Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shawl Fashion Show

Nina and Tina's youtube about how to wear shawls without looking like your grandma has inspired me to drag out my own shawls.

At 52, it's getting easier by the day for me to look like an old lady and, although my height of 5'1" has its advantages (no legroom on a plane? no problem!), looking as good as Nina in a shawl is problematic, unless ...

Here, let me show you. I'll start with big, then go to medium, and end with the smallest shawls. Enter my dressmaking form. It's my measurements and my height.

My largest shawl is the triangular Vernal Equinox. It's knit from handspun alpaca laceweight, soft and light as a cloud. Still, it's a whole lotta lace. Trying it Nina's fabulous way...

And this is how I had better plan to actually wear it if I don't want to look like a pigeon wearing some kind of bizarre boob sling.

I have two medium-sized rectangular stoles, both knit in worsted weight and both from Cheryl Oberle's book, Folk Shawls. Unsurprisingly, both look best if worn the same way. This is the Russian-style Domovoi

and this is the Scottish-inspired North Sea...

For the two smaller shawls I've made for myself, I can use Nina's bib styling. The Phoenix Rising is Claudia's Handpaints Silk Lace and is beaded. It is considerably abbreviated from the original design, only because I wanted to be done with it. Here's a really clear picture of my Phoenix Rising, followed by the more modern-looking bib styling of it.

I love the difference! And here's Ishbel, knit in Malabrigo sock yarn. This one is actually designed to be worn as a bib. It works under my raincoat.

Watching Nina and Tina's youtube, then playing around with my own shawls on my sewing mannequin has shown me that smaller is better, if I'm making a shawl for myself.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Take 2

Most patterns I knit once. There are a very few so useful or fun that I knit them twice or more.

Bird in Hand Mittens top the list of patterns I've knitted more than once. Vines, flowers, and leaves twine in and around and a little bird sits on the right thumb - you can just see his yellow beak in this photo. This go-round, they're for me. The yarn is Classic Elite Renaissance (the green) and Nashua Ivy(the white and sparkly).

Other patterns I've knit more than once:
Kitty Bath Mitt, a free pattern from (I'd link you but you need to sign in to see the pattern.) It's my go-to pattern for a baby gift, especially fun if you include a copy of the Little Golden Book The Color Kittens.

The rest of the repeats are hats, all but one from free patterns:

Bobbi from Cathy Carron's Hip Hats

Fake Isle Is there a more fun use for a skein of Noro? I think not!

And I do not have a decent photo of a hat made following the construction of Coronet. I change up that cable with something Viking from Elsebeth Lavold and do it in yak yarn with two layers. Take that, Wisconsin winter!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Keepin' It Scandihoovian

While waiting for the mail to bring the book on how to get the Swedish spinning wheel up and running, I thought I'd get in some knitting. Tom needed a new winter hat so I handed him my favorite collection of hat patterns, Hats on! by Charlene Schurch.

He narrowed down his favorites to three, then down to one: the Norwegian Star.

Can you believe I cast on for this Friday evening, knit through a couple of hours of Wisconsin Public Radio programming, knit a bit on Saturday afternoon and again on Saturday evening, and finished the hat on Sunday morning?

The yarn is Aussi Wool, one skein in Cherry Tomato and one in Commodore. It's "100% premium Australian wool" but the Chinese spinning job is not premium. There are occasional losely-spun clumps and even a knot, two things I do not expect in the 200-yard skein. I do love the hat pattern, though. It's clear, well-written, and has charts large enough to read with ease.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Technology at Hand

This is the way I wind yarn from a hank into a ball. There are better ways, all of which involve a swift and winder. These are at the top of my Wish List. Never used either myself but I have seen them in use at yarn stores. They do a faster and a neater job than I could ever do with just the two chairs and my two hands.

I do have an unused item of wool equipment you might like to meet. It came from Sweden to Minnesota in 1882. Here it is:
The wheel belonged to Anna Brita Dahlgren Berglund, Tom's great-grandmother from Ragunda in Jemtland, which is in central Sweden. The wheel used to be a Swedish blue. In the 1960's, one of Tom's sisters painted her turquoise. Go figure the chances that we would have also painted our fireplace turquoise several years ago.

The wheel seems to be in great shape, with all parts moving freely and smoothly. The last time I spun was almost 30 years ago. It was on a friend's wheel. Time to learn to use this one and, to that end, I have ordered a couple of books. I also have the names of several people in Wisconsin who repair old wheels, should this one be less functional than I believe.

If you have advice, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time Cures Knitting Fatigue

You know how it is when you've spent too long and too much effort in cooking a meal, it doesn't taste as good as you think it should? Everyone else at the table loves the food but you, the cook, you're finding fault. This is too bland; that's too salty; the one over there is too whatever.

It's how I felt about the His/Her Reversible Scarf from Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman. The construction crosses cables on both right and wrong side rows and the work went on and on. It was a slow knit and you had to keep careful count. On and on and on it went. Really, it was like an evil scarf from a fairytale: no matter how much I knit, the end was never near.

And then, finally, one day the scarf was long enough to bind off. Oh, the happy, happy day! Knowing intellectually it had to be okay but finding endless fault with the thing, I handed off the scarf to my younger daughter. She didn't wear it much.

Which confirmed my darkest suspicions about this scarf. It was too this and it was not enough that, just like the tired cook's dinner.

And then, today, she wore it. Father Time has soothed my cable-stressed brow and that scarf looks great. It does everything it's supposed to. Forgive the photos of a project off the needles a couple of years? What a revelation it is!

To celebrate the Autumn that is well and truly upon us in Wisconsin, here is Tom and our Gang of Three (Jack the Beagle, Sally the Dowager Empress Cat, and Nala the Orange Ninja Kitty con Fuego) all curled up for a nap.

Friday, October 09, 2009

There Goes the Yarn Diet

Last weekend, we bought a giclée print of this painting by Leslie Trewyn. Happy subject for a knitter, happy colors - it makes me smile every time I look at it.

We met the artist during the
Hidden Studios Tour, a self-guided annual art studio open house. To get to each studio, you drive country roads through the brilliant fall colors. Each of the nine studios invites a guest artist or artisan so that at each studio, you see the work of two different people. The fall foliage glowed through the misty rain and each studio was a revelation of the strong creative community we have in rural Wisconsin.

Peggy Yates of Peaceable Acres Farm represented the fiber arts. You know I bought yarn and here it is:
That's 560 yards of merino handspun, baybee. It's a light worsted weight with a very soft hand. I'm thinking
Swiss Cheese Scarf.

That project will have to wait. No starting any new projects until I finish the bmp socks for my brother-in-law's birthday, rapidly approaching. Here's where I'm at:
One sock done, one sock almost half done. Each sock is different. One sock has a legful of Space Invaders. The other sock has the score and the scoring system. I went back and forth on what to put for the score: should it be 50 or some variation like 5000 because he's celebrating his 50th birthday? I decided instead on putting his birth year: HI-SCORE 1959. It's a very fun, addictive knit for a nice guy but as God as my witness, I'll never knit with black yarn on size 0 needles again.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Knit Like An Estonian - Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf

The alchemy of a blob of knitted lace, a long soak, and a good stiff blocking never fails. This gorgeous creature slid off my new blocking wires last night.

It's the Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. The peacock tails are the larger ones, of course, and the leaves the smaller. The color variation from lilac to mauve is really there. You're seeing is the added magic of Jojoland Melody yarn.

Melody, a fingering-weight wool, is heavier than the lace-weight called for in the pattern. I tried to compensate by using larger needles. It's open and lacy enough but we lost the effect of the nupps. Can't see any nupps? Click on any photo to enlarge. The nupps are in the center of the little leaves,coaxed and prodded during the blocking process. Still can't see them? Yeah, they don't pop in this heavier yarn. If I were to make this scarf again with fingering-weight yarn, I would substitute beads for the nupps.

That's a minor quibble. The color and the pattern are a happy combination. .

It almost makes winter worth it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Blocking Wires

Look what came in the mail yesterday: steel wires! Lace-blocking steel wires, that is. They are simply pliable stainless wires that slip through selvage. My set is from Knit Picks.

As a matter of fact, I do have a blob of unblocked lace lying around. Last summer, Tom and I needed to hurry to the bedside of his father. This was going to entail a 7-hour (each way) drive and time in a hospital waiting room and a hotel room. I grabbed the Knitted Lace of Estonia from my bookshelf, some #5 lace needles from the hanging needle-keepers in my closet, and a couple of balls of Jojoland Melody from the stash in my cedar chest.

Knitting lace turns out to be a real conversation starter in the hospital waiting room. Person after person wanted to talk about how grandma/mom/aunt/cousin/friend/neighbor used to knit or crochet. That loosened the speakers up, you might say, and led into the present circumstances that had ended up in the hospital waiting room. Happily, the pattern for the Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf allowed me to both knit lace and listen.

Once home, I put down the project and took it up for a few rows, put down the project and took it up for a few rows. Eventually, I had the 32 pattern repeats.

Let's try out the wires, shall we? First, a nice soak in the sink. .

And now, a good, aggressive blocking on the wires. You simply slip the wires through the selvage, then pin the edge with T-pins. Fast, easy, and much more even than the T-pins alone I had been using.

Come back tomorrow and see the result off the blocking wires.