Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All the fun of the fair

The Fleece Tent under a lowering sky.

The last time we attended the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, was 2004, and the weather was quite a lot better than on our most recent visit, September 20th. Nonetheless, it was pretty much as I recalled--roots, shoots, face-painting, tribal elders, excellent food, fiber animals, hand-dyed yarns, textiles, border collie demos, twangy music, home-made soap, scythes, horse-drawn ploughs....Get the picture?


The only non-knitting-related event I attended was a workshop on Shape-Note Singing. That was mainly so I could sit in a tent and get warm. I broke down and bought a Polarfleece cap, since it seemed heretical, not to mention counterproductive, to buy a woolen hat I could knit myself.

Herewith, some postcards:


 Everything you ever wanted to know about felting, taught by Andrée Bella of Board Landing Farm in Belfast, Maine.  


Replica of 19th century toy.










Alongside the Fiber Tent were individual yarn vendors.

Sad and stoic.


Girl kissing her pet fiber bunny.

MMMMMMMmmmmmm....cashmere!  I longed for the cobalt skeins.

Source of afore-mentioned cashmere.


Imprisoned bunnies 








Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sources of inspiration



I made these "Baby Uggs" a few days ago, following a pattern that--as usual--I found for free on the Internet. They worked up fast, and as I knitted I figured out different ways to knit the next pair. The design is cute, but the instrux are oddly written (possibly because translated into English), and then personal taste enters the equation. For example, why knit them on the right side (aka "the knit side") if the purl side is ultimately "the right side"? (In the end you take the bootie and turn it inside out for its permanent look. I've been informed that this is to humor knitters who hate purling. To them I say, "Grow up.")

But seriously, why not do the entire bootie in seed stitch if you're looking for more texture? That's what I'll try next. So, stay tuned for the next iteration. The point here, though, is a knitter can be inspired to ring changes on any pattern. I don't believe I've ever knitted a pattern as written, actually, mistakes notwithstanding.

These are lumpily stuffed with tissue paper for display purposes.

***


If you're looking for unusual inspiration, I can recommend Rosemary Drysdale's latest and greatest--Entrelac2: New Techniques for Interlace Knitting (Sixth & Spring, 2014). I already owned the first of her series, Entrelac:  The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting (Sixth & Spring, 2010), and found it fascinating, so I was quite interested to see its sequel.

Entrelac is not the easiest technique to conquer. I liken it to learning how to knit socks on double-points or two cables. With entrelac you have to be able to conceptualize both the specific, unusual process of knitting in a more dimensional way than if you were making flat pieces of stockinette, and you have to be a bit anal about picking up stitches in an evenly-spaced manner. Once you have that under control, you can move to the next level, which is adding lace patterns or other kinds of stitch definition to the fabric you're making in little triangles and rectangles that are modularly connected to each other.

When I wanted to learn entrelac, I attended a how-to workshop specifically for that purpose. However, I think that if you read Rosemary D's books carefully, you can actually teach yourself, and then you have the benefit of owning definitive works on the subject.  Learning to knit entrelac is a matter of concentrating, and possibly looking at a DIY video on Youtube or a similar website for further clarification. It's really a worthwhile effort, however, because once you have this under your belt you're bound to be inspired in ways you hadn't dreamed of earlier. And if you're not one to imagine your own patterns, the book provides many interesting designs, ranging from a simple glasses case to complex sweaters.

Isn't this design from Entrelac2 gorgeous?
My favorite parts of Entrelac and Entrelac2, however, are the stitch glossaries. If you can knit up those swatches, you can knit anything! Together they comprise more than 140 possibilities, and once you get the hang, you'll probably invent some on your own.

So buy the book--for yourself or a knitting friend (the release date is 9/23/14). Or, if you're feeling lucky, post a comment below telling me why you want the book, and the publisher will send a comp copy to the person I select. Contest closes at midnight on Sunday, September 21, the first day of autumn.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goldengrove unleaving...

Gentle knitters,
We're back after a theoretically restorative break. It was a break, certainly. Specifically my left foot, which was decidedly unsupportive when I, blithely navigating the pavements of Portland, Maine, tripped and fractured it. "I am such a klutz," I told Casapinka. She avouched that this particular injury is known in the medical world as a "ballerina fracture," since it's a common dance-inflicted malady. So it goes....I am a ballerina in klutz clothing. I was following my inner ballerina. I could have danced all night...(NOT).



Er, I was on assignment for Interweave Knits, and had just concluded a long interview with an amazing yarn personage whom you will read about next spring in the pages of the afore-mentioned magazine. The next morning I returned to the interviewee's dyeing studio to do the photography. My foot was swollen and painful, but like the intrepid postman who braves punishing weather, I got the job done, gentle knitters! And then H and I drove three hours to University Foot and Ankle Center in Providence, RI, had the x-rays, learned the awful truth. A cast for at least six weeks.

Alfie graciously accommodates my injured foot.
Fortunately my favorite activities are sedentary:  knitting, writing, music. I began a series of personal, knitting-centric essays, collected under the rubric "Unwindings" on Lion Brand Yarn's website (this link is command central of LB's Internet presence and will take you in many interesting directions) and Facebook page. You can read numero uno here.  Another will appear fairly soon, and then another. This is going to be a monthly thing. Just like the fiction I write for Lion Brand's Pattern Journal. You can subscribe to this for free, simply by clicking the orange letters on the website that say "click here."

***
Well, enough about me. I'm happy to report that last month's book giveaway, 60 Quick Luxury Knits from Sixth and Spring Publishing, went to Carol in San Ramon, CA. She's a displaced New Englander, so we like her extra much. There will be another book review and giveaway, most probably before the end of the month. Stay tuned and participate! These bestowals are genuine, not some kind of PCH gimmick.

Also before the end of the month, H and I will beeline to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. Run by the Maine Organic Farmers Association annually on the third weekend of September, it's a dream experience for knitters and fiber people. There's a Fiber Marketplace, a Fleece Tent, and a panoply of organic activities, critters (e.g. pygora goats, alpacas, angora bunnies), and demonstrations (Border Collies rule!). Plus, the food options are excellent. I shall report, natch, but hope you can go on your own.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the golden September days. Late summer into autumn--the most beautiful time of year in New England, I humbly opine.

Partial portrait: H's tomatoes, my messed-up feet partly shielded by messy knitting bag, Lola.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Vacation time...

...and time for a vacation.  I need one, my friends. My dance card for August is already filling up, and I have to carve out pieces here and there just for moi.  Here I am, living a mere ten miles from the Atlantic, and I've not yet had time to go to the beach!  How crazy is that? So, gentle knitters, I'll say farewell for a month, but not before I announce yet another interesting contest.  YOU can win a very nice book (if you live in the US of A), which I will review below, by posting a comment on this blog before August 9th at 11.59 p.m.  Just tell me why you want the book.


Since I already own the book--a review copy, thanks to Sixth and Spring, the publisher--and don't need to tell you why I want it, I'll tell you why I like it very much. First, it's all about beautiful ways to use some of Cascade's nicest yarn, Venezia, which is a merino-silk blend with a beautiful hand and drape. Second, the patterns are really excellent and all accessory-sized, so they'll not take too long to make. And third, there are sixty patterns in one book--as I am wont to say, that's a lot of bang for the buck. But that's also the appeal of much of Cascade's yarns--the yardage is excellent, the colors beautiful, and the fiber is highest quality. I love Cascade yarns without reserve. I've just finished a pair of socks in Cascade's Heritage Paints yarn, and they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Now I'll bid you happy rest of the summer, and say see you in September, when I'll announce the winner of 60 Quick Luxury Knits, and point you towards some of my newer writing projects. I'll be doing a column of personal essays about knitting and life on the Lion Brand website, and attending to my sundry other online and offline articles, fiction, etc. etc. Thanks for asking, and happy knitting, mes amis!






Wednesday, July 9, 2014

And the living is easy....

Gentle knitters,
Either my brain is fried or I have a bad case of summer-itis, or both. Proof:  I was asleep at the wheel on June 18th, which was apparently National Binge Shopping Day, but even earlier I neglected to participate in WWKIP Day/Week (or World Wide Knit in Public Day/Week, for those of you who dislike acronyms). Why? Was it really just the somnolence of summer with its murmurings of innumerable bees?

Or perhaps, actually, I just don't care about these events.

Well, having thrown that bomb into the crowd, I'll switch gears and talk about my latest complete project, which has the unwieldy title of the Buss Pillow. It's a free pattern from Berrocco, and very lovely indeed.


This version (photo credit:  Berrocco) is done in that company's yarn called Vintage, which I did not use since I wanted to bust my stash, as it were.


My handiwork was knitted of two discontinued worsteds, one by Adriafil (Roller), the other by Kerzer (Rejuvenation).  Use whatever you want, if you feel inspired to embark on this highly-recommended project. What matters only is that the worsted knits to pattern gauge, and I must say the instructions are well-written and exact without being overly technical. The backs of the pillows are solid, so the project provides many hours of mindless knitting, useful if you want to talk to someone and not concentrate on the XO chart.

And why XO, which actually represents BUSSES and HUGS, not simply a Buss, as the title implies? (Do you hate that word, BUSS, as much as I do? It is so ugly, and people are always thinking its meaning is bus, not kiss.) That inadequacy notwithstanding, I decided to make these pillows as a wedding present for Vanja and Nadia, a charming young couple in Berkeley, California, former students who met in one of my creative nonfiction classes shortly before I cut the academic umbilical. It was a pleasure to watch them, all that semester, make goo-goo eyes at each other from across the room (they made a point of not sitting near each other to indicate their serious dedication to the course), and I feel somewhat like their fairy godmother.

So off the pillows will go to California, and I'll work on finishing two pairs of socks and ignoring other faux occasions littering the calendar.  It's summer and I'm allowed.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Good things, small package....

Driftwood Yarns in Mystic, Connecticut has everything a knitter needs, in a charming little space.

Please notice the driftwood arch surrounding the entrance.
How little is this place? Well, to put it in perspective, it was once a garage. As in:  "two-car garage."


The address is 29-1/2 Broadway Avenue, Mystic Connecticut 06355, and the proprietor, Elizabeth Weil...



is affable, knowledgeable, and creatively packs a lot into this small space. Her high-quality yarns are thoughtfully selected and wonderfully appealing to a range of tastes and budgets.


Moreover, she has a playful selection of buttons!


Go and be charmed. There's good energy in abundance.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lace is more....

Conventional wisdom has it that knitting heavy woolens when the weather's warm isn't entirely pleasant. I suppose if there's no access to trade winds or a/c this is so. Anyway, if an excuse is needed to embark on a knitted lace project, it's too hot to knit an aran sweater is as good as any.

Which brings me to Brooke Nico's new book, Lovely Knitted Lace (Lark Publishing, 2014).


If you're the kind of knitter who's intimidated by the L word, this book is for you. Nico's approach is calming and rational. She organizes patterns by essential shapes--triangles, rectangles, circles, squares--so that the knitter isn't necessarily thinking about the project line by line. The psychological benefits of the geometric approach are palpable. There's a vision in place that allows the knitter to focus on intermediate and long-range goals--how a garment can be viewed as the joining of triangles or rectangles, how its form as a whole is a shaped statement rather than a string of disjointed phrases.

So it's summer now, and you could get started on something light and ethereal, like the"Angel Shawl."


How could you not love a pattern of which its designer says, "this shawl makes use of the pizza wedges concept of shaping"? Especially since, in the end, you have something decidedly more gorgeous than a pizza! (Hard to imagine, I know.) This might be my favorite pattern in the book, though all the designs, from cowls to sweaters, have great merit.

The publisher has made available a giveaway copy of Lovely Knitted Lace. If you'd like it, post a comment telling me why, before midnight on Thursday June 5th 2014.  Kramer the Haruspex will help me select the winner.