Archive for April, 2010

small schemes

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

we are greening up so fast, it’s hard to remember now what the yard looked like two weeks ago. a couple of days of big rain tipped the scales in favor of green and everything is leafing out heavily. the last of the spring flowers are fading and now the strawberry plants are blooming.

haha, i have nearly a whole row of chard plants that wintered over and want to be part of the action. i may try to transplant them, but i may just harvest them in a few days. i found that these plants got a little tough toward the end of last season and it might be just as well to retire them in favor of new ones from seed. see how dirty they get without the mulch around the bottom? score another one for newspaper and straw . . .

we’re planning the garden layout so that we can plant the fruit-bearing things around the 21st of may. much as we’re all itching to start now, there is still a danger of frost here until memorial day. i may get some seeds in before i go on vacation (may 10th; i am so ready). if i can do that, then the chard, scallions, okra, beans etc. should all be sprouted by the time the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant go in and we ‘ll be able to lay down the paper and straw mulch right afterward.

that’s the plan i have in my head anyway . . .

our one good asparagus plant has sprouted in the last two days and is already 15 inches high. unfortunately, it’s the only one so far to make a showing. our poor asparagus bed has been such a failure—this will be the fourth year and so far, nada. we didn’t want to dig it up last year to amend the soil, but seeing the success that process brought to the rest of the garden, we’ve decided it’s time to overhaul this section, too. we’ve ordered new crowns and are getting the soil tested; we’ll re-do the whole thing again. maybe we’ll be able to salvage a few viable crowns, but if not, we’ll just have to wait a couple more years.

good thing i’m a productive knitter and can see results elsewhere in my life.

i blocked the baby blanket yesterday and was thrilled that it ended up exactly the size i’d estimated and used just about the yardage i’d figured, too. i can’t say enough about how much i loved working with this yarn—classic merino sport by knitting notions, colorway winter sky.

it washed up and spun out beautifully in the hand wash cycle (in a mesh bag) of my machine, while keeping its shape very well—you know how i feel about those nice corners . . .

it needed very little blocking—for photography purposes, i straightened the edges with the blocking wires. but a busy mom could easily wash and lay it flat without fussing. i could have stretched it more, but i wanted to retain the cushy texture. the fabric is soft as all getout and yet the stitch pattern really pops. i just need to find a baby to model it, hehe.

so yesterday, i was emailing with catherine, the dyer, who is knitting her blanket in the persimmon colorway. we got chatting about what to do with the leftover bits (about 150 yards in my case) and i described a hat i had in mind. well, she thought that was a great idea so last night

i knit one up. how cute is that?? in fact, we like it so much we are talking about creating a sweater/hat/bootie set. see how these things happen? if you ever wonder where i get my ideas, here’s an example . . .

i think maybe you are getting a glimpse this month into my helplessness in the face of baby knits. i actually try to stay away from them most of the time because for me, they are a black hole of distraction. i like them far too much and will easily fill a box with little sweaters and hats and socks in the blink of an eye if left untethered. since i have no children and no nieces or nephews of the right age for newborn knits at the moment (except for one in las vegas and well, he doesn’t need wool), this mostly wouldn’t do.

but i do indulge sometimes and this winter, i had the idea that it would be good to design a few baby things for spring and summer, because i know i’m not the only one who needs a fix now and then. things that are an extension of my other work, only babyfied.

in addition to this blanket (and maybe a sweater set) worked in catherine’s yarn, my friend debby has had a long-standing request for another child’s dress or two, something like this one—easy to knit, easy for kids to dress themselves, uncomplicated to wear in hot weather. her granddaughters just won’t stop wearing theirs, using them as tops over jeans when they get too short to be dresses.

i haven’t decided what they might be yet, but it’s on my mind.

and there must be another blanket—something lacier and a little more fancy. i loved knitting the honey baby so much last summer that i made plans to design another one in this batch of yarn from fearless fibers

this is deb’s lush MCN luxury—a merino/cashmere/nylon blend that i’ve enjoyed knitting with in a sock project i have going. the yarn makes a beautiful fabric that is light and super-soft, but has a nice density. it will be wonderful in a larger blanket piece. and that color?? is it not de-lish? it’s her chastity colorway, a yummy mix of melon and raspberry, with a little mango mixed in—mmm, mm—i cannot wait to get my hands into this project. i’ve got swatching to do before i can start because i’ve been marking stitch patterns for a few months and need to pare down my ideas. but soon . . .

so that’s what i’m thinking for baby things; i have to leave room for regular shawls and a sweater i want to start as well. my brain is about to explode, so i think i’ll put my feet back on the ground now and tell you what-all i’ve been knitting in the real world. i’m actually down to just a few projects on the needles, which is how i cam to allow my imagination to run wild up there, heh.

twinings is off the needles and grafted, waiting in line for the blocking spot on my living room floor. maybe i’ll do that later this afternoon or tonight. this is such a pretty stole and so easy to knit—it looks much, MUCH more difficult to knit than it is. as someone said to me during the spring fling, “it’s my lotsa bang for the buck shawl—the lacy look and compliments i get for it totally outweigh its difficulty level”.

i worked a little on campanula too—i’ll probably take this one along for car knitting this weekend as we are, after all, making a quick trip to maryland for the wool show. i wasn’t going to go, since i just got home, but another errand is taking us in that direction and we can visit james, so why not? we’ll only have a few hours at the show on saturday morning, but if you see us there, please stop to say hello.

i am zipping through my socks, especially the red ones, for which i wrote up the pattern and sent it to ronni for proofing already. i’ll work on the pattern for the yellow one next.

thank you all so much for the nice compliments on my henley sweater pattern; i have enjoyed wearing it and i’m glad the photo shoot reflects how much. it’s a terrific spring sweater. jocelyn is actually getting ready to knit a second one for herself and we went “yarn shopping” yesterday on the knitting notion site. she was all set to purchase the superwash sport merino, but then catherine’s merino/bamboo caught her eye; what did i think?

they are very different yarns, but it so happens that anne marie is knitting her henley in briar rose sea pearl, a similar yarn to the merino/bamboo and i love what is happening with hers. since i had some merino bamboo in the house, i told jocelyn i’d swatch it to see for sure. late last night i cast on 28 sts and knit up the cable pattern

while the overall fabric is thinner and silkier with more open holes, the stitch definition is still great and my stockinette swatch has a nice, even surface

i hit the correct gauge spot on using the needle size stated in the pattern for both swatches, however, i told jocelyn to also try it on a needle one size smaller just to see. sometimes, the stitch gauge changes very little but the fabric has that little extra bit of firmness that feels right.

here is the new swatch next to the original swatch in sport wool

when pinned out to a 4-inch square, the cable rib remains stretchy and comfortable, neither too taut nor too flabby. i like it. BTW, this is how i do gauge swatches in all ribbings where the pattern says “X sts to 4 inches, slightly stretched”. what the heck does that mean??

i cast on the number of sts, knit my swatch, then stretch and pin to 4 inches. if i like the tension and the resulting fabric and can visualize that it will be nice as an overall garment, i’m good. if it feels way to tight or hangs too loosely, i change my needles til i get what i want. then i keep in mind as i knit that the garment will change size once it’s washed and worn. i make sure to try on the sleeve or another piece as i go.

here you can see an up-close comparison of the two fabrics with both swatches unpinned. the sport wool on the left has a slightly fuzzy, soft, dense surface and a heavier hand. it’s very stretchy and comfy to wear. the stitches in the merino bamboo swatch on the right fit together less tightly and the yarn has a much smoother, silkier surface that allows the openwork more room to grow. and yet the stitch definition and rib remain distinct, so i’m ok with that—it’s a more “summery” fabric, different, but equally desirable.

this is how i go about assessing swatches when making a yarn substitution; i may swatch on more needle sizes and i may even swatch unrelated yarn just to see how different yarns react in the stitches. of course, in this case, it’ll be up to jocelyn to swatch more extensively, but this gives us both an idea of which fabric is most appealing to her (and she has one henley in sport merino already).

oy, that’s enough i think—my brain needs a rest. time for a bike ride i think and maybe for you—more flowers . . .

henley with a twist

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

those knitters who’ve seen me during my travels this month will attest that i’ve been virtually living in this sweater. the lighter seasonal fabric has a cotton-y stretchy hand for the ultimate in next-to-the-skin comfort with a neat, tailored appearance. the pretty lace-and-cable stitch pattern manages to be feminine and sporty all at once, showing just a peek of whatever you want to wear (or not!) underneath. a real cross-climate winner, this one.

with the requisite row of tiny close-set buttons created by jennie the potter, this shirt is the essence of a traditional henley with a modern artisan look.

shown above: size extra-small with one inch of negative ease, in knitting notions classic merino superwash sport, colorway dusk, a gorgeous blue/violet that changes with the light.

shown below, size medium, knit and modeled by my dear friend jocelyn as her 2010 olympic gold project in briar rose grandma’s blessing

jocelyn wanted a bit more ease in her version and modified the lengths throughout the pattern to fit her petite frame. it looks great in the fall colorway she chose, a gray/brown/gold blend, shot with slate blue. i think she like it pretty well . . .

and justly so—look at the amazing fit she achieved here. stunning, right??
i’m so lucky to be able to work with a wonderful test knitter like jocelyn; she knit the whole thing in eighteen days for the olympics.

go her.
mine took slightly longer, but i love it just as much . . .

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

many kudos to catherine at knitting notions for her generous yarn support—she’s got a real winner is this lovely all-season merino sport yarn. it’s comfy, soft, and very practical for active spring and fall travel and activities. catherine has a wide selection of other wonderful yarns and knitting accessories in her online shop, all of them as lovely as this one—go check it out. or look for her throughout the summer at one of the wool shows on her busy calendar; she’s probably planning to visit one near you soon.

dear david, i don’t know how you always manage to make me look so much better than i actually do, but i really, really appreciate it—thank you!

loopy me

Monday, April 26th, 2010

by 1 pm today, it started to dawn on me that there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to dissolve the fog in my brain and i should resign myself to being a little behind all day. what a weekend . . .

my second spring fling was as fun as the first and this time, i had the pleasant experience of catching up with participants from last year, as well as meeting new friends

katj, everyone’s favorite in our ravelry knitspot group, was in da house with beautiful wing-o-the-moth shawl and a smile

it was so nice to finally meet her in person—she always makes me grin when i read her posts and comments, as well as the nice notes she adds to her pattern orders. but wow, ravelers, her photos do NOT do her justice—she’s ten times prettier in person; just sayin’ . . .

we had a couple of advanced lace classes; that’s maryann in middle of the photo—she came all the way from sweden for the fling, managing to circumvent the volcanic ash disaster of last week (claudia of wollmeise was not so fortunate and had to cancel her trip).

a new feature of the class is that i bring a library of swatches along to illustrate the yarn discussion and fondling them has become a favorite part of the session for everyone. by the end of class, the orderly arrangement of the pieces is totally violated (grin!).

we also had a couple of sweater fitness classes. once again, i did not write down this wonderful knitter’s name and with my brain not working right today, i cannot remember it. sigh.
she has knit three ondule sweaters, all in briar rose grandma’s blessing—doesn’t she look great in it?

the weekend was a blur of classes and socializing; with hardly a moment to open the computer, much less blog—sorry about that; i hate not writing for days. i arrived home to find i had very few pictures in my camera—none of my fellow teachers, wendy, gryphon, and jared, all of whom i admire and enjoyed getting to know better.

there were knits galore and so many nice people stopped me to share their finished knitspot shawls and things—like this bee fields triangle in the original wooly wonka merino laceweight

there was also a private teacher’s trip to loopy central on our first night—i would be a little embarrassed about getting special treatment except that it was so fun, hehe.

i really enjoy looking at all the stuff in sheri’s shop and the way it is organized; she carries an amazing array of products from indie fiber artists. you’d think an online shop would be more industrial behind the scenes, but sheri makes hers a home away from home, with beautiful arrangements and accessories everywhere. and did i mention neat?
i wanna be just like sheri when i grow up . . .

while i was there, some credit card damage may have been done . . .

i was really REALLY good about the yarn—i can be pretty callous when i need to be, especially in light of all i brought home from sock camp.

i purchased just one skein of black trillium merilon sock yarn, which roped me in before i could gain my senses and would not go back on the shelf no matter how i tried.

the colorway is licorice twist—SO not me, i know. but i swear, this skein took one look at me, screamed “cookie!!” and jumped into my hands. i just knew if she was there she’d buy it, so i had to get it, too—she made me.
virtual peer pressure is a terrible, powerful thing.

so just one brilliant skein of yarn, but i succumbed on something else that i wasn’t shopping for, didn’t need, but had to have, once i saw it.

it was wendy’s fault.
these are a pair of sajou scissors, a new item in sheri’s shop. wendy was dithering over the fancier, tortoise and ivory ones when i happened to walk by. i was like, “oh, those are so pretty!” but totally immune, having many excellent pairs of scissors at home, including my very first pair, a christmas gift i received at the age of six or seven (wiss needlework scissors; still used daily).

then sheri pointed out the eiffel tower set and my hand shot out and clamped down on them so fast it would have made your head spin to watch it. just terrible.
i don’t know what it is about the eiffel tower but i do have a thing for it, and by extension, any representation of the structure. these are such a brilliant translation of that architecture into a functional object, really—they were irresistible.

the final thing i purchased was a replacement for my knit kit, which was a gift from my friend chris last year and which i used a lot. i like the way it organizes all the tools i need in one convenient package that is slim and very portable (unlike my old traveling toolkit). my little las vegas nephew, amad, fell head-over-heels in love with it while we were visiting last year and i couldn’t bear to take it away from him when we left. this time, i got a turquoise one; it’s already found a home in my traveling bag.

i received two lovely yarn gifts over the weekend that i want to share. the first is very special—created just for me by sally and stacy

sally raises rabbits and has the fiber spun together with silk and merino at a small local mill to create a gorgeous, soft lace yarn base. when i saw her wing-o-the-moth knit up in it, it took my breath away.

she got together with stacy, the dyer behind tempted handpainted yarns, and together they devised a colorway for these two skeins that they thought would look great on me (and i have to say, they did a bang-up job, didn’t they??). it’s really dark here today and i was having trouble photographing the color, which is a little more gray and muted than you see here—something like this photo below, but not so shadowy

it’s so perfect for me and i’m so touched, i could cry.

i have 400 yards which will almost certainly become a little triangle shawl—if i can manage it, i’d like to get that on the needles before i go to visit kim in san diego in mid-may. i always say, there’s nothing like a pretty little shawlette project to take on vacation . . .

the other beautiful yarn gift i received was included in the goodie bag for each participant

a richly-dyed skein of wollmeise sock yarn in the femme fatale colorway—ooooh (at least, that’s what my kniting class said when i showed it to them this afternoon). i really missed seeing claudia at the fling this year; i wish i could have thanked her in person.

like last year, i got tons of knitting done during the days of the retreat, especially on my sock projects. the two socks i started at camp got the most air time

this one in STR lightweight, in the lodestone colorway just flowed off the needles and by the end of the weekend it was done

but when i tried it on, it was strangely snug and felt sorta rigid all over, even though it should have been my usual size for this yarn (according to my math). during class today when i was examining it, it finally clicked—i knit the whole thing on one size smaller needles than i meant to. oops. i’m not really sure how that happened, since i swatched on the correct needles, but i’m going to blame it on camp, where i did the cast on (i should know better, haha). it’s sure to fit someone . . . but now i’ll need another skein of that color because i wanted that particular one for myself.

my other camp sock also whizzed along as a great companion project for socializing. again in STR lightweight, this is the colorway we named at camp—paula mae. i don’t see it on the website yet, but i’m sure it will appear at some future date—it’s just too irresistible not to. i love the magic carpet feeling of the colors. and they fit exactly as they should.

i got plenty of work done on my twinings stole as well—almost finished; i have just two more repeats of the pattern to do and then i can graft and block it. i should be able to knock that out tonight, in fact.

i knit only a little bit on my campanula scarf—much less than i thought i would

it seemed like a good idea to bring it since it is an easy pattern that i’ve already memorized, but no—i need to keep my eyes on the fine yarn a little too much for it to be good in a crowd. it’s a better choice for airplane knitting . . .

i brought way too many projects along, but that turned out to be good—i ended up spending nine hours in the detroit airport yesterday, waiting for my 30-minute flight to akron. oy. myself and three other ladies got caught in a black hole of airline delays and connection issues. my traveling partners were completely amused by the fact that i finished two socks and almost half a stole during our wait.

i’m so glad to be home—can you tell?? i’m anxious to block and photograph the baby blanket i finished before i went to camp. i have several patterns backed up that just need a few final touches which i had to be home to finalize. now i’ll be able to release them over the next couple of weeks. and of course, i’m also pumped to start working on some new patterns—a couple of shawls and the socks i’ve got on the needles now. lots of exciting work to begin.

and then there’s the garden—it’s time to get the ground turned and it looks like my friend kris came by with a few things to plant already. we’re finally getting a great dose of rain (miserable may came a little early this year) which will help soften the vegetable plot for tilling.

(variegated solomon seal)
newspaper is piling up for the mulch and david took a soil sample for testing last week. we are primed and ready; i just have to figure out how i’m going to fit all that into my calendar, heh.
well, every year i say that and every year i manage to make room for it.

in the meantime, i’ll take a last couple of weeks to get my ducks in a row and squeeze in a short vacation with beckie to visit kim in san diego. after that, it’s show time.

aren’t the lilacs beautiful this year?

after complaining that the bush wasn’t producing well and maybe needed to be cut back, it defied me absolutely by exploding all over in thick, lush blooms from top to toe. the other side that faces the back street is just covered with them. who knew??
i guess that pruning that david did two years ago is finally showing results.

though we are highly allergic to the flowers, i brought a few in to add to this vase of black tulips, white jonquils, and lily of the valley. they’re too perfect.

well, i think that’s about all i have for the moment, or all my brain can handle right now. i better go see about my email—looks like i have nearly 600 messages to get through over the next day or so—wish me luck!

and here’s a few more flowers for you

join the knit nation

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

here i am traveling again and not home to blog, but i’m part of a blog tour over at the knit nation blog—please click here to take a peek!

Knit Nation is a knitting and spinning expo that will take place in London, England July 29 – 31. There will be yarn, classes, fiber, and festivities including a Ravelry talk and party. Centrally located at the Royal College next door to the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum, you can absorb the sites of London between classes, yarn shopping, and searching for the perfect skein of Wollmeise. Please come join us!

the blog tour is a rolling event that features one of my esteemed teaching colleagues every couple of days; if you are curious about who’s who among the teaching staff, or want to know more about teacher you are considering taking a class from, this is a great way to find out.

the next teacher to be spotlighted will be my good friend clara parkes, on tuesday, april 27th—don’t miss it!