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!