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


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!