Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finishing Part 2 (woo hoo)

My kitty:

My Garden Monster:

My fourth Happy Pill:

It was a very busy weekend!  I took Monday off so my wife and I could relax and I used the extra time to finish up the three projects that have been near completion for weeks.  I forgot what an awesome sense of accomplishment is gained by finishing something and putting it in the bag.

The really good news is that my kitty cat got super raves at work and 2 people commissioned me to make them one and pay me - pay me for KNITTING!  How cool is that?

So I have 2 new cats, 1 teddy bear, 1 dragonfly, and 2 scarfs in progress.  I'll have to update my Ravelry page to keep everything in perspective.  I haven't even been knitting a year yet!

Thanks for you attention!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On Finishing

I just finished my Lollipop Sweet Scarf over the weekend.  It felt great to look at the sewn, finished and ready-to-rock scarf.

Which begs the question: why is it so hard for me to finish?

I have 3 different toys which are literally a hairs-breadth away from being done.  My cat toy is complete and stuffed, it just needs to be sewn together.

My latest happy pill just needs to stuffed, embroidered and sealed.

My "Petunia Porch Monster" needs one leg finished, stuffed and sewn together.

My first thought on this is that I'm afraid of finishing.  I get a little better at it every time I do it but there's something a little intimidating about finishing.  It's obviously much easier in toys because you can leave the stray seams and threads inside of the toy and no one will ever see them.  I actually had a finishing mess-up on Cassidy Clark's dragonfly:


I sewed the body perfectly and easily completed the four wings.  I sewed one wing on - a little off but okay.  I sewed the second one on and it was totally awful.  It was in the wrong place and it wasn't in the plane of the first wing so it looked really off.  I did that one like months ago and I still haven't revisited it, even though all I need to do is to recreate one of the wings and sew them on.

Initially I believe my problem was that I was using a big plastic tapestry needle that was too bendy and imprecise for the rather delicate stitching I need to accomplish.  I solved this by purchasing several metal darning needles including a few that have a bent tip for those hard-to-reach spots.

So, all solved, all ready to go, and I still can't do it!

Maybe it's the deeper issue of how fun it is to start - casting on - the way that the pattern emerges as you create it - the wonder of discovering how a new yarn works in combination with a new needle...  Stick-to-itedness is something I've always been a little deficient in.

But isn't that one of the crazy things knitting does for you.  Much like meditation, it has a way of showing you where you are strong and weak.  If you pay attention and really get into the process you will notice all kinds of things about how you work as a person.  You also notice a lot about how your mind works, which is one of the goals if you ask me.

So, in the spirit of carrying on and letting go of the past I'm going to finish these patterns.  None of the new ones I'm working on are on a time schedule.  It's time to take the plunge and achieve some completion.  It's also about learning that there is fun in the journey and the end, not just the beginning.  If I could get that I'm certain it would be an awesome life lesson.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Beautiful Day

Lots of news - lots of projects in the hopper.  I am now keeping a pretty accurate project record at Ravelry - the address is Violets Dyed Ravelry Project List

I'm super proud of the Chemo Cap that I did.

I started this simple cap - 1" K2 P2 ribbing followed by 5" of stocking stitch on circular needles.  I was given some yarn by Suzoo's Wool (the company sponsoring the project).  And got to work.  I got all the way through the 6" of ribbing and stocking stitch and was preparing to do the decrease.  I did the first half of the decrease and somehow - I'll be damned if I can figure out why - the project somehow reversed itself.  I found that the side I was supposed to be knitting was on the other side.  I was perplexed, confused, and completely frustrated.  I'd been working so hard on this project and really wanted to have a cap to donate to the kids with cancer.

After some tears and a couple glasses of wine I decided to grab a ball of yarn out of my stash (Knit Picks Chroma - Galapagos).  I thought this yarn had a nice "kids" quality to it and that it would knit up into a really comfortable cap.  So I proceeded to knit like a maniac - used size 8 needles on a worsted weight yarn so the stitches were loose but not too loose.  I worked like crazy and I actually finished the scarf in a mere six days, which is I think a record for me.  I was just livid with proudness at looking at the hat and my wife, Patti, said that she just knew that whoever got that cap would be so happy!  Anyway, here's the finished cap:

The base is 17" which is about the size of a child's head.  All in all excellent.  I gave the cap to Jennifer at the wool store here in Costa Mesa and she just loved it.  Everyone that sees this Chroma yarn loves it, and it comes in so many different flavors. 

 I'm knitting a midwinter scarf for my sister in law:

and I'm knitting a Lollipop scarf for my niece:

And that is not even counting the cat, Petunia the monster, Happy Pill, and dragonfly I'm working on.

I'll get to the toys in a later post.  But I wanted to leave you with one last scarf I'm working on called the Zig Zag scarf.  I'm using a Chroma wool called Urban on this one.  It's the first "complex" scarf I've worked on and I just love the design:

It's an alternating K3 P3 rib with a different stitch at the start of each row.  This is what creates the zig zag pattern.  It's been very fun and I'm really enjoying getting into more complex projects.  However I always need to have a simple project lying around when I'm in that Zen relaxation space.

See you next time and HAPPY KNITTING!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gonna Be April Soon!

I'm working on five different projects right now.

Most important - Chemo Cap.
I was asked by the ladies at Suzoo's Wool Works in Costa Mesa to knit a small cap for kits that are going through chemotherapy.  This is my first hat and I'm really excited.  Jennifer gave me some yarn to use and I'm going for it.  I've done ribbing before (K2, P2) but I'm really focused.  Ribbing is like meditating.  You really need to concentrate when you do it or you'll lose your count.  Although I'm developing the ability to see where I am in the pattern, it's so satisfying to get to the end of the row and be on Purl 2!

This is really fun and I cast on 96 stitches!  That's the biggest cast on ever for me.  I may be inspired enough to knit another one with some of my Chroma Yarn I got from Knit Picks.

Truly one of the great joys I get out of knitting something like this is the opportunity to be of service to the world.  One of my desires is to lessen the suffering of people and animals.  It gives me a chance to do a small part in healing the world.

Next most important - Happy "Love" Pill
My first semi-original pattern.  I got the idea from a couple of patterns on the web and I heavily modified it with an increase/decrease scenario that looks really nice and smooth.  This is my most popular design - this is my fourth.  The first one went to my friend Scott's daughter, Julia.  Julia has lymphoma at 9 years old.  She was going through some nasty chemotherapy and I was inspired to knit the Pill for her.  I did it with the original pattern.  I ended up having to repair it a month later.  It's great to get an idea about the kind of abuse these toys get when the kids get their hands on them.

 The idea is that it looks like a pill with a smiley face on it.  I like to add a heart made out of felt and put it inside the toy.  I also give it a lot of love and healing power because I tend to give these guys to people who aren't feeling well.  I get an opportunity to help out and have super fun knitting.

I'm actually through the increase section of the pill.  I knit another 13 rows then change to white and knit 18 rows before finally decreasing, stuffing and embroidering the eyes and mouth.  I'll add more photos when I get closer.

I actually typed this pattern up and I'm knitting this based on my pattern.  If it works out well I'm going to put it on Ravelry for free.  I'll keep you posted.

Lollipop Sweet Scarf
This is made with the Chroma wool called "Lollipop."  I am absolutely enamored of these yarns as the have a really smooth transition from color to color and they create an almost tie-dyed effect in the final product.

It's a simple garter scarf with 23 stitches per row.  I'm planning on making it about five feet long.  This is going to be a birthday present for my Niece, Ellison, on her 5th birthday.  It gets cold up in Washington State!  I just love garter scarfs.  Not so much because they're easy, I love the texture of the wool, I like to knit them on a needle a little bigger than I normally would use for the yarn because it gives the scarf a nice, loose quality.  Also, I need to have at least one simple project going as most of the projects I do are pretty brain intensive.  It's nice to just kick back and knit. 

It's funny, my wife saw me knitting this and said she wanted one too.  I'm getting very busy lately - maybe I'll even eventually be able to knit something for me!

I Love Cat Loves Dog
by Kkhymn (

This is my first multi-part toy.  I had to knit a head, a body, two arms, two legs, a tail, and two ears.  I have all the parts knitted and I just need to sew them together.  Currently I only have these clunky, bendy plastic needles.  I've had all kinds of issues sewing and embroidering with them but I never thought to check into other alternatives.  When I went to Suzoo's Wool Works in Costa Mesa (Go there if you can, it's an amazing store), I was asking Jennifer about it and she showed me these really cool darning needles that are metal and have a slight bend at the tip.  These make it much easier to sew things together as you get greater accuracy.  So I'm going to be getting a set this weekend.

So here's the little guy in pieces.

I used another Chroma color called Midwinter.  I just love blends - let me say it again I LOVE BLENDS!  I think that it gives my toys a unique quality that you can't get from a traditional colored toy.  Now, I'm not saying I'll never knit, say, a brown teddy bear, actually I'm sure I will, but at this point I love the uniqueness of these blended yarns. 

This kitty was my original second toy for my niece, but I'm knitting another toy, which is a monster called Petunia designed by Rebecca Danger (  I need to go home and take some pictures of my progress with Petunia.  I only have two legs to go and then sewing, stuffing and embroidering.  I'll probably use some small buttons for the eyes - so much to choose from!

Anyway I'll post on Petunia over the weekend.  I've got a lot of knitting to do!!!!!!

Thanks for reading


Friday, February 3, 2012

Wowsers - Almost seven months!

Hello again! I have been actively and mostly obsessively knitting. It's become pretty much the only thing I do for recreation.

Say hello to Poindexter

He's a chubby chirp from a pattern by Rebecca Danger.

I started with the idea that I wanted to knit toys but I played it safe to start out with and knitted 3 scarfs: 1 for me, 1 for my wife, and one for my sister-in-law Mandy.

I knew that if I wanted to knit toys I'd need to learn how to knit in the round. I got a couple of tutorials and pillaged YouTube for knitting videos. I decided that I really like the circular needle approach as opposed to the 3-4 DPN approach. I'm certain that there are opinions on both sides of the argument but I'm enamored of circular needles.

I labored for a while and finally finished my first toy. The Chill Pill.

From a fellow blogspotter - Knitting Pony. Here's the pattern.

I did this with a strong sense of urgency because I discovered that a friend of mine had a 9 year old daughter with cancer. I thought that I could make her a little chill pill (I call it the Happy Pill) that she could take to chemotherapy and squeeze when she wasn't feeling good. It was really exciting and I discovered that when you are knitting for someone else it really creates a sense of purpose.

I knitted another one trying a different method for rounding the ends. I wasn't terribly satisfied with the results but it still looked good. I brought it to work along with my little purple monster chunk.

Which is super fun and easy and QUICK to knit. I ended up substituting a Kitchener type stitch to bind off the feet because I CAN'T FIGURE OUT THAT DOGGONE 3 NEEDLE BIND OFF TECHNIQUE!!!!!!! I will master it one day - Oh yes - I will.

Anyhoo, a friend of mine at work was marvelling at my toys. He said it was amazing and so unique. I asked him if he wanted to give one to his daughter. He has two daughters so I gave him the monster chunk and the happy pill. He was overjoyed.

The next day he told me his daughters went crazy for the toys. They were fighting over the happy pill. So, naturally, I decided to knit another one for his other daughter. I gave it to him today and he was super stoked.

I've adapted a circular technique involving a 6 stitch cast on that gradually expands (KFB, K1, KFB, K2, etc.) and it looks BEAUTIFUL.

Anyway - have lots of thoughts recently and don't want to spill them all here. Good to talk to you again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Post Number One

Hi there. My name is Alec and I am learning to knit.

A brief background. I grew up with a mother that was a maniac when it came to making clothes and crafts. She was more of your late fifties/early sixties stay-at-home mom with 3 boys. She sewed clothes for us. She made Barbie clothes for all the girls in the neighborhood. Hell, she even made the bridesmaids dresses for my wedding.

She wasn't a knitter but I definitely got the crafts bug from her. I've been doing needlepoint patterns off and on for years. However that hasn't been very satisfying lately - seems more like a paint by number set than a creative endeavor. I'm a musician and am very into the creative and improvisational aspect of the arts.

So, for the past several months I've had this odd desire to learn to knit. I've always been intimidated by knitting, it seemed very complex and difficult, so I never investigated it. I thought - well, scarves, hats and sweaters, how fun can that be????

Then I discovered....

(drum roll)


Well, heck, I can get behind this! I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to goofy stuffed animals and such. Lover of most things Japanese.

So, I spent several hours poring over Amazon's selection of knitting books and DVDs. I must say those Amazon reviewers are certainly critical. Anyway I decided against books because I have a very hard time getting something like knitting from looking at photos. So I finally decided on The Complete Beginner's Guide to Knitting DVD by Nici McNally (

Huge PLUG here - wow I can't tell you how wonderful this disc is. Nici is a very friendly teacher and really goes out of her way to make sure you get it. The DVD is chaptered very well and it's really easy to go back if you didn't understand something. After simply learning the slip knot, casting on, and the knit stitch, I was off and running.

And it's a disc you can use for a long time. More advanced topics, increase, decrease, ribbing, gauge, troubleshooting, are all covered.

OK, that's enough of that, still, if you are a beginning knitter you could do well by picking this up.

My first week was spent beginning and unraveling this silly 10-stitch practice scarf. I think I must have redone it 30 times. It took forever to just get to the point where I wasn't ending up constantly increasing the number of stitches. Start with 10, then there's suddenly 12 stitches there! Where in the heck did they come from? The other fun one was finding giant holes in the knitting after I'd gotten through 8-10 inches of the scarf. Not to mention how uneven and loose my knits were.

The first painful week also taught me that I really don't like wooden needles. A lot of knitting pundits recommend starting with wood needles because they don't slip as much. My issue was that they just seemed like they wouldn't let go of the stitches. I had to really tug and pull to manipulate the stitches on the needle. I decided to try aluminum needles and - OH MAN - aluminum needles are awesome. For me personally I now cannot imagine knitting with anything else. I tried wood and plastic but they just didn't do it.

I say painful in a humorous way, because knitting is slowly teaching me to forgive myself for mistakes and that it's okay to start again. I went into this with the attitude that no matter what happened I'd have fun. I don't care how many times I have to start that scarf again! This is one of the more Zen aspects of knitting: it can teach you things about yourself. Maybe you can learn to forgive yourself for screwing up, or maybe you can turn a screwup into a unique aspect of the pattern. It can teach you how well or poorly you treat yourself, which is always a good lesson for me because I have been known to beat myself up pretty mercilessly.

There's s another cool thing about knitting: It's YOURS. The basic rules are there but it is so easy to really make knitting your own, choosing the threads, how you apply the patterns, and other aspects of the craft really leave you feeling like this is your creation, even though you may be using someone else's pattern.

Alright - that is my first week's struggle with figuring out how this stuff works. The next post will dive into my first tastes of success and accomplishment.