Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Unseasonal thoughts on a winter's day; an Ipad sweater pattern, and a contest

Snowing yet again, and predicted to continue another eighteen hours. Unbidden come the inevitably adverb-laden, highly dolorous thoughts.

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.*

(For a distracting contest to enter, scroll down to the bottom!)

At least I have the satisfaction of having finished my Ipad's sweater.

To conclude the pattern, I seamed a 2" gusset on either side, attached a large button, and knitted a seven-foot-long I-cord. You'll notice that the top part of the I-pad sweater, just inside the triangle of the flap, is grey and brown. That's because I ran out of Noro Kureyon and substituted a small amount of Noro Silk Garden from my stash. The Silk Garden also provided the I-cord, which, unlike the pouch, I didn't felt. Though I didn't expect this to happen, the weight and colors of the two yarns mesh quite well.

On my roster now, to finish Cy's dinosaur sweater, which I started (gulp) more than a year ago. (Why this has taken so long is one of life's banal mysteries.) But after that, I've promised myself another treat, to knit yet another design by Deborah Newton, from her latest book, Warm Weather Knits.  Generally I don't enjoy knitting yarns that aren't wool or animal fiber, but these patterns are nearly irresistible, plus they remind me that spring cannot be far behind. The hardest thing will be deciding which to do first.

And while I'm singing the praises of Deborah's talent, let me point out that one of her hat designs is on the cover of the latest issue of Vogue Knitting.

So, to move from the sublime to the silly, if anyone can identify the opening quote of this post, I'll send you my personal copy of Sweaters from New England Sheep Farms by Candace Eisner Strick. Just email me with your answer! Contest closes January 31st.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Knitting Old England

or, Postcards from London

by the Wood

I left this river

by the Thames

for this river. Although January, it seemed like early spring.

Camellias bloomed in someone's garden.

I hit the yarn emporia, and was largely surprised.

John Lewis
Liberty of London
I Knit London


All the Fun of the Fair, in Kingly Court

Knitted pastries at All the Fun of the Fair
Shilisdair cochineal-dyed merino-angora-cashmere DK from Loop. A lovely souvenir.

It was a short but excellent trip.  Non-knitted highlights included Royal Shakespeare, the Old Vic, The Tate Gallery, The Tate Modern, and the British Museum. And excellent Indian food, particularly at Palms of Goa on Charlotte Street.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The well-dressed Ipad: a free pattern

view of the Wood River, taken from my kitchen window on 12 January 2011
It was clear to me that my Ipad needed something warm and cozy to buffer against the intense winter we're having. A sweater seemed the way to go. Herewith my pattern, which you should feel free to modify.
Here is the shape you're aiming for. The pebbles are not included; I used them to keep the fabric from rolling while I photo'd it.
Materials: #9 needles, 1-1/2 balls of Noro Kureyon (3.6 ounces) or similar-weight worsted with good felting potential, a large button.

Instructions: Cast on 3 stitches and knit two rows stockinette. Continuing in stockinette, increase every other row on the second and the penultimate stitch by M1 until you have a triangle of 57 stitches or of a width that measures one inch larger than your Ipad on each side.

At this point, continue in stockinette until your fabric is long enough to fold into a pouch that can completely encase the Ipad, so that the triangular sections falls envelope-like down the front. Bind off the top. Sew up the side seams.

Next, felt the pouch. If you don't have a top-loading washing machine at your disposal, you can try what I did and plunge it into almost-boiling water (I used a lobster pot) to which have been added a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent and a tablespoon of baking soda. Have a pair of tongs at hand so you can agitate the pouch in the water, insuring that the fibers will felt up nicely.

Let me say right now that this was the frightening part, and results may vary. As a prior felting experience proved, the process is not for the faint of heart.

taking the plunge

swishing it around with tongs
Here it is, cooking. I weighted the Ipad sweater with a wooden form cut to the approximate size of the Ipad (courtesy of H), but that didn't prevent it from rising to the top and becoming blobby.
Just removed from the hot bath! It appeared not to have shrunk much and I was anticipating failure.
The Knitting Goddess advised me to shock it with cold water. It seemed to retract slightly after this.

By now I was becoming more convinced that the results were dubious. I quickly rolled the case in a dry towel to soak up the excess moisture, then put it (still inside the towel) into the dryer for about a half hour at medium. But in the end it came out all right, more or less. (Actually more...the case is still a bit oversized, but nothing that can't be remedied by a small inside seam.)

So that's the story, my friends.

As it turns out, the red "leather" Ipad case (this case is to leather as Cool Whip is to whipped cream) I ordered from (see my prior blog post) arrived in the mail before I finished the sweater, and therefore the sweater is superfluous. At any rate, I won't take it with me to England, because at this point I don't have time to finish it before my departure tomorrow (ah yes, the departure was postponed because of a major blizzard on the northeast coast that happened yesterday and the previous day). On my return I will add a button and an i-cord string-thing to wrap around the button, and that will be that. I will have a warm and stylish Ipad.

Necessity was the mother of this invention, and  non-utilitarian fashion will be its future raison d'être.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The well-dressed Ipad

The purchase of this Ipad, which is, to be perfectly honest, a non-essential gizmo that may not provide me with an enhanced quality of life (only time will tell), was rationalized thus:

  1. my birthday is next month, so this is an early present to myself;
  2. I am about to travel abroad and the Ipad is lighter and easier to haul around than my laptop.

I ordered the Ipad without the black encasement that you see in the photo because I was certain that to pay $39 for a relatively flimsy piece of plastic was a complete rip-off.  I ordered a $1 case (red, claims to be genuine leather) from a seller on (If you click the link you'll see the price has gone up somewhat. Must have been my lucky dollar day back then!) A while later Amazon sent me an email saying they couldn't get in touch with the seller and couldn't ship the case. As my departure-to-London date was looming, I was seized with the utterly rational fear that my Ipad might get scratched in transit. By that time I was also ready to hurl the Ipad out the window, as its operation was driving me very quickly to the edge. Rather than scratch it in so violent a manner, I determined that I needed to do two things besides cracking open another bottle of vino:

  1. Go to the "Genius Bar" [sic] at the Apple Store in the Providence Place Mall and have a consult with a tech person;
  2. Knit my Ipad a sweater.
Fast forward to Thursday, January 6th:

I meet Jillian, a very proficient tech person, at the human zoo aka The Apple Store. She sits with me, creating a bubble of calm that envelops us both, for almost two hours as the masses swirl about us. She answers every single question on my extensive list, without overtly ridiculing or pitying me. Finally finished with Ipad 101, I ask her several questions pertaining to the superficial aspects of gadgetry, such as Ipad hygiene--how best to clean the smeary screen, a palimpsest of skin oil after a relatively brief period of usage?--(Jillian shows me a box of wipes, containing 20 cleansing applications of isopropyl alcohol, for a mere $15; I politely decline); and costumes (Jillian shows me a neoprene cover and the black velvety cover, both of which sell for between $35-$40.) I bite the bullet and buy the velvety cover. Perhaps I was emboldened to do this because of all the money I expected to save by cleaning Ipad's screen with an eighty-nine cent pint bottle of isopropyl alcohol.

Then I go home and begin knitting my Ipad a sweater. It is deliberately oversized, as I intend to felt it in the immediate future. I'm using Noro Kureyon--that is, I was using Noro Kureyon, but I ran out. So part of this sweater will be in a compatible yarn I select from my stash.

Time is flying, and I must return to my knitting, in order to finish before my departure date of 1/12.   And oh yes, Amazon sent me another email saying that the seller was located and my red leather one dollar Ipad case is on its way to me.

To be continued....

In the meanwhile, if any of my readers can recommend good LYS to visit in London, please do.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Tyranny of Resolutions!

Or, Embracing my UFOs.

There's this idea out there that when January 1st rolls around we should make promises, otherwise known as resolutions, for implementation in the coming year. The ever-popular New Year's resolution is certainly "I will lose weight," which is why gyms and fitness equipment companies do so well during the holiday season and watch their profits shrink as the months progress. Some folks make blander resolutions, such as "I will be a nicer person," and "I will spend less money." They are the Burger King resolvers--"have it your way" when "your way" is essentially meaningless--and to their lack of imagination I say, "Whatever." But a lot of knitters, it seems, resolve to quickly dispatch their UFOs, aka UnFinished Objects. (I base this surmise on the Knit Chatter that comes across my radar screen.) Whether they do so or not isn't clear, but it's worth considering why UFOs hang heavy on some knitters' minds.

Surveying the two unfinished sweaters, one-and-one-half socks, one-half sock, and several incomplete scarves that dominate a section of my living room, I almost fell into this trap. I told myself I should resolve to finish these projects before I undertake any others! And then I ruminated on the purpose of UFOs and decided there was no need to hurry up and deal.

UFOs in various receptacles, Lola, and Rufus
The basic question is what purposes do UFOs serve? To this I answer
  • They allow for the creative process to unfold slowly, and this has various merits.
  • They allow someone like me, with Knitting ADD, to hop from one project to another. 
  • Certain knitting projects require more attention than others do. For example, I cannot talk or (in rare cases) watch tv when knitting instructions are complex. It's important for me to have ongoing several projects that require varying levels of engagement.
  • Sometimes I am not in the mood to knit a particular project.
  • Sometimes I stop knitting something because its instructions are aggravating, or I've come to a place where I need help. That project goes on hold temporarily. In the meanwhile I need something else to knit.
  • Etc.

Kit and mitts

Last week I put most of my knitting aside in order to make a pair of fingerless mitts in a beautiful alpaca yarn. The pattern, "Susie's Reading Mitts," is a free download on Ravelry, and honestly, I think it's excellent. Designed by Janelle Masters, it knits quickly, has elegant details, and feels wonderful on the hand.

This pair's for a friend, but I just might have to make another pair for myself. And so the list of projects undertaken grows ever longer, providing ever more possibilities.