yaaaarn

A really busy day – I have a deadline tomorrow which I was planning to be late for, but now it seems I might be able to make it, if I focus and work veeery hard! I’ve barely done any knitting in the last week, and I miss it so much. So while I’m working away at my computer, I am thinking of these happy times, about a year ago. That’s me, in my last apartment’s kitchen-slash-living room. One night my roommate caught me sneaking in, with two huge bags, like a true shop-a-holic.

And here’s what was in them. As I said: happy times. :)

my first

I’m the kind of person who likes to have clear instructions for everything I do and I’m usually not too happy when I have to improvise something. Most clearly this comes out in knitting and cooking. I despize a recipe that tells you to “bake it in the oven until it’s done” as much as I appreciate a pattern that takes that extra effort to explain a technique you might not be familiar with. Which makes it all the more surprizing that my first ever knitting project was done almost completely out of my head.

As is usually recommended, I started with a scarf. And I completely extend that recommendation to all aspiring knitters. I often hear “oh but that’s so boring, I want to make something more interesting”, and then a few weeks later “oh the project was a complete failure, it was too complicated for me”. My answer is: knitting is a skill. The ABCs of that skill are knit and purl. No better way to practice a skill than a simple exercise of repeating it over and over again. Thus: make a scarf.

In the spirit of ABC, I embelished my first with letters. The book I was learning from had patterns for all leters of the alphabet, and the “complication” was minimal.

As you can tell, there were many things I didn’t know then. E.g. that stockinette curls at the edges. Or how to join a new ball of yarn (the scarf is full of little knots – it seemed like the only possibility – my grandma was apalled when she saw it :). But by the time I finished it, I had gotten two things damn right: knit and purl.

People often ask me if the letters make up a word. They don’t. I simply chose those I found interesting visually.

I think I worked on this for about six months. I hadn’t been infected with the knitting bug completely yet, and it was also an extremely busy period in my life. But I still remember that every time I sat back in my bed and picked up the needles, my mind would clear, I could feel my muscles relax and my breathing calm down. This was a very stressful period of my life, which helped me appreciate the relaxation and comfort knitting can provide.

The thing is huuuuge, and I don’t wear it too much (it’s incredibly warm, even in the strong continental European winter), but I could never make myself rip it. It was my first. I love it.

What was your first?

Pajunkissa

I am still mesmerized by this hat’s beautiful name. I just looked it up, and it appears to mean “catkin”. Then I had to look up catkin. :) Wikipedia says it’s a cylindrical flower cluster (and shows some nice pictures, though I can only barely relate them to the pattern).

The original pattern was created by Memmu for Ulla, a Finnish online knitting magazine made by Finnish knitters for Finnish knitters, if I understand correctly.

However, I fell in love with it when I saw Handepande’s version: take a look here and try to resist the urge to cast on immediately! My hat was based on Handepande’s modifications to the original pattern, which were essentially just a change in gauge. You’ll find them on the project Ravelry page.

I personally cast on after I offered to knit a hat for a friend and she chose this pattern, based on seeing the photo of Handepande’s project. There was even a “Scandinavian connection” since I started working on the hat while in Norway last summer. During the class presentations at my summer course, I would sit back and knit away, listening to the presenters. My (about to retire) professor Jan couldn’t help but recall the ’60s, when apparently it was quite usual for his female students to knit in class. The story as he told it to us took an interesting turn, however, when the male students also decided to take up this hobby. The females were apparently offended and in protest stopped knitting in class altogether. :)

Unfortunately, the version I knit up during my classes had to be frogged – this was the first onslaught of the transfer of my usual perfectionism into knitting as well. I had simply gotten the needle size wrong, the hat came out too big, the stitches were ugly, and I just couldn’t live with giving it away in such a state. Frogged and knit again later that summer, back home. This time to my utter satisfaction. :) The pattern is super-easy and fast. And of course I made another one shortly – remember it? :)

help

On Saturday I went to the I Knit London Haiti Fundraiser Tea Party, a nice opportunity to contribute a tiny bit while also enjoying plentiful tea, cake and knitting. I am in one of the photos, but my cleveage looks giganteous so I’d rather not link to it :D

In one of the fundraising games, I won this:

beauty

It’s a 50g hank of merino organic wool, handspun (double knit) and dyed using only natural plant dyes, from Nurwool. Pretty cool, eh? But what do I do with it? It’s such a small amount and the yarn is pretty scractchy! Yet so beautiful… Project ideas and pattern recommendations pleeeease…

the bits

On so many Ravelry project pages will you find variations of the following two sentences:

Almost done, just have to make myself weave in all the ends…

&

I couldn’t be bothered to do a gauge swatch so the size is off.

That’s right, it seems the two most odious activities that unavoidably accompany knitting are the very beginning and the very ending: checking gauge and weaving in ends. I experience them as much as the next person. Just today I finally decided to weave in the ends on Veyla mitts – the tiny little things had six ends to weave in each! I had finished them about ten days ago and just couldn’t force myself to get on with it. And guess what? It was done extremely quickly. After all the postponing, I am always shocked at how little time and effort it really requires, even if there are six ends to weave in on a single mitt. It’s kind of like going to the dentist: I always get somewhat scared and uncomfortable just before I’m supposed to go, and start looking for excuses not to do it. But on several occasions I have written down in my diary after going: Don’t be scared next time! It was a piece of cake!

Consider how much time it really takes you to make a gauge swatch (which is usually not more than 20 rows of 20 stitches). Weigh that against the anxiety of working through an entire project (even if it is just a hat, it takes much longer) and the frustration at realizing in the end that it is too small. Consider how difficult it really is to weave in ends (my 12 ends on a tiny project took no longer than 10-15 mins). Weigh that against that nagging voice you have in your head when you know that the project is almost done and the satisfaction of clicking finished on Ravelry. You’ll probably realize these activities require just tiny bits of time and effort. I’ll certainly try to next time.

short rows

Today I decided that I should learn something new – something that has been troubling me ever since I first encountered it: short rows. I resorted to my favorite knitting companion:

– clicking the photo takes you to the Amazon page where you can see more photos and/or buy it –

I really cannot recommend this book enough. I have found that I am very picky when it comes to books on knitting, whether they be instruction manuals (like this one) or pattern books. I have very few of the latter ones because most disappoint me when I give them a thorough look. As for manuals, I only own a Croatian one from which I learned my first stitches and this one. The Ultimate Knitting Bible is really what it says: all you need. It is thorough and is not afraid of using all the space it needs to explain each technique in detail. It has helped me with silly simple questions (e.g. How do you join a new ball of yarn? This had been a total mystery to me for a very long time.), complicated techniques (Well, is anything in knitting really complicated once you learn it? I guess an example would be What the hell is a skpo and how do I do it?), it has taught me the importance of gauge swatches and the difference you can make with blocking, and it has bailed me out when I was utterly desperate (e.g. when I realized I had dropped a stitch 5 rows below – it taught me how to fix it without ripping). The sections are really logical and it is easy to find whatever you need. I don’t really think it’s a book you’d go through from beginning to end (though you could), but more for looking things up when you need an unfamiliar technique or when you’re just stuck. It also offers instructions for small practice swatches, like the ones I used today for finally mastering short rows.

Oh yeah, and the photography – gorgeous. As well as the design. Someone really put a lot of effort and (at the risk of sounding cliche) love into it. I thank them for it.

discover!

A new discovery! I love Etsy, but I am a complete anti-talent for searching efficiently and/or browsing. I get bored going through tons of stuff (even if it is all great) and give up before I can get to those truly special finds… That is why I love Etsy newsletters, which bring a little cheer to me every day. :) And today, they brought me a discovery, in the shape of a yarn bowl! I had not known of the existence of such a thing before! And of course it exists, how could it not? I guess on a day when Kate is inspiring us to think about various ways of knitting on the go, this isn’t the most appropriate post (I don’t think you’ll be taking your yarn bowl with you to knit on the tube), but I must share my discovery!

pink

And as this seller suggests, not only does it stop your ball from running away, it helps it hide from (overly) curious pets. I don’t have one (of any kind, curious or not), but it is in my long term plans to get a kitty, and this seems like a great way to keep her away from yarn.

pets

So simple yet so practical! I feel like somewhere in the back of my head the idea for this had formed some time ago, but I don’t think I ever looked it up. (I guess not only kittens are interested in yarn!)

otherpet

One of these lovelies is definitely going on my wishlist…

wishlist

One thing confuses me though. There is a slit and there is a hole. It seems more logical to me to put the yarn through the hole, but in all the photos it is pulled through the slit. Am I missing something? And if so, what is the hole for then?

hole

And this one comes with a complementary mug. This person must really know the soul of a knitter – tea and yarn :)

withmug

And not to mention the fact that they are wonderful items of pottery in their own right. I’ll tell you a secret – pottery was my first shy excursion into the world of creating things, I took one class on ceramics in college and have been craving to go back to it ever since. However, in my class we did artsy ceramics, conceptual items, which was fun and enjoyable, but I always prefer making something that has a utilitarian aspect as well. I have been dreaming of creating plates, cereal bowls and mugs ever since. Unfortunately, lack of time, resources and, sadly, places that teach that kind of stuff, has prevented me. For now. I shall add yarn bowls to my list of ‘to create some day’ things. I have the confidence that it will become more than a list some day. :)

art

I should point out that clicking on any of the photos will take you to the seller’s site on etsy (I hope I have managed to do this right!). And, um, does it show that I have an obsession with green? I was unaware of it myself until I took a look at this post… :)

my space

Ever since I moved out of my parents’ home about six years ago, I have been struggling with spaces and furniture that were neither shaped nor in some cases chosen by me. I am quite undemanding when it comes to size, I don’t need a lot of space, but I do need to make it warm and cozy. And this can be hard when all you have to work with is what you find in the space. If you are renting an apartment, investments into refurbishment do not make sense. Even more, if you are renting a space in a foreign country where you will only stay a short time (say, a year), it does not even make sense to invest in extra furniture. In my case, this inevitably means I will rearrange the items quite often, always looking for that slight improvement without the additional cost… In my last apartment, I think I finally settled on the arrangement of furniture after a year and a half of living there and at least three major rearranging fits. I was to leave the place three months later.

My current space is a room which is quite bigger than I expected it to be, but of a weird elongated shape. Whatever you do, it’s not quite right. But after I got back to it after a two-weeks absence for the holidays, I had a stroke of inspiration and decided that I had to set up a little cozy relaxation corner slash living room slash work space, even at the cost of putting the bed too near the door. And I love it! Take a look :) And please excuse the mess… :)

space

frenzy

The knitting / blocking / photographing frenzy continues! I was just so annoyed by the large number of big blank “no featured photo” squares on my Ravelry page, and by the feeling of unfinished business…

Here are my two Ripleys:

rip1

I am not at all happy with the yarn I worked with. I bought it in my early days, when I had very little idea about the importance of different yarn weights, let alone yarn content…

rip2

All I cared about was color! And I still think these two colors would go well together, I’ve got about 50g left of each so I’ll have to whip something up.

rip3

It’s funny how much you can learn in such short time! I have been knitting for less than two years. Of that, I’d say I’ve been seriously knitting for a year. Yet when I had coffee with a friend who just started a month ago, I realized I had answers to almost all the questions that were popping into her mind – even the relatively unlikely ones such as the different methods of knitting (beyond the simple English vs. Continental dichotomy), e.g. knitting with a leather knitting belt!

rip4

A very important source of my education on the history and cultural aspects of knitting has been Kate, whose blog (not to mention the patterns!) is truly a treasure.

rip5

It’s also interesting how much lingo one learns when one starts a new activity. I learned to knit in my mother tongue. But soon, the interesting patterns and sources of inspiration ran out. I needed to find more. English was the obvious solution. I have been listening to English on TV since I was born, learning it in school since I was ten, it was my major in university, I lived and studied in an English-speaking country for a year, after which Ilived with an English-speaker for a year, after which I had a full-time job where communication was mainly in English for a year. I guess you could say my English is pretty good. :) But NONE of that helped when I was first faced with k1,p1,yo etc. This looked like Egyptian for all I cared! I was convinced I would never break the code. But, of course, I did. And very quickly at that. And it opened a whole new world to me.

rip6

Finally, a note on the Ripleys. Whenever I am doing an Ysolda pattern, at some point I always feel like someone is taking me backstage at a magician’s show and showing me how simple it is to do the big magnificent trick. The Ripleys and their ripples were no exception. A joy!

rip7