Victory is Mine

THREE YEARS after I started it, my Ribs and Lace Tank is finished! As you may recall, I attempted to knit it way back in 2007 when the pattern came out, before there was a Ravelry and before I had a blog, and I got 3/4 of the way through before I realized that I had drastically miscounted the number of stitches I’d cast on and it was way, way too small. So I hid it in a dark corner for two years, unraveled it last summer, and this summer I finally knit it again.

And hey, it looks pretty good!

Waiting 3 years to knit it again was actually a blessing in disguise, because in the meantime Ravelry came into existence and I learned about Svetlana’s modification of the bra top, which makes the garment much much more flattering. I abandoned the pattern entirely when I got to the ribbing, and followed Svetlana’s directions, except that I knit in straight ribbing for 5 inches instead of 4 before starting the shaping, because my bustiness demands more coverage.

Here I am embracing nature or something. The midriff holes mean I won’t exactly be wearing this in front of classrooms, but I’m actually very happy with the amount of midriff venting — it’s not so much that I feel uncomfortable, but it makes this breezy enough to wear on hot days despite the fact that it’s knit out of worsted weight cotton (Karabella Zodiac, to be precise). I originally thought of this as something I’d wear mostly to Burning Man & similar festivals, but I think it’s more real-world-appropriate than I anticipated.

Totally plausible. Obviously voting in favor of legalization this fall, but I would not assume that she is stoned right now.

I knit the whole thing on needles a size smaller than the pattern called for. The pattern recommends that you knit the skirt with US 10s and the top with US 4s, but I used 9s and 3s — I figured going down a needle size on top would give more boob coverage, and going down a size on the skirt would save it from being too loosely knit. My recommendation to you is to go down at least TWO needle sizes on the skirt — even knit on 9s, the lace looks sloppy, and since it’s cotton there’s not much blocking can do to help. Plus everybody on Ravelry complains that the skirt is too big. Mine is definitely bigger than I need it to be, but it’s not so big that I feel like it’s a problem. Oh, and definitely believe them about the negative ease — the ribs make the top really stretchy. My bust is 40″ and I knit the 37 1/2″ size (on smaller needles, too!) and it’s perfect.

I was frankly apprehensive about knitting this again; the reviews on Ravelry are so mixed, and cotton is not really my friend, but I’m very glad I did. This knit up very quickly, and came out surprisingly well!  But most importantly, I did not let my knitting beat me. And I cleared out space in my stash drawer! Victory is mine.

Flutter Scarf

Hey look, a finished Flutter Scarf! I know I told you that the next FO you’d see would be the Ribs and Lace Tank — and in fact I finished knitting it before I finished this — but there were a total of four ends to weave in for the scarf, while the tank top has approximately four million. So I’m still working on it.

In fact, I wasn’t expecting to be done with this scarf nearly so quickly, but I brought it along to a recent electronically-oriented jam session. I’ve long since learned that tossing my knitting in my bag is generally a good idea when I’m going to band practice, and doubly so when there are going to be a lot of computers and synthesizers for the boys to hook up and synchronize and babble about between takes. (My “analog” instruments — flute and saxophone — are a lot more straightforward!) So I got a LOT of knitting done that afternoon, and was surprised to find myself nearly done by the end of the session.

Here’s the obligatory headless closeup:

The yarn is Louet Mooi, and it’s outrageously gorgeous. I was highly conscious of only having 350 yards of it, though, so I weighed the yarn before and after knitting the first ruffle to make sure that I’d have enough at the end. I definitely didn’t have enough yarn to do the recommended 100 repeats of the pattern in the middle — I think I only did about 80 or so before I found myself with only the 7 grams I needed for the ruffle. This brilliant system almost worked — I ran out of yarn about 2/3 of the way through the bindoff, so I unpicked it and bound off on the purl side one row early. The difference is basically undetectable, so I’m happy.

I was worried with this pattern that I wasn’t going to feel able to rock the ruffles, but I think I’m managing just fine. Also, as you may have noticed, I recently got new glasses. I don’t intend to always be quite this hipstered-out, and am currently engaged in a long annoying quest to find replacements for my rimless glasses — apparently rimless glasses aren’t cool anymore and just about nowhere stocks more than a handful of models. But I’m doing just fine with these for now.

I was also worried that doing only 80 repeats instead of 100 would leave me with an unreasonably short scarf, but as you can see, this totally works. I had to stretch the crap out of it in the blocking stage, but I got it to 55 inches, which is in the ballpark for Respectable Scarf Length. (60 inches seems to be industry standard.)

I have some new things on the needles, but I guess I’ll save them for another post in a few days. And I swear, you’ll see that tank top soon!

Secrets Revealed: Baby Style

Finally I can tell you about that secret knitting I was doing back in June! It was this babywarming set for my friend Liz, who is having a baby girl in September. We’re all so excited!

This is Georgie Hallam’s Rainbow Dress pattern, which I highly recommend. The pricetag is a little steep, but the pattern is very all-inclusive and adaptable. It’s written for babies through little girl sizes, so you can get a lot of use out of it, and the construction is both ingenious and easy. Trust me, I spent a million hours looking at baby dresses, and this pattern is the winner for cuteness, easiness, and versatility.

The yarn is Bugga! by The Sanguine Gryphon and yes, it lives up to the hype. It’s super soft, super sturdy, and the dye jobs are beautiful. This colorway is “Fairy Wren,” and it seemed like the perfect thing for a little girl. I really really did not want to use pink. It’s a bit thinner than the recommended yarn for the pattern, so I knit the 9-month size hoping to end up with something more like the 6-month size, so the little one can wear this in the spring.

I had a bunch of yarn left over, so I also knit some booties:

These are the ubiquitous Saartje’s Booties. I’m guessing they’re ubiquitous because the pattern is free, they’re worked flat, and they’re super cute. But in truth, the next time I knit baby booties I think I’m going to make some knit in the round, because the seams on these came out a little wonky. This is probably because each bootie took me the length of a single feature film to knit, but that meant that both times I was doing the seaming at the end of the night when I’d had a few drinks. So it might not be the pattern’s fault. And can we all admire the OMG COMPLETELY PERFECT tiny little buttons I found? Because, OMG.

In other news, this is what I’ve been knitting on my vacation:

This is Miriam Felton’s Flutter Scarf, which I’ve been eyeing for awhile. It’s quite a bit different than the other scarves I’ve knit so far, and that made me a little anxious because this is my treasured Louet Mooi yarn, and I didn’t want to knit it into something I wouldn’t wear. It’s a little… ruffly, but I think I can deal with it. This yarn is a bamboo/buffalo/cashmere blend and kind of crazily expensive, but I picked up a skein last summer for 40% off when I was in Mendocino for a wedding and their LYS was having a huge moving sale. You can’t really tell from this picture, but it is divine — super soft, super light, and very radiant.

I have to go, because I’ve gotta get on a plane back to California. Next time we meet, I will probably have a finished Ribs & Lace tank, and hopefully it will be wearable.

Silver Forge Farm

When I told them I was learning to spin, my friends Shannon and Eliezer generously offered to send me some of the wool from their sheep. I was thrilled at the idea of spinning from their very own home-grown sheep, and what’s better, they wouldn’t have to mail the wool to me because I was already on my way to New Jersey! Earlier this afternoon, I went with my dad and brother to visit their farm, and it was delightful.

Meet Sookie. She is the sheep that gave me my wool. How cool is that?? She’s a Jacob cross. Here’s the wool she has generously provided:

That is a lot of wool. It’s about 1/4 – 1/3 of Sookie’s whole fleece. The lighting is sort of poor in this shot, but I actually love the color — it’s a rustic, natural gray. It’s hard to believe all this (and much more) came from that svelte little sheep there, but I guess they really bulk up before they’re shorn!

Eliezer took us on a tour of the farm; here he is showing us the chickens.

These are apparently egg-laying chickens and are not particularly optimized for eating. The Silvers sell their eggs at the West Windsor Farmer’s Market — if you’re in central New Jersey, you should check them out! Eliezer explained that they actually move the fenced-in chicken area around their pasture every month or so, so the chickens can eat the grass in different places while it grows back in the previously-eaten places.

This pig is part of a similar system. They actually use him to till their ground — they let him dig up the soil in his pen and, uh, naturally fertilize it for while, then they move his pen and plant vegetables where he plowed the soil for them. Crazy! And isn’t that back-mowhawk awesome?

The Silvers wouldn’t let us leave without some farm-fresh eggs and tomatoes, and as soon as we got home my brother and I cooked some up for ourselves:

Mmmmmmm. In fact, I’m off to make a tomato salad for tonight’s dinner!

You Spin Me Right Round, Baby

Friends, I have been holding out on you. About two weeks ago, I took a drop-spindle lesson — but I haven’t had time to blog about it until now.

I first got this bee in my bonnet about spinning a whole year ago, when a class was announced at The Yarn Lady. As it turned out, the scheduling didn’t work for me, and all year I kept either missing announcements for classes or hearing about classes that I was unable to attend. Finally a few weeks ago the stars aligned through a series of complicated events, and I made a last-minute decision to just finally go to a class already. And it was great!

Now, by “great,” I don’t mean “I made totally awesome yarn.” Do you want to see the yarn I made at my spinning class? Because here it is:

Okay, you can stop laughing now. Or crying. Or whatever that is you’re doing. Because damn it, I enjoyed making this yarn even if it looks ridiculous. I was reminded of how much I really like learning new skills! I actually sort of enjoy having total permission to be completely terrible at something and to ask incredibly stupid questions. I spend so much of my life as a teacher and scholar pretending to be an expert and acting like I have all the answers, so I found it sort of therapeutic to be able to be a total novice for once.

Another great thing about learning new skills is measurable and rapid improvement. This is, shall we say, not something that I get to experience very often in the process of writing my dissertation. Check out the second little skein of yarn I spun, just a few hours after the class:

Hey, that almost looks like something I could begin to imagine knitting with! Something crazy-looking, no doubt, but the color choices were not mine — I spun this out of a bunch of random fiber scraps that my teacher Karen let me take home to practice on. (And by the way, if you’re in southern California and interested in spinning, you should definitely hit Karen up! She’s a fabulous teacher.) There are still a bunch of big slubs in here, and the whole thing is quite bulky and loosely spun, but I’m thinking about actually doing something with this yarn: maybe some funky cuffs?

After that first day, I had to take a hiatus because Pat and I were out of town for a few days. But when I returned, something magical happened. Somewhere between watching Abby Franquemont’s instructional videos, reading Abby’s book, and playing with the random bits of fiber on my coffee table, I had an epiphany about drafting that enabled me to avoid making those big slubs, and has helped me to get rid of them when they do occur. Behold, my current project:

Look how thin that yarn is! And how (comparatively) even! I am very excited. I wish I could explain to you what this epiphany consisted of, but it’s more of a “how it’s supposed to feel” epiphany — sort of like what your body realizes when you figure out how to ride a bike. One of the reasons I’m kind of in love with spinning right now is that it’s letting me experience fiber on a whole new level — I’m already gaining a better understanding of how fiber behaves and how different kinds of yarn are constructed.

The yarn I’m spinning in the above picture is from a Louet brand Corriedale top, dyed “Pagoda Red.” I’m planning to ply those singles together with the ones I’m going to spin from this baby here:

This is a Targhee top from Mountain Colors in the colorway “Indian Corn.” I have nooooo idea how much yarn I’ll end up with when all this is over, but I figure I’ll spin first and ask questions later. I’ll have at least enough for a hat, right? We’ll see. We’ll see.