Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Woollen

At the moment, there is this.  It is so pretty I can't stop looking at it.  I was just about to say that this yarn is nothing like me, what is this speckle stuff?  Purple???  but I had four skeins of it in the stash, so apparently this yarn is exactly like me.  I fell for it like I always do, just picking up a beautiful skein here and there, with no solid plan in mind, maybe with vague, long-range notions of making a Find Your Fade (all the finished projects, you guys.  I am under the spell.). But I guess I just couldn't wait any longer to see what it would do when I knit with it, and now I see, and hoo!  It is good.  The pattern I'm working with is Bulb by Veera Valimaki.  I love that loose, comfy, tunic shape with the floppy neck.  I couldn't even get close to gauge, no matter what needle or which size I chose, so Doc reworked all the math for me (oh, the blessings of having a Doc around the house! There's really nothing he isn't good at) and have been using Andrea's fade strategy to blend the different skeins where they meet each other.  I don't know what I'm going to end up with, but working on this has been so lovely already, it is almost beside the point.  Right now it is just a lap full of happy rainbows.  
Here's something more familiar:  this is Shadow by Olga Buraya Kefelian, in the very soft and natural "Fleece" by West Yorkshire Spinners.  Neutral.  Whew.  This is one I really want to wear; wooly, heathery goodness.  Those smooshy cables.  I've said this many times before, but there really is room for both color and gray in my knitting life, and possibly in my wardrobe as well.  As I age and my hair turns more and more white, I am more and more inclined to wear only black every day forever, and honestly, the only thing that holds me back is how boring that would be for my knitting.  Well, my hair isn't all the way white yet.  
I am still carding the Super Pale Grey Border Leicester/Finn fleece from September's fiber festival.  There is only one small handful left to do, and then I will start spinning it.  Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait.  I am still such a total amateur at all of this, and these little mini batts/rolags/fauxlags I'm making on two old dog brushes are pretty full of imperfections; stray pieces of hay and uncombed blobs that will sneak past me and make their way intact into the yarn, and it will surely be far less than perfect, but I am not concerning myself with that right now.  If I want perfect yarn, I can go buy it.  This process--the sorting, the washing, the carding, the general handling and sniffing and cuddling of all this fleece; it has been so lovely.  I am intimately acquainted with it now.  We know each other.  It is soft and clean and light as air.  I am so looking forward to the next part of this project, and the next, and the next.  
Some parts of it are perfect little crinkly locks, some parts of it are longer and fluffier, like a Santa Claus beard.  Some of it is pure white, and some is caramel, and some is dove gray, and some is warm and buttery yellow.  I can't wait to see what kind of yarn it becomes.  
On Sunday, Doc and I will be at Rhinebeck, and part of what I think will be fun about this festival is seeing all the other makers in their most beautiful handmades, and meeting other like-minded souls.  I can't wait to see your sweater/shawl/cowl/mittens/hat and I want to hear all about them.  I will be wearing this cardigan.  There has been much talk out there about how warm it will be over the weekend, but believe me when I tell you that at 72 degrees F, I will still be able to wear a sweater.  I am almost never, ever, EVER too warm.  Doc, however, does not share my reptilian blood and has decided to forego his sweater this year, and I don't blame him a bit. [Also, whew!  It will give me a chance to properly fix that mess.] He will wear a kilt, and his Toirneach hose, though, and will be looking fierece, as always.  If you are there on Sunday and you spot us, please come over and say hello?  Look for a mustached warrior in a kilt and a girl with glasses and Wensleydale hair who probably has kettle corn stuck to her face.  I'd really, really like to meet you.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beauty

This project is miles and miles of plain stockinette stitch, round and round forever, and I keep working on it in the dark, or while reading or while watching a four-hour documentary about George Harrison on Netflix, and forgetting to look down at it, which is a complete shame, because this yarn (Primrose, Adelaide) is really awfully amazingly beautiful.  I can't imagine what it will be like when it's finished, and I do hope it will be something I can wear (am encouraged by the surprise success of this) but I am kind of obsessed and compelled by this gorgeous yarn.  Every stitch is a new color.  Love.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All the colors cowl

I might never understand the weather this year.  It's like this where you are, too, probably.  Weirdly hot, raining in sheets one minute, and the sun banging down the next.  Then I have to shut all the windows because it is 40 degrees.  I don't know what's happening.  Well, I'm still preparing for the cold, no matter when it finally happens, and guys, it will.  I live in a cold climate, and winter has never failed to happen up here, so, a cowl.  Double-long, and double thick, too, and stranded as well, so this is going to be pretty impervious to weather, and eventually, it will be just what I need around here.  
To make this, I delved into my (never-ending) worsted weight scraps (I think they are probably mostly Cascade 220 and Ella Rae Classic Worsted, with the usual soupcon of Paton's Lemongrass, because, obviously) and just drew a simple little chart, and then I worked on it forever.  Like maybe a year?  I don't even know when I started it.  This is worked on 72 stitches, and I used a US 7 16" circular needle.  I cast on provisionally, knit it in the round until it felt long enough, then grafted the two ends together for a seamless finish.  I like it wrapped double like this, because it will keep my weird giraffe neck safely tucked away from the elements, which is one of my great quests in this life.  How to keep the wind off of me.  This cowl is whopping and flashy and All The Colors, and it was so much fun to make.  You sit down with your basket of scraps, and make one mini decision--which two colors feel awesome to me right now?--and you only need the barest scraps of each to make one color band--and you buckle down for five rounds of two-handed knitting with an easy peasy repeat.  Then there are two plain rounds per band, for when you are tired of concentrating.  Make another mini decision, and off you go again.  Perfect little nibbles of challenge.  
You can do this, too; just pick a stitch pattern (or invent one, or reverse-engineer mine from the photographs if you want) and get out your scraps!  It'll keep you busy for awhile, but I thought it was great fun.  That might be my Rhinebeck outfit, right there, a t-shirt and this cowl.  Because it's hot and cold at the same time right now, and I don't even know what to wear.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Things

 
Last night Doc and I dragged ourselves off the couch and went for a walk with the catdog after dinner, and it was dark and windy and warm, and nobody else was around.  Walking with Catdog means we stop every two steps to sniff individual blades of grass and single leaves, and to investigate pinecones, which look very suspicious to her in the dark.  I talk to her constantly, and make little smooching noises, trying to get her moving again.  She'd like to just stand there and sniff for the rest of all our lives.  We just sauntered, and admired people's porches and the good kitchen smells coming from their open windows, and the air felt so, so good.  I wore my new hat (the Thinking Cap by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, in Shibui Cima, "pollen"--knit on a US 0, in case you love knitting or punishment) to keep the wind from lashing my hair into my mouth.  We came home and the kitchen was lit up and cozy, and Catdog settled down on her fuzzy rug beside the fire, and four seconds later, the sky cracked open and it poured rain for an hour.  We kept looking at each other and laughing.  Getting caught in that would have put a swift end to the sauntering.  Another thing:  last weekend we went to a fundraiser dinner, and we won most of the raffle prizes.  I once won a whole bunch of baked goods in a boy scout bake sale event when I was little, and this felt like that, like so lucky.  These prizes were pretty good, too.  Among the things I won were handmade beeswax candles, a Harry Potter-themed knitting notions pouch, and jars of honey that won a blue ribbon at the New York State Fair--ribbon included.  Best, though, is that simple but life-changing book holder.  Guys.  How did I not know there was such a thing out there to be had?  I don't have to choose an old book with a floppy spine that will stay open by itself?  I don't have to prop it up with pillows?  I have so many plain-stockinette sweater projects lined up and ready to go, and this little wire thingy means I will get some reading done this winter, while I do that.  Seriously, life-changing.  Speaking of plain stockinette sweater projects, I have been knitting like a maniac on my Pumpkin Spice/Autumn Leaves/Butternut Squash-colored project using my Mohonk from Jill Draper Makes Stuff.  This yarn is so luxe.  Baby pajamas soft, seriously.  Velvety soft.  In other, less successful yarn news, I had a moment of wild inspiration a few days ago, and thought to use turmeric to overdye some gray and oatmeal stash yarn leftovers and ends, hoping for muted gold.  Turmeric is very yellow, and it was right there in the cupboard, so why not?  My findings are these:  a) YES!  That's the color I want!  Hooray!  And b) turmeric is fugitive.  I hung the beautiful antiquey brass and mustardy and polleny skeins to dry on the porch, and within an hour, the side toward the sun had faded.  That was kind of disappointing, because the results had been just what I was looking for.  Alas.  When I get a moment, I'm going to try yellow food coloring, and see what that looks like.  Might as well try, why not?  Maybe it'll be perfect?  Another thing:  last week was freaky warm, so we sat on the beach and I hand-sewed another Alabama Chanin skirt, this time using two men's XL t-shirts and lined with cashmere sweaters from the thrift store.  I am in constant search of more comfort, and this is it, totally.  Cashmere.  From the thrift store.  How does so much cashmere end up in the thrift store?  Do people think they have to dry-clean it?  I have a whole drawer full of thrifted cashmere sweaters that are in my wardrobe rotation, and another whole bin of them for projects.  The stenciling on this skirt was kind of a disaster, but the finished result is great, which proves the theory that Alabama Chanin will look good no matter what happens.  I am so sold.  What else.  I made a linen dress, which despite my choosing the correct size, was enormous.  I wore it around the house a few times, but it bummed me out, so I decided to learn something from it and got out the scissors.  I slashed it down the front and back, taking out, I'm not kidding, fifteen inches of fabric at the hem, and then sewed it all back together again.  I think I could have lived with taking out thirteen inches, but it is now wearable, and I love it.  I will slash the pattern now, and the next dress I make should be perfect.  Life is for learning, no?  You can find out more about pattern slashing and alterations here.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I'm finally getting around to figuring it out.  What a week.  Love one another, be brave, help if you can, and listen to some Tom Petty.  That's what I've been doing.  You'll cry, but it'll be a good cry.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Glentrekker, or: the cardigan of my dreams

 
 
 
Really, I don't have to say a word, do I?  The photos of this just tell you the whole story.  Those cables, that shawl collar, those super-long sleeves, oh my goodness.  This cardigan is The One.  This perfect pattern is Glentrekker by Jennifer Hagan, and it only took as long as it did because I worked on other things at the same time.  It was endlessly interesting and engaging as a project, and while there were moments where I needed complete silence in order to concentrate on the different rates of decreasing at the armhole, raglans, and neckline all at once, it was never difficult.  And, well, just looooook at the finished result.  Guys, I want to wear this, I want to wear this right now, and every day.  The yarn (oh man, this is the best part) is an unknown who-knows-what, bought at the thrift store, ten long sausage-shaped vintage skeins of it for four dollars.  It is creamy, natural, DK-weight wool, and probably came as part of a kit for either a pretty big sweater or possibly a blanket--somebody had rolled some of it into a ball, probably in an unravel, and then gave up on the whole thing.  For four dollars, I was willing to gamble that it would be wool, so when I got it home, I tested it by setting the end of a piece of it on fire.  Wait!  Hold on!  Safety first!  If you're going to do this, do it over the sink:  take a three-inch length of the yarn in question, and light one end of it.  Let it catch and burn for a second, then blow it out.  If what's left on the end of the yarn is a hard ball of melted plastic that doesn't easily break off, you have acrylic (or maybe a mostly-acrylic blend).  If what's left looks like a ball, but crumbles away when you touch it, you've got wool.  (Another way to tell is to try felting it--I did this too, eventually, when joining one skein to the next.  If it felts together with any kind of alacrity, it's wool.  Plastic won't felt.)   I love this thing, so much.  Normally, the beginning of Pumpkin Spice Season makes this beach-loving summer girl a little bit sad, but whoo!  This cardigan.  I can see how a chilly day might not be so bad.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fading pullover, in handspun

No, wait.  First the yarn:
A few weeks ago, Ann Weaver was having a destash on Instagram, and for one lot of random chunks of spinning fiber from her collection, pieces of who knew what all sorts of sheep or wool or states of prep, I got there first and bought it.  So there was this peach and gray and cream fiber from Carodan Farm with no color name, so I spun it all fluffy and gave it a name:  "Grilled Salmon."  It is as soft as butter. 
Next was something else mysterious from Spunky Eclectic--it is pink and purple and more pink, with a little bit of yellow, possibly accidentally.  I called this one "Plastic Pony."  (I love good color names.  Why wouldn't you give it a great name?)  
This is a merino/tencel blend in a misty blue-gray that matched my ring almost exactly, so--"Moonstone."  
This is another Spunky Eclectic, and it had a label--this is Wensleydale, and she called it "Perfect Storm".  Wensleydale is a "longwool", and on the sheep, the fleece looks like--I'm not kidding--my own hair.  Look.  Dyed here, and spun into a two-ply, it looked less like me and more like tourmaline.  More jewels.  
This last one is a combination of everything and the kitchen sink, including sparkle.  I spun two unrelated fibers as singles and then plied them together, and they made the prettiest yarn of the bunch.  Deep blue and glitter, with flecks of foam: "Ocean."  
The yellow ("Big Yellow Taxi") didn't make the sweater cut, but it looks so good, doesn't it?  Anyway, even though my first impulse is to add these skeins to the stash and let them sit there forever, or at least until they've become way too precious to use for anything, I thought they just looked great all together, so I decided to make a sweater out of it.  I counted up the total yardage, figured out that I had spun this all mostly at an aran weight, and knit a swatch--4 stitches per one inch, on a US 8.  I drew a quickie sketch of what I wanted, measured myself, set Doc to calculating how many rows of each I would need to knit in order to both use it up and also not run out, and started knitting, a self-drafted, top-down pullover.  I measured it a lot as I went, to make sure I was still on track.  I'm not gonna lie, I fretted some; this, I'm sure you've noticed, is not gray.  Purply-pink yarn?  Peach?  Bright blue?  But then, what else is the point of all the spinning, if I'm too chicken to wear the yarn?  Guess what, self?  It's pretty.  You made that.  Shut up and knit.  The project bristled with needles as, at one point, I had the body and both sleeves going at the same time, with strands coming up from both ends of two balls of yarn, and then I came close to running out of yarn--there's no finding a second ball of any of this anywhere--and then, because I'd decided not to use the yellow, I did run short and had to stash dive, coming up with a handspun from my friend Deb's sheep, a rescued orphan of unknown origin called Liam, a few batts of whose fleece I spun four years ago, and which was (shockingly) beautifully balanced and kind of perfect, and which was the perfect finish for the hem and cuffs.  Whew, some gray.  
You guys.  This is my favorite thing I've made this year.  It is so warm, and so cozy, and so just right in every way.  Because it was made exactly for me, it fits perfectly.  It's a little bit heavy, so bring it on, winter!  I'm not afraid of you!  I wore it for ten minutes on Saturday, to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, and no less than Jill Draper told me it was beautiful and that she loved it, and that I had done a good job.  I folded that moment into a little origami heart and tucked it away for a rainy day.  Then I took off the sweater and stuffed it in a bag because it was a gorgeous 81 degrees, and bought a whole bunch more yarn.  And a fleece.  For more spinning.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Rhinebeck Sweater For Doc, or: It Happened at Midnight

Well, it's done.  Friends, this is what comes from my knitting for other people.  I should stay selfish.  I am a downright stinking selfish knitter deep in my dark little heart, and I know it.  You know how sometimes anything that can go wrong will go wrong?  That's the story of this poor sweater.  Doc's sweater for Rhinebeck is finished, and it was a battle, and there was crisis and frustration, and it ended, finally, last night at midnight--which is when all significant things happen--in a tie.  To begin with, even though I measured him, I chose the wrong size.  I also chose the wrong yarn (I will not speak its name.  The leftovers are going to Goodwill, and good luck to whoever gets them) and gambled (and lost) on a collar modification, and even as I hoped that sh** would block right out, I knew that this thing was going to grow and grow and groooooowwwww, which it did.  He could have worn it as a dress.  It was eight inches too long.  That's really an awful lot.  [ROW GAUGE!  Rage Alert!  Row gauge, I hate you.  We are not friends.  Don't call, don't write.]  So I cut away the extra (of course it was a bottom-up project, why oh why?) and put all the stitches back on the needle and re-knit the ribbing, and then--and this tells you everything you need to know about me--at five minutes to twelve I impetuously decided that one aberrent stitch at the middle of the upper back could be removed and replaced.  You guys, the ends were all woven in.  It was blocked.  It was, after all the above problems had been solved, completely finished.  But there was one bit of blurf in one stitch at the middle of the back.   
See it?  It was a production blob in the yarn, and because I was probably knitting in the dark or was all absorbed in Father Brown, I didn't see it go by, but in the light of day, it was pretty visible in this very smooth, pale gray yarn.  I was prepared to try and ignore it, but then Doc pointed to it and said, "What happened here?"  And that was the end of that.  I really wanted to go to bed with this project DONE.  So I thought, "I'll just snip that out of there and graft in a new row.  Take a couple minutes.  Easy peasy."  Four ugly attempts later, as it dawned on me that there were a couple things I didn't know yet about how to do this, I realized it was never going to work, and I was overflowing with regret and thinking about having to rip out the whole huge collar and the whole enormous yoke, just to go back and fix this little mess of my own making, and the yarn was getting blurfier and the stitches at the edge of the growing hole were getting looser and uglier, Doc--this tells you everything you need to know about him--just sat there calmly, listening to podcasts on his phone and saying, "take all the time you need", and I was wailing "Whyyyy?  Why did I do this?  Just wear a backpack!"  Finally, I made an approximation of a reasonable-looking graft, got it wet and thumped it into place, and called it a draw.  I'm not sure whether it looks better than before, or worse.  If you see us at Rhinebeck, stop me and I'll show it to you.  He'll be the great-looking guy in a kilt, these kilt hose, and a new, near-perfect, but not-quite-perfect sweater.  Who knows what I'll be wearing.  There's a month to go!  I'm still knitting.