Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Best Kind of Knitting Bag is a Free Knitting Bag

Hey there fellow knitters!  I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you to leave a comment on A Philosophy Degree and Fifty Cents for a chance at a new chevron stripe knitting bag.  This tote bag (handmade by me) is perfect for knitters, because it's big enough to hold any project and has no velcro and any other pokey thing that can snag a knitting project.

Did I mention the chevrons?  I am currently obsessed with chevron stripes.  I even love the word "chevron."

Did I also mention that I am offering it free to one lucky comment leaver?  This is the first giveaway I've done and I am disproportionately excited about it. Seriously - I can't wait to see who wins.  So click on over there, knitting friends!  :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Death of Knitty McPurly

It was a dark and stormy night.  Knitty was sitting on her couch watching Downton Abbey, knitting a red sweater.  Red, like the color of blood.  The lightning struck. The thunder crashed.  Suddenly, the lights went out.  There was a bloodcurdling scream!  Her knitting needles fell to the floor with a loud clink, and the red sweater spilled out over the couch, as if in slow motion.  When the lights came back on, Knitty breathed her last breath...

Ok, it wasn't actually that dramatic.  But why not have a little fun on the way out, right?  Don't worry - while Knitty McPurly has died (the blog, not the person.  Sheesh - what did you THINK I was talking about???) a new blog has risen up out of her ashes.

Sigh... I don't know why I have to be such a drama queen.  Most people would just say, "Hey folks, I decided I wanted to write about more than just knitting, so please continue to follow me at my new blog: A Philosophy Degree and Fifty Cents. It's about all the good stuff in life, and I hope you like it."

 I'll see you there for more drama...

- Devin :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Swatching: Who Needs It?

Well, it seems that I need it.  I was so excited, after making things for other people for the past few months (which I loved, don't get me wrong), to be making a sweater for ME.  The Abalone Sweater.  Very simple.  All stockinette and garter stitch.  It would be PERFECT.

Until... it wasn't.  Apparently, I knit more tightly than the person who wrote the pattern and the sweater ended up too small. (For the hordes of readers that I have who are non-knitters, you're supposed to check your gauge, which means knitting a test swatch to see if you have the right number of stitches per inch.)

Wait - don't close this browser window!  It gets more interesting!  ...  Ok, no it doesn't. 

Did I check my gauge?  Do I even know how to do that?  No. And No. So now I have a gorgeous sweater made with about $60 worth of fabulous yarn that doesn't fit.  Luckily, it looks great on my daughter as an oversized sweater.  She actually looks super cute in it and can't wait for fall so she can actually wear it.  And she's very happy.  Which is worth $60 and ten or so hours.

This church dress isn't the best choice for showing off the awesomeness of the sweater, but if you have a seven year old girl, then you know why I chose not to fight this battle.


 Moving right along! I am planning my next project which is the most gorgeous sweater I have ever seen: Opposite Pole by Joji Locatell.  I love everything about this sweater.  The cables, the shape, the flattering waistline, the soft, squishy Malabrigo merino worsted that it's made of, even the color she chose: Simply Taupe, which is also the color I'll be using.

I know you're wondering if I'll be swatching for this sweater.  I know the question is just looming in your mind....  Um, YES.  I researched how to make and measure swatches, how to count stitches, and even how to adjust the pattern to fit the gauge you naturally knit with.  (Did I just blow your mind?  Because it kind of blew mine. And let me just take this opportunity to say that the reason for this blog is that when I get super excited about something like adjusting a pattern to fit my gauge, my husband's eyes glaze over faster than I thought eyes could do that.  So, thanks for reading this far.)

I have finished two swatches.  I like the way the size 10 needles make the fabric look, but the size 11s get me the gauge the pattern calls for.  So, what will I do?  I'll leave you on the edge of your seat...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

World's Worst Blogger

I apologize for being a terrible blogger. I could tell you that I will get better, really I will, but that is probably a lie.  Fantasy Devin writes a blog entry everyday, and they are all packed with wit, interesting facts you never read anywhere else and glorious, glorious knitting.  Fantasy Devin does tons of stuff that Real Devin never does.  I love Fantasy Devin...

Anyway, I finished Green Baby Blanket 2.0, but didn't photograph it. That's ok. It's just a stockinette blanket.  I also knitted a Lettuce Leaf scarf for my wonderful friend who just turned 40. I made it with Knit Picks Galileo, and it's just so squishy and ruffly.  (The pattern for this isn't on ravelry, but is given out with purchase at my LYS: Needles in the Haymarket.)  What do you think?

Finishing these two projects meant something very important for Real Devin: the commencement of the Season of Selfish Knitting. I haven't made much for myself since last summer.  Which is fine, because I have amazing friends who aren't even knitters but still act like they won the lottery when they find out I knitted them something.  But every now and then, I'd like to keep and wear something I've made.  So I started an Abalone sweater for me out of some Madelinetosh Vintage in Baltic of which I have a bootload. This is a ridiculously simple sweater with no shaping that I really hope turns out cute.  We'll see...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Beyond Merino

I should quit my job.  First of all, the hours are terrible.  Works starts at 5am, if I'm lucky.  I don't get done until 7pm, if I'm lucky. And the littlest of my three slave drivers wakes me up once or twice in the middle of the night, if I'm lucky.  ... But he's just so cute, right?  I can't resist him. So, I guess I'll keep working.  And I DO get paid in kisses and snuggles, and the pay is great.  Ok, maybe I'll quit sleeping instead.

The bottom line is that I need more knitting hours in the day, because there is just so much YARN. Today I went to my very first knitting retreat which took place in scenic, rural, central Virginia, nestled in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains.  It was the kind of place where you kept expecting to see hobbits. The special guest speakers (and the reason why I went) were the ladies of Solitude Wool.  They raise sheep and spin breed specific yarn.  Breed. Specific. Yarn.  It's taking yarn snobbery to a whole new level.

Is it just me, or is there a lot of merino out there?  It seems like most of the wool I come across is merino.  And I like merino. It's very nice.  But there's also Corriedale.  Romney. Cotswold. Border Leicester.  Targhee. These are AMAZING wools, and many of them are raised right here in Virginia.

Cotswold.  This one is my favorite.  It positively glistens.
Gorgeous Romney photobombed by a glass of chardonnay.
This is a skein of undyed alpaca from Platinum Alpacas, which was a vendor a the retreat.  The lady at the table was just so sweet, and no one was going over there.  I don't know why because her yarn was super soft and very weighty for alpaca.  I see a future Milo Vest for my little boy out of this amazing yarn...
At this knitting retreat they passed around spun yarn and the raw fleece that goes with it for these and other sheep breeds.  (If you want a little taste of what this must have been like, check out The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.  I am crazy about this book. I have it in hard copy AND on my Kindle.  Yeah...)

What amazed me was the luster and shine of the Cotswold, Targhee and Romney yarn.  Ok, I fell in love with them.  And dropped some money on some gorgeous yarn.  I left it in the bag, because it will still feel new when I have time to actually knit with it.  It may be that now I only knit with yarn from Solitude Wool.  It is amazing.  I'm in love.

Here are a few facts about sheep that I picked up today that I think I can really use:

1.  A sheep costs, like, $200. (Feeding them is kind of expensive though...)
2. You can keep 3-5 sheep on one acre of land.  (I live on 1/3 of an acre!  That's 1-2 sheep.  Now to convince the HOA...)
3. Sheep do not require shelter.  They do require shade.  (I can handle that.)

So, I need a sheep.  Or two. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Knitting Break

I know I promised a book review about sheep, and it's coming.  It really is. But I have been plugging away on some other projects that I promised people.  (Why do I keep promising stuff?) I paint portraits and I just finished a painting of a friend's parents.  He doesn't even know it's coming. I can't wait to see his face when I give it to him...

So, during this knitting break, I have knitted several small toys: one Bunny Nugget for my husband's friend's new baby, an angry Chubby Chirp for my husband's office, and I started some of Rebecca Danger's monsters for my middle daughter. It seems that if I'm physically able to knit, then I'm still knitting.  Even during a break.

Angry Chubby Chirp named Uncle Leo
Now, I'm working on a soul-crushing blanket for my mom. It's a baby blanket.  A green baby blanket.  (Yes, another one.) And it's crushing my soul.  "Why is your soul the victim here?" you might be wondering... It's several reasons, really, and if you're a knitter, I think you'll understand all of them.

First, it's a blanket. So it's big, even if it's for a baby.

Second, it's in stockinette stitch, the whole thing, with a garter stitch border. This is my fault, because I could have done cables, or lace or something, but I wanted mindless knitting.  Sigh...

Third, it's in a soul-crushing yarn. It's 60% cotton and 40% modal, which is a fiber from beech trees, but feels kind of synthetic.  Yes, the yarn is soft, definitely, but it's...  green.  And there's a lot of it.  And I just don't love knitting with it. And there's no end in sight.

The good news is that when this blanket is done, in five years, when I finish it, all the things I agreed to do for other people will be done!  Yay!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Giraffe Finished!

I am in love with this little guy...  So is my oldest daughter.  She kind of wishes he were hers. Doesn't he just look so pensive? And relaxed?  I bet you want to hug him, don't you?

 The pattern called for eleven spots, but he ended up with three.  Three's good...

And now. a knitting break.  I have a painting project that needs some attention, and I'll be blogging about an awesome book that I'm reading: The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.  It is filled with interesting facts about sheep.  Book review to come!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Giraffe in Progress

This giraffe has been a labor of love.  (I think the mother of its tiny owner feels the same way about him/her.) With bouts of tendonitis flaring up, it has taken me WAY longer than I originally planned.  But it is just so cute, and I feel a surge of arm feel-goodness coming on and am hoping to have it done by Sunday. After that, I can actually knit something else!  Yay!

(Is this a super-short blog post?  Why, yes it is.  But apparently my readership can't get enough of my ridiculously interesting blogging.  They just want more.  Is there stitch by stitch narration coming soon?  Maybe...)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Knitting Night

For a long time, I have wanted to host a Knitting Night at my house, where a bunch of knitters could get together and knit, eat and talk fiber.  Last week, we did just that!  My knitting friends, Kimberly, Julie and Yvonne, gathered around my dining room table with our projects.  And wine.  And snacks.

I have been working on Susan B. Anderson’s Giraffe for my friend who is having a baby.  Wait - what about the hat, Devin?  Remember the green Rosebud hat? Um... and didn’t you start a sweater, too?  Well, yes...  But then there was a baby to knit for, so... you know.

Oh my goodness, this giraffe is just so cute... and knitted toys are the perfect baby gift for that mom who’s waiting to see if it’s a boy or a girl. (I say this like I totally knew it all along, but really it took me weeks of searching ravelry to find something appropriate!) This project has had several starts and stops because of the tendonitis, but after two weeks of (mostly) resting, my elbows are feeling much better.  Yay!  I’m in the trenches making these giraffe legs, but when they are done, there’s not much left.  I can’t wait to give it to its tiny little recipient! Pictures to come...

So, Kimberly, a relatively new knitter, was starting a couple of London Beanies for her sons. Yvonne, a fellow yarn snob, was working with some GORGEOUS Madelinetosh Vintage in the well water colorway.  (I’m so going to need some of that color...) And Julie, a longtime knitter, was making a first communion veil for her daughter with an intricate stitch pattern.  And I really meant to take pictures of us actually working, but I got caught up in the knitting and forgot.  Here's a shot of the table beforehand...  Super exciting, right?

 A friend of mine posted this awesome blog post on facebook the other day and it got me thinking - what about a knitting night where the knitters teach a few non-knitters?  For some reason, I’m daunted by teaching others to knit.  I’m not sure why... But I took the plunge and invited this group over again in a few weeks, along with some who want to learn.  

When I couldn't knit, I made a needle case like the one shown on the blog.  It was very quick and easy, but maybe not quick enough to make for everyone coming over next month...

Hopefully I'll get some pictures of actual knitting as it happens at this next gathering!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Knitter’s Elbow and Birthday Yarn

It’s become kind of iconic in our household: Mama sitting on the couch, knitting. Sometimes when I put my three year old to bed, she tells me that I need to go sit on the couch, in my regular spot, and KNIT.  It’s like she feels safe knowing that I will be there, with my needles clicking, if she needs anything. So, knitting is kind of important in our house.  Which is why this next part is so hard for me to talk about.  But I’ve decided to tell you the truth...

I have... *sigh*...  Knitter’s Elbow. Sometimes called (ok, always called) Golfer’s Elbow, which is basically tendonitis which causes pain on the inside of the elbow.  (Tennis Elbow hurts on the outside.) It’s really, really crummy, because it means no knitting for me. They might also call it Carrying a Baby Elbow because that’s another thing that makes it worse.  I’ve tested it.

This pain has been nagging me for awhile, and now it has become unbearable.  If you found this blog because you googled “Knitter’s Elbow,” here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.  (I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.  No, not really... I’m not a real doctor or even a fake doctor. My comments are experiential only - take it for what it’s worth.)

1. Tendonitis is sharp pain, found on one localized area.  If your forearms are generally fatigued, that’s great news!  It’s not tendonitis. I saw several recommendations on websites for ways to massage your tired arms.  Do it GENTLY.  I think I did it too hard and made it worse.  Don’t do that.

2. Tendonitis gets worse if you keep knitting.  Trust me, I know how hard it is, but you have to REST.  Once they feel better, ease back in.  Don’t try to knit that baby blanket all in one night if you’re recovering.  REST.

3. Use ice and ibuprofen as needed.  It makes it feel better and probably reduces inflammation.

4. Save your arms: Carry the baby in a carrier. Tell the kids you’d love to watch them color, but can’t grip a crayon until your arm heals.  And watch how you sleep.  If you’re sleeping with your arm bent, then quit it.  Keep your arms straight or just slightly bent when you sleep. How sad would it be to reduce your knitting ability while you’re SLEEPING?!

5. Finally, (and this seems like common sense, but I haven’t tested it, yet) wear a brace to relieve fatigue on those poor tendons.  I just ordered one and will keep you posted on how it works for me.

So, for now I keep walking by my stash and feeling the yarn... holding it up and looking at it in the light and just generally admiring it.  And then I sit down and cry.  Which is a little ridiculous because not being able to knit isn’t like having a terminally ill child or something.  Some people have real problems.  But it’s still kind of a bummer.  

Anyway, on a lighter note, I have a birthday this month.  I’m turning 35.  “Halfway to 70!” as my husband likes to say. And I love that people give me yarn for my birthday...  Well, they give me money, which I spend on yarn (obviously) and gift certificates to yarn stores. Now I have a really ridiculous amount of yarn.  Enough for quite a few projects. This wonderful pile of goodness arrived in the mail yesterday.  How about that Madelinetosh Merino Light?  So beautiful... I would like to make about 100 Cream and Sugar Cowls.  Someday... I hope. 

Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light: Pea Soup Mix colorway

Madelinetosh Merino Light: Oak colorway

Madelinetosh Merino Light: Charcoal colorway

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Collision of Hat Addiction and Sweater Anxiety

For some reason, the finishing of the Crooked Paths hat brought on some project anxiety.  Do you know that anxiety you get when you don’t know what to make next?  If you are a member of, like I am, you’ll understand that it wasn’t from a lack of ideas.  Rather, I have so many things I want to make that I’m overwhelmed with choices.  Do I make the quick little hat that’ll be done in a few days, or the big sweater that I’ve been dying to make forever?  To complicate this, the sweater is mostly simple stockinette, while the hat involves a cable chart that takes all my mental energy to follow.  (And after a day of homeschooling and caring for my three kids, there’s not much of that left.)

Before I go on, I’ll share my pictures of the hat I just finished out of some of the yummiest yarn I have come across.  This hat is for me, so it’s a little big on my daughter, but she just looks so darn cute in it.

There was some unexpected striping that occurred.  I’m not sure what to say about that...  What do you think?

As you may know if you read my previous posts, the only adult sized sweater I’ve made is the Top Down Shoulder Warmer, which was pretty simple.   I have been planning to make the Antler Cardigan ever since I saw this awesome pattern on ravelry.  Not only does this pattern come in every size from newborn to adult XXXXL, but it’s super cute on both the little boy wearing it in the picture and his mother.  I like the neckline that’s a little tighter than, say, the Tea Leaves cardigan, which was in the running for my first grown-up sweater.  And finally, I like that it has buttons all the way down the button band rather than just at the top.  (I know...  I could probably add buttons to any pattern I want, but I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t look awkward or something. Can you imagine knitting a whole huge sweater and finding out that your extra added buttons make it look terrible?)

So, here’s the train of events that led to my starting the Antler Cardigan and also casting on for a hat I never even planned to make.  (The one with the complicated cable chart I mentioned above.) I was a little daunted to start a sweater, and I found as I got started that I didn’t have the right size DPNs.  I thought, “No problem!  I know the Magic Loop technique, because that’s just how awesome I am.”  Then, as I got started, I remembered that I hate the Magic Loop technique.  Just too much sliding for me.  So, I set that down and proceeded to dive into my stash and come up with one skein of Quince and Co.’s Osprey in the split pea colorway.  (Is “colorway” just interchangeable with “color”?  I dunno... but it makes me feel fabulous, so I’ll just say “colorway.”) After an hour or so of clicking through ravelry, I had Brooklyn Tweed’s Rosebud hat pattern in my hand and off I went.

Here's the beginning of the sweater...

Madelinetosh Vintage in Baltic, and the beginning of a sleeve.  How many times do you think I've tried on this three inch sleeve?  About a hundred...

And here's the start of the hat...
This pic is a little awkward, but you can see the cable beginning to form in the Rosebud hat.  I sure hope this hat takes only one skein of Osprey, because I only have one skein!

Osprey Split Pea
So, I proceed two fisted in my knitting.  Which will pull ahead?  Which will be “cast” aside?  Only time will tell...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kindness, First Sweaters and Yarn Candy

Thanks to everyone who left kind comments on my last blog entry and on my facebook page!  I feel very loved... I’m amazed at how many people have some tie to knitting, whether as a past hobby or as something they’ve always wanted to learn. This is probably because knitting is the greatest thing in the world.  I’m not sure why the manipulation of string using a couple of sticks is so awesome, but it truly is. Awesome.

So, I finished the shrug! It’s pretty cute and it actually can go through the dryer.  But I’m not super enthusiastic about this cotton/acrylic blend yarn.  The resulting sweater will be good for everyday wear, but isn’t really special. I do love the color though... What do you think?

I'm not really sure what I was thinking putting this yellow shirt with the pomegranate color of the shrug.  Do you suddenly have a craving for a hamburger with ketchup and mustard?  Funny... me too.

So, I'm just wondering: How many times during a project, do you think, “I’m not sure how you’re supposed to do it, but here’s how I’m going to do it.” If you’re my husband, you never think it.  Never. You’ve never thought it before and you never will. But if you’re me, well, then you think it all the time. And it’s just what I thought seaming up the sleeves on this shrug. For those of you who are non-knitters, I’ll tell you that when making a sweater (I’m an expert, you see, because I just completed my first one, and it’s a tiny shrug) you can either knit it seamlessly, or you can knit it in pieces, and then seam it up at the end.  This shrug was knit seamlessly, except that the sleeves had to be sewn shut under the arm.  I looked up on youtube how to do it, and so I should have known, I guess.  And it actually was going great until I came upon the decreases.  “Um...  where’s the bar I’m supposed to stitch through?  I dunno...  I'll just guess!”  So, the sleeve is a little... poofy on the bottom, but I don’t really think it’s noticeable.  Moving right along!

My next project is the Crooked Paths hat, by Melissa LeBarre.  She is also the designer of the Tiny Tea cardigan that I knit for my girls.  For this project, I’m using an amazing yarn that I stumbled upon by accident.  I loved Alana’s Winter Trails hat knitted up with Cascade Cloud 9, which is a blend with angora in it, making it very soft and a little bit fuzzy. I went looking for some of this yarn candy at Needles in the Haymarket, and they only had terrible colors like bubble gum pink and a shade of blue that is suitable for absolutely nothing.  So, she pointed me to Cascade Eco Duo, undyed, which is a 30% wool/70% alpaca blend.  It is so.... DELICIOUS. If yarn were a man (and I weren’t already married of course... love you, honey!) then I would marry it.

Let the hat knitting begin!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Maiden Voyage of Knitty McPurly

Hi everyone!  Thanks for finding my shiny new blog.  Neat, huh?  What do you think of Knit Knitterson?  I mean Purls O’Purlerson.  Wait, what did I call her? Oh yeah...  Knitty McPurly. I love her. She’s me, only so much cuter and hipper. And she just looks like she wants to talk about knitting, don't you think?

I drew Knitty up late one night, and when my oldest daughter, age 7, came down and saw her the next morning, she gasped, and said, “I want to draw this picture!”  I sketched out a quick Little Knitty, who resembled my daughter, and she colored her in, smiling and filled with glee. She’s a future knitter, that one. And probably a future artist, too.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about yarn snobbery. Part of my induction into knitting is wrapped up in yarn snobbery. I think if I had been taught by a user of 100% acrylic yarn from Michael’s, I probably would have knitted just a few things and then set the hobby aside.  My teacher, a wonderful friend, took one look at the “skein” (I have to put it in quotes... it barely qualifies) of acrylic yarn I brought to my lesson and said, “Yeah... don’t use that.”  She handed me a little leftover ball of Spud and Chloe Sweater which I squished joyfully in my hand, knowing I had found it: the hobby to end all hobbies.

So my first few projects as a novice knitter were made of Madelinetosh, Blue Sky Alpaca, Quince and Co. and a few other choice skeins.  I don’t mess around.  That said, I regularly receive the Knit Picks catalog (because I bought my interchangeable needles from them) and I noticed that their prices were a good bit lower. I thought I’d try it out, since the shrug I was about to start has an awesome project on ravelry made out of Knit Picks Comfy worsted, which is 75% cotton and 25%...  um, 25%...  sigh...  It’s 25% acrylic.  Not snobby.  But it is called Comfy, so it can’t be too bad, I thought.

I couldn't resist putting the beautiful knitting bag my husband gave me for Christmas in the picture. Gorgeous, right?

This shrug - my first hand knit adult sized sweater, by the way - is almost done, and the jury is still out on this yarn.  It is comfy.  But it’s a bit squeaky and...  well, flat. I can throw it in the washing machine and the dryer though, and making this shrug will have cost me about $12.  That’s kind of unbelievable.

I hope to finish the sweater in the next few days and I’ll post pics.  Right now I’m hoping that a few people other than my mom actually read this far.  If you have, thanks for stopping by!  Come back again soon - you know you want to see the finished shrug.  ;)

Many thanks to Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting for including my knitting story on her podcast and thus inspiring me to start up a blog of my own. Thanks Alana!