Friday, December 19, 2008

Considering Shutting This Blog Down

I have been posting my creative pursuits and thoughts on creativity and children over at my main blog, The Thinking Mother.

More and more this blog is just a double posting of some of the posts I do over on the main blog.

I am going to taper down posting here I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Small Indulgences
Edited by: Judith Durant
Genre: Nonfiction, Knitting
Publication: Storey Publishing, 2008
Format: Softcover Book
ISBN: 9781603420792
Full Retail Price: $18.95

My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (I love it!)

Summary Statement: Inspirational, Lovely Projects, Mostly for Intermediate or Advanced Knitters

This is the third in the “one skein wonder” series, featuring 101 projects made of luxury yarns. As with all books in this series the finished projects are shown in full-color photographs in a gallery in the front of the book. The chapters that follow are divided by yarn weight. This format allows for two options of skimming: you can browse through all projects with a certain weight yarn that you may want to work with, or you can skim through the photographs to find a project that catches your eye as the starting point.

The yarns featured in this book are: silk and silk blends, cashmere, alpaca and alpaca blends, soy, qiviut (arctic musk ox), bison, and corn. Some ‘ecofriendly fibers’ are featured: bamboo, flax, linen, organic cotton and organic wool.

Since luxury yarns are expensive, it is a great idea to have access to projects that can be made with just one skein. It is apparent that the designers tried to get the most and best use from each yarn, giving luxury yarns a project that would show off their unique beauty, or take advantage of the softest fibers to use it in ways that we can appreciate the sensual nature against our skin, such as a very soft scarf or a hat for a baby or an adult. The super fine weight yarns have been made into lovely lacey objects.

It seems to me that most of the projects are for the intermediate or advanced knitter. I feel this is due to the types of complex stitching used to either make a lovely lacey shawl or scarf or perhaps to make the one skein stretch to the largest size thing possible, as with the case with some of the scarves made more for show than warmth, and with an airy baby cap. There are gloves, socks, vests and baby sweaters which are projects or stitches for knitters with more skill than a beginner has.

While at first I was a bit disappointed there were not more easy projects for beginners, after reading through the book a few times I came to realize that this is probably due to wanting to use an expensive and luxurious yarn in the most appropriate way to ‘honor it’, if you will, by matching its cost and level of luxuriousness to a finished project that will really show it off. One would not want to waste an expensive and fancy yarn on a basic garter stitch scarf or a simple ribbed hat, typical beginner knitting projects. Also some of the yarns are delicate and would not hold up to some of the easier to knit projects that might get hard wear and be ruined in a short amount of time.

I love the book because the designers have provided a variety of projects ranging from wearable items for babies to adults to home decor that make good and an appropriate use of the expensive luxury yarns. I am a beginner knitter and feel I’m not yet ready to knit most of these projects. I am inspired by this book to continue learning new knitting techniques and to try knitting with more delicate yarns. This book let me see that I have a lot of options for types of yarn to work with in the future.

As a beginner knitter for one-skein projects I can, for now, use the two other books in this series as I continue to learn. I have skimmed through those two books and highly recommend them too.

Knitters who love to fill their shelves with books that inspire them would like to own this book. Knitters who like to do small projects or who are looking for good projects to make gifts would like this. This is also a good book for a public library to have in their collection.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program for the purpose of writing a review for Amazon Vine at

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Rite of Passage?

I think I have gone through a knitter's rite of passage.

I was knitting along well with my sweater, working on the body. I tried it on and was shocked at how wide it seemed, but since not a lot was done on it, I kept going.

Then I tried it on when I reached 11 inches of body. It was short at that point, almost like a crop top. It looked too wide and was still too short. I decided to knit more, so I knitted almost another skein. I thought at that point that even if it was a bit wide if it was longer almost like a tunic then the wideness would not matter. I tried it on last night.

It looks terrible. Not my knitted stitches, but the shape. It is just way too wide. For once I was wishing I was larger, fatter, so that it would fit me well! Honestly, if I finish this I'd never wear it.

Don't worry, I'm not depressed about it. A bit deflated, yes, but not even angry.

The directions said to cast on 1/4 the amount of stitches in the sleeve for the underarm. It was 80 stitches and I figured 20 was way too many, so I just cast on 12. The more I knitted the body, the wider it got, which was odd as my stitches were not increasing. Each underarm cast on area added three inches to each side of the body. Back when this was just a yoke, it draped and went almost tightly over my shoulders and bust.

And the bulky Lopi yarn doesn't drape to go against my body, it is stiff and kind of stays 'out', larger than my body. It lies almost flat as if it were ironed, it is that stiff. It would have been warm to wear. This is knit on #8 needles and the stitches are pretty tight.

If I did finish knitting this I would have invested $64 (plus tax) on the yarn. I got it all on sale. I was thinking of finishing it just to have it done, even if I never wore it. However I am too practical, so, I think this will wind up frogged.

Again, I'm not angry. I consider this a learning experience.

And now I feel like I'm part of the club of beginner knitters who took the time and energy to knit a sweater that is utterly un-wearable.

I'm going to slow down on big projects and try to knit a scarf for my mother-in-law. I bought a funky yarn that is hard to knit with because it is a combination of stiff thread, beads, and mohair wool. It tangles and snags. I have started a scarf and frogged it ten times, at least.

After Christmas I will tackle this project again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Talent and Skill

Mental Multivitamin blogged some good quotes from a book called "Talent is Overrated: What Really Supports World-Class Performers From Everybody Else".

The ideas of this author may surprise you if you believe people are born with a natural talent whose mastery with the art or craft comes easily and quickly.

Now I want to read this book!

So many good ideas to learn about, so little time to read all the books I want to read!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thank You for Your Amazon Purchases

Thank you to all my blog readers who purchase items through my blog's links.

After you link through everything and anything you put into your shopping cart and then finalize the order within 24 hours means I make a commission on the entire sale. Your purchases are confidential so I don't know who is buying what.

The nickels and dimes add up to dollars as the month goes on, thanks to those of you who make purchases through my blog. THANK YOU!

My commissions are paid in Amazon gift cards which I use to buy materials to homeschool my kids or for my children's or my own life enrichment and pleasure. Often I'm buying things for my children but sometimes I splurge on something for myself, like a book about learning to knit.

Amazon also gives commissions to me for gift card purchases. In case you are considering buying gift cards for Amazon please consider clicking through the link. I'll put the link here and I'm adding it to my blog's sidebar today also.

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Top Down Raglan Sweater Update

Short update: I think I am on the right road with my top down raglan sweater knitting.

I am knitting in the in-between times and while watching (listening) to TV before bed. In the last two days, I have knitted six inches of the body so far. I figured out I'm knitting 100 yards in knit stitch in four hours.

Last night I spent a full four hours knitting, while a passenger in a car to and from a meeting, knitted during the meeting, and before I went to bed, and I knitted up one full skein of yarn.

Sorry I don't have a photo downloaded yet, when I do I will share it.

Block Play


1. They have blocks available

2. They have space to build structures

3. They have limited screen time

4. They have time to play


They will build with wooden blocks.

Even at ages 11 and 8.

It is true.

It is not baby play, as they grow older their constructions get more imaginative, more complex, and sometimes more structurally precarious and engineering-physics-boundary-testing.

Younger son's creation (using imagination for a pretend building inspired by the LEGO catalog)--

Older son still loves symmetry (sorry Blogger turned it sideways...)--

Older son's creation (pretty complicated, more about testing limits and being elaborate than pretend worlds at this stage)--

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Feeling Stupid

I am really hitting a wall with knitting a top-down raglan sweater.

I am at an all time high with feeling like a complete stupid person, a total idiot.

I know that in the beginning it was a good exercise for this homeschooling mom to learn something new. It is good to struggle because it reminds me of what kids feel like when learning something new. Being a homeschooling mom it is good for me to feel like what my kids must sometimes feel like, it keeps me in check so my expectations of them are not too high.

Regarding this sweater I am stuck on the part when the yoke is done and when I need to knit down the body then down the sleeves. I cannot at all understand the directions in this book I'm using which is not written for beginners. A major problem is I don't understand what to do by the steps, if I did I could tell myself not to need to understand WHY I am doing it but just do it and see how it unfolds. But since I can't understand WHAT to do I tried understanding what it is that needs to be done so that I could then approach it from that perspective. Not working.

I also have a feeling once I get this that I will not understand why the written directions were not making sense. But honestly they are not making sense to me right now.

I have the yoke tied off on four pieces of waste yarn. Each sleeve is tied off and the front is one and the back is the other. It fits me well.

I can't understand the method of cast-on the book says to do and I don't understand either what I am casting on for or where. Is the cast on for the sleeve? For the body? Why do I have the cast on anyway? In other words where does my needle go first, do I put the sleeve stitches on the needle then cast on then knit? None of this makes sense to me.

I am completely confused.

Last week I would have gone for the first time to a knitting guild meeting but it conflicted with Boy Scouts and I was being trained for a new volunteer job (small) that I am taking on. This week I can't go either as it is the Court of Honor and my son is earning a new rank. I am going to go to the meeting in ten days time and see if someone can help me.

I went to a local yarn shop for the first time looking for a new yarn. I had been told by two people they are super friendly there. Well they basically had no yarn that coordinated at all. They were nice but man, they had no stock. I was hugely disappointed. The shop's size was tiny and there were too many shoppers so I couldn't get to see all the yarn. Then people were just standing in front of yarn talking with their friend and relatives who were shopping with them and not even looking at yarn and preventing me from shopping. I left buying nothing.

I went to another local yarn shop and they do a sweater class for $150. That is how it is around here, nothing is for free, no help, you have to wait to take a class. That is the same shop that in the first week of July told me I'd have to wait for September to pay to take a class to learn to knit socks. At least another shop locally told me they'd do a private one hour lesson for $25 practically at my convenience. And at another shop out of state the shop worker gave me a private sock making lesson for free, she insisted on it, right then and there, in between helping other customers. Now that is customer service!

I spent an hour at Barnes & Noble yesterday. It was educator discount day so I went looking for a good book that teaches knitting sweaters from top down. I figured if that was all the book was about they'd teach it from a beginner's viewpoint and have good illustrations. And I'd buy the book from them too. No such luck. I found one book and the major focus was on seeing how fancy one can get with that method and there were tons of patters for sweaters with fancy stitches that I feel like I'll never be able to do. The book's directions were poor and mostly were abbreviations in patterns not for a beginner at all.

I have spent now about three hours on Google, You Tube, and Ravelry trying to find the information. So far I have found two posts from people stuck exactly like I am. I contacted one on Ravelry and despite something like 8 months having passed she has given up on it and is soon going to frog it. She never got the answer to her question. Another knitter got an answer that made sense from somone. I printed it off last night and tried doing that and it didn't work.

Another issue is that in other sets of directions some patterns do not call for casting on new stitches at all. They just say "pick up and knit". I also found one online pattern where the person knits the sleeves by themselves and then grafts them onto the sweater in the end. So one challenge is there are all different kinds of ways of doing this, I guess, so other descriptions of how to do it don't match my pattern.

It takes me a long time, about 30 minutes for some reason, to put stitches back on the circular needle from the waste yarn. I did that then I realized the yarn to knit with was on the OTHER side and useless. Now I will have to take this off and put the other side on the needle, I guess.

The good news on the sweater is that I finally found a new yarn for the main color at a local yarn shop. I bought 10 skeins of that dye lot to make the sweater with. So that task was accomplished. I knit four or five rows of the main color for the bottom of the yoke and it does look nice when put together for the sweater.

The bad news on the sweater beyond me being stuck is that one sleeve is 4 stitches wider, so I'll have to remedy that. And somehow the back is 101 stiches and the front is 95 stitches. More evidence of my imperfection!

I thought I had a better picture of this yoke but now can't find it. Maybe it is on the other digital camera and not yet downloaded. Yet another project.

So for now I'll show you my progress on my first sweater, this was taken on 11/26/08.

I could phone my friend who taught me to knit but honestly I'm feeling a bit embarrassed to call her again. She helped me already once with phone counseling about this sweater. I know she is busy and I feel too much like a pain in the butt to phone her.

I've started asking around to others if they've made a top down raglan. So far, no luck, the knitters all say they have not done it yet. One mom even told me yesterday she can't learn any knitting from reading written instructions and she can't read patterns so she doesn't even try. I refuse to not try.

I'm a persistent person. I want to work on this sweater. I don't just want it for a finished product. I want to get back to enjoying knitting it. I bought the yarn and I want to use it, darn it. I'm ready, willing and able.

Maybe later I'll give it another whirl by just winging it.

Update: My Knitting Angel read this post and phoned me with instructions. She completely understood the writing in the book's pattern and re-phrased it in a dumbed down format for my newbie knitter brain. I plan to work on it today. Now it seems ridiculously simple, what I am to do. Stay tuned.