Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Came in the Mail Today

This came in the mail today. I couldn't go to the Bohus knitting workshop in Minneapolis last weekend but my wonderful Tom made sure I still got the kit. There are five colors - aqua, medium blue, beige, dark blue-green, pale blue - to knit the Bohus Blue Shimmer Cuffs. It's a small project, just right for trying out Bohus knitting. The workshop's instructor, Susanna Hansson, also sent a nice note and the handouts from the workshop.

What a nice husband I have.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

So I'm absentmindedly flipping through the new issue of National Geographic magazine when a photo socks me right in the eye: a row of 19th-century Sicilian mummies in various stages of decay.

It shocked me. Now, I know from mortuary practices. Tom and I wrote a non-fiction book that begins and ends in a Wyoming cemetery. We are currently writing another entirely about a sacred hill said to be a large Native American cemetery. The book involves archaeological site reports, forensic anthropology, grave dowsing, and cadaver dogs. And in the background, my father-in-law owned a monument (i.e., tombstone) company and cemetery. When I met him for the first time, he showed me the empty space next to Tom's "pre-need" spot in the family plot. "This could be you one day," he said.

National Geographic went too far. Describe the mummification process and its cultural context, yes. Print photos of the Capucin monks guarding the entrance to the catacomb. But respect the dead. Protect them - Egyptian mummies, Peruvian mummies, all mummies - from the gawking eyes of the living.

Cleasing breath in, toxins out. Thank Heavens for knitting. How it soothes the shot nerves. Enough ugly. Let's look at pretty.

Right now, this isn't pretty. It's a huddled mound of lace knitting, about half-way through Clue 3 of Lankakomero's Vernal Equinox Surprise Shawl KAL. This KAL has become really popular and rightly so: this is a fun project that's looking to be not just pretty but beautiful (honest, you'll see!). In this gray alpaca, I'm knitting a wintery eclipse. To do the shawl justice, I should be using a fingering-weight yarn in a sun-drenched summer color.

Like this tangerine:
It's going to be Trellis and it's for my grand-nephew Will's first birthday next month. I hesitated between calling Will a grand-nephew and a great-nephew, not certain which was right. According to this interesting discussion, I'm not the only one confused. Maybe next time I'll call Will a great-nephew and the time after that, I'll choose grand-nephew, alternating between the two until I settle on one or the other. Yes, I'm a word nerd.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Floral Lace Anklets


Okay, I said to the Blackberry, I'll stay inside and knit.

But first I had to venture out - hat? check! gloves? check! - to buy a replacement set of #1 dpns. The heavier Opal sock yarn had splintered one of them. That done, I finished the Evelyn Clark's Floral Lace Anklets from Lace Style.

The lace is a silk-purse-from-sow's-ear pattern: simple as simple can be, with five of eight rows a k1 p1 rib. Simple as that is, I never did memorize the pattern. Thanks to my younger daughter for modeling the socks. She's the spitting image of my sister at that age. Coincidentally, the socks are for my sister. Edie, if you're reading this, get your feet ready for some handknit lace.

Poor Jack the beagle, how he suffers in this c-c-c-cold! He feels the bonds of his indoors confinement. How to pass the time?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Science of Socks - Science Project 3

Ahhh, the knitting knirvana that is the next installment of a sock club. January 2009's package from the tasteful folks at Knit Purl arrived very close to the beginning of the month. Want to see the goodies?

You've got your yarn, your pattern, and your treat (a fun sock greeting card), all in a delphinium-blue organza bag tied up with ribbon. Everyone always says - and I'm no exception - that getting yarn in the mail is like getting a present. The Knit Purl Sock Club people have taken the idea to its logical conclusion in the kit's presentation. I have been in a knitting club that put all the money into the yarn and the pattern, no presentation frills. Of the two approaches, I like Knit Purl's a lot more and I don't mind paying a little extra for the fun.

A different site or aspect of the Portland, Oregon area inspires each sock kit. This time, it's the Cascades
a volcanic mountain range, extending from central Oregon into British Columbia. The peaks of Mt. Hood. Mt. Rainer, and Mt. Saint Helens are visible from the city of Portland, creating a picturesque horizon throughout the year. The Cascade Locks, located outside Mt. Hood, are a series of waterfalls and canals that were built during the 1870s to make the Columbia more navigable. - Knit Purl Sock Club blurb

Yarn or pattern first?

Yarn it is. This is "The Cascades" hand-dyed by Lavender Sheep. We have 380 yards of superwash merino, baby. The blue of the water and sky, the green of the trees, the gray of the stern granite, the purple of the mountain heather - it's all here.

The pattern is Cascade Locks by Sarah Worthington. It has cable upon cable swirling down the leg and foot from a twisted-rib cuff. It's written for two sets of circs. As a dévotée of dpns, I will probably just knit the dang socks on dpns because you don't fix what ain't broke and who needs to reinvent the wheel. For those who are more openminded than me, it would be a chance to try a new technique. My jury's still out whether I'll use this yarn with this pattern. You can click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vernal Equinox Shawl Clue 2 -Complete!

Clue 2 went up yesterday on Lankakomero's blog. The shawl is getting pretty, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vernal Equinox Shawl

Woe is me.

On the scale of problems, this is thistle-down. It is nothing. I am not losing my house or my job. I am not going hungry. No one is going to die. Still, I admit I shed tears over this one.

I had plans to go to Minneapolis this weekend to attend the opening of the Bohus Stickning exhibit at the American Swedish Institute. Even bettah, I had a place in one of Susannah Hansson's seminars.

I can't go. My little weekend would come in at about $300.For a lot of us, money is very tight right now. My family is no exception. So, in the interest of the family budget, I have cancelled my plans.

Enter Lankakomero's Vernal Equinox Mystery Shawl KAL. I dried my eyes, joined Tom by the television to watch President Obama's inauguration, and cast on with some gray alpaca I bought on vacation on Prince Edward Island a couple of years ago. Here's the result of Clue 1:

By the way, didn't Reverend Lowry's benediction rock your socks? "Let all those who do justice and love mercy say 'Amen!'"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Industrial-Strength Floral Lace Anklets

When I saw this color in a grab bag of Opal sock yarn from Little Knits, I set it aside for my sister. She knows what colors look great on her and this is one of them. So skein by skein, as I knit away at that grab bag, I always pushed aside the burnt orange yarn for socks for Edie. The question was: what pattern would suit the yarn? It's a superwash but a more like fingering weight than like typical sock yarn. To me, that heaviness screams for the balance of a lace pattern.

What about Monkey?, I asked myself. I always wanted to try that pattern but never had any sock yarn on hand that was monochromatic enough to show off the pattern. I cast on with #2s, got half-way down through with one, then frogged it: too heavy, too bulky, too big.

Take 2 with the burnt orange yarn looks like this:
If you click on the photo, you can see the pattern bigger. Floral Lace Anklets by Evelyn A. Clark in Lace Style, #1 dpns and that heavy-ish sock yarn. I like the result. And even though my sister lives in California, maybe she can still use these toasty socks to watch tv in.

The lace is mind-numblingly easy. It repeats over eight rounds, five of which are k1 p1. This time last year, I would have preferred the book's verbal directions. Thanks to a year of knitting a fair amount of lace, I now like charts a lot better. If the verbal directions really got under my skin, I could easily make a chart here. Pretty slick and its creator, Inna Zakharevich, is generously letting the world use it for free.

Do you like Jack's groovy eyes?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thermis (And Getting Colder)

Portrait of a Patient Beagle
It's 20 below, wind chill brings it to 40 below. Jack is waiting out the blast of arctic cold by working on a t-bone saved for just such an occasion.

Portrait of a Warm Neck
Cleo has on Thermis, a neckwarmer knit from leftover Dream in Color Classy in Gothic Rose. Photobucket It's a really simple little stashbuster of a knit, just a modified tube with a waffled, thermal texture. Photobucket Looks better on, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Wait out a Blizzard

On the long drive home to Wisconsin from leaving our daughter at her Ohio college, a blizzard warning grounded us in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The snow accumulation wouldn't be more than an inch or so, the warning said. The danger came from high winds kicking up the snow in rural areas. In town, it would be fine to move around.

Of all the places to wait out a blizzard, Champaign-Urbana is one of the better ones. It is the home of the University of Illinois and has all the amenities of a good college town.

Like, oh say ... interesting yarn shops.

Listen, if you're ever waiting out a blizzard in Champaign-Urbana, go to Klose Knit. Two seconds in the door, the women who run it had Tom in a comfy armchair. They brought him tea and cookies so I could fondle yarn. This is one of those stores that if you could buy their entire inventory, you would.

I limited myself to two balls of Plymouth Yarn Co. Happy Feet sock yarn in a malachite green, two pairs of dpns, and a copy of The Eclectic Sole: Socks for Adventurous Knitters by Janel Laidman. This is one of those books you need to see in person to appreciate. I was under an odd, mistaken impression. I thought this
was a gimicky book of socks, the gimick being eclectic soles, as in the cover picture, and who really cares what the soles are like???

I know. The book is completely not that. It is an eclectic collection of 14 original, intriguing, well-written sock patterns using a variety of techniques. If you appreciate the clarity and organization of a Nancy Bush, this book will not disappoint. It's that good.

Back in the hotel room, Tom slipped his bookmark out of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and I cast on for Rivendell.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fire on the Baby Surprise Jacket

First off the needles this new year is a gift for Tom's niece's first baby, due to arrive mid-February. The yarn is Socks That Rock Fire on the Mountain. It is the iconic knitting/origami project, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. It is knit in one piece and requires only two short seams along the arms. It is a completely original design. It is bloody ... quirky.

Quirky. I'm a little afraid of the love EZ inspires across the knitting community and so I hesitate to call the pattern poorly-written. Even though EZ was a kind of genius and freed many to look at knitting in new ways, the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern could be a lot less ... quirky.

Elizabeth Zimmerman had a mathematical mind. She was a visual thinker. I am a mathematical illiterate who passed high school geometry by the skin of my teeth. All those standardized tests with spacial thinking components? Hated 'em. The knitting itself is simple and all garter stitch. Still, it took the intervention of two kind souls to coax a Baby Surprise out of me.
I will add my own voice to the chorus of thank yous for Dawn Adcock's cheat sheet. To figure out how the !!@%!@%!^% to fold the Baby Surprise Jacket, I also needed this video.

I live near Elizabeth Zimmermann's schoolhouse knitting workshop in Pittsville, Wisconsin. My hair stylist spent part of her childhood there in the 1950's. She has only vague memories of Mrs. Zimmermann. This surprised me. EZ is a larger-than-life figure in the knitting world. As a neighbor, though, she was probably just that lady who lived in the schoolhouse and knit a lot. Pamela promised to ask her mother, though. If Pamela's mother recalls anything about EZ, I'll post it.