Friday, January 31, 2014

That Color


First the dye-pot clothes from last week, and now this.  It feels like everything I’m working on right now is this color.  Misty, grayish, lilac.  The color of an illustration of hydrangeas in an antique book about flowers.  There’s still yarn in the stash that’s this color, too, so must be I buy it all the time because I love it a lot. I  did get hit between the eyes with inspiration here, and while that, too, is mostly gray, I don’t think there’s lilac in it.  But it’s still early, and the knitting on it has just begun, and that is a story for another day.


While the knitting moves forward at speed, as is the usual in these parts, although with not much to show in the way of progress, since all knitting is of the plain and of the stockinette and of the one-color variety at the moment, I have been yearning for something to hook.  My hook is just itching to hook.  Must be hooking something!  A basket of mismatched odds and ends will only satisfy for so long, and then a person starts wanting to Accomplish Something.  Then Vanessa made this and when I saw it my heart leapt.


I scrounged some fingering-weight yarns from the cupboard.  Three skeins of Araucania Ranco (that stuff is not soft at all, and I hope a bath will do it some good) and a bunch of other leftovers and doodads; some Rowan 4-ply, some Cascade Heritage.  KnitPicks Palette.  It will be a Nordic Shawl very soon, as in I can hardly wait to be done telling you about it so I can go get at it.  All you have to say is the word “Nordic” and I am already getting dewy-eyed with anticipation. 


Dean asked me what I was going to do today.  I just pointed at this.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Defense against the dark


This winter rages.  The kind of cold happening here, happening for days upon days, is the kind of cold where you can’t think about anything else.  The wind howls and hurls granular snow into the side of the barn, whining ominous against the clapboards, trying to come in.  We hunker.  Venturing outdoors is dangerous.  (I’m thinking specifically of a day in July when it was so hot it felt scary, and I wonder if I’m at that point now, where all I do is complain about the weather.  I’m always waiting for whatever it is that isn’t currently happening.) I can’t believe I ever wished for snow.  At first, snow feels fun.  It looks pretty, and it makes me all rosy-cheeked as I lean heartily upon my snow shovel, clearing the driveway and making my way in this barren place, pushing back at nature.  After the tenth storm, though, flanked by snow heaps six feet high, I just give up and blast my car backwards through the drifts in the driveway, cursing and swearing as I lurch into a snowbank and get stuck.  I know I am mostly preaching to the choir here, but yo.  I’m cold.  Must get at some yarn, pronto. 


Making the best of it, which is the only thing there is to do, I crochet aimlessly.  That up there is not a project.  There are no plans for it to become anything.  That is just a bunch of mismatched squares in a disheveled palette of leftovers that were not so much chosen as scavenged, and hooked up in a kind of panting desperation.  I am crocheting medicinally, as a balm for this tremendous case of cabin fever.  I feel frantic to look at something that isn’t the inside of my living room, so I start and start and start projects, unravel other projects.  I listen to banjo music on NPR, I make soup out of whatever I can find in the fridge—leeks, spinach, milk, butter—and bake Grandma’s Pineapple Cookies, which are so soft and tender they bend when you pick them up, and melt on your tongue.  They will all be eaten in a day.  I don’t know where Grandma got this recipe, but it was preserved by my dear Auntie K, who loved the Pineapple Cookies enough to write it all down and pass it along to me.  Auntie K is gone now, and Grandma is almost 97.  These cookies make me think of them both.  Want to make some?  Sure, here you go:

Grandma’s Pineapple Cookies

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup soft shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple.

Combine and mix.  Drop on a cookie sheet.  Mix 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp sugar, and sprinkle on top.  Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees F. 


I’d show you a picture of them, but I ate them all already. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Clothes and the dye pot


I have so many clothes.  Way too many.  Almost all of them are thrifted, and what happens to me in the thrift store is that everything seems so affordable as to be practically free, so I buy at will and then the dresser drawers won’t close.  I cull the wardrobe twice a year, but it still gets so out of hand that I honestly forget what’s in there, and trying to figure out what to wear becomes an expedition into the unknown.  For so long, I’ve wanted one of those French wardrobes, where you have twelve wonderfully made pieces that fit and flatter and feel good, and all match each other, and that. Is. What. You. Wear.  I think what happens in the store is that I try, with each new thing, to inch closer to that ideal, and that I am trading up, but really, I just end up with too many black skirts, a lot of things that are close to just right but not quite, and a lot of stuff that doesn’t match anything else I have.  The other thing is that I have hit that age where the ol’ body is shaped differently than it used to be, and I figured out that the only person who might care about that at all is me.  I take myself by the hand, say, You’ve still got it, sister, to the me in the mirror, and learn how to dress again, because wearing what I always wore would be like expecting my mom to keep wearing her poodle skirts.  Inspired by the fabulous Jessica at scrumdillydilly and her Capsule Wardrobe adventure, I decided to tackle my clothes. 

The first thing I did was to put all of it on the bed.  It was sobering.  So much stuff.  I sorted it into two families—brown and black.  If I came across something that didn’t look good with either one—I’m wearing brown pants, will I put this with it?  How about black pants?  No?—then I ruthlessly donated it, and that included more than a few of my handknits.  They didn’t make me happy, so I let them go.  If something didn’t fit, flatter, or feel good, out it went.  There was still a lot left, the clothes I do like.  The next step was to bring some order to the situation, so I bought some RIT dye (black and pearl gray) and designated the most beat-up soup pan in the cupboard as the new dye pot. 


There is so much information out there about how to do this, and I read most of it, and a lot of it contradicts itself, which can make this process seem dangerous, but I didn’t have much to lose here.  I had already weeded out six huge grocery bags of clothes to donate, and the clothes I decided to dye were going with them unless I could make them work for me somehow.  The shirt at the top of the pile fits beautifully and makes me feel good, but it had faded over time, becoming uneven and blotchy.  The linen skirt underneath was embroidered in peach and green flowers—interesting, but uninspired, and I had never worn it.  There was more—the same (comfy, flattering) shirt in both salmon and turquoise (so I never wore them).  Lots and lots of white things.  Things I wanted to rescue. 


I put on an apron and rubber gloves, and boiled things one at a time in my pot (which will never again be used for food), stirring with a dye-pot dedicated spoon, mostly according to the package directions and using salt to help the dye penetrate the fibers and a pre-dunk in washing soda to help set the color, using black for some things and gray for others, depending on my whim.  Some pieces used a whole package of dye, some only half.  I was experimenting.  The results I got were sort of thrilling.  Stuff turned out anywhere from deeply, richly black (the favorite shirt, yay!) or pale lavender, probably depending on where it was in the order, how long I left it in the dye, the precise water temperature, and most likely a lot of other factors.  Dyeing is a chemical process, and I understand literally nothing about chemistry.  It looks like there’s a lot of disappointment out there with the occasional purple-ish results from RIT dye, but that purpley-gray is a color I like, so I am not unhappy.  Also, there was some variation in the evenness of the dye, resulting occasionally in something that looked, well, hand-dyed, which is beautifully interesting.  I think that happened because it was too big for the pot, or maybe I didn’t stir it enough, I don’t know.  But I sort of love it.


Look at that skirt now.  Now, it is something I want to wear.  Huge success.  I hung it all to dry on a rack in front of the fire, and looking at it there, I thought That could be my capsule wardrobe.  Right there.  Score.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mouse blanket, a most satisfying project


I’ve been wanting this blanket for such a long time.  Plain and simple, and mostly the same color as the dog.  Thinking practical, you know.  Though if pressed, I would describe this color as Field Mouse.  I end up with a lot of things that are the color of mice, and I guess I have to admit that “mouse” may make up the basis for my personal palette.  At least that’s what the evidence would suggest. 


It began with a bargain at the Fiber Festival last fall, when I found nine skeins of Merisoft Space Dyed (color SPD 321) at an unbelievable discount—because otherwise, there’s no way—and after I had staggered to the car with yarn piled up to my chin, I started dreaming of the blanket I could make, with a simple cable and big needles for drape.  I am a little bit lazy, so the fact that the yarn was in skeins and needed winding meant that I let it sit around for four months.  Honestly, I will choose a project almost completely based upon which yarn is already wound and ready to use.  I am not kidding.  I am trying to change. 


I guess you know I like to be cozy. 


I notice lately that everything I’m working on is kind of basic and plain and comforting, and that anything requiring a pattern or a hassle or the making of more than two decisions starts driving me bonkers and gets unraveled.  I spent four minutes planning this blanket, ended up asking the doctor to do the math for me (“I have nine skeins of 197 yards each.  I want to use all of it.  I don’t want a long skinny rectangle.  How many stitches should I cast on?”) to which problem I assume he applied some kind of complicated algorithm—how should I know?— while I looked at Pinterest on my phone.  Eventually, he said, “168”. 

So I wound all the yarn, ugh.  I hate doing that, and I don’t know why.  I have a nice winder and swift, so I don’t know what the big deal is.  Probably impatience.  Anyway, I cast on 168 (a multiple of 16 + 8) on a US 10 circular needle and worked K8, P8 across, ending with K8.  After eight rows, I worked a row of CF4 cables on the four stitches in the middle of the eight stitch knit columns.  Because cabling four stitches is easier than cabling eight.  Seriously, that’s the reason.  Well, and also I thought a CF8 would pull in more, affecting the drape.  I repeated the cable row every sixteen rows until the yarn was almost gone, ending on a row 8 again, then bound off.  I wet-blocked it on the rug overnight, and then, this morning, I wove in the two ends.  Two.  Friends, that is what you call a satisfying project.


I’m going now to crawl underneath it to knit another extremely simple something and read Graham Nash’s new book.  I will get a crush on him.  I guarantee it. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Huge Striped Triangle Scarf


I don’t know what I want—maybe I want everything?  I want color, and then I want gray.  I make something vivid, and then something subdued.  Sometimes, I guess I want both together, and this little scarf is the perfect marriage of tepid and vivacious.  Okay, it isn’t little, it’s wonderfully, gorgeously, luxuriously huge. 


Those two colors look so great together—they are Seafoam and Lemongrass, both Patons Classic Wool.  I can’t get enough of that crazy citrine hue right now.  By itself, it looks like a highlighter pen, but it pairs with neutral colors so well--beside that soft, grayed-out blue, it settles down and just shimmers.  I adore it, what can I say.  I think there is some Patons Classic Lemongrass in about fifty percent of my projects.   The putty-colored yarn at the edging is Classic One Fifty in (probably) taupe; a straggler from the stash, one ball left over from who knows what.  It was just the right foil for the zing of the stripes. 

My project was inspired by this lovely thing, though I worked mine from the triangle point upward, working all the increases at the sides and then chose an edging from this book.  It used just one ball of each, and so satisfying.  Stripes.  How I love them.


I didn’t notice the chicken photobomb until just this second.  The minute anybody steps into the yard, she’s out the door, wanting to see what’s going on. 


That hen is the yard supervisor.   I step out the back door, and count three, two, one--thump as she hops off the roost, then out pokes her little head, craning around to see who’s coming and whether they have any treats.  I go in the run with a scoop of cracked corn, and she eats from my hand, and kind of hunkers down for a cuddle, while all the other hens are flattened against the back wall of the coop, flapping around and freaking out.  They don’t seem to notice the cold.  Tough little birds.  I notice the cold, dang.  I can feel it whistling through all the cracks in this old house, and it totally makes me knit enormous scarves.

Thursday, January 9, 2014



It’s always a surprise that it feels so good to unravel something that didn’t work out.  This cowl, crocheted in a Madelinetosh Light onesie called French Grey, was just not what I hoped.   The yarn is so pretty and it was great fun to make it, but when I put it on, it looked like I was wearing one of those cones that keeps a dog from chewing on his stitches. That yarn is way too nice to be a regret, so away to the winder it went, and the Madtosh lives to be crocheted another day.


This was going to be a Foliolum, and I worked on it forEVer, and it was turning out perfectly well, but all the while I kept thinking Why am I making this?  Who is it for?  Where will it go when I’m done? I felt like it would probably just go on the shelf and stay there.  Foliolum is pretty, but I just wasn’t in love.  I started it when I just wanted to be startin’ something.  You know.  Then I made this goof, an extra row where there shouldn’t have been one:


…and because I didn’t really care about the project, I kept going for another foot and a half, thinking it wouldn’t bug me. It really did bug me, though, and then I realized I didn’t even want this scarf, and that I wouldn’t give it away either, not with a big mistake in the middle of it, so I turned it back into two skeins of lilac-gray Araucania Ranco, and now it can be whatever it was really meant to be. 


Dang, that just feels good.  Cleaning house! 

Here’s something good, something that’s not being unraveled:


Big, lovely, loose cables in a softly luxurious yarn, aw yeah.  More on this to come.  I know it seems super obvious, but from now on, I’m only making stuff I want to make. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A good use for flannel


With pajama flannel scraps and at least two delicious remnants of cotton velvet from Anna Maria Horner, I have made another pile of pretty cloths to be used for scrubbing my face.  I have every intention of using them.  I am happy to report that the knitted ones from last time work great and didn’t become horrible after a trip through the laundry, so I am encouraged.  I’m working hard to keep stuff I make from getting precious. 


Inspiration for these came from this book, and the baby blanket project created by Beata at RoseHip.  Seeing them, I wished first for some babies, but then thought of my own face instead.  Actually, it is many thanks to Beata that all my pillowcases are edged in the prettiest cotton lace I can make.  These flannel cloths could have been left plain, but this way is much nicer.  I will not worry about them.  When they get used up, I will simply make more, and it will be fun the second time, too.


The days are so dark.  When the sun peeks out for a minute, everybody looks up and exclaims.  Wow!  I can see the sun.  Weird.  I stop what I’m doing and turn my face toward it, looking up, breathing in. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Living well


That week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has kind of an effect on me.  I get to wanting to get stuff organized.  I deep-cleaned the house, and went all Cath Kidston on the bathroom, knitting a pile of face cloths with crocheted edges that are so cute and so pretty that I’m sure you can understand how I hesitate to use them.  Remember this book, in which she edged all her sheets in lace and used a pretty teacup to scoop soap powder into her washing machine?  I think about that all the time.  Why not have beautiful face cloths?  We are totally worth it. 


There isn’t any pattern to share, but there’s really no need for one.  I simply picked out a cotton yarn in fingering or sport weight, cast on a few stitches, and knitted in whatever stitch pattern seemed interesting until it was a square.  Then I bound it off and crocheted on an edging.  I think I used a US 4 needle for all these, and a US F hook for the edgings.  The yarns I used are all from the stash and some have lost their labels—it is mostly Tahki Cotton Classic Light.  When one was done, I put it on the pile and started another.  


I think this might be one of those ongoing projects that lasts until the big bag of cotton yarn runs out.  Making everyday life nice in 2014!