Monday, July 18, 2016

Family matters.

Lola--her name means "Grandma" in Tagalog! Like several grandmas of my acquaintance, she wears a skirt that rides up at the hem, and carries an overly large bag stuffed with knitting. Her raglan cardigan is removable.

Here's my latest knitted critter--a grandma!  Theoretically she's my proxy, and except for the hair color, I'd say we're a pretty close match. Later this week we're going to LA to visit the wee grand-bairns.

I'd planned to leave her there, so that the bairns could have an eternal reminder of moi, in case our video-chats weren't enough to incise me into their memories, but then the question of affiliation, of community, of belonging, arose. It's almost an existential dilemma:  where does Grandma belong?

The Community, left to right: Pippi, Sheepdog, Grandma, William Hedgehog, Babar.

The rest of the family came down resolutely in favor of the east coast.

Given that our household is a democracy, majority rule prevailed. Grandmama will return with me next week. I shall, however, photograph her, in the interim, in quintessentially Californian settings, and these photos will go into her deluxe album. Stay tuned.

Would you like to knit a grandma for yourself or someone who might need a grandma? Her name, as I've already mentioned, is Lola (not to be confused with Lola the Portuguese Water Dog). Here's the free pattern, courtesy of Lion Brand Yarns. With only minor modifications you could turn the prototype into any number of historical figures--George Washington, W. A. Mozart, J.S. Bach, Queen Elizabeth II.  It's the hair that's so inspirational.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hello, summer!

Apparently there are some people who vacation from knitting during the summer months. Mine not to reason why, but I do have it on good authority that during June-July-August there's a parallel downturn in sales at the few LYS that remain on this planet. Here it is, merry May, but yesterday the heat slammed in so it might as well be the dog days of summer. I'm still knitting and knitting and knitting large scale (my house has a/c), although I'm writing a piece for one of my employers on how you can make an afghan by knitting small blocks that ultimately are sewn together. That way, if you don't want to deal with dragging around a mess o' yarn in the summer heat, you can still knit and survive. Two of the afghan blocks are displayed in the photo far below--actually, the pink one is most visible. (The dusty blue one's on the needles, partly obscured by the chair arm.) It's a free pattern, designed by Irina Poludnenko for Lion Brand. I really like Irina's work, and recommend her website of patterns, Hats and Not Hats, to you. Her children's bonnets are completely adorable.

Portuguese knitting has been much on my mind, and somewhat in my hands. I taught myself how to by watching videos on Youtube, some of which are pretty amusing.


The advantages of Portuguese knitting are that the right hand's movements are minimal, and once you become adept you can probably knit pretty fast. Although you doubtless can't tell from the above-embedded video, in which the headless instructor is competing with ambient birdsong, the right hand simply stabilizes the needle. I hold my needle as if it were a violin bow; the left hand and left thumb do all the work. Tension on the yarn is maintained by the right hand and also either by looping the yarn around your neck (if you don't mind rope burn) or by using a little hooked gizmo (purchasable on that pins onto your clothes, somewhere between navel and sternum, depending on how you want to hold your needles.

It takes some getting used to, but the alternative--not knitting--isn't an option.

Foxy enjoys knitting al fresco, too.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The elephant in the room....

Gentle knitters, I've not been moved to write much over the past month as I've been preoccupied by some knitting problems, namely my right hand which is stricken with tenosynovitis, and a mohair cap-sleeved sweater that is almost finished but has assumed a disturbing shape, even though it's hardly shaped at all. I don't mean to sound cryptic, and perhaps I'll post about this tragicomic garment soon, but right now I question my sanity whenever I look at it.

Why was I on such a mohair kick about a year ago? I bought way too much of it, and still have a lot lying around. Yes, I like its ethereal qualities, its warmth without weight. But it is a bitch to knit, horrible to frog, and after all is said and done, it's slightly scratchy.

The good news, however, is that I'm teaching myself to knit Portuguese style, which is less stressful to my ravaged right hand than the standard American way I've used all my knitting life. Until now.

A while ago I promised to direct you to wonderful free patterns, and then I promptly forgot to do so. Well, check out King Babar!

His pattern is free on Ravelry, one of many gems in the treasury of Rabbit Hole Knits. He and other wonderful animalia are the brainchildren of Sarah Elizabeth Kellner, a creator of toys and whimseys. I love her work. You will recall her Henry's Rabbit design, which I realized in yarn and transported, in early February, to his new home in LA. He was intended to companion my granddaughter Adeline, but Max, her brother, co-opted him. I promised Max I'd make him any animal he desired, whereupon an order was placed for an elephant. Babar will accompany me to LA in July, and presumably then Max will return Rabbit to his sister. (Note to self: do not hold breath.)

I try to knit toys in acrylic yarns. Loyal readers probably know by now how intensely I dislike acrylics, but I also see their utility in the construction of toys and children's garments. Unfortunately acrylic can't really be blocked, and so Babar's regal cloak has a curling hem and his crown is in a permanent state of collapse. I may attempt shoring up the crown with pipe cleaners. If anyone has further suggestions, please feel free to advise me. If you decide to knit your own Babar, you may want to use superwash wool worsted, or something that will drape without curling.

Bumbling around Hartford, Connecticut last week, I discovered two paintings of knitterly interest in the Wadsworth Atheneum, by artists you've never heard of. The Knotted Skein (1870), by Seymour Joseph Guy (American, 1824-1910), depicts a young woman and her boy helper struggling with, yes, a knotted skein. Perhaps this is a metaphor, or perhaps it's an omen of an unhappy relationship (hinted at by the Brahmsian figure lurking behind the young lady?). Or perhaps it's simply a depiction of a knitter dealing with a familiar problem?

The Knotted Skein by Seymour Joseph Guy (1870) 
More cheerful is The Italian Straw Hat (1952), by Peter Blume (American, 1906-1992), a depiction of the artist's studio/bedroom, according to the museum label. Either he was a knitter or had a knitting visitor. And he was mysteriously fixated on the Italian straw hat.

Given the artist's attention to detail, one feels that this painting might just as well have been titled The Blue Chest of Drawers, or even more aptly, The Knitting Basket. But as the poet said, "a rose by any other name...." Altogether I find this a delightful, fiber-filled painting (note the rug, the drapes, the hat, in addition to the basket of yarn), and I enjoy all the non-fibery details too, rendered with such precision.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


A miscellany is a random hodgepodge of things, and knitwear designer (and lawyer) Carol J. Sulcoski's petite volume entitled Knitting Ephemera (recently published by Sixth and Spring) fits the definition well. Be warned: The print is minuscule and packed onto the page, so you may need your magnifiers. And, there is no Table of Contents (there is an Index) or organizing principle, really, other than factoids about knitting (and some about crochet). Disorientation is part of the process, but it's a temporary state, kind of a portal state, really, to render you receptive to the luminous yarn halo of knitting consciousness.

Reading the book is like walking into a messy knitter's house (not yours, of course), that nonetheless feels familiar and comfortable, chaos notwithstanding, because, and only because, you are a heavily-addicted knitter and therefore love anything to do with the craft, and also you have the type of mind that delights in such a random collection of informational tidbits.  You are in Knitterland! To mix metaphors somewhat (actually, a lot), the book is like a recipe collection that someone has put together over the years in a folder, a collection that consists of smeary words scribbled onto index cards, recipes ripped from newspapers, or cut off the backs of food boxes. It is very disjointed but you love fooling around in the kitchen, and you love culinary history, and you love deathless volumes like The Joy of Cooking--so you don't care about its disorganized state--in fact, it feels kind of good. You also enjoy books that mimic the conventions of nineteenth-century and even eighteenth-century publishing, and come with lovely red ribbon markers to hold your place. (Again, like The Joy of Cooking.) If you are such a person, my advice is Go for it!, buy this treasury, and also think about giving Knitting Ephemera to the Knitter Who Has Everything, before someone else does. Or before the volume becomes ephemeral.

I encountered the word "miscellany" as a child, and since I only read it--I think there was a column in Time Magazine of yore entitled "Miscellany"--I thought it was pronounced miss-SELL-a-knee, and for many years I couldn't figure out what it meant. Then, as a graduate student, I encountered Tottel's Miscellany, the first-ever published anthology of poetry in English (1557). Subsequently the term has proved useful.


Perhaps some of you, gentle knitters, convene occasionally with like-minded souls, for social as well as instructive purposes. My cabal, a group of exemplars styled K4TOG, meets as often as manageable for knitting-centric discussion and edification. Thus we inaugurated our 2016 agenda last week....Here you may observe one of us conscientiously winding yarn and conversing with the other knitters, while admirably ignoring the temptations of alcohol.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Worth keeping...

As has happened occasionally in the past, someone just gave me a trove of knitting supplies discovered while cleaning out a house for sale. This present included a large number of aluminum needles, and notes for projects like Christmas stockings and dolls, meticulously written and illustrated.

Pearl Tiffany, the author of this notebook, made her own graph paper! Patterns clipped from newspapers, folded into the envelope above, are dated 1954 (a stellar year, methinks).

I like looking at aluminum needles more than I like knitting with them, but I'll add these to my collection anyway. I love their karma, and I love having knitting hand-me-downs.

Speaking of which, here are sweaters I made around 1983 for my eldest son, then aged three. His brother wore them later on, and now they're going to my grandchildren, who will be able to wear them in a year or so. These were most definitely worth keeping. In a few days they'll accompany me to their new home in California.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Knit your own bunny

Kramer is not thrilled by his companion.

My latest venture into toy knitting was prompted by the discovery of Rabbit Hole Knits. Its doyenne, Sara Elizabeth Kellner, offers many clever, adorable patterns for animals and insects, and most are either free of charge or modestly priced. (Incidentally, if you happen to be attending VK Live in Manhattan this weekend, Ms. Kellner is supposed to be in the Marketplace.)  The bunny I made--Henry's Rabbit, it's called--is a free pattern, is easy to knit and was interesting to do in Lion Brand "Scarfie"--a gradient yarn that in the colorway I chose moved from Easter bunny cream to hare brown. My single modification was to do the tail in Skacel's "Woolie Bullie," an ivory bouclé that gave the tail a satisfying texture.

This little rabbit will travel with me to California soon, to meet my new granddaughter, the person to whom he is dedicated. I think that both Kramer and Molly will be glad to see him depart.

Molly says, "I shall pay him no heed."