Knitting this sweater has been the most exasperating experience in the world. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong; mistakes have been made, and there’s been a lot of unraveling. And now I am out of yarn. Fortunately, as my family reminds me in those moments when I am unraveling an entire sleeve and starting to lose my mind, I really love knitting. Oh yeah, I do. Whew. I have some some fancy figuring to do in order to get blood from a turnip—I mean, to get two sleeves from a half skein of yarn, and then I will show it to you. And I will tell you the whole tearful story, complete with its trials and tragedies and (I firmly believe this) its ultimate triumph. It's going to fit me. I mean it.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
I yarn-bombed myself. I know! Isn’t it wonderful? I love the idea of this so much, this draping of trees and fence posts and light poles with knitting and crochet. I don’t know whether everybody gets the same kick out of it as I do, though, so I kept it in my own garden, which means I can see it every day from my breakfast table. The big pieces are all abandoned blanket projects, and the little motifs are my efforts to figure things out, sometimes by looking at a picture, sometimes by reading a Japanese chart. I use those as color studies, too.
There are still so many of these little bits and pieces around here. I still want to do the chicken house, and maybe also my bike, if I’m feeling brave. I suspect I already have a little bit of a weird reputation, what with my homemade clothes and striped socks and everything, so what’s a little more crochet, after all?
While I was crouched under the crabapple tree sewing pieces of knitting to its branches, my teenage son walked over and, without so much as a raised eyebrow, not so much as an ironic pause, said, “What’s for dinner?” I said, “You’re not even going to comment? You don’t find this unusual? I’m cozying a tree!” He just shrugged. Nothing I do anymore surprises them.
I loved all your excellent suggestions about what to do with my scraps. So many good ideas were flowing, all around, which is what I love best about blogging. Thanks for being here with me.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
I have all these scraps and swatches and false starts piling up, and I don’t want to throw them away, but I don’t know what else to do with them. They’re sort of inspiring; little trail markers on the map of my learning, or something. I like looking at them, but they’re in my way. I sort of want to do a big book, a journal maybe, with all this stuff in it, bound with those huge ring clip things that snap together so the pages can be a mile thick if they need to, or if there’s a big hank of crochet stapled in there. I’d be all organized, with labeled swatches and detailed information about each project right there in one place. Wouldn’t that be great? What do you all do with your leftover bits and swatches?
Thank you, Fleur, for the lovely award! I do appreciate it. Fleur’s blog is beautiful, go see.
Monday, June 18, 2012
The end of June is such a busy time around here, so full of holidays and birthdays and parties of one kind or another, and the vegetable garden is abundantly green with leaves of both the good and the weedy sort. It’s the very best kind of busy, but it leaves little time for yarn. We spent the Father’s Day weekend doing all the kinds of things he likes, outdoorsy things like long bike rides along the canal and hiking in the woods, and now we all feel rugged and wonderful. And then he went for a run while I made pie and then I slumped on the couch watching Notorious and, finally, knitting. I finished the first part of the blanket:
This is the first of four, which I’ll then sew together and it will be huge and heavy and wooly and warm. It’s a whole lot of knitting, but it’s the best kind there is, at least for me, right now. I’m having so much fun working on it.
Thank you, Shari for the lovely award! She’s making the most beautiful crocheted baby dresses. Go see!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I really love my back yard. This is my clothesline and, behind it, my antique roses. Look:
I know everybody’s seen roses, but I am wildly in love with these, even though the thorns are completely vicious. A few weeks ago, one of them stabbed me as I was weeding, and it made my knuckle swell up like a golf ball, but that misery did not diminish my admiration for this rose or any of its sisters:
That one is called “Fantin Letour” and it smells so delectable—I had a quick impulse to take a bite out of it. The buds are striped. I know, right?
Anyway, between fresh strawberries and the single annual blooming of these roses, June is really the most delicious month of the year. So I spend a lot of time in the yard if I can, and I hang my laundry out whenever possible, and the clothespin bag situation (storing them in a pile in the grass at the base of the clothesline?) finally got too ridiculous, so I spent fifteen minutes making a bag for them.
Yes, the utility crafts continue. This is made from a scrap of outdoor fabric leftover from my chair cushions, and the design idea came from here, where she used a placemat (brilliant!) I would totally have used a placemat if I’d had one, but I had this fabric, so I used it. I folded four layers of it together for sturdiness, and it worked great.
I love things that make my life easier and more lovely. In fact, I think that’s why I do everything I do.
Relevant to neither the laundry nor the roses, but to the backyard in general, last night as we all four sat convivially around the patio table in the glow of the fairy lights, having a happy debriefing about our various days and watching the fireflies and I was enjoying a glass of Cab Sauv, suddenly there was a HUGE rustling in the bushes, and snapping of sticks and we all just froze for a terrified minute. I said, “It’s probably the cat,” and the boy said, “No, he’s in the house.” Then the rustling was closer, and the branches were cracking and snapping, and Dean suddenly jumped up, and that’s when I lost it and yelled, “CHUPACABRA!” and all four of us ran screaming for the house. When we reached the safety of the kitchen, we looked at each other and fell apart laughing. These people are the best.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
When one carries knitting with her everywhere she goes, there must be the occasional casualty. I was a little annoyed that it had to be this particular needle, which I especially like because it is very pointy, and also, it is pink.
However, nothing is wasted:
One plastic bead, a little E6000, and a man with a drill later, order is restored. And it is still pink. I’m so glad I didn’t go with my first instinct, which was to declare it broken beyond repair and fling it angrily into the bushes. Never give up on a pink knitting needle.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I don’t have a dishwasher, and I always say it’s because we don’t have any room for one in our little kitchen, but the truth is, I really don’t want a dishwasher. Now, definitely there are times when I wish I could just throw those scrambled egg pans behind a door and magically they would emerge sparkling and new, but mostly not. Mostly, I kind of enjoy filling the sink and washing them by hand. Of course, after twenty-plus years of this, my hands are utterly destroyed. The kids do their share, too; in fact I recently wrote “WASH YOUR DISHES!” on a chalkboard on the refrigerator, as a gentle reminder to them about those late-night nacho pans, and they invented a new version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, based on their favorite TV show, as a means to decide whose turn it is, which is the most hilarious thing ever. I wish you could see it, you’d fall over.
I guess sometimes it’s a little bit onerous to wash dishes by hand. It can be meditative and nice in the sudsy warm water, but it can also be a pain, so I make pretty dishcloths. I think it sweetens that regular chore a little, and I try not to care when I find one all shredded up in the garbage disposal because someone let it go down the drain. I try to see that as an opportunity to make more. Yeah. That’s it.
The pattern is “Grandma’s Fan Dishcloth” from this book, and it’s really just a knitted doily, which I can’t believe I never thought of before. Washing the dishes with a doily! Why not?
It’s pretty, and it’s useful, and it’s interesting to make, too. Win.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Whenever I make a quilt, I always learn a lot. This continues to be true, even though I’ve made probably thirty or forty quilts in my life. There is always, always some moment in the process where I’m slapped in the face and a lesson falls into my lap. This time, the lesson was about tying. Specifically, that I should not do it. I don’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but I am just an abject failure at tying a quilt, and for whatever reason, it always makes me wish I’d done it differently.
For the first time, I used wool batting, which I can tell you makes the most wonderfully lofty quilt you’ve ever seen. Lighter than a cloud, but so warm, oh my. Cozy. I thought perhaps the wool batting and the wool ties might felt together in holy matrimony and the ties would stay in place forever…which didn’t exactly happen. The ones that stayed tied through the first washing did felt into cute little puffballs, which are perfect and sweet and which might stay put, I don’t know.
It’s 86” x 96”, which is not the biggest quilt I’ve ever made, but it somehow seems enormous. It seems much bigger than full size. I had to rearrange all the furniture in order to make enough room to baste it. While I crawled around on my knees putting safety pins all over it, my family had to climb over chairs and tables to get through the house. My husband jumped over my head once, yelling “Parkour!” which cracked me up.
This old lady kept me company, and held down that corner while I pinned. Good girl.
When I began working on this, inspired by the freedom of the Gee’s Bend masterpieces, I decided I was just going to let whatever happened happen. Fiddle music played on NPR. I made snap decisions regarding color, and tried to think only in terms of value. I did not concern myself with running out of any fabric, and if it happened, I patched in something else. I added a mustard yellow and gray binding, and then I tied, then quilted, then tied, then quilted, then finally, again, tied this quilt.
I washed it. Some of the ties came out. The whole thing rumpled up like an old nightie. I tossed it over the fence to be photographed, and if you can believe it, I was still debating whether or not to machine quilt. My indecision about this thing was so complete that I had literally finished it, still unsure about what to do.
Then I slept under it. Oh. The lofty warmth. The comfy coziness. The extravagant luxury of it, soft and lovely.
It looks like a pile of laundry, but don’t you just love fresh, clean laundry, warm from the dryer? Don’t you love to burrow down into that basket of soft, cottony clothes? I do. I love that.
And just like that, I love this quilt, too. It doesn’t look so great all folded up and sitting there, but it feels divine. It might come apart a little, but I don’t care. I already have a lot of quilts that look great on the shelf. This one feels heavenly. This is the coziest quilt I have ever made.
It’s too big for my clothesline! And actually, apart from being asleep underneath it, this is how I enjoy it the most—I can only see the overall design when I look at this photo. A little Gee’s Bend-ish, maybe? (she said, hopefully).
That delicious, slanting, afternoon light is making the house dim and golden. I think it’s time for a nap.
Friday, June 1, 2012
In a burst of Kaffe Fassett-induced color mania, I finished the last third of this blanket, and now it’s cold and pouring rain, so I’m just in time.
A big project like this seems like its going to last forever, until that moment where I hold it up and suddenly realize it’s almost finished, and I can count the remaining rows, and the remaining yarns will all fit in the basket together. Then it kicks into high gear, and everything else falls temporarily to the side.
These stripes make me think of beach umbrellas, and rows of surfboards leaning against a palm-roofed shack. Santa Cruz, and Cocoa Beach. That coconut-scented Coppertone suntan oil we always bought at the grocery store when I was young, back when SPF was not a thing and nobody would have wanted sun protection anyway because we were all trying to achieve that sweet copper Farrah Fawcett glow.
As I work, each color decision feel so momentous. I plan about five or six colors ahead, and those yarns go in the basket, and as I get near the end of those, I plan the next five, and the whole time, I’m keeping my rules in my head: blue and pink never sit together, all three primary colors can’t be anywhere in any project at the same time, and there must be a few darks, along with a few neutrals now and then. Beyond that, I go by instinct, and I second-guess every decision, and I change my mind and tear out a bad choice, and I periodically step back and study the whole thing at once, sometimes in a mirror, which turns out to be the best way to see what I’m doing—just looking at it on my lap never tells me anything. I worry about these things, and I lie awake at night, thinking, Is that turquoise too close in value to the foam green? Should I tear it out and try the mocha? Where can I fit in another row of teal?
It looks like a giant beach towel, which is making me badly want to go sit in the sand next to the surf and drink a fruity drink with a hibiscus flower in it.
This blanket is done in woven stitch (photo tutorial here), which is nothing more than sc, ch1 across, and then on the next row, the single crochets go in the ch1 spaces, and the chain 1s go above the single crochets. For a whole blanket worked in single crochet, this went amazingly quickly, and I never got bored with it, ever. I worked eight rows of each color, and I wove in my ends as I went. The edging is just one round of single crochet, which wasn’t my original plan, and to which I might add a few other colors later, I don’t know. But when I got to the end of it, the blanket sort of told me it was all done, so I stopped.
Wow. I love that.
If you’d like to make one of these yourself, I’ve written the whole thing down and made a PDF out of it. You can download that pattern here free, from me to you. Thank you for hanging out here with me. I do appreciate it, so much. EDIT: Well, rats...I forgot this one was stored at Dropbox, and it has gone somewhere mysterious now. While I hunt for it, here's the quick and dirty pattern, so you can at least get started:
Crochet hook, US G/4.00mm
Size: 46” x 80”
The pattern is worked in Linen Stitch, which is worked over an EVEN number of chains. I think I chained around 100, but you can make your blanket any size you like. Then continue like this:
Row 1 (foundation row): Single crochet (sc) into 2nd chain from hook, *chain (ch) 1, skip 1 ch, sc in next ch; rep from * to last ch, turn.
Row 2: Ch 1, sc in first sc, sc in 1-ch space, *ch 1, sc in next 1-ch space; rep from * to last 1-ch sp, sc in last sc, turn.
Row 3: Ch 1, sc in first sc, ch 1, *sc in 1-ch space, ch 1; rep from * to last 1-ch sp, sc in last sc, turn.
Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern stitch.
I worked eight rows of each color, and I wove in my ends as I went, until the blanket was long enough. Then I worked one round of single crochet all the way around the whole thing.