Saturday, November 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sis!

I finished the Miss Grace Shawl this week and gave it to my sister for her birthday. I think she likes it!

My sister is five years younger than me, so we never really overlapped at the same schools. But we now live in the same city, and while we talk and visit and follow each other on social media, we don't get together as often as we should. That can happen as siblings get older. But it doesn't have to.

My sister is a pretty amazing and inspiring person to me. She picked a kind and smart husband, has raised two responsible, bright kids, and has taught elementary music to hundreds of kids over the years. Our parents died at fairly young ages, which can be hard when you're just starting a family of your own. Susan has coped and carried on through it all. I'm amazed when I think of us all as little kids and how she and I and our brother have all created such different and interesting lives. I guess things have always been that way. Maybe you have to reach a certain age to appreciate this change? I wonder how I'll look back on all this from a vantage point even further along someday.

I was kind of stunned looking at the pictures I took of my beautiful sister modeling the shawl -- thinking about all me and my siblings have been through, and how very much she looks like our mother. Very fitting that this pattern is called Miss Grace -- that was our mother's name. And Susan wears both mantles well. She reminds me, so, so much of Mom.

And she had some news -- this just warms the cockles of my crafting heart -- she's been learning to knit! Her neighbor has been helping her learn, and we will soon be setting up a time to get together for some handwork and some reminiscing, like our mom and my aunts, like my grandmother and her friends. I can't wait to see what cool things she'll create. Happy birthday, Susan!

On the pattern itself, I can highly recommend it. As Staci said, it's just about the most fun you can have with garter stitch. I love how the instructions are as much an infographic as a pattern, and it's cool watching how the forms distort and cause the fabric to flow in different ways. Oh, and I sent in my picture from my last blog post and got in the top 10 of SKEINO's photo contest! I would follow Staci's instructions on the increases on the corners for the edging -- I didn't care for the method written in the pattern so much, although I did it. And be careful -- I had only a yard or two of the light color leftover at the end.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Shape of Things to Come

When I can during these past few busy weeks, I've been knitting sporadically on the purple Miss Grace shawl. But like center-out lace patterns, all the quick business happens on the front end. As the piece gets bigger, each new row takes longer and longer to complete, with more and more interruptions for all the short-row shaping. On the upside, though, there are more interesting pattern features emerging now that I'm working my way up. Starting with two stitches, I'm now up to 148. I should end up with 220, give or take a few, so I have some long days of garter stitch ahead.

Still not sure there that there is enough contrast between the base color which is a darker, slightly more solid purple (left ball of yarn in photo) and Color 2, the more neon-like deep purple (bottom ball). The more pinky-purple Color 1 sticks out just fine, and I find myself looking forward to the rows where I get to work with this stand-out and oh-so-not-me hue.

I may not have mentioned that I signed up for Kate Davies' Seven Skeins Club, which includes seven skeins (duh) of her new Buachaille yarn line in each of the beautiful colors, which arrived a few weeks ago. Then, each week for six weeks we are sent links to two patterns to choose from. Choosing one each week will go through the yarn sent. If I'd cleared my knitting dance card beforehand, I might have tried, but I gave myself permission not to panic and try to do these on any kind of schedule. I'm enjoying seeing them come in and am making plans based on what I've seen so far. Closer to the holidays, I'll receive a book with all the patterns in it. I love her stranded knitting designs and am looking forward to what will be revealed over the next few weeks.

Hope all you knitters are enjoying some fall (or spring?) knitting. And I hope all my central Texas friends are enjoying all of this wonderful rain!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teaching and Learning

One of my neighbors whom we see often on our dog walks, asked if I would teach him to knit when I saw him yesterday. He knows I'm a knitter since I'd made a blanket and some toys for his little sister. He has just learned to finger crochet at school, so I cut him a deal. I would teach him to knit if he would teach me to finger crochet. He thought that sounded fair, and with his parents' permission made an appointment for today at 2:30 -- an oddly specific time for a 7-year-old.

Right on time he pulled up on his bike. I've never really taught anyone to knit from scratch, but I figured we should start with a cast-on. I wasn't sure if he could handle a long-tail, but after a few tries he dug right in. In just half an hour he had cast on and done two rows of knitting! Then it was my turn to learn finger crochet using some bright chenille yarn he bright to our lesson. It was fun and he was an excellent teacher -- I learned a thing or two about patience from him, that's for sure. Then I got a bonus lesson in paper airplane making! After an hour or so of flying planes across the driveway, it was time to head home. I sent him off with some needles and yarn and an invitation to let me know if he needs more help. His mom reports via text that he had a great time. I sure hope so. He's a great kid.

In other knitting news, while knitting with friends yesterday morning, my friend (and quasi-cousin) Abbe presented me with a reprint edition of Dave Fougner's 1972 work, The Manly Art of Knitting. The cover photo alone makes this perfect. It's only 63 pages long. It covers a bit of history, the basic skills, some stitch pattern instruction, and a few simple but quite varied patterns. Along with the usual hat, there are patterns for a dog bed, a hammock, and a horse blanket! Best of all, there is a 4-item bibliography, including one item that I just found using my college's JSTOR subscription (Grass, Milton N. "The origins of the art of knitting." Archaeology (1955): 184-190.) There's a special tingle one gets when the boundaries between knitting and librarianship blur. Well, for this librarian/knitter at least. Thanks for thinking of me, Abbe. I love it!

And finally, I got started on the Miss Grace shawl I mentioned last post. I'm making it in three shades of purple variegated yarn in a 4-skein packet that Skeino calls Barb. So far, Barb and I are getting along. I'm not sure that two of the colors are different enough to show enough contrast, but that could change after I get more of the fabric made.

It's such a cool concept -- striped garter stitch with short row leaf-shaped "forms" that still manage to keep the whole thing in a triangle shape. I've had a hard time interpreting some of the instructions, which in most cases can be chalked up to me not really reading the instructions carefully. I've found that Staci's tutorial has been invaluable for when I get stuck. I kind of wish I'd watched it all the way through from the get-go.

So a bit of teaching and a lot of learning this week, bearing witness to a certain truism. The more I learn, the more I know how much I don't know.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Gray Areas

Since my last post, I've just been knitting stockinette stitch on my Shadows & Light v-neck sweater. There were some rocky moments, but I persevered and finished it up while here at a conference in Arkansas.

I fell out of love with this project about the time I started the sleeves. I got tired of all the stockinette for sure, but I also began to think that the variegation was starting to look a bit too much like camouflage -- which is a look, but not for me. And, I worried that it might be too snug. But I kept going, and by the time I was ready to head to a library conference late last week, I had all the pieces done. So I packed them, thinking I might have some time to start piecing it together.

Turns out, I had quite a bit of time on my hands the first few days here, so I got to work. And as I did, I started liking it more and more. Although many knitters don't, I really do like seaming up garments. That neat and tidy mattress stitch on the sides, especially. This sweater has set-in sleeves, which might seem scary, but really aren't. You just have to pay attention to where you need to shift from a mattress-like seam near the armpits to a more selvedge-to-cast-off sea near the shoulders -- and then trying to be consistent on both arms. I messed up one of the arms, but it was no problem to pick out the seam and redo it. Better to do that now than let it gnaw on me every time I wear it. One shoulder does still look a bit tortured lying flat, but it's fine when I'm wearing it. Not so sure I'm totally in love with the 1x1 ribbed collar, but I'll live with it a while and think about it. I have plenty of yarn for modifications. I bought four hanks of this stuff and only used two! Exactly two, with nothing left over. I've been wearing it today during my meetings. Even though it will be nearly 80 outside, it's much, much colder in the meeting rooms.

While here in Little Rock, I took some time to visit a yarn shop in the Pulaski Heights neighborhood called The Yarn Mart. Much more interesting than that other retailer from Arkansas with "mart" in its name! Very friendly staff with a fun attitude (see sign) and a very uncluttered space, unlike some shops. There was a lively rug hooking class going on while I shopped around. I ended up buying some Madeline Tosh fingering merino yarn in a mottled golden-brown in a color way called Twig. Not sure if it would make good socks. Right now I'm thinking hat.

Up next, I'm thinking of tackling a shawl for which I already have the yarn, Miss Grace. Love that name! Staci tells me it's the most fun you can have with garter stitch. Can't wait to get home and get started.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Both Sides Now

When I've had a chance to sit down and knit in the past month, which hasn't been often, I've been slowly working on my Shadows and Light v-neck.

I finished the back several weeks ago, following the dimensions listed in The Knitters Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. When I held it up, didn't hold up. It was too short. My knitting friends and Jeff all agreed -- it needed another inch and a half. I should have anticipated this modification. My brother and I have a four inch difference in height, but we have the same inseam. All the difference is between my hips and my shoulders. I think I have chunky Neanderthal vertebrae.

So I started the armholes for the front side of the sweater 1.5 inches higher with the idea of comparing later. Much better. So now the plan is to rip back to the start of the armholes and add those extra rows, and then finish up. I'm hoping that I'll have some time to get that mostly accomplished while visiting the in-laws this holiday weekend in north Texas.

I'm eager to get this finished. And I'm eager for some cooler weather. Bring it on, Mother Nature. I'll be ready.

Friday, August 07, 2015


I'd been trying to find a good pattern for some yarn I bought at the Marylamd Sheep & Wool Festival a few months ago, but I kept running into obstacles. Using Ravelry, I'd find patterns I liked, but most of them were in pattern pamphlets that wouldn't be easy to get my hands on. I found one that I thought was interesting, but when I got started I quickly realized the yarn didn't want to do what the pattern required. The shiny smoothness of the Spirit Trail Fiberworks Brigantia wasn't liking the cabled patterns I was drawn too. I started at different needle sizes three times before I decided to change course.

I have a book that I refer to from time to time when I want to make a minor modification to a pattern , but I've never knit a whole garment from it before. It's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd. It's a recipe approach to knitting a sweater. You choose the style (raglan, drop-sleeve, saddle-shoulder, etc.), find your yarn/needle gauge, and then your'e off to the races with instructions in a table format. After my various attempts above, I decided I'd make a plain, v-neck sweater with set-in sleeves using this book and just let the yarn shine. The silk content certainly helps with that last bit. The colorway is called Shadows & Light, so that's how I'm going to refer to the sweater, I think.

I couldn't quite get gauge for the size 42 sweater I need, so I checked the numbers, and mine matched the size 46 instructions. So far so, good -- the back is exactly 21" wide with 116 stitches. I could cast on any way I pleased, so I chose the tubular cast-on using Staci's instructional video. Yes, it's fiddley, but I love the way it looks. I always feel that long-tail cast-on edges have a certain fragility about them . The tubular cast-on feels more durable to me, plus it has just the right amount of stretchiness and a clean, tidy, rounded appearance. Well worth it, I think. After adding the v-neck ribbing, I plan to attempt a tubular cast-off to match.

Speaking of recipes -- I got a great one at the family reunion I attended last weekend. My cousin Sandra (first cousin, once removed, technically) made a framed copy of my Great Grandma-Weaver's yeast roll recipe, which I won in the auction. Grandma Weaver was kind of known for these and her biscuits. Sandra remembers her coming over and making these. I asked about how many this yielded and she guessed about three dozen, which would have worked well for a family with 11 children, I suppose. My aunts remembered her as not being especially tidy in the kitchen and always being covered in flour after baking, a tradition I'm sure to continue when I attempt this. I love everything about this, from the fact that she typed it (she had bad arthritis in her later years and couldn't write easily), to the misspellings and typos, to her sugar brand loyalty. And, you can tell it's one of those old-school typewriters on which you had to use a capital "I" as the number 1.

So, I have a few recipes I need to get working on. One involves rows and rows of gray stockinette stitch. The other calls for yeast cakes. Does yeast even come in cakes anymore?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

We Come 'Round Right

I'm going to be attending a reunion of my grandmother's family, the Weavers & Armstrongs, next weekend. She was one of eleven children, so as you might imagine, it's quite a crowd. My early memories of summer visits to Texas involve this reunion, and being greeted by dozens of people whom I'd never met, but who all seemed to know me and my place in this large group. It's a day for warm memories, great food, bad jokes and just catching up. I love it.

To raise money for renting the space and catering some of the food, relatives bring handmade items to be auctioned off in a silent auction -- or maybe not so silent -- we are talking about Weavers here. Items can run the gamut from preserves and jams, to handmade quilts and wooden toys, My contribution this year is a set, or possibly two sets, of Shaker Dishcloths as designed by Staci Perry at VeryPink. I made some versions of these in placemat and coaster sizes a few summers back.

Because I went rogue and chose a different yarn than the pattern called for, I had to make an adjustment. This yarn, Cascade UltraPima, while beautifully shiny, is a bit on the thin side for this project. This picture shows what was going on -- a strange gappiness right before the color change, most noticeable in the white (see photo). I tried going down a few needle sizes, but didn't like that. I settled on wrapping the slipped stitches, like one might do on a short row heel on a sock. Then I tweaked things even more by twisting the wraps just before knitting them together with their accompanying stitches. This added a bit more density to the final row, but I preferred that to the weird laciness I was seeing.

In other projects, I'm working on a pair of ombré socks using the Crazy Zauberball yarn I got in Pennsylvania in May. I love just working the 2x2 ribbing. You can't really get a matched pair with this yarn, but I did at least want to keep the patterning a bit more symmetrical, so I'm going to use afterthought heels in solid black. The toes, too. That way, even though they'll be striped quite differently, they still have the same heels and toes and look a bit more like a pair. That's the plan anyway. We'll see how that pans out.