Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Snow Dreams

The other day, I walked through the muddy orchard to the pond, to look for signs of life.  It was a sunny day, but I know it's only January, so I put on all the expedition gear, as you do, and wasn't fifteen steps from the door before the warm sunshine penetrated my northern carapace and I had to strip off most of the handknits and carry them, but it felt so wonderful.  Nature felt friendly.  The little creek was bubbling and chirping and I crouched there, peering around the icy edges and into the muddy water, looking for, I don't know what--tadpoles?  Fresh green shoots of cattails?  ANYTHING?  Well, it's still deep winter, obviously, so there wasn't anything like that, but the moving water, that little bubbly sound it makes, just made me glad, glad, glad.  And today we are blanketed again, and still coming down, but it doesn't seem so hard.  A little thaw, here and there, makes it better for me.  Possibly I am also helped by that sweater up there, which is knitting itself.  I started it on Friday.  And unless something happens today to make me lose an arm, it'll be blocking when I go to bed.  Five days.  I know.  
I saw this design last year, and it just looked so exactly right;  I think I jumped on the internet at midnight and impulse bought a whole pile of yarn to make it, thinking I couldn't stand to wait another instant, and then--a year went by.  And actually, none of this yarn is even that yarn--it all got used for something else.  Hey, if it's in the stash, it's fair game...anyway, its number came up this week, and here it is, and it's true--it is exactly the right project for right now.  This is North Atlantic, by Lone Kjeldsen, and I'm using a random mix of unrelated yarns from the back of the stash--let's see:  the brown main color is Natural Wool by Wools of New Zealand in shade 523, which has to be just "natural brown"--this one is a very "wooly" wool, lofty and loosely spun.  Yum.  The mid-tone gray is my one sacred skein of Shepherd's Wool worsted in the perfectest gray, called "Beaches", and the lightest is that old standby, Paton's Classic "Winter White".  The red contrast color is a skein of burgundy Berrocco Superwash Wool, which got the lead role here when the succulent skein of Posh Worsted from The Uncommon Thread that was Plan A proved to be too thin. Well, good luck to you, regular burgundy superwash.  Don't let me down.  Oh, I am having such a good time knitting this.  Doc even noticed it, which he never, ever does, and said, "I like that."  Gasp!  More to come, and soon.  
My uncharacteristic cheerfulness might also be related to my read and re-read of the beautiful and inspiring Susan Branch.  Wait!  Before you go!  Don't delve into Susan Branch unless you are already equipped with some watercolors and paper, because you will drop everything and start painting lamps and shells and whatever little knicknacks live on the shelf over your kitchen sink.  You'll be practicing your hand-lettering.  You'll forget what time it is.  You'll also forget that you hate winter [for a minute] and I swear you will smell cinnamon and sugar.  She's delightful, and I love her like I love Santa Claus.  Okay, go ahead.  
What she does is everything good, and so generous.  Get some of her books, and put on your biggest, softest sweater, and get into an armchair with a cat, and read them.  And then paint your days.  Susan Branch is  good medicine for me.
I thought you might like to see the Puntilla, all finished:
For this, my own biggest, softest sweater, I used Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering, in the colorway "Peat".  Just, purely divine.  The lacy trim (which is what "puntilla" means) is in Madelinetosh Merino Light, "French Gray."  I am pretty pleased with this one.  
I have to tell you about this, too:  lovely Arianne has finished the blanket!  Without her, that would still be a pile of squares, haunting me and making me feel guilty.  I'm so pleased.  You should go have a look.  

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Waiting

Sneak peek:  this is Puntilla, pattern by Joji Locatelli in Posh Fingering from The Uncommon Thread, colorway "Peat", with contrast color in Madelintosh Merino Light, colorway "French Gray".  Gray, gray, gray.  I'm so basic it hurts.  I finished this late last night, over episodes of Season Two of Poldark (George is such a treacherous little creep...) and blocked it to dry overnight.  It is still damp this morning, with dangling ends still to be woven, and I am waiting.  Is it dry yet?  Now?  How about now?  And my mind is full and whirling with the very pleasant project of figuring out what to make next, so I'm deep in the caverns of Ravelry, and headfirst in the stash cupboard, and making little notes and drawings of what I might like.  This might be the best part of finishing something--the dreaming up of what comes next; so much possibility, and so much adventure ahead.  The sun shines today, in long hopeful beams across the melting snow, and across my clean floors and freshly-painted walls, and over the drying handknits.  Do your stuff, old friend.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Birch Bark

We're having slow days here.  If the sun shines, I run to the window and turn my face towards it, my eyelids glowing and orange from the inside.  I wait for the snowplow to thunder by.  I read and knit and read and knit.  There are three sweaters in progress, and all three of them are at the same point--endless, soothing miles of round and round knitting as I work my way down the body to the hem, the book propped up in front of me.  I get so much done that way, honestly.  Sweaters knit themselves when the book is good.  This kind of project is also perfect for a string of evenings staring at the Netflix box--this is my latest binge, oh my goodness.  Doc and I both think we are so funny now.  We keep working on new bits, cracking each other up, slapping the table.  He had one at breakfast this morning about Alternative Sanitation.  We worked up a whole hilarious idea about a coffee shop that only had decaf, called "Sleepy's", and we were breathless with laughing.  Every single thing seems funny right now.  

[edited:  I had a question about how the reading + knitting thing works--basically, I sit at the kitchen table (we have comfy chairs there) with the book propped in one of these, and blaze along on the long stockinette parts of socks or sweaters, which I can do without looking at it.  I learned to knit without looking when I got tired of having to decide between reading and knitting, just by practicing until I felt confident. It's one of the most useful tricks I've ever learned!]

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Here is Arboreal, all blocked and dry and ready to be my armor against any upcoming blizzards.  You guys, I am so pleased with this one.  I washed it and spread it out to dry before lunch yesterday, and by dinnertime, it was ready to wear.  Look at that smooth, well-fitting yoke!  No billowing at all.   Jackpot!  And this ultra-fluffy, wafty, wooly and sheepy Plotulopi has completely stolen my heart.  Like the Lettlopi, it is a little rough on bare skin, but that doesn't really bother me very much, and an insulating underlayer is always part of my winter gear anyway.  Didn't my lovely mama choose the perfect colors, too?  Her own tastes run to the beautiful jewel tones that look so good with her snowy white hair and rosy cheeks, so buying wool for me in Gray and More Gray probably stuck in her craw a little, but she did it.  Thank you, Mom!  In order to get the fit and silhouette I prefer, I made the yoke in Small, the body in Medium, and the sleeves in XS.  So, a little easy math, no big deal.  I also, as usual, made the sleeves and body longer than the pattern suggests.  And I am thrilled with this result.   Ever since I cracked the code on how yokes work, and then the penny dropped about my own shallow yoke depth, garments with round yoke construction--and there are SO many good ones--are all back on the table for me.  

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year

Sigh, it's January.  I do not love January, and I'm glad to get it out of the way right at the beginning; to have all of April and June and August and October still to look forward to.  January is deeply dark and miserably awful.  I have some feelings about this.  At the moment, the death grip of arctic cold that's been ravaging pretty much our entire continent is loosening temporarily and I'm feeling slightly joyful about that.  Maybe I will be able to get the back door open!  I guess it is all relative, then, because if 33 degrees F starts to seem like a relief, then I really can get used to anything.  This post-holiday lull is when I am at my most gloomy, so I try to combat that by cleaning and tidying and generally getting the house--where I am sometimes trapped for days--back into shipshape.  Thus, we took the whole house apart last week, and threw plastic over all the furniture and piled all the books and paintings and pillows and chair cushions in the corner in preparation for painting.  I washed all the walls and we spackled over my forty-jillion nail holes and took off the outlet covers.  Chaos, buckets, caulk, disorder, screws loose and scattering...and then the sky opened up and dumped a million tons of snow on our heads and everything was closed, and we were becalmed.  We couldn't get any paint.  We couldn't even get to the mailbox.  And then the polar cold turned the road into a sheet of ice.  And then the wind drifted a million more tons of snow into the driveway, and we had to alternate endlessly shoveling with just sitting bleakly in the middle of all the plastic while the catdog, who does not enjoy change, paced nervously, wondering where all the recognizable features of her life had gone, and (despite her very cute wardrobe of sweaters and boots) refused to go outdoors.  I drank all the coffee in the house, switched to wine, and heartily sympathized.  I didn't want to go out there, either.  I knit monogamously (whoo, that's rare) on that sweater up there, "Arboreal" by Jennifer Steingass, and finished it this morning.  It's sprawled in front of a fan right now, trying to dry, and I'll show it later, in action.  I used the most interesting stuff:    
This is Plotulopi, an unspun yarn (is it yarn?  Unspun fiber?) that my mama brought for me from her recent trip to Iceland.  (You can get it in the US here).  It comes in "plates" and it just looks like very thin pencil roving.  I had never worked with anything like this before, and it was so fascinating.  The wool of the Icelandic sheep is pretty unique, and the staple length of the fiber seems to be quite long, so while Plotulopi has a reputation for being fragile, I only broke it twice, when I sat on it accidentally, and otherwise was plenty sturdy enough.  You'd never be able to sew a seam with it, though, hence the Icelanders have the good sense to use it for their famous lopapeysur--patterned yoke sweaters, knit without seams, and that's what I used it for, too.  The structure of it, this unspun stuff (and this is also true of the other lopi yarns--"lopi", or "lopa", by the way, is Icelandic for "wool"-- which are spun, but loosely) traps a lot of air, so fabric knit with it is very fluffy and apparently will also be very hard-wearing.  If you are thirsting for more knowledge about Icelandic wool, you can read more from the true experts right here.) In my own limited experience, Plotulopi is without a doubt the hairiest thing I have ever knit with--it shed like a Labrador--but the garment it made might also be the warmest garment in all the world.  The heat of it on my lap as I worked on it was pretty unbelievable.  It felt like it was plugged in.  The extreme fluffy hairiness of the Plotulopi does somewhat obscure the leafy patterning of the Arboreal yoke, but I have decided to look at that as a design feature.  This thing will be perfect when winter comes roaring back with a vengeance next week.  
Catdog is hoping things will calm down around here.  Her very rigorous napping schedule is all in disarray.  And now that I have finished another sweater, it's time to pick out something else to make.  (Didn't I just say that last week?  Uh oh, too much knitting?)