Tag Archive | knitting

Green Makes Red

So about a week ago, I reached the mid-way point of the intarsia pattern of the Ravenna satchel and what keeps running through my head is the slogan to a TV commercial that used to air when I was a kid: Calgon, take me away!

For I am overrun by strands of yarn and self-made bobbins.

As one woman so aptly writes in her project notes on Ravelry.com, the Ravenna satchel is not a traveling project. The farthest my own satchel-in-progress has traveled is the few feet it takes for me to pull it from its perch on my sideboard to the nearby floor, where I then sit with skeins of yarn, my accessories bag, and the intarsia pattern sprawled around me. I barely move until I’ve accomplished the two rows I’ve set out to knit each morning.

I know, I know: “Two rows? That’s all she knits?”

I admit while there have been a time or two in which I’ve accomplished at most four rows in one sitting, it usually takes me anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to knit one row. It all depends on how many times I have to stop to add in a new leaf or flower bobbin (which requires counting the stitches in the pattern and measuring out the correct length of yarn), fix stitches that have been pulled too tightly when switching colors or advancing a row, untangle the random bobbin, transfer yarn from one hand to the other, etc, etc.

Please tell me I’m not the only one to plod through this part of the pattern!

Looks decent from this side

Looks decent from this side

Considering this is the first time I’ve attempted intarsia, I may have—to use a tired cliché (my apologies, fellow writers)—bitten off more than I can chew without a lot of grumbling and swearing. (Uh, Mom, you can ignore that last bit.) I’ve done two-stranded color work before, where the non-working yarn is carried behind the working yarn, so I understand the need for wrapping the strands together to prevent holes in the pattern. And because I’m able to knit both Continental and English, the transition between colors is not an issue, either.

What is my problem, then?

I believe it’s the plethora of green leaves in the pattern that makes me see red.

Here is the thing about intarsia if you’re going to do it correctly: intarsia means you don’t carry the yarn behind your work, so if you are knitting a pink flower on a pale blue background, you need one bobbin of pink yarn and two bobbins of blue yarn—a blue bobbin for each side of the flower. Each bobbin, then, not only represents dangling strands of yarn prone to tangling, but also a starting and stopping point, i.e., loose ends with which to grapple during the knitting process and weave in at the end. Oh, joy!

In the lovely Ravenna satchel, we have twenty-nine leaves and seven flowers, to say nothing of the background color interspersed between them. That means we have…no, I can’t do the math; I’ll start to cry. But I think you get the picture. If not, look at the one below, taken almost two weeks ago.

Awash in wool spaghetti

Awash in wool spaghetti

Seeing as how on any given row I could be knitting up to six leaves and four flowers, I…um…haven’t strictly adhered to the rules of intarsia. One needs to maintain his/her sanity, after all. To that end, I have chosen to carry my background color (Clarity from Knit Picks) behind the leaves that are five stitches or less across. I may come to regret this in the felting process as the instructions say puckering can occur, but if that’s the case, at least you’ll know not to do the same thing should you ever attempt to knit this bag. 😉

I think if it weren’t for the many leaves, knitting this section would prove much less frustrating and taxing. It makes me wonder how the bag might look if one simply added all those leaves via needle-felting at the very end.

Maybe someday, once I’m fully sane again, I’ll try it with a new mix of colors and report back my findings.

Summer Knitting…

Ravenna Satchel by Marta McCall

About six months ago, I realized I could use a new travel bag—you know, something to bring on a flight or the occasional overnight trip—but I wanted to knit one for myself rather than buy one. So once again I visited Ravelry.com (love that site!) and I stumbled upon the Ravenna Satchel by Marta McCall. I swear the Halleluiah Chorus started playing (or maybe that was just the Christmas music in the background at the time), for even though it would take another several weeks before I purchased the pattern, I pretty much knew that was the bag I wanted to knit.

blossoming hues

Color scheme I chose from design-seeds.com

I hesitated forking over the money for so long because the pattern itself is $12—a hefty price tag for me when it comes to a knitting pattern. The written instructions, however, arrived on thick, heavy sheets of paper, almost like cardstock, with large, glossy pictures; I’m hopeful these sheets will survive the dozens of shoves and pulls they’ll undergo in my knitting bag as I refer to them over and over again. The other reason I took a while to make a decision was because I had to be sure I wanted to spend sixty-plus dollars of my birthday/Christmas money on wool yarn. (Very thankful for Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, otherwise the cost would have been higher!) In the end, because I really wanted to do another felting project that included needle felting and the bag looked soooo inviting and original, I just could not say no.

Before I ever ordered yarn, however, I did what many knitters decide to do on a project: change the colors to better fit my style. So to the Internet I turned for ideas, where I stumbled upon design-seeds.com (I highly encourage anyone who is contemplating colors and their complements to check out this site!). Amazingly enough, once I chose my color scheme, I was able to match all six colors with skeins of yarn from Knit Picks Wool of the Andes—which has over one hundred color choices!

Probably the easiest part of the pattern: knitting what will be the bottom of the bag

Probably the easiest part of the pattern: knitting what will be the bottom of the bag

I’m excited to undergo a new knitting challenge, and this time I thought I’d take you on the journey with me, so every few weeks (give or take a week depending on how often I get to knit, now that my girls are on summer vacation!) I’ll share my progress with you, along with any woes I’m certain to have. Because a project isn’t a project if it doesn’t have any woes, right? 😉

Bottom is finished and I've picked up the stitches to continue the body of the bag

Bottom is finished and I’ve picked up the stitches to continue the body of the bag

To be continued… 🙂

Life: One Row At a Time

A few posts back I mentioned knitting Teva Durham’s Cabled Riding Jacket, a beautiful, form-fitting jacket, but only accomplished via an intimidating, advanced knitting pattern. It took almost five years from when I bought Ms. Durham’s book, Loop-d-Loop, before I finally steeled my resolve to knit the jacket. A few things hindered me. First: I didn’t consider myself to be an advanced knitter. Second and third: Not only did the instructions for the pattern seem so complex and confusing, but I also knew I’d be coming at this pattern backwards, for I’m a self-taught left-handed knitter. Fourth: Online comments from fellow knitters, discouraged with a certain part of this pattern, had me questioning the feasibility of completing such a project. (Since those comments, errata are available here.)

The point is that for several years, I allowed my own insecurities about my knitting skills plus the frustrations and doubts of others to inhibit me from giving the pattern a try.

How many of us, I wonder, have avoided certain projects simply because the end results seemed too complicated, too unachievable with our limited knowledge? How many of us have given up on a dream because the path seemed impossible to traverse from where we stood at the crossroads? (I’m raising my hand, too.) Did you know that every knitted project I’ve ever done has been accomplished one row at a time? I know, I know: That’s obvious. Duh! But that means when I was knitting along on row 10, I really shouldn’t have worried about how I would handle integrating all the side notes and “At the same time” portions of the pattern—because I wasn’t there yet! It wasn’t until after I arrived at those sections that I had a better understanding of the instructions…and by then I found it easier to manage!

Life is like knitting. We can only take it one row—one day—at a time. Often, however, we allow ourselves to get overwhelmed thinking about our schedules for next week or next month, or we get panicky over where we might be (or not be) a year from now. And we exert mental energy trying to figure out all the “what if’s” that could happen between now and then to ensure we have a game plan for every scenario. (Okay, maybe I should change all those “we’s” to “I’s”.)

My husband and I are reading through the calendar-version of Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, and one of its recurring themes is learning to focus on today. What does God want me to do today? What does He want to teach me today? I’m not promised tomorrow or next month, so while there’s nothing wrong in making loose plans for the future, to fret about that future wastes time and effort better spent on living in the present.

For example, I have young children ages ten and seven, and over the years I’ve heard many people say, “Oh, just wait ’til they become teenagers!” (A non-threatening way to imply it’s bound to get worse than it already is.) Considering how society seems headed in the opposite direction of my Christian values, I have a tendency to worry about how I’m going to steer my girls through that tumultuous period of life. But here’s the thing I have to remember: I don’t have teenagers yet. God hasn’t equipped me with the strength and wisdom and patience I need to handle teens because He’s equipping me with what I need now to handle my tweens. (And who knows? Maybe by the time I get there, I’ll find my kids are generally obedient, loving, and respectful. If it could happen to my parents…)

In the end, there’s something extremely freeing in knowing I don’t have to agonize over tomorrow; God’s already there and He’s got my back. All He’s asking me to do is take care of today—and He’d love it if I held His hand while I went about it.

So the next time you find yourself face-to-page with a daunting knitting pattern, just remember to approach it row by row. Taken in stitch-sized segments, it won’t seem so overwhelming.

Taken in daily doses, Life isn’t so overwhelming, either.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Matthew 6:34 The Message, copyright 2005.

Knit Two, Purl One…I’m Addicted!

I love to knit. Give me an invigorating skein of yarn, a pair of wood needles and a fun pattern, and no drive is too long, no extra-curricular activity too mind-numbing. (Provided I’m not the one driving, or my child in the spectator seat isn’t needling me to entertain her because she’s bored.) One of my girlfriends once said, “I wish I felt free to bring my knitting into the church service. I could concentrate on the sermon so much better if my hands had something to do.” I think many of us who love the craft would concur with that sentiment when we find ourselves having to sit somewhere, idle for too long. Oh, the rows we could have logged in that amount of time!

I fell into the art of knitting at random, if you ask me, though the idea had intrigued me for years. At some point soon after I graduated college, my grandmother gave me her mother’s array of knitting needles, my mom supplied me with your basic “Learn to Knit” pamphlet, and I was off and running. I don’t even remember having conversations about wanting to learn, but I suppose I must have needed something to do with my free time now that school work was out of the way.

Cabled Riding Jacket ~by Teva Durham

Cabled Riding Jacket ~by Teva Durham

My first project—a baby blanket—was a flop. Then again, most first projects are; do I hear an “Amen”? Over the ensuing decade and a half, I have since made umpteen successful baby blankets for cousins, girlfriends and my own two girls; when knitting all those rectangles became too tedious, I switched to knitting stuffed animals. I’ve knitted hats, mittens, and scarves; ponchos and sweaters (when my girls were little and one skein went a long way), and a few years ago I finally tackled the daunting Cabled Riding Jacket by Teva Durham as a gift for…myself! But my favorite things to knit, by far, are projects that I later felt in the washing machine and sweater tops for my BJD, Ellowyne Wilde. Below is my latest sweater from one of Becky Colvin’s pattern using Patons super fine yarn.

"Trendy Tunic" ~Pattern by Becky Colvin

“Trendy Tunic” ~Pattern by Becky Colvin



For more fun knitting patterns for Ellowyne Wilde and other BJDs, you’ll want to visit Becky Colvin’s website, http://www.sew-coolseparates.com/dollclothing/. She’s an incredibly talented knitter and seamstress! Kudos, as well, to sites like Ravelry.com, which provides thousands of patterns (some free, some not) for people like me who typically grow bored after knitting the same thing more than once.

So what’s a girl to do to fuel her passion for knitting when clothes and accessories fail to inspire?

Try needle felting, of course!