Saturday, December 31, 2016

From the snowy north

   
Every night there is more snow.  The plow trucks go past my bedroom window, thundering in the silence, and they seem both monstrous and valiant--they are the way we can go forth in the morning, but the sound of them when they are upon you, right outside your window, is tremendous.  I think that's a job I might like; it's 3:00 am, and there is nothing outside but stillness and the crunchy cold and a fresh and precious snowfall, still untouched.  You fill a thermos with coffee, you put on your thermals, your woolen wrist warmers, your Carharts (with red suspenders) and climb into the tall cab of the plow truck.  Breath fogs up the window.  You turn the heat all the way up, crack the window an inch.  Then you drive up and down, along the quiet country roads, back and forth down the deserted highway, and along the fresh, silent streets, branches and twigs all sugared and dusted.  Mighty in the silence.  Warm in the truck.  The sleepy town, and me, doing the hard work of clearing it, making the way.  For a girl who really loves to sleep late and then hang around in her jammies, having a long breakfast that morphs into lunch and hunkering lazily beside the fireplace with her catdog, this seems out of place, even to me.  There it is, though.  It must be so cozy in the snowplow cab, and so beautifully singular.  Maybe one day I'll do that, right after I take up bartending, which is the other job I think I would love.  
Speaking of cozy, here is my most recent finished project--look at that enormous cowl!  I love those cables.  This thing fits me perfectly, too.  I must be getting the hang of choosing a project that will suit me, and then knitting it to fit.  You can't imagine how many total failures there have been over the years, but then I suppose that is how you master a thing, isn't it?  I am getting there.  
This is Lanvad by Justyna Lorkowska, knit in Berocco Ultra Alpaca worsted weight yarn.  This color, hard to capture, is a very complicated and muted purple/pink/gray, and I was madly in love with it until I read the actual color name on the label--the geniuses at Berocco are calling this very lovely color "Candyfloss".  Once I saw that, I could not unsee it.  Candyfloss?  I am so influenced by these things that it almost made me give up halfway, and I am not kidding.  I don't want to wear anything the color of candyfloss.  (US friends, that is Cotton Candy to you and me, and calling it "candyfloss" does not make it any less evocative of throwing up on the Tilt-a-Whirl.) 
I pressed on, though, through all my color doubts, and Doc very kindly came up with roughly a thousand other names for this color, trying to appease me about it, and I will accept just about any one of them, and actually this finished garment is near perfect, so there.  You can try to throw me off the trail, but I am too tough.  Take that, Berocco.  You can't candyfloss me.    
I wish you all a very Happy and Cozy New Year.  Stay warm out there, lovely friends.  Xoxo  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In the in-between

Hello there!  Whoo, I am tired.  It's been a houseful around here, almost all of my people in one place, all at the same time, which since we are basically nomadic as a tribe doesn't happen very often.  Via planes, trains, and automobiles they all found their way here to the cozy things shack and we squeezed them hard and kissed them incessantly and fed them constantly, and then installed them on camping mattresses underneath piles of quilts in every corner, and I realized we didn't even have enough towels in the cupboard, which meant a sort of frustrating last minute dash to Macy's (the mall!  At Christmastime!  Aaaaugh!  Charlie Brown noises here) and stocked the bar with weird/delicious local gin and Bailey's.  We ate everything and stayed up almost until dawn playing Canasta and listening to Andy Williams, and later I made them all sit around the table and sew things.  My boy, who is not a boy anymore, by the way, but a fully grown-up person, [what, when did that happen]--embroidered with us, because he saw it would mean something to me if he sat down and played along, and my girls and I (we happily have three beautiful girls now, because my own two are bringing their special people along with them) made tiny mice (from the free pattern by the inspiring and talented Ann Wood) and photographed them dancing and having a party of their own.  We watched Elf.  We ate Pasta Alla Carbonara and lemon cake and gigantic jumbo shrimp, and went to Mama San's for noodles, and it was all just the very best.  The very, very best.  (Here's a holiday tip for you:  it is easy to trick people into staying up just a little longer, for one more story or song or hand of cards--just put a dish of olives or hummus or gouda flavored crackers in the middle of the table.  You guys, people will stay up all night long for olives.  Those are my findings, anyway.)      I gifted some secret knitting to my lovely mama, a Fairfield Cardigan, designed by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed, knitted in Wool of the Andes Tweed from KnitPicks, in a color perfectly named "North Pole Heather."  I started knitting this cardigan back in August so I wouldn't have a repeat of last year's last minute freakout about trying to finish it in time, and I'm so glad I did that, because this thing was done and wrapped a month ago, and all I had left of it was to anticipate her reaction.  She didn't disappoint me, and of course it looks solid gold on her, because she's one of those types who looks good in everything.     So we have successfully pulled off another family holiday, and I'm in recovery mode now, and doing all those end-of-the-year things like thinking about rearranging all the furniture again and wanting a new haircut and organizing all the yarn and patterns into piles, and making plans for things to make that should last me a good long time.  I have some gorgeous new yarn, and some beautiful, handmade new tools that go with a new crafty thing I can't wait to show you, too, something brand-new to me, something that's really pushing all the happy buttons pretty hard, and I am getting the hang of it.  That's a story for next time.  Meanwhile, enjoy these in-between the holidays days, my friends, and as always, thank you so much for visiting me here.  I can't even say what it means to me.  With love, from my little cottage to yours.  Xoxo  K

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's the yarn

This is Malabrigo Mecha, in "Arco Iris".  I don't know what an Arco Iris is, but I think it must be some kind of fairy rainbow clown pajamas, because this yarn, in this color, is a thing unto itself.  It is so beautiful, and so everycolored, and so detailed.  And so multi. Which is something I love a lot but can't figure out what to do with.  I have fallen for this game a million times, and I keep falling for it--those gorgeous, handpainted skeins that are total works of art.  They are so irresistible!  And then they disappear into the bottom strata of the stash, coming out once every few months for petting and admiration, and then back in they go.  It bugs me, this, because these skeins are so luscious until I start knitting with them, which is when I fall out of love.  My dear friend Ethel collects beautiful, soft skeins of yarn like this, yarns that are carefully, artfully handpainted by an expert--a genius, probably--and she leaves them that way, in the skein, and she loves them.  But I knit things, so mittens happened. 
This yarn is a densely spun single, and my meticulous scrutiny (I stopped after every row to gasp at how the colors were layering) revealed that this density is where the magic is--the thick single ply is still mostly white in the middle, and the dye--All The Colors!--skims the surface layer only, so that the yarn seems somehow to glow from within, like a watercolor painting, which works the same way;  white paper glowing from beneath a transparent layer of glaze=light.  I made myself work on these mittens only during daylight hours, to maximize appreciation of the colors as they unfolded, and it was joyful.  There was no striping, and no pooling, either.  What?  How?  I don't know.  Magic and genius, I guess.  
 
As the mittens developed, I (predictably) sort of liked them less and less--I love this color up close, and in small quantities.  Making it into a mitten seems to have diminished it somehow, and made it ordinary.  
Look at the light coming out of those wrong-side stitches.  Just, oooh.  
I liked the wrong side better, so when the mittens were done, I wove in the ends that way and turned them inside out.  
 
I like them, but just.  Knitting them, and watching this yarn do its thing, was a rainbow of happiness.  They'll get worn a lot, and probably will get worn out--I live in a snowy world, after all--and they are warm and colorful, and there's nothing wrong with them at all, but the fun in these was all in the making of them.  It was a pretty nice way to spend an afternoon.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Blizzard Day Mittens

The sky is so threatening.  Solid.  All the indoor light is vaporous and foggy and gauzy, and the massive plow trucks go thundering by with increasing regularity.  I feel tucked in, and am having a big need to make mittens, today, in self defense.  Mittens are small and quick, and best of all, they can be snazzy.  When it comes to mittens, there is none of my usual gray-craving or need for restraint, nor worries about wearability.  Mittens are what to do with that crazy skein of worsted yarn I bought because I could not help it, in spite of the fact that one skein of crazy yarn is good for practically nothing else.  In fact, this skein (Malabrigo Mecha in "Arco Iris") might be one of those things that looks best in the skein and might well be left that way for its own good, but I think a simple mittens pattern can handle it.  The World's Simplest Mittens (by Tin Can Knits) will know what to do with the neon rainbow that is "Arco Iris".  I can't imagine what this will do on the needles--stripes, probably, or the most incorrigible pooling--but here goes.  I feel warmer already. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Critters: Mouse #1

  Eeeek!  Mice!   Great, just in time for Christmas...  
  This is the first version, and he's pretty close to what I want.  When I showed my lovely mama, she shuddered, and said, "That mouse looks too real."  Success!  I did not want a cartoon mouse, though I do have vague plans to do a little assemblage with mice playing cards or having tea or something; just thinking about that makes me laugh a little bit.  It's the funny taxidermy I love so much, made with wool.  Yes, that will be happening; watch this space.  I started with sketches, trying to figure out their bodies, what kind of shapes they're made of--almonds, shells--and then broke the drawings down into a few simple pattern pieces:  two sides and a belly gusset (just guessing at the gusset, and got it mostly right, I think) and then a few little circles and ovals for the teensy legs.  The tweedy wool he's made from is a pair of too-short Banana Republic pants that I thrifted and meant to have tailored to fit me better, but they sat there and sat there as I did not take them to the tailor, and then this idea came along, and the fabric was just right.  The wee ears, feet, and tail are leather scraps, also thrifted.    
 
I like having him creeping around on the picture frames and among the books.  He's a good egg.  I think there will be more of these. This guy hardly made a dent in the fabric--so much pants still left to cut up!  Stay tuned.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dyepot adventures, continued

The results of my overdyeing were a big success.  This yarn, as I told you earlier, was a pretty ordinary brown/yellow to start with, an oldie from the sale bin at the Fiber Festival, Patons Classic in the pretty dull "Gold".  I could not find a use for it in its original state, and I tried at least three times, knitting a bunch of it into the beginnings of a sweater, a wrap, and another wrap, and always reaching the same conclusion; it looks like I don't actually like Paton's Classic "Gold".  Which is not to say you can't love it, but I found it a little too brown to be gold, and a little too gold to be brown, and then not being able to be anything in between, either.  So I dunked it in a pan with some hot water and one packet of Black Cherry Kool-Aid, and the improvement to "Gold" has been, in my opinion, pretty considerable.   Ratios:  one 3.5 oz skein yarn to one packet Kool-Aid.  I was looking for the color to arrive at some kind of combination of Gold and Black Cherry---for more saturation and more Black Cherryness, I think you'd want to use more packets.     This isn't my first Kool-Aid rodeo; I've dyed with it before, and I drank so much of it in my 1970's childhood that my tongue was probably always red, but this trip around the block made me remember how much fun it is to dye yarn with Kool-Aid.  It requires no special pans, tools, or other equipment, it is no messier than, well, than making Kool-Aid usually is, and it smells like the homemade popsicles we made in paper cups back in my youth.  In fact, apart from the general, usual non-foodness of the wool itself, you could probably drink the exhaust from the dyepot.  (Not that I did, but I'm just sayin.  It is nothing but clear, fruit-scented water that has had a skein of wool simmered in it.  Not food, but not dangerous).  This is a very tidy project, and the complex, burnt orange yarn results I got for my twenty-five cent investment are pretty satisfying. 
  I had a crack at the Lemongrass, too, while I was at it. This is overdyed with Grape, using the same 1:1 ratio.  It's a little variegated for my taste, but another trip through the fruit-scented soup pot would be so easy.  I might do that, or I might just cast on something with it right now, in between sewing teeny little mice out of cut-up pants from my closet.
Pretty good, I think.  Complex?  Yep.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Working

I am making myself take a break from this to tell you about it.  This is the first of (hopefully) many experimental excursions into sewing little critters of all sorts, by hand.  I have been devouring everything Ann Wood is willing to teach me, both about her stitching process and also about her personal creative journey--this is something that's been on my mind lately, too; what is the work I am meant to do, that only I can do?  Am I spending too much time making things that don't really need to be made--clothes that don't fit or suit me, things made for weird reasons like outside pressure, or gifts people don't really want?  How can I get closer to who I really am as an artist and a maker?  
  I have fallen so deeply into knitting these past months (years?) which has been divine, but I am not just a knitter, which I almost feel like I recently forgot.  I miss handsewing, and I miss tiny things, and I miss building little enchanted stories out of found things.  I want to lose whole hours rootling around in a basket of foraged doodads, looking for just the right silk flower.  So that's what I did today.  Ann is my jumping-off point--and listen, her blog is so good.  I am studying her words and taking notes from it like I'm auditing a class in Creative Process.  Such good stuff there, so many places to go.    
Something I struggle with so hard is that work like this--assemblages, mixed media 3-D sculpture, collage, etc.--makes such a holy mess.  I am desperate to clean this up, yo.  You should see the floor.  Knitting is so tidy, which is a huge part of its appeal, and this; all these little strings and wire clippings and scraps of paper and shredded fabrics, so much of it is stuck to my clothes as we speak, and so many, many tools, scrounged from every corner of the house--it gets to me a little.  I want to just turn up the radio and let it accumulate until I'm done for the day, and then I will put it all away, brush all the threads off my lap at once, and sweep the floor, and not care about it at all until then.  Goals.  At the end of the day, I can clean up this creative mess and still sit down with a mitten in progress.  There will still be yarn.  There will always be yarn.