Friday, December 13, 2013

Open Letter to CJ

Dear CJ...This is the place where most people say, "I can't believe it's been four years already."  Well, I feel differently...the last four years have been, for the most part, pretty damn horrible.  I can't believe it's been only four years, since it feels more like twenty.

And understand, it was nobody's fault.  Just too much change in a short time.

I was talking about the day you died to someone in line at Dominick's this morning, seriously.  I muttered something about today being the anniversary of my fiance's death, and he said, "Like, wait...what?  He's dead literally?"  I don't know why that struck me as funny for the moment, but I said yes...I kissed him after he flatlined and it was hollow.  I promise his mom and I checked pretty thoroughly.

Then, later that night, we (your mom and I) went back to your house in Plainfield, and all I kept saying to myself in the car was, "Now what?"  It was actually a night like this one...just snow, and cold, and the Blackhawks were playing that night.  I told Alex I wasn't going to make the game.  I think I had a cigarette that night.  Slept on the couch because I didn't feel comfortable even crossing the threshold into your bedroom.

I wonder on some days how your boys are doing.  I ask your mother sometimes...goodness knows I can't ask the other person, who made it pretty clear she thought I was hiding something when you were dying.  I made two blankies out of your tee shirts for Ethan and Noah, and I mailed them to her house, and would you know I never heard from her to even know if they were received?  I hope they were...your boys deserved a comforting piece of you, but then again I'm not their mother or caretaker so maybe I was overstepping my bounds.  I don't know.

They are seven and nine now.  If I ever met them again, I would not tell them what our relationship was.  I would just tell them, "I knew your dad.  He was great, and he loved you two like crazy."

We did a great job at keeping our relationship private...other than maybe Steve, and a friend or two of yours who finally got it out of you, we pulled off a fantastic heist.  And if we got married at St. Kitts on Valentine's Day like you wanted, I have no idea if we would have lasted forever, but I'm 100% sure I would have been dancing in your kitchen with you while the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were playing in the background.  Our life would have been such a blast...you might not believe me, but the fact that you considered me at all was such a big deal.  Turning on the Blackhawks game for me before I even got to your house was nothing to you, but everything to me.

Oh and by the way, when Jeff needed to borrow my car and I needed to borrow yours, thanks for driving the forty miles to pick me up, and then driving me back home the next day so I could use your sports car to get to the gig with the band the next day.  I'm thankful it was dark outside and you couldn't see me peeling out of your neighborhood in your BMW convertible...I admit, I drove that car the way it was meant to be driven.  You got it back in one piece, though...

This year is hitting me particularly hard, maybe because of all that has happened since last December.  I'm probably just grieving now, more than I was allowed after that first year because I was told that I should have been over it, and that I wasn't considering someone else's feelings when I mentioned you.  I was also told I didn't try, I didn't give a shit about anyone but myself, I was withholding sex just to spite someone, and that all I cared about was money.  Well, I was strong enough to head away from that situation and toward a much better one, so I'm easily strong enough to get through this every day.

I can't change things.  I made my mistakes, tried to fix them, and failed.  But I can still move forward and keep trying to do good.  I don't sing at church anymore; my schedule doesn't really permit it, but I do need to get a singing outlet under my belt again.  Other than that, I am running toward something, which is way healthier than running away from something.  Today, the thirteenth of December, just makes me sad now.

I'm thinking that I have always wanted to do something nice in your memory, but I couldn't pinpoint what I wanted to do.  Well, I think I have it.  For every cent I make through knitting this year, from now until December 31 of 2014, I'm going to donate it to St. Jude Children's Research hospital.  Every pattern I sell, the money from my column, if anyone wants to pay me for a keynote or a class or a lecture or private lesson...I'll empty out my PayPal account and ship it down to Memphis.

If this is the year I make it "big" in the knitting world, then so be it.  Those kids whose lives are being saved deserve it, and so do you.

Since this is a blog, if anyone else has dared read this far, my email address is amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com.  CJ died from complications of liver failure, but he has two little boys named Ethan and Noah and I would love his legacy to be more than just the good dad he was for the few years he could be one.

If you buy a pattern from me, I will donate the money to St. Jude in CJ's honor.  If you want me to talk to your knitting group on pretty much any topic on which I can inspire or rein in, I will donate any payment to St. Jude. If you pay me for a design, if you pay me for a column...anything related to knitting at all...I will donate proceeds after administrative fees (which are minimal) to St. Jude.  If you want me to chat about something other than knitting, I'm certainly open to that idea as well...I know a lot about anger, making peace, customer service, and just generally being a good person among other topics.

If you want to just make a donation on your own and add it to my contribution, use the above email address for PayPal, make sure the subject is something related to "CJ and St. Jude," and give me up to 24 hours to send you a receipt (I work overnight, so sometimes I am not right next to a computer).  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at any time and I'm happy to answer them.

I can't bring you back, but I can keep your always-giving spirit alive by doing this.  Maybe one day, I'll be able to live through the thirteenth of December with no tears, and maybe on the next one I'll be able to talk to you as I do sometimes, and tell you how much money I was able to raise for children's cancer research.  In my opinion, that will be a damn good day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Forgiveness And Retail

Good afternoon, everyone.  Or as I like to say at this time of day, good morning.

So, I may be missing a deadline for a design submission this week because I was working too much to put the finishing touches on the item.  I have to forgive myself...designs can be submitted at any time depending on the publication, and I did need that extra time to get the thing a bit more perfect, so I can't beat myself up over it.

Which brings me to the art of forgiveness.

There is a misconception out there that forgiveness and forgetting are related.  They are not.  If you are like me, where you are a perfectionist but you are far from perfect, then learn this lesson sooner rather than later.

The more anger you carry, the sooner you die.  It's that simple.  I'm not dramatizing...I'm being serious.

So when a new friend (meaning less than three months) asked me to help him out financially, even giving me terms for him to pay me back, I spent my day being horribly offended and then I just forgave him.  Yes, I was initially so angry I actually wanted to call him, especially since he spelled out that he needed probably about $3,000 and a co-signer to buy a car, in a text message.  But after a day, I stepped back and thought, "I can't change you, and you are who you are."  When I spoke to him a week later and he asked if we were still friends, I told him I was angry at him because he had no right to do that, but he was forgiven.

Here's the tricky part...he acknowledged he was out of line.  Then, though, he asked what he can do to make up for it.  You need to remind yourself that there is no making up for it.  If you are able to say, "Well, he redeemed himself by..." then there was nothing to forgive in the first place.  There is a difference between accepting human error and accepting someone's character.  It's the second one that's difficult to forgive.  But hey...he is who he is, and he needed money.  I was offended that he asked.  Move on.

So now, this week...many of you know I'm an overnight manager for Walmart.  I was surrounded by probably 3,500 humans last night, the vast majority of which who were blaming me for not letting them park in a fire alley, not being able to manufacture televisions or increase an order of them instantaneously, or not being able to magically build and staff another sixty cash registers.

I busted out my mom voice once or twice and said to someone, "Look...my job is to make sure you are safe and to get you back home to your family with your stuff so you can have some last-minute pie."  It was as if these people literally forgot it was Thanksgiving and it was more like, "Well, for some reason I don't have to go to work so I'll spend the day planning how I'm going to spend more money than I have for people who I expect to do the same thing for me."

I have nothing...NOTHING...bad to say about my company.  I just don't understand Christmas and what it's become...I told my family that until I see the Three Wise Men fighting over the last Wii at Best Buy, I was no longer participating in gift exchanges...and because of what it's become, people have now lost Thanksgiving as well.

Thanksgiving is the one non-denominational, non-political or military holiday that everyone used to enjoy.  If you don't believe me, look at the calendar...New Year's Day may be a close second, but it pretty much exists because people need to recover from New Year's Eve.  I don't mind that I'm at Walmart on Thanksgiving...more on that another day but two ruined ones out of my 39 total Thanksgivings and I've made peace with it.  But I'm offended at this country for not demanding to take Thanksgiving back for themselves, and allowing retailers to treat it like it's another day without offering a solution.

My idea is that retailers can start surprise deep-discount deals the week before Thanksgiving, and then give all of their employees the day off.  Walmart actually did do the first part...there were a bunch of items on sale starting last Friday and it was announced two days prior...but we are the "leaders" of the industry so our sale got moved up to 6pm on Thanksgiving.  People who are missing out on Thanksgiving are now in a position where they can't afford Christmas without missing the one holiday we were all given to actually share a meal together.

I understand Walmart needs to make their money and smash the competition.  I don't understand how it's okay with every shopper, and more importantly, how they act like someone won't love them anymore if they are NOT able to buy that LeapPad or Navi for Christmas.  It's just STUFF, people!  And it's not worth throwing punches or making a total fool of yourself to another grownup who is at odds with and outnumbered by the crowd approximately 100:1, customer to Walmart employee.  To say to me, "I'm not leaving here without that television!" when every single one of them has walked out the door before you purchased one, well, what is it that you want me to do for you?  You're welcome to stay until one more shows up, if it ever does...we are open 24 hours and as long as you go home to shower and come back and wander around with a basket in hand and you purchase items when you come in, I won't kick you out.

But is it worth it?  It's a television.  I'm sorry you wasted the one holiday you are supposed to have as just yours and your family by the fact that YOU wanted a 32" flatscreen...Walmart was not forcing it on you, they were enticing you, and there is a huge difference...but I also can't just produce a television, so stop yelling at me.

This morning, after working 29 hours in two days, I was driving home and taking a deep breath, and I was thinking that these people have no idea that their inner demons are so strong inside them.  They know not how they act when presented with a choice to give up spending time with their families in favor of greed and insecurity of love for their families.  They literally don't know until it's too late and they are standing in a line for two hours, angry that they can't spend $1,900 SOONER and that they have to wait for the people in front of them to do the same first.

They are forgiven.  I think Christmas has become too stupid for words, but I certainly support my employer and if people feel the need to turn into horrible people for a day because they can't believe they were pulled away from home for a good deal on a television, that's on them.  Not me.  And I can't change it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Knitting, Gas Bills, and Green Tea

I woke up early this morning because I figured I had a story that had to publish today.  I don't.  So I started cleaning out my inbox, looking at videos of Tori Amos on YouTube, tried to remember where my size US3 double-points were because I broke up with the Magic Loop yesterday (I think it's just a temporary breakup, but I don't know...I WAS pretty angry)...

To be fair, I did try to be productive.  I tried paying the People's Gas bill but the system was down due to maintenance.  I tried getting my paperwork together for my LLC because the taxes are due at the end of the month, but everything is pretty close to in order and I can't call an accountant at 8:30am on Sunday.  I looked for other stories to write, but don't have enough info on any of them to write at this moment.  So now, I am here to tell you about a scarf I altered for a friend, since the green tea has finished brewing and is sitting next to me in my ridiculously hot metal thermos.

By the way, I use the metal thermos because I had this fantastic BPA-free plastic bottle that I used for tea and dropped it so much that it finally shattered.  Read:  I didn't drop it once...I dropped it on several occasions.  Getting out of my car, twisting in the kitchen, walking down the stairs in my back yard.  So I bought a thermos that can't break.  What's awesome is there are about six dents in the bottom of it from times where I...you know...dropped it.

Anyway, my friend Monica has a little boy, and her mother made him a scarf.  She came to me and said, "I knew if anyone would know how to fix it, it would be you."  Well, sure...the only other person I know who knits at work is Jeannine, and she is gone before Monica gets there.  Anyway, it wasn't actually broken.  It was just too thin for the boy's taste.

The grandmother made a simple, cute, ribbed scarf for her grandson.  Apparently, he wasn't happy because he did not want to wrap it around twice, and if he folded it and put the ends into the keyhole, it was not wide enough to cover the itchy zipper on his chin.  The grandmother is a new knitter, so she kept telling Monica, "Just have him stretch it out," and that was to solve the narrowness issue.  With some yarns and some water, that WILL work, but not this one.  Got it.  So here is the original scarf, in all of its cute-little-boy glory:


I felt the yarn and determined it was probably Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick.  Smart woman, by the way...the grandmother went to Michael's and bought something washable, as opposed to making something out of 100% wool.  Let's face it...the kid is a little boy.  There would have been frog pee and hot wing sauce on this sucker within five minutes if it wasn't washable...that's how little boys ARE.

Anyway, I had Monica buy one ball of the yarn and I busted out the Clover needle set that I received from Wool and Company to determine what size needle I should use.  With my death grip, I needed to use size US15s to make my stitches close to the same size.  Not a problem.  Of course there was a 40" size US15 circular needles just lying around, so...

My thought was to pick up and knit stitches along the side, but this can be tricky because the last thing you want is for the sides to either pull together, or worse, ruffle, because you picked up the wrong number of stitches.  I tried three for every four.  Too tight.  I tried four for every five, and was on the fence about it.  Fine.  I went with picking up four stitches for every five rows, and then thought if I purled every row, I would have a bit more give.  I did it on each side.  This is how the scarf ended up:


I did in fact weave in the ends, even though I don't do that very often (the Zauerball socks still have four ends hanging off of them...I just tuck in the cuff end when I wear them instead of...you know...taking the five seconds it would take out of my day to fix that).  But I think it's still boy-like, the stitches look pretty even, and now it should cover his face when he wraps it around his neck.  Good in the 'hood.

For more on how to fix things without unraveling, just ask...I live in a world where I think there is ALWAYS more yarn, so quite often, I will try to "fashion" something instead of ripping it out, and then I'll just get more yarn and do what I was originally supposed to do with a project.  And I'm a lefty, so I'm naturally clever.  A bit odd, also.  And silly.

I have some stories which are scheduled for next week already...some of your favorite Chicago local yarn shops have Black Friday deals going, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Third Vogue LIVE Hangover

~~phew~~

So, the coordinators of Vogue Knitting LIVE invited me back this year to cover their event, so just in case I wasn't finally starting to feel better about myself after a non-stop year of loss, this did it. I feel since I am a guest of the event and my job is to write about it, well, the least I can do is make sure readers who can't make it feel like they are there, and readers who are there feel the excitement I do over the parts they hadn't seen yet.

So here are...ahem...all eleven stories I wrote about Vogue LIVE this year.  In one place, even!  And in chronological order, because I'm sort of OCD that way...



One of my favorite parts of the show is seeing people I don't get to see very often, like Vicki Howell (one of the nicest in the business) and owner of Wool and Company Lesley Edmonson (one of the other nicest in the business).  I saw Sam Boice, owner of The Wool Dispensary, and pulled out my pink socks that I am making with her yarn to show her.  She was pleased...I told her I am going to try and make her famous with the design and I'm not a hundred percent sure she took me seriously...

So then...I owe a friend a favor.  Long story short, I bought a property this summer that I now affectionately call The Money Pit. I have a new friend who is an HVAC guy, and he's also a professional vampire so I hear from him at four in the morning pretty regularly.  He won't let me pay him for some work he has done for me, so I asked if he would like me to make him a pair of socks.  He said sure, and that his favorite color is green, so I sent him a photo asking which one is his preference:


Then, of course, I had to come to terms with the fact that perhaps I have a bit too much sock yarn.  BUT YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOUR FRIEND WHO IS ALSO AN HVAC GUY SAVES YOU A THOUSAND BUCKS ON A SERVICE CALL AND DESERVES WAY MORE THAN HAND-KNITTED SOCKS AS PAYMENT BUT HE REFUSES TO EVEN LET YOU FREAKING BUY HIM DINNER.

So anyway, he chose one and I now have a project lined up to counterbalance the Vogue sweater when I'm done with Sam Boice's socks.  But then I saw him later that night and he decided instead that he wanted felted slippers.  Which is good for me for two reasons:  it means he's FINALLY willing to cash in the favor and hey...bigger yarn bigger needles.  He actually stopped by my work to bring me these:


I of course don't have a vase lying around the office, so I had to make do with what I have.  But see...when you're crafty you can compensate in a clever way.  Like rinsing out your Diet Coke bottle and replacing it with clean water for roses.  Sheesh.

The flip-side is that a select few people at work saw him walking around before they saw me, then made the connection AFTER they saw me, and I'm the target for giggly tabloid gossip now.  I'll take that any day over the opposite, though..."Ughh...I hate working for Amy because she's such a..._____." Whatever their thoughts may be.

I am so appreciative that Vogue Knitting LIVE asked me to cover their event, and based on their re-tweets and the sort, they seem pleased with the coverage as well.  My story on Josh Bennett has almost two hundred likes on facebook...I'm quite proud of that.  I mean let's face it...I don't write about a professional sports team.  So if vibes are positive, whether there are five or 5,000, I SHOULD be pleased.  Happiness!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vogue Live Double Yay!

So, I'm currently sitting in the Starbucks at the Palmer House Hilton, realizing that last night I went to bed without paying my...umm...six mortgages.  Time to pull my head out of my arse.

The good news is that it only takes a few minutes, and then I can get back to covering Vogue Knitting LIVE, which has descended upon Chicago for the weekend.  Double yay, indeed!  Here is the article I posted last night before bed...I spent what I thought would be a few minutes in the lobby, waiting for the rain to subside. I ended up talking to people for two hours and missing a Halloween party I was very much looking forward to:

http://www.examiner.com/article/buzz-starts-growing-at-vogue-knitting-live-chicago

Anyway, the Marketplace is currently being set up, the lecturers and teachers are starting to pour in, and everyone...EVERYONE...is wearing something made by hand.  Me, I chose the hat I wrote the day I shaved my head for St. Baldrick's...here's a reminder:


Of course, I have hair now, but if you see me, come up and introduce yourself!  Tell me your story, tell me what's on the needles, what you're wearing, what yarn you used...all of it.  I want details.  And I'm a bit blunt so don't be surprised if I give you my opinion (I'm also pretty damn cheery, so my opinion tends to be overwhelmingly positive).

Have a great first day...follow me on twitter for up-to-date updates, and if you subscribe to my column before Sunday, just send me the confirmation email and I'll send you ANY of my patterns for FREEEEE!  I said it once already...double yay, indeed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Anonymous Fan Mail

Good evening!  So...I've been knitting like a fiend lately.  Really, that just means I have NOT been doing any work that's more necessary, but whatever.  I have also been writing my column quite a bit, which I find totally fulfilling even if I don't make money at it.

Here is the article from today...it's about losing a parent and finding solace in selling her late mother's yarn:

http://www.examiner.com/article/death-of-parents-brings-about-a-unique-journey-for-edgewater-woman

And then later in the day, here is the letter I received from a reader (with her name edited out):

Hi Amy,
Just wanted you to know how your article about your friend and her mother’s yarn touched me. I know the feeling well, also being an only child. My mom died a couple of years after my dad, but it was still hard. She left an afghan unfinished that she was knitting for my granddaughter (her great). I would tear up every time I tried to complete it, until I finally put it back in her knitting bag. Maybe someday I will finish it for my great?! She had a lot of yarn too, but it was mostly acrylic stuff and that’s why I became involved in Project Linus, to use it up and give it away to folks who would make blankets for kids. 
BTW, your article about Clara Parkes was great also. Best, (Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless)
I know it may seem nuts to those of you who haven't had to deal with it, but we in the One Parent Club like to share stories with each other, mostly because we feel we are the only ones who understand what it could possibly feel like to lose a parent.  We all hear it...standing at our mom's or dad's funeral, eating our little hors d'oeuvres, and someone will come up to us and say, "I can't even imagine what you're feeling."  No, you can't.  And that's okay...just be there for me and don't bother trying to relate.  All we need is love and support...not empathy.  We'll tell you how we feel, and you just accept it as fact.  Capiche?
Anyway...so, I asked Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton if she would like me to review her yarn for my column.  She was all for it...usually, people who are (and should be) confident in their products will ship you either a free copy of a book or sample of their yarn and say, "Have at it and thank you!"  A few days later, I get this envelope from Georgia at my front door.  I open it and inside is a bundle with three hanks of yarn:  100% wool handpainted, 100% silk worsted, and 100% silk fingering.  After cleaning up the wet mess I must have caused on the floor, I think I started to dance.
Oh.  Emm.  Gee.
So I dropped the hat and mitt set I was making for Renee and her booth at Vogue Live, the socks I'm designing to make Sam Boice and her yarn company famous, the Deborah Newton sweater...all of it.  Yep.  Dropped like a hot potato.  In favor of casting on the silk fingering.
If I'm going to review 100% silk fingering weight yarn, I'm not going to make a gauge swatch.  I'm going to make a shawl.  After all, I have to block it to give it a thorough review, right?


I'm not a pastel girl, I'm not a lace girl (well, I love KNITTING lace but I don't WEAR lace very often), and I'm certainly not a silk girl.  But DAMN I was done when I saw this yarn.

I have also been knitting the Malabrigo Rios to make something with Renee's handspun art yarn...the pattern below is for a hat using Renee's yarn as brim trim:


 Perhaps I should start doing something that will cause me to not lose my house.  I don't know, though...if the choice was lose my house or lose my sanity, I would choose house any day of the week.  And right now, well, knitting is keeping me sane and grounding me through all of the crap.

Back to the beginning, though...that bit of "fan mail" (she was really a fan of Joni's story, not my writing) made me feel like even though I joke about making my dozens of readers happy, sometimes I encounter one.  And it no longer matters if there are dozens or hundreds or thousands or even three.  One is enough.  If one person is touched, it's enough.

It's tough...very tough...getting through the loss of a parent.  And if I have a part in the "every little bit helps" piece, then suddenly, I have purpose.  Poof.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh...Hi Again

Good morning...or afternoon...my days blend together after a while.

I'm thisclose to getting out of my pajamas after sleeping for eleven hours, writing two articles for my column (here is the one from today...the other one gets published tomorrow... http://www.examiner.com/article/fall-is-the-time-to-ramp-up-your-knitting-skills-with-a-class), and planning out my afternoon.  Doesn't sound very exciting until you think about the fact that I finally, finally have more time on my hands.

See, I got divorced.  And my ex husband moved out a week ago.  And I spent the week after that cleaning up the crap-storm in my house.  Now I feel like this is MY space, and MY time, and I can successfully move on.  I'm not exactly looking for a date but I was looking for the chance to be in my house, at peace with everything, and not feel like I am distracted with my life.  I think I'm there.

Today, I'm going to start a design with a deadline.  Not my favorite way to knit, but when Renee Jones of the Carolina Fiber Company tells you, "I want to feature your designs in my booth at Vogue Knitting Live," you grab a ball of HER yarn and design something with it.  Vogue Knitting Live is the first weekend of November.  I had best get cracking, no?

If heaven forbid any of you reading this don't knit, the equivalent for non-knitters would be an up-and-coming band being asked to play a set at Lollapalooza.  Who knows?  Maybe Debbie Bliss will walk by one of my scarves and say, "I need this girl to design with my yarns.  Do you have her business card?"

So yeah...I'm a bit out of my mind.  And flattered beyond recognition.  But I would rather promote her yarns in return, and I have an idea for a hat and mitt set that I think would be cute.  Here's to hoping it works on the first try so I can succeed in taking this sucker down to the wire.

Other than that, I was going to try and finish my Debra Newton Vogue Knitting 30th Anniversary sweater before VKLive, but I'm not sure I'm that awesome.  Or that I have that much time.  But we'll see.  I also have the socks I'm designing in the hopes of making Sam Boice, owner of The Wool Dispensary, famous, and the baby blanket I'm knitting in my car.  Basically, I have four projects on needles and I figure to finish them all at the same time.  Which is good...it would save me several trips to the inbox or FedEx office...I could do them all at once.  And then crash and burn, no question.  I'm certain I'll need a nap by November 4th if I finish all I want to finish by then.

My column, it should be noted, is moving in a new direction.  I am now setting up an email list for all of the Chicago-area local yarn shops so I can ask them about trends in their stores, with both their customers and vendors, all at once.  Stay tuned for a much more worldly, but still Chicago-based, knitting column.  One thing I did tell all of the shop owners, though, is that I'm not in this for the money.  I just want to promote knitting and yarning and other yummies like that.  In turn, if you ever want to share my stuff, I hope you know you're more than welcome.  The only exception to that is the patterns you may purchase...please do the right thing and do NOT share those.  Thanks!

Okay...time to get off of my bum, buy some appliances, and go knitting.  Because I can't do that enough this month.  The knitting...not the buying appliances.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Road Tripping

Good day!  So, I work four nights on and four nights off at my day job, which means that even though I'm completely zombified for 50% of my life, I have an odd amount of spare time.  Well, sometimes I use that big chunk of time to catch up on life, paperwork, and whatever else needs attention.  Other times...like last week...I went on a road trip.

I drove to California.  Stayed for maybe fifteen hours.  Then flew back.

But the great thing about road trips is you can knit little things when you stop, so I did.  I finished that green scarf in the last post, and I also started and finished the Half Dome from knitty.com in 2006...Jesse Loesberg, you're cute AND you're a great designer!  Here is my installment of the hat with, if I do say so myself, a pretty flawless mattress stitch.  See, the hat is knitted flat.  Would you ever guess I sewed the sucker up if it weren't for the rolled brim to see the underside of the seam?


I had a dear friend pick me up from the airport and bring me to my car, but of course my car was at work, so there was a bit of an unexpected (duh...I actually SHOULD have expected it) hiccup there.  No worries, though...I felt accomplished for finishing two knitting projects on my days off.

Never mind the fact that I also own a real estate investment company, and there is PLENTY of work to be done on that front.  But whatever...that stuff will get done also.  Since I don't have a choice and all real estate stuff has...you know...deadlines and a legal expectation of customer service.

So now I'm designing the socks that I hope will make the yarn-dyer famous (yes I'm serious), and I went back to the Asymmetrical Tunic from Vogue Knitting's 30th Anniversary issue.  I have the two short pieces done, and I have started the first of the two long pieces.  The pattern is actually perfect for me, because it's knit in eight pieces and then sewn together in this cool, unique construction at the end.  While I won't ever agree, I've been accused (that's the wrong word...more like it has been suggested to me) of having ADHD because of my penchant for doing sixty things at once, and just finishing them on my own time.

Little teeny bursts of knitting, and feeling like I finish something every time I bind off on a piece?  Sign me up!

Meanwhile, I have a new place I love to hang out in the house, but Bluto will do all he can to prevent the place from being as happy as possible.  Basically, I have this purple chair and mismatched ottoman that I bought on Craigslist, and it's in the kitchen between two huge windows.  Great place to knit, neighborhood-watch, listen to Pandora (my favorite stations are Sara Evans, Doobie Brothers, Debbie Gibson, and the Grateful Dead), and basically chill out.  Until Bluto gets involved.

See, Bluto likes sitting in the chair as well.  I am used to sharing a chair with this dog, of course...if you have followed my blog, you have no doubt seen that he sleeps on me in the red chair...but this chair is half the size of the other one.  He sits behind me, and his fat ass pushes mine right to the edge of the chair so he can stalk birds and squirrels in the back yard.  Suddenly, knitting a cable pattern with five different charts, all with a different number of rows, becomes a challenge.  Bluto just sits peacefully for ten seconds, and then licks my face for no reason and completely out of nowhere.  Here is the evidence:



It doesn't matter what I'm doing...he feels the need to sit there.  Sometimes he brings Kong, which he then drops, and of course freaks out and runs over me to retrieve it because that's what Kong does to dogs.

My column will be picking up again in a few days...this week is particularly stressful, but a lot will be better after that.  I have one more property to buy, the home-situation thing is semi-resolving, and then I'll be able to nap with the best of them and be fresh to get some work done.  Until then, I have pretty much given up getting everything done.  I just don't have the mental energy.  But I will.  So I shall knit.  Oh, and finally, as I was wrapping this up to publish, Bluto stopped chewing on my hair long enough to just sit peacefully for a photo.  See?


I'll keep publishing the progress of the Vogue sweater...it's really beautiful even in pieces!  I hope it looks that great when I sew it...this may be one of those instances where I cash in a favor and say, "Umm...friend...can you put this thing together?  I'll f*** it up."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Humidity and Wool

Good evening, everyone...I'm sitting in my little nook in the kitchen, wishing my house would sell and wishing I could get a renter for my condo, and contemplating Life In General.  I have so many secrets to share, but I can't, for a few reasons:

1.  I work for a big, big company.  While I'm not doing anything that would ever jeopardize my job, I don't want to every say anything that could be misinterpreted by the higher-ups in a public forum.  So there are those secrets relating to things that don't directly have to do with the job, but people tend to get the wrong idea about whatever they want.
2.  There are some things I promised not to talk about.

So here I am, knitting some easy stuff and designing a bit.  The "knitting some easy stuff" part comes in the form of a scarf.  See, even though it's currently 82 degrees and humid (at almost ten o'clock at night), it will soon be scarf season.  And I love scarves.  Wearing them, knitting them, encouraging others to get their freak on with them...all of it.  So I have temporarily replaced the garter-stitch squares in my passenger seat with scarves.  Here is the first one, made out of Laines du Nord Prancer (replaced by Romeo; one ball gets you a comfy, decent-length scarf):



This yarn is brightly colored, not wool-itchy, lofty, and has enjoyable color changes.  What's not to like, I ask you?  Oh...and the needles are the Clover needles from the set I won at Wool and Company (as if Lesley weren't fabulous enough without prizes).  The pattern is just moss stitch (meaning two rows of K2P2 ribbing, and then reverse K2P2 ribbing for two rows), so I can whip this sucker out while I wait for the Bensenville train and never get lost in the pattern.  Score!

Then, even though I said I was going to take a break, I decided to get my design on and try my hand at a pair of socks.  I knitted the gauge swatch for both the heel and the instep, and busted out my US2 Knitter's Pride Cubics for the first time.  Before I go any further, I'd like to say I'm a huge fan of these needles.  The only struggle I have had is that I am a death-grip knitter, so tightening the first stitch on a new needle is more difficult when the needle shaft is square instead of circular.  All is well, though.

The problem is me.  I'm an idiot.

Usually I design projects that, if I were ever to get discovered (or, you know, submit my designs to a publication and actually be fortunate enough to have them picked up), would end up in Knit Simple or another publication which appeals to the masses.  Anyway, I busted out the pencil and graph paper, started writing stuff down, got a very solid image in my head, and then I started knitting.

The reason I'm blogging right now is because I thought K1P1 ribbing for, like, ever was a good idea.  It is not.  At least it's not for someone who has the attention span of a stoplight, such as myself.  The thing is, this yarn is just begging to be made into something awesome.  If my design turns out to be only okay, the yarn on its own will make it awesome.  It can be purchased through Sam Boice, owner of The Wool Dispensary.  I bought the yarn at Yarn Con and I chose Useful Irradiant in Danse Du Ventre.  There are sparkly threads and rich cool pinkness and a great hand and...I could go on and on.  The yarn is great, Sam is great, and it will not only do my pattern justice...it will make it great.  

Either way, though, these socks are going to be a labor of love for anyone who decides to knit them.  I am purling in unnecessary places, ribbing in unnecessary places, probably patterning in unnecessary places when I get there...drrrrrr...

Here is the yarn.  Stunning, right?


Finally, after helping out Knot Just Knits and introducing myself as the Plot Twist Shell pattern designer during the Chicago Yarn Crawl, my mom saw my design and decided she wanted one made for herself.  I had already made two of them, so I asked Elizabeth if she would make one for my mom and call it even for working for her, and she agreed.  My mom is not a fan of wool because it makes her itchy, so I told her to go into the yarn shop and pick out what she liked.  She went into Knitche and, to hear her tell it, her head fell off her neck from all of the choices and she had to be mopped out the door, too overwhelmed to make a decision.

But she did...she chose Misti Alpaca Chunky in Natural Cream (because if anyone knows my mother, she's one of those teeny people that can get away with wearing off-white and not look lumpy, fat, or even generally undesirable...it's unfair).  Elizabeth did a great job on the sweater but I was amused at how much heavier it was than the one I made in Eco+, and even the one I made in Queensland Kathmandu.  It, well, it weighs as much as my mother.

I'm going on a road trip next week, so hopefully I'll knit more than two rows of K1P1 ribbing on these freaking socks.  Maybe...if I'm feeling extra-saucy...I can make it all the way down to the heel.  Hell...a girl can dream...

By the way, if you know anyone in Chicago who would like to buy a house or rent a condo, send them the hyperlinks in this sentence and send them my way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Location, Location, Location

Greetings, fellow yarnies!  Or real estate friends...this post will mostly be about real estate and how I haven't had any time to knit.

That's not entirely true...I did review Viking Odin Superwash in my column today...here it is:

http://www.examiner.com/review/product-review-viking-odin-superwash?cid=db_articles

The pattern was the free exclusive pattern during the Chicago Yarn Crawl at Wool and Company in St. Charles...if you didn't get a chance to pick it up, definitely purchase it.  You have enough yarn for one pattern-length cowl and then one one-section-shorter cowl if you reverse Colors A and B in the pattern, so for two balls of yarn you have two Christmas gifts out of the way!  Also, since it's knit in the round and the colors show up by slipping stitches, there ain't a purl in the bunch (save for two rows).

You know how much I hate to purl...actually, you know how much my friends Kathleen and Dawn hate to purl...

Anyway, I have been in Donald Trump mode this week, which is why I decided to do a yarn review this week in my column.  The pattern takes literally a few hours to make...GREAT instant gratification knitting.  I closed on a three-flat yesterday (for those of you in Florida or Texas or anywhere else where there is no basement, a "three-flat" is a three-unit apartment building that looks like a big house).  Then today, I put my own house on the market and am getting ready to list one of my rental units.  Basically if it isn't about rent or mortgages, I probably can't hear you.

Here is my finished cowl, by the way...


Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and fix a dishwasher for one tenant and bring boxes and a bottle of wine to another one.  Seriously.  Then I have to wash the walls and floors of my house, put a few items in boxes, introduce myself to my new tenants, and I'm thinking I'll pick up my knitting needles again around November or so.  God help me.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yarn Crawl Hangover

Good evening!

I have one more Yarn Crawl article left in me, but for now, I just thought I would recap.  Especially since I actually...gulp...finished a project this week!  See, this is what Zauerballs are for...


See, I got to a point where I had to, HAD to, finish my Zauerball socks.  While I was laid up like an invalid and still working at both Planet Walmart (I got kicked out two days in a row, and a doctor at Elmhurst finally told me, "You're not planning on standing at all, are you?") and Knot Just Knits, I had plenty of spare time all of a sudden.  For those who don't know, I knitted two socks at a time, from both the inside and the outside of the ball.  For all of you Zauerballers, I know the company recommends not pulling from the inside of the ball, but I had zero problems.  And if you go from left toe to right toe, you see the colorway from the outside to the inside core of the ball.  Note the approximately eighteen inches of yarn left on the top of the socks...that's how I roll.

Crazy Zauerballs should not be wasted.

Anyway, the reception to my pattern was overwhelming...I was so very thankful for that.  For those of you not in the area, here is the listing on Ravelry:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/plot-twist-shell

Now, it's time to get back to the Vogue Knitting pattern.  I have one panel of...I don't remember...eight?  Ten?...finished.  Slowly but surely, both knitting-wise and life-wise, I'm getting back on my feet.  The first major thing was checked off the list, and the second major thing should be checked off this week.  The Yarn Crawl was not really something to check off my list, but at the same time, it gave me an iota of confidence that I had lost over the last couple of years.  I also heard a tiny bit of negative feedback through my Ravelry group about the Yarn Crawl, which is still positive because small businesses are just like any other company; they need to hear where they can improve.  There certainly wasn't a bunch of negative feedback DURING the Crawl...I ran into more friendly yarn enthusiasts than I can even count, and I even got used to Renee pointing to me and saying, "Amy here is the person who designed this awesome pattern!"

On second thought, I still turned slightly pink when she called that out.  But it's a big deal to me...after the following picture was taken, two more balls of Eco+ were sold to make my pattern.  Now, Eco+ is pretty lofty but it did take up two thirds of the table when the Yarn Crawl started...that's four feet of table reduced to eight inches of table:



Anyway, I was also so happy to help out Elizabeth, who has been so good to me and my creativity pretty much since she opened.  I remember going in there ten days after her doors opened for business...I had no idea a yarn shop had opened in Oak Park, but I happened to walk by and look in the window.  I doubled back, and of course a beautiful friendship was born.  Elizabeth is a good yarn psychologist.  She handed me a ball of Kauni in their rainbow colorway and said, "This has yardage for days, the colors are great, and it felts like a dream.  Walk around with it.  See if it speaks to you."

It did.  I purchased it.  I made the hat in my The Fiber Friend facebook page and that photo was taken at the UPS store, right before I sent it to its intended recipient, one of my favorite members of the military EVER.

Oh yeah...that hat was worn in Afghanistan.  This hat:


Have a good night...I'm going to compile my feedback from the Crawl.  Or knit.  Or think about walking, which I can't do much of.  Or make sugar free pudding with almond milk.  Or...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Other Side Of The Coin

Good evening!  It's Yarn Crawl and Stitches Midwest week, so I have had a lot to write about, but I've also had a lot of knitting time, thanks to a few key moments.  The first one is that I went to the Pacific Northwest for a few days, and...well...the flight was a bit long.  I was knitting my Zauerball socks, but there is one pattern on the front and another on the back, so I have to be able to see the instructions for both sides at the same time.  This is what I came up with:


Then, I finished my size of the Yarn Crawl pattern for Knot Just Knits...here is the listing on Ravelry if you'd like to see it:


I made it in a different yarn, figuring I needed to make sure it could translate.  It did, well enough where I wore it to work one night.  On the first day of the Yarn Crawl, I worked at Knot Just Knits and the first person I encountered was gushing about my pattern.  Every nerve I had about thinking, "I hope everyone but me doesn't think it's ugly" vanished in a millisecond.

So that's when I decided to post the pattern on Ravelry before the Yarn Crawl ended...Elizabeth already told me she didn't care, so I knew it wasn't a big deal.  Within 24 hours, I had sold three patterns and 74 people had favorited it in their library.  Wow...double thank-you.

Then I spent Day Two at the Woolly Lamb...they are usually closed on Sundays so I wanted to see what Crawlers were coming in.  If I can get my butt out of bed in the morning, I'll write an article about it...such a great store.  Great yarn.  Great atmosphere.  Great help.  Just great great great...I can't say enough nice things about the place, and of course they are the Chicago-exclusive distributor of Bergere de France, which is the most heavenly of the heavenly yarns, ever.

Tomorrow, I am heading back to Knot Just Knits for a work day...it is so interesting to me to be an employee versus a manager.  I am the first to admit that I'm not the best at my "day" job, but I am decent at managing a crew, making good decisions, and getting people to be productive.  It has been a long time since my only job was to basically sell stuff and make the customer happy, but yep...here we are.  It was actually GREAT fun, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  Knitters are simply awesome.

By the way, I'm wrapping up my coverage of the Yarn Crawl with a Best of the Best list...if you have any feedback, please do contact me privately with your thoughts.  I can't actually do the Crawl this year since I'm an employee, but I want customer-driven feedback on what they like about the Crawl.  Specifically..

Best atmosphere 
Friendliest employees 
Best free pattern 
Best raffle prize 
Best LYS neighborhood…where are the best surrounding restaurants and shopping? 
Best yarn selection
Best non-Yarn Crawl sales and deals

Please also share with other Crawlers...either have them email me at amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com or contact me through Ravelry at thefiberfriend.

I'm hoping to finish the Zauerball socks (in the photo above) by the end of next week so I can get back to knitting the Vogue 30th Anniversary asymmetrical tunic pattern...that Cascade Eco+ and one and a half finished panels keep staring at me, but I'm already doing one confusing pattern with cables.  Makes more sense to finish that sucker and then put the Zauerball socks on my feet while I knit the tunic.  Who's picturing it?  Oh by the way...I'm knitting the Zauerball from the toe up until I run out of yarn, meaning they will probably be knee-highs.  Enough of a visual?

Let me know how the Crawl is going...I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Been A While...

Hello?  Is this thing on?

My apologies for the silence, but I've had a thing or two go on in my life that made me feel like I could barely get out of bed.  So I'll recap the last couple of months, being as vague as I'll allow myself, and then you can go ahead and judge away.

As it turns out, I hate surprises and I hate waiting.  So there is something going on in my marriage that's pretty much splitting me in half, and it got to the point where I would postpone pretty much everything for another day, and then the next day would come, and I would postpone for yet another day.  I didn't write my column for over a month.  Then, just as the one thing was coming to a head, the other thing actually DID snap me in half.

My dogs were in an unfamiliar situation, and to make a long story short, Penny attacked and killed two little dogs.  My sweet, unassuming animals that are afraid of pretty much everything and say hello to the smelly garbage man every Tuesday.  Penny, who had the chihuahua at the dog park at Berteau and Central bite the back of her leg and she would just turn around and look at it like, "Seriously?"

So I have done pretty much nothing of value except cry and feel sorry for myself for the last, I would say, eight to ten weeks.  To top it off, I was struggling in my head by screaming, "Get out get out get out get out!" to one problem, and then screaming "Get me out get me out get me out!" to another.  Basically, I just needed to shake out all in my life to reset things to where they belonged.

I have succeeded, sort of.  One issue is resolved, I had to put Penny down (which isn't resolve but it is closure, as awful as it was), and a few others are on the horizon.  But because I can see the future, I am finally starting to feel better.  So I have that going for me.

I finished a pair of socks, and after ripping the first one out when I was all the way down to the ball of the foot, only to start it on a larger pair of needles, I decided I still didn't like how they looked on ME.  I mailed them to someone with a similar foot size.  The person was pleased.  So then, so was I.

I finished a garment...it is the sample for the Chicago Yarn Crawl.  Perhaps you have seen it...Cascade Yarns featured it on their website.  If you want to get it for free, just stop by Knot Just Knits during the Yarn Crawl.  If you want to buy it, give me a few days and I'll have it up on Ravelry.  It's called the Plot Twist Shell, and here is Elizabeth modeling it in her store:


Now I'm knitting one the next size up for me...the least I could do is wear my own design, right?

Anyway, then I finally started the Vogue Knitting 30th Anniversary issue aran tunic designed by Deborah Newton.  I have finished one panel and plan to bring the ball with me when I leave town next week, so I can maybe finish the second panel and start on the third one.

Oh, and finally...I will by tomorrow have completed Steve's harmonica cozy.  I hope to remember to post a photo of it...basically, Steve (our rhythm guitar player and my former roommate on Laporte) only plays the harmonica on one song, so he doesn't want to bring a music stand to shows just to hold his harmonica.  I knitted him a harmonica sock that hooks onto his guitar strap, so all he has to do is reach in and grab the sucker.

So yes, I have been knitting.  But I have been extremely depressed and lacking direction and wishing things would change...they are.  I no longer lack direction.  I am getting there.  Hang in there with me and keep those needles clicking!

If you want to indulge in a sale or two before the yarn crawl, here are some stores offering discounts in the coming week or two:


Speaking of writing...which I only sort of was, but still...

...I think I'm going to have an AWESOME speaking gig next year relating to my column.  Stay tuned!  Big things happening because of my silly little column...yay!  Guess that means I have to keep blogging...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring is HERE!

Good evening!  I'm sitting at the laptop, trying desperately to get organized, but I knew I was in trouble when one of the items on my to-do list was...seriously..."Get Organized."

Well, I was more specific, but not much more specific.

Anyway, I am currently organizing my stories, organizing upcoming designs, organizing my real estate investment business, organizing a personal matter, and then when I'm finished, I am going to try and organize the house.  Notice the part involving actual cleaning is last on the list.

I entered Franklin Habit's Templeton Square Contest through knitty.com, and while I did not win, I did receive very nice feedback from Fiona Ellis.  So after I came to after reading one of the greats say nice things about my design and whacking my head on the hardwood floor, I decided that now I could actually share with all of you what my design was!

I call it Lizbeth...it's named after Elizabeth Halpern (the model in the photo and owner of Knot Just Knits in Oak Park) and Beth Casey, owner of Lorna's laces (which is the yarn used for the project.  I don't know why I thought making a tank top from sock yarn was a good idea, but I'm very pleased with how it turned out and I hope you like it as well.  Franklin's Templeton Square pattern is obviously free, since it is through knitty.com, so let me know if you think I should write out the free pattern for the whole tank top while of course giving him full credit for his part:





The pictures don't do the yarn justice at all...it's amazing.  The color, the feel, the springiness and drape...all of it.  And now that I didn't win, I'm dying to see the winners' entries!

Other than that, I finally...FINALLY...finished the kimono sweater.  Here is proof:


Only took me something like eight months, but I'm pleased.  This morning while waiting for my friend Jeff, I actually ripped out a sock I started to go up a needle size.  Might not sound like a very big deal, but I was halfway through the foot on a top-down sock...I probably only had two more inches to go before shaping the toe but something about it was nagging at me.

Now, I shall go back to organizing.  And probably not cleaning.  I might knit some more, however...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Yarny Easter

Happy Easter, everyone!  As most of you know my "day" (well, "night") job, I'm a huge fan of commercialism.  If I am wishing you a happy (insert holiday), no matter what time of year, I am probably just encouraging you to eat chocolate in whatever shape it comes at that time of year.  December?  Have a chocolate tree!  Easter?  Bunnies and eggs!  Independence Day?  Sad but true...patriotic Peeps!

I woke up this morning thinking that I should use my column for a yarny public service.  I made one "bad" skein and one "good" skein of hand-dyed yarn using Easter egg dye, and I wrote a tutorial about it.  Keep in mind that tomorrow, these dyes go on sale for half off almost everywhere (as if $2.50 was too much to spend on dye in the first place), and the tablets last forever in a dry cupboard.  You may as well stock up and have some fun!  Here's what I did:

http://www.examiner.com/list/dyeing-yarn-with-easter-egg-coloring?cid=db_articles

Then, I felted Axl's cat bed...it shrunk about 40%, which is a good size for my goofy cat.  Earlier today, he went outside and since the dogs were stalking the neighbor's dog, they were already on the hunt.  He came back inside with Penny drool on his neck and Bluto drool on his butt.  Here is his bed drying, anyway:



I think I am finished yarning for the day, since I have to go to work this evening. My to-do list has not shrunk, however...there is so much to do to get my life on track, but I'm feeling like I am at least heading in the correct direction.  Or directions.  Either way, all is good.  For now, it is time to watch the Blackhawks complete their annihilation of the Red Wings, pay some bills, maybe do laundry (although I think my washing machine is tired after the cat bed incident), and spend my next four days knitting while waiting for the Bensenville train to pass.

It is also nice enough outside where I should probably open the windows, lest my house smell like burnt vinegar for the next several days...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Maiden Voyages

Good afternoon!  It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, literally...I've been walking around the Loop for the last hour until I saw a decapitated "Walk" guy, which made me need tea.

This morning, I finished knitting Axl's cat bed.  Now, I just have to entertain my maiden voyage of felting.  I mean, I have felted pieces before, but nothing this big and...nothing on purpose.  So that said, I did some reading up on the subject, and conveniently I have a copy of Tamara Mello's book, Heart Felt Knits, which gives explicit instructions on how to do it.  So here is the finished knitted piece:


And before we go further:  yes, yes that is my pair of Grover-colored slippers on the right and no, no Muppets were harmed in the making of the slippers.

So anyway, it's about the size of your average Welcome Mat at the moment, and I only need it slightly larger than an iPad box.  Huh?


See, this box didn't make the move from Texas to Illinois, and Axl currently sleeps in the recycling box.  So he needs his own bed.  And it needs to be iPad-sized.

Anyway, while reading about the process of felting, I saw that a lot of people use an old pair of jeans to agitate the wool so it felts more beautifully.  I was heading downtown today on an impromptu field trip in my old jeans, so I did what any normal person would do - I purchased two new pairs of jeans to replace the soon-to-be-wool-and-mohair-covered ones I'm wearing.  They are nine years old, so it's only if we break up amicably and they do me one last favor before heading to the Salvation Army box.

After the Blackhawks game, if I am too wired I'm going to go ahead and fire up the washing machine...the results will be posted here ASAP.  For now, though, it's off to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Post-Rotation Grog

Uggh...if there is one thing I've learned, it's that I should not do anything both complicated and yarn-related the day after I'm off of my rotation.

At least I took this lesson to heart yesterday, when I went to my local yarn shop and, instead of knitting the double-cable sock pattern I'm making with the Zauerball, I brought the felted cat bed I'm making for Axl.  I know...big deal.  But it's on big needles, in garter stitch, there is no actual pattern (just garter stitch for miles until I run out of yarn), and I'll survive if I drop a stitch.  Last week, I was making a Templeton square for the knitty.com design contest, and I dropped stitches on three different needles in three different rows.  The pattern itself is easy for a decent knitter like myself, but picking up a yarnover from three rows below when I'm not thinking clearly in the first place is no fun at all.

So after sleeping for over twelve hours, I started looking at my yarn.  I am in the middle of a pair of socks, I need to make another pair of socks, make a bag for a housewarming gift for someone, finish the i-cord on the kimono sweater (it won't die), finish the cat bed, and make a list of stuff I have to do this week.

So what did I do?  I opened the drawer of unfinished projects I have and decided to rip one of them out.

Notice this was not on either the knitting list, or the less-specific other stuff to do for the week list, for the day.

But whatever...I took a shawl I started ages ago and decided that for some reason, I needed the 32" size US5 needle off of it, so I may as well re-ball the yarn.  I pull from the inside of the ball, so no big deal...I could just wind on the ball winder from the end on the outside of the ball.  Except that I couldn't find that end.

Seriously.

After ten minutes of flipping the half-used ball over in my hands, and continuing to look for a straggly piece of yarn, I gave up and realized I was going to have to rip this sucker out and use the cast-on end.  This was a shawl that was knit by making the entire border first, and then short-rowing the middle.  I was about halfway through the 440-yard ball.

Well, if you have ever tried to wind previously-knitted yarn, then you know that knots form for no reason.  It took me 20 minutes to wind this freaking ball.

Then what did I do?  I realized I wanted another ball of sock yarn wound.  I think I picked the worst skein EVER to wind...it may as well have been Malabrigo (dearest Malabrigo...I love your yarn and promote the crap out of it because it's so awesome, but your skeins are wound as if the person who looped them around was too hammered to drive) but it was actually by Dragonfly Fibers.  Axl, who has been known to crawl into my lap while I'm knitting and not be bothered with the colorful string flying about his face, found the yarn swift completely fascinating.


After realizing that maybe I was not awake enough to knit, I received a phone call that I'm hoping will change my life a bit.  More on that later, but I need to get off of my butt and do something.  Stitch(es) in Winnetka has their monthly Sit N Stitch tonight, and it's about time I actually started firing up my column again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sigh of Relief

Good evening!  Lest you all think my blog has been shut off by authorities, let me clarify.

I've had a busy and stressful couple of months, so I dialed down the column and blog in favor of a few other ventures.  The big time investment went to the Knitty.com design contest.  I can't share a photo just yet because I assume it would disqualify me (if that's not the case and I get approval to the positive, I'll share), but I'm actually proud of myself for stretching my creative legs a bit.  I like one-hit wonders...scarves, hats, blankies...and then just reserve the garment-making for myself by following a pattern.

But I designed a garment.  With heavenly yarn.  And I finished it and entered with an ENTIRE DAY TO SPARE BEFORE THE DEADLINE!  Life is good.

There was a huge weight lifted off of me the day I closed on my condo.  This process made me question the short-sale culture; it was nobody's fault, but MAN what a pain in the arse.  The bank was slow, the lawyers were slow, the mortgage guy was slow, I was slow, the seller was slow, the agents were slow...okay, so nobody was actually "slow," but the process took seven months.  Then, on the last day of my rotation (when I am so over-tired that everything makes me cry), the closing is scheduled and I'm sitting at the title company, knitting the contest garment.

It's okay...it was sixty miles of an easy stitch pattern so I could do that while over-tired.

Anyway, we waited for hours in order to close because a glitch in a computer system was preventing some documents from being printed.  We were so bored, we friended each other on facebook.  Finally, with literally five minutes to go and no other day for the closing to happen, all went well and I went to work and then to Canada to teach a lace class.  Poof.

Ooh, and I filed my taxes with...if you can believe it...a MONTH to spare.

So the contest and the taxes were actually completed on the same day.  I had that feeling of "I don't need to do another thing for days!" feeling.  Even better, though...if any of you have ever test-knit something for someone, you know there's always the discussion of what was wrong with the pattern, what was decidedly RIGHT with the pattern, what may need to be worded differently and the like.  Well, I wrote this pattern out, drew the schematic, started knitting, and did not have a test-knitter besides myself.  In the moments I was sewing the last seam, I literally felt my heart start beating faster...I was nervous.  If it didn't work out, too bad...I was too close to the deadline to rip it out and do it again.

But it worked.  And it more than worked...it was cute and a half, it was so cute.  It's the same feeling, I think, that a groom feels when he sees his bride for the first time on his wedding day, but without the lifetime-overwhelm that comes with it.  Done.  Happy.

Other than that, working overnight is taking a lot out of me; I'll fire the column back up after my rotation for the next four days, and I have some great stuff lined up (that is, if you're a knitter or care at all about helping people).  For now, I am continuing trying to find new and different ways to sleep so my life has some balance to it, but my lack of a thyroid is getting in my way.  I've been having extreme headaches, and after having my blood drawn yet again I was told to keep my current dose of my meds because I'm "sensitive to higher thyroid doses."  A true statement.

I'm excited to pick up a project I put down in favor of the contest.  Hmm...the Zauerball socks, the cat bed, the sleeves for the kimono sweater that won't die...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vogue Knitting LIVE ~~sigh~~

Good evening!  Well, I'm sitting in my hotel room, wishing I knew sooner that the Rangers home opener was tonight but still thankful I could watch Downton Abbey on a television, and I'm decompressing.  The good news is that the Blackhawks are on the radio (in case you thought all I did was knit).  My status on facebook earlier said, "I'm knitted out."  Wow...what a fun weekend.  Lots of great experiences, new friendships and contacts, some free stuff AND paid-for stuff...and a ton, a TON of inspiration.

In case any of you are curious, here is a recap of the stories I've written this weekend, and there is still one more to come.  Maybe two, but most likely one:

http://www.examiner.com/article/deals-aplenty-at-the-vogue-knitting-live-marketplace?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next
http://www.examiner.com/article/gallery-of-artists-at-vogue-knitting-live-does-not-disappiont?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next
http://www.examiner.com/article/knitters-get-more-than-just-tricks-of-the-trade-at-vogue-knitting-live?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next
http://www.examiner.com/article/manhattan-ballroom-where-the-action-is-on-day-one-of-vogue-knitting-live?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next
http://www.examiner.com/article/knitters-worldwide-descend-upon-times-square-for-vogue-knitting-live?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next

This morning, I audited Franklin Habit's "Knitting Tessellations" class, and of course geeked out because I love math and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Then I went to the Marketplace...I waited all weekend to choose if I was going to buy anything, because lord knows I don't need anymore yarn, but at the same time, I have been pretty good about knitting stuff and giving it away. I bought two skeins of sock yarn from an independent dyer named Dragonfly Fibers.  Their colors are amazing...I saw her stuff in Chicago and was just 360 degrees of impressed.  And indie dyers are a dime a dozen.  I chose boy-sock colors this time, since my stash is full of girl-sock- and silly-sock colors.

Then...I bought a copy of Nicky Epstein's The Essential Edgings Collection.  Wow.  I don't know how her brain works, but I would love to watch the MRI with contrast as some psychiatrist asked her important knitting questions to see which sections went from blue to red and at what lightning-quick speed.  The book on the left...a thirty dollar value...was absolutely FREE!  So I think I did well, considering how much more I could have spent.


After saying goodbye to Kelly and popping my head in on a few other speakers, I met Peter for a drink and then went back to the hotel to fall over.  I actually finished the infinity scarf I was making out of my friend Renee's yarn...Renee owns an Etsy shop called the Carolina Fiber Company.  If you shop from her, you too can get yourself a gorgeous hank of her hand-spun stuff and look as fly as I do in the picture!



By the way, I cast on 321 stitches, and then just K8, P8 until I was almost out of yarn.  Then I bound off in pattern and was left with...seriously...less than five feet of yarn.  It was about 350 yards if you wanted to do it in a heavy DK to worsted weight yarn.  The yarn is slightly thick-and-thin, so I'm at about 4.75 stitches per inch, if not a bit more.

If you look at my facebook page (The Fiber Friend), you'll see a photo of me and artist Kelly Fleek.  The woman who took it actually invented a knitting tool...more on that later...and when I saw her this morning she said, "Did you see your photo?  You're so damn photogenic!"  I hope that's true...since my brains don't seem to be advancing my career as fast as I need it to, maybe I can get by on my looks.

Just kidding.

My two-year plan is actually going well...I haven't exactly ticked a bunch of items off the list, but I see the vision, and I know where I'm going.  That's actually a pretty big deal...it means the pieces will fall into place more quickly.  Trust me.

If any of you can get this blog post to Nicky Epstein...NICKY!  I LOVE YOUR BOOK!  I THINK YOU'RE A GENIUS!  (can i have a job?)

Just kidding.  Again.  But Nicky Epstein's book is amazing...this is the third time I've said that.  I mean it.  I actually met her for about two seconds in Chicago, and I either said, "Nice to meet you," or "Uhh...err...UMM...ahem..."  I honestly don't remember which sentence I uttered.

Oh well.  I'm all coherent now so maybe I'll see her on the street before I leave New York tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New York and Famous People

Good morning, everyone...I'm sitting in the lobby of the Marriott New York Marquis, planning my day and realizing that even if there were six of me, I could not do all I wanted to do while I was here.  The flip side, of course, is that I am covering this for an internet newspaper and not here as a bona fide attendee, so I can do a little bit of everything versus doing one or two things from start to finish.

The guy in front of me on the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel whipped his head around when we were driving down 5th Avenue, and practically knocked me out by saying, "Ooh!  There's Naomi Campbell right there!"  Aside from fearing for my life at the hands of an errant telephone, I am not exactly phased by Naomi Cambpell.  Walking around Vogue LIVE, however, I am pretty damn starstruck.

Many people in the industry of fiber arts can walk past any number of groups and not even cause the bat of an eyelash, mostly because their talent is recognized way before their faces. People like Martha Stewart and Vanna White are knitters and crocheters, but they were famous before their name was slapped on a product they licensed, so assuredly they get stopped on the street anyway.

But when you get 3,000 knitters in a hotel, and Debbie Bliss walks by, the people staying at the hotel who are there for another reason don't see a thing.  The people who are there for Vogue LIVE are squealing, poking each other in the ribs, and asking this classy English lady for her autograph on the back of their expo badges.

Currently, I can see Vickie Howell from where I am sitting; she is having breakfast and tweeted to her over 12,000 followers that she arrived last night. From my vantage point, I can see people walking past her, looking at her, trying to be respectful of the fact that she is eating with friends, but still being starstruck.  I get it.

This is different than the Oscars.  Many of the people here are not in awe of being near someone whose face is on television. Rather, they are taking master classes, taught, in some cases, by a person who actually invented a technique or style.  And this is for a craft that is well over 1,000 years old.  People are starstruck because they can feel the brain power and creativity permeating throughout each lecture hall and classroom.

Not only that, but famous people in the knitting world have one stark contrast from famous people in Hollywood.  They are all...every single one of them...nice, friendly, and humble.  In one of Debbie's lectures yesterday, someone asked her the name of her magazine, and she said, "It's just 'Debbie Bliss magazine.' Oh dear, did THAT sound funny! 'Debbie Bliss magazine...'" she said, tossing her hair about as if it were longer than chin-length.

On Thursday, I met the CEO of a little mom-and-pop company...his name is David Blumenthal.  He runs a family-owned business here in New York, and he and his predecessors (read:  relatives) have made a bit of an impact on knitting.  By the way, he is the CEO of Lion Brand Yarn.  I was standing in his office, and he was showing me all of the souvenirs he has collected over the past several years, including a photo of his grandson, the latest Blumenthal in the empire, modeling a Lion Brand Yarn pattern.  This guy is arguably one of the most powerful people in the industry, and he is essentially showing me how cute his grandson is.

I am starstruck.  Yes, these people are knitters...they are not curing cancer.  But what they are doing is using their immense talent to teach people how to make better chemo caps to donate to cancer victims, make prettier shawls for family members' weddings, and encourage budding designers how to find their way in an industry where even the most powerful of celebrity means that on some level, you are still a peer.

Good, good stuff.