Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dishcloth interlude

There is peace in dishcloths. It's just a square, and it doesn't have to fit anybody, and they wear out eventually, so they don't really contribute to the detritus in the house, which I appreciate more and more every day. A pretty cotton dishcloth in bright colors makes my mornings nicer. You know what I mean.
I have figured out the solution to the pink cabled pullover, and will get back to it soon. We needed time away from each other so we could sulk and regroup. As always, thank you so much for your kind words of support for my little endeavors. That pattern is aces, and I really believe that all unraveling that must be done should be done without delay, so one can get back down to the business of getting it right. There were a few hasty photos of me trying it on (in the dark, in my pajamas) which were not fit for human eyes--but to give you an idea of how wrong I went, I'll just say this: the bust on my dressmaker's dummy is not representative of where my actual 46-year-old bust actually is, and the cables on the yoke, er, didn't land where they should. Memories of this came to mind. Anyway. Dishcloths. I chained 30 on a biggish hook and worked woven stitch (like this, only smaller) in worsted weight cotton until it was square, then put on a contrasting edging of random shells. Easy. It's a square, and if it doesn't actually end up square, nobody will care because it is for washing the dishes. Whew.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keep trying

This is the opposite of what I usually say, but I am so mad at knitting right now. We have a long history together, knitting and me. We have been together for many years, and those years have been mostly happy and productive and interesting--knitting tells a good joke and is fun company at parties and always remembers my birthday. It has been there for me in difficult times. I love knitting, I really do. But this is one of those times where I've just noticed how it never listens to me.
I (almost) finished this. I was on the neck edge. This is the point in a project where you will stay up past midnight to finish those last ten rows, because, well, look how many rows there are in this thing. (Hint: there are a lot.) It took all eight seasons of Foyle's War, and that was just for the body. And as I was trying it on at last, to make sure the neckline worked, a realization dawned--and it isn't like this is something I never knew before, but somehow I have always managed to avoid it: Row Gauge. Is. Important. I have not achieved it. At all. Because I never do. This is a very clever pattern (I can't tell you yet) and is an epic undertaking by my dear friend Deb, and because I can't get row gauge, what I have now is this:
[Goodness, these photos are every color. The second from top is the true color.]
I will come back to this in a few days. Right now, I am crocheting dishcloths.

Friday, February 20, 2015



I know you're all going to say this looks really lovely and cozy. It probably is nice, I suppose. But I can't see it anymore. I can't see anything anymore, actually; the whole world has turned white. It has been relentless, and curling up with tea and a book is not cutting it anymore, and I am THIS close to tying my belongings into a bandana on a stick and hightailing it for somewhere more civilized. The piles of snow beside the driveway are higher than my head. I'm tired. Must make some soup, or actually, Ina's meatloaf, oooh, yes. Miraculously, I can make a meatloaf because there are, if you can believe it, two hens out of the six in my henhouse who are still laying eggs. It is a no-kidding arctic tundra out there and I had to use a metal shovel the other day to chop my way through the cement-like drifts in the yard to get to them so I could hack at the ice in their waterer and give them some spinach (the gleam in their eyes when you show up with fresh spinach is something to see) and the wind is blowing lately in every single direction, and you'd think that any creature living out there in that would be spending all its energy on survival, but somehow, magically, two hardy little darlings have decided to keep laying eggs, almost as if they actually believe spring will someday arrive. I kiss them right on the beak with gratitude.
There's no motivation like being trapped indoors by endlessly terrible weather to make a person keep knitting, and that's what I've been doing for so many days that...
...the yarn ran out.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Second Sleeve Blues

You know what, that second sleeve is rough. My dad used to say he didn't like to drive the same mile twice, and that's how I feel, too. I am wishing for elves to come in the night and take up these needles. Just get me to the yoke, and I will be FINE.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sunlight, captured

I just want to document this, in case I completely forget what it looks like: the sun. Is shining. Look at it glowing in this [fantastic! vintage! Total Partridge Family set piece!] pendant lamp. It's not even on, that's just pure sunlight, magnified by the amber glass. Which is, now that I think about it, exactly why I needed this lamp. Take that, winter!
Ooh, aaah! Lovely. I am knitting monogamously on the pink cabled test sweater and it is looking fantastic, but my knuckles are aching. I might look for something to sew while I take a few minutes off--I've still got all the materials for an orange corduroy jacket with polka dot lining and wood toggle buttons all lined up and ready to go, but now that it is -6 degrees F, I'm not sure it'll be very practical in the near future. Maybe I'll just sit in this window, next to that blazing sunbeam, and keep knitting.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Asta on the farm

Asta Sollija in action.

I wish the two yellows were more different and that the bright blue was about two shades darker, but there is to be no more crying over that. This is a nice sweater. I like it.

Okay, not so bad. I learned a few things, which is usually the case, and I have already worn it three times since it came off the needles, so it looks like Asta is here to stay. It's a great pattern and in case you're thinking of diving into it yourself, I can tell you I made only a few small modifications--I decreased by one pattern repeat at the yoke to reduce its dimensions, and I went down about three needle sizes at the top of the yoke and neck to keep it from flaring. My best stunt here, though, is this--you can skip ahead if you don't want a lecture and lesson about gauge--I did not use the recommended yarn for this project (you've already heard my laments about that) and thus I did not get gauge, and actually I did not care to get it. I know, hear me out. I feel that pressing a particular yarn--especially if I'm trying to substitute, which I almost always do--into a specific gauge is a recipe for heartache. In my experience, trying to "get gauge" by bossing my knitting into being 5.25 sts/inch instead of the 5 sts/inch it wants to be is no end of struggle, and will probably not even work. So instead of trying to make a square peg fit a round hole, I do this: I choose the yarn I want to use, select the needles that will make a nice fabric of it, and make a swatch. I have been known to wash and block the swatch, even, if I'm feeling uncharacteristically patient. Then, I measure as accurately as possible the number of stitches I'm getting per inch. Armed with that number, I measure as accurately as possible my own self around the hips (which is where the cast on for the body ends up) and do the math: inches around me x stitches per inch in gauge swatch = number of stitches to cast on for a neat fit. I look at the size options in the pattern, and pick the closest one. In this case, simply measuring myself and choosing a size based on that would have resulted in an enormous sweater that definitely would not have fit and would definitely have been unraveled by now. I might have to get even mathier when doing this with a pattern where row gauge is critical--which is what happened with the yoke last time, for instance--but I always enjoy an interesting challenge, and it allows me to use whatever yarn I want.
Yarn. This is Fisherman's Wool in Oatmeal, with Paton's Classic in Charcoal, Plymouth Galway in 190 (bright pale blue and 764 (heathered brown), Cascade 220 (egg yolk yellow) and a [very barely] paler yellow, hand dyed by me in a turmeric exhaust bath. I used US 7, US 5, and US 3 needles.

I'm happy with it, and grateful to you all for staying my hand and making me think about it a little more before pulling the trigger on the unravel. (But you see the robots, don't you? Maybe they're more like paper dolls?)

During this snowy photo shoot (and I am really not looking for reasons) I found a reason to bring a chicken into the house. Just for a little while. She stood in front of the blowing furnace vent with her feathers a-ruffling, and just gave me a look. It's hard to explain.

Not for nothing, this is the hen we call "Nervous."

Saturday, February 7, 2015


You have persuaded me. The Asta has been pardoned, and when I wore it the other day, it got raves, and it was warm and snuggly and comfy, and with the right pair of boots it made me want to take on the world. Thank you all, as always, so much, for holding my hand. I'm already eyeballing another Kate design from Yokes, and before I do that I'm going to take your advice about the value finder thingy, but first, this, which consumed me all day and through many episodes of Foyle's War on Netflix:
This is a test knit of something amazing. It seems to be all sweaters around here at the moment. Must be I'm cold.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

An almost perfect sweater, and a story about a rug

I'm going to spend a moment processing my angst about this sweater. I have lain awake at night, wondering why I am so incapable of seeing value contrast, and feeling crabby about how well--how perfectly--this sweater fits me now that it is finished, blocked, and dry.
You see beautiful Kate there on the page, in her finished sweater, and I swear to you, that's what mine looks like too. The fit, I mean. She is so good at this knitwear design thing. Meanwhile, I went off on my own with yarn and now my yoke looks like little robots, bisected by a strange sun flare, and while there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you're aiming for, it makes me a little sad to think what could have been. Why did it have to fit so beautifully? That makes it harder to start over. Sigh. I think I'll wear it while I figure out what to do differently after I rip it out to try again.
Want to see my new rug?
I have a recurring dream where I have suddenly discovered the perfect junk shop and there, in the furthest dusty corner of the secret room in the back, is exactly what I'm looking for, but then I wake up and sadness follows me around for awhile as I think about what might have been. And then, a week ago, it happened while I was awake, and in the way back of my (new favorite) shop, so far in the back that there is no longer any heat or Taj Mahal music and you need an escort to proceed [I am not exaggerating] and where they keep the enormous Texaco signs and purple velvet fainting couches and pump organs, Ethel saw this rug, rolled up and lying on a teetering stack of crates. "Hey, aren't you looking for a rug?" she said. The guy unfurled it for me, creating a huge cloud of dirt. He gave me a good deal, so it came home with me, and when I unfurled it again in the living room to vacuum it, a hundred pounds of sand fell out. So I took it outside and shook it until the snow was brown, then slung it over the clothesline and hit it with a broom until my arms fell off, then *filled the bathtub with warm water and half a bottle of shampoo and chucked it in there. The water turned the color of black coffee. I let it soak, drained the tub, stood on the rug to squeeze the brown water out, refilled the tub with black coffee again, repeat from * ten more times, during which I began to despise the rug for being so dirty. I rolled up my pantlegs and got in the tub with it, agitating it with my bare feet. I drained the tub again, and filled it again, and jumped on the rug in the tub, sweating and cursing. The water eventually began to look like cafe au lait, and then just regular dirty, and then mostly clear. I planned to throw it out the upstairs bathroom window and onto the patio where I was going to squeegee most of the water out, but I couldn't lift it that far, and then it snowed. We let it drip into the tub overnight and then spread it out to dry the rest of the way in the morning. We rinsed half the Sahara down the bathtub drain. I don't recommend this method. But it's clean now, and all kinds of colors appeared, and now I am going to lie down on it and bemoan my poor sad perfect sweater. I have to unravel it.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Asta, in progress

I'm in the grips of colorwork; color everything, really (wait until you hear the story of that rug up there) and that clever girl Kate Davies has me fully in her yokey clutches. This is Asta Sollilja, halfway up the first sleeve and now I'm racing breathlessly toward the yoke, trying to get there before I forget what I learned last time in case I need it again. The stranded colorwork yoke is the exciting part, the big frosting rose at the corner of the cake.

This unrelentingly cold winter will not get me down. The days are getting longer now. Somewhere behind this murky, ornery sky, I know the sun is there. I'm going to put on some Stevie Ray Vaughan and make brownies today, and knit this gray-with-bits-of-yellow sleeve, and then the other sleeve after that.