Sunday, September 30, 2007

Next Year

Next year I don't want to knit for anyone else. This year, I've knit for Earle, for five homeless hatless people, for five babies, for a wedding. Next year I want to knit for me, to be selfish - and I don't mean just garments for me, either.

Next year I don't want to be seduced by every lovely pattern that comes out, I want to push the limits of my own creativity.

Last night I was dutifully (and that's the correct term) knitting away on my Minimalist Cardigan. I had cast on for the Big Bad Baby Blanket, and I spun up an ounce or so of the merino/silk I've been slowly working on all summer. And I was restless, bored, cranky, unfulfilled. I didn't want to knit or spin any more.

Which is kind of worrisome, given my enormous stash. Of course, fifteen years ago or so, I stopped being interested in quiltmaking (well, really I didn't have enough time to devote to it any more, once I got divorced) and I shoved the enormous fabric stash under the bed and went on to knitting. That's not quite accurate, but close enough.

So that might happen now with knitting, unless I deal with the real issue, which is that I want my knitting to be more creative. Yes, sometimes all I want is to mindlessly knit, knit away, but I get to do a lot of that now. I don't get to flail at my creative boundaries, and I want to.

So next year will be different. Till then, I have to finish off the Minimalist Cardigan, the baby blanket for Jen, the afghan for my parents for Christmas, and the scarf from the yarn I dyed at WEBS, but after that - I play.

I play, but with a little structure, I think, because that's me. I'm thinking I should set myself a series of exercises to undertake, exercises like those that art students get assigned. I took a wonderful class in two-dimensional design once upon a time at what is now the Maine College of Art and I loved it. I'll show you the little exercises I made sometime (when I can find where I put them), along with other things I've made over the years, but for now, I just want to get down on paper (in digits?) some of what I'm thinking of trying.

Techniques: I want to spin more, and to use my spindles. I want to weave, to lockerhook, to dye, to quilt, to take classes and workshops. I want to learn the basics of these fiber crafts, if I don't already know them.

Developing an Idea: Make a series of small quick objects (hats? afghan squares?), maybe ten or so, that start simply and get more complicated. Play with stripes, with blurring the lines between colors or shapes, with cables evolving into other textures or cables. Make several of these series (swatches), exploring different ideas.

Note my usual boundaries and go beyond: For example, I usually make symmetrical objects - therefore, make something assymetrical. I usually don't work with yellows - make something with lots of yellow.

Express Something: Translate the ideas of autumn, evolution, sultriness, connection, etc., into fiber.

Go Wild: Make something that's not practical. Not-Hat, Not-Sock, Not-Sweater. Something that just is. Sculpture, I suppose, or art, in its pure state.

Go Big: Make a major project (a sweater, say) from scratch - something fairly complicated.

If anybody (Bonnie?) knows of resources that set these sorts of exercises (they don't have to be knitting), I'd love to hear about them. In the meantime, prepare yourselves for more of these sorts of rambling posts; I've been through these sorts of restless stages before in my life, and the results are often pretty interesting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Needed Some Nerve-Unwracking

I took a day off from work today. Great, yes? Well, sort of. I got squashed and poked at the gynecologist's and then I went and picked up my new-to-me car. All very nerve-wracking. All those papers to sign. All those parts to be hurt in the name of good health. At least I've gotten the car properly outfitted already.

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And since most of this happened in Northampton, I went to WEBS, just to calm my harried soul. I had been thinking about what to knit for Jen's baby and I'd decided on the Big Bad Baby Blanket, from Stitch 'n Bitch. That pattern calls for about 1400 yards of sock yarn, held doubled. I have in my stash various sock yarns (not really that much) but nothing that all worked together. I tried, really I did, but nothing worked. So I decided I'd go to WEBS and get me three skeins of Gail Callahan's hand-dyed sock yarn. She's the Kangaroo Dyer - as you may remember, I took a dyeing class with her last weekend.

When I got to WEBS, Gail was there labeling a new batch of sock yarn and, while I drooled at the Macaw colorway, I decided on the Spruce colorway instead - I think holding two strands of this gorgeous yarn together will be perfect for a baby boy whose nursery walls were just painted pale green. Here's the Spruce yarn:

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I was so pleased to see Gail again - her class was great! There were five of us in the class and we dyed a rainbow of twelve little skeins of wool with Cushing dyes:

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... and a variety of other yarns with the dyes, as well, just to see how the different yarns would take the dye. Gail dyed the dark skein on the right in this picture, and Liz (I think it was Liz) the light skein in the middle - then they gave them to me!

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We're all going to get together in January for a reunion, to show off what we've knit with our skeins and whatever else we've dyed in the interim. I am really looking forward to that!

In other news, I've finished the back of the Minimalist Cardigan:

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Here's a close-up of the texture:

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I love how this is turning out, and I'm hoping to finish it in time to wear to Rhinebeck, which is now only three weeks away.

You know, obsession is really fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baby Sweaters, Adorable, Two in Number

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Guess what I gave Melissa today?

Yes! Yes, yes, yes! I finished the baby sweaters for her twins, and she hasn't finished growing them yet, so I finished in time! I'd show you a pic of Melissa with the sweaters, but she's shy, so you'll just have to believe me that her twins aren't yet born.

Instead, you get photos of the sweaters. Here's the magenta sweater...

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And the olive-green sweater...

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And the neck ribbing...

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And the adorable little buttons on the back of the necks....

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Here are the specs:

Pattern: Classic Cables, by Mary Bonnette and JoLynne Murchland, from some back issue of Knitter's. I can dig up the date of the issue, if anyone cares. I made the 18-month size.

Yarn: Filatura di Crosa 501, a DK-weight, machine-washable merino wool. Very nice, but just a little splitty.

Needles: Size 5 bamboo circulars.

Started: Somewhere between July 10th and July 19th.

Finished: September 22.

Modifications: The pattern is written for worsted-weight cotton. After a bit of math, I figured out that if I used the stitch counts for the 2-year-old size, that would take care of the width for an 18-month-old in DK-weight. For the height, I just used the measurements for the 18-month size. For the sleeves, I used the 2-year-old numbers for everything and prayed. And then I blocked everything to the size specified in the schematic. To my eye, these sweaters are a little short in length. I also used blanket stitch to stabilize the edges of the back neck placket, instead of the single crochet specified, because I could not crochet to save my life. The splittiness of the yarn did not help my feeble efforts at crochet.

Melissa's response: She loved them!

And I am so glad they're done. Now, I think I'm going to do anything except knit baby items for a while yet. Although I will confess that some ideas for a baby jacket for Jen's baby, due mid-December, are beginning to circulate in my brain. Maybe a Baby Surprise Jacket. Maybe a Baby Einstein Coat. Maybe something a little wild.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Push, Push!

Melissa is past the 34-week point with her twins; everybody's happy and healthy. If they start arriving now, the docs aren't going to stop them. And Melissa is looking mighty big. She doesn't think she'll last another week. Thus, I must needs push, push on her baby sweaters. I'll see her next on Tuesday; the sweaters WILL be done by then.

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Actually, I'm making good progress. All the big pieces are knit and blocked, so from here it's just seaming, adding the neck ribbing to the magenta sweater, crocheting around the back plackets, crocheting a button loop off the placket, and sewing on the buttons. And blocking, again. It's not that I'm a perfectionist (there are at least two major boo-boos I decided to leave in), but the completed seams are so puffy compared to the lovely overall flatness that I feel I should block everything when they're complete. Plus, the neck ribbing clearly needs blocking.

In other news, I'm going to Rhinebeck! With six of my fiber friends, no less (none of whom blog, oddly). We're staying in two cabins at the Mills-Norrie State Park for Friday and Saturday night. I can't wait! I'm already making a list of what I want to buy (gray fleece, two more bobbins, Janet Szabo's Aran design book, etc.) and I'm thinking I should inventory the stash before I go, just to provide a reality check. I have a LOT of yarn and fiber, if you haven't noticed.

But just in case you think I've come to my senses, I haven't. I'm taking a dyeing class Sunday at WEBS, a beginning weaving class in November, and thinking seriously of weaving a baby blanket for the last baby of this fertile year . Shelley, a weaving friend of mine, has offered to let me use her loom to make the blanket and to help me plan it out and warp the loom. Plus, she was just given an old loom by friends who found it up in the eaves of an old house they were clearing out, and Shelley wants to give it to me! I'm tempted - it's four-harness, quite sturdy, with a weaving width of about 30" - but it needs cleaning up and refurbishing and I know nothing about looms.


Sunday, September 09, 2007


Sunday morning, after a long week: Well, actually, it was a short week, what with Labor Day, but it felt like a long week, I think because the crappy air quality gave me an allergy-induced headache all week, despite drugs, and, like many people, this week had the feel of back-to-school for me, even though I'm not going back to school and no one in the household is going back to school, but nonetheless, everyone at work has come back from field work and various vacations and thus now we collectively took a deep breath and plunged wholeheartedly, 30-odd-strong of us, into another year, with new projects, many of which I seem to be heading up or playing a major role in, such that for the first time in a long time, I'd had to write down all my duties, just so I could keep track of them; nonetheless, I felt buffeted in many directions this week by stuff that had to be done NOW and yet I still didn't do everything I was supposed to (sorry, Melissa!) and had to keep reminding myself that no one's perfect, that I'm doing as much as I can, that I asked for more challenges and was given them, so this whirlwind is my fault, so to speak, and if my head ever stopped hurting, maybe I could cope, but I just don't know...

Well, the week was like that sentence. Now you understand, right?

So, when I did have free time, I knit. I knit on the baby sweaters, slowly, grudgingly - maybe it's the DK weight, maybe it's the superwash wool, maybe it's because I'm making two of them and I get easily bored, but I am not loving this project. I am determined, just plain grit-my-teeth-determined to get these done, so I keep slogging away.

I knit the Minimalist Cardigan. I've completed about 7 inches of the back and I still absolutely love knitting this.

I knit Silver Belle - I believe I have a grand total of three rows completed on the peplum, some parts of which have been knit twice, as apparently I cannot interpret correctly the wrong side rows of cable charts. I hope it's correct now, as otherwise, I am going to be knitting a sweater full of 'design features,' as my patience for making corrections seems to have disappeared. I can cope with knitting one row on this a night, so look for this to be completed in a year or so.

I spun! I haven't spun all summer, I think, but the Parallel Plyers group, which meets monthly at WEBS, met this Tuesday night and I resisted the urge to go home and collapse after work, instead flying down the Mass Pike to meet up with these lovely spinners. Barb Parry, from Foxfire Fiber Farms, even complimented me on the evenness of the Ashland Bay merino/silk I was spinning! She also mentioned that I ought not to let the singles rest too long on my bobbin, advice which I was grateful to receive, but now I feel guilty for leaving two-thirds of a bobbin full of this single all summer. Ah, well, one of these days...

Since I don't have enough to do and am just sitting around twiddling my thumbs - ha! - I signed up to take a day-long dyeing workshop at WEBS on September 23rd with the charming and talented Kangaroo Dyer herself, Gail Callahan. Anybody want to join me?

While I was at it (didn't I just write something to the effect that I was not going to school this fall?), I found out about a beginning weaving class at the North Quabbin Textile Studio in Orange, the next town over. That class won't start till November - plenty of time for me to finish up the baby sweaters and the Minimalist Cardigan and Silver Belle and the afghan for Christmas for my parents and oh shit the hand-spun shawl and top in time for Rhinebeck and God knows that Celtic Dream sweater has been sitting dutifully, quietly, patiently, next to my end of the couch for months now. Not to mention other WIPS stored mercifully out of sight. Not to mention the fact that I feel the urge to design something of my own, beyond the b-a-b-Y blanket level of design.

Would someone just shake me and tell me that this is just what creative people DO, that I shouldn't feel guilty or burdened by having all these projects going?

Monday, September 03, 2007


I've had a productive weekend. I washed the Jacob fleece.

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I discarded the black sections of fleece, because there really wasn't much of it. I washed the white fleece three times, and yet it's still kind of yucky in spots. I want to like how to process a fleece from someone who really knows what they're doing, because I have the distinct feeling I'm wasting a lot of time and I won't really get good yarn out of it all. Anybody out there want an apprentice?

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I washed my hand-knit socks. My only pair of hand-knit socks. When Sue and I were at WEBS Saturday, she bought Cat Bordhi's new sock book to give someone (not me, alas, but it's a surprise for a sock knitter friend). I browsed through it and was fascinated by the new sock 'architectures,' as Ms. Bordhi calls them. Maybe I'll knit some socks this winter.

I got into
Ravelry - I'm enallagma9 there, too, as I had an attack of anti-creativity when I signed up. I don't have anything posted there yet, and I'm not sure I'll get around to that anyway; I do have a little knitting to do.

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I knit a good bit on the green baby sweater, enough to finish the back and do a couple of inches on the front.

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I knit four inches or so of the Minimalist Cardigan. I really love how this is turning out!

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I wound eight balls of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in gorgeous, heathery deep teal, for Silver Belle.

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I cast on for Silver Belle, for the peplum. Four hundred and eighty stitches. This photo is only about 220 stitches. Four hundred and eighty stitches at 5 stitches to the inch is 96 inches worth of peplum! Yowza! The finished bust of the size I'm making is only 40 inches; that's quite a lot of peplum flounce to accommodate, even if it does decrease to 302 inches (60 inches) by the top of the peplum. The peplum is mostly cabling, so it will draw in to less than 96 or 60 inches, but still - does this seem right to you all? I think I'll poke around to other knitters' blogs and to the KAL and see if anyone else is having gut-flutters at the thought of all this peplum-age.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

It's Easier to Pay $60 & Cast On Than to Finish Anything

So, it struck me that if someone buys yarn at the approximate rate of two sweaters' worth a month, not that you and I know anyone who does anything so excessive, that by the end of year, that someone would have 24 sweaters' worth of yarn. Not to mention a storage and credit card problem.

Now, let us also suppose that this 'someone' knits sweaters at the rate of three a year. Maybe four, in a good year.

Thus, by the end of ten years, I, er, someone would have knit 30 or 40 sweaters - a quite respectable output, I'd say - but would have acquired enough yarn for 240 sweaters. This nets out at about 200 sweaters' worth of yarn acquired, but not used, over the course of a decade.

Hypothetically speaking, of course. All this hypothetical thought has nothing at all to do with spending yesterday with That Sue, going to Northampton Wools and WEBS, running into Bonnie, and oh, by the way, buying yarn for Silver Belle. And maybe 10 balls of something periwinkle with alpaca. Nothing whatsoever to do with all that. Absolutely not.