it’s about receiving, too, and that’s ok

Posted on 40 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, projects

happy boxing day to those who celebrate it and many thanks for all the warm and heartfelt emails that were sent to me this week . . . it gives me a great feeling that so many people enjoy this blog—thank you for letting me know.

i rarely realize the effect of what i am writing as i do it, which is why i guess, i do not think of myself as a Writer. and yesterday’s post is a good example—many of you pointed out that it is a love letter in sweaters and the truth of that hit me so hard last night that i sat back in my chair and took pause. it HAS been a decade of a great love story, it’s true, and i not only hope that david and i will always enjoy this closeness—i know i will fight for it too.

i am so grateful to work within a community that reads through the lines and tells me back the beauty that i might otherwise miss, or the message i sent unintended. we have become close in a similar way, all of us, and i just hope you know how much our friendship means to me, too. thank you for helping me celebrate the great moments life has to offer; the act of sharing them is both free and priceless—and a true reflection of the season.

ok, then, enough mushy-talk!
do you want to see my presents?

well, first, the photos above are snaps from a gorgeous book that rachel sent to us, and i have been gazing through it quite a bit since we unwrapped it. it reminds me of a kaffe fasset book in the way it explores surfaces, shapes, and combinations of textures, both grand and tiny. a really wonderful resource . . you know how i love natural inspiration.

beckie and mark gave us a hand-made rug from a local weaver for our home

and now we have the difficult task of deciding where to put it—front hall? third floor landing? second floor stair hall? hmmm, it’s a tough decision.

two dear friends got together and gave my perpetually chilly feet the best gift ever

i was so grateful when i saw them that i wanted to weep. these are gonna save my life.
(the saga of my quest for warm feet is a familiar story to all who know me well, and i’m hoping that this year i finally will achieve nirvana on that front—see below).

and then there was the much-anticipated group of gifts from david

another wonderful gift of warhol—this time a boxed set of his red notebooks, a series devoted to the old polaroids (i love old polaroids, and treasure the ones my mom has from the 60s). there is also a hand-carved mid-century sheep sculpture (where does he find such great stuff?), and a CD that i’m looking forward to—and then, there is an electronic weather station for my desk.

this is the second time i have received one of these from david for christmas (the first one is in the living room), and it remains a gift which is cloaked in mystery. that is, i am mystified as to why i need this, because usually, looking out the window or sniffing the air is enough to tell me what i want to know about the weather.

but clearly, he feels i must have one (or two). i think the reason stems from the fact that although indeed, i can look outside and tell you the weather, i will spend up to 20 minutes eliciting his opinion of whether or not, considering the atmospheric conditions, i should set out on my bike on any given day. it’s a little dance we do; should i ride my bike with the skies looking like that? does he know if it will be raining/snowing/lightening six hours from now? if it IS raining/snowy/lightening in six hours, can he drop whatever he’s doing to come and pick me up?

basically, i am asking him to predict the unknown, but obviously what i’m really doing, is getting him to talk/pay attention to me one last time before i leave the house (you never know!). and, i seem to be working this out for the first time just now. i guess he could see through all that, huh?
whether or not a weather station will help me make travel decisions is anyone’s guess; whether it will make me stop trying to get him to notice me?—HAHAHA! probably not.

one last surprise that arrived by mail isn’t really a christmas gift, but something i won in a drawing at lisa’s blog—a big box of monkey business

a package designed to inspire me to knit monkey socks (i haven’t yet; OH the shame of it). i have to spin the yarn first, but since i just LOVE the fiber, the temptation will give me a push in the right direction. and there seems to be plenty of chocolate and other goodies here to fuel the desire as well. thank you lisa!

the last item is not a gift at all, but something i bought becasue i need it. last year i started looking around for a good pair of warm boots to replace my old ones.
and when i say old, i mean OLD.

i bought these insulated, waterproof Herman Survivors in 1982, when i graduated from college (they made them for a brief time in women’s sizes and i snagged a pair, though they were way out of my budget). i lived in snowy albany and needed something warm and dry to walk to work in. they served me well over many years, having trekked over countless miles of sidewalk, streambed, woods, and rocky trails (but mostly sidewalks).

after 25 years, the leather is so hard and dry around the foot that it creaks and crackles when i pull them on—but the last straw was finding that the reason they are no longer warm and waterproof is the two large cracks which spread completely across the bottom sole, allowing the elements inside. not good—and i think expecting them to “survive” much longer is a stretch.

for one reason and another i never nailed down a pair last year that were both warm enough AND my size. and this year was looking about the same—no one has size 9 boots in stock after like, july (which totally mystifies me; wouldn’t they make a lot more money if everyone who wanted size 9 could buy them??). i purchased the desired boots about five different times only to be told later they were not in stock.

then my friend debby tracked down a listing for them at pegasus, and i jumped on it listlessly, not really expecting to score. but i DID.

these are the bomb—i SO know now why a cowboy might want to be buried with his boots on.

sweater yarns

Posted on 72 CommentsPosted in Uncategorized

david’s new red christmas fatigue sweater, knit in briar rose charity, a 100% corriedale worsted weight yarn, colorway cranberry. i based the design on the EZ seamless hybrid, and plugged in my own detailing and numbers for a custom fit.

and of course we both have chris to thank for taking the time from her busy pre-christmas schedule to custom dye this luscious stuff into just the right shade of holiday cheer.
thank you chris!

(see what i mean about the tapered body?)

i love knitting for david, and have been making sweaters for him ever since our first winter together, when i realized how much he craved and enjoyed handknits (never mind that silly boyfriend curse stuff; he will stick around if he loves you, whether you smother him with handknits or not). he seemed to ferret out whatever i had around my house that would fit, and then wear it every chance he got.

“well, the handknits are just better,” he’d say in a talkative moment. if pressed, he’d elaborate, explaining that the fit, particularly for socks, was simply not equaled by store-bought clothing.
my kinda guy, right??

i wanted to make him a sweater for our very first christmas, but only came up with the idea about 10 days ahead of time, and still needed to purchase yarn for it. at that time, there were only a few yarn shops in NYC, so i had to send away to patternworks for what i wanted. it arrived only a couple of days before christmas, and i can’t knit that fast, so i wrapped up the yarn, needles and pattern and presented the box to david on christmas day.

i can’t even describe the horror on his face as he slowly pulled back the tissue surrounding the yarn. he tried hard to hide his shock as i beamed.
i explained the time issue and that i couldn’t make a christmas deadline, but would work on it in the new year. finally, with a quiet cough and great relief, he said, “oh—i thought my “gift” was that you were going to make me learn to knit.” i knew not to force the issue . . .

those materials became the old red sweater we have been laughing about this month, for which this new sweater is something of a replacement (i knew i was kidding myself about getting him to discard that old rag when he said the other night that it is his—ready for this??—after hours sweater. heh, yeah, i knew you would appreciate that one).

the next sweater i knit him was the cream cabled one that everyone so admired in this photoshoot, though it was not knit as a christmas gift. i worked on it all through the television coverage of the giro d’italia in may, 2000 (it was hotter than hades that year, i remember).

the yarn in that piece has an interesting story though. we had been shopping at patternworks (back when they still had that giant store up in poughkeepsie, a fun day trip from NYC); david was always willing to take me for a drive up there and we did so several times a year to stock up on supplies. most of the time he’s sit in a corner and listen to music or look at patterns, happy to give me all the time i needed to shop (usually all day . . .).

after we got home, he mentioned that he always wanted a fisherman-wool sweater, and i said, “oh too bad—when we were at patternworks i saw a 2-pound bundle of that wool in the sale bins; it would have been perfect, and it was the right amount too. oh, darn.”
and then i promptly put the thought out of my mind, assuming it would be gone by then.

a few days later he came home with the very bundle in his messenger bag. he’d called the store, asked them to locate the yarn in question, purchased it, and had it mailed to him at work.
i agreed to marry him shortly after—i mean a non-knitting man who can hunt and forage yarn??
you don’t let that go.

since then i have made him a sweater for nearly every christmas. in 2001 there was a moss-green cardigan knit from cashmere we bought in florence, italy while we were on a biking trip there in 1998. i had a plan to felt the sweater slightly when it was finished and i almost didn’t do it, but it wouldn’t have fit (the felting step would make it wider and shorter, and i had calculated the finished size accordingly). that idea was inspired by some DKNY felted cashmere pieces i saw in loehmann’s; why i was inspired by that craziness, i have no idea.
so, i took a deep breath and ran it through the wash. all was well . . . it fit perfectly afterward.
(i don’t think i’d try that one again though—too stressful a decision in the end).

then in 2002 there was a plum crewneck in a beautiful herringbone stitch that was a real challenge to incorporate the shaping into, but it turned out well and he loves it.

so much so that i’m afraid this one will soon go the way of the old donegal tweed sweater.

in 2003 he got a fairly plain gray crewneck . . . in a very subtle stitch pattern chosen by himself. it was a real yawn to knit, but he obviously gets a lot of use from it.

the yarn choice may have been unfortunate, being a tad too delicate for the job of housing a man that Works in his sweaters.
he inherited another sweater from me that year that i’d knit for myself in a rib which looked too small on the needles, and which i made bigger, only to find that, indeed much as i’d like to be, i am no arnold schwartzenegger, and i do not need a sweater that size either.

in the fall of 2004, he started leaving pictures ripped from jaeger yarn ads about the place for a certain zip-front cardigan with jeans jacket detailing. no elaboration on his part—just the photo. at first, i didn’t get the connection, so i tossed the picture back in the trash, but when they re-appeared, this time right at my spot on the coffee table, i got the hint. by then i’d learned to spin so i bought the book and used some chestnut alpaca/romney handspun to knit it up, completely in secret. he was totally taken aback when he opened it. in fact, he wore it last evening at our dinner party.

next time i make a zip-front, i will order a color-matched zipper from one of the wonderful internet sources that now exist, and which i know about thanks to the online knitting community i now belong to.

that was actually a big year for sweater knitting around here—i didn’t have a blog yet, i was out of work for 4 months in the winter, and i’d learnt to spin. YOU do the math.
here’s another one that materialized very quickly in the space of a week or so—nothing special in design but the yarn was landscapey and wonderfully variegated with all our favorite natural colors.

two years ago i made a real quickie after i’d finished all my christmas knitting with about six days to spare. i hadn’t planned on knitting david a sweater, but since i had time . . .

i’d seen this one in the rowan vintage knits book and though the yarn i had would not make gauge, i was able to adjust the ribbing to the gauge i was able to get, and from there it went very quickly.

shamefully, there was no christmas sweater last year . . . there was lace and a new pattern business, and actually neither of us got a new sweater all year.
i vowed that this year would be different, no matter how much lace there was to knit.

david does SO much to make sure i always have time for knitspot. he takes up slack all over the place and soothes the havoc that having an extra business wreaks on our “free time”.
i wanted so badly for this one gift to say how much i appreciate and love his thoughtful, generous, nurturing and encouragement of my work.

what better way than to say it with handknits? thank you david!

(ps: that makes eleven FOs for those who are counting; the zig zag mitts are also done so that makes TWELVE.)

today, i am spending the whole day talking to my family, writing, listening to a book (bridge of sighs by richard russo), and knitting something for me.

oh yes, and i believe there are a few things under the tree that need my attention . . .

(he’s not big on gift tags, but i get the message)

let it glow

Posted on 41 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, food and garden, projects

i just got around to photographing our favorite seasonal light display . . . i wouldn’t let you down!
next to them we are completely boring

we console ourselves by telling each other that we’re letting them have the limelight, plus, we’re saving energy. we are content to have our house be a reflector of second-hand glow. and, now it turns out we can enter a contest with it.

and we have plenty of sparkle inside.

tonight was our traditional feast of fishes, a large dinner of many courses, each containing fish in one form or another.
we had calamari

smelts of course

and baccala

and beckie’s favorite, salade of oranges, olives, and anchovy with black pepper

and she’s right; it is SO good—david got the best oranges ever. the ingredients don’t sound very compatible but the combination of salty, sweet, citrus, and pepper is amazing . . especially with the smelts.

beckie and mark joined us, along with their daughter and grandson.

baby’s first internet moment of fame.
he’s actually even cuter than this, but because he insists on being a ham for the camera, all the shots were blurry.

i know you’re all interested somewhat in all the the food information, but i also know what you REALLY want to know . . .

YES. i finished the sweater. i got it done last night (the 23rd) and even washed it. i have to confess i was sweating it when the power went out for three hours last evening . . . . but all was well; i decided to nap while the lights were out and—waddaya know—the lights went back on right about 7 pm, while i was still waking up.
i put the last stitches in around 9pm; it’s been drying all day today and it just needs the buttons added, which i will do tonight.

and it fits. we will have a little modeling session on christmas day, hopefully.
thanks a MILLION to my buddy chris for her inspired contribution of yarn . . it was a complete pleasure to knit with and david loves the color.

and guess what? he did not know about the sweater . . he guessed that he might be getting one based on the fact that i almost always knit him a sweater for christmas, but he was very surprised when it seemed to materialize out of nowhere.
usually, i put it under the tree and wait patiently for him to open it, but i was so concerned it wouldn’t fit, that i had him try it on as soon as it was done.

you know what that means don’t you? i will need another gift by morning . . . .

he-he—just kidding.
(baby loved the tree, BTW)


Posted on 29 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, projects

it’s growing. i’ve got the body knit to the underarms and next i will join those sleeves on and start the yoke. i haven’t talked very much about the sweater’s design, but basically, i am using EZs seamless hybrid rules and adding some detailing for style.

last saturday i did a little sketch as i worked out the numbers i needed for the body (we don’t want any unfortunately-placed ribs or a bad meeting of the parts at the neck, and a little planning goes a long way to waylay that sort of trouble).

david loves anything that even hints at cargo wear, so i thought a fatigue sweater would rock his christmas the right way, and knitting it in a fun red would add that element of surprise that freshens up a classic shape. it will have a neck placket set into an angled ribbed panel, with a ribbed panel at the sides.

the neck placket is a good design for him . . . he has a large head and big hair, so crewnecks are a little difficult to work in secret. also impossible to get a snug, cozy high-necked look in a crew for him. a button placket solves all of that nicely.

david is quite bulky through the upper arm, shoulder and chest but narrower at the waist, particularly in back, so the ribbing helps to give shape at the sides. i also taper his sweaters from waist to chest to compensate for the fairly large dimensional difference.

most men’s sweaters benefit from having a bottom rib that is at least 10 percent smaller than the sweater body, but where most patterns will add that 10 percent just above the ribbing, i like to add it gradually as i work up the body, by increasing every 2 inches or so, to about 3 inches below the underarm. this creates an attractive, tapered silhouette and eliminates that poochy pouching just above the ribbing which is such a turnoff (i still leave plenty of ease to mask any belly action; we just don’t want to add to it).

my next step is to join all the parts and here’s where the mystery thickens a bit for me. i have the EZ books. i have access to many EZ resources. but always, at some point with these patterns, you are on your own.

For instance, EZ makes her sleeves 33 percent of the body circumference which i know for a fact is going to be too narrow for big hunky david (let’s just say i have inside information). so i made his sleeves 40 percent, which was recommended in this knitty article on the subject.

now though, as i work my way through the yoke, i am wondering how to mesh the knitty recommendation (and david’s sizing needs) with EZs decreasing and saddle construction.
another reason i feel a little adrift here is that EZ does not offer percentages for some measurements . . . like armhole depth and the length of the shoulder saddle. she tells you what she would do for her hypothetical 200-stitch sweater, but not what i should do with my somewhat larger sweater.

i’ll probably wing it and see what happens. again, i’ll let the inside information and hands-on experience with the recipient will guide me (wink). i think i can eyeball it as i go and end up with something that fits well.
i can always opt to call on a helper who’s just hanging around waiting for a job like this to do.

my man’s form. it’s not exactly the same shape as david, but it is close enough for me to know if the armholes will be deep enough or where i should begin the neck placket. he doesn’t even whimper when he has to do this six times.

i am also going to break with EZ to add a front placket by working back and forth in rows for the upper part of the yoke. my extensive swatching tells me i can do this without a gauge change by switching to size 6 needles.

all in all, there are pretty decent odds that a snafu of some sort will crop up in the yoke section and i need to be prepared to do some ripping if necessary. by reminding myself that i can think about all of the traps above “later”, and with constant injections from the now-bottomless supply of holiday sweets, i’m finding the sweater an all-around enjoyable and stress-free knit.