Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday Sky Mirror

While running errands in the city today, I stopped by Rockefeller Center to have a look at Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor, a temporary installation at the Fifth Avenue end of the Channel Gardens. Like his Cloud Gate, it's a big hit. Here it is viewed from about where the Christmas tree usually stands, looking toward Saks Fifth Avenue.

Sky Mirror from Rockefeller Plaza

Naturally, the reflections change as one walks around the sculpture. Here it is from across the street, viewed from Saks. Although it was a brilliantly sunny morning, street level was still in shadow because the sun wasn't yet high enough to overtop the many tall buildings. The trompe-l'oeil reflection of the sculpture's plinth made me look twice.

Sky Mirror from Fifth Avenue

Sky Mirror, Saks, and spire of St. Patrick's CathedralMy favorite view is this one, which plays with the severe rectilinear shapes of the buildings in Rockefeller Center and the ornamented spire of St. Patrick's Cathedral. I particularly like how the concave shape and tilt of the mirror emphasize the optical fact that it's difficult to take a photograph of a building without distortion. Keystoning, the tendency for vertical lines to lean in, is such a well-established visual trope that it may escape the notice of a casual viewer, but it can be the despair of photographers.

For me, no visit to Rockefeller Center is complete without a glance at this earnest allegorical figure gracing 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Titled Genius Inspiring the World, to me it looks more like Genius is yelling down, "Yoo-hoo! Anyone home?"

Genius Inspiring the World

One hopes so. For more views of Rockefeller Plaza, try this webcam.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Acadia Treks

[This post was delayed because of technical difficulties which, alas, were not entirely overcome. So one treks on.]

At the end of August, the planets (including Pluto and Xena) unexpectedly lined up, giving DH and me an unexpected chance to scamper off to Maine. The Trek-along coconut candy socks, #126, trekked along too.

When it rained, everyone (socks included) just pulled on rain gear and kept on trekking. This is one of the cairns on the south face of Cadillac Mountain, which is a good hike rain or shine. Visibility was about 50 feet (15 m), which made for an introspective trek.

Fog and cairn on Mt. Cadillac

Heavy surf at Schoodic Point precluded a seaside rock scramble – this was the wave action at low tide. That square rock nub in the center of the photo is a nice place for a picnic on calm days.

Surf at Schoodic Point

Instead, the socks perched safely on an interpretive sign explaining the distinctive geology of the peninsula. The socks felt an instant affinity for the candy-striped pink granite and black basalt. The rain made the normally nondescript lichens plump up and turn improbable shades of parrot green. Hm... Schoodic Point... could be a yarn colorway.

Sock and interpretive sign   Pink granite, black basalt, and sock

Eventually the sun came out and we trekked to one of our favorite beauty spots, the second summit of Acadia Mountain. This is the view looking south over Somes Sound toward the Cranberry Islands: to the left are the summer mansions of Northeast Harbor; to the right is the national park; in my hat are some components of a happy summer trek: sock, water bottle, and salt lakrids from Pansar (whose rebel Baudelaire is smoking, er, but at least salty licorice is excellent on a warm weather hike).

View from Acadia Mountain

Acadia Mountain is a moderate to strenuous sampler of the varied terrain in the park. Progress can be slow, not least because the trail winds through wild blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) patches with their tiny, seedy, yet irresistable fruit. Not only is it OK to eat the blueberries in a national park, there are helpful signs with suggestive place names. There are mountain cranberries (also Vaccinium spp.), too, which to my taste are too tart for trailside snacking.

Wild blueberries   Mountain cranberries

The hike was an opportunity to field test two other warm weather hiking snacks, Clif Shot Bloks and fruit jellies ("made from real fruits") from Harbor Candy. About the best that can be said for Shot Bloks is they're nicer than the usual roughage and goo that passes as pocket food. Fruit jellies, on the other hand, not only are compact, non-melting, and can withstand a certain amount of battering, they're also very tasty.

By the end of Labor Day weekend, my tally for the Trek-along stood at 2.4 pair: one pair in Trekking #129 for Pam, one pair in #100 for Katherine, and a pair in progress in #126 for me. Many thanks to Margene and Norma for organizing this excellent summer sock- and hike-along.

Now it's on to Twisted Knitters and Socktoberfest!

Birch Resumes

One of the many UFOs buzzing roundabout Exit 151 is a small Candlelight motif shawl or faux Birch, started last year and never quite completed, partly because the neck edge curls up and, of course, I ran out of yarn just as I finished the body of the shawl.

Neck edge curls up

Happily, a fix has presented itself and my mini Birch has resumed progress.

From blocking the gauge swatch, I can tell that the roll is too much for even a severe blocking to overcome. An edging is needed – necessarily in a different yarn, so why not a gauzy one. Edgings in very fine yarns (gossamer and cobweb weight) are traditionally worked in garter stitch to give them strength and reversibility. Should the neck edge roll, the edging turns gracefully, creating – ta-da! – a shawl collar that looks good from either side.

A favorite finish for a shawl with a leafy motif such as Candlelight is Fern Leaf edging, here worked in Rowan Kidsilk Haze, colorway 597 Jelly. I started near the bottom point of the shawl because rounding the point is often the trickiest part to do.

Fern Leaf edging on faux Birch shawl

The edging stitches were cast on using the provisional crochet cast on – in due course, I'll upzip the crochet chain and graft the end and the beginning of the edging together.

Crochet provisional cast on

On its own, the Jelly colorway seems to me to have a somewhat hard edge. I'm happy with the way it works as a CC, picking up one of the colors in the MC, Filatura di Crosa College colorway 17. Somehow the color contrast makes it look more leaf green than acid green. The textures seem to work well, too – KSH is airy and fuzzy, College has colorful bouclé bumps and fuzz.

I'm less happy with the coil needle holders on the needle, which I use to keep the stitches from sliding off the needle. At first I liked them a lot, but they stretch with use and quickly have become so loose they just slide off. It's back to point protectors for me.

Incidentally, other shawls using Candlelight (such as the real Birch and Kiri) don't seem to curl at the neck edge. Alas, my faux Birch was not knit from a pattern, but from looking at other people's blogs and improvising. I neglected to give her a non-curling neckline. Careless of me, I know. Oh well, after some time in the oubliette, it's looking like our heroine is going to have a happy ending after all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The September Project

It's the first day of autumn and I've started my Zimmermania project. Given its nature, perhaps it's fitting that tonight is the dark of the moon.

Zimmermania button

In Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, the project for September is titled, ahem, "Nether Garments." I'd call them leggings or footless tights. Here's my September project at the calf shaping.

Leg o' leggings

Terminology aside, the goal is a shapely, form-fitting thermal garment knit in the round that has a waist, crotch, and legs. Curiously, what EZ observed in 1974 remains true today – patterns for said useful garments don't seem to exist. The few patterns around have seams and awkward shaping or otherwise do not meet specs. Which leads me to conclude once again that Knitter's Almanac is a dazzling font of knitterly wisdom that belongs on every knitter's bookshelf (not to mention it's still value-priced at USD $7.95). The only modification I've made to EZ's Pithy Directions is to use machine-washable sockweight wool.

That wool is Regia Line Steps in colorway 5371 Anthrazit. I love its random pinstripes. I began thinking I'd use the September project undercover as long janes, but they do seem to be turning into fashion-forward leggings that want to strut their stuff. Incidentally, this is one trendy FO that you can't get at the store for less – the cost of the September project is pretty much the same as storebought wool leggings.

Bluestocking in sunny Southern California, who is knitting her way through the Knitter's Almanac, seems less-than-thrilled with her September project and plans to save them for her Scotland heritage trip. By contrast, in fashion-conscious and increasingly chilly north Jersey, they're just the thing for dancing by the dark of the moon.

Autumn is also the perfect season for sock haiku, see Cara's contest. (There really oughta be a reading at Rhinebeck.) And Rainy the Yarn Pirate has started a Serrano Knit-along. Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


With all the ROE-ing going on roundabout Exit 151, one would think I'm training for the Head of the Charles Regatta. At least there's finally something to show for it – I've finished Part F of Rose of England. It wasn't difficult, just deadly (almost) monotonous. Eighty repeats per round of lace mesh!

Detail of Rose of England mesh lace


Happily, the stockinette bands and leafy vines of Part G are ahead. I love leaf motifs. Er, or at least I have up 'til now. There are only 40 repeats per round.

Mistress Rose is sufficiently large now that documentary photography is a minor production – I've given up on plein air photos in favor of the [cough] studio. Because the neighbors have begun to talk. But she's a diva and she's worth it. Here she is, sketchily pinned out, at round 102.

Rose of England at round 102

Rose measures 33 inches (84 cm) in diameter and I'm still on the first ball of Zephyr, so I've stopped worrying about the dreadful possibility of Not Enough Yarn. Instead, the even more dreadful possibility of Not Enough Time begins to loom large. The Diva Rose must be ready on time for her star turn!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ISE3 Progress Post1

Arrr! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! And check out this pirate-y site.

For the International Scarf Exchange 3, I decided to boldly go where everyone else is going and knit My So-Called Scarf for my pal. For those who don't recognize the stitch pattern, it's Little Herringbone in Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and, sure enough, the right side of the fabric is a little herringbone.

My So-Called Scarf, herringbone side

The other side (it's important to consider the other side, especially for a scarf) is a pattern of exaggerated purl bumps or mini-floats or small swags. Whatever you call it, it's purty too. Also easy-peasy.

My So-Called Scarf, purl side

My pal asked for certain colors, so I picked Malabrigo in colorway Lime Blue for her. It's knitting up soft and cuddly on size US 10½ (6.5 mm) needles – IMHO it's more neck-friendly and therefore a better choice than Manos. The color pooling is turning into a sort of camo dot, which is rather attractive.

This stitch pattern tends to draw in alarmingly, becoming dense and using up vast quantities of yarn. It looks like there will be plenty of yarn; if not, there will be rapid improvising!

(Incidentally, I got the pink needles in a goody bag at the celebrated Yarn Harlot reading at Lord & Taylor in NYC. I missed Knit Out NYC and her reading at Knitty City on Sunday because I was busy.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wee Beaded Bag

Smitten by Wendy's wee amulet bag, I had to make myself one. I usually covet everything mighty Wendy makes, but know better than to emulate her. The effort would be completely unsustainable – I'm pretty sure her output in a couple weeks exceeds my output for the last five years. But a tiny bag? That I can do (shown with New Jersey quarter for scale). Well, almost.

Wee bead bag

My not-quite-finished thrifty treasure bag was knit on 1.5 mm (U.S. 000) needles using just one 25-meter (27-yard) hank of DMC Coton Perlé 5 in color 798 and one ¾-ounce packet of Bead It 10/0 seed beads in Sapphire. I used stuff from stash; at a chain craft store, the tab would be under $3. It took the equivalent of one evening to make the bag.

Currently I'm stalled because I can't find a fastener bead I like. I started well enough with Wendy's photos and Shala Kerrigan's Knitted Quarter-Sized Bead Bag pattern and modified away. First, I strung a lot of beads.

Stringing beads using a dental floss threader

I dislike stringing. Even using a dental floss threader, an excellent method suggested by Lanie (who's expecting!), stringing took as much time as the entire rest of the project. Four feet (1.2 m) of beads was sufficient for the bag, at least with all the mods.

Next, I cast on a few stitches and knit flat in garter stitch for the bag flap, increasing at the edges and adding beads on every row in a pinstripe pattern. (Garter stitch must be used with this method of beaded knitting to maintain the alignment of the beads.) I wanted the flap to be heavy, so it would hang nicely when folded down. I left the turning row unbeaded, then used the cable cast-on to double the number of stitches and began knitting in the round. (We all know that garter stitch in the round is knit 1 round, purl 1 round, right?) The stitch count remains the same on every round; the shaping – both the gradual widening and the scalloping – is caused by the beads themselves.

Back and flap of wee bead bag

This beaded knitting technique usually places beads on both sides of the work, mainly to give stability to the fabric and secondarily for reversibility. As the bag is tiny, unlikely to receive hard use, and doesn't need to be reversible (and I got tired of stringing beads), my treasure bag is beaded on one side only, on the purl rounds. The resulting fabric is not as firm as one beaded on both sides, but still has that desirable beady slinkiness.

Now I'm stumped. I've been to a couple beady stores roundabout Exit 151 and can't find the right bead for the fastener. Not to mention it occurs to me that perhaps wee beaded necklace bags belong on the same shelf with macramé projects have limited appeal, but a full-sized vintage-inspired beaded bag – with an ornate purse frame and a heavy satin lining – might be cool. Hm... beady ambition strikes yet again.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Back from Class

This afternoon my two newbie-spun entries came back from the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival skein competition, where they placed first in Class 8, Novice, and in Class 14, Textile Yarn Swatch (a challenge class). Woo and hoo!

Two blue ribbons

Perhaps best of all, the judge from the North Country Spinners left a bunch of helpful comments. I wasn't present for the judging, so especially appreciate having written feedback. As good as it is to receive affirmation, constructive criticism provides the basis for improvement. Y'know, for next year [g].

The rest of the festival was a relaxed country fair. There were classes (the spinning classes were over-capacity) and demonstrations and local vendors and a bake sale; lots of sheep and alpacas and bunnies (I had no idea there are so many sheep and alpaca farms in New Jersey), plus a fine tom turkey and some other prize poultry; and wagon rides. Compared with MDS&W or Rhinebeck, which are big, hectic, and tend to emphasize fine craft, this was small and uncrowded, prices were excellent, and everyone was friendly.

And for those who prefer toney to rustic (or who enjoy both), the Hunterdon County Fairgrounds are near bougie heaven aka Princeton (NJ Turnpike Exit 9). I got there too late for the back-to-school sale at Glenmarle Woolworks, but splurged on artisanal ice cream at The Bent Spoon. They have the usual upscale flavors (vanilla bean, dark chocolate, and seasonal fruits), which are excellent, but I adore their rosemary ice cream. Ah, sweet reward.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Off to Class

Immodest as it may seem, I'm going to show off my newly acquired mad spindling skillz in a skein competition. My newbie-spun is off to Class 8, Novice, and Class 14 (a Challenge Class!), Textile Yarn Swatch, at the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival, at the Hunterdon County Fairgrounds in Ringoes, September 16-17.

For the challenge class, here's my sample of commercially prepared Blue Face Leicester fiber, sample skein of 20+ yards (18+ m) laceweight yarn, and blocked sample of fabric, knitted in a garter stitch version of Old Shale, which shows off the yarn texture and variegation nicely. The yarn was part of my Tour de Fleece spinning.

Fiber sample   Skein of laceweight yarn   Sample fabric, knitted in Old Shale pattern

Knitting the swatch had a primal quality, as if this old pattern is what handspun wool laceweight is meant to be. I'm thinking it wants to be a stole, although fingerless gloves would be exceptionally pretty (and so useful, too!).

I should note that for a Garden State, state fairs in New Jersey sometimes leave something to be desired. There are plenty of regional fairs, but... well, the one closest to Exit 151 is held in the parking lot of Giants Stadium and most closely resembles a moveable version of Coney Island. Not to mention this year's NJ Sheep & Fiber Festival was cancelled due to lack of interest. Happily, knowledgeable Risa (who has started an Ivy KAL) heard of this alternative.

Please keep your fingers and/or needles crossed for me – it's the very first time I've entered a FO in a show. I plan to go on Sunday – if you go on Saturday, check out the skein competition and let me know the results of the judging.

[ETA: See how I did here.]

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years later, and I remember what a beautiful day it was, fresh and with a rare clarity. One could see for miles. I arrived at my office early and set to work on a big project.

DH saw the first plane as it flew by Midtown, heading south. He remembers being able to read its markings and thinking, That plane is too low.

I remember the first reports – a small plane crash at the World Trade Center. Then: no, a small plane had crashed into one of the towers, an accident, NYFD was responding. Then confusion: it was a big plane; no, a small plane; no, a big plane; no, two planes; stand by, the Pentagon had been attacked and was burning.

I heard the sirens racing down Broadway, the emergency route. Usually it's one or few, which pass, and the usual noise of traffic resumes. That day there was a constant wailing, fire trucks, ambulances, police vehicles, all heading south.

I remember when the radio went silent and the channel selector began searching, starting at 530 and cycling through 1600, and repeating, and repeating.

DH remembers the dust cloud that rolled through Midtown. I remember its smell.

When I got home, I could see the smoke plume. Ground Zero burned for months.

DH remembers seeing people sitting in the triage center at the Hoboken train terminal, faces vacant. At first he thought they were injured. Then he realized they were in shock.

I gave blood, then went to church. I remember hugging everyone and crying and praying.

Later, I remember a grief counselor saying we need to understand what happened. I remember correcting him: That's far too intellectual. If you lived it, you don't need to understand what happened, you know happened. Your pores know, your lungs know, your gut knows, your heart knows.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Two Qs

Q is for Quaker sampler.Q is for Quaker sampler Or rather, the materials for same: Scarlet Letter Circling Alphabets pattern, 28-count evenweave linen, and six colors of silk floss. Back in January, I was all keen to stitch this up. That hasn't happened. I don't quite know what went wrong – I still love the sophisticated shapes and clear colors of the sampler. But it's time to call it quits and remove this one from the project queue.

And Q is for qiviut, yet another luxury fiber I'd love to try someday.

See the rest of my ABCs.


Sunday, September 3, 2006

Sockapaloooza Seconds

[Still catching up after yet more rain and fallen trees roundabout Exit 151 left me without Internet access for a while. Plus I went to Maine.]

Katherine's Trekking socks went on their last trek with me, to the Bar Harbor post office, where they jumped in the mail. Katherine was my Sockapaloooza pal, but it would seem her socks failed to arrive (shriek). As I failed to put a tracking number on the first parcel, I felt obliged to make her a second pair. Katherine's been going through a rough patch (please send her some knitterly love) and I hope these brighten her day, er, feet.

Katherine's second pair of Sockapaloooza socks

The socks are standard spiral rib tube socks... except they have a beaded ribbed cuff, beads spiraling around the leg, and a garter stitch heel to counterpoint the beady theme. The toes spiral around, naturally. (Click on photos to view larger.)

Beaded cuff   Spiral beaded leg   Garter stitch heels   Spiral rib toes

They're knit in Trekking #100, one of the famously non-repeating colorways. There was no way these socks would turn out identical. I was going to make mirror image socks (because handknitters can), but my SnB properly ridiculed the design concept talked me out of it. Group wisdom is a good thing.

When the socks are not on blockers (or feet) the spiral ribs close up, obscuring the beads. The spiral rib makes them look a bit odd, particularly the toes, which seem to be rotated 90° (ouch). It's only appearances (compare Alison's "perfect" orthogonal toe). Just goes to show one shouldn't go on appearances alone. The purl ground on the beaded leg helps prevent the beads from sliding to the wrong side of the fabric, which is more attractive esthetically and functionally reduces the possibility of skin irritation.

The socks went on a trek on Route 1 through coastal Maine, which for a long time has been a tolerant amalgam of working waterfront, posh resorts, and consciously quaint tourist attractions. In Kittery there are four big outlet malls and many small outlet stores for just about everything (notice the sock daringly dangling from the lower right of the sign).

Lobster Outlet and sock

There were stops at Stonewall Kitchen in York, which has a spiffy café and company store, and at cute-as-a-button Harbor Candy in Ogunquit. Things were more intentionally rustic at L.L. Bean in Freeport. The socks immediately realized that the shiny game warden's truck was a stage set and one reclined on the extremely clean spare tire.

Shiny game warden's truck and sock   Sock on extremely clean spare tire

The two-storey L.L. Bean boot seemed just a bit overdone, so no posing there. But down the road this unlikely sign was enough to make me pull over to take a closer look (I had actually driven past the shop before the combination registered).

Chocolate and live bait sign

I love Route 1.

Apart from these adventures, the socks also went on a glorious Trek-along trek (see July 5, also June 20). I enjoyed playing with variations on the classic spiral tube sock pattern. And I hope Katherine enjoys her socks in good health!

Rose Apparent

[Catching up after yet more rain and fallen trees roundabout Exit 151 left me without Internet access for a while.]

Blogless Iris in Iowa started a Rose of England knit-along! I signed up, even though my Rose is already in progress. Indeed, she's sufficiently advanced to have succumbed to a condition shared by many large lace projects: the formless blob stage.

Rose of England has become a formless blob

At round 70 Mistress Rose has 17,097 stitches and is about 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter. Given C=2πr, even two 24-inch (61-cm) circular needles aren't quite enough to show her off properly. A pity – her center medallion is almost finished. The heraldic rose is finally apparent, with its open center and heart-shaped petals.

Rose of England at round 70

At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,Old rose it's the season for rose hips rather than flowers, but I did find this late bloomer for comparison. I don't think I ever noticed before that the center of an old-fashioned rose really does look like a stained glass rose window or that its petals are heart-shaped and subtly shaded. Rose of England is remarkably true to life.

Knitting Rose has been pretty straightforward so far. The only thing that has me fretting is the dreadful possibility of Not Enough Yarn. I have four 600-yard (548 m) balls of Zephyr, so

(waves hands over math, mumbles about A=πr2)

the diameter of the shawl when the first ball runs out is about half the maximum possible diameter of the finished shawl. At that critical juncture, there will either be happyhappyhappy dancing or much wailing and (gasp) possibly a re-start or the shawl will be re-christened a shawlette. We'll see.