Monday, August 31, 2009

Bring It, Fall

Grey skies and chilly breezes kept down the mosquito population here this summer. They also kept down also my normally vivacious raspberry crop. And now, it seems, summer has turned to fall.

A maple down the street gave the first signs of the turning of the seasons. In a more usual year, the red and orange would juuuust begin to appear nowish. This year, it began weeks ago and, on a walk with Jack the beagle yesterday, I stepped on the first fallen leaves from that tree.

Bring it on. I've got me a new scarf. My younger daughter is modeling it here.
It's the eponymous Ishbel by Isolde Teague. The yarn is one skein of Malabrigo Sock (with plenty of yardage left over), colorway Aguas. I knit it with #6 needles in about four distracted days.

In beagle news, Jack will be rather busy today. We have a crew here rebuilding our two chimneys and a crew reconfiguring some big flower beds in the back. Jack the English constable beagle, of course, is Semper Vigilo, Paratus, et Fidelis. He will be exhausted from making sure everything is tickety boo.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"It" Knit

Yesterday was quite a day.

Tom mowed over a wasp nest (at first we thought six stings but it's "only" four). Our younger daughter had Project Welcome responsibilities as student body pres. Various guys in various stages of bidding on work called and came by. Then, of course, there was the news of Sen. Edward Kennedy's death.

Yesterday required a new and easy knitting project.

Enter Ishbel. A yarn store owner in Urbana, Illinois put the idea in my head when she sold me a skein a Mmmmmalabrigo Sock. Ishbel a fun knit, she said. So fun that a friend of hers had taken over the knitting of her Ishbel for himself.

Fun? Takes only one skein? I'm in!

No encylopedic knowledge of knitting patterns here but when she said "Ishbel", I knew that one. Just now, Ishbel is a pattern of viral popularity, an It pattern.

So, yesterday afternoon, with Tom on the couch, a baking soda poltice on the wasp stings and Benedryl singing through his bloodstream, I cast on for Ishbel. What you see in the photo above is a couple of hours knitting between watching MSNBC's hommage to Sen. Kennedy and his brothers, getting dinner on the table, and answering the phone. Fun knit? Yes. It's simple stockinette and some yarnovers so far. The yarn is beautiful.

Knitting knirvana - achieved!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Supply List for Sock Knitting on the Go

Portrait of Harris Tweed mansocks in Socks That Rock lightweight, colorway Love in Idleness and snoozing beagle.

Socks are the perfect travel project. Here's what I take along:

1. Sock yarn. The best is a self-striping yarn like Cascade Sassy Stripes or the Opal Harry Potter collection. Results without much thought are always a good thing when you're going to be suddenly be putting down the sock to scramble for toll change or when your travel companions are yelling back at some caller on the radio discussion about health care reform.

2. A simple sock pattern. I like Harris Tweed Socks and Thuja, both free patterns, coincidentally. Thuja calls for #4s and a heavier yarn. I use #2s and a sock yarn, casting on 60.

4. Little scissors and a yarn needle for finishing. I forgot these on my last trip. It turns out it is possible to kitchener the toe without a needle while riding in the front passenger seat.

3. A project bag. I love my little silk taffeta bag from Lantern Moon. You can tie the handles in a bow and slip it in your purse or backpack.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Yarn Antidote

I arrived in Urbana, Illinois officially Crackerbarreled out. Yes, the restaurant. That Cracker Barrel.

At first, the glamour of a corn muffin and a biscuit with each order dazzled. I am not being cute or trite here. Who among us hasn't looked forward to breaking highway tedium with that folksy menu, not to mention the gift shop and the goat hand lotion in the restroom?

But hit a Cracker Barrel for every meal except two on a road trip to Ohio and back home to Wisconsin and you soon find you've begun to dread dropped letters on menus - fixin's, salads 'n' such - and you're givin' serious consideration to purchasin' the singin' reindeer head in the gift shop. I'd link you to the reindeer but he's not up on the Cracker Barrel site yet.

Every word here is gospel, not snark. The miles and the white flour biscuits wear you down.

And so, balance must be restored. This is why the Universe created the Local Yarn Store. For the amount that Cracker Barrel gift shop reindeer head plus the cutest little ceramic squirrel holding two acorns (one for salt and one for pepper) would have cost, I bought:

Two skeins of Plymouth Yarn Co's Happy Feet DK (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon, 262 yds ea.) in colorway 54.
Mmmmmmalabrigo Sock (100% superwash merino, 440 yrds) in Aguas. "This would make a beautiful Ishbel," the shop owner said. I think she's right, don't you?

Plymouth Yarn Co. Happy Feet (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon, 192 yrds. ea.) in colorway 5.

The yarn shop owner saw my travel-worn face, haggard from the highway and the endless stream of Cracker Barrel restaurants. She understood.

"Here you go," the shop owner said, smiling, holding out my new purchases to me. "A bag of joy."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hermione's Hat and Mittens

When Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel found its way onto my bookshelf two years ago, my younger daughter studied it closely.

"Here, Mom," she said, handing back the book.

There were little ragged pieces of paper sticking out of the top, here and there. "You marked stuff?" I asked.

She nodded gravely. To a Potterhead such as herself, this book is full of dreamy items to wear.

Did I hurry to my needles to cast on for any one of her chosen items - the House Scarf, Hermione's Cable and Bobble Hat and Mittens, the House Sweater?

To my shame, I did not, at least not right away. I waited until three weeks ago when I bought some Nashua Ivy (50% alpaca, 45% merino, 5% Estellina which is sparkle). The moment I saw that yarn, Hermione's Cable and Bobble Hat and Mittens came to mind. The original from "The Prisoner of Azkaban" is in red. How would the design look in the winter white with gold sparkle in stock?

Let's find out. You can click on any of the photos in this post to make them larger.

I lengthened the mittens. There cable and bobble pattern is a little woozy and odd, as you would expect from a Harry Potter costume. The longer length on the mittens adds to the fun. The glint of gold when the wearer moves her head add to the fun, too. I love it.

Happy Birthday to my Hermione!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Pattern: Sparkle Scarf

A little sparkle, a few beads and a yarn goes from how-lovely to must-have. (Click on any of the photos to make them larger.)

That's where I was at with ArtYarns Beaded Rhapsody (85% silk with glass beads, 15% mohair and metallic). It's as expensive as you would expect: 175 yards goes for a little over $40.

$42.50, to be exact. But it's got sparkle! And beads! A person needs this yarn.

Alright, so 175 yards. "Scarf!" that yarn said to me in its sultry, mohairy voice. It also said, "Simple lace pattern, just a whisper of yarnovers." Given that there is variegation both in color and texure, beads, and mohair all at once, simplicity is the only choice. This yarn is the star of the show, not whatever pattern.


1 ball ArtYarns Beaded Rhapsody
#7 needles

Cast on 29 stitches.
Row 1: Purl
Row 2: *yo, k3, (sl 1, k2 tog, psso), yo, k1, yo, k3 tog, k3, yo, k1*; repeat from *

Repeat Rows 1 - 2 until you run out of yarn. Bind off.
Block to open up the lace pattern, if you like. I prefer this one as is.

One more thing: be careful who you let model the scarf for your blog. She will ask for the scarf, if maybe you wouldn't mind. You will give the scarf to her with a joyful heart.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Ruh Roh

The Crime:
Last winter, these were pristine Swedish Fish mittens from
's design.

The Perp:
Jack. Look how care does not furrow his beagle brow! According to this, dogs don't know from guilt.
Like human toddlers, dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog's toolbox. (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)

The Know-How and Materials:
I had filed the pattern away. Since there was so much leftover yarn, I kept it all. Whew!

From there, it became simply a matter of undoing the damage, finding the place in the pattern, and reknitting. Start to finish, including looking for the pattern and yarn: 1 hour.

WIP: Work in Progress
Yes, those are size 0 needles, curse them. Metal ones would be better for this job. They wouldn't continually threaten to snap in two. The tiny gauge (10 stitches = 1") is part of what makes these mittens so adorable.

All Better!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Soy What?

Figuring out what to do with this lime-and-grey yarn was like living the all-socks version of Goldilocks. The result kept being too big or too small or too ... not right.

What made it so difficult? The colorway didn't help. Mostly, though, I wanted to do justice to the very interesting composition of the yarn. The brand is TOFUtsies. The name gives away part of its composition: soy. According to The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes:

In the 1930's, automobile magnate Henry Ford pushed for the development of a soy-based fiber to help promote the soybean industry. The resulting product, called Azlon, was produced but it never gained widespread commercial adoption, losing out to rayon and nylon. Today the fiber is enjoying a worldwide revival, thanks to the efforts of Shanghai farmer, businessman, and self-taught scientist
Li Guanqi. He took the soy pulp that remains after soybeans have been pressed and their oil removed, and developed a process by which the soy proteins are isolated from the pulp, rendered into a liquid state, and wet-spun with polyvinyl alcohol.

The fiber itself has the luster of silk and the resilience of wool, with a
soft hand, lustrous appearance, and marvelous drape... Soy fiber feels warm, yet it also wicks moisture away from your skin, making it well-suited to warmer climates.

This particular yarn is a blend of 50% superwash wool, 25% soy silk, 22.5% cotton, 2.5% chitin (from shrimp and crab shells). I thought the chitin might be for durability. Wrong! According to, it's in there for its "natural antibacterial or antiseptic property".

All in all, an interesting yarn. The color, too is interesting, being a limited-edition color for the Oc-toe-ber (that's what they called it) shipment of the Tofutsies Sock Club. I purchased it long after the fact at deep discount. Otherwise, quite honestly, why bother with lime green and grey? I bought the yarn from Little Knits, which also threw in the accompanying pattern.

A fact I fought against. The pattern was fine. It was the cutesy story accompanying the pattern that made me grit my teeth and dig in my heels. The designer's mom ... bow on the fiddle ... Ireland, blah blah blah. The older I get, the less patience I have for cute names for knitting patterns. I have even less patience with the stories that go along with the patterns, unless it's about tradition. Then I'm interested.

The yarn was knit - wrong pattern! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern and needles! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern and needles! Again! - and frogged.

And put back in the deepest oubliette of my stash.

Until right before my recent round of airplane travel. I needed a knitting project that was small, mindless, and disposable. The disposable part has to do with the uncertainty of traveling with knitting. If this project were somehow lost, it had to not matter much. Airport security officers can be capricious about knitting, sometimes allowing it on the plane and sometimes not. As my flights were international, I wouldn't have an applicable SASE on my person.

Socks are small. This pattern is fairly mindless, once you knit more than ten rows. And, let's face it, lime and grey yarn is always going to be disposable, even if it is made of tofu and crab shells.

No one confiscated my needles. No one even looked at them, not in Chicago, not in Dublin, not in Paris. At the airport, at the railway station, on the plane, on the train, I knit a little. Pretty soon, I had lime and grey socks made from tofu and crab shells.