Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Hope My Mom's Not Reading This

Hey Y'all,
So, okay, December starts TOMORROW. And the holidays officially kicked off last week. I'm not ambitious enough to knit all my Christmas gifts, but I did happen to finish up one the other day. I made my mom an Irish Hiking Scarf in Noro. (You can get the free Irish Hiking Scarf pattern here.) I have to confess that it didn't start out as a Christmas gift. Months ago my mom-- who rarely asks for anything-- asked if I'd make her a scarf. It took me awhile to finish thanks to my insane schedule. But since I happened to get it done on the cusp of December, I figured I'd just go ahead and wrap it up because, really, isn't one of the best parts of a gift the part where you riiiiiiiiiip off the fancy paper?

I'm really pleased with this scarf for a couple of reasons. First of all, when I asked my mom what color she likes, she said, "all of them." Instead of feeling overwhelmed by this, my mind instantly thought, "Oh, she means she wants something in Noro." Since I first discovered Noro I was smitten. I return to it again and again-- my comfort yarn. I'm also pleased because it was only two years ago that cables befuddled me. I worked on an Irish Hiking Scarf in 2008 that I kept putting down because I felt confused by the whole concept. This time around, cables felt very easy. Granted, it's not a rocket science project, but working a six-foot long project like this was good practice. I really, truly want to make an Aran sweater in 2011 and this scarf suggests to me that, if I pick a fairly simple pattern, I can actually do it. That strikes me as nothing short of remarkable, as I used to look at cabled sweaters and think, "Never in my lifetime." So here's to progress.

I'd love to hear what y'all are working on for gifts-- either for yourself or others. Soon I'll do a post about Great Gifts FOR Knitters. But today I'm wondering what your idea is for Great Gifts FROM Knitters. Do you do small projects so you can crank out a lot of them? Or do you just pick one or two people who are worthy of your knitting-- who will really appreciate it-- and make them something complicated and time consuming? How far in advance of December do you start? What's the best/worst compliment/comment you ever got on a handknitted gift? Is the Boyfriend Sweater Curse true?

Meanwhile, for those of you looking for inspiration for gift-making, there are a couple of classes coming right up. You can call the shop or pop by to sign up. Here's info:
December 4 1:00 - 4:00
Fee: 60.00
Have you always wanted to try a fair isle project and weren't sure how to begin?
Stranded knitting (which includes fair isle) means working with two colors in each row.
This class will teach you the keys to success with stranded knitting, including how to read color charts,
how to keep your stitches even, and how to work with two yarns at once.
PREQUISITES: Students must know how to cast on, knit stitch, and how to bind off.
MATERIALS: 2 colors of a worsted-weight wool yarn: at least 150 yds of main color + at least 50 yds of contrasting color
size 7 needles (16"" circular + dpns)
blunt-tipped tapestry needle

Best Ever Towel
December 5
9:45 -12:45
Fee: 30.00

Learn to knit with two colors, one at a time.
This introduction to slip stitch technique will show you how to make a beautifully textured fabric that has a different look on front and back.
It makes a great towel but can also be made into a great baby blanket.
PREREQUISITES: How to knit and purl.
MATERIALS: Needles, size 8 or 9
Blue Sky Organic Cotton, 1 each of 2 or 3 colors.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dear Knitting: I'm Giving Thanks for You!

Dear Knitting,
Today is Thanksgiving. I have many things to give thanks for: good health, great friends, and dogs that tolerate costumes to name but a few. Near the top of my list is, of course, you. Knitting? You have saved me so many times. You've kept my hands from becoming devilishly idle. You've inspired me to use my imagination. You've helped me start conversations all over the world, often in languages I did not speak but somehow understood, as strangers pointed to you on my needles and gestured wildly and happily in a way that easily let me know that they, too, were grateful to have you in their lives. I'm thinking of little old ladies on the trains in Japan. Speed knitting men in el mercado in San Miguel de Allende. Yarn shop owners in Buenos Aires.

I am thankful, too, that you are so wonderful that you have managed to make my boyfriend so interested in the process that he actually engages in conversations about you on a regular basis. (Though I admit I'm a little less grateful for the fact that you have inspired him to set knitting challenges for me that I can't seem to refuse: knitted handcuffs, a knitted turkey hat, a knitted menorah hat, and most recently a knitted gnome hat-and-beard. Don't get me wrong, these are all fun but they cut into my Selfish Knitting for Me Time.) I remember last December when we were going to be apart for New Year's Eve-- him in Paris, me in Houston. And he said he planned to go to the Eiffel Tower at midnight to look at all the pretty... hand knitted scarves and gloves. That's really what he said and I know he meant it. Because you, knitting, you are so beautiful and intricate and practical and whimsical and warm and wonderful all at once that you could distract a man from all those sexy mademoiselles and focus his attention instead on life's more important beauties: cables, lace, baubles, ribbing, intarsia, and Fair Isle.

Oh yes, knitting, you are such a wonder to behold. Thank you for existing so that I can take annual trips to Monhegan Island for my knitting retreat. (I wouldn't qualify to attend without you in my life.) Also thank you for existing so I have an excuse to hold semi-regular Knit Knights-- eating/drinking/talking extravaganzas that leave my friends and me fuller on so many levels.

Thank you for being the thing that means I have a unique wardrobe, one I can give myself some credit for. Thank you for lending yourself to playfulness and elegance. Thank you for not minding that sometimes I mix and match hand knit Noro socks with a kimono-style Silk Manos sweater and Alchemy lace scarf.

Thank you for inspiring my writing-- since you came into my life I have found new magazines to write for and, hopefully, soon, will have a book all about you to present to the world.

Thank you for being a really big reason Hill Country Weavers exists (though I know the weaving is important, too). HCW is on par with the beach when it comes to my Happiest Places in the Universe, and I need only step inside the door to feel better about my life. My troubles melt away as I look at all of the yarn and books and gadgets dedicated to you, my dear knitting.

Today is a day for giving thanks. I cannot heap enough upon you. Thank you more than I can say for all you have brought into my world. I can't wait to sit down with you later today and just run my hands all over you, and drink in your beauty, and wrap you in my arms. (Well, okay, wrap my arms in you.)

With love and gratitude,
p.s. The picture at the top is a hat much like one I made. This one comes from GoingCrafty.com and you can find the pattern by clicking this link.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And You Think Those Socks You're Knitting are Tricky...

Hey Y'all,
Deb sent me a really cool link to a TED Talk about crocheting a coral reef. In case you don't know, TED Talks are these twenty minute lectures by smart people from all walks describing interesting projects they're working on. In this particular talk, called Margaret Wertheim on the Beautiful Math of Coral, Wertheim describes how she and her twin sister came up with a project to get lots of people working together to crochet massive coral reefs. The video, which you can see here, is a great example of the complexity of crocheting.

This past week, I taught yet another person to knit. And as my student makes progress, I'm revealing to him some of the hidden awesomeness I discovered about knitting along the way, namely the math and architecture. So many handicrafts have been (and in some circles remain) dismissed as silly pastimes undertaken by women. Wertheim's project dispels this-- it demonstrates vision, art, math, science, and environmental concern. And as we know from our own projects, there can be tremendous complexity in creating a knitted, crocheted, or woven item.

Watching the TED Talk reminded me of the massive research I did last year as I worked on a book about the history of quilts. That book will be officially released tomorrow. (If you want to buy a copy you can email me at spikegillespie@gmail.com or pick up a copy at Amazon.) Like other crafts associated mostly with women, there have been plenty of times over the course of history when quilts were either taken for granted or not appreciated as art (or both). And, also like other crafts, because the medium (textiles) often deteriorates over time and due to use, many pieces have been lost due to disintegration. Even some of the magnificent works that remain are mysterious because their makers are unknown.

Perhaps it's true that as the makers were creating their works they did not think of the pieces as art. Or, even if they did, the artistic part was secondary. A lot of quilts are utilitarian first, made to keep people warm. Nowadays, there's an entire movement of art quilters (some of whom prefer the title Textile Artist)-- I wrote about 20 of these artists in my last book. Fortunately these days there's a growing pool of quilt historians who are focusing on all that hard work undertaken by so many nameless women throughout history. A few places, like the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, that have massive collections of historic quilts and also offer really in-depth textile programs. Earlier this year, the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London featured its first installation of historic quilts.

Closer to home, the University of Texas has a pretty impressive collection, though it's not on permanent display anywhere (yet). I was lucky enough to acquire a lot of images from the Joyce Gross Collection at UT to include in my latest book. You can make an appointment to check out the collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm offering thanks for all of the nameless women throughout history who toiled so hard-- knitting, quilting, crocheting, weaving, cross-stitching, etc.-- to make things that were both practical and beautiful. I love how DIY has had such a resurgence in the past ten years and all the super-creative ways needleworks are now being employed. Nicely done, y'all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eastside Knit Night: Tuesday, November 16th!

Hey Y'all,
A lot of you probably already know about E.A.S.T the groovy art event that happens all over the East side for two weekends. I live here in the east and let me tell you, if you've never taken the E.A.S.T. tour it is really something. The 2010 event kicked off this past weekend and this coming weekend you have another chance to check out art studios large and small, see great art, eat snacks, and meet fellow art lovers. But something you might not know is that Tuesday night, November 16th, from 5:30ish til 10:30ish, Starving Art Studios at 2326 E. Cesar Chavez is hosting Eastside Knit Night.

EKN is being brought to you by The Wondercraft folks-- they operate a craft shop out of a shiny Airstream named Stella-- and Yarn Harvest, the folks who take old sweaters and turn them into "new" yarn. Both Wondercraft and Yarn Harvest are local operations (yay, Austin!). There will be many great knitters on hand to teach new knitters (I believe I'm on the roster of teachers). And at some point they'll be screening the documentary Handmade Nation which features Austin's Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching and Madga Sayeg, aka Knitta Please, who, you might recall, blessed our city this past year with lots of great knit graffiti (vastly improving "those blue things" at the Lamar underpass).

They'll be free gifts from Gauge Knits (hi Karli!) for the first thirty people to show up.

This is going to be a SUPER AWESOME EVENT! Please join us!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Finding Time to Knit-- How Do You Do It?

So I'm working a short term day gig in an office. It's just a few months, the people are great, the office is beautiful and I honestly don't mind this temporary structure since in my "real" working life I'm usually running around like mad in fifty different directions. That said, it does seem to cut into my knitting time. Awhile back I posted about the debate over whether or not it's okay to knit in meetings. I'm happy to say my coworkers are fine with me knitting in meetings, though I'm usually too busy taking notes to get more than a row or two done.

What I want to know today is-- how many of you designate X amount of time each day to knitting? And how to you make that happen? Do you put a Go Away sign on the door? Do you forego other activities like answering emails, doing the laundry, washing dishes, bonding with your spouse, etc? Please let me know. I'm really curious.

I do know one way to absolutely make time to knit (or crochet or weave or felt) is to sign up for a class. That said, here's a list of some upcoming classes:


Novemver 12
Fee $45
We will explore the methods of wet and nuno felting and create lovely one of a kind masterpieces,
from bags to hats, scarves to booties and much more.
This class meets the second Friday of each month from 10 am to 2 pm (that includes a short lunch
You will need wool fleece, which you can purchase at HCW. Bring a few old towels and dress in
comfortable clothes. Wet felting can be quite a workout.

Warping from the Back

Date: November 13
Time: 1-5
Fee: 40.00
$10/2ft per raddle
Experience Level: Beginner (a little experience)
PREREQUISITES: Students need to know the anatomy of a table/floor loom and preferably have some experience weaving.
Participants will learn a fast, tangle-free way to warp a loom, especially beneficial when using finer fibers. Strategies for winding a warp, tools for warping and methods of customizing processes to individual looms with be covered. Everyone will see a demonstration of warping from the back and then each will wind a warp on from the back, thread the loom and weave a project. Looms, with all necessary warping equipment, are available from Hill Country Weavers: students may bring their own looms.
MATERIALS: Everyone must bring: 4 yards of stout string, a threading hook, two medium sized C-clamps or 2 small Quik Adjust Bar Clamps (or arrange to borrow clamps from me).
Students bringing their own looms: must have lease sticks, an extra tie-on bar for the back beam, and a raddle if it came with the loom. You can request that a raddle be made for your loom for this class (see materials fee).
Students may bring their own yarn(s) (do NOT pre-measure/wind a warp): Bring enough for at least a 6-inch wide and 60-70 inch long scarf. Students are welcome to buy yarn from HCW for their project. Multiple colors/mixed warp yarns are fine.
Contact Meg Wilson with any questions about supplies.

November 13/20
Time 1-4 (a 2 class series)
Fee: 60.00

We love socks so much at HCW that we are adding yet another way to knit up a fabulous treat for your toes and this time it's knitting two socks at the same time on one needle!
Students will learn to utilize one long circular needle to knit two entire socks in the round. In this two part class Deb will introduce you to the technique of using one needle to knit small circumferences and then guide you through the process of sock knitting from cuff to toe. When you are done you will have two socks completed!!! In the second class, students will also learn how to use the pattern template to make their own custom fitted socks.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL: This challenging yet very gratifying class is for the advanced beginner/intermediate knitter. Students must be independent and proficient in basic knitting skills.Experience with magic loop helpful but not mandatory, previous sock knitting experience is not required.
MATERIALS: For the first class, students need to bring 2 contrasting colors of worsted weight yarn like cascade or encore about 50 -75 yards each, US #6 or #7 needles that are 42 inches in length, split ring markers, calculator, tape measure and knitting gear. Given the complexity and challenge of this technique, we will learn the technique on a small sampler size socks but students will be given instructions and a pattern template to make a customized sock in the instruction booklet.
Contact Debbie at marvinfamily@sprintmail.com with any questions


November 14
PREREQUISITES: Student must have basic Crochet skills, this isn't considered a beginning level class.

Learn the basics of Tunisian Crochet and working with a Cro-Cable hook. This hook allows a much longer length offabric to be made than a standard straight Tunisian hook.
Option one for the class - The Tunisian Shrug (pattern free with class). The Shrug can be made with one yarn (one yarn is easiest - Marble Chunky suggested) or 3 to 5 colors/textures (a mix of textures is best) of yarn for class.
A second option for the class is the 60-inch Scarf/Wrap. This project is worked lengthwise with self-fringe. Very little finishing required! Combine multiple types of yarns (colors, textures up to your imagination or your stash) to create a one-of-a-kind piece.
Use these techniques to expand your creativity to almost any width - shawls, blankets - it's up to you! Thesetechniques are quickly learned and allow projects to be completed quickly. Yes you CAN finish Holiday gifts in time!

11.5mm Tunisian cro-cable hook
tapestry needle
at least 5 colors of yarn - the more the merrier!
- lots of color, lots of texture (but no chenilles)
Landscape Basket

November 16
6:00 - 9:00
Fee: 50.00

PREREQUISITES: Must have some weaving experience and be comfortable weaving on their own and finishing rims (cutting/tucking/applying and lashing rims.)
We will begin with a solid oak slotted oval base and finish with a hand-carved white oak quality handle. This basket requires some weaving experience and will need to be finished at home (so you will need to be confortable with cutting and tucking stakes and applying and lashing rims on your own.) We will learn to weave with slotted bases and sides will alternate colored weavers with twined seagrass. A variety of colors will be available. Finished dimensions are 8" x 12" x 5 1/2" (weaving height), handle height is 10".
all materials will be furnished.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today is FIRST THURSDAY: Check Out Our Big Sale

November 4, 2010

This is our version of a FIVE FINGER discount and HANDS DOWN one of our HANDIEST sales ever!!! So if you've got TIME ON YOUR HANDS, run HAND in HAND with your fiber buddies to HCW! You can buy fiber HAND over FIST and not let the RIGHT HAND know what the LEFT hand is doing!!!
Thumb - Pick your favorite company for 20% off
Index -Pick your favorite color for 20% off
Middle -Pick your favorite fiber for 20% off
Ring -Pick your favorite book for 15% off
Pinky -Pick a favorite accessory for 15% off
(company, color and fiber don't have to be related)

Don't forget that extra 5% discount on your yarn purchase for November babies!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Warming Up for Winter Knitting

It's barely 50 degrees as I type this. Granted, by the time you read it the temperature will likely be in the 70s, but hey, at least there's a chill part of the day now. This means you can start wearing those lovely wool creations you've been working on. It also means the holidays are coming up pretty quick. Good news-- a number of classes are happening to help you get your knit on, to inspire you to finish what you've started, and to grab some gift inspiration. Here are the details. You can call the shop to sign up.

KNIT 201
Nov. 10/17 6:30 - 8:30 (2 day class)
Fee $50
Prerequisite - Knit 101 or experience with flat knitting
Gotten your first taste of knitting and want more? Or perhaps you need a refresher class to get back into knitting? We will help you take that next step into pattern reading in Knit 201. Get ready to put that knit and purl stitch to work! You may choose to make either a scarf or a needle case. In both projects you will learn various stitch patterns, basic pattern reading and swatching for gauge.
MATERIALS: Your choice of project. For scarf: 1ball of Araucania Azapa or equivalent. For needle case: 3 balls of GGH Aspen or 2 balls of Lamb's Pride Bulky (or equivalent) in main color plus (optional) 1 ball in contrast ing color. For both projects you will need: size 9 needles (straight or any length circulars), stitch markers, and a tapestry needle.
For the needle case you will also need size 9 double pointed needles.

November 7th
TIME: 2-5 pm
FEE: $20
KIDS & TEENS (parents welcome too!)
come hang out with LINDSAY for a HIP TO KNIT* AFTERNOON!!
MATERIALS: depends on the individual project,
Lindsay will be happy to help you find just the right project!
No prerequisites: ALL LEVELS WELCOME
* If interested in Hip to Weave please contact Lindsay for details.

Don't have time for the full meal deal?

November 1 6:30-8:30
November 18 6:30-8:30
November 28 3:00-5:00

Knit Your Gifts! Gift Your Knits!
November 7, 1-5

It's time for Deb's annual KNIT YOUR GIFTS, GIFT YOUR KNITS CLASS!
All new patterns for 2010! Something for everyone, patterns for all experience levels with varying techniques! Students will receive all the patterns and can choose whatever they would like to work on during class.
Projects and Materials list:
Materials: 2 skeins of Noro Kureyon or Silk Garden in 2 colorways,
US#7 16" length circular needles and US#7 double point needles, markers
Materials: 1 skein Manos Maxima (2 for a long scarf), US#9 needle

LOVE YOUR WOOL SACHETS Materials:1 skein Debbie Bliss Ecobaby Fair Trade,US#5 double point needles, shear light weight ribbon ½ to 1 inch width, markers, potpourri, small linen or mesh bags
Materials: 1 skein Allegro by Classic Elite, US #5 needles
Materials: Small amounts of sock yarn, US#1 or #2 needles, double points

Materials needed:
US size 3 (3.25mm) straight needles and 4 size 3 DPNs
Worsted weight yarn
4 stitch markers
2 pieces of scrap yarn or stitch holders

Materials:1 skein Shelter by Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed, 1 skein of a thin mohair or cashmere,US #7 or #8 needles,
Crochet hook – medium size
Materials: 2 skeins of Misti Chunky Alpaca in different colors, or 1 skein for a solid version
US # 10.5 16" circular needles

Contact Deb for any questions. Marvinfamily@sprintmail.com

Finish Your Knits!
November 6/13(a 2 day class), 10-12

A beautifully knitted garment in the most gorgeous yarn can look like the dog's breakfast if not finished well. In this class, you will learn some of the most useful techniques for finishing a garment professionally, including seaming, buttonholes, weaving in ends, blocking, and a few decorative bind-offs and edgings.
PREREQUISITES: Students should know how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off.
MATERIALS: 600 yards of a wool or other animal-fiber yarn in a worsted or Aran weight
size 7 needles, straight or circular (at least 24"" if circular)
12"" x 12"" pillow form
blunt-tipped tapestry needle
package of T-pins