Friday, November 09, 2012

This is going to be a non-knitting post. Hopefully we'll get back to the knitting after this. But I really need a place to purge what's been rattling around in my brain the last few weeks, and yes, it's the topic everyone's sick to death of hearing about. The election.

The 'hide' feature on Facebook is getting a ton of use on my feed these days. There seems to be so much misinformation and hatred that it's nauseating to me.

Apparently a lot of people think that Obama being elected means that half the country is going to be on public assistance. As someone who's been on Medicaid, WIC, and received grants to attend school, I'm telling you those programs are harder to qualify for than you think. My husband drew unemployment in the past because when the ground freezes in Indiana it's nearly impossible to lay asphalt. And when our daughter was brand new (and when I was on Medicaid and WIC) I actually went to apply for foodstamps and couldn't get them because we made too much. Even being on other forms of public assistance. Even with an unemployed spouse. Even with a tiny person depending on us to provide for her when we could barely make ends meet.

My point is this: The vast majority of people who receive assistance need it. They are living at or below the poverty line. There will always be abuses of the system, it's inevitable, but I don't understand the mentality of individuals who think we should completely do away with these programs.

When you've had to apply for these programs, when you've felt the needless shame and embarrassment from having to ask for help because you have committed the crime of being poor, then throw stones. I would have given anything to be able to afford to not need that assistance, but I couldn't. I would drive miles out of my way to use my WIC checks where I was sure I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew. It was mortifying for me. And it shouldn't have been. I've held a job since I was 16 years old, and at the time I was working and going to school. I just wasn't being paid a living wage and it wasn't my fault.

Poverty is not the fault of the poor. It's the fault of an incredibly broken, fucked up system.

And it blows my mind when people I know for a fact have used these programs, turn around and point fingers at people who need them now. If you've ever used a state/federal form of assistance, ever received a grant to go to school, ever claimed the Earned Income Credit on your taxes... How in good conscience can you have so much venom for those who use it now?

Part of what I think makes my country so wonderful is our willingness to help each other in times of need or distress. There's a huge economic disparity in this country. Roughly 75% of our nation's wealth is held by the top 10%. Unemployment is still high and housing prices are still low. People need help. And people are looking for a scapegoat, and unfortunately Obama seems to be the target of people's frustration and rage. But blaming one person for all the problems within our society won't solve anything.

For the first time in my life I voted Democrat this year. Normally I vote Green. But this year it felt like there was a lot riding on who got into the White House and I worried about voting for a third party candidate who had no chance of winning. And I know people won't agree with me, but I think President Obama is doing a pretty good job considering what he was handed when he entered office.

And Mitt Romney could have had an excellent plan for getting this country back on its feet. But he wanted to take away my rights in the process. My right to make decisions about my body and reproductive options. He wanted to prohibit people I love from being able to marry who they wanted. (In the words of my incredibly wise 8 year old "That's not very nice.") And like so many others in his party, he supported legislation to redefine rape. Redefining it with terms like "force-able" and "legitimate". And when you start talking like that, it doesn't matter what else you have to say, because there's no way in hell I'd ever vote for someone who wants to strip away my rights or peoples rights in general. And I still don't understand how giving the wealthy more tax breaks, and asking the middle class to foot the bill, is going to help me. I'm serious. If someone out there can explain it to me in a calm, rational, non-asshole way, I'd really like to understand how something like that works. Because simply saying "The wealthy are the job creators" doesn't convince me at all.

So I voted for social progress this year. I don't know if the economy of this country will improve in the next four years or not. I am a little nervous about it. But when I saw what happened in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington I felt relief like I haven't felt in weeks. I cried. Big happy tears.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Yarn enthusiast friends are some of the best kind of friends to have. Most people don't understand the obsession. (My husbeast still doesn't understand why I fondle and sniff yarn.) And when those knitter friends also have similar taste in other areas, such as a fondness for hoppy beer and a love of all things Harry Potter? Well they send you presents like these in the mail.

Thanks again Fox! :) The magnet makes me smile every time I open the fridge. And the SPEW patch is going someplace special. I'm considering my House Scarf right now but haven't made up my mind yet.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

State Fair 2012

So, I entered 8 items in the fair this year and 6 ribboned. Not too shabby. 3 2nd place items, and 3 honorable mentions.

I wasn't thrilled with the results, but it wasn't as much of a let-down as the past couple of years have been.

First, the honorable mentions.

Knitted lace, any article. This is the Adamas Shawl I knit as a shop sample. I was okay with how this was displayed. I know there's not a ton of room and at least this is showing the correct side.

Household item, other. My little monster. Again, happy with how this was displayed.

Infants afghan/blanket. The purple cabled blanket I made my niece. Not thrilled with how this was displayed, but it could be worse.

Now the second place items.

Child's sweater. The lacy tunic top I made for Lillian. For some reason the tag was removed, and placed at the top of this on the back side. So the wrong side is showing. I also hope that they were careful when the safety pin was moved. If this is snagged I'm going to be upset.

Adult sleeveless shell or vest. Very happy with how this was displayed. This was supposed to be for me but mom tried it on and it fits her really well. *Sigh* Guess I'll be making myself another one.

And the final ribbon is for Shawl or Scarf. I'm incredibly disappointed that my Thistle Shawl only took a second. It was beat by a lace shawl. I think my colorwork required more technical ability, but as my MIL said, it could have been really close. Maybe even down to a coin toss. Still, it's hard to accept second in this case. I worked so hard on it. Regardless, I'm thrilled with it and know I'll use the heck out of it this winter.

My colorful chevron hat didn't ribbon.

And Lillian's purple and white didn't ribbon either and I was kind of annoyed with how this was displayed. It was in the bottom of one of the stand-up cases so unless you were looking for it, you wouldn't see it. I'm not sure why it wasn't put in the case along the wall with all the other hats. It kind of felt like my knitting was just thrown on the ground. Which is irritating.

So those are my entries for this year. I'm still in shock that I managed to finish everything in time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thistle Shawl and steeking

It's done! The Thistle Shawl I've been working so hard on since February has been finished and was dropped off for judging at the State Fair this weekend, along with 7 other items.

I am so incredibly pleased with how it came out. It is the prettiest, albeit craziest, thing I've ever attempted to knit. And now that it's done all my brain can handle is plain ol' stockinette socks.

And now, the mini tutorial on how I steeked the shawl. The pattern author suggests using a sewing machine, but I like this technique for a couple of reasons. For one, I don't know how to even thread my sewing machine. (It was my grandmothers so it's sentimental to me. Even if its only function is decorative right now.) And two, this way takes more time but it allows me to make sure I secure each and every row. Which makes me a little less apprehensive about cutting later.

Before beginning you will need to make sure you know where the columns of steeked stitches are going to be. When steeking I tend to have an odd number of stitches in my steeking section. For this shawl I had 7. This allowed me to place my steeking columns several stitches in on each side to allow for any unexpected unraveling. Steeking works best with 'sticky' wool yarns. And I make sure that the anchoring yarn I use is clearly contrast to the other colors used in the project.

Ready? Okay, here we go. It's not the best, but hopefully it will give you a general idea.

First, you're going to want to create a loop through the first and second stitches at the bottom of your knitting, pulling it up like this, making sure your working yarn is at the right side of your knitting. (This photo isn't from the bottom of my knitting but I didn't think about doing a tutorial right away, so I'm making due.) You should be working these columns through the center of the stitches. Here you can see that I'm creating a column of pink stitches in the middle of the column of white knitted stitches.

Next, slide your crochet hook under the first 'bar' of stitches after your loop. When doing stranded colorwork I always make sure I grab every color. So here you will see that I've got both the green and white stitches on my hook.

Wrap your working yarn around your hook and pull it through, under the bars.

You should have two loops on your hook now. Pull the top loop (the one you just made) through the bottom loop.

You should now be back to one loop on your hook. Repeat these steps until you have made chains on both sides of the stitches you intend to cut through.

So, it should look something like this. I've chained through the center of both of the white columns of stitches (the pink and purple varigated yarn is my anchoring yarn), and will be cutting through the center of the two columns of green stitches.

The anchoring is done now. There's nice, tidy columns of anchoring stitches and now it's time to cut.

It's at this point that I generally pour myself a beer, drink it to relax a little and fortify myself, and then get out the scissors.

For this project I turned the shawl inside out first and cut through one color at a time. The white yarn in the back was pulled across my green stitches so it created little bars, which were easy to identify. I cut these first.

When I was done cutting those the back looked like this. Then I turned the shawl so the right side was facing again and started cutting the green stitches.

These are the scary ones for me, no matter how many times I've steeked. It's important to take your time here. You can do this one bar at a time if you like, but I generally pull several rows up at once. Make sure you get the little bar between the stitches, and then snip away.

And then you're done! It's oddly satisfying when you've cut through something you've spent so much time on and it's still in once piece. And knitting something as complex as this in the round saves you the nightmare of purling in fair isle.

Now I have to sit back and wait a few agonizing days until the fair starts to see how this did.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I read this post by Franklin (author of the Panopticon blog) and I've been mulling it over. I think it's a great resource for deciding if someone is knit-worthy, but I decided I wanted something that explained to non-knitters how special a hand-knitted gift is. Granted, if you have to explain this to someone chances are they aren't knit-worthy to begin with, but I'm all about educating the muggles.

In reality I suppose this is more of an explanation to non-knitters why they might not be seen as knit-worthy by their knitter.

- First, and contrary to popular belief, knitting is expensive. Yarn (good yarn anyway, the kind I like to knit with, not the kind you get at big chain craft stores) is an investment. Did you know that the yarn for a pair of hand knit socks can cost $15 - $20? Possibly more if it's something really yummy (alpaca, cashmere, etc.) or hand-dyed. There's a reason the industrial revolution was so successful. The last sweater I knit my husband cost me $60 in yarn alone. And the yarn was on sale.

- I've done it in the past and I won't ever do it again; I do not sell my knitting. Non-knitters can experience sticker shock when they find out how much yarn can cost. And even if I only charged minimum wage the cost of labor would be beyond the affordability of most people. When I knit I do it freely. If there's something a friend or loved one specifically wants I may ask them to purchase the yarn, but I do not charge for my time. Consequently, I ask that people do not ask for a timeline when the item will be completed. When my time is given freely I don't respond well to deadlines. I have sold my skills to other knitters before, which I consider a different situation. They understand the time investment are willing to fairly compensate me.

- There are several factors involved when I determine the 'knit-worthiness' of an individual. Have you admired my knitting before? Complimented me on it? Taken an interest in the amount of time and skill involved? As a rule of thumb I tend to find other knitters knit-worthy by default. Those of the artistic persuasion generally get the benefit of the doubt as well. If I do deem you worthy then it is generally a smaller, less time consuming gift to start with. I've made lots of hats for friends. If they appreciate and wear said hats then I am likely willing to knit for them again in the future. (Example: A friend requested a Jayne Cobb hat. I made it out of inexpensive yarn and he loved it. He wore it when he gave a presentation in a science fiction class we both took. A year or so later he had a special request for another hat and I was more than happy to make it for him.) I've made baby sweaters for the children of friends in the past, but I've become more selective about who gets them now. Mostly because my friends are breeding too quickly for me to keep up.

- If you've asked me to knit something for you and I've politely declined or just smiled, dismissed your inquiry and changed the subject, please don't take it personally. Try to understand how hard it is for me to say "no". There could be a host of reasons why. I could be very busy, possibly have multiple other projects going. You might be asking for something major (like a blanket or sweater) and I've tried to explain that it's a huge invest of time but you don't understand that. (Did you know it takes me two weeks on average to knit a pair of socks? Hats usually take a weekend. Sweaters? MONTHS.) Or, I might not think you knit worthy. Here's a list of some reasons why:

* You don't care for your clothing well. Guys are the worst about this. If you wear clothing that is torn, stained, or looks like you picked it up off your floor when you got dressed...I probably won't knit for you. Most of the time I knit with 100% wool, which requires extra care when washing. If I find out something I knit was felted I'm pretty heartbroken about it. This would normally be a one strike and you're done kind of rule, however my mother is the worst offender when it comes to accidentally felting things. And I knows she loves them, and I know she feels bad about it. So I only knit things for her with superwash (machine washable wool) now.
* You've turned your nose up at other handmade gifts in the past. Either mine or I've witnessed you do it to someone else.
* I've knit you something in the past and have never seen you wear it.
* You've ever mocked or teased me about my knitting. ("Little old ladies do that",etc.) Even if it's not meant to be offensive it makes me feel that you don't value what I do. And I do value my time. A lot.

Other knitters can feel free to add their own reasons in the comments. I think I've managed a good starting point at least. :)

And I should hopefully have knitting content soon! I finished my Thistle Shawl and I'm hoping to post photos soon and a mini tutorial on steeking.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So, I finished the Adamas Shawl.

Apparently my dog thinks shawl-modeling is a cruel and unusual form of punishment.

I'm still plugging away on the colorwork Thistle shawl, but have run into a snag. The longest circular needle I own, a 42", isn't long enough. So I'm waiting on the 60" I ordered to arrive in the mail so I can try to finish it before the fair.

It's been miserably hot lately, so I've been doing more reading than knitting. (The Fifty Shades series is pretty good, fyi. As is Jenny Lawson's book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. The latter had me laughing hysterically on several occasions.) We also went on a family vacation a few weeks ago and other than a few rounds on a sock, I didn't knit a thing. Here's hoping my knitting mojo returns before fair entries are due. Hopefully I'll have a parade of things to post about before the end of July.

Friday, May 18, 2012

So, I've actually managed to get some knitting done! I completed Lillian's Elvria. (Ravelry link)

I think it looks adorable on her. Thankfully she likes it too. And it's long enough that she should hopefully get years of wear out of it.

I'm working on a shop sample now for my LYS, Starstruck Cat Studio. It's the Adamas Shawl, and I'm about 75% done with it.

Hopefully once this is finished and blocked I can get my act together and design an intermediate lace class. I'm not really sure what to include in the course, since I feel like I cover all the important stuff in the intro class. (Blocking, lifelines, chart reading, etc.) I think that learning to correct errors might be the focus I take.

Tonight is Friday knit night but I don't think I'll make it. I've managed to infect myself with something that has done a number on my throat. I sound like a frog and I've got a really annoying cough. I got myself some over-the-counter drugs this morning so I can make it through work, but I don't want to infect my fellow knitters in case it's something contagious. At work I'm pretty isolated from my co-workers, so it's not as much of an issue. (I also have Lysol in my desk so I can sanitize everything.) It just stinks because I look forward to Friday knit night all week, and I hate when I have to miss it.