Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Knitting Cat

This blog is called Yarn Cat and we have been talking about the 'yarn' part of the blog a lot lately while haven't been talking much about the 'cat'.

Today, I get to have an idea to talk about knitting and cats.

Cats and knitting seems to have a very close-knitted (hoho, great choice of word) relationship since the beginning. Remember when you were little, there were always cats playing around a ball of yarn and got stuck in it after a while in different cartoons?

And how about the 'granny' knitting away in a comfortable chair in front of the fireplace and the cat dozing away on her lap?

Have you noticed how often the cats come to sit on your knitting or just sit next to you watching your clicking away your needles?

I guess there is some strong tie between the act of knitting and the character of cats. Cats are comfort animal who constantly look for the most comfortable place to sit in the room. What will be more comforting than sitting your a knitted piece (with great yarn!), watching the repetition of the needles, and most importantly feeling the calm and the serene atmosphere created by the act of knitting and from the knitter?

I can imagine, if cats have fingers that enable them to knit, they would!

Shortsighted Cat Knitting A Sweater 2003 by Lisa Milroy

Monday, April 28, 2008

FO - Irish Clogs

One more FO - the Irish Clogs!

These clogs are made up using pattern from Fiber Trends. The pattern is so easy to follow, so fast to knit up. The end product is so practical and comfy that I can understand why there are KAL for this pattern everywhere.

I definitely will put this item into my gift list, you know, the kind where you really don't know what to knit for some people and you have to find something urgently, you know what I mean. These clogs are wonderful for that. I finished the pair in two weekends, but I could probably make it quicker now that I am familiar with the pattern.

Plus, you can get to personalize the item by adding decoration on the top of the clogs by needle felting, beading, etc. There are just so many possibilities.

I used Kilcarre Aran Tweed from my stash and added some black yarn from the LYS. The yarn is fine to knit with and it is symbolic to be Irish yarn with Irish colour. However, it is not totally ideal for felting. I don't know if it is me or the yarn, it took quite a while to felt, my man and I were quite confused, it is my first felt project afterall.

I am going to make myself a pair with green as main colour and pink for the sole. You know, have to use as much green as possible in our clothing now that we are in Ireland.

Apologies for the cat again, I just can't get rid of him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yarn Cat Online Store!

It is finally here!

Yarn Cat Online Store on Cafepress is finally here!

Currently there will be T shirts of different style, coffee/tea mugs and tote bag for sale with YarnCat logo, please check that out!

The income from the sale will be donated to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

FOs - Part 11 - Current

Finally, we are almost update to what is happening now on my needles. I have finished the Seafoam Shawl from One Skein Wonder last week.

I thought it would be an easy project with only one skein of Rowan Kidsilk Haze. Plus, the Kidsilk Haze is so beautiful to look at and so soft to play with to start with. However, 1/3 on the way, I had put that aside for weeks, for some reasons, I just don't like to work with too tiny yarn. But I picked it up two weeks ago and finished the 2/3 left over a weekend. I liked very much the beading part though, so much fun to do and have learnt so much about beads.

A bit of book review: One Skein Wonders is a very inspirational book. Though I might not make many projects out of the book at the moment, but I can foresee it is going to be a life-saver when the holiday season approaches or when there are too many odd balls lying around. If it is your situation right now, should totally get this book.

Monday, April 14, 2008

FOs - Part Ten

I asked myself, what does it take to make me a REAL knitter? A real knitter like all the happy knitters out there in the knitting planet? A knitting blog? Able to make a sweater? Socks? I have done all of these...what does it really take to make me to be recognised as real knitter.....?

I realise having a Clapotis could probably be one of the item on the list! I am not saying that all the other knitters are not real knitters if they don't have a Clapotis, but for the 'new to the club' ones like me, it is a very quick way to make us feel like we belong...

And more importantly, afterall, it is a beautiful beautiful object to wear!

Guess what? It does make me to be recognized as knitter! I mean physically recognized by other knitters! Other knitters can actually recognized that and come to have a chat. It is so lovely to be able to meet other knitters this way!

I am using this to go to work every day now and twice I got people ask me, 'hey, where did you get that?' (I was waiting for people to ask me!) then I said, 'I made it myself...' 'oh my god, it is unbelievable!' (hehehehe)

Fellow StitchNBitcher Diane even wrote about my Clapotis! YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!

Preview: FO 11

Friday, April 11, 2008

FO - Part Nine

FO 9 is another pattern from Mason Dixon Knitting. I follow their Moderne Log Cabin Blanket without following their size nor yarn requirement. It turned out to be EXACTLY what I wanted. I called it a TV blanket coz it is what we use in front of the TV, me, my man and my cat all cover up under this blanket. We are using it every day. That's one thing about Mason Dixon Knitting book, they are making things that you can probably use daily, making knitting more than just these nice fancy stuff that feel untouchable.

The pattern calls for garter stitches so it is a rather easy project and you can get to learn picking up stitches if you have never done that before. Believe me, it will take on a life of its own, sooner than you realise, you will start making other blankets. I am planning on a Maple Leaves blanket that works with picking up stitches to form a maple leaf pattern. I am still working out how it works...

It is amazing, I didn't even like art classes that much when I was little if I remember correctly. Once the whole knitting thing has brought out my unknown creativity. I mean, I have done some oil painting and it was fine but I have never had so much urge and ideas to create ever before. This is fascinating.

The reason that I am talking about this is, I got a book today (again!) and it is about another form of craft.

I have done so braiding at some point in my life when I was little and have never imagined that I will ever done that again. I got this book not because I am moving on to do braiding, but have realize braiding and knitting are probably cousins in some ways. I learn that Estonian integrate braiding into their knitting as a mean to decorate their handknits. This book provides a very good reference on making braids (as I don't have much knowledge myself), I mean there are 200 braids to choose from on this book to decorate your knitting, who wouldn't jump on the occasion?

And if you have read my earlier entry, this braid book might have provided a solution for my almost FO Afterdark Nightie! YES! I am going to find a braid from this book and make the strap! Hope it will work. If it does, will put photo of the final real FO here.

Now that I get to think about it, I didn't enjoy art class when I was little, it was probably because the class itself was really boring. The form of teaching didn't really encourage creativity. It was all rules and requirement written down on the blackboard before starting up the class and we were supposed to do something according to these 'specs'. How would a kid feel like creating by filling up all these 'specs'? It turns out, thanks to the rigid education system in Hong Kong, we have a town full of hardworkers who are good in time management; who are the best people ever in service industry; who have no creativity to a point that people look at me confused why I have ever considered moving to another country to live and travel around. Again, fascinating.

Preview: FO 10 - Clapotis!!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

FOs - 7, 8

Last Christmas is my first Christmas as a real knitter, so you can imagine how excellent I was and wanted to knit all the gifts! Plus, I was back then alone in Dublin, it gave me something to do in the evening than to watch the American reality TV crap.

I have made Grace the shawl and the two scarves that I have talked about earlier plus the followings:

Mason Dixon Dishclothes -- to my man's godmother, so quick to make up one, I love the project, I have used Rowan Handknit Cotton, very lovely colour.

Then I have decided to try my luck on crochet, I heard so many things about crochet and there are more and more knitters who crochet too! So I have made these.

Cat Face Potholder -- FO to MIL, she is a crazy cat lover. The pattern is inspired by skull potholder in Happy Hooker.

Cat Paw Coaster -- After making the potholder, I was inspired to make a small version - a coaster!

Preview: Knitting took on its live, can't stop knitting! FO 9, 10!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FOs - Part 4, 5, 6

After finishing the simple ribbing prayer shawl, I was determined to make something that is not rectangular to become a real knitter. I have decided to make a sweater, something for myself (didn't know what it was yet), and a pair of socks, coz I believe if I can make a sweater and a pair of socks, then I can call myself a real knitter.

Being the when-there-is-a-problem-there-must-be-a-book-to-read kind of girl, I got a few books.

See? I got a book for socks, a book for making sweater and other things and a book that talked about it during that period of time. The New Pathways for Sock Knitters is truly a must have if you are into making socks. There is all the how-to regarding to make different kinds of socks with increases to be put into different places on a sock. It is very complex yet not difficult to understand. I made my first pair of socks out of the book while there are so much more from the book that I haven't used and I probably won't be able to knit them all in the many years coming! Very inspirational.

Knitter's Handy Book of Pattern, again, a must have if you are into making simple cut things. I think the idea of this book is excellent, you can get to make simple pattern for different sizes with different yarn, I love this book and have already ordered her Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater to make tons of sweaters out of it.

Mason Dixon Knitting is sooooo much fun, it is a reference kind of book, but it is a very inspirational book that almost make it into must have category. Their idea of knitting things for the house, knitting things that you actually use it and wear it and enjoy it makes me realise knitting is not just for garments, I can do so many other things!

So during the Christmas holiday in the French countryside, I have made these. (Whatelse was I going to do in the countryside if not knitting?)

FO 4 - First Socks

This pair of socks is made with Patron 4 Ply Cotton. Very practical yarn for daily wear socks, especially for men since they seem to have such a speedy ability to make wear their socks out! The pattern is from Cat Bordhi's book, it is the toe-up master sock pattern with re-forced heels. It is pretty quick to finish, one could probably finish that in a weekend even without the Christmas holiday in French countryside factor.

FO 5 - My First Sweater

My first sweater is not technical my sweater, it is a sweater for my man. He said he has only one sweater in his closet, and would like to have one more. Since I was looking for an opportunity to make a simple sweater to learn, I jumped to this opportunity. I called it Real Irish Sweater coz it is made with real Irish yarn fro Donegal in Irish green and made in Ireland. The final product is lovely and comfortable. However, it taught me a lesson. It is difficult to make things for men coz they never give you very clear instruction and think that you could adjust the final products later by telling you to change this and that. So if you can avoid to make things for men, AVOID.

FO 6 - I shouldn't have called it an FO actually, coz it is still 5% away from finishing...After Dark Nightie

Once I have decided to make something for myself and I got this pattern from Mason Dixon Knitting, I realised I have found the right project! It is an easy enough project with lace, so I can get to learn how to make lace and have something that I can wear every day...night in fact. But months pass by, I still can't figure out what to do with the straps! I tried to order bra straps as instructed in the book and realized it is sooooo difficult to find anywhere that sells that at all nowadays! So I decided to make I-cords, and I didn't like making them, so I have made half of the I-cord and waiting to make the one and a half...these days, I wonder if it will be easier to make braids instead? Please drop a comment if you have any idea. Thanks.

Preview: FO 7, 8 = Other holiday knittings

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

FOs - Part Three

FO number 3 is the one that I have made after I have decided that I have to make something else than a scarf, but I had no confidence at all to make anything else. Plus, I have no idea who can I make something to. Of course now I know we have total right to make something for ourselves, but it was before I got my hand on the first copy of Interweave Knit and all these glossy.

Being very careful of me, I made a shawl...

I found a pattern on Lion Brand website and made this simple ribbing prayer shawl to Grace = my man's aunt.

Warn you, it is not super fancy neither, but it was a good start for me.

The yarn I used was Sublime Extra Fine Merino and skein of cobweb weight silk I got from LYS. I knitted two yarn together.

This project taught me a few things.

1. What Merino is. I am serious, I was very ignorant about different kind of yarn and all that, didn't have a clue at all.
2. A cobweb weight yarn is super difficult to knit. Because I was stupid enough to think that I could make the shawl JUST out of that before I realise I better buy some Merino to use them together.
3. Knitting is not cheap as people thought.

After finishing this project, I was totally hooked! I got my first stash storage = a basket. I got my first knitting magazine, I started 3 projects on needles! Christmas holiday was on the way, I have packed up all my stash and my 3 projects to go to France with me! I will talk about these 3 projects tomorrow.

Today, I got these from Amazon though.

Though I haven't finished reading them (not possible in one day anyway), I can totally understand why a lot of knitters said they are must have. I am telling you, THEY ARE! It is not at all like a glossy pattern book or anything. When I first open the Amazon box, I thought I got two academic books coming out! Knitting in Plain English has 282 pages and Sweater Design in Plain English has 408 pages! They are indeed academic books that talk about knitting as an art and science. They are all in black and white and fill every page with words. Just think economic textbook you got back then in school / college, that's how these books look like. I am so glad for this purchase, I am going to spend days and nights trying to get as much wisdom I can get from Maggie Righetti...

Preview: FO4+FO5+FO6! Three in a row!

Friday, April 4, 2008

FOs - Part Two

So after I finished my scarf for my man, my fingers are so itchy for more knitting, being not very ambitious of me, I knitted another boring scarf = Irish scarf!

It is a scarf for my father for Christmas. Really nothing special, it is just exactly the same like the one before but with different yarn. I guess I was not confident in making anything else than a scarf which I know very well how to make.

But this scarf is very important to my knitting history in the way that I told myself, 'if I knit one

more scarf, I will knock my head to the wall!' It started to be boring to make the same project over and over again. I told my man about it, he said, 'oh, knitting has been very popular for a few years now in North America.' The thing is, in Europe, it hasn't yet the case. Feeling amazed, I Wikipedia-ed 'knitting' and learnt about Debbie Stoller and 'Stitch n Bitch'. I was so happy to discover there is such a planet of knitting community out there, so I rushed to the bookstore and got myself this...

It opened up my eyes to the new world of knitting and realize that knitting can be cool, can be whatever I want to make, can be whatever I want to design! I then started my journey in Craftland and enjoying it more and more day after day.

Preview: Stop making scarves, but still not confident to make anything that are not rectangular...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

FOs - Part One

I know I haven't been very good. This is a knitting blog and I have yet been uploading any of my projects on here. The same reason as I have mentioned earlier, I hate uploading photos, it takes forever!

But I am trying to be good now, I am going to go through all of my FOs and WIPs one by one in the coming days (I will try to do that every day I promise). But mind you, the first few FO won't be super fascinating nor fancy. Please bare with me, funnier projects will come in a few days.

Let's talk about the first FO after 10 years without knitting.

Last year around October, it was 4 months after I moved to Dublin. During that period of time, I was commuting between Dublin and Paris as my man and my cat were still in Paris. I was bored, I was alone, I didn't have too much money neither starting up a new life in a new country. I found a bag of yarn at the back of my closet (please refer to earlier entry where this bag of yarn came from). I figured it will save me money on Christmas gift if I make something out of these balls of yarn. I went for what I knew best....scarf. So I knitted up this scarf for my man.

It is just a very simple seed stitches scarf that I knitted up out of the blue using 4 balls of Wendy Mandarin Aran. I believe the yarn is discontinued and there is really nothing special about the yarn nor the pattern. The yarn is pretty rough as well (think 90s before SnB, that's when I got them). But this project brought back my feeling about my knitting and realized how much I liked it, so I called it 'Coming Back Scarf'. You could click here to check out all the details of this project if you are on Ravelry. (And don't forget to add me as a friend there too!)

Preview: Another Christmas scarf before I realise I can't keep knitting scarf and moved on to learn how to knit properly.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Aran Islands - Part Two: Yarn shopping ! (yoho!)

It might come to a surprise for a lot of foreigner who admire and are willing to pay a few hundred bucks on an Aran Sweater that Aran Island has no sheep. Yes, you heard me, I repeat, there is NO SHEEP on Aran Island, right.

So your dream of getting yarn spun by the sheep living peaceful on this paradise of an island won't come true.

However, I have done two remarkable purchases on the island itself though.

There are quite a few craft stores on the island that indeed sell Aran Sweaters. The big one that is right off the ferry port: Aran Sweater Market

But you gotta watch out this one though. After investigation, not all the sweaters are handmade in this store. Only one corner of sweaters that marked 'Handknit' are indeed handknit. BUT they are not knitted by the Aran natives, they are products from Dublin, Calamara, etc. FYI, there is no such a thing as Clan sweater, it is a total marketing thing confirmed by the natives. If you are happy with the pattern, go for it, but don't buy it because it is supposed to be your 'clan sweater'.

I was disappointed, but I told myself, 'never mind, I might as well get yarn since they are cheaper than in Dublin anyway'. So I got some yarn from Kerry Woollen Mills. (sorry for the cat, just can't get rid of him during the photo shoot, but then again, this blog is called Yarn Cat, so...)

Though the yarn is not from Aran Island itself, it is from one of the few working woollen mills in Ireland, I told myself I might as well get them. 200g for 8,95 Euros, not bad. I got four balls to try to make a warm comfy sweater one day, I wanted to start right after the trip but then the weather started to get warm, it might not be very wise to work on a worsted weight project. So it goes to my stash right now and waits quietly for fall to come again. I got a ball of each other colours as well, to make hats, socks, etc, coz the yarn just seems so comfy that I am sure it will make some cozy items for winter.

So I told myself, that's it for yarn shopping. Then to my surprise, there are a few little craft shops in stone houses just before the entrance to the Dun Aonghusa cliff fort. I didn't hope for much but then I found a gem! An Tuirne is the one of the most authentic aran sweater stores in the island. There is not fancy lighting deco, no plasma TV, just a lady -- Rosemary O'flaherty, sitting behind the cash register, knitted away peaceful and occasional looked up to say hi to the tourists. Yoho! 'There are real handknit sweaters?' I asked, 'yes, they are knitted by me, my mum, my aunt and 10 to 15 other knitters on the island'. Guys, seriously, please check her store out if you ever go to the island or if you really want to get a real handknit sweater (then again, I believe if you are reading my blog, you are knitting yourself and can probably make one by yourself), please order it from her. She is a very nice lady and there aren't much publicity about her store. I believe the truth is it is a very small humble business and they can't spend too much money to make a cool looking website with cool models posing and stuff, that's why. Think about it, if you have to knit the whole store full of sweaters, how can you have time for all that?! The sweaters are sold for 110 American bucks, how can you hire those cool looking models? Check out her website, the lady that is posing for the sweater is Rosemary.

Since I won't buy anything that can possibly be made by myself - my new policy of 2008. I got yarn! She is very honest to tell me that the yarn is not from the island since there is no sheep, but it is from a farm in Calamara and spun there. Fair enough, so I got these...

No kidding, 250g for 8.5 Euros only! You can see on the sticker! Shall make a sweater or two out of it. Oh geez, I got this from Rosemary too!

The bag from her store with all the Aran Stitches, it becomes the new home of my WIPs. People on the train just stare at me and my bag every morning on my way to work...

The next day, early in the morning, we took the ferry back to Galway. This trip have confirmed me again how little one might need to live a happy life. Sure there aren't much job opportunities on the island, but if you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, you could very possibly be living on an island like that and live a happier life than in the city. There aren't much on the island, only one convenient store, one bank, one police station, two post office, one doctor, a handful of restaurants and pubs, shitty weather half of the time. But you got the whole island of nice and friendly villagers with whom you all know each other, fresh vegetables from the land, and every day when you wake up in the morning, you get to see the open Atlantic sea, where there is nothing between the sky and the sea but you and the island...