Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wild Life

Compared with Seattle, it often feels like we're living in the "country" here.  The main reason for this is the constant presence of wildlife.  There are lots of deer everywhere.  I find this incredible and novel, especially when they're just meandering through our yard, but it seems like most folks here are pretty used to them.  I recently looked up from my computer to see this buck standing outside of my window.  I've missed getting pictures of deer before, so I took a chance, grabbed my camera, and just walked out the door.  I finally got a good picture!  He eventually bounded over a little fence and into the forest, but he gave me some good opportunities to photograph him before that.  

I also got a mom and her fawn on their way up our driveway.

I've gushed a bit about how wonderful it is to pick wild blackberries, but when it's blackberry season, it's spider season too!  

These spiders look the same as the ones I'm used to seeing in Seattle, so they must be a Pacific Northwest thing.  Anybody know anything about them?

I've learned a bit about how to pick blackberries and avoid picking too many spiders.  Wear solid shoes and long pants, step with care, and move slowly.  The shoes and the careful stepping are really to avoid the ubiquitous deer scat.  The long pants and the moving slowly are to prevent thorn scratches, getting all caught up in thorns, and sticking your face or hand into the middle of a spider web, which is extremely alarming even though I'm not specifically afraid of spiders.  The feeling of a spider web all over your face is just creepy.

Here's the bay

...where I see things like this Bladderwrack, a kind of seaweed which I'm told is edible, but I haven't tried it yet.  

How about you?  What wild things have you been seeing lately?

In knitting news, that secret project in the Hazel Knits Divine is finished and in the mail, and my next collection is so close to publication I can hardly stand it!  The collection consists of three patterns and the whole thing is somewhat Halloween themed.  It'll be available on October 1, so keep your eyes peeled.

And our Eple Knit Along is starting October 1 as well, so make sure you've got some sock yarn at the ready!  

Read more about the knit along in my Ravelry group.
Read more about Eple.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yarn-y Goodness

So yes, I have been getting up early to knit in the woods and then practice yoga (not in the woods, though).  And yes, I have been taking long bike rides with my fella, and eating delicious local cheeses and drinking Washington wines, and taking pictures on the beach.  

But, in all my other moments, I've been working!  (I have no children, you see.)  I was thrilled last week to get this amazing Hazel Knits Divine in the mail for a super secret project, especially since it was the first package I've received in Canada.  Its arrival gave me confidence that the post does work!  Not to mention that it was then my job to knit with it non-stop until the project was finished because I was on a deadline.  

Another major project I've had on my plate has been planning for my Knit Fit class, which I'm getting more and more excited about.  I've mentioned this several times, but never talked in depth about it.  The class is called, "The Elements of Hand Knitting Design"  and the official description is:

Take your knitting to the next level by designing your own projects. Learn how to choose stitch patterns, fiber, and yarn for any design and practice the basic procedure for making it happen. Plan a scarf or wrap design in class using the skills you learn.

When I was invited to submit a class proposal for Knit Fit, I had a whole range of class ideas and couldn't settle on one for the longest time.  Then somebody asked me what I get most excited about in knitting.  Without a pause, I said, "yarn!"  So that's what this class is really about.  But it isn't just about me being in love with yarn or fawning over wool.  It's about all the considerations that go into choosing yarn for a project.  Of course you start with the obvious things like color, weight and fiber, but what about plies, stitch definition, and drape?   Even seemingly simple choices like the weight and fiber used for a project have a whole range of consequences that might not be immediately apparent.  And then you get into stitch pattern as well, which interacts in a beautiful but somewhat complicated way with yarn choice.  This class is about how to take everything into consideration and achieve the result you're looking for, whether you just want to substitute yarn or modify an existing pattern, or create something completely original from scratch.  It's about the conversation that a knitter needs to have with herself throughout the process.

I want students to have hands-on experience of how yarn and stitch pattern choice impact knitted fabric, so I've been knitting swatches.  This is a stack of the swatches I've been knitting, and I'm definitely not finished yet.  

This process has been really fun and rewarding.  I do this all the time for individual designs, but in order to standardize what students will be looking at (and touching!), all of the swatches are 40 stitches by 40 rows.  It's amazing how different that looks in all the yarns and stitch patterns that I've made the swatches out of.  It's all information that I know in my brain, but it's such fun to experience it so immediately.  

So after all that fiber ranting, if you've been curious about yarn and stitch choice and are ready to create some designs for yourself, I encourage you to sign up for the class.  And if you have any particular questions you'd like me to address, please comment below!  I'd love to have input from knitters.

Here's a little basket of inspiration.  I set it up by color so I could look at it and get excited.  It's working.

What's inspiring you?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cowichan Bay

Now that I've lived here for more than two weeks, I've got to tell you about Cowichan Bay.  It's a tiny village on Vancouver Island (population 2,575) about an hour's drive north of Victoria.  

There are signs along the road that say, "Seaside Village Route", and that's a perfect description.  It seems a bit overly romantic, but a seaside village is exactly what it is.  There are lots of lovely houses up in the hills, but the main strip of the village is right along the water.  The shops look directly out on the boats and a lovely island across the bay.  If you sit facing the bay in Hecate Park, you can see little seals' noses poking above the water, and all sorts of birds swooping around and waiting for fish.  

When the tide is low, you can see the starfish suctioned onto the poles of the docks.  I mostly see the starfish when I'm waiting for my laundry.  The only laundromat in town is one washer and one dryer at the end of a long pier that's there mostly for the fishermen and tourists who are mooring their boats at the wharf.  

Getting to and from the main bit of the village from our apartment is even picturesque.  From the top, there's a lovely view of the water, boats, and mountains, and there's a wooden staircase that makes a little shortcut from our street to one below.  It makes the hill seem inviting, especially since those bushes to the right of the trail are full of ripe blackberries.  I will definitely miss blackberry season when it's over.

There's a patch of woods right next to our place where we like to explore and just sit.  If you sit still long enough, deer (and deer babies!) will come right into the clearing and stare at you.  I have yet to get a picture of this, but I am working on it!

Another bit of nature I've been enjoying is the beaches.  Since dawn and dusk are the best time for outdoor photos, especially with how blindingly sunny it's been here, I've taken the time to be on the beach early in the morning.  It's about a five minute walk to this beach.

And the colors are downright inspirational.  Does this make anyone else think Fair Isle?  (Thank you Alice Starmore for helping me notice these things!)

Since bikes are our only mode of transport right now, we've been riding them a lot.  The trek to the grocery store is getting easier (especially since I learned how to properly inflate my tires!  Learning curve.)  And we've been riding around just for fun too.  The whole area is just forest and farm land full of cows, goats, sheep, and horses.  It's definitely a big change from city life, but I think it suits us perfectly.  We're planning a riding tour of some local wineries too since I got a taste for that sort of thing by touring some eastern Washington wineries.

I know I haven't even mentioned Cowichan sweaters or knitters throughout this whole thing.  I thought that would be all I'd be interested in, but there's so much more to talk about!  I am working on getting lots of Cowichan knitting tales (and pictures) and I promise to pass them on.  Stay tuned.

Thanks, Cowichan Bay for the warm welcome!

You can read more about the village here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eple - Knit along with us!

Because of all the moving craziness, I never got around to sharing my latest design, Eple.  

I was skeining some Artisan Sock in the Hazel Knits yarn barn, when I spied a brilliant hank of green yarn that I'd never seen before.  One of the benefits of hanging out with Wendee so much is that I got to see super secret sneak peaks of new colors, even club colors!  (I miss that already!)  It turned out this one was for a club that would have some apple reference in it.  Wendee and I proceeded to think how wonderful and easy it would be to create a basic sock pattern with some kind of apple motif duplicate-stitched on.  Of course when she suggested I might do the designing for the sock, I said yes.  

My first attempt was a big 3-D looking duplicate stitched apple for the outside of the ankle.  This looked very cool.  But it took me FOREVER to embroider, and it was thick and incredibly dense.  Somebody asked me if it was fun to do, and I realized that no, it was not fun.  It was time-consuming and irritating.  Apparently I'm a big fan of knitting, but excessive amounts of embroidery?  Not so much.  I realized that I did not want to plague any other knitters with this experience.  

What ensued after that was metaphorically like the writer hunching over a type writer and tossing page after page of crumpled paper into the overflowing waste basket.  

What I wanted, I realized, was some regular stranded color work.  Because stranded color work IS fun.  And I didn't want it to be a sock that said APPLES!  I wanted it to say color and graphic and draw in the knitter and the viewer.  So I ended up with a knot-work apple with a tiny bit of duplicate stitch for the stem and leaf.  I really like this sock because it starts out easy - just like any other cuff-down sock.  Then you get the fun color work (don't forget to switch to a bigger needle!), and then you get the rest of the traditional sock-ness, and you can take it easy straight through to the toe.  The embroidery is just a sweet little afterthought.

I've got some thoughts about sock knitting in general as well.  I've been knitting lots of socks over the past year and I think I've learned something about how I want my socks to fit.  I've always knit socks with a bit of negative ease in circumference (this incredible Knitty Blog survey recommends 10% negative ease), but I've noticed that I'm much happier with the long-term wearing fit of my socks if I knit them a little shorter than I think I need to.  I haven't done all the in-depth measuring to make sure, but I think I'm knitting the foot at least a half inch shorter than my actual foot is.  Even in fantastic springy wool sock yarn, knitted fabric can stretch over time.  The initial wearing of a smaller sock is comfortably snug and it doesn't get bunchy in my shoe after a long day walking, and it seems that it stays in place even after repeated wearing and washing.  So knitting your socks smaller than your foot is my recommendation for the day.  Do any of you have sock knitting tips for the rest of us?

Thanks to Wendee for her stunning colors and for inviting me to work on this sock club pattern.  It's available for purchase now - you don't have to be a club member to buy it.  If you are in the club, be sure to use your Ravelry download code to get the pattern in your Ravelry library before it expires on October 31.  

I'm also excited to be hosting an Eple knit-along in my Ravelry group!  We'll be casting on October 1 and there will be prizes!  A participant chosen at random will win a skein of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in the color of their choice and a free download of any one independently published Andrea Rangel pattern!  See the forum thread for the rules and fine print.  (You do have to be a Raverly member to participate.)    

Happy sock knitting!

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