Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Most Perfect, feat. Frank Lloyd Wright

Like a lot of places at this end of the world, it got a little bit freakishly warm here in Rochester, and the sun came out and the birds sang and the daffodils poked their shoots up through the mulchy leaves, and hoo!  It was such a balm.  Today it is slightly more Februaryish, which is just as well, because I finished this the other day, and I am glad for a chance to wear it.  
It would be hard for me to overstate how much I love this sweater.  As a knitter of garments, I sometimes veer off into the colorful and the artsy and the only vaguely wearable, but really, most of the time, I am looking for a finished object that I can actually put on in the morning, and which will feel great and look good and match my other clothes and stuff.  I also want it to be fun to work on, if possible, and I kind of want to be able to use some of the yarn I already have lying around here, because I really have a lot of yarn, which presumably I bought it because I liked it, so it shouldn't be that hard to figure out what to make with it, but I feel it can be a challenge to put all these things together.  I spend hours trolling around Ravelry for patterns.  Once I choose one, I ask myself:  Will it fit me?  (That is, will I have to tug at it all day to keep it in place?  Is it long enough?  Roomy enough where I need it to be?  Will I have to make a million modifications?). Will it flatter?  (I have huge shoulders and a very long torso). Will the pattern + yarn make a nice fabric?  Will it drape/hang nicely?  Will I wear this color?  (Does it fit into my wardrobe?)  Will I enjoy knitting this?  (Is the pattern well-written, free of errors?).  Will this finished fabric feel nice next to my bare flesh? (So, not alpaca or mohair).  Does this design fit my personal style (trickier to answer, that one.) More simply, Do I have enough yarn in the stash right this minute to make this (and also, is it wound already) because I am into instant gratification and am also lazy.  All this is a fairly lengthy but enjoyable process for me.
I took a look in my closet the other day and wondered why I've never made the charcoal gray wool turtleneck I've always wanted/needed.  Why haven't I done this?  I have had the yarn to knit this sweater for, hmm, I don't even know how long.  YEARS.  Maybe ten.  I can hardly believe that.  And the whole time I've been wanting the sweater.  What the heck?  It wasn't going to knit itself.  It was time.  
So this is (ohmygoshIloveitsomuch) September Morn, designed by Thea Colman.  It is everything I wanted it to be.  See all the above, and check the box for YES.  With the help of a long road trip, I knit this in one week, and wore it today on a properly February day, with biting wind in my eyeballs and tiny snow pellets smacking me in the face.  I love New York.  Feeling sluggish and stiff from months spent lounging beside the fireplace, we went for a walk, and it felt wonderful and hearty, and this Perfect Sweater kept me warm as toast.  
Okay, there is a slight dyelot problem in the yarn at the yoke.  This comes from my finding a little ball of leftovers (oh, right--this is Paton's Classic Worsted in Gray Mix) loafing in the scraps bin and, assuming like an idiot that it would match, splicing it in there for the sake of using it up.  Of course it was evening while I was doing that and didn't see the color difference until several hours and inches later, and I decided then that it wouldn't bother me, and it really doesn't.  The happiness endorphins bathing my nervous system due to the general perfection of this end result are preventing me from seeing that little stripe very much anyway.  I'll be more careful next time, though.
We walked in the East Avenue Historic District, among the millionaires' mansions.  I took off my coat,
Adjusted my bandana,
And said, "Hey, isn't that the Boynton House, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908?"  We were just strolling down East Boulevard, and there it was, a proper National Treasure.  That's two perfect things, I think.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gray is good

Well, the heart wants what it wants.  An evaluation of my wardrobe has revealed that I need/want a gray turtleneck pullover.  I know. I know!  Really, everything I wear is gray, so knitting things in other colors is mostly just an exercise.  If I want to wear it a lot, it has to be gray.  Also a long road trip over the weekend really cannot be endured without knitting.  I seriously don't know how people who don't knit can do that.  I know it drove me totally bonkers before I figured it out.  So I worked on this (September Morn by Thea Colman) A LOT over the past few days, and it is--whew--almost finished already.  One sleeve to go.  Also recommended for road trips--Tom Petty.  Gah!  He's so good!  Tom is in my head right now.  Fourteen solid hours of something will do that.  
  I'm using Patons Classic Worsted in Dark Gray Mix, still trying to knit up the stash.  This one will get a lot of wear.  
I made this project bag, too, the other day, from a scrap of thrifted I don't know what, maybe it's canvas?  Probably it is upholstery fabric, or at least something meant for home dec.  I lined it with a piece of calico that was leftover from something else.  This bag is about 12" x 18", with a boxed bottom and a zipper top so I don't have to worry about losing anything.  I have a (really nice) open-top project bag that I used a lot last year, but one day I came home to find a loose ball of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter just sitting there in the driveway, waiting to blow into the road. Ever since then, I worry.  So this one is the right size for a whole sweater-in-progress, plus the pattern sheet, and also it stands up.  I'm pretty happy with it.  
 
In between marathons of knitting with gray yarn and binge-watching Tom Petty videos on Youtube (you should be doing that too, really.  Go.  He's everything good.  I think Tom Petty is how we survived the eighties with our rock and roll intact) I am working on this too--English Paper Piecing, for my Creative Year Project.  English Paper Piecing requires so much stuff; three pairs of scissors, pens, pencils, freezer paper, irons.  A proper mess.  I'm using a box (the best idea ever, from Twyla Tharp, via Ann Wood) to store it all, and to keep the idea safe while I am off working on other things.  I really recommend this for those times when the ideas are coming thick and fast and you're kind of afraid they'll get away before you can get around to them.  Just put it all into a box--anything that has anything to do with the idea; scraps, doodles, words, all of it--and label the box.  There, it's all in one place, waiting for you when you're ready.  Doing this has helped me sleep better, and I'm not making that up.  
Catdog always comes home from these weekends away completely exhausted from running with the other hounds.  She collapses contentedly on the sofa, sighs heartily.  I cover her with a blanket, kiss her on the head.  She is instantly asleep.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jack Frost

Friends, thank you for being so willing to undertake the finishing of my half-blanket for me.  Honestly, that thing, so deceptively innocent there in the workbasket, was weighing on me.  It has been adopted by the lovely Arianne, who I hope won't be put off knitting permanently when she sees the full extent of the ends situation, and it will be on its way to her as soon as I can get to the post office.  The plow truck just thundered ominously past the house again.  I see some of you out there with your daffodils and your garden trowels and I am a little bit overcome with envy, because in New York, we are still in a Deep Freeze.  It's hard to imagine green grass when it's like this for so long, but soon, though.  We will get our turn in the sun.  I mean that's just science, right?  Meanwhile, I finished something, and I want to share it with you.
This is my Jack Frost Wrap, and oh my goodness.  The extreme coziness.  The yarn I used is Woolfolk Far, in Color 02/Lightest Gray.  Far is a worsted weight merino that is so soft it cannot be believed.  It really boggles the mind that something this incredibly soft can be the hair of an animal that lives on a farm somewhere and sleeps in straw and does all the muddy things sheep normally get up to.  Truly, I am gobsmacked.  Now, Woolfolk is not an every day yarn, at least it isn't for me.  It costs a lot, and while I think it is worth every penny, it is not something I can indulge in for every project, so this wrap had to last me awhile, and it had to be worth it in the end.  I tried a couple patterns (okay, I tried SIX patterns...) and they were pretty, but they just weren't worthy enough of this yarn for me, so I made up my own.  
Want to make one too?  Here's the pattern for you:  Using worsted weight yarn and US 8 needles, cast on 81 (or any multiple of 14 + 1 + 10).  Knit two rows.  Next row (RS): K5, pm, work first row of chart, pm, K5.  Next row (WS): K5, sl m, work across second row of chart to marker, sl m, k5.  Keeping first and last 5 sts in garter st, work 20 rows of chart 20 times, or until your yarn runs out, or until the wrap is as long as you want it.  End with chart row 3.  Next 2 rows:  Knit across.  BO Knitwise.  Here's the chart:
Block it when you're done.  Promise me!  This stitch pattern looks like an egg carton until you block it.  Just soak it in the sink for a couple minutes, then roll it in a towel to squeeze out some of the water, and fling it out on the floor.  I didn't pin it out very hard, and I don't have blocking wires, so I just pinned it at the corners and shimmied the sides into an approximation of straightness, which is fine with me.  
This project was such a comfort as I worked on it, so lovely these past few turbulent weeks.  I really loved it.  If Woolfolk Far is out of reach for you (and it is for me, now, too) you can use any soft worsted yarn you like.  I used 6 skeins of Far, which is about 850 yards, and after 20 repeats of the chart, I had only a tiny bit left.  My finished wrap is 78" x 18", which is quite long and fairly wide, and it wraps hugely around me like a squooshy soft hug.  I like a big wrap.  If you want something smaller, you could cast on 67 (wide-ish scarf) or 53 (skinny-ish scarf).  
I hope you'll make one.  There's still plenty of winter left.  
 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Evolution

This blanket project has been on my conscience long enough.  I can't even remember when I started it--it's been years, I know that.  Years and years.  Actually I can roughly carbon date this thing because I know I was thinking about it during intermission at a performance of "Sleepy Hollow" in which Doc played Ichabod Crane, and that must have been, what, 2012?  Wow.  That's a lot of languishing.  It went really quickly in the beginning, as these things typically do, while it was fresh and interesting, and there were (and still are) a lot of things to recommmend about it:  this was a project intended to 1) use up a little bit of the always-growing sock yarn leftovers, 2) provide quick and portable and easily achievable small project pieces, and 3) offer some opportunity for creative color and design play.  For all of that, it was so great, for quite awhile...and then...it got stale, and then I changed a little bit, and (stripy socks excluded) stopped wanting so much of all the color all the time.  The things I want to make now are more natural and more neutral, and this blanket-in-progress has just not been feeding that need.  I don't think I've made even a single square, which only takes me about an hour, in over a year.   I just don't want to finish it.  There's a lot of knitting in it, though, and it deserves better than the likes of me at the moment.  It needs some love, and it just isn't getting it around here anymore.  We've grown apart. We're not right for each other.  It's not you, it's me.  
 So.  Want it?  Eighty-six garter stitch squares are available for adoption, and free to a good home.  You can sew it up like it is (and have, in the process, a fairly comprehensive archive of my sock drawer, past and present) or you can add your own sock yarn remnants--you know you have them!--and make it as big as you want.  From the Keeping It Real Department, I am compelled to tell you that the situation with all the ends--an unfortunate side effect of stripes--is fairly dire.  There are roughly forty-million ends to weave in.  Wait!  Some of them can be used for the sewing up!  And I carried the yarn up the sides when I could!  But there are still a lot.  Anyway, if you'd like to have this pile of squishy, zany, colorful, unwoven-end-infested almost-blanket, leave me a comment below saying you'd like to have them (and please make sure there's a way for me to contact you--don't leave your physical address in the comments field, that's not a good idea--but make sure I can be in touch through email.)  
There are eighty-six of them.  They are unblocked, approximately 5" x 5".  They are knit in mostly wool sock yarns, some superwash and some not.  Must love weaving in ends.  If there is more than one willing adopter, I will draw a name tomorrow at 3:00 EST.    

Friday, February 10, 2017

Vivid Socks

Get thee behind me, bleak winter landscape!  I've got your color, right here.  You might recall that I started these last spring, made heroic headway on them, because after all, stripes! And then tucked them away for what was supposed to be a minute because people were coming over and I needed the table for eating or whatever, and then totally forgot about them.  Well, I am almost fifty years old, so this is what is starting to happen.  Socks?  What socks?  I don't see any socks...  
These were made in what is probably pretty much every color of Arwetta Classic, a merino blend sock yarn, a big lovely box of which was gifted to me last year by my lovely Yarn Fairy Hilde.  She has such a beautiful, bright sense of color, and had arranged the yarns in a specific way in the box, with warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other, with each color kind of related to its corresponding neighbor, which I thought was so perfect and so interesting, and so very Hilde.    
  This is how they were when I got them.  A muted olive (far upper left) = muted mustard (far upper right).  Clear bright blue at middle right, clear bright red at middle left.  Two deep darks at center, bottom row; one is warm, one is cool.  Can you see what she's doing here?  I just loved how she came up with a sort of color scheme rule for herself, which I can't even really articulate--it seems to have to do with value and hue, all of which is so vague in my mind-- then arrayed them thusly in order so that my amazement in them would be as huge as possible.  Hilde, you're wonderful.  That right there is someone who understands color, and also someone who understands fun.  Speaking as a girl who understands gray, this many colors all in one place was both an overload of inspiration, and also a little bit paralyzing.  I had so many ideas, and I started a couple of them, realized they weren't worthy, tried again, again, again...that's how it works for me, I'm coming to realize.  Nothing that isn't steeked is permanent in knitting, am I right?  The eagle-eyed among you will surely notice all the dog hair that's already stuck to these finished socks, and everywhere else, really.  The catdog doesn't have much hair to spare, but that isn't stopping her from shedding like she doesn't even need any.  So cute, that dog.  As I was taking these photographs a little while ago, she was in the other room daintily removing the pompom from a hat I'd left drying beside the fireplace.  
There were so many ends that I kind of considered just leaving them in and wearing the socks with them still bristling up the inside, like a lazy girl's thrummed mitten.  Finally I wove them in as hastily as I possibly could, fueled by a dozen episodes of the Fibertrek podcast, and was pretty pleased to see the end of that part of the project.  The ends left me with a fistful of yarn snippets big enough to inspire yet more projects.  I'll probably leave them outside for the birds--I love the idea of maybe someday finding a fallen nest, or coming upon one tucked into the hedge, that has a few of these yarn bits whimsically woven into it.  There have been so many birds in our yard lately, I don't remember ever seeing so many.  One of them will certainly appreciate all this soft yarn in such vivid colors as much as I have.  
Thank you, Hilde.  Spring is coming.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Little Things

Thank you for your warm, thoughtful, generous comments to me last week.  They made me feel full and grateful and hopeful. Thank you, thank you.  Thank you for checking in here with me, and for taking time to leave me a note.  I am so cheered by all your words.  Your kindness overflowed.  I probably need to spend some dedicated time sitting in the sun, but he is a distant memory these days.  It is still grayer than an old mule out my window, and mostly in my knitting too.  Another road trip looms, which means the search for the perfect travel project is ON, nevermind how many things are already in progress.  I have, as promised, slowed down on the finishing of things, but I never said I wasn't going to start eighty jillion new projects...this one happened the other day as I considered how nice it would be to just knit and purl for awhile.  Four false starts later, it is finally underway.  The right yarn is everything, am I right?  This is Quince and Co. Chickadee in "Frost", from an unraveled previous project that I never wore, and a good girl would skein all that beautiful wool back up and wash it to get the kinks out, but I am just not that girl.  When I want to start something, I want to start it right now.  I got this far before I had to throw the whole thing, needle and all, into the sink for a hasty soak and block, just to make sure the stitches would fluff up as I hoped they would, so it's wet right now and I can't work on it.
Which is fine, because I also have this, another self-drawn gray scarf/wrap thing, and all of a sudden it strikes me that these two projects seem awfully similar.  How many gray scarf/wrap things does one big ol' country girl like me really need, anyway?  Well, at least these two, because this one is knit in the utterly amazing Woolfolk Far, color 02/Lightest Gray.  I go oh-so-slowly on this project, because I am trying to savor it.  I really don't want it to be over, although wearing it is going to be a pretty good time, too.  I am slack-jawed by this yarn.  It is the softest thing I can imagine.  
Hey, wait a minute, that's not gray!  I'll admit, I kind of forgot about these hectic, hyper, and slightly dizzying socks, and they are so close to being finished, too.  They got put away for a minute a few months ago, and then that was it.  As soon as I can't see it anymore, it's like it's gone forever, which I think is why the work table is always so totally covered with stuff.  Once it goes in the cupboard, it's just dead to me, until I find it accidentally while I'm on the hunt for a button, and then I get a rush of recognition/guilty stab of conscience/blast of renewed enthusiasm.   I'm happy to see these again, although I can't think about all the ends still dangling about inside those things, not yet.  Don't make me think about it!  I suppose that is the price to pay for all these stripes, which are so, so beautiful, but ugh, I hate weaving in ends.  It'll be worth it.  I love these.  They'll be done soon. In the Not Knitting Department, I finished this the other day, too:  
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen this already, but the story is this: at the end of last year, Doc's sister J, who is a knitter and a stitcher, asked me to join her in a yearlong creative project.  We'd hound each other regularly to make things, and to finish things, and to think outside the usual boxes, and to Get It Done.  To not just talk about making, but to do it, and to explore ideas.  She set the first challenge--"What are your intentions for the year?" So I made this.  This little stitched piece, just 6" square--No. 1: Intentions--is what manifested from me thinking about all those things.  It is aspirational.  I plan to be brave and curious, and to do things besides just knit all the time.  We'll see what happens!  Let's go.