Friday, January 22, 2010

Congratulations Ravelry!

A quick announcement, for those who missed it or are not members: Ravelry is out of beta! So far, this doesn't mean anything is changing on the site, except that the little word "beta" is gone from the logo. However, it is a LOT easier to get an account now than it was when I joined two and a half years ago. The creators have mentioned that one eventual goal for Ravelry is to make the database portions of the site (project, yarn, and pattern pages) open to the public. You'd still need an account to create a project notebook or post to the forums, but I could link to my project page and everyone would be able to see it, without logging in. Going out of beta makes sense at this point, with more than 600,000 users.

Ravelry was a huge part of me becoming a more active member of the knitting community. Once I was on Ravelry I wanted to add pictures, so I joined Flickr and started taking more photos. Once I had entered all my stash, updated all my projects, and read through all my forums, I wanted more. So I started this blog. I connected with other knitters and yarn-fanatics: some who are a ten-minute walk away, and some who live on the other side of the planet. I roped my friends in. I discovered yarn and fiber clubs. I wrote a pattern. I think it's a huge testament to the power of the knitting community that I joined in the first place, not really knowing what Ravelry was going to look like on the inside. Another knitter said yesterday: "I know there are people who would get pulled into the site if they could just see more of it. This is one of the few sites that I didn’t completely write off because registration is required" and I completely agree. Coming out of beta, and eventually opening up this fabulous resource to more people will only spread the knitting love.

I'm pretty excited to have been a part of the beta testing for Ravelry, and I've seen it grow tremendously since I joined. When I first sat down to add my stash yarns, one obscure laceweight yarn was not in the database, but it's there now. I'd made a pair of fingerless gloves, and while entering a project page for it I learned that the pattern wasn't in there yet. When they did add the pattern eventually, they asked to use one of my photos on Ravelry as an example of what the pattern looks like knit up in real life. Ravelry is huge, but it got that way through all of us. We helped build it by entering a little bit of data, uploading a few pictures, and generally channeling our excitement about yarn and knitting into a fantastic new space.

Thanks Casey and Jess for building this crazy train, Mary-Heather and Sarah for helping to keep it on the tracks, and all the other Ravelers for making it a grand old time. I can't wait to see where it's all headed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cabin Fever

That's what we have. It's been a nearly constant torrential downpour over the last two days, and looks like it will stay that way through the rest of the week. Starbuck is living up to his name, proving to be a real explorer-adventurer, except where thunder is concerned. He's not allowed out of the apartment anyway, but I am similarly reluctant to venture outside in this mess. He is dealing with it by periodically tearing around the living room. I find it infinitely preferable to stay at home and work on these:


Another fabulous lined mitten pattern from Hello Yarn, these are coming out fabulously. This picture is a few days old, I'm currently just past the thumb gusset on the first shell. Every time I do a colorwork project I am reminded that although the knitting goes more slowly with small needles and two colors of yarn, the emerging pattern keeps me going. I cannot express my glee as the first little row of acorns emerged on the palm! Deep down, I know that I really ought to get back to my shawl, but I'm not good enough yet with the beads for it to be as much fun as the squirrels.

With the new family member present, I'm trying to introduce the fibery activities slowly. Most of my knitting over the past two weeks has been done at the kitchen table or while he's napping to avoid temptation. Last week, I wound some yarn I spun over the holidays off the bobbins and gave it a good washing:

Equinox Flower

Two colors of polwarth from the Verb fiber club, one in "Equinox Flower" and the other undyed silver. I want to use the yarn to make the Beaumont tam at the bottom of this post, but the yarn plumped up a TON after washing and I'm doubting I'll have enough yardage. My natural spinning still produces more of a DK/sportweight yarn, so if I want to make fingering or lighter I really need to pay more attention.

With the bobbins all empty, my eyes turned to the rather ponderous fiber stash. I haven't been blogging all my fiber club as it comes in, but there are a few color combos I can hardly wait to get on the wheel. Then I remembered a paper grocery bag full of combed polwarth locks from the Verb holiday party in various lovely natural shades of white, brown, silver, and dark grayish-brown. Here they are pre-combing; I was a little too scatterbrained to actually take photos of the combed polwarth nests before spinning them.

Polwarth Locks

So, yesterday I put on a movie and sat down to use the spinning wheel for the first time since we brought the kitten home. Turns out I didn't need to be nervous about how he would react to the wheel. This was my view for most of the afternoon:

Lap Kitty and Spinning


Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Our very own member of the itty bitty kitty committee:


In true nerd fashion, we have named him Starbuck T. Khan. I do realize that we are mixing sci-fi references, but the best part about the name Starbuck is that, to quote the significant other, "it works for a boy OR a girl." I felt that Tiberius was too formal for a first name, so it gets relegated to its traditional location as the middle initial.

It's going to be a challenge to kitten-proof the entire apartment, but we've done the kitchen, bathroom, and part of the hallway so far and that's been working well. Getting the stash in a safe place before giving him full run of the place is definitely a priority (not to mention getting all the tasty computer cables safely stowed away). Here he is during a calmer moment, which so far have only come after dinner or a few hours of play/exploring time.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Year in Review

Thanks to the data-gathering power of Ravelry, the overpowering urge to reflect as the calendar turns over, and the unclouded nature of hindsight, I am better able this year than any other to ruminate on the previous year. Some thoughts, a bit scattered:

1. Knitting

I started and finished 37 projects in 2009, and worked on but did not finish the ever-present blanket. That comes out to an average of one project every 10 days! Granted, one of those projects was a holdover from 2008 (the blasted gloves), and another one I started in 2009 but had no hope of finishing (the wedding shawl). 21 of those projects were made with handspun yarn, and 7 were made with yarn that I also purchased in 2009. I think I was much more productive this year. Sadly, there was a distinct dearth of socks (only 2 pairs, compared with 6 in 2008).

1a. Gift Knitting

In 2008, I knit 2 gifts for Christmas. This year, I knit 17. This is astonishing to me, and I even knew I was knitting a lot of gifts. Some took longer than others. Some projects became obvious as soon as I saw the fiber or yarn, and for others I agonized over finding a good match of pattern to color, weight, and texture. I began the first gift of 2009 on March 22nd, and finished the last one on December 30th. Here's some of the gift FOs:

Mom's Fingerless Gloves
Mom's fingerless gloves

Dad's Lab Mousie and Petri Dish with growth
Dad's Lab Mousie

Dad's Petri Dish

Mom-in-Law's Hat
Laurel Hat

Aunt-in-Law's Cowl
Snail Cowl

Brother's Hat
Cotton Koolhaas

There was lots more gift knitting, but this was the home stretch, made from the yarn I grouped together in this post. Knitting all those gifts was very rewarding to my self-esteem and checkbook, but I don't know that I could have done it without the large amounts of free time I had this fall.

2. Spinning

I dug through my stash on Ravelry and last year's blog posts, and compiled a list of all the skeins I spun this year. While doing this, I realized that I really ought to label or tag my spinning stash with the date I spun it. It'll be helpful the next time I get bitten by the contemplative bug, and will also serve as a good way to guilt myself into knitting handspun that has been marinating in the stash for a very long time.

I spun 46 individual skeins of yarn, for a whopping total of about 10,900 yards. For those of you keeping track, that's a little over 6 miles (almost 10km!) of yarn spun. The big-ticket items were easily my gray fleece yarn and two laceweight projects, each with over 1,000 yards. This, again, is shocking to me. I attribute very little of my productivity to myself, but entirely to my lovely spinning wheel and the fabulous colors that arrive at my door each month from Kristine and Adrian.

3. Designing

This year I officially entered the world of knitting design (by the way, you still have a few days left to nab the Snow Chains Mittens for free!). I've said all I need to say on the designing process for now, but I'm excited for the coming year. Creativity on this level doesn't come to me often, but I'm glad it did this time.

4. Stashing

Ravelry data-mining gives me 55 new stash entries for 2009, 2 of which got gifted, 11 of which got used up in projects, and 38 of which are handspun. That includes the new fleece. Again, I see the effects of two fiber clubs here (which account for 24 of those new stash entries), along with a significant amount of knitting from older stash.

In review, I would say that the economy's pressure is obvious in my activity this past year. I am spinning more, stashing less, and knitting more from my stash. I've been incredibly lucky that I can get a lot of crafting activity through spinning. I can easily imagine that if I weren't spinning, I'd have actually made a serious dent in my stash this year by knitting with that free time instead. I would say that my proudest moment from 2009 was finishing my handwashed, handcarded, handspun, and handknit Halcyon sweater. That was an epic goal, but broadened my skills immeasurably. I can't wait to see what happens in 2010. Maybe I'll finally finish the mitered squares!