Sunday, December 23, 2007

History and local color

I saw a Shetland shawl this week! A real Shetland shawl, made on the islands and brought back by a friend of a friend. It was light and warm and soft - too bad the owner had it covered in cat hair. I know one thing though - I must make one of these! I don't even know what the yarn was, but I'm sure somebody somewhere has written a tome about the shawls.

In other fiber news - Lakeside Fibers in Madison, WI is a gorgeous store. They have one of the best color and brand selections I've ever seen, and the view (they have a huge window overlooking a lake) is gorgeous.

I'm visiting relatives in "the frozen north" and boy am I glad for all the wool thingies we brought! It's been snowing heavily here, and the temperatures are scary.

We are also enjoying learning about quilts (an aunt and uncle are passionate quilters, with a quilt room and all of Kaffe Fassett's quilting books and lots of knowledge), old doilies, older blankets and the rich fiber history of the "frozen north". There was also an article in the local newspaper about a local nun who's made thousands of bears for the Mother Bear project. The story about the bears inspired me - maybe I should make some as well.

No pics in this post, but I'm making great progress on a pair of socks from Black Bunny yarn. I'll try to take a picture tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Just in time for the holidays and the trip to the frozen north:

Pattern: Double Bordered Scarf with Diamond borders adapted from Weldon's 1904 from Victorian Lace Today (long and inspiring name, I know)

Yarn: Hunt Valley 2-ply cashmere, 2oz, ~400 yards, purchased at Maryland Sheep & Wool

Needles: size 4, I believe

Comments: I think this yarn weighed more than 2oz, and the scarf turned out much longer than I imagines. This is a great pattern for random quantities of yarn, because you can simply knit until you run out; most of the double-bordered scarves in VLT require some more planning. The pattern is also very easy. As for the cashmere... what can I say, I am in love. I love the subtlety of the color - it has a pearly sheen uncaptured in these photos; I knew I should taken the photographs while there was still some natural sunlight!

Did I say "the frozen north"? Yes, indeed. I will be away for the next two weeks, visiting family and friends in the snow-covered frozen tundra of the north. I had a very hard time deciding what knitting to pack, and after days of deliberation I decided that Venezia will have to stay home. I'm making good progress, but I cannot take it on the plane (stupid pointy metal needles) and I would be heartbroken if my luggage got lost with the sweater in it! Instead, I cast on for a pair of socks, and I might take this sampler shawl along as well:

This is the mighty shawl worthy of the Welsh wool. I've wanted to try a shawl worked from the long edge, and once you get past the line "cast on 400 stitches" the pattern is great. The long rows are perfect for mindless TV knitting! I also knew I needed a sampler shawl, because I want to use every last yard of the wool. It's a very sticky wool, which also makes it perfect for TV knitting - dropped stitches do not run; then even keep their shape! Oh, the pattern is from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls. I'm appreciating her patterns and style more and more every day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do not disturb: blocking in progress

As I watched Anna's beautiful Hemlock Blanket being finished, the task of blocking my own blanket loomed on the horizon. I don't have quilter's T-pins, I don't have a blocking board. What I do have is a big dog that loves to sniff yarn - unfortunately, I have no idea how to use his talents for blocking purposes.

I finally bit the bullet, took out my pathetic box of push pins and the trusty old bedsheet, and got to work. Surprise:

The blanket is so heavy it doesn't even need to be pinned down. And it stretched to the advertised 4 feet diameter. I love Jared Flood. I need to make more Eco blankets.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mystery Stole 3 finished

The designer called this stole "Swan Lake". I call it "my ugly duckling" because despite all my previous blocking experience, I am still in awe of the transformation. From whatever mess I was showing you a few posts ago to this:

I wore it to the orchestra tonight, and I felt like the most glamorous woman there. (I usually do, but this time the feeling was even stronger...)

Pattern: Mystery Stole 3, aka Swan Lake from the wonderful, generous lady at Pink Lemon Twist

Yarn: Misti Alpaca Lace, 2 skeins in natural (with about 1 yard leftover!) + beads! It's a wonderfully light and soft yarn; it doesn't hold blocking as severely as wool does, but I love the slight fuzz and the incredible drape. Also, the price is unbeatable: I believe the grand total for the yarn in this shawl came to $13.

Needles: size 4 bamboo circulars

Comments: beading slowed things down, but in the end it was worth it and I even added a few extra rows of beading at the end of the wing; I love hearing the beads click together when I walk. Not many modifications otherwise. I am not so keen on the very open fabric, but I think it has a nice ethereal quality.

I love this shawl so much that I'm reconsidering my relationship with lace: I need more! I cast on for another shawl immediately. Different pattern! I think I found the perfect match for the wild, wooly Wool Out of Wales!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Blocking adventures

At the time this post was conceived, MS3 looked like this:

I am using my amazing cheap-ass "blocking wires" (read: steel wire from the hardware store), tied to all sorts of heavy objects: the two crates containing my stash, a paint can, a desk.. I am proud of the fact that my stash fits into those two crates - I'll try to keep it that way as long as possible.

There is another object awaiting blocking, except that I'm not sure blocking this one will be as easy as wires and paint can:

Yes, I know, it looks like ... nothing. I haven't blogged about it at all because it's nearly impossible, for me at least, to take decent photographs of a yarn this dark. Still, a dark yarn will be perfect for this project: Jared Flood's Hemlock Ring Blanket!

The Cascade Eco was just what I needed after that awful Louet Gems experience: a wooly yarn, full of fiber and goodness and natural smells. No superwash here, and I do think it's the superwash treatment that rendered the Louet so lifeless and boring. I think the Eco stands for both ecological and economical, because pure heavy-worsted wool doesn't get any better than this! I was debating on the color at the yarn store: (a) darker yarns are harder to photograph, (b) more difficult to work with and (c) might not show the pattern as spectacularly as lighter yarns. (a) was solved by not bothering to show photos of the object in progress; have I mentioned that the blanket is finished?! It just needs a good blocking - I'll get to that in a second. (b) wasn't much of an issue either: this was TV knitting, and color isn't a factor in a dark room. Finally, (c) is a minor annoyance; it's nothing compared to the major annoyance that would be washing a blanket a bazillion times. So "chocolate" it was, and I'm glad for it - it's really a nice, warm color to curl up under in the winter.

The only problem right now is the blocking... I don't really have a blocking board (unless you count the omnipresent fluorescent green bedsheet) and I'm afraid the wires-and-paintcan method might not work on such a thick project. Moreover, this blanket really needs to be stretched; "severe blocking" I believe is the right term. Suggestions?

Edited to add: I've just returned from a fun evening out, I unpinned the shawl and I almost cried. After all my bitching and complaining and disliking the object in progress, this turned out to be the most beautiful thing I've ever made.