Monday, January 23, 2017

Hats On! Forward March!

The weather was terrible, driving was atrocious, but we put our pussyhats on in Anchorage, Alaska and did it anyway. We went downtown in our thousands to manifest our unity and our resistance to the promises of the incoming president.

It was beyond exciting to see that the Pussyhat Project succeeded exactly like the wild dream of its creators--a sea of pink not only in Washington, but nearly everywhere in the nation and abroad that people gathered in the name of tolerance, inclusion, and human rights. The hats were a wonderful symbol of our reasons for being there--handmade, very individual, and yet expressing the same theme. It made me so proud to be a participant.

When I sent hats to Washington, I included a tag with information the wearers could use to communicate with me. I got lovely responses that included pictures. Here are a few:

And then there was this family who got two of their four hats from me:

Closer to home, there were friends who made and wore their own hats:

And friends and family near and far who got their hats from my pile:

As wonderful as it was to physically be a part of such a (dare I say?) huge event, we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that our mere presence would budge the incoming program. Next comes the hard graft of working to minimize the damage being done, and to make this aberration in the arc of progress as short as possible.

None of us can do it all, but all of us can do something. Find a place to invest your effort, find others to help, and never let up. There will be causes that need your time and money, lawsuits to file, candidates at all levels to support, representatives now in place who need their feet held to the fire. One easy place to start is the 10 Actions in 100 Days, an immediate offshoot of the march. Or contact organizations like National Immigration Project, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU. The pussyhat is now a thinking cap and a warrior's helmet!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What's New, Pussyhat?

Woh woh woooh! My daughter introduced me to this,  and I've been a maniac ever since. On the first day of the new presidential administration, a great mass of women will march on Washington to give notice that we are here, we are aware, we are watching, and we will resist any attempt to diminish the rights we have now and any attempt to curb efforts to set us back on our road to establishing women's rights and all human rights.

I had heard about the march, and was wistful that it was so far out of the question for me to go and participate. The cost of transportation and housing could be so much better deployed supporting the organizations we are going to need to see us through the next four years.

And then came the news of the Pussyhat Project. The nation's makers making pink pussy-eared hats for as many marchers as possible. I loved it. Just because the march has a serious purpose doesn't mean there can't be fun and joy. In the words of marchers 100 years ago--bread and roses. And pussies to take back the term the grabber-in-chief used to brag about sexual assault, and also reclaim the definition of pussies as weak and wimpy. We are anything but!

I have for a long time had a problem with the color pink. First because it has become a color code for that which is feminine or reserved for females and therefore anathema to males. I absolutely hate that pepto-bismol pink that's used to code the "girls' " toys, girls' clothes, bikes, you name it. And then the pink ribbons came along, and corporations tried to boost sales by packaging their goods in pink and donating a pittance to breast cancer research, somehow trying to convince the public that you can cure cancer by buying yogurt.

But I'm fine with this use of pink. It's not for the enhancement of any corporate person's bottom line. It's not for marking out girl-cooties so as not to infect the y chromosome. It's just--yeah, we're female; deal with it.

Trouble was, with my longime attitude to pink, when I entered the stashcave to seek materials, almost none were to be found. Just a few balls of pale pink wool fingering left from making a brain hat. I made a start, using it double to get worsted weight. And then I realized that there was a part of the stash I could use--the various knit-in threads I've accumulated.  So in went the gold thread and what came out was the first pussyhat:

It will subtly twinkle in the sunlight.

After a trip to the store and another stash dive, I was ready to start production in earnest. Next came the glamourpuss, magenta acrylic with a topping of silver sequins:

With each hat, I am refining the pattern to suit my yarn and gauge. I have enough trimmings to make all of my hats uniquely endowed with extra flash.  Pale pink and sequins yielded this beauty:

And Number Four was back to the magenta with yet a different sequin treatment:

I now have switched to knitting in the round, with a 3 1/2" rib and an 8" overall length. I am a little apologetic about using the acrylic yarn, but it does have a nice, not "plastic-y" feel, and anything else would be financially unfeasible in the quantity required. The same amount of love goes into the making as if they were made of handspun angels' bellybutton lint.  Last of the pale pink wool with a band of the last of the silver sequins:

I will be posting each hat on Instagram as I finish it. (button in the sidebar) Go take a look at the wonderful variety of hats folks are making and revel in the creativity and determination being unleashed. And maybe pick up your needles and knit a hat or two yourself!

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Finished Lassie

The Lassie's done! Actually, she's been done for about a week, but the combination of short daylight and too much to do has made photography difficult. But at last, here she is:

The sweater was conceived in a class at the Net Loft Fiber & Friends event in Cordova AK this past summer.  I had a wonderful 2-day class with Bonne Marie Burns, the designer. Check it out here. It has a novel construction: upper fronts are made first, then the upper back is knitted on with a cast on for the back neck.

Instead of knitting the sleeves after the body was finished, I added the sleeves before I joined the body sides. Knitting on sleeves while flopping the majority of a sweater around and around in my lap drives me crazy, and doing it while the whole was smaller and lighter suited me just fine!

When the sleeves were done, I tried the thing on and discovered that the ridge at the end of the texture pattern hit me in an unbecoming location, so, disappointing as it was, I ripped back to the end of the last repeat and added one more, and that made everything come out just fine. Other modifications were using 2x2 ribbing instead of 1x1, and adding an 8th button and buttonhole.

Here's a closeup of the finished front showing the texture pattern and the super tweedy-looking buttons that are just right for the fabric.

This cardigan has already become a big favorite. It's substantial but not heavy, smooth and not wooly-scratchy, and fits great. It's going to be the one I reach for this winter when the evening starts feeling chilly. Thanks, Bonne Marie and Net Loft!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Retreating to Homer

Our knit group took a walk on the wild side and held our fall retreat at a new venue out of town. Once in a while it's fun to shake things up a little. With the complicity of Dawn, temporarily located in the end-of-the-road community of Homer, Alaska, we booked accommodation at a beachside lodge that's part of the venerable Driftwood Inn.

After a brief game of musical lodges, we settled into the Seaside Lodge, which proved to be the perfect place for us. We filled only two of its rooms, but owing to the late season had the huge common area to ourselves.

Lots of comfy seating, lots of light flooding through huge windows, splendid view of Katchemak Bay outside those windows. An ideal place for hours of knitting!

And even better during the daytime was the sunny deck:

If you're not familiar with the local climate, you may not appreciate how extraordinary was the warmth and sunshine. It could just as easily have been raining sideways, in which case the retreat would have to retreat indoors with our wine and chocolate. (Still not a bad option, see lodge common room above.)

We had visits from local Homer knitting groups, which were such fun we forgot to take pictures. We had al fresco meals:

Visits to the nearby yarn store, KnittyStash,

great meals, and many, many laughs.

The clear weather meant that one evening a giant "hunter moon" was rising over the mountains to the east:

while the sun set behind Mt. Augustine volcano in the west:

By Sunday evening, though, change was in the air. Clouds were moving in, and the wind was up.

And we awoke Monday morning to a different world:

Yup. It SNOWED. Hardy Alaska Woman Judy dashed out to rescue a cushion from the deck:

and we cleaned up, packed up, warmed up the cars, and departed over the mountains toward home, still laughing:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

We Interrupt This Program...

The knitting continues, and eventually I will get around to telling the last of my tales from Cordova. I've been away from home a lot this summer and fall--not just Cordova--and I have a thing to show you from my travels. It's not knitting, but it's a bit fibery and important, and I think you'll find it moving, as I did.

I'm just back from a cruise in the Columbia River gorge, in the course of which we visited the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington. There's a small visitor center there with museum exhibits about the local nature, the original people, and the place's history as a center for nuclear research, fuel production, and waste disposal.  It is the lesser known partner in the WWII Manhattan project with Los Alamos in New Mexico. The plutonium for the Hiroshima bomb was produced there.

A small round room in the visitor center is an exhibition of art works that relate to Hanford's nuclear past and present, and in the middle of the room was this:

At first glimpse, I thought it was a visual pun on a mushroom cloud. You can see, I'm sure, how that could have been my first thought. It's vaguely mushroom-shaped and definitely mushroom-colored. The square top is a little bit odd, but it's art, right?

It dominated the room from floor to ceiling, but information about it was hard to find. Close inspection showed that in addition to the Japanese writing, there was hair. Black hair that had to be there on purpose, and in fact was maybe the thread that sewed it together.

If you look carefully at the closeup, you can see the fine black stitches and odd bits of the hair.

Eventually I found the information plaque on the wall and discovered that it is a life-sized cloth sculpture of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, made by a descendant of a Hiroshima survivor using 1940s kimonos, her own hair, and the poetry of Matsuo Basho. Here's her full statement:

I was stunned. Here are a couple more pictures of the work:

And this one is a view of the inside taken through a hole:

I find the haphazard patchwork and worn holes in the cloth especially affecting. Ghosts of the real people who once inhabited the garments. Ghosts of the real people who once inhabited a city.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fiber & Friends #4 Continued--My Fisher Lassie

If you haven't read the previous post about Fisher Lassie, you need to do it now. I'll wait right here till you're done.

Ok. So.  My own Fisher Lassie is made with Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool in a heathery shade called Ink. I picked the color (a navy blue with grey doing the heathering) because it looked so much like denim, not only a work clothes fabric, but one of my all-time favorites whether woven or knitted. (see weakness for Rowan and other denim cotton yarn)

Once I began knitting those first patterned sections, though, I had a brief freakout about the color choice. A gansey is all about texture patterns, and it was looking like a heathered field of moosh. Pattern submerged in the randomness of blended grey and navy.

Fortunately, when I backed away from the knitting, the texture was unmistakable. It was there! It is visible! But a new mental post-it note for my knitbrain. Absolutely solid colors are the best for textured patterns. I might not be so lucky the next time.

There was also another mental warning embedded here. When it's hard to see texture up close, it's hard to spot knitting errors in time for an easy fix. I had jolly well better get through the patterned upper sections before the summer light wanes, or I will be a crazy lady with a crappy looking sweater next spring. Once the armholes are joined and the texture finished, it's smooth stocking stitch sailing with the sleeves and the remainder of the body.

So here I am just before the Joining of the Armholes:

Armholes were joined, and carefully I made my way to the end of 5 pattern repeats. While spraining my arm patting myself on the back in congratulations, a Wonderful Idea sprang into my joyous knitbrain. Why not do the sleeves now? The entire armhole is waiting and ready. And by making the sleeves now, I can avoid my least favorite part of the knit-in-one-piece sweater. The part where the entire body is done and you have to do the sleeves by tossing this big hot pile of wool around and around in your lap, with associated tangling of needles and yarn.

So, Reader, that's exactly what I'm doing. Tossing a little bolero around and around instead of a full-grown sweater. Putting the main sweater body on spare yarn also enabled a try on of said bolero. Hm. Fit is as expected, but the end of pattern hits not quite at the bottom of the boobage. On the pattern model (refer to previous post) the ridge is somewhere midway between bust and waist. As the sleeves go round and round, I am contemplating doing an extra vertical pattern repeat so the ridge hits in a more flattering place.

Oh yeah, and I found just the right heathery denimy buttons already--See?

Wish I could get the photo to show how well buttons and yarn match. You'll just have to take my word for it.  Navy is fickle to photo.

So round and round and round we go, and where the pattern's gonna stop, nobody yet knows!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fiber & Friends #4

Possibly the biggest-deal class I did at Fiber & Friends was the Fisher Lassie Cardigan class with Bonne Marie Burns, the designer. What an eye-opening pleasure it was to approach the making of a complex sweater with its designer by your side!
(c) Bonne Marie Burns
The Fisher Lassie is a modern adaptation of the traditional fisherman's gansey design. The Net Loft has been undertaking a major gansey project in Cordova for over a year, learning about and recreating the historical garment for contemporary fishers in a location as dedicated to commercial fishing as the British and Dutch herring towns were in the 19th century. In the days before synthetic waterproof clothing, tightly knit wool was the best choice for keeping warm when wet. Ganseys had special design features to enable vigorous movement, yet were also displays of beautiful textures that showed the knitter's skill and imagination.

Uncredited photo of Dutch fishermen in their ganseys

Bonne Marie Burns designed the Fisher Lassie as a cardigan partly because in modern centrally-heated times we go in and out of warm and cool, and a cardigan is easier to put on and take off as needed. Out of respect for tradition, it is made with a wool yarn, but a substantial dk weight that is still less dense than the traditional 5-ply.

Over the two days of the class, we learned about measuring for size, and how to choose the right size to make based on the amount of ease the garment was designed for, and the amount of ease we personally prefer. Gauge, of course, is a major factor in the size of the sweater that actually turns up on the needles. We swatched carefully and thoroughly, thinking about needle material and knitting location as well as simply needle size. It all makes a difference!

This sweater has a rather unique construction, and it was terrific to have the designer there to explain it in detail. Overall, it is "knit in one piece", but sequence is important. First the patterned two upper parts of the front are knitted. Then the upper back is picked up and knit into the fronts, with the back neck cast on in the middle. When front and back are the same length (and on the same row of the texture pattern!) the armhole bottom is cast on and the whole thing is worked from side to back to other side. Almost as if it were in the round, but you have to stop at the button bands, turn over, and go back around with the other side facing. It's a little more complicated than the average sweater.

Bonne Marie (center) explains some concepts
 We had Bonne Marie's own original to examine up close and personal, which was a great help. In addition to the particulars of this sweater, she taught us some great techniques to use in all our future knitting: a sturdy same-row buttonhole, a pick-up-and-knit that is as strong as a sewn seam, how to sew on a button that will never come off.

Eventually we were fully prepared to cast on for the Real Thing.