I’m back

Published on Thursday December 7th, 2006

Hoo boy, when the catcalls start rolling in you know it’s been too long since your last post! I only wish my absence had been due to over-celebration of Mr. Garter’s birthday, as certain readers have begun to speculate. Alas, the 28th saw an emergency trip to New York City on sad business. My brother’s girl, whom I regard as my own sister, lost her mom to cancer. Her death was sudden and shocking despite the fact that we knew her chemo treatments weren’t working, and it left her daughter with no surviving relatives. My whole family flew out immediately to support them, and they are fortunate to have a bountiful and devoted group of friends who will help them through any crisis. Those two kids are up against the kind of responsibility and strain nobody 24 years old should have to face, so send them a few good wishes or a prayer if that’s your style.

The positive notes of the trip were the chances to spend time with my family, my friends at my former job, and of course my beloved Spiders. A visit or two to The Point is always welcome, although I was very good and didn’t buy any new yarn. (Not for lack of trying, but no one seemed to have the color of Debbie Bliss Cathay I needed for a project I’ll unveil the week after next…)

I had to return home to sit for an art history final this morning. It was one of those tricksy exams that doesn’t cover anything you were sure you’d have to write on, and instead throws you curveballs you didn’t think you’d have to handle because the material was from before the mid-term. I thought I’d figured out the professor’s style, and so I was sort of crushed that I didn’t get to hold forth on Vanderlyn’s Ariadne and Protestant views of the nude. Nor did I get to use my knowledge of cavetto cornices and the Egyptian Renaissance, peripteral columns, Archibald Alison’s associationist aesthetic, the significance of the invention of the lead tube in 1837, or even Frederick Church’s gruesome poisoning by those new-fangled cadmium paints. I feel so thwarted, darn it. I think I achieved a respectable grade all the same, but it wasn’t a very satisfying experience. Ah well, there’s always Part 2 of the course next term.

In other news, the holiday knitting crunch is here. I’m afraid Mr. Garter’s Fishtrap Aran won’t have sleeves in time. Here’s what it looks like these days:

fishtrap_pattern.jpg   fishtrap12606.jpg

I think I’m about eight inches shy of the top of the body, but I need to measure the armholes of some of his other sweaters to be sure. He’ll never wear it if it pinches his armpits, and I can’t say I’d blame him. Down with armpit pinching.

I’ve finished the first raven mitten, and hopefully I’ll have a picture of it for you in a couple of days. I missed the good light for photography today. Only three more to go if the neighbors are to have warm fingers! At least they finally got a new boiler – the old one broke and they had to pin blankets over the windows and use their oven to heat the house for several weeks. I was feeling badly I hadn’t started their mittens earlier in the season.

It’s definitely mitten weather in Portland – cold and dry. A scouring easterly came through while I was gone and did most of the raking for me, although I suspect most of my leaves have just gone to annoy the neighbors across the street. Poor things, they bought a property without any deciduous trees and probably imagined they were going to have it easy with the yardwork. There’s a pointer for you if you’re in the market for a house: be sure to ask your realtor about the prevailing winds! Tangentially, I think it’s a pity we Americans have such an impoverished vocabulary for our winds. Other people have names for each one, as you can see here. Now I’m fantasizing about a family of mitten designs named things like Squamish and Williwaw and Matanuska. But for now, it’s back to the holiday knits. No use fattening up the design notebook when so many gifts are wanting!

EZ forever

Published on Tuesday September 12th, 2006

It was chilly in my bedroom this morning. Upstairs here in 1910 Bungalow Land is a “finished attic”, but apparently insulation hasn’t been deemed all that essential to finish construction. My aunt warned us it would be nippy up there during the winter, but I’m the girl who slept with the windows open year round in Maine. And it’s temperate Portland — it’s not like we’re going to be breaking ice on the wash basin or anything. But that tingle in the air the last few mornings means summer is coming to a close, and even the potentiality of a cold house is ample cause to cast on a wool sweater. Yes, I have several in mind for myself, including one of my own design with the yarn begging in the closet. But first I’m going to make a start on Mr. Garter’s Fishtrap cardi.

The swatchcap worked up at an acceptable gauge, so I just need to make a few notes about the math and then I’ll be off to the races. And that means cosying up with Elizabeth Zimmermann and the Knitter’s Almanac before bed tonight. Mr. Garter’s several hundred miles away with our biking friends at Cycle Oregon, hatching some crazy plan to ride about 80 miles uphill tomorrow. But I’ve got my cat (who’s had his tail badly bitten by mean Felix and requires extra cuddling and Amoxicillin for his wounds) and one of the great knitting manuals of all time, so I’m happy as a goat in garbage. Madam Zimmermann’s had a little extra media exposure recently, what with the sock patterns in the latest issue of VK (and I’m dying to knit me some wild colorwork kneesocks). I’ve long admired her fearless attitude, and the more I see of her patterns, the more I marvel at her innovation. Ever seen the Baby Surprise jacket? How exactly did she figure out how to construct that thing? She was a genius, but the best part is that her books make you feel like there’s no earthly reason you couldn’t be, too.

The point I’m coming to is this: it doesn’t matter a bit that EZ’s books were published thirty or forty years ago. I know it will make me a better knitter to follow her advice and attempt some of her patterns. And if I think a garment of hers needs a little style modification here and there, that’s perfectly in keeping with the pioneering spirit she espouses. (As long as I don’t knit it in acrylic.) Jess and I are gung ho to make Fishtrap cardis with zippers. I think a Baby Surprise might be just the thing for a friend’s little one due next month. And there are always those kneesocks… Jess and I are cooking up an EZ knitalong, which we’re calling Zimmermania. So far it’s just the two of us, but we’re friendly and we’d like company. Who’s in? Grab an EZ title, grab your sticks, pick a project (or two or three). If there’s interest, we’ll moderate a Blogger page where you can post your progress. More details to follow in the next few days.

The results are in

Published on Saturday September 2nd, 2006

You’ve cast your votes as to how best I should end my sock knitting delinquency, and Retro Rib is the clear winner. And just to show how disciplined I am, I’m going to take your advice even though I was leaning toward Pomatomus. C’mon, it’s so much more fun! I love watching the scales form, and I love the Claudia Handpainted Plumlicious colorway. But my Retro Ribs are Claudia Handpainted, too, so I’ll have to be content. And this way I can use Pomatomus as a reward for my diligence later on.

Alas, the Retro Rib socks are not my oldest unfinished object. There’s still poor Charlotte to seam and (hopefully) shrink. There’s half a cotton baby hat lying around somewhere. There’s a fifth of a Lotus Blossom shawl lurking among my laceweight yarns. There’s kid sweater with no arms (and no kid) on the closet shelf.

So what am I doing? Thinking of new projects, of course. I cross my heart and swear to finish the Prairie camisole before I cast on anything else — I’m halfway up the back — but I confess I’m already swatching for an Elizabeth Zimmermann Fishtrap cardigan for Mr. Garter. Here’s what it will look like (hopefully) — just imagine it in a tweedy natural wool:

fishtrap2.jpg fishtrap1.jpg

I’d seen the above pictures of the original courtesy of Jen, and then I ran across an old and dog-eared copy of The Knitter’s Almanac in the Powell’s on Hawthorne the other day. Mr. Garter liked the look of the sweater, and I’ve owed him a knitted garment for a long time. The man’s been my partner for six years and all he’s gotten is a lousy scarf. (It’s not really lousy: it’s actually a very handsome scarf, if I say so myself. It’s Grignasco Top Print alpaca, and a tour de force of seed stitch.) Mr. Garter’s version of the Fishtrap will have a zipper rather than buttons, as he is sporty rather than tweedy. This means I’ll be both steeking and sewing in a zipper for the first time — on the same project. Next month will mark two years since I learned to knit, and I think this will be an appropriate way to raise the bar for myself.

But never fear: the Retro Rib sock will be completed before its mate is a year old. I swear it shall be done. The Fishtrap is a pretty complex little beast with all those travelling stitches, so it will be nice to counterpose some fairly simple sock knitting.

We’re up visiting my parents on the island until Thursday, but happily my father has the same camera set-up, so I hope to post pictures from here. Mingus the Cat has come along on the trip for the first time, much to his dismay. He expressed his disinclination for the car ride by throwing up his breakfast between my feet somewhere near Kelso. Thank goodness he missed the knitting bag. Prairie camisole certainly doesn’t need that kind of adornment. I think he’ll like Friday Harbor once he gets used to the new surroundings, though. He’s already running around exploring every nook and cranny so he can get comfortable.