Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monkey Socks

I hadn't thought of calling them that when I made them, but a friend saw the resemblance. It's a great pattern for a thick winter sock (uses worsted, #5 dpns), and knits up quickly.

I used Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool in Oak Tweed, and a hand-dyed locally-grown worsted for the red accents. The free pattern, called "Men's Business Casual Socks," is on the Lion Brand website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Noro v. Winter

Greetings from white-out world, where, yes, it's snowing once again, having started in the wee hours of the morning and predicted to continue till well after dark. We expect between nine inches and a foot. So relentless.  So depressing....

The white expanse between the horizontal lines of trees is the solidly-frozen and snow-covered Wood River. It has recently become a conduit for a small herd of deer. They march around eating shrubbery that ordinarily would be overhanging the water.
Luckily for me, like an infusion of mega-mega vitamins, a review copy of the latest Noro book arrived just the other day. Perfect timing!

Full disclosure: I love Noro yarns, as I've said here before. So this review isn't about why Noro yarns are great, because so far as I'm concerned, that's a given. This review is about the power of Noro yarns to dispel gloom, because simply looking at the photos in this book--all of them exquisite--is as mood altering as a sunny day in June. Add to that the beautiful patterns contained within, and I can almost forget that the weather outside is frightful.

Noro yarns possess two outstanding qualities. First, the colorways are always surprising and uniquely beautiful. Second, the fibers, no matter what Noro yarn is used, are strong, warm, and soft. For a knitwear designer, the challenge is to develop a pattern that displays these Noro advantages effectively. I'm happy to report that all the patterns in Noro Lace succeed fabulously in this respect. The book offers the work of top designers--Deborah Newton's instant classic Tabard with Cowl, done in Taiyo, Laura Zukaite's Bobble Band Scarf in subtle Silk Garden Solo, Pat Olski's Elbow Length Gloves in cashmere-blend Shiraito, Patty Lyons's Poplar Leaf Beret in Silk Garden worsted--to mention only some.

As with most collections, the garments are keyed to different levels of knitting expertise, so anyone from advanced beginner to pro will find an appropriate project. There's a lot to like in the thirty featured patterns, but the star of the show here is always the yarn. And on a white-out day like today, it's really a thrill to flip through this book. Whether you read it, or knit from it, it's a perfect antidote to this New England winter that never ends.

Design by Lars Rains

Design by Anna Davis

The publisher, Sixth and Spring, has kindly offered a free copy of the book to one lucky reader. If you'd like to be that person, please post a comment telling me why, by midnight, Saturday March 7. (Restricted to U.S. mailing addresses.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Newly discovered

Gentle knitters,
I'm one of those people who deliberately limits input of information either because learning curves for new tech programs, tech gizmos, relationships, handicrafts (e.g. crochet, weaving), and pieces of music are so exhaustively extensive, or because I fear the accretion of new knowledge will displace/ permanently remove important stuff already at the edges of my brain bank. For example, I sometimes ponder why I'm unable to teach myself (or be taught) three or four additional useful methods of casting on knitting stitches, or innovative bind-offs, until I remember how my mental space is limited, and that if I foray into the realm of New Knowledge something good and still marginally accessible might permanently disappear.

This could be a false assumption, but it feels true. Plus the nature of technology these days is that if you can breathe, have one working finger to swipe or push a button, and partial vision, you can send messages, talk to people, and take photos in a manner that profoundly conceals your limitations. Just as I believe in the Winnicottian concept of the good enough parent, I also believe in the good enough knitter, computer user, photographer, musician, etc. Perhaps this is no revelation to you, mes amis, but for a recovering Type-A such as I am, it's an essential fact that needs to be placed daily at the fore of consciousness:  Repeat twenty-five times to self:  Good enough is okay.  Good enough is okay.

Recently, in the company of dear buddy Casapinka, I sashayed into the hinterlands of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and was introduced to a beautiful LYS, Love to Knit (or Love2Knit). There are many things to enjoy about this shop, (which I'd heard of for ages but never had the gumption to visit, as I feared information overload), though its two most outstanding features, at first glance, are the high level of friendliness generated by Ann and Gayle, the super-personable proprietors, and the excellent selection of yarns for sale.

It was Love2Knit that introduced me to a really superb fingering weight yarn, Jaggerspun of Springvale, Maine, that's super squishy, strong, and comes in the most beeyootiful colors. How is it that their products, made in New England, eluded me for this long? This company has been in business since the 1880s! I immediately purchased two skeins of red, as with all the endless snow this winter (as I write this, we are being bombarded by yet another storm), I need need need hot colors. (NB: Besides Jaggerspun, the shop carries really interesting indie-dyed yarns, a good selection of standards and luxuries, and has excellent prices on skeins of Swans Island.)

So...it was a good thing that I was able to reach out beyond my comfort zone and discover Love2Knit. And Jaggerspun. I'm now about to hunker down for a period of heavy knitting while I convalesce from surgery slated for Tuesday. The big question: Will I be able to finish all of the forty projects I've assembled for my recuperative entertainment during my period of confinement?

Here Ann kindly winds the Jaggerspun fingering into two cupcakes for me

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cat out of bag, and miscellaneous

You can see how enthusiastic Molly is about the latest news, my article in the Spring 2015 of Interweave Knits about Sarah Upton, indie dyer par excellence, and purveyor of the only gansey yarns spun and dyed in the U.S. from American sheep!

See the teaser, "Meet a Seafarer and her Gansey"? That's it!  Find the article, "Wool at Work:  The Utilitarian Yarns of Sarah Lake Upton," on pages 12-14. It was a blast to travel to Portland, Maine last August to do the interviews and photography. If only I hadn't broken my foot...Check out Sarah's beautiful website and blog, too. And buy some of her awesome yarn! Her yarn is great for loads of other things than gansey sweaters. I recommend the sport-weight for super durable socks.

So, while I'm on the topic of my personal disabilities (file under Crumbling Late-Middle-Aged Body abetted by intensive klutziness), such as breaking my foot last August (it's all healed), I was also dealing with a horrible case of tenosynovitis in my right (dominant) hand. Yes, knitting, playing two keyboard instruments, and constant use of a computer for writing, finally just about wrecked my hand. This was most upsetting, as you might conclude. I could barely knit for about a month, and began intensive occupational therapy plus regular visits to amazing hand specialist Dr. Lee,  at Foundry Sports Medicine in Providence.  (What, you didn't know that knitting's a sport? So is playing the harpsichord.) He, and his wondrous OT Vicki Moitoso, analyzed my knitting posture (or whatever one calls the positioning of the hand) and made suggestions--such as knitting on very large needles rather than number ones and twos. Apparently it's much less stressful to the hand to hold large objects (like big fat pens and number 15 needles) rather than those that are smaller.

Ergo, I raided my stash for bulky yarn and found a bunch of rug wool donated to me some years ago by a friend cleaning her ex-husband's debris from the attic. (Don't ask.)

I just love the funky labels. The yarn itself isn't too shabby, either. Preliminary research suggests these skeins date from the 1940s, and it's in amazing shape for seventy-year-old yarn. (It might be even older. Anyone know?) I found a lot of it for sale on E-bay, in case you suddenly develop a craving.

It's surprisingly pleasant to knit big. I'm using the rug yarn to make two heavy-duty rugs/blankets for my sister's completely mental dobermans, Theo and Dorrie. If I made a rug for my pets, they'd just pee on it. That's what they think rugs are for. Barfing, too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The medium is the message.

It's called the Winter Blues hat, and you can get it on Ravelry.  I modified the wording to assuage my delicate sensibility.  Also, I knitted it in a variety of Aran-weight leftovers. If you knit it as specified, using worsted, you may need to go down a needle size.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A blizzard is for knitting

The nor'easter-blizzard currently visiting New England (and several, more southerly states) has compelled me to think of all the happy knitters who are "hunkered down" (a term oft-used of late) with their needles and yarn. I count myself among them, certainly, though I keep reminding myself that if the forecast had played out only a wee bit differently, I would at the moment be staring, in an opiate haze, at my left foot in a fiberglass cast, since I was scheduled for surgery at 8 a.m.  Well, life turns on a dime, doesn't it? Along comes a Weather Event, accompanied by a Travel Ban, and expectations of power outages, foodlessness, and all that other sort of fun stuff, and the Surgical Center shuts down for the nonce. FORTUNATELY, none of the bad stuff has come to pass except for lots and lots of snow (it's still falling). We have at least two feet, but there are higher drifts.

I am now knitting that hat with the vulgar but realistic message mentioned on the previous post. I shall post an image of the FO soon, I hope.

Where is the Subaru?

Where is the nuthatch?

Luckily the snow didn't hit until after Brandon Mably gave his workshop at Knit One, Quilt Too in Barrington, Rhode Island, on Sunday the 25th.

It was overwhelmingly well-attended, and all of the knitters, strung around the perimeter likecloselyplacedpickets in a fence, diligently followed the "poppies" Fair Isle graph distributed at the start. Brandon played mixtapes of music to knit by so as, he said, in a voice that brooked no dissent, to discourage talking and encourage knitting. Many knitters sang along to the Beatles, highlights from the musical "Hair," and other pop tunes that delivered me swiftly to my high school cafeteria at lunchtime, ca. 1971.

You can see, behind Brandon, some of the poppies swatches pinned to cardboard; here are more. (Mine is in the middle, on the pink plastic needle.)

It was intense, gentle knitters, and it was long. The room was very hot and very cramped. (I kept getting flashbacks to knitting on the rush-hour N train as I traveled to and from school, in those dark old days when I also used knitting needles as protection against muggers.) Knitting in such close quarters, with no table to hold my yarn or other stuff, was like one of those dreams I sometimes have, in which mechanical entities like computers and cars repeatedly malfunction, and I wake up just as I'm about to delete my magnum opus, or drive over a cliff. 

After a while I just couldn't stick it out. And so I left an hour early, despite Brandon's stern warning that I would be missing the best part.

What is this thing called elbow room?

Did I learn anything at this workshop?
Was it worthwhile?
I believe that many of those who attended would reply affirmatively.

Charming handknits from the needles of Brandon Mably and Kaffe Fassett.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Off the cuff...

A couple of years ago I started knitting socks sans cuffs as presents for my friend, C, who was buying machine-made socks and ripping off the cuffs. They were too tight/uncomforable, apparently.  I discovered that when you knit cuffless socks, the edges roll.  This was pleasing to C and to me.

Thus commenced my interest in unconventional--i.e. unribbed--cuffs.

A while later I made myself a pair of socks in Noro. They were difficult to knit because the yarn, a blend of silk, wool, and nylon, has very little give. Thus the cuff, although ribbed, lacked elasticity.

Noro sock with flat, inelastic rib on left.  On right, Noro sock with seed-stitch edge at top.

You can see how un-gathered the rib is on the left sock. Its flatness made me think there wasn't much functional point to ribbing with this yarn. The second pair of socks I made from Noro (Silk Garden Sock Yarn) I didn't bother. The seed-stitch edge of the right sock is barely perceptible, but prevents rolling.

I love these Noro socks. They're super warm and despite the stiffness of the yarn, they're soft and comfy. It's counter-intuitive, I guess, but one of the treats of all Noro yarns is how surprising they are in so many ways. At any rate, I think of these socks as mood rings for my feet. The colors are so unexpected and psychological.

From sock cuffs or lack of cuffs, it was an easy transition to other differently-cuffed clothing. As I mentioned in the last post, I'm into mittens with unconventional cuffs now.

So it goes. I'm looking for future opportunities to expand my cuff repertoire. (I've made two sweaters, years ago, that had bell sleeves with no cuffs.)  These basket-weave cuffs are done with a cable needle. Maybe next time I'll do a thick horizontal cable as a wrist-wrap, then knit the mitten up from there.


Last night the TV weatherman mentioned we're in the darkest part of winter. Here in Rhode Island we've had very little snow, and a lot of frigid.

Photo of Wood River taken today, around 4 p.m.
It feels like everything's under a spell. I saw this pattern on Ravelry, and thought it would be a fine knitting project for February.

The Winter Blues Hat, by Glitz Knitz.  Photo credit:  Brook Taylor