Thursday, June 22, 2006

What's In Your Mailbox?

Well, if you're on the Webs mailing list- which I hope you are - this will be in your mailbox any day now. If you're not on the Webs mailing list...well, get on it, quick!

This catalog represents a whole lot of effort on the part of a whole lot of folks, and it is a beautiful thing! The yarns and yarn information are clearly presented. The photos are beautiful, Cirilia is just incredible. She about jumps off the page and pulls you in, I swear. This cover sweater is designed by Kirsten Hipsky, and is a top down gansey/guernsey knit in an amazing NEW Vally Yarns product, Amherst. Amherst is a 100% merino wool worsted yarn in a good solid range of colors.
Blowing my own horn (because it is irresistable, but I am limiting it to two pages...

Here's Make Tracks with it's own page!!!! It's OWN PAGE!! a PAGE just for Make Tracks. And does not Cirilia do it justice? And does she not look lovely in spite of the fact that these pictures were taken on a day when the humidity was unreal and the heat worse? That lovely haze? It's the region dying from the heat. And there is Cirilia smiling, wrapped in wool. I would have just passed out.
And here is sweet baby Flutter, featured with Kirsten Hipsky's One Skein Diotima
Shell, Linda Burt's A-Line Coat, an Ann Norling kid's cardigan knit by Karen Minott, and - last but by no means least, Mrs. Trombley's Crochet Blanket designed by none other than Kathy Elkins.
The whole catalog has me all a-flutter. It's extremely well done, the images are clear, the yarn info is fantastic (I hate scanty yarn info!). Each featured pattern also shows a chart indicating how much yarn is required for the size you wish to make, and recommended needle sizes. It's just...wonderful!
Now, about the knitting...well, there has not been much. We're getting ready for Girl's graduation party this weekend, but I have managed to fit a few small things in. First, here is a sample scarf for Knitting 2...this is Malabrigo, and it managed to come out about to gauge. I mostly knit this as a car project, which is what took it so long to grow. I have not been in the car as a passenger much of late. It's actually the first time in a long time that I was close to the "recommended" needle size.
And here is my Silk Rhapsody shawl, simple faggotting, purse stitch from page 184-185 of Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns (#1,the blue one). The finished width will be about 24 inches, and length about 6 feet. I intended it to be quite long. I am undecided about finishing and may buy another hank to edge it with a small ruffle or other...more will be revealed.
And there is this . Colorful Hound Me In My Sleep You Miserable Sweater Tracks. She's been restarted after failing to perform. This is a worsted version of the Berkshire Bulky Make Tracks sweater in the catalog, but with panels in the Berkshire that has been dyed exclusively for Webs by Great Adirondack. It's very yummy. I mostly think this sweater should be in a time-out corner, along with the Lotus shawl I now despise that needs ripping, but I don't have time for that sort of thing. So she's in progress, though slow progress to be sure.
Next post? A pig with an apple in it's mouth, and a lot of people with beers in their hands. IF I remember to bring the camera out...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Envy Me

Look...the actual live mitten samples from the Komi mitten book. In person. Right there on the table, all of them. Go ahead...just a little's all right...especially Persnickety Knitter who really should have come out for this, if only just to fondle and ogle. I spent two days in classes at Webs with Charlene Schurch, author of Sensational Knitted Socks, Knitting Marvelous Mittens, Hats On! and Knits for Girls and Dolls (did I get them all?). On Saturday we had Komi Mitten class, then Lace Techniques for Shawls and Scarves, and in the evening a seminar for the Expert Knitter folk on knitting history. This was excellent and I wish I had either 1.) taped it or 2.) taken notes, but I was sock obsessed (again) and neglectful as a result. On Sunday we had Sweater Knitting Skills...But I am getting ahead of myself (as usual). I shall regroup and make a stab at being organized.

As I turned onto Service Center Drive I saw a tent and a quantity of desks, cabinets etc. Whalen's Tent Sale. And me trying to make over my office on a shoestring. How incredibly timely! I bought a desk for $49.00. I could have shopped more if I had the correct vehicle and more time. The guys were great, and had it flat and in the Civic in about 8 minutes. This means that I saved significantly off of my Ikea desk. Mr. Wonderful may disagree, but I can have Alternative Math Skills when it counts, and trust me, this does not reduce the budget, it merely reallocates money for nicer side pieces, or more art, or some lighting. I bopped across the parking lot to Webs in a blaze of Cheap-Shopper glory. Any time I pay less than retail it's a good day. The less I pay, the better the day feels. Remember the shopping trip for clothes? Or the day of Ikea and the Penney's outlet? It gives me a bit of a rush to get good stuff really cheap. This would explain my stash...

The first of the day was the Komi mitten class. Charlene's knowledge of the Komi and their history was compelling. I love history generally so knitting history obviously hits a soft spot in my heart. Regional knitting culture is fascinating. The mittens from the book were passed around, and a lot of Oooing and Aaawwwing took place. They are beautiful. Simply amazing. Brilliant use of color and relatively simple patterning, just gorgeous. The gauge is wonderful for those of us who love to knit little. I'd bet I end up on or about a US1's for most of the patterns with my loose-woman knitting style. Beginning with our homework mini-cuff, we worked a corrugated rib for a bit to familiarize people with the technique. I love a corrugated rib. Next we moved into following a simple Komi chart to create a pattern over the surface of the mitten. I managed to get my little mitten done by the end of class. It is adorable, and will fit no one, which is as it should be. These classes find me with a huge pile of readable reference samples. Remember Maureen's classes? And the little samples from those? I really find them useful and satisfying. I don't need a whole garment or a useful object for learning on. I loved doing a zillion swatches for Stitches 2. This makes me a process knitter, I guess, although at times the project is the thing. Things that stand out: instructors knowledge of subject matter, carrying those stripes of color onto the thumb to create a continuous line around the entire mitten border, and the discovery that those amazingly flat, perfect samples were not pressed or steamed, but wetted, spun, and dried in a vase on a wooden spoon.

Lace class was next. I love lace, and although I rarely wear it I love to knit it. Our homework sample was an experience in gauge, and how gauge changes the look of a lace pattern as well as a look at different double decrease techniques. Every other knitter in the class (or thereabouts) ended up with two visibly different decreases on their swatch. Everyone but MelissaKnits, of course. The homework called for 1 double decrease performed as a Sl1, K2tog, psso. The second was Sl2 as if to knit, K1, P2sso. The results for knitters with the correct (I hate that word) stitch mount produces two very different appearing decreases. For me it produces nada. Welcome to the wide world of the self-taught combination knitter. By "following directions" (show of hands, many people have seen me follow directions for anything, ever, in my entire life?) instead of instinctively making it look like what I thought it should, I actually have a sample that teaches be honest it teaches me to continue not following directions! The discussion about types of yarns suitable for lace knitting convinced me to buy a cone of 16/2 natural linen at the budget busting price (NOT!) or $14.75 a cone for some 2200 yards to use for either (and I am so undecided) Flower Basket or Snowdrop shawl as a nice carry along summer project. Suitable colors for lace were also discussed. I did not mention my sin against the basics of lace in the form of the Lotus Blossom Shawl. I wish I'd gone with something simple, but I didn't, and to rip now would be silly. Or maybe not. I will decide later. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I dislike it, and so it sits neglected and alone in its bag. Hmmmm.....I feel a ripping moment coming. This class also inspired me to lust after more books. Added to list of things I must have: Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts by Hazel Carter and Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller.

I need to go rip out that shawl. Uggh.

The evening seminar was excellent. It also inspired me to buy more books, which is never a good thing. Poor Mr. Wonderful. When we moved here we had so many that he swore an oath, and dragged me along with him against the purchase of new books in favor of reliance on the inter-library loan. Luckily I had my fingers crossed behind my back, so I'm exempt(phew. fast thinking there). I do wish I'd taken more notes. But there's this, and that leads to this which is compelling since I grew madder just to see if I could, and boy did I...and then there's this and this and this....oh, and this, which I really think I need soon just as evening reading. But I'm thinking that will be an inter-library loan...and..and..there were more but I did not take notes (curse the sock obsessed!).

On Sunday I returned for Sweater Knitting Skills, which was great fun and resulted in a one-armed cardigan to add to the swatch bin. Either that or whack an arm off of Samantha or Kirsten or Josefina or Bitty (all pre-Mattel buy-out). I wonder if Girl would notice...I mean, she's old now, right? We knitted for most of the morning, and had a lovely lunch brought in from Fire Cuisine - I really like their salads and am always amazed at the breadth of available foods; everything from gyros and grinders to wonderful salads, soups, and fried clam dinners. Just such an array and all good. How do they do it!? I was a little sad that my salad was not as spicy as previously. But I lived. After lunch we worked some more on preparing pieces for assembly and then learned all about mattress stitch. Anyone who's been in my drop-in knows I love mattress stitch. It's almost as cool as turning a heel for the first time (my ultimate favorite teaching moment!); the moment a knitter pulls on those ends and watches their seam virtually disappear. As Charlene said "cheap party tricks..." Cheap, but effective in more ways than one. The simple things that create the wonderful looks always amuse me beyond reason. Like the knit and purl cast on we learned. Or Maureen's teaching of the double pick-up. All the little things that come together to create stellar finishing or stellar work without a lot of fuss and nonsense. Just a bit of extra thought that in 50 or 100 years will be so intriguing to historians and sociologists and artists.
I came home to pork chops, sweet potatoes and a glass of Sequoia Grove 2001 Cabernet, a wine that I was told I would "get" but Mr. Wonderful would not. This was indeed true. He has the palate of...a beeeeer drinker. Eww! He drinks Southern Comfort on purpose! It smells like nail polish remover. Anyway - the wine is wonderful, yet another leathery, smokey red wine with some tannins and a lot of black cherry and oak flavor. I did succeed in showing Mr. Wonderful the smokey, spicy fragrance by getting him to sniff the empty glass. He sniffed and appeared midly impressed, and said "Huh. Hmm." The stuff has great deep color and mouth feel, very rich and warm. My love of scotch has totally been banished by a new adoration of wine. Not to say that an occasional shot of a really nice scotch, neat, will not impress me, just that for the time being wine has captivated me, even whites which I find amusing.

Look for some exciting event moments after June 25th. Girl's Grad Bash/Pig Roast is that day, and it should be nothing short of really interesting, possibly even cool. And please...pray for sun!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My Progress Overwhelms Me...

but not in a good way. I feel very stuck and slow. I need to amp up the pace a bit to have the rest of my planned stuff done for the end of June.
I did have a great day yesterday at Webs. This was the final meeting of my Knit 2 class, and Meet Jo Sharp Day. The day began typically for a Saturday of late - it rained! Girl had a minor oral surgery Friday but was up for work - I shall not bore you with the details of Girl's surgery or surgical recovery, except to say that it is possible she has some bizarre immunity to Valium, but tumbles rapidly into a virtual coma after receiving a sniff of general anesthetic. She spent the day looking dead. And me with a nursing degree, standing over her watching for breath. Sad!
My 'working day' began with this - this is Jennifer M, a Women's History professor who was in town for a conference. She brought with her two friends, both of whom I hope Jennifer has knitting up a storm by the end of the weekend (and I'd LOVE an update...). She also brought with her a luscious future shrug, made from two strands of laceweight mohair. But she had a problem - and her problem carries with it a warning for all knitters. She arrived here in the fair city of Northampton with her project in tow intending to knit upon it. But there was one small problem. She'd forgotten what she believed to be a simple pattern. A brioche rib (it was awful, Katy, panic ran over me, "Dear God" I thought, "no, anything but...BRIOCHE!!!" Melissa fears the brioche. This is silly and really I just need to sit down and do it, but I don't have time, so I continue in ignorance. However, I have found a lot of brioche resources and support materials as a result of the Brioche Incident. I was able to pull together some resources that just were not quite right, and then finally Interweave Spring 2005 which contains a good bit about Brioche and using that as a starting point Jennifer was able to recreate and remember her pattern. (YEAAA Jennifer!!!) The moral of the story is this: no matter how simple you think it was to knit, write it down. Pin it to the garment, stick it in the bag, stab it through with the needles, anything. But, like your Amex during the tent sale, Don't Leave Home Without It. She says we're probably not related, but somehow I think we are...
Jo Sharp was in the house. This is a down to earth, comfortable woman; attractive, intelligent, and a pleasure to listen to. It was refreshing and inspiring for me. As a designer I am always curious about the processes of others. How do they move from idea to design? What inspires them? How do their minds work? It helps me to streamline my own process. Her reluctance to follow trends, to design what she likes versus what's hot today was inspirational for me. I prefer to think in terms of wearability versus fashion trends. "Would I wear it?" is a frequent question. To hear that this is a question asked by Jo Sharp...well, it gives one support and hope - must be on the right track if I am thinking at all like Jo Sharp, right? Then, being enamoured, I had to buy a book of course...and have Pixie get it signed for me, as I had by then punched in and needed to be in/near the classroom for my Knit 2's. MUCHOS Gracias Pixie!! I think we should have her back.
Theresa brought in this pair of very cool white cotton socks. That is my finger. I have small fingers. Think about that for a minute...the gauge on these things is wild. Made me want to grab needles and some cotton from the wall and start knitting at, what, 16 sts per inch?? I did not get to analyze them as much as I'd like as Jo Sharp was speaking and I had a class immediately time for chatting and hanging out and sock analysis. But I think you get the point. The finger shown is about a half inch across. I have the greatest respect for women who did this. My grandmother did this, as did my great aunts. I have examples in the house, in my hope chest of everything from some incredible lace to unfinished cotton bandages from WWI, handwoven linens, tons of embroidery. The works of their hands.And not like we do, for giggles. This was the real deal - mittens and socks staved off frost bite. Yet through everything runs a thread of artisanship, craftsmenship, of the highest caliber. It wasn't just a pait of socks - it was lace at 18 sts per inch. It wasn't just mittens, it was intarsia mittens. Expressing themselves through the only creative outlet readily available - utilitarian objects - quilts, clothing, all by hand and from the heart in one fell swoop. It is possible that I spent too much time surfing women's history sites today...
I finished the two sample hats for the new Knitting 2 hat pattern. These are child's sized and whipped up in a jif. Size 7 needles, Malabrigo. First Malabrigo experience, and I loved it.
In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to use the scraps for Mel. It's a surprise, so don't tell him - they need to be felted first. The last one I made he murdered in twenty minutes. I think if I can felt this, it will be safer for the mouse. These are actually drunken mice, made on Saturday night. I cast on halfway through a glass of wine, and it was done before the wine was. I love the little faces they seem to have. The pattern is from here, and I was directed to it by KatyWhoNeedsABlog.
OH!! We had a visitor yesterday, who came to my classroom at the end of Knitting 2, and apparently has a math phobia, and was obsessed with removing the math from the board. He was also obsessed with Girl's MP3 player, on which she had Sammy Davis and the kid was SO cute, standing in the chair and and music just go together. My progress is slow on colorful tracks. Very slow, in fact.I hope to be inspired by tomorrow, which is a day with Typhoid. Generally such days result in me needing a day off to recover and knit. He's been such a toddler lately...into everything, on everything, all over everything. Girl just got the COOLEST grad gift! Our friend Mary Alice just gave her half of a shetland fleece. Girl is now over the moon, wants to drive to Mary Alice immediately and bury herself in the thing. I defy you to find a similar kid near you. "Hey, kid for graduation we're going to give you half of the fluff off the back of a sheep, OK??" No normal teen is Girl. Cavorting around the house, trying to decide what to do with it, more thirlling than the money her great aunt gave can't spin money, now, can you?? Ok, before you contradict me, I know you can, because I have spun recycled dollar bills. It was easier then when I spun my husband's hair, believe you me!