Saturday, December 29, 2012

The cobbler's children...

... or in this case, my husband, rarely gets handknit gifts. I did make him a lovely Botanic Hat, but it is too itchy for him, and so he wears it off his forehead - not a great way to keep a guy warm.  So, I was determined to make him a warm hat with something much softer. Much MUCH softer.

Last year (2011) at NY Sheep & Wool I purchased a ball of Briar Rose 100% cashmere - a dk weight and about 200 yards. Dyed in dark greens, browns, and a little bit of dark mustard, I thought it would be perfect for my dark-eyed, dark-haired husband.

I started the hat in September? October? And knit the brim on size 7s, until it was abandoned in a panic over getting class samples knit.  Upon reflection I realized I really should go down a needle. And what if I made it too short? My husband has a large head.  Time passed, and the little project remained in its bag until Christmas Eve. When I had an epiphany.  I took it out of the bag, ripped it out, cast-on again, and away I went.

So, yes. I did give P a hat that was still on the needles. Being a knitter's husband, he took it all in stride, and handed it back to me so I could continue to work on it.

I love buying a luxury skein now-and-again, especially if the project intended will use up almost every precious inch of yarn, and so I designed the hat as I went.  It is knit top-down, in 1x1 ribbing, a little tedious, yes, but quite attractive, very stretchy, and it looks tidy. Plus, it works beautifully with my favorite finishing technique - the tubular bind-off.

I put the hat on him around lunch time, and he hasn't taken it off yet.  No complaints of itchiness one bit. Problem solved!

And my leftovers?

Approximately 19 inches of yarn. That is a good use of luxury yarn!  

Now I hope to write it up into a pattern, and because it is knit top-down, it can be knit with just about any gauge - one continues to increase until the proper number of stitches are obtained and then knit for length.

I am so happy I managed to crank this out for him.  He is a worthy knitting recipient.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lima i-cord scarf

I would never consider myself a "designer" by any stretch of the imagination - I don't try to make my living out of my little creative endeavors. But I love to get an idea, mull it over, play with colors and work out the details.

The Lima i-cord scarf has been banging around in my brain since June, and I am glad I finally committed it to paper. My prototype was made up of (discontinued) alpaca blends I had in my stash. It is always frustrating to design in a yarn that is no longer available, but it can be really useful for working out ideas....

... such as the length of a scarf.... how to make stitches line up when you *really* should have been paying attention a bit better.... and the little fiddly bits.

Pattern: Lima i-cord scarf prototype
Yarn: Pink: Alpaca Fiber Exchange Baby Alpaca merino, in pink babe. Light blue: The Fibre Company Babe in spearmint. Teal: The Fibre Company Khroma WW in Aegean.
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm) dpns and 32-inch circular, and a size US 2 32-inch needle.

But when it is time to knit the sample it is time to find a yarn that will hopefully be on the market for a few years, and if you are REALLY lucky, they won't discontinue one of the colors on you.

Pattern: Rowan Lima i-cord scarf
Yarn: Rowan Lima (84% alpaca, 8% merino, 8% nylon. 109 yards/50 g) in Argentina (dark grey), Ecuador (pink), and Andes (light grey). 1 skein of each.
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm) dpns and 32-inch circular, and a size US 2 32-inch needle

Super luxurious in worsted weight alpaca - this yarn is seriously soft and the chain construction allows you to knit air into your project, making it very warm and extra squishy.  

It took me one week to knit two scarves and write the pattern.  Not bad, if you don't factor in the four months it was an elusive, amorphous idea.

I am so glad that this scarf is now a corporeal knitted object.  It is living at Woven Art, and you can pick up the pattern for free if you buy the yarn. But if you have your own yarn, or just want the pattern...

... it is available for $5.

... the only thing is, I think it spawned another idea.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

La Compostela: the finished Mitered Crosses blanket

The last few steps of a pilgrimage bring a whole host of mixed feelings.  There is relief that you have made it, gratitude that you are still (relatively) in one piece, and a sweet sadness that the adventure is over.  After walking 125 miles across northern Spain I stayed for a few days in a 16th century Seminary - pilgrims were allowed to bunk there for just a few pesos a night.  The views were spectacular as I watched the sun set behind the cathedral. And I spent a day or two reflecting on my journey.

I had my Credencial to remind me of each stop I had made along the way. (Mine says that I was traveling 'a pie' rather than 'en bicicleta' or 'a caballo'.) 

And my Compostela to prove that I had walked the kilometers.

For big projects, however, you just have the finished piece.  And surely, that is enough.  But each square reminds me of the journey.  

I remember starting this blanket on a cruise with a friend, and how, like the Pied Piper, it brought every knitter to me on a cruise ship of 6,000 passengers.  Knitters with knitting problems, knitters who spoke no English but knit a few stitches to show they knew how, knitters who hadn't picked up knitting in years, and knitters who deeply regretted leaving their knitting at home. (silly knitters!)

Pattern: Mitered Crosses Blanket -- for Japan. by Kay Gardiner. All the proceeds from the sale of this pattern continue to go to Mercy Corp to help respond to the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan in 2011.

Yarn: Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn in colors EB(orange, browns, greys) and EZ (blues). One ball of each color, each ball weighing 150g. 15 (+) skeins of Elemental Affects Natural Shetland Fingering in natural color mioget (I lost some ball bands on this yarn.) 1 skein of Elemental Affects Natural Shetland Fingering in natural color musket (darker grey - the lower left corner square is made with this.)

Needles: size US 5 for the squares, size US 6 for the applied i-cord.

Mods: Instead of 10 squares I chose to go for a full 25 and not have any blank spaces - my goal was to use up as much of my yarn as possible. My applied i-cord was made from bits and pieces of leftovers.

Some squares were knit during soccer games. Others were knit on a comfortable couch surrounded by other knitters. A few were knit on vacation, while one was knit while skyping with a beloved friend far away.

By happy accident my very center square is imperfect - three of the small boxes outlining the cross are actually grey rather than cream - because I was knitting in the dark and couldn't see I had picked up the wrong color.  And also by pure chance (since I decided to knit 15 more squares than the pattern called for) I ran out of yarn and had to buy more of the neutral color.  And because it came from two different growing seasons of a natural sheep color, one year was more white, then next, more brown.

And because I could, I kicked up my heels at the end of my applied i-cord, and striped a small section. Because my journey was over, and I was done.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

El Camino de milagros

Big projects can be a real odyssey.

Well over a decade ago (and nearly coming up on two decades ago) I walked the pilgrimage route from the town of Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain. It was a hard journey, both physically and mentally. I was 22 years old, and a young 22 for all that I lived in Brooklyn and had spent my teenage years trying to look like a punk rock girl.  I walked over 200 (125 miles) kilometers in about 6 days with a 40 pound pack on my back, no reservations, and a high school's education of Spanish. I was alone.  I was tired most of the time and undernourished, with heels blistered beyond the capability of wearing boots (thank goodness I brought Tevas along).  Though not religious, I experienced the little miracles that the pilgrims talked about - suddenly finding yourself several miles from where you started but not really noticing the miles covered, the unexpected discovery of food in your pack when you could have sworn you had nothing left, or one last bunk unfilled for the night because everyone else was walking in pairs.

I learned a lot from that trip.  As cliche as it sounds, I learned that it does take lots of little steps to make a big journey.  And that perseverance is rewarded in unexpected and spectacular ways.  As I walked into the valley of Santiago de Compostela I could see the cathedral spires calling me to the city center.

And I can see the spires now, as I bring a big project home.

I would love to finish this by the end of October, but I am not going to rush it. I want to enjoy the last few steps.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Autumn inspiration

Trail Walk, October 2010
I hope to get out on the trail again soon.  It has been a busy busy month so far, and won't quiet down again until November, at the soonest.  I want to do everything, and I want to do nothing. I need to get so many things done before winter really begins, but I also want to be able to enjoy the sensation of the seasons changing and slow down time for just a little while.  

I am now trying to plan out my last classes for the year.  It is always hard to predict what knitters may want to learn or explore.  I have some fun ideas brewing, and I can't wait to try them out.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Somewhere between "Bucket" and "Cloche"

I have been meaning to try my hand at felted hats.  Felting a knit item almost seems akin to alchemy. You take a big floppy garment, add water, heat, and agitation, and after a while your fabric is solid and unyielding.

Pattern: Felted Bucket Hat by Bonne Marie Burns. (Chic Knits.)
Yarn: Stonehedge Fiber Mill's Shepherd's Wool Worsted in garnet. 1 skein.
Needles: US 10s, US 10.5s
Mods: none.  If I make another one I am going to leave off the turning row at the crown, and maybe play with the brim with short rows to force a more "cloche" shape into the finished hat.  I can honestly say that Shepherd's Wool fulls like a DREAM.  One moment I still had knitted fabric in my hand, the next, fulled perfectly!  And since Woven Art carries every color of worsted, I certainly had a fantastic selection.  Since I have a front-loading washer I decided to felt my hat by hand.

Here are some pointers for anyone else needing to do their felting and fulling by hand.

You will need:

 a clean sink or bucket
 a hot AND cold water source
 a few teaspoons of dishwashing liquid
 a wooden spoon, potato masher, or other sturdy heat-resistent implement
  a pair of latex gloves or rubber dishwashing gloves (optional, but good if your skin is sensitive to high heat.)

  1. Fill your sink with the hottest water that will come out of the tap – you only need enough water so that your project will float free
  2. Let your project soak for about 10 minutes
  3. Pick up your project and squeeze the water out. Add a dribble of dishwashing soap, and knead into the project firmly so that the whole project is foamy.
  4. Immerse in hot water (replenish to keep temperature high) and agitate with hands or wooden spoon for about 5 minutes.  Knead your project like bread dough.
  5. Rinse in cold water, agitating, wringing, and kneading.

Repeat steps 3-5 several times, checking the size and shape of the project as needed.  When project has been felted to the correct size, make sure the soap is completely rinsed out.  Roll in towel and stand on it to remove excess moisture.


For a true “bucket hat” look, accentuate the flat top by blocking your hat around a large can or bottle wrapped in a towel, with brim resting on a flat surface. For a more “cloche” style, carefully ball up dishtowels inside the crown of the hat, balance on top of a container, and don’t allow brim to touch the counter. Pull the brim to get a smooth edge. Pull and tug out any wrinkles that formed. Let dry.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

For Emily

I want to post a picture of the sweater I have been working on, but it is a Christmas present, and even though my sister picked the pattern out of a book, she still hasn't seen HER SWEATER all knit up. So that, at least, can be a surprise.

So, I am just going to post a picture of this:

The ends.  About halfway through the sweater I remembered that Rowan Big Wool will felt, so I started spit-splicing. I still had ends to deal with, but not nearly as many as I could have.

This sweater (Tough, by Kim Hargreaves in her Shadow pattern book) has been a lovely companion in the evenings while watching really old episodes of Nova, or the Star Wars (IV-VI) marathon I had last weekend.  The cable was entertaining, the size 15 needles were impressive, and the shaping and finishing provided just enough brain-power to keep me focused.

I am seriously thinking about boxing it up and wrapping it now so that it stays clean and (relatively) cat-hair-free, but it is going to a cat-owned house, so a few stray cat hairs will not be unusual. Just the wrong color. I am just waiting to hear from my sister about her button preference.

So, an official picture of Tough will appear sometime at the end of December. I would love to get a picture of my sister actually wearing it.  But if you seriously can't wait you can see it on Ravelry, here. (NOT YOU, EMILY.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The rise of the knitting

Fall is arriving, and I want to knit everything. I am knitting for Christmas presents, knitting for Single Skein September, knitting for the shop, knitting for classes, and when I have time, knitting for me.

Maybe I can sense the days are getting shorter. The weather is certainly getting cooler, and the squirrels are getting squirrelly-er. I have started looking at my soup-pot with eager expectation, and actually caught myself contemplating the attributes of different types of lentils at my local health food store. (What is it about bulk items that makes me so happy?)

Meanwhile, my pile of in-progress knitting is getting bigger, and my queue for future projects is getting longer.  I will soon be buried in my knitting, and I can't say I am dreading the day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do you see what I see?

A detail of 16th century decorative carving on a farm house at the Folkmuseum in Oslo.

If you are a knitter you will definitely recognize the design!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I am still stuck in the seed stitch mines, but took a break to knit a gauge swatch for my next large project.  I couldn't help but be amused at the comparison.

Sakasama Jackets vs. Tough

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shibori Workshop

What do two LYS workers and one LYS owner do on their day off?  Shibori, of course!

I warped my rigid heddle loom the night before, and our new 8 year-old cat, Miles, helped. (Miles came to live with us about a month ago.) Miles loves yarn.

The next day was completely devoted to shibori. It was a long, but very rewarding, day. It has been a long while since I sat down at the loom for five hours straight. Each cloth is plain weave, but with special pull-threads woven into the fabric in different patterns and intervals.  I used a single skein of undyed Treadsoft sock yarn out of my stash - I wanted a superwash wool because I knew at the end of the day it would soak up the dye and give me intense and brilliant colors.

Cloth 1 - full tones - pull floats on both side of fabric

Cloth 2 - half-tones - pull floats on front of fabric
Cloth 3 - free form
Cloth 4 - crimp
whole cloth - from L-R cloths 1-4

We then trimmed off the ends, and using a sewing machine, zig-zag stitched reinforcement threads between each section so we could cut the cloth into individual samples.  Then, SCISSORS, cutting, pulling and tying, until our individual cloths looked like wadded up tissues.

Three of the cloths then took a vinegar bath in preparation for dyeing. And the dyeing! SO. MUCH. FUN!  The dye was applied while the cloth was still wadded up - like a tie-dye process only so much cooler.

Cloth 1 - full tones

Cloth 2 - half tones

Cloth 3 - free form
Cloth 4 was steamed - because it was woven with a polyester weft, the steam set the crimp, and my cloth will permanently look like this:

Cloth 4 - crimped with pleats

Foreground - my cloths. Background - Kathy's cloths.

I love comparing the newly woven samples with their finished dyed selves.  What an amazing transformation.

I have a bit of warp still left of my loom, so I think I will tie it up again and do a few more samples.  I wish I had warped my loom a bit wider so I could have had bigger samples like Kathy's (above), but live and learn!  I had such a great day!

Long Walk

This time of year I often go to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, but not this year, sadly. I am missing it, much like one gets homesick from time-to-time.  So I took a long walk with Zeby to see if I could sooth those feelings.

I am still working on my Norway sweater (the sweater I wanted to finish and wear in Norway, HA!) with miles of tiny seed stitch to go. Think good thoughts for my sanity.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trondheim, Norway. August 10-12, 2012

Friday morning P and I left Bergen and flew to Trondheim to stay with friends. It was really great seeing them again - the last time we saw them we all met up in Amsterdam. Friday and Saturday were spent exploring the city, and Sunday I spent in bed with a headcold. P went for a hike with our hosts while I slept and watched Norwegian Olympic coverage on my iPad.

Kristiansten Fortress, Trondheim, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral, largely modern restoration, Trondheim, Norway

Saint James the Greater, modern restoration, Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

Lion? North Entrance, Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
Our trip to Norway was lovely, but too short, as usual.  But it was wonderful to get a taste of the country!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bergen, Norway - August 9, 2012

Bergenhus Fortress, Bergen, Norway

Bryggen, Bergen, Norway.

Decorative sculpture over Bryggen doorway, Bergen, Norway.

contemplative P, Bergen, Norway.

Byfjorden, Bergen, Norway.