Archive for 2010

crossings

Friday, December 31st, 2010

on this very last day of 2010, i have one final holiday pattern to ring out the old year while swinging in the new. and a mighty fancy one it is—sure to be on many a dance card as we knitters prepare for spring celebrations, such as weddings and proms.

what girl could resist such a tempting confection as this pair of lacy lovelies, with their millionaire’s mile of lavishly twining lace leaves?

you need just to pull them on to feel elegantly made up and that’s a whole lotta bang for the knitting buck, if you ask me.

they’re fun to knit too—they go surprisingly fast, with the anticipation of seeing yet another leaf repeat glide off the needles. it’s a project that will have you earning your own admiration—the results are so much more than the sum of their parts.

shown here, size large in dirty water dyeworks lucia, a merino/nylon sock blend, in colorway fairy dust.

simply irresistible.

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

congratulations to stephanie, owner of dirty water dyeworks (formerly with dye dreams), for bringing her wonderful dye work back to the market through her new company. thank you stephanie for your enthusiastic support of my work; here’s to a happy, healthy, and prosperous new start.

many thanks and much love to my good friend helena for once again gracing this page and my design with her charm and beauty—she is a natural. and so much fun to work with, too; her smile gets me every time.

isn’t she cute??

loose ends

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

i love this week after christmas—the rush is over and it’s quiet for a few days; time to find places for all the christmas gifts, spend time visiting with friends, and get reacquainted to the various knitting projects i set aside in favor of gift knitting (which i enjoy, but not as an endurance sport).

monday evening was the night of our spinning class holiday party—we pushed it off to this week so that a special guest could join us

our good friend anne marie was in town and spent the evening with us!
we were SO happy to see her; spinning class just hasn’t been the same since she moved away—none if us can quite fill her shoes; we’ve missed her. beckie popped in to party with us, too—how lucky can we get?

she brought along those waffle mitts she started on christmas eve in briar rose grandma’s blessing. to compensate for the thinner yarn, she went down one needle size (to a 3.5mm) and is knitting the instructions for the next larger mitt. we love them!
(and look kim, beckie is wearing your christmas gift—sooo pretty)

even susan was back—she has to sit out december classes because she works at macy’s and has an insane holiday schedule. it was a hilarious reunion—we know how to have fun. linda passed out holiday crackers, so we each had a paper crown to wear. everyone brought a dish and we had a terrific supper of soup, bread, salad, cheese, and christmas cookies.

one of these days, we’ll even do some spinning, haha.

i’ve been trying to get my knitting reorganized so i can move on from where i left off before the holidays. i’ve done well with getting small projects off the needles

like this cabled keyhole scarf in green blackstone tweed. this one is for me—i’m trying to decide if i should get more yarn to make a matching hat and/or mitts. i’m going to need warm accessories for my trips in january and february and they’d be quick enough to knit up. hmmm . . .

i also finished up the keyhole scarf i was knitting in spirit trail birte DK, but i gave it away without a thought before taking pictures—DUH. all i have is this photo from a few weeks back. however, i do have enough yarn left to make another

AND barb had enough sunna fingering in the same color (rosewood) to give me for a matching pair of fine cabled mitts. no worries, i’m not depriving her—she knit a bel air sweater and matching hayrick socks with it before i wrestled begged the leftovers from her, haha—and matching mitts would just push that look over the line, don’t you think?

i bundled it all up this very morning into my new tall mia bag from michele’s etsy shop in readiness for my first trip of 2011—these will be the perfect travel knitting (and even better if i can manage to get those first rows of each piece on the needles before we leave—then they will truly be grab and go knititng).

i’ve got several one-off handsies hanging around that need mates. i had hoped to get these done before christmas to send to the texas gang of hansons, but failed—i know they’d be equally welcome as a new year’s gift, though. and quick enough to complete while watching late-night TV (we’re on a movie jag this week. also catching up on season 1 of rubicon).

and then there’s david’s rustic cabled toque, which so many of you commented on favorably after it was featured throughout our montreal adventure.

i love this hat too, and always intended to write up the pattern, but it slipped away form me last year. so i sat down to put it to paper this week—i’ll probably make one of these for myself, as well.

this one is knit from a chunky merino 2-ply, spun by mountain meadow wools and dyed by briar rose fibers in a unique, one-time batch last winter

(it’s not on chris’s site . . . she only has it in sport weight now—see nate’s sock yarn).

anyway, it’s time to knit some samples to try out the sizing. i cast one on in handspun that david chose from my stash

a beautiful brown and cream romney, swirled with black alpaca. but that won’t do for serious testing—i’m writing the pattern for two gauges and three sizes, so i need something standard to work with from size to size.

karen and val from mountain meadow wools have come to the rescue and agreed to provide their yarn in two weights—laramie and cody, now available from them in a wonderful range of dyed colors as well as natural solid.

i’m excited to be working with their yarn again—it is deliciously squishy artisan-spun merino, culled from a community of basque sheep ranchers in wyoming. it’s so elastic that even in the heavy weight, these big cables are easy to do. you can read all about their ambitious venture on their website.

i’ll knit on my handspun one while i wait for the test yarn to arrive.

i’m working on some other patterns this week too; i need to get a few squared away before the traveling begins. did you know i’m going to be away from home for nearly six weeks straight?? yeah . . . i think i’m only going to be home for five days between jan 5 and feb 15. and before i go, i’d like to get restarted on my own pilgrim cardigan as well as the wasp and rose lace shawl (the little project can travel with me, but these might have to stay home).

so yes—i’ve gotta get serious about desk work before i go.
as in, starting now . . .

but of course in the mail today, another thing that wants to distract me, but which i may pack straightaway into my travel bag to peruse during idle moments (i’m sure that a few of you got yours this week as well)

ok, i admit it—i peeked

couldn’t help myself.

photo finish—we have a winner

Monday, December 27th, 2010

before i start my very long post-holiday post, let’s pause to give a cheer for gina f., winner of knitting at home, by leanne prouse, published by sixth&spring books.
big thanks to sixth&spring for their generosity in supporting a giveaway to go with each book review—i know you all appreciate the fun.

and now for the christmas recap—did you all have a nice holiday??
we had a lovely, lovely weekend—this year i fully enjoyed our whole schedule of events. we’ve lived in ohio for quite a while now, but it’s taken me all these years to get used to being home alone on a big holiday. when we lived in NYC, we either traveled to our families close by or celebrated with a crowd of friends and other strays like us; i often did a lot of cooking for a lot of people, and ended the day tired, but happily content to have done it.

now we spend only part of the pre-christmas week with friends and the holiday is for us alone, since all of our friends have family nearby. i think we’ve finally hit our stride in making it a romantic day at home for just the two of us—we really enjoyed it this year, haha!

but before the big day, we had quite a weekend to navigate . . .

when i left off last, i had finished the body of david’s christmas sweater and was partway up the sleeve. i was also running very low on yarn and on time, about to run off to beckie’s to prepare our christmas eve dinner.

beckie, of course, knows just how to quell one’s anxieties—she provided an appropriate quantity of the right ingredients and a sharp knife for chopping and before i knew it, my heart had settled back to its normal rhythm.

i got to her house in the early afternoon and when we realized there wasn’t all that much to get ready, we made short work of prepping all the ingredients for a 5 pm cooking time. mark helped out wherever he was needed.

once we had the chopping out of the way, we settled at her kitchen table to swap gifts and knit (and eat cookies, haha)

beckie has been knitting hot waffles mitts and hats for her loved ones this year—it’s a favorite repeat project for her. she had some nice briar rose grandma’s blessing on hand and decided to cast on for set for mark’s mom

isn’t that pretty? it’s lighter weight than the pattern calls for, so she’ll use a smaller needle and knit one size up.

i finished my sleeve increases and got to the underarm by mid-afternoon, then started the sleeve cap. men’s sleeves are quite large though; it’s not as quick to accomplish all that as it is for my own skinny sleeves.

by the time i had put my knitting aside so we could start preparing the paella, i was feeling like i could get all the knitting done some time that night. phew.

as i was telling you in an earlier post, we tried a recipe by emeril green, which beckie saw him prepare on TV. one thing we learned is that next time, we’ll use a different recipe—this one had good flavor but called for WAY too much liquid (there must have been a typo in that recipe). for some strange reason, the amount did not set off a red flag for either of us, haha, even though we both know better. anyway, we ended up with a dish that was a lot more like gumbo . . . but as i said, it was delicious.

actually, for a while, things were looking completely normal—the water was cooking off at a decent pace and it seemed as though all would be well.

however, things got soggier just after this shot was taken—for some reason, at this point, the dish seemed to generate even more liquid, rather than reducing it. ah me.

beckicita cooked and cooked, but to no avail—it was just soupy.

we also had some yummy side dishes to support our efforts, including this chili dip from pete

an orange-and-olive salad, and some roasted stuffed peppers from our own kitchen.

once the neighbors arrived and the evening got underway, the fact that the paella was a little different became moot—it tasted great and everyone enjoyed it immensely, asking for leftovers to bring home.

zoë the dog was completely beside herself all day in anticipation of treats that fall from the sky.

david talked over electronics with asia (she’s in high school) and her mom andie while we put the finishing touches on dinner.

we really enjoyed putting this dish together and it’s a fantastic solution for the feast of seven fishes—low on hassle and high on tasty results. we will definitely do it again; next time, we’ll do our homework better and not allow what we see on TV to lull us into trusting just one recipe.

after supper, we made a big pot of coffee and put out desserts, then beckie organized and led a game of scattergories.

i sat in without officially playing, so that i could continue working on my sleeve cap

and by the time i went home, it was done, yay.
not done knitting quite yet, however—when we got back to our house, i still had to pick up the neck edge and add the neckband. and i’m happy to say that after all that i did have yarn left over.

two yards or so, maybe three??
i do not recommend trying this at home . . .

by that time it was 2am and i was pretty beat, so i laid the project aside to finish in the morning. it still needed blocking and seaming of the sleeves and armholes.
bright and early on christmas morning i rose and after a couple of strong cups of coffee, i set to work.

i needed to block the sleeves and body before putting them together at the armholes. normally, when the body is all in one piece, i opt for soaking and blocking it wet, but without time for that, i just pinned it out to the right width and shot it full of steam.

i definitely wanted to get the fabric blocked somehow, because it changes the hand and surface appearance so much.

it’s much more even and lovely after a good steaming or washing.

then it was on to seaming. the sleeves went in like a dream, thank goodness; i really didn’t have time to fuss with a finicky fit.

i had a pleasant surprise while sewing up the underarm seams—there turned out to be a really great textural design where the stitch pattern meets along the underside of the sleeve

it became especially prominent when i gave the seams a final press later on—it looks like an extra-fancy quill pen doesn’t it? i love that . . .

a few final touches with a lot of steam to tame those spots where the cables bump up against a seam—i like to use my hands and/or a cloth to mold the steamed fabric into shape (this also works well for sculpting large cables into submission for the most pleasing effects)

this process does not go all that quickly—i put in about five hours or so of finishing work that morning. and thank goodness david continued to snore away, taking the opportunity to sleep as late as he wanted.

finally around 3pm, the job was complete. there was even plenty of time to wrap and place it under the tree. it was close though . . .

i don’t think i’ve really explained anything about this design, but it does have a story—it’s a remake of an older design, the first sweater i ever knit for david. i’ve told about that sweater before, but i’ll tell it again quickly here.

for our first christmas, i could not think of a gift to buy him. suddenly, about ten days before the holiday, i had it—i could knit him a sweater; he LOVED all the handknits i had laying around, he’s want one for himself.

only problem was, i didn’t have the yarn or enough time to do it. so i sent off for the yarn, thinking i’d wrap it all up with a photo of the pattern and give it to him that way. i picked out a cranberry red donegal tweed that i was certain would look smashing on him. i just wished i had thought of it about four months earlier.

at the time, my favorite men’s sweater book was this old bucilla pamphlet

i’d knit several sweaters from it for my father, brothers, and previous SOs, all to good success. i decided to use instructions from it to design my own variation; i was totally pumped.

anyway, when david opened the box, there was a loooong silence, followed by a long look. the color drained from his face. i could not understand what was happening—wasn’t he thrilled to pieces??

he sorta croaked, “i don’t have to learn to knit, do i??”

i laughed so hard i fell off the sofa—talk about a complete misunderstanding and mixed signals, haha. suffice it to say that he was visibly relieved to learn that i’d be the one knitting the sweater.

it took some time of course—in those days i worked full time elsewhere and did not knit with as quite as much intensity as i do now. in a few months, i had a completed sweater, which he loved right away. he wore that thing almost constantly in cold weather for the next 13 years.

i think it’s safe to say that he loved it to death; he wore it til it hardly stayed up on his shoulders by itself.

i don’t know how, but he even wore a hole in the back of the neck. when i suggested it might be time to put it it out of its misery, he looked offended and said it was his lounging sweater (for a while at the end, he wore it only after he’d showered and changed from his work clothes to spend the rest of the night watching TV).

he finally retired it early last fall, when he began wearing the whitfield jacket as his lounging gear. he found another use for the old red sweater though

and ever since, it has held its place as a draft dodger at the foot of the upstairs porch door.

anyway, the new sweater is a recreation of the old red favorite, which had a looser, more casual fit and a classic textured fabric.

with a few small changes in styling and gauge, it worked out beautifully in this light brown BFL handspun yarn. david wore it all day yesterday, so i spent some time stalking him to get a few photos as he moved about the house.

it think he likes it—he’s wearing it again now and he gladly modeled it for my classes today. another year of christmas knitting put to bed—now it’s time to reorganize and think about the new year knitting and the pattern i have to catch up on. i have a few new things on the needles already, including a copy of david’s winter hat that so many of you requested the pattern for.

and with that, i’m going to finally end this post—time to head upstairs to relax and work on some actual knit projects. see you next time.

light up the night

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

once halloween has passed each year, we all begin to speculate about what our neighbor bret will cook up for his christmas display. by all, i mean the various friends and students who come and go at my house, where, from across the street, we own the best seats on the block for viewing his efforts.

and now i’ve got the blog hooked on it too—several weeks in advance, i start getting hopeful email and comments, asking if i’ll be sharing photos of bret’s decorations this year.

and the answer is of course i will—it is a much-anticipated blog event and i wouldn’t miss it for the world.

and so, without further ado, i bring you

bret’s christmas house, 2010.
i really do think he’s outdone himself this year.

with such a blaze of light, i had no problem getting clear, well-lit shots within the twenty or so feet between the sidewalk and his front door.

i like to pick a route through the maze of colorful figures and lighted objects, then explore every square foot on either side of my path so as not to miss a thing. this time, i started at the walk to the front door

where i had a panoramic view across the whole front plot

i took a left just before hitting the stoop and there i found a trio of impish elves, climbing up to the porch from the elf bus, which just pulled up from the north pole

these are new this year, crafted by bret during the break between november 1 and december 15th. they are life-sized, i think—i’m not really sure how big elves are, but these seem about right.

just past the elves, a few reindeer can be found grazing amid bret’s planting beds

(i found these fascinating—they are made from the same sort of fuzzy stuff a doormat is made of, but longer and it’s such an effective treatment)

hmm, reindeer and elves . . . that could only mean one thing—an even MORE notable personage cannot be far away. and sure enough, when i look up to my right

there’s santa in all his glory. and not just any santa either—he’s a dancing santa. he is set in motion by movements across the porch.
the kids just love him.

obviously, bret thinks very highly of santa—he’s wreathed with so many lights, garlands and hand-crafted wood ornaments, it’s a wonder he’s not camera shy. like deer in the headlights, i can hardly take my eyes off him.

but eventually i do, only to discover that further on, there is more. a candy cane lane surrounds this blue tree of lights with snowmen looking on from afar

and at the very corner, this lovely mama reindeer and her little baby stand guard over the southerly entrance (you can come into the yard from either direction)

one last look over my shoulder and off i go—i knew you were waiting for some last minute holiday cheer, from my street to yours.

happy holidays!

ps: i finished my knitting at 2am this morning and put the final stitches and steaming on it at 3 pm today, with plenty of time to wrap and place it under the tree before david got up—i told you he was a late sleeper, haha.
i’ll show you blow-by-blow photos of the last minute rush tomorrow—now it’s time to open our gifts!