Archive for July, 2010

london baby!

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Anne is presently in london attending/teaching at knit nation, and is unable to blog. She will return early next week to share her adventures.

I may do a guest blog if time permits, but not very likely. As I am thinking of Anne and reading the poetry of Walter Benton, I will share a verse with you.

“When a star falls, I shall wish for you.
When the moon is new, I shall wish for you.
When a bird looks into my window, when a leaf falls before me, when I find a fern in flower – I shall wish for you.”

I would have preferred to share a poem of my own composing, but long ago I vowed to not to use such words for anyone save Anne. To this end Walter Benton will suffice, I love his candor and directness, a descriptive narrative of such beauty, it is something to behold.

Well, as you can see I do miss Anne so very much, fortunately there is Skype. I’m certain some of you miss her as well, she will return to us soon.

Until next time, I bid you adieu.

- Mr. Knitspot-

is it too much?

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

i think i have my travel knitting all squared away now—three shawlettes, my secret project, the mitt kit, and my sunna sweater. do you think it’s too much? because i tried to pare things down, but ended up adding one more project to the pile—the vintage shirt (based on the hayrick sock pattern and knit in spirit trail sunna).

i figured, hey, it will make great mindless knitting to do while chatting. i’m still very torn about whether to work this as a cardigan, or a henley; what do you think? i figure i can ponder the question and canvass people at knit nation while i work on the stockinette back and sleeves.

one of the shawlettes is the brand new pea vines, which i’m knitting up in pandora sock from the woolen rabbit.

kim sent three skeins of green for me to choose from and i picked this adorable spring garden colorway—i just love the mix of light, lettucey green/yellows with a dash of carrot. and it’s knitting up a treat; it was a hard choice though

beckie and i were both immediately attracted to the bright pea green at the top of the photo, but decided i have enough stuff in that color, haha. we both also loved the silvery green of the lettuce colorway, bottom.

but my favorite was spring garden—i thought the variations in it would offer the best dimension in the stitch pattern and would make for the most appealing photos as well, so that’s what i went with.

i’m really enjoying the hand of this soft, sheeny yarn. it has a nice bouncy twist which results in good stitch definition and proud nupps, but is not too rigid; the drape is still wonderful.

i cast on yesterday when it was about 100 degrees and sticky as all get-out here. once i’d established a few rows and knew the pattern i’d charted would work ok, i set it aside for further work later in my trip.

i’m so excited to be heading for london! finally, a trip where i feel almost everything is under control with a day to go before i leave—i actually have the luxury of enjoying my last minute preparations (most of the time, i’m in full panic mode at his point).

i’m looking forward to meeting UK readers and being in a big city again; i want to see ART and eat as much good food as i can. i will try to blog and answer email as often as i can, but word has it that we may encounter some difficulties getting online in our accommodations. linda and david will be holding down the fort while i’m gone and will try their best to keep the email moving.

and i look forward to teaching—BTW, alice added a third section of advanced lace knitting to my schedule recently and there are still a few spots left for the last-minute grab if you decide this week to come (also, looks like beginning lace has some spots; a great class if you need to gently ease into new things).

as i said, the baby blanket is staying home—it’s just to big and unwieldy to travel. in fact, with the intense heat and humidity of the last few days, i have to confess that it hasn’t seen much action—i just couldn’t bear to have a big pile of wool on my lap, even late at night. there are only a few rounds to go too. today it’s cooler and rainy, so possibly i’ll get back to it tonight.

i did, however, finally settle on an edging. or rather, i finally solved the edging question by making one up.

you’d think that with hundreds of existing edgings to choose from, i’d find one that was perfect with no trouble. but you know, once i weed out the ones that don’t work with the numbers, and the ones that don’t “go” visually or that i don’t like, there are often very few left. so i made one up that incorporates the smallest rosebud motif. i’m all set to go, once i return.

along with the arrival of kim’s green yarns at the end of the week, there was a small flurry of other yarn packages to share.

here we have some tanis fiber arts purple label cashmere, a merino/cashmere/nylon fingering yarn in colorway, shadow. another bouncy yarn with a soft hand, not too stiff, that works like butter on the needles. i see that several sprössling sweaters are being knit up in this yarn.

i bought a beautiful skein of tanis fiber arts merino lace while in toronto in june, and soon afterward, tanis contacted me to introduce herself and ask if she could send samples. i was thrilled to say yes—i had not had a chance to see her silver label mulberry silk, but i wanted to, very much

and my wish was granted in this stunning skein of lusciousness, colorway lilac—is this not gorgeous? it’s a wonderful weight too, between a lace and fingering yarn, with 550 yards in 4 ounces—perfect for a shawlette, don’t you think?

as if that wasn’t enough, cheryl got back to me as promised with two skeins of her new cashHue silk/cashmere handspun, in a beautiful chocolate/charcoal/midnight blue color mix. it’s not listed in her etsy shop yet, but i know she’s planning on adding it soon.

this is a custom color blend that she needs a name for (currently named “anne’s request”)—let’s give her some suggestions. i love the earth-and-sky colors; this will definitely become a shawl in the fall months.

i’m going to miss a whole week of gardening while i’m gone and though it’s been either too rainy or too hot to get out in it this weekend, i have a few watery pictures for those who might miss the garden installments next week.

the big news is that the okra is getting very tall now and i’ve started picking pods to eat, yay. just a few for now, but the plants appear to be loaded with more. aren’t they pretty? some are dwarf and some are regular, which is why they are all different sizes.

we’ve had several delicious meals form the garden this week—the curried tofu pasta with greens and last night, a fantastic stir fry of peppers, chilies, scallions, chard stems, okra, shitakes, and zen greens over noodles. i’m definitely going to miss eating my homegrown veggies, so i’m trying to stock up on them while i still can.

we are picking a bowlful of tomatoes nearly every day now, and there will almost certainly be a tide of them to come in all at once while i’m gone. david will have to be on picking duty. beckie came over with kian and we stripped what we could off the vines to put in his bucket to take home (i think he ate almost all the cherry tomatoes before he was back in the car, haha).

above, the costoluto genovese, a heavily-ribbed italian heirloom tomato, is new to us this year, but seems prolific. i’ve had to prune these plants very aggressively every week, as it grows foliage like crazy. i’m hoping the garden will be dry enough this afternoon to give it one more haircut before i go—august is so hard on the plants and i want to remove any hint of damaged leaves and be SURE they have plenty of room for air circulation.

the romas were a little easier to manage and they, too, are filled with fruit. the most perfect tomatoes i’ve ever grown, in terms of shape, complexion, and plumpness; i can’t believe they’re in my garden.

and we have bean sprouts—just a few so far, but i’m hoping for a good turnout from this last planting (the rabbit is staying away, thank you bun). fingers crossed . . .

and i have two very large acorn squash on the vine. i’m not sure when i should pick these—they look very mature right now. and the plant, though covered with flowers, seems reluctant to produce more. i wonder if cutting these off will rekindle its production?

so, i think that’s it for today—now i really do have to move along and get some other tasks done. if i finish in good time and it continues to dry out, i may have a chance to do that pruning before nightfall.

friday eye candy

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

on wednesday, david made his blocking film and he’s editing it now; it was lots of fun to do and he’s planning to have it ready for the pattern release when i get back from london (pattern is with the test knitters and proofreader now; we should be ready to roll it out a day or so after i return).

in the meantime, i have finished blocking shots to kick off the weekend

i’ll admit now that i was a little worried about whether i would really like luciole, when it was done—i just thought maybe it was a bit too literally buggy, you know?

but i’m relieved to say emphatically that i do love it, because i adored working with the spirit trail merino/silk penelope yarn (colorway, falcon’s eye) and had so much fun knitting and designing it (and talking it over with everyone here, haha). it’d be a shame if i felt ambivalent after it was done.

but i don’t—it’s wonderful and mysterious. the shapes in the hem, a scattering of stars over the body, and movement of the colors across the fabric is fantastic, conveying perfectly the feeling of darkest night, lit up by flashing fireflies

and that open, lacy edging makes a pretty row of wings along the top to complete the picture.

the point is always a bit of a surprise when i block it out—i’m never quite sure what it’s going to look like, with its mitered pattern, and this time, it’s extra special, sort of a conjoined insect form that looks like the queen of all fireflies.

we can slowly pan back on it to take in a little more here

the whole hem is actually quite surprising for me. even though i swatched it several times, imagining the effect of a bunch of them in my mind, there’s no substitute for seeing the real-life aggregation of multiple repeating motifs like this.

it’s actually very dramatic, the sculpted effect amplified by the sheen of bombyx silk to the point where the yarn appears as polished metal in places.

it’s very “dark victorian” in it’s way, don’t you think? sorta sherlock holmesian? definitely very different in a way i am strongly attracted to.

of course, in another colorway, like oranges or pale blues, it will be completely different—all citrus and sunshine or ghostly ethereal. and i like either interpretation very much as well.

so yesterday i unpinned it in the morning and took some nice shots on the mannequin.
my initial reaction was confirmed—i like it even more on the figure.

just look at the way those colors move with the undulations in the patterns, without in any way obscuring the stitches or overpowering the lace.

and lacy it is, too—lovely shafts of light fall through the edgings and around the scallops to show off all the pretty holes and curves.

the details stand out, but they don’t say “I’M A BUG SHAWL”

one note: this was my prototype and i wanted to use the yarn to its very limit, so i added a few rows of garter and eyelet at the far edge. but i took those out when i wrote the pattern to allow for some wiggle room (i like to keep the yardage requirement within 25-50 yards of the skein’s limit).

i’ve been on a bit of an mission this year to explore the very victorian idea of wearing one’s interests on one’s sleeve by incorporating examples of a favorite obssession in one’s clothing and home decor, sometimes in an almost shameless over-the-top scale.

they were very fond of hats covered in fruits, fauna, flowers, feathers, and insects, printed fabrics and wallpaper depicting all manner of plant life, and household objects that followed suit.

i love the idea of pushing the limits of what we can accept as truly and universally pretty, while still keeping it on this side of being limited to a theme.

anyway, i hope you like it as much as i do—an orangey one is underway as well and will be in my travel bag when i leave for london on monday.

i’ll have at least one more post before i go and i’ll “bank another couple for david to put up in my absence (if he adds his own comments, so much the better!). and i’ll try as hard as i can to blog from the road—we finally got my iPad set up for blogging, but i’m not sure yet what sort of internet access i’ll have.

happy weekend—see you next time

fruits and fancies of summer

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

so, what do you think the chances are that i’m having a tomato sandwich for lunch today?
i’ll probably dig into this big, ugly, yummy, cherokee purple—my favorite

don’t let the color or the homely appearance fool you—these are fabulously juicy and sinfully delicious; the fine wine of tomatoes.

as i was filling the coffee pot at the sink this morning, i looked out the window to the garden and what do you think i saw?

bunny, you are so dead if you go near that row of green beans.
i mosied out to see what he was up to and sure enough, he was not eating, exactly, but definitely browsing. that could mean only one thing

sprouts. the seeds i planted on saturday are coming up, yay!
the bunny seems to be on to the situation, booo!
i’m going to have to keep an eye on them, though he didn’t eat the last bean plants when they sprouted, so maybe we’re safe.

the chard has sprouted as well (oh! the wonders of water, isn’t it amazing?).
it’s just too much temptation isn’t it bunny?

that’s right, you just stay on YOUR side of garden path and we’ll be fine

he says, “MOI???”
of course later, when i was busily snapping pictures out there, he wandered back, softly creeping toward me, then pretending he didn’t see me and wasn’t interested anyway

he looks very innocent here, but he’s actually nibbling a pepper leaf out the other side of his mouth. he thinks i didn’t see him do that, but i did.

i also saw this

nibbling at the edge of the winter squash leaf. and i definitely saw this

can you see he’s sticking his tongue out? little bugger.

i really don’t mind him nibbling on the leaves of the larger plants; i inspect the whole patch every day and he doesn’t seem to have damaged anything in a major way, except possibly the shallots, the tops of which have been nibbled down to the ground (except a couple, isn’t that weird?)

jody tells me they are probably fine underneath the ground; i’ll know in a month or so, haha.

there is an upside to the bunny though—he loves the fine grasses that are growing up out of the straw in places (i think that straw had a lot of seeds in it; it wasn’t the best quality this year). we had a lot more grass coming up a while back and i wondered this weekend where it had all gone to. i thought maybe it died back from being too dry. but no—the bunny has been eating it. if he keeps up this behavior, he can stay.

and if he takes a shine to that hateful purslane growing everywhere, he can definitely stay; i’ll make him a little bed to sleep in, haha.

but he has to stay away from the bean and chard shoots.
if not, i know where to get bunny stopper and i’m not afraid to use it.

i have very little actual knitting to show you today, but before we go inside to look, i want to show you all the new flowers. i thought we were pretty much done with flowers but i was wrong again—david had a few more secret plantings up his sleeves and then there are some perennials i forgot about.

our hydrangeas couldn’t be more stunning this year—we have at least 15 shrubs and they are all still in full bloom and maintaining beautiful colorations, from deep blue to pink to pale green and carnelian. it takes my breath away that we actually grew them

even our fledgling hydrangea hedge is in good health and showing signs of making it over the hump of the last few bad years. we have a couple that are still undersized, but all are healthy, with at least one bloom.

the rose of sharon, which david mistakenly cut to the ground last year, came back and is flowering now. and then we have these, which i discovered today

beautiful calla lilies (i think) with spotted leaves in the most gorgeous colors. another thing i didn’t know david planted.

my friend anne c. gave me a little start of this cleome just a few weeks ago, neither of us knowing exactly what it was. and look—it’s really cool! i stuck it in a bare spot near my lupine and it just took off. it must like it there. and the flowers are quite unusual; i like them a lot.

the coleus are having a great summer and show such rich color this year and my bay tree seems to have doubled in size, yet again (i dunno what we’ll do with it when it’s too big to carry indoors for winter).

i don’t know if you’ve noticed this where you live, but holy cow, where did all the queen anne’s lace come from this year??

we never had any of this around before, but this year, it’s everywhere—i mean everywhere. and it’s huge. and plentiful. good thing i love it, haha.

we have so much dark green foliage that i’m grateful for these sparkling white flowers, accenting the darker corners of the yard.

and last but not least, the black-eyed susans bloomed this week

i think tomorrow morning, i’ll pick a bouquet for the table.

ok, then let’s take a look at my much less spectacular knitting progress since the other day. first, i’m working on a biggish secret project, trying to get the bulk of that done before i leave for london on monday. so there’s actually a whole LOT of knitting going on, but i can’t show it to you.

but i do need my variety, so i have a couple little things i slipped in between marathon sessions of hidden knitting.

i’ve been working on swatches for the pea vines shawlette for a little while—you might remember this one that i knit in woolen rabbit bambino a couple of weeks ago, where i struggled with getting the nupps right.

kim is sending me a nice skein of grassy green pandora to knit the actual sample, but i wanted to swatch it in her abeilles bamboo/merino yarn as well, to see if that might work as an alternate choice.

a similar swatch in abeilles, colorway, steel magnolia (it’s sopping wet here, which is why it appears so dark)>

though they are almost identical in actual weight and gauge, they are slightly different in the way they drape, the pandora having a little more body and bounce and the abeilles having a little more sheen, drape, and fuzzy bloom. i like the pandora best for the body and stitch definition, but the abeilles is definitely lighter and dressier.

i’m still struggling to get standout nupps—they’re better, but not as dimensional as i’d like. i figured out one thing i was doing wrong and at least now, they don’t pop to the back anymore. i’ll be seeing janel and cookie in just a few days; i’m sure one of them can give me a lesson in the best way to do them. i might just be knitting them too tightly.

so that’s another project i’m trying to get charted before i go, in order to take it with me. and whatever is left of my secret knitting will come along; i can do that on the plane over or in my room.

if the baby blanket isn’t finished by sunday, it will have to stay home—i’m not in a position to buy a separate seat for it, haha.

my niece asked for fingerless mitts for her birthday and since i’m a little burnt out on socks at the moment (have you noticed? the boy socks never even got off the ground; maybe for september) these will be a brilliant substitute (note that i am sneaking in british phrases here and there in anticipation of my trip).

mitts are just like socks in terms of portability, but much less knitting and a little more fun, for some reason (remind me of that if i gripe about them later). plus, they are a great use for those remainders from neck warmer projects that i seem to have lots of.

i took a little break the other night to go through my stash and pull a few things out. my idea is to knit some mitts based on some of my sock designs—ones i feel i’d like to knit again, maybe, but in a different format, you know?
so i put together a mitt-knitting kit that will fit right into my suitcase or tote, with a few yarn balls, a few sets of DPNs, and a few charts.

i know i can knit on the plane going over, but i’m not supposed to bring needles on the flight home. i may try to sneak the mitt-knitting kit through with just one set of DPNs scattered throughout my bag, in order that i don’t go nuts on the flight back (it’s crazy-long, with a 9-hour layover in detroit).

i have the orange firefly shawlette all set to go in a project bag, too. i’ve started a little pile on the spare chair in the living room for my travel knitting lineup (because, you know, what’s a spare chair FOR . . . sitting??)

i’ll be filling in that space to the left as the week continues.

speaking of project bags, our friend michele, maker of the loveliest bags, fell while hiking this weekend and broke her ankle pretty badly. i’m sure she’d love to hear some encouragement from any of you that know her—you can PM her on ravelry or send a note through her etsy shop

today we are supposed to finally block and film the firefly shawlette—production was delayed due to the artistic concerns of the director, but i think we are all set to go now.
as soon as he gets up this afternoon.

i’ll let you know how that goes.