Tuesday, April 15, 2014

As if I needed another reason to buy yarn...

I decided to participate in the 2014 Great Rhody Yarn Crawl in Surgical Strike Mode. Wait till Sunday, hit two places, See, Prey, Leave.

Destination Numero Uno: Knit One Quilt Too in Barrington, Rhode Island.

Gentle knitters, it was my follow-up visit to this beautiful, new-kid-on-the-block LYS, and I loved it even more the second time around.

Yvonne Weiss, Inventor, Developer, and Proprietor  is one of the kindest needlewomen ever. She brings graciousness, hospitality, and creativity in various ways, shapes, and forms to her lovely enterprise.  (Think: inspirational materials, in-house designers and resident knitting experts. Also, the shop has big windows and is filled with light--a somewhat rare feature among the LYS in New England.)

Two more bonuses:  Bronwyn Head, a.k.a. Casapinka (of blog, Ravelry, and Etsy fame), was knitting one of her amazing designs, just inside the front door, where she cheerfully greeted non-recovering yarnoholics.

And I met for the first time, but I hope not the last, Holly Kennedy of Fish Belly Fiber Works (New Hampshire), who was displaying her gorgeously dyed skeins.

Thus began my downfall:

The two skeins on the right were dyed by Fish Belly; the cobalt blue is Madeline Tosh "Fathom."  All fingering.
Then, Destination Numero Due:  Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, where the culminating ceremonies of the Yarn Crawl were held. I couldn't stay long, but was happy to see Linda Perry of Thistledown Yarns, June Gonzalez of Rising Sun Earthworks (from whom I bought two splendid sets of ceramic buttons), and the Westcotts (Iris and David) as they demonstrated an antique sock knitting machine.

Thistledown Yarns and patterns on display.

The Westcotts and their venerable sock knitter.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Family Portrait

Gentle knitters have wondered, why the silence? The answer:  Knitting. Work. Music. Travel. Fortunately I've been able to combine many of these interests efficiently.

Behold the menagerie created by moi. All patterns are free, from the Lion Brand pattern database. I'm quite enamored of the brown bunny, officially designated Bouncy Bunny Sock Critter.  You could make a few of these to stuff in Easter baskets--the pattern doesn't take long, and if you're a sock knitter, you'll find it easy and ingenious.

Today debuts the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, a relatively new and splendid Rhode Island tradition; it culminates on Sunday in Bristol. Due to an overscheduled life, I shan't be attending until Sunday, but other yarnaholics might want to set out immediately to satisfy their addictions.  Vita brevis est, so go for it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little grey rabbit, loose ends

In my freelance life I've been given the enjoyable assignment of knitting up toys for a venerable yarn company. The latest completed project has been a shy little grey rabbit. She refused to smile for this photograph.

Yesterday was the Ides of March, and as promised, a winner of the Knit Nordic pattern book giveaway was selected. That person is TracyK, and to her I say "congratulations, and please email me via the button on my blogger profile (the "About Me" section of the blog on the right side of the page) with your mailing address so I can send that to the publisher, who will then dispatch the book to you. If I don't hear from you by the 29th, the book will go to the contest runner-up." 

For those of you among the gentle knitters who like receiving free pattern books, a new giveaway will be posted shortly, so be on the lookout. Very few people tend to enter these giveaways, and you therefore have a much greater chance of being awarded a knitting book than you do of, say, winning Powerball.

Thanks to the awesome designer Kristin Nicholas who mentioned it on her blog, my free pattern for the Earbud Sleeve went viral. That was quite pleasing to me, because I like it when I'm able to improve the lives of so many knitting friends. One of them, Margaret in Grafton, Massachusetts, sent this photo of her completed earbud sleeve, which turned out beautifully. 

I welcome photos of any others people care to send me, and I'll publish them to inspire future generations of knitters who wish to solve the problem of tangled earbuds.


Purim and spring both arrive this week. At the moment there's very little snow left on the ground in southern Rhode Island, but it's bitterly cold and windy, so difficult to imagine there will be a warming trend. To offset this depressing thought, I baked a lot of Ultimate Hamentaschen today.

They're filled with a delectable mixture of oranges, pecans, dried figs, etc., and I highly recommend the recipe, from the venerable Joan Nathan, which was published in Tablet Magazine last week. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring alert!

Claude takes time to smell the crocuses.

Claude the Caterpillar is the latest member of my knitted toys family. He's a free pattern from Lion Brand yarn, created from Lion Brand's "Vanna's Choice" acrylic worsted, which is durable enough to withstand most children. I let Claude explore the garden yesterday, and he drew my attention to the first crocuses. That was certainly uplifting! (Especially since the forecast for tomorrow is freezing rain mixed with snow. We New Englanders cling to every ray of hope....)
* * *
And, another wonderful spring event:  my feature article, "Treasure Hunt:  The Hidden Yarn Shops of Manhattan," is in the latest issue of Interweave Knits (Spring 2014). Doing the research for this piece last summer was amazing fun, and I was accompanied on these day-trips to the Big Apple by my trusty pal Neuroknitter, who was, as always, great company.

You'll find the article on pages 12-15.

Coming up soon: the winner of the Knit Nordic book giveaway (there's still time to enter: contest closes on 3/15 at midnight), another knitting book review and giveaway, and....?)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Something like endless shrimp...

Some years ago we dined in Wethersfield, Connecticut, because H had been seduced by incessant t.v. ads for a restaurant promising a meal called "endless shrimp." We drove 71 miles--that was the closest franchise (go figure), and as you, gentle knitters, may already suspect, the trip was a waste.

Was it terrible food? No, it was actually much worse than that--gritty, dessicated little pieces of crustacean crud, coated with fried gunk or drenched in congealed butter. Endless shrimp seemed a very bad idea from the minute we were served. Yet many of the morbidly obese diners near us were happily shoveling in the unlimited fare. Some people really want the most bang for their buck, even if it's a heart attack on a plate.

Similarly, there are people in this area of New England who profess to enjoy the endless snow that Mother N has been sending our way. The latest "event" was today, a threatened one-to-three inches. Fortunately this did not come to pass, and we received only a dusting.

Lest you think this is some kind of rant, I'll share a Shelleyan vision:

 Yes, snowdrops have emerged, promising that spring isn't far behind.

Despite spring's inevitability, it doesn't feel that way, and I've been knitting accordingly. The latest project is a medium-sized afghan, intended for the my grandson and granddog, both of whom spend a lot of time on the floor.

Dexter and Max

Here it is:

It's a log-cabin pattern writ large--chunky yarn on size 13 needles. All it takes is four squares. (So very unlike endless shrimp. And endless winter. And all that endless nasty stuff.)

If you've got cabin fever and are looking for diversion and even a bit of knitting education, I'd draw your attention to Knit Nordic by Eline Oftedal (Collins and Brown, 2014), a book that crossed my desk recently. Ignore the unfortunate designs for knitted hotpants and racerback tank top; enjoy and consider making the more attractive patterns for cowls, mitts, hats, pillow covers, and the like. This nicely-written book eases you into the classic elements of Norwegian knitting design, and teaches you to create beautiful, strong (because of floats) fabric, and useful items. The yarn colors are uplifting, and will brighten up your life. It's clear from Knit Nordic that Norwegians understand how to rout the winter blahs.

The publisher has kindly offered one copy to my readers--so post a comment on this blog if you want the book, and let me know why. Giveaway closes at midnight on the Ides of March.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mistakes were made.

Don't you love that passive verb statement--mistakes were made--which so neatly sidesteps accountability? Well, sometimes, if you're not a political weasel, it can actually be a helpful explanation of what went wrong and how it was righted. Possibly we are put on earth to learn from our errors...um... possibly.....

Gentle knitters, my mistake was believing that a boutique brand of self-proclaimed 4-ply sock yarn (60% baby alpaca and 40% soy silk) would be durable. It's a very pricey yarn (I won't name it, because I believe that the novice manufacturer's mistake may simply be attributed to lack of fiber-spinning experience) at $30/skein for 200 yards, and I discovered that I needed two skeins to make a pair of socks because one skein only produced one full sock and a half sock--and these socks weren't very high up the leg, either.

The short story is that I made the socks, wore them maybe three times, and the toes ripped!! I darned the toes several times, and the darning didn't hold because the toe fibers were so stressed and thin.

Sixty dollars, my friends. Think about that. (Full disclosure: this yarn was a gift from the producer.) Moreover, I discovered that the yarn has a felty tendency, so that the mock-cable pattern I knitted became nearly indiscernible after the first washing (by hand, in cold water) and the inside of the sock gathered long, loose strands of matted fibers, producing a kind of thrummed lining, which wasn't actually all that bad. Unfortunately the thrumming didn't make it down to the toes and strengthen them.

The idea of performing surgery entered my consciousness. I've seen fearless knitters cut steeks, and I reasoned that I could take scissors to these socks and delete the toes; the yarn wouldn't be likely to ravel because it was so fibery-felty. And that's what I did. I had nothing to lose, as the socks were toast unless a radical step was taken.

So here's the good news: I was able to pick up live loops very easily, and reknit the toes in a nylon-reinforced yarn--specifically a remnant of Noro's beautiful-kooky Silk Garden Sock, which is 40% lamb's wool, 25% silk, 25% nylon, and 10% kid mohair. (Strengthening fibers are bolded.)

Moral of story:  NEVER knit the toe of a sock (and maybe the heel, too) in an unreinforced yarn.

Caveat emptor. Live and learn. Over to you.