What Color Is Your Belt?

Mr. Criquette is one funny guy, which is one of the reasons I married him. So recently, we were out running errands and I had to stop by the lys to pick up some goodies for SP11. Mr. C is one of those people who just settles in and makes himself at home wherever he is, including yarn shops. He sat down at the knitters' table, where several ladies were making various items. He proceeded to ask each one about their project and was intrigued by the variety of needles that were being used. He gets it, because like he says, "You don't use the same lure to catch different kinds of fish." He should know; he stashes lures.

He finally gets to the woman who was knitting socks with 5 dpn's. He was quite impressed by the coordination involved in juggling all these needles, and wanted to know more. So the knitters (who were loving every minute of this) explained all about needles, and told him that knitting can be done on 2 straights, one or two circ's, or on 4 -5 dpn's.

Mr. C then says, with perfect comedic timing,"So is knitting like karate where you earn different color belts for the number of needles you can use at one time? If you can knit with 5 of them, does that make you a black belt?" Such a cute guy. (And he didn't even say anything about the rather large amount of stash that was coming home with us. He's such a keeper. And did I mention that he cooks?)

I thought a little about this conversation and came to the conclusion that Mr. C is onto something. Of course, it is too simplistic to think that everyone who has knitted with 5 dpn's automatically gets to be a black belt. No, to achieve knitting black belt status, one must consistently demonstrate excellence with the evil little Kninja needles. For example, check out these knitting black belts:

It's a little known fact that porcupines are at the highest level of kninja knitting...

... they can use this many dpn's at the same time!

Also, anyone who can do this and make an identifiable, wearable garment

And then there are those who are definitely not black belts of knitting:

The original Ms. Criquette

Zombie Cat

Me (the newest baby hat)

Fooled you, didn't I? I am not worthy to lick the needles of the black belt sensei. This new little baby hat is really being knitted flat - I hid the circ's and the opening for this picture and threaded in the dpn's. I have to be honest and admit it - for now, I am just a yellow-belted knitter. Which is still better than not being a knitter at all.

What color is your belt?


Back With A Vengeance (And Lots Of Pictures)

Finally! I thought I'd never get back - not only was my computer getting the electronics equivalent of a facial and body massage, but our network at the office was down for a few days as well. So I'm going to try and cram as much stuff as possible into today's blog. The Type-A's among you will be pleased to know that I did spend my computer-fast wisely and have been as busy as a whole hive of bees.

And speaking of bees, I received my first SP11 package earlier this week from my honey-of-a-SP who was a very busy bee putting together this wonderful package! The theme was "Arkansas", whose nickname is "The Honeybee State". I was surprised to learn this because I thought it's nickname was actually "The Walmart State". (I am just kidding - we always drive to New Orleans via Arkansas because it's so pretty.) My SP put notes on everything to explain how it was all connected to Arkansas.

Look at all these goodies! See the chocolate-covered goodness in the center? Special hand-baked treats for the pups - they loved every bite and came back begging for more!

Treats for the peeps included locally made red raspberry preserves (which my SP said was just like her grandma used to make) and some local honey from the Arkansas bees (it's yummy - they did an excellent job). We've already been slathering everything with these delicacies and will need to restock next time we're in Arkansas. There's some wonderfully fresh-smelling bath goodies and candle, as well as some cranberry and emerald-colored Sugar & Cream cotton yarn, which will be put to very good use.

Always a good sign - the Criquette seal of approval.

An adorable little honeypot that reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh. Mr. Criquette and I were just discussing how we should get one of those twirly things a couple days before the package arrived - SP are you psychic?

These were tucked in, too. (There were some others too.) I love this touch because it gives me a sense of some of the things in my SP's life. I wish more swap partners would include these free local papers in their packages!

Thank you, SP! This was one of the most fun packages I have received - Mr. Criquette said so too. And he also said to thank you especially for the raspberry preserves - one of his top 10 favorite foods. (We've been slathering it and the honey on everything except the tuna sandwiches.)Your package was not only so thoughtful, but gave me a peek into your life, which is a big part of what makes blogging and swaps so much fun. You rock in Little Rock!!

Now brace yourself for something so unusual that you'd rarely see it documented on this blog: FO's!!!!! In fact, it is such a special occasion that the Bird Girl emerged from her corner, where she is usually busy trapping hoards of stray dust bunnies, to model the collection.

Seven FO's! Completed in four days!

Another Dropped Stitch Soap Sack (still needs a ribbon tie) knitted with Classic Elite Premiere "Jasmine" on US#6 needles

The Improv Scarf

Clopseup of the Improv, a pattern I cooked up without a recipe, hence the name. I cast on for the width I wanted and proceeded to knit a 3 by 4 checkerboard grid until it was as long as I wanted. It's for the local homeless shelter, so I made it wider and longer so they can wear it like a scarf or a head and neck wrap. Knit with Paton's Rumor (an alpaca/acrylic blend) in the Hibiscus Heather colorway, knit on US#10.5 needles.

Surprise Birthday Cowl, which will be a gift to someone in the nursing home without family and who would not otherwise receive a gift for the holidays. Again, in a pattern I improvised. I decided on the dimensions and cast on accordingly. It was knit in the round, using a double moss stitch. It is so soft and warm as well as washable. It's made with Lion's Brand cashmere Blend in Light Blue and knit on US#8 Addi Turbos.

Ribbed premie hat, another of my winging-it creations. All I can say is that I cast on as many as I thought I needed, used a K2, P2 rib stitch and at some point I decided to start decreasing until it looked okay. Knitted on US10.5 dpn's in some Red Heart I had left over from play therapy.

There's no way I could make up a pattern this cute. It's the Simple Hat from "Baby Knits For Beginners" by Debbie Bliss. Knit with Peter Pan "Wendy" yarn in the sherbet-colored #1348, knit on US#3 needles. I found out I actually do like using itty-bitty needles - another hurdle towards sock-knitting overcome! This will probably go into the "gift boutique" in my closet, just waiting for the right occasion!

When I first discovered that people knitted their own dish and face cloths, I didn't get it. After using the 2 thick dishcloths that I received in a swap, I get it. So I knitted up these 2 and discovered other benefits besides utility. (1) They are a great way to practice new techniques without commiting to a big project, (2) They are very portable and fit in my handbag so go everywhere with me, (3) They make great gifts, (4) They are very economical, and the best reason of all, (5) They are just like knitting scarves only faster!

My first lace pattern. This and the dropped stitch soap pattern will be bundled up with some Burt's Bees baby soap for an upcoming baby shower. Please ignore the many errors, caused by lapses of attention. I learned lace knitting + TV + large glass of Chardonnay = ADD knitting. The pattern is from a Leisure Arts booklet (Kitchen Bright Dishcloths). Knit with Classic Elite Premiere in "Almost Green" on US #6 needles.

This is one of my favorite patterns ever! And there are no glaring mistakes!!! The pattern is the Wheatfields dishcloth (designed by Vaunda Rae Giberson) and can be found here. Knit with Lion's Brand Cotton Ease in Violet.

It is as beautiful on the back as it is on the front. I highly recommend this pattern and already have my second one on the needles. I am also in love with this yarn - if there was a better choice of colors, I could be talked into going steady with Cotton Ease!

I took a 4 day weekend last week with the dual purpose of knitting and soul-soothing and accomplished both. In addition to the gratification of having so many finished gifts, I have been reassured that my usual slow output is not because I am a pathologically slow knitter, but because I am usually distracted by all of the have-to's in my life. I also had the pleasure of reading "Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith" by Anne Lamott, who is brilliant at distilling complexities of faith and life into beautifully simple daily practices. In it, she describes her habit of taking "cruises" when she feels overwhelmed by her world:

"At those times, I make a nest for my baby self on the couch in the living room. I stretch out with a comforter and pillows, magazines, the cat, unguents, and my favorite drink...there is no one around to whom I have to be nice, and no one who will see me in a bathing suit. and my cruise takes only two hours, instead of a week...It's unbelievably healing; it resets me...After awhile you see the sweetest, most invigorating thing of all: one person tenderly caring for another, even if it's just me taking care of me on my old couch. "(p282-283)

I laughed as I read this, realizing that I was taking my own cruise last weekend. And I came back feeling refreshed and ready to step back onto dry land. I plan to make a habit of scheduling "Knitting Cruises" into my life. I've got the sofa, the remote, the cat, the wine, the yarn, the sticks, and the UFO's and I am good to go. So I am curious to know, what's your favorite way to cruise at home?

And speaking of the cat, the Original Criquette has been up to her usual standards of cuteness. This morning, she was all over the porch, watching leaves falling off the trees and twirling their way to the ground, trying to stalk them. Then she noticed the knitted goods laid out for the shoot, and her curiosity got the better of her. There was a loud noise which scared her off right after the last shot, but I am sure she was thinking about stretching out of the scarf for a little cruise of her own.

"Oooooh, leaf!"

"Wait a minute, what's that?"

"Is that wool I smell?"

"Must...check out...wool..."


I Scream, You Scream...

I got the funniest card from my Fall Into Autumn swap pal today! Hallmark won't let me put this up on my website (at least using the techniques I normally use to post flash files) but if you go here you can enjoy it too. If the link doesn't work, look under favorite characters for "Screaming Banshee (Halloween). For one thing, banshees are one of my favorite Halloween characters - they don't get nearly the attention they deserve - and also, there are days when my office is filled with junior-sized screaming banshees, so it makes me feel right at home. Thanks pal!

Just so you know, my computer will be down for the next few days getting some maintenance, so I won't be posting. I do intend to take advantage of this and get lots of knitting done since I won't be distracted by anything else this weekend. Have a good one, everyone and see you next week!


Party For Squares

How do you heal a hurt this bad?

Like this.

You get a bunch of squares together (about 4600 of them), add some needles and yarn and people to stitch them together and add in a delicious lunch, lots of cookies and brownies and have a party. That's what Laura did yesterday and about 30 of us showed up in the pouring rain to stitch the afghans for Greensburg.

My group: Dorothy, me, my good friend Jill, and Paula
holding up our first seamed afghan.

Jill and I have both seamed squares before, but considering that Dorothy and Paula had never knitted or crocheted before, they did a great job! That's Jennifer in the background - turns out she teaches classes at my favorite lys. I'm looking forward to seeing her again in October, at the Studio's fall fiber fest!

Dorothy had to leave, so that left Paula, Jill and I to try and crank out a second one before the party was over. See that cute little face in the middle? That's Suzannah, Laura's middle girl. She jumped in and stitched up a storm, helping us to finish one more. We enjoyed having her with us - this girl was a blast to hang with!

The pretty girl on the right is Faren. She's a doll - I was so glad to have a chance to meet her. I'm sorry I didn't have more of chance to hang out with her.

The lovely and super-organized Laura, who made it all happen.

Laura and Kyra the Knitmeister.
Scroll through August to find the picture of the Noro squares she is knitting into a Greensburg afghan. It looks like something I'd frame and put on the wall - just gorgeous.

Paula and I whipping up the second afghan

12 afghans finished for 12 families who will be moving back to Greensburg to reclaim their lives.

It was an incredible day. While it was a very satisfying way to spend the day, I was diappointed that I couldn't stitch faster and get more afghans completed before I left. I was surprised at how utterly exhausted I was when I finally got home last night. I'm afraid we just put a tiny dent in the mountain of squares. I'm not sure how Laura's going to get them all done. But if she has another seaming party, I'll be there! You can't appreciate how hard she has worked just from reading about it on her blog. So drop by her blog and send her some love.


El Dorado Or Bust

No time to blog, I'm prepping for tomorrow's road trip with my peep, Jill. Got to pick my driving music, pack some knitting, and do lots of finger warmups for the Greensburg Squares seaming party. I'll try to take lots of pix.

Meanwhile, a little amusement to tide you over until I return (thanks Faren!)


Don't You Hate It When A Song Gets Stuck In Your Head And It Won't Stop?

The new Ipod Nano commercial is strangely appealing. Check out the whole video.
And whatever you do, don't let it get stuck in your head.
Happy almost weekend.


Fall Into Autumn Questionnaire

Do you knit or crochet? For how long?

I only knit these days, for about the past year and a half. Before I switched to sticks, I crocheted on and off since I was in college. It didn't hold my interest the way knitting does, but I'm glad I know how because at some point I may want to embellish some of my knitting with crochet edges.

Have you made dishcloths before? Do you use them for yourself, give them as gifts, or both?

I made my first dishcloth for the spring into summer dishcloth swap and had so much fun that I signed up for this one. I am using the two that Cheryl made for me and love them! I am making 2 lacy washcloths for a friend's baby shower gift and plan to knit up several for holiday gifts.

What's your favorite cotton to make cloths from? What cotton would you like to try and haven't before?

So far, I have used Sugar & Cream and I like it. There are so many cotton and cotton blend yarns out there that I would like to try that it would be hard to pick just one.
I don't care for cotton without very much give - I like the "bouncy" ones the best.

If you knit, do you prefer circular or straight needles? Do you prefer wooden, metal, or plastic?

I like either circ's or short straights, depending on the project. I knit mostly with bamboo needles and if the yarn is sticking too much, I love Addi turbos.

What are your favorite colors? Any colors you don't like?

At this time of year, my favorite colors are mixtures of the colors of fall, especially blends with deep purples and reds, mellow oranges, sunflower yellow, dark browns, and earthy greens. I strongly dislike beiges, pastels or bright colors.

What do you like best about autumn?

What's not to love??? I love the change in weather...the golden, clear quality of the light...the colors and smells...sleeping with the windows open...pumpkins...I feel so joyful and alive, appreciative, melancholy in a good way - it's absolutely my favorite time of the year.

Pies: pumpkin? apple? pecan? All of 'em? No thanks?

Pumpkin pie! Pumpkin cheescake! Pumpkin muffins! Pumpkin cake! Pumpkin bars! Pumpkin crunch! Pumpkin flan! Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!

When you were a kid, were you the one who couldn't wait to get started with school or the one who overslept the first day?

Overslept. But what makes you think it was only on the first day?

Do you celebrate halloween?

I don't make a big deal out of Halloween, but I put some pumpkins out front, have tons of candy for the kids who come by, and go to the
coolest Halloween party every year.

If you had to choose just 3 edible goodies to eat for a full year, what 3 would you choose?

Pumpkin cheesecake, sea salt pita chips, and dark chocolate Milky Ways.

Do you have any pets? Kids? Etc?

We have 2 dogs and 2 cats and even though I'm their mother, I can promise you that they are all exceptionally gifted and adorable.

If you were to describe a particular yarn that shares your traits of personality, what would it be and why?

It would probably be merino - it's soft yet bouncy and strong, colorful, practical, warm, and not overly hairy.

Do you use your cloths mostly as discloths or facecloths?

Dishcloths. The yarn would need to be very soft for me to use it on my face.

Favorite fall holiday: Halloween or Thanksgiving and why?

Thanksgiving! It's probably my favorite holiday of the year, because it's all about family and friends, helping the homeless, celebrating my favorite time of the year, and a great meal. With lots of pumpkin pie. And wine. And leftovers.

Do you have any allergies or aversions your partner should know about?

I am allergic to cigarette smoke, most perfumes and strong scents.


Hate The War? Help Save A Life

There isn't much one little knitter can do on her/his own to make an impact on this abominable war. We have to wait until 2008 to make our voices heard in the polls - and I know we will make sure that we're heard loud and clear. I hate seeing the ever-growing list of casualties - each and every one was a person who was loved and cherished by someone. Senseless, wasteful deaths. So much carnage and destruction.

But sometimes, a spark of hope. A chance to save a life. A way to support and honor one of our heroes comes along. A dog named Charlie is providing support , comfort and an emotional haven for some soldiers in Iraq. Our men and women in combat are experiencing horrors we will hopefully never know. Most of them are being traumatized on a daily basis. They live under constant stress. Most of these people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Who knows how many are significantly depressed.

But in this world of war, with the constant threat of death breathing down their necks, there are a few lucky soldiers who are sent an angel in a fur coat. A dog or cat who adopt a group of soldiers and are just there to give them unconditional love. And if this isn't an antidote to the hatred and death and destruction, I don't know what is. To be able to love and be loved in the midst of all this must be such a blessing. These precious animals become their family. And of course, when the time comes for the surviving soldiers to finally go home, they want to take their angels with them. Dogs and cats are not pets in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not part of a family. They are not treated well and live off the streets, diseased and hungry. Many times they are killed. I can't imagine how these soldiers must feel to have to leave their fur-angels behind.

But some of the soldiers become determined to save their angels and to give them safe and loving homes. As things are now, the armed forces does not have policies to help these soldiers save these wonderful pets. So the soldiers have to get creative, before time runs out. One of these soldiers, Sgt. Watson could use some help right now - positive thoughts, prayers, donations, whatever you can do.

UPDATE: Based on his most recent post, Sgt. Watson may have the support he needs to save Charlie. But he could still use our positive thoughts and prayers so that he also makes it home safe!


You Are Invited To Play it Forward

I saw this on Nichole's blog (hi Nichole!) and thought it was such a great idea that I signed up. And now I am inviting 3 of you to play it with me. Here are the details:

This is the "Pay It Forward" exchange, based on the concept of the movie where acts of kindness are done without expecting anything in return...just passing it on, with the hope that the recipients of your kind acts will pass it along to someone else. Here's how it works: I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don't know what the gift will be yet, and it won't be sent this month and maybe not next month either, but it will be sent within 6 months and that's a promise! What you have to do in return then is "pay it forward" by making the same promise on your blog.

If you want to play, let me know. If you want to comment but not play, that's okay! And whether or not you are playing this game, why not pay it forward in real life and do a random act of kindness to someone this week?


So Who Needs Hand-Knit Sweaters Anyway?

And as evidence, I offer this, posted by none other than Grumperina, whose website is a showcase of breath-taking knitting. Of course, her reason for not knitting sweaters is due to the fact she's probably knitted something like 6 kazillion sweaters in her knitting lifetime and is just over it. My reason is because I am still only able to knit in 2 dimensions, and not very well at that. I have no business trying to knit sweaters. But I like the button and the rationale. And she invited me to take it, so here we are.

Reading her post boosted my knitting self-esteem a few notches, as it helped me remember that I, too am a process knitter. One reason (besides fear) that I move so slowly up the knitting techniques ladder is because I have been enjoying the journey and I am not usually in a rush to get to a new technique until I feel like I will enjoy the process.

I don't have a picture of the very first thing I ever knitted; it went to frog heaven a while back. The "yarn" was a ribbon/tape variegated number that caught my eye one day when I was at Michael's. I bought 2 balls of the stuff, some big plastic needles and a cheap little pamplet-type book that taught the basics of knitting and I was off. It took me several attempts to cast-on using the long-tail method, and then the expected struggles with making a proper garter stitch instead of twisting some of the stitches by going through the back, and of course, being utterly mystified about why I sometimes had more stitches than I started with, and then would come up short. It was an ugly mess. So I ripped it all out.

A few weeks later, Mr. C and I were driving to visit my family - a 12-14 hour road trip. I needed a project, and packed the ribbon yarn and needles. But this time I did something smart. I went to Barnes & Noble, searched through a bunch of knitting books and found "Knitting School". I could understand the pictures and explanations and so I bought it and read the whole book in the first few hours of the trip. And this time, when I picked up the needles, I knew what to do and why I was doing it. I still had a few dropped stitches here and there, and my tension was inconsistent, but I. was. knitting! I knew I was hooked when, during the trip, my then 7-year old niece, who couldn't stop petting it, said "Oh, that scarf is so beautiful! One day, when I'm bigger, will you make me one, too?"

Of course, the answer was yes.

Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn about 2/3 through the scarf and couldn't find anymore. So I laid it aside, bought lots of brightly-colored fluffy acrylic stuff at the local craft superstores and knitted up a bunch of scarves. The first ones were in garter stitch, of course.

Then I stumbled upon the Land of Knitting on the 'net and experienced a taste of what heaven will be like! Free patterns, discussions about yarn and needles, and blogs! My next few scarves involved variations of garter and double and triple YO's. I liked these because they looked more textured and went really fast.

One fateful day, I stumbled upon this and decided I must make one immediately. But first, I had to find these wonderful, feltable wools that kitty pi knitters were using. So I went yarn-crawling at real, live knitting shops in the area and that's when I stopped being hooked and became addicted to wool and bamboo needles. I knitted that thing up so fast, I'm surprised the needles didn't catch fire. And the results were so very satisfying:

Criquette quickly became addicted to real wool as well

Since then, I have knit many more simple scarves, including these:

I've added simple hats and dishcloths to my repetoire:

Yet sometimes I feel like a knitting slacker because I am not more advanced after more than a year and a half of knitting everyday, especially when I visit your blogs and see the beautiful things you are all making.

But I just need to remember that I am a process knitter. I knit for the sensory experience, the meditative experience and the experience of making something for others to use and enjoy. And to practice my cussing. I have learned that I do my best when I am focusing on only trying one or two new things - be it a new yarn, new type of needles, new technique or new pattern - at a time, and then repeating the experience until I feel satisfied that I have mastered it and then I can move up the knitting ladder.

As far as the first scarf goes, it got set aside and eventually frogged. Someone bought the frogged "yarn " at a garage sale. But I'll never forget that first scarf, because it was part of my process.

I'd love to read about your first knitting project and whether you are a process or product knitter, so leave a comment.

"I am a process napper. Now go away."