Busy Is Good

Just keep telling yourself that!

New Yarn

Photo of rainbow gradient yarnEarlier this year I launched a new business, Washtenaw Wool Company, with two friends, Michelle and Heather.  We’re having a blast, learning a lot, and watching this seed of an idea grow into something that suits all of our different skills perfectly.

It’s all very stimulating! We’ve been dyeing up yarn using unusual and sometimes time-consuming methods. We’ve been building our community of like-minded makers. This weekend we have a show, a local show luckily, and then we will hit the yarn design drawing board in earnest.  I. Can’t. Wait.  Local wool yarn, here I come!

New Design

I am aswim with design ideas and lack only for time to make them come alive.  I have socks, a pair of fingerless mitts, and at least two shawls partially written up. I’ve designed an entire shawl with the help of Miriam Felton’s Lace Shawl Design Craftsy class and the Stitchmastery software. Now I just need to knit it!  Ah, time, you fickle friend. Is this the point where designers find test knitters?

Photo of a knitting swatch.

New Skill

I’ve started teaching knitting classes at one of our local yarn stores and privately. Turns out, I really like to teach knitting!  I’ve been doing it for years informally, but I am finally embracing the idea that I have something to share with people who don’t know me.  I was a little worried before my first class because I did not enjoy teaching snarky freshman Composition at the community college.  So kudos to me for not letting that one terrible experience define my relationship to teaching in general.

New Words

As my writing time becomes more precious, I feel a visceral tug to connect pen to paper.  I am no nube; I know this feeling.  It means, “Write more. Something needs to come out.”

Spring this year is slow to arrive.  We had thunder and graupel (I learned that word today) this morning.  My dreams — mundane and not — continue apace, fed by the energy of busy creativity.

How has the transition between winter and spring been going for you? Please tell me in the comments below.

Not a Convert to Toe Up Socks

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

When I first learned to knit socks 13 years ago, I was taught on double pointed needles, top down.

Photo of handknit socks

In fact, that sock project was my first adult knitting project.  (My friend and teacher Liz and I have many things in common, one of them being that we like challenging projects.)

I have merrily churned my way through — oh my god, Ravelry does not lie! — 47 pairs of socks over the years, most of them top down and usually on DPNs.  It’s just what feels right.  If I am doing plain a vanilla sock, I will gladly take it with me to the movies.  Do you know how much knitting you can get done in the dark when you just have to go round and round?!

In 13 years I’ve knit 2 pairs (and some partials) of toe up socks.  The first pair was knit almost 10 years ago in an orange colorway of Koigu KPPPM that was given to me as a gift.  I loved the yarn, but the socks came out baggy.  Whatever.  I still liked them and I wore them until I wore them out (vowing never to knit socks with Koigu KPPPM again!) and stuck with my top down approach for the next many years.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

As my knitting skills progressed and I met other knitters who had their favorite ways, I decided I should give it another shake.  I cast on with some orange and red patterned Opal and got stuck at the heel.  Those sat for a while.  Like a couple years in the WIP basket.  I loved the yarn too much to never have socks out of it so I bravely ripped it out last year.

On impulse this fall, I bought some Patons Kroy self-striping yarn that was on sale at the big box store.  It was rainbow-y and under $10 for a pair, what can I say?  I decided this was my moment to try toe-up again, so I could use every bit of the yarn.  With a little help — encouragement, scolding, and nudging — from my friends, I made it through and knit the entirety of both skeins.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Patons Kroy

 

This pair of toe up socks fits better in that they are not baggy, but they have problems. I hate the kitchener toe, which sticks out and won’t shape to my foot even after being worn and washed for three months.  Also, these tall socks have no shaping for my Hungarian peasant calves, so they bunch up around my ankles.  I wear them around the house rather than try to stuff them in my shoes for both of those reasons.  Since they contain nylon and get a little less wear than my other warm socks, they will probably last forever.  First world problems, eh?

I know there are things I could do to make toe-up socks work for me, but I think I am at the point in my knitting life where socks are background, comfort knitting that I do not want to think about.  Maybe I’ll try again in a few years; maybe not.

With not much more than a shoe size or foot length measurement, I can cast on a knit anyone a pair of socks with the formula in my head.  Why mess with something that works?

What’s your comfort knitting project?

Trecolori Shawl

Photo detail of Trecolori Shawl by Carol Ullmann

The grey is here to stay for a few months, but we can combat the blahs with comfort and color.

Photo detail of Trecolori Shawl by Carol UllmannDesigned for Happy Fuzzy Yarn‘s Corrie Sock fingering weight yarn, the Trecolori Shawl is an easy-to-knit textural asymmetrical shawl with a deep border of arrowhead lace.  Knit in three colors, Trecolori uses the Fibonacci sequence to make a fun striping pattern.

Photo of Trecolori Shawl by Carol UllmannYou can blend your stripes a little if you use a multicolor yarn with two coordinating semisolids, as I did here.  “Jane” is a multicolor comprised of pink, orange, and green and I combined it with a semisolid “Peony” pink and “Granny Smith” green.

Photo detail of Trecolori Shawl by Carol UllmannHappy Fuzzy Yarn released this design in early summer and it has pattern has sold well at shows and online — in fact, I think the paper pattern is headed for its second printing soon.

Photo of Trecolori Shawl by Carol UllmannI don’t have my own Trecolori shawl to keep and wear.  I can’t decide what colors to make mine with — I like bright colors, but hot pink is definitely not in my wheelhouse.  I’ve always loved the “Enchanted” colorway so maybe I will start there.  Or perhaps “Cherry Float”?  No, “Moss on Stone.”

Help! What colors would you choose?

Trecolori is available for purchase on the Happy Fuzzy Yarn website or on Ravelry.

Spring Valley Shawl

photo of the Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann

One of the things that I bought yarn for at the recent Fiber Expo was 3 skeins of Happy Fuzzy Yarn DK Merino to make my own Spring Valley Shawl. Finally.

Picture of yarn from Happy Fuzzy Yarn
DK Merino, just waiting it’s turn.
Photo of Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann
I did the pattern photography with my friend’s daughter modeling.

I love this pattern!  Riin picked the colors and I designed this striped asymmetrical shawl with a deep edging of beehive lace and a simple crochet edge to highlight the new DK Merino yarn base offered by Happy Fuzzy Yarn.

Some patterns fight back in the design process and require a lot of ripping back, swatching, swearing, and finger-crossing.  This one was smooth, joyful, easy, and sprang pretty much full-formed without fuss.

photo of the Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann
Pattern sample done blocking and I am so sad to see it go!

If you are the kind of person who loves a big cuddly shawl or scarf, Spring Valley will make you happy too.  Happy to knit, happy to wear.

Available to purchase on the Happy Fuzzy Yarn website or on Ravelry.

I can’t wait to see what other people do with this pattern — other color combinations, perhaps other weights of yarns.  If you are a clever sort of knitter, it would be no big deal to knit this in any weight of yarn so long as you set yourself up with the correct stitch multiple for the lace.

Conquering Shyness

Picture of fiber from Happy Fuzzy Yarn

I was terribly shy as a child.  When we moved into a new school district in second grade, I was nearly friendless for two years because I was too frightened to approach other children and ask to join their play.

In fact, I first learned to knit from my second grade teacher because she would allow us to stay inside at recess if we wanted to knit with her.  Knitting was better than being cold and lonely!

Somewhere out there in the world — in a thrift store or garbage dump or maybe even lost in my parents’ house — is an unfinished garter stitch burgundy acrylic scarf.

The shyness persisted throughout school, including college.  That was about the time I began to purposefully push through.  It helped to realize that other people have the same fears and it wasn’t just me.  I also remind myself that talking to people I don’t know isn’t dangerous.  Sounds weird, but if you are shy also then you know what I mean.

Here I am, in my thirties, and I don’t think people would describe me as shy.  Sometimes reserved perhaps, but I no longer hesitate to go up and talk to someone when I want to.  It’s very freeing!  I still have my moments, but what a difference it has made in my life to not be ruled by those fears.

Which brings me to the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo this past weekend.  I was working the Happy Fuzzy Yarn booth, but I also made a point to circuit the barns and talk to many vendors.  I had to consciously approach people, but it wasn’t as hard as it used to be because the interactions are often rewarding, amusing, informative, and community-building.  Only one or two people blew me off, and I left those booths quickly.  I don’t even remember who they were.

I really love talking to farmers and shepherds in particular and am starting to see familiar faces after working at shows around the region for the past year.  Now that I think about it, it’s going to be months–long, cold, snowy months!–before there’s another show around here.  Good thing I stocked up on pretty things to get me through the quiet season.

I totally have a palette.  There is no shame in my game!

Top row: Fiberstory FAVE sock in “Milo”; BFL/Silk from Cross Wind Farm; Superwash Sport “Aquatic” from Happy Fuzzy Yarn.

Middle row: DK Merino in “Verdigris,” “Shadow,” and “Granny Smith” from Happy Fuzzy Yarn; Polwarth “Nessie” (darker braid) and Superfine Merino “Blue Lagoon” from Happy Fuzzy Yarn; 3ply worsted black alpaca from Amiable Alpacas.

Bottom row: Silky Meri in “Deep Blue Green” from Studio June Yarn; Arial Evolution in “Dusk” from Twisted Fiber Art; and Boyne (BFL) in “Castiel” from CJKoho Designs — plus a spinner’s merit badge!

I have specific plans for four of these purchases.  The others I bought as part of my effort to try out the products of local fiber artists.  So I just went with something that called to me and I’ll figure out what to do with it eventually.  Dangerous words, I know.

The only question is: where to start?