Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August Authors--and characters!--Who Knit: Denise Swanson

It's always something new over here at DestiKNITions.  Today, we're not just talking to an author who knits, but her character!  

Author friend Denise Swanson has many fans of her Scumble River mystery series, and several of them are knitters.  It's no surprise then, than Denise's newest release is Murder of a Needled Knitter.  So instead of Denise taking the questions, our answers come from May Dennison, mother of the series' amateur sleuth heroine, Skye Dennison.  May is a proud member of the Scumble River String of Purls club. She has managed to sneak onto her daughter’s honeymoon by manipulating the groom into booking the same cruise as her knitting club.  If that doesn't sound like a plot fit for entertaining chaos, I don't know what does!

May, what's on your needles right now?
I’m making a baby afghan. My son and his wife are expecting my first grandchild any minute now.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment? 
A knit blouse in a very fine gauge with lace in front. It took me 6 months, and as anyone will tell you, I’m not a patient person.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice you’ve ever made? 
Although this wasn’t really my fault, when I first started knitting I bought a kit in the clearance section of a big box store. The yarn was the tiniest, fuzziest yarn and knotted something fierce. Plus there wasn't enough yarn to complete the project and the instructions had so many mistakes I nearly went out of my mind.

Straight or circular needles?
Depends on the project, but I like the feel of circular better, they put less strain on your hands.

Metal or wood needles? 
I like nickel-plated needles as they seem faster.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate? 

Coffee or tea? 
Black coffee.

Now we come to a few questions Denise herself can answer:

Have you written a knitting character? 
In my Scumble River series, my sleuth’s mother, May Denison knits and in my Devereaux’s Dime Store books, Dev hosts a group called the Knittie Gritties in the craft nook of her store.

What’s the last thing anyone would suspect about your most recent book? 
I’m hoping it’s the identity of the killer. ;)

So, if you're looking for a new fiction series that might serve up a few characters who love knitting as much as you do (hey, you already know about my books), check Denise's books out.  You can visit her website here.

Next up, DestiKNITions visits a pair of Cleveland suburbs; Aurora and Chagrin Falls Ohio.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Done!

It's done!

I'll be honest--those final rows were killers.  In fact, I ran out of the main color and had to fudge the final instructions to substitute the contrasting color earlier than directed.  This project has challenged me from the first stitch, but I have prevailed.

I wish I could say I'm going to wear it tomorrow, but it's not a light shawl and it's 98 degrees at my current location.  It's accessory debut will have to wait.  But as art?  It can be appreciated right now.   The colors are truly striking--and yes, they still say "Easter" to me, but I NEED an Easter shawl, so that's not a problem.

It does shed a fair amount.  I was wearing a black shirt as I finished the knitting, and when I stood up, my son looked at me and said, "It looks like you've been attacked by cats."  I am rather furry, but I'm hoping much of that is temporary.

All in all, this shawl has been quite an adventure--and isn't that really the point?  Thanks, Knit Nirvana, for sending me on this colorful, challenging, charismatic adventure!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Day 6

Grumbles, grace and gadgets...

This is what I dislike about top down shawls.  The final section feels like it will never end.  Every row takes ten minutes to finish, and there are days where I can’t find enough time to finish even two rows, much less the ten or so I have to go.  Yes, this one’s going to have to go to a seventh installment.  I’m trying to remember that deadlines are how I make my living, so I should be comfortable with them by now.  Deadlines in knitting, however, especially at the end of an enjoyable (if challenging project) just seem all wrong.  It sucks all the fun out of it.

Speaking of fun, STITCHES MIDWEST was a whole lot of fun.  Giving away my books is about as entertaining as it gets, and I love hoping I’ve met some new reader friends in the process.  Knitters were delighted to discover that my books contain knitting characters and that the prayer shawl ministry is featured in the plot.  Really, who doesn’t like a free book with knitters in it? My thanks to the folks at Mia Bella who hosted my appearance.

The other high for me was meeting the man whose pattern I’m currently knitting.  Stephen West was bubbly and charming as I explained my Metalouse mayhem and asked for a photograph.  How often  do you get to apologize for cheating on a designer's knitting pattern right to his face?  He was very gracious—what a nice guy!

I always try to grab one one new gadget at every STITCHES, and this year was no different.  Even though I own a gazillion row counters, I was drawn in by the thoughtful design of the Sirka Counter.  It’s watch-like multi-hand mechanism allows you to count on multiple levels, like when you are increasing every eight rows, but you need to do that increase twelve times.  I always end up covering my pattern in hash marks, but this gizmo would take care of that.  You can be keeping tracks of three different paths of progress simultaneously—how ingenious is that?  I can’t wait to try it out.  Plus, it’s pretty.  I like pretty things in my knitting bag.

It is my dearest hope that the next installment will feature the completed Metalouse.  Hang in there with me!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Day 5

Le humilit√©...

Oh, but this pattern is proving its talent for showing my faults!

Here I am, chugging along on the section with the vertical bars, feeling all confident and cocky.  I’ve only got one or two rows yet to go—albeit the rows are edging toward 300 stitches by this point—and the end is in sight.  I’m right on schedule, despite my earlier debacle.

…And then I see it.  A sneaky little sentence tucked in behind what I THOUGHT was the end of this section, tagging along behind row 36 like a devious shadow: “Repeat Rows 1-12 once more. 335 stitches.”

What?  I thought I was done and you’re telling me I’ve got almost 4,000 stitches to go????

Don’t get me wrong—it’s a beautiful piece.  Everyone asks to see it when I knit it in public.  But I suspect I’ll forever be thinking that “Metalouse" is french for “humbling.”

DON'T FORGET: If you're heading to STITCHES MIDWEST in the Chicago area this weekend, stop by the Mia Bella booth tomorrow August 9 at 12:30  and get my latest novel free!  But be prompt--we have a limited supply and last year they were gone in fifteen minutes!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Day 4

A week filled with knitting...

Now that I've settled into the rhythm of this section, it's humming along nicely.  I was worried about the difference in thickness of the two yarns, but that doesn't seem to be a problem at all.  I keep looking at this piece and thinking about Easter--that's what this colorway reminds me of more than anything else

It's been a hectic week for me, but one filled with knitting.  I turned in a book to my publisher that  has a lovely knitting element in the plot--the sequel to my WWI sock knitting novel HOMEFRONT HERO
The following day, the fourth book my Gordon Falls series A HEART TO HEAL was released.  This book, like most of my Gordon Falls series, has the prayer shawl knitting ministry interwoven into its story.  I love how many readers have written to tell me of the prayer shawls they knit or have asked me how to start a prayer shawl ministry where they live.  Knitters are a caring bunch of people!

Then, next week, I get to do a book signing and give-away of A HEART TO HEAL at STITCHES MIDWEST and meet even more knitting readers!  If you are in the Chicago area and planning to come to this massive, marvelous yarn event, stop by the Mia Bella booth at 12:30 Saturday August 9, say hello, and get a free novel!  But be prompt--we have a limited supply and last year they were gone in fifteen minutes!

How wonderful and gratifying that my passion for knitting touches so many areas of my life.  And I get to share the triumphs, the travels--and the mistakes--all with you!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Day 3

Bet you saw this coming...

You know how I’m always saying life is like knitting and knitting is like life?

Just like in life, cheating in knitting almost always comes back to bite you.  There I was, happily stitching along in my self-congratulatory cleverness, thinking I’d outwitted my own mistake.  It only took five or six more rows, however, for me to realize that NO, I could not just clip the yarn and start from the opposite end.  My right and wrong sides were correct back when I thought I’d switched them  In correcting an error that wasn’t really there, I just made a whole host of new ones.  

This meant…you guessed it…ripping out twice as many rows as I would have if I’d just admitted my mistake and gone back to make it right.  Sigh.  Another life lesson confirmed in knitting.  Cheaters never prosper—they only frog and tink.

My original error was holding the yarn on the wrong side of my work when I slipped the stitches.  Because I was pearling, I held it to the front.   But I was working on the right side—I should have held it to the back.  Had I really stopped to examine my work, I’d have seen it.  But no, I was too engrossed in progress to pay sufficient attention to process.

Mea culpa, DestiKNITters, I have led you astray.  Learn from me.  Ten 200+ stitch rows takes a LONG time to rip out and redo.  Save yourselves!

Students of my time management for writers class are probably laughing right now, recalling a favorite book title I often quote: "If You Haven't Got the Time to Do it Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do it Over?"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Metalouse Shawl from Knit Nirvana - Day 2

I cheated...

I’m ready to admit it—I cheated on Stephen West.

Not personally, of course—I’ve never even met the man, although he seems like a nice guy and I wouldn’t turn down the chance to say hello—but I have cheated on his fine pattern.

You never see these things coming—they just happen.  A slip here, a straying attention there, and POOF, you get to a crucial design juncture in the middle of your very busy writers conference a day behind your blog schedule and discover your “right side” is on your “wrong side.”  

You shake your needles in the air, grunt, say unprofessional and immoral things no one outside the knitting community understands (“Allie, its just yarn…”).  You quietly calculate how long it’s going to take you to rip those multiple loooooong rows out and replace them, putting you that much further behind your posting schedule, not to mention the WRITERLY things you’re supposed to be doing while you are here at your Very Important Conference.

Then, suddenly, while you aren’t even looking, you become a woman of questionable knitting morals.  You ask yourself slippery questions like “Can these rows be saved without frogging?  and the most dangerous of all — “Will anyone ever really notice?”

You mutter to yourself in hotel elevators on the way to lunch with your editor.  You cringe and plot over your meal, one foot in the writer’s world, one foot in the knitter’s world.  You wonder how much you can get away with before anyone will notice.

And then, when you get back to your hotel room, you look—really look—at the pattern and the yarn to grasp the bigger picture.  What’s the endgame?  What design is taking shape here and can it still take shape from what I’ve got?

You realize, with a smirk, that if you simply clip the yarn (gasp!) and start at the other end, it can all be saved with only a minor wrong row that really doesn’t show.  All is not lost.  You don’t have to rip out hours worth of work if you can live with a minor mis-step that no one will likely know is there…except you.

And, of course Stephen West, who will probably see it at 100 paces and glare at you.

Maybe not. Like I said, he seems like a nice guy, and what knitter hasn’t cheated?

I can’t decide if I feel clever or devious.  Maybe both.