Archive for October, 2007

tricks or treats

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

i know you’ve been wondering why i’m holding out on you. you’ve been dying to see THAT photo and i haven’t shown it yet. but this season i waited til the setting was absolutely finished and perfect before i took it for you. and you will not be disappointed.

and that day came on sunday, the day that our city has trick-or-treating (please don’t ask; i have no idea why trick-or-treating does not happen ON halloween).

anyway, i give you

our neighbor has truly outdone himself this time; just look at that ghostly skeleton up on the flagpole. trust me, that took several days of outdoor work and many buckets of flour-and-water paste. i got to watch it from my office window. let’s walk in for a closer view (though even at that, you won’t get the benefit of the flashing lights and the flying bats powered by remote battery packs.

from The Writer’s Almanac for October 31, 2007

It’s Halloween, one of the oldest holidays in the Western European tradition, invented by the Celts, who believed Halloween was the day of the year when spirits, ghosts, faeries, and goblins walked the earth. The tradition of dressing up and getting candy probably started with the Celts as well. Historians believe that they dressed up as ghost and goblins to scare away the spirits, and they would put food and wine on their doorstep for the spirits of family members who had come back to visit the home.

Pope Gregory III turned Halloween into a Christian holiday in the eighth century, and people were encouraged to dress up as saints and give food to the poor. But when Irish Catholics brought the Celtic traditions to the United States, Halloween became a holiday for them to let off steam by pulling pranks, hoisting wagons onto barn roofs, releasing cows from their pastures, and committing all kinds of mischief involving outhouses. Treats evolved as a way to bribe the vandals and protect homes.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Halloween became a holiday for children. In 1920, the Ladies’ Home Journal made the first known reference to children going door to door for candy, and by the 1950s it was a universal practice in this country. By the end of the 20th century, 92 percent of America’s children were trick-or-treating. Tonight, about 70 percent of American households will open their doors and offer candy to children, and Halloween parties are becoming increasingly popular among adults. It’s the one day a year that people can freely dress as the opposite gender, as criminals, superheroes, celebrities, animals, or even inanimate objects. But retailers report that the most popular costumes remain some variation on witches, ghosts, and devils.

happy halloween!

a good long think about it

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

some things just don’t come easy. and then . . . some do.
when tina approached me about doing a design for her new series of raven colorways, i could see it was a little of both.

on the one hand, here was an opportunity that came knocking, yarn in hand, with the basic concept already narrowed down a bit. on the other hand, to have this (big) design idea inserted into my brain half-formed was new for me, along with the feeling that, for myself, i just couldn’t say no (who would say no??).

how then, to embrace the idea of this raven shawl, filter it through my own creative process, and come up with something wonderful on a fairly short (for me) timeline?

well, panic is always a good first step.

until you realize you might give yourself a stroke and never knit again. or worse, that you’ll die of anxiety and your stash will be donated to the girl scouts (i will haunt david if this happens and he knows it).

i kinda didn’t do anything but think about it for a week or so. it was still summer, and i spent a lot of time sitting out in the dark, in the yard, waiting for a visualization of what the shawl would look like. honestly, all i kept seeing was a big bird shaped thing that more resembled a kite than a shawl.

i wanted to see something weightless, pretty, something with movement, and mystery—but i didn’t want to see a big fat bird. i can’t help it . . i’ve always had an aversion to knits that are about themselves more than the body that gives them shape. i like a nice marriage there.

for someone who has a painting background, and tons of arty sketchbooks laying around, i am no good at using sketches for my design work . . the best i can do is the doodle-sketch

. . . on a genuine sticky note to boot. pretty pathetic, right? but it works for what i need—i do a lot of the work through charting on the computer, and sticky notes are always so handily nearby. somehow working with the symbols makes it easier for me to see the overall layout of patterns and stitches.
and as for a shape, i decided this was the project for which i would go faroese.
BUT
i know how you all feel about rectangles so i am seriously considering doing both. in fact, i have pretty much decided i will.

in october, i received my yarn, so i decided i should start swatching . . .

maybe that would help pull things together. so i left the concept part simmering while i looked at stitch books.
BTW, this yarn is impossible for me to photograph, so you will see lots of variation in the photos over the next few weeks. the best photo i have of the color is that first one. it’s very dark, richly-colored yarn with greens and purples and blues that reveal themselves. it’s so dark that the camera constantly lightens and fades it (and i am so utterly NOT in command of my camera when it comes to this . . maybe david can teach me something).

i thought that choosing stitches would be the easy part—there are tons of feather-like patterns out there right?
HAHAHAHA!

actually there are.
but they all run in the wrong direction; i needed to work top-down on this piece rather than hem-up, and i needed patterns that run in the opposite direction so that the feathers point to the hem. there are virtually none of those.
i am not exaggerating when i say that i looked at hundreds of possibilities, tried out about 25 of them, then discarded all but three. plus two edgings.

that’s a lotta swatching. these are the keeper swatches, i.e., the ones that did not go to the frog pond (there were many).

now i know that you know that i love swatching. can i tell you a secret?
swatching for a new design is frustrating and worrisome and it keeps me up at night—and i love it.
how sick is that??

most of the time, it takes days or even weeks of swatching to come up with all the right parts, fitted together in all the right ways before i feel i’m working with a “plan” (and i have learned that working with a plan is good for me, for the most part).

there are bad swatches that have good parts, and good swatches that have bad parts.
this is my final swatch that has all the components but one part is a little bad.

i just couldn’t swatch any more though . . . and i had all i needed.

i know. you can’t really tell anything from this swatch right? don’t worry, i’m going to explain.

first of all let’s talk about the bad swatch. why don’t i like that one?
well, first of all i DO like part of it. i like the top half—this bit here

this is the combination of stitches that will make up the largest areas of the shawl. i love the scale—in the good swatch i used the same stitches but i tried to enlarge them by adding a couple of rows and i didn’t like the result. here the pattern has more stitch definition and that diagonal line that cuts across the edges of overlapping feathers is much stronger when the pattern is smaller.
since that line provides the overall movement component that i am looking for, it’s important that it be somewhat crisp, though not overpowering.

the bad part of this swatch is that the progression of patterns is all wrong.

at first i thought that of course i would want the smaller motifs at the top edge and the larger motifs at the bottom, but that was SO wrong. heavy, heavy, heavy, and no flow.

could i actually flip that around and have it succeed?

i switched the largest motif to the top shoulder area, and used it also for the back panel which will run straight from neck to hem. mu-u-uch better. then i ruined that swatch by enlarging the field patterns.
trust me, it will look TONS better with smaller field motifs—a series of smaller overlapping “feathers” cascading from underneath the shoulder ruff of large “feathers” (but i swear it’s not a bird, it’s a shawl).

i was getting excited . . the feeling was pulling together totally for me now. it is lace AND it’s bird-ish.

let’s look at the edgings. along the front and top neck edge i used—just guess—bird‘s eye edging. it’s crisp, simple-to-do, and works well with lots of body patterns because of its four-row repeat. then for the hem, i chose to work with an applied edge.

this one is SO worth the work. it looks JUST like flight feathers (check out this photo here and tell me this is the wrong edging).

so that settled everything . . . i started knitting and am partway through it already. so far so good. i haven’t run into any big roadblocks yet. i have working charts that i’m knitting from and correcting as i go; hopefully i’ll have a working pattern soon for the test knitters. and a rectangle pattern to follow.
next time i talk about it i’ll flesh out some of the structural details for you. it is good to be working with a new shape. and on a whole new venture.

let’s have a little peek at what the end might bring . . .

cluaranach

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Cluaranach
shown here in Lanas Puras Melosa fingering weight merino, colorway, Eggplant

kit available now
at one planet yarn and fiber.

to purchase pattern only, or view pattern information, please check out the listing
in our pattern shop

cluaranach (KLOO-ar-un-awk): from the scot’s gaelic, meaning “abundant with thistles”

The prickly purple-flowered thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland for hundreds of years. According to legend, this plant (known as the armored knight of the vegetable kingdom) thwarted a silent night invasion by barefoot Norsemen upon Scotland in the 13th century when they could not walk on the prickly groundcover without crying out.

The role of the thistle was then understood, and was chosen as Scotland’s symbol, with the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit”, or “No-one harms me without punishment”.
Its first use as a royal symbol was on silver coins issued by James III in 1470; one of the proudest orders of knighthood, called the “Order of the Thistle” was established in 1540 by King James V of Scotland.

so fling this wrap proud about yer shoulders; under its protection march forth and make much knitting.

my deepest thanks go to nan, who does not blog but is a generous and tireless test knitter and vanessa, AKA wonder knitter, for making sure the pattern was fit to print (and fun to knit!).

the next big thing

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

can you believe this?
i am still collecting vegetables from my garden. mostly it’s just enough for a meal every two or three days, but wow; none of our past gardens have offered up goodies for this long.

this is how my tomato patch looked this morning. the temperature went down to 30 last night. weird, huh?

that, of course, is feeding my sense of denial about the fact that one of these days (“and it won’t be lo-ong . . .”) the garden will die off for the season. but not yet, apparently

the eggplant has never looked better, and is still flowering and making fruit. we’re eating good.

i fell in love with my vegetable garden this summer.
i always liked the garden as a functional addition to the house, and thrilled to the produce we got from it. but this summer, i was unreasonably drawn to everything about it.
there, i admitted it. it was a haven for me the whole season, a way to shower love and care, to coax things to grow and be healthy, and to allow nature to reveal to me the splendor of new life after a difficult spring.
i will probably break down and cry the day i wake up and we’ve had a killing frost. i don’t recognize this in myself . . . i’ve never been so attached to the work or the wonder of it.

for now, the big question is, should i bring in all the green tomatoes or not?? there are tons of them out there, and some of them look like they have great potential to ripen into fat globes of summerness between now and christmas. uh, yeah, i think that’s my answer . . .

i feel bad about this next note, but . . . i was going over the snow on cedars pattern today (i don’t even know why) and i found a tiny error:
page 4 in the palm section, R15 and R17 are incorrect; they should read:
R15: repeat R3
R17: repeat R5

it has been listed on the errata page as well; again i’m sorry for that. people expecting kits will need to make that correction, since those patterns went out the other day.

here’s another sort of ripened produce . . . my grafton fibers sock yarn washed, dried, and skeined—ready to be knit into socks . . . or something. mmm.

winter brings a lot of gray skies to our area, so knitting, spinning, and teaching become the avenues along which i can nurture new growth and be productive

this is renee, the hair-genius who takes a razor to my mop of gray cowlicks every four weeks like clockwork, and fashions into something resembling a hairstyle (ha! using my hair and fashion in the same sentence might be a lie . . .). she makes it look as good as possible, so that i just have to wake up and give it a tousle each day before dashing off.

renee is finally learning how to knit (that explains the radiance we see here). she’s been talking about it for a year, and is now attending classes with the wonderful wednesday afternoon knitters. look at her work—she’s only been at it a couple of weeks, and she’s fixing mistakes on the needles already. next thing you know, she’ll be going to rhinebeck next year. look out.

so now that cluaranach is to be launched tomorrow, what’s the next big thing gonna be??

well, i still have a couple of sweaters on the needles from last year and you know, i’d really like to get those done. but they can be background knitting.

because i DO have a new design project i’ve been keeping a secret from you.

a few months ago, tina newton, at blue moon fiber arts, contacted me about creating a shawl design for her new series of yarns.

i was completely bowled-over and honored to be asked; tina’s yarns are much-coveted as you know, and very beautiful. the hitch (oh groan, there is always a hitch, even when both parties want something so much!) was that in order to be included in tina’s book for the series, i’d have to come up with a design in like, a couple of weeks.

at the time i was in the throes of getting the honeybee stole pattern ready, had myriad other deadlines looming (including the BSP you haven’t seen yet), and wondered if i’d ever have time to even take a shower again.

but i SO wanted to work with her—i have long been an STR virgin (and still am; it might become a badge for me . . .), having too much yarn already and not enough pluck to fight over sock yarn. and i knew wanted to give it up at some point. so i semi-agreed.

and then i got a box of raven yarn samples in the mail. can you say, she came undone, bye-bye?

i took a closer look at my calendar. (see how she snuck in that STR to corrupt my virginity to boot? hehehe, i’ve got her number. oh wait—that would be me that loses if i hold out any longer. damn)

i homed right in on the nearly-black raven series yarns—these are all dyed with the deepest tones of hues from across the color spectrum. though they tend to read in photos as mostly deep blue or black, they have beautiful undertones of plum, red, green, gold, etc.

i checked out the sock yarn but knew that would not work for the kind of lace piece i like to knit. there was a skein of geisha that i loved (shown here already wound), but since another designer is doing a large piece in that, i asked tina if i could work with laci, a soft merino laceweight. she agreed it would be a good choice and one that she did not have represented enough.

but we still had to iron out a timeline, since my own schedule was so tight and her deadline was too close. we talked back and forth about how we might make this happen and we slowly ironed out a great way to do it (tina is very creative, convincing, and flexible).

i would not be in the book.
but this was good!

instead, i would create a design apart from the book schedule and blog it.

the yarn colors have been kept top secret until now, but since the line will be launched on november 5th, and sock club participants have received a sneak peek of the line in their most recent sock kits, it’s time now for me to begin revealing my design.

tina sent me a link to a page of incredible raven photos so i could trawl for information. she sent a video link too but i seem to have misplaced that. too bad; i really felt inspired by that one.

i began thinking about the concept and how i could make it mine . . that is, i wanted the piece to evoke all the raven-ness i could muster without being overly literal. i mean, it’s a shawl first and foremost—it’s knitted lace.

and then, it was interesting in the beginning to work with an idea that came from outside myself, something that i wasn’t necessarily inspired to do on my own at this point in time. this one was plopped rather unexpectedly in my lap, rather than growing slowly from my subconscious.

i struggled with that a bit . . . i worried that since i did not spawn the idea from my own observation and desire, that i would not be able to make a design that was . . . mmm . . . transcendent enough, that had enough distance from the real and literal.

but slowly, as i absorbed the idea and turned it over and over (while working on all my deadlines), i formulated a vision in my mind about what i wanted to do.

next time i’ll show you some swatches and talk about the agonizing process of testing choosing.