October 21, 2010


Festivals are fun and fall festivals might just be the most fun.  Crisp air, good light, hay rides, abundant vegetables and fruit, sheep & alpaca.  I got some of that last weekend, more than enough to make me happy, at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held annually in Rhinebeck, NY.


I have no need for yarn, but having been told by Ravelry friend Craftivore that it's really an amazing experience (and since this may be my last chance [more on that later]) I decided to ride the bus up with my friends Angela and Tomo to check it out for myself.  In a word, it was AWESOME.

I wasn't sure what to expect, except for a lot of yarn freaky-dekes, but the doings at Rhinebeck pulled me in, slapped me about and said "Girl, this is the REAL deal." 
Our 6 a.m. bus, which really left at 6:45, arrived at the fairgrounds at 9 am, just as the gates were opening.  Angela and Tomo were seasoned veterans of the sheep and wool festival, so we headed straight to A Building and the Brooks Farm booth, where I made my first three purchases of the day (1 skein each of Acero, Solano and Duet).  Then I decided to slow down as we were but 30 minutes into a very long day. 

Almost straight away Angela (who's just released her first shawl pattern) bumped into some people she knew and excited showing off of hand knits commenced. 

Visiting in Building A.
As we made our way around from building to building, I saw that the Sheep and Wool Festival really was about sheep and wool.  I knew there would be lots of small farms and indie vendors selling yarn, but I was surprised to see so many varieties of wool (and alpaca): raw, uncarded, carded, spun, dyed, undyed.  I don't know the proper terms, as my wool usually comes from a store, but the diversity was amazing. These award winning bags of fleece were among my favorite.  So soft and lofty to touch.

Duchess County award winning fleece
There really was something for everyone.

Although the festival grounds were sizable, there were crowds and lines wherever we went.  When I reviewed my photos I spotted a knitting celeb in this crowd shot.  Do you see her?  Hint: she's wearing one of her new designs.

Yes, it's Ann Weaver of Weaver Knits!  The funny thing is that I saw her face to face what must have been minutes after this. When I'm tired or tipsy (and that morning I was tired) my inhibitions lower and I blurt out whatever's on my mind, so when I saw her, I got all excited and stopped her to tell her I liked her work and congratulated her on the new book.  She was super smiley and gracious and seemed surprised to be recognized, but I really felt that I'd spotted a star, like when I was in L.A. back on 2001 and saw
Maude Adams at a ramen house.  Exciting!

My Weaverknits sighting was my first of the day.  I also spotted and stopped (accosted?)  Flint Knits, Lauren of Lolly Knitting Around and Craftivore.  Spotting Craftivore was easy, however as (1) I'd spotted her last year at the Brooklyn Flea and we'd since struck up a Ravelry friendship, (2) I knew what she'd be wearing and (3) we planned to meet up.  Still, it was exciting.  Here she is perfectly attired for a fall wool fest. 

The skirt that you see is just the bottom half of an amazing dress she designed and knit herself, just for fun.  It's gorge.

I spotted several other designers/bloggers, but really, one can only freak out on so many people before security steps in, so I kept my distance and instead just pulled on Tomo's sleeve saying "There's Neoknits", "There's Gudrun!" "There's Triple C!"  She was very patient with me.

In addition to seeing strangers whom I recognized, I also saw some real-life friends and neighbors, including knitting group member Sarah, and her family, who were playing and enjoying the Rhinebeck's famed Chicken Pot Pie.

How's that chicken pot pie?
It was a swell day, with minimal freakishness, loads of sun and pretty scenery.

More than anything else, though, I think I enjoyed the livestock the most.  The sheep and alpaca have faces that are hard to believe.  So sweet and cute, you want to put them in your pocket and take them home. Then you remember you live in a basement apartment in Brooklyn with a cemented over back yard and yeah, that would be gross. I think my Brooklyn pals were surprised by just how in to the animals I was, but look:

OK, these were freaky, S&M gimp looking, but try to see past the get-up.

Seeing all of the different wools and animals gave me a new appreciation for knitting and has inspired me to experiment more with textures and tones and traditional garments and stitches.  I'm excited.

Mexican-spiced hot cocoa + mini-doughnuts = deliciousness.
 It was, all told, a wonderful day.  Thank you to all who helped make it so (you know who you are!).

October 11, 2010

What's a finger got to do to get some love?

I need to get a new schtick, because this shit is getting old.  Not that I don't like what I'm making, but I'm starting to feel like a freak with a one track mind: fingerless mitts.  And yet I can't. Tear. Myself. Away.

This first pair here I designed myself using some sock weight yarn someone had donated to me and a DK weight wool/cashmere blend left over from a sweater I knit this fall (photos to come when buttons have been sewn on).  I guess that's one of the advantages to making lots of the same thing: you learn enough about construction to be able to work with different needles and yarns, improvise and make something that fits.

Pattern: Latte Mitts, by me
Yarn: Brunswick Pomfret (tan); Zealana Eco Cashmere Merino Blend (dark brown)
Needles: 3.25mm
Started: September 20
Finished: September 23

When I decided to make these, I knew that I wanted to do something simple, but with a little design element, something that would be easy for me to knit on the subway and that wouldn't require a ton of concentration.  A little bit of texture by way of garter stitch on a stockinette background seemed like a good way to go, and the brown on tan just felt right for the fall. I mean, camel is all the rage this season, n'est ce pas?  And all in all, I'm really happy with the way they turned out.  Functional and subtly stylish.

Originally these were going to be a gift for a friend in Minnesota, but I've changed my mind.  The Latte Mitts will go to a friend in Oregon, and the mitts below will go to Minnesota, for what seem to me to be obvious reasons.

Chunky and cozy, these are better suited to fall and late winters in Minnesota than the Latte Mitts.  When it gets a bit colder, but before it turns bitter cold, they can be worn over an inexpensive pair of stretchy gloves, the kind you can get at Target for $2.  Again, pretty on-trend as far as color goes, and also with little bit of texture.  Me like.

Pattern: Rippled Cable Gloves by Linda Lunn
Yarn:Lion Brand Fisherman Wool
Needles: 4.0mn & 5.0mm
Start: September 29
Finish: October 8

You want to talk satisfying knits?  These totally fit the bill.  Easy pattern, not too fussy, a larger gauge (for a change)  smooth yarn with a touch of lanolin and a subtle texture that screams "I'm really cozy!!!". What makes these cables so lovely to my eyes is that they are so soft, and they are soft because they're not set off by twisted or purled stitches.  It's just cabling on a stockinette background, and the result is something distinctly feminine but not sissified or fussy (there's that word, again). In these one could ice skate or walk the dog or grab a pail or pick a couple of squash for dinner or help pitch a tent.  And hopefully one will.

p.s. True color is closest to the last photo, fyi.  Blast that direct sunlight!

Long Live LaReine!

Another shawl, number 8 for me this year, but definitely one of my favorites.  Why?

Well, in part because it was designed by a friend, the first pattern I have ever worked that was designed by an honest to goodness friend.  Angela was one of the three founding members of the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Knit & Crochet Group, so I've known her for more than two years now. In addition to being an accomplished knitter and crocheter, she used to design jewelry, so I knew she had latent design capabilities, but only recently have they re-emerged.  And boy, have they emerged.  This is her first design, and will be available to the public later this week, but she's already worked up another design and has plans for a third.  You'd never accuse her of being lazy.

Pattern: LaReine, by Angela Tong
Yarn: Araucania Itata Solid
Needles: 3.75mm
Started: September 12
Finished: September 29

Although it took me 2 weeks to knit this, it is not a two week shawl.  Because I was a test knitter for this pattern and I wanted the finished result to look as good as possible, when I made mistakes (dropped a stitch, missed a yo, etc.) I actually fixed them instead of ignoring them.  Also, because this pattern consists largely of stockinette, mistakes become pretty glaring, which makes them easy to find and easy to fix. The yarn that I chose is a light and airy wool/bamboo/silk blend, resulting in a soft, drapey shawl that's more suited to spring and summer than winter.  I love the color and chose it, in part, because the lace pattern in the shawl reminded me of flames, so I thought the orange would make a good pairing.  Almost all of the other test knitters picked up a water vibe and have knit LaReine in shades of blue and blue-green.  Not sure what that says about me . . .in any event, I give this pattern, and it's designer, a thumbs up

p.s. Angela's hosting a give-away on her blog right now, featuring yarn and the LaReine pattern, so I'd pop on over if I were you. 

October 1, 2010

Look around, Leaves are brown

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter. 

Only its 75 degrees outside.  And raining.  What's the deal, nature?  I'm not one of those wussies who complains about the weather, because really, what's more boring?  Aside from listening to someone talk about his workout; that's infinitely more boring than the weather.    No, my issue is a more practical one:  I don't know what to wear. My trusty waterproof jacket and wellies are great at keeping moisture out, and in, as in when I stand on the still hot from the summer subway platform in all that rubber and Tyvek and Gore-Tex(TM) my body temp rises until I'm sweating like a pig at a BBQ.  Waterproof doesn't breathe!  It's too sweaty for sweaters, yet folks still rocking their light and bright summer gear look foolish, as the days have grown short and the light is now more flattering on greys, browns and russets than bright pinks, yellows and greens.  It's put me in a quandary Jack Donaghy! A quandary!

One thing I've not done is slow up on my knitting.  It's still prohibitively warm for me, or anyone else, to wear the things that I've made, but I've kept at it.  My tenacity has had more to do with my wanting to work through some of my stash as anything else.  As of late, it has become more burdensome than inspiring, and so I am lightening my load.  In addition to these various projects, I also took three shopping bags of yarn to the Goodwill and, man, was there a spring in my step when I'd finished that errand.

So what have I made?

Pattern: Ottilia Mittens, by Mari Muinonen
Yarn: Lion Brand Fisherman Wool
Needles: 4.0mm
Started: August 21
Finished:  August 27

I've been a fan of Mari Muinonen's patterns for a couple of years now but this is only the second one I've ever knit.  The mittens were fun and interesting, completed while I was dogsitting at a home with cable television, so there was a lot of The First 48 going on in the background.  The yarn (I used maybe 1/4 of a skein) is more from our spring time yarn swap.  I've really been feeling the brown lately, and cables, too.  Actually, what I've been feeling texture, in general, to wit:

Pattern: Martha Cowl Scarf, by Che (Little Thingies Ravelry Shop)
Yarn: Unknown cotton or cotton/wool blend
Hook: 5.5mm
Started: September 23
Finished: September 24

This was, I believe, my third attempt at making a chunky cowl, and the first one that was successful.  In order to be functional, a cowl needs to keep you warm, but most of cowls knit or crocheted with heavier yarns, and some worked at finer gauges, sit away from the neck leaving it exposed.  This is nonsense! If it's cold enough for me to wear something thick and heavy around my neck, then my neck needs protection.  it's not rocket science.  And yet I continue to see a proliferation of patterns that offer no protection from the elements whatsoever.  It's ridonkulous.

Well, that's certainly not a problem here. 

Crocheted with heavier yarn, the simple and airy stitch pattern prevents this cowl from being too stiff to scrunch , so I can double wrap it 'round my neck and keep cozy and warm.  Yes, please!

This next project was something that had been sitting in my queue for over year, but I never had quite the right yarn for it.  Until I frogged a 3/4 finished and poorly conceived sweater this past summer and found myself with just the right shade of alpaca.

Pattern: Some Cloudy Day, by Tiny Owl Knits
Yarn: Sajima Alpaca
Needles: 3.25mm/3.5mm
Started: August 25
Finished: September 4

I had originally planned on making these for me, but about 1/2 way through the first legwarmer, I decided they were for Beth.  I'd sent hats to her husband and twins in Sweden last summer, but nothing for her (she's had my handknits before, so it's not as bad as it sounds), and so it seemed clear that she was next in line for a present.  Also, like me, she wears skirts all winter long (clogs, too!) so I knew she would appreciate the extra layer of warmth.  

These are pretty great, and by that I mean the pattern is pretty great.  Like Mari Muinonen, Tiny Owl Knits has designed several patterns that I really like, but this was the first one I'd made.  The lace pattern is easy, but effective and I enjoyed these so much that I promptly turned around and bought one of her hat patterns.  Let's see if I can get that finished before New Year's.