Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Projects Off the Needles

I missed the Clapotis virus in its most virulent stage, but I saw one in person a few months ago and decided to risk infection. This scarf, in my favorite mercerized cotton, is now very long and is approaching bind-off. It will be a muffler for the hot and humid zone.

I love my new blocking boards, but got carried away with the actual blocking.

After I took the picture I decided this Trellis sweater had been over-blocked, so I wet it and dried it, gently, in the dryer.It is superwash wool (Cascade 220) after all. It looks much softer and smaller now, which is good because it's supposed to be 12 month sized, and is a present for a newborn!

Don't you love the buttons? I've been looking for the right use for these.
The socks from the last post are finished, and the Brittany birch needles I used for the cuffs did not catch fire, even though they aren't non-inflammable. It feels good to finish up some projects, but I have a lot of knitting time because I'm staying home with Mom every afternoon. Her disease is progressing as we knew it would, but I miss her already.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Small Pleasures

If you look carefully at the needle that's not in the sock, you'll see that it is "non-inflammable." I had never worried about my needles catching fire, not being the world's fastest knitter, but I guess somebody thought it was a matter of concern. I found these needles in my mom's cedar chest, and I know she did not knit on double points in my lifetime so they are at least 57 years old! They say "Boye" 1 U.S.A. and are 7" long. The socks are Austermann Step in my muscle memory sock pattern: figure 8 cast on, kf&b toe increases, Priscilla's Dream Sock short row heal, 2x2 rib for the entire cuff but switching to 1.5 needles about 2 inches up the ribbed section, and stretchy sewn bind-off. I'm making them for my DS who just moved to Colorado, and yes, he has long, skinny feet.

My sock making has been almost entirely this pattern, or "perfecting" this pattern. It is just a basic guy sock, but I never get tired of that short-row heel. It is always an exercise in mindfulness, and I usually end up redoing the heel on the second sock at least one time. Usually the first sock goes well and I think I have finally mastered the heel, and then make a total hash of the second one.

This is going to be a present for my DD's friend's baby. It is Trellis from the Spring 2005 Knitty in Cascade 220 Superwash. The cables are endlessly entertaining, and being a baby sweater the pieces are done before they become tiresome.

I had a serious setback on a cardigan I'm making for myself (something about non-matching fronts and a failure to notice until I set in the sleeves...) so it will be in knitting limbo while I consider just how badly I want this particular item.

I hope you like the new look. The title picture was taken in Copenhagen where hollyhocks grow out of cracks in the sidewalk.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Which She Tells All, and Contemplates a Trip to the Frog Pond

What a year it has been for grapes! As a reward for pruning and fertilizing the two muscadine grapevines that grow on an arbor over the front walk, I harvested five bowls like this. I could have picked more, but some were too hard to get to, and others went bad before I could get them. Picking is just the beginning though. Next comes cooking briefly to release the juice (and cleaning the stove because it always boils over), straining and squeezing the pulp through a mesh bag, chilling overnight and filtering. At that point you can sweeten to taste and drink or make into jelly. I'm skipping the jelly this year.

Don't you love this 50's or early 60's tablecloth? I found it at my mom's house. I don't know why she had it since her table was round.

This is the Noni Adventure bag before felting. Alexa was in town and we went shopping for wedding dresses but she didn't find anything she wanted to commit to. They have set a date--August 8, 2009--so I can time my mother-of-the-bride diet and exercise plan.

Here it is felted and assembled but not yet lined. The idea of dragging out my sewing machine makes my head hurt, but these days lots of things make my head hurt.

Another knitting project, the February baby sweater in butterfly cotton. I made it without a particular baby in mind, but it will probably go to a friend's soon-to-be granddaughter. I'm working on a cabled cardigan for a baby boy that my daughter's friend is expecting in October. What is it with the cables? They are everywhere!

Now about the frog pond. After finishing about half of the ribbon lace scarf it just seems like a bad choice of yarn (Trekking Pro Natura): not soft enough and too subtle color. The yarn will be better for socks (duh!) and I may try ribbon lace again sometime.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fear of Commitment

I just can't commit to anything these days, but at least I'm making inroads into the stash. These are the most active works in progress, all using yarn I've had for at least a year.

I'm using the same weaving linen I used on the cardigan for this moss grid hand towel from Mason Dixon Knitting. In its unwashed state it looks about like the cardigan looked before washing and blocking. It really is like knitting with kitchen twine.

Ravelry shows 1452 knitters making this scarf, and that doesn't even include lurkers like me. The yarn is Trekking Pro Natura sock yarn, amd the needles are Signature Stiletto Points.
the scarf is about 30" long now, and I've used about 1/2 the yarn, but it won't be scarf weather in North Florida for a while.

Summer probably isn't the best time to make this huge Adventure Bag by Noni. It is like having a very large cat-on-lap. This one will be a Norwegian adventure bag, because the colored stripes are made with wool I brought back from Norway in 2006. While I was there I took lots of pictures of traditional Norwegian house colors and bought yarn in those colors.

This picture shows a display of house paint color chips in a hardware store in Bergen, in case you doubt that people actually paint their houses these colors.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fnished Objects, or, I've Been Bustin' my Stash

It makes me so happy to have a reason to make baby things, and my friend Martha's daughter is pleased to oblige by expecting a baby girl. The shower is this Saturday, and I'll bring this hat and booties plus a couple of cute little board books. (I totally ignored the baby registry; this child won't lack for necessities.) The pink yarn is "Mango" by Bouton d'Or, found on the 1/2 price table at a knitting shop in Charleston in 2006. The trim is a mohair blend by Gedfrida bought at Springwater Fibers in Alexandria, VA in 2005.

The pattern for this pullover is from Knit.1 (summer 2008) even though I am way out of its target demographic! I had not previously been able to find anything in the right guage (and yardage) for this yarn, which I bought in Norway in 2006.

This picture shows the detail on the yarn, a cotton blend ribbon with frayed edges which knitted up almost feeling like terry cloth. It also shows that I had plenty of it left, and could have made the top longer.

The linen (8/2 weaving linen) also came from Springwater Fibers in 2005. I try to visit the store whenever I get back to Alexandria, where I grew up. The 1/2 lb. cone cost $5, and there was a lot left over from this cardigan! It felt like I was knitting a hairshirt and had a strong but not stinky odor, but the odor and scratchiness both went away with washing.

It feels good to use these yarns that I bought without any particular plans but with the conviction that they would be good for the right project. I've worn the pullover and cardigan and both can be deemed successful. I hope mother and grandma approve of the hat and booties.

For next time I have pictures of works in progress, also from stash yarns.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where, O Where Has She Been?

You never know what's going to come your way, but this one has been harder than most surprises: on April 1 my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. After hearing all the options, none of which were good, she decided to forego treatment and go into hospice care. She stayed pretty much symptom-free except for loss of appetite until mid May, but it became clear a few weeks ago that she shouldn't live by herself any longer and she moved into my house on June 6. As soon as she moved here I realized that she had been hanging onto her independence by sheer force of will, but that she was much sicker than she had let on--too sick to stay by herself. We found a companion to come here every morning and I am working half time for the foreseeable future.

Around this central fact, though, the rest of life goes joyfully on. My son, the baby of the family, graduated from college in May, and dd2 got engaged last week. (See the happy couple.) They have been together for almost 7 years, so this is a much-anticipated joy!

Knitting has been a solace and companion through this so far. For about a week after the diagnosis I couldn't knit anything but dishcloths, and since then I have been drawn to charity knitting projects that can be finished quickly. The hats (the blue one is a child-size Maltese fisherman's hat from Summer Interweave Knits) and scarf pictured are going to Afghans for Afghans, which my LYS is participating in, and I finished a red scarf for the red scarf project. There are other projects on needles that I expect to make progress on because mom really likes for someone to be close by, and I try to have a project by every potential sitting area in the house and on the porch.

Thanks in advance for all the kind thoughts I know will be coming this way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Old Cat, New Bed

A couple years ago I made beds for my 3 grandcats, but my own kitties had gone bedless. After getting some furniture reupholstered, though, it seemsd like a good time to make a bed for the cat who had claimed a spot on the new upholstery. Frau Kitze is a sweet old lady of 20 who sits in my lap every evening as I knit (and contributes some natural fiber of her own to every project.) She seems to be enjoying the bed, which is based on the improved cat bed pattern from Wendy's book. The improvement is that the side wall is doubled, so it is less prone to flop over.
I made a scarf this weekend for DS's girlfriend, using some pink ribbon and novelty yarns knit longwise. It is very cute (for someone less than 40) and since she expects to live in Colorado next year it should be useful. It was so much fun to make; I felt like I was knitting a party.
I saw the new Knitty on Friday and found 3 gotta-have projects: Spirogyra, Laminaria, and the Ribbon Lace scarf. I stopped at the LYS on the way home and bought a skein of Silky Kid (on sale) for Spirogyra, and the left on is almost done. I went one size down on the needles and it is still a bit loose in the wrist, but I can't wait to have them for meetings in super-chilled conference rooms. I plan to make the other projects with stash yarn--a big skein of Pro Natura Trekking (wool and bamboo in deep blues and greens) for the Ribbon Lace scarf, and Malabrigo lace-weight merino in blues and grays for the laminaria. It feels good to find tempting patterns for yarn I already own.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Belle Complete

It is finished; I've worn it, it is just as nice as I hoped it would be. The yarn's hollow core construction makes the sweater very light, which is important because of all the cables in the peplum. There are a few minor mistakes that I discovered way too late to correct, but for the most part everything worked out okay (probably because I was willing to rip back or tink back an fix problems as they came up.)
BTW, the pictures are not just to show you the sweater, but also the redone patio. It was a birthday present; we hired a true concrete artist to resurface the patio and create the faux paving stones. It exceeded our expectations!
Since I finished la belle dame, I've gone on to mindless projects--a stash-eating cat bed and finishing up the silky wool seed stitch tie. There are just a few inches to go. My thumb has been hurting and I think small needles and lightweight projects will be theraputic. (The cat bed was a mistake!)
There are several thing in the new Knitty that have piqued my interest, esp. the Estonian shawl. Is it light? yes! Are the needles small? yes!
Gotta flit; work calls.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Is this Progress?

I really thought I would be wearing this sweater to a party tonight, but totally underestimated the finishing time. On Tuesday the three main pieces were complete, and I thought a couple evening's knitting would bring it all home. Silly me. I had left everything on waste yarn (instead of binding off) to check the fit and proportions, and it took two whole episodes of "Slings and Arrows" to bind off the peplum. The back band took me through "Law and Order."

On Thursday, my knitting time was short because of my weekly Voces Angelorum rehearsal. I finished the back band and started the button band, which brings us what you see in the photos. The top photo is closer to the real color, but the lower one shows the cable detail better.

I found these buttons last week and really like them, even though they weren't what I had in mind. Silver buttons, which I thought would be my choice, looked too yellow next to the sweater, which is really silver and black. These buttons have a medieval or Viking look that appeals to me. This sweater began with the idea that I wanted to knit some "armor."
The real progress has been in finding the perfect name for this project. Vogue called it "Silver Belle" and I thought of it as just "The Belle," but now I've changed my mind. It is "La Belle Dame sans Merci" which hath me in thrall.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Things I've Learned from the Silver Belle

Every project is a learning opportunity, and the Belle has been the equivalent of a 4 hour course plus labs! There have been the obvious lessons of learning how to work cables and trinity stitch, but a few more subtle ones, too. Here are they are (so far):
- Read the pattern one more time than you think is necessary (learned from reversing the left and right edging bands)
- Pay attention to the cable crosses (learned from tinking back several rows several times)
- Check Ravelry and Google to see what other people have learned while making the same pattern
- Use small hair clips (butterfly clips) to hold pieces togehter while you try them on (actually, I learned this one a while ago), and
- Do not bind off pieces while you are working on other pieces! Instead , put the live stitches on waste yarn and assemble everything with those little clips so you can try on before you bind off! I learned this after I bound off the peplum and realized later that it was too short.

I'm sure I'll learn several more things before this is over, but with the peplum (now lengthened) and one sleeve/bodice complete the end is in sight!

Over the weekend I took time off from knitting to make this little item! A gym friend and fellow baroque music fan gave me the tile last fall, and I knew it should be a hot pad. There are always plenty of wine corks around, so I trimmed some of them so the tile would be flush with the frame and glued everything together. Cute, no?

It was a beautiful 70 degree weekend so I worked outside, too, pruning roses and grape vines and planting petunias in window boxes.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sweet Silver Belle

The Belle continues to be the focus of my knitting activity, and it continues to be amusing and diverting. Making sure those cables cross the right way keeps my attention, and the sleeve rows are so short that there is always time for one more. I thought the first sleeve was long enough and had cast on for the bodice, but decided after a few inches that the sleeve needed to be longer (or the bodice would be too wide) and ripped back and added 12 more rows. I also decided to make the bodice longer, based on Ravelry comments and a hard assessment of my own "bodice." I'll probably go back and add another inch to the peplum to balance the additional bodice length, but I have plenty of yarn, so there is no problem. There is a race with the calendar, though, to wear it this year.

I took a Belle break a few weeks ago and made the Bow Knot Scarf for DD2, to protect her from the icy gales off Long Island Sound. It took a few hours and was lots of fun. This one was made with stash yarn, but I'm tempted to buy some super-soft merino to make another one.

After a futile search for a runner that's narrow enough for this cabinet, I visited the sale corner of the local upholstery shop and bought fabric. It took longer than I anticipated, but I think the finished product works, and it was finished in time for Saturday's dinner party!

Well, work is heating up and my knitting and blogging will probably suffer, but I'll check in from time to time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quick Update

Here it is--the first 30 rows of the peplum of Silver Belle. There would be more progress if I hadn't misread the charts and reversed the button bands. Be warned, the way they are presented on the pdf is confusing, at least to me. Anyway, I spent 4 evenings tinking two 12-stitch, 22 row sections. I've done two 32-stitch decreases so everyting fits on the needle better and it is going faster. It would be nice to finish this before the weather is too warm to wear it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Old Projects, Knitter Gifts, New Plans

My goal had been to finish the Hanne Falkenberg-esque tank top before the new year, and I missed by only a few hours. It had its beginning last spring; I was wearing the cardigan in a cold meeting room, and it occurred to me that I had enough leftover wool to make a matching sleeveless pullover. It would be a Falkenberg twinset! It was pretty easy until I got to the shoulder pieces, which were a conceptual challenge, and then the weather got too hot to think about wool sweaters. In early December I pulled it out, and had two unsucessful attempts. The third time was the charm, but it was harrowing becasue the blue yarn was disappearing fast! I finished with about 6 inches to spare.

My children, who all excel at taking hints, gave me knitting presents. DD1 gave me
The Knitter's Book of Yarn and A History of Hand Knitting. DD2 gave me a precision scale for weighing yarn, and DS came through with a pair of Signature Needles (size 4, 7", stiletto points.)

2007 ended with with 3 WIPs: a seed stitch necktie in Silky Wool, ad scarf from a kit that DD1 bought in Paris, and the Elven Cloak. Since New Years I've worked 5 rows of Silver Belle , which is an accomplishment at 400+ stitches per row! Other projects in the queue are a scarf out of some Malabrigo Lace Baby Merino worked on the Signature needles, using a pattern from the Knitters' Book of Yarn, and diagonal washcloths in Patons Grace in Tangelo, to match the saffron kitchen color.

As for resolutions, there are only three. First I resolve to improve the quality of my purling. Second I resolve to knit at least every other project from my stash. The last resolution is the hardest; I resolve to knit less. Knitting is so much fun and is so reinforcing that it seems to have crowded out other important things from my life. I resolve to get myself back to the garden (just like Joni Mitchell said) and the gym.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Well, here they are, the long-promised Christmas knits! The sweaters are both the Cuthbert pattern from Noro Unlimited, the first one knit in Noro blossom, the second knit in Mission Falls 1824 cotton. For me the yarns have the same stitch guage, but the cotton takes fewer rows. This pattern is quick and fun to knit, and both recipients seemed happy to get them. The mittens were a late inspiration and worked up so fast with Brown Sheep Lambs Pride.

I made caps for the boyfriends

and scarves for Marina, who has been cutting my hair for 15 years, and DD 1.

The shawl is my own design and it took a while to figure out how to wear it once it was made. The addition of a button and loop, plus a snap inside, seems to have solved the problem.

There were a few other knitted gifts--socks, catnip toys, and washcloths--but for now I'm happy to be knitting for myself. Last night I cast on for this pattern.

Happy knitting in 2008!