Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All the fun of the fair

The Fleece Tent under a lowering sky.

The last time we attended the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, was 2004, and the weather was quite a lot better than on our most recent visit, September 20th. Nonetheless, it was pretty much as I recalled--roots, shoots, face-painting, tribal elders, excellent food, fiber animals, hand-dyed yarns, textiles, border collie demos, twangy music, home-made soap, scythes, horse-drawn ploughs....Get the picture?

The only non-knitting-related event I attended was a workshop on Shape-Note Singing. That was mainly so I could sit in a tent and get warm. I broke down and bought a Polarfleece cap, since it seemed heretical, not to mention counterproductive, to buy a woolen hat I could knit myself.

Herewith, some postcards:

 Everything you ever wanted to know about felting, taught by Andrée Bella of Board Landing Farm in Belfast, Maine.  

Replica of 19th century toy.

Alongside the Fiber Tent were individual yarn vendors.

Sad and stoic.

Girl kissing her pet fiber bunny.

MMMMMMMmmmmmm....cashmere!  I longed for the cobalt skeins.

Source of afore-mentioned cashmere.

Imprisoned bunnies 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sources of inspiration

I made these "Baby Uggs" a few days ago, following a pattern that--as usual--I found for free on the Internet. They worked up fast, and as I knitted I figured out different ways to knit the next pair. The design is cute, but the instrux are oddly written (possibly because translated into English), and then personal taste enters the equation. For example, why knit them on the right side (aka "the knit side") if the purl side is ultimately "the right side"? (In the end you take the bootie and turn it inside out for its permanent look. I've been informed that this is to humor knitters who hate purling. To them I say, "Grow up.")

But seriously, why not do the entire bootie in seed stitch if you're looking for more texture? That's what I'll try next. So, stay tuned for the next iteration. The point here, though, is a knitter can be inspired to ring changes on any pattern. I don't believe I've ever knitted a pattern as written, actually, mistakes notwithstanding.

These are lumpily stuffed with tissue paper for display purposes.


If you're looking for unusual inspiration, I can recommend Rosemary Drysdale's latest and greatest--Entrelac2: New Techniques for Interlace Knitting (Sixth & Spring, 2014). I already owned the first of her series, Entrelac:  The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting (Sixth & Spring, 2010), and found it fascinating, so I was quite interested to see its sequel.

Entrelac is not the easiest technique to conquer. I liken it to learning how to knit socks on double-points or two cables. With entrelac you have to be able to conceptualize both the specific, unusual process of knitting in a more dimensional way than if you were making flat pieces of stockinette, and you have to be a bit anal about picking up stitches in an evenly-spaced manner. Once you have that under control, you can move to the next level, which is adding lace patterns or other kinds of stitch definition to the fabric you're making in little triangles and rectangles that are modularly connected to each other.

When I wanted to learn entrelac, I attended a how-to workshop specifically for that purpose. However, I think that if you read Rosemary D's books carefully, you can actually teach yourself, and then you have the benefit of owning definitive works on the subject.  Learning to knit entrelac is a matter of concentrating, and possibly looking at a DIY video on Youtube or a similar website for further clarification. It's really a worthwhile effort, however, because once you have this under your belt you're bound to be inspired in ways you hadn't dreamed of earlier. And if you're not one to imagine your own patterns, the book provides many interesting designs, ranging from a simple glasses case to complex sweaters.

Isn't this design from Entrelac2 gorgeous?
My favorite parts of Entrelac and Entrelac2, however, are the stitch glossaries. If you can knit up those swatches, you can knit anything! Together they comprise more than 140 possibilities, and once you get the hang, you'll probably invent some on your own.

So buy the book--for yourself or a knitting friend (the release date is 9/23/14). Or, if you're feeling lucky, post a comment below telling me why you want the book, and the publisher will send a comp copy to the person I select. Contest closes at midnight on Sunday, September 21, the first day of autumn.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goldengrove unleaving...

Gentle knitters,
We're back after a theoretically restorative break. It was a break, certainly. Specifically my left foot, which was decidedly unsupportive when I, blithely navigating the pavements of Portland, Maine, tripped and fractured it. "I am such a klutz," I told Casapinka. She avouched that this particular injury is known in the medical world as a "ballerina fracture," since it's a common dance-inflicted malady. So it goes....I am a ballerina in klutz clothing. I was following my inner ballerina. I could have danced all night...(NOT).

Er, I was on assignment for Interweave Knits, and had just concluded a long interview with an amazing yarn personage whom you will read about next spring in the pages of the afore-mentioned magazine. The next morning I returned to the interviewee's dyeing studio to do the photography. My foot was swollen and painful, but like the intrepid postman who braves punishing weather, I got the job done, gentle knitters! And then H and I drove three hours to University Foot and Ankle Center in Providence, RI, had the x-rays, learned the awful truth. A cast for at least six weeks.

Alfie graciously accommodates my injured foot.
Fortunately my favorite activities are sedentary:  knitting, writing, music. I began a series of personal, knitting-centric essays, collected under the rubric "Unwindings" on Lion Brand Yarn's website (this link is command central of LB's Internet presence and will take you in many interesting directions) and Facebook page. You can read numero uno here.  Another will appear fairly soon, and then another. This is going to be a monthly thing. Just like the fiction I write for Lion Brand's Pattern Journal. You can subscribe to this for free, simply by clicking the orange letters on the website that say "click here."

Well, enough about me. I'm happy to report that last month's book giveaway, 60 Quick Luxury Knits from Sixth and Spring Publishing, went to Carol in San Ramon, CA. She's a displaced New Englander, so we like her extra much. There will be another book review and giveaway, most probably before the end of the month. Stay tuned and participate! These bestowals are genuine, not some kind of PCH gimmick.

Also before the end of the month, H and I will beeline to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. Run by the Maine Organic Farmers Association annually on the third weekend of September, it's a dream experience for knitters and fiber people. There's a Fiber Marketplace, a Fleece Tent, and a panoply of organic activities, critters (e.g. pygora goats, alpacas, angora bunnies), and demonstrations (Border Collies rule!). Plus, the food options are excellent. I shall report, natch, but hope you can go on your own.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the golden September days. Late summer into autumn--the most beautiful time of year in New England, I humbly opine.

Partial portrait: H's tomatoes, my messed-up feet partly shielded by messy knitting bag, Lola.