Saturday, January 30, 2010

Favorite Things

I think that we are so lucky to have friends. Don't you think that friendship is such a good idea? Ever since Gilgamesh and Enkidu became friends in 2700 B.C., people have been finding those of like mind with whom to share their thoughts, joys, sorrows, and kindnesses. Friendship, unlike other relationships, has so few expectations - only the expectation is to continue... just to show up. Sometimes people think, "well, a friend should be forgiving, and supportive, and non-judgmental..." but - no - a friend doesn't need to be any of these things. A friend just needs to be present to share the moments of life whatever life brings.

Friends usually do much more than that, though. And on top of all of those intangible things, my friends give presents! Really great presents! I have a lot of favorite things, and the great majority have come from friends.

Here are some recent friend gifts that took my breath away with their generosity and wonderfullness:

Handmade Antler Stitchmarkers:

These are the most beautiful stitchmarkers! They come from THORAZOS on etsy and were given to me for Christmas by Julia, the artist that made them. (I understand that they might be available by special order). The wires are real gold and they are just the right weight. They are smooth and don't catch on the knitting and are just so cool. I love them beyond reason.

A Mood Bag:

I am an addicted Project Runway fan. Every week I watch those designers walk out of their fabric store, Mood, with those gorgeous huge bags over their shoulders and I think, "I could use one of those!!!" I had no idea that they were actually available, bu my friend Julie in Seattle found one and it was under my Christmas tree this year! As you can see, it is well used as a knitting bag!

Hard-to-find Yarn:

My friend, Nadine, in Germany, is such a generous friend. She is not at all someone who runs after the latest "it" yarn or who has to have the yarn that everyone is talking about. But I told her once that I wanted to see what this hard-to-get yarn was all about - just in conversation - and she remembered and searched some out. I have no idea how much effort and expense it took for her to track this down, but I think it was considerable - obtaining this yarn is a constant bun-fight. She sent it over the ocean to me! I can't wait to try it out. Really - just the fact that she went to so much trouble to find something I had said I wanted blows me away!

So, now I'm wondering - what are your favorite things that friends have given you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Spring

It is still winter - and should be the dark bleak ice of winter, being January in the Northeast. But an unexpected warmer temperature brought rain instead of snow and today the bright sunshine and glistening streets actually make me think we are closer to spring than my dark, frozen heart expected.

Along with this spring-like feeling, Rowan came out with the previews for their Spring/Summer issue: #47. I found full pictures on the HULU website, a place where the magazine can be ordered, though I usually just pay the extra bucks to pick it up at my local addiction supplier (AKA: LYS).

I've read a lot of grousing about the Rowan Spring/Summer story being too "pastel" but I thought the images were very spring-like and romantic. There were several designs that caught my eye, but only three that I think I would actually make.

This one - definitely a favorite style, with a fitted bodice and those gorgeous vintage-style sleeves:

This one intrigues me, though it looks loose and not very defined, it seems to made with a very fine, almost diaphanous, fiber - I have to admit I love and wear long droopy sweaters quite a bit, especially in my air-conditioned workplace:

and this one - I can't tell exactly what it is - vest? shawl? scarf? - but I'm a sucker for anything that shows a picture of the ocean, so this is definitely on my list!

Right now, all of my spring knitting is just in dreams. I'm still in the dead of winter where knitting is concerned, having finished an unsuccessful pair of dog-walking mitts, one sock of a pair of very lovely BMFA bf socks, and almost the whole front of a brown tweed alpaca cabled man's vest - coming along nicely, thank you!, if a bit boring st st knitting for the whole back.

In other news, BMFA has created two special colourways for the Ravelympics!

One, called Vancouver Violet is a shaded solid just the colour of the logo. The other, called Ilanaaq, which is the name of the Olympics Rings logo and means "friend" has all the colours of the rings in one skein. Very exciting!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

No-Update Update

Sorry no post this week - I've been sick with the H1N1 flu for four days now. It's a major accomplishment just to get up and get a glass of Ginger Ale. My to-do list for today? Get Ginger Ale. Wash my hair. Sleep.

There will be knitting and vintage, just not today.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Month of Boyfriend Knitting

After watching me knit every minute of every day for the Holidays, my boyfriend asked me to make some things for him. Backstory - I haven't made him anything for a long time, because the first things I made him, he promptly lost, giving the impression that he didn't like them all that much. He also often makes comments about only liking the most complicated types of knits: lots of cables, fair isle, traditional British type knits and the like. I relented, though, and I promised him that January would be the "Month of Boyfriend Knitting" and I'm trying to get 3 things finished for him during that time:

Dog walking mitts



I did finish the dog-walking mitts (my own pattern). They are made with a yarn he chose himself from a not-so-local alpaca farm:


They didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, being a bit big, but I think they're useful anyway.


They're not working as dog-walking gloves because the alpaca is so soft that the dog treats stick to it and he ends up either dropping them or having the dogs bite the glove to get them off. Dog walking mitts should be made with a sturdy strong fiber, like sock yarn. I'm also bemused with the way yarn patterned. I could have frogged and started over to try to get a better match, but they are kind of cute as is, so I left them.


I plan to make him a hat from the leftover yarn but probably not until after I finish the 3 things I've promised.

I'm currently on the second item - socks. I do love knitting socks and am doing this, like the mitts, without a pattern - my own design. I'm up to the heel now, but this is what the beginning (toe) looked like:


The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in mediumweight; colour - Obsidian. I started the toe on size 1 needles to make it extra durable, and am knitting the rest of the sock on size 2 needles.

I'm trying a couple of things to personalize these socks: my boyfriend has sensitive feet but is very hard on socks. I'm doing the bottom of the heel (the sole side) in reverse stockinette in an attempt to make it more durable and to be very smooth and comfortable on the inside, and I'm doing the back of the heel in a sturdier textured knit where it will rub against his shoes.

He tried the foot on last night and said they felt very good. I'm really hoping these will be more successful than the gloves. I did get a bit worried when I was telling him how to wash them (machine wash, no dryer) and he said "they're just socks". A discussion ensued about how hand-knitted socks are never 'just socks' and he appeared to take this conversation seriously. ;)

The last item, the vest, is going to be knit from a Rowan pattern out of a tweedy yarn from a different alapaca farm:


Keeping my fingers crossed that I reach my goals because the month of february will be devoted to the Ravelympics on Team Blue Moon!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the Mad Hatter's hat party

Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 7


'...It's always six o'clock now.'

A bright idea came into Alice's head. `Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?' she asked.

`Yes, that's it,' said the Hatter with a sigh: `it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles.'

`Then you keep moving round, I suppose?' said Alice.

`Exactly so,' said the Hatter: `as the things get used up.'

`But what happens when you come to the beginning again?' Alice ventured to ask.

I'll tell you what happens when you come to the beginning just make another hat! Yes, I was very interested in making hats for Christmas presents this year. Hats are such gratifying projects. There is always enough yarn for them, and they come in infinite variety, and within this infinite variety there are infinite possibilities!

Before I began my hat party, I chose all the patterns that I would use: The Grace Lace Beret, from Loop Knits; Leaves, by Helen Bingham, StarStruck (I was looking for a pirate-y toque); and Urchin, by Ysolda.

Some of these I knit as presented and others I modified to suit my free spirit mad hatter nature... I'll take them one by one and describe each one with any modifications I made and the yarns I used...



Urchin was the first one I made and was a very fun knit. It had to be done early, since it was a gift for my friend in Germany and had to travel a long way (as it was, it only arrived at its destination on New Year's Day!). I used a skein of Farmhouse Yarns Lumpy Bumpy - a handspun, handpainted yarn that has incredible colour combinations and a super soft feel. I love this yarn with a passion, but there are limits to what you can do with a 'thick-and-thin' spun yarn; it has areas as thin as thread and big areas of cloudy almost-unspun roving. Urchin is perfect for this, incorporating all thicknesses into its garter-stitch, sideways-knit construction.


I used the needle size called for (7 mm) - I used 10.5 single point needles by Bryspun (one of my favorite needles for single points). The pattern isn't hard, but many people get stuck where it says "knit row 8 more times". What it means is that you continue making a wrap & turn on each row - both the top of the hat and the rim - so that when you are finished you have 5 wraps Plus the first 3 sts (unwrapped) on the rim, as well as a larger number of wraps (plus the one unwrapped first st) at the crown. The number of wrapped stitches at the crown will depend on the size you are making. Note that this hat runs small - you can see this in the pictures on the patten of Ysolda wearing her hat. I have a (relatively) small head, but in order to get a size that would fit over my hair, I would need to make the large size - cast on 24 stitches.

I loved the Urchin that I made for Nad so much, that I'm currently making a second one for myself!


The Leaves hat pattern has to be the easiest, most logical, and quickest pattern with a complicated look that I've come across. It's designed for use with a Chunky or Super Bulky weight yarn - remember if you use a different weight, you'll have to modify the stitches or it will end up tiny! I used one skein of Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Chunky. This is a beautiful vibrant wool with a halo...


This pattern is knitted from the rim to the crown, so a stretchy cast on is needed. I used the long-tail cast on, and it was nicely stretchy. The pattern calls for size 11 and size 13 needles in 16" circulars - I used my Boye Needlemaster interchangeable set, the only interchangables I have that go up to size 13 without buying extras - and a set of size 13 DPNs for finishing the crown (I used the largest DPNs I had - I think they were 10s).


I didn't make any modifications at all...

Monastic Leaves

I loved making Leaves so much that I decided to try it again with some modifications I had in mind. I wanted to make a toque for a friend of mind who is an Orthodox monastic. It had to be black and I wanted it to have the vintage look of an old-fashioned night cap or even a crown... those hats that writers in the 1800s wore in the evening before the fire because houses were so drafty. I also had only two skeins of black Bazic wool, so I needed to make sure that I had enough for this hat; it needed to be top-down.


I started out using the top-down method from my own Noro One-skein Top Down hat - I find it very easy if I do say so myself! :) After continuing with the crown increases until it fit the top of the head, I started with the Leaves pattern, but of course since I was doing it top-down instead of rim-up, the leaves would be upside-down. I wanted this - the leaves looked like they were dripping down from the branch of a tree. Bazic is a slightly thinner yarn than the pattern called for, so in order to have a hat that actually fit on a head, I made 8 leaf repeats around... instead of the 5 of the original pattern. I also started making increases in between the leaves as I went down so that I would end up with the number of stitches that the original pattern started with - basically just doing the pattern backwards.


A top down hat requires a stretchy bind off. I used EZ's sewn bind off. To make the little point on the crown, I just threaded the cast on tail through each stitch and pulled it tight - the beginning increases did the rest!

Star Gazer Pirate Toque - Starstruck


This pattern is from Kristine Grønningsæter's blog where she describes it as a "simple" pattern. Her directions don't give many details, but it is enough to create a nice floppy winter hat that can be modified in a variety of ways. I used Sublime yarns Organic DK wool - I happened to have two skeins that a friend had traded to me for a different colour to finish her sweater. I think the original pattern was knit with a thinner weight, because I came out with a huge hat. It was certainly floppy though! Since I had wanted the hat to look like those old pirate/ sailor hats (you see them in cartoons as red and white striped), the big floppiness suited my purpose. But if you want it look like the original, use a light-weight yarn, like light fingering. To insure this desired "flop" I turned the crown down and used the ending tail to crochet a loop for a starry button:


I also added some embroidery using a simple chain stitch with some leftover black Malabrigio worsted. I think it adds a jaunty touch.


The rim as written turned out to be too huge so I tinked it and redid it with a smaller needle size. It ended up really cute and perfect for the recipient, but wasn't a straightforward knit because the directions were so scanty....

Grace Lace Beret

The last hat in my Mad Tea Party of Christmas hats was the Grace Lace Beret. I used this pattern, first, because my friend Tethys had made one for me using Louisa Harding's Grace silk and wool and I absolutely love it, and second, because it was for a friend who is allergic to wool so I needed a pattern that would work well in silk, which doesn't stretch much.


I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts Luscious Single Silk (LSS) in the deep and mysterious Haida colourway - one of the "Ravens" series. It is a black with unexpected flashes of iridescent blue. I probably should have used the Luscious Silk, which has a tighter spin, more like Grace silk, but I love the LSS and the colour was perfect for my friend, so I went with that.

The cast on gave me lots of trouble. I must have tried it 3 times. I can never do that crocheted provisional cast on - it baffles me. On top of this, your first row after cast on is an increase in every stitch! Someday I'll master it, but this was not the day. I ended up using a braided cast on - not quite as stretchy, but with this softer yarn it worked well.

The rest of the hat was knit as written, and looks super cute on. It uses size 9 needles in 16" circular and size 4 DPNs for the rim. . This pattern has a kind of gathered top - I prefer a smoother top for a beret, but there's no denying that it works for this design. It may not look great on it's own, but when it's on your head, it's perfect...


So that is almost the whole story of my Christmas hat knitting! There are still a couple out there that don't seem to have reached their recipients yet, so I'm trying not to reveal them. Lots of fun, and I found some wonderful patterns.

Now, if I could only get all the recipients together for a hat-wearing winter tea party!