Archive for June, 2008

elm row

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

well, hel-lo new scarf . . . mm-mmm. ain’t you a sight for sore eyes?
and whatever else ails you. i think it’s the softest and lightest of the little nothings yet; it whispers across the neck like a breeze (ok—i confess—i’ve been wearing it all day . . . i just can’t bring myself to remove it.). not too hot, not too slippery, not too anything (but rich. heh.).

shown here in fibre isle niji, a bamboo/bison/cashmere blend, colorway amber (as mentioned in knitter’s review this week; now distributed by louet as mooi)

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to go to the product page in the knitspot pattern shop.

thank you nan for your help in making sure the pattern knits up right! and rachel, as always, thank you for your thorough work in proofreading it.

stretched and about to burst

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

i’ve been watching this lily bud since sunday . . . we are so going to have our first lily bloom very soon—this one’s just about to break open and show its deep bordello-red self (the red ones always bloom first, and the white ones last). we have a whole row of these asian lilies in all colors along the fence at the back of the hosta bed. david must like them a lot because i’m noticing that he has also planted them in all sorts of places i didn’t know about. that’s ok, though . . . who wouldn’t love these fantastic flowers, with colors straight out of a persian tapestry studio?

so, yeah, i used those rapini thinnings for lunch the other day

sautéed with oil and roasted garlic . . . i also threw in some asparagus that needed to be used and a few mushrooms. just your basic italian oil-and-garlic-based topping for pasta, no recipe needed. it tasted amazing, and we promptly wolfed each portion. teyani, is this what you’ve been hankering to see? (heh. she’s been mentioning food in almost every email, so it must have been a while since i posted some. i’ll try to be better, and get the camera out when i cook more often.)

so finally, finally, i got my last gardening errand done, more or less. the other day beckie and i went to the local organic gardening supplier to pick up some things we needed (you should know about this place if you can’t find organic supplies; they are really good). on the way back we stopped off at a garden center so i could hunt for the coleus and caladiums i wanted.

and, er, i found some. well, they didn’t have caladium left (dang!), but i got coleus. and i let myself give in to painted begonias (even though i killed the ones i bought last year), as a substitute. i really thought i was falling down bad by picking so many things, but i couldn’t resist.
talk about your persian carpets . . .

all that beautiful color and texture (and beckie was no help either . . she gleefully carried things i couldn’t hold and pointed out ones i may have missed. bless her.). i mean, just look at these

and these ones with the weird suessian leaves—no way were they staying in the greenhouse.

THEN when we got to the checkout, we found out there was a 50-percent-off sale (and on further reflection, the fact that the whole place was actually quite empty made perfect sense; people who are serious about getting caladium, got them when the getting was good.). anyway, we (and by we i mean i—beckie was a saint and didn’t spend a dime there) ended up getting all those plants for $17. not bad for decorating the front stoop all summer long.

and then it got quite cold, windy, and rainy and i haven’t potted them up yet. but i will.
it’s just sooo . . . chilled out there. i mean 50s and 60s. in june. weird.

so i stayed inside and knitted and worked on the big pattern. the big pattern is done, yay. the big secret project isn’t yet, though. so i worked on that quite a bit—it’s awesome and, at the risk of what you might think is taunting, i really, really want to show it to you. but i can’t, so i won’t.

instead, we will look at another piece of loveliness, just off the needles. and for which we are having the perfect weather.

elm row is done, washed, and stretched. and—omg—i love it even more than i thought i would.
it’s just. so. so. strikingly pretty. what am i going to wear with it??

(no—seriously—what am i going to wear with it? hmm, mebbe just my birthday suit, eh?)
unfortunately, today it is so dark and lacking in light that most of my attempts to photograph it have resulted in dreck. but here’s another

the stitch gives the fabric some really nice dimensionality, even though the bamboo/cashmere/bison yarn has no spring to it whatsoever.

ok, kids, get ready . . here comes the money shot, and it’s a good one

(and, speaking of money, i have a lot of yarn left from that 360-yard skein i started with—maybe enough for mitts.)

please, we are SO close to adding a bonus amount to the matching fund . . if you give, or have given to claudia’s ride for MS, leavea comment to let me know so we can use it up ASAP!

not a stitch on me

Monday, June 16th, 2008

so yeah, i planted rapini this year, expecting the half-hearted response i normally get from planting greens. but lo—my usual luck was overtaken by a faerie or something . . . because dudes, do you see how thick and lush that patch of rapini is? and it grows tall really fast, too.

if you are thinking about gardening at all, this kind of crop is a great confidence-builder. put some in a window box and see what happens. heck, norma is even helping you out with a garden-along (and trust me, she’s much better at it than i am).

oh.
before i run full-tilt into this post, i have to warn you—i did not get a stitch knitted yesterday so there is nothing new in the woolies department. i did get a big chunk of a big pattern done and sent to the test knitters, so i accomplished a wad of knitting in my head, but alas, that is not photograph-able. and then there were a number of hours spent working in the yard. i regret therefore, that there is no knitting content today.

i will attempt to entertain you duly with other distractions.

i DO have an update on the matching fund reduction . . we are halfway there—way to GO!
remember, if you give, or have given, this year to claudia’s ride for MS, i will beef up any offering . . . the object here is to make the money go faster, so don’t be shy; just leave a comment to let me know you gave.

so anyway, there comes a time in every bed of greens when it needs to be thinned. i “planned” my first weeding of the bed to coincide with the first thinning because i did find out last year (woefully so) that weeding can disturb the tiny, tender new plants enough to kill some of them. so if some of them are gonna get pulled anyway with the weeding, then i may as well thin at the same time.

as you can see above, i have quite a thick growth of rapini, but not so much in the chard and mustard greens areas. i hated to pull out plants where germination was already scarce, but some needed to go because they were piggy-backed on other, stronger ones.

that’s the chard after thinning. i took out as few as i could get away with, aiming for a 4-inch space between them. these are still small, but as (or if) they get bigger, a second thinning to space them 12 inches apart will be needed (last year it wasn’t necessary, to my great chagrin). then i got to work on the rapini

i took that photo when i was about half done. there was a lot to take out, which got to me at first (who will live? who will die??), but then i realized this was good for all of us and got busy.

making progress as the evening drew in, i started to see space opening up. and at root level, i’m sure the big boys were happy to be freed of the pesky little runts tagging along on their coattails (why i need personify the plants is beyond me . . . i’ll try not to)

muu-u-uch better. can’t you just hear them taking deep luxurious breaths and drinks of water? i ended up removing at least half of the plants. and again, in another two weeks or so, i may take out more, depending on our progress here (of which i’m dubious. i really need a good book or website about growing greens specifically. i love to eat them above almost all other vegetables, but growing them continues to confound me, though others claim they are the easiest of crops. possibly, i am overthinking things. heh. ya think?).

now, lest you wonder at the waste of it all . . . “she plants a whole packet of seeds and then throws out half of them!” . . . never fear.
i am a hoarder and saver in some part of my heart, and this is one place i give it free rein

by evening’s end i had twice this many culls in a huge colander, which i brought inside and tossed into a cold bath. after several soaks and rinses, i wrapped them in a damp towel and parked them in the vegetable bin.

we are SO having these sauteéd in roasted garlic and oil over pasta for lunch today.
(the garlic is roasting in the oven as i write this and it’s all i can do to keep from drooling with anticipation—can you smell it?)

another bonus of my time investment yesterday on this small patch of real estate was a little more space. i reseeded the areas where the chard and mustard greens germinated inconsistently.

and i still had a nice 8-inch or so ring of nice, clean, soft soil around the whole bed afterwards, where no greens lived. i’m sure what happened was this: when i scattered the seeds over the bed during the initial planting, i raked dirt in from the sides to cover them with a light layer of soil. i probably carried any seed with it, causing a concentration of plants in the center.

so i made a shallow trench all around the outside in that space and planted the spinach in it which i couldn’t find room for earlier. we’ll see what happens . . . i’m picturing a beautiful circle of dark green all around the rim of the bed, but, this is me we’re talking about.

ok, there will be knitting tomorrow, i promise.

today i’m a blockhead

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

faerie ferns. hopefully they will spread out into a lush carpet of ground cover in my hosta bed, which sits squarely in the shade. in my head i can see it clearly—a cool green carpet of tough little fern fronds completely covering the soil and preventing any weeds at all from growing through.

then a note of realism intrudes: they are just as likely to sit in the little patches exactly where i planted them, not budging a centimeter. but you never know . . . some plants do thrive and respond as they should. the little pot of epimedium rubrum which i purchased two years ago has spread and spawned more new growth than i dreamed possible

and now i divide it gleefully each spring to plant it wherever i need some filler. i think i have a dozen good-sized patches of it now. it’s not as low-to-the-ground as i’d like though, so i’m trying the faeirie ferns in places where i’m still seeing lots of weeds, despite the shade.

i’ve spent the better part of my gardening hours this week making a dent in the weeds. we’ve have nearly-perfect weather for gardening . . . good solid rain on some days, interspersed with hot sunny days in between. plenty of water and sun for the plants—and the weeds love it too. it’s that time of year when you can turn around start right over again once you’re done.

today i tackled the greens bed. while not a large area, for some reason it has the highest concentration of weed growth. i’m sure there is an answer for this, but i don’t know what it is. do some plants attract weeds more than others?

take the purslane for example (lower right corner in photo above)—it is insidious here, and i am repeatedly struck dumb by its genius in spawning multitudes of itself, especially in hard-to-weed places, like the herb and greens beds (and if one more person tells me that this hateful specimen is edible, i just don’t know what i’d say, but i shouldn’t be held responsible). it’s the kind of weed that grows back instantaneously upon removal . . . and i do mean that. i have spent whole evenings cleaning the beds of it, only to discover it growing back while i water afterwards. arrrggh. but i try to be patient.

i worked this morning until the sun got too hot but i got half the bed cleaned out

and i’ll work on the rest later this evening. i’m looking forward to getting this done . . looks like there is enough space where seeds didn’t germinate to throw some spinach or swiss chard into those spots.

i have one last thing i need to buy for the yard and i keep not having enough time to do it. i need to get some more awesome coleus and caladium for the front of the house and the planters. i love those kinds of foliage plants, with their weird coloring and shade-loving habits. i just hope i can find some leftovers i like. the few i have are adjusting well

but i need some more to make a display.

speaking of colorful leaves, i finished the leaflet scarf the other day and today i gave it a bit of a blocking

now, i know what you’re going to say . . . that you liked it better unblocked, or that you probably wouldn’t block it. and if i was knitting this just to wear myself, i might not block it either. but i’ve noticed in progress photos that the stitch pattern has a tendency to form horizontal ripples, which look a little unkempt. and the drape isn’t really as nice if i leave it unblocked. so in the quest for the most photogenic fabric, i went for blocking.

that said, i definitely was not looking to block all the texture out of it—in fact i hoped to preserve as much as i reasonably could. so i felt wet blocking was out, and opted for steam blocking. there is a little bit more ability to mold and play with the fabric when you steam it, during that drying period after it’s been blasted and saturated with vapor.

i thought i’d share the process as best i can . . it was a little hard to photograph since my workroom has some dark spots (most notably over the pressing bench; please excuse the slightly blurry pictures). first i pinned it out gently, without stretching, to straighten the edges on top of a dry, thick towel

you can use blocking wires, but i was too lazy today to work with them in this tight space. as you can see, i have my white towel nearby which is well-soaked with cold water. my iron is turned on and hot. here is a shot of the texture beforehand

i laid the wet towel over the pinned-out scarf, and without applying any pressure, i touched the raised surface of the towel with the hot iron, causing a blast of steam to shoot down through to the scarf. i held the iron there a few seconds and moved on to the next spot. it is VERY important not to apply pressure to the fabrics at all—the goal here is to create steam only, while providing an airspace over the knit fabric to trap that steam so it can permeate the yarn.

when i lifted the towel away, the texture had changed somewhat

and the surface of the fabric had lost its slightly-rumpled look, to take on a nice smooth appearance. it’ important to allow the steamed piece to lie pinned until the fabric is dry again. ths takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the weather—the perfect amount of time to get my ten minutes of spinning in (thanks for the tip carole!)

(i’ve been trying to find little moments for this alpaca top i bought at wooster, and which i started spinning in class last weekend. ten minutes a day isn’t going to get it spun very fast, but at least it’s something . . . and the spinning wheel is just a few feet away)

ok, back to the pressing bench—here is a shot of one blocked scarf half with the other unblocked, for comparison

as i said, it’s purely a matter of taste which way you want to go with it, but for my purposes, i feel the nice neat edges and unwrinkled look do the piece more justice in photos. there’s enough texture showing to know what the possibilities are.

and if you block it and don’t care for it, you can dampen it and allow it to relax back a little. wool is very malleable—if one thing doesn’t work, another might. the only thing you don’t want to do with it is press so hard that you crush the yarn and put permanent creases in it.

blocking is NOT pressing. blocking is allowing the yarn to soak up moisture so that the fibers are weakened enough to be stretched or otherwise molded, then allowing the fiber to return to its natural moisture level while held in this controlled shape. often this encourages the fiber to bloom and its natural twist (which gets distorted by knitting and handling) to return. blocking is a coaxing process more than a “beating into submission” process, and one which allows a margin for changing and remolding.

there are different types of blocking and which type you choose depends on what your aims are. certainly, we’ve all chosen an unwise method at times, but thankfully, you can rework it if something goes pear-shaped.

ok, lesson over! i need to get back to this monster of a pattern i’m writing (that is, it’s big, not ugly). i spent all day on it yesterday and now i see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel (vanessa, it’s on its way). and i’d like to actually do some knitting . . .

i put a few repeats on this baby last night and if i get in from the garden early enough (must get back to that weeding too), i just might finish it up tonight.

i dunno though . . . that could be a stretch. things don’t look promising