Technical Tuesday: Kinky

If you have EVER ripped something out you will know the pain of attempting to knit with kinked up yarn. It changes your gauge; it fights back, over all, it’s just a pain to knit with. The yarn isn’t as appealing and this could easily cause you to loose steam in your knitting project.

The video above shows you how to fix a couple yards of kinked up yarn. If you’re anything like me, you won’t notice your mistake until you’re almost done and have to rip back through a hank and a half of yarn. On a bigger scale, that technique is not going to work.

There are so many things I love about this video, the name for one. How to straighten your Wiggle Wool; my love of alliteration never fades. Secondly, she tells you not to despair. It can be so frustrating attempting to deal with wool that isn’t cooperating. It made me feel a little less inept because she was having trouble winding it around her forearm. You know it was all sitting in a neat little pile, but it still tangled a bit!

If you have a niddy noddy you can do the above technique. They’re steaming to set the twist of their hand-spun yarn, but it will also get rid of the kinks in your yarn.
I hope the article title gave you a little thrill. I know it wasn’t quite as exciting as you thought it was going to be, but hopefully informative. Don’t forget that you can always put that yarn on time-out after you’ve straightened it out.

TO Island Give-it-a-Tri Recap

Well… I survived!!! Yaaaaay!

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A couple days before the race, I was starting to become alarmed that I had not received any kind of notification of my wave time. When I went to try on my wet suit, I was telling the person helping me out. He said not to worry about it and just proceed as though I was going to be in the first wave. Considering that the wave times were every 15 minutes and between 8am and 9am, this seemed like a good idea. A couple days before the race I got my email with all my info.

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I picked up my race packet and got body marked on the main-land then Alanna, Paul and I took the ferry over to the island. Those would be out bikes, just chillin’  out. The body-marker people wrote your bib number on your arm and your age on your calf. I feel like this engendered a strange sense of honesty and intimacy that you don’t usually find in races. PS that person in the background of the photo above did NOT look 53. I found a lot of people did not look their age at all. I kept thinking to myself, ‘they wrote their numbers the wrong way around!’

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Yes that would be the rising sun hitting our faces! We took the 6:30am ferry so we were there almost two hours before our wave time (8:20am). When we got to the island, Alanna and I headed over to sort out our transition area. I didn’t realize that all the transitions were happening in the same area; when Alanna tried to explain this, it took much longer than it should have to sink in… I hadn’t had all that much coffee, sue me. I didn’t have to worry about making sure all my stuff was in the right place because there was only one area.

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One of my biggest concerns for the upcoming race was nutrition. I had been having problems with low blood sugar crashes and in the days leading up to the race I wasn’t feeling properly. Since the Wednesday before, when Chloe passed, I had been too upset to eat much. I was completely justified in my concern that I was just going to pass out cold on the ground. To make sure this DID NOT happen, I brought four gels with me. For such a short race this was definitely overkill, but better to have it and not need it.

TO Island Race Recap-3621I had watched a lot of videos about transition areas and what to put where. I wrote down a list and carefully packed everything that was going to be in my transition. There is a neon green towel that held my run stuff, but you can see it better in my first transition area photo. I shoved my sunglasses in my helmet to make sure I would have them for the bike. I don’t normally wear, or like, sunglasses. Something about them being over my eyes and semi-inpairing my line-of-sight really bothers me. I was really glad to have them on this bike because the sun was shining directly at eye level; and it was useful to protect me from the wind.

TO Island Race Recap-3624The race was having little info sessions down at the beach before your wave time. Just important safety information and basic race course directions. After figuring out where all the in’s and out’s were, we put on our wetsuits and sunscreen and headed down to the beach. The timing anklets were to be picked up on the beach so we grabbed those and then got into the water. I don’t remember what the exact temperature was, but they announced it and used the word ‘balmy.’ Under no freaking circumstances was that ‘balmy!’ I know what you’re thinking, but you had a wetsuit on! The wetsuit lets in a bit of water next to your skin and your body heat warms up that bit of water. It is still freaking cold when it hits you!

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So that is me attempting to claw my way out of the wetsuit that attempted to coke me to death in the water. I am not sure what happened, it may or may not have been me just having a small anxiety moment, but it felt like the collar of the wetsuit got tighter and tighter as I was swimming. I feel I should mention that I have some kind of irrational fear of open water. I have no idea where it came from, but I get nervous in open water. I swam most of the 400m on my back and seeking a happy place that was not the water. When I was finally close enough to shore to stand up, my head started spinning and I was just trying not to fall back down. I find that this usually how it happens with swimming though, you don’t realize how hard you’ve been working until you get out of the water.

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The transition went well, by the time I had wandered back to the transition area and peeled off my evil wetsuit I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. I walked my bike out and took off. The biking portion was easily the strongest section of the race for me. I pushed myself a little bit and passed a couple people, then all of the sudden was over taken by a lot of women from the wave after mine. It was humbling to see these women 20 years older than me totally kicking my ass. I really hope I am in that kind of shape when I get there! When I finally got back to the transition area, I did the sweetest rolling dismount you could possibly imagine. I used to do this as a kid all the time. Living on a farm, you ride your bike a lot and I  am well practiced. It still felt good when the race volunteer said ‘nicely done!’

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Last but not least! The run! This was difficult for me because you’re not allowed to listen to any music. I usually try to loose myself in the music for the first 2K of a run, that is just how long it takes to find my groove. Unfortunately, this was a majority of the run for this race. I feel I can say with certainty, I am a distance runner. I tried to keep myself occupied by yelling encouragement to others, good-naturedly heckling the people who were watching (but not cheering) and making sure I was going the right way. You had to do two laps of the running course, which kind of sucked because it was the same view as the first time, but I understand they can’t book off the whole island. By the time I was doing my second loop and coming to the end, I was finally hitting my stride.

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The best part about this race in particular was the chocolate milk after. This triathlon series was ‘recharge with milk’ by Multisport Canada. There were photos and also free food for the athletes. No medal though. There are fewer and fewer events handing out medals and I would TOTALLY pay extra just to get one. We got t-shirts along with the various kinds of swag and samples the sponsors hand out.

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All the photos from the race are free, which I thought was a REALLY nice touch. I’ve done other races where the photos cost an arm, leg, pound of flesh, first born and you had to guess what the race co-ordinator’s third cousin, on their mother’s side, was named.

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Not too terrible for a first tri. My goal was to come in around an hour and I made it!

A Rough Week

I haven’t done all that much knitting lately, as the title suggests it has been a really bad week. Before I get into that, I am going to mention that I am updating my Ravelry page with the finished information for the micro fibre tank I finished last week. I’ll post the finished object photos at the end of this post, to hopefully leave on a positive note.

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I know I JUST introduced my furbabies in this post, and if you are friends with me on facebook you will know what happened. August 19th, Wednesday, Chloe had a major cardiac episode and passed away. She was only 5 years old and not sick at all. It was very sudden and left us devastated. She was my little knitting buddy and will be greatly missed. I went back and forth about if I should or should not say something on the blog. If it was appropriate, etc., but I was listening to a podcast today and the podcaster said that these podcasts, blogs and creative things we write are like chronicles of our lives and essentially our creative process.

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Chloe was always on my lap when I was knitting and was a bright spot in my everyday life. She was forever chasing yarn and doing battle with my knitting needles. She especially liked biting the cable of my circular needles if I ever left them out. I am really going to miss those little tooth marks.

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Now for the positive note I promised. I finally got around to taking a few finished object photos. After blocking the fabric grew a little bit so it is a little bit big. The microfiber ribbon is a little bit heavier than the yarn the original pattern was for as well so when I bend forward the fabric shifts a little more than I anticipated. It’s not indecent or anything, but it’s an unsettling feeling to have the fabric shifting around you like that. I think I might try to attach it from underneath to prevent the material from moving around quite so much.

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I wonder if I throw it in the drier if it would shrink up a bit. I don’t think it will though because it is a synthetic fibre and not anything natural. It’s very cool though. When I went outside to take the photos it was very cool and I could feel the wind going through the shirt. I could imagine it would be very pleasant on a summer day.
Aside from this shirt I’ve started a couple new pairs of socks, but haven’t really worked very hard on any of them. The triathlon was this past weekend and I’ll be writing about that tomorrow.

Technical Tuesday: One REALLY Excellent Book

One of the most invaluable skills I learned about early was yarn substitutions. I was extremely lucky and am very happy the way I went around learning to knit. It was totally on accident as well. I was looking up patterns for my first sweater project when I saw a pattern that I LOVED! I had to have it immediately, but it was only available in the book.
This happened to be Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Hybrid Sweater. This was published in Knitting without Tears, which was first published June 1971. I went out looking for this book at bookstores; checked if I could order it from Chapters etc. No such luck, it was re-printed 1995 as a Fireside paperback edition. I gave up on bookstores after discovering that some yarn stores carried books (don’t judge me, this was in my knitting infancy). I ended up finding it at the third store I checked and promptly bought it and headed back home. I had already seen the yarn requirements from Ravelry, and wanted to cast on immediately.
If anyone has ever read an EZ pattern, you will know that it is a little more difficult than just casting on 98 stitches and doing the ribbing. On one hand, I had not expected this and was slightly annoyed, but on the other hand, it really made me THINK. It gave me that fundamental understanding of gauge and how it worked. There are instructions on how to measure your store bought sweaters and work with a swatch and those numbers to specifically get the perfect size for yourself!

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Knowing this now, I always use a witch-crafty combination of checking my actual gauge and what size I want the garment to be and comparing the patterns gauge and what the expected outcomes will be. This might sound confusing, but it allows me to measure a well fitting sweater and figure out how many stitches I would have to cast on (at my current gauge) to get that size. Then I look at the pattern and check if that is a legitimate size.
This process definitely sounds overly complicated, and it totally is. There are much easier ways of checking your gauge, BUT what happens when you have a totally different yarn size and the pattern gauge is just not going to hack it?

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I am actually re-writing a pattern for a friend right now. She chose a smaller yarn size than the pattern calls for and it is an all-over cable style. This was not too bad; I just had to take the measurements of the sweater and her gauge swatch and apply it to the pattern. If pattern has to be a multiple of 8 for the cables to work out (I am just using random numbers for the example) and the number of stitches is 200, then you’re golden! It is a little bit trickier with cables, because 8 stitches cabled is not the same as 8 stitches in stockinette; but I digress and there is a formula for that!
I think this book deserves it’s own place in my Technical Tuesday posts, because it built an AMAZING foundation for learning about gauge. If there is one knitting book I would prompt someone to read, it would be this one. Elizabeth Zimmerman was a clever, witty woman and I think I can lay at least part of my open-mindedness in knitting at her door.

Awesome Etiquette the Podcast!

I was listening to the Knitmore Girls a podcast that is, unsurprisingly, about crafting. Jasmin happened to mention that she was listening to a new podcast called Awesome Etiquette. I was intrigued by this and decided to give it a listen.
The hosts, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, are fantastic! They’re both passionate about lubricating your way through interesting social situations. We’ve all had that experience of a circumstance where there is not a clear way forward. We’ve either managed to put ourselves there, or have been placed there by another person. Whether it is your own fault or the doing of another, Lizzie and Daniel have a solution. They’re associated with the Emily Post Institute. I will confess that I had not heard anything about Emily Post’s life or career. This is quite embarrassing considering she is a famous author and I have a degree in English Literature. I guess we can’t read them all, right?
A quick synopsis of Emily Post, she was born in 1872 as Emily Price in Baltimore, Maryland. She was educated at home as a young child and attended Miss Graham’s finishing school when her family moved to New York. Emily was married to Edwin Main Post and had two sons. She started writing when her sons were old enough to start boarding school, but after her divorce. Emily Post became a name synonymous with good etiquette as her first book, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, became a best seller. She continued to write and founded the Emily Post institute in 1946. The institute is carried on today by her descendants.
One of the most vital things I have drawn from this podcast is, you cannot control the actions of others. They never explicitly say it and always give advice on how to handle the actions of others, but I find myself thinking if everyone were just a little more accepting it would make life so much easier. When you have to tell that person they have BO, when someone is unintentionally hurting your feelings or dealing with well-meaning strangers; it all goes a little smoother when the other party is accepting.
I definitely suggest you check it out because it is A) awesome and B) seriously informative and entertaining! If there is one thing we could all use more of, it is common courtesy.

Wasn’t that Just a Week Ago?

I have been working on my microfiber ribbon top a lot. I just bound off the edge today at lunch and I would have seamed the shoulders if I had more time. As it was I only had five minutes and I didn’t want to be rushed while doing this. I am super excited about getting this top done and off the needles.

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The way that it is designed, you end up with a lot more stitches than you cast on. Near the end I almost had 400 stitches on the needles, which is a problem when you’re used to saying, ‘just one more row.’ It was great autopilot knitting though, a few stitch markers helped me remember the increases and the other side was plain purling. Since this shirt was oddly shaped, while on the needles, I couldn’t try it on at all. My gauge was sketchy at best when I started this shirt. I did my swatch and all the math to figure out the gauge, but this pattern wasn’t written for microfiber ribbon yarn so it was incredibly difficult to know exactly how the pattern was going to turn out.

 

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I adjusted the neckline to be a bit deeper and did everything in stockinette stitch instead of adding garder accents. I think this yarn was best suited to stockinette stitch, the wrong side of the stitch looks great as well, but I prefer the smoothness of the stockinette.

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I thought I was going to get away with only using one ball of yarn but those long rows are really deceptive. I ended up using almost the entire second ball of yarn before it was time to bind off. I am not going to lie to you; I was super excited to bind this off. With close to 400 stitches, it took a while and I felt really relieved to be done. It’s a long time to walk the fine line between binding off fast and keeping the perfect tension.

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I am excessively sorry that I can’t post a finished object photo today, but rest assured, I am probably going to finish this tonight and post about it next week. Blocking and everything! Too excited to finish and wear!

Technical Tuesday: Some Handy Advice

I know this might sound obvious, but in order to knit… you need to take care of your hands. The idea for this post came to me the other day while I was knitting. I had a hangnail that kept bothering me when I was working with some really soft yarn. It made me feel like I had crypt-keeper hands, but just moisturizing wasn’t enough.

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Since I work with a lot of fibre, paper and my hands are always in and out of water, I need to pay a little more attention than most. I find it is usually my cuticles or the skin around my fingernails that gets really dry. When I am working with soft or fluffy yarn, like mohair, I really notice this. In the past year, I’ve had an abnormally high amount of manicures. There were weddings, showers and parties that called for getting all dressed up. Now that I’ve gone without a manicure for four-ish months, I am really noticing the benefit of getting them. I’m not even talking about going out to your salon and paying for one, but the kind you give yourself at home in your own living room.
First and foremost is moisturizer! Some fibres will dehydrate your skin a little bit, but use your judgement; if you know working with cotton causes your hands to dry out, be proactive about it! Wool naturally comes coated with lanolin, if you’ve ever felt unprocessed wool before you will know what I am talking about. To totally break it down, lanolin is the grease that comes from sheep fleece. It’s a natural moisturizer and is actually bottled and sold. Recently I have seen wool wash that has been augmented with lanolin; to bring fresh life to your wool sweaters. I digress, any fibre with a natural amount of lanolin will help keep your hands healthy.

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Giving a little extra love to your hands is never a bad thing either. I make sure to keep my nails in check. Filing down sharp edges and making sure they aren’t too long, without reason. Your hands help you to make beautiful things take care of them!
Stretching before every knitting session is another great way to take care of your hands and prevent injury. Whether we know it or not, knitting and crochet take muscles, be sure to acknowledge that with a few pre-crafting stretches. Going hand in hand with stretching is taking breaks. I am as guilty as anyone for getting into a groove and knitting straight through a couple hours, but at the end, my hands are sore. Taking a few breaks really helps me realize when I just need to stretch my hands and perhaps apply a bit of ice.

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Among all these tips, the last thing I will say is to use ergonomic tools and techniques. If a technique isn’t working out for you, then change it up. Hold the yarn in the other hand, learn how to knit Portuguese style, or continental. There are also many tools that are being re-invented to become more ergonomic. Take notice, but also do your due diligence; read reviews etc to see if these tools are legitimate before trusting completely!
I have heard a lot of people talk about how the feet are the most underappreciated part of the body. We walk on them all day and put them into uncomfortable shoes, but they still manage to carry us to most of the places we want. I wouldn’t say that our hands are the absolute most treasured extremity, but we do put them through a lot as well. Over all I would say to take care of yourself in general, but a little extra love on your hands would never go amiss.

Pinteresting

What I’ve been finding Pinteresting lately!

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The sheep cupcakes are possibly the cutest thing ever! I don’t think I would be able to actually eat them. The parmesan sliders are going to be a must-try!

New!

I started something new! Today actually. I’ve been not knitting as much lately, kinda feeling out of my groove. It wasn’t too long ago that I was reminded about the Tess Fiber Arts Microfiber Ribbon I bought at Vogue Knitting Live. This was one of the purcheases I was specifically looking for in Chicago last year.

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I bought it because I know I have a hard time knitting in the summer. I just don’t feel the same as in the winter, when you’re freezing your tail off and NEED a sweater right now or your going to loose the battle against hypothermia. Granted I keep my house pretty cold in the winter, but not quite THAT cold… to me anyway.

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I had spent a lot of time going over patterns for this ribbon yarn and wanted the perfect pattern to complement it. After writing the post yesterday I realized this was itself a form of procrastination. If I knit something that was not absolutely perfect… I can always buy more yarn. I could get a different colour, I could use a different pattern! There are literally a thousand things I could do to change the outcome of knitting a tank with this yarn, but NOT knitting it would only turn out one way.

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I started on this TODAY. Got home from the office, ate real quick and started by balling the first hank. You can’t use a ball winder on this yarn because it is too slippery. You need to keep a tension on it or else it will become hopelessly tangled. I did the first ball and started swatching immediately. I asked Paul if he wanted to ball the other two hanks because he seemed intrigued by the ribbon yarn and he readily did it. I guess he has recovered from the lace incident of 2013. I actually ball most of my own yarn now that I have a ball winder and swift.

I’ve started on a pattern and this is as far as I have gotten. Knitting with this yarn is like knitting with water; it’s going to have an awesome drape and cool finish. I am really looking forward to the rest of this garment! I’ve already changed the pattern significantly, but I think it will make this pattern completely in my tastes.

Technical Tuesday: Resources for Beginners

Whenever I tell people about knitting, I always get the ‘Oh, I would never have the patience for that,” or “I could never do that.” I always say to never say never because I am sure there was a time when I would have looked at some of my current knitting and thought I would never be able to do something like that. Actually, I am 100% sure; I can even remember thinking that about the Fiddlehead Mittens. I got the kit for my birthday and put off starting them for a really long time. I didn’t want to mess them up and ruin the whole kit. I finally just got tired of NOT having those mittens and went for it.

Regardless, it can be overwhelming when you’re ready to take the plunge and knit, but have no idea where to start. I am going to scatter good beginner videos throughout the post, but the first advice I always give people is to pick a project. Lately, the projects have been dishcloths. They are one of the first things people mention, ‘my grandmother used to hand-knit us dishcloths, they were always the best ones.’ This is perfect because it is just a square! The best material for a dishcloth is cotton, or something else that says it lends itself well to dishcloths. If you’re in a big box store like Michael’s, sometimes the labels give advice for the kind of project that yarn is best suited for. If you’re in a local yarn store, just ask. The owners and employees will definitely know what you’re looking for as well as being able to set you up with all the right needles etc.

If you don’t really know what you want to knit, but you know you want to knit something, start on Ravelry. It’s free to join and there are 1000’s of free patterns on there. The most useful part about Ravelry, after you get sucked down the black hole of patterns and finally choose one, is it tells you what you need for it! What kind of yarn, needles, type, size and even where to buy such things.

There are also tonnes of groups to find other knitters with common interest. There are groups ranging from people within a geographic area to those with common TV interests. There are groups there for beginner knitters to ask questions and even suggest good first-time projects.
For the most part, YouTube is your friend. If you’re ever looking at a pattern and it is telling you to do something you haven’t heard of, look it up! Just Google the term, or search for it directly on YouTube. There is information out there and you just have to reach out and ask for it. If you are someone who needs to sit with another person and be shown something, reach out to your local knitting store. A lot of places will run classes you can take or will definitely know where you can find them.

There are rich resources and a real sense of community out there if you just know where to look for it! Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions because, trust me, we have all been there. I am also always available for email consultation about knitting, problems, pretences and parties!! 😉