Monday, November 28, 2005

A Post Modern Yarn

This is not a postmodern yarn. [Ceci n'est pas une histoire postmoderne.]

To round out the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, yesterday I attended a class at Modern Yarn in Montclair (roundabout Exit 148) on combination knitting led by designer and author Annie Modesitt of South Orange (roundabout Exit 144).

(Incredible to relate, there are three new high-end LYS in Montclair within three blocks of each other and a fourth long-established shop. Modern Yarn is in the Church Street pedestrian mall at 32a Church Street. Partners Kristen Carlberg and Paige Sato hospitably keep their sleek shop well-stocked with desirable indulgences and choice necessities. There's plenty of parking for cars in back in the new Crescent Parking Deck; bicycles can continue to chain up in front.)

Here's my class swatch and Annie's book, Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. The class included long tail cast on with one or two colors, combination technique p, combination technique k, on the needle blocking, k2p2 ribbing, k inc (right slanted), p inc (left slanted), cabling without a needle (both front and back cross), and k2tog bind off.

Class swatch and book

And here's Annie and class members (minus three, plus I'm shy) holding their swatches. The level of knitting experience and expertise in the group varied widely: Christina is one of the fastest, most precise knitters I've ever seen (and she has a pattern in September 2005 MagKnits); there were one or two very new knitters.

Class photo by Paige Sato

Annie is a generous, hands on teacher with a positive message – there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to knit – and the crucial ability to verbalize knitting actions in memorable ways. A wealth of contextual anecdote is also provided. The class is accessible for beginners with a firm grasp of the basics of stitch formation and an inclination toward technique, but I think it could be frustrating for some others. More advanced knitters will pick up combination knitting very quickly.

A large selection of yarn was thoughtfully provided for student use – as tempting as it was to play with some fabulous variegated thing, I chose a solid wool four-ply to focus on technique. I found that combination knitting affected my tension and gauge, as well as the appearance of the stitches and the hand of the fabric. The difference in tension and gauge is obvious; I doubt the difference in look or hand would be immediately discernable to many besides me, but of course I know my own knitting. (For an exaggerated illustration of what I mean, see the photos in the excellent Knitty article by Michele Lock on ply types and knit stitches.) Overall, combination knitting is an interesting addition to the technique toolkit.

The self-published book was not used in class; it contains many more intriguing techniques. Its illustrations remind me of one of my favorite classics, Mary Thomas's Knitting Book – they're admirably clear and very plain.

If that weren't enough knitterly goodness to last the week, Artfully addressed SP6 packagewhen I got home this afternoon another artful package from my excellent SP6 pal, Pepe the Prawn, was waiting for me on the doorstep.

Needless to add, I investigated at once. Inside was a humorous card with a great hand-drawn bicycle on the envelope (love the horn!), a portrait of the artist as a young prawn, and the admonition to have some cake; a hank of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (yummy) in colorway Jungle Stripe (Wimbledon colors gone wild), sufficient for a pair of anklets or lace socks (maybe Vine Lace would be apropos); and a tin of Ginger Chews (also yummy).

SP6 goodies

Thank you, Pepe! After surfing the SP6 participants' list, I think I've figured out who you are – your writerly voice is very distinctive. But I'll wait for the official reveal at the end of the week, OK?

As for the advice, a bit of cake would be nice, especially as I've been muttering, "Let them eat pie" all weekend. Pie-making was a bit of a bust this year – the crust just didn't want to come together (unsurprisingly, it shrank a lot and ended up tough as hardtack) and the pumpkin custard developed a strange thick skin. That suggests the oven was too hot, regardless of what the thermometer said. Oh well, it happens some years. That didn't stop the loyal fans from taking a piece or two before I could take a picture for the blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turning Point

Tomorrow production shifts from knitting to pie roundabout Exit 151, but for the moment holiday knitting continues apace.

This Diamond Patch Sock for my Holiday Sox pal is shaping rather well. Or, rather, it's ready for shaping.

From the front it just looks like a nondescript tube.

Diamond Patch sock foot

But the side view reveals the foot is finished. It's ready for an afterthought heel à la EZ (and a toe, too).

Ready to begin afterthought heel

I was thinking of showing the sock a good time at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, but the weather forecast is for a little bit of everything – sun, overcast, wind, rain, snow, cold – so we'll see.

Meanwhile, lest my Scarf Exchange pal (or exchange hostesses the adventurous Celia and the (self-described) impatient Cynthia) feel neglected, permit me to present some lovely Malabrigo in colorway Pagoda that may very well want to be a scarf.

Malabrigo Pagoda

I've been wanting to try Debbie New's dazzling Scribble Lace technique in Unexpected Knitting, so maybe the Malabrigo could become a Loopy and Luscious scarf by Natalie Wilson. Then again, maybe it wants to be Vintage Velvet from Scarf Style. Well, we'll see.

While I ponder that, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Something Wicked

Unlike musicians working for a certain Christmas show, Santa's elves don't go on strike, perhaps because they don't need to. This past weekend, they played hooky and invited me to tag along.

So instead of holiday knitting, I cast on the Rowan Kidsilk Haze that Pepe the Prawn, my excellent SP6 pal, sent me. Appropriately, the colorway is called Wicked.

Beginning of Kidsilk Haze stole

KSH is a magical cobweb-weight kid mohair-silk yarn that knits up as light and soft and cool as smoke. The silk content keeps the mohair hairyness down to a fine bloom that does not snarl nearly as badly as pure mohair and – wonderful to relate – does not obscure intricate lace stitches. I love it! I've never worked with KSH before, but I'm guessing that two skeins will produce a goodish sized stole, maybe 20 inches by 80 inches (about 50 by 200 cm) when pinned out.

The stole consists of a picot hem, yo and fagotting edges, and Ostrich Plumes body – all standard lace knitting. The Ostrich Plumes make the solid st st hem form picot scallops across the width of the stole while the openwork edges tame its lengthwise undulations (although I rather like wavy edges). It seems unutterably silly to call this a pattern, but it's published under the name Lace Dream by Eugen Beugler in Shawls and Scarves. I've tweaked the number of cast on sts and plan to knit until I run out of yarn, not worrying about gauge or reps.

After putting up the storm windows, Santa's elves and I also scampered off to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It must be said that condensing the sprawling book into one movie is a remarkable feat. However, like Santa's elves, I was disappointed that the movie was all about Harry (for example, nothing about Hermione's concerns for house-elf rights or scenes of her knitting) and much of the rich texture of the magical world was missing (eg, no caroling suits of armor). The extremes of feeling in the book were nicely portrayed, especially the funny bits, but the segues between them seemed abrupt and strained, reflecting the difficulties of making a children's movie with a body count. IMO, Bambi remains unrivaled on that point.

As I'm not a child, the comments on magic used for Unforgivable purposes – coercion, torture, and killing – have special resonance, especially right now. Fortunately, the Gryffindors among us possess moral courage as well as physical daring – something I'm deeply thankful for this Thanksgiving week.

[Added a bit later] Something else to be thankful for: thanks to my excellent SP6 pal, I'm now the happy owner of the pattern for Eris! You remember Eris, the goddess who was the keeper of the golden apples (some called her the goddess of discord or strife) that were desired by all, even by the gods themselves, which supposedly caused the Trojan War. Well, her namesake virtuoso knitting pattern is 40 meticulously written pages and similarly awesome. Curved cables! The press of holiday knitting, the allure of KSH – all bow before mighty Eris. Thank you, Pepe!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Heigh Ho

Holiday knitting continues apace roundabout Exit 151. The latest off the production line is these fingerless mitts. The tally is now 3 of don't ask.

Photo of fingerless mitts

The pattern was improvised using a mystery yarn from stash; the tree design is from The New Knitting Stitch Library. I've always liked the look of this yarn, a handsome three-ply variegated marl, but the skein has numerous breaks and previous attempts to turn it into something always ended in frustration. After sitting around for so long that it lost its band, it's finally become a small comfort against the expensive heating season ahead.

Moving along, I'm taking the advice of my excellent SP6 pal, Pepe the Prawn, and am going with a fiery colorway rather than a winter twilight colorway for my Holiday Sox solstice socks. Here's two gauge swatches. Notice the vast number of coil-less stitch markers that are gainfully employed as stitch holders.

Gauge swatches for Holiday Sox

The pattern is another modular knitting project from Heartland Knits, Diamond Patch Socks. This type of modular knitting not only requires a vast number of small stitch holders, but also an incredible amount of picking up stitches and weaving in ends. I'm using crochet cast-on and crochet provisional cast-on in addition to slipping edge sts to produce nice chained edges for ease in picking up sts, and weaving in as I go.

The yarn is a delight, 100% wool two-ply Diakeito Diamusée Fine, colorway #113. Like the mystery yarn above, each of the plies is variegated, so the yarn is both variegated and marled, an endless fascination for the eye. It's similar in weight to Shetland two-ply, but has a softer hand. It knits up beautifully. I'd love to try it in a funky Fair Isle project... but not while Santa's workshop is adding swing shifts!

Heigh ho, heigh ho, there's many more to go! Scarves are up next.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

International Scarf Exchange Questionnaire

Greetings, International Scarf Exchange Pal! I'm looking forward to this exchange – I was in the first round and enjoyed it so much that I'm back for the second round, as are Fiona (the pal I gifted) and the Jena (the pal who gifted me).

My questionnaire is already posted on the exchange website, but here it is again for ease of reference.

1. Name & blogger handle: Ina (Jersey Knitter).
2. Scarf only / scarf&hat / scarf&mittens: Scarf only.
3. Email address: jerseyknitter [at] gmail [dot] com
4. Blog URL:
5. Mailing address (which they can send to their pal separately) - not
to be posted on the blog.
6. Colours you like: Anything that goes with black (I spend a lot of time
in NYC).
7. Colours you hate: Hate is too strong a word. I don't much like neon brights, some browns.
8. Fibres you like: Not picky.
9 . Fibres you hate/allergies: Allergic to rabbit angora.
10. Prefered scarf length: Not picky, but I dislike keyhole scarves.
11. Head circumference (only if applicable): Not applicable.
12. Width of hand at widest point (only if applicable): Not applicable.
13. Solid or variegated?: Your choice.
14. Cables or lace?: Your choice.
15. Miscellaneous info (including if you would like the chance to have a crocheted scarf): Please make a scarf that makes you happy! Crochet is fine. I hope having carte blanche is liberating and inspiring - but if more structure is helpful, leave a comment on my blog or email me.

Hope you have fun – happy knitting! :)X

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kiss, Kiss

This morning on my front step there was a sure sign of the times: the last of Jack. Poor Jack. Hunger finally overcame caution for some beastie last night.

Photo of eaten pumpkin

Another sign: true blue Alison has started her annual holiday knit-along. The very idea terrifies me! For me, holiday knitting is worse than the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater!!! [Hyperventilating] But far better to confront one's fears in community than alone [shutting eyes and clicking mouse] – I signed up.

So kiss Jack goodbye and say hello to Leslie Scanlon's Sparkly Kiss Cap from Handknit Holidays. Two of them, with some little friends (in fall colors, not red and green). That's the yew hedge behind them, aka the deer snack bar.

Photo of Sparkly Kiss Cap

I love these caps! These are worked in Lion Brand Glitterspun and are soft and non-scratchy. One skein and one evening is more than enough for one cap. The concept is so sweet... although DH didn't get it at first. Oh well.

[Still hyperventilating] That's two....

This year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is from Wayne, NJ (roundabout Exit 153). It's already set up in the place of honor but not yet decorated – to have look at it, see Tree Cam.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Flourish & Socks

First, a flourish [TA-DA!!!]. Then, socks.

Gryffindor team socks

I'd like to thank all who entered the Gryffindor team socks giveaway. As the Goblet of Fire was otherwise occupied, I used an old-fashioned table of random numbers to select a recipient from among the many entries. The lucky recipient is ThreeOliveMartini. The socks are on their way to her via Owl Post the Postal Service. Please go congratulate her – and please, no sore loser hexes.

Meanwhile, the Holiday Sox Exchange has started with a flourish, yea, even a bang! I've contacted my pal (giftee) and also have heard from my pal (gifter), which sets a new record for promptness. This is going to be a great exchange.

That leaves me pondering a favorite topic... yarn. I'm thinking of making solstice socks for my pal. Maybe using a gold-burnt sienna-bittersweet colorway or maybe a purple-midnight-royal blue colorway?

Yarn for solstice socks   More yarn for solstice socks

Hm, decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Holiday Sox Exchange Questionnaire

Greetings, Holiday Sox Pal! I'm excited to be in another sock exchange. One of my favorite parts of Alison's great Sockapal-2-za sock exchange was all the beautiful WIP photos – it's so wonderful and amazing to see all the creativity and thoughtfulness out there.

I'm looking forward to getting started. In the meantime, here's my questionnaire and responses.

1. What are your foot measurements?
Using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' method: circumference 8 in (20.3 cm); length 9.25 in (23.5 cm).

2. Do you have a favorite sock yarn?

3. Is there a specific pattern you favor?...lace or ribbed?
I heart texture! Please feel free to select your choice – or not. I usually wear handknit socks with clogs, so a reinforced (sl st) heel is not necessary (and a fancy heel is fun).

4. What colors do you prefer? Do you like solids or stripes?
I'm not too keen on neon brights; otherwise, please select colors and/or patterns that make you happy. IMO, holiday socks don't need to be identical twins; a strong family resemblance is enough.

5. Do you have any allergies to a specific fiber?
Rabbit angora (fortunately very rare in socks!).

6. Holiday that you usually celebrate?
Christmas (December 25). Also New Year's (January 1) and Lunar New Year's (in 2006, January 29).

I hope having knitter's choice (more or less) is fun and liberating, but if more guidance or structure is helpful, feel free to email me at the address in the sidebar.

Incidentally, after hinting there would be s'more, Alison has announced there definitely will be another round of Sockapalooza in the new year. More reasons to celebrate! [Very big grin]

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Mod Squad Saga

Greetings, Warm Hands folk! Here's the happy saga of a UFO redeemed.

At Stitches East eons ago, I bought a Charlotte's Web kit. I cast on, worked through the first color change, then stalled out. Time passed; the UFO remained. In an attempt to get un-stalled, I joined the Charlotte's Web KAL. Other starters became happy finishers in due time; not I. UFO gloom descended.

Then came a fortunate synchronicity. Bob saw me bicycling roundabout Exit 151 and noted that he had nice ragg mittens whilst I (a known knitter) was sporting fleece gloves. Gah. While still smarting from that remark, I saw a singleton Fanning the Flame mitten at Elegant Ewe, which had just had a class on modular knitting. Smitten by the mitten, I called in the mod squad for the most drastic of mods.

First, Charlotte came off the needle...

Charlotte's Web shawl off the needle

and went to the frog pond.

Charlotte frogged

Here's the new pattern and the old yarn. After some experimentation, I've discovered that my ball winder works better without the swift, or at least it produces the nice, soft, compressible yarn cakes I prefer by winding directly from the hank or even from spaghetti.

Fanning the Flame mitten pattern and yarn

The mitten is constructed from fan modules worked top down, which cleverly form an organic curve at the top of the mitten and wrap around the hand. One gets a lot of practice slipping sts and picking up sts with this pattern! (The excellent coil-less safety pin st markers/holders are from my excellent SP6 pal.) I decided to use the apricot multi for the mitten and save the blue multi for something else.

Fanning the Flame mitten in progress

Following the suggestion of Elegant Ewe staff, I'm using different Koigu colorways for the center modules and the side modules. It's hard to tell from the photo, but one yarn (#314) is apricot and olive and the other (#319) is olive and apricot.

I'm amazed and delighted at the way the fans show off the variegated yarns. Something about the curves tames unseemly pooling and flashing. Could this be one of the great secrets of the knitting universe? It's hip to be square – not!

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Off My Feet

Today's mail brought an absolutely fabulous package from my Secret Pal, aka Pepe the Prawn. Thank you, Pepe! I'm swept off my feet!

Absolutely fabulous SP package

While it would seem that some prefer a Better Pal to a Secret Pal, I must say that Secret Pal prawns have impeccable taste (and possibly psychic mind-reading powers, too). The package contained: 2 skeins of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Wicked, 2 skeins of Brown Sheep Wildfoote Luxury Sock in Forget Me Knot, a tin of Knitters Little Helper hand balm, floral origami paper, a CD, a nifty graph paper notepad with peony and flowing water design on the cover, coil-less safety pin stitch markers, 3 jelly point protectors, a humorous Halloween card, a charmingly decorated recipe card (Rosebud Madeleines from How to Be a Domestic Goddess), mocha Scharffen Berger chocolate, ginger Altoids, and an origami crane with beaded hanger and drop.

Everything is simple perfection and wonderfully timely. I immediately hung the crane in the window recently vacated by a small air conditioner, smoothed on some hand balm (mmmmm...), used the graph paper notepad to re-chart the idiosyncratic charts for Fanning the Flame mittens, and put the stitch holders to work. They're exactly what is needed for this pattern.

Fanning the Flame mitten in progress

I've always wanted to try KSH and Wildfoote. For the KSH, I'm going to consult Heirloom Knitting and dream up something suitably cobwebby. By a happy chance, I was already thinking about lupine colors for the next socks (!) – the Wildfoote marl will do very nicely.

After Halloween, I usually feel a bit tired of sweets, but ginger Altoids (curiously strong!) and the mocha chocolate bar are just the things for a jaded palate. And I can't wait to try the Rosebud Madeleines recipe. I thought I had some rosewater someplace [sounds of rummaging through pantry], but no... only orange flower water. And, egad, I'm almost out of vanilla extract. Well, now I have an excuse to go to the spice store. I have some nice music to listen to on the way. [Grin]

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Because Everyone Else Is

I'm signing up for more stuff because... er, because everyone else is.

Adventurous Celia and impatient Cynthia are hosting Round 2 of the International Scarf Exchange.

Sandy is hosting Warm Hands, a mitten-along. That's got me looking at an old UFO (a Charlotte's Web shawl) with a critical eye and thinking cold, amphibian thoughts. It would seem all that Koigu doesn't want to be a shawl... it really wants to be Fanning the Flame Mittens, and therefore wouldn't mind a trip to the frog pond. Hmmmmm.

Here's another old UFO, below and in the sidebar. To give a hint as to its great age, the yarn used is [gasp!] Brunswick Fairhaven. (If you remember Fairhaven, raise your hand.)

UFO mitten

The pattern is Lingonberry from The Swedish Mitten Book by Inger Gottfridsson and Ingrid Gottfridsson. It was my first foray into color knitting and mitten knitting. From inexperience, I grossly underestimated the yardage needed and ran out of yarn. Sadly, before I could get more, Brunswick closed its doors and Germantown, Pomfret, and Fairhaven were no more. [Pause for a moment of fond remembrance]

And onward. Nona is hosting Peaceful Palms, a glove-along. My hands are always cold!

True blue Alison has hinted (wink, wink) there will be s'more sock swaps in the future. [Grin.]

In the meantime, wicked Ariane is stitching up a wicked good Holiday Sock Exchange. My feet are always cold, too! Not to mention a bit of warm holiday cheer will be especially welcome this expensive heating season.

Stephanie and Amanda are hosting Knit the Classics, which combines knitting along and reading along. There's going to be a My Favorite Classic book exchange, too.

Then there's the infamous O/P Rowan pattern and a bag of Felted Tweed, stashed months ago and not yet cast on for Another Weasley. I can't say why, but it's pretty scarey, considering the movie launches in the U.S. on November 18. I dunno. Maybe I should just sign up for Hatmione and call it a day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Halloween Masque

Halloween was warm and mild roundabout Exit 151, and we had a good turnout. But trick-or-treaters around here don't seem to say, "Trick or treat!" anymore. Indeed, they don't seem to say much of anything. The doorbell rings and I open the door to a porchful of costumed mutes, who nonetheless look very expectant. It's somewhat excusable in the small kids; however, at some point in the evening the trick-or-treaters are taller than I am [eyeroll] and still have nothing to say for themselves. (Hopefully it's not my appearance that causes the silence!) At least most say "Thank you."

In between handing out candy, I worked on a little eye pillow.

Photo of eye pillow

It's loosely based on a design by Cat Bordhi, Streaming Leaves Lavender Eye Pillow. The pattern has the leaves oriented in the same direction and is worked in one direction from cast on to cast off. However, I used a provisional cast on at the center and worked outward toward each end because I think the mirrored image looks better. Maybe it's the influence of the holiday.

The outside of the eye pillow is worked in Rowan Classic Yarns Cashcotton 4 Ply, which is very soft and nice. Angora usually makes me want to scratch myself to death, but Cashcotton (18% angora) does not. Hm! The inside of the pillow is a length of recycled pantyhose containing pearl barley and some French lavender from my wonderful SP5 pal, Fannie.

This one is for Jackie's mom, Carol. I like the way it turned out so much that I plan to make more as stocking stuffers. It will be a chance to tweak the symmetry a bit.

Speaking of symmetry, DH took this palindromic photo of a beaver lodge last month when we were in Acadia. Conditions were so still, so clear, and so overcast that he got the Lake Glimmerglass effect without using any special equipment, not even a tripod. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Photo of beaver lodge