December 9, 2009
One thing that's slowed my Christmas knitting progress is December birthdays. I've always felt that December birthdays get the shaft, especially when it comes to giving "combination" gifts. Those are insulting. Better to give a card for one occasion and a proper gift for another than to give a combination birthday/Christmas gift. No one pulls that crap when your birthday is in May, like mine. So, filled with conviction about the wrongness of such deeds, I put my needles where my mouth is (mixed metaphore - sorry) and made these for my friend David:
Pattern: Dashing, by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silkie Socks That Rock
Started: December 1
Finished: December 3
They're great for climbing your way out of cemeteries when you;e being chased by zombies, trolls or vampires. They're also handy when you're cold, but need to open a bottle of ketchup (or beer, as the case may be)
November 30, 2009
Last week, I had off 2 1/2 days for Thanksgiving, which brought my "weekend time" up to 4 1/2 days. Let's be real: I had a week off. What to do with a week off? A week in which my holiday travel involved taking the 2/3 train from Atlantic Ave to 96th Street? A lot. Thursday was lovely, truly lovely, Unfortunately none of my photos really captured the feel of the evening, nor the deliciousness of the food. I had dinner with dear friends (Megan and David) in Manhattan, their children, her father (whom I have known since I was 14) and stepmother and another delightful guest. I have dinner with this crew quite a bit, so Thanksgiving wasn't particularly unusual, but that's part of what made it so nice. No drama, no tension, just good food, better company and some vino to keep us all warm. In an unusual turn of events, I was fairly abstemious, as I've been under the weather for two weeks now, saddled with a dry yet persistent cough. Still, it was such a nice evening, and one which made me feel how truly fortunate I am.
The next day, I had one thing on the agenda: make a cake. It was a lemon cake with lemon butter cream frosting, a combination I adore for my friend Matt's birthday. He had initially thought about a coconut cake, but I thought that on the heels of heavy Thanksgiving eating, a lemon cake would feel lighter and more refreshing. While the cake was baking and cooling, I took care of a bunch of household chores, so the day had the feel of a Sunday. Only it was Friday. Still dealing with my cough, I stayed in that evening, knit and watched News Radio on Hulu. I retired early, as I knew the next day would be a big one.
And it was.
At 8 am on Saturday, I met up with Sarah, Penelope and Angela (from the Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill Knitting and Crocheting Group) at a local patisserie. The plan: road trip to Webs, a yarn superstore in Northampton, MA. Webs has amazing sales and a tremendous selection, and there's really no substitute for buying yarns in person, feeling their texture and seeing the colors, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to really do some educated shopping for large volumes of yarn, like enough for a few sweaters, in addition to doing some holiday shopping. I brought several patterns with me so that I'd have all of the information that I needed. I naively thought this would keep me organized.
Northampton is about three hours from Brooklyn, and I thought I'd use the drive time to get some knitting done, but it made me a bit queasy so I had to go slowly. Sarah, however, started in early on a pair of socks and did not stop!
Her tenacity was both demonic and impressive.
After pit stops for gas, water and cough drops, we finally arrived. Initially, the store seemed less than impressive.
What's the old adage about looks being deceiving?
(NB: I am wearing a "Property of the Seattle Super Sonics" t-shirt that I got in 7th grade at the one and only Sonics game I ever attended.)
Holy moley, is that place amazing. The front of the store is like any other yarn store, only much, much bigger, and with more staff, more books, more magazines and more yarn. Penelope was the only one of us who had been there before, and she was able to maintain her composure and stick, more or less, to her game plan. Angela, Sarah and I were like chickens with our heads cut off, bopping from here to there with our mouths agape. I was composed enough to mutter that I just had to wander for a while before getting down to business, but that was about it. Eventually I felt orientated enough to head to the warehouse. Attached to the main store, it is a giant storeroom where most of the yarn is in boxes on racks. This is where they pull for their on-line orders. It is also where the keep the CLOSEOUT yarns.
Penelope has knit many, many more sweaters than I, and with greater success, so I enlisted her help in selecting some yarn for Pas de Valse .
Things got a bit crazy back in the fingering wt. section.
As the day wound on, we all calmed down considerably and started narrowing our selections, which felt great.
And I bought shoes.
They are quite foxy (or as foxy as German shoes get).
Northampton reminded me a lot of Northfield, MN, where I went to college: small and kind of crunchy but with lots of expensive artisinal things. Our final stop before heading back to Brooklyn was a Germany bakery where my travel mates picked up treats for their husbands and I tried my first sugar plum (not pictured). As with the ice cream, it was delicious.
What a fun day! And a fantastic use of day 3 1/2 of a 4 1/2 day weekend. Thank you so much to Penelope for suggesting the trip and for driving! I'm really excited start in on the yarn that I bought, including one for a gift that must be complete by the 12th. Yarn is just yarn, but somehow it also represents potential, love, inspiration and hard work all at the same time. I will make things out of the yarn that I bought. I'll match colors and textures to patterns and people, and where there was nothing there will soon be many things. And I'll have a lot of fun in the process.
November 18, 2009
While there's much I can't reveal, there are some projects which I can. Like this:
Pattern:My Kind of Town Cowl, by Trish Woodson
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick
This started out as Jane Richmond's Marian, but I wasn't feeling the combo of the yarn and the pattern, so I ripped it out and started over. The cowl I ended up making is chunky and dramatic, but it has the problem that plagues so many of the new and trendy cowls: it leaves a gap in the front of my neck through which the wind can whip me. Wind whipping is precisely what a cowl is supposed to stop, so this project rates only an OK from me, and therefore, is unlikely to find another home.
Now, this next project made me much, much happier:
Pattern: Fetching, by Cheryl Niamath (highly modified)
I love these! Love, love them. I wear so much grey and black during the winter and have been looking for ways to bring some color to my wardrobe, so when I saw this beautiful ball of yarn at Seaport Yarn downtown, I couldn't walk away from it. I tried, because I was just there to buy some crochet hooks. But it was so pretty: chunky, bold and rustic yet feminine. And the blend of wool, silk and angora just felt so good. Later I learned that it's a new yarn from Noro, which somehow made me feel better about the impulse buy.
I used Fetching as the jumping off point for these, but I modified heavily. I omitted the cables, adjusted the number of stitches cast on to accommodate my gauge, knit the wrists longer and wear them inside-out. I like the look of the reverse stockinette; it has a more open and textural feel than regular stockinette. I call them my Pink Shockers, in part because they're shocking pink in color, but also in honor of some Minneapolis friends. They know why, oh yes, they do.
And now, so do you.
Earlier this fall, I was seduced by a Webs sale. It seems that Sheep Shop Yarn Company is going out of business, because their yarns are on sale all over the place. This was the first time I've purchased anything of theirs, because I found the yarns to be rather spendy. Hmm . . .perhaps this is why they're going out of business.
On a more positive note, the pattern was well written and I think the project came out really well (ignoring aforementioned color issues). This did involve yards and yards of stockinette, which came to be incredibly boring, which is the only negative thing I have to say about the pattern, and that's not even a criticism, just a comment.* So beware: If you're not up for a few days of straight up stockinette, work a different wrap. But if you think you can stomach it, this project is well worth the monotony.
November 4, 2009
Because guests start arriving around 8:30 in the morning, I've got to get my ass organized, so I spend Friday night and all day Saturday cooking and baking. I usually wake up in a panic, worried that there won't be enough food, and so bake one more loaf of this, or another pan of that.
This year's menu included Green Chili and Chorizo Breakfast Strata, vegetarian Chili and Cheese Strata, homemade Oreos , Cook's Illustrated's Dreamy Cream Scones (recipes compliments of Smitten Kitchen), Brooke's Grandma Smith's Banana Bread, pumpkin muffins, pecan muffins, lemon bundt cake, oatmeal blueberry breakfast bars and a spinach chickpea curry. It's important to have a mix of sweet and savory at a morning event, don't you agree?
Of everything I made this year, the scones were my favorite. They were ridiculously good, creamy almost. I baked some of them as written and served jam* on the side but with the rest, I did my thing, by which I mean I baked jam into the scones. Holy Mary, is that delicious. Trust me and try it sometime. Your loved ones will freak out.
Although the racers are pretty much gone by 1:00, the party doesn't usually end until 7:30 or 8, which makes it a mini-marathon of our own, I suppose.
*Jam made by Brooke and Marisa.
October 27, 2009
A little before Beth told me she was pregnant, I had instituted a moratorium on the making of baby things. It's really fun and quickly satisfying, but man was I feeling the burn, as in burnt out! So many of my friends and relatives have had babies in the past two years, that between knitting for kinder and for holidays, I hadn't really made anything for myself. So the weeks leading up to my birthday I dedicated to knitting only for me. Then I got the news about Beth's twins, and I became impossibly excited, so excited that I practically ran to The Point's going out of business sale to pick up the yarn for these:
Pattern: Little Coffee Bean, v.2, by The Brown Stitch
Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too 2nd Time Cotton
Needles: 4.5mm and 5.0mm
Started: May 31
Finished: June 3
This was a great pattern, clearly written and easy to follow and I'll probably make it again. I decided to use cotton yarn because I wanted a natural fiber that would be comfy and easy to care for. The cotton was about as sticky as cotton can be, but it probably didn't help that I worked this up on bamboo needles. Metal needles would have allowed the yarn to glide a bit more fluidly, yet I was pleased with the yarn, and continue to be happy with the resulting sweater.
I really liked the neutrality of these colors, but was left with a button quandary (as in "You put me in a quandary, Jack Donaghy. A quandary!").* Clear was out of the questions (often looks cheap and seems lazy) and matching the orange would have been really difficult. And ugly. Wood was an option, but the colors I'd selected for this sweater were already rather subdued, so I thought something a little more funsy was in order. I walked myself up to P&S Fabrics one day during lunch and found these little smiling frogs, which I thought were pretty great.
During the same visit, I found these sweet things:
Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket, by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Austermann Algarve Grande
Started: July 21
Finished: July 23
This is the third Baby Surprise Jacket that I've made and likely will not be the last. They're fun and simple to knit, easy to finish and look super cute on babies.
Beth and Niclas seemed so touched and excited when they saw the sweaters and crazy hats that I immediately knew I had made good choices. Perhaps the best moment was when Niclas said that the orange and grey sweater is exactly something he would buy for himself. I'll admit it: my feathers were fluffed. But more important than any boost to my pride, their reactions were an immediate reminder of why we knit for those we love: because we care.
*I could't find that clip, but I did find this.
October 17, 2009
His name is Broderick (Brody) and I went out there to renounce Satan in all of his forms and to promise to look after Brody's spiritual life, a.k.a. be his godmother. I'm not a terribly religious person, but being a godmother does make me feel that we have a special relationship. And it's touching that Paula has charged me with this task, twice now; I'm also godmother to her first child, Ethan (seen below reading some books I brought him).
October 15, 2009
I found this yarn at Yll o Tyll in Uppsala, Sweden. The color is very Adrienne, and it's a rustic, slightly nubby silk, which is perfect for someone who is sensitive to itchy fabrics (Adrienne) and lives in a temperate, yet dampish climate like Seattle (also Adrienne). And I just really loved it. So purchase it I did, and then toted it around with me back to Stockholm, up to Karlstad, back to Stockholm and then home to Brooklyn. So, it's seen a bit of the world.
Adrienne's birthday is the first week of October, but I was so cranked up that I started this the week that I came home from Sweden.
Pattern: Ishbel, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Yll o Tyll Soft Silk
Started: July 16
Finished: July 31
I am SO MUCH happier with this Ishbel than I was with my first Ishbel. The pattern is great, pretty yet straightforward. It just goes to show how important it is to select the right yarn for a given project. The one mistake I made in working this up was using bamboo circulars; as bamboo and silk are both a bit sticky, I had to work kind of hard for each stitch. The next time that I work with this yarn (I bought two more skeins in different colors) I'll use metal or plastic needles. The project will sing off the needles!
Now that I'm looking at this, I realize that the lace portion is a variation of the one used in the project below:
It's pretty obvious, so it's a little doofy that I'm only now making the connection. I know that I have a distinct sensibility, but I'm surprised that it's so evident in the projects I make for others.
Pattern: Haven, by Kim Hargreaves
Yarn: Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky
Started: October 6
Finished: October 13
I have been wanting to make this for over a year, ever since Amy gave me Kim Hargreaves book, Heartfelt, The Dark House Collection. There are so many lovely patterns in the book, but thus far I've only managed two make two of them, and both for the same friend, affectionately known as ABD. She's rather glam and ladylike and stylish, and since chunky, bulky scarves and cowls are all the rage this season, as are all shades of purple, I thought this would be a good birthday prez for her.
October 1, 2009
Crazy old fashioned, right?
So, Tuesday morning, in addition to voting in the run offs, I completed another do-over. Remember the disaster that was Sedum? Well, I finally got around to fixing it. I was really bummed about how it had turned, out and that the mess had taken two weeks of my life and a lot of moss stitch to complete that it was hard to get the energy up to fox it. And, truth be told, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fix it, and that I'd have to rip it out in its entirety and spend two more weeks re-knitting it. I wasn't even sure how the ripping would go, as I'd used a felted join to join all of my ends as I went along, and couldn't imagine how I would manage the mass that would result from 6 balls of frogged Noro Kochoron.
Staring at the fiasco of a sweater, a sweater that I'd hoped to love and wear with pride this fall, eventually became more depressing than imagining the work that I'd have to put into fixing it, so over the weekend, I started the do-over. The pattern calls for one to knit (1) the body, (2) the sleeves, (3) the button bands and (4) the collar in that order. I decided to rip and reknit the collar and the button bands and see if that would fix things. This time I used smaller needles (US10 1/2s) and picked up fewer stitches on the buttonbands, hoping that this would remedy the excessive drape that I'd obtained the first time around. While I think I could have picked up a few more stitches, my fixes were largely successful. As you can see, the button bands no longer pull the sweater into a crazy long V at the bottom.
Now, in the original iteration of my sweater, I knit the neck way too big. This was the one thing that had me really worried: would I be able to work a fix without starting the sweater from scratch? My idea was to pick up stitches around the neckline and work up towards the head in moss stitch using smaller needles than on the first version, and also reducing the number of stitches, closing the gap, so to speak and elevating the yoke a bit. I did this for something like six rows, and also worked four short rows at the back to add some height to the sweater's neck. Finally, I worked the collar in 3x3 rib ans called for in the pattern. Et voila:
It's a bit too big, but if it's to be worn as a sweater/coat, that's not s terribly huge deal; it's just not super slimming. C'est la vie. And it's not as lovely as some other Sedums (including the designer's original), but I attribute this in part to my choice of yarn. Kochoron is great, but not very bouncy, doesn't have a lot of body, so my ribs are more flat and broad than puffy. That's OK though; I don't have a very puffy personality.
Or do I?
The next time I knit this sweater (and I do believe there will be a next time) I think I'll used the yarn called for in the pattern, just for shits and giggles.