Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning to Purl

Today I will return to Art Ed to see the (mostly completed) embarrassingly easy handwarmers that the students have completed. It's time to learn to purl. As a studious practitioner of purl avoidance, this should be fun. To prep, I have a couple of pair of socks to demonstrate purl for fit (i.e. ribbing) and my great big Aran sweater to demo purl as art. I'll also have my hedgerow socks that nicely fit both categories.

I finally photographed them this morning and got them up on Ravelry. They have been my slow knitting. I've knit a few gull lace hats, dyed a good bit of fiber and sock yarn and spun several bobbins of yarn since I began these. Mostly they live at the office for lunch hour and meeting knitting and 'knit-while-reading' knitting. Hence slow knitting - kind of like slow food. I do like them even though I have to think a wee bit too much. There are a couple of booboos, but nothing worth pulling out. In truth I think the pattern is totally lost in the striping and I would be better off going back to my old favorite throw-back waffle socks pattern, but I have no intention of pulling them out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Women are from Venus

Just a short post to announce the next planet, Venus - a very girly shade of orchid pink. Andromeda Shades are well on their way. The big box of Romney roving arrived today, so I am back in the interplanetary business.

Also new on the block, an olive shade I call Oregano - Semi solid sock yarn, perfect for Hedgerow and other stitch that look good in the more 'Subtle Shades.' I like this one a lot.

Last night's dance with Chicken Tractor was very cool - plus the fellows brought in an actual ready to lay chicken tractor, perfect for the new economy! The crowd was raucous, the band was hot, I didn't make any horrible mistakes - over all a fine evening. I treated it like an advanced dance. I started the evening about where I left off in Blacksburg on Saturday evening. Another one of those evenings where I know why I call dances. Big Fun!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Andromeda Shades: Mercury!

As I continue to grow my fiber business, I have been brainstorming to come up with new names for colorways and color families.

I have relied primarily on plants or descriptions based on the colors themselves: blueberry, marigold, bronze, etc. But as I continue to expand, I find I want to create series of color families. I engaged J in a brainstorming session a week or so back some overall families for both roving and yarns. One of us came up with the sky - I think the first thought was Celestial Shades, but although I like the alliteration, it was a bit to 'angelic.' That led to stars, planets, constellations and other heavenly bodies and eventually to Andromeda Shades.

I decided that Andromeda Shades would be a specific line of Romney rovings beginning with the planets. I've had 'Blue Planet' up for a week or two - I've already sold one and it was chosen for an Etsy Treasury with andEarth theme. Today I launched 'Mercury.' As I was brainstorming on the naming of the colors for each planets, some were very easy - Mars is the red planet - actually red-orange. Veus is pink, because of its 'female' connotation. Mercury made me think of the element - slinky, silver gray, but my first experiments were not pretty. The grey dye has a tendency to split into the dye colors that are combined to make them. but when I took the 'fawn' roving and over dyed it with purple and blue, I got the depth I was looking for. I posted it this morning. Venus and Mars are right behind; I did the first Saturn experiment yesterday - it's sort of a gold with plum. I think I like it, but I'll have to see it dry and photographed.

I am still thinking of a name for the family of 'semi-solid' sock yarns. Subtle Shades? Harmonious Hues? Contribute your ideas here!

Great weekend calling the excellent contradance in Blacksburg, VA. The band was long time friends Skylark out of Chapel Hill and we stayed at the home of Shawn and Matt; both terrific musicians and extremely cool people. I drove home in the snow (at least in Virginia) happy and remembering why I call dances. Tonight I'm calling at the Grey Eagle in Asheville with Chicken Tractor - Laurie Fisher's new band.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grading Papers & Quizzes

Note: Actual fiber content follows.

About one-third of the way into the semester (and 3/4 of the way through the accelerated classes), I find myself covered up with assignments to grade; quizzes to make, administer and grade; portfolios to review; students to encourage (sounds better than nag!) and all those things that make teaching an administrative challenge.

I have spent the last 3 days grading when I would rather be updating handouts for an evening presentation for my professional development work. A colleague says, 'I'll teach for free, but you have to pay me to grade papers.' Now I could give fewer assignments, totally objective self-grading exams. Instead I think my students benefit from small, frequent assignments and quizzes where I expect them to construct answers. I am writing this post while my students take their quiz!

The upside is that I am hitting the endgame in the evening classes, so I have prepped and field-tested all my material for the full term courses. I have a great group of students this semester, particularly in the evening session. They are an interesting mix of career changers, teacher assistants finishing their degrees and traditional day students closed out of the on-campus classes. One man is from Guatemala, a Spanish teacher in a small private school getting certified to teach in North Carolina -he's brilliant! Another is a 40ish former graphic designer and mom who is going through a divorce and taking advantage of her life-change to go back to school to do what she always wanted to do - be a teacher. The teacher assistants add real-world experience to my group and I appreciate them immensely. One of the day students dropped by my office to tell me how much he enjoyed the evening class. He told me that he didn't expect to like it, but he too appreciates the diversity of the adult program.

Actual Fiber Content: I have knit another Gull Lace Cap as I test the pattern for improved knittability or errors. I've only made a small change since I got it back from the testers. I knit a sapmle for Asheville HomeCrafts in Baby Alpaca Grande (sweet!) and will knit another in Brown Sheep Bulky for the shop. Tonight is a teaching night (only 3 more!) so I won't get back to the pattern today. I am knitting a charming pair of Hedgerow socks (see picture above, though it's not mine - just a close up of the knit pattern) though the stitch pattern is getting lost in the stripes of my Knit Picks Felici.
I've also been spinning again. I like to spin very much and my shops are OUT! Can't let that happen! More fiber to come in the next post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Fun that Knitting?

Why teaching others to knit, of course! A few years ago, I was regularly teaching knitting classes in my dining room and through an 'open university' that no longer exists in the community. I've taught at SAFF and led a group at my workplace. But graduate school (and employee turnover) put a stop to those activities. I missed teaching knitting, but I was very busy with my studies and then launching my new carreer that I didn't have time to miss it.

But this semester it was time for the fiber unit in Art Ed (ED324, Art in Elementary Schools) that my friend Barbara teaches. In the last few years we have focused on felt making, making beads and snakes and flat felt. This year the students really wanted to learn to knit. So I have been pressed into service helping the fledgling knitters.

My motto came right back to me - 'Just keep knitting.' 'Ms. Walter, This stitch is weird.' Ms Walter, my knitting looks awful.' The answer is almost always the same, 'Just keep knitting.' With only one previous knitter and a crocheter with some transition issues, they are having a hard time being inexperienced knitters. 'It will get better', I tell them. 'See, your third row is already better than the first! Just keep knitting.'

Since I taught most of these students in CS200 (Computer Applications for Education), I know then and like them and they kept telling me how much better art was than computer class. Uh, yeah! On Tuesday, I raced over to the ArtEd room as soon as I could possibly justify it. Yes, Knitting is much better than computing!

After their practice piece, they will make hand warmers as per Tangle's free pattern, what I call Embarrassingly Easy Fingerless Mitts. A simple square, knit in Garter stitch, folded over and seamed from both ends. I think they will get there!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Bit of Everything

I had the kind of weekend that I like the best. I dyed, I knit, I worked on a design, I called a dance in Jonesborough TN. I spent time with others, helping out at the LYS Sit & Knit & communicating with my test knitters. I spent some time alone. I - wait for the drum roll - cleaned my house.

Between the fiber business and the full time job + night class, it has gotten a wee bit ahead of me. I had a round of house guests in the fall, but I haven't given it more that a lick and a promise since. But after spending time at my friends' houses, I realized that my house was beyond the pale. So now my floors are clean throughout, the bathroom is lovely, the kitchen and living room are heavily de-cluttered, the studio is a space I can work in. Still plenty left to do - including a bit of retraining for that fellow - but much better than before.

The new hat is coming along nicely. The test knitters have given me excellent feedback, plus they enjoyed knitting the hat. My intention is that it will be a Ravelry free download, though the B&M shop wants to sell it. Now I'd like to do a worsted weight version. Sounds like fun!

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Hat! Any Test Knitters out there?

I've been knitting a good bit lately, but I am happily off socks!

As I contemplated Elizabeth Zimmermann’s February Baby Sweater and the February Lady sweater making the rounds of the blogoshere, I immediately thought about how the gull lace pattern would translate into a hat – particularly a pull-on hat in a slightly bulky yarn. Although since both sweaters are knitted from the top down and the hat is knitted bottom up, I was a bit unsure if I would like the lace pattern with its orientation reversed. Turns out I like it just fine. The hat was fun and quick to knit. Here is a quick & dirty picture of prototype #2. This is a really bad picture of a really sweet hat.

In knitting my prototypes, I have used Brown Sheep Lambs Pride Bulky and KnitPicks Peruvian Highland Wool Bulky. Both yarns worked very well. I tried a garter stitch crown, but I felt it looked too ‘heavy,’ so I pulled it out and returned to my favorite crown, with the 8-pointed decrease. My intention is to knit the pattern as I have written it down - hopefully without errors. Then it's off to the test knitters for further pattern proofing.

If you would like to be a test knitter, please respond via the comments section of this blog. Tell me how long you have been knitting and whether you have ever proof-knitted a pattern. I'll need your feedback in about a week, so be sure that you have time to do this. I'll select about 4 test knitters and email them the pattern. It will soon be a free Ravelry download for everyone!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dancing Complications

For many years I have been a contra dancer, dance caller and occasional English Country Dancer. I've also done a bit of Morris dance, Scottish Country dancing and I truly love to waltz. But age does take it's toll on the body, and for the last few years I have been experiencing pain in my right toes (particularly 'roast beef' and 'none'). It's painful not only after a few hours of dance, but also after hiking or strenuous walking.

Over the last 2 years, I have increasingly enjoyed English country dancing (ECD). It's easier on the body, less crowded and my fellow dancers are older. Contrary to many communities, contradance is quite a youth scene in the Asheville area. We have 3-4 dances per week and they are all packed in like sardines without oil. I love to contradance - don't get me wrong. I still volunteer with both the Old Farmer's Ball and the Monday night dance. I go, dance a few, then visit with friends (while knitting, of course) or go home. But I prefer a bit of room to dance with partners of my generation.

So since I finished grad school, I have gotten involved with the local English dance. I attended 2 ECD weekends last spring where I was the worst dancer at the events. Not to brag, but that means the dance quality was really, really good! Here I am dancing Handel With Care at the Sun Assembly's spring dance weekend in 2008. I'm in the black top with long skirt.

I have even started leading English dances, but still only have a repertoire of about 8 dances.

But back to the foot. I was just sick of hurting. After my hike in Georgia a few weeks ago, I noticed a definite swelling on my 2 affected toes as well as a burning on the ball of the foot, so I finally broke down and went to the podiatrist. I thought that going to the foot doctor was a sure sign of OLD AGE, but I prefer to think of it as staying younger. I don't intend to stop dancing, hiking, walking to town, living my life. Turns out I have an incredibly common Morton's Neuroma - a 'callous' on the nerve bundle that has an 'outlet' right at the base of the 2 toes. So after a week with a metatarsal pad to adjust my arch, and 2 shots of cortisone, and a week of babying my footie, I feel a bit better. Most importantly, I know what I have. I also have over-the-counter, somewhat customized orthotics. I have every intention of dancing at both the Sun Assembly and Nashville weekends, even if I have to pace myself between now and then.

What do I want to do? Walk wherever I want to go! Hike many miles! Dance forever!