Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I let the garden go this year.  I love vegetables, but I don't enjoy gardening, and my neighbor is a farmer, and the yard is overrun with squirrels and rabbits anyway, so I've decided to leave the tomato growing to the experts and spend my time doing other things. It's a four-minute walk to the market from my front door anyway, so why fight it?  What I probably should do with what used to be the garden is to move the (very few remaining) plants I want to keep, and till up the rest, and plant some grass seed.  [Ugh, grass.  This fascination with your LAWN.  Don't get me started.  I wish I could have a big truck come and dump gravel over the whole thing. Anyway.]  If I'd done that when I should have, though, the goldenrod wouldn't have had a chance.  I know, goldenrod grows in every ditch at every roadside in America, and there's no shortage of it, but it was kind of nice watching it take off here, in what used to be my garden.  The stalks are towering.  They are, I'm not exaggerating, eight feet tall.  
They glow in the sunlight.  They are sneezy little handfuls of pollen, to be sure, but they are the most succulent lemony-lime yellow.  
I waited until they looked like this--partly open, but not fully-blown, all the way open.  Just a couple of the florets had popped, and the rest were still loosely budded.  This is when I love goldenrod, before it blows all the way open and looks like powdered mustard.  Right now, it looks delicate but tough, like something from the prairie.  The goldenrod patch is a tremendous forest, with one little angel wig on top of each tree.  I clipped them into a pot, a few handfuls at a time, as they were ready, and boiled them in my kitchen, in my dedicated dyepot.    
This is my big 12-quart dyepot, filled about 2/3 full with flower heads.  I covered the flowers with water, soaked them overnight, and then boiled it all for an hour the next day.  We tried in vain to decipher the smell.  Doc and I could not decide whether it stank like holy hell, or whether it smelled vaguely of asparagus, which we love.  It is not a food smell, at all, but something about it is not terrible.  It smells like baby powder and feet.  Or carrots sauteing in butter and old garbage.  Maybe I've lived in the country too long.  Get me to the Chanel No. 5, stat!  Anyway, after an hour of smell-related light comedy, I removed the plant material and Gently added two skeins of mordanted yarn (I used Paton's Roving in "Aran") simmering it gently for about 30 minutes.  I rinsed the skeins until the water ran clear, and then hung them to dry.  In a week's time, I had this:
Summer, captured.  That'll be a sweater.  Not gray, not gray at all.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Walnut Heather

A few weeks ago, I saw someone wearing a poly-fleece jacket with zipper and a little stand-up collar.  It looked warm and comfortable.  Relaxed, but also somehow put-together, if that can ever be said of a sweatshirt.  She had it zipped only in the middle, kind of at the waist.  Slim-lined, long-bodied, good.  I coveted it, but poly-fleece jackets with zippers are not my jam; handknits are my jam.  I came home and drew (on my favorite thing ever, Fashionary Panels--if you're trying to make your own clothes in any way, you should go get yourself some) this little drawing, imagining the lines of it in a handknit sweater.  I gave it ribbed sleeves for ultra-sleeve-slimness, and a folded ribbed collar for maximum stand-up-ness, tall because my neck is ridiculous.  I moved the waist shaping fifteen stitches to the front and back of the side seams, for more polish.  I dove into the stash for some Cascade 220 in Walnut Heather, a diffuse grayish-brown that seems to crop up in my stash over and over again.  It is the most nondescript color in the world, the color of mice, the color of my hair before it started to turn gray.  I keep finding myself with a bunch of yarn that's this color, and it must be I love it.  I knit a swatch, measured myself, did a little math, and started knitting, and now I have this:
Pictures of me wearing it have been delayed by the fact that it is (I know) actually sweltering here right now.  (I know!) Weather permitting, I might wear this to Rhinebeck?  I guess that is going to be true of anything I finish between now and October, now that I think about it.  This won't be the last thing I knit between now and then, let's face it.  And, as a few have pointed out, this is New York, and October in New York is a capricious thing.  It might snow, and it might be 75 degrees, and a knitter should plan accordingly.  Whatever the weather, even if I have to pair them with shorts, I will be wearing handknits to Rhinebeck, and this might be one of them.  Neutral sweater, crazily-colored accessories?  I think that sounds like so much fun.  There is at least one more neutral cardigan nearing the finish line at the moment, so anything is still possible.  Maybe it will be cold enough to wear them both!  Or maybe just armwarmers and a bathing suit, I don't know.  New York, after all.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Hey you guys, I am going to Rhinebeck this year.  It is happening!  I feel like an eight-year old getting ready for her first trip to Disneyland.  The wall-to-wall woolly-ness.  The leaves and the cider and the like-minded people all around.  Oh, sigh!  Lovely.  The first thing to figure out is:  what on earth to wear?  Rhinebeck is where yarn lovers let their mad skills out and let their freak flags fly, and I thought this would make all my current mostly-stockinette projects fall by the wayside so I could plan some kind of epic garment--there has been a LOT (more than usual, even) of trawling through patterns, but I am as yet undecided.  Anything I make specifically for that occasion still has to fit into the regular wardrobe when I get home, and that makes a delicate balancing act.  I love the idea of starting something special.  I think I will enjoy the lengthy search through pattern options, and if the search turns up nothing that really wants to be my Rhinebeck Sweater, I'll just wear something from the shelf in the closet and be happy.  I do have these to show you, little mitts I made while the weather was too warm to be worrying about cold hands, but they will be just right in October.  These were designed by me, using up some scraps--the two main colors are Dream in Color Classy, in a discontinued colorway, some kind of antique gold [here are their current colorways, lock up your credit card before you click that link, whoo] and the ubiquitous Patons Classic Worsted in Lemongrass.  The contrast colors are all from the leftovers basket--I think the pink is from my experiments in dyeing with avocado pits.  I thought about going on ahead and making them into mittens, and once October is over and winter sets in hard and there is no place in my life for naked fingertips, I might do that, just pull out the bind off at the top of the hand and thumb, and do some decreases until the fingers are covered.  Meanwhile, though, I like them this way.  By the way, the main stitch pattern is from this book, and the contrast color band is something I just improvised.  
Maybe instead of a whole sweater just for Rhinebeck, I'll wear a ton of accessories, like these?  A hat, a cowl, interesting socks.  Less commitment.  Especially since, what with Doc as always coming along for the ride, and as always planning to be kilted up and looking fine, he will be needing a new sweater.  
A Rhinebeck Sweater for Doc.  Coming up soon. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stormy Weather

Catdog reclines in an elusive patch of sunlight.  She'd rather be outdoors, but it is already raining again.  I have a finished cardigan to show you--Mazzy, by Elizabeth Smith--which I've worn all day today and I love it, but it has turned gray and gloomy and there is not a ray of light to be found.  This cardigan is pretty great though, in spite of a huge chunk of mistakes (made by me when things on Orphan Black got really compelling--no spoilers, I'm only on Season Three) in the cables at the back of the collar:
Keeping it real.  There are at least twelve individual mistakes in that photo, but Donnie was in the car with Dr. Leekie, and my attention was not on the cabling.  Orphan Black!  I am in the grips of that show.  If you're current on happenings in recent episodes, please don't tell me.  
Anyway, Mazzy is going to be a great layering piece for fall and winter.  And apparently for right now, too.  I used KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Wellies Heather, and there are just enough flecks in it to disguise the incredible quantities of dog hair that cling to me everywhere I go.  Dogs are great.  Dogs are the best.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


My friend Al and I were talking about linen the other day.  I want to make shirts, pants, dresses--okay, everything--out of linen right now.  Curtains.  Sheets.  Lacy petticoats.  What else is there?  Linen is so great.  Soft, always getting softer, and covered in wrinkles, but the very best kind of wrinkles, the kind that make you look like you've spent the day yachting with the Kennedys.  After the Esme dress I made last summer clung like crazy to everything and I finally ditched it in sad desperation, you all advised me about linen, and you were right.  Anyway, Al had this piece of nubbly, natural, untreated and homespun-looking linen in his stash, leftover from some kind of breadmaking endeavor, and he gave it to me.  I made a Kiomi top (from Lotta Jansdotter's book "Everyday Style") and I'm hoping there is enough summer left to wear it.  
As many of you will already know, the master pattern sheets in that (gorgeous and inspiring) book are a special hell to decipher, but once you have identified and located, traced and cut the pattern pieces out, whew, you are through the worst of it and the sewing is easy peasy.  I think this simple little shirt is going to be a really useful wardrobe piece for me, especially in a regular, real summer year, where it is hot for many days.  You know, summer, instead of whatever this is.  
I was about to fall asleep last night when suddenly, the specter of my sorta-finished Folded drifted malevolently into my mind, making me feel guilty and unsettled, and I realized that if I expect to wear this anytime at all, and certainly before approximately a year from now, I'd better get in there and fix it.  This thing was done, blocked, and sitting on the shelf in the closet, awaiting a public outing, and it sat there for a long time, unworn, before I finally admitted to myself that it was too short, and also a little too narrow at the bottom hem for my personal taste.  Which was a little bit of a pain, because Folded is worked from the bottom up, which means that too-narrow hem was the cast on edge, and one of the only non-magical things about knitting is that you can't just unravel from where you started--you can only unravel from where you ended.  Well, I didn't want to rip out the whole sweater and start over, making the cast on edge bigger (for a wider hem) and I didn't want to just abandon the sweater altogether (this is Madelinetosh Merino Light!  Yummy!) so the only thing left was to cut off the hem and knit it down from there, which after lying awake in anticipation of the endless tedium of doing that, I finally did this morning, and it was an hour of work.  Note to self:  See?  Get in there and get it done, you'll feel better.  To remove the hem, I snipped one stitch right above the ribbing, unpicked each stitch one at a time, and put each loop back on the needle, one at a time, until I had all the stitches live again, and ready to knit--top down, this time--where I will work an extra set or two of increases and add more length to the whole thing, finally ending with the ribbing.  It's a little bit painful to do this, cutting into a completely finished object with scissors and then picking at it for an hour, but honestly, it is waaaayy less painful than knitting an entire sweater in fingering weight yarn and then never wearing it because I'm too lazy to spend half a day fixing a small problem.  That's not how I want to roll.  So, tonight I will knit a few inches of stockinette and then the ribbing, and then I will want to wear this. Luckily, the weather is perfect for it.