Monday, December 29, 2008

Sophie Longstockings

I'm beset by responsibility at the moment and this has paralyzed my own designing. I took Briley's advice and pulled out a 'small' knitting project - the Plimoth Plantation 16th century stockings.


As you can see, I don't have much to do to finish this pair so that a size 12 foot freezing early American re-enactor can warm up his leggings... I want to get them done before the new year and send them off while they are still needed!

I actually love the pattern - one that a lot of research went into to make them authentic. It really brought home to me how current construction for knitted socks was not just for the convenience of the knitter, but for the comfort of the wearer! For instance, the original design has a seamed heel - a 3 needle bind off right across the bottom of the heel so that you are standing and walking on a seam. This could cause serious pain on long walks! But it is absolutely authentic and I love the ancient look of it! The clock on the ankle, the knitted welt to brace the garters, the skin tight shaping over the calf and thigh - these are all very charming touches.

The yarn used for these (provided by the Plimoth costume department) is straightforward 2 ply 100% Shetland from Harrisville Wools. It is scratchy beyond belief and full of lanolin that strips layers of skin from my fingers where the yarn habitually lies. I'd love to try this pattern with a softer yarn - say, Lorna's Laces...

In other news, check out Ysolda's Whimsical Little Knits collection. Is that adorable or what!? I bought my copy today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The knitting was hung by the chimney with care....


My final secret holiday knitting project was opened last night by my friend, so I can now reveal it here.

Raven's Wing


This shawl was knit from Blue Moon Fiber Arts lightweight Socks That Rock, 1 skein, in the Raven series Rauen. It is a deep black with flashes of deep red. This yarn is such a pleasure to work with!

I started with a US size 6 circular needle (32 inch) and used a regular neck-down triangle shawl construction from Cosmicpluto's Simple Yet Effective Shawl without the stripes.


After a few inches, I switched to a slightly larger needle - size 7 - because the shawl was becoming very dense and heavy. While I liked this cosiness around the neck, it wasn't the effect I was going for in the body of the shawl. This shawl uses garter stitch so I just knitted on and on and on. It was great take-along knitting and I got a lot done while at Thanksgiving Dinner at my boyfriend's parents' house!

As I got toward the end, I started contemplating a lace edging that would really have the wing-like effect of my imagination. I switched to a size 9 circular needle, and started the edging chart for the Shetland Triangle from Wrap Style (a book I recommend). I started running out of yarn on row 12 of this 14-row edging, and was able to complete a loose bind-off just in time!


Wet blocking had an incredible effect on this shawl. Remember, it was mostly garter stitch, so it was crimped-up and small when just off the needles. I worried about plunging it into a sink full of tepid water - afraid it would bleed or pill - but it came through famously and only looked better and smoother! The shawl blocked out so large that it overflowed the edges of my long dining room table! I used blocking wires for the first time with this shawl.

One of the things that made me most happy, besides the deep, soft yarn and how it looked knit up, was that it really did look like a Raven's Wing - just the effect I wanted.

and my friend liked it.

Now, I am really in a knitting funk and can't figure figure out my next project. Any ideas?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

in the ice hotel....


Shoveling Snow with Buddah

by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Yes, this is me in the frozen north, outdoors with my winter coat thrown over my nightgown and my bare feet stuffed into my Bean boots, wielding the implements of snow removal! My goal is somehow find daylight and downtown, and search out a Parcheesi game for my niece.

And, if you too are under this multiple-day winter storm, you might find relief in a little colourful needle stashing... Grafton Fibers is having a sale on their gorgeous hand-crafted wooden sock needles - a really good sale. I have couple pairs of these and find them fabulous, great quality, and really perfect for vintage knitting. I can't wait for my new order to arrive!
(disclaimer: no affiliation, I just love this company)

Hope you are all staying warm and crafty!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Stitch in Time - the Official version

I had a nice message today with permission to post the official photographs of the knitting I did for A Stitch in Time, courtesy of Arbour House Publishing in the UK.

Here is "Accessory for your Spring Suit"


and here is "Can You Crochet a Toque?"


Soooo much better in the professional photographs!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Vintage in me....

Do you remember when I was doing sample knitting for the new publication of the vintage book A Stitch in Time? I wasn't allowed to show you what I was working on (standard practice in publication), but now the book is published and photos of the projects are going up in Ravelry!

Here is one of the patterns that I knit - the cloche! ( link) I got to choose the yarn and colour myself, as the time to the photography shoot was too short for the editor to send me another packet of yarn from England. I think it worked out beautifully and this pattern from the book currently is the "most favorited" of the Stitch in Time patterns on Ravelry!

For those of you not on Ravelry, I'm trying to get permission from the editor to post the official photo on my blog.

for is a very poor photo of me modeling the sample model in my mirror....(believe me - it looks so much better on the professional model!)


I also knit a beautiful cabled blouse for the photography, but don't know if it made it into the book because there was problem with the post getting the supplies to me, so the editor and I cut it very close with the blouse finishing. I wish I could have done more of the knitting and crocheting, but the timeline for completion was so short and it took 3 weeks to get the packages back and forth from England to here!

Check out all the patterns on Ravelry - there are many sweaters, jumpers, and blouses, a bathing suit, underthings, hats, scarves, and on and on! I think there are about 60 patterns in the book...I'm supposed to be receiving a copy of the book for the sample knitting, and I just cannot wait! This book is my dream Vintage pattern book!

Edited to add: Oh My Bob!!
I just saw that the blouse I knitted was included in the book and has been posted to Ravelry! HERE it is for Ravelry users. And here it is, carefully waiting to be finished and sent to the publisher...


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

running, running...

I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland, running through the Red Queen's garden, trying to avoid having her head de-necked. Time is moving so quickly forward, and all that I have left undone is catching up to me, with the swift sword of guilt brandished over my head.

My holiday knitting plans are actually quite modest compared to recent years - only four projects. Well, there should be five, but I've had to give the 5th one up before it was even started because... well,... it's December 3rd and I have to get these things in the post.


Most of my projects I won't be able to show in my blog, but this one is for my boyfriend's mom and I don't believe she owns a computer at all.

This is Rivolo, from Knitspot, in Jojoland 100% natural cashmere laceweight. It took frackin ForEver to make long enough because the yarn is so fine, but I'm rather happy with the results now that its over. It blocked perfectly.


I don't think his mom will actually like this scarf/stole at all. Now that I've met her, I don't think that this is something she would wear. But it's what I've got for her, so she's going to get this. Maybe she'll gift it forward. I love it when people do that with the things I make that they don't like. I tell my little sister that if she doesn't like the hats and scarves I make her, to just leave them casually on the bus and let someone else have their turn with them!

Wouldn't you love to find an abandoned cashmere scarf on the bus?


Friday, November 21, 2008

Grape juice and lavender yarn

I'm sick...


and a very nice friend from Ravelry sent me a care package all the way from Norway! It was full of tea and this beautiful lavender lace weight alpaca, which is keeping me happy on the couch trying out patterns for a lacey scarf... She also sent a lovely heart-shaped Norwegian potato (I love potatoes!), but I can't show it to you because it is long gone (tucked away underneath a cosy blanket of butter and cream...)Yum.

and I have cosy company on the couch:


My friend Marky in Australia surprised me with a HUGE box last week too - a kind of serendipitous pre-holiday box. It deserves a lot of photos and its own post, but as you can see, I'm only showing pictures that I can take without actually getting up from under the quilts. But this wonderful box had a 1920 tool for mending knitted silk stockings, several 1920's to 1940's pattern booklets (one had a tea cloth with filet crochet teapots and teacups on it!), and a yarn for five projects!

...back to resting, now, but with happy thanks for such thoughtful friends...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goodnight Moon....

The Golden Moon Shawl


a version of the Shetland Triangle by Evelyn Clark, from Wrap Style...

Yarn: Luscious Silk (sport weight; 360 yards) from Blue Moon Fiber Arts in colourway: Oregon Red Clover Honey; 1 skein

Needles: Size US 9 Addi Lace circular (32")


This pattern is so incredibly easy and fast. Just like last time, this shawl took less than 2 weeks from start to finish - and I didn't have all that much knitting time! I used a size 9 needle, when the pattern calls for a 6, because this is a sport weight yarn and the pattern is written for laceweight. The size was just right!

I did end up omitting one entire repeat of the body lace chart (I think it's 14 rows, actually) as well as the last two rows of the edging chart (I went strait to the final two rows which are in the book, not in the chart). Even so, it is just the way I would have hoped.

The yarn is very delicate. I treated it very gently, but still got a slight 'halo' or 'blooms' and a couple of pills. I'm hoping they won't show too much after blocking smooths everything out...

and here is a final shot - it's dark on the colour, but you can really see the stitch pattern.


This was actually a blast to knit. I can't wait to make the next one!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Yesterday, I got an a frantic call from a friend to go over to her house for an emergency unscrambling... she had taken her precious bundle of Habu pure raw silk and tried to wind it by looping it around the legs of her coffee table and pulling on the end. She thought that it would slide smoothly around and around the table while she wound it on her spooler - kind of using the coffee table like a swift, but a swift that doesn't turn around...

Okay! This sounds like a job for.....UnravelingSophia!! Hey - that name's not just for show, you know! I even have a superhero cape!

This is what I found when I arrived:


Ah, the hubris of humans when encountering the natural silks! How we love to think we've subdued the strands with our spinning and our natural dyes. Not so. These threads - these teeny tiny smaller-than-laceweight threads - were so full of sproingy static electricity that they kept leaping off my fingers and back into the tangled mass. They were wiley, those threads!

Then the bright idea part of brain decided to send me a message - Use the power of the (water) Force! it said. I asked my friend for her laundry water bottle and spritzed the silk. Immediately, it snapped to attention and obeyed. Ah, how satisfying!


Unfortunately, the tangled threads were too intertwined to find any semblance of a skein so I couldn't wind it from my own swift. I had to untangle, wind, untangle, wind, untangle, wind a little tiny bit at a time.

Once I had a hand-wound ball from the mess, I threaded the end on to the ball-winder, and made a nice center-pull ball. This was more to keep the threads from re-tangling than anything else. With a yarn this apt to escape its bounds, I recommended that she really unwind it from the outside when she actually knitted with it. And, I cut off the toe from a pair of her nylon stockings and slipped this over the now nicely-behaved ball with the end sticking out... Nice and orderly...


My job here was done and it was time for me to fade away into the sunset... "Who was that masked woman? I wanted to thank her!" (special prize for anyone who correctly identifies where that pseudo-quote came from!)

Really, this took hours and hours and was one of the most arduous yarn-untanglings I've ever attempted. There were several times when I thought I'd never succeed, and never get to the end of it! I love the Habu, but it needs to be treated, very, very gently.

In other news, my fabulous swap partner from the Vintage Swap on Ravelry sent me (along with lots of other fabulous treats) a skein of midnight Blue Indigo Moon sock yarn!! My first skein ever of this yarn - I love it!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope that everyone is being happy little witches and wizards today!!

My friend Nad sent me the most wonderful Hallow's Eve package in the mail:


This is the new Harry Potter sock yarn in the Hedwig Owl colourway! Hooray!!! I have a special idea for a pattern in my mind just waiting to attach itself to this yarn...

Isn't the tiny skein great? Its the Harry Potter colourway... and the wrapped package is a stack of music CD's of the group Harry and the Potters singing such rocking tunes as Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock and Luna Lovegood is OK.

Have a wonderfully spooky day and night, little batling friends! I'll be flying with you in spirit.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I had one of those weeks – those weeks where you get a call from the doctor’s office and they say “we saw something on the xray…” and you have call back a million times and then go into the hospital and have a million tests and several doctors come in and stand by your bed and talk about your tests in front of you but to each other….and you’re really grouchy to everyone who comes in to take care of you. (oh, you’re not really grouchy? Well…hmmmm...I am.)

But finally, one doctor comes in, and she’s nice and intelligent, and a good communicator. And she says, “it’s nothing – well, a mysterious something, but not cancer.” And you finally get to get dressed, and go home, and you’re sore all over, and embarrassed that you cried in front of them.

This is me, curled under the ugly scrap blanket. Don’t you find that crochet is so comforting when you are stressed? When times are hard, I get out this blanket and add a few rows, going around and around the outer edges, sort of like a square spiral…


It’s made out of all the bits of all the other projects I’ve made in the past several years. When I look at it and run my hands over all the different textures and colours, all the beauty of the various finished projects that are now living other lives with their recipients comes back to me. It’s very comforting and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

I have a new project in process. It’s another Shetland Triangle, from 100% Silk in Oregon Clover Honey (made by Blue Moon Fiber Arts). This is such a fast and easy pattern (if you don’t count the number of times I had to search the entire house for the pattern which – of course – I hadn’t put back in its place when I finished with it last time) and I think the luminous silk makes the little leaves look like phases of the moon!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Girl Guiding with Wool

I have met many nice people on Ravelry, but one of the nicest is my friend Melanie. Melanie lives in the frozen North... perhaps that is why she loves those soft yarns that you can wear so comfortably around your neck!

Recently, she sent me a package of wonderful surprises, and I was delighted to find this, wrapped in pretty tissue:

Wool 'round the Year
is an official publication of the Canadian Girl Guides from 1950. Just like the American Girl Scouts, girl guides got badges for achievement of skills, and one of those seems to be for working with wool.

This book covers making things with wool felt (puppets, needle books, lapel pins, flowers), sewing clothing out of wool cloth as well as how to shop for wool from a mill (for economy) and how to clean and preserve wool.

The very best, and largest section of the book, though, is on knitting...


The patterns are very 50's: Bobbie socks, Argyle, "Weskits" (vests), and twin set cardigans and pullover sweaters...


I do plan to try out these patterns. They are the epitome of those wardrobe basics and that would make Tim Gunn proud to look in my closet! I would make the cardigan a little longer (and make one of the wool felt lapel pins for it) and make the turtleneck a little looser, but their classic style is still appropriate. It would make me feel like Audrey Hepburn!

I love these Argyle stockings:


and think I should make them in sky blue with the main diamond in this colour,


and the secondary diamond in cream or very, very pale green....


Monday, October 13, 2008

jam for brains....

so. I've been putting lots of time into getting this falling-down farmhouse into some semblance of water-and-wind tightness before winter... all day, every day has been spent painting, hammering, cutting boards, lifting posts, pruning, clearing, and then soaking my aching body in green salts... I am not a heavy-lifting kind of person in general, more comfortable lifting a book than a fence post, but 'needs must when the devil drives' as a loquacious painter told me when viewing my fallen-down barn wall...

this is my brain:



this is my brain on jam:



soon to be very cherry jam, indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the waning....

It's Fall and the maple leaves are turning bright reds, yellows, and burgundies, and for some reason I always think of Junior High and how I used to put away my summer clothes and get out the warmer things to be prepared for the harsh New England winter to come. We haven't had much of a warm Fall this year - its been very cold - but yesterday's sun was a pleasant exception...


I have no knitting news. I've taken some time off from work to repair my house (the back wall of the barn fell down!) and let me tell you, communicating with workmen is an art of it own! skillz...I needz them!

Well, okay - maybe a little knitting news....

My boyfriend's mother is getting THIS for Christmas in a muted natural cashmere (he talked me into it!).... and his sister is getting a Shetland triangle out of this (Blue Moon Fiber Arts Single Silk in the Oregon Clover Honey colourway):


Meanwhile, I'm sawing boards and wielding an electric screwdriver instead of knitting needles and a paintbrush instead of a crochet hook. And I have a skunk building his winter nest under my front porch and a spider the size of Texas trying to annex the entryway...


fun and games...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My other life (number 27)

Those of you who know me IRL, know that I've been living several lives at once for a long time. Like Paul Revere (though not as brilliant, of course), who was a politician, a craftsman, a landlord, and a shop-keeper, I move from one castle of the heart to another - sometimes through several different occupational identities in the same day. One of my other lives is as an antique textiles restorer.

The piece that I'm working on is an 88 square cotton crochet coverlet. Its owner tried to brighten it by soaking in bleach. And bleach, as we all know, is an eroder of natural fibers - it literally eats them away.... when you lift the item from its bleachy bath - whether it's antique lace or cotton lingerie - this is what you find:


My heart goes out to lovely antique lace or clothing painstakingly handmade that has been destroyed in a matter of minutes by an uninformed descendant and inherited by a chagrined historical society or museum.


The first thing I do is to lay the lace on a dark surface and catalog the damage. I make a grid or use graph paper and designate each square by horizontal and vertical rows to note both its specific destruction and how many stitches are needed to mend it and what kind. For instance, the tear above is

#15 2/5 to 2/6; 3 triangles 4 loops 2 st

This coverlet had 102 areas needing mending.

Matching the weight and colour of the original materials is an important prep step, too. I have a collection of vintage crochet threads and knitting yarns that I use for this purpose. Usually lace thread this old is the colour of old bones. But in the case of cotton crochet thread that has been bleached, new white thread is needed to match the now too-white colour.


In most cases, I use my antique tools in order to match the size and effect of the original stitches as closely as possible. Most of the old crochet hooks that I have were inherited from relatives and most of my antique knitting needles have been gifts from my friend Marky. The particular lace hooks that I used for this bit of lace were a gift from my bf one Christmas:


Over time, cotton crochet stitches pull against each other and tighten so that it's sometimes hard to get even a lace hook between the threads. In many places I didn't have the tiny hook size I needed so I crocheted with the tip of a sewing needle.

I also use any vintage books I have to look up the lace pattern that was used in the original. I don't have nearly the archive that I need, and in this case I ended up recreating a square of the pattern by counting stitches visually. Once I've established in my mind how each part of the original was created, I use that knowledge to mend the individual portions. In this case, the design was a multiple of three: each part was either 3 stitches, 6, 9, or 12 stitches, etc. This helps to keep the proportions of the mended parts equal to the original parts. After this, it's just a matter of painstakingly and methodically moving from one square to the next, referring to my grid and sample-square notes, and mending, mending, mending. I always incorporate any remaining ends of threads into the mend - this results in a stronger overall fabric that won't unravel through another 100 years of wear.

Here are the photos of the same area as the first one, above, after I was finished:



Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

rainy friday...

I tried to capture the sheets of rain falling just beyond the overhanging roof of my work building... can see the dusky light and not the raindrops.


It would be a good day to stay home and read (reading Eclipse) and create something.

create something like...... Victorian bedsocks?


Pattern: To Sleep, by UnravelingSophia

Yarn: 2 skeins Koigu (greens), 1 skein Kid Seta

Needles: DPNs size 1.5 (2.5 mm)
DPNs size 2.0 (2.75 mm)
Circular size 3 (3.00 mm)

You can see that the sock toes are big and round. This isn't because my toes are big and round!

These socks were designed to take into consideration all the usual problems with bedsocks. Toes that are too tight or touch the tops of my touchy toes are annoying when I'm falling asleep. I always kick them off. But the ankles on these stockings, as you can see, are much tighter. This is because my non-heeled socks always fall off my feet during the night and I get cold again. And the calf of the stocking is both a lighter fabric and a looser knit once again, so I don't end up with those funny looking bands of red around my legs overnight!

I was young when I inherited this very big, very old and very cold house I live in. And it sounds like this is going to be a very cold winter. My plan is to make as many as I can of those comfort items that were common in houses before the advent of central heating...

Catherine approves:


Saturday, September 20, 2008

This vest....

I have been making This...(<--- Ravelry link)


It used 3 skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Chocolate, a deliciously soft deep brown, almost solid...but even though all three skeins were from the same dye lot, one had faint mocha stripes and the other two were the depth of a smooth bittersweet 75% cacao bar... the colour is most accurate in this photo:


I added lots of inches to the length, but otherwise followed the pattern as written (not an easy feat since it gets a bit vague around about the mid-point of the writing), even to the tiny needles - size 2 - except that I had to change the bind off. The pattern specified the Russian bind-off (knit two tog, slip resulting stitch back onto left needle, knit two tog,, repeat) and I was tempted - the name intrigued me. But it was ultimatly non-stretchy and I had to unpick it and use the sewn bind-off.


I'm sorry now that I didn't get an action shot before I sent this off in the mail as a birthday present. I was so focused on getting the colour right in the camera and showing the vintage pin that seems just perfect for this slightly vintage-y vest. This pin belonged to my oh-so-cool aunt when she was a teenager. She was so stylish - wore all the latest trends, I heard she was even a go-go girl, what-ever that is! Some kind of a dancer I think, that wore short skirts and white knee-high boots. Anyway.... this pin was hers and then mine, and now my little sister's...


I also had an addition to my knitting cupboard (er....pile-o-stuff-by-the-couch is more accurate)... a set of Habu knitting needles from Japan! Have I shown you these yet? There is a pair of every size, starting very small, and each is colour-coded by its glossy gum-ball finial. They came in the padded travel case with a sizing ruler in both Japanese and English. And...very cool...the ruler has a little 'blessing bell' on the end of it attached with it's traditional red ribbon; every time the bells chime, a prayer goes up to Buddha. I hope its a prayer for my WIPs!