Amy Artisan

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Month: September 2007

A Decade in Stitches

This month marks 10 years since I first learned how to knit. It started quite simply – I wanted to learn how to make the cotton dishcloths that were always stocked in our kitchens while I was growing up. In September 1997 I flew to California for a long weekend at Grandma’s house. In addition to relaxing, my only other agenda item for the weekend was learning to knit the dishcloth. We headed to a local craft store and picked up a pair of Susan Bates metal needles (size 8 ) and some Sugar’n Cream kitchen cotton and began the lessons. Throughout the weekend I would knit off and on – I remember sitting in grandma’s recliner in the living room working through the simple stitches.

Assorted Dishcloths

After that weekend, I knit dishcloths intermittently over the next couple of years. Fast forward to Fall 2001. By this point, I had moved to Chicago and was on a project up in Milwaukee. I happened to pick up a copy of Real Simple magazine (Nov. 2001) and it included a simple striped scarf pattern. With evening ‘free’ time in the hotel each week I decided it was time to get knitting again. A trip to Michael’s yielded a couple of skeins of Lion Wool Ease in shades of gray and gray. The scarf quickly grew and when I went home at Thanksgiving Mom helped me finish up the scarf. All winter I wore that scarf with pride and looked for “the next project.”

My First Scarf

A co-worker who had been in Milwaukee with me was expecting her first baby so I decided a baby blanket was in order. Instead of looking for a pattern I went with what I knew – the simple “Grandma’s favorite” pattern, just bigger. Once the first blanket was complete I started a second blanket – this time for a cousin’s first child. This fall both of those kids have started kindergarten – how time flies.

In 2002 I took my first formal class – knit hats. It’s amazing that the knitting continued – at the first session I was told in no uncertain terms that I was casting on incorrectly (to the tune of “where did you learn to do that? you do it wrong”). I modified my cast-on and kept on knitting.

An Early Hat

In 2003 I took a sock class. At the end of the class I had one sock complete and felt so proud. I got about 2 inches into sock #2 and stopped. Not sure why – other than it just seemed like a lot of hassle to mess with all of the double point needles.

My 1st Sock

The knitting continued throughout this time. Of course there were dishcloths. As more friends had babies, I continued to make baby blankets and some hats. Also a couple of scarves. In 2004 I took a pillow class. The goal was simple – at the end of class I would have one pillow with 2 different knit sides. One side was intarsia & one side was cable. It was in this class that I learned the importance of gauge – or rather I learned this lesson after the fact. We didn’t do a gauge swatch and as knitting progressed it became obvious that the 2 pieces would not match up. So, I ended up with 2 pillows at the end of the class. In 2004 I taught my friend Jen how to knit. The next year I taught her sister, Kristy.

Fast forward to fall 2005. I stumbled upon the world of knit blogs and discovered a whole new world of knit possibility. Late that fall I picked a URL and made plans to start blogging at the start of 2006. Since jumping into the world of blogging I feel like my knitting has really expanded – 2006 brought the most knitting to date and 2007 looks to be even more. As this blog has chronicled, my knitting has continued to evolve – from that first Grandma’s favorite dish cloth and the simple garter stitch my repitoire now includes many stitch patterns, cable knits, lace knits and (finally) socks.

Now knitting is almost always with me. In the backpack for work. In the suitcase and carry-on for travel. I even have a ball of dishcloth cotton and needles in the trunk of my car for those unexpected delays.

As my knitting increases, my Grandma’s knitting is decreasing. Whenever I’m knitting while visiting at home she comments “I’m so glad you learned how to knit.” Me too, Grandma, me too.

So now, at the start of my second decade of knitting I am doing something I never thought I would do. I am starting to knit a sweater for me. During one of my knit classes (either hats or socks) I remember specifically saying “I enjoy knitting but I can’t see ever making a sweater.” Never say never. When I was home in the ‘Ville in July my sister & I were hanging out at the bookstore and I was flipping through knitting magazines. I was struck by the simplicity of this pattern and thought “I can do that.” At Stitches in August I picked out a beautiful alpaca/wool blend for the sweater. This weekend I swatched for the sweater and now am ready to embark on a new knitting path. Stay tuned in the next couple of months for adventures in sweater knitting.

Sweater Swatch

Since that first dishcloth 10 years ago, knitting has become much more than I ever imagined it would for me. Knitting is truly a bridge – back to the heritage of my grandma and forward to the friends that I have made through the craft. It is also “my own way” of continuing the needle and hand crafts that Artisan Mom (sewing, cross stitch, embroidery) and Artisan Dad (needlepoint, stained glass, painting) have done for years. It is a way to unwind from the hectic pace of the world today. It is a simple way to wrap family and friends in love.

So that is my knitting story. Thank you for sharing in the journey with me so far.

Artisan Knitting

Think Pink

Historically, I’ve not been drawn much to the color pink. However, there is one pink that I am consistently drawn to – the pink (ribbon) to support Breast Cancer.

Think Pink!

In recent years I have participated in the American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk as a way to show support. This year the Chicago walk is planned for Sunday, October 21st along the beautiful lakefront.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

This is the third year that I’m joining in the Making Strides walk. In recent years, breast cancer has continued to creep closer and closer into my circle of family & friends.

I walk for my cousin, Ruth. In early 2004, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer and suddenly this disease crept into my family. Since her diagnosis she underwent sucessful treatment options and today is cancer free. I walk to honor Ruth’s courageous battle against this disease. I walk for her husband, Russ, who has been with her every step of the way. I walk for her kids, Nathan and Ellen, who have had to watch their mom in this battle.

I Walk For Ruth

I walk for my college roommate, Kelly. Since our college days, Kelly has had to watch her mom & sister battle breast cancer. I walk for her mother, Janet, who has battled through cancer and had to watch a daughter fight the same battle. I walk for her sister, Kim, who has most recently finished her treatments.

I Walk For Kelly

If you are here in Chicago, I’d love to have you join us for the walk on October 21st. It is a beautiful walk – the trees along the lakefront are normally full of radiant fall colors.

As I walk I will be wearing a pink scarf that I knit this month – each donor name will be attached to a pink ribbon to form a fringe so that each donor will be walking with me. After the walk, this scarf will be donated to a local breast cancer support group.

As a bonus for my blog donors, at the end of the walk, I will draw donor names for a couple of thank you gifts. What are the gifts? Think pink, think yarn.

Thank you for listening to the reasons why I think pink and why I am making strides. Together we can work towards a day when this disease will no longer creep into our circles of family and friends.

Hope starts with you and me!

Getting Crafty

How appropriate that after blogging about the sounds of summer this past week treated us to a taste of fall weather. And how better to spend a fall-like Saturday than at a fair? The Renegade Craft Fair was in town this weekend so that became the starting point for a fun Saturday with friends. After picking up Kristy & Elaine we headed over towards the fair. We spent several hours looking through all of the booths of fun, quirky, unique and beautiful items. While I didn’t leave with nearly as many things as previous fairs this summer I did pick up a few things as a jump start for Christmas gifts. (As such, they are tucked inside the cute zippered pouch that I picked up for me)

Renegade Loot

Our time on Division ended with a great mid afternoon meal at Aki Sushi. It was our first time at Aki and we weren’t disappointed with our order. Since we were feeling crafty we decided to check out a “new to us” local yarn – Knitwerks. For several months I had been wanting to check out this store and after hearing Lolly and Nova rave about it when they were in town I knew I needed to get there soon. All of the buzz that I’ve heard was right – this is a great addition to the Chicago yarn community. So many beautiful yarns and colors – you just want to touch it all. Cherrl was so welcoming and friendly – Kristy’s sandal had broken and she offered a nearby store to pick-up a pair of flip-flops, our next visit will need to include time to check out the nearby Italian cafe that she recommends. Of course, we didn’t leave there empty handed. Elaine discovered the beauty of Dream in Color yarn and picked up a couple of skeins – she isn’t sure if she is going to crochet a scarf or have me teach her to knit one. I also picked up some needed needles and also some yarn for gift knitting (so no pictures here).

Speaking of local yarns – have you seen KnitMap.com? It has just launched and aims to collect all of the local yarn shops in one “go to” site with ratings and comments from local knitters. As someone who travels a lot, this will be a frequently visited site. I’ve already added one of my favorite shops to the mix.

Saturday’s weather was perfect for revealing a new knit project. Earlier this summer I made a scarf as a gift for Elaine (either a very belated gift for her last birthday or an early gift for this year). I gave it to Elaine first thing and it turned out that it matched her turtleneck perfectly so it immediately was put to use. Introducing – Sage Friend:

A Sage Friend
The details: Midwest Moonlight from Scarf Style; 2 skeins of Baby Pima from Catalina Yarns; Size 10 needles; This was a very fast knit. The yarn was very soft and even after blocking it retained the softness.

There has been a lot of knitting happening around here in recent weeks. Some has been gift knitting so it can’t be revealed. Other items are ready to show.

First up: Silky Summer Scarf

Silky Summer Scarf
The details: Montego Bay Scarf from Interweave Knits, Summer 2007; 1 skein of Brooks Farm Yarn – Limited Edition 3 (picked up at Midwest Fiber & Folk Art in July); Named Silky Summer because of being a summer knit – which will keep me warm in the fall & winter. This yarn was such a treat to work with – it was so fun to see the colors change from one to another and also see the yarn change from really thick to really thin. I’m glad I picked up 2 more skeins of this for another project.

Next up: Knit for a Cure

Knit for a Cure
The details: Based on Bejeweled; 2 skeins of Lion’s Brand Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton in Strawberry; Size 13 needles; Knit in preparation for a Breast Cancer Awareness event. Stay tuned for details. This was my first time working with this yarn and it was great to work with – I think I might add it to my list of baby blanket yarns. The resulting scarf is so soft. As I’ve said before, the Bejeweled stitch pattern is a great go-to pattern and each time I knit it the result is beautiful – on the large needles this was a fast knit – I started & finished it this weekend while catching up on my Netflix.

During the odd bits of time & while watching movies at the theater I’ve continued to build up the dishcloth stash.

More Dishcloths

Many other projects are currently on the needles – including some holiday gifts (so no pictures). The knits that can be shown are very appropriate for this final month of Project Spectrum 2.0 – variations on browns.

Brown Knits

Chocolate & Spice Socks – my current “basic sock” (in Trekking XXL #183) that stays in the work backpack or purse; Celebration Tote – my latest felted bag starts with a lot of brown knitting.

While the list of projects I want to knit seems to be never ending it is nice to see projects get completed and come off the needles.

Sounds of Summer…(& Socks, Too)

Hibiscus Bloom

…the buzz of the air conditioner
…the gentle whir of the ceiling fans
…the repeating song of the neighborhood ice cream truck
…this year, cicadas
…ice cubes clinking in a glass of iced tea
…the sprinklers watering the lawns
…the neighborhood kids playing outside till well after dark
…lawnmowers starting
…fireworks being shot off by neighbors
…summer rainstorms – some (or a lot this year) with thunder & lightning

…songs under the stars…

With all of my work travel last summer it seemed like I didn’t hear a lot of the sounds of summer. Being back home in Chicago this summer has meant the opportunity to hear many sounds. In addition to the “routine” sounds of summer, a few summer evenings have been spent at favorite outdoor concert venues.

In June, my all time favorite band, Pink Martini, finally played at Ravinia Festival. (when I first heard them 5 years ago I immediately thought they would be a great act for this fun summertime venue) It was a perfect Chicago summer evening for this concert. Seven of us brought our folding lawn chairs, blankets and all the fixings for a simple picnic spread – while waiting for Pink Martini to take the stage, I did some sock knitting. By the time the first band took the stage the lawn was pretty filled; however, many people left after Arturo Sandoval – all the more room to spread out and enjoy the show.

In July, The Decembrist’s were in town playing with the Grant Park Orchestra at Millennium Park. Rain threatened as we gathered on the lawn to picnic – the first 30 minutes or so ended up being rainy but that didn’t stop the fun. The lawn was packed with concert goers. As the final song was being performed another storm came in so the music was accented with thunder & lightning that only added to the effect. As we headed for the parking garage after the show the sky opened up.

This week allowed for one last summer outing to Millennium Park – The Joffrey Ballet performed to the tunes of The Beach Boys, Motown and Prince. After a teasing rain shower as we headed to the park the evening turned out to be perfect weather for show. I love to watch the lights of the city come alive through the canopy of the Pritzker lawn.

The Joffrey @ Millennium Park
(more pictures here)

As I’ve listened to the sounds of summer I have been knitting away on my “summer socks” that I started back in May. While enjoying the ballet this week I finished up the second sock (actually, all but the Kitchener on the toe but by then it was too dark to do it). These are the 3rd pair of socks that I have made – again using the 2 circular needles method. This time I used size 1 needles and did a 4×2 rib pattern & continued it around the entire foot. I picked up this yarn (ONline Supersocke 100 Summer Color) on my first visit to My Sisters Knits, right after I started blogging, I loved the colors on the skein and as the stripes appeared during the knitting process I loved the colors even more. The colors of these socks remind me of the colors of my pot of portulaca on the back deck.

Summer 2007 Socks

Before long the seasonal soundtrack will change and the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot will become a loud chorus. This fall as I crunch through the leaves I will be wearing handknit socks for the first time – I can’t wait.

Of course, I have another sock on the needles – actually I started it about a month ago. This time, I’m using an “actual” pattern – Ampersand and am loving how the tvyarn is knitting into the sock so far.

MTM Socks

What sounds are “the sounds of Summer 2007” for you?

Face to Face

In addition to being a place to write about my artistic endeavors and other things, one of the perks of blogging is making many new friends “in the virtual world” and on occassion I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of these friends in person.

This week provided me with a triple blogger encounter. First up, meeting up with Lolly, who was in town for a conference. (It turned out that her conference hotel was right next door to my current project site.) Lolly was one of the first bloggers that I started reading as I was contemplating joining the blog world so I was thrilled to hear that she was coming to Chicago & that our schedules allowed us to meet-up. On Sunday evening we met up for dinner – we went to one of my favorite places, Reza’s Restaurant, for a delicious spread of Persian food. After dinner we walked back through the city and I played a bit of tour guide, pointing out buildings & interesting facts along the way. What’s a knitter meet-up without knitting? We ended our evening working sitting, knitting & chatting. Lolly was working on the beautiful Malabrigo sweater and I also got to see the beautiful purple shawl that accompanied her on her recent Peru adventures. It was a lovely evening of conversation and friendship – because of blogging, this felt like catching up with an old friend rather than meeting one for the first time.

As the week progressed we made plans to visit The Field Museum on Friday morning – my work schedule allowed me to take the day off which meant I had a chance to be a tourist in my own town. What started as one plan for the morning turned into a full day of fun! The weather was ideal for walking along the lakefront to the museum, so Lolly & I set out for the museum with Nova, Paige & Cynthia (fellow conference attendees).

A stroll along the lakefront

Along the way we had fun seeing the current Chicago public art installation, Cool Globes.

A few Cool Globes

Right in front of the Field was the perfect globe for the knitters among us – Adjust the Thermostat by Lindsay Obermeyer – a globe that had been covered in a handknit sweater.

Knit Friends

(all pictures here)

We spent several hours wandering through the exhibit halls – it had been several years since I had been the museum so it was great to see it again, it is truly a museum that never fails to be enjoyable.

SUE

My favorite exhibit of this visit was Plant Portraits: The California Legacy of A. R. Valentien – I was unfamiliar with this artist but the combination of botanical prints & a focus on California was a great combination for me.

California Oak

Before long it was time to head back to the hotel – while everyone was in their afternoon sessions I passed the time with an iced coffee, a new magazine and some knitting (of course). After their afternoon conference sessions wrapped up, several of us piled into a cab for a bit of local yarn – a trip to Loopy Yarns. The collective purchases were minimal – mostly some magazines, a few supplies and some sock yarn.

The evening included a reception at Millennium Park. When that was over, it was time for more knitting. Lolly, Nova & I sat in the hotel lobby to knit and were soon joined by Rebecca. What started out as “oh, just a quick bit of knitting before calling it an evening” turned into several hours of knitting and great conversation. As we called it an evening we were able to get a quick picture of all of us with our projects.

Knitting in the lobby

Thanks girls for letting me hang out with you for the day – what a fun way to start off a holiday weekend!

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