Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Night Visitors

Last night, just as I was settling in for the evening, there was a commotion in the backyard. It sounded like several large, heavy somethings were stomping around, doing a drunken reel, stumbling over the lawn furniture. Here's what the digicam saw.

What the digicam saw

No, that's not the mother ship, come to take away all my UFOs. It's far worse, a herd of hungry bachelors, sprawled out to chew cud, play poker, and snack on my shrubs! A gardener's nightmare!! The same photo, enhanced to resemble what my eyes could see. There were several more beyond camera range.

Oh deer

Bold as brass, with nary a fare-thee-well. My garden is doomed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

All Thrums

For the Twisted Knitters DSK-along, I've started a pair of hand-dyed, handspun, handknit thrummed finger mittens. That's a lot of crafting! I've used up my initial stash of thrums, so it's time for a progress photo before rolling more.

Thrummed mitten in progress

Thrummed mittens are traditionally made in natural colors, with a dark MC and pale CC, but I plan to use these cycling, so went with light and bright colors for night and day visibility. The MC yarn is the horrible hairy 3-ply Blue Face Leicester I spun from the inferior roving bought at Rhinebeck. The thrums are bits of Kool-Aid dyed Merino and Finn, which so far are non-smelly and color-stable. Stitches for the thumb and index finger are on holders. (Were you wondering if I'm all thumbs???)

Having knit a bit, I think thrums oughta be about twice the diameter of the MC yarn, 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long, and very solid. Some recommend wispy thrums, but mine attenuated considerably during knitting and the wispy ones simply fell apart. The cheerful thrum tails make the insides of the mittens as interesting as the outsides.

Thrum tails

The mitten is a quick knit, or would be if progress were linear. It started out per the directions for Jennifer L. Appleby's Thrummed Mittens in IK Winter 2006, which are fine as far as they go. However, I found the thumb uncomfortably bulky and the thrum technique in need of improvement. A consult with the authoritative Favorite Mittens by Robin Hansen offered fixes – a gusseted thumb, securing thrums by carrying the MC under the thrum tails – and also the inspiration of a finger mitten. So I frogged the first attempt and started over. My handspun held up to frogging well [vbg]. It's remarkably gratifying to knit with my own yarn, which (teehee) actually looks and behaves like "real" yarn.

It's going to take a while to build up another stash of thrums. For your amusement during the interval, you can vote for the first class of inductees to the NJ Hall of Fame.

Or try this insider's North Jersey quiz.

You Are 85% North Jersey

You are totally North Jersey! You really know the area and have Jersey pride. Chances are you just got back from being down the shore! Unless you're taking this test in wintertime in which case you just got back from Christmas shopping in Paramus. Unless it's Sunday, in which case... Hey how come I didn't see you in church today? =P

The Ultimate North Jersey Quiz
Create Your Own Quiz

A solid B seems about right for me. No surprise Sarcastic Twit is more NNJ than I (and, most likely, than thou).

And do hop on over to Risa's to support her preschooler twins' charitable efforts. There's nothing like fostering a sense of responsibility and altruism in very young children.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fickle Fingers Finally Finished

Stash pruning has been quite satisfactory, but DeStash seems over-crowded with tempting items at the moment, so rather than add to excess, it's on to UFO reduction. First up, perhaps appropriately, is an airplane knitting project from 2005, Fickle Fingers Scarf by Gayle Roehm, pattern in Interweave Knits Winter 2005. Her innovative Spiderman gloves are in the same issue and more works, including Audrey II, may be seen here.

To see the scarf modeled, see the issue preview. Here it is folded.

Fickle Fingers is finished

By happy chance, Needlecraftique (Exit 151) had the specified yarn in the specified colorway, Skacel/Zitron Ethno in #10 multicolored. It's nicely wooly (85% merino, 15% nylon); the sort of slubby wool bouclé I like rather than a loopy mohair bouclé. I found that my fingers turned out a bit stubby, so I made 7-stitch fingers rather than the 5-stitch fingers in the pattern. My scarf has 127 fingers on each side. The yarn quantity specified in the pattern, two skeins, seems to be grossly off – a two-stitch difference per row is only an 8% difference, but I needed every last bit of three skeins for an 8" x 47" (20 x 119 cm) scarf, pretty much the same size as pattern.

Burberry has offered sideways fringed scarves for years, but despite that classic caché, the style seems to evoke decidedly polar feelings. I think the yarn texture, color striation, seed stitch, and charming fringe all come together in a pleasing, jaunty whole. But it's not for everyone, even when (or perhaps especially when) arranged as a heart or as a bunch of flowers.

Fickle Fingers heart   Fickle Fingers flowers

I'm going to keep (and wear) the scarf for a while before deciding its ultimate fate. A college student I know lately has been clamoring for knit goods as well as baked goods in her parcels, but she's a deplorably conformist fashionista... maybe something (cough) ruffly would suit her better.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pentagon Proliferation

One of my favorite knitwear designers, Norah Gaughan, has cover sweaters in four current magazines: Vogue Knitting Winter 2006/07 (pictured with pentagon 1), Interweave Knits Winter 2006, Knitter's Winter 2006, and Knitscene Spring 2007 (not pictured). Congratulations, Norah!

Three of four covers, plus pentagon

Although I think the Nantucket Jacket in IK is the most wearable of the four designs, I couldn't resist the modular cabled bolero in VK. The onset of frigid temperatures may have something to do with the enhanced appeal of bold texture or perhaps it's my inner diva nature speaking. In any case, I can't stop knitting pentagons! (My digicam's color balance is off – that's the same towel photography background in each photo.)

Pentagon 1   Pentagons 1 and 2   Pentagons 1, 2, and 3

The pattern is well-written, with clear diagrams, a tutorial for knitters new to modular knitting, and suggestions for modifications. I loathe seaming, so I'm knitting the medallions in the round (omitting the two selvedge stitches) using Patons Classic Wool in colorway 201 Winter White. In the monochrome, highly textured fabric, the jog where the rounds begin and end is barely noticeable.

Perhaps the only shortcomings of the pattern are its fabulousness quotient, its tendency to emphasize the boobal area, and its unfortunate portmanteau name, capecho. The first two are not so much an issue for me – [shrug] it's not for everyone. The last seems odd, considering generally capes and ponchos lack sleeves and have A-lines, and this cropped sweater has sleeves and skims the ribcage. Or perhaps I have the wrong suitcases... surely Ms. Gaughan wasn't thinking of capecho and hexecho computer code???

Pentagons do not tile perfectly in two dimensions, so in three dimensions the finished garment will have considerable shaping, an elegant rarity among modular garments. I'm eager to see how it will drape – more pentagons to come.

Friday, January 19, 2007

DK and Handsome

After a bit of swatching and a bit of math, I started A Handsome Triangle in Victorian Lace Today (p. 32, original 1840s pattern by Jane Gaugain). Here it is sketchily pinned out at Row 74, the end of the first section.

A Handsome Triangle in progress

It's about 10 inches (25 cm) along the center back. I love the embossed texture and gracefully scalloped lower edge; the faggoting bands need blocking for best effect.

Other participants3 skeins Rowan Rowanspun of the KAL have noted the bland names of the designs; to me, A Handsome Triangle reeks of scandalous assignations and colonial oppression. In that Victorian laissez-faire spirit I blithely substituted yarns and modified the pattern. The yarn is Rowan Rowanspun DK, colorway 747 Catkin. Despite its crunchy look, it's actually very soft (a tad too soft for my druthers). The pattern calls for 950 yards (868 m) of laceweight; I have three skeins or 657 yards (600 m) of Rowanspun or about 69% of the pattern yardage. Uh-oh. Having a modern sense of anxiety, I started worrying about Not Enough Yarn.

When in doubt, I knit gauge swatches. The stitch pattern is fun to work and easily memorized,Gauge swatch for A Handsome Triangle yet it's true lace knitting, with pattern rows on both the right and wrong sides of the fabric. To enhance the yarn's tweedy texture, I worked paired right- and left-leaning decreases rather than go with all right-leaning decreases as given in the pattern. In very fine yarn, the slant of decreases often is hardly noticeable, but it's more obvious in heavier weight yarns. Plus I'm fussy about such things and disliked the look of the swatch (the bottom half is worked as per pattern, the top half the way I prefer) – for that matter, the close-up in the book drives me nuts. I also worked the center panel of the shawl in garter stitch rather than stockinette stitch – I think it's attractive in its own right and also complements the garter stitch neck edge.

Some quick back-of-the-envelope scratches allayed the concern about Not Enough Yarn. (Gentle reader: if MEGO sets in, just skip to the bottom line.) I figured yardage roughly translates into shawl area. For a triangle shawl,

Area = ½ (base x altitude)

where the base is the length of the neck edge and the altitude is the length of the center back. Additionally, for a half-square triangle shawl such as Handsome, b = 2a and therefore A = a², in theory, anyway. So... [waves hands over more math involving square roots]... if three skeins are used, the center back length when the first skein is finished is about 57% of the completed length before blocking. Put another way, the center back length of the unblocked completed shawl should be about 1.7 times the center back length of the WIP when the first skein is finished.

Non math geeks still reading may be wondering why I didn't just estimate that I have 69% of the yardage called for in the pattern, so my shawl should have 69% of the linear dimensions of the pattern. Well, that would be OK for a shawl that has a more or less constant row stitch count, but this shawl is worked from the center neck outwards and the row stitch count increases at a constant number of stitches but a decreasing rate. (Unlike a pi shawl, which increases at an increasing number of stitches but a constant rate.) Attentive readers will have noticed I'm finessing the effect of the heavier weight yarn, because yarn weight is usually secondary to yardage when worrying about Not Enough Yarn.

Bottom line, my Handsome should be a reasonable-sized shawl. [g]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow Shoveling Mittens

Just in time for yesterday's temperature plunge (19° F or -7° C in the morning) and snow today, I finished a new pair of snow shoveling mittens. These are worked in Coeur Rouge in my own (improvised) design.

Snow shoveling mittens

When I dig out, I have a routine: driveway, sidewalks, shrubs, fire hydrant. (I'm amazed by how many otherwise prudent folk neglect that last step in personal and public safety.) I wear snow shoveling mittens over my gloves to keep them dry and protect them from wear, and for a bit of extra warmth. Layers can make such a difference for warm hands!

I'll have a new venture on DeStash Mountain after SnB this evening, one of my doublets. Please have a look. ETA: It's sold!

DeStash button   Colinette No. 24, Journey to America

And Vote for Ariel in Dog Show USA!!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Warming Up

The freakishly mild winter weather has been causing plants to break dormancy and critters to litter early (local animal shelters are bursting with kittens), but temperatures are finally cooling down a bit roundabout Exit 151. Time for knitters to warm up.

January 19 is Warm Up America Day and Modern Yarn is helping Girl Scout Troup 145Warm Up America rectangle in progress collect 7" x 9" afghan rectangles (see details and patterns). An excellent reason to pull out my stitch pattern anthologies and knit swatches! Here's my first rectangle, in progress: Fleck Stitch (March 8 in 365 Knitting Stitches a Year) worked in Coeur Rouge. I used crochet cast on, slip stitch edges, and standard bind off to provide neatly chained edges, which will be helpful when it's time to join the rectangles into an afghan. As the Warm Up website suggests, for a project such as this it's very handy to make a template to ensure one knits to standard measurements. For the same reason, I'm going to steam-block the rectangle (very gently!) when it's finished.

Happy De-Lurking Week!Paper Napkin may be on hiatus, but this week (January 8-12) is still the second annual De-Lurking Week, previously De-Lurking Day. To think I almost missed the opportunity to wish all good readers Happy De-Lurking! Otherwise known as Would It Kill Ya to Comment?!?

My first venture on DeStash Mountain went well, so here's my second, a mess o' Kureyon. See DeStash for details. ETA: It's sold!

DeStash button   Mess o' Kureyon

IMorehouse Merino legwarmers kit really have quite enough stuff in this color range! I didn't realize that this Morehouse Merino SuperStretch Leggings kit makes leg warmers (bleh) rather than footless tights when I bought it. Rather than return it, I'm re-purposing the quad skein of PurpleBelles laceweight for the Victorian Lace Today KAL. Right now I can't decide between leaves (Myrtle Leaf Stole) or beads (Spiders' Web Fichu) – swatches to follow.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Stealth Spinning

It occurs to me that stealth project posts are shorter, and duller, than non-stealth project posts. Also perhaps just a bit... twee? precious? silly? antithetical to the entire reason for blogging? Whatever. At the risk of a spoiler if you're in the Spin to Knit exchange, click on the images to see what I'm blathering on about. Or not, as it pleases you.

S2K stealth photo 1

I've been spindling away on a lovely Grafton Fibers Merino batt for my S2K pal. It's been a surprise how fast it's going. Either spinning the horrible hairy BFL was purgatorial transformational and I've become wicked fast or the GF batt is magical. I'm inclined to believe the latter - the batt drafts like flowing water! Its colors are gorgeous and they're so clear and distinct that the singles is marled. (I'm gobsmacked. Nothing I've spun before does that.) The marling is beguiling – and it makes it easy to measure twist angle, too. I can't wait to see how it plies up.

S2K stealth photo 2

See what I mean? Short and dull. (Maybe an improvement over the usual, lol.) What do you think? Yes, lose the twee! No, keep the precious...? Feel free to comment.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Twelfth Day

Today is THE Twelfth Day of Christmas. This year there's convergence between the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian calendars, so one can say that without asterisks, fear of offense or contradiction, or risk of faith-based tumult [sigh]. In honor of the day, here's a last Christmas confection, a confession, and an offering.

Behold the peppermint-striped sock worked in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock,Peppermint stripe sock in progress custom stripe 0ns/11ns available at Purl. I love the way the striping changes from thin stripes on the leg to bold stripes on the heel flap to skinny stripes on the gusset and back to thin stripes on the foot. (I originally worked a short-row heel, which yielded an even prettier stripe pattern on the heel, but the fit was not comfortable, so off it went to the frog pond.) There are more rows in the heel flap than stitches picked up along each edge, which makes the flap curve gently to cup the heel, one of the elegant niceties of a full-fashioned sock.

Also visible in the picture is a nifty green-tipped needle holder, StitchKeepers by Rollie, a most useful gadget I learned about from Kim. They're on the pricey side for point protectors/needle holders, but they do a superior job of preventing stitches from sliding off needles, keeping needle sets together, and stopping needles from poking through tote bags. I got 'em at Stix-n-Stitches (Exit 148).

As holiday knitting time was consumed by other needful things, I didn't finish a single official holiday project this season. I'm 0 for 5. So no gold star for me. At least I found the rest of the holiday plates, which will all be placed back in the box marked Christmas plates.

DeStash for Cash button

My fellow SnBers took a pass, so the Karabella is on sale at DeStash. It's my first offering – may it find a happy new home! [ETA: Got a nibble! So far, so good.] It's sold!

Tomorrow is a day for spinning. Cara mentioned Judy's post on Distaff Day – apparently January 7 is the traditional date for post-holidays resumption of traditional women's work... as opposed to the non-work of holiday cooking, etc? It's also the Memorial Ride in NYC to remember cyclists killed during 2006. The weather is still so freakishly mild that I'm inclined to spin outdoors. Cyclists notoriously tend to get fat over the winter, but this season so far there's been little excuse. Ahem.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Remembering the Maine Yarn

At SnB yesterday evening, when the conversation turned to stern or winking resolutions to Knit from Your Stash, a consensus formed that everyone in the blogoverse should visit Risa and leave a comment requesting her to flash her fabled stash. For those of us fortunate to know her IRL, it's a token of affection and esteem – a tribute to the lady's crazy fiber skillz, thanks for her work as one of two fearless Knitting Blogs ringleaders, and a monument to avid curiosity. If everyone else joins in asking, she can't possibly refuse (sez me).

Having exhorted another to flash, one can hardly abstain oneself. Kim asked about the contents of the Maine yarn box. Well, it's mostly nostalgic oddments – remnants of old projects and souvenirs from vacations spent in America's Vacationland. According to the Yarn Harlot's typology, they're a cross between core stash and souvenir stash. The yarns share a certain crunchy quality not usually found in LYS yarns. To knitters accustomed to a mono-diet of refined Merino, these are the whole grains, nuts, and pulses of the yarn world. I love their heathered luster, strength and sproing, and outstanding stitch definition.

Inside the box, there's Victorian 2-ply Wool from Halcyon Yarn in Bath, which I finally visited in person for the first time this past summer. Halcyon is a weaver and her shop reflects her interests, but knitters, spinners, and felters can find plenty of coned and skeined yarn, fiber, books, tools such as the pictured needlesizer, and unique buttons.

Halcyon Yarn sportweight and needlesizer

There's some heavyweight 2-ply yarn from Barlettyarns in Harmony, leftover from an old gansey. Bartlettyarns is one of the few mills left that uses a spinning mule to produce "woolen," rather than "worsted," yarn. Just to keep things confusing, woolen-spun yarn can be a variety of weights, including worsted weight; worsted-spun yarn can, of course, be made of wool. Whatever their weight, woolen yarns tend to be soft and lofty, very nice to knit. Even given their tendency to pill, they're definitely worth seeking out.

Bartlettyarns 2-ply

The old gansey was a favorite cool-weather hiking sweater. As the happy mileage accumulated, abrasion felted the parts under my backpack straps. I considered the scars badges of honorable service. Alas, on a bad laundry day careless inattention resulted in more drastic felting. It was traumatic – my severe pilopoiiaphobia [fear of f-f-felting] dates to that tragedy. At least I've finally intentionally felted some Jersey Fresh tomatoes.

Also in the box were some odd bits of fingering-weight Shetland yarn from Harrisville Designs of Harrisville, another mill that offers woolen-spun yarn. I've made lots of EZ baby sweaters out of this yarn, also my Vine and Branches cap and other colorwork. Most of this yarn was purchased from Martha Hall in Yarmouth, Maine (sadly defunct, Martha died of cancer many years ago).

Maine yarn

For those who never got to go, the shop was located in a handsome house in the Yarmouth historic district, long before such things became fashionable. It was an inspiring wonderland for knitters, full of classic yarns – I petted my first cobweb and my first Shetland there. There was a (pre-Internet) Martha Hall catalog and line of patterns – while some of the designs look dated now, others are still fresh and available for sale. I smile whenever I see one.

Not Maine yarn   Not Maine yarn   Not Maine yarn

At the bottom of the box there was a clamp for an embroidery hoop that busted, some dress patterns (old classics and a doublet (shriek) of a dirndl skirt pattern (SHRIEK!)), and the oversized Argyle Christmas stocking, knit from Brunswick Germantown (not a Maine yarn). It's an Area 151 project – I recognize the yarn and my own knitting but can't remember when I made it or why. I guess space aliens amuse themselves by making abducted knitters work on inexplicable projects.

In recent years, Maine has seen a remarkable efflorescence of all things fibery. Notable producers not represented here include Mel and David's A Craftsman's Touch Alpaca Company at Sea Hill Farm in Kittery Point and Tess Designer Yarns in Steuben. Maine Fiberarts publishes a fiber tour map and sponsors open farm (y'know, like open house) in early August. Needless to add, I've been trying to figure out how to attend.

Incidentally, there's a Vermont box, too. That's another story, for another time.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

2007 Fibery Ambition

Ordinarily I resist making new year resolutions. But I'm not without fibery ambition for 2007. Here's my short list.

Reduce the number of UFOs buzzing around Area Exit 151: Cara's now-concluded birthday contest (name that former UFO sock) sparked an epiphany: I have no idea how many UFO socks I have... [falters, then perseveres]... and there's other UFOs.

Prune the stash: When it comes to stash reduction, I find exercise – knitting, gifting, swap, or sale – is more effective than diet, not to mention more fun and free of evasions such as the sock yarn exception (please). I harbor few illusions as to ultimate outcome – gardeners know that a good pruning encourages growth.

Karabella Aurora 8

For starters, I'm willing to part with the yarn for Backyard Leaves by Annie Modesitt, pattern in Scarf Style and also IK Holiday Gifts 2006. It's the specified yarn, 4 balls of Karabella Aurora 8, but in subtly heathered colorway 716 rather than colorway 11. I knit a bit, like the pattern, but am not feeling the love. I vaguely recall someone in my SnB mentioned Backyard Leaves with longing, so I'm going to offer them first dibs; if it's not spoken for by Saturday (appropriately enough, the Christian holiday Epiphany), it's going on sale. Email jerseyknitter151 [at] gmail [dot] com to express interest. ETA: It's sold.

Organize patterns: While I usually can locate both garment and stitch patterns in books with ease, trying to find them in magazines and leaflets somehow confounds me. At first I thought perhaps the stressful last couple years had fried my brain. However that may be, it doesn't account for this trio of doublets, all older than that. Er, 'way older (the green brochures are marked 10¢ and 29¢).

Trio of doublets

Ahem. It would seem a relational database would be helpful. Can anyone recommend one for the home user?

Do something with all the crochet cotton in stash besides using odd bits for stitch markers and stitch holders. Dunno what. Something.

Spin the yak: The beauteous blobs of chocolate and gray yak down I bought at MDS&W from The Fold continue to mock my attempts to spin them. Just look at how they backtalk.

Chocolate and gray yak down

I'm not dismayed. Spindlicity has tips on spinning yak, as does The Whole Craft of Spinning by Carol Kroll. The yak will be spun in 2007!

The perennial time-devouring non-fiber items are on the agenda, too: fixing and painting the house, gardening, etc. This year I may opt for the Bike New York signature event, the Five Boro Bike Tour, a traffic-free bicycle tour of NYC (40 miles, all five boroughs, seven bridges, 30,000 riders!), instead of MDS&W. [Gasp!]

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Year, So Far

My new year, so far:


A bit of cauldron work turned what was left of the Christmas roast into consommé clear enough to read a newspaper through a bowlful. Pity the headline isn't happier.


A set of faux tortoise Swallow dpns recently emerged from the wormhole roundabout Exit 151, so I put them to work on a pair of fingerless mitts. The yarn is "fat" Claudia Handpaint in colorway Poppy. Last summer some shipments of Claudia fingering were unaccountably more like light sportweight – too heavy for the project I bought it for, but just right for pretty mitts.

Fat Claudia mitts

Swallow casein needles are nicely bendy and seem warm to the touch no matter the ambient temperature – perfect for outdoor knitting at busstops etc this mild winter (metal dpns quickly become too cold for me to handle comfortably). At SnB someone advised against snacking on them because they have a bitter, lingering taste. Er, I've never tried them myself – good tip.

On New Year's eve, DH and I met some friends at First Night. We thought the mild weather would encourage a large turnout,First Night but attendance seemed 'way down from previous years, no doubt because many of the various attractions were somewhat lackluster. Apart from time with friends, my favorite part of the evening was when a trombone player from the New Jersey Symphony demonstrated an astonishingly loud and musical "horn" made from a trombone mouthpiece, 10 feet (3 m) of clear aquarium tubing, and a funnel, which sounded different when the tubing was straight or coiled. That's just sad. Even the midnight fireworks show was greatly attenuated, only six minutes long. Annoyingly, as we were heading home we could see fireworks going off all around Exit 151.

The cure for New Year's eve grumpiness was to leaf through my new books. This was a Christmas of books – I received enough reading materialCrafty Christmas books in various genres to last through several blizzards (although it's misty rather than snowy at the moment). Most of the crafty books are celebrated titles recognizable at 20 paces even from a partial view, but the one currently getting the lion's share of attention is a slim, somewhat obscure volume, The Whole Craft of Spinning by Carol Kroll. It's encyclopedic in its list of spinnable fibers (dandelion fluff? milkweed floss?? deer hair???) and bargain-priced. There's even advice on spinning yak down, still my personal Everest of fibers.

That helped to decide what I'll be spinning for the Spin to Knit Swap, which I think will have to be a stealth project. But I've been in touch with my "downstream" pal, a spinner of formidable accomplishments – just a bit intimidating! (I'm waiting to hear from my "upstream" pal.) For all that, I'm looking forward to the challenges of S2K with considerably more enthusiasm than the Y2K scare. DH was on standby alert that New Year's Eve – happily, there was no meltdown.

Last but not least, I happened upon photographic evidence that the blog was indeed abducted by space aliens. That would explain a lot. Image courtesy the Street Sign Generator.

Jersey Knitter on Mars

Amazing to think the first image to show the Earth as a distant blue marble over an alien horizon, Earthrise at Christmas, was taken by the crew of Apollo 8 while in lunar orbit 38 years ago.