Monday, February 27, 2006

Congratulations to all our Knitting Olympians!

We had a good turnout at the store today! Everyone got a free knitting pattern, and we had a few specials on yarn so that people could get started on their next project. (Well, a few of us still have to finish this project, but that's beside the point.)

It was interesting listening to all the stories of what people learned. We had first garments, first felting, first zipper, first knitting-in-the-round-with-cables. We were charmed particularly with Kim's crocheted wedding-ring pillow (lower picture, far left, woman with broad smile and roundish object in hands), which comes provided with directions for how to get the rings off the pillow during the ceremony.

Special congratulations to Karen, who won 2 skeins each of red, white, and blue Quest. We wanted her to knit something that represented America!

Stay tuned to our blog, and over the next year, we're sure we'll have more special events planned. This kind of fun will surely feed on itself.

Time for Cynthia to continue knitting her sweater. Watch for news of its progress here.

If you participated, but weren't able to come last night, drop a line and let us know how your Olympics went!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Here's where I'm at. It's not as bad as it looks.

As I figure it, I have knitted a sweater.

The only problem is, I ripped it out enough from this sweater that the sweater isn't actually finished. As you may recall, I first ripped it out to start it again on a larger needle. It was to be my Olympic project.

And so I began it again. It was working well. I could see that I would not be able to finish a whole sweater in 2 1/2 weeks, but my goal became to get two sleeves finished.

I had one done by Friday night and figured that I would easily be able to do the second by Sunday. And then I noticed it: The sleeve was too wide at the bottom. Way too wide.

I went through the usual knitter's stages for an unrepairable mistake: Denial ("I think it'll be okay--kind of cute, like a Kimono sleeve"), Anger ("The pattern must be wrong!"), Bargaining ("I will try doing another sleeve just like it, and if I don't like them, I can sew them to make them thinner"), Acceptance ("The sleeve is too big, and the steeking would probably be too hard on delicate merino fibers--I need to rip"), and finally, Frogging ("Rip-it, Rip-it").

I had said that if I had the sleeves to do over, I would knit them back and forth rather than in the round. Guess what? I had them to do over. I have been knitting them back and forth. It's going well--to the point where it's almost as fast to knit two sleeves bank and forth as it had been to knit the first one in the round. So once again, ripping was no big loss.

I'm at the point where the first sleeve is reknit, I have about half of the second sleeve to go, and then I'll start in on the body in the round. It's not too bad. I'm going to wait to knit the cuffs until I'm sure that the two sleeves match in length and width (or are at least pretty darned close).

Another knitter and I agreed the other day that we have learned a lot about ourselves by doing this project. If it hadn't been for the knitting Olympics, I never would have gotten so far on this sweater. First, I wouldn't have started it over yet, and it would have continued staring at me every time I looked at my project shelf. Second, I might have stopped at several points along the way--but I couldn't, because I had vowed to work on just this project. It's all been worth it.

I said before that the biggest lesson I have learned from all of this is that I am going to pick a project each week to knit, and work on only that project. I think I'll have to modify that slightly, to pick one of my own projects plus one project I'm doing for the shop. It's felt good to concentrate. This week, since my head is here, I'm going to stay with this sweater. I'll also work on my entrelac bag for the entrelac class I'm teaching later in the week--but not much. The sweater has priority.

Wish me luck on the sleeves.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cynthia writes:

Although I don't realistically expect to finish my entire sweater by the end of the Olympics, I am making great progress. My goal right now is to have both sleeves finished so that after the Closing Cermonies, all I have left is the easy part of the knitted-in-the-round body for those times when I need a mindless project. I'm closing in on finishing the one sleeve. Here is a photo:

Notice that surrounding this sweater are project bags containing other sweaters. These are the projects in my office area (as opposed to my closet)--projects that in my mind I am "working on currently." They are, in clockwise order from bottom to top, my mitered-squares sweater made from Kureyon (needs only sleeves), my felted flamingo (needs to be started) and in that same bag, an entrelac purse that needs to be started (will do this for the entrelac class I am teaching this Wednesday....note to self: take time to wind yarn....), a raglan sweater made from Harrisville Orchid (needs sleeves and upper body), a sweater for my friend Eileen (needs 1 1/4 sleeves and two fronts), and a super-bulky pullover (needs back, front, and both sleeves--but hey, at least the ribbing is started on the back).

My project pile up is normal. Almost everyone who comes into our store has it in one form or another. We all start out every project with a certain level of enthusiasm, and somewhere along the way, we get stuck or waylaid. (Or maybe we start too many projects with enthusiam!)

I admit that if I weren't in the Knitting Olympics with this top-down sweater, I might have ripped it out and started again with a new pattern. But that is mere speculation, and in the reality of today, I am glad that I have persisted through.

The first problem, which I have already talked about, was that the gauge was off, and I had to rip the whole sweater out. The nice part is that I am now further along than I was before I ripped. Think about this. In one week, I've caught up. Is ripping out really so bad?

Over this weekend, I got stuck on a needle problem. I was knitting the sleeves on a size 6 needle. The sleeves begin at the top, and you knit on a 16" circular for a while, and then switch to double points as you reduce. I had put all the needles in my project bag, ready to go--more organized than I have ever been for knitting. When I pulled out the 6's, they seemed large. I looked, and they were a 4.25 mm. The size 6 circulars I had been working on were a 4.0 mm. So I pulled out a size 5 double-point set. They were 3.75 mm.

I decided to flex. I would try knitting with two circulars, just as one can do with socks.

I hated it. The needles kept crashing into each other and pulling the yarn out of shape.

So I decided to go with the #5 double points; better to make the gauge tighter at the bottom of a sleeve than looser.

The double points were too short for the circumference of the sleeve, so I had to watch carefully that the stitches didn't fall off. Because of that, I wanted to scream through the next 2 inches or so of the sleeve, but as I kept reducing the number of stitches, it got easier and easier, to the point where I was knitting contentedly again. And that's where I'm at now--back to contentment and bliss. I know what I'm in for with the second sleeve, and I am prepared to face the challenge.


Every project has a sticking point--a point where you need to rip out, redo, or just slog through. Even though knitting and quilting are supposed to be fun--and most of the time they are--it's an illusion to think that it'll be fun 100 percent of the time.

I see too many people coming into the shop who hate making mistakes, and who never want any problems as they are knitting or quilting. But mistakes and problems happen. They are normal. They make a process interesting. Learning how to fix mistakes helps you get better at your craft. Overcoming a difficult problem is deeply satisfying.

We all need to accept that ripping out and taking detours are normal parts of knitting, just as they are normal parts of driving. It's frustrating, but it teaches you how to read a map, and you get to see some things you've never seen before. Maybe you'll even meet some interesting people if you stop to ask for directions. Too many people fail to realize that struggle is not only normal in knitting and quilting--but that it's an integral part of contentment and bliss.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cynthia writes:

The Knitting Olympics have been an interesting experience for me. I'm used to working on many projects at once, something different each day. It feels strange to concentrate on one thing. It also feels fun to have an excuse to "have" to knit. Even though Kim and I own the store, I still sometimes feel just a little guilty about knitting when I should be doing other things. Now I can tell my Kevin that I have to knit because of the Olympics. What else can I do? I am trying to meet goals here. On some level, it frees me.

To be able to start my sweater and feel clear about it, I needed to finish up a few things before the Olympics started. That in itself was useful. I finished this felted hat for the shop, made from Woolpak, one of the few white wools that felts:

And I finished a scarf that had been dragging out for months. (If you look hard, you can see the rust-colored edges of the scarf below the felted hat.)

I had wanted to finish the binding on two quilts (a queen-sized bedspread and a wallhanging), and I was within an evening of doing that, but alas, having to sew for our Block of the Month got in the way.

The first day of the Olympics, I began to work on my sweater. I'm using a merino wool called Twizzle, by Mountain Colors. I love this yarn. I had started the project before, but when I did my original gauge swatch, I had swatched back and forth rather than in the round. My sweater was too small, and after I had knitted about a third of it, I had to rip it out. Those balls of yarn have looked discouraging in the project bag. Every time I looked at them I felt an obligation to start the sweater again, but no real motivation to do so.

I decided that even though I have another sweater I could have probably finished during the Olympics, this sweater seemed more challenging because of its history.

Before the official start of the Olympics, I reswatched the sweater in the round and went up two needle sizes. The fabric still looked good. I got all my materials ready--pattern, needles, yarn. I'm not used to doing that either. It felt good to be organized. I was ready to go.

On the first day, I accomplished this:

And on the second, I was here:

After Day 3:
Okay, it doesn't look that much bigger, even though I knitted on it for the same length of time each day. But see how the skein of yarn is smaller? The sense of accomplishment runs deep. And knitting on this soft yarn is glorious. I'm enjoying it again, and I'm over the hurdle of getting restarted.

Day 4 had a detour. I had to finish the binding on my wallhanging for a quilt class I was taking the next day:

I'm fond of this one. If you look carefully, you can read the words "Thank God I am done" written in free-motion quilting across the top. And yup, those are four big exclamation marks.

It's back to the knitting now.

I like Olympic knitting. My new goal is to start working on my projects in this new way: I am going to designate my week for a particular project. Each week, I'll decide what to work on, and I'll concentrate on just that. I can still vary what I work on, but during any one week, I'll get a lot done.

That's the plan. We'll see if it works.

I once read a book about paying off your credit cards. The idea was that you concentrated on paying off one, and then once it was gone, you started paying off the next one with the money you had been using to pay off the first. My theory is that I can do this with knitting. If I finish a project, I can use that time to work on another one without the burden of the first hanging over me. I'm hoping that my new method of working reduces my debt of projects--so that I can start a few new ones!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here are our knitting/crocheting/quilting athletes so far. Feel free to send your name to [name of our store] AT, and we'll keep adding to this list! We're nice: You can join late. Just for joining, we'll put you in for a drawing of $50 worth of knitting goodies. We'll also have a party at 5:15 the evening of February 27 with even more prizes and fun! So join in!

Our Athletes so far:

Susan: Adult-sized wool socks
Cindy: Booga Bag
Cynthia: Top-down sweater
Nancy: finish the Oceania Shawl
Deb: Boucle/silk sweater
Karen: little top
Ginger: Twin-sized afghan for charity
Kirsten: Summer Sweater
Patsy: Cobweb wrapper in peach
Cynthia: Blizzard Sweater
Nan: Socks
Sandy: Cousin's sweater
Sally: Baby sweater, hat, booties
Lisa: Vintage Bubble Bag
Laura: Two sets of mittens, finish coat
Kim: Crocheted afghan
Emily: Finish a scarf and finish a bag. (Emily will be crossing the finish line!)
Amy: Bind a quilt
Michelle: Ribbed bulky-weight scarf
Laura: Still deciding, but probably crochet something BIG
Jean: Fiber Trends felted flamingo (Ed note: This pattern is REALLY CUTE.)
Bonnie: Lace capelet
Robin: Cable knee socks
Alaska: Twin cotton sweaters, size 6/8
Kim: Crocheted accent pillow
Lynn: Felted purse
Anne: Finish a baby sweater
Bonnie: Shell
Mary: Poncho made from Wool in the Woods "Pizazz"
Pat: Short-rows wavy scarf from a Knitter's Dozen
Patty: 1/4 of a Noro Knitted blanket
Ellen: Shawl
Julia: Baby pants from
Steph: Cabled hat
Alli: Striped, felted bag in Stitch and Bitch Nation
Ann: Mittens
Heather: Klaralund sweater

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


You may never experience the thrill of representing your country at the Winter Olympics, but you can represent yourself and win your own medal during the Knitting Olympics! The Yarn Harlot, a fervent knitter and blogger, has created the Knitting Olympics as a challenge for knitters worldwide.

Stitch Your Art Out loves this idea and is sponsoring a local version of Knitting Olympics just for you!

The challenge: to complete a knitting project during the 2006 Winter Games.

The details: You may begin your project from the moment the torch is lit during the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 10, and continue throughout the Winter Games, with the goal to finish before the torch is extinguished at the closing ceremonies on Feb. 26. The project should be doable, but challenging. If you're advanced, you may want to tackle a sweater. If you've just started knitting, maybe you'll want to finish a matching scarf and hat combo. You may just want to finish something that's been bugging you. Crocheting counts. Anything goes!

(Cynthia here: My plan is to start and try to finish the neck-down pullover from Knitting Pure and Simple, pattern 9726, in Mountain Colors Twizzle. It was coming out too small the first time I made it, and I had to rip it out after a LOT of knitting. I have needed just this kind of motivation to get going on that beautiful sweater again. I have never in my life knit a sweater in just over two weeks. We'll see about this.)

That's over two weeks of knitting time AND Olympic watching! Will Michelle Kwan continue her reign as an Olympic sweetheart? Can Apolo Anton Ohno stay on his skates long enough to win gold? And can you finish weaving in that last end before the Olympic flame goes out?

If you participate, not only will you be joining thousands of knitters across the country, but also Stitch Your Art Out will select your name from a random drawing for a $50 gift basket of Knitting Goodies. To award the gift basket, we will have our own Closing Ceremonies for all knitting athletes, whether you finish or not. (Please--no physical or mental damage allowed from knitting!) For anyone who participates, we'll have snacks, prizes, and special prices on Monday, February 27, from 5:15-6:15. We will all show off our stuff (....or at least that part of our stuff that we have managed to finish!) We will draw the name of the grand-prize winner from those who are there. (Can't make it? We'll also have a random drawing for a prize from all those who enter. We don't want to leave anyone out!)

We'll have great surprises that night for EVERYONE! All Knitter Athletes will be a winner, even if you don't meet your goal! You need to sign up to particpate! Sign up by sending us an email to stitchyourartout AT yahoo . com, and tell all your knitting friends to have them sign up too! In your email, briefly describe your Olympic project.

Let's get ready to knit! Go Team Stitch!

Our Athletes so far:

Susan: Adult-sized wool socks
Cindy: Booga Bag
Cynthia: Top-down sweater
Nancy: finish the Oceania Shawl
Deb: Boucle/silk sweater
Karen: project
Ginger: Twin-sized afghan for charity
Kirsten: Summer Sweater
Patsy: Cobweb wrapper in peach
Cynthia: Blizzard Sweater
Nan: Socks
Sandy: Cousin's sweater
Sally: Baby sweater, hat, booties
Lisa: Vintage Bubble Bag
Laura: Two sets of mittens, finish coat
Kim: Crocheted afghan

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XL!!!!!!

Yoi! Double yoi!! Triple Yoi!!!

This means good things for almost everyone who came to our Super Sale. (And it also means that Kim, who is waving her "Terrible Towel" above, will be in a very good mood for the rest of the week.) Everyone who came was allowed to vote for who they thought (and wanted) to win. If the team you voted for won, you would get 25% off the yarn or fabric for one project. All but 8 of our customers voted for Pittsburgh. Those 8 will get a consolation prize of 15% off.

This also means that for the past three years that we have done the sale, our customers have predicted the winner each year! Maybe next year we need to take our customers' preference to Vegas!

So, if you voted for Da Stillers, don't forget to stop in and redeem your coupon. And hoist an Iron City and toast the World Champion Steelers!!!!!

Coming up next: our store participates in the Knitting Olympics. Stay tuned for more details.