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.