Gaea’s Wrap

IMG_5927Hello, and sorry for the long absence! Work got crazy for a couple of months there, but now I have the summer off and I can catch up on posting my backlog of projects! What you see here is a freeform wrap that I knit for my friend Gaea for her wedding in April. Gaea is very much a free spirit, and it came to me in a flash about a month before the wedding that (a) I ought to knit something for her, and (b) it ought to be something out of my brain and heart and intuition rather than something from a pattern. So I went to my stash and pulled out all the greens and blues, since those are the colors that come to mind when I think of her:

IMG_5857Not quite all of these made the cut — sorry, lime-green Fun Fur — but most of them ended up in there somewhere. I cast on an unholy number of stitches — north of 300, I’m pretty sure — and went to town. The wrap is mostly garter stitch, seed stitch, bird’s-eye lace, and shell stitch (or whatever that wavy drop-stitch thing is called — I don’t have my stitch dictionary in front of me). The result was a ginormous wrap that I loved to pieces and managed to remember to model before wrapping it up for gift-giving:


And here it is in another configuration with me looking a little drunk, which it’s entirely possible that I was:

IMG_5938That dress is the one I wore to the wedding, by the way. It was a fantastically freaky potluck Burning Man wedding at a park in San Francisco. So much fun!

Over the next few days / weeks I’ll fill you in on what else I’ve been knitting since February — stay tuned!

Handspun Susie’s Mitts

Yay! I made these a few weeks ago, from yarn I spun from that llama-fiber batt I got at the local fiber festival, but I was too busy with work to post them then. The pattern is Susie’s Reading Mitts, and it’s free! My friend Shayda brought a Susie’s-Mitt-in-progress along to the fiber festival, which is how I learned about the pattern, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it came to mind when I was spinning this yarn.

Here’s the finished yarn before I knit it up:

I named it “Under the Apple Boughs” after Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas, which is one of my all-time favorite poems. I love how rustic the yarn looks, and the splashes of color among the brown just sing spring to me. I was worried that it would come out scratchy, based on how ornery the fiber was to spin, but it’s very, very soft!

I had these mitts in mind the whole time I was spinning the yarn, but when I finished it, my “good sense” told me that I didn’t need another pair of brown mitts, since I already have one. So I started knitting it into a scarf, but after a few days of scarfage I just could’t take it anymore and ripped it out to make these like I’d wanted to all along. Good sense be damned!

The pattern is really easy, once you get your head around the hemming at the top and bottom. I whipped these up in about three days! The pattern calls for DK-weight yarn and size 5 needles, and my yarn was definitely fingering weight, so I planned some adjustments. I wished I had size 3 needles — I only had 2 and 4 — so I decided to knit the size medium on 4s even though my hands are definitely size small. But even with the smaller yarn and needles, it rapidly became clear that size medium was too big! This is partially because my hands are very diminutive, but I think it’s also because the pattern, as written, has more ease than I really wanted. (I wanted, like, no ease.) In retrospect, maybe I should have switched to 2s and continued knitting the medium — since these are a little loosely knit — but what I ended up doing was staying on 4s and knitting the small. Which came out just right!

Yay, spring flowers! In just a day or two I’ll be back with some pictures of a new pair of socks — this is what happens when you get behind in posting!

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.

Spring Resurrection

Bet you never thought you’d see this again, did you? I bought the yarn LAST March, at Article Pract in Oakland on last year’s spring break, started knitting this in June, finished knitting it in July and experienced a soul-crushing grafting fail, shelved it for August while I worked on a shawl for my friends’ wedding, picked it back up in September and almost finished all the damn grafting and seaming, but once colder weather came here to stay I just couldn’t make myself care about it anymore. It sat on the “naughty” pile all winter, and just about a week ago I picked it up again. All I had left was one small seam and a million billion ends to weave in, so I resolved to spend about 20 minutes a day on it, and like magic, this morning I found myself finished!

This is the sort of garment that makes you want to prance around; it’s pretty woodsprite-core. But then again, so am I. One of the things I try to do with my knitting is make things that I couldn’t possibly find in a store, and this project — Nadine, from French Girl Knits — fits that bill perfectly. The yarn and texture are just fantastic:

Most people on Ravelry who have made this have flipped the leaf-lace panels you see here so that the knit side is facing out, but I decided I liked the bumpy texture of the purl side and the contrast it makes with the knit front and back panels, so I followed the pattern the way it was written. My one modification was shortening the straps; when I pinned the straps in place I found that they were too long, so I ripped out about two inches off the top of each of them before seaming them to the back panel. The yarn, Bee Sweet Bambino, is a loosely-plied mix of soft cotton strands and bamboo strands, which gives it a really rustic look.

Here’s a long shot where you can see the whole thing pretty well:

What you perhaps can’t see here is the fear in my eyes — I’m doing my best to smile, but that picturesque bush next to me is swarming with bees, which I am allergic to. 😦

Ultimately I am very happy with the finished product — it fits perfectly (I made the 40″ size, for zero ease), and it looks cute, and I can wear it to all my music festivals & Burning Man events. But if you want my completely honest opinion, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. The knitting was easy enough, but the finishing was seriously, SERIOUSLY horrifying. There are FOUR 80+ stitch kitchener-stitch grafts, each of which took me at least an hour and a half to complete, and for most of them you have to pick up 80+ stitches on one side or the other before you can even begin. At the very end of the pattern, after you’ve done all your grafting and seaming and crochet-edging (and incidentally, the pattern doesn’t tell you to edge the neck and back in crochet, but in the pictures in the book you can clearly see that this has been done), Kristeen expects you to pick up 200 stitches around the bottom and purl 1 round and then bind off, as a tiny little hem. Here’s how I felt about that:

Aww, who can stay mad at a pattern that comes out so cute? I just ignored that instruction and crocheted around the bottom too; there was no way I was going through ANY more hassle with this thing.

Fortunately, my Audrey in Unst cardigan falls on the complete opposite side of the hassle-spectrum:

Knit bottom-up all in one piece — no seaming at all! One whole arm is done; now I just have to knit the other one. And the button bands, and the neck edging. This should be done pretty soon!

In further spring news, I got my plants little stands this week so that they can get more sun — here is the whole happy family:

See? I told you that you wouldn’t be able to see any flowers on these things in a longer shot. But soon, soon there ought to be more. I’m hoping that the creeping plant will creep up and over the edge of the balcony; I think that would be pretty cool.

Freeform Week 1

Here is my NatCroMo Freeform Crochet-along piece after 7 days of instructions have been followed. Everybody’s looks quite different since we are all using different yarns, interpreting the directions differently, placing the stitches differently, and using different numbers. I’m actually pretty pleased with how mine’s coming out; I’m trying to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible given the restrictions. But this is not always possible — for example, for the spiral in the middle, we were specifically instructed to use our least favorite yarn from our stash. 😦 I knit a whole skirt out of that yarn waaaay back when I first started knitting, and it really did look a lot better on my monitor when I was clicking “purchase” than it did in real life when it showed up at my door. I may as well show you that skirt, while we’re at it:

Here it is, in my barren, monk-like first-year-graduate-student apartment, back before I had any material possessions to speak of. Note how my phone is just lying on the floor while charging. The skirt looks sort of plausible in this picture, but in reality it’s difficult to wear without feeling like a grade-A weirdo. Now, I have been known to attend functions where grade-A-weirdo attire is encouraged (::cough:: Burning Man ::cough::), but somehow even in those contexts this doesn’t come off the shelf very often. Variegated yarns always sound so good in theory, but rarely work out in practice — this skirt represents the first time I learned that lesson, and that’s part of why I hate this yarn so much to this very day. I hate it because it tricked me.

My Heart on Cassette

Warning: this will not be a knitting post. I wanted to put it somewhere public, but not as connected to my professional self as my academic blog, so here it is. Originally I’d planned that this blog would have non-knitting personal content, but this is the first time I’ve really gotten around to doing that. So if you can deal with the lack of pictures of yarn, then please stick around. I promise to be charming! But I’m going to hide the post under a cut-tag, because it’s incredibly long and incredibly self-indulgent. Continue reading

On the Road Again


Today I write to you from my parents’ deck in New Jersey. I am in the middle of a two-week vacation to the east coast, visiting family and friends. It rained for basically the entire first week I was here; this is the first really nice day we’ve had so far!

On Friday I went to New York for one of my trademark over-booked whirlwind visits — but before meeting up with anyone, I steered myself directly to Purl Soho. It was smaller than I expected, given their large web presence, but it was stacked floor-to-ceiling with yarn and populated by friendly, helpful employees. They seem to have much much more in stock than they are able to display; I was looking for Addi Lace needles to help me with the crazy 3-into-9-star stitches that my Laminaria shawl requires, and they didn’t have any at all displayed. But when I asked, they seemed to have them in all sizes & lengths hidden away in their basement. Score. Here is what I picked up:


Two skeins of Koigu KPM in a lovely orange-red that I was planning on making into socks until about three seconds ago, when I looked at that picture and realized that they may be exactly what one of my friends is looking for in a scarf. Matt, if you’re reading, note that they do look a little more orange and less red here than they do in real life. I’ll take some more pictures in different lighting and send them along!


All right, I may have been a tiny bit influenced in my purchase of this yarn by the fact that it is apparently named after me. This is Alchemy Yarns’ Juniper, in the “Good Earth” colorway. It’s a machine-washable fingering weight yarn, which makes it ideal for socks, but I went and bought 3x as much as I would need for socks because I liked the colors so much. I have crazy ideas about making these into some kind of long-sleeved shrug. I want to make it from the top down because I have no idea how far this yarn will go, but I’m having trouble finding top-down shrug patterns written for fingering-weight yarn. I may adapt something written for a worsted, or try to figure out a way to add long sleeves to CanarySanctuary’s Hew pattern (Rav link). What I have sworn to NOT do is knit another Whisper Cardigan. If all else fails, maybe I’ll make these into a shawl. But by all means, if you know of a pattern that would work here, please let me know!

Later that evening, I was walking in the vicinity of Union Square with a friend when we came across this:


Guerilla knitting! Here’s the explanatory sign:


Apparently, this was in connection with a knitting-meets-science exhibit at the gallery inside, called Knit Theory — here is the website. The interior exhibit closed in May, otherwise I would have been sad to have missed it! However, no amount of googling has revealed to me how, exactly, this benefits Nepal.

The following day, I attended Figment, a large participatory-art festival out on Governor’s Island. The friend who was supposed to go with me had to cancel at the last minute, so I decided I needed something to do out there that would give me the opportunity to interact with people. I decided that I could write poems for people, but I needed a sign to advertise my wares. As I walked to the subway, I considered my options: should I dumpster-dive for cardboard? Should I pull a poster off a wall and write on the back? And where would I get a marker? I know the general layout of the city pretty well, but I don’t know where to find specific, everyday things like these. As I was contemplating these questions, I came across a street fair. Among the usual stands of people selling knick-knacks and pirated DVDs and jewelry, I discovered a stand where an 8-year-old boy was selling cardboard signs that he had clearly made himself, saying things like “Go Jets” and “Love God.” Bingo. I asked him if he could make me a custom sign, and he said yes. In about 10 minutes, he produced this masterpiece, for which I paid him five dollars:


The whole incident left me pretty amazed at New York’s ability to give me exactly what I want. That’s me on Governor’s Island; note the man rocking back and forth on the human wibble-wobble in the background. The writing-poems thing went pretty darn well; I estimate that I wrote between 20 and 30 over the course of the afternoon, using a method whereby I’d have each person who requested one give me two words and I would write a poem using those words. I also ran into about a million people I knew, from the Burning Man community and elsewhere. Here is some other cool stuff from the festival:


A dragon made out of chairs.


A man made out of scrap metal.


A room in a gallery where participants were encouraged to paint on the walls.

That’s all for now! The Laminaria is going swimmingly, and I’m optimistic about being done in time for that wedding in July. More pictures to come!