Monday, January 16, 2017

Bretonish

Anything striped. Yes, please.  After I saw Karen working on one of these, I resisted as long as I could (so many other things on the project table) and then I cast on.  There is almost nothing better in my life than long stretches of stockinette stitch, with a color change every twenty rows to keep it interesting.  You guys, this is what to do when you're stuck in line, a waiting room, a long road trip.  I don't know how people who don't knit can stand a long road trip!  Before knitting happened to me, all I did in a car was sleep, and then arrive at the distant destination with nap breath and bed hair, but so well rested, just as everyone else was collapsing into bed.  I still fall asleep a little bit, but mostly there is knitting, and then I feel like I have something to show for all that sitting in one place all day long.  
I worked this top-down, making it up as I went, which is my very favorite trick.  I've said this before, but seriously, all I do is this:  start with a vague idea of what I want.  (I mean it.  Vague. You can figure out sleeve and body length and shaping on the fly.)  Use a measuring tape and maybe a mirror to figure out how big I want the neck opening to be, and how long the raglan seam needs to be.  Make a gauge swatch.  Do a little math--stitches per inch x distance around parts of me, etc. to figure out how many stitches to cast on at the neck.  Knit the sweater.  Friends, it is that simple.  
A word about the yarn:  I used Holstgarn Supersoft, in Vintage Heather, which is a heathery navy--three 50g balls, and Oatmeal--2 50g balls.  It seems like a fingering weight yarn, but it's used at a much larger gauge--I worked this Bretonish pullover on a US 4.  It also feels and looks very rough as it comes off the cake, and I can tell you that if Isabell Kraemer didn't use it so often in her lovely designs, I doubt I would ever have given this yarn a second look.  It looks and feels like twine, and the knitted fabric initially looks pretty awful, and you can't help thinking the Holst people must not know what the word "soft" means, but hoo!  All votes of confidence are right on, because after a bath and a block--dry in four hours!--it is utterly transformed.  It blooms and relaxes and fluffs up into a beautifully wooly and light and (mostly) soft fabric, and I wore it all day yesterday, next to my skin, and it was nice.  It isn't Woolfolk (sob, is anything?) but it was perfectly lovely.  Also, in that photo up there, see that loop?  That is a stitch I dropped on the FIRST ROW, and which I did not notice until I was picking up to knit the neckband, the very last thing I do before blocking.  It did not drop down even one row, not in the whole time I was flinging this in and out of a bag, dragging it around the house, hauling it across the country and back, pulling it out from underneath the sleeping Catdog, picking up and knitting one sleeve and then the other, trying it on the dummy to check for fit, and sewing up the sleeve seams.  It just sat there, patiently waiting for me to find it.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

This just in

I was talking about art the other day, with another artist friend who works in charcoal and pencil, and we agreed that there are two ways to do things:  you can either sit decoratively in a coffee shop like a proper bohemian, sipping your cappuccino and waiting for the muse, or you can get your thumb out of your ear and show up every day, whether you want to or not, and get to work.  The beat poet in me loves the idea of the first option--just sitting there having another and being all artsy, letting things percolate.  It can be useful, and sometimes it works out great, because sometimes things are really rich and ideas are flowing like wine, and you're in your hammock reading a book you bought because it was big enough to last the whole vacation and before you know what's happening you're writing Hamilton and getting enormously famous.  But really, mostly, it's all about sitting down and getting on with it, because sometimes the creative mind kind of takes a powder and you look around and it's been years and you're just not doing it at all.  He doesn't want to hear about how busy you are and how much you mean eventually to get around to something.  Every time I see him he asks me what I'm working on, and if I say, "Well, you know how it is, life and everything..." he raises a gray eyebrow at me and smirks a little and reminds me that he practices his golf swing every single day of his life, even if he has to clear a spot in the snow so he can find the ball.  He reminds me to get to work.  Whatever it is I do, I need to do it every day.  
 
It doesn't have to be good every time.  It might hardly ever be any good.  It might make me think twice about showing it to you, and force me to make a disgruntled face.  [Is this a giant anthill?  Why is the sun brown?  These are not questions I ask myself.]  I just do it, and put it on the pile, and tomorrow I will do another, and the next day, another.  There may be, in the end, 365 tiny paintings of anthills and dirty suns and unintentionally apocalyptic landscapes and scary birds, but I am not concerned with that right now. 
He reminds me to show up and do it, every day, even if it snows, and even if I wish I could just skip it and do it twice tomorrow.  How will any of it--good, bad, ugly, perfect--happen at all if I only imagine it?  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In the morning

Good morning, my friends.  All night long the wind battered the side of the house and I thought we were going to end up in the neighbors' yard, but the sun is shining today and things are intact.  I can't decide whether I like wind or not--sometimes a stormy, weathery night is nice, and I feel very snug, tucked up here beside my fireplace with my cocoa and eight billion episodes of something lame on Netflix, and sometimes I hate all the howling outside, because I just know the whole roof is going to come off.  This seems to be a very windy part of the world, based anyway on my limited experience.  Farmers' fields all around make it possible for wind to get up a big head of steam before it gets to me, I think.  
As much as I really do want to sew and handstich things--and I have quite a lot underway, stitching-wise--the blustering of January just calls me to the knitting.  This here is the next pullover I'm working on, completely inspired by Karen Templer's KAL project, and knit by me in the very weird and interesting Holstgarn Supersoft.  I don't know if you've ever used Supersoft before, but if not, let me just tell you right now that in the skein, it is anything but soft, and it feels like knitting a length of garden twine into a pile of burlap, but the thing about this yarn is that it blooms into a completely different fabric after washing, and unless my swatch is pulling a huge con, this pullover is going to be relatively soft, beautifully fuzzy, and will weigh approximately nothing at all, which is my idea of heaven.  But the contrast with the yarn I just finished using for this next thing? 
Pretty significant.  You guys, this yarn.  This yarn!  This is Woolfolk Tov, a holiday gift from my lovely mama, who clearly knows exactly what a girl needs, in the colorway "denim".  I can't even.  I made this Arctic Cardigan, from Issue 2 of Making magazine in about a week, and that's including having a houseful of company that all needed feeding and clean towels.  I could not stop knitting this, and now I want to wear it every single day.  I'll get a proper photo of it soon, so you can see the whole thing.  I know it looks like there's been a lot of sweaters lately.  I guess there has been.  Must be I'm cold.  There's also been this:
 On the left is a ripped and faded and felted and orphaned mitten I made a long time ago for my boy, an artifact with the patina of a teenage boy who skied a lot and has the history of concussions to prove it, and he came to me over the weekend wearing this one lonely mitten and saying "I really like these.  I lost the other one, I am sad.  Can I have a new pair?"  And I said, "WellnowletmethinkYES."  And was a cloud of dust, hairpins flying, as I ran to the cupboard for yarn.   I really am going to get back to the sewing.  I want to, a lot.  But right now it is so wintery.  Brr.  
Catdog naps.  She opens one eye halfway, wags her tail.  Inspects me briefly for snacks, and then sighs herself back to sleep.  She has taken over the couch, the blanket, and all the pillows, and the other day I fell asleep on the floor in front of the fire with my head on my knitting while she sprawled all over the furniture, snoring, because she looked so cute I didn't want to disturb her.  Sweet Catdog.  Anything for you, my dear. 

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.