Spin-Off Has Arrived!

My copy of Spin-Off arrived at the same time the UPS driver arrived with the box of all the projects that are in the articles. Hurray – now I can show them off at the guild meeting in a couple weeks. For those of you who do not spin, but knit or crochet, there are lots of great projects in this issue. Though the projects use handspun yarns, the “generic” size of the yarn is given so you can use a commercial yarn instead.

Today I had fun at JoAnn’s and Michael’s gathering more beads and threads to finish the snowflake samples. There are some beautiful new threads from DMC (Jewel Effects) and I chose several to use since all the shops have them now making them easy to find. What? You never thought of knitting with embroidery thread? It is awesome stuff!

Have you read The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner? I am almost finished with it and it is a great read! He sets out to find the happiest country on Earth by starting with a trip to Rotterdam to visit the World Database of Happiness (WDH) – no, I am not making this up. Weiner’s insights into the various cultures he visits are eye-opening. He has traveled extensively as a journalist for NPR, but even he finds surprises on his quest for the happiest nation on Earth. Worth a read – I have been laughing out loud, so maybe that is the point of the book. Read book, feel happy! Works for me!

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Excitement Happening!

The Little Box of SocksCharlene’s new book, The Little Box of Socks, arrived today and I have already taken the Zigzag Slip-Stitch Socks pattern and put it in my sock sack to do next. These patterns are really great – and there are many that deal with hand-painted/variegated sock yarns. Too many to choose from, so I will just have to knit one of each (though you know I am not going to put novelty yarn around the top of the felted bed socks – I’m just not a novelty yarn kind of person). This box of patterns is definitely worth having, even if you have all the other sock books.

Today’s mail also brought the contract from Leisure Arts for my new book, Dazzling Knitted Snowflakes. You know that will get signed and returned asap along with the new sample snowflakes! No pub date yet, but I will post it as soon as they let me know. In the meantime, here are a few of the snowflakes to whet your appetite:

bellatrix-min.jpg capella-ii-min.jpg mira-ii-min.jpg

(For those of you who know I am a Harry Potter fan: no, I did not name the Bellatrix snowflake after her evilness. These are all names of stars in our galaxy. The first book’s snowflakes were all named after rescued dogs.) If you have the first book, Knitted Snowflakes, you know that they are all made out of crochet cotton. The snowflakes in Dazzling Knitted Snowflakes can all be made out of crochet cotton, but I chose to make many of them out of the Kreinik metallic braids/threads to jazz them up a bit. Also, many of them have a plain version and a beaded version (to give them even more pizzazz) and several have mini-versions that only take about 10 yards of thread so you can knit a veritable blizzard in no time. Watch this space for the upcoming date of release so you can be one of the first to get your book and have samples knitted to show off at your next knitting get-together!

NE Georgia Handspinners have a home! We will be meeting at the William Harris Homestead, a restored, 19th Century, antebellum farm. The grounds are beautiful and our fiber arts will fit right in with the ambiance of the house and grounds. Stay tuned for the date of the first gathering.

AND, I have been invited to teach a week-long class at the John C. Campbell Folk School. I am excited because the class will be the first to experience all the tricks, tips, and techniques of another book I am working on – yes, I am keeping it a secret until closer to the time it may be published.

In the meantime, I am still waiting for my Spin-Off to arrive, have finished a project for Interweave Press that I am not allowed to talk about yet, am packaging the snowflakes to send, and have been working on my “logo”.  Anyone else come up with their personal symbol yet?

Spin-Off Almost Here

Just got an email from a Cormo shepherdess asking me if I am the Margaret listed in the Spring issue of Spin-Off. I was elated and devastated at the same time. Elated that the issue is out and devastated that I don’t have my copy yet! I went on the Interweave web site and my article and pattern are listed – though there is some kind of funky orange shawl where the photo of the baby sweater should be. There were some great online articles, too, so I spent some time reading up on wraps per inch and twist in plying and discovered another cool blog to read in my spare time.

The spare time issue is getting more and more dire as I get myself involved in writing more designs/books and studying for my latest venture. Today I went to check out an historical site and was invited to become part of the team who give demos to the public. I am studying the scripts for the spinning, weaving, medicinal gardening, dye gardening, candle-making, and maybe some food preservation (though I no longer cook, so I may give that one a pass). The William Harris Homestead is only 7 minutes (yes, I clocked it this morning) from my house, so it is a great commute! While I was there today, they said they were having difficulty with one of the spinning wheels, so I took a look at it. A bit of fiddling and an assessment of “not being used enough” got it going again. I brought it home with me to give it some oil and spin on it to loosen it up a bit. Actually, I think it was lonely sitting in a corner and already seems to have perked up in my studio where it is surrounded by fiber and my own two spinning wheels.

Check out the William Harris Homestead web pages (www.harrishomestead.com) and see what you think. Today I tagged along with a group of fourth graders and we saw: arrowheads from the grounds left by the Creek Indians who used to live on that land; how far the well was from the house for getting water; the lands of the property along the river from a hayride; the garden used for medicines; how to preserve food; the smokehouse; how to make candles; naturally dyed wool hanging on the line; how Civil War soldiers dressed and walked into battle and the machinations they had to go through to load their muskets; and, a working Border Collie putting the sheep through their paces. Oh, and all the kids got to pick cotton from the teeny-tiny cotton patch. It was a full day expertly placed into two hours.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Charlene, for the comments on the cast on vs. the first row. The more people who can give insight into these ideas/techniques, the better we will all be able to perform our wonderful knitting.

Margaret Passes It On

When I teach, I get asked a lot of questions that aren’t directly related to the subject I happen to be teaching at the moment. I get to do a lot of “thinking on my feet” and I don’t always have an answer. Then I give suggestions for finding the answer. If I can, though, I will share any information I have to answer the question. Since I get similar questions asked at different venues, I decided to put the questions and answers here so they can help out those who might have been wondering the same things. Feel free to pass this information on to others. So here’s the question and answer of the day:

Does my cast on count as my first row?

The answer: it depends (that’s usually the answer to fiber arts questions).

The answer in detail: (a) Look at your pattern. (WHAT!!!! You haven’t read through your pattern before you started knitting? Shame on you!) If you are told to cast on a certain number of stitches and the pattern instructions (after joining for circular knitting if you are doing that) begin with “Row/Round 1”, then your cast on does not count as your first row.

(b) If you get instructions that tell you to cast on and then work so many rows/inches of ribbing, then you can decide for yourself if your cast on counts for one of those rows. Margaret’s Rule for Ribbing: no matter how many rows, rounds, or inches of ribbing the pattern calls for, I am only going to knit ribbing until I can’t stand it anymore – this usually means LESS than the pattern calls for. I mean, who is going to knit three inches of ribbing if they don’t have to? Not me, that’s for sure.

(c) The pattern – and I have seen this only twice in all the thousands of knitting patterns I have seen in my lifetime – may tell you that your cast on equals your first row. If that is the case, they will spell it out very explicitly and the instructions will begin “Row/Round 2”. This could happen for any number of reasons, all of them in the hands of the designer of the pattern. [If you are a designer, please do not take this as permission to start a new “No More Row 1” craze.]

So there you have it. Pass on this information to those who ask and share the wealth of knowledge in knitting.

Charlene Schurch Fans – New Book To Be Released March 24, 2008

For those of you who are fans of Charlene Schurch – and who wouldn’t be? – start getting excited. Her latest sock extravaganza, The Little Box of Sox, will be released to the public on March 24. It retails for $19.95, but you can pre-order it at Amazon.com for $13.57. This new group of sock designs are sure to be fabulous and, as with all the other “Little Box” series, you can take one card pattern with you instead of having to carry around a whole book or make copies. So why are you still reading my blog? Run, don’t walk, to the nearest computer to order Charlene’s new book, The Little Box of Sox. THEN be sure you come back and finish reading my blog, because you know I always have more to say.

From Spinning The Galaxy to Spinning The Deep Blue Sea

The spinning class was great! Everyone tried different combinations of the rovings and sparkly fibers for some awesome yarns. One learned to Navajo-ply so she could keep her handpainted colors in order and it turned out fabulously!

So how did we go from Spinning the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars to Spinning the Deep Blue Sea? One of the roving colors we used was a deep green with blue undertones. When some of Gale Evans’ Proud Peacock Firestar was placed on it – OH WOW! It was the perfect color with just the right amount of glitz for a mermaid’s tail. So, of course, I got on the computer and downloaded the freebie pattern from Kreinik (www.Kreinik.com) for the little crocheted mermaid. Then I ran back to my fiber stash and began mixing and blending for her tail, her bikini top, and her hair. Her body is going to be some pink merino/silk and the silk adds enough luster to make her body shine as much as the rest of her will. I already have the yarn spun for her hair and her bikini top. Tomorrow I will finish the yarns for the body and her tail. With each color needing only 20 yards or less, this is going to be a quick spin toward a completed project. Watch for upcoming photos!

Spinning The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars

Tomorrow is the spinning class and I am having a fun time putting together all the class supplies – lots of fiber and sparkle! I am seeing this not only as a time to make some beautiful yarn, but also to get myself readied for my interview with an astronaut in the next week or two. I love looking at all the astronomy books and the web sites of stars, gas giants, nebula, star nurseries, and just general “space”. Awesome stuff! Now with these sparkly yarns, I will be able to create my own universe. Why wait for SETI to discover if there is intelligent life in the Universe when I can create my own Universe and populate it with everything from one-celled organisms to statuesque, multi-limbed aliens. Sci-Fi meets the fiber arts – catchy title for a spinning/ knitting/ crocheting/ needle felting/ etc. conference, don’t you think?

Design Challenge

This morning over my coffee I was perusing the book, The Tap-Dancing Lizard, by Catherine Cartwright-Jones. In the introduction, she writes:

“A friend of ours, while on a walking tour of Tibet, decided to commission a rug from a weaver in Lhasa for a friend. The weaver offered her an array of patterns to be woven into the rug, but he didn’t say, “What patterns do you want?; he asked, “How do you want your friend to be blessed?” That question speaks volumes about the purpose of decorative patterns in textiles, and about how much cultural meaning has been surrendered to factory-made fabrics.” Pg. 7.

I love this book. If you do not have this book in your knitting library, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookseller and get a copy. Actually, you may need to search it out online as it has been out since 1992 and may not be readily available.

The above quoted paragraph, and a subsequent flipping through the book, got me thinking about symbols, emblems, logos, etc. in textiles. In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling endows each of the Hogwarts houses with a symbol, the Lion Rampant (to be found in The Tap-Dancing Lizard) being the symbol of Griffindor House. In the movie, The Goblet of Fire, the movie-makers leave us with little doubt about the suspected location of Durmstrang (though the characters in the book make quite a big deal about concealing the location) if you saw the symbol on the mast of the Durmstrang ship, the double-headed eagle. A little historical aside from TT-DL: “When the old Roman Empire broke in two, the double-headed eagle became the symbol of the eastern Empire. …The czars used it as their symbol….” Then it goes on to say, for the knitting designer: “This chart makes a lovely sweater for someone of Russian or Austrian ancestry….”

When I was researching Jedi dress (have you ever noticed how many cloaks they throw off to fight, but never pick up again – must keep the Star Wars weavers busy), I ran across information on the symbol of Naboo. Symbol of Naboo??? What is that? It seems that there is a symbol that is used in the clothing of Padme Amidala (Queen of Naboo and then Senator from Naboo). Sure enough, if you study her costuming, you find the ornate symbol repeated in the fabrics, belts, headpieces, cloaks, frog closings, etc. used for her. This symbol represents “Naboo”.

So where does that leave us? Trust me, if you are buying your clothing “off the rack”, no matter how prestigious the shop, it is highly unlikely that you will find a symbol or logo that represents you. I looked on my slacks: Levi is there, Rider is there, Ralph Lauren is there (fabulous slacks I got at a thrift shop – YES). Is there anything that I own that says “Margaret”? Nope! Is there a certain stitch pattern I incorporate in my knitted designs that says “Margaret”? Nope! Could there be? Sure! (I do have a color that is associated with me, so I am one step along the path to a symbol.)

So here’s the challenge: using whatever materials that work for you, make “your” symbol. Will it be a blessing, your name or initials in another alphabet, a beautifully interwoven design, a color patch, a stitch pattern in a diamond, triangular, square, oval, or circular design background, or what?

When you have your design, send me a SMALL digital photo of your design, and a short description of how you arrived at your design, and I will post them on this blog for others to be inspired and helped along in their own pursuit of a personal symbol. Send everything to me at: dogyarns at gmail dot com.

Book Review

No Sheep For You by Amy R. Singer

This is a book that should be in your knitting library. It gives accurate information (in a very fun way) on the many fibers for knitting that are NOT wool. For those allergic to wool, they even have patterns for a Fair Isle sweater, an Aran sweater, and a steeked sweater – all normally made of wool.

The patterns are well-laid out, the yarn information is detailed, and every pattern comes in a wide range of sizes from the very small and petite to the more voluptuous.

The down-side to this book? Lots of worsted weight, though there are many DK weight yarns, too, that suit our Southern clime better.

Amy Singer is the proprietor of Knitty.com and she has gathered an array of designers to keep us all knitting fun garments in the yarns that are a lovely alternative to wool.