Monday, June 18, 2018
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
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
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
“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.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
After all that, I’m a little glad it’s raining today. It seems like a good day to wear a new pair of warm socks. The pattern is here.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Here is another pullover, off my needles. I know, it’s not gray! Who even am I? This is Anoushka, by Regina Moessmer (pattern is here) in Knit Picks Palette. You guys, this yarn. It is so nice! Why haven’t I been using Palette for everything? Palette is making all the tres fancy yarns in my stash a little bit nervous right now. I used “Currant” and “Seraphim” (which is really a light lilac, not white as it appears to be) and they worked so nicely together. I worried about the fit of this one as I was working, and I even wet-blocked the yoke, and then the body, and had honestly almost decided that it was going to be too small, but in the end, once the collar and sleeves were on and it could hang properly, it fits wonderfully. I’ve worn it three times already, because even though it is the middle of May, I am almost never warm enough and wool is life.
In other news, this is what I got for Mother’s Day:
My beautiful boy has earned his Bachelor of Architecture. He will imagine amazing things, and people will build them! I can’t stop marveling at that. I could not be happier or more proud. As I am writing this, he and his girl are on a cross-country journey, following their dreams to have a life in The West. Letting them grow up and go away is so hard, but I am also thrilled for them, too. Adventure! Friends in Denver, Colorado, please take good care of them. That’s it, all my children are grown up now. I’m not saying I’m getting ready to start dressing the catdog in human clothes and letting her sit at the kitchen table, but I do think she would look really cute in little jeans.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
I keep saying this, to anyone who will listen: what I really want in this life is to go places. As much as I love my little cozy house in the country and all the ways rural life manifests for me, I am not content to just sit in my patio chair shelling peas and wondering. I want to go. There’s a whole big world out there! There’s so much to do, so much to be amazed by. When I turned fifty last week, it didn’t go as planned, you guys. I totally meant to celebrate my half-century of life in this world, and to embrace the beginning of the next phase, but instead I wallowed in self-pity and was, in general, a giant ugly pain. And then I hated that I couldn’t, even at fifty, be a grown-up, which made me feel worse. I have never yet learned to keep the emotional baggage of my birthday at bay, and I always spend most of the day near tears, for complicated reasons that honestly don’t have much to do with getting older. I am thrilled to be getting older, in part because it means I am not as yet dead, but also because I feel more free to yell when I want to and when somebody needs it, and to care less about what my hair and backside look like, and because my children are grown, I have more time and resources to go places. So when my birthday was finally over and I had cheered up a little, Doc and I got on a train for New York.
A word about train travel. I’m a little afraid that somebody will find out how wonderful it is to travel by train in the US and ruin it somehow by adding a bunch of annoying rules, but until that happens, I’m traveling that way whenever I can. I could write long verses of love poetry about train travel—it is so uncomplicated, so civilized and gentle. So comfortable. It is patient and kind. Liberate yourself from the airport security line and take the train.
I love New York so much. There is such an abundance of life there. The theater lights glow golden in the twilight, the same color as the hurtling, honking taxis. They are everywhere, but still, take the subway; it is so much more pleasant and I am not even joking. It is clean and efficient, and everyone makes room for each other, and teenage girls get up and give their seats to grandmothers, and kids on their way home from school play rock-paper-scissors and read library books, and if someone bumps your foot, they apologize. If you don’t know how to find your stop, someone will help you. I just love it.
Central Park is ravishing. It is in bloom right now, and filled on a warm weekend with children and dogs and musicians and people (like us) walking hand in hand. We walked for miles, for hours, dragging up, finally in a sandwich shop on 43rd Street, and I sank gratefully into a chair, planning never to get up again.
At the MoMA, we finally saw “The Starry Night”, which has its own guard, and a big crowd of people lined up and waiting to take a quick picture with their phones and then leave without even looking at the painting (Doc said, quietly, to me, “You know, they sell postcards of that in the gift shop...”). The Cy Twombly gallery was the one that really made me light up, though; that one up there is from his huge “Four Seasons” work. They were so wonderful, and I am wildly inspired now.
Of course I bought yarn. Armloads of it. I could have bought armloads more. Much more about that later.
Until next time, NYC. #heart
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
It must be spring. The sun came out on Monday, and Catdog and I ran for the back yard like we were escaping from prison. We frittered away the afternoon just lying there soaking up the warmth like two lizards on a hot rock. Just a week ago there was snow and sleet and ice, and then, just like that, the sky turned blue and came to life, and the daffodils turned their faces to the sun and unfurled their beautiful selves. I put on a hat and just sat there and read an entire book while Catdog snuffled around in the grass and then sprawled out to sleep. In the evening, the frogs took up their musical peeping, and we left the windows wide, wide open to the fresh air. There is nothing at all like sleeping beside an open window in the springtime, when the tender breeze is cold on my face and the quilts are tucked up soft and tight underneath my chin. I smile in my sleep and dream about a meadow filled with daisies.
In other knitting news, I started this wool colorwork yoke—the pattern is here—a week or so ago, when it was still snowing. I have no illusions that I won’t need it again before long, but somehow, it seems a lot less pressing.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
One of the things I’m most interested in when it comes to knitting garments is getting a good fit. I have made many dozens of handknit sweaters in the course of my already long knitting life, and for a good share of that time, my finished sweaters were crap. A lot of that I can attribute to the fact that it was the 1990’s, and I was for some reason wearing sweaters (and shirts, too) that were frankly enormous. Like, six sizes too big. Of course it was really comfortable and I was happy with it at the time, but looking back, I can’t imagine it, which I suppose is how it goes with fashion—everything looks weird from short amounts of time distance. We—my fellow children of the 70’s and I—all swore we’d never wear flared pants ever again, until we did, and then we said it about high-waisted pants and just look what’s happening. High waisted pants are everywhere. Not in my closet yet, but I never say never. Anyway.
There are a lot of different skills to learn when you take up a craft, and it takes a long time before you get really comfortable, and when you get comfortable with the basics of how to do it, you can start honing a little and really mastering it. And that’s when it gets interesting.
The Birkin Sweater. If you haven’t seen this design yet, I’ll be surprised, because I think I am the very last knitter in the world to arrive at the Birkin Sweater party, but my first thoughts, when it was released last year, were not very favorable. That thing, you guys, is frankly flawed. I’m not the first to make this observation, and I don’t mean to be controversial, but you can see by looking at the sample photo that the yoke section is verrrry deep, and a large portion of it is without any increases. It is really just a long, gorgeous funnel. The armholes are really pretty low, which can be a design feature all day long—if the yoke fits. Now, those bands of colorwork are honestly luscious. I mean, what a delicate filigree of design work that is! Oh my goodness, it’s beautiful. Many, many knitters dove in, and a good many of them were probably mastering fit and figured out how to adjust for the fact that the pattern was funnelly and their bodies were not, but a lot of people struggled with their end result. It was tight across the shoulders, and it rode up if they lifted their arms. This sweater is a lot of work—fingering weight! Multiple strands! Charts!—and to spend all that time and energy to end up with something that isn’t what you hoped is disappointing. Well, life is too short for that, and my closet is too small for things that are only going to be worn occasionally because the fit annoys me.
I knew, both from looking at the pattern photos and from other people’s tales of woe, that the yoke was going to be too tight and it would be uncomfortable to wear. I also knew, from experience, that my own personal yoke depth is shorter than usual, and the Birkin Sweater has a longer than usual yoke depth. Also, the pattern as it is written calls for three colors at a time to be used across most of the rows, and guys, I really, really, don’t want to do that. I only have two hands. Common sense told me many times that this was not the design for me, but when I saw Clare Shaw’s monochrome version, all my resolve went out the window. Doing it in monochrome solved one of the three big problems I had with the design, and so I cast on.
This pattern is worked from the neck down, so to give myself enough room in the shoulders, I cast on for one size larger than recommended by the pattern for my measurements. I also divided early for the armholes, moving part of the yoke’s colorwork onto the body and sleeves, and I did not work the last set of increases at the bottom of the yoke, in order to grade down to the smaller, correct size to fit my arms and body. I also virtually ignored all the body and sleeve shaping instructions and just did what I knew would fit me, and what I would enjoy wearing.
Which includes very long sleeves. This is a very wooly sweater with a double-thick top half—what’s the point of mini sleeves? Also, I think it has snowed here every single day this month—it is snowing right now, as I write this; April! Where are you?—and honestly, I will probably go on needing long wool sleeves for a good long time.
I used KnitPicks Palette in “Asphalt Heather” and “Cream”—that is a gorgeously soft yarn. Has it always been this soft? Or am I just getting less sensitive? Well, it worked great. I really couldn’t be more pleased with this result. It is really worth doing a little bit of math if that’s what it takes to get what you want. And that’s something I never thought I’d say.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
I can’t stop trying to sew clothes. The piles of failures, you guys. It is pretty disheartening to consider. My most recent, most successful sewn dress actually fell to pieces in the wash, and finding good apparel fabrics is such a hopeless quest out here in the hinterlands, so when that charcoal gray linen dress that I wore and loved and looked and felt like a million bucks in came out of the dryer in shreds, I was, um, sad, and sort of decided maybe this wasn’t for me. I got so tired of that defeated feeling, having spent the whole day bent over a project, feeling like I was getting somewhere, and then that slumping at the end, when it didn’t work. Maybe I should just stick to sewing quilts, this is too hard, all the wasted fabric, ugh. But...I just can’t stop thinking about it. I bought three yards of this plum linen blend with the highest hopes, pledged to make a muslin and then did; I measured, I ripped, I tried things on, I made tiny changes to the muslin, tried things on again. I believed I had learned something, so I gritted my teeth and cut into the plum linen, sewed so carefully, felling the seams, slowly and neatly topstitching. And it failed. I threw it on the floor, screamed a little, and sat down to knit, which, as you know, leaves me a lot of space for thinking. What I thought about a lot was this quote, which is perfect. It is about being a beginner. Things like that, and thinking about Georgia O’Keeffe’s incredible handmade wardrobe, built by her hands in the tiniest stitches; clothes made exquisitely, with exceptional care and intention, clothes made to fit her and only her—thinking about that kind of thing just makes me keep on trying. I want high-necked silk blouses with tightly buttoned cuffs and tiny pintucks. I want a fine wool black dress with long sleeves and a long, slim skirt that reaches just to my calves. I want to draw what I want, and know how to make it, and the only way to get there is to keep on trying, so here’s what I did: I put away the pattern (note to self: I have tried to make that dress four times, and it does not work for me, learn this...) and went to the closet, where I found a dress—from Target—that I like. I put it on the table on a big piece of paper, and traced around the pieces. That’s all, I just traced it. I tried to be accurate, and to take stuff like seams into account. I could have “trued” the drawn lines with a ruler and/or a french curve (is that what that thing is called? I really don’t know) but I didn’t, I just traced the pieces and then cut them out: presto, pattern. I laid my homemade pattern on the last of the plum linen and cut it. I sewed it. I sang loudly to Stevie Wonder as I went, because it was giving me power and I wanted to feel powerful and it was working. And then the dress was done. I gave it a press and I put it on.
And it fits.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
The yellow cardigan is done. It is “Golden Harvest” by Veera Valimaki. Golden, indeed! Look at that glowing yellow yarn. It looks like a crocus in the snow. A bowl of honey. Actual gold, even. It is Malabrigo Rios, in “Frank Ochre” and I am completely bowled over by its beauty. When I wear this, I feel like I am glowing, too.
Trying to take my own advice, I started something a little more complicated:
This is the beautiful Birkin sweater, knit in a monochrome palette. I got this far in an advanced state of monogamous devotion, and then ran out of the cream contrast yarn, so until the supply train leaves the distant warehouse, I guess I’ll have to find something else to do.
Socks! There is no excuse not to make socks. It snowed today.
I want to thank you all for your lovely, warm comments last week, on my new favorite topic: Making vs. Stuff. I loved the conversation, and it gave me a lot to think about. Let there ever be knitting and making in my life, all of my days.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
this project knit by Clare Shaw, and also with some elements inspired by the Golden Wheat cardigan by Veera Valimaki (which I am also knitting at the moment, and which is almost finished now, too.) The buttons came from the stash, too, and were probably thrifted. As I was sewing in the [many jillions of] ends, Doc said, “Sometimes it amazes me how you can take nothing and turn it into something.” I made this with castoffs and leftovers. That feels pretty good.
Monday, March 19, 2018
Winter is really hanging around. For some of you, too, I’ll bet. Doc and I walk at night, trying to blow out some cobwebs, but we keep finding ourselves trudging into the teeth of yet another snowstorm, with a flickering, dying flashlight and our glasses completely coated with ice. Once, we had to navigate home by nothing but our farmer neighbor’s pole light, because we could not see the road we were walking on, and our outbound footsteps had already filled in. Another time, we both pointed at the ground and together said, “Watch out for that ice” at the same time as we both hit the ice and then flailed wildly for traction, grabbing each other and cartoonishly trying to stay upright. Funny, but tiresome, too. For me, snow fatigue sets in sometime in late December, but I still have to go outside. I just want to walk in a straight line on a dry path without fear for my aging bones. Wear grippy boots and all the handknits at once, and laugh; that’s all I can do.
I’ve been knitting like it’s my j-o-b. This latest finished sweater is a modified version of Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Branches and Buds pullover from the first issue of Making magazine. I’ve wanted to make this ever since it came along, and I had some—but not quite enough—of the required yarn, and nothing for the contrast yoke, so it kept getting shelved. Then my beautiful daughter’s beautiful girlfriend gave me some perfect yarn for Christmas—Acadia from The Fiber Co. in the teal/gray colorway “Butterfly Bush”—just right for the colorwork in the yoke of this design, so I decided to see if I could squeak it out. The pattern calls for Quince and Co. Chickadee, a sport weight yarn, and I had some (in “Frost”) in the stash, but was two skeins short, so I made every effort I could think of to conserve yardage, including saving all the long ends, and also making no swatch. (That’s right, you heard me. Flying without a net!) This sweater is worked top-down, so I made the yoke in the smallest size, and then made the body even smaller than that, and shortened the length in the body and in the sleeves. I measured obsessively, and watched the diminishing ball with mounting confidence that I would certainly run out. To my amazement, I did not run out, but only because this is the most abbreviated Branches and Buds ever. This is the barest minimum Branches and Buds I could possibly have made. It doesn’t even have the buds—maybe I’ll add them eventually. I kind of like it without them. It is a shortie top, good for spring, or for wearing underneath another layer. I’m thinking of it as a shirt.
I didn’t have much yarn left in the end, which feels like a measure of success. This is such a nice pattern, and these are both such wonderful yarns, and I’m so glad it finally figured out what it wanted to be. I’ll wear this a lot, eventually. I realize I am doing a lot of optimistic knitting. Spring will come, eventually.
Last week, I took a long look at the state of my hair and just snapped. Despite my giving those curls all the care and attention you would lavish on a human baby, and despite the protective measures against sun and wind and drying, and despite all the fancy products money could buy, they just looked and felt like straw and I couldn’t take it anymore. I loved them too, but guys, they were not serving me. So off they came, and I just feel So. Much. Better.
Monday, March 12, 2018
photo awhile back that made my wheels start turning, and this week I got out the sock yarn scraps and dumped them onto the table to see if I could do something like it. I love this part, the beginning of a project. The creative part.
This is my lightly modified Branches and Buds Pullover—modified because I don’t have very much of that gray yarn (it’s Quince and Co. Chickadee in—I think—“Frost”; this poor yarn has tried to be so many different things, and has been unraveled so many times. It is kinked up like an old Slinky. I hope this sweater will be its forever home). It’s no good counting all my projects in progress, because there are so many it would just be stressful, but I’ll just say this: there are a lot of them, way more than I would like, but there is always, and always will be, a fresh idea, just waiting to be explored. This is my medium, and for the sake of the creative process, I am willing to let a few things languish for awhile. There are at least four sweaters that I can think of, all at the same place—the plain part, headed down the body or awaiting stockinette sleeves. The fun part of all these is done, and now I just need a good Netflix binge to make some headway. Any ideas? What are you watching?
Monday, March 5, 2018
here) knit from my stash in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock “Gossamer” and Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering “Kind Hearted”. The “Kind Hearted” says it’s a One of a Kind, but I see at least seven other projects on Ravelry using it, so I don’t know. Anyway, it is one of those sublimely beautiful multicolored skeins I always fall for but then don’t know how to use. This little sweater has solved that problem for me.
Watching those colors unfold and stack up next to each other was such a pleasure. This is the best use of multicolored sock yarn I can imagine. I am scouring the stash for more options now.