Vintage/Modern

IMG_20130713_0004

My parents are cleaning out their house in vague preparations to downsize and move sometime in the next year or two, and one of the things my mother unearthed was this great 1975 pattern book for Brunswick yarn, along with an unfinished crochet afghan she’d been making from this book in the 70s and a whole bunch of yarn that had been earmarked for the project. There are some great pictures in this thing! The top photo is my favorite; it’s from the back cover.

Here’s the front cover. I guess it’s the same model, but it’s not quite as amusing as her sassy cigarette pose:

IMG_20130713_0006

Upon reflection, though, very little about this picture makes sense. “Oh, it’s just little old me, in my glamorous makeup, wrapped up in this giant afghan, crouching on the ground outside.” Maybe she came over for a fancy barbecue (if that’s a thing) and drastically underdressed for the weather?

But the real prize for absurdity has to go to this shot:

_20130713_0001

My mom calls this a “James Bond girl shot,” and I think she’s onto something. “Dahlink, vhy don’t you step into the kitchen for a drink and some snuggles?” The pattern for that dress is in this book, too, and interestingly the only sizes for the clothing in this booklet are 12, 14, and 16 (with bust measurements of this dress coming in at 41″, 43″, and 45″). They probably intend for some positive ease, but I think that speaks volumes about how size standards have changed over the years. (And about how knitting patterns have become more user friendly, presented in a wider array of sizes!)

Here’s one more gem for you:

_20130713_0002

Oh yes, you can knit her all-yellow outfit if you choose!

I elected not to finish my mom’s crochet afghan, for several reasons. (1) I’m not much of a crocheter. Even though it was a simple shell pattern and would have been within my abilities, it would have been tough to work on in front of the TV, where is where I do 95% of my knitting. (2) She’d given up on it because her gauge had gotten wonky, so there would be some significant fixing I’d have to do. (3) There were eleventy billion ends to weave in already, and the thing wasn’t even half done. And (4) there was enough of her yarn leftover for me to just knit a blanket myself that would be both more fun for me to work on and more functional as an end product — shell stitch produces a fabric full of holes.

I decided to just freestyle a garter stitch blanket, in part because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to determine how much yarn I actually had, since the labels on this yarn list its weight in ounces but bizarrely not its yardage. After I’d embarked on this plan, though, I thought to look the yarn up on Ravelry and lo and behold, there it is despite its being long-discontinued: Brunswick Germantown. I have the older 4-ounce skeins, and I could have calculated my yardage and followed a pattern, but I’ve been having so darn much fun doing this that I see no reason to stop:

IMG_5642

I’m using the Mason-Dixon Moderne Baby Blanket as inspiration, but I’m not really following the pattern at all — just deciding for myself what colors will look best where. The main insight that pattern gave me was the idea of using intarsia to break up rows into multiple color blocks, which you can see that I’m doing on the top right now and already did on the right hand side. I’d never actually done intarsia before, but it turns out to be stupidly easy and basically exactly like fair-isle knitting except you don’t carry the strand along with you; you just knit in blocks and twist the strands at the color changes. I expect that the hardest things about it are following complicated patterns that call for it and keeping your tension even at the transition points, but here the “pattern” is dirt simple and the transitions are easily managed. I’m having so much fun with this thing that I’m finding it really tough to put down, despite the fact that it’s growing into a sizable wool blanket and it’s the middle of August! Of course, it’s also been a shockingly mild summer here in southern California, and the hottest months are probably ahead of us — September and October are usually the worst. So this blanket probably won’t be finished until the fall, but it’ll be a fun thing to pick up now and then until the cooler weather hits!

The Cruellest Month?

IMG_5523

I finished spinning this yarn recently, which I’m calling “Breeding Lilacs Out of the Dead Land,” of course from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It’s 2 oz of a 50/50 merino silk blend from the lovely Sincere Sheep, and I succeeded at my plan of spinning it into a fine laceweight to stretch my yardage — I ended up with 440 yards, plenty for a nice lace shawl or scarf!

Here’s my next spinning venture underway:

IMG_5526

This picture is not really doing this fiber justice — it’s an undyed merino/yak/silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm and it’s positively luminous. It’s also one of the softest things I’ve ever felt — it’s such a treat to spin!

April was the month of my birthday, and here’s the spread of fiber-related things that I’m calling birthday gifts to myself — notice a theme?

IMG_5528

Yeah, I guess I’m feeling this color combo right now! The knitting on the bottom is an in-progress Creedence shawl knit out of Verdant Gryphon‘s Mondegreen yarn in a colorway called “Ooh! Ooh! Jade Weiner” — all the Mondegreen yarns are named after famously misheard song lyrics, and this is apparently how some people hear the chorus to “Dream Weaver” by REO Speedwagon. Corrina Ferguson designed this pattern specifically for this yarn back in October, and I knew immediately that this was one of those cases where it was worth it to buy the yarn called for. I’m sure this pattern would be lovely in other yarns, too — Tosh Vintage comes to mind — but I wanted an excuse to try out Mondegreen (a wool/silk/camel blend!). I finally caved and bought my two skeins in April when VG announced they were about to retire it for the season in order to make room for lighter, more summery yarns — and I cast on right away when it arrived! The Zen Yarn Garden skein is a laceweight yarn in a hilariously identical colorway, but I’m sure it’ll become a very different piece. I bought it at the Alamitos Bay Yarn Company during Yarn Crawl LA — ABYC is my local yarn store anyway, and I didn’t have time to hit up any faraway stores, but I went to take advantage of my birthday-month discount, enter the drawings, and see the Yarnover Truck (which is awesome, but was a little picked over by the time I got there — they don’t have much storage space in there!). And the sewing box is something I’ve needed for a long time — for years I’ve had a very small sewing box that I bought to hold knitting notions and the few leftover buttons and spools of thread that knitting projects can generate, but as the years have gone by that small collection of items got quite large and the box was overflowing! My new sewing box is so palatial by comparison that I actually have a separate compartment for my favorite stitch markers, so that I don’t have to dig through the lesser stitch markers to find them:

IMG_5530

Those are my favorites on the left at the back. They’re all from Hey Buttons on Etsy, and what I like so much about them is that the rings are welded shut so they can’t possibly catch on a strand of your yarn. They also all have lovely gemstones or glass beads on them! In fact, I like them so much that when I went to dig out that link for you I accidentally ordered some more for myself – ha!

In other knitting news, I’ve made a big change to my plans for my friend Amanda’s chuppah — but scrolling through this blog I realize I never told you about it in the first place! I was thrilled to be asked to knit the chuppah for Amanda’s wedding this summer, but it turns out that there’s only one pattern for a chuppah on Ravelry and I wasn’t thrilled with it. So I looked around for square lace shawls and blankets, and I initially settled on a lovely cabled blanket pattern called Serenity. I knit on this all through the eight-hours-each-way drive from LA to Tahoe for Amanda’s bachelorette party, as well as during downtime that weekend, but I had some doubts — all the cabling was beautiful, but it was going to result in a very heavy blanket which threatened to make a bulky, sagging chuppah. Then last month Kirsten Kapur released a beautiful, perfect square shawl pattern — Water Music — and my brain instantly went “CHUPPAH CHUPPAH CHUPPAH!” And so:

IMG_5531

It was a little sad to rip out so much work, but this is SO much better on so many levels. It’s moving along much more quickly, it has heart-shaped double-leaf motifs, and it’ll be a lovely canopy that will let light through during the ceremony — and afterwards, it will still serve as a cuddly blanket. I’m trying my best to get the knitting done during these last chilly weeks of spring before summer hits southern California in full force and I no longer want a huge wooly blanket in my lap as I’m knitting — wish me luck!

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

Behold: my finished Leaves of Grass blanket. It was a crazy plan, but it was actually a pretty good plan if you looked past the crazy. The two main bits of crazy were: (1) this is a shawl pattern with no yardage suggestions for scaling it up to a blanket, and a brand-new shawl pattern at that, so there were no other people on Ravelry yet who had attempted to blanket-ify it, and (2) I mailed it to my parents’ house while in progress so that I could finish it there over winter break and block it in their spacious basement, and then I shipped it back to my tiny California apartment. But Crazy Bit #1 wasn’t so bad, because I’d already made Girasole, another pi-shawl/blanket from Jared Flood, and I had a pretty good idea of the yardage I’d need. Plus I chose to use Cascade Eco+ for the yarn, which comes in enormous 478-yard skeins, so I figured that buying 4 of them would be more than enough. And it was — barely. I ended up with only 20% of my last skein left over. (All in all, it took 1,816 yards. Yowza!) And Crazy Bit #2, while definitely having some red flags for craziness, was actually a thoroughly reasonable plan. What would have been really crazy would have been to knit this here in California and then having to rearrange our furniture to get a space big enough to block it, rendering our living room useless for days. Also, knitting a big wooly blanket over the (admittedly tame) midwinter weeks that I was visiting the east coast was thoroughly delightful.

Another part of the plan that was arguably crazy was that it involved a hard deadline on an enormous project — and things like edging always take three times longer than you think they will. I was actually a little amazed at how well I estimated how long it would take me to knit this thing — and it would have worked out perfectly… if I had remembered to pack the ultra-long Knitpicks cables that I would need once the blanket got to its full hugeness. But since I forgot them and didn’t realize this until the in-progress blanket arrived at my parents’ house, I lost four or five days to ordering new cables and waiting for them to arrive. So for my last few days in New Jersey, I was lugging the blanket around in a giant department-store shopping bag everywhere I went, insisting on knitting at friends’ houses and veterinary waiting rooms. On my second-to-last night in town, I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning, shotgunning episodes of Dr. Who and working furiously to finish the edging. But I did finish, and I soaked the blanket in the bathtub, and I pinned it out before going to bed. Here’s a slightly-crappy blocking shot:

I had fantasized that if I pinned it out on Wednesday night, then I might be able to unpin it and ship it myself on Friday before I left. But on Friday morning it was still a little damp, so I ended up entrusting my parents with the unpinning and shipping. And today, the finished blanket finally arrived!

One of the reasons I was making this blanket is because Pat always complains that my Girasole seems deliberately designed to not allow him to cover his toes and his shoulders at the same time. I told him that I couldn’t make any promises about this one, but I was optimistic. And behold:

Naptastic!

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!

Crazypants

What you see here is 1800 yards of pure, unadulterated crazypants. Let me count the ways:

1) The pattern, Jared Flood’s brand-new Leaves of Grass, is written as a shawl in fingering weight yarn but I am knitting it in bulky-weight yarn (Cascade Eco+) to make a blanket. It’s the second coming of Girasole, right? Surely it’ll be okay to just estimate yardage on this much-larger-than-a-shawl blanket before anybody else has posted such a feat on Ravelry, right?

2) There is not enough room to block the finished blanket in my apartment, so I am mailing it across the country while very much in-progress so that I can finish it at my parents’ house over the holidays and block it in their large, roomy basement. I will then, of course, ship it back to myself in California.

3) There is a distinct possibility that my mother will demand one of these for herself when she sees its full blocked-out glory. Assuming that everything works out and I don’t run out of yarn, of course. And, you know, this is a huge project and one that I’m not especially eager to undertake as a gift for somebody who doesn’t quite understand the immensity of it all.

Okay, so there are only three ways in which this is project is totally crazypants. But they are significant. And there is yet more crazy!

You see this? This is a Christmas gift. I have knitted exactly one row on it, and Christmas is 10 days away. My mother texted me yesterday with orders that I am to make a light gray cabled scarf for my brother. And as the lady at the yarn store reminded me while shoving this yarn into my hands, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So my brother is getting a cabled scarf for Christmas and I will somehow knit it in the next ten days. Fortunately, there is a five-hour plane ride in my near future. The yarn is Classic Elite Portland Tweed, and it’s gorgeous. I’m not going to link to the pattern until this is done, on the off chance that my brother reads this blog. I think he’ll like it, though, and not just our mother.

The third project that I’m bringing home for the holidays is much more sane:

This is a Port Ludlow sock: mellow, intuitive Anne Hanson knitting and a much-needed stashbusting project. The yarn is String Theory Caper Sock that I’ve had sitting around forever. It seems very similar to Sanguine Gryphon’s Bugga and might even be the same yarn base; I think it’s got the same fiber composition. Before Xmas-scarf-o-rama came into my life I was sure that I’d be able to finish these puppies before the end of winter break, but now I am less sure. Wish me luck!

Winter Leaves

I seem to be on a green-and-leafy kick this winter, quite possibly because I spent the holidays in the epicenter of Snowpocalypse 2010, a blizzard that prevented Pat from being able to visit my family and that turned the local mall into a red cross station, among other things. Fortunately I am now back in southern California, and able to take sunny pictures like this one! What you see here is the beginning of a pair of Sleepy Hollow Socks, which I’m knitting because I like the leafy pattern but also because everybody on Ravelry raves about the heel construction: the gussets are knit in the round along with the heel, with no stitches to pick up. Crazy! You can’t really see in this picture, but I’ve gotten to the gusset increases and it all makes sense so far. I can’t quite conceptualize how turning the heel is going to work, but I have faith that if I continue to follow the instructions, everything will work out fine. The yarn is Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga in a colorway called Autumn Tiger Beetle. I’d initially imagined making a scarf or something out of it, since the colors are so pretty, but I already have a dark green scarf-like thing, and as you’ll see in a second, I’m in the process of knitting another one. So I decided to use this sock yarn to make socks with after all — shocking! I’ve sworn to make at least two pairs of socks this winter, because I love wearing handknit socks around the house but I have no desire to knit them anytime other than winter when it’s chilly out.

Here’s the second green-and-leafy thing I’m working on:

This doesn’t look like much right now, but it’s the beginning of an Autumn Arbor Stole by Anne Hanson. I’ve never knitted a stole before, and I suspect that it’s going to take a million years and would get really boring if I devoted all my attention to it, so I’m conceiving of this as a between-projects project and not as something on the main stage for now. But the pattern is just so pretty (once it’s blocked — look over at the pattern page!), and I had enough Squoosh Fiber Arts Sublime Lace in my stash to attempt something this ambitious, so there you go. I figure if I finish this by summer I’ll be happy.

Here’s something I’m trying to finish a little more quickly:

I started this Buncha Squares Blanket in, uh, April, and you are looking at how much progress I’ve made. I ignored it pretty hard all summer, but suddenly now that it’s cold I’m feeling like another handknit blanket for the living room would be a superb idea, so I’m picking up the pace. I really love the colors! I figure I’ll keep on making squares until I either run out of yarn or run out of steam, but in the abstract I’d like this thing to be at least four squares wide and tall, if not five, so I have a loooong way to go.

Last time I promised you pictures of that scarf I was knitting as a gift. Unfortunately, the only pictures I have of it on the recipient don’t let you see it very well, and I neglected to do an FO photoshoot on my own. But at least you can see how much it’s appreciated:

This is my friend Adam, rocking what he says is his first favorite scarf in a long time. (He is also rocking fuzzy pink leopard-print pants, because we were preparing for the 2011 Philadelphia Mummers’ Parade when I took this picture.) He requested this scarf to replace a long-lost beloved scarf that had been his mother’s. He didn’t have much of a knitting vocabulary, but when he said that “it was loosely knit… but there was some periodicity to its looseness,” I figured out that what he probably wanted was a drop-stitch scarf. What you see here is a simple drop-stitch scarf with 9 knit rows followed by a triple-drop-stitch row, in Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter in the Woodsmoke colorway. I made it pretty damn long, since he said that one of his favorite things about the old scarf was that he could wrap it two or three times and still have lots of it trailing — as you see here!

As if all the knitting here wasn’t enough, I also plan to cast on soon for my very first project with my handspun yarn. Stay tuned!

Beginnings

My plectranthus plants have made it through the winter, and lo and behold: they are starting to flower! Well, this one is. A little bit. If I were to show you a longer shot of the plant, you wouldn’t actually be able to see any flowers, because the three you can see here (two in the foreground, one in the back on the upper right) are literally 100% of them so far. But I think this is a solid sign that after six damn years in southern California, I have finally learned how to keep plants happy in this climate. In my first year of grad school, I bought a whole bunch of plants that died of neglect within four months — because I just couldn’t remember to water them often enough, and in more humid areas that’s less of a problem — and I was so wracked with guilt (yes, plant-death guilt) that I didn’t try to grow anything else for years. At the end of my third year of grad school, I inherited a peace lily from my ex, who had received it as a gift at his office and was leaving it behind when he was moving away, and I’ve managed to keep that alive just because it refuses to die. I think of that plant a lot like Holly Golightly thinks of her cat: we don’t belong to each other, I just water it occasionally as long as it deigns to stick around. These plectranthus plants that I bought last fall represent the first time I’ve been particularly invested in any plants in awhile, and I’m really pleased that they’re doing so well.

I’ve finally come to my senses (read: changed my mind a third time) about that Hedgehog Fibres cashmere, and realized that I don’t need another raspberry-red rectangular scarf. So instead, I have begun knitting it into an Ishbel:

Ishbel, as you know unless you have been living under a rock and/or are not yourself a knitter (and bless your hearts, you non-knitter readers), is a wildly popular scarf/shawl pattern that Ysolda released about a year ago. I love Ysolda and her designs dearly, but I was a snob about this particular pattern when it came out: I was a real lace knitter, a lace-knitting ninja capable of executing complex charted patterns without a lifeline while pounding shots of tequila. This pattern, by contrast, is cited by zillions of Ravelers as their first foray into lace knitting and is eminently non-intimidating. But simple is exactly what I needed with this highly-variegated yarn, and when I realized that a little triangle scarf might be just the thing to distinguish this project from the one I just finished, I found myself thinking of Ishbel again. It’s zipping along, providing a break when I get bored of all the stockinette involved in my Audrey cardigan, and it’s delightfully weightless.

My Audrey cardigan is coming along, but it’s not much to look at just yet. I’ve finished the fronts and the back, done the shoulder join, and knitted one of the sleeve caps. I’ll show it to you again next time, I promise. I have, however, gotten started on yet another a new project:

This is the very beginning of what will be a sort of modernist log-cabin blanket that I am knitting for some friends who are getting married later this month. The blanket will NOT be completed by then, but I figure I’ll send them a nice card and an IOU, and by the time it starts getting chilly again they’ll have a brand-new stylish blanket to keep them warm. I’ve been wanting to knit one of these since I stumbled across the basic recipe a few months ago, and I think it’s going to be fun, but the finishing is clearly going to drive me batty. There will be a zillion ends to weave in (I’ll do them for each block separately as I finish it, I suppose), and ultimately I’ll have to sew together a million of these squares. Expect melodramatic cursing of self, friends, marriage, God, etc. Fun for the whole family!