Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taking a break

Hi all,

The blog is obviously on hiatus for a while. I've been knitting, although not quite as much as in the summer; having to go to work definitely cuts into my knitting time. Anyhow, in the past few months I've realized that I enjoy knitting and thinking about knitting much more than writing about or taking photos of said knitting. Projects are still posted on ravelry, so you can follow my amazing pursuits (a finished cardigan in two weeks!), but I won't be writing very often for a while.

Happy knitting!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Latvian socks

I have many knitting needles, in my opinion. I have needles in almost every size, including intermediate ones like 2.5 (Addi 2s) and at least one set of double-pointed needles in sizes 000 through 4, with one exception: size 00. The only time when I don't have needles available is when they are being used in another project, and this happens occasionally with my favorite sizes (US 2, 3, 4).

The missing length, the 00s? They were just what I needed to make Nancy Bush's Chaussettes en Dentelle. I cast on for these socks at least 3 times (and the yarn itself was part of failed sock attempts at least 3 other times), but no luck. Beautiful fabric in the recommended 000s, but the socks were barely getting over my heels. Nice fabric in 0s as well, but way too big. In disgust, I ripped the sock beginning once again and cast on for something simple and dependable:

The Latvian socks from the same engrossing book, Folk Socks. They look better and more polished in person. I've been knitting a lot of socks lately and I can't seem to stop.

On a different note, this is perhaps my last post written in Philadelphia. Slightly bitter-sweet. I have a lot of good memories from this city, but a lot of bad ones as well. This entire week I've been trying to go about my daily business (or lack of) without thinking "this is the last time I'll be going into this store" or "this is the last time I am seeing this street", but it can be difficult sometimes. I will most certainly cry again tomorrow or on Sunday, whenever we end up actually leaving. I will not miss the bad smell of the city, the trash on every block, the rude drivers or the people spitting on the street, but I will miss... something. The younger me with many hopes and dreams.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stockings with clocks again

Modeling long wool socks in the middle of August is quite an experience. I could barely pull them on, not because they are too tight but because they stick to my skin. Everything sticks to my skin in this weather, though.

As anticipated, the socks were done last night during the Battlestar Galactica marathon. It's funny how I fall asleep at virtually every movie UNLESS I knit. Most of the time I knit during movies not because I am bored or because my fingers fidget, but because I cannot stay awake otherwise. It could be the world's most interesting movie (cylons! spaceships! hot aircraft pilots!) and I will still be out within 5 minutes.

Digression over. Here are the socks:

As I've mentioned before, they're not quite knee length - I don't know whether Nancy designed them this way or it's just the way the decreases fit my strong calves or whatever, but I think I'm Ok with that and I love the way they fit.

Here is the prerequisite shot of my leg up on the heater (this is where I get the best light). You can see the "clocks" at the ankle. Together with the back seam, the clocks make it very easy to count rows and figure out how to make the socks match in length and shape. Why, you didn't think I actually used a row counter or kept track of rows in any other way, did you? When I knit, I like to knit, not write or keep track of stuff. For me, this is part of the appeal of Nancy's sock designs: you can learn them very easily and not have to fidget with a pattern, but at the same time they are not boring or completely trivial.

It's difficult to photograph the back of your legs, but here's my best try: an attempt to show the back "seam" and the shaping decreases.

Fun times. I've already started another pair of socks from the book, the fancy Chaussettes de Dentelle on size 000 needles. I still don't know whether I'm getting the right gauge, so I won't say too much about them. Naturally, I don't do gauge swatches for socks, it seems like a huge waste of time. I start the sock, knit for a bit then try it on. The sock is the gauge swatch.

Real life stuff: ironically, I am moving to Connecticut, again. I know I moved last year, so how does this work? Well, my partner was still living in Philadelphia at our old place this past year, and now he is making the move as well. Since some of my stuff was still down there anyway, and his stuff is my stuff... I'm not a big fan of moving, but it is a good excuse to clean up and give away things we don't need any more. We have a lovely new place in Connecticut, one that brings out nesting instincts I didn't know I had (no, I'm not pregnant).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stockings with clocks

I left the big Starmore sweater in New Haven and worked like a madwoman on these, during what might be my last visit to Philadelphia for a while:

Stockings with Clocks by Nancy Bush, from Folk Socks, my new favorite book.

I have no idea what this yarn is called. The label is somewhere in a box; have I mentioned we are moving at the end of the week? I think this was the first yarn I bought when I re-started knitting the last time, with plans to make those insane cabled stockings from Socks, socks, socks. I realized pretty quickly that not only does this yarn not match the project (multiple plies, which is great, but splits like crazy), but I also hate, hate, hate twisted stitches and tight knitting. In a second attempt, I bought two more skeins of this yarn in electric purple, which I thought would make a killer color scheme for Eunny Jang's entrelac knee socks. Fiddly technique, crappy-looking result. I am never doing entrelac again.

Anyway, the yarn seems to work allright in this pattern. I'm making these somewhat shorter than knee socks, more like some long socks, and I'll probably add some elastic at the top to keep them up. The socks are flying off my needles and I'll probably finish the second one tonight. I am glad I didn't bring the big cabled sweater: it's been very hot and humid here and I can barely stand even this this yarn sometimes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The best way to deal with a stressful situation and painful waiting is to start a new, engrossing project. I give you the beginning of a sleeve for Inishmore:

I have a bunch of Cestari wool that I bought at last year's Maryland Sheep & Wool and I've been looking for a good project. Something cabled, earthy, traditional and with a gauge I could achieve in this yarn. Bonus points of the garment is designed by Alice Starmore. The cables are working out well, it's very easy to read them and see what to do next, and I've done more than half a sleeve in less than two days. The yarn is rough and rustic and I absolutely love it.

Incidentally, the stressful event ended up being so much less difficult than I was expecting. The dentist was able to save my tooth, I had to pay much less than I was expecting (a saving of $1,500 or so) and I now feel like a grown-up for taking proper care of my health. I blew part of the savings on the latest Rowan magazine - no yarn, so I feel like a very virtuous grown-up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A few days with a Norwegian on my lap

It could be fun if the Norwegian was tall and handsome. Instead, I was spending some hot and steamy hours with a very hairy one.

Don't try this at home on a hot July afternoon: a Norwegian sweater in your lap makes for a very hot time. I consider myself a fairly experienced knitter, and yet this was the scariest knitting I've ever done: cutting the Norwegian sweater.

A question I asked on Ravelry produced a few useful answers and links; Eunny in particular sewed her Norwegian sweater by hand, and since I don't have a sewing machine I followed her tutorial, still available here. Let me go off on a tangent: I loved Eunny's blog. I loved it so much I am reading it again these days (and it inspired me to finally finish this %$$#@! sweater). She was such an inspirational knitter and created gorgeous sweaters. I am quite mad at Interweave for taking this great blogger and knitter and making her editor at IK, thus killing both the blog and the magazine with one strike. I loved Eunny's style as her own knitter, but I find the magazine under her direction very dowdy and uninspiring. I even canceled my subscription. And no, Fall 2007 doesn't count, since that issue was still put together by Pam Allen (who by the way is producing beautiful publications in her new position).

Moving on from the politics and style issues of contemporary knitting: the first sleeve worked perfectly! I realize people have been making these sweaters for a while, and thus most of the kinks have been worked out by now, but it still absolutely amazing and delightful to see such an improbable process (measure! sew! cut! sew! what? how?) come together and produce a beautiful sleeve.

Now if I only I could match the process on the other sleeve... and if only the sweater would fit...

Here's what this stuff looked like. Please ignore my chipping nail polish (Sephora's Mermaid in the Shade, lovely color) - I've been totally checked out these past few days and too lazy to take it off.

- sewing by hand around the future cutting lines. Followed Eunny's tutorial here, but sewed two lines on each side: one half a stitch away from the cutting line and another one stitch away. I'm paranoid like that. To make things even more exciting, the sewing thread is buried completely in the knitted fabric, so there was a moment at the beginning when I was wondering whether I was cutting on the right line...

- cutting in progress. I cut some of the floats on the wrong side, just to make sure I wouldn't snip the sewing thread.

- after cutting the first one:

- sewing in the first sleeve: I pinned it on the wrong side but then used mattress stitch to attach it from the right side.
- still working on the mattress stitch. You can see here the orange facing of the sleeve (EZ said "use a lighter yarn" and I did, using some leftovers from the Kaffe non-vest). My man is man enough that he can wear bright orange and pale pink on the inside of his sweater and not mind.

- the magic moment: the underarm of the sweater looks clean and professional and somehow the sleeve matched the cut opening perfectly (I know, I know, I measured it to be so, but still - amazing!)

- this morning, even before drinking my coffee, I did this: the reinforcements for the second sleeve:

- and this is what the "steek" looks like from the inside, before the sleeve facing was attached to the body. It's a puny "steek" but seemed to hold together rather well. The humidity and ridiculously high temperature probably helped felt this as well.

- an unexpected side benefit of mattress stitch: it provides yet another reinforcement of the "steek." If this sucker comes apart, I will cry for a long time.

Breaking news: the sweater fits!! I'll just pretend I designed it to be "slim-fitting" on purpose. Regardless of how tight it is, the recipient will wear it because he loves me beyond reason :) I'm still working on the collar, but I'll have finished pictures soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Flower brooch

Verbena was missing only one thing:

A "silk" fabric flower brooch ala J Crew. I used some of leftovers from the lining of the skirt I made a while back. It is not silk, and this item will be a mess should it ever be washed, but it looks allright and au courant:

I cannot understand how retailers can sell clothes made out of fabric with unfinished edges. The vast majority of people doesn't craft, I realize, so they don't know that such edges will unravel and look bad after one or two washings, or even as the garment is being worn. Still, for the prices these retailers charge (I'm looking at you, J Crew), you'd think they could at least finish the edges; or are we only supposed to wear the $90 flimsy top once?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Untitled (work of art)

The Lazy Blogger Award goes to me this month, for making stuff and crafting up a storm and not posting anything about it until today.

I finished Verbena from Rowan 45 weeks ago, then neglected it for a while under the excuse that I needed ribbon. Of course I needed ribbon, but I don't live in a ribbon-deprived region: craft stores abound here, only a short drive away (sadly, I haven't been able to find any in walking distance in New Haven). I was also terrified at the thought that the cardigan had turned out too small. After wearing it a few times and realizing that it's not the case, ribbon magically appeared and voila: finished cotton cardigan. I am very much in love.

I don't know whether to add the embroidery or not. I kind of like the cardigan as it is, and I'm doing plenty of sewing otherwise. The trip to the craft store awakened something:

Fat quarter pillow cover for my absolute most favorite tiny pillow in the world. This pillow is one of the few items I brought with me to the States many years ago (together with a fancy teaspoon, a coffee mug now sadly chipped and a huge plush toy moose), so I am very attached to it. I also cannot sleep without it. The pillow cover is as simple as these things get: sew on three sides (the back is a plain beige cotton fabric), stuff pillow form, fold cover over and secure with a few stitches. These stitches will be easy to remove when I need to wash the cover, and it's so much faster than making buttonholes!

The big project of the week has been a set of natural-colored linen napkins and kitchen towels. Inspired by the book Linen, Cotton, Wool as well as a recent article in Piecework about embroidered Norwegian wedding cloths I bought some linen and I am embroidering it with some images from the Norwegian cloths. This is the pattern from the article, but I'll probably do something a little smaller and a little less fancy for the other napkins: if they are all this beautiful, I won't let anyone use them!

I am having a blast with this. I am also imagining these beautiful napkins and towels in my new kitchen: I've just signed the lease on a new apartment with a very nice, light-filled kitchen and... hold on to your seats... a BALCONY!!! I can have a garden again! I can dry my clothes outside again! I will be one block away from an antique Italian pastry shop! Mmmm...

Friday, June 5, 2009

I love Nancy Bush

Don't we all? Her patterns are not flashy or gimmicky or super-trendy like some of the socks you see in recent publications (socks that frankly are kind of annoying and sometimes turn out completely unwearable). Her socks are elegant, timeless, never boring and always work:

Conwy from Knitting on the Road, made from Araucania Ranco on size 1 needles. Pure love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What we did this weekend

I had a lovely, lovely weekend, and here's a little part of it:

Hiking in my favorite state park with my favorite fuzzy dog. This park is little-known, which I like because it means the dog and I usually have the park to ourselves. It is lovely, though - all the land used to belong to one local family, and the woman who inherited the family businesses and the land was very big about never selling land. She eventually donated it all to the state, and it makes for an interesting park. It is still difficult for me to realize that all the forests around here are not virgin forest; there are walls here and there in the park, perhaps boundaries of old fields. You might also find yourself coming out of the forest into a very sunny clearing, which used to be an old field, I'm sure, and we also came across the ruins of a house. I find places like this fascinating. They remind me of the Coa Valley in Portugal, where people lived for thousands of years and carved numerous boulders, only to abandon the valley in the 1960s, or Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia, which used to be a bustling mill and industrial district a hundred years ago and is now "wilderness".

I also find it somewhat amusing that the dog and I, both raised mostly in the city, have become such outdoor bums.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another knitting "first"

Remember this tank top from last year?


I never wore it. In fact, I tried to wear it this morning - it fits, but it fits all wrong. It's just a tad too long, so it bunches up around my waist and hits at that awkward spot on my hips making them look ginormous. I love my hips, but I love them just the way they are, I don't need them to be bigger. It also requires layering, and I am not a layering girl. The extent of my layering is putting a cardigan over a dress shirt. There is also no waist shaping, so one of my best features (if I may so myself) gets lost under this top. Thus...


The yarn (Elsebeth Lavold's Bamboucle) is lovely, and I might make a cardigan some time; an object I might actually wear. It's time to come to terms with my fashion "style" and accept the fact that I will never wear knitted summer tops.

There are a few other items I am not entirely happy about and I've been contemplating a frogging and reusing of yarn: Tangled Yoke (the buttons gape and the yarn is completely wrong for the project) and Cable-Down Raglan. I've been very blah about the latter and frankly I don't see why it's such a popular pattern - it doesn't fit well and the cables are wonky.

My one worry as I get older is that I will become too set in my ways, too confident in my choices and tastes. This might be a step in that direction, or might be just something that needed to be done. A sort of knitterly growing up.

The "first" part refers to the fact that I've never frogged a finished object before. Taking stuff apart is more difficult in some ways: I'm pretty good at weaving in ends, for example, so good that they can be hard to find. At the same time, it took less than an hour to turn the top into yarn, much less time than in the other direction.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Text will follow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shetland Fern

I don't like to brag or show off (ok, maybe just a little). Anyway, I am very very pleased with how this sweater turned out:

Pattern: Shetland Fern by Jennifer Lindsay, from The Natural Knitter (what a gem of a book!)

Yarn: Yarns International Shetland 2000 in the same natural shades as the pattern. This yarn is not dyed, but comes directly from sheep of various colors! Check out the yarn and other awesome patterns here.

Needles: size 3 and size 2.5, not because they were specified in the pattern but because I had a lot of them in various lengths. Somehow, magically, the gauge worked out allright.

Love, love, love it. Words escape me at the moment. Let me just say that the pattern is fantastic and very well written. Here is a very pleased me:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Coming up soon...

A big finished object is currently blocking and drying (mostly drying, since I didn't do much actual blocking). When I say "big," I mean 8 months of knitting, 14 balls of yarn, 6 pairs of needles... the whole shtick.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Signs of Spring

No, not the big hairy monster, but rather the cluster of fresh grass on the side of the path. I've been looking for signs of spring since February, and I've finally found them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hola amigos

I spent a good part of March doing this:

And this: (they're called cenotes - usually underground springs in holes in the limestone plateau)

And this (in the tiny town of Izamal):

Some knitting got done on the bus rides through the jungle:

CookieA's famous Pomatomus socks, in Malabrigo sock violeta africana. Maya ladies on the bus were always very interested in my knitting - I guess it's not a very common sight in the Yucatan...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gauss visits Boston

Boston. Cambridge. Lots of history and yarn stores and what not.

All I will remember, however, is this:

Is it juvenile that I crack up every time I remember this plaque? Perhaps, but I can't help it.

PS. I wasn't that impressed with Boston after all. But I only had a few hours to explore and it was $%^! cold outside.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More reasons to love my job

Besides the awesome fact that it exists and will still exist for the foreseeable future, I also love my job because it allows me to do this:

Frolic on the beach with my dog at 2.30pm on a weekday! Granted, it's one day a week that I get out so early, but it's better than nothing.

What a beautiful day - sunny for a while and not exceedingly cold. The dog's first time to the ocean, and he absolutely loved it. The water was cold, though: so cold there were still patches of ice and snow! Even the dog seems incredulous:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red socks and red shoes

Finished and worn as I am typing:

Toe-up socks knit from Mountain Colors Bearfoot, colorway "Ruby River" on once again my slightly bent but still functional bamboo dpns size 1. I followed roughly the pattern for Interlocking Leaves, but substituted my own interpretation of the Waving Lace socks pattern. Actually, I thought I could remember the pattern but obviously switched the direction of the decreases or something. Anyhow, the socks are warm, elastic, lacey and very red; they provided much needed entertainment during travels and I am very pleased with them.

And now for something truly exciting and special. Last weekend's trip to TJ Maxx (only my second such trip ever!) yielded a particularly rich assortment of high quality, comfortable shoes at ridiculous prices. The fairest of them all:

Cole Haan demi-d'Orsay pumps with the tiniest of heels and little red laquer ribbons woven through. I am in love.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Short report from the field

I went out for a long walk today with the dog, looking for signs of Spring. Besides a few chatty robins I didn't see much worth reporting. It is a bit warmer today here, but we might have a bit of winter to slog through.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fancy sweater photos

I seem to be the first person on the internets making this sweater, if you don't count the one other project on ravelry; but the other person doesn't have any photos up and no details, so it doesn't quite count, does it?

Jennifer Lindsay's "Shetland Fern" from "The Natural Knitter" book, in the original yarns and colors:

Such a well-written pattern, with lots of thoughtful details (like knit rows before color changes in ribbing, thus avoiding purl blips) and a gorgeous, never-gets-boring chart. There are a couple of printing errors in the charts, but they are very easy to spot, as the charts should have a vertical line of symmetry. I cannot rave enough about how beautiful this fabric is, even in its squished unblocked state:

The collar is an exercise in wrong-side fair-isle ribbing, since it repeats the pattern at the lower edge but it worked flat: you wouldn't want to have a steek at the edge of your collar... Very distinctive and not as difficult as it seems.

This leaves the sleeves, my nemesis. I hate making sleeves, especially in the round and attached to a sweater. You need to move the entire sweater around and around... not a very zen-inducing process. I have an entire gansey that is almost finished except for half of the sleeves - maybe I should tackle that next.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Catching up

My husband and I often discuss how he loves to take lots of pictures, why I only take the minimum necessary. I call him "my Japanese tourist" and he gets angry because I don't take pictures of him, etc. Such is the excitement in our lives. 

I have been knitting some, but kept postponing to take photos. It doesn't help that the only times I'm at home and the light is decent are in the weekend, and on weekends I am even more of a lazy-bum than usually. Yesterday though, in a fit of productivity, I took a few pictures:

Interlocking Leaves socks from the Winter'09 Knitty, in Dream in Color Smooshy, color "Gothic Rose", on my trusty size 1 bamboo needles. The yarn is a lot darker than I was expecting, but I love its moody quality and the very romantic name. It's always difficult to balance the wearability of a sock (read: dark colors, since it is so difficult to get them fully clean) with the readability of the pattern (lighter colors! but then they will never look clean again), and I think this one is a bit on the dark side. Nevertheless, the pattern is gorgeous and the construction is genius: toe-ups with Judy's magic cast-on! The answer to the fuddly-duddly Turkish cast-on which, while doable, can be such a pain. If you don't know what it is, go look it up now (knitty has a tutorial). Then a toe-up gusset with short rows and a heel flap and everything - this is now my dream sock construction. I made the socks fairly long: 

The Smooshy yardage is very generous - I still have a lot leftover - and it's nice to have longer socks. I knit the last few lace repeats on size 2 needles to accommodate my shapely calves; all those hours of dancing are showing quite nicely. Also showing: my long silk underwear, bought in the middle of another frightening winter from a specialty store in Madison, WI. They last and last and last and I'd be so lost without them.

Coming up next: fancy sweater photos.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday morning

I woke up this morning to find this at the foot of the bed:

A nice beginning for a "long weekend" free day. This has been an extremely stressful weekend so it's nice to be reminded that life can be good and calm and simple.