Tuesday, October 23, 2018
O Rhinebeck. Another good one, in the bag. Okay, I know there might be more than a few of you out there who just could not care less about hearing any more about Rhinebeck and I totally get it. For years, I thought, big deal, there’s yarn for sale right in the store. That’s true, there is. And if you’re not a knitter or a crocheter, then I’m sure you wish we would all just shut up about it already. I hear you, and I understand. Also, not for nothing, there are a LOT of yarn and fiber festivals out there in this world and your own local fair is chock full of wooly goodness, too, and I hope to get to all of them someday. And honestly, if Rhinebeck weren’t within an arm’s reach for me, I doubt I would brave the crowds and the weather, but it is, so I did. And it was wondrous good. Let me tell you about it.
In the event that I persuade you to make the trip next year, the first piece of advice I have about this festival—and I almost hesitate to spread this around—is this: unless you love frustration and standing around in a solid mass of desperate and hungry humanity, don’t go on Saturday. Don’t even. Sit tight. Sunday is better, and you can move around and see stuff and there is still plenty of yarn and fiber to go around. Leave home Saturday morning, get to within an hour of the fairgrounds, tuck into your adorable Airbnb somewhere in the woodsy gorgeous Catskills and walk into town for a bowl of noodles. Visit Jill Draper’s Open Studio and buy a whole huge bagful of goodies, oops. Meet some knitterati, schmooze with your tribe. Drink wine, talk wool. Meander back into the woods over the dark windy roads, admiring the top-notch Halloween decorations along the way, and knit peacefully in your room until you get drowsy. On Sunday morning, get up at a leisurely hour, wander next door for a coffee. Savor your breakfast, then put on your Rhinebeck Sweater and drive to the fairgrounds, where the early morning stampede is already over and you can just calmly park and walk in.
The second piece of advice I have is this: accept that the line for the apple cider donuts will be long. Accept that you will have to stand there a long time. It’s going to be a wait. The people in the donut shack are not in any kind of hurry whatsoever, and frankly, waiting in the donut line is where you will meet people, talk about what you’re wearing, what you’re knitting, famous people that have been spotted (I’m still keeping my eyes peeled for Johnny Depp—one of these years, I know it...). The camaraderie in the donut line is really the whole point of Rhinebeck. You’ll be standing there with them for an hour; these are your new friends. It’s worth it, too, the donuts are hot and coated with sugar and are meltingly good.
I saw some friends again this year (Hi Valerie!) and met some new friends (Hi Irene! Hi Carol!) and saw some celebs. I spotted Clara Parkes, but there were no paparazzi, so I doubted my own eyes. I met Eric from Sticks + Twine, and finally met Ann Weaver, who I’ve admired for years and years. Dianna Walla is wonderfully nice. Kirsten Kapur is utterly lovely. Jill Draper hugged me like an old friend. In the distance, I saw Annie Lupton and Amanda Soule and Sonia Phillip and Lisa and Melissa from Espace Tricot. The weather was cold, so there were a lot of really good hats and a lot of puffy parkas, but there was also a lot of yarn. I may have bought some. I’m sure you can see how different all these are:
Oops, wait, I missed one:
There. That’s my haul. A lot of sheep-colored, wooly-wool sweaters are coming up next, and it is taking all my nerve not to cast on five new things today. Dark weather is coming, and when that happens, you’ll find me beside the fireplace, Catdog at my feet, hyggeing hard with all this gorgeous wool. I can hardly wait.
Monday, October 15, 2018
Sometimes I just get a bee in my bonnet about a design and nothing will stop the runaway train that is my yearning to knit that thing. You are all makers, you know how this goes. “I already have one of/enough of/no need for that sweater/quilt/blanket” and you go on making dinner or knitting a plain cardigan and hoping it will pass, but guys. It does not. You and I both know it. I saw this pattern a few years ago, promised myself that I didn’t need it, and then pretty much immediately started accumulating the yarn to knit it. Well, whatever. So there’s some Rauma Finull, some KnitPicks Palette, some Elemental Affects, some Holst Supersoft, some Jamieson and Smith, and some Jamieson’s of Shetland all thrown in there together. It worked just fine, and it turns out I have enough of this kind of yarn to make, ahem, a lot more sweaters like this. The first two-thirds of this was terrific fun to make and I woke up early in the morning kind of itching to get back at it, rationing myself to one color band every day and sort of swooning at the emerging beauty of the colors. Then my old (formerly trusty) bamboo dpns gave me a sliver that bugged me for days and by then I was slogging down the sleeves and looking longingly at the bind off. I saw it was getting long [row gauge! Why you gotta be like that?] but once I embraced the idea of it as a tunic, I felt good about it again. Post-blocking, the finished sweater revealed to me that it was too wide as well, so I mattress-stitched up the body sides and undersides of the sleeves and got rid of a little width, which made me feel quite clever. So, it is finished. Is it not splendid? Is it not a testament to a knitter’s love of wool, color, pattern? Is it not a proper freak flag to fly and wear at the next available yarn festival? Yes. It is.
Doc and I will be at Rhinebeck again this year, on Sunday. You will almost certainly spot him first: look for a fierce-looking bearded warrior in a kilt, probably carrying coffee in one hand and a big bag of yarn in the other. I will be nearby, oblivious to the outside world, with a skein of something gray and sheepy pressed to my face, sniffing deeply. I will be wearing this beautiful confection of a sweater, too. If you spot us, please, please come say hello. I really want to meet you! Yes, Rhinebeck is about the donuts and the sheep and the yarn shopping, but more than that, it is one of the places where we gather as a tribe. Come on up and say, “I think I know you.” And I will put down the yarn. XOXO
Monday, October 1, 2018
My yarn stash is frankly burgeoning with beautiful things. Inspiration is all over the place, and I make lists in my phone and on little loose pieces of paper that get lost of all the things I want to make and do. I feel like I’m planning the next ten knit sweaters and trying to make room in my life for another quilt or two because I just love them, and I love to make them. And you and I both know I have enough yarn and fabric for all these things and more. Well, ‘tis the season, isn’t it? That first gloomy day, when rain splatters the clean windows and leaves are just starting to burnish, I get to wanting another big, cozy cardigan. I have a few of these already, but it doesn’t take much to get those wheels turning again, every single September. This year, I had before me five skeins of Barrett Wool Co’s beautiful Wisconsin Woolen Spun worsted weight yarn in the colorway “Pebble” and it was sort of begging to be my Annual Big Cozy Cardigan. I did my usual Ravelry dive, and of course found a whole bunch of patterns I want to knit right now, but nothing that seemed just right for the Wisconsin Woolen Spun, which is very plump and round (I think that’s fairly unusual in a woolen-spun) and thick and lofty. I can’t think of another yarn offhand that is like it—maybe Brooklyn Tweed Quarry? That one might be similar. Well, it is light, but thick, and almost cottony soft.
I did what I always do when I can’t find the right pattern—I made up my own. I’ve talked about this before, many times, and I know it sounds like I’m downplaying it when I say it’s easy, but honestly. It really is easy. If you can knit a sweater from another designer’s pattern, then you can make your own pattern. If you know how to use a measuring tape and a calculator, you can make your own pattern. There is no magic trick, I promise.
I start with a sketch of what I’m imagining. There are no revolutionary ideas at work here, just a shawl collar and a couple panels of cables; I’m not trying to invent anything, I just want a sweater. Then I knit a square, and I block it. When it’s dry, I ask myself: Do I like the fabric? If the whole sweater from my sketch was like this, would I be happy? When I’m satisfied with the fabric I got, I get out a ruler and measure: how many stitches per inch am I getting with these needles and this yarn? Once I have that number, I decide how wide I want my neckline to be at the back and then I measure myself at the back neck. Like, as in, hold the measuring tape across the back of my neck, where I’d like the back neck of my sweater to be. Sometimes I point to either side of the back of my neck and Doc measures between my fingers. I do some (very simple!) arithmetic and then just start. In this case, I also made a swatch of the cable panel I planned to use, and then charted out the whole front yoke sections on graph paper, so I could keep track of the cables and the neck increases at the same time. None of this is difficult, and I firmly believe you can all do it too. What can go wrong? You might have to rip back now and then, and re-knit stuff, or start something over—I have to do that all the time. But this is fun, right? Knitting is what we do for fun.
I have been calling this sweater Great Lake State—yarn from Wisconsin, knit in New York by a girl from Michigan, in the exact color of these moody inland seas, turbulent and alive in the fall. Blue-gray-blue. Gray. Blue. The collar is tall and snuggly, and the sleeves are extra-long, because that’s the way I like them. A few cables for added Grandpa-ness. While it was blocking, I noticed I had misplaced one of the buttonholes, but when I checked myself for perfectionist tendencies and found none there, I knew it was fine with me to leave it alone. This is my sweater, for layering when the gale winds start to blow and the blizzards come early and stay late. This is my armor.