Friday, March 21, 2014

Oddballs and remnants

Finishing the white feather and fan prayer shawl was the motivation I needed to get started on another right away. I couldn't decide what pattern or what color, so I chose to cast on a shawl using up partial skeins and remnants. Our prayer shawl group at church gets yarn donations every once in a while. Someone will go through Grandma's stuff and pull out a pile of yarn and rather than throw it way, the yarn makes its way to us. It's great! (We are careful with the yarn donations and make sure to check for moth-damage before we add it to our stash.)

Last Sunday I raided the cabinet and took about 15 skeins in the blue/green family. A lot of the skeins I took were furry novelty yarns. I added those 15 skeins to another 10-12 skeins of my own and had a pretty good pile of yarn reminiscent of the shades of Lake Superior on any given day.

While the "pattern" looks fairly complicated, it's actually about as simple as it gets. No two shawls will ever be the same using this method. 

Holding two colors together, cast on 160 (or so) on size 15 needles. (Shawl is knit horizontally rather than vertically, so you'll have more cast on stitches than rows.) I'm using my Denise interchangeable circular needles. 
  • Row 1: Knit across with the colors used to cast on, we'll call them Color 1 (C1) and Color 2 (C2)
  • Row 2: Cut C1 and leave an 10" tail. (These tails will be knotted and used as fringe.) Join C3 leaving an 10" tail and also leave a 10 "loop" of C2 (you'll cut the loop and use as fringe), knit across using C2 and C3.
  • Row 3: Cut C2, leave tail, join C4 leaving an 10" loop tail, leave 10" loop with C3 and knit across. 

And just keep going changing yarns and leaving fringe ends until the shawl is wide enough.  

The yarns I'm using are mostly worsted with a few DK and chunky weights. About 2/3 of the yarns are novelty, furry, ribbon, nubby, etc. If you want a consistent color change, number your yarns in advance. If a blind random pattern is appealing, just reach in the basket and use the yarn that you touch first. There's no wrong way! I'm using a somewhat random approach, mixing smooth yarns with novelty yarn and trying to keep from putting 2 furry/eyelash yarns close together. 

After binding off, it's time to knot the end that you left hanging. I use a square knot technique. Lay the shawl flat and gently "comb" the fringe with your fingers so you can see the rows. Cut all the loops so the ends are straight. Now is the time to tighten up the first couple stitches along the edge also. To begin knotting, tie the ends of row 1 and 2 in a square knot. Then take the ends of row 2 (which were just knotted with row 1) and tie them in a square knot with the ends from row 3. In the past I have knotted rows 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and so on. It works, but I think knotting rows 1-2, 2-3, 3-4 gives the edge a cleaner look with more stability. Then trim all the ends to a uniform length. 

As for blocking, it all depends on the yarn content. I typically lay shawls like this flat on a bed or sofa and then hold an iron about 4 inches above the shawl and hit it with steam. Pressing the iron on the shawl will take the body right out of it.

My goal was to finish two shawls during Lent. At this rate, I may just finish 3! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prayer shawl - FINISHED!

Here's an update on the latest prayer shawl.

It's off the needles!! 

This is a simple feather and fan/old shale pattern. 
Size 13 needles, chunky yarn. 
Cast on 50 stitches and knit for a couple rows then the pattern is a 4 row repeat.
1. knit
2. purl
3. k1, k2 tog (3 times), yo k1 (6 times), k2 tog (6 times), yo k1 (6 times), k2 tog (6 times), yo k1 (6 times), k2 tog (6 times), yo k1 (6 times), k2 tog (3 times) k1. 
4. knit

Keep at it until the shawl is long enough. A good way to measure is to hold the needles parallel to the floor and then stretch your arm out also parallel to the floor. When the shawl touches the floor, it's long enough. 
Fringe is optional, but I had plenty of yarn left. I think it finishes it off nicely. 

This pattern can be kind of scrunchy and not so pretty before it's blocked. But it's lovely after it's blocked! I blocked this with steam rather than a full soaking wet block. When blocking with an iron and steam be sure you don't press the iron down on the knitted item. You'll flatten the stitches and take the life out of the garment. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Prayer it began and how it will continue

I would sit off by myself in a corner of the room and knit. I knit to pass the time as my son participated in his weekly Boy Scout troop meeting. Sometimes I piped in with a comment or two about an upcoming backpacking trip or progress on a merit badge, but mostly I sat and knit. The other parents, mostly dads, would ask about my latest project and I'd like to think they were actually interested in my weekly progress. However I think they were just being polite. But now that I think back had I not had my knitting with me during those meetings I might not have engaged in conversation with the other parents. In could have stuck my nose in a book or magazine and propped a "do not disturb" sign by my side, but I chose to knit instead.

"I remember my Grandmother knitting."

"Is that knitting or crochet?"

"Doesn't the string get all tangled?" (Which was funny coming from a group of men who prided themselves in being able to tie a double bowline in 14 seconds with one hand.)

The knitting seemed to be a conversation starter of sorts and I soon became The Mom Who Knits.

In the summer of 2006, rather than plan a week of backpacking in the mountains, the troop headed to Destin, Florida for 6 days of sailing instruction on the schooner Daniel Webster Clements. They needed chaperones, and another mom was going, so I volunteered. Being the only non-crew females on board, she and I shared the state room, a 6 foot by 7 foot cubby hole with one tiny porthole--very cramped quarters! So I spent nearly the entire trip on deck, nights also. As the boys learned how to trim sails and jibe-ho, I propped a couple life jackets against the cabin wall and knit in the shade of the mains'l while chatting with the other chaperones. Relaxation, fresh air, creaking ropes, building friendships. It was wonderful 6 days!

A couple weeks after the trip I received an invitation to a surprise birthday party for one of the dads who had been on the trip. The party was very well attended and I only knew a couple people from scout meetings and the sailing trip. I was extremely thankful when George, one of the dads from the schooner, sought me out. His wife, Betty, was with him and he was pretty excited to introduce us. He said to Betty, "this is Chris, she's the mom who knits, the one I was telling you about!" And it was at that moment, in a living room full of people I didn't know, that I entered the prayer shawl ministry.

George had told Betty about my knitting. Betty was a Deacon at Bellevue Presbyterian Church where they had just started a prayer shawl ministry. They were looking for knitters on Wednesday nights, and she invited me to join them. And join I did. Four days later Zack and I walked through the doors of the church, got in line for dinner, and sat among people I had never met before. It was no big deal for Zack as he spotted a group of classmates at the "youth" table and quickly abandoned me.

I remember that night well. I sat with Betsy and Wayne during dinner. Betsy marveled at my courage saying she could never just show up like that. Yep, I was a bit out of my comfort zone, but it was knitting! That common language made it much less scary. There were about 20 knitters who gathered afterwards. Susan was on my left. Donna was to my right. Bill was directly across from me. Betty, Fran, Irene, Janet, Madge, Teresa, Judy, they were all there, though I doubt they remember that first night of mine. But after the welcome I received that evening I was hooked and became a member of the church soon afterwards.

In the past 8 years we have given 106 shawls to church members, family and friends. It is a rewarding ministry, knowing that our shawls are out there providing comfort. But it hasn't been an easy 8 years. We have heard very sad stories and prayed fervently over shawls that we knit for someone who had lost a child, spouse or a parent, someone who had received the worst possible news from a doctor, someone who was spending another Christmas completely alone.

Now eight years later, we, the prayer shawl knitters, are also needing prayers and comfort. We have lost many members--some have moved away or gone to other churches but some are no longer with us at all--Bill, Susan, Mary, Anne. It has been tough, and we've only got a few knitters who still meet regularly. Betsy, who I sat with that first night, is one of them. Sometimes I wonder if she and I still have what it takes to keep going. I think of all the reasons why we should call it quits. Then I look through our notebook and recognize Susan's handwriting on the pages where the names of all the people who have received our shawls are recorded. I sort through and reread the many thank you cards. I know we need to keep the ministry going, but I'm not exactly sure how to continue. So for the rest of my evening, I will conclude this second day of Lent in prayerful knitting.

In His name.

Note: the Bellevue Presbyterian Church Prayer Shawl Ministry meets in the Narthex each Wednesday evening after the fellowship dinner. During the summer months the schedule may change. Please contact me through the a comment on this blog or contact the church office for more information on the ministry. Thanks

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday (or Lent 1.0)

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for Lent. There are so many avenues I could take. I could give up buying yarn. Bah. That's really no big deal. The last time I bought yarn was more than 40 days ago, so what's the point of not buying any during Lent? Besides Stitches South occurs before Easter this year so why set myself up to fail? (The true heart of the matter.) Or I could adopt the “40 bags in 40 days” and make it a point to throw out or donate a trash bag of stuff each day. As I considered my clutter and how wonderful it would be to have a completely organized existence in 6 weeks, I decided that in order to "make this work" I would have to purchase smaller trash bags and allow myself to "count" plastic grocery bags. You can see my flawed logic. 

While I was beating myself up trying to think of something...(one little, meaningful thing! chocolate? wine? restaurants? passive aggression? avoidance? snarkiness? bad movies?)...I got an e-mail alert that a fellow church member had just updated his blog, The Accidental Missionary. I didn't ask permission to reprint these last few sentences of his blog, but I'm pretty sure Scott won't mind. 

But it’s so much more than delayed gratification. Lent is a time of pruning. Cutting away the shoots that have grown over time. The ones that clutter, and choke, and prevent healthy growth here on Earth.
So we can feed and care for the branches that really matter.
Wow! And that’s what I’m going to do for Lent. I’m going to prune, feed and care. I’m not going to give up chocolate, or social media, or eating carbs. Each day during Lent I will consciously do something to prune, feed and care for myself….it could be cleaning out a closet, learning something new, thinking kind thoughts--and some days will be harder than others. I’m going to cut out the shoots that don’t matter and nurture the branches that do. Every day. For 40 days. Can I keep it up? 

And knitting counts.

Note: Please take a minute to check out Scott's blog, The Accidental Missionary. Just as Scott claims, he's "a regular guy tryin' to figure it out." It's pretty good stuff!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Freshening up a bit

I think a little freshening up is order. The plain background was a bit boring. Hope you like it!

The photo is of one of my favorite hand-dyed yarn skeins sold long ago on Etsy. It's fun and inspiring to go through old photos.

As promised in my last blog...upcoming adventures! I've taken the plunge and signed up to go to Stitches South 2014 with Liana, LeAnn and Lori in April. It's in 1 month, 1 week and 1 day. Can't wait!

Also, I finished up a pair of ultra warm socks and just in time! The weather radio is squawking a winter storm warning. Ice accumulations from 1/2 to 1 inch. Snow. Death and destruction. Pandemonium. Chaos. Gnashing of teeth. Hurling oneself over a cliff. You know the drill...

But back to the socks: knit with "Jarbo Garn Raggi Multi" yarn, top down, on size 5 needles. They knit up super fast and are by far the warmest wool socks I own. My feet are size 9-9 1/2 and each sock took nearly a skein, 52 stitches around and knit in a k3/p1 pattern. It was my intention to mismatch the striping of the yarn, and if you know me, having something mismatched is a huge departure from my nearly OCD/anal retentive tendencies about things being the way things need to be. The heel, gusset and toe are basic, nothing fancy. I love them!

I must confess, I told myself that I bought the yarn because I was going to knit them for Zack for Christmas, but after a couple inches I knew the socks would be mine. Actually, I think I knew the socks would be mine when I bought the yarn. Who am I fooling? And if I don't 'fess up, Liana will surely call me out on it (again)!