Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jack Frost

Friends, thank you for being so willing to undertake the finishing of my half-blanket for me.  Honestly, that thing, so deceptively innocent there in the workbasket, was weighing on me.  It has been adopted by the lovely Arianne, who I hope won't be put off knitting permanently when she sees the full extent of the ends situation, and it will be on its way to her as soon as I can get to the post office.  The plow truck just thundered ominously past the house again.  I see some of you out there with your daffodils and your garden trowels and I am a little bit overcome with envy, because in New York, we are still in a Deep Freeze.  It's hard to imagine green grass when it's like this for so long, but soon, though.  We will get our turn in the sun.  I mean that's just science, right?  Meanwhile, I finished something, and I want to share it with you.
This is my Jack Frost Wrap, and oh my goodness.  The extreme coziness.  The yarn I used is Woolfolk Far, in Color 02/Lightest Gray.  Far is a worsted weight merino that is so soft it cannot be believed.  It really boggles the mind that something this incredibly soft can be the hair of an animal that lives on a farm somewhere and sleeps in straw and does all the muddy things sheep normally get up to.  Truly, I am gobsmacked.  Now, Woolfolk is not an every day yarn, at least it isn't for me.  It costs a lot, and while I think it is worth every penny, it is not something I can indulge in for every project, so this wrap had to last me awhile, and it had to be worth it in the end.  I tried a couple patterns (okay, I tried SIX patterns...) and they were pretty, but they just weren't worthy enough of this yarn for me, so I made up my own.  
Want to make one too?  Here's the pattern for you:  Using worsted weight yarn and US 8 needles, cast on 81 (or any multiple of 14 + 1 + 10).  Knit two rows.  Next row (RS): K5, pm, work first row of chart, pm, K5.  Next row (WS): K5, sl m, work across second row of chart to marker, sl m, k5.  Keeping first and last 5 sts in garter st, work 20 rows of chart 20 times, or until your yarn runs out, or until the wrap is as long as you want it.  End with chart row 3.  Next 2 rows:  Knit across.  BO Knitwise.  Here's the chart:
Block it when you're done.  Promise me!  This stitch pattern looks like an egg carton until you block it.  Just soak it in the sink for a couple minutes, then roll it in a towel to squeeze out some of the water, and fling it out on the floor.  I didn't pin it out very hard, and I don't have blocking wires, so I just pinned it at the corners and shimmied the sides into an approximation of straightness, which is fine with me.  
This project was such a comfort as I worked on it, so lovely these past few turbulent weeks.  I really loved it.  If Woolfolk Far is out of reach for you (and it is for me, now, too) you can use any soft worsted yarn you like.  I used 6 skeins of Far, which is about 850 yards, and after 20 repeats of the chart, I had only a tiny bit left.  My finished wrap is 78" x 18", which is quite long and fairly wide, and it wraps hugely around me like a squooshy soft hug.  I like a big wrap.  If you want something smaller, you could cast on 67 (wide-ish scarf) or 53 (skinny-ish scarf).  
I hope you'll make one.  There's still plenty of winter left.  
 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Evolution

This blanket project has been on my conscience long enough.  I can't even remember when I started it--it's been years, I know that.  Years and years.  Actually I can roughly carbon date this thing because I know I was thinking about it during intermission at a performance of "Sleepy Hollow" in which Doc played Ichabod Crane, and that must have been, what, 2012?  Wow.  That's a lot of languishing.  It went really quickly in the beginning, as these things typically do, while it was fresh and interesting, and there were (and still are) a lot of things to recommmend about it:  this was a project intended to 1) use up a little bit of the always-growing sock yarn leftovers, 2) provide quick and portable and easily achievable small project pieces, and 3) offer some opportunity for creative color and design play.  For all of that, it was so great, for quite awhile...and then...it got stale, and then I changed a little bit, and (stripy socks excluded) stopped wanting so much of all the color all the time.  The things I want to make now are more natural and more neutral, and this blanket-in-progress has just not been feeding that need.  I don't think I've made even a single square, which only takes me about an hour, in over a year.   I just don't want to finish it.  There's a lot of knitting in it, though, and it deserves better than the likes of me at the moment.  It needs some love, and it just isn't getting it around here anymore.  We've grown apart. We're not right for each other.  It's not you, it's me.  
 So.  Want it?  Eighty-six garter stitch squares are available for adoption, and free to a good home.  You can sew it up like it is (and have, in the process, a fairly comprehensive archive of my sock drawer, past and present) or you can add your own sock yarn remnants--you know you have them!--and make it as big as you want.  From the Keeping It Real Department, I am compelled to tell you that the situation with all the ends--an unfortunate side effect of stripes--is fairly dire.  There are roughly forty-million ends to weave in.  Wait!  Some of them can be used for the sewing up!  And I carried the yarn up the sides when I could!  But there are still a lot.  Anyway, if you'd like to have this pile of squishy, zany, colorful, unwoven-end-infested almost-blanket, leave me a comment below saying you'd like to have them (and please make sure there's a way for me to contact you--don't leave your physical address in the comments field, that's not a good idea--but make sure I can be in touch through email.)  
There are eighty-six of them.  They are unblocked, approximately 5" x 5".  They are knit in mostly wool sock yarns, some superwash and some not.  Must love weaving in ends.  If there is more than one willing adopter, I will draw a name tomorrow at 3:00 EST.    

Friday, February 10, 2017

Vivid Socks

Get thee behind me, bleak winter landscape!  I've got your color, right here.  You might recall that I started these last spring, made heroic headway on them, because after all, stripes! And then tucked them away for what was supposed to be a minute because people were coming over and I needed the table for eating or whatever, and then totally forgot about them.  Well, I am almost fifty years old, so this is what is starting to happen.  Socks?  What socks?  I don't see any socks...  
These were made in what is probably pretty much every color of Arwetta Classic, a merino blend sock yarn, a big lovely box of which was gifted to me last year by my lovely Yarn Fairy Hilde.  She has such a beautiful, bright sense of color, and had arranged the yarns in a specific way in the box, with warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other, with each color kind of related to its corresponding neighbor, which I thought was so perfect and so interesting, and so very Hilde.    
  This is how they were when I got them.  A muted olive (far upper left) = muted mustard (far upper right).  Clear bright blue at middle right, clear bright red at middle left.  Two deep darks at center, bottom row; one is warm, one is cool.  Can you see what she's doing here?  I just loved how she came up with a sort of color scheme rule for herself, which I can't even really articulate--it seems to have to do with value and hue, all of which is so vague in my mind-- then arrayed them thusly in order so that my amazement in them would be as huge as possible.  Hilde, you're wonderful.  That right there is someone who understands color, and also someone who understands fun.  Speaking as a girl who understands gray, this many colors all in one place was both an overload of inspiration, and also a little bit paralyzing.  I had so many ideas, and I started a couple of them, realized they weren't worthy, tried again, again, again...that's how it works for me, I'm coming to realize.  Nothing that isn't steeked is permanent in knitting, am I right?  The eagle-eyed among you will surely notice all the dog hair that's already stuck to these finished socks, and everywhere else, really.  The catdog doesn't have much hair to spare, but that isn't stopping her from shedding like she doesn't even need any.  So cute, that dog.  As I was taking these photographs a little while ago, she was in the other room daintily removing the pompom from a hat I'd left drying beside the fireplace.  
There were so many ends that I kind of considered just leaving them in and wearing the socks with them still bristling up the inside, like a lazy girl's thrummed mitten.  Finally I wove them in as hastily as I possibly could, fueled by a dozen episodes of the Fibertrek podcast, and was pretty pleased to see the end of that part of the project.  The ends left me with a fistful of yarn snippets big enough to inspire yet more projects.  I'll probably leave them outside for the birds--I love the idea of maybe someday finding a fallen nest, or coming upon one tucked into the hedge, that has a few of these yarn bits whimsically woven into it.  There have been so many birds in our yard lately, I don't remember ever seeing so many.  One of them will certainly appreciate all this soft yarn in such vivid colors as much as I have.  
Thank you, Hilde.  Spring is coming.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Little Things

Thank you for your warm, thoughtful, generous comments to me last week.  They made me feel full and grateful and hopeful. Thank you, thank you.  Thank you for checking in here with me, and for taking time to leave me a note.  I am so cheered by all your words.  Your kindness overflowed.  I probably need to spend some dedicated time sitting in the sun, but he is a distant memory these days.  It is still grayer than an old mule out my window, and mostly in my knitting too.  Another road trip looms, which means the search for the perfect travel project is ON, nevermind how many things are already in progress.  I have, as promised, slowed down on the finishing of things, but I never said I wasn't going to start eighty jillion new projects...this one happened the other day as I considered how nice it would be to just knit and purl for awhile.  Four false starts later, it is finally underway.  The right yarn is everything, am I right?  This is Quince and Co. Chickadee in "Frost", from an unraveled previous project that I never wore, and a good girl would skein all that beautiful wool back up and wash it to get the kinks out, but I am just not that girl.  When I want to start something, I want to start it right now.  I got this far before I had to throw the whole thing, needle and all, into the sink for a hasty soak and block, just to make sure the stitches would fluff up as I hoped they would, so it's wet right now and I can't work on it.
Which is fine, because I also have this, another self-drawn gray scarf/wrap thing, and all of a sudden it strikes me that these two projects seem awfully similar.  How many gray scarf/wrap things does one big ol' country girl like me really need, anyway?  Well, at least these two, because this one is knit in the utterly amazing Woolfolk Far, color 02/Lightest Gray.  I go oh-so-slowly on this project, because I am trying to savor it.  I really don't want it to be over, although wearing it is going to be a pretty good time, too.  I am slack-jawed by this yarn.  It is the softest thing I can imagine.  
Hey, wait a minute, that's not gray!  I'll admit, I kind of forgot about these hectic, hyper, and slightly dizzying socks, and they are so close to being finished, too.  They got put away for a minute a few months ago, and then that was it.  As soon as I can't see it anymore, it's like it's gone forever, which I think is why the work table is always so totally covered with stuff.  Once it goes in the cupboard, it's just dead to me, until I find it accidentally while I'm on the hunt for a button, and then I get a rush of recognition/guilty stab of conscience/blast of renewed enthusiasm.   I'm happy to see these again, although I can't think about all the ends still dangling about inside those things, not yet.  Don't make me think about it!  I suppose that is the price to pay for all these stripes, which are so, so beautiful, but ugh, I hate weaving in ends.  It'll be worth it.  I love these.  They'll be done soon. In the Not Knitting Department, I finished this the other day, too:  
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen this already, but the story is this: at the end of last year, Doc's sister J, who is a knitter and a stitcher, asked me to join her in a yearlong creative project.  We'd hound each other regularly to make things, and to finish things, and to think outside the usual boxes, and to Get It Done.  To not just talk about making, but to do it, and to explore ideas.  She set the first challenge--"What are your intentions for the year?" So I made this.  This little stitched piece, just 6" square--No. 1: Intentions--is what manifested from me thinking about all those things.  It is aspirational.  I plan to be brave and curious, and to do things besides just knit all the time.  We'll see what happens!  Let's go.        

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sunshine and Clouds

I am usually an annoyingly cheerful sort, at least in public.  Hey, make a joke!  Lighten up, people, don't be a downer.  Diffusing.  Diplomatic.  (Doc would probably have a different sort of story to tell you about me, but he is with me just about every minute and so he sees me at my worst and most complicated, and has given me many nicknames over the years to reflect this truth.  Yesterday, I pitched a tantrum and threw a pair of dull scissors across the room, and I am not kidding.  That's not the norm, at least I don't think so, but don't get comfortable!)  These days, though.  Seriously, how have we come to this?  I can't even talk about it, really, because I just get SO WORKED UP, and then my eyes get all puffy again, and--note to self--I am doing what I can.  I really have to think about other things now.  There is so much to be happy about.  "It is a serious thing//just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in the broken world." That's the brilliant Mary Oliver, who is such a balm.  Read her, I mean it.  Go, now.  
Meanwhile, there is my daily practice of showing up for art.  "Art." Please rest assured, I know that these are not "good", nor "real",  nor "art", although (as I mentioned earlier) that is not the goal, so I don't know why I feel like explaining...and probably a roomful of college freshmen could debate the question What Is Art until the beer ran out, and in doing so raise a lot of interesting points, and maybe I'll do that someday.  Meanwhile, I find it sort of revealing to look at these little practice things, these little snippets of time I spend showing up in front of a (okay, it's small) piece of white paper and doing something to it.  I just sit down, open the paint box, and start.  No do-overs.  Just do something, anything.  It hasn't happened every day, because, you know, life.  And I would say that in the past thirty days, I have painted exactly nothing "good" in this exercise, but that's not what I'm trying to do, and there is a lot of stuff happening in them that pleases me.  Those luscious blooms that you get with wet-on-wet watercolor, and the lucky accidents, and the sudden revelations of negative space.  I'm learning a lot, which is the goal.  And discipline, which is something I hate, and something I need.  Also, it occurs to me, there is so much gray.  Is it just January, rearing it's stupid, colorless, sunless head?  Or what?  Even the knitting is gray, but at least the yarn is Woolfolk Far (thank you, Santa!) which has to count for something.   Knitting that scarf (my own pattern, I'll show you more later) has been such a comfort, though I am taking it intentionally slowly, because, ow, my wrists.  There's no hurry, I have other scarves.  And other gray scarves, let's face it.  I might as well savor the Woolfolk, too, because holy moly, that yarn.  They have yarn figured out, those Woolfolk people.  It is softer than baby hair.  
Hey, is that the sun???  We are alive.  We are!  Alive!  Chew on that with me.  Xoxo

Monday, January 23, 2017

Moody

Wow, January is just hard.  My mood rallies and plunges according to the whims of the universe, what they say on CNN, Vitamin D.  There is so much to worry about, I think, and I am very good at worrying.  I am wearing my latest FO, a mashup of Misa Erder's Lisbon pullover (bottom-up construction and stitch counts) and Ryrau (colorwork chart, which I modified).  This is my fourth and final attempt at using my stash of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, in the wonderfully golden "Hayloft", and I promised myself that if this sweater didn't work out, I would throw it to the wolves and be done with it, so it is happy thing indeed that I am pleased with the results here.  Cramming the 34-stitch pattern repeat for the Ryrau chart into the stitch counts required for the yoke of the Lisbon pattern required me to finagle a little and simplify the original chart, and there was some self-congratulatory fist pumping when the math worked.  So what is that, four finished sweaters for 2017, and we are three weeks into January?  Yikes.  I am knitting too much, and my wrists are in trouble, so there will be a week or so of me sitting here in the evenings wondering what these strange empty things at the ends of my arms are for.   I'll sit down in front of the Netflix machine and, what, just watch?  
There has lately been a huge flock of robins hanging around our crabapple tree, feasting on the leftover raisins and chirping to each other.  If I open the window to see them better, they scatter to the walnut tree at the edge of the orchard, regrouping, deciding whether I am anything to worry about.  If I were a believer in signs and omens, I would assign some portent to this giant congregation of tough little neighbors clustering outside my window.  There are many long months to go until Spring, but the robins are here, and they will be ready when it comes.  Meanwhile, a new idea has emerged from my moody January brain, and I am spending some of these winter hours painting and drawing various perching birds (borrowed reference material from google images) and trying to figure them out.  I might spend the whole winter doing this, just painting birds.  The sun will come up, every day, whether I can see it or not. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bretonish

Anything striped. Yes, please.  After I saw Karen working on one of these, I resisted as long as I could (so many other things on the project table) and then I cast on.  There is almost nothing better in my life than long stretches of stockinette stitch, with a color change every twenty rows to keep it interesting.  You guys, this is what to do when you're stuck in line, a waiting room, a long road trip.  I don't know how people who don't knit can stand a long road trip!  Before knitting happened to me, all I did in a car was sleep, and then arrive at the distant destination with nap breath and bed hair, but so well rested, just as everyone else was collapsing into bed.  I still fall asleep a little bit, but mostly there is knitting, and then I feel like I have something to show for all that sitting in one place all day long.  
I worked this top-down, making it up as I went, which is my very favorite trick.  I've said this before, but seriously, all I do is this:  start with a vague idea of what I want.  (I mean it.  Vague. You can figure out sleeve and body length and shaping on the fly.)  Use a measuring tape and maybe a mirror to figure out how big I want the neck opening to be, and how long the raglan seam needs to be.  Make a gauge swatch.  Do a little math--stitches per inch x distance around parts of me, etc. to figure out how many stitches to cast on at the neck.  Knit the sweater.  Friends, it is that simple.  
A word about the yarn:  I used Holstgarn Supersoft, in Vintage Heather, which is a heathery navy--three 50g balls, and Oatmeal--2 50g balls.  It seems like a fingering weight yarn, but it's used at a much larger gauge--I worked this Bretonish pullover on a US 4.  It also feels and looks very rough as it comes off the cake, and I can tell you that if Isabell Kraemer didn't use it so often in her lovely designs, I doubt I would ever have given this yarn a second look.  It looks and feels like twine, and the knitted fabric initially looks pretty awful, and you can't help thinking the Holst people must not know what the word "soft" means, but hoo!  All votes of confidence are right on, because after a bath and a block--dry in four hours!--it is utterly transformed.  It blooms and relaxes and fluffs up into a beautifully wooly and light and (mostly) soft fabric, and I wore it all day yesterday, next to my skin, and it was nice.  It isn't Woolfolk (sob, is anything?) but it was perfectly lovely.  Also, in that photo up there, see that loop?  That is a stitch I dropped on the FIRST ROW, and which I did not notice until I was picking up to knit the neckband, the very last thing I do before blocking.  It did not drop down even one row, not in the whole time I was flinging this in and out of a bag, dragging it around the house, hauling it across the country and back, pulling it out from underneath the sleeping Catdog, picking up and knitting one sleeve and then the other, trying it on the dummy to check for fit, and sewing up the sleeve seams.  It just sat there, patiently waiting for me to find it.