Back to the knitting

Published on Friday May 2nd, 2008

The Ivy stole edging is a marathon, not a sprint, or even a mid-length training run. I’m on row 19 of 50, and those rounds are getting longer and longer – something in the neighborhood of 1700 stitches at this point. It takes me a standard-length movie to do two rounds; a showing of Planet Earth New Zealand (aka The Fellowship of the Ring) the other night was good for a whopping 3.5 (it would go a little faster if Addi would make the Lace Points in the size and length I need). I just ran out of the second ball of ArtYarns Cashmere I – thank goodness I had the foresight to pick up a third skein of the same dyelot when I noticed the new shipment at Knit/Purl was a slightly different shade! It’s pointless to show you pictures of my progress: the edging is picked up on a 47″ US #0 needle, so all there is to see is a big scum of lavender froth with stitch markers around the edge.

I’m almost done with a secret project for Shibui, so naturally my mind has wandered to what’s next. I’ve got something in the hopper for Popknits that I’m very excited to cast on, and I’ve been mulling over possibilities for the new Casbah. The confluence of the new Interweave Knits summer issue with Megan’s post about knitting cowls with doubled sock yarn turned on a light.

Look at all the complementary sock yarn I already have in the stash! Counterclockwise from the left, that’s Socks That Rock Lightweight in Amber and Mica, Dream in Color Smooshy in Gothic Rose, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Cedar, Socks That Rock Lightweight in one of the colorways with rock names they don’t seem to offer anymore, and of course the Casbah. All mostly superwash merino. Of course, a worsted-weight wool tank top makes no sense. But what if I shortened the body of the Confectionary Tank and wore it as a vest next fall? I couldn’t help myself. I started swatching.

The design-minded among you will notice that the sidebar’s looking a little less scraggly. I owe Mr. G for this. You’ll also see there’s a link to his company website: one of the reasons I knit so much is that my partner for social activities is pouring all his energy into launching a small business. I think you can only know what an effort that requires if you’ve actually done it yourself. We certainly didn’t comprehend what we were in for when we took the decision for Mr. G to leave his job to work on SweetSpot full time. We saw a need within his family for better communication about his father’s diabetes; we saw that Adam had the skills and the passion to do something about it and to extend the project to other families in the same situation. He’d wanted to start a company of his own for years, and we thought now was probably the time to try: we don’t have kids, I have a job, we have some savings put by to cushion us for a year or two. Neither of us fully imagined the emotional drain, or the way every conversation we have would turn to the business, or the frustration of trying to bring in the support and relationships necessary to sustain a worthy one-man project. But SweetSpot is out in the world now, and if you or someone you care for lives with insulin-dependent diabetes, you might find that Mr. G’s service can help in the daily work toward wellness. It fetches, stores, and analyzes information from blood glucose monitors, and it offers a teamwork structure to make family participation simpler and more constructive. It’s free to try it out, and if you have any questions, the CEO himself will take your call in his handknit socks. How many companies can say that?

Secret Train Order 11 now in effect

Published on Monday March 3rd, 2008

A day of March sunshine in Portland is rare as red sea glass, and not to be wasted. Katrin and I knit in one of the urban parks, took refreshment at the Tea Zone (they serve a creditable English scone with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, joy), and swung by Knit/Purl to ogle her beautiful finished Autumn Cardigan (a beautiful Ruth Sorenson design in the Kauni yarn you’ve read so much about) and to drool over a new shipment of Pear Tree merino. This was a perfect cap to a lovely half-weekend with my husband and pup at the beach (we did a nine-mile hike on Cascade Head, now officially one of our favorite places in the world). The weekend may also have included a few moments of weakness in Nestucca Bay Yarns:

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Really, can you believe I’ve been to Lincoln City all these times and I’ve never set foot in the shop until now? Turns out it is admirably stocked with Rowan, Jamieson’s, and Cascade. I heartily approve. And I approved of this luscious, tweedy, foxy Silk & Lambswool too much not to bring home four skeins for some sort of cute, cabled, button-up vest. Sinful stash enhancement was offset by virtuous work on the Ivy stole, at the beach and in town on Sunday:

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I think it’s two-thirds of the necessary length. I think I also made my first mistake in the pattern yesterday, but I believe I tickled a fix out of it that will make it invisible to the masses. If I look at it again with a more critical eye, I may have to do some surgery. We’ll see. That’s what I get for trying to knit fiddly lace in the park in the sunshine with my friend while chatting and scoping out knitwear on other park-goers.

At last it was time to make my way home, and I took the train, as I so often do. Sometimes you can faintly hear over the loudspeaker the messages meant only for the drivers, and just as we were pulling into my station, I was treated to this: “All red and blue lines, Secret Train Order 11 is now in effect. Secret Train Order 11 now in effect.” What felicity to catch such an absurd and amusing directive! Seriously, they have Secret Train Orders, and that’s what they call them? Anyway, now that I have to live with the vexation of not knowing what Secret Train Order 11 is, I thought I’d be an equal tease to you, dear readers. I’m working on a new sock pattern, and I’m very pleased with Sock the First:

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I have concealed its most alluring features, although that picot cuff is darn cute, though I say it myself. For now we’ll just call it the Secret Train Order 11 sock, although I’m rather chuffed to have finally thought of a good real name for it the other night. I won’t be able to unveil these officially until the fall, but secret knitting is so dull if nobody knows you’re doing it, don’t you agree?

In which I am branded a loose knitter

Published on Sunday January 27th, 2008

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I finally brought about the trifecta of Mr. Garter’s Christmas slippers, Mr. Garter’s feet, and the camera in a decent pool of light. These are the Saturday Morning Slippers from Kristin Spurkland’s The Knitting Man(ual), and I’m proud to say that Mr. G has been wearing them regularly since the 25th of December. The yarn is Steadfast Fibers Wonderful Wool in driftwood and groovy green above, and the Wonderful Wool driftwood carried with Green Mountain Spinnery mystery wool on the sole. The Wonderful Wool is basically Lamb’s Pride’s plant-dyed cousin from a little company in Idaho – it’s an Aran-weight wool blended with 15% mohair, and it makes excellent mittens and slippers and wears like iron. I don’t even like to think about how long it’s been in the stash, but now it’s keeping my husband’s feet nice and toasty.

This project was more of a wrassle than a knit: two strands of worsted on size 8 needles in a twisted garter stitch is enough to make your hands beg for mercy. But I fought through them, and since I wasn’t sure there was anywhere in the house I could dry a dense woolen garment in two days without the recipient finding it, I got a little creative with a toolbox and the dehumidifier in the stock room at Knit/Purl. I’m here to tell you there’s no faster way to dry your handknits than to suspend them over the dehumidifier from the handles of two hammers balanced on the fuse box. They were bone dry the next morning and ready for wrapping. It’s nice to have an option for sturdy slippers that doesn’t involve felting. And Mr. G’s pleasure in wearing them means the pain was worthwhile.

While I may be devoted to my husband, my pal Patrick recently accused me of having knitterly commitment issues. Fair enough: from where I sit I can spy the basket containing my Gee’s Bend Log Cabin blanket, my Lily-of-the-Valley corset, my Lotus Blossom shawl, and my Frost Flowers sweater. It’s been at least six months since I’ve touched a single one of them. In the mean time, I’ve cast on roughly nineteen new projects (thanks, Ravelry!). Fourteen of those are finished, five are on the needles, and I’ve flirted (meaning I swatched, which doesn’t count as casting on – it’s like first base) with two more. Mr. G will kindly cover his eyes while I tell you I sassed Patrick that commitment is for poor souls who don’t have a different tasty morsel for every night of the week.

Seriously, do you believe in monogamous relations with your knitting projects? I clearly don’t, but I think the record will show that I finish the ones I start more often than not. I crave variety is all. Last weekend I realized I wasn’t actively working on anything with a needle larger than a US #2. There’s the Tr√łndelag mitten on #0s, an 80-stitch sock on #0s that I can’t show you yet, and the Ivy lace stole on #2s. A hankering to knit something instantly gratifying drove me to the stash after the bulky cinnabar Perendale wool, and in two days’ time I had a cardigan up to the armpits and a sleeve ready to join it. I busted out another half a sleeve this afternoon. If I don’t run out of wool, this will be my fastest sweater ever. I’m not a big-needle gal, but the #10.5 whoppers surely do crack along! Patrick will be lucky if I don’t call it the Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’am cardigan.

But just to prove that I haven’t dropped the torch, I give you Ivy stole progress:

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That’s about a third of its total length, not counting the edging I get to pick up and knit with a 47″ #0. Two chart repetitions per week should leave me the whole month of April to gnash my teeth over the edging and half of May to block it with seventeen porcupines’ worth of pins. Don’t begrudge me my other liaisons will I can still get them.

Nuptial lace

Published on Friday August 17th, 2007

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When two of your favorite people get married and enrich your family, it’s time to pull out all the stops and let the organ shake the rafters. In a knitterly expression of love, I’m pulling out the cashmere and the prettiest lace patterns I could find. The bride (and the rest of the family, including Selkie the Labrador, much to Mingus’s horror) were visiting for a long weekend, so we had the opportunity to pick out the perfect yarn and the perfect pattern. Our winner?

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Maureen Egan Emlet’s Mediterranean Lace, from Meg Swansen’s A Gathering of Lace. With their usual perfect timing, the Spiders gifted me this book (and Norah Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, and a gift certificate to a local fabric boutique, the generous gals) for my birthday. Ms. Egan Emlet’s design is kind of a mantilla shape, with a large central diamond on the back and two rectangular panels of ivy lace to drape over the shoulders. The bride and I prefer a rectangular stole, so we’re going to ditch the back diamond and just have a long panel of ivy lace with that exquisite leaf edging. It’s knit on size 2 needles, so now’s my chance to acquire an Addi lace circular. Oh, and a 48″ size 0. I guess I’m going to have to special-order that at work — not a needle size most places bother to stock! It’s a big project to take on, this Mediterranean Ivy stole, but Marika is entirely worth it and I do have until next May. The ivy chart doesn’t look too complicated, as the 28-st repetition is only patterned on the right side, and it should be easy to see the leaf shapes forming. You can start placing your bets now on the time it will take me to work the border, which is picked up and knit in the round (on that 48″ size 0), and to crochet the chain edging. I think the basic ivy rectangle had better be done by January! Wish me knitting luck and well-manicured fingers — that cashmere is heavenly soft, but fragile.