Friday, December 27, 2013

Year's End

Our trip through Germany continues, with a bit more knitting, some knitted gift giving, and some yarny serendipity in a small town where my father's family lived 60 years ago.

First, my brother seems to really like the Grettir Sweater that I made for him last summer and gave him for Christmas. Jeff took a great picture of us together at the Gutenburg Museum in Mainz with Michael wearing it. It couldn't fit better, and it really looks good on him. He says, "Es ist die beste." I haven't gotten a picture yet, but my sister-in-law Suzanne also likes her shawl. She wore it the other day during a 5-mile walk we took from Nordenstadt through Igstadt and Erbenheim and back and reported that it was perfectly warm. I think maybe I could get into this Christmas knitting thing after all!

This evening, after getting back from a day trip (see below), I finally finished up the 3x1 ribbed socks I started way back in July -- nearly six months after starting them. I started them to have socks on the needle and to burn through some stash, but I never would have guessed they would have taken so long. This yarn fought me the entire way. It was splitty and z-twisted (as I learned from Janelle), and so I had to constantly wrestle with it. But the resulting socks are thick, warm, and quite possibly bullet-proof. I think I'll wear them tomorrow when we head down to Würzburg. Lord knows the chilly days in which I can wear these will be few and far between in Texas. Maybe these will make good winter around-the-house socks.

And today, Michael drove Jeff and me over to Idar-Oberstein to walk around the town where my grandfather was posted in the US Army during the early 1950s. He was able to bring my grandmother and their only child, my father, to Germany to live with him for a few years. I grew up hearing stories about their life here. We climbed up to a church built into a cliff, and further up the cliff to walk around a schloss and a burg. We were rather nostalgic thinking about our father and grandparents climbing up these same paths and enjoying these views.

As we were walking down the main street of the town, I noticed some yarn for sale outside a shop in little baskets. A yarn shop! I'd been looking for one in either Wiesbaden or Mainz, but hadn't been able to figure anything out. And here one was! I was kind of on my own language-wise, but I managed to get across that I was a knitter. I looked around a bit; it was one of those shops where most of the yarns were from just a few companies. I didn't recognize the larger-gauge yarn company, but for the knees on down, this was a Regia shop. So I bought some gray (!) yarn for a pair that I hope to make in a pattern that in some way ties in with this town. I'll have to think about it.

I hope everyone is enjoying the end of the year holidays and has great plans of all sorts for the next year. Einen guten Rutsch!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Breien Onderweg

Tomorrow, Jeff and I head for Germany and a long-anticipated Christmas visit with my brother's family. But we've had such a great time in Amsterdam, with many fiber-related adventures, and want to recap them here while things are still fresh in my mind. Before I forget -- I worked on my socks on the plane a bit, but didn't finish them as I'd hoped.

On our first day here, we were able to check into our hotel early. We headed out straight away to get our bearings and keep ourselves active and awake in an effort to stave off jet lag. And it just so happened that one of the places we wandered by is de Afstap in the Grachtengordel West neighborhood. They had a wide range of Rowan yarns, and kits for complicated stranded ponchos in bright colors -- a whole room full of them. One of the staff told me that they did a lot of commissioned knitting work, and that they had over 10 people employed making custom knitwear. One of their biggest areas of business was in knitting for local theater costumers. What a great gig -- but it sounds very high-pressure to me.

Yesterday, we visited the Van Gogh Museum, where I had the pleasant surprise of seeing a red lacquered box in which Vincent kept different colors of wool which he would twist together to test color combinations. Much of the museum was dedicated to discussing Van Gogh's interest in color theory; how cool to think that some of the startling colors in his beautiful paintings might have gotten their start with bits of yarn. He, along with some fellow artists, was interested in weavers as subjects -- he made several studies of them, including some "doodles" in a letter.

And this morning at a weekend outdoor market, we came across stalls of second-hand knitwear, much of it obviously done by hand. It was the Northern European equivalent of a pile of t-shirts at Goodwill. Among them were lines of used mittens -- mismatched and a bit grubby, but many of them knit by hand.

But this afternoon was the best! After a sober visit to the Anne Frank House and the municipal Amsterdam Museum, I made my way to the Spiegelkwartier through some cold drizzle to visit Penelope Craft, the other shop I'd identified previously. And although I knew he frequented the shop, I was surprised to see Stephen West, mister Westknits himself, right there! He graciously showed me some local yarns, of which I picked up a couple of brownish skeins, and we chatted about yarn and designs and color. Well, mostly I went on and on, but he was very kind to listen and happy to let me take a picture with him. And while he wasn't wearing his trademark swants, he had just released his Carol of the Swants video!


It was a great way to round out our Amsterdam trip. I got a copy of his book, Words of Wisdom, and I even have an errand I've been tasked with back home. I only got to meet the owner, Malia, for a moment, but then, she's a busy woman.

So it's on to Germany, where breiwerk will become stricken...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over There

Such a busy holiday season. Not much time to knit or crochet -- much lest post anything about it. But my semester is over, and a big trip is coming up, so it's time to sit back, recap, and reassess where I am right now.

First up, check out this Faux-Sno Globe I made with my knitting bunch on Saturday morning. It's kind of fun that we took a break from our crafting to do yet more crafting! Meg had gathered together supplies to make little fluid-less snow globes using jars, Epsom salts, and a myriad of figurines. My little Victorian Christmas carolers put a smile on my face, especially the Lady in Red. She looks like the holidays may have gotten the best of her. Thanks to everyone, and Meg especially for a great morning of munching and hanging out.

I've been working on the Squared Away Throw somewhat steadily. It's slow going, with little mistakes here and there. Crochet seems more forgiving than knitting -- or maybe I'm just less uptight about it. A square on the previous row has 10 rows rather than 11? Eh -- no one will notice. But when I do have to rip back, it's so comforting to know there's only one live stitch at any time to be fretting over. Luxury!

The throw is getting too big to wag around, so I'm leaving it at home when we head out to The Netherlands and Germany in just two days to see sights and visit family. I'm going to just take knitting for socks. First up, I plan to finish the 3x1 ribbed socks that have been languishing for a while. I'm at the heel flap for the second sock, so I should have the pair finished by the time we land Wednesday morning. Then, I hope to work on a pair using the Paper Moon pattern by AnneLena Mattison from the Deep Fall 2011 issue of Knitty using some dark green (of course!) yarn I got for my birthday. If that gets done -- well, I'll just have to buy more, won't I?

I've scoped out a couple of yarn shops to possibly visit while in Amsterdam -- De Afstap and Penelope Craft. If any readers know of others, let me know. I'll be posting images from time to time at my usual social media haunts, but if you want to follow via Instagram, my handle is sevenlefts. I'll try to do a post or two on the road, but if not, I'll recap my adventures when I get back.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Crochet Underway

Spending some quiet days at the in-laws' over this long holiday weekend has granted me time I needed to get familiar with this new Tunisian crochet thing. I do think I'm getting the hang of it -- mostly. I'm at the point where I'm alternating between two types of rows, so it's basically an endurance exercise at this point. I hope my thumb holds out.

There are some quirks I've picked up about this entrelac pattern. The bind-off row for each square works better when I go up a hook size. You can see these rows folded over a bit on the upper right of the pale green (Silver Sage) squares in the photograph. Before I started going up a size, I could barely get the hook through the stitches to start new squares. That problem seems solved.

I also can't for the life of me figure out why the triangles in the first row are all based on 10-row motifs, while the rest is all based on 11 rows. Is this why I was having such bad tension issues earlier? This strange mismatch had me doubling up on stitches that we're picked up in some sections. Everything is 11-to-11 now, but I wonder what will happen at the far edge? I suppose I could read ahead and find out, but I think I'd rather just enjoy the mystery of anticipation at this point. In the meantime, I soldier on.

The picture of the American Beautyberries is here merely because they're gorgeous. My father-in-laws' are always so beautiful -- ours are rather anemic and rangy by comparison. I read in a book that we recently acquired at my library about edible garden plants that, while not particularly flavorful, Beautyberries are edible. I thought they might make a nice jam or jelly, and the book says you can, but the color disappears. Pity.

Hope all enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. I sure did.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Boye Bands

My yarn arrived this week along with a new set of Boye crochet hooks, and I was able to get started on the Squared Away Throw. In fact, I was able to start it three times.

I'm new to this crochet thing, and it shows. I knew my sample swatch was curved, showing that the cast on was too tight, so I followed the instructions and went up two sizes. Still too tight -- allthough the curve was more gradual that time. But because it was more gradual, I was already working back on the second band before I noticed it. So I started again, on a hook three sizes larger, but I managed to get the chain twisted. On the third try, I was careful about not twisting, and made my cast on chain (is that the correct phrase-ology?) extra loose. After single crocheting back along the chain, I had an edge that was about 57" inches long. The pattern calls for 60". I don't know if that includes the fringe or not (leaning toward not), so I decided to call it a success and crochet on already.

I've ended up using an alphabet soup of hooks. I cast on with a K (6.5mm), did the first band of triangles (color:seraphim) with an I (5.5mm), and am currently doing the first band of squares (color: whisker) on the pattern's called-for H (5mm). You can see that the stitches in the triangles are larger than the stitches in the squares, but everything is lying relatively flat and the edge isn't curling. So far so good. I may have to write up notes about which hook to use with which color.

It was a strangely quiet weekend for the fall, but perfect for hunkering down and playing with yarn. Jeff was out of town at a conference, and it was just me and the dogs and the wintry weather. It's been in the 30s the whole time. I'm really looking forward to Jeff's arrival and settling down with some homemade chicken stew. Hope everyone is staying warm, or cool in the case of my antipodal friends!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Night in Tunisia

I saw a pattern for a throw the other day, and based solely on the colors, I wanted to make it. It's yarn I've worked with before, so the only thing that might pose a problem is that it's not a knitting project. It's crochet.

I'm not one of those knitters who looks down his nose at other fiber crafts. I pretty much think they're all awesome. Okay -- I'm not all that fond of macramé, but I suppose it does have a place in this world. My main issue is that I'm just not that familiar with the skills and vocabulary of crochet, despite all the crocheters in my pedigree. I've never really done a serious crochet project. But I want to make this one.

It's the Squared Away Throw by Beth Major, made with four different grayish colors, and created with th Tunisian crochet method. Staci at Very Pink has a useful tutorial on Tunisian crochet, and I found one from Webs that describes using it in an entrelac pattern. I've done a bit of practicing and swatching, and I've already learned a few things.

First, my foundation chain was way too tight. See the curviness? Yeah, that's supposed to be a straight line. The instructions suggested chaining the foundation with a hook a size or two larger. Will do. Also, I got very frustrated at not getting anywhere close to the gauge in my squares -- until I realized the measurement was diagonal. Staci helped me figure that out. I also need to just relax in general -- I hold everything way too tightly, and I'm going to be in orthopedic gloves if I don't relax my grip a bit. I realize crocheting uses a different set of muscles than knitting, but just after swatching I was close to a diagnosis of crochet tunnel syndrome.

I've ordered the yarn and eagerly await its arrival. All of this planning and thinking of Tunisian crochet has this amazing tune spinning through my head. Sarah Vaughan certainly does it justice.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sing All A Blue-Green Willow

Janelle has lamented this often, and living in more northerly latitudes has more to complain about than I do, but it's just so hard to get photos of knitting during the work week this time of year. With FO photography in mind, I started racing home on my bike today, only to meet some cross-country bicyclists with questions about my fair city as they rode into town. They were way more energetic after a day of riding than I would have been. I can't imagine riding one's bike from Virginia or Quebec to Austin as these two did, but I suppose they were happy to be a bit further south these days. After exchanging pleasantries and saying goodbye, I got home just as the sun was disappearing. Drat.

The shawl turned out fine and knit up way faster than I'd imagined. I made the large size, but it's 6" shorter than it's supposed to be. However, the likely recipient will find it just right, I'm sure. The pattern describes it as a shawl. But I envision it being worn more like a scarf, with extra fabric for around the back of the neck. It's a bit heavy for a shawl, to my way of thinking, but then I don't normally wear them. Whenever I think of men and shawls, my mind wanders to elderly Dickensian men in their dotage. Or Dick Vandyke as Mr. Dawes, Sr. in Mary Poppins. Despite having recently added another year to the total, I'm not there yet.

This yarn is a real delight to knit with. The stitch definition it achieves is rather amazing. And I was surprised at it's density and heaviness, despite being labeled as sport weight. It must be on the heavy side of sport -- maybe full-contact sport weight? I only used a little over one and a half of the three skeins I bought. I should have enough to make a nice hat down the road. Now, to think of some more things to knit before the holidays. I may find myself racing APO shipping deadlines if I don't watch it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Willow River,Take My Mind

I started a new project this weekend -- a possible Christmas gift. It's for someone who may read my blog, so I'll try to play my cards close. This is the Willow River Shawl by Katie White, and I'm using some 80-10-10 Madeline Tosh yarn I got last week in Fort Worth in a beautiful seafoam green color called Mineral.

It's such a delight to knit with -- it just flows through my fingers. And the pattern is fun, too. I'm about halfway through the 11 32-row repeats that form the horizontal willow leaf pattern. Later, hundreds of stitches will be picked up along the part that can be seen in the right-hand part of the photo to form a vertical section with lots of short-row shaping. I'm making the long version, which I think puts this somewhere between a shawl and a scarf. A sharf? A scawl?

I also spent a part of the day removing and reattaching one of the sleeves of my Redford Sweater. I'd clearly sewn it on all cattywampus, and I could tell when wearing it that the corresponding side didn't fit right. It went fairly smoothly, if you don't count the fact that my first seam line snip was on the body of the sweater. Thank goodness for grabby Targhee-Columbia wool. I did some fixes and all is well. And it does fit better, so I'm glad I tackled it. Still, for my nerves' sake, I think the Redford Sweater and I are going to take a little time off from each other for the time being.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cowtown Crawl

Several of the crafty medical librarians at the conference I attended this week spent our last morning in Fort Worth visiting a few of the local yarn shops. Dena, an excellent knitter and hospital librarian was our host and skillfully guided us around a city that seems to have become one giant construction site.

We started out at Jennings St. Yarns, which I had visited a few summers ago. We were among the first customers on a drizzly day, and the shop owner, Linda, made all four of us feel right at home. A large portion of the shop is set up by yarn color, rather than just by brand, which makes it easy to make serendipitous finds. I really like this approach. There was still a separate sock yarn section, thou, and with a lot of variety. I found some that caught my eye.

Then we were off to Madtosh Crafts. Wow! It's a large, roomy shop that's half Madelinetosh yarn and half quilting fabric. I loved how the yarn cubby-holes were all waist high and up -- a tall person's yarn shop, indeed. I saw many examples of popular patterns knit up in Madeline Tosh yarns (including a Honey Cowl, Janelle!), and for a,guy who leans toward the drab and dreary, I still could have spent the whole day looking at all the rich, bright colors. I chose some beautiful sport weight Madelinetosh 80-10-10 in a seafoam green color for a Willow River shawl that I've been wanting to make.

I got back to Austin with just enough daylight left to snap a quick picture of the stuff I got. My thanks to Janna, Helen and Dena for a great morning. And to Dena especially for being such a good guide. Here's hoping everyone got home safely today and is knitting their new yarn up soon, if not already. I think I'll get started tomorrow. I'm itching to, because I realized I didn't manage to knit a stitch all week during the conference.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Green Redford

I finished the Redford Sweater today. And I'm mostly happy with it. There are a few style and fit issues, though, mostly of my own creation.

When I last posted, I was in the midst of seaming together some of the pieces. I'm not entirely sure why, but I noticed a real difference between the tension in the knit and purl slipped selvedge stitches. This resulted in half the expressed seams appearing neat and tidy, and the others half looking a little, well, sloppy. I really noticed this in the seaming process itself. On one side, the bars I was trying to pick up were nigh on impossible to find. On the other, they were quite apparent. I need to look into why this is. I'm hoping it's just one of those knitting facts of life, and not some personal failing. One of the less tidy seams is shown in the photo below.

Also, I didn't attempt to match up the seaming ratios between the two sleeves. I just kind of eyeballed how to set them in. I used clips to keep everything proportional around each sleeve seam, but I didn't compare the two sides. And it shows. One of the expressed side panel seams ends about an inch higher than the other. Yikes. You may be able to see what I mean in the first photo above. I really should have checked as I set in that second sleeve. But I'm not going to redo it. The fit is fine, and I doubt anyone will notice. Except you, dear readers, now that you've read this. If you see me wearing this on the street, be kind.

More seaming notes: Unlike the sock yarn I used for the side seams, I used Loft to seam the shoulders, since these seams would be visible. It's really difficult to use this yarn for a sewn seam, since it has little tensile strength. It kept breaking, with the result that this sweater is held together with spit as much as wool. Too much information? Also, the instructions didn't explicitly state that the sleeve seams (they're knit flat) should be expressed, so I chose to seam them normally, on the inside. While the expressed seams are an interesting feature of this pattern, my lack of skill with the edge stitches made me wary.

Please don't let this post give you the idea that I'm unhappy with this pattern or it's results. It really is quite lovely. I love the color and the weight. I was comfortable in it in the shade on a dry 24C autumn afternoon. It is a bit short for my taste, but that's how the pattern is written. If you like your sweaters a bit longer, adding some rows would be an easy modification. All in all, I'm pleased with it, and can't wait for the crisper days ahead when I'll get to wear it more. And I'm glad it's finished. Now, on to other things.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seam Antics

All parts of the Redford Sweater are knit up! Last night I blocked everything and today the seaming begins. This could take much of the weekend.

Tony expressed interest in how I was going to join stockinette and reverse stockinette. I was curious myself, having never attempted this maneuver. It's made even more complicated by the fact that the seams are supposed to show, that is, they are expressed, on the right side. I mulled things over, got out my copy of Vicki Square's The Knitter's Companion, and mulled things over some more. It shouldn't have taken so long, but I finally realized that in order for the seam to show on the right side, I had to sew the seam on the wrong side. Simple enough, once it occurred to me.

Above you see the wrong sides. The front panel is on the left half of each photo, showing the reverse stockinette side, and a side panel is on the right half of each photo, showing the stockinette side. Yes, the right side of the side panels is reverse stockinette. Is everyone following along so far? To mattress-stitch the seam, I went in to the gaps between the slipped twisted selvedge stitch and the first column of regular stitches. On the side panel, I picked up two bars (left photo) and on the front panel I picked up two "smiles"(right photo). They're really hard to see. I got out my head lamp from my Mt. Whitney climb a few years back. It really helps.

This reminds me of trying to come up with a citation for something that you just can't find an example of in a style guide, where you have to make an educated guess by merging two examples. You librarians know what I'm talking about.

The result of all this is a chunky seam that really shows. This expressed seaming is used to attach the front and back to the side panels and to sew the sleeves into tubes -- although, curiously, none of the photos of the garment in the pattern show those sleeve seams. More traditional seams are used across the shoulders and for setting in the sleeves.

I stopped by a yarn shop to pick up some sturdy sock yarn to do the seaming, but decided to give this bluish-green color that I had from some past project a try. It doesn't show at all, so I think I'll just stick with it. I can always return the sock yarn later -- I only bought one tiny sock's worth, and I'm not all that fond of the color, despite its greenness.

Back to it!


Saturday, October 05, 2013


Don't be too quick to cast me off discourteously, but I think I've used this title for a blog post before. As long as I'm knitting green sweaters with green sleeves, however, I reserve the right.

This sleeve took a while, for some reason. I just haven't been able to devote the time to knitting (or blogging about knitting, for that matter) as I'd like. The size I'm making, 42" chest with 2" of ease, calls for increasing every 10 rows 13 times. Pretty easy to count. I had to concentrate during the sleeve cap shaping, but my size is one of the easier ones to follow, so no real worries. It looks kind of stumpy here, but a few inches of ribbing will be added to the cuff edge later.

The bound of stitches on the cap and other parts of the sweater use a sloped bind-off method, where you turn before knitting the last stitch in a row, slip the last stitch worked from the previous row, and then bind off in pattern as usual. I wasn't watching as closely as I might have, and some of these edge stitches got a little stretched before binding off. But I love the effect. It really smooths out that stair-step effect you can get with a normal incremented bind-off. You can see the smooth curviness this technique gives to the cap.

Now, I'm following the deceptively spare and simple instruction' "repeat for second sleeve." After that, it's adding the cuffs and a neck, and then the sewing. Loft, while lovely and hard-wearing, doesn't have the tensile strength for use in sewing seams together. The pattern recommends using a sock yarn in a similar color. I don't know that I have any dark green scraps, so I may be in the weird position of buying sock yarn to finish a sweater...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reversal of Portions

I got the side panels of the Redford sweater finished this weekend. Without giving too much away, the instructions use the same perspective of right (stockinette) and wrong (reverse stockinette) sides, but when the pieces are finally all sewn together, the side panels are put in "wrong" side out. It was hard to get used to being concerned about how the wrong side was shaping up, since it's the part that will show. Here, I've pinned out one side panel between the front and back pieces so you can get some idea of what it will look like. From a distance, you might not see the difference, but if you look at a larger version at Flickr, you can get he effect.

I got a start on the sleeves this afternoon, having just started the 4th of 6 hanks called for in this size. I think should have enough. Looking at this picture already has me worrying about the complexity of the finishing. But what's a knitting project without a little fretting?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Front & Center

This week, I started and finished the front center section of my Redford Sweater. It's the same as the front for about 4/5 of this piece, then things get interesting.

A small triangular reverse stockinette section near the neck adds a little flair, and now that I think of it, will go nicely with the reverse stockinette side-panels that I'll be tackling next. I had to do this section twice, though. I was almost done, and realized the purled M1 stitches were leaving gaping holes. I think it was from a combination of not watching my gauge and from all the tugging I was doing to try and purl through the back loop for one of the increases. Purling through the back loop is a bear on the best of days, but on small yarn and rounded needles, I found I had to use a crochet hook to get anything done. Suffice it to say, the second attempt came off much more satisfactorily. It almost looks like you're looking at the inside of the back through the neck hole, doesn't it?

So now I have the two largest pieces finished and haven't quite got through the third of six hanks required for this project. This front piece seems to be a tad shorter than the back, even though I'm fairly sure they have the same number of rows. I'm hoping that blocking will take care of that.

This week, we bought tickets to go visit my brother's family in Germany over the Christmas holiday, with a short visit to Amsterdam on the way. Exciting! I'm planning on packing this, so I'd better get back at it.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Back Talk

I've been working most evenings of the past few weeks on my Redford Sweater, but progress is slow, what with the tiny stitches. Fortunately, my gauge and measurements are spot on -- even the row gauge, which is rare for me. After knitting 229 rows, this piece should measure 25.5 inches. And mine is exactly that.

One aspect of the design almost made me pass on this sweater, and that was the square back and front with no apparent armhole shaping for set-in sleeves. I've knit enough drop-shoulder sweaters to know that I'd rather avoid such patterns in the future. The resulting garments just have too much extra fabric under the arms, right where one doesn't need extra warmth and bulk.

But closer inspection did reveal set-in sleeves. How? Note how this piece looks rather narrow for the back of a sweater. Who's that thin? Not me. This clever design uses separate side panels, displaying reverse stockinette on the visible side, and with the armhole shaping at the top end. Imagine about 2.5 inches of extra fabric on each side of the front and back pieces, sewn in later. A bit more fiddly in the finishing, but I really think it's going to be worth it.

I've just started in on the front of the sweater, which is "the same as the back" up to a pair of asterisks in the pattern. Here's hoping I don't whiz past them in my enthusiasm. It's happened before.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Magical Thinking

I'm tired of summer and utterly ready for fall. Much like the trees in the old Nat King Cole song who "say they're tired, they bore too much fruit," I'm ready to move on to my favorite time of year. Though there have been signs that our planet is tilting on its axis in a favorable direction -- a slight change in the angle of evening light and a few less-than-torrid days recently -- I've chosen to help the process along by knitting a sweater.

This weekend, I started a pattern that appears in Jared Flood's BT Men V. 1 called Redford by Julie Hoover. I was instantly drawn to its simplicity and small gauge. More and more I find myself looking for big projects knit with small stitches, and this fits the bill. But, it turns out it's not as simple as it seems. It has some subtle shaping going on, plus interesting exposed seams and reverse stockinette side panels. And the armhole shaping has been moved to these side panels, so that the front and back are more or less square, bit it still uses set-in sleeves. This will definitely keep me on my toes.

Jared Flood takes such phenomenal photographs of these designs that it's easy to imagine oneself casually hanging around New York warehouses and rooftops on cool autumn days, fending off the damp chill by wearing stylish handknits. The mop of hair and mono-hued beard are a bit harder to imagine, personally, but I hope I can still pull this off.

Although I originally planned on using another yarn, I decided to splurge and use Loft. But rather than this beautiful red, which I had used (in Shelter) on a previous project, I decided on Birdbook, a tweedy dark green. I had a store credit from some leftover Grettir yarn, so it made this sweater a bit more economical. I got gauge right away with the recommended needle size, and I think this is going to have just the right amount of drapiness.

I have had a few false starts already, all of which I can chalk up to user error. I know enough to read through the entire pattern before beginning a project, but one of these days I'll learn to read it thoughtfully, as Tim Gunn suggests the designers on Project Runway approach the Belk (Lord & Taylor / Piperlime / Bluefly / Macy's, etc.) accessory wall. For now, though, I'll attempt to "make it work" and hope that my knitting can somehow summon the cooler weather. It can't get here soon enough for me.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thanks, Texas!

I got back to work after a bit of a hiatus to discover a wonderful new resource available through my library.

H&CReferenceCenterLogoThe Texas legislature does get things right sometimes, and one of the things it did this session was continue to support, and indeed, increase funding to, the Texas State Library’s TexShare program. Among the functions of TexShare  is to fund a statewide consortium providing databases at reduced prices to over 700 academic and public libraries. These databases would be out of the reach of most of these institutions, including mine, if it wasn’t for these state funds. It’s one of the smartest things Texas has done education-wise in a long time.

Among other useful resources, I got back to find that a new database, Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center was added to the list of offerings this year. Now, while this is admittedly more for the public libraries, all TexShare participants get access. So I took a look this afternoon to see if there was anything related to knitting.

Only 5000 plus entries, including over 2500 patterns! What?!?! In addition to video tutorials, it has the full-text of over 40 resources. Many of them are books, all published since 2000, but several magazines are available here too, including Wild Fibers, Interweave Crochet and Interweave Knits – this last one full-text since 2010. I may not have to renew my subscription next time around.

If you have access to an academic or a public library in Texas, check and see if it’s available. I see that it’s offered through the Austin Public Library, for instance. So many more knitting resources are now available at my fingertips! The challenge will be keeping myself from perusing this at work all the time. But wait, part of my job is being familiar with the resources…

Friday, August 09, 2013

"My Grandma made that!"

While in Vancouver last week, one of the places we visited was the incredible Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Besides the wonderful architecture, one of the most compelling features of this museum is the accessibility of its collections. In most museums, visitors can only see what's being featured on display at any particular time. But at the MOA, what might be considered the storage area in most museums is accessible to the public. Huge cases of masks, fashion, baskets, pottery, jewelry and more can be seen. Drawers full of objects can be slid open. Several computers are available to search for items of interest. It's all quite open. For a taste of what you can search and see, take a look at their online collections site.

Near the entry to this area of the museum, I was pleased to find a sweater in a case. It was knitted around 1950 by a Coast Salish/Musqueam woman named Christine Charles. The online collection entry for this sweater states that like most artists in her community, she learned to knit solely by observation. It's really quite beautiful -- the bird figures on the front represent swallows. As we were looking at this lovely garment, someone who appeared to be a docent at the museum approached us. He had really cool swirling tattos around his lower jaw and chin. He asked what we thought. "It's really beautiful," I commented. He beamed, nodded, and said, "My grandma made that!"

If you are ever in Vancouver, do make time to visit this place. Who knows what cool stuff you'll see or what interesting people you'll meet?

We had such a great time in British Columbia. I've posted some pictures from our trip, roughly in the order they were taken, if you want to take a look.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Shake It Up

I got to work on them off and on during our British Columbia vacation, and this morning I finished up the Shaker Placemats and Coasters. And though the pictures may not do them justice, they are, well, rather vivid. You could say gaudy and you wouldn't be far off. I'll stay with vivid. We'll probably use these for outdoor things, mostly. They're a bit much to have to stare at every day. Are you getting dizzy yet?

Each color was chosen to coordinate with, if not exactly match, a different color of our Fiestaware dishes. We chose yarn colors that were as close as possible to -- clockwise from the top -- Tangerine, Chocolate, Pearl Gray, Cinnabar, Turquoise and Plum. We use these as our everyday dishes. Both of us had grandmothers who had Fiestaware and we still have some of those dishes around. I'm hoping they are of the non-radioactive variety. Don't worry -- we don't use those.

My Grandma Self used Fiestaware all the time, although I only remember four colors -- orange, yellow, green and turquoise. Jeff's Nana had quite a few more colors. Grandma always set her table so that all the settings had the same color dishes. If you were sitting in front of a yellow plate, you'd also have a yellow bowl and a yellow coffee cup and saucer. That's the kind of person she was. She liked her order. So when deciding how to take pictures of the placemats with the plates, I had to do make one Grandma-style.

This drove my mom, Grandma's daughter-in-law, nuts. Mom always thought that the point of having dishes in a bunch of colors was so that you could mix and combine them in interesting and eye-pleasing ways. It was always fun to watch as they set the table while getting breakfast together. I think it was my great-grandmother who first pointed this dynamic out to us kids, and we'd giggle with her as my mother and grandmother surreptitiously moved plates, bowls, cups and saucers around like some strange version of chess.

I'd give anything to be able to sit down to breakfast with those three women again.

So, what would be your preference? Matchy-matchy Grandma-style or my mother's rainbow approach?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Q is for Qiviut

This evening Jeff and I splurged on dinner at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Um, we're not staying there. While we were there, we nosed around this famous place, looking in all the lounges and shops and admiring the fancy decor. It's really quite an amazing hotel in a stunning setting. The view is indescribable. But bring a sweater. When the sun sets, it gets chilly sitting under a glacier. I don't know if the breeze was technically katabatic, but it was noticeable. I think I'm finally starting to wrap my head around the concept of a "summer sweater."

One of the shops (well, actually, there were two of them) was called Qiviuk and featured garments made of qiviut fiber from the undercoat of the Arctic Musk Ox. Very warm, very light, and very expensive. I had never seen dyed examples, and the garments for sale, while well out of reach for most people, were very beautiful. I asked if I could take some pictures and was told yes, but after I tried to get a shot of a ball of yarn, another sales person told me otherwise. Oh, well. I suppose you can imagine what an $85 ball of yarn the size of a fist looks like. But, to the store's credit, they were actually selling yarn, marketed alongside books about one-skein projects. I did manage to get this picture of some men's sweaters before my photography permission was rescinded. Didn't particularly care for the argyle, but the others were nice.

There were some 10% types in there, shopping for sweaters in July and asking if they could just be tossed in a washing machine. It was time to go -- it was all a bit much for me. If you live somewhere where a rediculously warm fiber is called for, you can't get any garments warmer for the weight, but you might consider getting them from the Oomingmak Co-operative.

Tomorrow, we head off on a long hike amongst waterfalls and glaciers. We don't expect we'll see any musk oxen. Good thing, I suppose. I hear they're cranky.

Monday, July 22, 2013

O Canada!

Jeff and I are on vacation, traveling around British Columbia and a bit of Alberta. We're having a marvelous time, after a rocky start that got us into Vancouver at 2am, or 4am in our CDT heads. The people we've met couldn't be friendlier, and there are beautiful sights around every bend. I haven't gotten to knit as much as I'd like since I'm the designated driver, but I have squeezed some in here and there. Mostly yesterday.

Yesterday was when we took a 15-hour ferry ride -- mostly in daylight this time of year -- from Port Hardy on the northern edge of Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert, just a bit south of Alaska's southern tip. It started out foggy, but soon the weather cleared and I got to sit on the sun deck, knitting and watching for orcas, humpback whales, and sea lions -- all of which we saw. The Inside Passage through the coastal islands is quite narrow at times, and it was amazing how close we sailed to the shores on either side. What a way to travel.

As far as I could tell, I was the only person knitting on the ferry. I didn't get the odd stares and questions that I often get as a guy knitting in American airports and like situations. I finished up a coaster and completed a placemat in the bison color. Once I finish its accompanying coaster I'll be ⅔ done with this project. I'm not sure if the Ivory yarn I have will hold out, but it just might.

Tomorrow we head for western Alberta and the Canadian Rockies for some hiking. It'll be good to get away from the car for a few days to stretch our legs. Oh, and at the risk of drawing the ire of my fellow Texans...

I've been wearing jeans. Outdoors. In July.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

True Simplicity

I'm fascinated by the Shaker sect and the influence it has had on American culture. Their music, furniture, architecture, agriculture -- all undertaken with a mind toward worship through simplicity. Although they believed in equality of the sexes from their 18th-century founding, they also had some weird ideas about lifelong celibacy. I guess no cult is perfect. Several years ago, Jeff and I stayed a night at the restored Pleasant Hill Shaker village in Kentucky. It was absolutely beautiful. I could have spent much longer there than we did. We loved everything about it. Well, Jeff didn't exactly care for the Shaker Lemon Pie.

My friend Staci, creator of the helpful VeryPink video tutorials, has just released a pattern for Shaker Dishcloths and Coasters, created from a description of similar items in Richard Rutt's A History of Hand Knitting (p. 205). I wanted some colorful placemats to go with our colorful dishes, and I figured I could adapt the dishcloth design a little larger to get what I needed. I'm planning on making 6, in the colors shown in the last post. This picture shows the first attempts. They haven't been washed yet.

Such a cool pattern! Nothing too complicated, and after I got used to how the stitches are supposed to look on the needles I found I wasn't constantly glancing at the pattern anymore. Although this pattern does represent true simplicity, the knitter should pay attention and read it through carefully. There are some unusual techniques that have to be followed in order for these to work. If you don't like working short rows, then this probably isn't the project for you. But I urge you to try it. You may just find that:

To turn, turn will be your delight
'Til by turning, turning you come 'round right.

Posting may be erratic for the next few weeks while we are on vacation. But I will try to visit a yarn shop or two since we'll be in a place where knitting is appreciated, if not downright necessary. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In High Cotton

And sheep's wool, and alpaca, and mohair...and a little bit of acrylic.

Casting about for things to knit after finishing the sweater last week, I decided to make some socks. I had originally wanted to use some yarn I got at the first Sock Summit in 2009 that I'd never gotten around to using. It's a Jacob/alpaca/mohair fingering blend from Toots LeBlanc -- perhaps my favorite name for a yarn company, ever. I'd originally planned to make some fancy stitch pattern from one of Charlene Schurch's books, but I quickly realized that this yarn didn't want to be knit up fancy.

It has a delicate appearance in the hank with whisps of mohair creating a fuzzy halo, but this ain't no 50's fuzzy sweater yarn. It's tough. Downright bullet-proof, even. So I'm opting for a plain 3x1 ribbed sock, using my standard recipe of 72 stitches cast onto 2mm needles. This yarn is kind of splitty and plied in a Z pattern (as I learned from Janelle), so I feel like it's fighting me all the way. We'll see who wins out.

Also on the horizon is a cool pattern for Shaker dishcloths and coasters created by my friend Staci, along with the usual helpful video. I'm thinking of making the dishcloth pattern a little bigger so they can be used as placemats. We'll see. I got the Knit Picks cotton/acrylic blend that Staci used in the mail today, in colors that I hope will go with some of the colors of our Fiesta dishes. The top color, Ivory, will be used for all of them in combination with the others, clockwise: Marina, Seraphim, Pomegranate, Carrot, Bison and Blackberry. As you might notice, the white balance on my camera is all jacked up. But hopefully, you get the idea. Can't wait to get started!