friends, a nearly perfect father, the best husband on earth, and a some really supportive colleagues. You know who you are.***