Thursday, February 28, 2008

Simply Put

Hi Knitters,
Sometimes the simplest statement is the best. I knitted this plain hat for a compilation book project but then at the last minute I submitted an entirely different project. The project for the book was to be completely monochromatic. I used a creamy Blue Sky Alpaca Organic Cotton and as always fell in love with this scrumptious yarn.
I knitted a little cup at the top. Originally there was a knitted flower inside the tiny cup and several knitted leaves circling the flower. It was cute but it was also very white, a little too white actually. This morning I pulled the hat onto my lap and removed the flower and leaves. As I scanned my messy studio (which I am making progress on cleaning by the way) my eyes rested on my felted ball collection. It is funny how things just happen sometimes. I realized by eye-balling the larger-sized ball that it would fit perfectly into the little cup. I plopped the ball in and sure enough, perfect fit. Next I took a sprinkling of tiny-sized balls and stitched them around the edge of the cup. The effect is wonderful, flower-like, colorful and yet still simple. I love this new hat. Wonder who will get this one?
This fabric is not simply put, instead it is a circus of color and pattern. I am using this fantastic collection of Anna Maria Horner fabric for lining some other book projects I am working on. I love combining knitting and fabric. I got this fabric in a bundle here. Ordering a sample bundle of fabric is excellent because you get to see the entire collection in small pieces. I make a lot of small projects so the amounts are perfect for me. Anna's collection is called Chocolate Lollipop and it is de-lish!
*warning: random thoughts ahead*
So, Knitters, I am working away the week still covered by mountains of snow, still feeling like it is the dead of winter. My husband and I were out running the other day and we heard birds chirping like it was springtime. Those birds must be crazy or something, it is pure winter around here. Maybe if I take down the paper snowflakes on my windows it will hurry spring along.
Different subject, a couple of days ago I turned on the morning news and Ann Hood was on msnbc talking about a political article she wrote about being in a bi-political marriage. Remember Ann wrote the novel called, The Knitting Circle (new out in paperback), which I read about this time last year. Anyway, it was great to hear knitting being referenced repeatedly on msnbc and Ann Hood is really cool. I met her last year in Lexington at a book conference. She has a new book coming out on grieving which I will be reading for certain. This woman has true insight.
Later that day, as I am desperately trying to get a workout in before the kids get home from school, I jump on the elliptical and turn on The Martha Stewart Show. Lo and behold the entire studio audience is knitting. For the life of me I can't remember exactly what the reason was behind this knitting because she had a guest on making sock creature stuffed toys. What was that knitting about? Martha was knitting along as well. Anyway, it doesn't even matter because it was a good day for knitting being featured on two national tv shows in one day. Go knitting!
A funny thing happened to me when I was getting a new pair of shoes for my Minneapolis trip a couple of weeks ago. The shoes were for an Itty-Bitty promotion trip and as the clerk handed me the receipt to sign she sweetly asked, "Could I get you to sign on the itty-bitty line?" I smiled to myself and said, "Sure."
Take care, Knitters.
best, susie

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Back to School

Hi Knitters,
This morning I had the pleasure of going to my daughter's class to kick off a "How-To" book writing project they are just beginning. I had no idea what I was going to say before I arrived but I knew something would come out. I miss teaching in so many ways and it always rushes back to me when I get to do something like this. My daughter was my trusty photographer. It is fun to see things through her eyes.

So a "How-To" book is the perfect subject for me to discuss. I shared how I plan and make lists and brainstorm and create and finally, how I write. I often don't work in a linear fashion so I tried to be as organized as possible when I described how my How-To books come to life.
I shared my watercolor paintings,
my many sketch books,
how I pick yarns and scribble out patterns as I knit and how these chicken scratches become pictures and patterns in a book.
I hope the owner of this little hand makes a wonderful How-To book for his class.
In light of poetry month at my daughter's school she gave me permission to share this poem she wrote and shared with me this morning:
If I Were in Charge of the World
If I were in charge of the world,
I'd make sleepovers everyday,
Candy at school,
And soda in the living room.
I'd have dessert every night,
No one would copy,
And everyone would have a cool talent.
There would be water slides in school,
The poor would be wealthy,
And human beings would be called "friendly beans."
School would only be for an hour,
Rain forests would be kept safe,
And water fountains would be filled with root beer.
The End.
If only she were in charge...
best, susie

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mall of America Knit Out 2008

Hi Knitters,
Well, I am finally sitting down to share the Minneapolis Knit-Out at the Mall of America. What an experience. The mall is massive, the crowds were massive and best of all, the love of knitting and crocheting was massive. The turn out for the event was absolutely staggering, literally thousands and thousands of knitters were in attendance.

Above is an example of the demonstration areas that were blocked off for instructors. This is Isela Phelps who has written a book about loom knitting. She creates beautiful work using those plastic ring looms. She makes lace, cables, scarves, hats, anything you can think of with the loom. I was following her at this spot so I was pleased I got to see her demo because I don't really know much about this technique. I think it looks interesting. Her husband is the man standing directly behind the rope and he was so attentive to her every need. It was sweet, indeed.
What would my travel post be without a fuzzy photo of something? Right next to my demo was the fabulous Kim Werker of Crochet Me and Interweave Crochet fame. She was crocheting up a storm and I wish I could have joined right in.

I did two demonstrations, one each day, and they went well, but man, it was loud there. You literally had to shout to be heard. That was a bit tough.

You have to see what was going on right next to my first demonstration here. Yep, that's Annie Modesitt herself and yep, I was right next to her. Did you see those ginormous needles? She had such a massive crowd that my table had to be scooted back a bit. That makes me laugh, that is so me. I had a nice-sized group but she drew crowds. That was fun to see.
We also had these things called Author's Forums where a group of authors would go on the stage in a large rotunda area for a question and answer session led by the adorable Vickie Howell of the Knitty Gritty show and the author of many books. It was fun to meet her in person.
The woman in the green jacket is Edie Eckman, who most recently wrote the Crochet Answer Book, and look, she is crocheting away during the forum. I love it! I got to go out to dinner with Edie and she has an interesting and long career in the knitting/crochet industry. I really enjoyed her and learning about all of the things she has going on. She has a great new book coming out soon about crocheted motifs and it looks so fun. I had the chance to see a bunch of the motifs that are in the book and they are beautiful. I will definitely be getting that one when it hits the market.
I snuck this quick shot while I was sitting on the stage. This was Sunday and it was well attended. The Saturday crowd was much bigger. See how there were two levels? On Saturday that upper level was jam packed with people and the seating area was standing room only. I loved that there was such a high interest level for a knit-out. I think I know why the crowd was so large on Saturday and it may have been due one certain author.
I don't have a picture of this but I did get to meet Debbie Macomber and that was a treat. She is the author of countless fiction novels and the Blossom Street knit shop based novels. She is wonderful and her following is like nothing I have ever witnessed before. On Saturday, while I was sitting at the tables with other knitting authors for book signings there was an enormous line wrapping around our tables. I was trying to figure out what all of these hundreds of people were waiting for and then I realized they were waiting to meet Debbie! When I met her I discovered that all of the proceeds from her knitting instruction books goes to charity. She has made thousands and thousands of dollars for charities through these knitting books. I was hugely impressed by her. I can see why she is so beloved.
I had the huge pleasure of meeting new author Karen Thalacker, a knitting family law attorney from Iowa. Her book, Knitting with Gigi, is completely adorable and it teaches kids how to knit. Karen has four lovely kids of her own and her husband is a judge. How's that for a fun family? She is cute as can be and she seemed to be having such a good time taking it all in. It was really fun to get to sit with Karen and meet her family. I think she has a second book coming out soon along the same lines as the first.
These were the signing tables we sat at and this first person is Melissa Morgan-Oakes sitting next to Kristin Nicholas. Melissa and Kristin actually live about 15-minutes away from each other in Massachusetts and they know some of the same people. What a world. Melissa's new book teaches you how to knit two socks at a time on one long circular needle. It is a great technique for finishing both socks at the same time.
Okay, I know I have talked about Kristin to no end but just one last plug about her. She was just interviewed for the latest show for the Craftsanity podcast. Please listen to this if you are at all inclined. You will instantly see why I am enamored. She has great stories about starting out in the knitting industry, Martha Stewart, pre-computer days in publishing, farming, etc. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood does a fantastic job interviewing, as always. I know, enough already. I can't help it.
Here is Antje Gillingham with her circular needle sock book called Knitting Circles Around Socks, Edie Eckman (still crocheting), and next to her is Nicky Epstein, who I loved meeting. If you aren't familiar with Nicky's body of work just type in her name on amazon and you will be hugely impressed. She now has her own book imprint called Nicky Epstein Books through Soho Publishing, the Vogue Knitting publisher. She was great to meet. I have been a long time fan.
There were many others I met and saw from afar like Brett Bara (Crochet Today editor) and Candi Jensen (check out her crochet baby books, too cute) and they were filming for the Knit and Crochet Today show which is on PBS. Both are so nice and talented. Kristin Nicholas and Maggie Pace (the pick-up sticks woman) are both going to be contributing to 13 episodes of this show. I don't think we are getting this show in my area (anyone?) but I sure would like to see it. Also, the wonderful Tanis Gray was at the mall for Soho Publishing and she worked so hard all weekend. The hotel I stayed at was so packed full of famous knitters, it was crazy. You never knew who would get on your elevator, great fun.
To end the weekend I watched the international fastest knitter contest. It was amazing. I don't even know how to describe these women. They were having so much fun and their fingers are like no others.
When we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport, Kristin spotted the winner of the fastest knitting contest and brought her over. Her name is Hazel Tindall and she is from the Shetland Islands. She is the most incredible knitter I have ever seen. She told a story about her knitting as a child, she doesn't even remember learning to knit, it was simply a given.
Hazel's knitting group heard about the fastest knitter and the winning number of stitches was something like 170 stitches in three minutes. Her group didn't think that was very fast at all. They did a trial run and they all smashed this record with Hazel leading the way. This is when she realized that she was incredibly fast. Her record at the knit-out was a staggering 265 stitches in 3-minutes. Wow. Her fingers flew like the wind with almost no motion at all. Hard to believe. I was honored to have a picture with her.
Take care and have a good weekend.
best, susie

Monday, February 18, 2008

Color with Kristin

Hi Knitters,
Well, I'm back to share my fuzzy travel shots with you. What is it that I can't take a clear shot when I am on the road? Be patient and squint your eyes because the content is more important, I hope. Last Friday night I got the opportunity to attend Kristin Nicholas' Color Workshop at the Minnesota Textile Center and it was such a treat. I want to share the evening with you, at least a little bit. In case you don't know Kristin is a designer/author who has had a major impact on me for many years. For me her workshop was a big deal. When Amy Greeman (Kristin's publicist from Storey Publishing) introduced Kristin I have to admit I got a little misty eyed. I can't believe my good fortune. While Kristin was speaking I realized my face was starting to hurt from smiling, good thing it was a darkened room and I was in the back.

The attendance was huge, standing room only. It felt so good to be in a room honoring such a talent. The energy was amazing. Kristin had a wonderful power point presentation to illustrate her main point about color being, be fearless and jump right in. As a color-loving designer myself, I have to whole-heartedly agree with everything she said. If in doubt keep your eye on nature as a guide.
Kristin lives on a beautiful New England farm where she has sheep, lambs, chickens, dogs, cats and more. The animals and landscape are breathtaking. The power point transports you to Kristin's doorstep. You get to see what she sees every single day. She shows pictures of flowers and backdrops and ethnic embroidery pieces and swatches. She demonstrates how backgrounds can influence color shades at the blink of an eye. With her life's setting it is no wonder her design is a color whirlwind.
She shared pictures of her painted walls, and I mean she paints pictures on her walls, it is so excellent. Her old farmhouse is infused with color with a rich quality that is beyond fantastic. One room is chartreuse and it looks fabulous.
Kristin's speaking style is natural, funny, interesting, smart and most of all, she is just being herself. She is humble and honest. The large crowd adored her and her work and her yarn. If your local yarn shop is not selling her yarn, Julia, you should make a request. When I saw and touched her samples, all knit in Julia, it is a match made in heaven. It is a worsted weight, my favorite to work with because of its versatility.
As Kristin met her adoring fans...
others devoured her sample tables. Don't forget about Kristin's stitchery. She has two books on her stitching and I have them both. I highly recommend each of these books. Her instruction is crystal clear and a little embroidery can add so much to any project, knitted or fabric.
I could barely get pictures of the samples because of the crowds.
Happy knitters enjoyed the samples and atmosphere...
and happy Susan enjoyed one of her idols. The best thing about getting to spend a few days with Kristin was that I like her even more now which is almost impossible. Kristin is down to earth, smart, and talented. What is so refreshing is that I truly don't think she knows how influential and revered she is. She is completely humble and that is perhaps her most endearing quality. What a lovely woman.

I'll be back with more about the knit-out soon.

best, susie

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sweet Valentine

Hi Knitters,
My daughter came out of piano lessons today with a special gift for me. She wrote me a song for Valentine's Day called, Knitting. She was so proud and excited to tell me about it. Her teacher, Amy, does such a great job getting the kids interested in all sorts of different ideas about music and piano. I certainly don't think my daughter thought she could write a song at this point. My daughters are lucky to have an inspiring teacher like her.

Anyway, since it is a song called Knitting, I thought I would play it as my gift to you for Valentine's Day. It isn't much but here it goes:

Phew! My recital days came back quickly. I always got so darn nervous for those things.
Valentine's Day is a fun holiday, not much pressure just hearts, candies, chocolates, cards and a hug here and there. I pretty much love this little holiday. Plus you can't beat Valentine colors. We made heart cookies for both of my daughter's classes. They did most of the work.
I'd like to say I did all of the dough making but I bought the mini-hearts frozen and ready to bake at a store called U-Bake. This is my new home away from home. For these cut-outs it is a gift from heaven. You couldn't make them any better yourself and since you have to bake them your house smells cookie delicious.
U-Bake also has that glossy frosting that hardens. Perfect. The colors are already mixed for you and they can sit right on your shelf, no refrigeration. How's that for an advertisement? I have used this store's cookies more often than I could count.
Happy Valentine's Day, knitters. I appreciate you.
This was from last year's Valentine's Day. What a year it has been...
best, susie

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snow Globe

Hi Knitters,
I now live in a snow globe. It is hard to get a picture of the massive amounts of snow we have here in Madison. You can't see that it is snowing hard in this picture, thus the hazy look. That light post is about 8-feet high and that little brown thing right behind the light is the top of my mailbox. At this point we have had about 80-inches of snow.

It is an impressive winter good for daily sledding and loads of hot chocolate. I bought the king-size jar of marshmallow fluff the other day to go along with my gigantic tub of Swiss Miss cocoa. We just can't get enough. At about 3:00 I start heating up the water to be ready for the kids walking home from school.

I don't have too much to share knitwise. I am sending off a package of finished knitted work for another book. I was invited to submit a pattern for a compilation book. I just made that deadline by the skin of my teeth. The deadline is Feb 14th. Phew! FedEx two day delivery here I come.

Now I have to plan my Knit-Out demonstration stuff over the next couple of days. It is good to be prepared for anything. I think I will drag along most all of my samples from my books. Having fun knitted baby things to look at and touch always makes for good times. I need hand-outs and demonstration samples ready to go. Oh yeah, and I have to think of things to wear over the weekend...not something I usually think about much at all in my daily life.

I got my wonderful sunshine yarn in the mail the other day. It is so beautiful. The colorful skein is called, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (from the Harry Potter line) and the other is a new speckled technique Dani's been trying out called, Graffiti Pink. Love them both!

Have a good Tuesday, knitters.
best, susie
p.s. Here is another great hat pattern I plan on knitting, scroll down to see the English directions. I am not sure what a KKS means, anyone out there know the answer? Amy Singer knitted this for her husband which you can see here on her Feb. 1rst entry.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Is it Saturday already?

Hi Knitters,
Did you all have a week like I did? It was a blur. Madison added another 13.5-inches of snow on top of the 60-inches we already have had. Some of it had melted but there are mountains of snow everywhere you look. There was a snow day on Wednesday, which meant all four kids home and their friends. At one point I counted 12 kids at our house. That was fun. This kind of thing always throws a wrench in your plans. I guess we are setting new records with the snowfall here this winter. The mailboxes have to be shovelled out because the snow is covering them. The day after we got the new snow I went for a run and it was so beautiful and peaceful and sparkling, love it. I can't say that I mind the snow in fact I kind of enjoy the whole thing.

I still got some knitting done this week as was my goal. It is mainly work stuff so I don't have much to share. Above are two hats that I think people might be interested in. They are hats for my boys and they are made out of Cascade 220 held double. As soon as I get a chance I will make the pattern available. It is a good, quick and easy hat.

I have some news-type stuff I need to share. I will be in Minneapolis next Friday through Sunday at the CYCA Knit-Out 2008 at the one and only Mall of America. So here's the schedule:

7:00pm Friday, Feb. 15th:
I am attending Kristin Nicholas' presentation called the Joy of Color at the Textile Center of Minnesota. I am telling you if you are in the area you should really attend this. How often does an opportunity like this come our way to the midwest? Practically never! There is a beautiful downloadable poster available on Kristin's blog to paste up around Minneapolis yarn shops and anywhere else you see fit. Let's take advantage of this chance to see Kristin talk about color. Ooooh, I can't wait! Hope to see you there.

Saturday, Feb. 16th:
11:00am: I am doing a demonstration at the Sears' Court, Table G. This will be a 30 minute demonstration where I will share a few tricks.

11:30am: An Author's Forum on the Rotunda Stage is scheduled. This is hosted by Vickie Howell, of Knitty Gritty fame. She is so darn cute, it will be fun to meet her. Immediately following this short introduction of the authors attending the event, there will be tables set up to meet the authors and to get your book signed if you like.

3:00pm: Another Author's Forum is scheduled and immediately following is another meet and greet.

Sunday Feb. 17th:
10:00am: The Knit-Out opens.
11:30am: Demonstration in the Sears' Court, Table D.
12:00pm: Author's Forum on the Rotunda Stage followed by a final meet and greet.

I hope you come out to this great event. I had a comment on the last post from someone in Minneapolis and she said I am not on the schedule for the event. I checked and this is true, for some reason I am not on the schedule (bummer), but I really am going to be there!
There has been a great response to the Itty-Bitty Nursery trunk show. The samples are going to be all over the country, on the road, traveling to over 30 stores. When things get finalized I will post about the stores and places you can visit the trunk show. Thank you to every shop that responded, that is so fun. I think Jaime told me the show is already scheduled out for well over a year. Yay!

While all of my knitting is hitting the road, I need to be home de-junking my studio. The more I work, the more cluttered my shelves become. It is funny though, I actually know where everything is located. That's kind of sick. It needs a complete re-working to function better. I think if I just took a couple of days I could really make a difference in here. It just seems there is always something more pressing.Have you read on other blogs about the You Make My Day awards? This is a sweet, casual award that bloggers are giving out to each other where they list and link to the blogs that make their day on a regular basis. All of the blogs on my sidebar make my day all of the time so please check those out so they can make your day, too.

There are other blogs I enjoy and I am going to add onto my sidebar at some point soon. Here are a few of them:

iHanna-inspiring, sweet, colorful, creative, upbeat, pure fun
Hello Yarn-a recent enjoyment of mine-her new mitten kit is to die for (I want this kit big time), talent galore
In the Midst of It-reminds me of when my kids were all little and crafting kept my sanity, sweet to the core goodness
Wool Windings-generous, good-hearted, talent, charity knitter, hats aplenty, she knits bereavement gowns (which makes me feel like crying) which makes me a fan forever
The Plucky Knitter-talented yarn dyer, fun stories, fun to watch her talents grow and change
Be*mused-newish to me, great knitter, great looking blog and projects, quilter extraordinaire
Teruko-san-although I don't read Japanese, Sunny's pictures are the best, check out her flower paci-clip, too cute

There are many more blogs I could list and I will list them at some point soon. Thank you to all of these writers and knitters who inspire me to no end.

One last thing, did you see the White Witch Mittens by Laura Rintala? This is a free pattern from knittingdaily. I am making these for sure. I have been drooling over all of the stranded mittens out there lately. The white witch mittens are made out of Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight of which I have a ton. Mine will be different colors but I can't wait to start.

Have a good weekend, knitters.
best, susie

Monday, February 04, 2008

Still Going Strong

Hi Knitters,
When I opened up the dashboard to my blog this morning I realized that this is my 201rst blog entry. Phew! That seems like a high number. Thanks for coming along with me so far and I am still going strong. I always have more to say than I could ever write down here on the topic of knitting, never lacking.

I thought I would mention a couple of other things that are still going strong and that are keeping me interested along the way. One project that I can't get enough of is the beloved Clapotis. (The weather here is so constantly dreary that I can't get any good lighting for photography, but I tried.) I finally ordered more Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb to make another one. I am wearing my first clapotis out. The Lion and Lamb is pricey but for the amount I wear this wrap, it is worth it to me. The drape and feel and warmth of this beautiful silky yarn is like no other. The new colorway is called tuscany and I ordered it from here. I also was motivated to start mine up this weekend due to spying this completed clapotis made in Noro Silk Garden.

A quick tip for anyone just starting this project out is that instead of putting all of those stitch markers on while knitting, I just purl the stitch that is after the stitch marker (or where it should be in this case). This purl stitch is the one that is eventually dropped toward the end. That way you don't have a dozen or more stitch markers to lug around. I like this way better.
Another project that is still going strong are fingerless gloves. Just look on ravelry and you will see that the queen of all fingerless mitts is still being knit like crazy. I have to admit I have only made two pairs of fingerless gloves before and I gave them both away. I made them from a pattern I found here. This is a fantastic book by the way, I have used many of these patterns. The gloves I made were in Koigu Kersti which is one of my most favorite yarns. If you haven't used this and you are looking for a fantastic merino wool, dk weight you should consider this. There are solid and variegated options.

When I went to Philadelphia last fall I found this great free pattern card at loop. They also have a great selection of Koigu Kersti which is what their pattern calls for. I bought a few skeins to whip up some of these but I haven't done it quite yet. Maybe for teacher gifts at the end of the year... This pattern has both a men's and women's version and the women's version has a picot edging edging that is cleverly folded and hemmed using a provisional cast-on. This is something new for me so I will learn as I go! I'll keep you posted on this.
I picked up this book, The Secret Between Us, by an author who is still going strong. I read a terrific review of Barbara Delinsky's latest novel and I just had to get it. I will bring this on spring break with me this year as last year I spent spring break with another of Barbara's novels. Remember Barbara came to my book signing in the Boston area last fall? I was pretty excited about that.
I have to tell one quick, funny story about Barbara Delinsky. I know I have mentioned only a couple of times how much I love the show Project Runway. I think for anyone designing in any medium it is a must see or if you just have an interest in making things. I have to say that this week they are designing women's wrestling costumes and I am not looking forward to that but I will watch for the antics regardless.
Anyway, I was watching a show about Jay McCarroll, who won the first season of Project Runway, called Project Jay. They showed him after the show and how his life had changed. Jay and his friend were out walking around and a fan ran up to him to get an autograph and the only thing she had on her was a Barbara Delinsky novel for him to sign. They talked about her book and read the title and then he signed it. I thought that was so wonderful and I thought to myself, I know her! That is so cool. She is one talented and prolific author who has kept going and going to great success. Barbara Delinsky and Project Runway, two of my favorites all rolled into one moment!
I will put up some Minneapolis Knit Out details soon. I am going to be there, I had someone asking in the last post's comments, but I don't have all of the details quite yet. I am pretty laid back about stuff like that, I just go where they (my publisher) tell me to go. It is funny actually. I am attending a Kristin Nicholas workshop on color work which I will also post information about shortly. I hope she gets a great turnout for this.
Have a safe and warm Monday, knitters. I am planning on a very productive week this week knitting wise. Over the last couple of days I have completed several projects for work stuff so I hope I am getting some momentum going. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
best, susie
p.s. Here are a few more patterns I am in love with and plan to make. You might like them, too: Here and here and here.