Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tres chic poncho. Not an oxymoron.

 

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I have to say it again:  blocking.  Blocking!  Look at that edge, it’s like a knife.  You could cut yourself on that edge. 

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As I squint into the setting sun and the 30+ mph wind hurls my hair in every direction, let me point out that this pattern is nothing more than a rectangle in stockinette stitch.  With a slipped stitch at each edge.  So there’s nothing to keep the edges from curling, which—and this is the truth—they always will.  Also—and this, too, is the truth—there’s nothing you can do about it.  Paradoxically, though, a good blocking will fix that curl, whip it right into shape, lay it right out.  I am wearing the proof right now.  The edges of this poncho are not curling.  I have the power of Zeus!  I am the boss of my knitting.  Success in this case is mostly due to the use of blocking wires (thank you, Deb!) which take an hour to install, but which in the end made all the difference in the world. 

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Not to mention the fact that this pattern achieves the impossible feat of making a poncho—one with the simplest possible construction—look chic.  I mean, really, honestly.  Don’t judge it by these photos of me, I beg you.  The wind was blowing it all over the place and I was frozen to the bone.  It is tres chic, I promise.  My husband used the word “elegant” without irony, and no little amazement.  An elegant poncho. 

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This is, of course, the Easy Folded Poncho, by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.  I’ve gotta be straight with you.  It is hardly a revolutionary idea, the folded rectangle poncho.  You probably wore one when you were eight, and if you are from Peru, you are probably wearing one right now.  The savvy among you will be thinking what I also thought: Why the heck should I buy a pattern for a rectangle?  Which is all this is, a rectangle.  In stockinette stitch.  There are no size options. There is a cowl collar you can add if you're inclined to do it, but that’s nothing fancy, either.  There is talk of a provisional cast-on, leading one to think perhaps there is going to be an interesting construction element at work, but I am here to tell you that the provisional cast-on is utterly unnecessary in this case.  So, what does your five bucks get you, then?  I suppose it gets you the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting a small yarn company, and that somebody went to the trouble of figuring out some basic dimensions that will fit some people.  I don’t know.  Is it a great pattern?  I mean, the end result is certainly a big win, helped a lot here by the gorgeous yarn [Chickadee by Quince and Co. in “Frost”.  Egad, that stuff is a dream.]  But it’s a rectangle, the simplest and most unfettered of all rectangles.  In any case, because this is a pattern that somebody is selling, I am not able to divulge its finished dimensions, mainly because I wouldn’t want somebody to do that to me, if I were selling something.  I hope that makes sense.  Anyway, enough with that.  I send the Churchmouse Yarns people all the love in the world.  This poncho is the best, most wearable thing I’ve made in a long time.   Love to the yarn people. 

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Perfect for springtime, no? 

In other news, look at this:

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I am so thrilled!  I took about four hundred pictures of it, because every time the sun moved an inch, the thing seemed to glow a little more. 

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You wouldn’t believe the pampering this plant gets.  So ridiculous.  I’ll probably be sending it away to finishing school soon, so it can learn to speak French. 

By way of comparison, I also have this orchid:

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I know, right?  I mean, isn’t that just inspiring?  One healthy leaf.  Sheesh. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crocheted buttons

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You know how, sometimes, you just can’t find the right buttons?  My mama always says that buttons can make or break your project, and I think she’s right.  I go to the fabric store, stand hopefully in front of the buttons display clutching my swatch, and kind of despair.  If I wanted stop sign buttons or flower pot buttons or teddy bear buttons, or plain white shirt buttons, or if I wanted 5/8” instead 1/2”, or if they had eight instead of six, I would have no button problems at all.  Well, when all else fails, do it yourself.  I have learned another great trick

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The crocheted button.  I somehow thought these would be so complicated, but they’re not at all.   Here’s how:  Chain 12.  Turn.  Single crochet in each chain.  Fasten off and break the yarn.  Roll up the little strip you just made and sew it here and there, at the bottom.  Tie the ends together, and then use them to sew it to your sweater. 
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Stuff like this just makes me feel like I’m beating the system. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Plain

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There are two kinds of projects around here—stuff I want to make, and stuff I want to wear.  Sometimes they are the same, but sometimes not, and this one is fully the latter, which surprises me, because it is nothing but a big rectangle of knitting, in stockinette stitch, with no more than a “slip one” at the beginning of each row to keep me awake, and normally I love that kind of thing, but this rectangle; this thing is the most supreme plainness.   This project is the epitome of plain.  I am dying to throw in a bunch of stripes or something, or twee up the edging just so I know I’m alive, but in the end a hand goes up to stop me, because I really want to wear this, and I really want the plain one.  It is tedious, though.  As I work, I can see nothing whatsoever happening.  I am relying on the yarn, beautiful Chickadee from Quince and Co, in “Frost”, to soothe the tremendous ennui, and it does a little, because it is that great.  It is so soft, you could persuade me it was cotton.  Swoon.

In other news, the buds on the orchid are SO fat.  I feel like I’m holding my breath.  Also, Grandma’s birthday is upon us, and she (of the perfect triangle points) is 97 years old.  Her secret to a long and happy life is to eat your vegetables, tend a flower garden, make art, treasure your children, and find someone to love.  She still flirts.  Rock on, Grandma.  I love you a whole bunch. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nae scarf, and more bumps in the sewing road

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Another easy-peasy knit scarf has come off my needles.  This one is Nae by Anat Rodan.  And look at that yarn, mmmmm.  It is Malabrigo Sock, in Ochre.  I love that antique gold color.  Straw and pollen and honey.  Malabrigo is the softest yarn in the world, I think. 

Notice, too, the dress underneath it:

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Taupe voile, silky-soft, it looks like my mother’s Girl Scout uniform from 1950, which, by the way, is the best possible recommendation as far as I can tell.   Sadly, due to the, er, clingy quality of the very delicate fabric, contrasted against the backdrop of my, er, largely sedentary self, this dress might my most beautiful failure.  From Clothing for everyday wear by Yoshiko Tsukiori , it is so pretty, but also pretty unflattering; this is the second time in a row I’ve forgotten that I am not a waif, but I refuse to be deterred.  I love the designs in that book, and I will sew something I can wear.  On the hunt now for some lightweight linen, preferably in (wait for it) mushroom gray.  Any ideas? 

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Oh, that’s a nice palette.  Worth it, just for that. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What to do when it snows

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When life gives you a nasty March blizzard, sit beside your cozy hearth and stitch quilt blocks. If you have no hearth [goodness, get one immediately] sit beside the furnace vent or something, anything.  In between long stretches of plain knitting, I made these while we watched (too much) special edition storm coverage on tv, watched Mike Seidel just about get blown over into the big lake.  We stood at the window, gawping at the apocalyptic amounts of snow drifting up in our neighbor’s driveway, while the wind scoured the grass clean—why does it do that?  How does it know to put a three-foot drift right behind the back door, but leave the yard bare?  This morning, as he helped us dig ourselves out [that guy is getting a pie or something, I just adore him] he told me there is a drift behind his garage “this high” and held his hand above both our heads.  I am just so fascinated by the dang weather, I don’t know.  Anyway, the sun came out again today, and as I plowed my way to the henhouse this morning, they squawked and flapped at me, so mad, indignant, heads poking out the door flap, malice in their eyes.  They have totally had it.  I cooed at them and gave them corn and fresh lettuce, and they looked at me sideways before they ate it, like That’s RIGHT you’re giving me a snack.  Oh, you better beLIEVE you’re bringing me a treat right now.  And then, there will be an egg.  Those little gals are such troupers. 

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I’m halfway to a quilt top with these.  I mean, already?  Really?  It has been no work at all. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Storm Watch

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Oh, another storm.  This one comes at us like a Nor’easter, and there’s a little bit of thrill that comes over me at the thought of a Nor’easter, since I am from the Midwest where we hid from tornadoes and storms were just storms.  Now I live in a place with Nor’easters, which makes me feel hardy, and reminds me of Burt Dow, Deep Water Man, who is tough as nails and puts a band-aid on a whale.  Yellow slickers and ruddy sailors, tough New Englanders, who are equal to any weather. Nor’easters are serious weather, but for inlanders, they mean the wind/rain/snow comes from the east, instead of the usual west, and that all the resulting drifts will be in a different place, and I have to batten down the east-facing henhouse with extra straw.  I have big plans to bake cookies and finish all the laundry in case the power goes out, and then hibernate beside the fire with the ultimate plain knitting.  Hand piece some quilt squares.  I may take a nap.  Find something on Netflix that takes place in the Caribbean.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How one project leads to another

 

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Muted neutrals, fading stormy grays.  Non-colors.  Stately drear.

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This piece has a bit of antique flavor, like an old plaid lap rug from the carriage house.  I love the way the blocked-out ribbing, going against the grain of the color stripes, gives a gingham-ish, almost 3-D effect, like there is more to this in design than just stripes in ribbing, which, by the way, is my new favorite thing. 

On the needles, it looked like this:

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and it sorta looked like it could be a skirt if all else failed, and it might have been a cute skirt if left unblocked—file that idea away for later—but it of course it wasn’t meant to be a skirt. 

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This wrap was inspired by (but not knitted entirely to the specs of) the Wearwithall Shawl, made using KnitPicks Palette, one ball of each color, in marble heather, gosling, green tea heather, silver, ash, and hare heather, on a US 5 needle.  I was planning to use nine colors, but after six, it seemed wide enough, and I didn’t know how I would wear it if it got any wider.  It blocked out to about 18” wide, which seems just right.  Palette is a fingering weight/sock weight yarn, a teeny bit fuzzy, as if it’s angling toward wanting to be a Shetland-type wool, with a scruffiness I kind of like, and it comes in a bazillion colors.  It will felt with a stunning alacrity, so if you delve into this and use Palette, wash with care.  I didn’t happen to have a paper catalog handy, so I chose this color scheme by squinting at the 1/2” photos on my computer screen, and then hoped for the best.  I think it has a wonderful, casual country vibe, like old curtains in the window of the house at the lake.  Looking at it, I can imagine a whole blanket done this way, so fine and light, a summer blanket, a barely-there layer, and a hundred million hours of bland knitting, one row after another in casual stripes, choosing the next color when the time comes to choose it.  It would take ages.  It would be Epic.  A divine journey.  I am aching to start.