August 14, 2010

My style, but not entirely

I spend kind of a lot of time on Ravelry peeping at other people's projects.  I do it the way some people read House & Garden or Vogue.  I'm always looking for inspiration and interesting twists on patterns.  I've found that there are some crafters whose work I almost love.  PetraO is one of those.  She has such an amazing sense of color, usually pairing solids with solids (which is totally up my alley; I dress almost entirely in solids or horizontal stripes).  I've been particularly taken with her shawl modifications.  She knits lace shawls according to the pattern and then crochets a border in a contrasting color.  It's the perfect way to take something that could look frumpy or very Renaissance Faire (you know what I mean) and make it fresh, pretty and modern.

So I totally bit her style.

Twice. So far.  

Pattern: Diamond Knit Shawl, by Lion Brand (free)
Yarn: Sheep Shop Sheep 3 (discontinued) - body; Wollemeise Sockenwoll 80/20 twin (border)
Needle: 5.0mm
Hook: 3.25mm
Start: July 29
Finished: August 2

This worked up so quickly, I could hardly believe it.  The pattern is so well written with short, simple repeats.  The Sheep Shop yarn is no longer available as the company went out of business, which is too bad because it is lovely (it was also expensive, but I got this on deep discount at Webs last fall).  A wool/silk blend it's soft and snuggly against the skin and has a wonderful drape.

Despite the silk content, the yarn gives good stitch definition.  The pink is so pink, so sweet, that I knew I needed something bold to make it less saccharine.  I considered green, but thought it would look too preppy.  I had the red Wollmeise on hand (color is Herzblut, which means lifeblood in German) and decided it would add the right amount of aggression to the shawl.

I had no one particular in mind while I was knitting this, but once I finished the border, I knew it was for me.  Mine, all mine.

 Just a few days afer finishing #1, I cast on for #2.

Pattern: Diamond Knit Shawl, by Lion Brand
Yarn: Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted (main); Spud & Chloe Fine (border)
Needle: 5.5mm
Hook: 3.25mm
Started: August 6
Finished:  August 13

This one took me longer to finish, in part because the yarn was less fun to work with.  It's a woolly single ply, so will be warm, but was a bit splitty and not as soft as the Sheep 3.  I think that softness can be overrated sometimes; it's not the only think one wants in a knitted garment, or we would all run about in angora undergarments wouldn't we?  No, that this is woolly gives it substance, makes it appropriate for cold winter days.

Again, I considered a lot of different colors for the border.  A straw yellow was an early contender, but I decided to go with something that would jump out a bit more.  I have to say I really, really like this one, too.  The resulting shawl is less femmy that the first which makes it an appropriate gift for any number of my friends.  I have an idea where I'll be sending this, but don't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet.

Tack så mycket for the inspiration PetraO!

See what I mean about solids and stripes?  I'm dressed like a Kool-Aid multi pack.

August 9, 2010

Sullivan County, USA

Ahhhhh, open spaces!

I miss them.  When I first moved to Brooklyn, one of the things I liked the best was that it was low-rise, which meant I could see the sky, which meant I felt that I had elbow room which meant I was relaxed and happy.  Over the past 10 years, grody developers have endeavored to turn Brooklyn into a version of Manhattan's far west side: tall glass "luxury" buildings.  This seldom means luxury but always means expensive and higher rise.  Blech.

Anyway, I was treated to a little trip out of town recently with T-Bone and Pierre.  They have a place upstate and we decamped there for a weekend of good food and mellowness.  On Saturday Terence (T-Bone) and I visited a local farm stand. 

The farm stand operates out of an old barn and opens at 10.  By 10:30 there was a line 10 people long waiting to check out - quite a scene.  Terence bought food for lunch and dinner. I bought hippie soap.

It's so beautiful that it's almost comical. 

While we were out running errands (so much faster in a car than hoofing it, as is my norm), Pierre was making curtains for one of the upstairs bedrooms. 

I was impressed by his productivity: two panels in the morning and two after lunch. Sewing gives a satisfaction that's hard to replicate with any other craft. It is fast and efficient and sometimes incredibly simple.  Cooking is wonderful, but the results and enjoyment, are temporary.  Knitting, even quickly, is much more time consuming, and so the gratification is delayed.  But with sewing, one can often start and finish a project in one day, and enjoy it for years to come.  How wonderful is that?

After lunch I took a 2 1/2 hour nap. Mon dieu!  I never sleep so long, but man oh man did it feel good.  Before dinner, I went for a little walk to wake up a bit, and wound up at my favorite little spot around there: Nearing Cemetery.

It's a tiny cemetery, overgrown and not well tended, on a gravel road the middle of the country.  At night it's really spooky (to me, at least) but in the daytime, it's lovely.

Nearing cemetery hasn't completely abandoned; see the American flag on the left?  Someone had placed it at a more recent grave, perhaps on July 4th?  Terence says there are still Nearings in the area.  Can you imagine anything more gothic and romantic that a family cemetery? So neat.

Tal, Brett, Colin and Peter came for dinner that night. They have homes in neighboring towns, and so often get together on weekends.  I've known most of them as long as I've known Terence: 15 years this month.

It was a beautiful evening, so dinner was al fresco. We ate a lot, drank a lot and laughed a lot.

August 5, 2010

Mad hatting

Ja, it's more hats.  I'm queueing them faster than I can cast on and there's no end in sight.  I started another this morning after finishing one late last night.  It's kind of like that summer I went on an accidental Twizzler diet: for 2 1/2 days I craved twizzlers like nobody's business.  At breakfast with coffee, during the day while sitting at the information desk directing people's calls, and in the evenings with beer.  Nothing else appealed to me.  Then, in the middle of day 3 I hit a serious wall, had a serious stomach ache and the shakes.  The next day, I returned to my normal dietary habits and I was none the worse for wear.  Sometimes you just have to let yourself scratch that itch (unless the itch is to freebase or drunk dial something else absurd, in which someone close needs to slap you and tell you to get it together).

So, here we have the second in my Prince themed hats: When Doves Cry.

Pattern: Rose Red, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Shadyside Farm Studio Angora with Lambswool
Needles: 3.75mm, 4.0mm
Started: July 22
Finished: July 23

The second time around with this hat, I decided to make the size small.  It turned out small, alright.  Tomo (my gracious model) is petite with a small head and it's snug at the brim on her.  This throws a bit of wrench into my intended gifting plans, but I remain optimistic.  If nothing else, I know an adorable three year old who's sure to grow in to it eventually. 

The yarn is some that I received during my knitting group's great yarn swap last spring.  It is so soft and so fuzzy and so incredibly awesome, like the plumes of little, tiny weeping doves (there's your thematic tie in, ladies and germs).

On the same day that I finished the beret, I started on a pair of hats for my friends Felix and Rasmus.  To call  them friends might be a stretch, as they are only 9 months old, but I am awfully fond of them.  Felix and Rasmus (or FeRas, as their mum calls them) aren't identical twins, but they look enough alike that I have a hard time telling them apart.  Consequently, I have been known to refer to them as "This one" and "that one."  It would be pretty great if it turned out I were always calling the same twin "this one" and the other twin "that one", so that when I'm old and dotty and they called me on the phone I could ask "who is it," and when the man on the other end answered "This one," I would know who he was.

As that day is approx. 40 years in the future, for now our relationship is limited to me making them things and them smiling at me, which is more than payment enough.

Pattern: Elvish, by Melanie Hoffman
Yarn: Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted
Needles: 4.0mm & 4.5mm
Started: July 23
Finished: July 26

This pattern is an adaptation (for worsted weight yarn) of the Sweet Baby Norwegian Cap that is so popular (and deservedly so).  In a departure from my usual m.o., I knit these using DPNs rather than the Magic Loop method and I had fun with those pointy little sticks!  The yarn is pretty woolly which I thought was appropriate for children who are half Swedish.  One of the things I like about Scandinavian knitting, both traditional and contemporary, is that it doesn't shy away from woolly, textured wools.  Shit gets cold up there, and some bamboo cotton blend is more appropriate for L.A. than Malmo!  I popped these in the mail today, which may not have been the smartest move since it's still too warm in Sweden for wool hats and the family will be back in New York before the weather turns seriously cold, but I really, really wanted to surprise  their parents.

Speaking of parents, I also knit a hat for This One and That One's father, or Far, as they say in his homeland.

Pattern: 70s Ski Hat, by Whitney Van Nes for The Purl Bee
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, Patons Classic Wool Merino, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool
Needles: 4.5mm
Started: July 27
Finished: July 28

I'd made this hat twice before, the year after I started knitting, but didn't remember much about the construction, so the project was fun and felt new.  It's got a neat cashmere band on the inside (yes, I actually used cashmere this time) that you work beginning with a provisional cast on.  Then, when it's time to join the main color for the hat, you knit one row with the new yarn, purl one row with the new yarn, and then knit all remaining rows.  This creates a neat little ridge in the fabric that makes it easy to fold the cashmere lining portion under. 

Now, my friend said her husband's head is "gigantic" and I truly hope that it is, because this hat if h-u-g-e.  It's even big on me, and I have a head the Sputnik could orbit. This, too, went off in the mail today, so I guess I'll find out soon enough. 

Speaking of huge heads, I'll leave you with a favorite clip from one of my favorite movies of the early 1990s: