Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sienna moving fast!

Here's the back already up to the armhole decreases.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Many beginnings

Wool cotton sweater update: Okay, I frogged back again because I wasn't loving the look of the little openwork diamond motif in the center front of the sweater. Sadly, with my new incredibly time-consuming profession I only really knit on Saturdays anymore, somewhere between house cleaning and grocery shopping. So I frogged pretty much an entire week's work of work and it took me two more weekends to recover that ground. I put in another KC Brocade diamond there instead. Here it is looking all crumpled from being in the bottom of my knitting bag for a while.

I'm getting a little tired of the Rowan Wool Cotton. I feel like I've been working with this yarn forever, which makes sense considering that I bought this yarn to start the Gatsby project all the way back in March(!) and have been working with it *ever since* -- first as Gatsby, then as this new sweater I'm designing.

As a result (or maybe just because I wish I had more time to knit and am trying to cram in more than I can actually do) I seem to be on a rampage of starting new projects.

I started a pair of fair isle mitts with the goal of finishing them in time for the Thanksgiving trip to my mother's traditionally chilly house. I'm mostly through one mitt at this point, using up odd bits of worsted from the scrap department of my stash. The pattern is from Drops Design and I think it turn out nice once blocked. Right now the stiffness of the fair isle is puffing out above the tight ribbed cuff a bit more than I would like.

We'll see what happens here because I must admit that I have a serious and chronic case of second-mitten syndrome.

Meanwhile, I went to Rhinebeck last weekend. Sheep! Goats! Llamas! Alpacas! Bunnies! I petted all of them - shamelessly. Narrowly escaped returning home to our New York City apartment with one of each plus a Border Collie puppy. Thankfully, my husband and I showed remarkable restraint and returned simply with a couple of Christmas presents that shall remain nameless, a chunk of sheepsmilk cheese, and three little yarn purchases for moi. . .

From left to right, purple/black handpainted sock yarn (um, yes, for the girl with a hard case of second-mitten syndrome -- but I want to try at least one sock!), a natural toned pink-grey-brown worsted from Shadyside Farm, and some fuzzy, super-soft Angora yarn with steel grey and rose variegations. The bunny yarn is currently on the way to becoming a scarf.

The fuzz makes it hard to see the stitch pattern, but it's a simple little openwork, broken-rib pattern from BW's Treasury #1, called Dewdrop. I had some fun looking through the book and trying different ideas. This one is inspired by themes in The Book Thief, the October selection for KTC. More on that later.

The worsted got swatched up for the Sienna cardigan from IK Fall 06. I've been wanting to make this sweater since I first saw it in this issue. I think I would love to wear it, but somehow I just never got to it. I also didn't want to put up the cash for the suggested yarn, Blue Sky Alpacas, which is a fairly heavy worsted, and I never really came across the right substitution. I think my new Shadyside wool will be perfect for it.

I love knowing that this yarn comes from western PA, too, right between where I used to live in rural PA and where my family is from in rural, eastern OH. I can picture these sheep hanging out in my sweater on a fantastically green steep hill under that cloudy Pennsylvania sky.

I just know that this sweater will be a favorite and I haven't even started it yet. The yarn kept drawing me back to their booth again and again all day. It's exactly the kind of stuff I most love. Quality that's subtle, not flashy. Perfect in the details, striking just the right balance between natural and refined. I like the natural colors, but many of the more natural wools at the fair had a rustic, sort of look to them that was too rough for my taste, either because they were single-ply, thick-thin yarns or because they were completely undyed. Shadyside had some nice patterns for their wool, too, although I didn't buy any. I think I might just steal some of their ideas instead!

The wool is super soft like a merino, though it's from Romney sheep, and the woman from Shadyside said she had been breeding the sheep for softness. There's something poetic and lovely about that that makes me want to write a poem "bred for softness" I heard cats described once as "comfort-loving creatures" and I thought about that, how some creatures are comfort-loving and others are not so much. People too.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Vertical Darts Redux

I frogged my darts from last week and redid the midsection of my little sweater. As of today I'm up to the bottom of the V neck. I'm putting in a little openwork diamond motif there, and you can see the first half of it.

In the back, I've got a little repeat of the King Charles Brocade Motif.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

experiments with darts

I am progressing on my little sweater I'm designing as I go with the lovely Rowan Wool Cotton. I've finished the King Charles brocade panel at the bottom and am continuing in seed stitch which I quite like. I began vertical decreases below the bust, but I don't like how they look. I put in two eyelets where they begin and decided I don't like it. I also realized that I've been decreasing too quickly so the shape is a little pooched.

This is what it looks like today, but I"m going to frog back and start over with the darts. Try something a little cleaner looking, maybe a double decrease that creates some sort of vertical line. I think I may have seen something in my trusty Vogue Knitting Book. . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mostly work

and very, very little play right now. The first year of teaching is un-freakin'-believable.

I did, however, start a nice, soothing, easy project that keeps my knitting going without requiring actual thinking or commitment.

I love this super-soft malabrigo yarn and the color is the perfect balance between emerald and seaweed. . .

This is a scarf in the brioche stitch from EZ's Knitting without Tears. It has some garter at the bottom. I'm going to do a matching hat, using the brioche stitch, but with some other details added to tweak the shape and add interest -- like a garter or twisted rib band and a probably a pom pom.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Leaf for Rowan Wool Cotton

I've just returned from a week and a half here

and it was wonderful. Maybe you have to live in NYC to say this about Gloucester, but -- it smelled good.

While I was away I got some knitting done on my new project.
After the Gatsby letdown, I've started designing a little sweater with my beloved Wool Cotton yarn.

Here is a humble little sketch (I'm no Fitz Henry Lane) --

It starts with about 5 inches in the King Charles Brocade stitch pattern. I like the different diamond motifs in various stitch patterns in the Vogue Knitting book, and will be incorporating more diamonds in the rest of the sweater. I'm going to break the C. Rex though, and continue in seed stitch for most of the body of the sweater.

I put in a knitted-in hem, and that was fabulous. It was a bit tricky knitting it up while following the stitch pattern, but I went slowly and it worked out nicely. I love the clean finish of the knitted up hem. I put a hem in my saddle-shoulder sweater, but I didn't love sewing it up and I think I tugged it off center a bit. The knit-up hem solves all of that.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Heart Hat

I made this heart hat, for the July book in Knit the Classics, Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I loved that book. Probably never would have picked it up on my own, but that's part of what's so cool about a book club, that you end up reading (and appreciating) things outside your normal purview.

Anyway, the hat is from Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop (p.156). The heart is worked first and then stitches picked up all around and knitted down to form the bonnet part. It's done entirely in garter stitch except for an I-cord border & ties. This was made with various materials I had on hand. The heart is some fuchsia washable wool, the grey bonnet part is Paton's merino, and the I-cord cast-off border and ties are also a wool-blend worsted weight that I happened to have hanging around. I also crocheted a line of pink around the edge when it was finished to get some more pink in there as a balance.

Vive la silliness!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Am I really that big? Um, no.

One of the things that interests me about fashion is how the cut of the clothes and the drape of the material alter the appearance of the body. When a well-designed piece of clothing, whether knitted or made from woven cloth, is on the body it feels like part of you. An extension. I think about a scene at the beginning of the novel Franny and Zooey when a girl is getting off the train to meet her boyfriend and he is happy to see her (they've been apart for a while) and he's kissing her passionately all over her face and then he starts kissing her coat, too, because she wears it so often and it's so familiar that it seems like a part of her. Clothing that really works does start to feel like it's part of you in that way. The clothes I love the most are those pieces that make me feel like I have fur. I am a cat and my sweater/jacket/jeans/shoes/etc. fit me like my shiny, well-groomed coat of shiny fur.

It's not about showing off the body for sex appeal or covering it up to hide its aspects. The right clothes are comfortable in a way that has nothing to do with elastic waistbands or even the softness of silk and cashmere. They cover without overcovering, they reveal without overrevealing. The color illuminates the skin and draws the eye without overpowering. A well-designed item will always make you feel like you look nice and won't trigger any body-image neurosis no matter what your size. I have some "fat" clothes from when I weighed 20 pounds more than I do now that I felt just as good in as some of my "thin" clothes; and some of my "superthin" clothes from the old college days made me feel like crap even when I was as skinny as a rail.

When I find a piece of clothing that is really perfect in a store there is an immediate kinesthetic recognition and I am willing to pay almost anything (within the realistic boundaries of middle-class life --I do live in NYC, after all, where you can buy a handbag that costs more than a car). The dream of sewing and making one's own clothes is that every garment will be like this, but the frustrating reality, for me anyway, is that the creative process involves a large part of trial & error and miscalculation, as well as a sort of Mystery of creation wherein the process itself takes on a kind of purpose leading to directions I can't always forsee. In my twenty-some-odd years of sewing and almost 3 years of knitting, I've probably made about five garments that really live up to the ideal I describe. Most of the time the clothes I make and buy are serviceable and have some excellent qualities but are not truly perfect. And honestly, I don't think it's realistic to expect perfection all the time in life. But -- as a perfectionist I kind of can't help it.

Thus, an outlook of perpetual disappointment interrupted by moments of excessively pleased surprise.

I started a dress last weekend using a simple 1960's vintage pattern.

I bought a whole collection of old patterns at a flea-market in Kansas a few years ago and I never really got around to experimenting with them because they are smaller than my size and I knew that I would have to resize them. Which I can do. But that can seem like just a bit too much bother on a busy weekend. Anyone who shops knows that sizing is a subjective thing and anyone who sews knows that sizes on commercial patterns are not numbered the same as patterns in stores at the mall. I wear a size 10 at Banana Republic and my sewing size is a 14.

But sizes also change over time as bodies and marketing and styles change. Looking at the measurements on the back of my vintage dress pattern I was sure I had to add a good inch to inch and a half to the width of my dress and dutifully resized the pattern before cutting it out. I'm making this one out of an inexpensive, light cotton fabric I got in my neighborhood and am using it also as a kind of "muslin" to test the pattern out because I think it could make a decent work dress out of a nice soft wool. So this is low stakes. And the pattern design is dead simple -- a sheath dress with only a couple of darts, so the resizing was hardly onerous.

It looked really big as I was cutting it out and I reminded myself that dresses always look bigger than you think when the pattern is laid out flat, before it has its darts and shaping, before the seam allowances are turned in. I put in my zipper and seamed the shoulders and collar and then basted the side seams and tried it on. And it was like wearing a huge, purple and embroidered trash bag.

So I learned that in the 1960s clothes had more ease built into them and I would have been a size 10 or 12 back then to get the look on the pattern illustration. Nice. I am finishing the dress today and I think it will be cute in the end. Right now it looks like a big, awful, matronly housecoat, so use your imagination...

Meanwhile, I completed the ribbed section of my Gatsby Girl sweater and started swatching for the lace section. It looked really small. But I reminded myself of how sweaters always look smaller on the needles, and ribbing, especially, stretches sooooo much. I took the sweater off the needles and put it on waste yarn and tried it on. I've spent a couple of weeks now taking out the sweater periodically from my knitting bag and trying it on, looking at it in the mirror, tugging and fussing and trying to convince myself that it will hang right when it's blocked. Truly, though, the reality is that it's somehow both tight and bulky at the same time. The ribbing pulls in to hug the body like a sausage casing, but the loft of the wool and texture of the ribbing puffs the sweater up at the same time, accentuating the curve of the stomach area. No thanks.

I've come to the conclusion, ultimately, that Gatsby will never really fit me in a way that will make me feel at home in it. I have been through the neurotic cycle of crafting guilt and deluded optimism enough times now to recognize the signs of something that's just not quite working. I'm ready now to admit this about Gatsby. No matter how pretty it is when it's done, and how lovely the workmanship is, and how many times I show off my pretty increases and decreases and the perfect little cables to my friends . . . I am never going to wear this.

But they always say that creation comes from destruction, right? I started swatching for a sweater of my own design this morning, using the Gatsby yarn which I do absolutely love without any doubts or reservations. Here is is all soggy on the towel. This yarn deserves something beautiful that makes me feel like a cat at home in my fur when I wear it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Christmas in July

I've been working on Christmas presents. Here's a smidge of one that I finished up today.

That's all I'm saying about it until 12/26.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fanny Pack

I made a "Fanny" pack as a project for Knit the Classics. I have had it in my mind for a while to attempt making a fanny pack that would somehow defy the horrible dorkiness of the genre. I like to go on walks myself and hate always carrying a purse, so I'm hopeful this will be useful for keys and a little cash in my own perambulations ;-)

I also have been musing about ways to integrate sewing and knitting and wanted to try it out with a small, simple project. I have this sweater/jacket with bulky knitted ribbing in my mind, but I'm not ready to go there yet.

Here are two shots of the pack, one laid flat and the other on my own behind.

I didn't have a pattern for this, but it is extremely simple -- just some rectangles folded over to make a flap. The pack is lined with a floral satin fabric. I left a hole on either side of the pouch and slid a strap through to hold it on the body. It's got a plastic clasp on the other side. The knitted element is just a twisted rib in a pale blue cotton yarn I had on hand, the button is antique and pleasantly splotchy, and the anchor is one of those iron-on patches.

Monday, June 25, 2007


A few firsts here:

- first baby clothing item
- first lace knitting
- first orange yarn!

This little sweater has been all over town lately, but I still like them whenever I see them.

Not bad, I must say, and I hope the little one will like it when she arrives. This is for my dear friends in Argentina who are expecting little Ana in a few short days. Better get it in the mail.

I have no idea how big newborns are, but this aint so bad when it's oversized, either. As demonstrated by the Bowdoin Bear...

Pattern: February Baby Sweater from Zimmerman's KNITTER'S ALMANAC
Yarn: 3 balls of KnitPicks Swish Superwash in light coral


Okay, here is the finished tank top. These photos are particularly bad today, even by regular camera-phone standards. Okay, it's on the (long) list of stuff to buy when I'm employed again.

I do this thing sometimes, especially when I have a beautiful crafting friend who has a different style from me. I fall in love with a different kind of color, or pattern, or fiber, and I acquire that material, whatever and however that may be, and I listen to that fiber and make something very well suited to it's nature. Then, when it's made, I try it on... and I get that *feeling* where I just know that although I love this item, it really doesn't belong to me in that velveteen rabbit sort of sense. It belongs to itself, or to my friend whose style I'm temporarily emulating, or some movie star or something, but it's just downright not my style and I've got to admit that sometime or other.

Well. I can kind of picture wearing this tank top with a certain linen skirt that I've had the pattern and fabric for since 2001...And that's a whole other crafter's delusionary thinking for another day --

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Two halves -- not quite whole

I've finished the second half of my tank top and will be sewing it up soon. Still not sure what I am going to wear this with...

Funny, I hadn't noticed how the brown color sort of pooled in the upper left side there. I guess that will be the back!

Geometric skirt

On a recent browsing of my local, Queens fabric store I came across a compellingly strange remnant. I couldn't decide if it was hideous or awesome and am now leaning toward hideously awesome. I made it up into a quick, A-line, summer skirt.

To all outward appearances, the fabric is a cotton/poly brocade.
Pattern is based on New Look 6843, though I reshaped the side seams and deleted the front darts.

Making this skirt has renewed my appreciation for technology. I heard a radio program recently about how devices such as phones and cameras and mp3's and the like are marketed with tons of features that people think they want but then become overwhelmed by the directions and can't figure out how to use. The program was about the divide between what we think we want (complex) and what we really want (simple). Well, I fished out the users manual for my cell phone, turned to page 180 (out of 248!) and figured out how to use the timer on the camera setting. The trickiest part was balancing the thing inside a drinking glass propped up with two eyeshadows and a pad of post-its as a makeshift tripod to elevate the viewfinder to human being height.

In this photo you can sort of see the flat felled seam. I put those in because the seam allowances were scratchy where the stiff polyester contrast threads stuck out(!)

Making this skirt also renewed my little love affair with my sewing machine. I finally replaced my old 1972 Singer See & Sew machine, much loved, with a Bernina Patchwork about 3 years ago. I bought this machine because it made beautiful buttonholes and my old zigzag stitch buttonholes made on the Singer were always crappy and made my beautiful suits and dresses (I used to sew more before discovering knitting) look like dorky home-ec projects. This fabric was super easy to work with and when I put in one single gorgeous buttonhole in the back I just had to sigh over the prettiness of it and take a photo.

Isn't that lovely?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Mulberry Bush

Round and round I go.

Mostly on the train now, while, ironically, smaller projects remain at home.

I have been thinking about something very radical lately -- finishing Gatsby with a vertical split neck instead of a crew shape.

Monday, May 28, 2007


A very sweet person was here recently for an overnight and sent me a gift subscription to Interweave in thanks. This person was really too sweet for words to think of doing such a thing, and has a little thank you from me headed her way.

I've been having lots of fun with One Skein

Half a tank

Just finished the first half of my summer tank, and it's looking good. I was a little worried that I would run out of yarn, but I finished the first half with about an inch-round ball of yarn to go. With the One-Skein tank as my inspiration, this will seam up the middle of the front and back, so the scoop in the center of this half is the armhole, not the neck.

One more to go!

Dress. Finally!

Here is my completed fall dress. I am nothing if not antiseasonal in my project completion ;-) This is a relatively loose-fitting dress with a high neck and back, which makes it perfect for work. This photo shows it unadorned, but the dress spiffs up really well with layers. I also like it with a belt.

I first made this pattern in 1995 out of a soft summer rayon in an old-fashioned, large flower print. I loved it so much, and it was so comfortable and flattering to wear that I practically didn't take it off for a year. That version was ankle-length, giving it a column-ish feeling. Although my legs are cut off in this photo, the current version hits about 3 inches past the knee (so it will go well with my tall boots).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Summer Tank

I had the good fortune to come across ,ONE SKEIN by Leigh Radford, at the library last week, and saw the cleverly constructed tank top pattern in there. I love how she put the two pieces together with different sides showing and sewed them up the middle. The center seam gives the tank a tunic-like shapeing, and also some visual interest. I'm using this pattern as my inspiration for a summery top with the variegated yarn of the previous post's swatches. Here we have a good bit of the first half completed.

After spending so much time with the size 3 needles and 1x1 rib on Gatsby, the quick knitting on this little top is very satisfying! I'll be back to Gatsby, but am enjoying having another, simpler project too.

I decided to go with the horizontal dash stitch for this piece. Here is a close up of the fabric.

I really like how the intermittent purls call out the random stripes. I started with a few rows of garter stitch at the bottom and will probably add some of that to the neckline, too. I'm thinking to add some cap sleeves, but will pick up stitches and go top-down for that, so don't have to decide for a while yet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pretty summer swatches

My friend D. in Argentina brought me some lovely summery yarn when she visited last month. It's got three different colors in it -- chocolate brown, cream, and a grey-ish purple pastel. It's a twisty, nubbly cotton twisted with something synthetic and satiny that looks like nylon to me.

The hanks are big. She brought me some wonderful lofty lambswool once that was in big hanks, too. I wonder if this is how all yarn is sold in Argentina.

I wound the first one wound up into a big ball.

The yarn has a rustic feeling, and I swatched two variations of knit/purl that I think accentuate the stripey, organic look of it.

The one on the bottom is horizontal dash stitch; it is mostly ss with little strips of purl running through it. The one on the top is vertical caterpillar, which is mostly reverse ss, with lines of knits. I'm really torn as to which one I like best. At first I was in love with the horizontal dash. But then I made the caterpillar just for the heck of it and decided it was my favorite. Now I'm just not sure... We'll see what they look like after blocking. I am thinking this will be a simple, summer shell. A straightforward, wearable project to break up the monotony of Gatsby rounds.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Little Things

Some spring potholders, as ours had become threadbare and fingers were starting to burn around here...

Perhaps not a showcase for sewing virtuosity, but this is really not the time for that anyway. And they *are* lovely, if I do say so -- I made two denim and two red fish, so we are well stocked now.

Also getting about waist high with Gatsby. Herewith approximately 6".

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Some kinds of helping...

Now that the weather is too warm to actually wear it, I am getting around to hemming my purple dress. Kitten is helping. Final photos t/k.

Gatsby grows

Knitting in the round is like growing out my curly hair -- it takes twice as long to see the progress. Circles, you know?

Here is Gatsby Girl as of this morning.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Birthday Scarf

My friend, R, the recipient of the indigo scarf was kind enough to participate in photographing the finished item for le blog.

Here is a modeled photo of the scarf in action. It's still cold here, and this was a definite scarf weather day. My friend has an extremely stylish coat, and I was pleased to see the scarf holding its own in the ensemble.

The above is probably the best photo overall, but here is a closeup of the center of the scarf, which was grafted together for symmetry. I did not want to knit the scarf all in one piece and end up with three points on one end and two on the other. I wanted both ends to match and to meet in the center. I am not the best grafter in the universe but I do okay. I don't think that my friend can probably tell it's there. Each side is about 10 sections of garter chevron ending with three ridges of garter. On the first one I added two rows of plain st st, one row of st st with 4 large bobbles evenly spaced within it, and another row of st st. On the second one I ended with three ridges of garter and then grafted the live stitches to the live stitches at the end of the first piece.

And here is the scarf flat and folded, which shows that symmetry on the two matching ends.

I was quite pleased with how this scarf turned out. When planning for it I knew that I wanted to do something different from the usual plain garter or ribbing, but I also didn't want it to be ugly on the wrong side. Lace was not appropriate for either the yarn or the personalities involved. This stitch worked out beautifully, because on the wrong side of the scarf it simply looks like reverse stocking stitch. There are no weird depressions or crossed stitches like you get with cables or many decorative stitch patterns based on knit and purl. Also, because of the interspersed garter stitch in this pattern it does not curl. This was a very satisfying project, quick to knit but with enough creative thinking to keep it interesting. I may have to make a similar one for myself in that gorgeous seaweed color I love so much...

YARN: The Fibre Company, Terra in Dark Indigo (60% merino, 20% alpaca, 20% silk). Beautiful, soft, elegant, lovely yarn.
NEEDLES: US 8 bamboo straight needles
TIME: A couple of weeks in the midst of other projects.
DESIGN: 2 garter chevron stitch panels grafted in the center and separated by a ridge of large bobbles. Slipped stitch knit edge with one vertical purl row before pattern begins.

PS I had almost no yarn leftover from this project, but you can see a small contribution was made to the Mallard, where it adds luminosity to the eyes.

Three of a Perfect Pair

It's natural to desire a mate...

It's usually best, however, to find a mate who is complementary -- rather than *exactly* the SAME...

Sometimes I really surprise myself with my own spaciness. I can't believe (and yet I can, I can) that I knit the whole entire second mitten without realizing it was another left hand. Hm. The question now is whether to frog or just press on and make 4. It's a good small project for the train and gatsby will soon be impractical for commute-knitting. I think some lucky person is getting nice, alpaca mittens that match mine for Christmas ;-)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Gatsby progress

I've cast on in the round for the body of the Gatsby Girl pullover. The ugly teal at the bottom is my provisional cast on so that I can hem up the live stitches when finishing. The 1x1 ribbing is not my favorite to knit, but it looks nice in this pattern and is broken up by the cables. So far this pattern is pretty simple to knit, but slow going with the dk yarn and size 3 needle... I am still so in love with the Rowan Wool Cotton and this lovely putty color that I am perfectly content.

Here's a close up that shows the beginning of the cables:


Great Honk!

Look -- it's a sign of spring...

...or me just being silly.

Here's another shot with less direct light, where we can see some of his features better.

A fun break from the usual in any case, this little duck comes from the book World of Knitted Toys, which contains lots of adorable little creatures from around the world. In addition to the mallard, I particularly fancy the turtle and the wombat.

MATERIALS: various odds and ends of worsted weight yarn from my stash. 2 pipecleaners for feet. stuffing.
NEEDLES: 2 US #4 dpns w/ stoppers on the ends.
TIME: A couple of weeks in the midst of other projects. Could be done in an afternoon.
MODIFICATIONS: I used a heavier yarn than was called for, hoping to minimize show-through of the stuffing. In the future I would knit this in the round on dpns rather than seaming with 6 different colors(!)