Vintage/Modern

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

Double-Secret, Double-Cheating Nupp Hack

If you are a hip, technologically-literate Estonian-lace knitter*, chances are you learned how to knit nupps by watching Nancy Bush’s instructional video on Youtube. If you happen to not be a goddess like Nancy Bush, though, chances are that your experience trying to reproduce her technique involved a whole lot of swearing and crying. Today I write to share with you my double-secret, double-cheating nupp-knitting method that is almost guaranteed to get you to the point where you can knit in front of your mom again, without her reprimanding you for your language and/or deciding that you have become emotionally unstable and need to start seeing Dr. Hyzin again.

I am presently back east visiting my family again (how could you tell?), and have been quiet on this blog because my time is split between (1) desperately trying to finish my dissertation chapter before I go on the vacation that Pat & I have attached to our trip up north for our friends’ wedding, (2) desperately trying to finish the Aeolian shawl that I plan to wear to said wedding, and (3) desperately trying to spend the quality time with my friends and family on the east coast that I came here in order to spend. But I am deciding today to take the time to write this blog entry, which has been kicking around in my head for a week or so, because my dear friend Rishi told me yesterday that he reads this blog because he loves my prose, even though he doesn’t knit a stitch. And that both warmed my heart and stroked my ego, and there’s not much more that you need in order to be motivated to write a blog post.

Okay, so the problem with Nancy Bush’s nupp method is that it’s physically impossible for most of us mortals to make the yarn-overs as loose as they need to be. When we go back on the purl rows, we discover that it’s next to impossible to get our needle-tips through all 5 or 7 or 9 loops, even if we are using Addi Turbo Lace needles like good little lace-knitting monkeys, and furthermore that even if we think we speared all those loops, it’s really hard to verify that we actually have, because once we’ve pulled our stitch through them and dropped them off the left needle, the whole thing looks like crap and we psych ourselves out thinking that this or that stray-looking loop is one we may have dropped. My use of the word “we” may have turned pathological halfway through that sentence, but it’s cool because my double-secret, double-cheating nupp hack solves both of these problems. Behold:

Cheat 1: On the right side, when you are making your nupps, keep your tension even and instead of loosening up, work each yarn over in the nupp as a double YO. So if you were knitting a 5-stitch nupp, you would work: k1 (leaving stitch on the needle), double YO, k1 (leaving stitch on the needle), double YO, k1. On the return purl row, simply pass all the stitches to your right needle, dropping the extra YOs, then pass them all back to the left needle — there will now be 5 stitches, or whatever number of stitches your nupp was supposed to have in the first place. Like magic, you have given yourself enough looseness that you should theoretically be able to get the tip of your right needle in there for the purl-5-together. Plus keeping your tension even should help make your nupps look more uniform. However…

Cheat 2: … you may find, even with this ingenious (if I do say so myself) double-YO system, that it’s still tough for you to have confidence that you are always spearing all 5 or 7 or 9 of your loops. If so, you can always slip half -1 of your nupp stitches to the right needle, purl the remaining half + 1 of the stitches together, and then pass the slipped stitches over. This way, you can count each and every one of those little bastards as you slip them over, and revel in your thoroughness.

For now you will just have to trust me that this system totally works, because if I showed you pictures of my nupps right now, you would think they look like crap. But that’s because all lace knitting looks like crap until it’s been blocked, I swear. I used cheat #2 on my Swallowtail shawl, and it came out just fine, and frankly, cheat #2 is the only one that could make much of a difference in appearance — cheat #1 is just a way to avoid having to try to eyeball how loose your tension should be.

So go forth, knit nupps, and be merry — and try not to think too hard about the phrase “pictures of my nupps.”

*You have no idea how much pleasure it gives me to type that phrase (the one at the top, where the footnote was, you weirdo), let alone how much pleasure it gives me to realize that I probably belong in that category.