uncommonly good results

Posted on 31 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, lace/shawls, projects, yarn and dyeing

just before i went to rhinebeck, i showed you the beginnings of a shawlette that was inspired by the common bandana, an accessory which has been a part of my wardrobe as long as i can remember.

besides their intriguing printed surfaces, bandanas are incredibly useful—i don’t think a day went by in college that i didn’t knot one around my neck and nowadays, i use them to cover my head when i work around the house or in the garden. i like to keep one in my garden tote to wipe my face or hands as i work. david wears his on a daily basis and has a large stack of plain and printed bandanas on top of his dresser.

several years ago, i got the idea that the bandana design would make a great triangle shawl design for a guy—well, for a woman too, but i really liked the idea of incorporating something like this into my little collection of manLace pieces (i.e., anything david would wear that has openwork stitches). i even have a skein of cotton/wool yarn around here somewhere that i purchased for just this project.

when my friend erica at kollage yarns asked me to design something for their spring collection in riveting sport recycled denim yarn, i realized it was a good fit for this long-smoldering design idea.

i love, LOVE the charcoal colorway, but chose to work with lava because i thought it might photograph better (but still kicking myself that i didn’t pick charcoal—dang it. i’m just gonna have to design a skirt with that color, i think).

once i got to sit down at the drawing board with it, i picked my stitch patterns with lightening speed, drew up some charts, and cast on, then packed everything into a project bag to take along on my trip.

now, i really didn’t expect to love this yarn as much as i do—it’s cotton, you know?? and denim at that. but as it turns out, i really DO like knitting with it. yes, it’s denim and we’ve all handled denim yarns that bite back, but this one isn’t like that at all—it’s crisp but not hard and on the right needle size it knits up to a nice, soft fabric with a surface that feels like the proverbial well-worn jeans. i was seriously surprised.

i liked it so much in fact, that throughout my trip this was my go-to project and i made excellent progress on it (great car knitting; just ask beckie). by the time i got home, i was honing in on the last of the hem.

there was just one problem . . .

i made the prototype a little too big—i got carried away, what can i say?? (and that’s an unblocked shawl, so no judging yet!). since i had that second skein, i decided to go for it. but what i ended up with was not the neckerchief look i had in my head.

no worries, i adjusted the pattern accordingly and now it not only is a cuter size, but it can be knit from just one skein (karolyn and jocelyn are proving it as we speak).

i really, really enjoyed knitting this and i missed it a little bit after i was done. i rationalized that since i had rewritten the pattern and since i have had a single skein of that same yarn in storm colorway, i should cast on a little one for myself—you know, as a popcorn project (something mindless you knit while watching TV).

it’s that time of year when having an extra giftable FO on hand is never a bad idea. and david looks so handsome in denim blue.

in the meantime, i blocked my protoype yesterday and wow—what a change. the fabric really smoothed out and the stitch patterns now pop in a way the they hadn’t before

where before, i was skeptical that i’d actually met my goal of emulating a real bandana, i was now completely amazed at how accurate a replication it was—it was exactly what i’d been hoping for, but wasn’t sure i actually achieved.

from the faded red to the combination of patterns, it looks like the real mccoy; i’m sold. there is a remaining issue of the blocked fabric being a little stiff, but i’m going to experiment with using fabric softener or unicorn fabric rinse to see if i can soften it up.

this pattern will be offered in the kollage spring collection, to be sold on patternfish (not in our own shops); we will let you know when it becomes available.

ooops, beckie is here to do some work so i gotta run (i’m not even going to proofread this, sorry); i know i promised a yarn parade and it’s coming—we’ll do that next time!

have you any wool?

Posted on 21 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

ahhh, WHAT a weekend—there’s nothing like a little R,R&R (rest, relaxation, and rhinebeck), is there?

i know that for me, it is the ONE time each year that i forgo “being in touch” in favor of spending quality time eating, knitting, and making merry with my beloved friends, beckie and kim.

i don’t use my computer or cell phone; i only call home once a day, if that (and it helps that cell/internet service throughout the catskill region remains sketchy). it’s just grand to have a real getaway.

our vacation started with the long road trip east to new york’s hudson valley, site of all the fun for the next few days. normally we rent an adorable house, just big enough for three, but this year’s august storms washed out the road to our usual place, so we stayed in a kingston hotel, just across the river.

the trip was rainy and windy, and we fretted about the weather the whole way, but as we pulled into the hotel parking lot, we were rewarded by a sunshower and a rainbow, which boded well for the weekend.

friday was our big date with our good friends, nathalie and mary fischer at CIA and this year we once again ate in the ristorante caterina de’ medici.

while my lasagne entrée was a little too rich for me, the side of french fries i ordered was exquisite—not to be missed. we enjoyed every minute of our visit and our meal; there are some traditions i would not want to skip and this in one of them. the only thing missing was our friend woolen rabbit kim, but we won’t let her get away with being absent next year . . .

after lunch, we rolled ourselves back to our hotel where a cozy group was gathering on sofas, chairs, and tables around the fireplace as a barrier against the gray wet chill outside (par for the weekend, i’m afraid).

turns out that many of the knitters staying in our hotel were friends from the loopy retreats i’ve taught at and we spent a lovely late afternoon and evening knitting and catching up with them. one attendee came all the way from sweden and others flew in from texas, oklahoma, missouri, and california.

we were in bed by 10 pm that night, as we had a very big day planned for saturday . . .

here’s our entry to the fairgrounds, along with thousands of other wool-minded people. it was a chilly morning alright, but dry—at least at first. the clouds that day were fearsome and fast moving; it was one of those days of dramatic skies and spectacular changes in weather.

like a lot of knitters, we first made a beeline for the briar rose booth, as kim was on a mission to secure a couple of sweater and stole quantities.

while she shopped the yarn offerings, i perused the wealth of finished objects on display. chris likes to pair her yarns with my patterns and at the end of each summer, we commiserate about which new ones will look good in her fall booth with which yarn and who might knit them.

above, the inky dinky, knit by barb, is delightfully squishy and soft in nate’s sock yarn (it’s really a sport weight!), high peaks is handsome in pilgrim and pea vines is divine in sea pearl.

below, beckie admires the hourglass throw, which was knit by agnes in abundance

which we all like at least as much as the original, although my crappy cell phone photo doesn’t nearly do it justice. the colors are much richer and more muted in person—it’s a classic. i never did get to see the matterhorn set that cathy knit in fourth of july, but her rav photos are gorgeous.

and that was just a few—many, many more abounded, including a gorgeous rené pullover knit in fourth of july by our friend anne marie, for which chris received several purchase offers over the weekend.

but that piece belongs wholly to roger as demonstrated here; he was working that rené look as if he was born to fill the role.

see what i mean? move over, david . . .

omigosh, all that before 10 am, too.

next we hit the moving mud booth, another spot where goods sell out very quickly. kim scored some exceptional sea-urchin buttons in ocean colors that will perfectly complement some of her briar rose purchases.

i wasn’t looking for anything special, but i did find some earrings to match my pink shell bracelet and a card of buttons i couldn’t walk away from.

thank goodness we had a chance to visit the spirit trail booth during a pattern delivery the day before, or we may have gotten lost in the undertow—jen’s booth was rocking on its foundations all day. i’ll show you what i came home with in a bit, along with my briar rose take from sunday . . .

since we didn’t need to rush over there, we instead went calling at the miss babs booth in search of her new moo & ewe wool/milk blend. kim had seen it the day before and wanted to pick up a sweater’s worth; beckie was also intrigued.

i was so happy to see miss babs had a booth—she has been such a great supporter of my work and patterns, which are featured in her booths at many shows. it was even better to see how busy she was; go babs! she had a beautiful leaving sweater knit up in her northumbria BFL DK, and many scarf, shawl, and accessory patterns as well. her yummy sock yarn is one of david’s favorites.

while they were standing on line, i hooked up with honey badger deb (AKA cockeyed), who was visiting rhinebeck for the first time (and she’s going on to stitches next; how unfair of her!). we had a good chat as the line was long

next we did a quick stop in to visit peggy hart and her bedfellows blankets booth—i wanted to get another throw; the one we have is so great for napping. as usual, i’m going to show you all my show swag in the next post, but i’ll give you a little peek now . . .

after that, a car run was i order to drop off our heavier items and by then it was just about time to head over to our knitspot ravelry group meetup, which is now a well-established rhinebeck tradition for saturday lunch and one we look forward to with relish.

many attendees are members of our fall in full color club, so club knits were on full display, among other favorites. above, melissa and kristin show off their september club projects—two hazeline shawlettes in bugga! (they are pattern-only/eBook members, so they provide their own yarn each month).

speaking of kristin, here is my favorite photo of the weekend—me and baby julia, who is laughing at me (smart kid); she’s dressed in an inky dinky jacket knit from alpaca produced on the family farm.

now, we fawn over all babies in our group, but julia is special—she was born soon after rhinebeck last year—about three months earlier than expected—and she holds a dear place in our hearts. i’ll never forget how we all sighed in relief on the day she came home from the hospital, swaddled in her rosebuddie shawl (which kristin knit while she watched her grow in the NICU). more than a few tears were shed over baby pictures that day . . .

baby olivia and hattie were also in the house, sporting knits and lovely smiles—olivia was just a tiny newborn when i saw her last february in albany. i feel honored to see these babies at all stages over a period of time; hattie has joined us each year for our picnic—i’ve known olivia since she was a bun in the oven.

craig from great northern yarns and his daughter irene came down for the show—irene loves all animals and was in heaven; craig loves knitters and was also in heaven; he had some new colors of his cashmere/mink DK yarn on hand to pass around for us to pet.

those terrific ladies from shall we knit? yarn shop in waterloo were on hand to celebrate with us, but i don’t think they ate much, as they had hit up the fried pickle booth just beforehand; lise must be remembering the taste (i haven’t been brave enough to try that one, but they assure me it’s good).

carole, who traveled to brussels with cookie, me and alice in july, came over for a hug and to share her finished les abeilles, which she started on the train home from our trip. i love it! in fact, i was knitting this pattern all weekend myself as a gift for my mom (don’t tell her until after christmas!).

besides pretty much organizing the whole event, our gracious moderator chief operating officer cathy took lots of great photos and also baked the prize winning recipe in our brownie throwdown (hey, you gotta get that caffeine and sugar for the second half somehow, right??).

heh, in fact, we decided to ditch the whole notion of healthy eating in favor of a completely chocolate-fortified lunch—and i’m sure the vendors all thank us for that, haha. and in case that wasn’t enough, beckie, kim, and i were distributing knitspot chocolate covered almonds throughout the day

just as we were making noises about getting a group photo, we got blasted with a ferocious three-minute rainshower, but most of us stuck around for the money shot

told you the knitspot group was the best on on ravelry!

with most of our wishlist priority items purchased, we took our afternoon shopping at a more leisurely pace. i really didn’t have any yarn needs and with just one or two non-yarn items to look for, i was free to peruse the variety of offerings—probably way more dangerous than having a list.

i found this super-cuddly alpaca and organic cotton headband at the red maple sportswear booth, which will be great for running as the weather gets colder. i have an old fleece balaclava with alpaca content that i adore . . . i didn’t know i could find similar items; i’ll be haunting that site.

some people will kill for chocolate, but i love cheese and this year i thought to get some to take home—the better to extend the rhinebeck mood. cow’s milk cheese from sprout creek farm and sheep cheeses from beaverbook farm (those are mainly to make cookie jealous, haha, but i do love them).

late in the day i was surprised to run into norm hall, who i thought had not made it to the show this year. i was overjoyed to see him and tentatively asked if by any chance he had one of his tensioned lazy kates left to sell. norm usually only gets a few things finished for the show and those sell out by 9:30, so i wasn’t expecting a yes

but lo and behold, i got one—YES!
really, this was the only thing i went to the fair desiring, so i was especially glad to bring it home along with a few bobbins. and i told him that i hope that bench he’s working on in the photo is also for me—i’ve been on the list for one and i’ll be checking on it over the winter . . .

we actually stayed until last call on saturday, which is unusual for us, but since we had a dinner date with chris’s family and needed to pick up pizzas, we hung in there.

dinner in tow, we headed to the riverside area where the briar rose clan was encamped and had a lovely evening visit with them over pizza, beer, and knitting. it was heavenly.

in fact, i got lots of knitting done this weekend, since beckie and kim did all the highway driving and i drove the local country roads all week. i finished both shawlettes that i packed to take along—that les abeilles goes super fast. and the new one turned out pretty well; now for the pattern.

i’ll give you a closer look at them when i block—hopefully tomorrow, but probably on saturday.

the next day dawned warm-ish and fairly sunny. we headed out early once again to catch the rest of the show that we hadn’t seen on saturday. i ran across marilyn magnus’s booth, where i’d purchased handwoven rugs in the past and saw a spritely green one that had my name all over it; i couldn’t resist.

we hadn’t hit the food building yet and since our friend john was in a sheep to shawl event there, we headed over (john’s the smiley one. and the male one).

the winning team even got their fringes tied before the cutoff time of 12 noon; john’s team came in second. as i was lingering around the edges of the spectator area, i noticed something that brought a smile to my face

a fiore di melanzana stole with a nice red ribbon on it, which was knit and entered by susan who knit it for a friend’s wedding, then entered it in the fair on a whim. we left our calling card of congratulations in the form of a candy packet and when i got home, i had a nice note from her in my rav mailbox. congratulations susan!

next, i was moseying along, looking for beckie and kim and maybe some more cheese and i ran into stephanie and friends, got talking about green and how much we like it and next thing i know i’m on her blog, haha (ok, maybe carrying a green rug, wearing green shoes and socks, and carrying a green bag had something to do with it; i didn’t notice all that, but steph did. and they call me a designer . . .).

i just wish now that i had a photo too . . . steph is on a book tour to promote her new title by the way—all wound up—so if she’s coming anywhere near your town, this is a great opportunity to see her and hear her speak (oh man, she’s going to be in austin and dallas next; i wonder if my brother would go listen to her for me?)

ok, now i just noticed what time it is and wow—i have WAY overstayed my deadline. i have work to do! i’ll be back next time with the yarn and fiber post—special and new things that our yarnies shared with me at the show. til then . . .

ooooh, one last thing—information about our spring/summer 2012 club has been posted in our ravelry groups here and here (it’s the same in both places; you only need to look at one to get all of it). if you’ve been wondering whether another club is coming, it IS, and we are finalizing plans now. take a look at the preliminaries; more and final details will be available very soon.

kimkimkim in the house

Posted on 36 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

she’s he-e-re.

kim is here for her pre-rhinebeck visit; one of the reasons i haven’t been on the blog for the last couple of days is that we were busy getting ready. i put my head down and worked at my desk all weekend, squaring away enough to make me feel a little less guilty.

then yesterday, it was all about cooking, so we’d have nice foods to eat without me spending precious visiting time in the kitchen. i got up and got a fudge cake into the oven first thing.

then i went out to the garden to pick and pull up as many good things as i could possibly fit into a couple of days worth of meals. all of that stuff in the photo was for root soup—onions, rutabaga, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celeriac, garlic, celery, carrots, etc.

can i just divert you for a moment to rhapsodize about our rutabagas? i’m very excited i was able to grow them, because they’re one of my favorite roasting vegetables and we cannot buy them in the grocery store here.

i had no idea they were so easy to grow or i would have done it last year. anyway, they are and the other day, i made jody laugh when i said i had rutabaga the size of my head

i think she thought i was kidding around. now granted, i have the teeniest of heads, but look—i wasn’t exaggerating; not a bit.

we’ve already eaten them a couple of times and they turned out great. in fact, all of our root vegetables came out really tasty this year—the potatoes are creamy and tender, sweet potatoes are rich in color and flavor, and the carrots are sweet and more plentiful than i dared hope for.

tomatoes and eggplant not so much. but i get enough of those to cook with anyway. and the peppers are plentiful. i planned a curry from some of everything.

i got all this stuff washed up and cleaned, then brought it inside to start the massive task of peeling and chopping them into submission for cooking. i roasted a large pan of the root vegetables until the juices ran, then added those to a mirepoix of garlic, shallots, and celery, spiced it with ginger, cardamom, fenugreek, etc, added some vegetable stock and let it simmer til everything was very tender.

then into the cuisinart and wa-la—we have a soup. i ended up with these four containers for the freezer and a half-gallon which we’ll heat up with the addition of a little cream for dinner tonight (we have spinning class; they’ll come early to grab a bite and socialize). i also pickled some beets to make a salad.

once that was done i frosted the cake and set it out on the table right where kim could see it first thing. haha, do i know my girl or what??

next i ran to the airport to get kim and when we got back we got the curry on the stove. then we sat and knitted and talked while it simmered. we ate that for dinner last night and i gotta say, it was yummy.

but it may have been overshadowed by the cake, haha.

what a nice evening, right? this was my first big chance to spend time just cooking in my kitchen in . . . well, i don’t know how long.

we had a good night’s sleep and woke up this morning to pouring rain. kim and i went out walking anyway, and she took a few photos i think you’re going to like

yep, bümchen is done, done done and i’ll be wearing it on friday to lunch.

it’s really comfy too—enough of a sweater to give a light layer of warmth, but not enough to be hot. it’ll be a great sweater for spring and fall.

it’s kind of elegant too, i like that.

i’m knitting like crazy too—i’ve got a couple of secret projects going and then this denim shawlette. i had it a little further along, but i ended up ripping the whole thing out to start over again when i realized the motif wasn’t centered to my liking.

now it’s all good and rolling along . . .

and with that,i’m off. we’ll be in rhinebeck for the next five days with no internet, so i probably wont’ be back before next wednesday. have a great weekend and if you’re coming to the wool show, please stop by our lunchtime picnic at 12 noon on saturday to say hi and partake of the fun.

sew a fine seam

Posted on 26 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects

much as i’d like to complete the finishing work on blümchen all in a day, it is instead progressing piece by piece, as i squeeze in a seam or two here and there between other pressing matters (no pun intended, haha).

there it lies on the arm of my study sofa, patiently passing the time til i can get back to it. i treat myself to a dose of finishing work whenever i finish something on my punchlist. it takes longer this way, but i can assure you, it WILL be done by the time kim gets here on tuesday—i’m pretty close now. i really want to show off and wear it to pick her up from the airport.

when we last saw it, i’d managed to join the shoulder seams and work the button/neck band (though it remained unpressed) and i was working my way around sleeve island.

well, now that i’m home, i’ve steamed the button bands, then attached the buttons—a row of tiny glass confections made by moving mud.

once again i sent a swatch of my knitted fabric to sarina and she worked her magic to produce something perfect. these look almost vintage in their classic simplicity—look at that crystal ball depth.

i love that sarina often sends me buttons that i would never have picked myself and always they are just right when i sew them on the sweater.
i’m just saying—trust her.

i usually don’t put the buttons on til the very last, but i was dying to see how these would look down the front of the cardigan—i had a good feeling about them. and i wanted to make sure that the button bands hung straight before going much further with finishing work.

(that droop in the sweater body will smooth out once the side seams and underarm seams are in—next on the list!)

i finished knitting the sleeves earlier this week; after spinning class the other night i blocked them and started attaching the sleeve caps to the armscye edge. this is fiddly work, so i spread it out over two evenings and finished up last night (well, very early this morning, actually, haha).

when i got up this morning then, i steamed those armhole seams into shape—you can see what a difference it makes when comparing the left one (unpressed) to the right one.

once they were all pressed (i use the curved surface of my sewing ham to shape and steam them), i hung the sweater on the dress form to check the straightness of the seams

pretty good—it’s hard to get them perfectly straight with steam alone, but they do relax once they are wet-blocked (which i prefer to do after everything is sewn together).

also, my dress form is bigger than i am, so the shoulders are a little wide for this sweater size—you can see that the cap is not sitting exactly where it would if it was on my own shoulders.

but still—they’re lovely i think and they’ll look even better once i can put it on. IMHO, a beautifully fitted shoulder line with nice seams really raises a sweater to another level.

so that’s where i am now; i’ll work on the remaining seams tonight, after i finish the swatch i have underway.

ETA: ooops, i almost forgot to tell you the winner of carol feller’s contemporary irish knits book.
the winner is janet b. (that’s her on the left) the fibrefanatic; congratulations janet!

speaking of swatching . . . this is the first swatch i did for a little shawlette project i’m working on with kollage riveting sport. i knit this one a while back but i hadn’t washed it. and i know this yarn changes drastically after soaking, so i need the gauge from the soaked piece to write the pattern. i finally got around to doing that the other day.

this is not the exact combination of stitches i’m using in the actual piece (i’m not using that horizontal zigzag insert), but the idea is to mimic the look of bandana fabric. i’ve always had a fascination with bandanas—if you notice, they are all the same . . . but different. and some of them are really great. they’re so commonplace, but i know nothing about why the fabric is printed the way it is.

it’s kinda like a shetland lace shawl—with a rather plain field pattern for the center square and more complicated bands of pattern as the eye moves out toward the hem. so much so that it makes me wonder if they ARE supposed to mimic lace neckwear in some sturdy, more durable way.

with that in mind, i’ve been thinking for some time that such a shawl would make excellent manLace—maybe even david’s first triangle piece (he’s very fond of wearing bandanas when he works to cover his head or protect his neck; he owns an impressive collection of them).

i have some very soft cotton/wool that kim brought me back from ecuador, which i had thought would be perfect, but then erica asked me to design a shawl with the riveting yarn, which is made from recycled denim jeans and it seemed a natural fit for this project.

it’s a tricky yarn though—it changes so much after soaking that the piece on the needles is causing me some doubt. so i’ve put that aside for a day or so while i knit another swatch on smaller needles just to be sure i’m wrong.

i know, it sounds silly, but it’s worth it. once i assure myself that i’m on the right track, i can knit without a care and finish the thing up in no time.

ok, one last thing before i knock off for the night

never one to let sleeping dogs lie, i put my blümchen leftovers to work on a les abeilles shawlette for my mom. and you know what this means, don’t you??

the christmas knitting has begun.
and with that, i’m heading upstairs to knit.