Be My Winding Wheel

Would you believe that I haven’t had time to write up my Pacific Northwest trip yet because I’ve been too busy knitting? Well, I have — I’m going back home to California tomorrow, and I’ve been busting my ass to finish that giant blanket before I leave. I’m going to leave you in suspense about how it’s going for now, though, because I have so much about Seattle and Portland to tell you!

Above, you see one of the knitterly highlights of my trip: my first experience spinning on a wheel at my friend Vanessa‘s house. It was hard to get the hang of it at first, but once she gave me a few tips I was able to spin a few decent yards. This is the Ashton Kiwi, which I’ve heard wonderful things about, and it seemed to work pretty well. It was a little stunning to realize how much faster I could be spinning if I had a wheel, which I guess would be both good and bad: good because more yarn, bad because more money spent on fiber.

It was lovely to see Vanessa, and she pointed us to some important Seattle landmarks, such as the statue of Vladimir Lenin, who was still decorated for the holidays:

And the giant bridge troll:

And, of course, some local yarn shops. Pat was a very good sport about all the knitting-tourism I wanted to do! The first one we hit up was Seattle Yarn in west Seattle, a neighborhood that Pat & I really enjoyed. The shop was well-stocked and the owner was friendly, and I came away with these:

The picture’s a little crappy, but this is two skeins of Berroco Alpaca Fine, in a very interesting colorway: dark blue with a red halo.

We also made it to Weaving Works via some minor hilarity. It was Vanessa’s most highly recommended shop, but we initially didn’t think we’d have time to fit it in. Then one afternoon when we were staying with my friend Miriam, our second Seattle hostess, Pat and I found ourselves sitting around her house one afternoon at 4:30 without much to do. I looked at Weaving Works again online and realized that it was only about a 10-minute drive from Miriam’s place… and that it was closing at 5:00. So we dashed to the car and got there just in time for me to be able to poke around. I got this lovely yarn:

This is Soxie from the Great Adirondack Yarn Company, in the somewhat strangely-named “copper” colorway. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Weaving Works was all the giant baskets full of fiber for sale by the ounce. It was difficult to choose, but I eventually came away with this:

This is a little more than 4 ounces of merino fiber in a stunning blue colorway that seems to have been carded with bits of pink, purple, and green. I’m super excited about it, and really glad we managed to squeeze Weaving Works into our trip.

That’s me and Vanessa. I highly recommend you check out her brand-new knitting blog — it’s already got some thoughtful and interesting posts on knit-bombing, switching from Western to Continental knitting, and sweater alterations, among other things!

After Seattle came Portland, where we stayed with my friend Jim for a couple of days. Jim was a marvelous host, treating us to craftsman whiskey and to mead that he’d brewed himself, and  showing us jazz, karaoke, and lots of wonderful restaurants. He is not, however, much of a knitter — heh. But I met up with my friend Karel one afternoon and we took a trip to Yarnia, a magical land where shop patrons get to make their own yarn by selecting single strands to ply together in a big old-fashioned cone-winding machine that I tragically did not get a picture of. After a few different experiments and swatches, this is what I came up with:

It’s three different purples — one of them a fuzzy mohair — and a strand of glittering gold. The gold was Karel’s stroke of genius; I liked the combination of purples that I’d come up with, but it didn’t feel enough like a one-of-a-kind yarn yet. I’m super excited about it!

Other Portland highlights included Powell’s bookstore, Multnomah Falls, and blacklight-pirate-minigolf, but this post is already getting quite long!

I have just one more yarn acquisition to show you. After Seattle and Portland, Pat and I came back to the east coast where I’ve been visiting my family. On a snowy trip to New York City, I began to develop cowl envy — I was wearing my Infinitude Scarf, but it seemed insufficiently snuggly for the wind and snow. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I fell head-over-heels in love with these skeins when I saw them hanging in a vendor’s stall in Union Square:

This is a bulky-weight one-ply merino from Catskill Merino, and I love it to pieces. I shall knit it into a huge bulky cowl that I will almost never wear on the west coast, but I’ll love it next winter when I come back east again!

Holiday

Sorry to leave you hanging for so long — I’m sure you’ve all been teetering on the edge of your seats waiting to find out whether I managed to finish the scarf for my brother in time for Christmas. As you can see in this crappy late-night self-portrait, I did. This is actually a pre-blocking shot, but I didn’t really stretch it in the blocking process — I just washed it and laid it flat to soften and relax the fibers. It spent about 24 hours blocking (on December 21st) in the basement before my brother came home for the holiday, then I had to transfer it to a hidden spot in my bedroom so he wouldn’t see it while it continued to dry. I got it wrapped and under the tree by the 23rd, just under the wire — my family opens our gifts to each other on the 24th!

The pattern for the scarf is Palindrome, and it’s basically a reversible version of the ubiquitous Irish Hiking Scarf. (Both are free patterns — hooray!) I’ve never knit the IHS, but I imagine that the Palindrome scarf is denser and uses up more yarn because of the reversibility, which is mostly accomplished via ribbing. That’s right, reversible cables! It was my first time working them, but they turn out to be pretty easy and I’m glad that I now know the trick. The only modification I made to the pattern was adding another row of cables — at just three cables wide, it seemed too narrow, so I did four.

My other holiday project, which I never bothered to photograph, was a beadless version of Abrazo for my mom, by special request. It looks more or less exactly like my earlier one linked there, because I even used the same yarn! So, no photo.

Besides The Great Scarf Scramble, you may recall that my other crazypants winter-break plan was to knit Jared Flood’s new Leaves of Grass shawl in bulky yarn as a blanket and to block it here at my parents’ spacious house and then mail it back to my tiny California apartment. This ran into a snag when (1) the blanket-in-progress, which I’d mailed to my parents’ house, arrived several days later than it was supposed to, and (2) I realized I’d forgotten to pack my longest Knitpicks interchangeable-circular cord. So I had to order another one of those, which took another few days, and as a result I missed out on the valuable days on and around Christmas when our house was inundated with relatives and all there was to do was to sit around and chat with them and knit. During that time, I instead made swift progress on my Port Ludlow socks, which are now almost complete:

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I’m only a few repeats away from the toe on the second sock.

I finally was able to start on the blanket again, though, and I’m making progress. I’m a little worried that I won’t finish in time, but I have a girls-only craft night scheduled on Monday where I should be able to put in a solid three hours or so on it. From this picture, it may not be easy to tell how much progress I’ve made, but it’s been going pretty well:

Fingers crossed! And while I was busy taking this picture, Max came to the very reasonable conclusion than a furry object of this size and shape was obviously a dog bed and plopped down right in the middle of my shot:

What? This is for me, right?

I have also started yet another project, mostly because I was worried about running out of sock to knit on the plane back home, but also because I’d promised Pat some new handknit socks for Christmas New Year’s Valentine’s Day and I happened to come across the perfect yarn:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s Madelinetosh Tosh DK in a colorway called “Cosmos,” which I thought was interesting-looking but still quite manly. And look! I’m knitting them magic-loop style! This is the first time I’ve ever done that, and it turns out to be very easy and quite possibly less annoying than using doublepointed needles. When Wooly Monmouth, the new(ish) LYS near my parents’ house, was out of size 2 DPNs, the lovely owner Dori gave me a three-minute magic loop lesson and assured me it was a technique I’d be glad I learned. And I am! I can’t say enough good things about Wooly Monmouth — helpful staff, gorgeous yarn, Madelinetosh for miles — so if you live in or ever visit the Jersey shore, I strongly encourage you to go! The pattern I’m using for these socks is the dirt-simple Blueberry Waffle Socks, since they’re written for DK-weight yarn, easily customizable, and stretchy (so sizing will be easy).

And speaking of holidays, I’ve just come back from a week-long trip to Portland and Seattle — but I’m going to make you wait until next time to hear about it!