Discovering Ravelry

Last year, as I was searching for a bit of knitting inspiration, I came across an incredible website – Ravelry.  Here knitters and crocheters share their passion and projects.  It’s like sitting at Starbucks with my knitting group only I can still be in my pajamas wearing slippers.  I get to see what everyone is working on, what color combinations worked well for their projects, and their past completed accomplishments.  I get inspired, and despite the amount of work and grading piling up on my desk, all I want to do is pick up my knitting needles or crochet hook and get creating.

I have found some great patterns here.  Last fall, after scouring the whole house and discovering that my Halloween decorations were missing (apparently the victims of the small flood we had in our basement) I found the cutest country pumpkin pattern with dangling legs and arms.  I made one  in an antique orange and he sat on my dining room hutch for the season.  While cruising through our new local winter farmers market in January, I came up with the idea of making market bags for Christmas gifts next year.  Ravelry again saved the day.  I found countless pictures of finished products and downloaded several patterns.  I even found a pattern for Angry Bird – a favorite of my grandson.

Ravelry is like window shopping; for a short while the rest of the world stops while I browse and dream about the creations I will make.  Maybe I will reach the goal of getting through my yarn stash (more than likely maybe not).  Maybe someday in the future, I will find an online knitting group which meets on Skype – that just might be the perfect world.

Is it just me or does every knitter and crocheter have a stash of yarn.  Not just a stash but an ever-growing stash of yarn.  I understand the problem here.  A friend of mine owns a clutter control business and she tells me that I need to let go and simplify, but I can’t seem to part with my yarn.

When I finish a project, even if I have just a small amount of yarn left, I roll it up into a ball assured that it would make a great stripe for a pair of mittens.  Those extra skeins that I know I should return for credit towards my next purchase are always kept because they would make a great pair of slippers to give at Christmas time.  But when it’s time to make those great slippers, I head to the yarn shop anyways, since I am always in the mood to browse for more yarn.

Last year, in the middle of grading research papers, midterms, and planning my syllabi for spring term, I decided that I really did need to let go of things that I no longer had time to do and  that were causing guilt because they were accumulating dust.  I packed up all my card making supplies and gave them to a friend who I knew would not only let me come to her house to make cards with her once in awhile, but would probably feed me while I was there.  I gathered up the rug I had begun to braid and  all the equipment I had purchased for the endeavor and brought it to my cousins house.  She has since finished that rug and at least another I know about.  I packed up the piles of books that were on my expanding reading list and started passing them around.  I did not, however, distribute any of my yarn.  I will always need to be knitting and crocheting.  In fact, I even dread going to the movies because I can’t knit while I’m sitting there.

It may take me a long time to finish a project, and I tend to go towards quick knits at this time in my life, but I have been knitting and crocheting since I was old enough to hold knitting needles without poking my eyes out.  I can’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t have at least two projects going on at the same time – is that a bad sign?

I guess my yarn stash will continue to grow along with my list of projects that I want to tackle.  So if you’re in the neighborhood and need a little yarn, stop by.  I’m sure I can find something to accommodate you from my ever-growing stash.

The Economy of the Yarn Shop

It appears that even yarn shops are feeling the bite of the economy.  One yarn shop, whose inventory was drastically reduced from even six months ago, commented that not only are some yarn companies closing shop reducing supply, but  it’s become hard to maintain a good size inventory.  Some of this, I’m sure, is the result of the ability to shop so conveniently from the comfort of  our own home.  But what knitter can honestly say they don’t love the sights, smell, and feel of a yarn shop?  I love to wander through the store, feeling the assortment of yarn, and imaging the creations to come from them.   How can you feel the softness of a cashmere blend viewing yarn from a catalog or on the screen of your computer.  Call me tactile if you must.

I recently found a pattern on Tricksyknitter.com called Fitzgerald Scarf that I fell in love with.  I need a sports weight yarn, but do I want a wool, llama, or angora blend?  I have to go to a yarn shop in order to feel the yarn and see the colors before me.  I know I”ll go to the shop with this pattern in hand and end up seeing cabled mittens (cables are my weakness), scarves draped flirtatiously, and maybe even an assortment of self-striping socks that will entice me until I leave the store with bundles more than I planned, but I’ll be happy.

While we are talking about yarn shops, let’s not forget that knitting is not an isolated activity.  It is not meant for us to do alone, but just like reading a good book, it’s meant for us to share with others who participate in and appreciate this art.  It’s meant for discussion, and sharing traders’ secrets – the proper way to seam a sweater or cast on.  It’s meant for sharing ideas and patterns.  Even comments and suggestions.  What better place to begin the conversation than a local yarn shop.

As any knitter knows, good quality yarn can be expensive, but a handmade item of good quality lasts a long time.  I’m currently working on an afghan for my son and future daughter-in-law for Christmas.  I found the pattern in an old book that had belonged to my mother.  As I work on  it in the evening, I like to think about her working on this afghan years ago, probably making it for someone for Christmas, too.  That sort of brings me comfort somehow and makes me miss her just a little less.   The afghan isn’t inexpensive to make, but I think it will be beautiful.  I still have several afghans that my mother made for me twenty – thirty years ago.  I’m also working on a sweater for my grandson.  In fact, I have a list of projects that I plan on completing for the Christmas season.  And I have a list of ideas for ornaments to make that will use up all the left-over yarn – okay a list of ornament that I saw on Ravelry.com.  Although knitting may be expensive, I can’t think of any more valuable way to spend my time.

I have been known to browse through the internet for yarn on occasion since there really isn’t a yarn shop close by, but nothing beats spending a few hours touching, smelling, and dreaming at a yarn shop, except following that up with a visit to Starbucks.  I certainly hope that there are many others out there who feel the same way I do.

Happy knitting!

 

New Traditions for the Holidays

When I was first married, money was in short supply.  Luckily, I grew up with a mother that was creative and crafty, so I knew how to sew, knit, crochet, and do many other crafty projects.  I also knew, from years of watching my mother, that you didn’t wait until the last minute to make Christmas gifts.

That first year of marriage, I started early.  I crocheted  octagon granny square Christmas stockings for everyone I knew, except of course for me and Paul.  I somehow lost the pattern over the years, but I think about those stockings every once in awhile.    I also knitted up Barbie wardrobes for my two young nieces that Christmas with all my leftover yarn from various projects.  They were well dressed, fashionable Barbies.

As the years past, so did the different crafts I made, but somewhere along the line I got too busy to make my Christmas gifts and I started buying them.   I resorted to making ornaments which I attached to all my purchased gifts.  It was my way of trying to infuse creativity into a hectic working mother schedule.

I’m not sure how others valued my homemade gifts, but they were important for me to create.  I had an incredible role mode after all.  Each Christmas my parent’s living room was brimming with beautifully wrapped packages, the majority of which held handmade treasures.  I still have and cherish many of these gifts even now, ten years after my mother passed away.  I suspect that those gifts meant so much to me because I knew how much time and love went into creating each one.

Last year my cousin told me that her whole family

The fun of making gingerbread houses

decided to make all  their gifts or purchase them locally.  Even the men in the family had to be creative.   It means no more thinking about Christmas just between November and December, but thinking about Christmas when you’re at the summer local craft fair or farmers’ market.  It means planning to make extra jams and jelly when you’re berry picking.  It means taking more pictures, knitting more, saving scraps of fabric for something special.

This economy has forced me to think about creating for Christmas again if I want to give to all the people who are important to me.  I’ve started making an afghan for my son and his wife. I’m making my grandson a few sweaters.  And I found a wonderful pattern for knotted slippers that I plan on making for all of my friends.  I just wish I still had that octagon granny square Christmas Stocking pattern somewhere, because I know a few people who just might like one.

When I was young, I used to love to watch the Waltons.  I envied their large family, having only two older brothers myself and craving nothing more than a sister.  It seemed  there wasn’t a problem that couldn’t be solved because of their togetherness and love, but there certainly was more joy and laughter than problems in any case.

This economy has forced many young adults, often with children, to move back home with their parents.  My own home is one such home, three generations, but the Waltons we are not.  Don’t get me wrong.  Although there are trials, the joy and laughter that fill the house make having my son and grandson around as essential as air.  I often wonder what I will do when the time comes for them to find a place of their own.  Is is terribly selfish for me to hope they never do?

One of the best parts of living with Peyton, my grandson, is that I get to be a big part of his life.  One of the most challenging parts is remembering to always step back because  I am the grandmother and not the parent.  My husband asks me often, “how would you feel if your mother would have…”  That is all he has to say.  I didn’t want my mother to tell me how to parent and I’m sure my son doesn’t want me to tell him how to parent, no matter how tactful I feel my suggestions might be.  The thing is, I want both my son and my grandson to have the best possible life, but it’s not exactly my job to make that for them.  It’s a tough reality, but I’m learning.  Well, at least I recognize the problem, and isn’t that what they say is the first step?

Knits That Outlive Us

A good friend of mine  is a professional organizer.  She is always telling me that we should not hold onto material things just because they were given to us by someone we love who has passed away.  I look around my house and it is filled with cherished belongings, all reminders of people once in my life and now not.  I have tried to put some of these items away, the ones that are dated or showing age, but I’m overcome with guilt.  I don’t tell this to my friend.

In my closet, I have three sweaters left that my mother made me years ago.  It has been years since I’ve worn one, but this morning when I looked out at the frost covered trees, I knew I needed the comfort of a warm hand knit sweater.  I pulled out a cream colored tweed sweater with a diamond windowpane  design and slipped it on.  I had forgotten how much I had loved this sweater.  The style is classic and looks great with jeans.

I remember my mother knitting this sweater for me.  She was drawn to the yarn and she loved the pattern of the sweater.  It was stunning and everyone commented on it as she was knitting it up.  My mother always taught me that if you are going to spend the time and effort to knit, you need to use good quality yarn as she always did.  She chose her yarn for quality with patterns and colors that would stand the test of time.    That may be why, even though she has been gone for almost nine years, I still cherish the sweaters she made me.

The Gathering of Ideas

Although knitting has been around forever, I am beginning to see more social knitting groups popping up everywhere.  About a month before Christmas, I met some friends at Borders Books for coffee and noticed a group of women sitting at a table, all equipped with knitting projects.  They were sharing their project ideas, future ideas, and progress since the last time they met.  I instantly regretted that I had not brought my own knitting.  What better time to work on a project than when sitting and catching up with old friends over coffee.

I went over to explore the wondrous projects and yarns being displayed and chatted with this group of women learning that they gathered at Borders every Sunday to knit.  I was invited to join anytime I had a free Sunday.  There is something about gathering with people to create, whether it is for scrap booking, writing, or knitting, all things that I do, that is enticing.  It helps to inspire creativity and to motivate.  Seeing other people’s creative ideas has the power to energize our own creative endeavors.

The internet also provids a venue for the gathering of creators.  Scrolling through knitting blogs and websites I can explore new yarns and get inspired to start new projects or attempt a new challenge.  There are countless patterns and ideas being shared, as well as techniques being taught.  Yet it isn’t quite the same as a good old fashioned gathering enhanced by conversation and the aroma of coffee.