Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Elevating the Mundane

Despite my usual position in the "product" side of the process v. product debate, when it comes to lace, I am all about the process. I love finding the rhythm of the repeats and learning to read the lace. I struggle despite the life lines and liberal use of stitch markers and endure the inevitable tinking. I hunker down for the endless rows as the shawl grows. I marvel as I observe my work bloom into beautiful wings as I pin it out.

I struggled with Icarus. The yarn was sticky. It took me a while to be able to read the lace well enough to catch errors quickly. It got really big at the end, each row taking almost 30 minutes to complete. It required my total concentration, which meant my time to knit it on any given day was limited.

But anyone who knits lace knows that the payoff is worth it. This shawl is romantic, weblike and very warm. It is elegant and buttery, with a slight shimmer from the silk in the yarn. It is an instant heirloom, a classic piece of handiwork. And I made it.

I know knitters who do not knit lace, claiming that they'll never wear a fussy lace shawl.

As a stay-at-home Mom, I rarely have occasion to wear a fancy lace shawl. I have yet to be invited to a garden party or ladies tea, and hot dates with Mr. S are more likely to be at a basketball game (especially during this time of year) than at a romantic restaurant. Most of my days consist of any combination of cooking, interacting, nurturing, and cleaning. But doing these activities while wrapped in a gossamer blood-red lace shawl can elevate the most mundane task from the dull to the sublime.

Who says you don't have occasion to wear a lace shawl? That it is today is reason enough to wear a lace shawl. That I made it is enough to wear a lace shawl. Today is a special occasion because I am wearing my lace shawl.

Pattern: Icarus, by Miriam Felton, IK Summer 2006, or available here

Alpaca With A Twist Fino in a Ruby Slippers. It is an alpaca/silk blend that has an incredibly smooth, buttery hand and a shimmery look. The alpaca makes it fuzzy, thus it can be sticky, and hard to frog. However, this is my first experience with a true laceweight, so I do not have experience to compare it with other lace yarns.

Pattern Mods:
I did one fewer repeat of the first chart than the pattern calls for, since it is a very large shawl if knit as written, and I am a petite gal. And it is a pretty big shawl, even with the mod.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Sleeveless Spartan

Languish ('la[ng]-gwish): 1a: to be or become feeble, weak, or enervated, b: to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality; 2a: to become dispirited, b: to suffer neglect (the sleeveless Spartan languished in the knitting bag for weeks); 3: to assume an expression of grief or emotion appealing for sympathy.

I ran out of yarn. It's as simple as that. The Spartan sweater for the BackBou has no sleeves. This is not a tragedy; my yarn order has shipped (not the same dye lot) and I should be back in Spartan-sleeve-land very soon. However, I've engaged in some meta-knitting-cognition (thinking about thinking about knitting) over this project derailment. I didn't just put down the sleeveless Spartan. I lost the vision. I let the Spartan languish. (You with the 70s hits on the iPod, time to cue MacArthur Park.)

I have been accused by others of being a bit obsessive about projects. (I am.) However, I actually think I have achieved much more balance in my life since I've had children and learned to knit. You should have seen me back in the days when I was experimenting with weaving chair seats with cane and rush.

I was like an addict on a binge: personal hygiene was the first to go, then dishes piled up in the sink and meals became a bowl of cereal and some pretzels. I would eventually emerge a bit worse for wear, the intense high of the process over, left to bask in the glow of the finished project. Then the stink of the kitty litter, the stack of dirty dishes, and the mountains of laundry would materialize ... bump, I would land, sober.

I flirt with that kind of intensity now, but never fall completely under the spell -- the children and the husband take care of that. However, the magic of seeing the FO in my mind's eye and having the focus and ability to make it real is intoxicating. The vision of the object is the driving force for me but it is the creation of it that is my knitter's high. After the creation, it becomes just another thing; a source of pride and pleasure to be sure, but as they say, the thrill is gone.

So if the vision of the FO is the engine powering my creative drive, what happens when there is a malfunction? Let's say, a fuel shortage ... a lack of sufficient yardage ... a gross miscalculation ... an embarassing shortfall of yarn. The vision does not disappear immediately but during these past 10 days, the dream of the FO became fainter and fainter, until yesterday I barely even remembered that the sleeveless Spartan was in the house.

As the sleeveless Spartan (my Valentine's present to the BackBou) has languished, so has the vision. The vision is in a state of depression, weak and feeble. I am afraid that the influx of the necessary yarn will not be enough to revive the creative energy and thus the completion of the Spartan will be simply a chore.

Or will I be able to pick up the incomplete sweater, feel the softness of the merino in my hands and hear the click of the Addi's as I cast on for the sleeves, and feel the same joyful rush and envigorating thrill as before? We shall see ...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

CPH Friday

It's Central Park Hoodie Friday here at XRK, where we update you on all things CPH.

To distract you from my total lack of knitting (hence, no pics) on my CPH, I thought I would compile a list of useful links and inspiration for other CPH knitters.

Now, we know this isn't the official KAL, which you can find here. There are a ton of gorgeous finished sweaters to admire.

The pattern is printed in this issue of Knitscene Magazine.
And here is a link to the errata for the pattern.

Cara just finished hers this week, and I have been getting really excited about knitting mine after reading her adventures. Did you check out when she fixed her miscrossed cable?

Another fave of mine is Rachael's, hers in a variegated Araucania Nature Wool Chunky.

For a third, totally different look, here is Carrie's, in Cascade Sierra, which is the same yarn I used for Mr S's (still unfinished) DGE.

As for me, I am knitting my CPH using good old reliable Cascade 220 Heathers, in a purple color (#9341, garnet heather) that looks frighteningly similar to Mo's tweedy sweater. I had to go up to US9s to get stitch gauge and plan on recalculating (using Nona's Multiplier) a bit to account for a slight difference in row gauge.

Nona's also going to help me improve my ribbing. You know, as soon as I actually cast-on.

I also have enjoyed perusing all the wonderful CPHs out there in blog-land. Cara's was the one that just did me in, this is a fabulous sweater!

I've been sitting on this great stash of Maggi's Aran Tweed for almost a year now -- purchased at a great price at a LYS's huge sale -- here's a shot I took of Tina scrounging for the good stuff down on the floor.
I was able to procure 20 skeins of this wonderful yarn and I'm so happy to finally knit a sweater with enough stash to actually finish the project without ordering more. (Wait one second while I knock on some wood ...)

I am about a half inch away from the shoulder shaping on the back and am thoroughly pleased with how it's coming along!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Anemoi Hat Pattern

Anemoi Hat
This hat is the perfect mate for the Anemoi Mittens by Eunny Jang. Let the cold winds blow! Please post any comments, corrections, or improvements. Also, send links to photos of your own Anemoi Hat.

Yarn: 1 skein of Wildfoote Vanilla [MC], 1 skein of Wildfoote Blue Boy [CC]
Needles: US 2 circular needles, 16 inch and set of 5 US 2 double pointed needles
Notions: stitch marker, tapestry needle

The pattern is written to fit a medium-sized head (about 21-22 inch circumference). You should be able to adjust the size by adding or subtracting a pattern repeat and proportionally reducing or increasing the cast-on.

36 sts / 32 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch

I made this a bit loose because I intend to sew in a fleece liner. If you do not want to line the hat, knit in a smaller needle size.

For lack of a legend, read the charts thus: shaded squares are CC, white squares are MC, S = slip stitch purlwise with the yarn in back, / = knit 2 together.

Using circular needles, CO 160 st. Place marker, join to work in the round being careful not to twist. Knit one round.

Rib round 1: Attach CC; k1MC, k1CC, *k1MC, p1MC, k1MC, k1CC, rep from *, end k1MC, p1MC.
Rib round 2: k1MC, p1CC, *k1MC, p1MC, k1MC, p1CC, rep from *, end k1MC, p1MC.

Repeat round 2 eight more times or until desired length of ribbing.

Hat Body
Increase round: With MC, *k4, m1. Repeat from * to end of round. 200 st.
Knit one round MC.
Knit one round CC.
Knit two rounds MC.
Follow chart one. Eliminate or repeat diamond pattern (red bracketed section) for smaller or larger sizes.

Slip Stitch decrease round one (round 1 of chart two): With MC only, *sl1wyib (this will be in CC), k16, k2tog, sl1wyib (this will also be in CC). Repeat from * to end of round.
Resuming stranded colorwork, continue following chart two until there are 10 st remaining. K2tog five times so that there are 5 stitches left, break yarn and thread it through remaining stitches. Pull tight, weave in ends.

Weave in all ends and block hat thoroughly. Sew in fleece liner.

Chart One

Chart Two

Sunday, February 18, 2007

White Lies from the Knitter's Husband

I know how I teased you with a little picture of Mr. S's sweater, and promised a weekend photo-shoot, but unfortunately I cannot deliver. The sweater needs more attention. The collar is not right.

Before he tried it on Valentines Day morning, I made sure he understood that the reason the ends had not been woven was to make it a little easier to make changes. If the sleeves needed lengthening, or if the fit wasn't right, I could change it. Really.

When he put it on, it was obvious with the amount of shoulder-shrugging and collar-tugging and neck over-extension that the collar was not comfortable. Remember, Mr. S is not a sweater-guy. Mr. S does not wear turtlenecks or anything that might the least bit constricting around the neck.

I asked him if the collar was uncomfortable. He continued to pull, yank, and adjust, and assured me that it must be the t-shirt he was wearing under the sweater.

He blamed the t-shirt.

Knitters know that there is nothing quite so simple as adjusting a collar, and it is a common thing to modify a neckline. Changing a neck to make a sweater more comfortable is an easy fix, with a minimum of ripping and tooth-gnashing. But Mr. S did not know that, so he blamed the t-shirt, instead of acknowledging that the sweater cut uncomfortably across the base of his neck and returning his sweater for further attention.

Thank you, my Mr S, for blaming the t-shirt. It's clearly the collar that is the problem.

So the collar is going back to the drawing board. A half-assed effort to short-row the back and lower the front a bit did not work, so additional experimentation is necessary.

I am open to suggestion, readers.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Anemoi Hat

Finally finished and blocked, here is the Anemoi Hat! See the swirls of the wind gods gusting above the ribbing ...

Eunny was very gracious, and thank you to all those who encouraged me to email her. Quite the sensible thing to do! She was very complimentary and was pleased that I had contacted her. As she wrote in her email: "My only concern with this kind of thing is if a new pattern somehow shafts people who have payed full price for the original off my site – for example, if you’d included the chart in the pattern and wanted to give it away for free. That’s not the case here, of course – I say go ahead." Excellent!

After a few more pictures, I will be passing this off to a friend for the addition of a fleece liner. I hope to have the pattern posted this weekend!

I forgot: Happy Project Spectrum for February!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Second Annual XRK Knit-Along

We're knitting al0ng together at Crossroads Knits. Last year, we did the Simply Lovelies with varying degrees of success and enjoyment.

This year, it's the Central Park Hoodie from Fall 2006 KnitScene.

My CPH is knit in Tahki Donegal Tweed (color 874) on 6s and 8s.

The planned start day was Valentine's Day, but I so cheated and started about two weeks ago. Here are the beginnings of my sleeves. The back and front are done.

Will you join us? No sign ups, no due dates, no pressure, just knitting along.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentines, Chez K

Warm croissants for breakfast

Heart Necklaces for Rosebud

Dinosaur book for Pepe

Finished hand-knit sweater for Mr. S

Thursday, February 08, 2007

IP Musings

So as I embarked on the Anemoi Hat adventure, I find myself musing about Intellectual Property Laws and knitting patterns. Am I "ripping off" or "riffing off" when I take Eunny's Anemoi Mittens pattern and translate those swirls and the assymetrical corrugated ribbing into a hat? I'd like to think that this is more like jazz than law, working within a style rather than plagiarism, inspired by spirit but modifying form.

Are there ethical issues with this? Will Eunny view this as a theft of her creative energy? or will she, more true to my perception, see this as a desperate stab at a tribute to her glorious pattern-making (the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" approach).

Anyhoo, just some thoughts as I plug away at the wonderful but tedious assymetrical corrugated ribbing ...

For your entertainment today, from John at Buttermilk & Molasses, check out onBeing from The Washington Post. As John describes it: "[NPR's] Storycorps on film, minus the maudlin moments. (So far.)"

Also, make sure you preorder this book when you preorder your HP7!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Le Beret de Rosebud

The berets -- they are everywhere! I love to wear a woolen beret in the winter, and have been wanting to knit one for myself after seeing Mo's cool tweedy one. But since I've been craving the FO, I decided to knit one for my Rosebud first, especially after seeing this one.

Pattern: Taos Beret

Yarn: Louisa Harding Kimono Angora 06 (from stash!)

Mods: I modified this pattern quite a bit -- I wanted a slouchier, poufy-er beret, so I did a second increase round (K4 M1) to eventually increase to 150 stitches total). I knitted straight for 3.5", and then sped up the decrease rounds because I was running out of yarn. I knitted the first 4 decrease rounds as called for in the pattern with a plain round between each, but then I simply knit each round as a decrease round until I got to 6 stitches total. The top of the beret would have been flatter had I spaced the decreases as called for, but I really like those sharp pleats at the top. I think it gives the beret a bit of structure.

I also added a little milky pearl button on the top, for a little flair.

One thing about the yarn: it is not stretchy at all. It is soft, but it has absolutely no stretch. I plan to thread a bit of elastic in the ribbing a la Grumperina to keep it on her head.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Where's Your Knitting?

As I spend today puzzling over how in the world I could be short of yarn (errr) for the BackBou's sweater (Spartan Pullover), here is a game for all those non-monogamous knitters out there. You know who you are: the knitters who must have one quick project, one big project, a pair of socks, a project for felting, a present about to be gifted, and a lace project all going at any given time. I currently only have 2 projects really in the works and am swatching for 2 others.

Where is your knitting?

The Spartan Pullover is by the easy chair in the living room. Did I mention that it's short on yarn? Why do I believe that I can estimate yardage when I mess with gauge? Ah, the hubris ...

The swatches for the Anemoi Hat are in the kitchen. The light is really good in there!

I've been swatching for the Central Park Hoodie in the study during TV time.

And a scrumptious mistake rib scarf in Malabrigo hangs as my knitting on the go -- doctor's offices, carpool lines, before the order comes in restaurants, etc.

I actually did some scarf knitting this weekend at the Horticulture Symposium at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. I was able to hear Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd speak about their brilliant work and their beautiful North Hill Garden in southern Vermont. Pat Reese, the assistant head gardener at Great Dixter spoke as did Carol Reese (no relation), Horticulture's Q&A expert. These speakers were fabulous and I can't wait for Spring!

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Our pals at Two Sharp Sticks are having a contest on their blog where they ask knitbloggers to share their "How I Learned to Knit" stories. Mine is especially timely as I first learned to knit, like Eyeknit, on Super Bowl Sunday.

For as long as I can remember, my Mom's best friend has been Maryellen, a passionate lifelong knitter who excelled in all things crafty, like needlepoint and sewing. She is also an amazing cook and throws a great party, but she is not exactly what I would call organized. One time our families had Thanksgiving together and dinner was served dish by dish, since nothing got done at the same time. I think we had gravy for dessert.

Maryellen is also what you might call bold. She has a loud laugh and a no-bull approach towards life. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and has the kindest, most giving and accepting heart. She also curses like a sailor. In fact, she sometimes curses worse than sailors. It is this that makes my mom and Maryellen an odd pair, though, because my mom absolutely hates cursing. Passionately. I am convinced that I am the only girl in my generation who never saw Grease because there was too much cursing. One of the motivations for keeping this blog fairly PG-rated is that Mom is a regular reader, and I don't want her to be offended. You know, by my knitting blog.

Maryellen was the first adult I ever cursed in front of, when I called her son an a**hole (he was being one, incidentally -- even she agreed), and she is the one who taught me to knit.

My mother is not what you would call a crafty person. My mom is a reader; She reads three newspapers a day, cover to cover. My mom is a financial genius and powerful force in an argument. She knows everything about construction and home renovation, bakes the best apple pie and makes perfect gravy every time, but she does not craft.

So I have no clue why she bugged Maryellen to teach me to knit, but it was all Mom's idea. So on Super Bowl Sunday in (I think) 1981, a few families gathered for a party, and I got my knitting lesson.

I quickly learned knit and purl, but never really got beyond that. I could make long, rectangular schmattes, but that was about it. I couldn't cast on or bind off, and had no idea how to make my knitting into something useful or wearable. I mean, I only had that one lesson.

Maryellen's handiwork on Rosebud, about 10 months

But I instantly connected with the appeal of knitting. The knits and purls stayed with me, and periodically, I would pick it up. High school knitting club with Sister Sallie taught me to cast on and bind off. Post-college unemployment-induced bouts of insomnia was when I dabbled in cross-stitch, but it was Maryellen's metal US8s that I packed from apartment to apartment until I ended up crossing paths with Mo who reignited my interest in knitting in 2001. I pulled out those needles, bought a Teach Yourself to Knit kit, and have rarely gone a day without it since.

It was 26 years ago this weekend that I learned to knit, and I have Maryellen to thank so much for teaching me to knit.

(Mom, stop reading now! Do not scroll down, Mom.)

Pepe's sweater by Maryellen

So, Maryellen, thanks a f*ckin' lot!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blow Wind Blow

My Anemoi Mittens have been finished for a while now, but I've waited to photograph them until the blocking was done. I find that more than any other items I've knit, colorwork must be blocked well. I may actually have recovered somewhat from my aqualanophobia, we'll see how I do when I have to block a sweater or, cringe, lace.

These mittens were just a pleasure to knit! They are going to be auctioned at the Richmond Waldorf School Auction at the end of March (along with a to-be-knit matching hat and vest -- a head, hands, and heart package).

Here are the facts, Jack:

Pattern: Anemoi Mittens by Eunny Jang
Yarn: Wildfoote Sock Yarn in Vanilla (MC) and Boy Blue (CC)
Needles: US2s. I struggled with knitting the cuffs so they would fit over my hands (very medium sized hands, btw). I ended up using the US2s for the entire mitten and they fit my hand perfectly.

I had a quandry with her instructions at the mitten tip to: Turn mitten inside out and join sts with three-needle bind-off in MC. How does one successfully, without dropping sts and without freaking completely out, turn this mitten inside out with 2 dpns attached to the top? For the first mitten, I scootched the needles so that the stitches were almost falling off and then slid them carefully inside the mitten. I found it to be a high risk manuever for me, but it worked.

With the 2nd mitten, I did this ...

Right-side out with dpns

Placed stitches on safety pins

Turn inside out then replace needles


Easy-schmeasy and much better for my committment not to swear around the children. The mittens have been "outed" already for Knit Night at the Yarn Lounge. What a wonderful night Stewart and Melanie host! Snacks, wine, free massages ... and great knitting! Now I'm to start on a hat to match the mittens, time to get out the graph paper ...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Da Scarf

Inspired by Bonne Marie's new Player hat, I decided to make a rally scarf for my Astro Van drivin', Chicago Bears lovin' pal. I thought her high security clearance level would not permit me to show her face on XRK blog, but she slipped and let me snap a shot. Isn't she a cutie?

I keep telling everyone she's going to the Super Bowl, but that's not really true. Her husband surprised her with a plane ticket out of Redskins country to the Windy City to watch the Super Bowl with her lovely mother, eight brothers and sisters, along with in-laws and dozens of neices and nephews. She's so happy, it's better than really going to game. Nice job big guy, we're all impressed!

The scarf is Cascade 220 in organge and Patons Classic Wool Merino in navy. I doubled the yarn and knit in a K2P2 rib on 10 1/2s until the yarn was gone. A simple gift for a wonderful friend. Go Bears!


I'll admit to being a mostly a product-knitter. I love a finished knit. I love the high I get when I finish a project. I love to wear the handknits, or give the handknit gift. I love knowing that I shrunk the stash. While I have multiple WIPs, most eventually make their way to the finish line. And while I really enjoy the process, really I do, for me, it really is about the FOs.

So here it is, the first of February, and I have no FOs for 2007.

Well, almost nothing.

Two Sugar N' Cream dishtowels

By the end of last year, I was really cranking out the FOs, but this month, the finishing of projects is objects being sacrificed on the altar of my knitting ambition, with process motivating my knitting choices. I have two major projects on the needles, as well as two new challenges that have dominated my knitting time.

Major Projects: Dylan Goes Electric and Icarus

Mr. S's sweater plods along as only an XXL sweater can. The plan is to finish it in the next two weeks for a certain romantic holiday, when Mr S traditionally gets his annual special handknit...

Icarus stalled after completing the second chart. At the urging of StuntMother, I started knitting it using Boye Balene needles, and found My New Favorite Lace Needle. The combination of the pointy tip and the smooth, flexible needle was perfect. But once I got about 400 stitches scrunched up on the 13" straight, it just became too hard to read the lace enough to stay on track, and I started making mistakes. When I tinked back 4 rows (that's 1600 stitches, people!) after spotting a mistake, I knew Icarus had to go into a holding pattern while I awaited new needles. Not having any luck finding a US3 circular, I had to go with another needle.

An Inox 40" circular showed up this week, and I am now chugging along with chart 3. Lace is such a pleasure to knit, both in the process and in the final product.

Challenges: Colorwork and Test-Knitting

For about a week in January, I put all the WIPs on hold to practice colorwork in anticipation of my Latvian Wrister class at Loop with Beth Brown-Reinsel. I chose to knit the Kefeely Mitten pattern from Handknit Holidays as a sort of practice swatch, on the recommendation of Eyeknit, one of my classmates for a fantastic Sunday afternoon. It was preceded with a great lunch at TenStone with Jody, my new In Real Life friend. Both Jody and Eyeknit did a great overview of the class here and here, and they both finished their wrister. Jody even posted a tutorial about some of the techniques we learned. I did not finish my wrister, and I also frogged my Keefely mitten and have not picked it up since then. I learned a lot about colorwork from the class, but have not quite been bitten by the stranding bug yet. I do crave some stranded mittens, though, so I see these moving back into the queue promptly.

I also cranked out the socks in 2006, and I am genuinely surprised that I have not completed a pair of socks in '07 yet. Socks for me are the Holy Trifecta of Knitting Perfection: great yarn, an intriguing yet quick process with many new techniques to try, and a useful FO to enjoy and admire.

I did knit one sock this month:

Electric Eyelet, Black Bunny Fibers Sock Sample

I offered myself as a test knitter for Carol of Black Bunny Fibers and the Go Knit in Your Hat blog, and she started me off easy with a sock pattern for Black Bunny. It was my first chance to knit with BBF, and I highly recommend it. What really intrigued me was how the very electric-green sock was toned down and subdued a bit once knitted. The pattern is an eyelet rib, which creates a sort of ruffled effect and a very comfortable cuff.

This was my first experience test-knitting, and I focused on executing the pattern exactly as written, and checking it carefully for errors or ambiguity. As this sock is intended for use as a sample, I also wanted it to be completely error-free, so there was more than the usual frogging. I am often content with "good enough," especially with socks, but that would not do for my first professional knitting gig.

So, I've focused on the process. But when, oh, when will I get my jolt of an FO???