Mending as Mitzvah

I wasn’t raised Jewish, but mitzvah is a term I heard growing up in New Jersey, meaning doing a good deed. I googled it, of course, and saw it was related to a state of being connected to others. Perfect.

I have started volunteering with a new local organization called Mobile Menders. https://mobilemenders.weebly.com/

Mobile Menders is a volunteer group who is dedicated to providing free sewing and mending services around the Twin Cities area. Our goal is to provide clothing repair to those in need. We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to have clothes that fit and are in good shape. 

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/08/04/mobile-menders-twin-cities-volunteers

Now I have to confess that I don’t enjoy mending. And alterations?  I go to the tailor near my office. My mother always said she liked to sew, but not to mend. Nevertheless, in a family with seven children, there was always mending to do.

My mother was raised during the depression, and never threw away buttons or zippers. If something was heading to the rag basket, the zippers and buttons were cut out and saved. She taught me (among many other depression-era skills) how to fix zippers. This skill came in handy with my Mobile Menders adventure.

The event starts out with residents at a local shelter bringing items in need of mending. This night, there were 29 people, each limited to three items. That is a lot of mending for five menders. There were greeters, who welcome guests as they enter the event, find out what items they have and what repair is requested, then make labels for each item, ranking them in order of priority. If there is time, they bring the guest to meet their mender. I only took one photo, but there are lots from other events on the Mobile Menders Facebook page.

2017-10-24 19.30.37

I knew only one of the women, so getting to know the others was fun. When I called a recalcitrant zipper a ‘rat bastard’ without thinking, I apologized sheepishly. A fellow mender looked over and said “I like you more now.”

The most common items were zippers on winter coats and jeans. As I hunched over my machine, I kept wishing my mother could see me using those long-ago lessons.

It was sort of overwhelming. I wanted to work quickly, but not in a way that was dismissive of people’s needs. The guideline I adopted was fixing something for my husband. Would he care if the thread didn’t match exactly? Is the zipper the wrong color? Is the triangular tear on the pocket of the AC DC hoodie too mended-looking?

The requests were often touching. A formerly homeless vet had dress pants that needed hemming so he could go on job interviews. A woman brought in a sad looking bra that had already been mended once. One request for mending jeans asked that that we try not to make them look mended or patched. Take that, visible mending.

After three hours of non-stop work we called it a night. More menders will come next month, and I’ll be heading to another location.  When I got home my husband glanced up and said “You look really tired.” I was beat, and a little sore the next day from bad sewing posture. I think I need a new sewing machine. And better posture.

 

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Easy Peasy Lace Socks – Idlewild

I am a lazy knitter in general, but with socks I am especially reluctant to do anything that requires me to look at a pattern.  I have made enough socks that I can take some yarn, guess at the gauge, and get going.  Self-striping yarn is a real bonus, because then it looks like I did something difficult, at least to a non-knitter.

However, I am trying to knit most of the projects in Drop Dead Easy Knits, so I pulled some light blue sock yarn out of the stash and cast on for the Idlewild Socks, designed by Kirsten Kapur. (photo by Gale Zucker)

knitting, book, hand knit, models

I can’t find the yarn label for the yarn I am using.  I think it is some Periwinkle Sheep I got at Sock Summit in 2009.  So yeah, it is well-aged.  I will use no yarn before its time!

Photo Aug 23, 8 06 03 AM

Back to the socks.  I did have to look at the pattern initially, but they are really drop-dead easy. (Branding, ya’ll!) There is only one round out of four that requires attention. I even took it to a St. Paul Saints game last night, and made good progress. Photo Aug 22, 9 02 46 PM

Truth in advertising! These are named for Idlewild Airport, because they are a good design to work on while waiting, and I agree.

I generally prefer to make socks on bamboo double points. I have a routine where I cast on one cuff, then the other, and do my two-at-time on-double points. This hasn’t been working so well for this pari. One thing I learned is that bamboo knitting needles must get more brittle with age. I am using US 0 needles, and have broken 2 so far.  Granted, I am a bit careless with where and how I stash a project bag, so I cannot blame it entirely on the needles.

Photo Aug 23, 8 28 17 AM

To safeguard my remaining needles, I switched to magic loop. I bought a set of tiny Chia Goo interchangeables a couple of years ago in a weak moment, and I have never used them.  Now is the time.

Photo Aug 23, 8 05 26 AM

I do really like them.  The cord is nice and flexible, the points are pointy, and so far I have not broken them, or even bent them.  So far. I dislike doing two at a time on one long circular, so I have to make do with sequential sock knitting.

By this time of year I generally have some socks set aside for holiday gifts, but as of today I have two only pair of heavy Oxbow socks, and now 1.5 Idlewild socks. If I intend to do gift socks, I’d better get cracking.

Are you still knitting socks?  Got a drawerful yet?

 

Louet euroflax yarn giveaway for Drop Dead Easy Knits

Head over to She Shoots Sheep Shots, Gale Zucker’s blog, to win enough Louet Euroflax linen yarn to make the Pompano Tank from Drop Dead Easy Knits.

knitting, book, hand knit, models

Gift Bag Knitting

I am well known in my family for not wrapping gifts.  I wrapped gifts one Christmas season in a jewelry store.  It ruined me for life.  (What kind of ribbon would you like on this teeny, tiny, cheap-ass ring box, sir? The oversized silver plated tray with no box, madam?) Mostly, now, I either put it in a brown paper bag or a paper gift bag with some tissue paper.  The reusable paper gift bags are perfect for me.  Sometimes I weaken if there is a child involved.  Great kid story –on his 5th birthday, my nephew had a small party.  Most of the gifts were presented in paper gift bags.  He “whispered” to his mother “I guess they don’t know how to wrap packages.”  That’s me.

The Galworthy Gift Bag, which Kirsten Kapur designed for Drop Dead Easy Knits, might be a little something to keep in my knitting-on-the-go pouch for some mindless knitting that could turn into a part of the present, as well as the gift bag.  (Hey, I see that Amazon has dropped the price of Drop Dead Easy Knits.  Not sure why, but that means it comes out to about .40 US per pattern!!  So go buy it! You won’t be sorry!

Kirsten designed the bag in Neighborhood Fiber Company Penthouse Silk Fingering for a truly luscious, special gift. Silk sure does take the color, doesn’t it?  You could use any fingering weight yarn for it, though.  Perfect for leftovers.

knitting, book, hand knit, models

I was reminded of this pattern by Barbara Benson – the clever mosaic and lace knitting podcaster in her latest episode, Favorite 5 – Knitted Market Bags (mostly).  (Although she missed the real market bag in the book, Searsport Market Bag.)

Here’s some action/detail shots of the gift bag Kirsten made before the book photo shoot:

You could even put yarn in it to give away.  Is there a word for a yarn turducken?

 

Abide with me — and my shawl.

I was working on yet another Abide, (designed by the talented Kirsten Kapur) in my regular knitting class this week. This version is my fourth, I love this pattern.  (Photo below is by Gale Zucker.)

AudKnits snowflake scraves

People in class were taken with it, but there was a lot of eye-rolling at the idea that it was at all easy.  (From Drop Dead Easy Knits, of course!)  The projects in DDE were not necessarily designed to be beginner projects, but projects that are easy to work on and follow.

What makes lace drop dead easy? Symmetry for one thing.  And no shaping on wrong side rows.  Here’s how that works in Abide. (I’m using Wollemeise Pure in the color Cassis. )

Photo May 25, 7 53 50 AM

It is a simple long triangle. Easy. Regular increases along one side. Easy.  Except “regular ” does not exempt you from knowing  what the pattern means by regular. For instance, I got careless and started increasing every right side row instead of every other right side row. (I was watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  This is playoff knitting.  Go see what Natalie thinks is playoff knitting — a Herbert Niebling doily!  For real.) So the class got to watch me rip it back. It is always fun to see your teacher brought low, isn’t it? I also think watching me rip out helps less confident knitters to see that every one rips back.  Every one of us.

I was initially skeptical of the long triangle look, but I really like it.  It is very wearable.   I’ve worn the version I made in Malabrigo Sock quite a bit.  Kirsten even demonstates how to make it into a cowl in our silly video.  And look how cute it is on this model, in Quince and Company Finch:

Abide_quince_medium

Abide begins at the narrow end, and you complete several of the leaf edging repeats in fairly short order, so the pattern is memorized easily, or at the very least you become really familiar with the chart in no time at all.

knitting, book, hand knit, models

Plus, the leaf pattern itself is symmetrical. You can see the shape you are making, so you know right away if you haven’t done a decrease you were supposed to. I missed a decrease the other night, too, so I know it is easily spotted.

And the picot edging? If you can cast on and bind off, you can make little picots. I don’t care for bobbles, but those picots are pretty darn cute!

I think I convinced them. I mean, other than the edging, it is all garter stitch!

Glama Wrap – Malabrigo Mecha Giveaway

Lucky you! Malabrigo is offering enough Mecha to make the gorgeous Glama wrap from Drop Dead Easy Knits, designed by Ms. Through the Loops, Kirsten Gustafson Kapur.

DropDead Easy_Glama

Glama is named for the longest river in Norway, winding along as the stitch pattern does. (Apologies to linguists out there – we didn’t use the diacratic å.) The yarn that inspired it is from the other end of the world – Malabrigo Mecha, but in an appropriate color – Polar Morn.

810A1512_9_POLAR_MORN

Mecha is that rare, single-ply superwash yarn. Merino takes color in the most vivid, rich way. Mecha is vividly dyed. Even in the lighter shades, it has multi-layered hues.   Squishy and soft, it has a slight thick-and-thin texture, a fantastic loft, and is described as “the perfect size for quick but not-too-heavy projects.” Which describes Glama perfectly.

Here is a close-up of the stitch pattern in the original idea for a color:

DSC_0090

Kirsten said she envisioned a project that worked up quickly, and saw someone “knitting a warm shawl by the fire on a cold night. As the Glama Wrap grows, you can spread the finished end across your lap to keep you extra toasty. Worked in bulky yarn with a simple stitch pattern, this cozy wrap knits up so quickly you’ll find yourself wanting to cast on another one as soon as you finish the first.”

This project has really beautiful drape, and is cozy. The poor model was wearing it on a steamy July day in Connecticut while Gale Zucker took photos. You can’t tell, can you?

knitting, book, hand knit, models

To have a chance to win the Mecha, leave a comment on this post and we’ll use a random drawing for that lucky someone.

Yarn Substitution Star Eyed Julep Blanket

At my regular Monday night class at the Yarnery last week ,there were three students with yarn sub questions. It got me thinking, so I thought I’d think here.  I keep putting off this type of writing on the blog, but I need to do it to keep my ideas somewhere I can find them!

The topic  of yarn substitution could cover an entire book. Or at a bare minimum a 3-hour workshop. I thought I’d start discussing it because one of the premises of Drop Dead Easy Knits is that the patterns use basic yarns (yarn-store yarn) at a basic gauge to allow for easy subbing.

I’ve re-knitted a few of the projects in other yarns. I’ve been happy with the results and learned a few lessons. Always more to learn in life, isn’t there?

knitting, book, hand knit, models

For this initial bit of chat, I’m focusing on the Star-Eyed Julep blanket from DDE. (Photo by Gale Zucker.)

It is an extremely clever bit of log-cabin construction from Mason Dixon Knitting, one of our guest designers. Guest designer sounds like we put them up in a lovely cottage and fed them treats while they worked. Not hardly. Lots of email and airmail and they had to provide their own snacks..

Let’s unpack this, shall we? I just said that because ‘unpack’ is the current phrase I love to hate. I want to smack the people who use it constantly in work meetings, like the zillion I sat through this week. I hate unpacking my regular suitcase or even grocery bags. I’m not going to unpack a perfectly explained bit of a project.

Ok, rant over.   The obvious first place to start when looking to sub is the yarn label. If the pattern calls for a worsted-weight yarn, look at the yarn shop for yarn labeled as such. Warning – what yarn companies say about their yarn and what others who have knit with it believe is not always the same thing. More on that in a future post.

The blanket was designed with Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, but I’m currently knitting Star-Eyed Julep in Berroco Ultra Wool.   A change in distribution has made it harder for some US shops to stock the Rowan at the moment, so we wanted to show it another yarn.  Also, the Ultra Wool is really nice yarn and widely available in the US and Canada.

There are plenty of other popular worsted weight wool yarns that could work, and acrylic blends, as well. (Canadiana, Vintage, Encore come to mind.) Check the label, talk to the sales person, and most of all, SWATCH.

Does it feel the way you want it to feel? Drape in the right way?  Only you can decide that.

If you decide to purchase yarn online, think about buying only one skein initially, or make sure you can return it. I have a couple of bins of yarn that didn’t work as intended…

Back to the yarn label. From the Rowan website for Pure Wool Worsted:

Yarn Ball Weight: 
 100g
Yarn Meterage/Yardage: 
 200/219
Tension/Gauge Stitches: 
 20
Tension/Gauge Rows: 
 25

From the Berroco website for Ultra Wool:

Ball Weight:
 3.5 oz / 100 g
Ball Length: 219 yds / 200 m
Knitting Gauge #1:
 4.5 sts = 1" on size 8 US / 5 mm needles
 18 sts & 24 rows = 4" (10cm)
Knitting Gauge #2:
 5 sts = 1" on size 7 US / 4.5 mm needles
 20 sts & 27 rows = 4" (10cm)

Both yarns are 100% superwash wool. Looks like a close match to substitute. Easy decision.

What about colors?

I rarely make something with the colors shown, even when using the suggested yarn.   In this case, I wanted to try and match the colors in the book photos, since that is so often what knitters want. Plus, in addition to being Drop Dead Easy, it is Drop Dead Gorgeous.  Those MDK folks are geniuses.

I opted for Ultra Wool, and Berroco generously supplied yarns that appeared to be an excellent match for the colors. Did I take my own advice and swatch? I did not. Well, I did for gauge, but not for colors. I have even participated in a silly video  of tips that reminds knitters of an easy way to check for adequate contrast.  I should know better.  I did know, within a few rows of introducing the medium grey, Fog, that the contrast wasn’t going to work. Also, Fog looked more blue in when knitted up with the other colors than it did in the skein. (Color theory explains the why, which I don’t remember, although it has been explained to me.  I just know it does.)

What did I do? I kept knitting. “And still she persisted.” isn’t always a good thing, I guess. I even took a picture at one point to convince myself that it would work. The black and white to show lack of contrast is on the right.  If it weren’t for the blue tone, which I can’t quite reproduce here, I might have kept going, because I didn’t want to stop.

 

contrast Collage

The worst thing about ripping out log cabin-style construction? So many little balls of yarn. Such much more ripping that a few rows of normal knitting. SWATCH!!

Photo Mar 10, 7 40 25 AM

I tracked down another grey, Storm, that I think is working. Really. It is.  Storm isn’t a heathered color as the others are, but that is ok with me. I know it bothers some people to mix heathered and solid, but I have never understood that preference.

Before, the mix with Fog

Photo Mar 12, 12 48 44 PM

After, with Storm – Partially used skein, so it looks a bit flat.)

Photo Mar 12, 3 18 27 PM

A redone square, in progress.

File Mar 12, 4 24 54 PM

Are you looking for other color ideas?  Drop Dead Easy Color Genius Kirsten Kapur pulled a few together to get you started thinking. Remember, we chose these from colors on a monitor.  Your mileage may vary.

Alt Colors Star Eyed Julep 2

Alt Colors Star Eyed Julep 1