Archive for September, 2011

saved for a rainy day

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

i hope the weather is just a little bit nicer where you live; it has turned awfully miserable here—steady rain with thunder and lightening even. not exactly what is needed in upstate NY right now, with the major flooding of last month’s storm (and its consequences) still smarting for many area residents. only in the last few days have they finally cleared some of the giant fallen trees in her neighborhood; electricity is still a newly-restored luxury to many homes here.

i don’t know if i’ve ever mentioned it, but my mom lives right in the heart of the albany pine bush preserve—over 3,000 acres of inland pine barrens preserved by new york state (just one of many protected areas in the state, which has a pretty good track record for conservation, thank goodness).

anyway, that scrub pine pictured above is a typical specimen that sits right outside her front door; it was a tiny charlie brown tree when she moved in and it’s been lovely to watch it grow in the years she’s lived here.

one of these days, i’ll take my camera on one of my walks to show you a little more of the pine bush—there are a number of trails close by that can be accessed easily. when i first got here, it was too muddy from the previous flooding for my purposes (i only have one pair of running shoes with me); i was hoping to go in at the end of this week for a photo safari, but i don’t know now . . . it may have to wait for another time.

today is a good day for knitting, that’s what it is.
one of my mom’s friends is coming over after lunch so we can get her started on a scarf she’s been having trouble with. a little afternoon knit and chat. i have several items in progress myself that will be perfect for working on then—one in particular that is secret.

yesterday we were out ALL day for therapy, hair appointment, and grocery shopping. i think my mom is getting nervous about being on her own in a few days so she wanted to see how much she could do. and like any of us might, she overdid it a bit, so she’s now sleeping in (but that’s good too; she needs it)

anyway, i had quite a bit of wait time at the hairdresser’s and PT facility, so the nona scarf grew appreciably in length.

i forgot to mention that with this scarf, we are revisiting nupps! i really enjoyed knitting those into the pea vines shawlette, which was my first nupping experience. this time i’m doing them just a little differently; since the yarn is fine, these ones will be knit on the WS rows to make them just a bit poofier, more like what my grandma called popcorn sts. and i must say, this method (which produced a bobble too big for pea vines) seems to help them sit up and stay on the RS of the fabric a little better (today’s photos are crappy due to the bad light, but i’ll show you the new nupps next time we look at this project).

the other night i finished my first blumchen sleeve and cast on right away for the second one.

i managed to get through the hem/cuff part on the smaller needles and changed to the larger needles before bed. the rest is sorta mindless, so it will be a good piece to bring to knit night at trumpet hill yarn shop, where i’m hoping to be by about 6 pm tonight.

i stopped in last wednesday to visit and knit with my friends robena and celeste and we had SUCH a nice time catching up. i wasn’t sure i’d still be around this week for knit night, but since it looks like i am, i want to go back.

and when david gets here, i promised robena we’d go over, so he could show her the progress on his wrap (he’s ready to finish it up, and i’ll help him with that when he gets here).

now, if you’ve read this far and put up with all my rambling, you’re just about to get to the best part of this post.

several months back, my friend michele, maker of wonderful bags at three bags full wrote to offer one of her beautiful sweaters bags as a giveaway when the rené sweater pattern was released. we made all our plans and then stupid ME, in the flurry of activity around getting my mom home from the hospital, i forgot all about it on the day of the pattern release.

i’m so sorry . . .

but as with all good things, there is a bright side—today, when it’s rainy and dreary, we now have a wonderful bright spot to have fun with.

a gorgeous notus grey sweater sized bag for one lucky winner.
leave a comment at the end of this post sometime between now and sunday night at 9pm EST, and who knows?? you could be the one to receive it.

sorta sheds a whole new light on saving for a rainy day, doesn’t it?
(and of course, there are many other amusing styles, sizes, and fabric options in michele’s online store—go now to check it out (omg those new elephant and giraffe bags?? too cute!)!

and with that, it’s time for breakfast. it’s also clearing up dramatically outside; i may get a run in yet today, yay.
have a wonderful day; i’ll be back soon with more knitting progress . . .

sleeve island

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

thank you for your patience with the longer stretches between posts this week and for your well-wishes to my mom. she’s home from the hospital now and doing great, going to therapy every day and getting around the house quite well. she’ll be rid of that walker in no time . . .

it’s gotten so hot and muggy here that i hardly recognize what month we’re in. we finally broke down and turned on the A/C last night, just to get comfortable. not exactly knitting weather, but i’m managing to get as much done as i can.

mostly on secret projects, but not entirely . . . i am knitting sleeves too (and you know how interesting progress shots of sleeves are).

al-most as fascinating as progress shots of scarves.
and yet . . . it is nice to see them grow. i have some gorgeous briar rose sea pearl to knit with, which makes it a whole lot nicer place to be marooned on sleeve island.

(oooh, it looks like chris is pretty well stocked up in several variations of this beautiful gray/lavender colorway right now)

last night i actually started the cap shaping on this one and got almost to the top BO, but stopped because i wanted to get enough sleep that i could wake up up early today to blog. i think i have just sixteen rows or so to go.

we go to therapy every day at mid-morning and for some reason, once we’re done there, the rest of the day seems to slip away before i can write, with work taking priority once we get home, then lunch, then exercise (i’m still running, yay), email, etc.

anyway, my first sleeve is nearly done and i feel sure i can start the second one this evening. if all goes well, i might even finish knitting that one by the time i get home on sunday and be ready to seam the sweater up next week. we’ve been catching up on masterpiece mystery so there’s good TV watching to accompany my knitting in the evening.

even with an ambitious goal to meet, a stay on sleeve island can still get a little boring—there are even some times when it (literally!) puts me to sleep—yes, me! well, that won’t do; i need to be efficient this week and get as much done as possible with the time i have.

i was finding that one of the places i get the most bored with my knitting is in the waiting room of the physical therapy office. even with a great book to listen to, i found myself tiring of the piece i was toting around. the problem is that it’s too easy—i needed something more challenging to keep my brain active. i don’t want to waste 45 solid minutes of focused knitting (and reading) time.

so i did what i thought best and cast on something new.

how’s that for justification? but i have to say, it worked a treat—i get so involved that i don’t even see that my mom is done til she’s standing right in front of me.

what we have here is a lace scarf that was the alternate design for the first installment of our fall in full color club. i was torn between two stitch patterns for our august lace scarf and just couldn’t discard the idea for this one, once i’d made my choice for longshadows.

here’s a picture of the blocked lace swatch

i love how mysterious this stitch pattern looks in a darker yarn that has such subtle variations. the spirit trail nona that i’m knitting with is a lovely match for this stitch pattern. with its gorgeous blend of merino/cashmere/silk, it offers beautiful sheen along the lines of the stitchwork and shadowing within its shapes.

i’m working with colorway rosewood, a luscious deep red with rose and rust tones.

the yardage for this yarn is so generous that i was compelled to cast on for a larger than usual scarf. the resulting fabric will be so light that it remains “scarfable” but will block out to a size that can be thrown around the shoulders or wrapped around head and neck as well. i’m pretty sure in fact, that i’ll also have plenty left over for matching lace mitts—at the very least there will be matching cuffs.

i’m hoping to have it done in time to publish the pattern just as we head out for rhinebeck, where our good friend, spirit trail jen will be vending. my experience with knitting longshadows was that it was very easy to tote along through the UK this summer (it compacts nicely into a small bundle that easily fits in my side bag) and i finished it in just a couple of weeks of evening knitting—i’m hoping this one will be the same.

right now, i’m able to finish two or three repeats in the time i have in the waiting room; that’s a good start. and then there is the long car ride home (though sometimes i can’t knit in the car, unfortunately). and i may knit this one a little shorter than longshadows . . . we’ll see.

that’s all the public knitting i have for the moment, but since the weather has held so nicely, i do have one more thing that i think you’ll like to see—my mom’s garden.

this is the entrance to her cottage; it’s filled with potted plants that she brings indoors in winter. she’s had some of these plants for many, many years.

the walkway and front yard are lined with repeating plants of three or four types—coleus, lilies, dusty miller, and pink impatiens. the impatiens have a lovely story behind them; i think you’ll enjoy it.

when we were small, we had a very kind neighbor on our road named olga, who used to babysit us when my parents went out on saturday nights. we loved her SO much—she told great bedtime stories, which impressed us all the more because she knew them by heart. we would ask for something [we thought was] totally obscure and she would tell it from memory, in her wonderful olga way.

she was also a fantastic baker—she introduced me to homemade doughnuts, which i didn’t even know you could make at home. my mom baked a lot—and very well; she still does—but she didn’t make doughnuts . . . i imagine that with five small children about, it was probably safer and more practical to bake in the oven than to fry pastries.

anyway, olga also had a nice garden (as did most people where we lived). my mom loves pink and rose colors of all kinds and admired olga’s pretty pink impatiens, so she gave mom a cutting way back in the early 60s and taught her to propagate the plants from one year to the next by rooting in water. my mom has been taking cuttings every year since—these plants go 50 years back to one single cutting; isn’t that amazing?

each fall and winter she goes through the throes of anxiety, wondering if the cuttings will make it—they root very easily (and so prettily!)

but are prone to wilting fungus and seem vulnerable to various bacteria tracked in by aphids or whatever is about. one year recently, the lot was saved by the fact that my mother’s cousin edith took cuttings from my mom some years back and has also been propagating them for some time (phew!). just this week we lost another jarful, though there are several jars here that are doing great (and we’ll start more before i leave).

i know it will probably be up to me to keep them going, but i’m nervous—impatiens do well in our shady yard, but i’m not so great at indoor gardening; i dunno if i can keep cuttings alive.

i should probably start practicing by taking some home with me this weekend (like about a hundred of them, haha). once i get some going, i’ll spread them around by handing them off to friends (susie??). that way we have backups, heh.

speaking of pretty pinks and garden colors, my mom got an extremely beautiful and thoughtful gift in the mail yesterday from my good friend chris at briar rose fibers.

isn’t this batch of abundance gorgeous?? my mom is thinking about knitting the hourglass throw when she feels a little better, and this yarn will be PERFECT. its blend of pink, rose, and gold suits mom to a T—the first thing she said when she saw it was “wow, isn’t THAT pretty!”

she was so touched, too . . . it really perked up her day.
i’m helping her right now with a multi-directional diagonal scarf, but when she’s done with that, she’ll be ready to take on a bigger project.

well, it’s time now to get ready to go to therapy—and i’ve been chatting long enough, heh—so i’m going to leave you for today. hopefully, i’ll be back in a couple of days and it won’t be so long between posts.

rené

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

when i set out last christmas to replace david’s old red sweater, i thought sure i’d write up the pattern for it to offer for sale in our online shop. but i had no idea that what we’d end up with such a versatile pattern, filled with options

thanks to our team of experts, what we’ve come up with here is nothing short of one of an old fashioned family sweater pattern. sized for men, women, and teens, rené can be knit as a cardigan or pullover and either one can have a crew or vee neck opening.

and not in plain stockinette either—this design has texture for ages, with a classic allover rib-and-cable pattern that will appeal to even the most stubborn of “plain dressers”

these sweaters have a casual fit with plenty of ease built in to go over shirts and turtlenecks. it looks fab with jeans and with nice tweed trousers alike.

and talk about warm—i already know this sweater will be a go-to piece for me when the cold months come to our drafty old house.

the only question will be which version to wear on any given day.

shown on helena above, the medium size pullover in briar rose fourth of july, a lovely 4-ply worsted with one ply in superwash to add some interest, here in colorway charwood.

kris wears the medium size cardigan in the woolen rabbit grace merino, a soft and lofty 4-ply worsted in colorway scottish heather.

david is wearing size 2X in handspun BFL fiber from haltwhistle farm. he’s gotten lots of wear from his own sweater already; i will wear mine for the first time to rhinebeck in october. each of these sweaters is shown worn with five to six inches of ease.

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

i am so lucky to work with a team of incredible knitters, dyers, models, and of course . . . david who does everything else (which is a lot!).
thank you to chris and kim for their generous yarn support; without beautiful fiber, these pieces would not have half the character they do.

barb, anne marie, and helen helpfully test knit the pattern so that we could bring it to you in the best shape possible; thank you all so much!

and finally many thanks to kris and helena, who are such a great modeling team; they worked very, very hard this day to put together a charming set of photos for this layout.

and shirley, too . . .

ok, it is absolutely way past time for me to hi the hay—enjoy and have a great weekend.

we have achieved button bands

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

ok, i admit it, not the most earth-shattering news.
but i got nothin’ today! and for some reason, i can’t even get good photos in this house (or outside either); what’s up with that?

it’s not that i’m not knitting—i very much AM. but a lot of it is secret knitting and the rest is . . . well . . . button bands.

you know, they look like hardly anything right?
but they are the most time-consuming part of knitting a cardigan (in relation to their actual real estate).

first, you gotta pick up all the stitches—the same number on each side (so the ribbing works out right, for one thing and for another, so it doesn’t hang cockeyed).

and the stitches that you pick up have to be just the right proportion to the edges. if there are too few the button bands will pucker up and if there are too many the front edges will splay and the neck will flop.

of course, you won’t really know if you got the proportion right til it’s all knit up and bound off.
trust me, even the experts have to re-do a button band or two in their knitting lives (and they will, because the thing that makes a person an expert is not that they do everything perfectly the first time, but that they can see it’s not perfect and are willing to work at getting it right).

and then once you have all the stitches on the needles, with everything divided equally and properly, you have to knit it. and we are talking a LOT of stitches—three hundred and fifty something for this small-ish sweater.

it takes me quite a while to get around that row in twisted rib—just sayin’.

plus, there’s mitering at the corners. i’m not crazy about the way mitering looks in this situation, but i’ve tried to do button bands without it (as recommended in some patterns) and i just can’t walk away from that solution feeling like it’s a good one. so i do some mitering; it sorta mostly gets covered by putting a button in that spot anyway (but i know it’s there).

and then—THEN, you have to remember to do those buttonholes on the right row or you will be ripping back a LOT of ribbing. (i didn’t forget this time, but i surely have in the past—WHEN is someone going to invent that alarm that goes off in the pattern signaling the buttonhole/increase/BO row??)

but even with all that, it still feels great when it’s done right; there’s nothing—nothing—like fine finishing work. i’m crazy for it.

(the bands still need to be steamed but i’ll do that when i’m ready to seam—i can’t find my mom’s ironing board, haha; probably a good sign)