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    Like Having a Child Graduate from College!

    Back in November I taught a "Design Your Own Aran" class at Camas Creek Yarn. We met every Monday (five that month), and I led the students through the process of measuring, swatching, swatching, swatching (I kinda hammered that one to death), choosing cable patterns, and knitting a top-down Aran. I knew we wouldn't finish in the allotted five weeks, but by the end of the month, several knitters were well on their way. One (Marcie), finished hers and wore it to the retreat at the Izaak Walton Inn, where—alas—I neglected to get a picture of it, but it was stunning. She knit it out of Berroco Vintage and it featured a very flattering deep V-neck with wide ribbing. 

    Another student, Debbie, brought hers in to Camas Creek a few weeks ago when I was working so she could visit with me about finishing the neckline. Even in its unfinished state I could tell it was going to be gorgeous. Just yesterday I was wondering to myself whether she had completed it, and lo and behold!—today she posted pictures of her finished sweater on Facebook.

    I can't tell you how it tickles me to see pictures of sweaters designed and knitted by students in my classes, or knitters who have followed the instructions for the FLAK knitalong or the instructions in Aran Sweater Design. It's like having a kid graduate from college and I am so proud of every single one of them. 

    Debbie did a phenomenal job of planning her design and swatching. She was so enthusiastic about starting that she mis-heard what I said about making the swatch—she thought I said "Cast on 100 stitches and knit 100 rows and use a whole skein of yarn" when I had actually said, "Cast on 100 stitches and knit at least one or two repeats of the entire pattern and you might use a whole skein of yarn." Bless her heart, she powered-knitted a huge swatch and used a whole skein of Cascade 220. But she knew where she was going with this design because of that large swatch. I am particularly taken with the turtleneck and the fancy ribbing on the cuffs. Wow. 

    Some day I would love to have an online gallery devoted to the wonderful sweaters designed by my students and customers. You guys rock!


    So You Think You're Going to Knit a Sweater in a Month?

    I got a mention on the new Cloudy With a Chance of Fiber podcast (the February 21 episode). It's about 40 minutes in, but do listen to the whole podcast, as it's quite interesting. I liked that they record some of it in the car, to get away from the noise of the shop. 

    Yarn arrived yesterday afternoon for the Cast-On sweater, and already the universe is conspiring against me to keep me from getting it done. DD#1 wants to go shopping for a prom dress Saturday morning (prom is in two weeks—it's not like I can put this off much longer), and DD#2 is going to the mall Saturday afternoon with her Girl Scout troop to sell cookies, and the troop leader is looking for drivers. I haven't taken a turn helping with the troop recently, so of course I feel honor-bound to drive. There goes at least six hours out of my Saturday when I could be knitting. And I bought paint yesterday for the rental house thinking that I could probably squeeze out a couple of hours this weekend to help the husband get the place painted. Then again, he likes to power through those kinds of jobs alone, so he may not care if I help him or not. 

    Arrrggghhhh. It would have been wonderful to have been able to knit this sweater during the Olympics when I had so much knitting time, but that's the way things go. Besides, I always work better with DEADlines. 

    It seems like this is a time for changes all over the knitting world. My tech editor let me know this week that—effective immediately—she won't be doing any more tech editing as she needs to move on to other projects. That's a bummer for me, because she's really really good and we've worked well together over the past seven years or so. But I understand completely the need to stop and re-evaluate periodically and move in a different direction if necessary. 

    And I am out of news for today. 


    Contest Winners!

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the blog contest. I hope you had fun looking around Chrissy's website while you searched for the names of her office bunnies, Bella and Cocoa Puff. 

    I assigned each entry a number as it came in, and then DD#2 picked out two numbers at random. The winners are (drum roll, please!):

    Sheila Piasecki and Marguerite Byrne. I'll get your books sent ASAP.

    Debbie, you asked how the Shepherd Wool looks knitted up. This is a portion of the swatch I submitted to Cast-On. I think it will do nicely for this design. I hope it arrives today as I am anxious to get started. 

    My right shoulder is giving me fits. When I knit in my truck, I have a tendency to prop my right arm up on the center console, and that is just about guaranteed to leave my shoulder screaming in pain later. I do it unconsciously, and it isn't until five or ten minutes have gone by that I will slap myself upside the head and remember to put my arm down. By then the damage is done. The chiropractor says it's my rotator cuff. Both he and my massage therapist have this technique where they push their middle and index fingers up into my armpit—it causes excruciating pain for a moment but makes my shoulder feel much better. Unfortunately I haven't had the time (or the money in the budget) to see either of them lately. But I think I need to make an appointment, and soon. The clock is ticking and this sweater has to be back to Cast-On by April 2. I need to be able to knit. 

    Our weather has been so bizarre lately. Temps are in the 50s (it's raining right now), and almost all of our snow is gone. Everywhere I go, people are talking about the weather and wondering if we're going to have a bad fire season this summer. It doesn't help that this year is the 100th anniversary of the 1910 fires in northern Idaho and western Montana. And firemen are superstitious people. Hopefully we'll get rain in May and June when we need it. If not—well, the husband says we'll be okay now that we've cleared the underbrush from the property, but big fires up here would be a definite problem. 


    Meet Chrissy Again!

    Since it didn't work very well to have Chrissy at the end of February's blog, I am re-posting the interview here today. I'll do the drawing for the books tomorrow, so e-mail me soon if you want to be in on the contest!

    My guest today is Chrissy Gardiner of Gardiner Yarn Works. I can't remember when I first met Chrissy—it seems like we've known each other forever! She's an incredibly talented designer and I have had the pleasure of having her visit me here in Montana. And even if you're not a self-confessed sock-knitting junkie, you will enjoy her book:

    Why socks? What did you find so interesting about socks that you wanted to write a book about it?

    I've found that socks are the perfect little canvas for playing with stitch patterns and new techniques. They're small enough that I can crank one out in a couple of days, but they use enough stitches to allow for really elaborate stitch pattern panels. They don't have a lot of complicated shaping to deal with, once you get a few good heels in your bag of tricks. They're knit in the round, which makes patterning on every row with lace or traveling stitches a lot easier. They don't take nearly as much yarn as a sweater, and I find them a little bit more engaging than a scarf or other flat piece.

    What was the hardest part of writing the book? The easiest?

    The hardest part was getting started, and then continually convincing myself that anyone would want to read it! Thankfully, it seems that they do. Since I self-published, I didn't have an editor to confirm that my idea was indeed marketable or to set deadlines for me. I've always been the type of person who's highly deadline-motivated, so this was really difficult for me. Fortunately we had this little event in Portland called Sock Summit, and I decided to debut the book there. It was great motivation! The easiest part of writing the book was designing the patterns. I never seem to lack for sock design ideas!

    How do you balance work and family?

    I'm lucky to have a husband who works from home and kids that are both in school (but still to young for lots of activities). Bill and I share kid duty very equally, and he's always able to pick up the kids from school if I have a deadline (or vice versa). It works out very well, although I do admit to being a terrible housekeeper and cook. I love to cook, but it's the first thing that goes if we get busy. One of the biggest benefits of working for myself is that I can scale back anytime I need to. This helps with both family and burnout!

    [Chrissy and her daughter Sydney and me at Camas Creek]:

    What inspires your designs?

    I'm a stitch dictionary collector, and I love to spend an afternoon or two paging through my many stitch books (such as Cables: Volume 1!) and flagging patterns that strike me for one reason or another. Then I'll try to fit them together, or tweak them in interesting ways, often playing off of a theme such as nature or a sweater I saw in a movie. I also really enjoy working from a skein of yarn, swatching it and letting it "tell me what it wants to be". I know it sounds cheesy, but the yarn really does talk to me!

    [Look at some of her designs! Chrissy is a very versatile designer!]:

    Are you thinking about a second book or working on one?

    I am working on another book (or trying to, anyway)! It's going to be another sock book, this time inspired by the very creative work of the current crop of hand dyers. I love the fact that when you get a skein of hand-dyed yarn, there's so much personal attention that has gone into that skein, from applying the colors to winding the skein to attaching the ball band. It's so different from commercial yarn manufacture, and each skein is its own miniature work of art. The new book will include profiles of about 25 different hand dyers whose work I find beautiful and inspiring (and believe me, narrowing it down to 25 was nearly an impossible task). Each dyer was asked to send me a skein of yarn that they feel represents them as an artist, and I'm designing a sock specifically for that yarn and talking about my process for coming up with that design. It has been great fun so far!

    What do you do for fun to relieve the stress of knitting?

    I try to make time to do plenty of reading (my goal for 2010 is to read one new novel and one non-fiction book per month, which I know is nothing for an avid reader but it's huge for me between the kids and all the knitting that needs to get done). I go through phases where I like to cook and bake really elaborate things from scratch, which I find really recharges my creativity. I'm currently working towards running a half marathon over 4th of July weekend with the ultimate goal of finishing the Seattle marathon this fall. And I've just rediscovered my love of downhill skiing along with the fact that we live just over an hour from a great mountain ski area that's open year-round! I've always been a bit of a generalist, and I find that I need to keep myself busy with a variety of things or I start to really lose my mind.

    [Chrissy and her husband Bill—what a guy!—at Sea Socks]:


    Favorite yarn? Favorite needles? Favorite knitting gadget that you can't live without?

    Well, my favorite yarn is anything soft and pretty. Does that narrow it down at all? I love natural fibers and gravitate towards the softer wools. I also love alpaca, although it's not always the best choice for socks if it's not blended with at least some wool. If I had to choose only one yarn to be stuck on a desert island with, it would be Handmaiden Sea Silk. I know you can't knit socks with it, but if you're on a desert island, do you really need socks anyway?

    Favorite needles are definitely the Addi Turbo (although I'm coming around to the Addi Lace - I don't generally like sharp points, but I have a couple pairs that are working well for me right now). I also use my Denise Interchangeable kits a lot for larger-gauge knitting. If I was a double-point girl, I'd be sporting those slick Signature needles - I've test driven them and boy are they nice. I use dpns maybe once or twice a year, so I won't be making that investment anytime soon.

    As for knitting gadget, I have to say that it's my Clover Chibi with the fine-gauge curved-tip darning needles. I would give up a lot of my other notions before I'd give these up. That curved tip makes all the difference, and if you try to get me to use a straight darning needle these days, it would feel like pumping up a bicycle tire with a fireplace bellows. They're the ones in the little orange case - I buy them by the half-dozen just to make sure I'm never without one!

    Thanks, Chrissy, for stopping by! I've got two copies of Toe-Up: Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting Into Shape to give away. To enter, send me an e-mail at Janet at BigSkyKnitting dot com and tell me what the names of Chrissy's two office bunnies are (you can find out at her website!). I'll enter all the names into a random drawing and pick two winners.

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