Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter!

Today (writing this yesterday)  is the last day of Autumn.  Hah.  Usually in our little south Jersey town, we don’t get more than two or three snowfalls that actually cover the ground.  Philadephia can get dumped with snow, but we will somehow get just enough ice to make things...well, a little slippery.  So can you blame me when I was a bit incredulous at the predictions of heavy snowfall in our area this weekend?  As it turned out, the predictions were right. 

We got snow.  A lot of snow.  A buttload of snow, to be more or less precise.  So my plans to perform the Christmas carols I’ve been preparing with the guys fell through, as have, thus far, my plans to play harp at a couple churches up Trenton way.  All is not lost yet, but it gave me time to get thoroughly sick of my dad’s sweater vest and start reevaluating my other hopes to knit something for anyone else.  I started a project in my new crush, Malabrigo Twist, but wasn’t feeling the way the colors were pooling on the mitt.  I feared that once I started the thumb gusset the pooling would get thrown off and make the whole mitt feel unbalanced.  So I put the Twist on the back burner and I actually managed to spin up some yarn, using a couple of gorgeous wools dyed by Dan of Gnomespun Yarns, a.k.a. the Nekkid Cowboy.  I can’t share images yet, since I’d like it to be a surprise, but I plied a greyish Shetland wool with a buttery soft targhee wool to make a little over 120 yards of bulky, thick/thin two-ply yarn.  

As I spun, I got to listen to part of George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, thanks to Librivox, a place online where people volunteer to record books that are in the public domain.  I found it quite amusing that as I finished the first batch of yarn, the story began describing a woman spinning yarn.  It’s not just a passing comment, either; MacDonald actually uses the spinning as a point of catching the reader’s interest, a sort of “to be continued” moment.  I have yet to figure out the significance of the spinning in the story, as I am not quite halfway through.  I just know that I have loved reading MacDonald’s fairy tales in the past, and look forward to taking some more time with this story this afternoon as I knit up my new Christmas yarn.  

As the evening wore on, my landlady and I settled down on the couch, and I learned that she just got some kind of TV service again.  We’ve been off the grid for a bit.  We still have no internet, but this is a compromise that comes in handy in a blizzard.  I was quite amused to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers come on...right at the part where the girls are finding themselves snowed into the cabin for the winter.  Funny how those things work.  During the evening in front of the TV, I began a hat, having way too many knitting ideas and aspirations in my head.  I’ve been wanting to make Stephen West’s Windschief set, so I figured starting won’t hurt, though I’m not sure just who it’s going to yet.  I guess I don’t plan things out very deliberately, so much as I tend to throw things up into the air and see how they fall.  I still have to do the finishing on a couple nearly-done projects; nothing is completely done for Christmas yet.  And it is this Friday!  I’m a little glad that I’m off Christmas Eve.  

This morning was given to shoveling.  I am grateful for people with powertools and huge snowplows.  The snow practically covers our little Charlie Brown tree.  My goodness.  I don’t think we’ve had snow like this since I was in junior high.  And that was a long time ago. 

Now I’m off to knit and find out what that lady in the story was spinning for...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

D is for "Darnit"

No, I'm not referring to mending.  And yes, I stole the title.  I just hadta.  (Thanks to the only person besides my alter ego who has left a comment on my blog for the inspiration!)

Anyways, I've been doing some focused knitting, now that my dad's vest is actually begun.  I think I'm at the hardest part: the V-neck.  It would be simple if I knew what "longer" and "shorter" meant, when Barbara says "for a longer V-neck..."  All I know is that I tried being smart and measured the depth of a "V" on another sweater Dad likes, and then multiplied the number of rows per inch by ... well, let's just say there's a factor I'm missing, because when I did the math, it seemed drastically different from Ms. Walker's instructions.  I've heard it said that if something seems funny (in knitting), go with your gut and make adjustments.  My math said to decrease every two rows, while her pattern says every four or six rows, depending on what you want.  My math is clearly wrong.  I just don't know why yet.  And I've wasted a lot of time knitting and fitting and ripping and reknitting and fitting and ripping and reknitting....  This is why Ravelry includes a person's favorite curse word in a his/her profile.

I'm thinking of the skill of people who can design clothing to fit a three-dimensional body, like when I watch Project Runway.  It just amazes me.  I tried altering pants last year for a Halloween costume, and found that I had no concept of how pieces of flat fabric fit together over a round body.  So to all you skilled seamstresses (and seamsters?) and designers ... and knitters, hat's off to you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...

...Or at least the knitting is progressing.  I procrastinated for the longest time on my dad’s sweater vest, but I am happy to say that I am officially on my way!  I’m not sure if I got hung up with the swatching or with how to go about executing the design of the sweater itself...I’d plan the sweater out, then decide my swatch was at too loose a gauge; then I’d hem and haw around the fear that I might be cutting it close with the sock yarn I’m holding with the alpaca.  I bought all the store had...three balls.  It should be enough, I’m guessing, but I’m not sure.  I’m not exactly an experienced sweater knitter.  I had the idea that I could do the ribbing last and use a different colorway of the sock yarn in a pinch, having one ball on hand.  But then, I needed to learn a provisional cast on.  Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine.  Basically, I wasn’t starting the sweater.  

Then it all came together with a small answer in the form of the amazing Barbara Walker.  I was in the city and had determined to buy some yarn at a favorite yarn store, having a little bit of store credit.  Dangerous stuff, that is.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t get the new Malabrigo Twist out of my head or my hands, and every yarn felt too cold or too small or too crunchy, or the colors weren’t right...  I was spoiled for anything other than Twist.  Don’t worry, I’ll get over it.  Maybe when the season changes?  Anyway, after a considerable bit of searching through the yarn, I gave in to perusing the books for tips on a provisional cast-on.  Wouldn’t you know, I stumbled upon Walker’s Knitting From The Top.  

It has a delightfully dated picture on the front...that kind of 1980s crafting look that I have trouble believing ever looked stylish.  Not that I'm known for being stylish, but it makes me to laugh.  So does the fact that Ms. Walker has generously provided me with instructions to knit a pair of harem pants in her book.  Well, as luck would have it, she has a pattern for knitting a sweater vest from the top down, which would allow me to save the ribbing for last in its natural course of development!  And to top it off, she uses the very same vest pattern to teach the provisional cast-on that I was hoping to learn, yet over far fewer stitches than if I had used it to cast on the base of the sweater.  Granted, I’m having to recalculate my approach to the garment and the adjustments I was going to make, but I am very excited with the way it should unfold.  After all, I still have high hopes of finishing by Christmas; I figure it is better to get the shoulder and neck shaping done first so I can move into a bit of marathon stockinette knitting for the home stretch. 

I’m quite excited about this sweater; holding two strands together for a sweater is making for a very interesting fabric, particularly in the feel.  It’s not as limp and silky as the alpaca alone, and the special qualities of the sock yarn (bamboo and nylon added) are making for a solid but very comfortable fabric. Not a bit of scratch.  Then of course, the appearance, while not my particular favorite, is interesting.  I like that it’s not super-homogenous...I like that this sweater is an adventure, and what it will be is unique and a bit unknown.

Speaking of the devil procrastination, I finished redoing the ribbing on my old Malabrigo vest this week.  That one goes back over a year!  It may be filling the role of a stand-in Christmas gift, since I know someone who tried it on and wanted it. The originally-planned (and begun) lace sweater may have to wait.  

Here's the feel-good for today, in case you've managed to slog through the rest of this blog.  My landlady bakes the most amazing shortbread.  It has bits of candied ginger throughout, and it simply melts in your mouth!  Like buttah!  I grew up thinking of shortbread as dry and moderately tasty.  This stuff blew me away.  It's such a nice change from the overly sweet brownies and store-bought cookies I get at work.  Sigh.  I'm ready to hit the teahouse!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cuddly Shawl Goodness

It's hard to get online these days.  I'm currently trying to ward off the chill in Starbucks (note, in) with a hot chocolate and my latest shawl, which I will show off soon.  I'm not delaying the walk through slushy snowfall because I like to walk late at night, but because I can't get online at home.

Oh, wait, I just made a rediscovery...fingerless mitts are my friends.  With them, I can weather even the coldest blasts of air conditioning that Starbucks blasts at me.  Not getting rid of me yet, buckos!  Speaking of mitts, just the other day as I waited for the bus, a stranger approached me and said we ride the same bus every morning.  He also said that he noticed I'm always knitting, and he would love a pair of mitts.   He also said he'd be willing to pay for them.  He also said he understood a lot of work goes into them, as his mom does stuff like that.  That was when I hem-hawed about how much I'd charge, saying it'd likely be a good amount.  I just don't know what to think.  I mean, who, especially down here in the nether regions of South Jersey, appreciates handknitted stuff enough to pay for it?  Is there really light at the end of the tunnel, or is there something I don't know?

Can't be that there's something I don't know.  That never happens.

Knitting excursions: I am in love with the new Malabrigo Twist.  I actually went to one of my favorite yarn stores - with a bit of store credit, mind you - and could not bring myself to buy any yarn whatsoever.  Maybe it's the insane list of Christmas knitting and the relatedly insane purchases.  I like to think that Twist has spoiled me for anything else...for the moment, at least.  I can show you pics of the shawl I knit, but I can't let you feel it over the internet.  Take my word that it feels delicious.   While in a different yarn shop a couple weeks back, I was confronted by a display just inside the door with the new Malabrigo line.  And it sang to me.  I had already been contemplating another Daybreak shawl and something in Malabrigo worsted, but not as one thought.  Soon enough, though, I had a misfit hank of Indiecita that was practically its own colorway, and decided to knit a Daybreak inspired by the pictures I've seen of the aurora borealis.  I love being able to play with colors.  The two different hanks of Indiecita made for a graduated color change, while the contrasting color has the ability to function as a brown or grey/black.  I thought it looked as interesting as mud until I held it next to other colors and realized it is magical.  That brings my mind to the first way I came to know Christian Bale: in The Land of Far Away.  A weaver woman weaves a cloak that makes the prince invisible.  Not quite the same property, but I bet the same weaver woman used some of her dreams to dye this yarn.

I never overstate things.

Picture time:

Here we see cuddly.  Mmm.

I like to wear it under my coat.  I still have yet to block it...I can't bear to go a day without it until it gets warmer, I think.

I also knit my sister a Colonnade shawl.  Let's overlook the stupid mistakes that gave me way too much stress to fix, and just enjoy the pictures.

The shape of this shawl reminds me a bit of angels' wings, esp the seraphim on the ark of the covenant...

I wish you could see the detail of the yarn...the thick/thin texture and coloring of Manos del Uruguay looks almost like clouds...just gorgeous.  I must admit that I copied Myra's color choices; I figured it was perfect for my sis.  As an aside, I think it's interesting that I continue to enjoy Stephen West's patterns.  I hope to crank out more soon, too.  I wonder what it is about his patterns that I like so much.

On a musical side, I'm loving some Christmas-y outlets I've had of late.  I played a harp concert for the folks at work, and it was so much fun to relive some of the gems I've found in the Oxford Book of Carols.  I love sharing them, and can't imagine that people would not like them.  But then again, that's in my world.  I also sang at a rehearsal with some friends of a friend, and must say, we sound darn hot. Sure, we need practice, but it's wonderful to sing good music with a decent group.  My thanks to a friend for opening up some musical venues for me...looks like I have the potential to perform a bit in the next few weeks, as well as beyond.

Happy December madness, everyone!  Sing lots of carols (and while Silver Bells is a nice song, it does not count as a carol!), make some new friends, eat/bake something yummy, and love your knits!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adam wore leaves

My room is just plain chilly most of these days.  Or I seem prone to being cold.  Either way, I have been dwelling on the ideas of bulky, wool, shawls, and Malabrigo.  Just over the weekend I obtained the new Malabrigo Twist yarn, and am making myself another Daybreak.  I'm pretty excited about how the colors may work out on this shawl.  But as if that isn't enough, I also have a big, thick shawl that I am wearing as I type.

It's a yellowish-greenish color in a bulky yarn dyed by Myra of Woolbearers.  I brought it with me as I travelled to Mount Holly, anticipating binding the shawl off.  After some knitting and ripping and knitting and ripping and reknitting again, I came within sight of the end, the greater part of the bindoff completed; and I ran out of yarn.  When I showed Myra, we determined that the new skein in that color didn't match the older skeins I was working with.  So, kind lady that she is, Myra dyed a few yards to match the shawl, and it worked!  Now I can wrap myself in leaves to ward off the chill!  I'm much happier with it now that it's blocked.  Before then, I just consoled myself that I would wear it around the house for practical purposes only.  The color is a bit bright.  Key Lime, it's called.

I've got Christmas gifts on the needles in some instances, and yarn purchased in other instances, and yarn not yet purchased for one or two.  Did I mention I will be staying up all hours of the night this coming month?

It looks to be a full week, so Happy Thanksgiving in advance!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rhinebeck part the third

Here it is.  On October 17th, I woke up early in the home of a kind host in Albany, and bundled up to hit Rhinebeck!  Anticipating nasty weather, I was armed with warm layers and plastic bags stashed away to wear in the case of falling wetness.  I shouldn't have worried...I still don't understand the comments I've heard about the nasty weather at Rhinebeck.  I can't speak for Sunday, but I thought the weather on Saturday was just perfect for the event.

Sure the sky went grey as the day progressed, but that's no biggie for a knitter!  I was swaddled in my Daybreak shawl, made to coordinate with a cheesy hat I lined with fleece last winter.

I am grateful to have Aaron's help navigating the festival; first thing we did was to hit the building where the contest entries were being awarded ribbons.  He had entered a beautiful lace shawl designed by Mmario (whom we met soon thereafter!!!).  It's the Queen Anne's Lace shawl worked in a lavender dk weight yarn.

While Aaron's entry didn't get an award against the ultrafine competitors, another of Mmario's designs took the blue ribbon!  It's the Spanish Armada shawl.  Needless to say, Mmario was delighted!

Here I am with three of the knitterly giants I was privileged to mingle with that fine day.  I'm actually standing next to Mmario himself!

Hot pie for breakfast...the way I always said it should be.  This chicken pot pie, I'm proud to say, was obtained with no line at all.  Shortly after this picture was taken, the line to buy pot pie trailed off into the distance for the rest of the day.  Heheh, suckas!

I saw way too much yarn.  This black/grey combo is what I was looking for for mom's sweater...but all I found was sock seems that all the worsted yarn was in bright colors.  Oh, but there were beautiful colors.  Thankfully, I had a mission to get beige for dad and black for mom.

Thankfully, I couldn't pass up a blue/green wool/silk yarn early in the day.  It was my sole consolation on the ride home...everything else was either spinning fiber or "strictly business."

And yes, I knit this shawl up by the time I got home, such was my excitement.  Granted, it was a long journey home, and I had the rest of the weekend to work on it.

Later on I blocked it...I actually liked it better pre-blocking, but it's still very nice to wear despite it's limpness.

It's the Clothilde, and I'm bound to give this shawl another go.

I just need to avoid silk, I think.

There's more to come, but you and I need a break!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I've been a naughty blogger

I'm way past due on this, and have been digging a hole deeper and deeper.  As a dear friend once said, dig the hole deep enough and you can hide in it.  I think I've been doing just that.  Before I describe  much of Rhinebeck, I feel like updating a bit.  Which, as it turns out, has some overlap with Rhinebeck.  So fret no more.

I've been knitting and spinning a good bit...what's new?  I've had a number of false starts, though, so not much to show for it.  I messed around with some carders and tried my hands at woolen spinning.  (This has to do with the direction the fibers are being drawn into the yarn.)  This is black shetland wool and grey alpaca/wool blend, which I attempted to card together for a sort of salt/pepper variegated yarn.  After getting some more instruction on carding, I decided that this wool will be lovely, but not as the sweater I had originally intended.  I was happy to find what I wanted at Loop, having met a bit of disappointment at Rhinebeck looking for a grey/black worsted weight yarn.

I was happy to find this fiber at Rhinebeck:

These are my big, fuzzy balls, as Aaron put it.  Nice touch, man.
It is spinning up into this:

It seems to have a bit of a sheen, and that lovely green peeks through the neutral color.  I must say here that I was obsessed with green at Rhinebeck, so it's only fitting that I bought this particular fiber.  I tried test-plying it with some green mystery yarn/thread I got at the local knit group:

I also made a face.

Stuff I've been knitting:

I finished a quick little knit that I've been getting a lot of use from.  It's the Felicity hat, knit up in Peace Fleece.  I'm quite happy with it, and it's been very effective at keeping my head warm and my hair notably flat.

During our recent cold spell, I began dreaming of Malabrigo and bulky yarns.  I'm nearly finished the forest canopy shawl done in a bulky green and gold yarn.  It's a little funky, but it's intended for warmth around the house, not high fashion.

Just tonight I finally got the motivation to redo the bindoff on the armholes for a vest I finished a good year ago.  It's so nice to work with Malabrigo again, even if it did felt a little under the arms.  I was happy to find that I only had to rip out the bindoff.  The neck, however, I will redo.  The incentive has been a desire to use the leftover yarn...once the neck is done, I can use the remainder with a clear conscience.  Whoo hoo!

Are you tired of seeing green yet?  I don't think I am.  I also have started my second Herbivore shawl--this time in a gorgeous army-like green colorway, by Araucania yarns.  It will be a nice alternative to my bright greens.  I'm loving it.  I'm mostly knitting it as another, warmer option for shawls.  I vote that shawls are the new neck scarf.  Or old.

I'll finish up with some nature shots.  Nobody'd believe it, but South Jersey has a lot of pretty areas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Journey to Rhinebeck, part the second

In part the first, I left you with the most exciting cliff-hanger ever!  And today, I have an even better one!  

I arrived in Albany/Rensselaer on Friday afternoon, with the most gorgeous weather imaginable.  

The station is located in Rensselaer, just across the Hudson River from New York's capital city.  Having a couple hours to kill, I strolled and took pictures.  

The park below the bridge onramp was pretty cool...the ramp itself was used as a painter's canvas.  Here's a few of my favorites.

After taking some pictures, I strolled over the bridge into historic Albany, clicking my cameraphone like a dutiful tourist.

I couldn't have asked for a nicer afternoon.

I took advantage of the opportunity to do a photoshoot with my newest handspun, using Brewergnome's roving, "Water On the Rocks."

A word about this yarn.  I screwed it up, not knowing my way around the wheel yet.  So, Dan, when I told you I had your yarn with me, I actually had it in my bag...but I was ashamed to show you what became of your beautiful fiber.  My apologies.  Most of it is so-so, but a few spots are really tight.  Yick.  On the bright side, I'm currently knitting it up, and I gotta say, this is a beautiful colorway.  It just sort of matches with anything.  Way to go, Dan!

And here we see my sustanance, appropriately titled.  Not a bad mix, with cherries, raisins, currants, almonds, pistachios, apricots...and maybe some other stuff.

And here's a tree pic for yarndude:

It's on the walk by the river, where I met my host.  We proceeded to pick up his friend and head home to meet the dogs.  His partner came home, and another friend joined us for movie night.  Delicious dinner, great company, and--I still can't believe it--my favorite frozen pie!  All in all, a lovely time, but I had trouble staying awake for the movie.  It had been a long day.  And the next day held even more promise, for this was the day I'd been anticipating...and dreading.

I look forward to proving everyone wrong about Rhinebeck.  
But that's another story...