Monday, April 22, 2019

Speaking of Contrast


Catdog and I still spend our days at home beside the fire, though she has begun to hope that porch season is almost here.  In the mornings when the sun is pouring in, she looks meaningfully at the door, over to me, back to the door, over to me again.  I tell her it's only 40 degrees, and she flops down on the rug with resignation.  The daffodils are blossoming here in my neighborhood, and I open the south-facing windows on sunny days, and let the curtains blow in.  I'm barefoot if possible, but obviously still wearing a sweater, because, well, this is the North and it's only April, and April is capricious.

I'm a passionate knitter, so I'm always knitting.  Here is my version of the Stalactite sweater by Camille Roselle--actually, I used nothing from that pattern but the stitch chart, and I misread that anyway, so there's not much Stalactite in it at all, but whatever.  I made it up to fit me, knit top-down and raglan-style, because that's really the way I like to do it.  The sleeves are, of course, extra long, and the collar, folded over and stitched down, stands up a little, which is a happy accident.  I used three skeins (and I mean exactly three skeins--nothing was left but the swatch) of Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk, in the color way "Argent" and then very little of a fourth contrast skein in the color way "Pollen".  This is sort of a tricksy sweater, because these two colors are, believe it or not, exactly the same in value, and after dark, the contrast--and therefore the whole design--disappears.  Look:


Isn't that amazing?   That is something I just plain cannot see without applying a black and white filter to the photograph.  This totally seems to me like a pale gray background with a very bright yellow pop against it, but pale vs. bright is not how contrast works.  I wish I'd gone to art school, because operating on instinct like I do is pretty hit-and-miss.  Anyway, I think the texture, which is still visible after dark, keeps this looking interesting all day long.  It looks like forsythia blossoms against the stormy spring sky.  And it's one of the softest and best-fitting sweaters in my collection, which is honestly saying something.


Speaking of contrast, here's another of my recent finishes.  This one, my [also extremely modified version of] Marie Wallin's Lovage is virtually a study in contrast.  These yarns are all stash strays and leftovers, in various brands of 2 ply non-superwash fingering weight--Holst Supersoft, KnitPicks Palette, Jamieson's of Shetland, and Elemental Affects.  I used only what I already had--can you believe that?  I could do three more of these, whoops.  The impact of that yoke is pretty impressive, and that's because there is such high contrast.  In black and white, you can still see the whole thing. This project, knit on US 2 needles, improbably went by with lightning speed, because I was so fascinated to see what would happen next.  How I love a project like that!  The original design has a silhouette I don't really want, with low armholes and very roomy sleeves, so I had a million adventures trying to get this to fit me, but it worked in the end, and I am so pleased with it.


 The whole time I thought I would surely run out of the main color--Jamieson and Smith Supreme Jumperweight in the color "Mooskit"--so I left the sleeves at 3/4 length, but of course I had an entire ball left at the end, so if my wrists get too cold, I can pull out the cuffs and knit them all the way down to my knuckles, as usual.  I might do that anyway, just to use up the yarn, sheesh.  Well, there are almost always leftovers of one kind or another, and that's what projects like this are for.


Speaking of yarn, Doc and I will be at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival next weekend, whee!  Will I see you there?  I don't know what to wear; is Maryland in the south?  Is it warm there yet?  I'm sure I can wear a sweater of some kind.   Doc will be wearing his kilt, so you'll spot him for sure.  He'll be the handsome one carrying coffee, with a bag of fleece slung over his back.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Making progress








Yesterday was mean to me, so this morning I got up, had coffee in my pajamas, looked out at the gray gloomy sky, and crawled in under a wool blanket with my sweet, warm Catdog for a cozy nap.  Every time I take a nap, I have the same dream about that strange secret extra room in the house that I keep forgetting about, where there are stacks of beautiful furniture and which has skylights and its own bathroom and I always think to myself, "I should really come in here more often."  The view from the windows in there is so nice, and it looks out onto gardens that are not there, which is somehow never a clue that I am, in fact, asleep.  Waking up in my regular house, which has no mysterious doors at all, is weird after that.




Look at this chip-carved drop spindle!



Friends, my wonderful Doc made that for me, because he apparently can do anything, and he will do so if I ask him to.   Inspiration for it came directly from a photograph in this book, and I am wasting no time now in commissioning many more, in different sizes and designs, as long as I can keep his enthusiasm for it going.  I think it helped that I sat right down and spun up a whole hank of yarn on it immediately, and he could see that it worked well and that I was in love with it.  I made this heathered teal 2-ply yarn, and it was so much fun I couldn't believe it.  Slow, slow work, but what's the rush anyway?  I spin with it while sitting cross-legged somewhere soft so that when (not if) I drop it, nothing bad will happen, which means that most of the drafting is happening above my head and it's hard to peer at through my bifocals and also my old arms are aching, but that's not stopping me, no sir.  I may have ordered some spinning fiber.


Oof, that's rather nice, no?  It's so much more consistent than what I can make on my wheel.  Slowing down is good for me.

Speaking of slow, here's the third block (of nine) in my hand-pieced quilt top.  I anticipate this will take a long time, but its such a satisfying process, just poking along with a needle and thread.  So calming, which, as I've said many times, is a state that does not come naturally to me.  I have to go get it, so I sift through my stashes of yarn and fabric and create some calm for myself.


Obviously I'm knitting sweaters.  There are so many.  I can't even photograph them all.  I'm awash in ideas, which I find both thrilling and also slightly anxiety-making, because I love to feel creative, but gah!  I can not even come close to keeping up.  It keeps me awake at night, I mean it.  So, sweaters continue to happen at a rate I can not control.  At least these two aren't gray.  The stranded yoke sweater is a version of Lovage by Marie Wallin (more on this to come, when it's finished) and you can see from the scribbly drawing that the one up top is my own, knit up in Malabrigo Worsted, "Pearl Ten", "Vetiver", "Orchid", "Manzanilla Olive" and either "Polar Morn" or "Frost", because of course the labels are long gone and I can't remember.  Anyway, that yarn is deliciously soft, so this sweater has been a late-winter sweatshirt for me, and a very welcome addition to my wardrobe.  Both of these projects are attempts to knit from the stash, and it surprised me to discover how much fuchsia is showing up for me lately.  I have a lot of fuchsia yarn in the stash?  Huh?  Well, I do.  Anyway, knitting with color has been fun for a change.  Spring must be coming.  Please, let spring be coming.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Hand Piecing





It snowed like mad this morning, the big fluffy Christmas flakes that make you feel like singing and making snow angels.  It came down, so prettily, for hours and hours.  Doc and I sat for awhile in the sleepy morning kitchen, musing over our coffee and watching it all flutter down and coat the branches without any of our usual misgivings, because Lo, I bring you tidings:  he has got himself a snowblower and that has changed things.  Snow is no big deal now, at least not this pretty little fairytale snow, this easy, harmless, candy cane snow, which is so easily shunted away with just a few minutes of peace-shattering, ear-splitting work with the help of a gas engine.  Victory!  A serious storm might be a different story, and I hope I don't have to report back on that this year.  Please oh please, let Spring be upon my doorstep.   I see some of you have your daffodils already, and I am eagerly anticipating them in my own garden.

I have been doing a bit of hand stitching these past couple weeks.   


If it's not scrappy, is it even one of my quilts?


I just felt like doing some hand piecing, so I went to the fabric stash and pulled out some things, filling up a basket.   I chose light solids and prints for the backgrounds and a pile of deep, bright prints for the foreground shapes.  Some of those fabrics are, in fact, clothes from my closet.  It was the right color!  Nothing is safe from my scissors.  I drew a template, cut it out from scrap cardboard, and just started cutting stuff up.  I always forget how much I love hand piecing.  It is so, so comforting.  It just feels so good and right, you know what I mean?  A needle and thread, a tiny pair of scissors.  Some time.  Oh, I just love everything about it.  Underneath the basket you can see sone canvas and linen fabrics that are meant for pillow covers, and making those will probably only take two hours, but they require the sewing machine, and I am just not in the mood.  I just want to sew by hand right now, so I'll probably finish this whole quilt top--hours and hours of peaceful stitching with a needle and thread--before I even get around to starting to think about those pillow covers.  That's how I'm rolling right now.


These bright, hand sewn circles just feel joyful to me.  They are, actually, scientifically joyful.  Have you seen this book?  Friends, it is a manual for happiness.  Get it, I mean it.  Go on.  Anyway, sewing:  I'm planning to make nine of these blocks, with a solid sashing between them.  Possibly in Kona "Pickle".  I do dearly love that color.  Or maybe something else will turn my head in the meantime.  The sashing is a long way off.   It is so good to be slowly making another quilt.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Perfect for wild weather


January has decided to bear down on us.  You're probably getting it, too?  Are you?  The temperatures have plunged, and the big snows have arrived.  Basically it means all my current knitting is arctic-ready.  Thick, sturdy, maximum coverage, and as much wool as I can cram in there.  I finished this one the other day and I can't even tell you how many times I've worn it already.  It's really just totally perfect.   That fit is everything.   All the coverage zones are sufficiently swathed in wool, and there's just no chance that any chilly winds will be able to sneak in.  That long body, those long sleeves, and that ultra mega collar are a suit of armor.  You're not surprised, are you, to hear that I am in love with this sweater.  The best part, really, is the collar.  Look at that thing:


This fantastic design is "Midwinter" by Trin-Annelie.  It's cold here a lot, and it seems like it's always midwinter, so that pattern has been hanging around in my thoughts for a good long time, but the floppy, cowl collar in the designer's photos kept looking like it would bug me--I like a tall, close turtleneck, right up to my ears, and I don't like it to droop or slouch, so I had to think on it for awhile.  I also had to choose some yarn, and eventually a bunch of Simply Wool from Knit Picks in the "Wilbur" colorway finally wiggled its way to the front of the stash.  [By the way, that looks like really good yarn from here.  Plump and sturdy, and next-to-skin soft, at least for me, and obviously I am totally in love with the natural colors.  If you try it, I'd love to know what you think]. For the contrasts I used some farm yarn from Romney Ridge (in "chartreuse" and natural, which is leftover from my Humulus) and the dark brown is a glossy and gorgeous 2-ply Wensleydale (held double) which was a very generous gift from my friend Erin, who traveled all the way to Edinburgh to buy it and then decided to give it to me.  I'm so pleased to have found such a beautiful way to use it here.   Brown and gray together is so good, and those little bursts of neon just glow against it, don't they?


This kangaroo pocket is so extra.  I'm usually not a big fan of pockets because I don't like the bulk they add and it's not like I'm going around collecting acorns and bottle caps anymore, but this kind of sweatshirt-y pocket is so nice for warming up my chilly hands.  It's also easy to add afterwards, too, if the inspiration should strike after the sweater is finished--just pick up a row and knit on a flap, with some increases at the sides.  I hadn't thought of doing that before, but I will now.


This collar is the best part:  First off, I rearranged the pattern directions quite a bit in order to be able to knit it top-down, which is my much-preferred construction method.  So I started at the neck (below the collar) and worked downwards, leaving the collar for last, and I finagled it to be closer fitting by casting on fewer stitches at the get-go.  [here's how I figured that out:  I wrapped a measuring tape around my neck, approximating the way I'd like the collar to fit, multiplied that number (18") by the number of stitches per inch in my gauge swatch (4.5) and cast on that number:  81.  Then I worked one round plain before increasing up to the number of stitches indicated in the pattern and then stuck to the pattern through the yoke.  If you've been here awhile, you'll know how devoted I am to the simplicity of this kind of pattern alteration--you just need to know your stitches per inch TIMES the number of inches of the thing you're making.  That's it, that's all there is to it!  Okay, back to the sweater...]


Even though the collar was going to be very tall and very close, I was still afraid it might slump down, cowl-like, and leave my poor neck out in the weather getting cold, so I marshaled my wits  and rambled about it to Doc and together we realized that a little dose of 1x1 ribbing would do the trick nicely.  I think it was his idea and he thinks it was mine, but we're a team anyway, so it doesn't matter that much.  Anyway, I lined the collar with 1x1 ribbing and guys, it was just the ticket.  That collar stands at attention so perfectly, so adroitly.  My neck will never be cold again.



I can't imagine not knitting another one of these.  It's too good.  It's everything I want in January when the sky is wild.  Stay warm out there, friends.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Happy January


Hello there, friends!  How are you?  Happy January.  I didn't meant to be away so long.  The last few weeks have been so January-ish.  Basically I'm just slumped in a chair watching ten episodes in a row of Mr. Robot and knitting.  Lying in a cozy little heap in front of the fireplace, trying to keep the catdog from licking my face.  Stirring the soup pot.  Banishing dust bunnies from the distant corners. Moving from one chair to another, lazily following the occasional rare beams of actual sunshine around the house.


I have so much to show you all, I can't even think where to start.  Those mittens up there (Milet, by Ysolda, knit in Rauma Finull (navy and gold) and KnitPicks Palette (cream) finally got finished.  I started those when feeling all christmassy, but I lost steam after the first one and it took a bit of giddyup to crank out the second mitten.  They're gorgeous and I love them, but they are knit in fingering weight yarn and it's honestly just too cold around here for that kind of thing.  I think I'll try to make a lining for them, but that's at the bottom of the list right now.  Also, this sweater is done, and hoo!  It almost did me in.  This is Lucky (me) by Solenn Couix-Loarer, and I knit it in Maine Organic from Green Mountain Spinnery.  This colorway is called, um, "gray."  This yarn was one of my Rhinebeck purchases this year, and I can only say that I love/hate it.  It has made a beautiful garment--I think this is one of the best things I've made in a long time--but I did not enjoy knitting with that yarn.  I can't even really put my finger on the reason--it was very sheepy and woolly and minimally processed and it is the best natural color ever, but it was just no fun.  This pattern was easy on the brain (I did modify some of the cables because they were just too big for me to work without a cable needle, and ya'll, I'm not using a cable needle) but the yarn made me not want to work on it.  Of course, after an extra-sudsy warm bath in the sink, it fluffed up and became lovely (I thought it probably would) and can you believe I had enough buttons already in the cupboard?  This sweater has the sweet smell of victory on it.


Speaking of sweet, holy moly!  Take a look at these socks, would ya?  Oh man, I know.  I know!  These are Selbu Socks by Skeindeer Knits, knit in Regia 4-ply (red) and Cascade Heritage fingering (gray).  They are full of my mistakes, but honestly, they are so beautiful I don't even care.  I learned three new skills in order to make these, most significantly the Magic Loop method (here's what that's all about, in case you're interested) and I loved every frustrating minute of it.  This is the year I'm going to learn things.  Word of the year = LEARN.



There's still room for self-care.  Between those two those knuckle-busters, I needed something soothing, and this came along to save me.  This is the European Road Trip Shawl, a beautifully simple freebie by Espace Tricot, that involved (almost) nothing but plain, unshaped stockinette knit according to my whimsy in smooth, soft, beautiful sock yarns from my stash.  In here is three skeins of Fiberrarium Conservatory Sock (colorways "slate" "sycamore" and "dusty") one skein of Holland Handmade Co MCN sock in "Ciel" and Dream in Color Baby, colorway "In Vino Veritas".  I tossed in two speckled Kestrel Minis in colorway names I can't remember right now.  Every time I couldn't take another minute of cabling or it got too dark to see the tiny sock stitches, I picked this up, and it was done in a flash.  I'd make another, but I haven't figured out how to wear this one yet.  You know how that is.


I hope you're all having slow, sweet, sunny winter days.  January can feel like a time when we have to  somehow improve ourselves, and you may be feeling for one reason or another like you're navigating some rough water, but I want you to know that you are already beautiful.  Yes, you are.  Don't be afraid to learn, and know that it's okay if you get it wrong at first.  Getting things wrong is just the beginning of getting things right.  Find a piece of sunlight and sit in it.