Give a hoot – Qiviut

alaska2018It’s pronounced kiv – ee – oot like give a hoot, and it is softer. lighter and warmer than cashmere.  This fiber comes from the under hair of 600-900 lb musk ox which are gently combed every day during the summer.  How would you like that job?

We visited friends in Alaska last week, and I was pretty excited to find out that there was a musk ox farm nearby.  I was also excited to see that they have mountains in their backyard (see photo above), but that’s another story.  See, the last time we were in Alaska we saw musk ox, but were not able to do a tour because tourist season had not started yet.  Instead I contented myself with buying some of the precious qiviut fiber and yarn.  Eight years later, I’ve been too afraid to knit or spin this amazing fiber because it’s “too good,” for just any pattern and my somewhat amateur spinning skills.

But really?  It’s just knitting.  I can do that.

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This is what $300 qiviut looks like!

Ok, maybe I won’t buy $300 qiviut to knit with…. after all I can handspin my own, thank you very much. But I did buy a 2 oz skein of qiviut/cashmere/alpaca with generous yardage.

Now the tricky part is determining a pattern to knit.

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Traditional qiviut patterns

Traditionally, the native people knit lace patterns specific to their area.  The book, Arctic Lace, talks about this more in depth.  Honestly, I do not know much more than this, so I would encourage you to read Arctic Lace and look into it on your own if you’re interested.  This display at the musk ox farm was really interesting to me.  I’m fairly confident that I could chart the lace patterns on this display, especially the one from the Seward area as that was one of the areas we visited on our trip.  I also found this Alaskan Moose scarf which, though not traditional, cracks me up.  So the question of the day is, what do I knit?  I have 2 skeins of qiviut from my 2 trips.  One a natural color, one a forest green…. both have generous yardage.

 

We visited this musk ox farm in Palmer, AK.  And just because I know some people will be wondering, the musk ox are only raised for their fiber.  They live until a ripe old age and are not used for meat.

Miles and Miles of Stockinette

 

I’m at that point in my projects where I am knitting what feels like miles and miles of white stockinette.  It’s the knitting equivalent of snow blindness!  I have two sweaters on the needles right now for me, which is extremely unusual.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve knit a sweater for myself.  Although Addie has already volunteered to take at least one of the sweaters if it doesn’t fit or I decide I don’t want it.  The Clayoquot Cardigan you see above is my Ravellenics project.  What?  The Ravellenics are over you say?  Well, hmmm…. guess I missed that deadline!  I hit a serious slow down with this project as I was knitting the body of the sweater.  The needles and the yarn were just not jiving together well and I was getting seriously achy hands.  (Did I talk about this already?)  Anyway, I splurged on some Lykke needles and things started moving faster.  Then I got to the SEVENTEEN INCHES of stockinette.  Which doesn’t sound like a whole lot of knitting, but it’s a whole. lot. of. knitting.

So I did what any rational knitter would do.  I bought a lot of natural Malabrigo to start a Worsted Boxy sweater by Joji Locatelli.  In case you’ve been off grid lately and haven’t heard every knitter on the planet talking about this sweater or one of the variations, this is a sweater with a whole lot of stockinette.  Like do the ribbing and then knit SEVENTEEN INCHES of stockinette.  Only this is a very wide sweater as it’s meant to be big and loose.  Do you sense a theme?  White.  Stockinette.  Lots of it.  I guess it’s to be expected as these are both adult size sweaters.  I’m extremely motivated to finish this sweater though, as I actually really want to wear it.  You see, I have some brown skinny pants that don’t really seem to match much of anything in my closet and I really want this to go with it.  Only in Superior do you knit a sweater in March & April and expect that you’ll still have time to wear it that year!  Ha!

I’m just taking it a bit further and hoping that I will be able to wear both sweaters yet this spring!  Actually I could see myself knitting another Boxy or two for the girls.  And knit in Malabrigo Rios, who could complain about that?  It definitely makes the miles and miles of stockinette a lot more fun to knit!

Oh, and that pretty little progress keeper?  It’s from my friend Knittymuggins over at The Violet Valentine.  Beyond just being an all around awesome friend, Knittymuggins has awesome color sense.  She’s getting ready for a trunk show at her LYS right now, so I can’t wait to see what she’s got up in her shop after the show is over.

So what are you knitting?

Process vs. Product

Several times over the last few weeks I’ve had the conversation about whether I am a process knitter or a product knitter.  The conversation is fascinating to me because I cannot imagine knitting any other way than the way I knit.  I simply cannot put myself in the mindset of the other knitter, as much as I might try.

For simplicity’s sake, I will define process knitter as someone who enjoys the knitting of the item, regardless of whether they finish the item or not.  The process knitter often likes new and unique construction (although not always), this person may never finish, weave in ends, or wear the item in question.  The product knitter is someone who wants an end result.  The thing that drives this knitter is having the completed item at the end.  They would never think of finishing a scarf only to stop before the ends were woven in.  Or, heaven forbid, not blocking a shawl that was finished with the ends woven in.

True Confession time folks:  I am a process knitter.  I cannot tell you how many finished but not blocked or woven in ends may or may not be lying around my house.  I have sweaters that are 2/3 finished in a knitting bag.  I have no desire to rip it out and start something else – I am simply done with that project.  Emotionally done.  I might be bored, or a new more shiny project inserted itself in my life.  I’m just done.  If I start a new project, my husband will say, “who’s that for?” He knows that often by the time I am done knitting something, I don’t really need the finished project anymore.  I’m happy to give it away.  I also find that often I knit things in colors that I do not really wear.  I knit it because its pretty, not because it’s going to fit in my wardrobe.  Don’t get me wrong, I do wear my own knitting, but sometimes I struggle with finding something to wear it with.  That’s also why sometimes I don’t show finished knitting on the blog… because I’m just done with it and don’t want to take pictures of the finished item.  I know, it’s odd.

Tell me about your knitting.

What I’m Knitting

I’m still slowly plugging away on the Clayoquot cardigan that was my Ravellenics project.  I have the 2 sleeves done and am up to the pockets on the body.  This is a struggle for me because it hurts my hands to knit.  I switched out needles and that definitely helps, but my hands still get tired easily when knitting it.  

I just finished weaving in the ends and sewing on buttons for the pink Snug cardigan.  I absolutely adore this pattern.  I like it so much I’m doing an itty bitty size.  I’m also going to knit a larger one as a class sample to teach this summer.  Oh, and those buttons you see above?  I’ve had those for years… they were just waiting for the right home.  I had imagined I was going to use them on a sweater for Lily at one point, but they never really fit.  I think they’re perfect for a little baby sweater.

Oh yes, and I finished a simple brioche cowl that you may or may not see pictures of.  I actually wore it yesterday but didn’t feel like a selfie was going to yield a result that didn’t make me look worn down and tired.  I will try to get someone to take a picture when I look more awake and less like I need 3 more cups of coffee to get through the day!

What I’m Not Knitting

Oh so many things have fallen to the wayside as I worked almost exclusively on the Clayoquot the last few weeks.  I’ve done a couple of baby hats here and there, but mostly they fall into the What I’m Not Knitting category.

Whatever your knitting style, I hope your week is filled with great knitting.  And remember, “Knit fast, it’s cold up here!”

 

Close Call

My Ravellenics project was going along as easily as a curler’s stone on ice right up until last week.  Apparently spending a long time on the phone at work with my head cocked at an angle holding my phone while clicking through hundreds of photos was a bad idea.  I got off the phone and had very little strength in my right hand with a lot of pain.  I stretched.  I gave myself a little shoulder rub.  I stretched some more.  It helped, but only a little.

It was a strong reminder of how important proper posture and ergonomics are.  In thinking back to a class I took with Carson Demers in August, I knew I needed to think through what I should change about my knitting habits and techniques.

  1.  Be seated properly.  Feet on the floor with legs at a 90 degree angle.  This is next to impossible in our living room with the current configuration, but relatively speaking I don’t spend all that much time there.  It is very possible to do at the desk I spend so much time at.  I have to remind myself to sit up straight!
  2. Stretch.  This list of hand exercises for knitters is golden.
  3. Take breaks often.  This not only means get up and walk around, but it also means drink a glass of water.  It’s easy to forget that water is the natural lubricant in our bodies.
  4. Change it up.  I know it is not good for my body to work exclusively on one project at a time.  It’s always better if I have one or two projects that I can alternate with.  Generally this is one fingering weight project and one project with worsted or heavier weight, or one with a significantly looser gauge.  This alternating of projects gives my hands a break.
  5. Use good tools.  I’m a big believer in using good tools when it comes to knitting.  I use good needles and am picky when it comes to the quality of the yarn I use.  In this case, I was using both good needles and good yarn and they were suited for each other.  But you see, the mouse I was clicking with was not such high quality.  I also wasn’t using the soft gel pad that I often put under my wrist to remind myself to lift up my hand as I’m click clicking away at photos.

Obviously, every knitter is different and your mileage may vary.  However, I find reminding myself of these things is very helpful.  And if you ever have the opportunity to take a Carson Demers class, I highly recommend it.  He’s smart and funny and knows his stuff.

My Ravellenics project may not get done as quickly as I would like, but I continue to make progress on it.  The sleeves are finished and I’m working on the ribbing on the bottom of the sweater.  I’m debating if the inside of my pockets should be a contrasting color, so I’m holding off on those for a bit.  To change things up I’m also doing a baby hat here and there in worsted weight.  See?  I’m actually taking my own advice!

 

 

Optimistically Speaking

Every year my Optimist Club does a hat knitting challenge.  It started many years ago when I had a hair-brained scheme  to get the (mostly) older men in my Optimist Club to do a project for the local hospitals.  I thought I could teach them to knit and they could knit a few hats here and there for the local Birth Centers.  Little did I know that they would discover knitting looms and that this annual challenge would go on for YEARS.  I don’t know how many years it’s been… probably around 10-11 years if I had to guess.

We set ourselves up into 2 teams.  Sometimes we pick up knitters from across the country who help us knit hats.  Everyone in the local club uses the looms with bulky yarn.  They think it’s hysterical that they can knit a hat on a loom faster than I can knit on 2 needles.  Everyone considers me a “ringer” to have on their team, even though I do not knit anywhere near the highest number of hats.  Oh, and the winning team?  They generally get chocolate.  And bragging rights.  It’s a pretty good deal.

This year the contest is running from February 6 – March 20, so there is plenty of time to get in on the knitting action if you’d like to play along.  If you’re a local knitter, stop on by the Incline Station in Duluth on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month.  If you’re non-local and want to play, just leave me a message and we can figure out how to get the hats where they need to go.  Or knit for your local hospital, that’s cool too!

Hats can be any size to fit micro-preemie through newborn.  Hats that are slightly larger than newborn tend to be given to the big sisters and big brothers of the new arrivals.  The local hospitals definitely appreciate these hats!

So far I’ve finished 3 hats during the contest.  that’s the short stack of hats in the photo above.  I kind of like having a stack of knitted hats sitting on my end table just waiting to have more hats added to it.  I have one or two more that I should be able to finish this evening…. but then the hat knitting will slow down considerably.  See, I’ve got Olympic-sized knitting to do.  I’m planning on knitting a Clayoquot Cardigan from Tin Can Knits during the Olympic Games.  If you haven’t joined a team for the Ravellenics yet, you totally should.  You’re only competing against yourself and it’s kind of fun to see just how far you can get.  So come on, jump into the deep end of the pool snowdrift with us!

There’s a Season for That

Have you ever noticed how people tend to get married or have babies in waves?

We’re in the middle of one of those waves.  Several of our friends and family members are having babies right now.  Between December and June there are 4 babies.  There’s not much I like more than knitting for little people!  The projects are fast and fun.
And I firmly believe that babies should be wrapped in wool to keep them cozy.  I tend to use superwash wool because I believe in keeping it easy for the parents.  I’m not a fan of acrylic for babies partly because I think acrylic sweaters make me feel clammy instead of warm and because I don’t like knitting with most acrylic.  Every knitter is different – this is just how I roll.

I’ve been combing through Ravelry finding new patterns to knit.

 

This sweater is the Garter Stitch Baby Kimono by Joji Locatelli.  (By the way, you pronounce her name the Spanish way, as though the J’s were H’s.  “HoHee”)  This was a really fun knit and the pattern was free.  It takes less than 1 skein of sock yarn to make.   I used a skein of Knitted Wit Victory Sock, which is lovely to knit with. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite sock yarns.  You are supposed to finish the neckline with an I-cord edging, but I thought the pico type edging was pretty cute for a girl.  I did not check my gauge on this one (I know!  Bad knitter!  But I often don’t on baby knits) so it is a little wider than it maybe needed to be.  However, I kind of like a little extra wiggle room in the belly on baby knits.

The hat was made almost entirely of the leftovers from the sweater.  I did throw in a couple of rows of sparkly white that I had in a mini skein.  Partly because I thought this little girl needed a little sparkle and partly because I was nervous about running out of yarn at the very top.  I ended up ripping this hat out once and redoing it with a smaller needle size.  I think it’s already on the large size for a 1 month old, but that’s ok, she’ll grow!  The hat pattern is the Sweet Norwegian Cap and I’ve made many of them.  The hat and sweater went to a friend who had their baby in December.

Speaking of growing, the hat at the very top of the post is one I’m doing for my brand spanking new nephew!  He surprised us all by coming at 33 weeks.  At 3 lbs 7 oz, he is one tiny guy.  Both momma and baby are doing well.  This hat is made from some leftover Quince & Co. dk yarn from my Clayoquot cardigan and is one I just made up as I went.  I started the hat this fall and then set it aside because I didn’t think I was knitting for boys and I certainly didn’t think I’d be knitting for a preemie.  See, the babies in our family tend to be girls and they generally tend to come on the large size (my girls were 9 lbs and 8 lbs respectively).  Just in case you’re wondering, I don’t gamble because I’m really lousy at playing the odds!  And I hate loosing.  The boy hat got put aside until a later time.  Probably a good thing because when I heard my nephew was born, it was right there beside my knitting spot, ready to finish.  The finished hat should fit an orange, which I’m hoping is about the right size.  If it does not fit, my sister can definitely donate it to the hospital for another baby to use.

 

On Your Mark, Get Set, Knit!

Is it Friday yet?  It feels like a Friday.  January kind of hit me in one fell swoop this week – and here we are more than half-way through the month.  Oiy!

Here’s What’s on My Mind…

February is going to be a great month for knitting.  First of all, there’s the Super Bowl.  Which since I probably don’t care a wit about who’s going to be in it (my poor Packers had a tough year this year) I’m watching for the commercials! Then, there’s the winter Olympics.  If you’re at all familiar with Ravelry, you might also be familiar with Ravellenics.  The idea of Ravellenics is to challenge yourself to knit something during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

My friend Knittymuggins and I were talking about the Clayoquot cardigan and steeking one day.  We fell upon the idea of doing a KAL with the Clayoquot cardigan, with the possibility of a skype phone call to do the steeking portion.  (Sadly, we live waaaay too far apart to do a in person steek together.)  Since the Ravellenics are right around the corner, we decided to do the cardigan as our very own Knitting during the Olympics KAL.  I encourage you to sign up for a Ravellenics team.  There are a lot of different teams out there.  I signed up for the YH Ladies one.  I tend to be a bit of a lurker when it comes to these big online group events, which is why doing a KAL with my knitting bestie is much more my style.

I’ve chosen this, The Fiber Co. Arranmore Light, as my yarn for the project.  I need to do a gauge swatch beforehand because time will be of the essence during the actual Olympics.  Wish me luck on that one!  Actually, wish me a lot of luck as my plan is to complete an adult size cardigan for me.

What I’m Knitting

I’m pretty much still knitting on everything I said I was knitting last week.  I did finish a Cindersmoke mitten (my 2nd one) but I need to knit a 3rd so that I have one class sample and one pair of mittens for me.  Yes, it’s crazy, but it makes sense in my head.

Loose Ends

Thanks to everyone who has commented on the blog in the last week.  It’s so nice (and slightly terrifying!) to know that people are out there reading this.