Monday, December 30, 2013

Striped Garter Stitch Cowl


Oh garter stitch!  You are the bee’s knees. 


This cowl is made from stuff I already had, worked back and forth on forty stitches—I think—using US 6 needles and changing colors as I felt like it, until it seemed long enough to wrap twice around my neck, then I bound it off, sewed the short ends together, and crocheted on an edging.


I’m so happy to have found a use for that bright yellow yarn.  Here’s a nugget of wisdom—if you pair a crazy bright with something neutral in close quarters, as in these two-row garter stitch stripes, the neutral can take some of the zing out of the crazy color.  Neutrals can also make brights shine like mad, too, acting as a foil for their brilliance, and the only way I can know which way it will go is to give it a try and see what happens.  Luckily, doing that is the most fun thing in the world.  Color theory fascinates me.


It’s pretty big.  Very snuggly.  Mmmmmm.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Embracing the dark


Wintertime is dark in the north.  Everything everywhere has a moody gray mantle.  I fight back sometimes, and knit things that are yellow, but mostly we just light candles and sort of embrace these twilight-y days and try not to see them as gloomy.  I turn to the experts, and become a devotee of all things hygge.  Actually, just saying “hygge” out loud makes me smile.  It’s the little things.  Check this out, you’ll wish you were snowed in. 


There has been a great lot of snow.  Sometimes, big heaps of it suddenly crash down and slide off our metal roof, a mini avalanche, which sounds like something scary is trying to break in, and which makes everybody sit up all wide-eyed and say whatwasthat?  The dog jumps up and barks crazily at the noise, and I say shush, it’s okay.  Heart still pounding. 


I sew nighties out of flannel.  Flannel is a balm.  Flannel nighties are a talisman against the cold and dark.  It is what I can do. 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In the lane, snow is glistening


Manu.  The gum color has resolved itself back into Linen Grey, and although my final product somehow lacks the zip of the designer’s original, it still makes me really happy.  It is so pleaty!  My already-wide shoulders are made linebacker-ish, and I decided to leave off the pockets, which were part of what I loved about the design, because I was afraid of adding a pair of saddlebags at the middle-age spread, and the whole thing grew with blocking and now the sleeves are extra cozy, and all that sounds like a bunch of complaints, but really, I love this sweater.  I want to make another one now, before I forget how to do the short rows, also in gray (of course.  Maybe lavender-y, or blue-ish) in a fuzzier yarn with more drape.  Something with a bunch of alpaca in it.  Oh, swoon, that would be so great.  Always gray.  You’ve gotta know your best color, and mine is gray and all its variants.


Occasionally, there is a comment about how neat the stitches look—friends, it’s all blocking.  My knitting looks like a lunch lady’s hairnet until I block it.  Blocking saves the day.  With this one, because of all these pleats at the top, which I worried would feel like I was wearing some kind of old-fashioned stole, like a big extra lot of business around the shoulders, if you know what I mean, I wet-blocked the whole garment, and then when it was mostly dry, I hung it on the dressmaker’s dummy to finish drying, so the pleats would pull out a little, and I think it worked, though that’s also the reason it grew so much in length.  Fortunately, a little extra length doesn’t perturb me. 


It’s the details that make a design like this great—the i-cord button holes and bind off, the interesting short row construction at the yoke (though mine show more than I expected they would, it seems okay) and the deliciously blousy cuffs.  Fabulous.  The i-cord bind off takes forEVER, and you’ll need every single needle in your collection, but it’s worth it.


It’s 23 degrees and snowing.  I whipped off my coat, handed him the camera, and said, “Make it fast, I’m already cold.”  As the snow was bouncing off my bare neck, I decided a close up of the buttons could wait until we came indoors.


They look like snowflakes, too.  I’m going now to bake some snickerdoodles and then put on my pjs and hang around waiting for Santa.  A cozy fire, some gentle knitting, and a cup of cheer await me.   Have a happy holiday, everyone! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013



When I was a child, chewing gum came in two colors—pink, and this color:


I confirmed this with the doctor, who, when I said, “what color was gum when you were a kid?” said, “Tan.”  Well, according to the marketing department at Louet, the color of this Gems #2 Fine/Sportweight is called “Linen Grey”, and I think it’s that European spelling of “grey” that keeps making me mentally add the word “French” to the color name, but anyhoo, this yarn is that color.  French Linen/French Grey/Grey Linen.  Nice, right?  It’s a great color, but I don’t know if it’s right for this lovely, somewhat flirty design.  Now it just looks like gum.  Especially right here, where you see my extremely skillful attempt at grafting the i-cord bind off. 


Jeepers.  I don’t even know what happened there.  Manu is spending a few days at the sweater spa, napping in front of the fire after a warm bath, and I am spending that time circling and pacing as it dries, thinking about all the ways this thing kicked my butt.  I’m spending more time than usual on choosing the buttons, too, because I think, in this case, they can make or break.


I like those lacy white ones in the middle, but I think they’re too big.  Should the buttons pop or blend?  I don’t even know.  This sweater made me feel like I’ve never made a sweater before. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lemonade from lemons


From the ashes of a laundry mistake comes two great projects.  Step One:  buy a beautiful blue cashmere (cashmere!) sweater at the thrift shop for four dollars.  Cashmere.  Four dollars.  Who cares that it doesn’t fit?  Stash gorgeous cashmere in anticipation of step two.  Step Two:  wait for daughter to accidentally shrink a fine-gauge merino wool sweater in the laundry.   Express sympathy, re-educate daughter in the finer points of hot water vs. wool, and then ask her if you can have the teeny shrunken sweater.  Of course you can hurry step two along by buying a fine-gauge wool sweater at the thrift shop and shrinking it on purpose, but that’s not how I did it.  Step Three:  get crafting.


I saw this pattern a long time ago at whipup, and after the girl shrunk her sweater, I remembered it.   After a lengthy scrounge through my teetering piles pattern library, I found it, and then it was the work of an hour. 


I’m from the Midwest, where it snows a lot, and now I live in New York State, where it snows even more.  If you’re from where I’m from, or anywhere like it, you already know that double-thick mittens are the way to go.  Double-thick wool mittens lined with cashmere?  Oh my goodness.  I’m kind of glad it’s 10 degrees F, just so I could give these a real test drive. 


Deep sigh.  Warm, warm, warm.  Huge success.  Thank you so much for this pattern, Katie. 


Hang on, we’re not done yet. 


There’s still a lot of sweater left.   That’s too much cashmere to throw away.


I cut off the sleeves and turned the raw edge 1/4” to the wrong side, and embroidered a blanket stitch over it to secure.


I measured 1 1/4” down from the cuff edge and used my seam ripper to open the seam, leaving a hole about 1 1/2” long, then hand-tacked the two ends of the opening closed. 


Soft, warm, beautiful.  Turned that frown upside down!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sunny Snow Day








I woke today to six inches of new snow, and the sky as high and clear as a bluebell, a summer sky, odd with Christmas on the ground and the frosted trees looking like birthday cakes.  That lucky combination means that every corner of this old house is just gleaming with light.  I cleared the driveway, then made coffee and sat knitting, trying not to see all the dusty tabletops and animal hair tumbleweeds that get suddenly exposed by a bright day.  There, that’s the weather report.  I feel like my whole life is tied to the weather, do you feel that way, too?   It affects me so much—the light, or the pervasive dampness, or the sleepy lethargy of a sultry July, or the arduous trek to the mailbox in the winter.  Anyway, this is Manu by Kate Davies.  I am having so much angst about my yarn choice, which I am afraid might not be fuzzy enough, and even more angst about the well-loved circular needle I’m using, which keeps coming apart in two different ways, leaving loose stitches just swinging in the wind, and how I know I have at least five more needles of the same size, but cannot find any of them, which means they are all probably involved in unfinished projects that have gone so long unfinished that I don’t even remember what they are and where I’ve hidden them.   Every year, around this time, it occurs to me that I really should Get It Together.  Dust something, clean out a cupboard.  Cook more often.  Organize the laundry room.  I really want to do all those things, but I’ll probably just knit instead.   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Not a quilt


I don’t think this is going to become a quilt any time soon.  Here’s a quick quilt story for you:  when I was young in the 1970’s, crafting was abundant and my mom was always making stuff.  I wanted to make stuff too, so I went into my closet in the middle of the night with a pair of scissors and cut up all my clothes.  You know, as you do.  I spent a whole summer with a paper grocery bag full of 6” squares next to my lawn chair, earnestly toiling and stitching.  The resulting hand-pieced quilt top (never actually quilted, I’m sorry to report) was sloppy and, while tender in its innocence, pretty unappealing.  Over the years, there was some learning--visiting Grandma and getting schooled in how to make quilts the right way--and then some informed unlearning--the happy discovery of Gee’s Bend and the aesthetic of Denyse Schmidt.  I found out there are all kinds of ways to sew fabric together, and they are all good.  But here’s where I am right now:  I’m having a hard time with wonkiness.

I was way, way inspired by a pattern photo, hoo boy!  I went straight to the stash and cut up all my clothes.   By the way, the cutting up part?  Seriously fun.  I attacked this pile of scraps with vigor and zeal, and reduced it to a heap of strips in every angle, and then dove in.


Two things now—first, the pattern [there are so many inspiring patterns in this book, by the way, and I will probably attempt and fail several more of them] is great.  Incidentally, it also provides instructions for making this quilt “perfect”, if that’s how you roll, and that’s totally how I would roll now if the fabric weren’t already all cut up.  But that was not my plan going in.  No, I was going to fly by the seat of my pants, fling this thing together in a mad burst of creativity, threads a-flying.  No pinning, no measuring.  Out the window, rules!  See ya! 


Also, I am aware that I have taken the degree of “wonkiness” a good deal further than perhaps the designer intended, and let me say here, too, that a finished wonky-block quilt made by somebody else is a thing of beauty indeed and I admire it and wish I could go there, but right now, I can’t.  I seem to have gotten to the point where I like it when the seams are straight and all the corners line up and things are orderly.  I mentioned this to a friend who knows me well, and she gasped.  Well, you have to let yourself evolve, right? 


So, I folded these three blocks up neatly and rolled all the every-angled strips into a fussy and organized jelly-roll sort of thing and with pinkies in the air tucked it all very tidily into a bag to await the day I am once again prepared to let my freak flag fly.  Meanwhile, I guess I am into measuring things now, which is so weird it’s like I don’t recognize myself. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Yarn Collector’s Half-Blanket


Here’s me, mincing through the snow in inappropriate footwear.


“Why didn’t you put your boots on?”  he said.


“I don’t know, I didn’t feel like going upstairs,”  I said. 


I made this gigantic tapestry-like granny thing for entirely the same reason.  “It’s cold in here,”  I say. 

“Go get a sweater,”  he says. 

“I don’t feel like going upstairs,”  I say. 


It seems like this thing could multi-function as a bathrobe, napping blanket, and emergency lazy sweater, castle Great Hall drapery, stage curtain in a small puppet theater—anything, really!

It’s pretty big.


It’s too big to be a shawl, and I’m not sure you could even call it a wrap.  It’s a half-blanket, is what it is.  A blanket you can wear.  That’s the dream, people!  This is the North, and it is cold here, a lot of the time.  A blanket I can wear?  Come on.   All I need now is a hot cocoa dispenser that will fit in my pocket. 


What happened is that I had, over the years, collected some yarn.  Fancy, hand-painted skeins in beautiful colors that looked so pretty I couldn’t help myself, and then they sat there in the stash not being made into anything, or being made into something ridiculous and then getting unraveled again, but not going anywhere, because they were fancy and they were pretty, and I had collected them.  They got precious.  I lately noticed how much space they were hogging in the cupboard, so I gathered them all up and spent a very contented week turning them into this, and now I feel prepared for virtually anything.  Whenever there is a winter solstice bonfire to attend, a Christmas parade, a late autumn football game, it will be there.  When I go out in my nightgown and nearly bare feet to gather the eggs, it will be there.  When I say, “It’s cold in here,” he won’t send me upstairs for a sweater, he’ll just reach for this and tuck it around my shoulders.

I tried to count all the re-wound skeins and tiny balls that were pieced together to make this, and my best estimate is that I used 10 skeins of Manos del Uruguay Clasica, 3 skeins of Noro Silk Garden, 1 skein of Noro Kureyon, 2 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Lion and Lamb, and 1 skein of Araucania Magellan, which is so old I couldn’t find any trace of it to link for you.  They are mostly worsted weight, though they varied some in gauge, but I never worry about that unless the finished object has to fit somebody, and this thing will certainly fit anybody—probably several somebodys all at once, if it comes to that.  I used a US J hook.  Each of these yarns is crazy but beautiful, and it is frankly a huge relief to have finally figured out what to do with it all. 

In the event that you, too, have an unwieldy pile of precious skeins you’d like to find a use for, here’s my quick and dirty granny triangle pattern:

Chain 4, join in a loop.

Ch 3, work 2dc in the loop, ch 2, work 3 dc (granny cluster). Ch 3, turn.

Work 2 dc in top of ch 3, ch 1, [3dc, ch2, 3dc] in ch 2 space, ch 1, work granny cluster in top of last dc. Ch 3, turn.

Keep going just like that until your yarn runs out.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Elfin Slipper


When I was a young dreamer, I believed in elves.  They lived in the woods, in tree knotholes, and they wore acorn hats and slept beneath blankets made of leaves.  They crept about in the night doing good deeds for the worthy, and playing pranks on the naughty.  If you woke to find your blankets all on the floor, that was the work of an elf, and if on your walk to school, you found a penny, that was their work, too. They drank dewdrops and had their own pet ladybugs.  If you captured an elf, he would probably be a little bit cross, but you could hold him in your palm and he would grant you wishes.  However, elves were very, very clever, and would almost never let you see them.   

In the winter, their tiny leather boots were not warm enough, and so their mothers knitted little slippers, which did the trick, and which looked very festive indeed, and when an elf was lucky enough to get a seasonal job with Santa’s team for the Big Show, he wanted to look his very best.  Of course, on Christmas Eve, Santa is in a huge rush, and sometimes, in the hurry back up the chimney, a slipper gets left behind, where a little girl in a flannel nightgown and glasses just might find it the next morning, lying tellingly beside the hearth.   Proof of Christmas magic. 

I have made a free pattern for you to be an elf mother yourself and knit up one of these slippers, and you can find it here.  Many thanks, again, to lovely Lesley at Black Sheep Wools for sending me the yarn to make this one.