Saturday, July 30, 2011

Knitting Lessons

This fall I tried to sign up for an applique class but it was full.  So, I signed up for a knitting class instead.  The class was 10 weeks long.  There were very few instructions in the course description.  It didn't tell me anything to bring to class but it did state that the class was for beginners through experienced knitters!  Curious...  A few weeks after paying for the knitting class, I got a call from the sewing shop - someone had dropped out of the applique class and I got a spot.  YIKES!  Now I had two classes simultaneously.  I decided to take them both.  I'm glad I did but it was a little overwhelming to learn and practice so many new skills with a very busy spring calendar and two of my kids graduating at the end of the classes - one from high school and one from college.

I had no idea what we'd be making in the knit class so in the off-chance that we could make anything we wanted, I started poking around a bit on Ravelry for some ideas of what I could make.  One thing I was looking for was an easy pattern.  Another thing I wanted was a portable project.  I didn't want a big huge item that was very complicated and couldn't be ported around the house.  I wanted something that used average yarn - nothing pricey.  Basically I wanted a practice project that would be useful when complete yet still could teach me a variety of skills but that I wouldn't feel guilty messing up on or wasting some really awesome expensive yarn with.

I headed off to the first class with some yarn, a few sizes of needles a pair of scissors and a couple of FREE patterns I'd found on ravelry.

I was the first one to arrive at class.  I asked the teacher what we would be making and she said, "Oh anything you want." Thank goodness I'd done a little homework and brought along some supplies.  I showed her my array of patterns and she helped me to select the one that would work best for my needs.  I decided to begin with an afghan - done in squares and stitched together at the end.

I went with this pattern.  You have to be logged in to the Lion Brand site to make the link work.  The pattern is called Lion Brand Morris and Park Blanket.

Image of Morris Park Blanket

But of course as I do with everything, I changed it up a bit.  The original pattern uses three colors of Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn.  I'm using Loops & Threads Impeccable worsted weight acrylic yarn.  I've chosen 3 colors (aqua, clay and rouge).

The Lion Brand pattern uses three different stitch patterns in its squares.  I wanted to learn to knit more than 3 patterns but I wanted them all to be simple knit/purl patterns with 8 or fewer row repeats - since I was afraid I'd lose track of what row I was on.  The pattern comes with a grid to show how to layout the different colored and pattern squares.  I re-numbered my grid to accommodate my additional patterns.

I'm knitting it on 8" bamboo needles.

Here are the 6 block patterns I'm making and the details and instructions for making them:

Pattern 1 - Aqua Yarn (10 each):  This block is garter stitch.  Cast on 32 stitches, knit every row until the square measures 9 inches in length.  My blocks aren't 9 inches wide so they are more like rectangles but that doesn't really matter for my pattern.  Here is a sample of Pattern 1.

I basically learned to cast on and knit at the first class.  I picked it up easily, but I have a tendency to make mistakes.  My first few blocks had a few holes and mis-stitches.  They are far from perfect, but I patched up the holes with a darning needle and decided to use them anyway.  After all, this is my FIRST project, it doesn't have to be perfect.

Between the first and second class I discovered knitting tutorials on YouTube - YAY!  I learned a better way to cast on, I learned to bind off in garter stitch and I learned to purl by watching videos.

Pattern 2 - Aqua Yarn (7 each): Purl Ladder stitch.  Cast on 34 (or multiple of 4 + 2).  Row 1 and Row 2: Knit  Row 3: P2, K2, P2  Row 4: K2, P2, K2  Row 5 and Row 6: Knit, Row 7: K2, P2, K2  Row 8:  P2, K2, P2.  Here is my first Pearl Ladder square (awful and loaded with mistakes, I'll probably take it out and do it over). 

Here is my second Pearl Ladder square - much better. 

I use a row counter on the end of my needle to keep track of where I am in the 8 row repeat.  This is a handy tool!

Pattern 3 - Clay Yarn (9 each):  Moss Stitch.  Cast on 37 (or multiple of 2 + 1).  Row 1: K1, *P1, K1 repeat from * across row. Rows 2 and 3:  P1, *K1, P1 repeat from * across row.   Row 4: same as Row 1.  When I was making this stitch, I really learned how to look at my knits and purls and tell how they looked.  I realized I could look at the pattern and tell what I was supposed to do next rather than having to keep track of the rows with a counting tool.  Pattern 3 looks like this.  It's one of my favorite patterns.  I like the way it looks like little diamonds.

Pattern 4 - Clay Yarn (7 each):  Basketweave Stitch.  Cast on 36.  For first 6 rows: K6, P6.  For next six rows: P6, K6.  Repeat first 6 rows followed by next 6 rows over and over until the square reaches 9 inches.

Pattern 5:  Seed Stitch.  I like the pebbly feel of this stitch.  Cast on 33 stitches (or any uneven number).  K1, *P1 K1, repeat from * across to end of row.  Repeat this row over and over.  Really easy stitch - I can even do this while watching TV!  Seed Stitch sample is below.

Pattern 6 - Rouge Yarn (7 each):  Ladder Stitch.  Cast on 35 (or multiple of 2 + 1).  Rows 1 - 4:  Knit  Row 5: K1 P1  Row 6: K1, *K1 P1, repeat from * and end with last two stitches of this row being knit.  The ladder stitch looks like this.  I made some mistakes on the first one, but not SO many that I'll take it out.

Garter Stitch, Moss Stitch and Seed Stitch came right from the original pattern.  The other three stitches I found from different stitch websites.  Interestingly, I learned that the names of stitches and the patterns to make them don't always go by an industry standard.  I found Seed Stitch samples and Moss Stitch samples that were the exact same stitch with different names.

My goal in selecting patterns was to make sure my patterns gave me practice and weren't too hard that they made me crazy while simultaneously learning applique.  I also wanted the patterns to look as much the same on both sides as I could so that my afghan doesn't have an obvious back and front. 

The pattern doesn't give any instructions for sewing the squares together and I haven't explored exactly how I'll join them.  My teacher kept telling me she loves mattress stitch for joining but when she showed me the mattress stitch, I didn't think I liked it for an afghan.  It has an obvious joining bump or seam on one side and will make my afghan have a very noticeable front and back.  I will search the Internet for joining stitches to see if I can find one that allows the afghan to look the same on both sides and doesn't create a seam.  If you have suggestions, I'd love to explore them.

I've also thought about making a crocheted border to go around the entire outside of the afghan but I'm not too sure as of yet - feel free to voice in an opinion!  I'll continue to post updates about this project as I progress.  To date - 17 squares!  Total needed - 49.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Harry Harry Hermione Ron

Well, it's the end.

Really, I can't quite get over it.  I know, I'm not a 20-something who got their first Harry Potter read and it changed the way they felt about books... I'm a 40 something (heavy on the something) mom who discovered the JKRowling books in the ripe old era of her 30's. 

My own mom regularly keeps up with the book section of the Washington Post.  Back in the early 90s she read an article about a couple of books that had kids in the UK lining up around the block from every book store in town to get hold of.  These books weren't yet the rage in the US.  But, my daughter's birthday was coming up and the books sounded like just the thing my mom could get her for her birthday.  My daughter was already a reader and these books sounded like just the thing.

We always celebrate my daughter's birthday at the beach when we're all in NC together (about 3 weeks AFTER her actual birthday - she has no complaints about this arrangement, even now at 21yrs).  My mom gave my daughter the first TWO books in the series.  At the time, no one I knew had even heard of them.  My daughter went for a week's stay with my mom in MD after leaving the beach, so I brought all her bday presents back to PA.  I was displaying all the gifts on my daughter's bed so she could re-live the birthday excitement when she got home.  As I was putting all the items in a nice arrangement, I flipped open the first book in the series and read the book's synopsis inside the cover. 

Soon after, I found I'd slipped down to a comfy spot on the floor just to peruse the first few pages of the story.  My three younger sons were napping, so I decided I even had time to tackle the first chapter.  The next thing I knew, my youngest son was tapping my leg and saying he was hungry and wanted dinner.

A few hours had passed.  I'd let the kids have a really long nap and it was almost dinner time.  I was so wrapped up in the book I couldn't put it down.  I carried it down the stairs and pacified my kids with a snack.  I kept reading.  Soon, my husband came home.  I kept reading, glancing over the top of the pages at him playing with the boys and secretly hoped he wouldn't ask me what was for dinner.

I can't remember exactly what dinner amounted to that night but I do know that I finished book one while sitting in the living room chair that evening.

Later that night after the kids were in bed, I snuck back to my daughters room, cracked open the fresh pages of book two and read until my husband had long since finished giving the boys their baths, reading them books and putting them boys to bed.  When the book was done I couldn't get the vivid images of Hogwarts out of my head and I read voraciously through the back jacket searching for whether or not Rowling was indeed working on another volume of the story.  The book stayed in my mind for days. 

After my daughter read the first two books I recommended and loaned them to everyone, kids and moms alike.  I ordered book 3 from the elementary school book fair and waited impatiently for my order to come in.  When it finally did, I kept it under a pillow on the living room chair and secretly read it between the boys' nap time and the time my daughter got home from school.  It was to be a Christmas present for her after all...only slightly dog-eared!

Since then, I've purchased every book in hard back and read them so fast I had to read them a second time to make sure I didn't pass up a detail (I never read books twice).  I could read this entire series over however.  Can I just say that I have never finished the final book?  I have about 25 pages left.  I couldn't bear for it to end.  I said I'd finish it before the final movie was released but alas I haven't.  Granted, I'll have to back track a bit, but I will finish it and I will see the movie in theater even if my now teenage boys won't go with me! 

I love the Harry Potter books.  I'm amazed by what the books did for the love of reading for an entire generation.  My daughter will turn 22 on July 25th (two days after Daniel Radcliffe turns the same age).  Now how's that for a coincidence?

And by the way, I love the movies too.  I love them because when I watched the first one, it wasn't the typical feeling I get when I see a movie made from a book but because as I sat there, I and the folks all around me all turned to one another and said - WOW!!!  everything is exactly like I had pictured it in my head.  That alone says that JK Rowling could create a picture in words.  She wrote something and we all saw the same picture that she imaged.  How awesome is that.

I stumbled upon this post today of Harry Potter Treats.  I didn't find it surprising that it was written by a 20-something.  Hers is the generation that grew up with Harry Potter.  I simply sat along side while the next generation read - and I followed along and enjoyed every minute of it.

The newspaper was filled with Harry Potter info this week in honor of the opening of the final movie.  I love reading about the actors who played the parts.  Other than the fact that I'd always pictured my own little wonderful red-headed actress-daughter as Ginny WeasleyJK Rowlings wonderful tales that will live in the hearts of young readers for generations to come.

So to all the other Harry Potter fans out there - I salute the end.  And I look forward when I can read these stories to my grandchildren and create this magical world for another generation.  By the way, no, there are no grandchildren on the way... my own kids are still in high school and college.

So three cheers for Gryffindor and all the other Hogwarts houses... and happy Quidditch to you all!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Green on Green for Red White and Blue

Okay, so I've got my colors mixed up.  Here it is the 4th of July.  I haven't posted since May 20th.  Since then, I've attended the graduations of my first child from college:

and my 2nd child (and oldest son) from high school:

Summer swim team is already 2 weeks in, we've had a house guest for a week, indulged in a bushel of crabs and a lot of cold beer and it must have me confused.

Seeing today is the 4th of July and all the blogs I follow are filled with red white and blue, what's got me in the green?  Well, frankly I forgot to eat breakfast this morning so I needed something substantial to meet both my morning and noon hunger.  I headed off to the garden and picked three baby zuchinis.  They were small, fresh, fabulous.  I sliced them up and sauteed them with a bit of earth balance until they were cooked through but still slightly crisp.  I added an entire chopped avacado - at a perfect stage of ripeness, seasoned it with freshly ground pepper, sea salt and a dash of granulated garlic and ended up with this green on green meal. YUM.

It might be a day for USA, American Flags, hometown parades and Red White and Blue but I found the green on green quite tasty!

I've missed posting on here.  Hopefully it won't be another month before I do it again.
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