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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Big, beautiful, bliss

As many of you know, the pre-holiday crunch often compels knitters to turn out gifts quickly, and this urgency is usually satisfied by chunky yarn and big needles. Serendipitously, my recent interest in unusual, non-ribbed cuffs led me to a mitten design with a basket-weave cable cuff that also happened to be knitted on size 11 needles.

I was pleased to find a pattern that worked up so quickly, and had an unconventional cuff.  Within a couple of days I'd made two pairs. Now that New England's enduring bitter cold temps, I'm happy to say that this pair, done in some stashed Lamb's Pride Bulky, is super warm and gives me an aesthetic frisson every time I consider the cuffs. More about cuffs in a future post; for now I'm following the big yarn theme, and will draw your attention to a nifty new book, Chunky Knits, compiled by Ashley Little. (Lark Crafts, 2014).

I'd been hoping to review the book before the holidays--for precisely the reasons I've mentioned above--but now that that boat has left the harbor I'll talk about why knitting fat yarn, apart from the speed, is so gratifying, and how this book gives you some great reasons to start 2015 in chunky mode.

Chunky Knits' clothing designs are really good, so you can treat yourself to some perfect winter weekend knitting that will produce wearables in a trice. The designs below--the Melegrana capelet and cap--are intricate but not overwhelmingly complex on manageably sized needles (8 and 10), and convey the same kind of rich texture more customary in finely-detailed shawls and scarves.

What's more unusual are the many patterns the book offers for home décor projects. There are designs for lampshades, an ottoman, a throw pillow, and a throw. I liked them all very much. Less appealing to me are patterns for knitted jewelry and mason jar sweaters, but those should appeal to the Etsy set. Anyway, you can order the book here if your LYS doesn't have it in stock, or you can enter a contest on this blog to win a free copy, which the publisher has generously made available. Just write a comment before midnight, Monday January 12 and let me know why you want the book. The knitter who won the contest for 60 Quick Luxury Knits was extremely pleased by the prize, made a beautiful hat from one of that book's patterns, and sent me a photo of it. I assure you, these little giveaways are real and delightful!

Tulip Lace Hat, knitted by Carol O. in northern California.