Monday, November 20, 2017

Snowy

I just want to make all the things right now.  There are so many things, and I am dying to start about forty-two new knitting projects.  This little papier mache sailboat (free pattern, from the wonderful Ann Wood) has kept me busy this morning, and I only had to stop because it needs a mast and I can't find a skewer.  The skewers were a casualty of the big clear-out I did over the summer, and now I'm either going to buy more skewers (probably a hundred of them, when I only need one) or improvise with a knitting needle or something else.  A stick from the yard would be my usual solution to needing a stick, but this happened:
I can't.  Look, it's still trying to be golden out there!  Or it would be, if the sun knew we were here.  New York, you are so hard to love right now.  This dark weather just gets to me.  A thousand pounds of snow just slid off the roof and crashed onto the ground.  Why do people love this?  Honestly?  Don't say sweaters and soup, I do those things all year.  I just don't get it.  I have lots of opinions about this.  I know people love snow, and I'm happy for them, but I really struggle in this cold, dark time of year.  Anyway, if you love a snowy day, come on over; I'll put the kettle on. 
Probably in response to the encroaching cold, I made a pair of legwarmers!  My legs are cold!  My feet are cold, too, and I need to be knitting socks, but that is less colorful and uses up far fewer scraps.  These really scratched the itch to make granny squares--come on, you know the one I'm talking about.  I have no use at all for any more granny square blankets, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to make granny squares, and all those little leftover balls of pretty colors just cry out to me.  There is something so wonderful about the humble, scrappy, granny square.  These are made with 18 5-round grannies (9 per leg) and joined-as-you-go, and then trimmed top and bottom with a few more colorful rows, just to jazz them up a little, because they aren't quite jazzy enough already.  
I think with a pair of thick socks underneath (note to self: get busy!) these gauntlets will be very cheerful.  I think I'd quite like to have them on inside my winter boots, cuddling my chilly shins and peeking out the top, all cheeky and bright.  Cozy. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fixing

I made this sweater last winter.  It's a combination of the known-to-fit-me Lisbon pullover by Misa Erder and the lovely (and free!) yoke design from Rydraud, by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir.  I used Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, in the gorgeous and golden colorway "Hayloft", which was harvested from my lovely, but too large (and thus unraveled) "Levenwick".  Yarn, good.  Pattern, good.  Gauge?  Not good.  I have developed a bad habit:  I have this idea that all my knitting will be 5 sts/inch.  I don't know why I think this, because it is hardly ever the case, and I fully know that gauge matters, and I swatch and I wash and block my swatches, but still, this belief persists.  Anyway, the Shelter, as knit by me in this particular case, did not make a fabric that was 5 sts/inch, and I made this a year ago, so I can't remember how much I measured or swatched or which needles I used, but I'll bet I went into it all confident that I had successfully used this pattern before, and that (due to the Levenwick, and also the almost finished but also unraveled Timber I knit 85% of before deciding it wasn't working) I knew the yarn pretty well, and so just figured, you know, 5 sts/inch.  So I tinkered with the Rydraud chart a little to make it fit the numbers of the Lisbon pattern, and then probably just went ahead and knit it without even checking any measurements.  Which is obviously a mistake.  And the yoke was really deep, which meant the armpits were way too low and there was a ton of extra fabric across the chest, which billowed unpleasantly and made me feel sloppy.  I talked myself into it at first--aw, hey, it's slouchy!  It's comfy!  Roomy!  Weekend wear! Boyfriend Style!--but every time I put it on, it just bugged me.  Slouchy, sloppy, boyfriendy, weekend-sized sweaters are great, but all that bigness has to be intentional, and I have to feel good wearing it.  And I wasn't.  I almost got rid of it.  But the color is so good, and the yarn (Shelter!  Brooklyn Tweed!) is so good. And that yoke design, oh my goodness.  I just love it so much.  Why didn't it fit?  Argh!  It seemed so close to being right.  I tried reblocking it, hoping that I could adjust things that way, and the body and sleeves became even more perfect than before, but the yoke was still too deep.  There were just too many inches in it.  Too many rows.  Now, in case you're not familiar with round yoke construction, the way these sweaters work is this:  You start at the hem and knit the body, headed upwards.  When you reach the armpits, you set that aside, and make two sleeves, the same way, headed upwards.  Then you put all three pieces on a long circular needle and start knitting the yoke, which for the first (approximately) 50% of the depth, is just knit straight up.  Just a big tall tube, with no shaping.  At the 50% mark, decreases start happening, every couple inches, or wherever it fits into the colorwork design, until A) you have the right number of stitches for the neck, and B) the yoke [the distance from your armpits to your collar] is the right depth.  So, B is where I went wrong, and this sweater, beautiful in almost every way, sat on the shelf.  Then, a few weeks ago, I read Laura Nelkin say somewhere that her personal yoke depth was fairly shallow, and that when she knits a round yoke design, she leaves out a few rounds.  Well, whaaaat?  Suddenly, I thought of this sweater, sitting at the bottom of a pile on the closet shelf, unworn, but as yet undonated, but on the bubble, and wondered if I could fix it.  I love/hated this sweater, but it was so close to good.  So close!  I decided to see whether taking out a few rounds would save it, and unless you want to rip out the neck and all the color work and re-do it (argh, I didn't want to do that) the only way is to cut.  
This would have been a lot scarier a year ago, when this was a fresh project and I still had so much hope for it, but I had tried and tried to wear this sweater and just couldn't. It was fix it, or get rid of it.  So taking the scissors, I snipped one stitch right at the front, underneath the colorwork (which I thought might help hide any messiness that might ensue later) and unpicked an entire row, one stitch at a time.  Once the whole yoke was off, I had live stitches again, on the body and on the yoke, and I unraveled about six rounds from the body, and then put both pieces back on the needles--one needle for the body stitches and one needle for the yoke stitches.  Then I told Doc not to talk to me, and that he should pretend I was not in the house, and that he should under no circumstances speak any numbers out loud, and I began grafting the two pieces back together, using Kitchener stitch.  Now, I'm a sock knitter too, and kitchenering is solid in my toolbox, but I have to count "1,2,3,4..." the whole time, and if I get interrupted, either by a knot in the yarn, a friendly comment from someone else in the room, getting startled by the doorbell--anything, really--it is all over and it is a mess and I can't figure out how to fix it.  So Doc left the room and put on his headphones and made himself silent and invisible, and I counted to four for an hour.  
When you graft some knitting, you are basically sewing in a new row, using a tapestry needle and weaving the yarn in and out through the top and bottom rows of loops in the same way it would go in a knitted row, and when done well, it can be invisible.  It should just look like any other knitted row.  However, I can't do this very well.  My grafted row was a little bit gnarly-looking, and it would never in a million years have been possible (for me) in a less wooly yarn, but Shelter is wooly and pretty forgiving.  I wove in the ends and put it in the sink for a block, and then waited a couple days while it dried, to see if the gnarly row would straighten out, and if the newly shortened yoke would be the right depth.  I want this sweater to fit me!  
Aw, yeah!  All the hooray!  There's a little bit of a visible scar, but the yoke is the right depth for me now.  It fits.  Doing this was so worth it, because this sweater is saved, and so are all the round yoke sweaters in my future.  There is always so much to learn, isn't there?  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Do-over

It is always well to know when it's time to pull the plug on a project.  I had the Bulb pullover/tunic/dress thing a little more than one sleeve from finished, then I spread it out to measure it and had a good look:
I am really inspired by all the Find Your Fades and So Fadeds and whatever other fade-type things are happening out there, and I think they're really good, a great way to make use of these very tempting multi-colored yarns that look so pretty in the skein, but maybe a little too much most everywhere else.  They are so beautiful, and so complex, and so evocative.  Their colorway names completely slay me.  They just jump into my shopping basket.  I feel powerless over them.  So I have fair stash of speckly, handpainted, arty-looking yarn, but honestly, a whole big sweater/dress/tunic made of that just isn't something I am going to wear.  I was blinded by beautiful yarn.  So I put Tom Petty on Spotify and pulled out the needle, and then I just unraveled the whole entire thing, and it felt great.  There's always a little bit of awful, when the realization hits that a total unravel is the only route to happiness; that's a sinking feeling I don't enjoy.  But there's nothing else for it, guys, and once the ripping is underway, it stops hurting. There's no reason to keep knitting this (and the knitting of it was so much fun, you can see how much, because I got all this way, almost to the end of a dress in fingering weight yarn, before I realized it wasn't working) when the fate of it is to end up in the pile for Goodwill.  And it does feel good later, when you've got a fresh pile of yarn, waiting to become something new.  
Pretty yarn!  I like this.  For me, the only real way to wear multis or speckles or handpainted things is in accessories.  My feet, my hands, my neck.  So, a big wrap, another of the stunning and statement-y designs by Beata Jezek, went onto my needles:  this one is Shockwaves.  
My dad used to tell me, "Know when to say when."  It took longer than usual, but I did finally know when, and now this yarn can be what it really wants to be, and I can make a different Bulb (oh, just look at this gorgeous one!) in the right yarn.  [Editor's note:  all this is well and good, so what's up with that Granito, still sitting there halfway done, in the wrongitty-wrongest yarn ever?  Hmmm?]. Okay, something in me is still hoping that one can work.  [It won't].  There will be a Granito someday, in some yarn or another.  Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rhinebeck

All this talk about Rhinebeck.  What a good day.  What a lovely, wonderful day I had there.  It was eighty degrees, and there were very few sweaters to see, which disappointed me a little, because I was hoping to use the sweaters as a way to start conversations with people, and there wasn't much of that in the end anyway, because as it turns out, I really didn't even notice people until they talked to me first.  I was focused like a laser beam on all the beautiful things and apparently I hardly looked up at all.  I did not see a single Famous Knitter--not a single one.  And I know they were there, I've seen a million pictures!  Well.  Anyway, if you were there and I missed seeing you because I was facedown in the Cormo, I am so sorry.  And if you weren't there, and you wish you could've been, I'm so sorry about that, too.  I think too much talk about Rhinebeck amongst the yarny people can get to be a little irritating for those who can't go, or who don't care to go.  I did have a terrific day, full of friends and doughnuts and beautiful things.  That is my haul, up there.  
Doc, my true love and constant companion, got up with me at 4:00 am, drove us, through the fog, across the state to the fairgrounds, and once there carried the water and snacks on his back, stood patiently while I felt up all the fleeces, carried the first load of yarn back to the car and then came back for more, waited in the long lines for apple cider doughnuts and falafel so I wouldn't have to, bought me an iced coffee, posed for selfies with me.  He never once raised an eyebrow about any of it.  And he wore a kilt:
I know!  He always gets so many wonderful comments and questions, and is so happy to talk to people about it.  Men always want to know why he wears the kilt; what kind of kilt it is, where the sporran came from [he made it himself, yowza!] and women always tell him how handsome he looks, and to tell me how lucky I am.  [I do feel lucky!]. Everyone wants to know what's on underneath it [answer: tradition and etiquette requires that to be a mystery] and to tell him about their recent trips to Scotland, which we love to hear about.  Guys, wear a kilt.  It's the very best.  
 
 
There is so much to see there.  The beautiful wool, in all its forms, is abundant.  The lambs are smiling.  The people all around are kindred souls.  A couple of our tribe spotted me and said hello:
I really loved meeting them in person.  See you again next year!  
Our hotel for the night was beautiful and spooky.  We had the third floor attic (still undergoing renovations)--with four mostly-empty rooms, including a bedroom, two sitting rooms and a workspace, a brick and iron furnace, black-specked gilt mirrors and transoms and wood-paneled everything, and oil paintings and glossy Victorian furniture and an actual suit of armor and creaky closet doors and other doors marked DO NOT OPEN!--all to ourselves.  It was delicious.  I slept with one eye open.  And that view, the next morning, from the one of the windows in the second of our four turrets.  I can hardly wait until next year.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Woollen

At the moment, there is this.  It is so pretty I can't stop looking at it.  I was just about to say that this yarn is nothing like me, what is this speckle stuff?  Purple???  but I had four skeins of it in the stash, so apparently this yarn is exactly like me.  I fell for it like I always do, just picking up a beautiful skein here and there, with no solid plan in mind, maybe with vague, long-range notions of making a Find Your Fade (all the finished projects, you guys.  I am under the spell.). But I guess I just couldn't wait any longer to see what it would do when I knit with it, and now I see, and hoo!  It is good.  The pattern I'm working with is Bulb by Veera Valimaki.  I love that loose, comfy, tunic shape with the floppy neck.  I couldn't even get close to gauge, no matter what needle or which size I chose, so Doc reworked all the math for me (oh, the blessings of having a Doc around the house! There's really nothing he isn't good at) and have been using Andrea's fade strategy to blend the different skeins where they meet each other.  I don't know what I'm going to end up with, but working on this has been so lovely already, it is almost beside the point.  Right now it is just a lap full of happy rainbows.  
Here's something more familiar:  this is Shadow by Olga Buraya Kefelian, in the very soft and natural "Fleece" by West Yorkshire Spinners.  Neutral.  Whew.  This is one I really want to wear; wooly, heathery goodness.  Those smooshy cables.  I've said this many times before, but there really is room for both color and gray in my knitting life, and possibly in my wardrobe as well.  As I age and my hair turns more and more white, I am more and more inclined to wear only black every day forever, and honestly, the only thing that holds me back is how boring that would be for my knitting.  Well, my hair isn't all the way white yet.  
I am still carding the Super Pale Grey Border Leicester/Finn fleece from September's fiber festival.  There is only one small handful left to do, and then I will start spinning it.  Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait.  I am still such a total amateur at all of this, and these little mini batts/rolags/fauxlags I'm making on two old dog brushes are pretty full of imperfections; stray pieces of hay and uncombed blobs that will sneak past me and make their way intact into the yarn, and it will surely be far less than perfect, but I am not concerning myself with that right now.  If I want perfect yarn, I can go buy it.  This process--the sorting, the washing, the carding, the general handling and sniffing and cuddling of all this fleece; it has been so lovely.  I am intimately acquainted with it now.  We know each other.  It is soft and clean and light as air.  I am so looking forward to the next part of this project, and the next, and the next.  
Some parts of it are perfect little crinkly locks, some parts of it are longer and fluffier, like a Santa Claus beard.  Some of it is pure white, and some is caramel, and some is dove gray, and some is warm and buttery yellow.  I can't wait to see what kind of yarn it becomes.  
On Sunday, Doc and I will be at Rhinebeck, and part of what I think will be fun about this festival is seeing all the other makers in their most beautiful handmades, and meeting other like-minded souls.  I can't wait to see your sweater/shawl/cowl/mittens/hat and I want to hear all about them.  I will be wearing this cardigan.  There has been much talk out there about how warm it will be over the weekend, but believe me when I tell you that at 72 degrees F, I will still be able to wear a sweater.  I am almost never, ever, EVER too warm.  Doc, however, does not share my reptilian blood and has decided to forego his sweater this year, and I don't blame him a bit. [Also, whew!  It will give me a chance to properly fix that mess.] He will wear a kilt, and his Toirneach hose, though, and will be looking fierece, as always.  If you are there on Sunday and you spot us, please come over and say hello?  Look for a mustached warrior in a kilt and a girl with glasses and Wensleydale hair who probably has kettle corn stuck to her face.  I'd really, really like to meet you.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beauty

This project is miles and miles of plain stockinette stitch, round and round forever, and I keep working on it in the dark, or while reading or while watching a four-hour documentary about George Harrison on Netflix, and forgetting to look down at it, which is a complete shame, because this yarn (Primrose, Adelaide) is really awfully amazingly beautiful.  I can't imagine what it will be like when it's finished, and I do hope it will be something I can wear (am encouraged by the surprise success of this) but I am kind of obsessed and compelled by this gorgeous yarn.  Every stitch is a new color.  Love.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All the colors cowl

I might never understand the weather this year.  It's like this where you are, too, probably.  Weirdly hot, raining in sheets one minute, and the sun banging down the next.  Then I have to shut all the windows because it is 40 degrees.  I don't know what's happening.  Well, I'm still preparing for the cold, no matter when it finally happens, and guys, it will.  I live in a cold climate, and winter has never failed to happen up here, so, a cowl.  Double-long, and double thick, too, and stranded as well, so this is going to be pretty impervious to weather, and eventually, it will be just what I need around here.  
To make this, I delved into my (never-ending) worsted weight scraps (I think they are probably mostly Cascade 220 and Ella Rae Classic Worsted, with the usual soupcon of Paton's Lemongrass, because, obviously) and just drew a simple little chart, and then I worked on it forever.  Like maybe a year?  I don't even know when I started it.  This is worked on 72 stitches, and I used a US 7 16" circular needle.  I cast on provisionally, knit it in the round until it felt long enough, then grafted the two ends together for a seamless finish.  I like it wrapped double like this, because it will keep my weird giraffe neck safely tucked away from the elements, which is one of my great quests in this life.  How to keep the wind off of me.  This cowl is whopping and flashy and All The Colors, and it was so much fun to make.  You sit down with your basket of scraps, and make one mini decision--which two colors feel awesome to me right now?--and you only need the barest scraps of each to make one color band--and you buckle down for five rounds of two-handed knitting with an easy peasy repeat.  Then there are two plain rounds per band, for when you are tired of concentrating.  Make another mini decision, and off you go again.  Perfect little nibbles of challenge.  
You can do this, too; just pick a stitch pattern (or invent one, or reverse-engineer mine from the photographs if you want) and get out your scraps!  It'll keep you busy for awhile, but I thought it was great fun.  That might be my Rhinebeck outfit, right there, a t-shirt and this cowl.  Because it's hot and cold at the same time right now, and I don't even know what to wear.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Things

 
Last night Doc and I dragged ourselves off the couch and went for a walk with the catdog after dinner, and it was dark and windy and warm, and nobody else was around.  Walking with Catdog means we stop every two steps to sniff individual blades of grass and single leaves, and to investigate pinecones, which look very suspicious to her in the dark.  I talk to her constantly, and make little smooching noises, trying to get her moving again.  She'd like to just stand there and sniff for the rest of all our lives.  We just sauntered, and admired people's porches and the good kitchen smells coming from their open windows, and the air felt so, so good.  I wore my new hat (the Thinking Cap by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, in Shibui Cima, "pollen"--knit on a US 0, in case you love knitting or punishment) to keep the wind from lashing my hair into my mouth.  We came home and the kitchen was lit up and cozy, and Catdog settled down on her fuzzy rug beside the fire, and four seconds later, the sky cracked open and it poured rain for an hour.  We kept looking at each other and laughing.  Getting caught in that would have put a swift end to the sauntering.  Another thing:  last weekend we went to a fundraiser dinner, and we won most of the raffle prizes.  I once won a whole bunch of baked goods in a boy scout bake sale event when I was little, and this felt like that, like so lucky.  These prizes were pretty good, too.  Among the things I won were handmade beeswax candles, a Harry Potter-themed knitting notions pouch, and jars of honey that won a blue ribbon at the New York State Fair--ribbon included.  Best, though, is that simple but life-changing book holder.  Guys.  How did I not know there was such a thing out there to be had?  I don't have to choose an old book with a floppy spine that will stay open by itself?  I don't have to prop it up with pillows?  I have so many plain-stockinette sweater projects lined up and ready to go, and this little wire thingy means I will get some reading done this winter, while I do that.  Seriously, life-changing.  Speaking of plain stockinette sweater projects, I have been knitting like a maniac on my Pumpkin Spice/Autumn Leaves/Butternut Squash-colored project using my Mohonk from Jill Draper Makes Stuff.  This yarn is so luxe.  Baby pajamas soft, seriously.  Velvety soft.  In other, less successful yarn news, I had a moment of wild inspiration a few days ago, and thought to use turmeric to overdye some gray and oatmeal stash yarn leftovers and ends, hoping for muted gold.  Turmeric is very yellow, and it was right there in the cupboard, so why not?  My findings are these:  a) YES!  That's the color I want!  Hooray!  And b) turmeric is fugitive.  I hung the beautiful antiquey brass and mustardy and polleny skeins to dry on the porch, and within an hour, the side toward the sun had faded.  That was kind of disappointing, because the results had been just what I was looking for.  Alas.  When I get a moment, I'm going to try yellow food coloring, and see what that looks like.  Might as well try, why not?  Maybe it'll be perfect?  Another thing:  last week was freaky warm, so we sat on the beach and I hand-sewed another Alabama Chanin skirt, this time using two men's XL t-shirts and lined with cashmere sweaters from the thrift store.  I am in constant search of more comfort, and this is it, totally.  Cashmere.  From the thrift store.  How does so much cashmere end up in the thrift store?  Do people think they have to dry-clean it?  I have a whole drawer full of thrifted cashmere sweaters that are in my wardrobe rotation, and another whole bin of them for projects.  The stenciling on this skirt was kind of a disaster, but the finished result is great, which proves the theory that Alabama Chanin will look good no matter what happens.  I am so sold.  What else.  I made a linen dress, which despite my choosing the correct size, was enormous.  I wore it around the house a few times, but it bummed me out, so I decided to learn something from it and got out the scissors.  I slashed it down the front and back, taking out, I'm not kidding, fifteen inches of fabric at the hem, and then sewed it all back together again.  I think I could have lived with taking out thirteen inches, but it is now wearable, and I love it.  I will slash the pattern now, and the next dress I make should be perfect.  Life is for learning, no?  You can find out more about pattern slashing and alterations here.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I'm finally getting around to figuring it out.  What a week.  Love one another, be brave, help if you can, and listen to some Tom Petty.  That's what I've been doing.  You'll cry, but it'll be a good cry.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Glentrekker, or: the cardigan of my dreams

 
 
 
Really, I don't have to say a word, do I?  The photos of this just tell you the whole story.  Those cables, that shawl collar, those super-long sleeves, oh my goodness.  This cardigan is The One.  This perfect pattern is Glentrekker by Jennifer Hagan, and it only took as long as it did because I worked on other things at the same time.  It was endlessly interesting and engaging as a project, and while there were moments where I needed complete silence in order to concentrate on the different rates of decreasing at the armhole, raglans, and neckline all at once, it was never difficult.  And, well, just looooook at the finished result.  Guys, I want to wear this, I want to wear this right now, and every day.  The yarn (oh man, this is the best part) is an unknown who-knows-what, bought at the thrift store, ten long sausage-shaped vintage skeins of it for four dollars.  It is creamy, natural, DK-weight wool, and probably came as part of a kit for either a pretty big sweater or possibly a blanket--somebody had rolled some of it into a ball, probably in an unravel, and then gave up on the whole thing.  For four dollars, I was willing to gamble that it would be wool, so when I got it home, I tested it by setting the end of a piece of it on fire.  Wait!  Hold on!  Safety first!  If you're going to do this, do it over the sink:  take a three-inch length of the yarn in question, and light one end of it.  Let it catch and burn for a second, then blow it out.  If what's left on the end of the yarn is a hard ball of melted plastic that doesn't easily break off, you have acrylic (or maybe a mostly-acrylic blend).  If what's left looks like a ball, but crumbles away when you touch it, you've got wool.  (Another way to tell is to try felting it--I did this too, eventually, when joining one skein to the next.  If it felts together with any kind of alacrity, it's wool.  Plastic won't felt.)   I love this thing, so much.  Normally, the beginning of Pumpkin Spice Season makes this beach-loving summer girl a little bit sad, but whoo!  This cardigan.  I can see how a chilly day might not be so bad.