Good Read, Good Knit

Book and gloves

Here's a good read and a good knit for your weekend.  The book, Knitting Ephemera by Carolyn Sulcoski is crammed full of interesting knitting facts you need to know.  And you'll enjoy its engaging format.  I've been leafing through a few pages here and there to avoid finishing it too quickly.  It's lots of fun — you need it now.

The knit is Purl Soho's free Seed Stitch Mittens pattern.  This pair was knit up by Raveler Kipperdawg in Elliebelly Pixie Merino.  The yarn is part of what has become my annual summertime binge of natural dyeing, which always starts of with a vat of black bean dyed yarn while I'm waiting for the dye herbs to grow.  This is the first time I've been able to achieve this soft brown, and I'm grateful for all of the natural dyers who share their notes and processes on line!  Black bean dyeing is fun and easy and I strongly encourage you to try it if you've been playing with koolaid or easter egg dyes and are ready to move on or even if you're an experienced dyer interested in experimenting with natural process.  The results are slightly unpredictable and always fun, as these lovely mittens prove.


My Life: The Edge of Chaos

It's been a busy few weeks here.  Work has been crazy.  Family has been crazy.  Life has been crazy.  All in a very good way, but still, CRAZY TOWN.  So it only seemed appropriate when I got on the elevator for a meeting I was scheduled to attend late last week, and the floor where I was headed had been renamed.


That more or less summs up how my days have been going.  So, with huge apologies for not blogging and doing a horrible job of staying in touch with all of my favorite knitters the past couple of weeks, I'm back.  Back with my %$#@& KAL sock.  I love this sock.  Love the pattern.  Love the way the colors are laying down.  It practically knit itself with all of the flying I've been doing.


Is there some trauma associated with the Kitchener stitch and late nights?  If there isn't, I must be cursed.  I love knitting top down socks, and a big part of the reason is that I enjoy Kitchener stitch.  It's like magic — you weave a little and the toes line up perfectly.  There was no magic with this sock.  It looked awful when I finished.  I ripped it out, and you'll never guess, but that bad 1:00 am lighting in my living room combined with tiny size one needle stitches was really not a thing.  I sort of got them back on the needles.  I tried it again while driving (I was the passenger, not the driver — I'm not that close to the edge) on an overcast day with bad lighting, and it came out even worse.  And ripping it out made me sad because, as you all know, sometimes, you're loose track of where you are when all those tiny size one stitches pop right off the needles as you go over a bump.


My stitches are on, but not in the right order or on the right needles.  It's going to take some sorting out to figure when I am, so I'm going to gently and lovingly place this sock in time out, and cast on for its mate.  I'm pretty sure my Kitchener mojo will come back, but it's going to require a serious combination of all of my favorite comfort foods — and some bright lighting.

While I was out of town and away from the blog, some really exciting things happened.

April collage
I visited my College, which I hadn't done in over a decade, and found out that all of the things I loved about it were still there, but even better.  Sometimes, you actually can go back.  Even better, on the return drive to the airport, I discovered a B&B/Alpaca Farm.  I was concerned about being the crazy lady who stopped on the middle of the road to take pictures of the Alpacas, so you just get this one sneak peek, but it's definitely on my shortlist.  The online reviews say to make sure you visit with Brutus, who is a very friendly Alpaca. Oh my heavens!

The sense that I was living in a surreal fantasy world where all of my dreams came true continued when I got home and realized that for my husband's birthday, I could order his favorite cake.  It's a day long adventure to make it, so I was delighted to reduce it to a 15 minute pick up detail.  Although we had friends over, there were leftovers.  The cat with the cake is Bob.  I was definitely much more restrained and lady like than that.

And finally, the square of concrete is my long awaited fire pit.  We have a small, urban yard with a strong down hill slant, but as we've lived through our six months of hell deck reconstruction and landscaping, I've persistently insisted that we include a fire pit in the project.  In anticipation, I dragged kids out to World Market, and snagged some fabulous outdoor chairs on sale last weekend.  As soon as the pit is dry, I'm christening it with S'mores.  But, I'll make sure I leave my socks and needles behind.  Because It's been that kind of month!



Very Close To A Sweater

[If you are looking for information on the Adventurous April Knit Along or this week's yarn give away for the KAL, click here]

Glacier is almost done.  No mind that it has been almost six months since I startedknitting it.  I've knit 12 other projects while it was in progress, including an Arlo cabled sweater for my son, and I currently have four shawls in various states of progress that I've worked on along with Glacier.  But Glacier is really the love of my knitting life.  It has all of those cables, and that buttery soft Plucky Knitter Snug yarn with its Alpaca and its Cashmere.  It makes me smile just to think about it — even during that dark time when I realized I had missed a cable cross on a nine stitch cable and I was four pattern repeats further up the back.


Glacier is almost done.  The pieces are all knit.  I'm going to block them this weekend and then hope for a good long day the following weekend where I can weave in ends, seam (always my arch-nemesis), and knit the collar.  The pattern designer, Martin Storey, is a cable artist.  They are simply beautiful.


I've spent so much time with these cables that I'm not quite sure what I'll do without them.  I've even dreamed about knitting them.  The pattern is one that sears itself into your brain is easily memorized, and I catch myself wondering how it would look in linen, or in a summer white version with pale blue stripes around the bottom. I think Glacier, which comes in one of those big beautiful Rowan pattern books that are full of eye candy and inspiration, is a project I'll revisit, at least once.  But for now, it's on to finishing.


An Ode To Stick On Thimbles

Do you ever poke holes in your fingers when you're knitting?  My favorite set of needles are a very, very pointy set of Darn Pretty lace needles.  The points are so sharp you could do surgery with them.  They come in very handy when knitting cables without a cable needle, as the stitches you temporarily drop off and then transfer over slide right onto the lace points without a drop or a split.


I've knit my Glacier sweater using them, but as much as I love them, I was ending up with painful indentations on my index finger.  I'm pretty sure the problem occurred because of the combination of a bulky weight yarn and complex cables over five and nine stitches that reoccur throughout the pattern.  I was really excited when I learned about stick-on, leather thimbles, like the one you see above.  You stick it on your finger and no more pain!  There are a number of different types available, and I tried several different types and liked them all but am particularly fond of the ones pictured above because you can use them over and over and they are so comfortable you forget that they are there. Although I think it's the unusual situation like this where you need them, they were a lifesaver, and I'm going to keep them in my knitters bag of tricks from now on!


Swatching With Linen

It may still be the middle of winter, but I've held off for as long as I can on swatching with this linen & silk blend yarn.


I've been dreaming about a sweater.  Something with a loose gauge and a simple stockinette pattern.  So I'm swatching to see what kind of gauge I get, before I get my heart set on a specific pattern (my heart is secretly set on Mithril, but I'm trying to keep an open mind here).  Unblocked, there is very little difference in stitch gauge between size 2 and size 4 needles, 5 stitches an inch, with a slight variation in row gauge.  This isn't too surprising — linen creates a loose, drapey fabric and it's important to keep this in mind if you're going to knit with it.  It doesn't sprong back into shape like a nice merino wool will. 

The color, Castle Stone (the yarn is Elliebelly Chemise) is a bit of a chameleon, here it is out of doors after swatching.


Here it is blocking, indoors.  You can see it picks up the light because of the silk content.  I adore this yarn.  No matter where it is, it makes me very happy. (In case you're wondering, the two holes near the top of the swatch are how I mark which half was knit on the smaller needles — two pair of yarn overs)


I'm hoping the blocked shape holds up because my informal measurement is that it's spot on for the gauge I need to knit Mithril.  Fingers Crossed.


Knitting Scorecard For This Week

1-There is nothing like a quick trip to your local yarn shop to provide solace when you misplace your knitting. Four skeins of Madeline Tosh later, the whole world is a more beautiful place.


2-The solace of the trip to your LYS is magnified when you discover that they have two lovely, quick patterns for your new yarn. One involves double knitting and is incredibly smooshy.


3-There is, however, no true cure for how dumb you feel when you realize the sweater sleeves you've been knitting two at a time are nowhere to be found. On the plus side: Your were only a few inches in, they were way too big and we're going to have to be ripped out anyhow, and you've still got three untouched skeins plus several small balls of leftovers, so you should be able to muddle through. On the downside: you have to feel guilty about all the times your Mother in Law told you she was developing CRS  disease and you snickered. (I adored my Mil and she could be quite bawdy. CRS stands for "can't remember sh*t".)

4-Glacier is going to be an amazing sweater when it's done. I bound off the front this evening, after conquering the directions, which cheerily advised me that after finishing the left side, I should just reverse all of the directions to knit the right side. Not as easy as it sounds.


But, my stepped shoulder decreases are beautiful and perfectly matched. The moment when I realized this was a profoundly exciting one in my life.

5-I have discovered knitting fiction. I don't read romance or mystery novels, but I'm hooked. What's not to like about a book where our heroine is the only human (and yarn store proprietress) in a town full of trolls, vampires, shape shifters and fairies? My friends on Ravelry recommended the first one, The Great Christmas Knit Off, and now I've got a stack on my bedside table to help with my New Years resolution to knock off working on the computer and read for 20-30 minutes before going to bed. Supposedly this is better for you. I'm not going to encounter great fiction this way but the books have a charm that grows on you, replete with mentions of Noro, Rowan, and the difficulty of knitting bobbles.  My snotty teenaged reader is horrified.  That was the final selling point.

This weekend I hope to find the d@mn sleeves and do the math to knit ones that will fit better, get in some work on my Drachenfels, which has been languishing, and knit a swatch with a colorway I'm trying to work out and have dyed a couple of ways to see which I like the best.  And laundry.  Mountains of laundry.  It really cuts into my knitting time and I resent it!