Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Every Day Sweater

I know I am always saying it:  I will live in this sweater.   Friends, I put this sweater on before it was even completely dry, crawled under a blanket and took a nap in it, and have since taken it off only long enough to bathe.  I am wearing it right now.  I took it off for a minute, to photograph it for you, and then put it right back on again.  A sweater this good makes me start to think maybe I don’t even need any of my other sweaters [nevermind, that’s nonsense] and another thing:  usually, after a big success, I am headfirst in the stash looking for more more MORE, but for now, I am just sitting here, curled up and purring.  It couldn’t be a grayer, simpler, more ordinary sweater if it tried.  It looks like every single thing you’ve ever seen anybody wear, ever.  The yarn [Naturally Nazareth, a 100% domestic wool workhorse aran weight yarn in the sublime colorway “Moonlight”] is stubbornly sturdy and, well, basic.  It looks like it will last a hundred years, but it made my hands ache.  It wasn’t that much fun to knit with, if I am being truthful, and I’m afraid the luxury yarn binge I’ve been on lately has spoiled me rotten for these more pedestrian yarns but after a soak and a day spread out on the table to dry, it came to life.  The cables relaxed out so beautifully and the whole thing softened up just enough, and I really, truly, want to live in this sweater.  Well, I have been.  
It is rumpled and wrinkly now, and (probably because it finished its blocking while it was on me and I was asleep) it has conformed to my shape [I won’t make a joke about also being rumpled and wrinkly, I won’t I won’t I won’t] so it’s slightly poochy at the elbows and the cuffs are stretched out and the I really couldn’t love it more.  It just feels like one of those beat and comfy old things I’ve had forever.  It is the best friend I’ve just met.  (Should I block everything this way now, by sleeping in it while it’s still a little damp?  By the way, if you did that in anything besides wool, you’d probably get hypothermia.)
The (free!) pattern is here.  It comes in only one size, but because the side panels and sleeves are in stockinette, you can easily adjust it up or down to fit you.  I added a few stitches at the bottom of the body, to accomodate my pear-shape, and decreased a few times at the sides to get to the right bust size for me.  I also winged it at the yoke, but that’s really just because I don’t like to fuss over things like attached i-cord and p3 tog.  So the pattern isn’t perfect [but it is free] and the yarn isn’t perfect [or is it?] but this finished sweater?  It has a couple wonky bits and it looks like it was knit by a loving grandma back in 1958 so somebody’s older brother could wear it to play rugby at Yale.  Yep, it’s perfect.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Some big projects

  I light candles to cheer myself up.  I like them.  They smell good, they are cozy.  They smack of hygge.  One day last winter, I had so many scented candles going at one time that they set off the smoke detector.  Later, I chanced to wipe a noseprint off the inside of a window and the cloth came away black.  It was time to wash everything and then paint, and you know how when you paint one room, the room next door looks like a boxcar inhabited by hoboes?  A few months of frenzied candle-burning had turned every surface in the house into the ceiling of a medieval monastery, with ten centuries worth of soot and ash making the place atmospheric, and also dingy.  Tidying and cleaning and clearing out more clutter and re-styling the house has been one of the ways I'm coping with this year's extra-bad case of the winter blues, and there's been so much of that, so it's a good thing I enjoy it.  I am a collector by nature, but I had amassed such an enormous heap of stuff that I suddenly felt it smothering me, so filling the car with things to donate made me surprisingly happy.  I have got rid of a lot of stuff.  I am cutting back on candles now, too, and fastidiously trimming wicks, and I'm even looking at burning one tealight at a time with some trepidation, and my beloved Doc has (almost) repainted the entire interior of our house.  There is one room left, and he will do that one next weekend.  He fills my heart to bursting with unicorns and rainbows in a thousand different ways, and that is one of them.  What a good and wonderful man he is.  
Another one is that painting up there.  I love this:  years ago, casting about for a way to fill his time, he decided to take a Spanish language class at the local community college, and painting that reproduction of one of Frida Kahlo's famous self-portraits (with monkey) was in some way his homework assignment.  He turned it in for an A, and then later had to go and pry it free from the instructor's reluctant grip, because she was really hoping to keep it.  I can't say I blame her, but I had my eye on it too.  It has moved from here to there in the rotating gallery of lovely artwork I've collected, and has lately come to roost on that bookcase. [And the catdog has come to roost in that chair, despite the many comforters and pillowy dog beds around here.]  
I'm working on a gallery wall, too, trying to be thoughtful of where I put the next nail hole (I am so bad at changing my mind, and the walls are more spackle than plaster at this point) and will probably keep adding to it.  The centerpiece is my beautiful daugher's oil portrait of her friend Lara; the shadowed, sleepy eyes in that painting, how I love them.  It's so good.  Next to it is my mama's watercolor painting of Central Park in New York, and below that is a romantic-style oil portrait by my gifted grandmother.  There is so much good art in my collection, so much more than you can see here.  There will be a lot more nail holes, I think.  
I have had to put this on the calendar:  SPIN THE FLEECE.  It isn't going to spin itself.  I'm setting aside at least one day a week for turning these imperfect little batts into yarn, because you guys.  There is so much of it, and I feel a little overwhelmed.  Even if I can make one skein a week, it still might take months.  I know, there's a lesson in that for me.  This will take awhile.  It's okay if things take awhile.  But I have to actually do it, at least a little bit here and there, because I can't knit with batts.  I want yarn.  
That's looking a little rugged.  It'll block out, right?  Ha.  Embracing imperfection.  
So I sit in my little room, spinning and thinking about curtains and whether we really need this chair or that table, and listen to records.  I have to get up every half-hour, then, and flip the record, so it makes me take a break.  I sing along, so loud.  "If I can't have you, I don't want nobody, baby" which reminds me of singing that song, also loud, on the playground in 1979.  The batts slowly, slowly become yarn.  
Did you think I didn't knit a sweater?  I started this simple pullover last fall and it went into hibernation sometime after the holidays with little more than a sleeve left, and I don't know why.  Little sleeves like that only take a couple hours, and then it was finished.  It is my own pattern, worked top-down to fit me, in the extremely beautiful Woolen Boon DK, colorway "Truffle Shuffle".  It looks, as I've mentioned over and over again, like birchbark.  The complexity of it, though, I can't even describe.  
There are little flecks of gold and rose and burnt orange and lilac and a thousand assorted and varied grays.  This yarn is a work of art.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The weekly finished sweater motif continues.  Honestly, I can't believe it myself, how fast these things fall from my needles.  I sit down to watch tv [right now, the Olympics.  Shaun White!  I love you!  Epic!  RAD!  I say things like "I want to see Shaun drop into the pipe, then we can go to bed"] and a couple hours later, there's a fully-formed entire item of clothing adding itself to my wardrobe.  I weave in the ends, block it, and cast on something else before the needles have cooled off, and whoo, it is intense, but I am so interested in it right now, and all the patterns look so appealing, and all the yarns look so smooshy and wooly.  My stash calls to me.  It looks like I'm going to have to think about knitting more complicated projects if I'm not going to end up buried under a well-intentioned landslide of handknits.  More on this later as I continue to consider, but thank you very much for all your feedback; it is always welcome.  If you can recommend a pattern that's not wildly intricate--I'm not looking for frustration--but that might take me a little while to make, I would love to hear about it.  Meanwhile, I've noticed there's a difference between something I can wear on a day when I stay home and a day when I have to leave the house.  On a stay-home day, when I can sit on the rug in front of the fireplace with catdog and cook myself until the hardware in my bra starts to heat up, I will be able to wear these ethereal and wafty things that leave half of my arms unprotected.   And I've noticed that when I can do that, I feel a little bit, dare I say, happier?  It's not just the staying home (though I do find that to be pretty wonderful) but the freedom of just putting on one thing, you guys.  I love it.  I look in the closet, think, ooh, here's a shirt.  Add some pants.  I'm dressed.  All the layering up for winter, ugh.  I like to be able to bend my arms and legs freely!  I like to show off my tattoos!   It makes me struggle.  Don't even get me started on socks.  If I had my choice, I would never put socks on again.  My feet wanna be free.  Anyway, this new thing--a modified Gilda, in Holst Supersoft, colorways silver, oatmeal, geranium, saffron, and burnt orange--which I was kind of knitting in anticipation of wearing in the future, is wearable for me now, if I stay home and can be warm enough, thankyouverymuch.  I really love it.  That Holst Supersoft is so compelling, I kind of want to work with it every minute.  The transformation it undergoes with blocking is so satisfying--I think I knit like the wind when I'm using it, just in a race to get to that moment.  So Gilda is good for cozy days at home where I can have the temperature the way I like it.  For other, less indulgent, more realistic days, there is this:
I could not be happier with or more surprised by this result.  Here is my Carbeth, knit in some unlabeled mystery date yarn I bought at Rhinebeck, possibly from Battenkill Farms?  Doc and I tried later to piece together where this came from, and I'm pretty sure that was it.  I have no idea about the fiber content, but it is gorgeously soft and tweedy with flecks (maybe the flecks are silk?  I wish I knew more about this kind of thing) and is a three-ply worsted spun natural brown wool.  It has a weight and density that is immensely satisfying, and I might suspect some alpaca, but since it doesn't make my bare skin feel like it's being chewed on by ants, I don't think there can be any alpaca in it.  If there is alpaca in it, I will have to completely revise my whole anti-alpaca manifesto, because it is a total dream to wear, and it was a total joy to work with.  I kind of like that its identity is a mystery, but in fact, if you were in the Battenkill booth on the Sunday at Rhinebeck, and you were the one who pressed that freebie extra mini skein of this wonderful yarn into my hands, and said, "A gift, from me," I want to thank you very much.  That little gift let me swatch my heart out for this sweater, without fear of running short of yarn. That's the real gift, isn't it?  This sweater.  Okay.  When I first saw the photos of Kate, modeling this new design, I thought, well now.  It looks so cute on her teeny self, but I can't possibly...I don't want to...won't my bellybutton get cold?...and I just kept thinking about it, and coming back to it.  What an interesting silhouette it has.  A lot of other people kept coming back to it, too,because there's a whole knitalong going on at MDK now [start yours today, you've got plenty of time and this pattern could not be easier.  I mean it.] So even though I had about forty reasons not to knit this sweater, I couldn't help it and I knit one.  The gauge of it is enormous, and it only took four days, and whoo!  I can't believe how much I love it.  I did add a little length to the body, in an effort to have the hem hit me at the same place it seems to hit the petite Kate in her sample photos.  I also made the sleeves super long, and the collar super tall, because I am still me after all.  I thought a sweater that was kind of abbreviated in all three of the coverage zones would just feel like a too-small sweater.  I think it made this one work for me, even though I know the cropping is what made the design unique, and mine is just kind of a little less interesting as a result.  As I've mentioned before, if something gets a little too interesting, I probably won't want to knit it or wear it.  This time, though, I was wrong about that, and I might just make another Carbeth.  Actually cropped, this time.  So much for slowing down.    

Monday, February 5, 2018

North Atlantic

That was fast!  I think it took longer to dry than it took me to knit it.  I am in the mania about sweater knitting right now, I don't know how else to put it.  I am so endlessly interested, and actually I feel a little bit driven to it.  I've been trying lately to figure this out, to find out where it comes from and why I am so consumed by sweater knitting, and while I'm not looking for a cure, I'm just wondering.  Because it does mean I have a lot of sweaters, and since I have just the one body and can only wear one thing at a time, it starts to seem like I have too many, and I end up giving a lot of them away.  I don't have a huge wardrobe of anything else, but the sweater shelf in the closet is burgeoning, with no end in sight.  I don't know what to make of this.  Anyway, it's something I'm thinking about.  Probably there will be more about this later.  It seems like this is a conversation a lot of people are having around the interwebs; capsule wardrobes, the 10 x 10 wardrobe challenge, Project 333, Sara Berman's Closet, etc. and I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going to land on all that, given that I really want to live with less, but knitting sweaters is my joy, and that with luck I have many more years of life in which to do it, and have no interest in slowing down.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.  Meanwhile, here is North Atlantic, all finished.  I've worn it twice already, and it is pretty good.  
I used four unrelated yarns from the stash--Wools of New Zealand, Shepherd's Wool, Berrocco, and Patons Classic--and while that was a fun experiment and I love how the colors worked together, the (very slight) differences between them made a little bit of an accordion effect.  I worked the color bands on a larger needle, but they still pull in slightly, and the brown solid stripes pouf out a little around them.  It hasn't bugged me yet, but there's still time.  Anyway, if I were going to make this again--and I totally might--I'd be more careful to use the same base throughout.  
There's still a whole lot of winter left, and I'm glad to have this one.  It's snowing again.  I'm still knitting.