Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hand-made holiday

a fuzzy needle-felted sheep will grace knitter Caroline B's tree

and two bunny friends will soon go to their forever homes.

We send our very best wishes for a serene holiday season, and a new year of knitting and friendship.

May your days be merry and bright!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Philadelphia story

Back in the day we used to jump rope in the schoolyard and sing

I won't go to Macy's any more, more, more.
There's a big fat policeman at the door, door, door.
He grabbed me by the collar,
And made me pay a dollar,
So I won't go to Macy's any more, more, more.

This ear-worm of a ditty came to mind yesterday, when my friend HC dragged me into Macy's in Philadelphia, where we were spending a girls-night-out weekend.  She claimed to be in search of holiday bargains, and they were indeed to be had, if you could stand the idea of pawing through racks of man-handled, trampling-down-the-vintage garments, most of which were loudly proclaimed to be discounted forty- or fifty-percent. What was worse, I wondered?--the tatty state of the clothes, or the bored-to-death salespeople stuck gloomily behind counters, and seriously uninterested in sprucing up their bailiwicks? And if Macy's was so deeply-discounting its inventory and still no one was buying--the store appeared bereft of patrons--what did this say about the economy? Or is it pointless to generalize from such anecdotal evidence?

After trying on a dress that was too large and therefore not of interest, HC wanted to visit the glove department.

Gentle readers, check out the merchandise strewn about hither and yon. All the while I was thinking, Why would anyone want to spend hard-earned cash on stuff that they have to pick up off the store's floor? Moreover, if you were a knitter (as HC is), why wouldn't you want to knit yourself a pair of beauteous gloves or mittens--or support a hard-working crafty-person of the Etsy sort--rather than settle for this kind of disrespected, made in China or similar slave-labor manufacturing country, stuff?

Soon, fortunately, we were headed towards the exit. There was no big fat policeman demanding a dollar, though I would gladly have paid it to be released from holiday-shopping hell even more expeditiously.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I suddenly noticed this, parked by the escape route:

Yes, this singular display purports to be a Christmas tree made of multicolored yarn balls. I guess it's supposed to relate, somehow, to the strangely partial mannequin wearing the wool-like cap and scarf combo, but I'm not sure. (Believe me, that striped get-up was not hand-knitted.) Nonetheless, there seems to be an attempt, on the part of the store, to somehow conflate balls o' yarn with the holiday spirit.


Personally, I find the juxtaposition of Christmas-themed sock (knitted by yours truly of Marathon Yarn's North Pole for HC, who models it) about to descend, Godzilla-like, upon the marshmallow lawn of the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Sofitel where we stayed, to be so much more entertaining.

Anyway, except for that infamous half-hour of department-store hell, I once again enjoyed my time in the City of Brotherly Love.

Espied on Walnut Street

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Vermont Diary: Knit or Dye in Brattleboro

If my life companion hadn't been so famished, I would have spent more time at Knit or Dye, a lovely LYS in the heart of Brattleboro's Main St shopping district.

(Apologies for the oblique angle here, but even as I photographed, I was being dragged off to lunch at Amy's Bakery by Hungry Man.) As it so happened, we'd spent the previous day and night in Putney--

Downtown Putney
--where I did research for an upcoming article, and the folks at Green Mountain Spinnery directed me to Knit or Dye, an affable business colleague as well as purveyor of some of their yarns.

Though my visit was short, I was pleased to meet owner Rachel Stecker and her gorgeous son, Wesley.

You'll notice, at the top of the photo, a partial view of a red sock with a ruffled cuff. I found this so captivating that I bought the pattern from Rachel, one of her exclusive designs. (Some of Rachel's designs are available on the Knit or Dye website) Maybe I'll start the new year by knitting it, if I can only climb out from underneath some of my numerous WIPs.

Apart from Rachel's patterns, the shop offers a strong selection of local and/or hand-dyed yarns, including fiber products from The Spun Monkey. Starry Mountain Alpaca, and Frabjous Fibers (in addition to yarns from Green Mountain Spinnery). This is what distinguishes it, IMHO, from a run-of-the-mill (as it were) kind of LYS.

So, I was dragged away reluctantly, but am planning to return before too long, I hope, I hope.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Knit Something Day: the Gallery

My feet at right, shod in a fave pair of elderly sneakers. Please note that the left foot has recovered from its break and torn ligaments.

This morning's Providence Journal documented the success of yesterday's Rhode Island Coat Exchange, one of the two significant events of Buy Nothing Day, the other being, of course


The responses to my request for photos were heartening, and I share them with you here, listing the participants alphabetically by first name. My goal for next year is that even more knitters will send me photos of their KSD WIPs. In the meanwhile, perhaps you'd like to participate in the tiny poll over to the right, so we can glean something edifying from the responses. (The poll runs for a week. Many thanks!)


Deborah Newton photographed this amazing cotton doily, about which she wrote:

What will I be knitting this weekend?  Well, I am sending this picture of a doily my brother-in-law Bob found at an antique store in northern RI-- it is knitted in what appears to be sewing thread!  It's worked in 4 quadrants, with a kind of leaf motif at the center, all at a stunning gauge of about 16 sts per inch!!!

I will be trying to chart it and work a swatch of the patterns in a heavier weight yarn, but one that is still fine by knitting standards: Manos Del Uruguay's delightful SERENA, a fine gauge mix of 60% baby alpaca, 40% pima cotton.  I'll let you know how it turns out!  


From Heather Craige:

I am making a pair of thick hiking sox for my darling daughter, Toni, for Christmas. I am using a brick red shade of Encore Tweed because it can go from feet to washer to dryer to feet without special care or anxiety.


Irene  DeVerna of Eneri Knits sent along this cardigan-in-progress, saying:

I'm working on Amy Swenson's 'Watershed' pattern, which is a lacey open cardigan in Madeline Tosh Vintage (Ginger).


And who says a WIP can't be useful before it's completed? Joan Wilson provides the salient details of her gorgeous afghan:  

The Absolutely Fabulous Hand-Dyed Throw Kit by Colinette

Waterlillies #10, D. Pattern Knitted Stripes

The kit comes with eight different yarns including mohair, various wool combos, and cotton.  Bought on an over 90 degrees day in LYS for extra % off......  a totally therapeutic knit.


Judy Korgen sent along this image. If you check out the pattern book behind the toy, you can look ahead.  Judy says:

I would title it “Knitting a Giraffe with Patons Astra yarn—designer:  Sarah Keen”

It looks a little gross, but this is the order the parts are to be knitted.  I have started the head.


Neuroknitter, designer and dyer extraordinaire, sent along two photos of her latest WIPS.  She writes:

The booties are made with WEBS Franklin sock yarn, hand dyed in slate, golden pear and pine green. (I have 2 friends at work who are expecting.)  The cuff is the beginning of a sleeve of "Virgin" by Mette Handberg, the first sweater featured in Norsk Strikkedesign.  Oogyknitter and I are each making the sweater as part of our stranded knitting initiative for 2012. I decided to start a sleeve in place of doing a swatch.

Oogyknitter, Neuro's BFF and knitter extraordinaire referenced above, offered these photos of her latest endeavors. (By the way, if you want to see the prodigious creativity of both Neuro and Oogy, please check out their fascinating blogs, linked to above.)

She explains:  

I have a couple of things in the works that I can share without spilling too many beans :)

The first is a cat toy in Highland Wool yarn.  It will eventually be felted and stuffed with catnip!  I'll be making a few of these for feline holiday gifts.
The second is an Icelandic Sweater with Horses in Lottlopi yarn.  I've included a pattern picture because I've just cast on (whilst awaiting the delivery of yarn needed for actual Xmas knitting!  I shouldn't be working on it, but since my holiday knitting is on hold until the yarn arrives, I needed something to do over the next few hours/day!).


Yours truly must confess that at the moment there are more than a few ongoing projects in my basket o' yarn. These fall into different categories of workability. Some are mindless (e.g. in garter stitch), others require brain-cleansing concentration (lace). I've chosen just one for public display, socks done in the German "On Line" Supersocke Relax-Color, a self-fair isling yarn that I particularly love. It's thick, very soft, and feels great to knit because the fiber (75% wool, 25% polyamide) has undergone some kind of aloe and jojoba oil treatment.


And Stephanie Steinhaus of Unwind Yarn (in Burbank, Los Angeles!) sent this photo of her cowl, knitted from, as she reports:

Rowan Creative Focus Worsted
Stacy Charles Stella
Stacy Charles Luna
All three held together 

Isn't it elegant? You can read more about Unwind Yarn in my article "California Dreaming," out any day now in Interweave Knits Accessories December issue. It was one of the several lovely shops I visited last March in LA.

Well, dear knitters, thanks for your wonderful contributions. If there are any stragglers among you,  and you really want to send me photos of your Knit Something Day projects, please do asap and I'll post them in the near future.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's turkey time

Everywhere I look I see another one.


Narragansett Turkey (a heritage breed) #1 of Coggeshall Farm, Bristol, Rhode Island
Naragansett Turkey #2 of Coggeshall Farm, Bristol, Rhode Island

Bell & Evans, purchased yesterday at Dave's Marketplace, East Greenwich RI

in trees.

Espied today roosting in a greenhoused calamondin tree.
The Knitting Goddess has oft remarked to me that she hates holidays, much preferring ordinary life. I am beginning to understand the wisdom of this view. Why do we futz around for these events, allowing ourselves to be buffeted by the Stürm und Drang of lengthy travel, artificially-induced interpersonal dynamics, gluttony, acid reflux, and the deep boredom of chitchat with people we don't know?

The yin-and-yang of Thanksgiving at my house this year:  everyone invited has canceled at the last minute. This is providential, as the dishwasher--an almost new Bosch--died last week. Thus, all is in balance. (File for future reference in case you're contemplating the purchase of this brand. It's the second Bosch that died within weeks of purchase. The first was replaced gratis by the merchant. Stay tuned for an update after the repair-guy arrives later today.)

We are left with too much food, most of which we'll freeze. Our Thanksgiving will be minimalist, just H & moi, the turkey-craving cats, and the always-ravenous Lola who will repeatedly proffer the paw, roll over, dance unbidden in circus-dog circles, and whimper pathetically while her people serenely enjoy their repast.

Gentle knitters, thank you for reading this blog so loyally. For that I'm truly grateful. I look forward to seeing your photos of what's on the needles on Friday (send them to me!), as we celebrate Knit Something Day (November 25). May your Thanksgiving meal be tasty, and may peace be with you and your yarn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When does the life of a knitted object begin?: An Existential Query

Recently I began probing some of the deeper questions raised by knitting. For example, if you wear a knitted sock does it become animate? Or is it animate before you put it on? The sock exists, does it not? Does not the knitter of the sock transmit and transfer deep positive energy into the sock as part of the knitting process? Can we therefore consider the sock animate?

This chain of questions led me to further contemplation. For example, when does the life of any knitted object begin? Is it at the moment of conception?

And what exactly is the moment of conception? Is it defined as that time when the pattern designer has finished writing the pattern? Or as the time when the knitter has finished reading through the pattern and decided to knit the pattern? Or as the time when the yarn destined to become part of the pattern is cast onto the needle? Or as the time when the knitter begins the first row?

Or, does knitted life begin when the object is a blob of semi-differentiated cells?

And, if you should decide to undo a piece of the whole, or even the entire that a morally-defensible act?

Well, while I'm in serious mode, I wish to remind you, gentle knitters, that the day after Thanksgiving--November 25th, which is soon upon us--has three names:

To those of you who unabashedly celebrate the three C's of Black Friday--Consumerism, Capitalism, and Craziness--I hope you at least patronize your LYS or another knitting-related boutique. To those of you who, like me, enthusiastically celebrate Buy Nothing Day, besides staying away from stores, please donate a coat to your local collections center. And to those of you who celebrate Knit Something Day, please send me a photo so I can post an image of your handwork on this blog that all may admire your creativity!  We all look forward to seeing what's on everyone's needles!

Friday, November 4, 2011

By the book...

A few posts ago, I extolled Deborah Newton's newly-published Finishing School, a book that's wonderfully inspiring, readable, and filled with practical advice. Neuroknitter, my pal in New London, Connecticut, had occasion recently to follow one of Deborah's great tips (on pages 84-85 of Finishing School)--that of using small anchor buttons on the underside of a garment to firmly attach a visible button.

While using a clear plastic button to anchor the visible button is generally recommended, in some cases yarn colors are complemented by buttons that echo the yarn. On this collar, which can be worn buttoned into a turtleneck or open, the buttons create a beautiful counterpoint to the yarn which is, by the way, hand-dyed. Neuroknitter's color inspiration came from Georgia O'Keeffe's 1934 painting "Barn with Snow."

The reproduction here doesn't do O'Keeffe's colors justice; suffice it to say the dyes Neuroknitter used (ProChem's "One Shot" Chinese Red, Slate, and Mouse Grey) are fairly close to the painting. Neuroknitter used Webs's Northfield DK, a merino-alpaca-silk blend, and it took the dye beautifully.

Likewise, I found the answer to a dilemma in The Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, Volume Six, "Edgings," also just released. 

I've been doing a sweater for more than a year that is not just a WIP, it's a model of knitting evolution.  So, having finished the traditional parts of this cardigan--back, fronts, sleeves--and sewed it together, and inserted a belt, I decided it needed a ruffle.  Voilà!  I found my ruffle in this lovely Stitchionary, the review copy of which serendipitously arrived just last week, the only kind possible to knit from stitches picked-up along the edge.

It's the "increasing ruffle" on the left side of the page, and so far it's working out well.

The ruffle is in an interesting grey yarn, "Woodland" by Classic Elite--65% wool and 35% nettles. The nettles impart a subtle luster and silky feel.  The rest of the sweater is done in different oddballs of Noro, Lamb's Pride, Manos, and some variegated mystery worsted.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breaking news?

On the first page of today's New York Times Arts section:

A Maestro Reflects on a Life of Batons and Knitting Needles

Left, London Symphony Orchestra; right, Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times
Colin Davis, in 1973, left, and last year, leading the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, to which he returns this week.
You'll be disappointed if you read the article to find out what Maestro Davis's working on, besides his next season of concerts. We're  told:  "He knits (unstoppably)."  And that's about it.  Wouldn't I love to be a fly on the wall whilst the Maestro knits a sweater! I can definitely envision him involved with a dark-grey ruggedly-cabled Aran pullover--something to buffer him from the Stürm und Drang of music-making.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autumn Postcards

This canoe appeared on our river, the Wood, several days ago.
A second crop of raspberries!

A green pumpkin.  It will not turn orange.

The Knitting Goddess demonstrates how to begin a cable cast-on for the thumb of the mitten.

The Knitting Goddess is helping me with yet another weird pattern. This one is for mittens, and I decided to try it with the wool I dyed. My next post will detail the vagaries of the project. It's a tale all-too-familiar, perhaps, and not for the faint of heart. Du courage, mes chers amis.