Thursday, June 30, 2005

Birch Begins

For the Summer of Lace KAL, I'm working on a mini Birch. Here's a peep at the WIP. She's destined to be a sartorial superheroine on the streets of Gotham City, thus the dramatic flair (?) of her pose echoes a certain movie.

Photo of Birch shawl in progress

The mini Birch is intended to be a large scarf rather than a full-sized shawl, which I find to be the more versatile size for adding a bit of warmth and color to an outfit. So I cast on a mere 199 stitches instead of the full 299. I'm working the st st version to show off those yos.

There are advantages and disadvantages to working a triangular scarf top down. On the one hand, the number of stitches is decreasing rapidly, so apparent progress is ever-accelerating. That's remarkably gratifying.

On the other hand, top down knitting requires full commitment. There can be no stopping short as the work is an ungainly trapezoid until the very last sl1, k2tog, psso of the very last pattern repeat, which completes the triangle. There's no turning back either. I'm pretty sure frogging mohair lace is mentioned as one of the torments of the damned in Dante's Inferno. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate! Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!

The yarn, Filatura di Crosa College, is a beauteous four-strand blend of fine wool and mohair with colorful Polyamid nubs, rescued from the sale room at Seaport Yarn. Wouldn't you know it - I'm not sure I have enough to finish. I did a lot of abstruse calculations and I think I can, I think I can.

The cast-on edge and the sides of the triangle are scalloping slightly, which is a charming effect. However, that means the work is pulling in and puffing up, obscuring the openness of the fern lace, which is not so charming. Blocking very likely will flatten the puffs but also greatly reduce the scallops. To block or not to block? That is the question to be decided later.

The Rowan pattern may be found here. Mason-Dixon Knitting gives helpful advice and Duc Ta's excellent chart here.

Roundabout Exit 151, the upcoming holiday weekend is full of celebrations of liberty, civic responsibility, and neighborliness. Everyone decorates their house with red, white, and blue! On Friday, July 1, the county is sponsoring a concert in Brookdale Park by the NJ Symphony Orchestra, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. On Monday, July 4, the various townships hold their individual parades and more modest fireworks displays. Here's some scenes from last year's parade: the Fire Department and their shiny trucks, a local advocacy group, and a fabulous rainbow marching band.

Photo of July 4 parade fabulous band   Photo of July 4 parade CeaseFireNJ   Photo of July 4 parade Fire Dept

In between Friday and Monday there are block parties and pool parties and barbecues. There's fresh sweet corn and early tomatoes and mint tea and lawn chairs and peace and plenty. My favorite holiday.

I hope your weekend is joyous and safe and full of fun family time and good things. Have a happy Fourth!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mad Dogs and Bicyclists

After the coolest May in a century, now we've having a June heatwave. This is not the take-your-breath-away 100+ F (37.7+ C) degree heat of a scorching July nor the endless heat and brassy light of August. There's been plenty of rain, so this heat is riotously verdant. Plants, especially weeds, sprout and grow seemingly overnight. And spiders, indoors and out, are spinning with great industry. I can't say I've noticed any increase in insects, but I assume they know what they're doing. The same cannot always be said for others.

Not to be outdone by the busy tribe of arachnids, yesterday I ventured out into the noonday sun for a spin with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance on their annual Missing Links bicycle tour. The 40-mile (64 km) route traces public access to the Hudson River: it starts on the New York side in Battery Park and heads north on the Hudson River Greenway, crosses the George Washington Bridge, continues south on the New Jersey side on a crazy quilt of byways through Fort Lee, Edgewater, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Elizabeth to Bayonne, crosses the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island, then takes the Staten Island ferry back to the Battery. Public access to the river is not universal, creating the missing links which give the tour its name.

As I live in NJ, I usually leave the ride in NJ rather than return to NYC. This year, I started feeling a bit wobbly,Hoboken sesquicentennial button so quit at the 30-mile (48 km) mark in Hoboken. Much of the ride through Hoboken is away from the river on busy streets that are miserably hot - a big missing link. Happily, there's a pretty park built on old Pier A, where I rested a while and watched children frolicking in a water sculpture before heading home. A rider on the tour recommended tomato juice - with its salt, potassium, anti-oxidants, and low impact on blood sugar - as a sovereign remedy for wobblies. (Distance cyclists must guard against hyponatremia as much as dehydration.) It seemed to help some, but I think sitting in the shade, the cool river breeze, and the charming scene did more.

Before the ride, I trekked to the nearest LYS, with Sockapal-2-za on my mind, as listmom Alison has already announced the Sockapal-2-za first finisher and the great progress made by other industrious sorts. Wow, that was fast.

Here's where I am: I've looked at my pal's blog, studied my stash, and made some judicious purchases, with what results below.

Photo of Sockapal-2-za yarn

That's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock "Cool", Cherry Tree Hill Supersock "Green Mountain Madness," and light gray and dark gray Socka. I gather my pal favors variegated blue or gray colorways, so I hope one of these will suit. There's sufficient of each for mother-child socks (grin).

At the moment, I'm leaning toward Green Mountain Madness, a reference to the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont, home of Cherry Tree Hill. The yarn is simply gorgeous, 100% merino Superwash, and a chain of synchronicities is growing around it. I bought it at a LYS which rarely carries sock yarn, but just happened to be holding sock classes, so was nicely stocked. I generally loathe winding skeins into center pull balls, but my book group just happened to watch a video instead of discussing a book, providing the perfect occasion for a bit of industry.

The next task is test-swatching, to check gauge and color pooling. If it's cool in the pool, I'm staying in.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

First Metric

It's the first day of summer and a time of other firsts as well.

Blog-building continues apace. The newly installed web counter by Stat Counter has even provided a first metric: over the weekend, the first few visitors surfed by (joy!), but before I had any pix of my knitting to show off (chagrin!). Strange how physical measurement is so allied with swiftly turning mental duality.

Fortunately, remedies are near at hand. My digicam is not responding to its programming, so George obligingly took some time after today's editorial meeting to take pix with his. They will be uploaded over the next few days. Thanks, George!

The first image up is the old jersey below and in the sidebar, a detail of Great Plains from the Kaffe Fassett Studio, worked in Rowan Cotton Glace, Wool Cotton, Seabreeze, and Nice Cotton. The pattern is in Rowan 11.

Photo of Great Plains sweater

Fittingly, this 1991 design was Brandon Mably's first for Rowan. It's a clever study in color - there are 21 colors in the sweater, but only two are in use at any given time. Even so, as with many gloriously colored sweaters, the amount of weaving-in required is monumental.

Another first for today: I registered for a metric century, a 100 km (62 mi) bicycle tour sponsored by the Princeton Free Wheelers. It's my first attempt at a true distance event - my first metric.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Secret Pal 5 Questionnaire and Responses

Hello, Secret Pal! I signed up late, but was lucky enough to get in, thanks to fearless listmom Rox. You're an angel - here's my questionnaire and responses.

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?
LOL. I enjoy knitting with a wide variety of fibers but covet luxe yarns.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?
Spin bicycles, yes. Spin fiber, no. Crochet, yes.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)
Linden tree pollen, gardenia, and tobacco.

4. How long have you been knitting?
Over 20 years, and I'm still learning new things.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
No. Online commerce can be wonderfully convenient, but I try to support bricks-and-mortar businesses like my LYS and LBS.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
Lavender, ginger, or pine.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?
Yes, one that would suit a wooly mammoth.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
The big DIY project is fixing the house. I enjoy the results, but not the doing. Gardening is more fun, except the rabbits and deer would seem to believe my backyard is a gourmet banquet just for them.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Music or spoken word mp3s would brighten my commute. Lately I've been listening to podcasts from KnitCast.

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
Anything that goes with black is great. Except neon brights.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
That's personal.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)
To knit a virtuoso project, like a fine lace shawl of incredible intricacy and stunning beauty. Or Debbie New's Maple Swirl Socks. Else something shamelessly expensive, like a qiviut or possum scarf. And I have yet to felt something, at least intentionally.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?
Wool or wool-cotton.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Some acrylic yarns have a disagreeably crunchy texture. Rabbit angora.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?
Socks and lace. It must be a rebound effect - last winter all my projects were bulky or superbulky.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Anything with cables or lace.

17. What are you knitting right now?
Chutes-N-Ladders socks and mini Birch shawl.

18. What do you think about ponchos?
Although I'm not a Martha fan, I like ponchos and think they'll remain in style a while yet, thanks to her and J-Lo. I also like shrugs.

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
It depends on the task at hand.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
Bamboo for sport weight and heavier yarn, metal for fine yarn. I generally don't like plastic.

21. Are you a sock knitter?
Yes. I usually work on size 0 dpns, but once made lace socks from cotton thread on 0000s.

22. How did you learn to knit?
By making swatches from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting 1 & 2. I love learning new techniques and am still learning.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?
Some living fossils date back to when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
No strong preferences. Maybe Cookie Monster or Felix the Cat or Jiji, the cat in Kiki's Delivery Service, or Totoro.

25. What is your favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July. It's a wonderful community celebration in my township, with a parade, barbecues, and fireworks.

26. Is there anything that you collect?
Yes, cookie recipes, bicycle maps, and 50 state quarters. At the moment I'm missing Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
None, I just buy the issues that interest me. I used to like VK, but now prefer IK.

28. Any books out there you are dying to get your hands on?
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.
Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush.
Knitted Millinery by Annie Modesitt.

Friday, June 17, 2005


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