Monday, June 26, 2017

Knitting the Toe of a Sock

I love knitting the toe portion of a sock. I just finished the first one of the pair of maroon and gold socks that I am making. I had to stop and go back after about four rows. Somehow my stitch count got off, and I wasn't sure why. I picked back a few rows and started again. This time everything was fine. Fortunately it happened on the toe and not the heel. It's much more difficult to fix a mistake on a short row heel. Well, for me it is.

The pattern I use has you decrease every other row next to the big toe and next to the little toe. The even rows are straight knit. I like to do the toe in one sitting, so that I remember where I am. I use a stitch maker halfway through to remind me to repeat.

I do this portion of my sock on double pointed needles. It gets too tight at the end for me to continue to use the tiny circulars. When using this yarn, I knit the first part of the sock on size one circular needles. I switch to size 1.5 for the toes. I knit more tightly on double pointed needles than I do on circulars. This way my stitches are the same size.

After I finish the last decrease round, it's time for kitchener stitch. I love this finish, because it's seamless. I had a couple of problems this time. I dropped a few stitches, because I'm rusty when it comes to working with dpn's. I realized that I need to keep knitting socks regularly. That way I'm confident and secure. I also had trouble when one of my stitch markers got embedded in the stitches at the end of the last round. I had to undo a few stitches to remove it.  One nice thing about making socks is that there are only two ends to sew in at the end. It's quick and easy. One down, one to go!  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Knitting the Heel of a Sock

I find that the heel is the most challenging part of sock knitting. I use a short row heel. I learned this technique in a sock making class. It's the one that I still do to this day, because it fits so well. I am also comfortable doing it, since I've repeated it so many times. It's a nice looking heel, I think.

For this style, you slip the first stitch, knit until you reach your  marker, and then do the wrap and turn. You are only working on half of your stitches. It's a very methodical technique. After you get halfway through, you switch to closing the gap. In the pattern I use, you either knit two stitches through the back loop, or you pearl two stitches together. Each row is progressive. It's very logical.

When I first learned this method, it took me hours to complete.  I sat in the yarn shop for three hours, after a two hour class. I needed constant help, because  I was a very green knitter. I finished it, though. I had to knit three pair of socks to really get the hang of it. My intuition told me that's what I needed to do, so I did. Since I'm a dancer, I'm used to practicing daily and working on technique. As the saying goes, "Anything worth having is worth working for." After finishing the third pair, I felt confident and capable. Mission accomplished.

I meet a lot of knitters who don't knit socks. Some have had a bad experience trying to learn, so they stopped. Some had trouble with the tiny needles.  Most struggled with the heel. It's not easy, but it's doable. I am amazed that some people are able to learn how to knit socks on line. I definitely needed someone there who was experienced. She could see things that I couldn't. Now my eyes are trained, and I can read the work. It's become easy and automatic, after hours of practice and repetition.

I like to knit the heels of my sock in one sitting. It takes a lot of concentration. I am not able to knit the heel of a sock in a knitting group, or in a social setting. I have to be by myself, with no interruptions. I'll write about knitting the toe of the sock in my next post. What kind of heel do you use on your socks?  Isn't this lovely sock yarn? I think that's my favorite part of knitting socks, watching the colors in the yarn unfold. Hand knit socks are really something special. I think they are worth the effort.      

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why I Love Knitting Socks

 I am working on a pair of socks right now. I just finished turning the heel. I love this part of the work. Once the heel is done, it's smooth sailing. I can just zip through stockinette stitch for the next fifty rows. It's relaxing, easy, and rewarding. The toe feels like the home stretch. I finish with kitchener stitch, which I always find very satisfying. Every time I do it, though, I have to watch the video again. I'm just not quite sure of the beginning. I think I should take some notes, and write them on my sock pattern. That way  I will remember it. I hate to be so dependent on technology when I'm knitting.I want to really know it.

One of the questions I get a lot from people, (especially knitters,)  is "Is it hard to make socks?" Yes and no. I find the beginning is easy. I knit my socks from the top down, beginning with the cuff. I use a long tail cast on, and I do a knit one pearl one rib  for the leg portion. I find this fits me better, because it's elasticized. If I just do stockinette, the top tends to bag. I have thin ankles. Your build has a lot to do with sizing in knitting.

The yarn you choose makes a huge difference in your knitting experience. The first pair of socks I made were  with dark blue merino wool sock yarn. I was very thin, more like thread. I hadn't been knitting for very long, maybe for six months.  I struggled. I could barely see the yarn, because it was so dark. I kept dropping stitches. My knitting teacher told me that it was very difficult yarn, especially for a beginner. The lady who sold me the yarn wasn't a sock knitter. I spent a lot of time crying over my mistakes, and my dog kept looking at me like she felt guilty. (She thinks that everything is her fault.)  I finished that pair, and  bought some more sock yarn. This time I chose a brand that was slightly thicker, and had a variety of colors. It made such a difference! I picked pastels, which were easy to see and to count. I had such a better experience with that yarn. It was so much more pleasant and enjoyable to knit with it.

I learned to make socks on tiny circular needles. I also use double pointed needles, for the toes. I find with the circulars, I can go faster. The double pointed needles are fun, and people are so impressed by them. They make knitting look much more complex and difficult than it actually is. They're a great conversation piece. My father refers to them as "sticks".

I find it's very important to use yarn with nylon in it for sock knitting. That way the socks will last and be durable. You also don't want to walk around on nylon carpeting when wearing hand knit socks. That will wear holes in them. I like to wear mine with slippers.

Tomorrow I'll write about knitting the heel of the sock, which is considered the "hard part". Once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy. Most things in life are that way. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. I would love to read some comments. I feel like I'm talking to myself out here. Well, I do that anyway...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why Handmade Soap Is So Much Better For Your Skin

The first time I remember using homemade soap is when I was a little girl. For Christmas, a  friend of mine named Susie gave me a small ball of brown soap. She had wrapped it herself.  It looked like someone had carefully pressed it together, like a ball of dough. Susie's family was always making things that I had never heard of, like apple butter. They had a lot of girls in that family, and their own swimming  pool. I loved spending time over there. It was exciting and fun. We got to play our record albums and dance in the living room.  I made up  a Jazz dance for us to the song Jesus Is Just All Right With Me. I thought it was a funny combination: rock and roll and a song about Jesus. Susie's sister reclined in the easy chair and watched us. She told us that she thought it was good. I felt elated. Susie and I repeated the dance about ten times, while  her cool, teenage sister lounged,  nodded, and sang along. 

I still remember being fascinated by that soap, and the fact that they had made it themselves. Looking back on it, it was probably hot processed.  I think they made their own ice cream, too, which really impressed me. I used that ball of soap at home in our bathroom sink, to wash my hands. I liked it. It felt different than the soaps that my parents bought at the store. It was kind of slimy, and  it turned tan after a few uses. I wondered what it would be like to make my own soap. I somehow knew at the time that it was better quality, even though I was only thirteen. It just felt different. The desire to make soap was planted in my mind, like a seed.

Before embarking on my soap making journey, I did a few years of  reading and research. Everyone raved about how much better handmade soap is for your skin. I found that my skin responded positively, as well. After shaving,  I didn't have flaky, scaly,  dry skin on my legs anymore. In the warm weather, I didn't even need to use lotion. If I washed with my own soap, my whole  body felt and looked like it had been moisturized. I was very impressed.

Store bought soap, or body bars, don't contain any  natural glycerine. It's removed and sold to cosmetics companies for use in  lotion. That's why if you wash your face with a bar of soap from the grocery store, it feels so tight and dry afterward. You're using detergent, and it is harsh with chemicals.

I use my goat's milk soap and olive oil soaps on my face now. I just love how silky they make the skin feel. It's entirely different than that pulled sensation I got from using Dial, Ivory, and Dove. My father told me that after he started using the soaps that I made for him, all of the little scabs he had on his face disappeared. He was amazed. He had been having those tiny liver spots removed at the dermatologist for years. He was excited to show his doctor  the difference.

It's interesting how just simple ingredients are so much healthier and more nourishing. I look forward to using my soaps every morning and evening. It never becomes old. I still find it so exciting. It's like a secret discovery. Do you still get excited to use homemade soaps?   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Knitting Daily

I have been working on the cotton cardigan a little bit each day. I am trying not to rush through it. The yarn is gorgeous, and I want to enjoy it. It's a nice pattern, and is very easy to follow. I love the routine of knitting a sweater. Whether it's for a baby or for an adult, the steps are the same. I like how predictable the sequence is. Each step feels familiar.  I prefer to knit sweaters in pieces, so this pattern is right up my alley.Vintage designs are my absolute favorite. They fit the body so well.

I am also working on a pair of socks. I like to consistently have a pair on my knitting needles. Socks are good for technique. I find if I don't keep making them, mine won't match, identically. I need to keep practicing on tiny needles.  It's comforting and relaxing for me to make socks. They are such nice gifts..I decided to get going on some for Christmas presents. Nearly everyone I know loves to receive a pair as a gift. These are made with Austermann Step sock yarn. It's my favorite brand. I wouldn't have chosen this color combination, but I bought ten skeins of this at a good price in a grab bag. The colors are pretty wild. I think they were the ones that didn't sell. Oh well. Someone will like them.

It's been very hot here lately. Last night I ate dinner, did the dishes, and then went out in the backyard to knit. This is the view from my kitchen window. I love the old schoolhouse windows. You rarely see them anymore. Most people would have replaced them, but I like them. Off to the right is my chicken coop. It's made out of recycled French doors and windows.  You can't see it in this photo, but there's a vintage swing hanging where I sit and enjoy nature. I love porch swings. If I lay on my back and swing, I can stare up at a gorgeous old pine tree that is absolutely huge. It makes me feel like I'm in the woods. There's something very soothing about rocking on a porch swing. It feels like a cradle. Sometimes I want to sleep out there.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Practicing Yoga Before You Go to Sleep Part Two

I take a deep relaxation in the middle of my evening yoga practice. I lay on my back and pay attention to the subtle  changes that I feel in my body from the standing poses. Sometimes I will do a simple meditation, like inhaling healing golden light energy, and exhaling out any pain or fear. The more you can expand on the inhale, the better the effects. You really want to fill your body with oxygen.

Remaining on my back, I usually pull my knees into my chest, one at a time. I have never been able to get my knees completely into my chest. I don't worry about it. I just allow the hips to stretch into a natural position. I also lengthen the hamstrings by extending the leg and gently pulling it towards me. Since having my hips replaced, I barely pull. I'm always conscious of working gradually, which is what Dr. Matta told me to do.

From there I roll on to my stomach and do cobra, half locust, full locust, and bow. I have always loved this series of four poses. I relax again on my back, breathing fully and deeply. I rock back and forth on my spine once again, and then rest in child's pose.

I conclude with a very careful wheel pose or a simpler backbend, and then a seated forward fold. I move into shoulder stand, plough, and headstand. Although all of this is done in a relaxed and non forceful way, it really gets the circulation flowing, and it keeps my body feeling alive and youthful.

Each time we practice yoga, it's like we are depositing money into a savings account. I never got into the competitive yoga movement that made it intense, hard core, or aggressive. I feel the same way about physical therapy. I just find that if you work in a quiet, calm, meditative fashion, you reap the benefits in a subtle way.

When I shot these photographs, I was 47 years old. I am now 52. The makeup artist on set said to me, "You are not going to be cast as a grandma. You look like a girl." That's what 30 years of practicing yoga does, it shapes the muscles and preserves them. The poses are familiar and comfortable. Yoga also helps you to gravitate towards food choices that are healthy and nutritious. It's a lifestyle.      

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Practicing Yoga Before You Go to Sleep Part One

These photographs were taken when I had pretty bad osteoarthritis, but I didn't yet know it. I just knew something was wrong. You can see that my legs are thin, and very wide apart. I couldn't get my knees together. The balls of my hip sockets had moved outward. I was also very stiff.

Each night I have a ritual. I eat a healthy dinner, take a hot bath using my homemade soap, and then practice yoga. It's so calming and healing. Since having both of my hips replaced, I have gone back to doing a simple and traditional yoga class. I always find that drilling the basics helps me, regardless of the subject.

I start out with some deep breathing while laying on my back. I inhale for eight counts, hold the breath for eight counts, and then exhale for eight counts. I do this for five to ten minutes. After that I do some easy warm up stretches. I reach through my fingers and toes as I'm laying on my back. From there I sit cross legged and do a few neck rolls in each direction. I join my fingers behind the shoulder blades, and stretch out my shoulders and upper back. I rock back and forth on my spine for a couple of minutes. This moves the life force energy up and down the spine. I do four or five repetitions of cat/cow pose, and press my body into downward facing dog for several breaths.

From there I stand up and do a couple of the warrior poses. I follow my intuition, and work on the positions that will strengthen my legs. I do some forward folds, and variations on those poses. I kick up into a handstand, and work on dolphin and plank pose on my elbows.

After that, I relax on the back,  and then move into the floor poses. Right now I have been mixing in Pilates with this part of the routine. It helps me to have a strong core and to engage the leg and buttocks muscles. I also run through the basic physical therapy exercises that I learned when I had my hips replaced. I always feel good after doing those; they are very specific.

After a deep relaxation, I take the dogs out, double check that my cottage is securely locked, and then head off to bed. I really think that this has helped me to keep my weight down and enabled me to sleep well. Before I had my hips replaced, I dreaded going to bed at night. The aching would keep me up, and nothing would relieve it.  Thanks to the expertise of my surgeon, Dr. Joel Matta, the pain is now gone. 

Tomorrow I will write about the floor section of my nightly yoga sequence. It amazes me how doing a simple class can keep you toned and fit. Workouts don't have to be hard and strenuous. Consistency and technique are key.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Feeding Your Citrus Trees Compost

I have nine citrus trees on my property: a meyer lemon, a Ponderosa lemon, a navel orange, a blood orange, two Algerian tangerines, a Valencia orange, a lime, and a ruby red grapefruit.  I planted all but one of them. They are like my children. They do beautifully in our desert heat. It's wonderful to be able to pick lemons year round. I love having freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, and using the limes to make guacamole and limeade. The navel oranges make great snacks in Winter. They taste so much better than the oranges that I used to buy at the store. I didn't realize how old those were. These seem like a different fruit, entirely. The freshness translates to flavor. 

The past of couple days I have been fertilizing my citrus trees with homemade compost. I save all of my leaves and yard trimmings, and pile them into a huge mound at the back of my property. I add all of my fruit and vegetable scraps, scooping them into tunnels.   I also put in used coffee grounds, tea bags, straw, manure, and spoiled produce. The result is a rich, black compost. It makes great fertilizer, and it's free.

Citrus trees need to be fed four times a year. I correspond it with the four seasons. I notice an immediate difference in them after I have fed them. My meyer lemon tree was worrying me last week. Normally it has lots of small green lemons on it this time of year. This season, I could barely see any. After raking back the mulch, shoveling fresh compost around the base of the trunk, and giving it some water, a whole new set of blossoms appeared the next day! The bees and hummingbirds are busy out there now, pollinating. I can see that there are going to be many more lemons on the tree, thanks to the compost. It still amazes me how immediate the effect is. Trees need nutrients, just like we do.

I love the cycle of fruit trees. They are always in a different stage, depending on the time of year. I find giving them compost tea now and then also makes them  more healthy and vigorous. My German Shepherd loves to lay under the pomegranate bush and watch me work in the orchard. Animals thrive when they are out  in nature. We do, too.I follow their example. It really relaxes me. I am looking forward to December when the lemons will be at their peak. They make delicious sorbet, puddings, cakes, and poppyseed breads.

Right now I am still harvesting the ruby red grapefruits. I have this tree planted in my driveway. It's just a few years old, but it will eventually produce hundreds of grapefruits. It's a nice privacy plant, as well. I like having a supply of fresh produce  growing in my yard. It's a great feeling. Do you grow fruit? How is your orchard doing? 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the people reading my blog. Thank you for visiting. I really appreciate your interest and comments.  I am fortunate to have an excellent father. My dad didn't marry my mom until he was thirty two years old. That was considered very late in those days. As a child,  I always sensed that he was more mature than  the other fathers. He was always quoting old sayings to us when we were kids. Here are some of his favorites:

"A fool and his money are soon parted."

"Misery loves company."

"Any fool can spend money."

"You are as happy as you make up your mind to be."

"Virtue is its own reward." 

My dad always helped out around the house. This was at a time when most fathers didn't. After working all day, he would wash the dishes after dinner and put them in the dishwasher. After that, he would make our lunches, alongside my mother. He was, and is, very responsible and committed. We knew that we could depend on him.

Each morning, he would drive all of us to school. Sometimes that meant stopping at three different schools. He never complained or resented it. He told me that having children is one of the greatest joys a person can experience in life. He meant it. He really seems to like doing the daily, mundane chores that many people avoid.

My dad taught me about the importance of having a positive attitude. He listened to tapes by Earl Nightingale. He worked  in sales, and eventually opened his own business. His customers really liked him. Everyone really liked my dad. They still do. He just has a great presence. He's interested in other people, and he goes out of his way to help them.

What did you learn from your father?  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Writing Down What You Are Studying

When I was in fifth grade, I had an excellent teacher named Mr. Beebe. He was a strict and old fashioned taskmaster. He taught us from a stack of worn,  hard covered books. They were used to educate children in the 1930's. I loved his method. Each day, one of us would stand at the chalkboard and write out the lesson  as he dictated it from his book. Every child was required to take a turn. I loved it. It made me feel so important. We  learned how to listen to the teacher and how to write in front of the group. The rest of us would copy the math problems or grammar lesson on to a piece of lined recycled paper. We wrote in pencil, that way we could erase and correct our mistakes.  Mr. Beebe always had me write two papers, one for myself, and one for the person who was up at the chalkboard. We would start the lesson in class, and then finish it later that night for homework.

The math lessons were multiplication, division, and fractions. He demonstrated and explained everything. It was so clear and concise. I loved how he taught. Every one of us understood what he was doing. By writing out the problems, we had a group unity. If a student was sick, Mr. Beebe had me copy an extra sheet, and one of us would deliver the homework to that student after school. They were expected to do the homework and return it. Whoever lived closest to him or her would volunteer.

My favorite lessons were the ones where Mr. Beebe taught us how to diagram sentences. We would make notes and dissect each word in the sentence. We underlined it and labeled it as either a noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective, a preposition, etc. It really taught us clearly. It made us better writers, too. We knew exactly what we were doing.  There were several things going on at once. We were listening, following direction, analyzing, and sketching. I loved how the finished sentenced looked. Each word had a specific place and a precise definition. 

Every Friday we would have a spelling bee. I looked forward to those days. For some reason, I nearly always won. It was a thrill. I'm not sure why; but spelling  just came easily to me. My parents and aunt were always big readers, and so was I.  I read books voraciously. I think maybe that trained me subconsciously how to spell.

By the end of fifth grade, Mr. Beebe proudly told us that we were doing 8th grade work. He was very pleased, and so were we. It was exciting at that age to feel so smart. Mr. Beebe gave us confidence in our abilities because he was such an excellent teacher. He possessed an extreme  focus and discipline.

Since then,  I've always loved working from a syllabus, whether it was in school, music, ballet, or yoga. The detail and progression is so grounding. You build upon the previous lesson. It's logical and doable. The consistency is calming.

I still use this method when I learn anything. I write out my knitting patterns on binder paper. I know that I will remember the pattern better if I have written it out with my own two hands. I make notes of where I am and add in the details. It's much easier to find your spot if you've recorded where you left off carefully.

I still write out recipes on recipe cards, and instructions on paper. I feel more comfortable when I have detailed, clear notes. I especially have to write things down when learning something for computers or technology. I keep my passwords in a little book. My mother did the same thing, and she was very capable with the latest electronics. It takes me some practice to catch up, but I am learning. What exciting times these are. Do you write things down and take notes?        

Friday, June 16, 2017

Staying Creative

As an artist, I have spent my entire life being creative. When I was a little girl I would make up dances. I loved to pretend that I was a professional dancer. I would watch the Rockettes on television, and dream of dancing in the line with them. The whole idea swept me into a place of tremendous anticipation and excitement. I would stand next to the television and try to follow their steps. I loved the music and the tap dancing. I just knew that was something that I wanted to do someday. It felt like my destiny.

Now that I'm older, I stay creative by cooking, gardening, making soap, and redesigning knitting patterns. It feels wonderful to make things. There's something about getting your talents out into the world that is satisfying. Writing is also a wonderful and free way to express the creative life force. Just recording your thoughts and feelings  in a journal is therapeutic. I often go back and reread my journals from the past. It is so eye opening. We really change and grow as we age. It's interesting to see your perspective on problems a few years after writing about them. One thing that really stood out to me when I read my old journals was that I was riddled with self doubt. Things always worked out, and I learned to trust myself and my gut. The body knows the truth. As the saying goes, "The body never lies."

Once I began writing again, I felt a real surge of  inner electricity.  After my hips were replaced, it was a low time, emotionally. I knew that I probably couldn't dance anymore, and I needed to find something that was fulfilling as a career. Writing gives me that jazzed up feeling. It's exciting, fun, and energizing. We all need something that fills us with happiness and excitement. Often it's something that we loved to do when we were about nine years old.

Our sexuality is directly linked to our creativity. When we aren't creative, we can become depressed. Creativity needs to be expressed. When it's repressed, the body can have problems. Children are naturally creative. They love to sing, dance, and act out stories. They don't worry about making money. They just do it for the pure joy and expression.

When I needed to have my hips replaced my libido dropped severely. I was in a relationship, and wondered if my body was just aging. Was this what happened at menopause? I was shocked. Once my hips healed, I was able to resume my favorite exercise routines and hobbies. My libido returned. I think that there is a direct link between sexual health and general health. When your body is struggling with osteoarthritis, like mine was, it takes all of the energy you have just to do basic household tasks. I found I didn't have any energy leftover. My sex drive had faded. Once I healed and was engaged in life fully again, my energy and enthusiasm returned. People worry a great deal when they are sick. Worry and fear really zap the creative juices. Joy and pleasure replenish them.           

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knitting Yourself a Cotton Sweater for Summer

Last week I stopped by our local yarn shop and tried on a this sample sweater, knit by the owner. I fell in love with it immediately. It's made of thick and thin cotton yarn. I checked the label, "Oh! It's Italian yarn, no wonder," I said. I always gravitate towards the Italian yarns. They never disappoint me. Christian, who owns Creative Ewe in Canyon Country, nodded in agreement and told me about the Italian mills. He said that the yarns are spun differently. It makes sense to me. I have always admired Italian clothing and shoes, too.  I don't know how I sense it, but I do. I worked in Rome when I toured Europe with 42nd Street. I was just as impressed with the coffee, homemade pasta, gelato, and architecture. I love all things Italian. They have such style.

I purchased this yarn over the weekend, and started knitting the cardigan this morning. I spent some time working on the swatch yesterday, at the shop. I wanted to compare my square of knitting to the sample, since it fit my body so well. The first swatch I did was on size 10 needles. I should have double checked the pattern and my notes, because the pattern says to use size 8. I knew something was wrong when I held up my swatch next to the sweater. My stitches looked so much larger than Christian's. After double checking the pdf of the pattern on my mini ipad,  I pulled everything out and started again. I unscrewed the size ten needles from my cable and attached the 8's. I was straining to see the size number and to count the stitches. My eyesight is not as good as it once was, even with reading glasses. Thankfully, this time the swatch was right on gauge.

I had a couple more false starts that I didn't expect. The pattern is written differently that the ones I am used to using. I asked Christian why it said to knit five rows and to start on the pearl side. He explained to me that he did a long tail cast on and counted that as the first row. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I had always wondered about that...seeing those knit stitches peeking through the bottom when I would count my rows. It's interesting how we get into a routine with our knitting. It's a lot like dancing. Doing it this felt like starting on the left foot to me. It felt backwards and awkward. The first sweater I ever knit was by a German designer and teacher, and she also started on the wrong side. I remember messing it up that time, too.

I made a couple more mistakes, which is unlike me. It threw me off not to start on a knit row. Instead of ribbing, I pearled the whole way. When I realized I had flubbed up again, and tried to pick out the pearl stitches, I couldn't. Parts of the yarn were too thick. I started to get frustrated, and wondered if I was going to be able to work with this yarn. It was tricky. Because it's thick and thin, and delicate, I'm afraid it will break if I tug on it. It's the kind of yarn that makes me feel like I better not make any mistakes. I had already made several.

I started to contemplate returning the rest of the yarn, which I have never done. "Maybe I should exchange it for something that is easier to work with," I thought. "This yarn feels too advanced." I didn't want to be one of those difficult customers who doesn't like a certain yarn. I've heard knitters say, "I can't work with that yarn."  I never understood it until now. I thought they were just being difficult. I gave it one more try, and checked my notes carefully. Once I made it past the ribbing rows, I started to cruise. I felt jubilant. All of a sudden I was in sync with the yarn and the pattern. It's now going along well, and I love it. I'm so glad that  I didn't give up.

I thought of my hip surgeon, and what he told the fellows he was teaching on a videotape of him doing an anterior hip replacement. "Don't ever think it's going to be easy," he advised them. " I've struggled to dislocate the hip of a slender female patient for twenty minutes." We are supposed to be the best candidates for this surgery.  I so appreciated his honesty. It really resonated with me. He's a great master, but things don't always go as planned.

I thought this sweater was going to be super easy. I've never had such a rough beginning. I didn't expect to have to keep starting over and ripping back simple mistakes. You just never know with knitting. Now I'm excited to keep working on it. It's called The Textured Cardigan at The yarn is Tahki Yarns in Rosa. It feels soft and luxurious.

Have you ever struggled with a knitting pattern and persevered?  I am determined to finish it.        

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Soapmaking Workshop

Next Friday I will be teaching a soapmaking workshop. We will be doing a basic goat's milk recipe, and also learning how to use natural clay as color. We'll  be adding fragrance oils to the soap and using tray molds. These really give the soaps a beautiful shape, scent,  and finish.

Goat's milk is wonderful for  soapmaking. Iit's also delicious in cafe au laits. I have several goats who live across the street from me.  They seem to really enjoy people, and they all have such entertaining personalities. I wish I could have a couple of goats of my own, but they probably would eat everything that I have planted in my backyard orchard.

I'm been enjoying  seeing all of the baby goats that were born a couple of months ago. I visit them every morning on my bike ride and dog walk. There is something about baby farm animals that is so heartwarming. They are so soft and sweet, and they grow so quickly.  I love to watch them frolic and  play. 

If you would like to attend one of my soapmaking workshops, please send me an email. It's a wonderful hobby, and very fulfilling. You not only have something lovely to use for yourself and your family, but you also have a stash of soap for gifts. My family loves to receive soap for Christmas and birthday presents. I bet yours will, too.      

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Beautiful Shawl

I have been wanting to knit a shawl for a while. Shawls are interesting because they can be so many different styles. I started with a flimsy light one to wear in the summer. It's made of fingering weight yarn, and it's pastel colored. A lady in my knitting group gave me the yarn as a gift, right before I had my hip surgery. It's lovely...merino wool and silk. Although I enjoyed the pattern, it wasn't really what I was hoping for...the eyelets didn't really show, and I realized that I wanted more of them. Still, it was a start. I decided that the next shawl I knit would be on worsted weight yarn with larger needles. I wanted the geometrics of the pattern to show from across the room. I had some lovely silk and llama yarn leftover from a couple of sweaters that that I knit recently. I knew that it would be perfect. It feels so good to use up the small balls of remaining yarn from a finished  project.

I found another pattern that appealed to me and started tweaking, like I usually do. I kept the bones, and worked from there. Math was never my strong subject, anyway. I love to look at photographs on Ravelry. My eye goes right to the talent. It's interesting how several people can make the same pattern, but  a few will really stand out from the crowd. It reminds me of looking at a group of dancers. Often I can just tell from watching a  room full  of dancers walk which ones are the most talented and trained. Looking in their eyes is another way. The intelligence and passion just shines. It's so evident. Master energy has a flash that's unmistakable.  It glimmers like a diamond.

So, with shawl number two I began the first row. Already I liked this one better than my first attempt. I could immediately see the eyelets. The pattern really moved, too. I loved the rhythm and speed. There were lots repetitions, which I enjoy. The yarn overs were in logical places, and easy to remember.  It reminded me of good choreography, which flows, and feels natural and musical to do. It was consistent, with a nice structure. I always prefer the look of simpler patterns. To me they read well. When paired with beautiful colors and quality yarn, the result can be exquisite.

Several months ago I attempted a complicated shawl pattern on sock yarn. It was very tedious, and required constant counting, intense concentration, and an incredible amount of reknitting. I had to take two private lessons in order to understand my mistakes. I set it aside to complete a sweater, which is unlike me. I can't remember another time when I haven't finished a project. By the time I got back to it, I had forgotten my corrections from my first private lesson, which normally I would have written in my notes.  I was repeating the same mistake, doing my yarn overs incorrectly. Anyway, after a lot of effort, and quite a bit of stress and frustration, I bound off the small piece of a shawl that was left, and turned it into a hat  for this little black stuffed poodle. My mom gave her to me a few years before she died. I call it the $36.00 hat. The yarn was a gift, otherwise it would have been a $56.00 hat. I'm going to make her a very small shawl to match. I think my mother would like that. She had dolls all over her house. They were all dressed impeccably, and positioned on her polished antiques beautifully. She had great taste, my mom. I knit her this oval brown shawl several years ago. She would make sure she wore it when I came to visit her in the years before she died. She wore the socks, too, and would make a point to show me. I wondered if it was hard for her to put on shoes. I remember adjusting the shawl  because she had it hanging like a scarf. It's more like a stole...very vintage...of course. Now I wear them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why Ballet Dancers Make Excellent Knitters

When I first started taking knitting lessons, I found that my classical ballet training helped me immensely. There were so many parallels. In ballet, you work on technique every day. You go back to the barre and do the same exercises, over and over, striving for perfection. Your technique builds over time. It becomes more refined and pure. Your muscles retain the memory of the work. Your body starts to mold and reshape. It's exciting and invigorating.

Knitting gave me the same kind of high. I was different that the other beginning knitters. I liked to practice stitches. When I first started, I just did miles of plain knit, (or garter stitch.) I did the same thing with pearling. I wanted to practice and develop the muscle memory. I knew it would take me hours and hours of knitting to get to the point where I felt like my stitches looked good enough to wear. Once I felt comfortable with knit and purl, I moved on to stockinette. I found that VERY exciting, because it looked like a sweater. Wow! I imagined that one day I, too, would be able to make a sweater. That was an absolutely thrilling concept to me. Ribbing was another milestone. It opened up a whole new world to me.

I learned some of the stitch combinations by knitting cotton dishcloths. They were simple, fun, and quick. I whipped out one for each day of the week. I loved seeing the different designs. Diamonds was my favorite. I liked it so well I decided to make a scarf and to extend the pattern. It came out even better than I had imagined. I think using cashmere yarn had a lot to do with it.

Dancers are incredibly disciplined. They are trained to take correction, to fix their mistakes, and to repeat choreography until it is perfect. This is very helpful in knitting. If you have to rip something out, because it's off, that's just par for the course. Dancers don't get upset about things like that, because we spend all day working on precision, accuracy, and line. Art can always be better.

Dancers also practice every day. They don't skip days, weeks, or months. This really helps in knitting. It keeps your work consistent. Your stitches are the same size, and you remember your place in the pattern. Dancers are very focused, and they work constantly on memorization. The rhythm, concentration, and repetitiveness of ballet transfers right into knitting. You're used to finishing your classes, which correlates with finishing your knitting projects. Dancers wash out their dance clothes every night, and they regularly sew ribbons and elastics on their pointe shoes. For a dancer, blocking their knits so that they look professional is second nature. Although many people today don't like to wash things by hand, we are used to it. We don't mind taking good care of our things so that they last.

Dancers are also talented, dedicated, and sensitive. They enjoy beauty, grace, and creativity. All of these qualities exist in knitting. Even better, ballet dancers look fabulous in designer clothes. They can wear anything. Bring on the cashmere!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sock Yarn Mini IPad Cover Knitting Pattern

This is a quick and easy knit for knitters of all levels. It's a great way to use up leftover sock yarn. I designed this to fit like a sleeve. It's knit in the round on  tiny circular needles. You could also use double pointed needles, or convert it to Magic Loop.


Sock Yarn
1 tiny stitch marker
US Size 2  9 "circular needles 2.75 mm 23 cm
Circular cable or holding yarn (to check fit)
US Size E or 4  crochet hook 3.50 mm
darning needle for sewing in ends

Leaving a long tail, cast on 70 stitches. (I do 71 and then knit the last stitch of the round and first stitch of the second round together.)  Work in the round until you are an inch and a half from the top of your ipad. Slip stitches purl wise onto a piece of holding yarn or on to a circular cable with stoppers. Turn the cover inside out, and single crochet the bottom seam together with your tail.

Turn the cover right side out again and put the stitches back on your circular needles. It's a little tricky with the cord. Continue to knit in k2 p2 ribbing up to the top of the mini ipad. Bind off in pattern. Weave in ends. Block and shape to dry.     

These are very relaxing and fun to make. They're quick, simple, and practical. I would love to see a photo of your project if you knit up this pattern. Please give me credit for the design and  link to my blog if you share it with your friends. Enjoy!