Monday, May 28, 2007

Knitting Heritage

This weekend, I got to delve into the needle arts in my family. My mother never knit much. She and my aunts and grandmother were quilters. My grandmother, Granny, did a lot of needlepoint. But as far as I knew, knitting wasn't big in the family. We lived in Texas, after all. But in a phone conversation a while back, my Aunt June told me she had some things to show me the next time I came to visit. During the break between semesters, Jeff and I headed down to spend some time with her and her grandkids. She fixed us a wonderful lunch, complete with the family favorite, fig preserves. And, she brought out some treasure to share with me.

At the right is a picture of my great-grandmother, Grace Mae Adams Adkins, known to her grandchildren as MaMa (pronounced maw-maw). She was my mother's father's mother. Born in southern Iowa in 1889 and growing up mostly in central Nebraska, her family moved to the Texas coastal prairie in the spring of 1900. A few years later she met my great-grandfather, another mid-west transplant, and they married in 1907, about the time this picture was taken. She was 18.

Although she knew how to knit, she was more of a crocheter. She and her sister Gladys crocheted a lot. Although MaMa died some months before I was born, I have memories of Aunt Gladys in a nursing home. She and her roommate had covered nearly every surface in their room with crocheted cozies of all kinds. I don't remember her not crocheting.

When my aunt and mother were little girls, MaMa knitted them some sweaters. Aunt June still has hers. It's in a mustard-y yellow color and was probably knit sometime in either 1942 or 1943. It's cabled and has a little button at the side of the collar. It looks to me like the gauge of the body of the sweater and the arms is very different. The arms seemed abnormally long. Aunt June's theory is that they got stretched during cleaning. The sleeves are kind of cool. We tried the sweater on Aunt June's granddaughter, Sarah, and she looked like a little red-headed Joan Crawford -- very puffy shoulders! Aunt June remembers MaMa telling her that she couldn't remember how to do cables when she knit this sweater, so she had to go down the road to consult with a neighbor.

Aunt June gave me a bunch of old needles and crochet hooks that used to belong to MaMa and Aunt Gladys. They're kind of a mish-mash of sizes and conditions. I really like the large wooden knitting needle, although there is only one. One of the wooden crochet hooks looks quite old and has a whittled-looking end. The small white one looks like it might be made from ivory. You can also see a set of Boye aluminum knitting needles that got crunched at some point! I'm going to put these together in some sort of shadow box. Aunt June also gave me a set of interchangeable circular needles that she had back in the early 1970s. It's not complete, but each size is a different color of anodized aluminum. Really cool.

What a treasure. Thanks, Aunt June!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Vinnland Saga

All this sock yarn isn't going to knit itself...

I saw this pattern, Vinnland, in the Beltane 2007 issue of The Anticraft. What an awesomely quirky thing this is. It's not all about knitting, and I can't claim to get everything it offers, but it's always worth a look. Not for the faint of heart. These socks caught my eye. Since they needed to be green, and since I had my Kool-Aid-dyed Absinthe yarn sitting around, it seemed like a match made in, er, Valhalla.

The pattern is complicated and I haven't quite figured out how to read it so that I'm not constantly glancing at the chart. But I like how the ribs seem to weave and intertwine in a Norse-ish pattern. When I first saw this I thought it was cabled, but everything is done with increases and decreases. The most difficult thing is that the increases don't seem to follow a logical pattern as to whether they're made purl-wise or knit-wise. I'm sure there is some sort of rhyme and reason to it, but I'm not seeing it.

Not sure what's up with these pictures. I wanted to skip the flash so that the images weren't washed out, but they seem washed out anyway. Later pictures should show the green-ness better.

I like these already.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pair Some Wine With This Pair

I'm not sure what wine should be paired with Gorgonzola. Probably something sweet, which isn't the sort of thing I would usually reach for. But the Gorgonzola Socks are done. I seem to be tearing through the languishing projects this week.

This was a pattern that I took from the opening chapters of Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. The pattern called for casting on 60 stitches, resulting in a sock for a woman's size 8 foot. I knew that the number of cast on stitches had to be a multiple of four, so I cast on 76 (close to my ideal circumference of 78) and ran with it. Everything worked well, except for the special toe, which was highly prescriptive. I just did a regular flat toe and left it at that.

The Welsh heel was also interesting. It pairs decreases at either side of the center heel with decreases at either end of the row -- with a few yarnovers thrown in to keep things from shrinking too quickly. I don't know that I'd ever do this again. Because of the variegation in the yarn, the yarnover holes are all but invisible. If I could see them easily, they would drive me nuts.

So, most everything is tidily taken care of, knittingwise. I think I'm going over to Hill Country Weavers this afternoon. You know, just to look...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Wonderful feeling, wonderful day! The ZimmerZipper Cardigan sweater is officially finished. Here's a little trivia for those of you playing at home: It took me 15 days to knit this thing. It took me 90 days to figure out how to sew and cut the steek, get a zipper and install it.

You may recall my frustration at trying to get someone to put in a zipper for this sweater. I have zero (or, one might say, "zip") sewing skills. My mother was a former home economics teacher who taught me the importance of attractive plate presentation and making sure that all cookies were uniform in size. However, when it came to sewing, I didn't ask and she didn't tell.

So I ordered a custom-made zipper, which took several weeks to arrive. It got here on Friday and I started in on installing the zipper myself this weekend. Since I'm off for a bit between semesters, I've been able to devote a LOT of time to this. Lots of dark brown thread on dark brown zipper tape. I basted it twice before I got it too look pretty good. If I say so myself, and I do, it doesn't look half bad. It zips up fine and the fabric lies flat like it should. Everything is satisfactual.

I had a little problem with the bottom part of the zipper, which is kind of leathery. How are you supposed to hand sew into that? I'll ask at the knitting meetup this weekend. Thanks to all who helped me with this, especially the knitters at the meetup and my sister, Susan, for machine-sewing the steek. I couldn't have done it without you.

As I finished this afternoon, the temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Time to pack the sweater away until January...

T-Shirts for Tortillas

The 2007 T-Shirts for Tortilla exchange is complete!

Last week, our good friends and Sharon and Janelle attended the 34th annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. They braved long lines and spent precious fiber fondling time to get us t-shirts from this year's festival. Thanks, girlfriends!

Jeff and I went to Sheep and Wool with Sharon, Janelle, Kristina and the Natter family two years ago. I had just started knitting then and found the whole thing a bit overwhelming. I can't wait until the college's academic calendar and the festival calendar align once again so we can head back. My fondest memories:

  • "Stalking" the Yarn Harlot -- which meant just getting a picture of me with her in the background -- I was too shy to try actually speaking to her.

  • Having people ask me the age of Sharon & Janelle's son (whom I was carrying around) and not knowing. The shocked looks!

  • Janelle helping me buy my first hanks of sock yarn and helping me cast on for my first pair of socks.

It was a great time and these t-shirts really make me nostalgic for that wonderful weekend.

In exchange, we send them a boxload of HEB flour tortillas. Their boys love them, and the ones they got when they were down this winter have already disappeared. For good measure, we threw in a care package of bootlegged Knitty Gritty episodes.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Baste Not, Want

Finally, my zipper from ZipperSource arrived. I ordered this thing nearly three weeks ago. It's perfect.

So I spent the afternoon trying to get started on it. I'm following these instructions from Claudia's Blog. I pinned the zipper in about how I wanted it, and then I basted along a column of stitches, trying to get both sides pinned straight without causing bunching and gapping, and generally getting everything to line up. It was a bit of a challenge, because when I basted the steek stitches under the selvedge edge several weeks ago, I ended up with the left edge being a column of knit stitches, and the right edge being the gutter between two rows of knit stitches. You can't see it unless you're squinting, but it meant basting was different on each side and that threw me off until I figured it out.

After I got it all basted, I tried it on. I was mostly happy with it. Everything was lined up, but a little too much of the zipper tape was showing. I want to be happier with this, so tomorrow I'll start over. A little disappointing, but also encouraging, because now I can see this is doable. The end is in sight. Which is good, because it's starting to get too hot to even imagine wearing a sweater.

Still working on the Gorgonzola socks. I finished the heel flap and turned the heel while at the knitting meetup this morning. It was my first time there in nearly a month, and it was good to see everyone. I wore my new Sheep & Wool t-shirt which arrived in the mail yesterday. Thanks, Sharon & Janelle!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Who Moved My Cheese?

Long time no post.

The usual reasons apply -- busy end-of-the-semester work stuff, evenings taken up with extra chorus rehearsals, and a general spring knitting ennui.

I'm pretty proud of myself for adapting a pattern to fit. The first sock fits great. The Welsh heel was fine, although it has weird little yarnovers in it. They don't show in this yarn, so they don't bug me too much.

I did a cable cast on, which I probably won't do for a sock ever again, and, which I indeed did not do on the second sock -- it was cast on with the tried and true long tail. I was wanting a different cast on, figured out how to do a cable, which I thought would be great because I wouldn't need to measure out a bunch of yarn -- which I always get wrong. I read the word "firm" as "super stretchy and elastic" in some instructions I had, and ended up with a combination sock/tourniquet. It's not that bad, but it is, shall we say, snug.

My new Knitpicks size 0 dpns are disappointing me. While knitting one evening, I saw all kinds of glittery sparkles on my tshirt. The coating is flaking off and now, instead of being all shiny and semi-surgical, they look like chunks of old coat hangers. Ick. And they're all bent. This, of course, is from my too-tight knitting. This could be genetic -- more about that later.

And the ZimmerZipper sweater still languishes. I ordered a zipper nearly three weeks ago and I've heard nothing. I need to follow up.