Archive for February, 2007

is this lesson J yet?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

hello, and please forgive my absence of several days—we have been furiously uploading huge files for a The Work Project and any extra “connection time” had to be devoted to that.

on a bright note, i sent out 10 books on monday. done. off to the printer.
but then i got a whole other volume of books to finish off—only 6 this time, and actually, someone else will finish off the three more that go with them.

but still. i just now finished updating files for the day. each book has 2 tests and 10 lessons, A thru J. remedial math. and a teacher edition to go with. i’m kinda sick of it. but then, we all are (even you, right?). so, i apologize ahead of time if this post sounds distant. or if any equations creep in.
actually, i wish i could show you one or two—some of them are truly jaw-dropping in stature, despite their supposed remedial-ness (or maybe because of it).

it feels like forever since i had a normal amount of time to knit (3 to 4 hours in the evening, WHEN i feel fully awake and alert is all i’m asking).

i’ve been spinning more the last couple of weeks because it is soothing and uncomplicated. knitting has been a bit lackadaisical—i do what i can, but generally, my brain has felt like mush for it, especially the last few days.

i don’t have new pictures of any of that stuff, though—i missed the boat on daylight today. tomorrow i will regale you with visions of lovliness.

today, i’ll talk about the book, fitted knits, by stefanie japel, instead.

i looked forward eagerly to receiving this book, based solely on the title, i have to admit. i did not even know who the author was when i pre-ordered it. i purchased it strictly to satisfy my penchent for all things that smack of tailoring, detailed consideration of fit, or that hint at the employment of more involved technique (as tailored styles often do).

i think i thought that this book was going to be more of a study in garment construction and design, with information about how to make any garment more fitted—discussions of ease, different kinds of darts, different ways of shaping the body and sleeves, etc, and how to decide which to use where. more of a textbook.

so, i didn’t really do my research before i bought it. which is why i said in the beginning of january that, though i will not stop buying books, i will take some time to choose them more carefully, and i will probably not buy any more designer collections for a while.

but i digress. so, what i ended up with here is a sweater collection by stefanie japel, a designer known to favor top-down construction in her shapely silhouettes. she has had designs published in knitty, interweave knits, and several knitting collections.

this collection of feminine designs for pullover shells and sweaters, cardigans, a few dresses and a coat are very fitted, for the most part, with bust measurements ranging from around 33 inches to around 46 inches. many feature top-down, seamless construction, unique detailing, and allover shaping. there are underbust darts, princess lines, and shaping on the sleeves. for the most part, the necklines are open—boatneck, v-neck and larger round neck, rather than higher-neck styles.

there is a strong theme throughout the collection in the use of a wide horizontal banding to accentuate the waist area, coupled with a peplum-type hem. another featured element is the combination sleeve—puffed top with a straight, tight lower half. the overall feeling is young, soft and pretty, with a tendency toward the dressy rather than the casual. the yarns used are mostly easy to come by, and of nice quality; many styles feature yarns from the cascade line.

while a couple of styles had maybe a little too much going on, overall, the designs are cohesive and very nicely put together. there isn’t much here in the way of classic, fitted jackets, and i would not say there is something here for everyone.
though i have not knit from any of the instructions, at a glance, they are concisely written and seem fairly clear for the intermediate-to-experienced knitter.

the author gives a general overview in the beginning of the book about how one may further customize the fit of any sweater and make changes to the patterns. this will require the knitter to do some math, and to figure out where in the pattern to insert those changes. since the book is about fit, and there is encouragement for the knitter to make changes to achieve a custom fit, i thought it would have been nice if the pattern instructions would include a line or two telling the knitter (briefly) where to insert changes—”lengthen or shorten here”, “insert extra rows between decreases here”—that sort of thing. an example of a worksheet for keeping track of calculations or notes on custom fit might have been nice too.

the photography, book production, and layout is well-done—the text is clear, well-spaced, and easy-to-read. pattern notes are listed beforehand, and numerous photos of detailing are provided. some of the charts are tiny, but that is normal for book production these days.

one thing that always jumps out at me when looking at sweater books is how the finishing work translates in the photography. for some reason, those finishing details really pop in photographs. and here the sweaters show a few problems. the pullovers are generally flawless, but the cardigans seem to get a little sloppy. to be fair, this could be totally due to a lack of care of the part of the stylists, or from not taking the time simply to steam the garments properly. but i saw a number of troubled closures on otherwise cute sweaters. such as this

and this

the reason i mention this is not to be petty, but to point out that these things are probably easily fixed. to me the finishing bands just look a little loose, as if using a smaller needle would have tightened the fabric up and made it sturdier and more anchor-worthy.
i also wondered if possibly, these things are a sign that the yarns used should have been knit at a slightly tighter gauge, to give them more body. i have used top-down and circular sweater construction extensively myself, and have found that without seams, garments tend to need a little more support in the actual fabric, either from tighter gauge, or from cables and stich patterns.

anyway, to sum up, this is a book of very pretty sweaters with a definite fashion direction, and worth looking into if your fashion sense is young, soft, and feminine. it is probably more suited to the knitter who has some experience in knitting sweaters. applying the suggestions for customizing fit will require an previous understanding of garment construction and its relationship to the body, as well as the ability to organize calculations for pattern changes.

just a few old things

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

thanks for all the feedback on my stocking cap. i like it too.
that red one is going to be a gift though, since i have the little red cap AND i sorta promised it to someone special.
i’m going to knit another one for myself, since several people asked for a pattern, and that way i can test-knit it. now i just have to pick out some yarn.

while i was away i went through albany and visited with my mom. she was holding few things for me from her move a couple of years ago. it was just a small box, since most of the big stuff came here on a truck, but she included some early handmades that made me smile.

as a four-year-old, i must have been hard to entertain or keep busy, because that was the year i learned to embroider and sew, and to knit.
it was also the same year i got my first business—the vegetable stand.

one day, my dad showed me how to make change, sat me at the end of our farm drive with a wagon full of corn, and gave me a coffee can with quarters in it. he painted a sign which said “CORN: 50¢”, so i didn’t really have to do anything until someone stopped (although flagging customers in would have been fun . . .).

i liked it well-enough, but it did seem as if there should be more activity involved. later, when it took off a little more, he built a wooden hutch that served as a store, and my mom began to show me how to embroider, to wile away the summer hours. in hindsight i realize the genius at work here—they had three more children younger than me, and what better babysitter than busy hands? not only that, but i do remember my sister and one brother sitting close to my side as i executed those first stitches. no worries about any of them wandering off then—we were all completely absorbed in this new business of sewing.

so, anyway, there in the box was my first embroidery project, the one i got to make AFTER the practice pieces on old sheets.

it’s a dresser scarf. back then (i can’t believe i’m using that phrase), you could buy these at the dimestore pre-printed with a sort of “map” of which stitches to put where—little Xs for cross-stitch, little dots for french knots, etc. as you can see, i was intent on using every single color i owned in it.

i think this piece took almost forever to finish. i mean it—i’m sure i worked on this off and on for at least a year, if not more. of course, by that time i was sewing doll clothes and getting distracted by being allowed to use the sewing machine. once i did finish it though, it was well-used in our home for quite a few years.

another thing in the box was this needlepoint piece

according to the date, i was 14 by then. which makes this a piece of crap, because by age 14, i was doing some extraordinary sewing—i guess original needlepoint compositions just weren’t my forte. thank god i gave this hobby up.

and then there was this, which i was really happy to see

this is a sweater i knit for my dad about 15 years ago or more. he was especially fond of the “golf sweater” style—no fancy cables or ribs for him. i’m glad it survived the move becasue i’ve been wondering what happened to it. it is knit from green mountain spinnery sport-weight singles in a pattern from a vintage men’s sweater book.

this book was printed in a couple of different versions. i’ve made several men’s sweaters from it that came out well-fitting, and well-received. everything in it is fairly plain and pretty much what most men i know are looking for in a sweater.

i obviously had some issues with it biasing, even after it was blocked; that’s the danger of working with singles that i didn’t know about when i started. i definitely wasn’t as good at putting the pieces together as i later learned to be. now it has moth holes too. i’m thinking about reblocking it and maybe trying to patch the holes. but you know how that is—once you start, you just find another one nearby. (don’t worry debbie, i’m not going to wear it—i thought about it, but it’s too big). maybe i’ll just keep it as is to remember him by.

last night i worked on my ragg sock and now you can really see the colorways.

i am SO very happy with this yarn. it is tons softer than i though it would be. if you have issues with romney being kind of scratchy, i highly recommend plying it with something soft. works wonders. and the sheen offered by the pink strand is a nice touch too.

still working away on the starlight wrap as well. it’s going to be a while before i finish, so you may just get casual shots of it til then.

i’ve been looking at the fitted knits book and will talk about it tomorrow.

i have hats

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

i can’t believe it’s 10 pm already.
i was trying to get through a round of edits on a book, but promised myself i would stop at 6 even if i wasn’t done. and instead, i just kept saying “one more lesson, and then i’ll quit”.
i love my attitude when it comes to knitting, but really, what does one get from applying it to “real” work? more work, right?
ay-yi-yi.

which reminds of this hat i made last week. it was the night before the night before i left for SPA. i had this hat on my mind that i wanted to make. i didn’t get upstairs to knit til well after midnight. but i very much wanted to start this hat, so while david found a cool movie to watch (seriously, you gotta check out this film), i cast on for my hat.

i wanted a shoulder-length stocking cap. i had already made this cap from a dark-red handspun yarn. you can’t really tell, but it has a couple of dreds hanging down with beads on the end.

(when i look at this picture i have to giggle; it reminds me of this boyfriend i had a long time ago who used to draw cartoons in which i was some sort of superhero whose nose took up about half the page. the angle of this picture reminds me of those cartoons—not that i have issues with my nose; i don’t. the cartoons were just so hilarious; i distinctly remember that in some of them i was flying with knitting needles in hand. and not just my nose, but my pointy toes were frequently featured as well. sigh—what was i doing with him?)

anyway, there wasn’t enough of that yarn to make the stocking cap, so i decided to use another red handspun, which is just a tad brighter.

maybe more than a little.

the cap fits great, so i had a good idea of the right number of stitches for the head portion, but i had never knit an adult stocking cap before, so i would have to wing it on the long part. well i got through the first half rather easily by about 2 am, so i figured i could finish the rest of it in no time, right?

well, sort-of.

really all the knitting went fine. i just kept falling asleep over it. finally at around 4am, i had a hat. and do you know what i did then? i proceeded to take a whole week more to get the tassle on and weave in the ends. i took it to SPA but didn’t even touch it there. i finally finished it yesterday morning while i drank my coffee.

i like this hat, but debbie says i shouldn’t wear it. i may give it away. or i might just wear it for snow shoveling and fresh-air breaks—i take those during the day, no matter how freezing or hot it is—i like to go outside for a few minutes to breathe deeply and clear my head (and what debbie doesn’t know won’t hurt her, right?).
i have a couple of other hat ideas i want to try, like the fez-beret (i’m not sure if i’ll like the shape on me, but i LOVE the name . . . so therefore i must make it).

so back to staying up late working—from where do we get such bizarre behavior? can it be unlearned? i can see that it’s worth it for something i love, like spinning or knitting. but for work?? i mean, we’re not searching for organ donors, or working the 911 line here.

what’s up with feeling like i need to finish some huge goal before i can stop for the day? why can’t the goal be finishing eight hours? and especially, what’s up with putting aside the important pattern work to voluntarily do more of the daily grind? i know you won’t stand for that for very long, so i’m telling you that i’m working on it. i don’t think i’m succeeding, but i’m working on it.

while i thought about all that stuff, i started knitting with that luscious pink and gray sock yarn i spun a couple of weeks ago

i decided to do a straight-up ragg wool sock, to play up the offbeat colorway best. i thought about doing something fancier, but i’ll save that for another two-tone alpaca/wool that i spun over the summer.

i’ve been working away on the starlight wrap, too, and am hoping to at least begin writing the pattern this weekend (that would be heavenly—it feels like ages since i tortured myself over charting and numbers calculations).

and now it’s another hour later, so i’m skedaddling.

the roar of the crowd

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

running getting away is good.
it’s good to get out of the house and great to be surrounded by friends with the same interests. SPA was so social, with everyone was sitting in circles with their wheels in order to visit with one another. visit, that is, if you could hear anything above the (joyful) din—talk about knitters and spinners Representing—this was it, baby. i don’t know what the total attendence was, but it was a LOT.

it was a long trip but i read two great books—The Alchemist by paulo cuelo and When We Were Orphans by kazuo ishiguro. the alchemist is a must-read; it’s an entertaining, and meaningful fable that would refresh almost anyone’s sense of the possible and the ironic. ishiguro’s new book is beautifully written as always; he is a painterly writer to be sure. i think though, that like his last book, the structure of the story began to dissolve about two-thirds of the way through, causing him to lose the momentum he had been building, and making the story turn somewhat to mush. i’m still glad i read it just to listen to the language he uses.

there were a ton of little details to catch up on when i got back, but i feel very refreshed and energized, so it wasn’t long before i had most of that stuff cleared away—i even made an appointment to get my taxes done.
of course, not having much office work to do this morning helps a lot.

because that left me free to take pictures of stuff to show you.

so, what did i spin and knit this weekend, when i wasn’t driving?

mostly i spent the time at SPA spinning. i don’t get to do as much spinning at home as i’d like, so i went there intending to do plenty. (you should’ve seen how over-confident i was when i packed; it was bordering on ridiculous, but thankfully, monica understood. that’s why we’re friends . . .). i spun up two big, chubby bobbins of two-tone romney from a local ohio producer.

this is singles for sock yarn, so it’s thin, and it took me a while—all of friday evening and most of saturday. i’ll ply it up tonight and get it washed one day soon.

then i got out the sock yarn i spun a couple of weeks ago from some spunky eclectic BFL in the navajo colorway. i’m having to knit it in size 0 needles because the yarn is a litle thinner than i usually like. i only got a little bit done on sunday morning at the hotel,

but i got a LOT done while visiting my mom for a couple of days on the way home. we had two evenings at home and a day at the doctor’s office with my brother. she was pretty interested int he fact that the yarn stripes itself. i’d give them to her, but it’s not an easy-care yarn, so she won’t be getting these!
she’s afraid to wear and wash the three pair i sent her for christmas because they’re wool. i demonstrated how completely carefree the new sock yarns are by washing my very own briar rose socks in with the pants and shirts i was laundering, right before her eyes, but i still don’t think she’s convinced.

i’m a little worried that i won’t have enough yarn for the pair. i don’t even dare weigh it at this point, but i’m hoping that elizabeth ends up with some leftovers from her half of the yarn that i can beg, borrow, or barter for. i KNOW—we already bartered for it, but desperate times require desperate measures, and i’m not proud (as you well know . .). she says she has tiny feet, so, maybe . . .

a few new things came while i was away. some books that i pre-ordered back in november arrived

along with the spring interweave knits. i’m terribly excited to dive into fitted knits. my biggest problem with almost all published sweater patterns is that they are too big and too baggy for my frame. it’d be nice if some of these sweaters are ones that i would actually make.

the other thing that came while i was away is this

our new rug from donna foley at Four Directions Weaving. it’s woven with wool from her flock of brown, gray, and silver lincoln sheep, then some of it is dyed with natural extracts of cutch, madder, logwood, and walnut. donna tells me it was woven on a 60-inch counterbalance loom with a weighted beater (i knew some of you would want to know).

this is what it looks like up-close and personal

i’m looking forward to doing yoga on it. it’s much softer against the skin and much more cushion-y than what we have now.
how do i know?? . . . he-he, i’m sure you have an idea or two.

well, i’m ready to treat you to some porn now—how ’bout it? for, indeed, i did succumb to a bit of shopping. no yarn—i was SO good, you guys; kim had some really nice sock yarn i haven’t tried yet—but i did not buckle. plenty of fiber sampling was done, though.

the first booth we hit upon entering the vendor area was Grafton Fibers, where i picked up two batts

i haven’t spun their fiber yet, but if what i read all around the internet is true, then i’m in for a real treat.
then we circled halfway around the room before i was tempted again, this time at the spunky eclectic booth. i bought one hank of BFL roving and one of her merino/silk.

the dark one is the BFL and that will eventually be socks for david. i realized that i have been using a lot of natural colors for his socks, and that it would be a nice change of pace to make him something from dyed fiber.
so far, so good, right? i am halfway around the room and made only two purchases totaling 16 ounces.

then we went just one door down to the Indigo Moon booth, where my heart was stolen by this streaky apple green blend of her alpaca, silk and merino.

five ounce was all that was left of it, so i took the whole bag. OMG—it is soft. and i love the color—i am a fan of green, in almost all shades (except kelly green—eeuw!) i was thinking another hat for myself would be luscious in this. (i KNOW—i haven’t shown you the hats yet, but i’m saving them for tomorrow; with this much blog fodder, i may as well . . .).

i thought i was safe after this because we were almost all the way through, but then at the end, right near the door, we came back to judy’s and kim’s booth. it took all my might to avert my eyes from the yarn and not allow a purchase, so to soothe myself i picked up two tiny (just 2 ounces each) bags of kim’s angora/silk/merino roving.

i had hoped to give some to debbie when i got home, since she couldn’t make the trip, but she told me she is allergic to angora . . . darn. i’ll have to think of something else.

satisfied that i had all i needed or wanted, i went back to the big room and spent the rest of the weekend spinning and knitting with the crowd. well, maybe we indulged in other entertainment too.

but by sunday morning that silk i’d seen at spunky’s booth was sort of nagging at me, so i went back to get some, along with a coordinating silk/merino roving

i thought it would be very pretty to spin up a singles of each and then ply them together so that the silk strand made a glimmering swirl around the wool. maybe it’ll even be enough for a shawl . . . .

and that ended the weekend and my shopping for a while. other than this weekend (which, admittedly is early in the year yet) i have been sticking to my resolution not to purchase yarn and finding it quite easy, actually. it’s the fiber that gets to me. i pledged to stay away form those purchases too, but fell off the wagon this weekend. the next event isn’t til may, and i am hoping that i won’t feel the urge to get anything there. we’ll see . . .

tomorrow i have more new knitting to show you, including some hats.