Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back in Stock at Creativemind - Red Voyageur Cap

This unique cap is one of the more popular items in my Etsy shop. It is a historically authentic cap that the Voyageurs, or French fur traders, wore in the 1600’s when they were exploring Canada and the northeastern United States. A friend of mine who does reenacting had asked me to knit one for him, and when others reenactors saw it, he suggested I make more.

This painting by Frances Anne Hopkins shows an example of just such a cap:

The cap is made form 100% wool yarn, and this one is the most traditional color – red. The shape is basically that of a squashed football, and it’s worn by tucking one end up into the other end, which gives a double layer to keep your head warm. The pointed end of the cap is then folded over to one side for a jaunty look.

Not only have these caps been popular with the reenactors, many other people have found them to be a unique form of winter headgear. In the past I’ve knit special orders in a variety of colors, and have adding ribbing and a tassel as a special request.

If you attend Black Powder Rendezous, or other historical events, or are just looking for a great way to stay warm, check it out!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

She's Got Legs...

Ok, I don’t have rock star super model legs by any stretch of the imagination, but now, after several months of off and on knitting, I’ve got leg warmers to keep them warm!

Often in the winter, I’ll change into jammies or a flannel nightgown early in the evening, especially if I’m just going to be sitting and knitting and watching tv or listening to books. I would bundle up pretty well, but with a nightgown, I’d still have cold legs, especially when I’d have to leave my little nest for some reason. I realized two or even three years ago that leg warmers would be the answer, but it took this long to get going and actually make some.

Even though I could have figured out something on my own, I decided to find a pattern as a jumping off point. I liked the looks of a pattern called Ribbed Thigh Highs from the Lion Brand website; it was what I had in mind – something long enough to go over the knee, and just a basic stitch design. I can't link directly to the pattern - you'd need to register and log in just to look at it :(

The yarn I chose was a vintage yarn from my stash – City by Aarlan. It’s a superwash merino wool, DK weight, and long ago discontinued. I bought this yarn via mail-order in the 1980s, and have kept this little stash of it for so long, looking for just the right project. I have only a few balls each of four bright 80’s colors, and I could never figure out what to do with them. There wasn’t enough of any one color to make something big, and combining the colors would need just the right project. Plus, it was superwash MERINO, which at the time of purchase was something rare and cherished. It’s still a luxury fiber, but it’s more readily available today.

I finally decided it’s time had come, and selected the teal color for the legwarmers. I started knitting in October of last year, and although it was easy going, I kept having to the knitting aside for more urgent projects.

I didn’t follow the pattern exactly as written. My row gauge must not have matched, because if I had worked 12 rounds between decreases, these would have been miles long! I did a few 12 round intervals, then switched to six, then to four, then back to six. Whatever looked like appropriate leg shaping.  I kept track by making notes on the pattern, and finally got the first one finished. I put it on one cold evening while I started the second legwarmer, and already I could feel the difference.

While working on this project, I realized that I do not have a problem at all with “Second Sock Syndrome”. For me, it’s just the opposite. Usually it’s the first sock that is the tedious affair, because from the beginning I have so much to figure out. How many rounds of ribbing? 10? 12? 1 inch? 2? Ok, 2 – write that down.  Write down rounds and keep track of repeats of stitch pattern. Which rounds have leg shaping? Write it down. How many rounds for the foot? Write it down. How many stitches left on the toe for Kitchener stitch? Usually, I have a pattern page or a memo pad full of jottings, hash marks, and hopefully usefully information like needle size and stitch counts. All this deciding and calculating and estimating takes extra time.

So once the first sock, or in this case leg warmer, is cast off, I’m ready for smooth sailing on the mate. All the hard work has been done. All I have to do is follow my notes, tick the same number of hash marks, and the second sock, leg warmer, or mitten, almost flies off the needles.

The leg warmers were finished last week. I wore them one evening, and they feel wonderful. There is a little drawback that they don’t stay up on bare legs, which I was sort of expecting. But they only droop when I’m walking around, and not much. So once I’m settled on the sofa, I pull them up and stay comfy cozy.

There was one ball of teal yarn left, and I think I’ll use it and the other bright colors of City for some multi-color socks similar to the pair in my Etsy avatar. Those were made and sold years ago, and I miss them. They were quirky and fun, and the world needs another pair!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New at Creativemind - Black Watch Cap

One of the ways I want to use the blog more this year is to highlight items that are added to my Etsy shop. Often there’s a reason why I make something, or a story behind its making. Or sometimes I’m just knitting. Here goes!

This black watch cap was added on January 1.  To me, the black ribbed watch cap is a classic. It conjures up images of merchant seamen or sailors, of robbers or bad guys from the movies, or hikers and outdoorsmen.  And it’s a unisex style – women can also wear this cap with ease and comfort.

Besides the classic style, another reason I like to make these ribbed caps is just that – the ribbing. The standard knit 2, purl 2 ribbing is so stretchy that it can accommodate several head sizes. This is especially nice if the cap is a gift – it’s bound to fit!

The yarn I used for this cap is Berroco Vintage, and it’s a new yarn for me. It’s a blend of wool and acrylic, which makes the yarn easy to care for. I liked the heft of the yarn, and thought it was very pleasant to knit with.

If you are looking for a standard wardrobe staple, or a great gift, be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Year in Review - Just some Tidbits

Happy New Year! Here we are off and running with new goals, new aspirations, and new dreams. I didn’t write a list of resolutions this year. Several years ago, I sat down with a legal pad, and not only made a list of goals, but actually outlined the steps necessary to meet those goals. It’s a beautiful list – more than six pages long! It’s fun to look at it year after year, and see what’s been accomplished, and what hasn’t.

Several months ago I also came across a little notebook that had a few blank pages in it. I’ve been using it for daily reminders, and will toss it when I’ve used up the pages. But at the beginning of the notebook are my 1993 Resolutions. This is even funnier, because in addition to the common goals of “eat sensibly” and “be frugal” are some that are past their sell-by date, such as “label all video tapes” and “clip coupons diligently”. A few pages further in the notebook are some daily accomplishments, including several days spent “working on labeling video tapes”. I think now that most of those tapes are long gone. And my hardcore couponing went by the wayside when I realized I was spending more money buying name brand items I didn’t necessarily need just to use a coupon, when generic was still cheaper, if the item was needed at all.

But my topic for today was a look back, not forward. I won’t bore you with the vital statistics of how many grams of yarn I knit up, or how many books I read, but instead have these few observations to share.

I did knit up a lot of yarn. That was good. More than 20 pounds, more than in 2010. But this year I also tracked how much yarn came into the house. Even with being on a yarn buying moratorium, it happened. Not in a drunken binge sort of way, but in very carefully considered purchases. And even though I was very restrained, I still purchased almost as much as I knit up. My net use was only 20 balls of yarn. For someone trying to bust stash, this is not very encouraging!

Most of the projects I made in 2011 were not for me. I had several on the go, but what routinely got finished were items for the Etsy shop, or the Craft Barn, or for gifts. That’s ok, but I’d really like to enjoy more of my efforts. And I’d like to make some of the more complex pieces that require attention and aren’t necessarily good “take-along” projects. Still, I can’t say that I made anything that I didn’t like working on.

Books – I listened to a lot of audio books in 2011. I started with audio books several years ago when I got a treadmill. Trying to read a book or look at a magazine while on it made me dizzy, but the audio books held my attention. Often I would go and walk just to hear what happened next. Eventually I was listening while I cooked, or knit, or cleaned. I worked my way through the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton, and I’m about halfway through her Hamish MacBeth series. These are light mysteries, and they remind me of when I was a youth, devouring the Nancy Drew mysteries. I would check out three or four from the library and read all weekend.
With audio books, the narrators make all the difference. I enjoyed the readers of the Agatha Raisin series, but was not as impressed with the readers of Hamish MacBeth. I also tried a Richard Russo novel where the reader was so clinical and sterile that I gave up after an hour, deciding I’d rather read the book myself and put my own voice to the characters. Probably the best audio book I listened to during the year was “Montana, 1948” by Larry Watson, read by Beau Bridges. He did a wonderful job not only of portraying  the characters, but of setting the mood, and giving the book the atmosphere of the place and time.

I hope that this year continues to provide new opportunities for enrichment, both creatively and intellectually. I’d like to try to blog more, of course, so be on the lookout for ramblings on a variety of subjects. You never know what will turn up!