Eight Coasters Coasting

I finished up my mom’s Christmas coasters just in time — I soaked and ironed them on the 23rd, and they were dry and ready to go for our Christmas Eve dinner. They were requested by my mother over the summer, when I was working on my summer coaster project while I was visiting her. She wanted green and gold, to match our Christmas napkins and napkin holders, seen here:

In retrospect, this picture might have looked better if I’d put plates out! But you can see Max’s little furry head poking into frame in the upper left corner, so that makes up for it. I set the table and took this picture hours before dinner, because I wanted to take it while there was still some sun out.

The yarn is Takhi Cotton Classic, and the pattern is “Traditional Hexagon II” from Crochet Stitch Motifs by Erika Knight, a pattern my mom admired for its simplicity. I was able to memorize it in pretty short order, so making these was a breeze!

I’ll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Max that I took while we were out walking a few days ago. Happy holidays, everyone!

Mysteries of the East

If you’re asking yourself, “what on earth am I looking at?”, don’t worry: I’m asking myself that, too. A guy I dated in my junior year of college — years before I learned to knit, let alone spin — spent winter break that year at the Gandhi Institute in India, where he studied the philosophy of nonviolence and also learned to spin using a kit like this. Gandhi believed very strongly that all Indians should learn to spin so they would be less dependent on British textiles, and in fact the spinning wheel became an important symbol of his philosophy. My boyfriend, in addition to bringing me back some lovely dresses, brought me this kit and attempted to show me how to use it, but I never got the hang of it and we broke up shortly thereafter (for unrelated reasons). I did not bring my usual spinning with me to my parents’ house for the holidays because the equipment takes up a significant amount of room in my suitcase — but I thought that, with my newfound understanding of spinning, I might be able to get this thing to work.

The problem, of course, is that the directions are both vague and poorly translated, and the diagrams are blurry and sort of inaccurate. But with their dubious help and my general understanding of the physics of spinning, I managed to get the parts assembled into a configuration that really ought to work — in theory.

On the righthand side of the picture is a wheel with a metal handle that you turn by hand, which turns the smaller wheel even faster. On the lefthand side, that dark brown thing holding the spindle has a spring-hinge, which keeps the spindle under tension, and the spindle really ought to be turned by that loop connecting it to the smaller wheel. But it doesn’t work. I suspect that it might yet work this way if I either greased the point of the spindle that goes in the holder, or widened the spindle-hole in the holder just a tiny, tiny bit with a drill. I may attempt one of these things later, and let you know how it goes.

If all attempts fail, though, at least I have this bundle of Indian cotton that I can spin back home with my regular spindles!

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been working on some gift projects, but fewer than usual this year — after two years in a row of knitting for all my family members, I figured we all could use a break. How many hats and scarves does a person need? To a knitter, the answer is “infinity,” but to a regular person the answer is, “you know, a couple.” So they’re getting non-knitted gifts this year. I am, however, crocheting a set of coasters for my mom by special request; I should be finishing them up in the next day or two and will show them to you then. The only other gift I’m knitting this year is this scarf, which I’m giving you only a peek of since I want there to be some element of surprise when the giftee receives it, even though he and I talked at great and somewhat agonizing length about what he wanted the scarf to look like:

The yarn is the brand-new Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed, which I’d been eager to try, in the Woodsmoke colorway. It does seem very lofty and warm, but I was saddened to find a great deal of vegetable matter in the yarn — I’ve been picking out the bits of hay when I encounter them, but I’m probably not getting everything. This is definitely a wool-person’s yarn — it’s a bit on the scratchy side, but I think it’ll soften up once it has a bath, and it ought to be very durable.

I’ve also been working on my Shallow Sideways Tri-Shawl — I’m now past the halfway point, and it’s narrowing down instead of growing, so it’s flying along:

I continue to be head-over-heels in love with the Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace yarn; it’s actually kind of hard to imagine buying any other kind of lace yarn in the future. But surely I’ll manage somehow.

Best Sweater Ever?

The answer is yes. It is, at least, a personal best. I love everything about this sweater and I shall wear it forever and ever.

This is the Leitmotif Cardigan from the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Knits. I knit it using Madelinetosh’s Vintage in the “ink” colorway — the yarn is incredibly gorgeous, and it’s superwash! It did grow considerably in wet blocking — about 4 inches in length, and an inch or two in width. Both were things I was basically anticipating and hoping for, though. It’s ended up only about an inch longer than the pattern says it should be — and that’s a-okay, because my long torso always requires some additional inches. The only thing I’d do differently if I knit this again would be to knit the back a little bit narrower, because the widening in blocking means that the “sleeve caps” end up occurring well below my shoulders. It looks fine, though, and I’m doubly glad that I modified the sleeve caps to be less puffy. (I did fewer and wider short rows, as I explain in more detail here.) I also, of course, shortened the sleeves to fit my stumpy arms. They’re like 2 or 3 inches shorter than the pattern says they should be. :/

Here’s the cablework on the back. I’m thrilled at how well it came out; everything lined up perfectly at the center.

I’ve only attached the one hook-and-eye closure you see here — the pattern calls for putting 5 of them down the front starting at this under-bust point, but I think that would create an unflatteringly gappy center line.

So, hey, mission accomplished! On Tuesday night I fly back to the east coast with some smaller traveling projects that I’ll show you next time.