Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Retreat Goes Forward

Friends, has this ever happened to you? You make meticulous plans for a project, let's say just for a random example, banging out a sweater at a weekend knitting retreat. You print out your pattern, order and receive your yarn from exotic foreign sources, swatch, assemble correct needles plus extras just in case, add measuring, cutting, and sewing tools. You pop it all in a bag and haul it off to said retreat.

That was me this weekend, all geared up to #bangoutablaer. (See previous post for all the sweater-banging-out background.) I cast on the minute I arrived at the cabin, and by Friday evening had made excellent progress, to wit: the contrast neck band and lace section.


It may not look like much to you, but lace doesn't get banged out quickly. In fact, some of the lace areas had to be knitted more than once. Let's just say that liquor and lace are not an ideal combination for fast progress. Well, fast and correct progress, anyway.

This being a top-down yoke cardigan, what followed on Saturday was a whole lot of horizontal knitting as the number of stitches expanded for shoulders. At one point there were 300+ stitches per row. By Sunday morning, the yoke was all banged out, sleeve stitches separated and held, then the fronts and back joined for the body of the sweater.


After that, it's just straight back and forth stocking stitch down to the contrast bands that finish off the bottom of the body. By the time I headed home, I had added about another inch to what you see in the photo above and was mightily pleased with myself. The hard, fiddly part was all banged out and the rest would be plain, if fine gauge, sailing.

And Then. And then I check my email when I get home and OMG at the top of the pile is a cheery note from Ravelry inviting me to download a revised corrected version of a pattern in my library--BLAER! Consternation is the polite word for what I felt. Deep, screaming, table-pounding consternation.  From the peak of self-congratulatory progress to the weedy bottom of the Slough of Despond.  Instead of banging out a few more rows before bedtime, I had to compare new and old pattern versions to figure out what had changed. (Note to Ravelry: you might want to help a knitter out by highlighting changed text in a new pattern version. Just sayin'.) Good news/bad news is that I can't find anything different in the size I'm making after (bad news) spending an hour comparing old and new. If something's off in the lace chart--pffft! I've done it and it looks ok, and I'm not going back there. I'm banging on undeterred.

But back to the retreat. As always, it was a joy to be with the amigas, eating delicious meals

Grilled fresh halibut, Mexican spoon bread, and salad, for example, drinking various potations, eating chocolate, soaking in the hot tub, and knitting, knitting, knitting.

Here are the members of our merry band:
Judy, in her regular clothes, banging out a beautiful green Aran sweater.

 Anne, our super host, banging out a Rowan denim gansey.

Jere, showing off her first pair of socks on her beautiful pointed Pilates toes.

Linda, who not only crocheted a scarf, but learned to knit!

Camden working on her heirloom Kaffe Fassett sweater.

You guys are all so beautiful and skilled!

And though we were inside knitting knitting knitting, browsing, and sluicing a lot, we did pop outside from time to time to admire King Mountain across the valley still wearing a lot of its winter snow


and watch the tiny new leaves emerge. They seemed to visibly expand by the hour.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Banging Out a Blaer

Followers of the Mason Dixon blog will recall from a short time ago their #bangoutasweater project. The idea was to pick pattern and gauge that would be quick to knit, and to make a sweater in a short enough time to enjoy wearing it before the weather turned too warm. The pattern was Stopover in an Icelandic aran wool, very light and airy yet warm. It turned into a big knitalong where many knitters did indeed #bangoutasweater.



I was enchanted by the concept, but not really on board with the chosen pattern. I even had been lurking in Icelandic yarn stores on the web, electronically drooling on the yarn, but not ready to commit. And then the very same Mason Dixons flashed this in my receptive eyes.

The Blaer Icelandic cardigan! Not in the big gauge of the other one, but still a swell excuse to venture into Icelandic yarns. Being a creature of weak will, off I went. A couple of weeks later, a genuine parcel of yarn from Iceland plopped on my doorstep, and it is very exciting.

It smells not of sheep or lanolin, nor of dye and processing, but has a very pleasant herb-y soap-y scent. If Yankee Candle tried to capture it, might it be called Clean Wool?



And pondering (yet another) delicious new pile of yarn, it occurred to me that I maybe should try to #bangoutablaer. Yes, this is finer gauge than Stopover,  but the spring knitting retreat is coming soon, and wouldn't it be fun to see how much of a simple cardigan I could #bangout in a weekend dedicated to hours and hours of knitting in the company of like-minded souls? Stay tuned to this station for thrilling updates!

P.S. No worries about finishing too late to wear it. It's always sweater weather in Alaska!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Yet More Yarn Yarns

Trawling (appropriate for fisherman sweater, no?) through denim yarn patterns, I think I've found what my ecru Rowan pile wants to be:


The Cornish Knit Frock by Jane Gottelier from the book Indigo Knits. I had a flirtation with the Whitby Sweater from the same book, but decided that in ecru it would look like any old aran, as it would not have the lightening effect that makes the cables stand out when using a colored yarn. Besides, Whitby is in Yorkshire, not Cornwall.


An added attraction is that the Cornish sweater was made by one of the Knitting Goddesses, Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon fame, and was done with the same yarn substitution I am using, Rowan Denim for elann.com Den-M-Nit. Happily for me, Kay demonstrated that the shrinkage of the two yarns is the same.

Plus there is the connection to Cornwall. My DH is from there, and we have visited family there many times.

Fisher ganseys are also on my mind because I am happily anticipating my sojourn to Cordova, Alaska this summer for the Fisher Folk knitfest:
I have always loved gansey sweaters, the look of them and their lore. I have knitted a few, and will enjoy knitting more. They are a garment that looks great on everyone, men and women, big people and little people.

And when I'm in Cordova, one of the workshops I'll be attending is an indigo dyeing session. I'm going to take my now-foofed 6 Juniper Moon CSA cormo skeins and dunk them in the pot.


For a while, I was conflicted about whether I should just do them plain indigo, or go for spaced shades of blue, or tie them up to get white spaces in the blue. Wait. Three techniques into six skeins divides evenly--I could do 2 of each! Hope the teacher agrees...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Yarn Yarn

I'm sure this has happened to you. You nip to the local yarn store for just one skein that you need immediately to finish/enhance a current project. Their friendly personnel help you find said skein right away--hurray! But since you're in this yarn store and you haven't been to this particular one for a while, it would be a good idea to have a quick scout around to see what they've got these days in case you have another yarn emergency. Emergency preparedness, right?

And so it was with me. Just running my eyes over the goods until--oh my stars and garters!! A big ol' heap of one of my very favorite yarns, now discontinued, Rowan Denim by name. On sale! 50% off! OK, it wasn't in one of the actual indigo blue shades that behave so bluejeans-y when washed and worn. It was ecru, but still...

Reader, I succumbed. To all 26 balls:



If you're not familiar with this denim yarn, you may not know that because of its built-in shrinkage, it must be knit to its own specific patterns. There's no substitution. For a while, Elann.com sold a knockoff yarn, that was much like the Rowan, but sadly, it, too, is no longer with us.

Once home with my bulging bag of cotton, I hauled out my old Rowan magazines to hunt for the sort of gansey pattern I dimly remembered from those august publications in the '90s. I knitted a plain blue gansey with Rowan denim long ago, and finally had to part from it when the denim wear pattern began to lighten up the boobage area on my front and to highlight the girls in a way that was most unseemly. (At least that won't happen with ecru!)



That was when I fell down a nostalgic rabbit hole. Do you remember Rowan in its heyday? The tunic lengths! The baggy volume! It was a heckofa way to sell a ton of yarn.





In Rowan's defense, it was a British company conceiving garments for a British climate, and of  course people needed to show off their knitting chops while chilling in houses without central heating or walking colourfully on the windy heath. Plenty of room under there for more woolen layers and maybe a hot water bottle or heated brick or two.

But not only did the large mass of the sweaters demand a lot of yarn, there was an insane intarsia design trend, possibly the acme of this technique, that required the purchase of many, many balls of yarn, of which you would only use a few yards. Stocks of knitting bobbin companies soared, I'm sure. And it all probably peaked with this amazing pattern:

Persian Carpet, by Donna Lauren. It calls for 30 (30!) different shades of Rowan DK yarn. I don't know how you could use the chart without blowing it up to the size of a table top. 30 colors means 30 different chart symbols. Did anyone ever actually make this sweater? I checked on Ravelry to see. No projects, and in only 2 queues. How long would you dangle this thing in your queue before you cast on? Probably forever, in my case. There would always be something I wanted more than to fiddle with over 30 bobbins and weave in umpty-gazillion (an actual count) ends.

The end of this trawl through nostalgic Rowanland was to wonder if these dead tree publications have any resale value. The answer is yes, indeedy! Many of mine weren't shown on Ebay, but the older numbers seem to go for $20-$40, and one rarity for $120. Don't get your hopes up or your bankrolls out yet though, folks. Old Rowan magazine $20, knitting nostalgia--priceless!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Yarn Matters

Good old Ravelry. I got my CSA share from Juniper Moon Farm a few months ago. Checking to see what others planned to do with their dk Cormo yarn, I read that the first thing was to foof it out by soaking the skeins in water. Whoa. Glad I heard to do that--it makes a b-i-i-i-g-g difference!

Here are the skeins as received:


Color is yellower than real life
Soaking:



And post-soak. All foofed out, as you can see!

It wouldn't even fit in a square frame!

That could make such a big difference in the final product! Still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with it. It's not quite a sweater's worth, but more than a scarf. Perhaps I'll experiment with indigo dyeing it and figure out for what later.

Lately I've been having fun using up stash with the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl


It's fun because the pattern changes frequently--all sorts of traditional and modern Scandinavian fair isle that I decided to mix up further with various selections of Knit Picks Chroma.  Then at nearly the half way mark (300 of the 600 rows), I looked back and found this:


It's what happens when you knit in dim winter light. Some of my "white" wasn't so white. Some of it was ivory! I decided to laugh and consider it another element of crazy in the crazed cowl.
As the tube grows, I am thinking I might stop well before I do all 600 rows. Doubling what I have at the halfway point, this thing could be 6 feet in diameter! That is way more cowlage than one person needs or possibly could even see over. Maybe I could  do it as two cowls?

One more yarnly yarn. Handmaiden's Great Big Sea has been discontinued. I found some beautiful skeins on sale intending to knit for a special event. Then my idea got bigger, and the yarn was still available, and somehow my pile got bigger.  And then the event was cancelled. The yarn makes a beautiful arrangement in a basket on the coffee table. I wonder what it wants to become now?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Owl's Well

I've been not-blogging for quite a spell, so there's quite a bit to catch up on.

First up is the Tale of the Owl Mitts. It started with a friend's Instagram post of a pair of fingerless owl mitts captioned merely "Want!" I knew she A. was not a knitter, B. is a big-time bird lover, and C. there was a good chance the pattern or something very like it was on Ravelry. Found the pattern in about 2 minutes and told her about it, offering to make her a pair.

Like many passionate knitters, money can't buy my work. To put a real dollar value on the time it takes to knit something, even a small thing,  makes for a ridiculous price tag that seems all out of proportion.  To set a nominal price is to trivialize the effort and possibly make the item undervalued in a non-monetary sense. So barter is often a good solution. A chunk of my skill and time for a chunk of yours. We still haven't hit on exactly what her part of the trade will be, but figuring it out is all part of the fun.

Meanwhile, I took some measurements, bought the pattern, and pulled the perfect owl-brown alpaca from the stash. I cast on. Knitting the mitts was a fun, cable-y time. But what about the eyes? Eyes are crucial to the appearance of the owls. Most of the versions of the pattern (and Kate Davies' Owls sweater, Owligan, and Owlet) use small buttons, so off to the store I went. What I found were exactly four small stuffed animal eyes with black pupil and clear plastic iris. Pretty good, but even better if the iris was a bright yellow. If I could find the right nail polish, I could paint the back of the clear area, and, reader, I did!

(Bottom portion shows upended eyes with paint/polish drying)

 Add eyes to owls, and the effect is perfect piercing owl stare-eyes!


Mitts were ready for their wearer, and very happily received to keep hands warm in a cold studio.


The owls' stare has also come in handy for admonishing family members. When held up as outward-facing fists, her kids call them "the Owls of Justice." As in, "don't make me get out the Owls of Justice!"

And just to confirm the lifelike gaze of the Owls of Justice, take a look at a Great Horned Owl that once perched on my deck:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Small Things


My next Seven Skeins project is the Stranded Bunnet, but it's not my best work. This happens to me sometimes with Sudoku, too. I go crashing along and then find out when I'm nearly done that I've screwed up back there somewhere and it's too late to find the mistake without erasing/frogging everything back to the beginning.


The gauge or something was off, and it ended up somewhere between a beanie and a slouch. My double decreases were wrong, and they look like rubbish. On only 1 of the 5 decrease lines the Coo color predominated, so I stitched it over with Ptarmigan in order to make it look a little more like the others. Bleh. Still keeps the noggin warm, though.

One of the fun things that happened with the hat was needing new needles. Yes, although I have many many needles of many many kinds in many many sizes, I did not have a set of 4mm dpns. I'm sure this never happens to you, right? So I hie me to my nearest yarn shop and come away with these beauties:

See the points? Half blunt end up, half pointy
Addi Flipstix. One end of each needle is sharp; the other is rounded. A handy feature, but you do have to pay attention every time you start on a new needle that is the way round that you prefer. I think it's delightful that each set is multicolored. I'm not sure what benefit that confers, but it makes them look fun, and just right for knitting the great colors of Buachaille.

But all is not Buachaille all the time. Like a true acolyte of the Yarn Harlot, I get sidetracked by other projects, to wit:  The Fish Bone Scarf from a Morehouse Farm kit.


I bought a bunch of kits from them, and this was one. It was a quick, fun knit, but not a terribly practical scarf. Nice and soft, but too lacy to be very warm, and it needs to be worn as in the picture to display what it is. I made the tail bigger than the pattern said, and added a yarnover eye to make it look fishier.

Also from Morehouse is a kit for their Dinosaur Scarf, which I made into a Dragon Scarf, mainly by making meaner eyes and trying to rig up some fire breathing instead of a flat round tongue. The shaping of the piece is really genius. Except for separate upper and lower jaw, the whole thing is knitted in one piece. Really fun to knit and pretty cool looking.


  Morehouse has designs for lots of animal scarves--alligator, fox, raccoon--a bunch of them are in their book Critter Knits.

Finally there has been enough clear weather and daylight to photograph the Solar System Blanket in all of its glory. (Pause to consider the irony of depending on sidereal conditions.) It was given and, I think, much appreciated, to my friendly local astronomer for Christmas.