Thursday, October 28, 2010

By Design

Earlier this week I finally finished the second 4 oz of Zarzuela's Fibers Targhee for the Late Summer/Fall SAL/KAL. (The first 4 oz was spun and swatched back in August.) By request, the second batch is more acid green, less red-violet than the first. It's so nice to work with an accommodating indie dyer.

Targhee all spun up

While finishing the yarn, it occurred to me that I no longer fret (or crow) about producing balanced skeins. I just spin, ply, and wash – and the skeins hang straight without blocking. Go me.

For the KAL portion of the SAL/KAL, I cast on the hybrid pullover for handspun and commercial-spun yarn in Shannon Okey's Spin to Knit. The pattern is a standard top-down raglan and has an inutterably stupid name (hence I shall not utter it). I've added a few short rows in the back to give it a nicer fit across the shoulders, and may nip in the waist slightly when I get to it.

Elsewhere roundabout Exit 151, tomorrow is the first Gardens Aglow, a jack-o-lantern illumination of the Presby Iris Gardens. I'm a klutz when it comes to carving jack-o-lanterns, very prone to accidentally severing jack's teeth (sigh), so I look forward to admiring the fine work of others.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Quincy is finished and I like everything about it. The well-written pattern is a quick, fun, satisfying knit full of handsome architectural details – I especially like the clever crown shaping. The yarn, Cherry Tree Hill Potluck Bulky, has just the right amounts of spring and color variation. The hat fits my head nicely, with good ear coverage.

Quincy finished

I thought the moebius twist might fidget me, but it's quite comfortable. I might tack it shut – then again, I suppose one could use it to stash a press pass or train or theater tickets....

Handy pocket

Despite its feast of knitting techniques, Quincy has only one tricky part, grafting the body of the hat. For neatest appearance, the attached I-cord should be grafted knitwise and the garter portion should be grafted purlwise. I messed up slightly because I miscounted the number of garter ridges and so ended up with a reverse stockinette ridge instead of a garter ridge at the grafted seam. Oops.

Grafting error

It's actually not that bad whether viewed from the inside or the outside, so I didn't bother to unpick the Kitchener stitches to fix it.

Inside view   Outside view

Like some of EZ's most un-ventive patterns, Quincy has the quality of sticking in the memory after knitting it once. It's very striking in bulky yarn, but can easily be adapted to different weights of yarn and different sizes of head. Newbie knitters can learn a lot from it; experienced knitters can enjoy it too. I recommend it highly!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Insulate the Attic

This morning the sky roundabout Exit 151 was the thick milky white familiar in Industrial Age cityscapes. Which set off a six degrees chain of thought: The Gare St-Lazare > Liberty Leading the People > liberty cap > Rhinebeck stress avoidance > I want a new hat. Although not as much as the young Allie wants cake.

Quincy in progress

I cast on Quincy by Jared Flood in Potluck Bulky Singles that was part of a Cherry Tree Hill New Year's grab bag.

And pondered how white skies could become commonplace should the Pinatubo option be deployed to counteract global warming. It's just one more reason to mind the energy efficiency gap.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rhinebeck Car-Free

Most years I go to Rhinebeck via carpool, but this year the stars aligned differently.Ram jack-o-lantern Not a problem, it was an opportunity to try a car-free trip – commuter rail from NYC to Poughkeepsie, shuttle bus from Poughkeepsie to Rhinebeck. As the shuttle route, 9G, is a NYS bicycle route, it also was a low-risk way to check out riding conditions for a possible future bike outing.

The first leg of the journey started with an alarming sight: multiple FDNY units parked on Vanderbilt Avenue outside Grand Central Terminal, with more responding, and NYPD blocking access to the building. I had a moment of concern for any victims and the responders, as well as a wholly selfish pang for my own excursion. Then I walked around the corner and entered by a different door. That was my first clue things weren't too bad.

Drill at Grand Central Terminal

All the activity turned out to be part of an emergency preparedness drill. Periodically the PA system announced, "DO NOT BE ALARMED. AN EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS DRILL IS TAKING PLACE ON TRACK 15." I went on my way to Track 34 and the Metro-North Hudson Line train to Poughkeepsie, but a fair number of excited gawpers stood around taking pictures, perhaps unaware that a team of FDNY evaluators were on the mezzanine videotaping the exercise.

The train ride was a study in contrasts, traveling through some of the most magnificent and also some of the most scabby of the built and natural landscapes in the region. As its name suggests, most of the Hudson Line travels along the Hudson River, which is by turns developed for residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational uses. Roundtrip fare: $29.00.


From the Poughkeepsie train terminal it was on to the shuttle bus. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds runs shuttles for many events, although I believe this was the first year for the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival. (The driver was much more cheerful and chatty than this somewhat dour photo would tend to suggest.) Roundtrip fare: $5.00.

Shuttle bus and driver

At the festival ($12.00), Dorre clued me in that this year Sanguine Gryphon is the new STR = long lines, bare displays. Some vendors tend to become a bit snappish under the pressure of crowds of eager festival buyers, but Sarah graciously posed for me while restocking. Sanguine Gryphon people are as beautifully impressive as their yarns.

Sarah of Sanguine Gryphon

Also beautifully impressive, Leann's cardi for her mother-in-law won a ribbon. Congratulations to Leann!

Leann's cardi for her MIL

It was fun to see a whole flock of Lisa Grossman's unique tsocks on display in the Holiday Yarns booth, if only for their sheer wacky inventiveness.

Flock of Tsocks

The return trip was easy, sped on by one of my purchases, Amelia Garripoli's Productive Spindling. I read it cover to cover on the train – it's a slim volume, but full of deep insights for technical spindlers. The comments on the optimal relationships between crimps per inch,Rhinebeck loot twists per inch, and wraps per inch (1:1:2) completely blew my mind, yet made such perfect sense.

While shuffling through the crowds, I overheard someone exclaim, "I guess the recession is over!" I think not – to me the mood felt somewhat somber and introverted, as if people are adjusting to new realities and are sorting out priorities. There were a number of changes among the vendors, a lot more men among the fair-goers. I see that as signs of continuing austerity, which makes me feel grateful for things like emergency services, regional infrastructure, and fiber crafters in all their disparate tastes and glory.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Beltane is a bust. This morning the sweater was progressing nicely.

Beltane this morning

Then I started obsessing thinking about an unsightly patch of unevenly spun yarn at the waist. I'd managed to clip out others, but somehow this got past me. It made me unhappy.

Unevenly spun patch

It's important to have happy handknits, so this evening Beltane has been resolved back into its elements. I'll give them a restorative bath when I finish blogging.

Beltane this evening

I think it's better this way. I made a lot of modifications to Beltane, particularly to the (oh teh irony) bust darts. Yet even with that level of engagement, I just wasn't feeling the love.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rhinebeck or Bust

The fancy lemon computer seems to be limping along well enough. Now where was I... oh right. Egged on Encouraged by Lois, last Thursday I cast on for a Rhinebeck sweater, Beltane Tee by Marlaina Bird. Yup, even though it's closer to Samhain than Beltane,* at the time there were nine days to go, and I had to frog an abandoned project (it's the background here)...

Frog booty

... and recondition the yarn first. I'm using Cascade 220 Superwash, colorway 845, which has a softer drape than regular 220.

Reconditioned yarn

I quite like the dressmaker details of Beltane – picot hem, waist shaping, bust darts, pretty shaped neckline. Because the waist shaping is comparatively abrupt and is all at the side seams, the hem forms a mitre and wants to roll up. Its neo-pagan name notwithstanding, the sweater has a retro-futuristic silhouette reminiscent of Jane Jetson.

Beltane Tee in progress

It must be noted the pattern contains errors, only some of which are addressed in the errata. Some would seem to be typographical; others are a bit nuts. I'm revising as I go-go-go.

*I have no idea how to pronounce Beltane. Given Samhain is often pronounced sow-en (sow to rhyme with cow, not sow to rhyme with crow) or sow-een, I'm happy to take advice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knitter Has the Blues

Instead of enjoying the fine autumn weather roundabout Exit 151 this weekend, I've spent the past three days indoors staring at a computer diagnostic screen o' death. The hard drive on my fancy lemon computer, replaced only two years ago, decided to misbehave. Much bad language out and far too much caffeine in ensued.

Computer diagnostic screen

It's time to take a break from the negative machine. Howabout some Maine yarn? I have some String Theory Blue Stocking in Cobalt. At this point, it ::cough:: amuses me more than it should that my Blue Stocking yarn is BFL and blue and from Blue Hill. The color is more inky than my poor digicam can capture.

String Theory Bluestocking

And I have some Swans Island Fingering in Indigo. It's a beautiful natural indigo, with a greenish undertone that I imagine will oxidize over time. Plus there are sheep in the boat on the label.

Swans Island Fingering

There, I feel better. So here's a PSA: in New Jersey tomorrow is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming General Election, November 2.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What's Your Fear?

To celebrate Socktoberfest, I finally posted the pattern for Meadowlands SocksSocktoberfest button on Ravelry. As previously mentioned, Meadowlands won the Summer of Socks Design Contest... three years ago... and the prototype socks still are Socks of Shame. Shriek!

Meadowlands Socks

If that doesn't scare you, howabout this: the March to Keep Fear Alive. Shriek!!

Or view here.

Given all the UFOs buzzing roundabout Exit 151, my fear would be Aliens, Extraterrestrial. They're already here! SHRIEK!!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rough Diamonds

Hooray for sun after monsoonal showers! I've wanted to publish this post for days now, but there wasn't enough good light to take decent pix.

All summer into fall, I've had diamonds on the brain. Maybe the exhibits at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History had something to do with it,4! Ounce! Challenge! button maybe it was Naomi Campbell's testimony about midnight prezzies of "dirty pebbles," or maybe it's something in the air – I was amazed by the number of diamond motifs among this fall's knitwear. Also slightly piqued, because my design for the 4! Ounce! Challenge! is Rough Diamonds Mitts.

Two pair of Rough Diamonds Mitts

Ah, the anxiety of influence! The spinning phase of the challenge was sparked by the illuminating article, "Spinning for Crochet" by Maggie Casey with Margaret Tullis in Fall 2010 Spin-Off. I spun this steely teal-y beauty, Spunky Eclectic Light BFL, colorway Virgo, into 2-ply sportweight crochet yarn – that is, spun the singles S (counter-clockwise) and plied them Z (clockwise). It seemed like a good idea at the time, although ::cough:: I ended up knitting with it.

Spunky Eclectic Light BFL Top, colorway Virgo

I consider myself an apprentice spinner and an experienced knitter; I've long known but never really thought about how I tend to add S-twist to the yarn when I knit, necessitating periodic pauses to unkink it. Most knitting yarn is S-plied, so that the act of knitting tightens the ply; were it Z-plied, knitting would tend to unply the yarn. Similarly, singles intended to be knit as singles should be spun S, not Z, lest knitting action cause the yarn to drift apart.

Z-ply yarn

In the design phase, I started making samples with a commercial-spun yarn, Noro Silk Garden Sock, colorway S269, before working in handspun.First mitt I wanted to conserve the handspun and SG Sock is a good substitute, plus I knew the texture stitches would be more visible in lighter color yarn. The white-gray mitt was the first completed, followed by the steel blue pair, and last the speckled brown mitt.

The twist-stitch motif is a 20-stitch variation on the 16-stitch Knit-Twist Lattice in Barbara Walker's A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, adapted for knitting in the round. Handspun yarn sometimes contains variations in wraps per inch and grist – twisted knit stiches traveling on a knit background are more forgiving of thick and thin spots than twists (or cables) over a purl ground, and also use less yarn. I like the quilted look, as well as the secure grip the textured stitches give on things like steering wheels.

Spunky Eclectic Rough Diamonds

While the stitch pattern is worked on every other round, the increases for the thumb gusset are worked on every third round. This causes the thumb of the mitt to lie closer to the palm, at a more natural angle. What can I say? I'm fussy about things like that.Last mitt These vagaries are noted both in the written and the charted versions of the pattern.

The pattern phase of the challenge posed its own hurdles. Writing up the pattern was straightforward enough, but posting it to Ravelry became rather more involved than I would have expected after a volunteer editor flagged the pattern. I think that's resolved now. In any case, my very first pattern on Ravelry is finally up: Rough Diamonds Mitts!

Fiber to yarn to mitts

All in all, I enjoyed the 4! Ounce! Challenge! I learned a lot, something I value highly. Group members produced such beautiful and inspiring yarn and patterns that this month there will be a 4!O!C! knit-along. I'm grateful to the organizers – indy dyers Adrian of Hello Yarn, Amy of Spunky Eclectic, and David of Southern Cross Fibre – and to the moderators of the group for what has been, for me, a deeply satisfying challenge.