Friday, July 20, 2018

Songbird Mittens and Hawaii








So we went to Hawaii.  I know!  Waikiki Beach is as advertised—packed solid with surfers and tourists and little kids in water wings.  Frangipani blossoms drifted down from the trees and into my hair.  The coral sand was soft and slippery, like walking through sesame seeds.  I ate sushi and fresh pineapple and huge amounts of coconut ice cream, and Spam, and more sushi.  I found a pearl in an oyster.  The water of the tropical Pacific is clear and slightly bracing and it all felt so friendly and happy.  It was blissful.  I think if I were to stay there long enough, those scowl lines between my eyebrows that never disappear would disappear.

I didn’t even knit while I was there.  Who am I???  Honestly, I don’t really know how people do that anyway—the beach is a salty, windy, sticky, messy place.  It’s all I can do to keep my hat from flying away.  Knitting doesn’t really seem necessary there, or actually even all that possible.  Fortunately, getting to Hawaii and then home again involves two pretty long plane flights, which gave me a chance to make these mittens.  They were the perfect travel project—absorbing, but small.  It is 90 degrees F today and for once I don’t need any mittens, and I’m kinda missing those trade winds.  Also, I need a nap.  Hawaii is six time zones away and I can’t sleep when I’m supposed to and now my brain feels kind of soupy and fuddled.

Monday, July 9, 2018







There’s no way to explain this except to say I had The Fever.  I was cleaning behind the bookcase last week and letting knitting podcasts just auto play in the background, when, happening to look up for a moment, saw Kristy Glass asking one of the makers of Spincycle Yarns about the sweater she was wearing.  I thought about my stash of handspun yarn, none of which is enough of one color or fiber or ply angle or anything else to make a whole garment.  I love all these skeins, but I had started to feel guilty about having them in the cupboard, taking up space, when they were probably just destined to be a pile of lumpy hats nobody wanted.  I remembered this from last summer.  I put down my dust cloth, bought the pattern for The Twigs and started winding yarn.

The Fever got worse, because over the next few days, the weather suddenly went from summery to sultry and, undeterred—in fact, ecstatic—the garment grew into a sweltering lapful of knitting.  Let me just say that I don’t mind this one bit.  I sit in the shade, I aim a huge fan at my face, I keep a dripping glass of iced coffee nearby.  I am a summer baby, and it is never too hot for me to knit.  But I am aware that I will not be needing to wear this one for a long time.  It is knit at a gauge of 4 stitches per inch, in fairly densely spun wool.  It is heavy.  This garment is for the future; for a distant season that I hope does not arrive too early, and frankly I wouldn’t mind if it never got cold enough to wear this, but I know it will, and sooner than I’d like...anyway, as I knit and it was predictably lumpy and weird and the contrast colors veered in and out of matching the main color in value, I just kept shaking my head at myself and saying, well, I’ve got the fever.

Then, five rows and the button bands from the end, I ran out of yarn.  This, you may recall, is yarn I spun by hand, from a bump of roving that had been in my stash since the heyday of The Backstreet Boys, and there was no getting any more.  Since the whole point of the project had been to use some of the handspun, I was determined not to buy any yarn.  A little story for you:  when we were thirteen or so, my best friend and I got hungry in the middle of a sleepover, so late at night, we crept into her mom’s kitchen and baked a cake from a mix.  It wasn’t making a big enough mess, so we got out the food coloring and started dumping stuff in, and pretty soon, that cake was army green, with no going back.  It looked gruesome, and very un-foodlike.  We left it on the counter, turned our attention to oatmeal and honey facial treatments, and eventually went to sleep.  In the morning, we got up to find her dad standing over the pan, eating a huge piece of it with a fork, and smacking his lips like it was the best cake in the world.  As I was looking at the last bit of the hand-dyed, handspun yarn disappearing into the top of the yoke as I knit, I thought about that, and how easily we got bluish-greenish out of kitchen food coloring.  So I scrounged up some Cascade Ecological Wool, leftover from something else, rummaged in the back of the cupboard behind the candy sprinkles and started dumping stuff into the dyepot.  The result was close, but not quite.  It’s not perfect, but nothing about this poor thing is perfect in any way.  It is sort of motley and wobbly, and for the first time ever, I think my cut steek might collapse like a house of cards, and it still doesn’t have any buttons, but honestly, I truly love this sweater.  I’ll show it to you next time, all finished with buttons and everything, but it’ll be a long time drying, and a really long time before I can wear it.

Monday, July 2, 2018




I really can’t get enough of summer.  The cherry tree is bursting with fruit; the lower branches are almost hanging to the ground.  When you have to bend down a little bit to pick the sweet cherries that are growing right there in your own yard, you know your life is pretty nice.  I can eat cherries until my clothes don’t fit anymore, and there are still more than plenty to share.  The robins and the catbirds are onto them, too, and there’s a lot of fruit on the ground already, perfect cherries with one dainty bite missing.  I went out there barefoot the other day, bowl in hand, and stained my feet orange.  Adventures in natural dyeing, inadvertent edition.

Doc was surfing around on Craigslist awhile back, and said suddenly, “Is Tunis any good?”  I was imagining some kind of North African tagine dish possibly made with peanuts, so I said, “I don’t know, what’s in it?  Are we looking at restaurants?  I’m in, let’s go.”  “No,” he said, “Tunis fleece.  Sheep.”  Actually, I don’t know squat about fleeces, but I know I like yarn, which comes from wool, which comes from sheep, so I said “Ack!  Yes!  Good!”  And got in the car before he could change his mind.  So we came home with two [there were two, you can’t just leave things like that sitting there!] lambswool fleeces, which were creamy white, gorgeously crimpy and utterly packed full of thorns and hay.  I tried to imagine carding it all by hand and my courage failed me.  I tried to imagine stashing it in the upstairs closet and worrying about it later, and I knew it would keep me awake at night to do that.  I found these plans for building a drum carder at home, and Doc said he’d be thrilled to do that for me, but when the time came to start getting parts together, he made kind of a weary face, probably imagining many hours in the hot workshop hunting down variously-sized bolts while I reclined in the shade of the umbrella and he said, “Eh.  Let’s just buy one.”  It arrived the other day, and I carded one of the fleeces and even though my knuckles look like hamburger [don’t touch those teeth while the thing is turning, duh!  That hurts!] it was wonderfully fun, and now I have a bunch of fluffy batts, waiting to be spun.  I stacked them up on the table to admire them, and they looked like the world’s biggest cinnamon roll, ready for the oven.

Knowing that more yarn is headed into the stash soon [I’ll spin it soon!  Will too!] I decided to crack on with the my Wheat sweater, which I started back in March and then temporarily abandoned, and which had nothing left to make but the sleeves.  A sleeve takes no more than a few hours of knitting, but the idea of sleeves takes weeks of procrastination.   You knitters know what I’m talking about.  Sleeves!  Am I right?  These sleeves are all cabled, too, which added extra time to the putting-off, and just a little extra time to the knitting.  I made a few modifications to the hemline and edge treatments in order to suit my fancy and I knit this in Holst Supersoft, in the colorway “Nougat.”  I’m telling you, this thing is as light as a breath of air, and softer than you would believe.  It is like wearing nothing, but warm, too, and that palest pale gray color is everything I want.  That yarn.  Swoon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Relax




It’s a terrific scorcher today.  The sky is white-hot, the sultry air is thick.  Suddenly-blossoming antique roses sprawl along the prickly hedge and the perfume from them suffuses easily and heavily into the kitchen window.  The lily buds are fat and ready, and the cherries are just the color of bittersweet now.  In a week I will start eating them in tart little handfuls, when they are not yet quite ripe.  I sit in front of the fan, beside the open window, and glow with sweat and contentment.  My happiest season is here.  The farmer mowed his meadow over the weekend, just as I was waxing all rhapsodic about it.  It looks like a kid who’s just given himself a haircut with a pocketknife, clumped with dead grass and brown patches.  This is the way of it in the country—things grow, things die, things grow again.  A farmer has no time to be sentimental about a wildflower meadow.

Obviously, I’m still knitting.  This is my newly-finished Relax pullover.  It is very relaxing, in every way, really.  So much plain knitting, and so easily worn.  It looks absurd without a person in it—enormous body, and teeny little doll sleeves—and I have no idea why it works so well, but it does.  Something about the shoulder shaping, I think, keeps it from being just a sad, droopy sack.  Anyway, it’s great.  I used Primrose Yarn Co. Sophia (a 3-ply fingering weight) in the [I’m pretty sure discontinued, ugh] colorway “Abyss”, and I alternated skeins to prevent the wildly vareigated patterning from pooling too much.  It is just about exactly the colors of all my favorite jeans in all the denim stages of fading.  It feels just right for summer.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Houll hat and the meadow





This meadow is near my house.  Years ago, it was planted in apple trees, and they were bent and ancient-looking, and stooped like old men, and had become more interested in making leaves than in making apples, so a few years ago, my farmer neighbor brought in a huge piece of equipment with a big claw on the front of it and took them out.  There was a sad bonfire, and the land looked demolished, and I was innocently devastated.  I’ve since learned that these old farmer neighbors know what they’re doing, and that in these parts, if there is a bare patch of earth, somebody will plant apple trees, so I know that one day, this meadow will be an apple orchard again.  Now, though,  it is fallow, and rich with long purple-tipped grass and wild daisies and clover, and the wind (there is always so much wind) ripples along it, making waves in the grass.  I can see a distant farmhouse and barn; someone else’s farmer neighbor.  Sometimes, when we walk along the roadside here, we see a hawk, lazily circling.  Killdeer make their nests, and when we walk by, nattering on about nothing and everything, they jabber loudly in a big ruckus and try to lure us away.

It is very easy for me to remember, as I walk down these quiet country roads full of raucous birdsongs and untouched wildflowers, holding Doc’s hand, that I have everything, everything, everything.

This hat is new:  it is the Houll hat by Ella Gordon, knit in a mix of yarns from my stash—there is some Rauma Finullgarn, some Holst Supersoft, some KnitPicks Palette, and one (the turquoise) fancy hand-dyed sock yarn from Stone Edge Fibers.  June has been cool enough to make a hat seem like a good idea, but it is almost summer, so, a mango pineapple popsicle seems like a good idea, too.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Threipmuir, in June

Well, June has just been a gorgeous month so far.  I have so many peonies in blossom now, and Doc remembered to tie them up, which I always forget to do, so instead of flopping around in the mud getting ruined before I’ve even seen them, they are proud and perfect this year, and so lush.  They look like party dresses.  Party dresses that are full of ants but smell like the breath of angels.  June, you are my favorite.

Festival season is here, and Doc and I went to the CNY Fiber Festival on Saturday.  Guys, I love a yarn festival more than I can say, and not even because of all the yarn and fiber, either.  Baby lambs, newborn sheepdog puppies, elderflower soda and kettle corn, and the Nicest People Anywhere.  Doc wore his kilt (and was much celebrated everywhere he went) and I wore my newest finished object; Threipmuir, designed by Ysolda.  This was knit from some of my New York City yarn haul (Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift in ‘cream’ and ‘dewdrop’ and in Le Petit Lambswool from Biches & Buches in ‘Vert Gris Moyen’ (Medium Gray Green).  These two-ply fingering weight wooly wool yarns are so wonderful to work with and to wear—gently fluffy, and light as a feather.   It is not too warm for handknits.  It hardly ever is.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Golden



We went home last weekend, to visit our families in Michigan.  My nephew graduated from high school, and his party was sort of a mini class reunion, and it made me so happy to see friends from a long time ago, to reminisce about the olden days with people who knew me when I was young.  One of my dad’s old friends told me the story he always tells me whenever I see him, and I love it so much; I’m going to tell it to you just the way Don always tells it.

“We were playing golf, and your dad hit one off the tee and it plopped straight into the sand trap.  We all went ‘Oh no!’  As he’s choosing a club I said, ‘What are you doing?  You can’t hit that out of there with a driver!’  Your dad said, ‘You don’t know much about the game, do you?’  He took a swing, and the ball sailed all the way over to the green where it hit the flag, flapped around in it for a minute, and then dropped straight into the hole.  It was the most beautiful golf shot I’ve ever witnessed in my life.”  Don shakes his head.  “An Eagle!”

Cue the cheering!  I have no idea what an Eagle is, but I don’t doubt for a minute that Dad bought a round in the clubhouse after that.   He’s been gone for seventeen years, and things like that, hearing a story that a man has kept alive all this time in his own memory keeps him with me.  I can see Dad now, as surprised as anybody, watching the ball drop in and doing a happy little dance in that moment of glory.  I’m so glad Don was there to see it, and to tell me about it all these years later.

More and still more sweaters are happening around here.  This is Cabeladabra by Hanna Maciejewska (pattern is here) knit in Spirit Trail Fiberworks Zalti, in the colorway “Hermitage”, an almost uncapturable mustard/olive/highlighter pen yellow combination that just calls to me.  This color is so irresistible.
Look at those gorgeous cables, in that glowing, golden yarn!  I really love how this one turned out.  It makes me want to do a little happy dance, too.