Saturday, December 29, 2007

a seasonal sweater

My penchant for vintage silhouettes often leads me to sweaters that have body-conscious shaping and style -"sweater girl" sweaters. One of these is the Spring Forward, Fall Back Sweater from the Thrifty Knitter, the author of Naughty Needles. I knit this design from 6 skeins of Noro Silk Garden for my sister as a Christmas present...

noro on1

All during the knitting of this sweater I doubted the finished object: the neck seemed too loose, the body too narrow, the colours of the yarn I chose non-harmonious. All I can say is "trust the pattern" because none of these things were an issue in the end. The blocking helped a lot to smooth the lumps of knitting and it looked so great on her:

noro on2

noro on3

Modifications - I added at least 2 inches to the narrow torso part, and more to the bottom edge. I didn't use the size 9 needles on the cuff and bottom ribbing, because I didn't want these parts to pull in. I did use size 9 on the neck ribbing... The rest of the sweater uses size 10 needles. I also made the sleeves long, long, long and flared them into bell sleeves with more ribbing than the original design called for. My version took 6 skeins of Noro Silk Garden with some bits left over from each skein. I skipped one of the colours in this Noro colourway - a flat brown - because I didn't like it; I just clipped it out and reattached the clipped ends when this colour came up in the skeins. The hardest part was matching the colour changes across arms and body, and although it turned out rather well, it took a lot of thought and planning and matching of skeins because with Noro, the colour changes don't match from skein to skein even in the same dye lot. It all worked out and the colour really suits her, I think!

She asked for more sweaters from this pattern. The fact that it's a top down raglan that would work up really quickly now that I know how to fit it to her specifically, means that she'll get her wish!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Good News

Merry Christmas, everyone!


This morning, as I was doing yesterday's dishes, I listened to National Public Radio's news show, which was all about Christmas and holiday-related subjects. In one story, the editor of Wired was interviewed regarding his views on good & evil, "naughty and nice". He said that he had done a study, categorizing news of note into two lists. He found that the "good" news - news about a new cure, or a significant kindness, or a peaceful act - outweighed the "bad" news: news of war, crime, death, and disease...but not by much. Good news was 51%. Bad news was 49%. But - he went on to say - that one percent is a powerful thing. Like compound interest, it is one of the powerfull forces in the universe because, over time - like years - it becomes so much greater...

To me, this meant that no act of good, however small, is ever unimportant... that it adds compoundedly to this 1% more goodness in the world.

Thank you all for your kindness to me throughout this past year and I hope that I've added in some small way to your happiness, too.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter calm after the storm

I can't post about knitting, because all my knitting is Christmas knitting and that's - you know - a surprise. I don't think my sister and her boyfriend read my blog, but you never know....

So instead I'll show you a picture of our little Christmas tree:


It's the doll's Christmas tree, actually, with a rag doll angel on top. And our three stockings, mine, my sister's, and her boyfriend's, are waiting below it to be filled with surprises!

And Catherine, slowly regaining her comfortable winter roundness after her surgery, approves...


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

art in antique crochet....

A friend of mine over on the Teamail Yahoo group sent me an early gift of two antique crocheted purses! I was amazed when I opened the box and saw these precious bags:

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These are especially unique because of thier colour - that deep chocolate brown and the irridescent coppery glass and steel beads...So beautiful! I estimate that these are from about 1909 to 1918, because I have patterns for this type of bag in my anitique knitting and crochet books from that period.

The first one is crocheted in an intermittent mesh stitch and lined with deep gold silk that shows through the mesh. The crocheted drawstring is threaded through metal rings on the inside of the lace collar, which folds over to show its beaded design when the purse is drawn closed.

The second has a completly beaded ball and tassles on the bottom end, a more complicated beaded design, and also has metal rings in the inside throat, but these rings are completely covered in tiny crochet stitches. On both, the beads are crocheted into the design, not sewed on afterwards. Both are made from the same chocolate brown silk thread - very thin silk thread.

Because they're made of the same materials, I assume they were made by the same person.... its so intriguing to speculate what that person was like... Was she elegant? A lady? An accomplished seamstress? Was she like me? Was she someone working in a design house? Or a young lady creating these for herslf and perhaps a sister or friend? My mind finally imagines her to be like Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice...

Someday I'll try my hand at making one of these. But for now, I'm happy to admire and so very grateful to my friend for thinking of me!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Golden Compass Knits

This weekend, my sweetheart and I went to The Golden Compass. He had just finished reading the book (I read it a few years ago), so he was very excited to see if it would match up to his imagination. The visuals certainly did - this aspect was stunning! And we both agreed that the casting was superb - even the children seemed to be really "living" the story, not visibly "acting" it out.

But of course, the thing that caught my attention the most was the brilliant work of the costumer - the hand knitted garments. These were throughout the movie, but especially prominent and creative during the time that Lyra was with the Gyptians. There's a cute little cat-ear winter hat that was perfect. But I really loved the splash of colour of her garter-stitch coat:

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It doesn't seem that it would be too hard to duplicate:

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Here it even shows the snuggy collar and the way it was clasped...

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Someone in one of my online knitting groups identified the yarn as Noro Iro, colour #9 (which actually looks more hot-pinkish in real life). The color in the first picture is the most acurate to how it looked in the film...:
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Of course, having red hair, a hot pink coat wouldn't really be my personal choice! I'd go with deep blues and sea-green running through it. But perhaps only a child would really look good in a garter-stitch coat. I'd love to make this for someone though! Wouldn't a young girl love this as a Christmas present after she'd read the book and seen the movie? I noticed that Borders has soft white stuffed bears, similar to the ice bear above, without the armor, and thought the same thing. I wish I knew someone with young chidren who were the right age to love this book and movie and then I would spoil them with movie knits!

Edited To Add: I just found out that the coat wasn't knit from yarn at all - but from shreds of cloth, to give it a rustic look. The Gyptians were to be a combination of Eskimos, Gypsies, and Pirates, and their clothing - according to the costume designer - reflected that...
Costumer Ruth Myers, who also worked on one of my favorite films, Emma, said...
"I wanted to look at things differently. We painted, burnt and dyed everything. I wasn’t looking for the perfect piece of fabric. I wanted to make the perfect piece of fabric. (For example) Lyra's red coat, its knitted from twine, cut fabric."

She says lots of other cool things about the costume design, with photos, so read her interview HERE.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


So much for my quirky sense of humour in my last post. Funny? maybe. But I've signed up to be part of the Ravelry Tea and Yarn swap, and I wouldn't want my swap partner to *really* think I have enough yarn or enough tea. Come on. Enough yarn? Enough tea? can you spell O X Y M O R O N??????? The words "Tea", "Yarn", and "Enough" just don't belong together.

Last night I had one of those experiences that knitters dread. I've been knitting a sweater for a Christmas present (so no pictures here) and its been going on for some weeks. The pattern is the Spring Forward Fall Back Sweater, a great top-down raglan pullover by the Thrifty Knitter (free on her website). The pattern is cute and is well written. It looks great on her and is adorable. She used some yarn she spun herself. I used some Noro Silk Garden. Last night, I had finished to the point of attaching the very last skein of yarn to the bottom - sleeves finished, shaping finished, almost the entire length finished. I smoothed it out on the couch and gazed down proudly. Imagine my surprize when....Ahhck!! It's ooogly! Very Fug! For some reason, the Noro stripes - going sideways around the sweater - just didn't seem to work. I'm going to finish, and block, and gift it anyway - its a huge investment and I'll just tell my recipient that if she doesn't like it, she can hand it to a stranger on the street (something I love to do with knits! another thing I like to do is make hats and mittens and "accidently" leave them on the bus for others to pick up and own...)

I'll take a picture before I wrap this up, and you can tell me what you think. Maybe its not as bad as I thought. When I looked at it this morning, the colours looked a little more subtle.

I've finished Exsanguinate my 'river of blood' red Chevron Scarf from Mountain Colours Barefoot yarn. Its 77 inches long (before blocking) and will be very dramatic wrapped around a long neck. This Christmas gift I'm more confident about:

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I've more holiday knitting to go....and so little time!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Santa Letter

We have snow!!
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Lots of snow!

yes, several inches of snow fell on Sunday and Monday. So much, that I had to stay home from work on Monday (that, and my car was having its flat tire fixed that day). Staying home was hard. I had to read. and knit. and watch Sci Fi channel. And wrap Christmas presents. And get the house ready for the holidays. SIGH. So hard....

From now on it will be real winter weater - 20 to 30 degrees in the daytime (and in the deep winter, January, it will fall below zero in the daytime). But I feel ready. I have my knitting yarn stash to keep me warm, LOL!

Dear Santa,

I know I've been on your Bad List for some years now. It's okay. It was my choice to be bad and I knew the consequences. I know that's why I've had some Christmases with no presents and no company and I've shared my Christmas dinner with pets instead of people. I know I'm not very lovable and its okay if you see my name on your list and sigh and shake your head.

But I wanted you to know that I've been better this year! My goodness hasn't really been by choice. Circumstances have changed to make me better, but these unexpected things happen all the time and I'm willing to accept serendipitous goodness. Its a kind of Grace, I think.

So if you've decided to move my name to your "other" list, I'm ready to be there. There's not much that I want for Christmas except things that are beyond my control. Badness is a good provider of material things, so I have a lot. A lot of yarn, a lot of tea, a lot of books, a lot of drawing pens, a lot of writing paper, a lot of vintage patterns, a lot of jewelry. Its amazing how lucky you can be when you're bad. When you're willing to spend the grocery money in the thrift store instead; when you're willing to buy Christmas presents for yourself at the same time you're buying Christmas presents for others; when you're willing to stay up all night to out-bid some other hopeful, innocent and good person on Ebay. {{SIGH....}}

So, what I'd like for Christmas:
1. I'd like to feel good more days than not (any vitamins to help with this would be appreciated)
2. I'd like my little sister to come home and spend a happy, care-free time with me (and please give her lots of presents from other people so she won't have financial worries about her vacation here)
3. I'd like my Bf to be more accepting of me, and easy-going with me, and want to actually do fun things together. Please help him with this. I've done all I can.
4. I'd like to spend more time with Jackie, my Bf's dog, and please help me find him the perfect Christmas present.
5. And I'd like to have more time. Lots more time. To do so many things. I like to work but I don't want to work all the time. I want to play and spend way more time at the ocean, on both coasts. K?

That's all Santa. And thanks. If you can't give me everything, please give me the second wish. Cause I'm just a live-for-now kinda girl.

Of course, if you wanted to give me yarn....

Luv ya,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Knitting from Life - a year in socks

Several months ago, I decided it would be fun to knit a pair of socks for everyone who was active on my LiveJournal friend-list. It was fun! And I learned a lot about sock knitting. The later socks were a good deal more elegant and less mistake-prone than the early socks...

The best part about it was designing a sock pattern that would in some way be right for the personality of each friend, as I knew them. Then, finding just the right yarn to fit the pattern... I'm sure there were some hits and some misses, but the whole exercize really helped me develop as a designer. And I discovered some great yarns in the process!

The first socks were the blue cascading leaf socks, in Australian-spun baby merino. They were so, so soft, but the yarn was sport weight instead of fingering weight, making them a bit chunky and probably not wearable in shoes, only in clogs or boots. They were my first toe-up socks and the first toe was pointy-pointy, unlike the second which came out just as intended. Since the point disappeared when on the foot, I didn't frog them, but sent them as they were - a testament to my sock noviceness...

The second socks were the Duckies - a spiral stitch pattern heeless sock from a vintage pattern. These were made from angora and merino wool, with orange wool reinforcing thread at the toes and heels (which ended up being a decorative touch). These were made on size 3 needles and again, came out a little big and chunky for their recipient. They were good for sleeping socks or clogs...

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The third pair I designed after watching Van Helsing! My friend and I chatted about the movie and the Van Helsing Candleflame Socks were born! I used a pale lavender angora yarn and a lace stitch that reminded me of candles burning in the windows of the castle (the colour in the photo below is more true to life)... These came out well, if chunky, but they were my first short-row heels, and luckily the angora halo covered up all (or most) of the mistakes!

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I finally got the fact that sport-weight yarns don't make very wearable socks! For the fourth pair, Erin Lace Socks, I paired a lace pattern with a fingering weight yarn that was actually meant for socks: Lorna's Laces. These socks were for a friend who was moving to Ireland, so I used a lace design called Erin. They were toe-up on tiny needles (1.5) and again, I tried the short-row heels. My wraps definitly needed practice and this yarn was less forgiving of any holes and gaps, but they turned out pretty well.

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The next pair of socks, toe-up with short row heels again, were made especially to be used as sport or yoga socks in sneakers or without shoes at all: The Peaceful Feelings Yoga Socks. These were made with Cascade Fixation on size 3 needles. The elastic in the cotton yarn made the pattern really work and the only mistake - even after counting counting counting, was that one sock was one row shorter than the other. Gettng closer to sock perfection though!

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The sixth pair of socks was so fun to design and knit! These were for a friend who does a lot of laboratory work - a real scientific mind - so I wanted a DNA cable pattern. I was new to cables, and couldn't tackle a real DNA cable, so I chose a psuedo-DNA cable lace and created a design I called the DNA-ish Socks. I went back to using a real sock yarn - Knitpicks Sock Memories this time - and 1.5 needles, toe-up with short-row heels. Most of my concentration went into the cabling pattern; it was so difficult for a first-timer! After finishing the entire foot, I noticed that the cable lace meant that the sock wasn't very stretchy. While this might be okay on the instep, it would definitely be a problem on the leg! So, back to searching for a DNA-sh cable pattern with some stretch... I found one that was very similar in look to the foot and continued this up the leg. Then of course, I had to repeat this design mistake - now a deliberate "design element" - on the other sock. Happily, my short-row heels were now perfected and there was only a minor gap where the ankle met the leg... They came out well in the end!

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The next socks were new in several ways. For the Seventh pair I used special silk and merino sock yarn in the Onyx colourway from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, tiny size 1 needles and a leaf lace panel with Yarn Over open panels on the sides, and - for the first time - toe-up socks with gusset heels. It took some practice to learn the gusset heels and I read and re-read the directions, practicing on scrap yarn so that I wouldn't destroy the delicate silk sock yarn. I also reinforced the toes and heels of these stockings with black wool, and made the legs a little longer than usual. The only mistake came when I miscounted in one place on one row of the lace pattern, but it didn't show. Also, the yarn, when it arrived, wasn't as dark as it had looked on the computer screen, but was still beautiful and very special.

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My next and eighth pair took a long time to create. I used Lucy Neatby Celestial Merino sock yarn in Maple Sugar colourway and 1.5 needles, a toe-up pattern with gusset heels, a Maple Leaf lace pattern with varigated length ribs on the side and the back, and an initialed panel in the back, like vintage socks from the 1800's. I envisioned a journey through an Elven forest while I was designing these, and named them Road to Lothlorien. I'm happy to report that these socks had absolutely no mistakes of any kind! However.......(ahem), the yarn itself was horrifyingly flawed. In exactly the middle of the skien, the colour began to change, and the second sock was very faded compared to the first! This was not a case of having two skeins that didn't match - it was all the same skein! It was so disappointing to create a perfect design and have the yarn let me down! But it had taken me so long to make them, I didn't want to have to make my friend wait even longer while I order more yarn, so I sent them. I did end up emailing Lucy Neatby's company and they very kindly wrote to say that hand-dyed yarns should be knitted with every other row coming from a diffent end of the skein to avoid colour mishaps. They sent me another skein of the yarn in a different colour so I could try this method, which I will do after the holidays. My friend, who is kindness itself, never mentioned the colour differences, and says she loves her socks!

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The ninth pair of socks was challenging in a different way. I was on a hunt for a brilliant sock yarn for a friend who is allergic to wool. In spite of the many new non-wool yarns that have come out recently, nothing was elastic enough for repeated wearing and washing, thin enough to make a wearable sock, or in colours that were really suitable. I experimented with Italian mercerized cotton and loved it's sproinginess and vibrant colours. Finally I decided on a stitch pattern that reminded me of the waves and water of Puget Sound and the sock design Watery was born! These were top-down, traditional heel socks with modified Star toes.

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The tenth and final pair are for a friend who is studying for the priesthood. He needed a special pair of socks to wear in the chapel while tending the altar. I wanted these socks to be completely natural fibers, so used O-Wool Balance (wool and cotton). Since these were my first pair of men's socks, I used a pattern so I could get the sizing right: Thuja from I did modify them a bit so that I could have a plain panel on the front to do a little duplicate-stitch embroidery. I had had a dream of my friend with a symbol on his Templar's tunic: a sliver of moon with 7 stars arched around it. These became Daniel's Chapel Socks.

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So, that is the story of my f-list knitting for 2007! It took me about 9 months to get 10 pairs of socks finished. Of course there were many projects and original designs in between - as well as hours of Ravelry! I enjoyed this sock-knitting so much and learned more than I could have learned in a year of classes. I highly recommend knitting for friends. :)

Patterns for all the original designs will eventually be posted here, on my blog.