Rockett’s Revenge

This is what happens when your dog gets revenge for leaving him home when you run off to the yarn store.

But this is what he looks like when you get home.

Rockett

How can you you possibly get mad at a face like that?

Time to start unraveling . . .

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A New Baby Means New Projects on the Needles

There’s nothing like a new baby in the family to stir things up. It affects everything, including knitting, and puts new ideas into one’s head and on the needles.

When I found out last summer that my daughter was pregnant with our first grandchild, of course all I could think about was all the cute baby things I could knit.
And since they live in the cold, rainy Pacific Northwest, warm, knitted baby items would actually be put to good use.

As my daughter’s belly got bigger and the nesting instinct grew, she wanted a knitting project of her own. I suggested knitting a baby cocoon, something I had never made myself. She found an easy pattern online, some soft, colorful yarn, and went to work.

The little green cocoon was taken to the hospital in March and put to good use after Liam was born. Dominique got so many compliments on it every time she took him out in public, I decided to knit one myself.

Liam, one week old, in the green cocoon

Once I made the first one, I had to make more (kind of like when I went OCD on the bamboo silk scarves last spring). The ideas started flowing. I made a few in an acrylic/wool blend, then decided to make a few in cotton. I don’t have much experience with cotton, but I’m hooked. It’s my new favorite yarn fiber this year.

ToastyStrings_PinkCocoon_084-101
Liam, at 3 months, in the first cotton cocoon

So, inspired by my grandson, I’ve added baby cocoons to the collection this year. I’ve also knitted some baby blankets, which will be listed soon. Who knows what else he’ll inspire me to make in the future?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, from our crew to yours!



 

Toasty Strings
Nevada, Michael, Angela, Rockett, and Shasta

Texas Knitting in Portland

If you’re a knitter in a warm climate, like me, you always look forward to visiting someplace that’s colder. Not only does it mean you’ll get a break from the heat, but more importantly it means there will be lots of new yarn shops to visit. Such was the case for me these past two weeks while visiting Portland, OR, to see my five months pregnant daughter and her husband.

Mt Hood
Mt Hood! Always a great sight just before we land.

Though I only got to visit one yarn shop this time around, it was one I’ve had on my radar for a long time: Happy Knits. Such a great shop! I bought three different types of yarn in lovely colors–but it was hard to stop at only three. I can’t wait to start knitting something from those yarns very soon.

Lovely colors of Cascade Yarns from Happy Knits.
Lovely colors of Cascade Yarns from Happy Knits.

Portland is known for its soggy, cold autumns, but I must have brought my Texas skies with me because it only rained one day and sleeted another. Most days were cloudless but cold, and I kept hearing from everyone there, “It isn’t usually like this here this time of year.” I didn’t expect it to get as cold as it did–but I think the entire country was unprepared for that cold blast of early winter last week.

Latourell Falls
Three ninjas at Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

I talked my daughter into starting a cocoon for the future baby, and then I taught my son’s girlfriend how to knit (this has been a secret desire of mine for years). After loading up on #13 needles and thick yarn, and teaching her the knit (right) stitch to practice on, she got to work and promptly knitted up a lovely, chunky garter stitch scarf for herself. She’s hooked now (though I’m afraid I’ve lost a customer for life).

Nicole's first knitted scarf!
Nicole’s first knitted scarf!

We also had to make an emergency trip for circular needles for my daughter, and inadvertently discovered a local store the size of Alaska: Fabric Depot. Though mostly geared towards seamstresses, with a huge space displaying row after row of beautiful fabrics, they had a good-sized section of yarns, needles, and books. Best of all, the cashier told us it’s a family-owned business and has been there for years. I haven’t sewn in a long time, but Fabric Depot made me want to start again.

Seastacks at Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast.
Seastacks at Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast.

It was a whirlwind two weeks. With trips to the Columbia River Gorge, Rockaway and Canon beaches on the coast, a visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the Portland Farmer’s Market downtown, and a Capital Cities concert (their song Safe and Sound became my personal anthem last year when I had ovarian cancer), I stayed busy. I did manage to knit three warm, wool scarves during the trip, so look for them soon in the shop.

Raspberry and Wine Portland Scarves
Raspberry and Wine Portland Scarves

My last few nights in Portland found Dominique, Nicole, and I curled up on the couch, knitting and talking about life and all the things women talk about when they’re alone. It was a lovely reminder of how making things by hand, and passing on the ancient craft of knitting, can bring us even closer together.

safe and sound tshirt
Yes, I am!

***** These photos were all taken with my phone, so please excuse the poor quality!

It’s Been Awhile

I’ve been busy. Very busy. So busy I pretty much stopped writing for six months.

But I never stopped knitting.

Last year was an incredible year. I got married, was in the best shape of my life, had just come back from a vacation in Utah (one of my top three places on earth) with my son and his girlfriend, and had enough finished knitted items to toy seriously with the idea of starting my own little business.

And then at the end of May I went to the ER. And quickly discovered I had cancer. Ovarian cancer.

I won’t go into detail about that year. I wrote extensively about the experience on my other blog, Mind Margins. After surgery and chemo, I was declared cancer-free by December 2013.

teal-ribbon1

It was an incredible experience. I am so lucky to have caught it early and to have survived. Two friends I made during that time, and the majority of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year (all years, in fact), weren’t so lucky.

Looking back at this past year post-cancer, I suppose I went through a modified version of the stages of grief. During treatment I was nothing but positive. I never, ever thought I wouldn’t survive. Post-chemo, however, was another story. Looking back on what I had gone through, and survived, I initially felt scared. I thought a lot about dying. That turned to anger. Then sadness. Then just plain depression. It didn’t last long, but these past few months I’ve needed a break from all things cancer.

And every time I sat down to write, my fingers wanted to write about having cancer. My brain didn’t.

So I did everything but write–which means I got a lot of knitting done. I started running again. I spent a lot of time just sitting and thinking about what had happened and the things I learned from it. I put things in perspective and reorganized my life.

I grew my hair back.

And I knit. I knit a lot, sometimes for hours and hours. The pieces I’ll be listing soon were all knit during this post-cancer time of my life. It’s a time that’s been filled with family and love, appreciation for life, and learning to remake myself. I hope you enjoy my pieces as much as I enjoyed creating them.

– Angela

Just Because It’s Spring Doesn’t Mean the Knitting Stops

It’s getting warmer. Here in Texas, spring is late. I’m not complaining. Before you know it we’ll have triple digit temps and knitting will seem silly. Well, not really silly, but it won’t be as much fun as it is in the winter.

I took a much needed break from the bamboo silk yarn and knit a few wool, mohair, and recycled cashmere scarves.

Mohair cowl
Aubergine Mohair Cowl

Then I was ready to get back to the bamboo silk.  I missed it.

For the first time in years, I knit something I didn’t love. It didn’t hang right. It was bunched up looking, and strangely limp. I was disappointed. I wanted to unravel it and try something else. I decided to block it first and see if that helped.

Bamboo silk cowl
Sea Blue Cowl with Lace Pattern

It did, and now I love it again.

There’s something to be said for the magic of blocking. Depending on the fiber used and the pattern, sometimes it truly does turn a lackluster piece into something worth saving.

Fun with Photography

Taking photographs of the items I’ve knit is not always fun, especially if you’re not the one taking the photos. It can be tedious and time-consuming. I try to take different kinds of photos of each item: some on a live model, some on a mannequin, and some still close-ups. There is a lot that goes into taking all these different photos.

This weekend, a friend of mine snatched up two of the bamboo silk scarves before I even had a chance to officially list them on the website. I needed more photos of the scarves in order to post them in the Etsy shop so she could purchase them, so we had to scramble over the weekend to get the close-up shots done.

I told my husband, who takes almost all of the photos of everything I knit, that I wanted to try something new. Inspired by so many lovely jewelry photos I’ve seen lately incorporating natural objects in the backgrounds, this is what we came up with for the two scarves:

bamboo silk scarf

bamboo silk cowl

Thank God for Michael. I have no patience for photography. I can sit and knit for hours, but trying to figure out camera settings and flashes make me crazy.

I love the new photos. I especially like the splash of green from the plants in the background, and the effect of the reflective material he used in the light box. I’m looking forward to taking more shots like this in the future and finding more complementary items to include.

I Went Back

I couldn’t resist. I went back and bought more bamboo silk yarn. And on the way home I had a flash of creative inspiration and went back for more. Then I went online and discovered four more colors and ordered them all.

My name is Angela and I am addicted to bamboo silk yarn.

So much for putting that wax in the ears.

bamboo silk scarf

bamboo silk scarf

bamboo silk scarf

bamboo silk scarf

bamboo silk scarf

(Apologies for the quality of the photos. These were taken on the fly by me.)

The Call of the Silk Sirens

Around Christmastime I found some beautiful bamboo/silk yarn at a local store. The colors were bright, shiny, and vibrant and the feel was soft and buttery. I had been doing a lot of knitting with chunky wools and fell in love with the smooth, delicate look of the bamboo/silk yarn. Also, I had yet to knit with either bamboo or silk.  And those colors! Plum, Slate, Wine, and Sapphire! Just the names made me swoon. Like the mermaids calling the ships to the rocks, I couldn’t resist the call of the silk sirens.

Karl von Blaas, 1882, via Wikimedia Commons

I bought four skeins in two different colors. Then I went back and bought four more skeins in two more colors.

I quickly learned that everything I loved about the yarn in the store was true. On the surface, it was beautiful. It was soft, shiny, and draped beautifully when knit. But oh what a sly temptress when it came to knitting.

I’m not a perfect knitter. I rarely sit and just knit, which means I’m either watching/listening to TV or the radio or talking to someone at the same time. I make mistakes, but they’re small ones and easy to fix. Or at least they were before now.

I’m an Olympics junkie; I watch everything.  This has been the perfect excuse to spend hours knitting in front of the TV. However, watching slope style skiing, figure skating, or snowboard cross and knitting a complicated pattern at the same time, and not forgetting a few YO’s here and there, is impossible. Trust me.

By Tsutomu Takasu, via Wikimedia Commons

With the bamboo/silk, stitches couldn’t be ripped out and put back on the needles without more stitches slipping down a few rows. On the lace panels, this was terribly confusing and almost impossible to fix. Several times I threw in the towel, pulling everything out and taking the scarf all the way back to the K1, P1 ribbing, which was easy to pick back up again. I rarely rip stitches out, but I found myself doing a lot of this during figure skating.

On scarf #4 I wasn’t happy with the way the cables looked, and wanted to add symmetrical twisted knit columns, so I pulled out an entire evening’s worth of knitting back to the beginning. My family gasped, then rolled their eyes, knowing how OCD I am about some most things.

Today I’ll cast off the very last scarf. After weeks of grumbling about how glad I would be to finish off the bamboo/silk yarns, I’m actually kind of sad. The cowl scarves are soooooo soft and pretty and delicate. I’ve never knit anything quite like them before.

Knitted bamboo silk cowls
The finished products.

I learned a lot knitting with these yarns, especially about starting over again. I love a challenge, but knitting a silk blend with aluminum needles was like trying to knit cooked, buttered spaghetti. I should have tried bamboo needles.

Despite my trials, I’m tempted to go back to the store and get more bamboo/silk yarn in a different color.  Why? Because they are so beautiful and sing such a sweet song, especially now that they’ve taken a new form. But it’s time be strong and plug my ears with wax and sail away. The humongous yarn stash in my closet is calling me back. I have treasures buried deep within my huge Tub O’ Yarn that I haven’t seen in months–and a few more days of Olympics to watch.

Snow Knitting

I feel like a true knitter. There’s snow on the ground and I’m knitting. I had to go to New Mexico to find this snow, but I have become legit because of it.

I’ve been knitting for over thirty years. I’ve knit hundreds of things, and even make money selling my pieces. And yet, it takes snow falling from the sky for me to feel legit, kind of like a white Christmas adding authenticity to the holiday.

Snow on pine trees
The view outside my window.

Most of my knitting has been done in Texas, though I learned to knit when I lived in Switzerland. My children were babies, and knitting was something I did to keep them warm. There was a lot of snow knitting in those days.

Until the past few years, and since returning to Texas twenty-odd years ago, knitting was mostly relegated to our short winters. One hundred degree temps and day after day of blazing sunshine are not conducive to knitting with wool. Even worse, the kids slowly became old enough to realize that mom’s bulky hand knits were neither practical nor cool enough to wear around their friends.

But now the kids are grown and they love the things I knit for them. They’ve brought two additional adults into the family to knit for these past few years, and maybe one day there will be babies to keep warm once again.

Everything comes full circle.

snow
The kids

What is it about knitting on a snowy day that adds authenticity to the activity? Is it the same as when I felt I wasn’t a “real” runner until I ran a marathon? Just like running on an overcast day with cool temps and no humidity, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing on a rare snowy day than knitting. For whatever the reason, it makes me feel real.

Knitting. Running. Family. My top three in a nutshell.

With my daughter, Dominique while cross-country skiing–and, yes, I’m wearing one of my scarves!

Quite simply, this is what it’s all about. Surrounded by my family, I knit in front of an open fire. It crackles and spits, and my knitting grows. Outside my window, the snow comes down in a steady rain of beautiful white flakes.

It’s definitely a day meant for knitting.

fireplace