Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Heavenly Net Loft

I recently made an extremely brief trip to Cordova, Alaska, and fulfilled a longtime ambition of visiting the Net Loft handcraft store there. Not just a visit, but a one-woman private browse. Wow. If this place isn't heaven, it's at least the waiting room. Such a stupendous store in such a remote place!

I first made the acquaintance of the Net Loft when I was scouring the internet for the last skein or two that I needed to complete my Winter Sunset cardigan. I tried them all--local stores, the giant web sites--nada. Then I saw this little place down at the bottom of my search. Cordova, Alaska? It's not even on the road system. Still, I had to try or abandon the whole project. Of course, you know the end of the story. They had my 2 skeins, saved my sweater, and were super nice into the bargain.

Then this spring I heard about an utterly fantastic knitfest being held at the Knit Loft in June. It's over now, but if you're quick, the info is still up on the web here. It wasn't just a little weekend do with a big name instructor; the list was full of knitting superstars: Bonnie Marie Burns, Donna Druchunas, Gudrun Johnston, and Mary Jane Mucklestone, to name a few. And there were more, some lesser known and some local, but all very very talented. Nor was it just sitting and knitting for a week. There were early morning walks; there were hikes and art tours; there was special yoga for knitters; there was weaving, spinning, felting, needlefelting, and more, and more, and more! You can see why I was seriously put out that I heard of this so late when all my travel time and budget for the year was committed elsewhere.

When I made my visit, Dotty, the principal organizer of the whole thing, was still recovering from it all. How does such a genius and major maven recharge her batteries? By taking herself to Shetland for Shetland Wool Week, of course!

But back to my browse. I took some pictures, but there are more and better ones on their web site here. Seriously. Click that link and at least watch the slideshow. Besides some stunning Alaska scenery, you will also glimpse some of their yarn displays, and let me tell you their yarns are truly unique.

Three Irish Girls dyes a whole lot of custom colorways just for them. Some reflect the scenery, the rocks, berries, and animals. Some reproduce exactly the colors and pattern of watercolor paintings by local artists. Here's a sample, and here and here.

And then there's the local librarian who dyes yarns in colorways inspired by books.  Skeins in the Stacks even have Dewey Decimal-inspired numbers indicating weight. And the Peter Pan color actually twinkles with fairy dust!

Snow Capped Yarns are works of art created by local dyer Shelly Kocan. The seasons, the landscape and its inhabitants all inspire her. There's a special range of New Zealand yarns in big skeins. There are selections of international brands like Shetland's Jamieson & Smith and Dale from Norway.

There's beautiful and unique jewelry, chocolates, teas, cards, knitting bags, fiber for spinning... If this were the waiting room for heaven, you just might have so much fun that you'd never actually go in!

On the right above is one of my eventual purchases, a big skein of New Zealand dk called "Copper Sunset", not reproduced here true to color, but good-looking this way, too. In daylight it's fuschia and a very rusty brown. Gorgeous!

One more thing to show you. Across the street from the store is the city library and museum. The anchor outside has been very thoroughly yarnbombed. (7-year-old grandson added for scale.)

Intentionally off the beaten path and definitely worth the journey!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Three Wrongs Aren't Right, But They're Less Visible

Not for nothing am I a faithful follower of the Yarn Harlot, as faithless to a single project as she. The Shepherd isn't done yet; the Brocade Leaves isn't done yet, and here I am casting on for something else major. So sue me. (I'm sure the Shepherd and the Leaves would if they could.) But it's not very appealing to sit for hours flipping a great honkin' hump of wool in your lap, nor is one very motivated to add a thick wool sweater or two to their wardrobe in June and July.

And so another sweater is begun. It's the Shearer, the other half of the Shepherd and Shearer pair, using the Colored Flock yarn I added to my S&S purchase last year. Like my Shepherd, I am reforming the pullover into a cardigan. To me, heavyweight sweaters are too much for daylong indoor wear. Because of the rustic nature of the yarn (coarse fibers and bits of the pasture inclusions) the garment is most comfortable as an outer layer, and cardigans are a lot easier to slip into and out of than something that has to go over your head several times a day.

I cast on the back, and away I went:

And here is just about where the trouble started. Let me tell you right off the bat that this pattern is not the one you want to start with if you are new to cabling. You want to start off with simple cables, a narrow pattern that is easy to memorize and quick to display errors. You want chart symbols that are easily discerned from one another. You don't want 2/2 and 2/1 crosses that look very very much like each other. Is it starting to sound like I got about this far and had to rip back to the setup row? I did.

And still I screwed up. About halfway to the arm decreases, I stood back to admire my work and saw two big fat errors. One I could maybe live with. Two makes you start to look like this is your first cable sweater. It's not.

Take a look. See that elbow-like thing in the center?

 It shouldn't be like that. It should be a nice double twist like the one above and below it. But the next one is the big whoopsie.  The elbow thing in the center is again the wrong un'. But in fact, that's the correct part of that cable. It's the crosses above and below it that are wrong. Oy. Two out of three.
 How can someone with so much experience mess up so thoroughly?? Maybe it just takes extraordinary idiocy. Or overconfidence in one's vast experience. At any rate, this sort of thing just Will Not Do. I knit carefully onward and upward, remembering in the back of my brain somewhere that there are surgical methods for fixing cable muddles without ripping everything back to the setup row.

YouTube to the rescue. Sure enough, Lucy Neatby has a very clever and clearly done method of knitting a little contrasting holder flap that lets you (hold your breath) cut into the offending area, rip back just the naughty cable crossing, knit it back properly, and then graft it back together. Here, have a watch. Isn't it a super time (and mental health) saver?


So here's the result. Looks great, doesn't it?

And I saved myself some more time and hair-pulling in the 2-out-of-3 Bermuda Triangle by fixing the one correct one to fit in with the two incorrect crosses. I dare you to find it in the overall pattern. Its a case of 3 wrongs making a more invisible wrong. As some wise knitter said, " if you make the same mistake multiple times, it's a pattern".