Wednesday, December 28, 2011

KnitFlix: State Fair

I caught State Fair (1945) on Turner Classic Movies recently, and noticed that Fay Bainter’s character, Melissa Frake, was knitting in one scene. I’ve seen this movie plenty of times, but I suppose not since I’ve started knitting. Otherwise, I might have noticed earlier.

In this scene, Ma and Pa Frake are relaxing, high on their recent awards for their prizewinning mincemeat (Ma) and boar (Pa). Ma uses that dainty overhand pencil-holding technique that seems to have been how women learned to knit back in the day, and which I’ve seen in other films before.

 

Cultural note: I don’t think many women refer to their husbands as “gay dogs” in this day and age any more.

According to the IMDB, Fay Bainter had been on the stage since the age of 3, but she must have found the time to pick up knitting somewhere. She clearly knows what she is doing and is able to act at the same time. But I can’t figure out why she would want to knit a mile-long garter stitch scarf on such tiny needles!

If you’ve never seen this film, it’s kind of interesting. The Technicolor will make your eyes bleed, although it’s fun to see mid 1940s fashions in  color rather than black & white. The palette is pretty darn jazzy! And notably, this the only musical that Rogers and Hammerstein wrote for the movies. A newer version came out in the early 60s with Pat Boone and Ann-Margret, but that version was set in Texas, and although, as a Texan, I must say that our state fair is a great state fair, if the film isn’t set in Iowa, you don’t get to hear the film’s best song: All I Owe Ioway!

 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Always. Be. Knitting.

SteakKnivesBeing at loose ends is a sorry state for a knitter. There are, of course, the loose ends that must be woven in at the end of a project, but there are also the ones that occur when you’re just not sure what to start next. Late last week, I found myself facing the latter type.  I have a few projects in mind, both of which involve yarn that won’t be available for order for a few days. Knowing I would have time on my hands while in the wilds of the Texas Hill Country, I was almost in a panic trying to decide what to knit next. I hate not having something on the needles. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry, Glen Ross, a knitter should Always. Be. Knitting. Coffee is for knitters. Oh, and second prize is a set of steak knives. (If you want to watch a clip of the scene I’m referring to, do so at home and away from little ears!)

Just when I was at wit’s end, Janelle sent me the Glengarry equivalent of the new leads – a free Ravelry pattern for the Movember Mystery Sock. It’s fun, has little mustache motifs all over it, and is perfect for the green Lorna’s Laces yarn I rescued from Kate’s yarn-hating jaws. Turns out this was just the perfect little Christmas miracle combination of yarn and pattern. I managed to get half of a sock finished over the past few days. It was chilly and damp during our little trip to the west, and it was comforting to be swathed in handknits (sweater, socks, slippers, scarf, hat) while making yet more. Always! Be! Knitting!

Postscript: Here’s a holiday-themed parody on the classic Glengarry Glen Ross scene that appeared on Saturday Night Live a few years back. Enjoy!

 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be-Scarved

Be very be-scarved.

I surprised myself by finishing up my Pavement Scarf yesterday. I still had a good part of the 4th and final ball to go when I sat down to knit, and I just flew through it. After dinner, I gave it a good soak and pinned it out on the floor in our spare bedroom with some blocking wires. Thanks to everyone who commented about just doing this. It’s how I used to block things before I had a blocking board – don’t know why I was reluctant. I left the ceiling fan on full blast overnight, and this morning, I had a nice cozy scarf to keep my neck warm while walking the dogs. It so light and airy, and I love it.

As mentioned before, Shelter is a great yarn to work with – it doesn’t split and feels nice in the hand. And, despite it’s rugged aspect, isn’t all that scratchy against the skin. It did puff up a bit after blocking. The reversible cables are genius, if a bit difficult to get used to at first. I did some math; there are 336 cable twists in this scarf, which ended up being 8 inches wide and 75 inches long. The medium size was supposed to be 7.25 inches wide and 72 inches long. If this had been a fitted garment, my gauge would obviously have caused problems, but who cares with a scarf, right? It’s much longer than the Henry scarf I made a few years back, and the color is perfect.

Scarves are one of those things that beginning knitters learn to make – and some knitters never move beyond. Typically, they don’t involve shaping, although this one did have a row each of increases and decreases. They’re fairly easy to make and fit isn’t usually an issue, so they make great gifts. If you’re going to learn to knit, you’re probably going to end up making a scarf. And you’ll probably end up giving one to someone else. 

Just this weekend, Jeff and I were watching Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the end of the World (2007), wherein we saw a well-worn and probably hand-made scarf on volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, as he stood on the rim of the quite active Mt. Erebus, on Ross Island, off the coast of Antarctica, probably in December at the height of the Antarctic summer. I liked the thought of him packing this hand-made thing and taking it with him to the ends of the earth.

Here’s to staying cozy and warm this holiday season, wherever you’re spending it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scarfing Down

Just a note to show a bit of progress on the Pavement Scarf. Still loving the pattern, and still making mistakes from time to time. Love this yarn – if I do have to rip out, the stitches just sit there patiently, not unraveling, waiting to be put back on the needles.

I’m a little shy of 3/4 of the way done. I was worried at first that this scarf  wasn’t going to be long enough. That is no longer my concern. What keeps me up at night lately is trying to figure out how to block something that is 76+” long on a blocking board that is only 30-something inches long. Do I do it in sections? That seems wrong and not very manageable. Do I just pin it to the carpet in the guest bedroom and make that space  off-limits for a while? Anyone with expertise in blocking extra-long things, feel free to chime in.

Today, I spent the morning with friends, eating too much and laughing. The hostess with the mostest gave everyone some luxurious hand cream, which is totally amazing. Then, I got home to find more goodies on the doorstep from my brother and his family, shortly after talking on the phone with him about his recent trip climbing Andean volcanoes. Tonight, we sing in our men’s chorus concert, and then it’s a week of downtime before the Christmas weekend.

Hope everyone is staying warm and enjoying this wonderful time of year as much as I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who’s Got the Buttons?

Answer: me. Yesterday, I replaced the burnt wood buttons on my Kerouac Sweater -- for a few reasons.

First, the color just wasn’t quite right. Although the wooden buttons gave it a certain 70s vibe which I liked, ultimately, I thought they pulled focus from the sweater. It was starting to look like buttons with a sweater around it. Second, they were a bit large. I began noticing how much friction occurred when buttoning the sweater up, and I could envision the wooden edges eventually slicing through a strand of yarn. Not good. Third, they were a bit heavy, and when the sweater wasn’t buttoned, they dangled off the front like so many sow’s nipples. Not attractive.

So, I went to the fabric store, and got some very plain gray/taupe plastic buttons to replace them. Switching them out didn’t take long, although there was a moment of panic when I sliced through the knitting with my scissors. I have no darning skills (I could have used your help, Janelle!), so I just tied the snipped strands together, as they were going to be behind a button anyway and wouldn’t show. You can’t even tell from the front. Whew! The new 3/4” inch buttons fit better than the old 7/8” buttons, don’t distract, and won’t be as hard on the button holes. I’m thinking of reinforcing them, though, just to learn how to do it. If anyone knows of any excellent tutorials for this, let me know.

When I started this sweater, I didn’t envision it becoming a laboratory for learning so many new skills. Usually, when I finish something, it’s done; I don’t think about it again. But for some reason, this one calls me to experimentation. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Splice Splice Baby

Today was a day for tying up loose ends, so to speak.

A few days ago, I looked down into the craft bag that I keep beside the chair I knit in , and was appalled at it’s sorry state. Needles everywhere, half-wound balls of yarn, torn up ball bands, color cards, DPNs everywhere – it was a mess. So today, I dumped it out and cleaned house.

I pulled out the straight needles and put them in a vase (I’ll find something better later), threw out a LOT of useless ends and scraps, made sure all the right circulars were in their correct bags, organized my DPNs, and put together some things to donate. This mess you see here is not neat and tidy and only 1/3 full. Maybe now, Kate won’t be tempted to stick her nose in there to see what she can find.

Which leads me to project number two and this post’s title. Last winter, when Jeff and I were out of town, Kate got into some of my knitting. Some of the stuff she ate I didn’t really care about, but she did manage to mangle a hank of Lorna’s Laces in a one of a kind color. Seriously, the color number is 000, but strangely, it has a dye lot number of 34…  I started to toss it, but it had a pristine mate, and knowing that it was irreplaceable made me a bit more dogged (so to speak) in my determination to fix it. So I put this sad shredded mess on a swift, and spent a few hours gently teasing out the pieces and splicing them together. It turns out there were only about a dozen pieces, and two sections were quite long, so I think it was worth it. I’d kind of forgotten about this yarn, but now I’m already thinking of possibilities.

And finally, progress was made on the Pavement Scarf over the past few days. It’s a satisfying pattern, easily memorized within a few pattern repeats. The numbers 6 and 7 figure in the pattern a lot, and it’s clever how it’s reversible – a handy feature for a scarf. Unlike most cabled figures, there is quite a bit of purling into knit stitches and knitting into purl stitches, but once you see where things are going, it does make sense. It is a bit lacier than I thought it would be, and the whole thing could be done on smaller needles, but the drape will be nice and I’m hoping it will fill out when blocked, which this garment sorely needs.

This was to be my over-the-winter-break knitting, but I may finish this faster than I expected. I’m really digging the color.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I Wish You Shelter…

“…from the storm, a cozy fire to keep you warm. But most of all, when snowflakes fall, I wish you love.”

Not exactly appropriate, as these lyrics are from a breakup song, but I think of this tune when I think of Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter yarn. If you’re unfamiliar with it (the song, not the yarn), there's a video of Judy Garland singing it on her early 60s TV show at YouTube. Go ahead and watch it. The blog will be here when you get back.

For months, I’ve lived only 2.5 miles from one of the few places that carries it (the yarn,not the song) but some reason, I’d just not gotten around to getting any. If you’re not familiar with this yarn (yes, there are a few non-knitters who might be reading this!), check out some information on this yarn line’s background. Interesting stuff on how it’s made and some beautiful photography, too.

It’s been a bit chilly this week, and while I like my Henry scarf that I made several years ago, I’ve wanted something a bit heavier and a bit longer, with more wrapability. So this evening, after we walked the dogs and while Jeff started making supper, I snuck over and bought 4 hanks of Shelter in the color Long Johns. I’m planning on using this Brooklyn Tweed yarn to make a Brooklyn Tweed pattern, Pavement.

I’m looking forward to many long hours of satisfying knitting, working with a cool new yarn, and ending up with something to keep me toasty. I’m going to wind up a ball and get started right now. Try and stop me.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Year of the Balls

Librarians like to be thorough and systematic. And I am a librarian. So, if you think transitively, (or if you’ve ever met me), you’ll know that I like to follow a path and finish what I start. Keeping all that in mind, I’m trusting you’ll tell me if you think I’m biting off more than I can chew here.

Last month, I got a copy of 55 Christmas Balls to Knit, and I’ve enjoyed perusing it since then. This weekend, I got to thinking  – Christmas 2012 is about 55 weeks away. What if I set a goal of knitting one of these things a week for the next year? Then, when it comes time to decorate the tree I’ll have over 4 dozen new ornaments!

I made one yesterday as a prototype to see how things might work. I had some leftover Stroll fingering weight yarn from the Border Socks I made, so I cast on and quickly knit up the first design, called Snow Crystal. It didn’t take all that long, and I found that using Stroll with 2.75mm dpns seemed to make a good sized ball. But, unless you’re seriously into 70’s era sweat suits, I don’t think this color scheme is going to work. I’m thinking of doing all of these with a white background and red for the patterns. Stroll comes in an un-dyed white, and I want to use either Scarlet or Barn Red. I’m leaning toward Barn Red. What do you think? I find that the colors I see on the Knit Picks website and what arrives can be quite different, and Knit Picks doesn’t provide color cards any more.

Also, the authors suggest gluing on little rhinestones to give these some sparkle, but I was thinking that it might be fun to use that technique where you put beads on the stitches using a crochet hook. If anyone has done that and wants to comment on whether this is advisable, I’d sure appreciate it.

It was cold enough to wear a sweater today!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Party Down

Today was the big day for Jeff’s little cousin. She’s a year old this week, and celebrated in high style with family, friends, and rides around the front yard in her little red wagon.

It was so good to meet her. She was just a delight – so beautiful, and curious and learning things left and right. She absolutely adores her uncles – as any smart niece does – and even took a shine to some of her older cousins. She has only recently learned to walk, but she’s getting good at it fast.

While the hat I made was a bit small, the jacket fit perfectly, with some room for growth. She seemed extra interested in the buttons, of course, but I assure you I sewed them on extra tight.

Such a beautiful girl and such a fun day. Pinks and purples are definitely her colors! I’m so glad I got to make this for her and so pleased that she seems pleased with it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Quelle Surprise!

Just a quick post to show you some finishing details I’ve made to the Baby Surprise Jacket for Jeff’s little cousin…

I added these pink buttons this afternoon. They’re yet another shade of pink – and the thread with which they were sewn, stolen from my mother-in-law’s sewing kit, is yet another shade of purple. Five separate colors that go great together! The buttons have six holes. I wasn’t sure what to do with all of them, so I decided to mimic the ridges of garter stitch and do little bars across. The top and bottom holes don’t connect to the sweater – I just ran the thread threw them a few times to make them match the rest. My advice – do not look behind the buttons.

I also added a mitered collar based on instructions I found. I didn’t pick up as many stitches as instructed – they just weren’t there to be picked up – but I think it turned out fine.

I’m hoping to have a bit of time and yarn left over to make a hat. I have a pattern picked out. We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes. The little one’s birthday is Sunday. I’m hoping I can get some modeled shots to post then.

Ooh – dinner is ready.  Hope everyone  is having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Surprise!

Jeff’s little first cousin (once removed), for whom I made the Tamarix Quilt last summer, turns 1 soon. We were invited to her first birthday party on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so after my knitting group met Saturday morning, I went and bought some yarn and got cracking on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket, as written up in The Opinionated Knitter.

Folding a Baby Surprise Jacket

 

This evening, it’s all over but the buttons – and possibly a collar. What can I say? I had a lot of time on my hands this weekend – a rarity in the fall.

There are many ways you can tackle this project – just check out the over 6500 pictures of this project in Flickr. Janelle has made at least two beautiful examples using self-striping yarn – one in pink and one in green – that are just lovely. I would definitely recommend doing this – striping on your own is pretty tricky. I followed a beautiful design that I saw in Ravelry using gray, mustard and green. But I was in the mood to make something ultra-girly, so I went for pinks and purples. To be more accurate, Berocco calls the colors I used Mochi (pale pink), Dewberry (reddish purple) and Petunia (dark purple). Knitting pal Melissa helped me pick out the colors. Thanks, Melissa.

A knitting buddy, Jene, advised me not to mess with EZ’s math or get too creative with this pattern. She knows what she’s talking about. Early on, I decided to do a slipped stitch chain selvedge to make a neat and tidy edge, but then I realized that this would causes problems with seaming later. EZ would have mentioned it if she though it advisable. All hail, EZ!

After I was done knitting, I couldn’t figure out how to seam horizontal garter stitch to vertical garter stitch. I found some pictures that the Yarn Harlot had posted when she made this several years back. They were quite helpful, and I think my efforts turned out nicely.

What a fun, but mind-bending project – it’s what knitting must be like for being in higher dimensions. I bought some cute pink buttons that I’m going to add on later, and I’m thinking of adding a collar, too. I’ll post more when it’s finished – and maybe even some pictures of it being modeled!

My favorite line from EZ’s instructions for this garment: “Hope you are still with me.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Borders

I finished the Border Socks this evening. I think, that with these socks, I can consider myself a confident stranded knitter.

In the past, I tended to dither about the stranded work – I could only do it while focusing on nothing else, I was nervous stranding in public (although I did it), I worried about changing colors. But after all those mittens and the vest I made last summer, I just kind of flew through this project. I didn’t bat an eye when the color work came up. Granted, this is much simpler than those projects, but I was pleased with how natural the stranding began to feel – not some special maneuver to be tackled, like Kitchener stitch. I’m still not throwing as comfortably as I pick, but overall, progress on this project was silky smooth.

I may have mentioned this earlier, but these are pretty bulky socks. They’re knit on 2.75mm (and 3.25mm for the stranded part), whereas I usually do socks on 2mm needles. So they’re looser. Plus, the Knit Picks Stroll fingering weight yarn that I used is a bit bulkier than what I usually make socks out of. These will be more for wearing around the house or in a pair of boots. They’re not going to fit into shoes very well.

Now I just have to wait for it to get really chilly. Well, what passes for chilly in central Texas, anyway.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tallent-ed

Today, my men’s knitting group met up at The Knitting Nest, shortly after a class had concluded. The staff asked the teacher, Stephannie Talent, to hang around and show us some of the samples she had brought. Lucky us – we saw some really amazing designs and knitting.

photo(1)First up, we got to see several of her mittens. She has a pattern booklet out with many of her designs, called, appropriately, Mittens! I tried on these green ones, which amazingly, fit me. I liked the sideways cuff, and although I don’t know about buttons for a guy, I was really drawn to these. They were made with yarn from Blackwater Abbey, which I’ve always liked, but have never ordered. Might have to now. Stephannie uses intricate cables and creative edging in her designs, and I was blown away by several pairs of mittens that incorporated beadwork. They were really quite exquisite, but at the same time, seemed very do-able.

photoIn addition to her book on mittens, Stephannie is about to publish a new book, California Revival Knits. This book features designs based on California Revival décor. Like the mittens, these garments incorporate all kinds of techniques – cabling, beadwork, intarsia, stranded knitting – the whole gamut. I was drawn to these fingerless peacock mittens. Hard to see in this picture, but the peacock has a beautiful red beaded eye. It reminds me of one of those rhinestone-studded purses that my grandmother used to use in the 1960s – but way cooler. Also not visible in this picture, a row of over a dozen little pearl buttons fastening up the side.

sweaterThere were larger garments, too. This beautiful top had really nice beaded work all the way around, and a pretty hemmed picot edging. For some reason, the camera didn’t get the color right – this is actually a beautiful chocolate brown color – which probably goes a long way towards explaining why I liked it.

I’m so glad I got to see all of this. It’s always gratifying to see a range of a designer’s work and get to talk to her about what she loves to do. If you have an interest in beautiful designs that require a wide range of techniques, you’ll want to get your hands on these patterns. Thanks for sharing, Stephannie – we appreciated you hanging around to show us all your beautiful work!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Clear and Normal

A brief diversion from the knitting while I share some good news. First, some background.

Fanconi Syndrome is a kidney condition that affects Basenjis. The syndrome causes problems in glucose and acid levels in urine, and can lead to kidney failure. It usually doesn’t manifest itself until a dog is between 4 and 7 years of age, by which time some dogs have already had offspring. Thus it has passed down from generation to generation. It affects somewhere around 10% of the U.S. Basenji population. It’s a nasty disease, but if caught early, it’s treatable. Catching it early, for us, involved holding Clinistix urine testing strips under (Pona) or behind (Kate) our dogs once a month to see if they had high glucose levels. Fun!

Until recently, there was an indirect test for the likelihood of a dog developing Fanconi later in life, called a linked marker test. They could look at several indicators and calculate probability, but as yet, they hadn’t identified the exact mutation. In late August, Dr. Gary Johnson of the Dept. of Veterinary Pathobiology at the University of Missouri, was able to sequence the complete genome of Miranda, a Basenji with Fanconi Syndrome and compare it to other dog genomes. He identified the exact gene causing the problem. As far as Dr. Johnson knows, it’s the first first inheritable dog disease problem solved through genome sequencing. Dr. Johnson’s recent presentation to the Basenji Club of America is available and rather interesting for those who want all the nerdy details. Thanks, Dr. Johnson – and Miranda!

All this is to say that we sent off for DNA testing kits from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, swabbed the in side of the dogs’ cheeks (more fun!) and sent the samples back. I checked the website today, and here’s what I saw:

ClearNormal

Wonderful news! Oh, and because this is a knitting blog, I guess I can share with you that I’ve finished the first of the Border Socks.

 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Odd Balls

Even though I had just started a pair, some yarn I’d ordered came in the mail and I just had to get going on another. A few days ago, I cast on for the Border Socks from the Fall 2011 issue Interweave Knits.

I’m treading on dangerous ground with these (figuratively, not literally, because they’re not anywhere near finished) since I didn’t swatch. Hey, it’s sock yarn – what could go wrong? Here’s what could go wrong. I normally knit socks on size 0 or sometimes size 1 needles. This pattern calls fro knitting on size 2, with the colorwork done on size 3. The circumference for the medium size is 72 stitches which is what I usually cast on for the smaller needles. Still, these are looking about right. The Knit Picks Stroll yarn that I’m making this with is a bit on the thick side as sock yarns go, so the drape seems right, too. I’ll try them on soon to check. Right now, I’m having too much fun knitting them.

ballsYesterday was my birthday. My age now matches the number of chromosomes in each of my cells. Shouldn’t we all celebrate that? It was a great day – I did an orientation for a very attentive class at work, got several nice cards and email greetings, and came home to find a wonderful present waiting for me – 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne Nerjordet & Carlos Zachrison. What a hoot! Arne & Carlos are a couple, living in Norway, who, in addition to fashion design and knitting, are into gardening, home renovation, doll houses, and raising chickens. I love the picture on the cover, a sort of modern gay Scandinavian version of American Gothic. Check out the book trailer featuring this quirky duo:

 

 

I really wish Pete Schweddy had written a blurb for the jacket. And I’m wondering – couldn’t Arne & Carlos have created one more design to come up with an even number?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where There’s a Will

Today, my world took a bit of a shift from the canine to the equine – I went carriage riding with my friends Amy & Kristi. Amy has a couple of beautiful Morgans housed on a farm east of town, named Will & Blessing. Will and Amy are a rather accomplished carriage driving team, and we got to see them go through their paces together. Will is a beautiful animal – smart, affectionate and obedient – that is, when he’s not being Will-full. But he was on his best behavior today, and I really had a great time. I learned a lot about carriage driving – and like any interesting craft, it has layers of complexity that can keep the practitioner learning for a lifetime.

Will hauled the three of us around the property, exhibiting model control. He walked and trotted, turned lovely circles, and we even got to stop and visit a few of his buddies during the trip. There are a half-dozen or so enthusiastic dogs around the farm (so, actually, it was a MORE canine-y day than usual!), as well as a lovely flock of hens. So not only did I get to spend a lovely fall afternoon with friends human, canine and equine, I came home with a dozen fresh eggs. Win-win-win-win! Thanks, Amy, for a wonderful afternoon well spent.

I’m waiting on some yarn to arrive for some socks I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while, but I needed something on the needles in the meantime, so this weekend I started a pair of socks from a pattern called Rudy Got Sole. It’s a pretty simple basket-weave pattern made with alternating squares of stockinette and garter stitch. It’s perfect for this yarn I bought in Granbury a while back. It’s easy while “reading” the work to knit the garter stitch sections as reverse stockinette, so I’m really having to pay more attention than I would have thought.

Update: Check out Amy's post with picture of me and Will -- and Blessing! -- and some of her thoughts on the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black is the Colour

I quickly whipped up a Windschief hat for myself with the yarn I bought in Louisiana last week. I cast on for this project Tuesday night, finished it Wednesday night, and got home today and took some pictures.

I made the medium size this time, but didn’t check for gauge. It’s still a tiny bit bigger than I wanted it to be – I wanted this thing to be very snug – but I’m still happy with how it turned out. Because it’s so fast and easy to knit, I can try again some time if I really want to. But for now, I’m good. This is such a great design, simple, but with that cool dramatic extension of the ribbing that slants diagonally across one quarter panel.

Jeff took this picture of me wearing my Geek Eyewear glasses that came free with my fancier ones. Sometimes, good guys wear black.

Oh, and remember the October Woodland Winter Mittens? I gave them to the woman who inspired me to take up knitting. Thanks, girlfriend!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

I spent a big chunk of this day of our lives finishing up my Twisted Hourglass Socks. Because I’d gotten some long-deferred yard work out of the way yesterday, today was just for me, some PBS shows I needed to catch up on, and lots and lots of twisted stitches. Some more twisted than others.

At least twice, I found that one of my running twisted stitch lines was going off in the wrong direction. Rather than tink back a few rows, I undid the three or so stitches that were mis-ordered, laddered down a few rounds, and then worked my way back up. This is kind of tough to do when the middle stitch is a purl stitch, and I had to wrangle the “working” yarn in front to execute them. The stitches in these repaired sections are a little wonky, but I’m hoping that they’ll even out over time.

I can definitely recommend this pattern. It may seem a little intimidating at first, but hang in there. The pattern is easily read from the work and I soon found myself not having to look at the pattern much. The designer, Robin Griffiths, is kind enough to warn you when things might appear weird. It’s comforting when designers give you that personal aside, patting you on the shoulder and saying “I know you wouldn’t normally do this here, but trust me.” Much appreciated by someone given to second-guessing himself. Most of the cabling or twisting is simple enough that it can be done without a cable needle – my only exception was the seven-stitch cable down the side. I managed to do it once, but that was enough to scare me back to standard practice.

    

So now, I have nothing on the needles! I haven’t been in that state in a very long time. I do have plans for a Windschief hat for myself, plus there were some nice stranded socks a few issues back in Interweave Knits that I’d like to try.

But that would mean buying some yarn. Like that’s a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Knitting on the Road

I just drove back from a conference in Baton Rouge. While I got to visit with several knitting medical librarians, I didn’t get as much knitting done as I’d like and I didn’t get a chance to visit a local yarn shop. There was only one, and it wasn’t open except for my busiest day at the meeting. 

IMG_4167So, on the way home today, I decided to stop by a shop in Lafayette. I got to The Yarn Nook about the time it opened on a glorious fall morning, right after the owner propped the doors open.

It’s very roomy, with a wide variety of yarns. From the store’s website, it looks like they host a lot of knitting activities in the shop, and I can see why. About half the store was filled with large comfy chairs that invited one to sit and knit a spell. After my embarrassingly carb-o-rrific breakfast at an old favorite breakfast joint in Baton Rouge, I kind of wanted to kick back in one of them, but I needed to get back on the road. I snagged some Cascade 220 in a heathered charcoal, which I’ve used before (see my Cobra Sweater and Tea Cozy), to make myself a Windschief hat and headed out after all too brief a stop.

If you ever find yourself in Cajun Country, you should take time to stop by.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sitting Pretty

After three long years, the piano bench cushion -- and the pillow made from my initial attempt -- are finished. I picked them up from the upholsterer’s shop today. I couldn’t be happier with them.

Back in the early 1970’s, my great-grandfather decided to buy pianos for his piano-playing granddaughters who didn’t already have one. They came with only one very tight piano string attached – they had to be American-made. So my mother went shopping and picked out a nice little spinet made by the Everett Piano Company. I don’t know if he ever knew that within a year or so the company was bought by Yamaha…

Some of my fondest childhood memories surround this instrument. My mom learned to play the piano at a young age. I was about 6 or so when she got this piano, and I remember being amazed on the day it arrived when she just sat down and started playing. I’d never seen her do anything remotely like this and suddenly she was making the most amazing sounds. She was drawn to it when she was stressed or just needed to clear her mind – she seemed to be able to play just about anything, but she mostly loved hymns. I always admired how she could play without looking at the music much and while holding a conversation. Later, both my sister and I learned to play it, and just about drove our brother crazy with our constant practicing.

Back in the day, it had a thin elastic-edged cushion stretched over it made of green silky fabric with gold lamé stitching. It didn’t last long, because of the pointy edges on the bench and the wiggly rear-ends that were always scooting back and forth on it. Once, when fighting over who was going to play, we managed to snap off one of the legs. My dad repaired it, and so far, it’s held up. I think the upholsterer’s idea to use Velcro straps was spot on – this cushion should last a good long time. If nothing else, I’m not as fidgety as I used to be.

Now the piano is in our house, although I still think of it as Mom’s Piano. I don’t play it as much as I did as a kid, but I do love having it around – just seeing it there in the corner is comforting, bringing back warm memories. And now, with its new cushion, the bench is just a little more comfortable -- and comforting -- too.

 

“You Are Too Beautiful” by Rodgers & Hart


Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Tiny Twisty

Work progresses on the Twisted Hourglass Socks. This pattern is just different enough to really keep me on my soon-to-be-grafted toes.

One thing that’s a bit different is that after getting the gusset reduced, the stitches aren’t divided evenly between the front and back – there are more on the front. I assume this is to accommodate the cables. And even though this was clearly stated in the pattern, it took a while for my brain to process it.

Cleverly, the 7-stitch cable along the side of the sock splits into two 3-stitch cables, one running along the top of the gusset, and one running along the heel flap. They don’t exactly look the same, though. I think that’s because I’m knitting into the back of the knit stitches on these cables. In cables twisted one direction, the twisted knit stitches work with the cable, but in the other direction, they work against it. Still, it’s really a neat way of designing this.

The main hourglass pattern is pretty easy to follow. Out of the 16 rounds in the pattern, stitches are flipped in only 6 of those rounds. The twisting of the knits really makes these lines pop – almost a 3-D effect if the light is just right. And although I was worried that the extra stitches and the US1 (2.25mm) needle I’m using (I usually use a US0) would make these socks too big, it seems to be fitting just fine. Oh, and I love how the travelling stitches and cables grow organically out of the ribbing at the cuff. So much to love about these!

One thing that is always the same, though: anxiety over whether I have enough yarn for the second sock…

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

KnitFlix: The Red Tent (1969)

We’d had this disc sitting on our shelf for a couple of months and only got around to watching it Saturday night. I’d put it in the queue because of my obsession with the exploration of the polar regions. It’s a dramatization of Umberto Nobile’s tragic 1928 airship voyage to the North Pole.

IMG_4132The Red Tent is not a bad film, although they really wanted to get their money’s worth with all the B-roll they must have bought of icebreakers, polar bears and calving glaciers The movie is a joint Soviet/Italian production, and it’s kind of cool to see strangely inserted Russian scenes, one of which was filmed in Leningrad.

It’s set up as a dream tribunal with the aged Nobile being confronted by and reliving the events with some of the expedition’s participants, both airship crew and would-be rescuers. Sean Connery plays Roald Amundsen (who actually died trying to find Nobile), although he’s pretty much there because he’s Sean Connery.

IMG_4130The main reason to watch this film, though, from a knitter’s point of view, is to see all the large-gauge chunky knits that the cast wears throughout the film. Scarves, gloves, hats, balaclavas, and of course, sweaters, are everywhere – most knitted with ultra-maxi-super-chunky-mondo yarn on needles in their upper teens. It probably only took one employee in a Tromsø sweatshop two hours to make any one of these garments.

Above, Valeria, a nurse played by Claudia Cardinale, hugs a soiled scarf that used to belong to her love interest, the expedition’s Swedish meteorologist, Finn Malmgren. Malmgren, played by Russian actor Eduard Martsevich and shown in the lower picture, sports a herd’s worth of wool and a roll collar that just won’t stop while doing shots with Nurse Valeria in a Spitsbergen honkeytonk.

Is it wrong to want to live somewhere where you can wear this stuff?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Windschief

I didn’t think this would take long – and it didn’t. It’s pretty straightforward with easy-to-follow directions. I did manage to fake myself out and make myself think I’d made a mistake, but immediately after frogging back from the crown decreases to the ribbing, I realized I hadn’t made a mistake after all. Sigh. So I kind of made this hat 1.75 times.

I made the large version (didn’t even check gauge), and while it fits my melon head, I think, if it I were to make it for myself with this same yarn, I would make the medium version. I think I would want a more snug fit. It’s been handed of to Jene, and should soon be winging its way to Afghanistan. I hope it keeps some Marine over there nice and cozy.

This hat is angled in the photo so that you can clearly see the 1/4 panel of 1x1 twisted stitch that grows organically out of the edge ribbing. Most of the hat is in stockinette, as you can see behind my left ear. Again, thinking ahead to possible difference for a version for me, it might be fun to have two sections of 1x1 twisted stitch ribbing on opposite sides. But maybe not. A lot of the appeal of this design is the asymmetry and the different places you can move the panel around your head.

Finding myself at – well, not exactly loose ends; woven in ends? – I’ve decided to cast on for a pair of socks. I ran across a hank of Cascade Heritage sock yarn in a colorway called Walnut that I’d stuck in a drawer and forgotten about. I wanted to do something cable-y, so after digging around on Ravelry, I settled on a free pattern for Twisted Hourglass Socks. They look complicated, but really aren’t. Most of the cables are really Bavarian-style twisted stitches that can be maneuvered without a cable needle – with the exception of a few 7-stitch twists (see far left in the picture). There’s some calf shaping in this, which I haven’t done in a while. Should be fun!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

October Leaves

Just a few days ago, I wrote that I was hoping to get these done before October. Um, well, they’re done!

I did modify the thumbs a bit to make them wider. I had a lady with lady thumbs try them on, and she reported that they fit fine. They’re still very snug on my meaty thumbs, but the stitches don’t distort like previous pairs did on me. I inserted four stitches evenly around the thumb in the midst of some even-numbered motifs, making them odd-numbered. I just had to remember where they were – which wasn’t as hard as it sounds – and had to deal with two extra stitches in the draw-through at the end.

 

There were fewer long floats in this pattern, so I didn’t have to catch the yarn as much. Consequently, the caught yarn doesn’t show through as much as the last pair. I did have a bit of a blocking issue – I’ve made the left glove slightly longer than the right. But another blocking should get that fixed. And a few places my gauge freaked out for a stitch or two, but overall, I’m very pleased with these.

My next project is a quick one, requested by my friend Jene. She has asked a bunch of her fellow knitters to make hats for the boys in her nephew’s unit in Afghanistan to keep their heads warm during the upcoming winter. I’m using some Berroco Vintage (a nice acrylic, wool, and nylon blend – washable!) in a color called Cracked Pepper to make a Stephen West design, Windschief. I’ve made a bit of progress already, and hope to have it done in a few days. So far, I like it. I may just have to make one for myself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To the Upholstery Hostelry

I was out of town last weekend, so today was my first chance to see about getting a piano bench cushion made out of the Big Dotty fabric I finished up a few weeks back.

upholsteryshopThere are a couple of upholsterers in my part of town, but I settled on The Upholstery Shop, mostly because it had some good reviews on Yelp. Based on my experience so far, all those people were right, and I’m really glad I chose them.

Veronica, who helped me this morning, really listened to what I wanted and clearly explained some options. She came up with an ingenious solution for attaching a cushion that still allows for opening the lid to the storage area – a few thin straps running from the bottom of the cushion and under the lid, fastening with velcro. She suggested this when she noticed that there was a bit of clearance on the front and back edges when the lid is down. Genius!

We chose a green canvas fabric for the backing that matches the darker green in the fabric I knitted, and she’ll make a pillow with my giant swatch to match. Veronica really listened to my questions and answered them patiently. Oh, and her prices were very reasonable. She was a complete joy to work with. I wish more business transactions worked like this. I can’t wait to see them – stay tuned for the unveiling in a few weeks.

IMG_4096Since my last post, I haven’t been knitting regularly, but have managed to make a bit of progress on the second of the pair of  October Woodland Winter Mittens. I’d say I’m a little over halfway done with the body. I’m really liking the patterning on the back of this – perhaps more so than on the first. I especially like the little darker leaves along the cuff. But I’m going to have to quit dawdling if I want to get these finished up before October.