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?