November 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
For the past week, I’ve looked out the window of the coffee shop where I work and watched a beech tree strip itself, top-down, of its leaves. Winter is coming and no mistake.
It’s a month to revel in the particularly human pleasure of being proof against, which is why it’s so apt, in November, to celebrate WOOL in all its forms and uses. Even if it weren’t for WOVEMBER, I’d still be wearing wool in approximately five ways (socks, pullover, jacket, hat, scarf) every day of the month.
I’ve had two pieces of mine featured on the WOVEMBER site this past week–blog posts, both from this and the JMF blog–and I’d be criminally remiss if I didn’t call attention to them. One is about the Maryland Wool Pool, and the other is about Shearing School. It’s fantastic company to be in–I’m humbled and grateful (and proud and excited!) to be included. Thank you so much, Felix, and all my best for a warm & woolly Wovember!
October 29, 2012 § 6 Comments
Okay, first things first: I had a great time visiting my parents this weekend.
We went to SAFF and had a really wonderful time. I– perhaps disingenuously– told them that it was “more of an animal show,” which meant that when we talked in to the main building,
I thought, Man, I should not have come to this one.
- My Dad
I mean, if you’ve been to fiber festivals, you know. It was funny (to me) to hear them exclaim over the size of it:
“I had no idea there were so many people who are in to this sort of stuff!”
“Well, the Maryland one was even bigger, and I’ve heard that the New York one is even bigger than that.”
Since I’m going through some sheep withdrawal, I really did mostly want to see the animals. They were showing when we walking into the barn, which was so, so adorable to watch:
The little Shetlands and little children having broken the ice, we went inside to walk around to look at everything for sale.
It was like going to a boat show or something. It’s very obvious what everything is, but, on the other hand, there’s a specialized and specific vocabulary for everything– it was hard to know what to say to people. You know, ‘Nice… boat-thing?’ ‘Nice… yarn?’
- My Mom
It was so nice to see a friend, and get to talk for a while. I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of running in to someone I knew, so seeing her was a really wonderful surprise.
You can see that I’m wearing my Cormo Rusticus.
I did go home with a little yarn– enough Corriedale from Sue Bundy of Solitude Wool– basically, the two women who run this are the stateside Sue Blacker, and I can’t say enough good thing about them– to make a sweater for a friend of mine who (I hear) has nearly worn his first sweater out.
And my parents?
By the end, once I saw how everything fit together? I got in to it. I was glad to get to see it all.
So that makes it a success all around.
September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’ve been working on this since last year– November 20, 2011– but things have ground to a stop.
This pattern, Kate Davies’ Funchal Moebius, is graphic, striking, and a simple knit. Since it was released last year during Wovember, I decided that I’d use my own fingering-weight handspun to make it– the gold is some Corriedale that came with my spinning wheel, and the white is Tunis from Infinity Farm in Cedar Grove, NC (I wrote about going fishing there, a few years ago).
However, therein lies the problem: I’ve done 4 pattern repeats out of 14, and I’ve run out of the Corriedale yarn. I sure can’t buy anything like it.
I’ve got plenty of roving, luckily, but it’ll be a challenge to replicate yarn I spun 2 years ago. We’ll see how it goes.
September 12, 2012 § 8 Comments
It is a fact commonly acknowledged that, when under duress, knitters turn to their knitting. It’s how we cope. Life may be tumultuous, but it helps us to maintain complete control over something, and work at it one stitch at a time. It’s also apotropaic– a way to keep hard times at bay, and, well, it’s a verb for keeping warm. I am no different from any other knitter– except maybe that I’m so dependent on my knitting that the real warning sign is when I’m not knitting. That means trouble.
Anyway, since I’ve just moved and changed jobs, I’ve been redirecting my nervous energy into a sweater that I started at the beginning of the year:
I’m very, very proud of how it’s turning out. There are lots of little clevernesses in the construction that I can’t wait to show off, the fit’s pretty perfect, and the yarn, of course, is one of a kind.
August 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Maybe it’s just the deadly-hot weather of dried-up August, but I’ve been dreaming of a northern summer.
© 2008–2011 Nina Egli and Family Affairs
I’ve had my eye on the Swedish Summer dress since the Family Affairs Spring/Summer 2012 collection debuted back in March. For me, though, the really alluring part isn’t so much the dress as it is the description:
…you have been making blueberry jam all day in your summer cottage in the middle of the Swedish woods, it’s a full moon tonight and you are going for a skinny dip later…
I mean, of course you are.
photo © Hilda Grahnat
Photo via Fantastic Frank
On the non-summer side of things, I’ve fallen pretty hard for the Pia Wallén Crux Blanket, which is unfortunately a) very expensive and b) now only available in cotton flannel (instead of WOOL, like God intended). At least I know I’m in very good company– and I feel like someone I know (I guess it’s Susan?) often says that the cross on the Swiss flag is the greatest piece of design that exists.
Anyway, I have it in mind to make a quilt version– I guess out of the different greys of old men’s suits, like the quilt that hangs in my parents’ downstairs hallway. It looks like Celine has already made a beautiful Crux Quilt– plus, hers features a grey ombré background– so I know it definitely can be done!
I don’t know if the next step is to go spend $50 on a pile of old suit jackets and start cutting squares, or if it’s to find a similar quilt pattern and modify it. If anyone knows anything about quilting, I’d appreciate hearing it.
It’s old news, I know, but this article from the New York Times about Minneapolis’ Bachelor Farmer also has me wishing I lived somewhere colder (or, at the very least, near a restaurant inspired by the New Nordic Cuisine). Just, listen to Noma’s Claus Meyer:
We have got Mosc ox, reindeer, juice turnip from the arctic area, king crab, slow growing Limefiord oysters, Greenlandic ice water flounder, grouse – the one bird in the world than in the most intimate way communicates the flavours of its territory, ancient local cow, pork and lamb varieties, more than 50 species of wild berries from the forests; broke berries, cloudberries, artic bramble, cowberries… Berries that have only been sampled and tasted by few people outside the Nordic region.
The unambitious home market demand was mainly the result of a 300 year long evil partnership formed by ascetic doctors and puritan priest. In together they have led an antihedonistic crusade against the pleasure giving qualities of food and against sensuality as such. The idea of organizing beautiful meals with great food has been considered a sin. The philosophy they so successfully communicated was that if you just ate something of inferior taste and did it in a hurry instead of enjoying too much you would get a long healthy life and end up in heaven.
January 3, 2012 § 4 Comments
Elizabeth Zimmermann begins her Knitter’s Almanac with an Aran sweater (“a challenge,” she says, and promises “Simpler projects will follow”), and this sentence:
“Once upon a time there was an old woman who loved to knit.”
This is one of the most simple, pleasant, and memorable opening lines I know of (“an old woman’s knitting, ἄειδε θεὰ”).
Setting out to follow, this is the shape my beginning has taken:
Several Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries, the 2010 reprint of Aran Knitting, a buried sketchbook, open Ravelry page, and, of course, Knitter’s Almanac itself
(also pictured: camera battery charger, wallet, chocolate bar, US 4 circular needles, WOOL.)
The wool in question is Cormo Rusticus, a unique and one-time woolen offering from JMF (you read, didn’t you, that we’d all set some aside for ourselves?). It’s creamy, luscious, and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever knit with before. It really is exactly identical to the stuff that the sheep out there are covered in– although that’s obviously no surprise.
In lieu of reinforcing the so-often-imposed dichotomy between softness and scratchiness/sheepiness (and the perhaps concomitant moral imperative– to which I so often fall prey– to choose the sheepy and scratchy over the silk/alpaca/mass-produced-merino and soft), I won’t be telling you that this wool is “So cozy, yet so sheepy– it’s a perfect marriage!”, because I think that’s the easy way out, and that’s boring.
Really, the adjective that comes closest is creamy. It’s like the inside of a perfectly-cooked bean. Tender. With substance. Coherent. Two ticks to the smooth side of gritty. It’s perfect.
Anyway, let’s talk about cables!
And, because I am, after all, in debt to the Divine Elizabeth, I can’t not put a Fishtrap Cable on either side of the front.
There are two Sheepfold cables on the back (of course),
two Aran Braids underneath either armhole,
and two irresistably-named somethings that Barbara Walker calls Sausage Cables.
And there are two panels of Gull Stitch, flanking the 10 steek sts (I like to give myself lots of room).
If you’d like to knit along with me, I don’t think I can recommend Cormo Rusticus highly enough. I’ll be posting pretty frequently about the making of it here on my blog, so stay tuned– or, better still, knit an Aran with me!
ETA: Ravel’d here! How could I have forgotten!?
January 1, 2012 § 3 Comments
Today is the first day of the New Year, but I have something rather old to show you.
This isn’t the first sweater I ever made, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first one that hasn’t been thrown out (that dubious honor, I think, goes to this sweater, knit in some horrible Lion Brand chenille). It’s also the first one knit in 100% WOOL. The yarn had been purchased as a gift by the woman who taught me to knit, and was intended to become a Wonderful Wallaby (that particular pattern, because I was despondent over the accidental felting of a knitted hoodie from abercrombie kids (I was 13! It was 2001!), and she was helping me to recreate it).
As you can see, it’s also definitely the first time I tried my hand at “designing.” The design itself is a mishmash of a pattern from Gladys Thompson’s Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans, and whatever I gleaned from reading my then-brand-new copy of Knitting in the Old Way. The twisted-stitch pattern I chose probably belies the fact that I’d just knit about 4 pairs of Bayerische Socks, and didn’t think there was anything more perfect than a travelling twisted stitch. I’d also just made the shocking discovery that a sweater is a series of tubes, connected at the yoke (itself another tube!)– hence the less-than-perfect raglan shoulders.
It’s from way back in the Fall of 2006, my freshman year of college. I actually remember wearing it for the first time and flirting outside of Philosophy 110 (“Making Sense of Ourselves”) with the guy who’d be my boyfriend for the next year and a half.
It is CHOCK FULL of mistakes.
You can see, in the too-late-begun twisted stitches in the central panels, and the misshapen and squashed diamond lozenges, that I had a pretty devil-may-care attitude towards my knitting. I was pretty distracted while I worked on it.
There’s the fact that the body pattern doesn’t line up with the 2×2 ribbing AT ALL, which was also knitterly laziness. (This is probably obvious, but I’m sure I didn’t swatch.)
You can also see how, halfway up the body, I decided that the underarm panels of ‘extra’ stitches should be worked in some sort of textured seed stitch, instead of plain reverse stockinette. So I just switched. Threw in an extra twisted-stitch column while I was at it. No problem.
There’s also the matter of the SLEEVES. Do you see that crazily bunched fabric around the top of the shoulders? Looks like knitted-in epaulettes or something?
That’s because I took an equally lackadaisical attitude towards the raglan shaping. I didn’t want to decrease too sharply, I think, and also didn’t quite understand that decreases are worked on the back, front, AND sleeve cap portions of the sweater. Maybe I was trying to make a saddle-shouldered something (it wouldn’t surprise me).
Anyway, once I was finished with the thing (I have no idea what miracle made the yoke of a proper depth), there was a bundle of extra fabric that stuck up on each shoulder. So I tacked it down on the inside of the sweater, which, in turn, created these weird knitted top-of-the-shoulder pockets (boyfriend-to-be said, when I showed him, “Maybe you can keep your change in there?”).
But, through some miracle, it fits really well.
Of course I love it to pieces. For a long time I tried to wear it out– in all sorts of dirty, muddy, white-handknit-unfriendly situations– because I wanted to be rid of it, so that I could knit another, actually perfect white aran. Now, of course, it’s stained and pilling, and really very ratty, so I don’t mind wearing it where I wouldn’t dare take another handknit.
And, looking back, although this sweater is 5 years old (knit when I was 18), the yarn itself is 10 years old (got when I was 13). This boggles me.
I will be further boggled if, or when, this sweater survives another 5 or 10 years of wear. I mean, it’s wool, yes, but it isn’t knit particularly tightly, or even that well. I’m actually thinking of knitting another Aran this month, in keeping with The Knitter’s Almanac.
May I also clumsily say, in the spirit of New Year’s, that everything about my life– except for the knitting, I guess– is both wonderful and baffling to 5-years-ago-me and to 10-years-ago-me.
January 31, 2011 § Leave a Comment
They were then dyed into various different colors, but my favorite (and least garish) is the batch in which all of the fixing agent (that would be vinegar) was accidentally washed out (that would be our leaky sink), and so the intended deep blue color turned out more like a pale grey periwinkle.
And so, this month of January, I’ve been spinning it into yarn (yes, that’s another Resolution), and have come up with about three fingering/sport skeins of three-ply yarn, maybe about 300m total.
No idea what to do with it. It is absolutely beautiful.
January 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Biking a lot, everywhere => The threat of a hole (really threadbare patch; visible thigh) in the crotch of my favorite jeans (the price of which was so Not-Insignificant that I was unwilling to let them go) => going over-under-over-under across the patch with a strand of wool.
The hope is that this felts into an impenetrable wool-patch. But, anyway, the real question is: how long is this going to be able to keep my pants in business?
December 22, 2010 § 7 Comments
Perhaps you have heard of my dog. This is a picture of her. She is named Karla.
I am writing in short sentences because I am very excited.
Karla is half pit bull, half Labrador, and, being what she is, has very short fur (technical term: “pig fur”). She gets very cold during our frigid North-Carolinian winters (we frequently do make her go outside), and, so, she needs a sweater*.
Look at it!
My self-pleased contentedness is just pealing out in short, staccato sentences! Look at that dog! look at that sweater!
So, this is a made-to-measure, modular pattern that really could not be more simple– or, for that matter, more adaptable (“measure your swatch. measure your dog. knit until your sweater is as big as your dog.”)– that came out as a perfect fit.
I admit I had my doubts.
There were also serious doubts about yarn choice: to wool or not to wool? This is the same choice that the newly be-babied face: a superior fabric and feel, plus environmental unimpeachability, or, well, washability. Karla, unfortunately, smells like a dog, and so I chose superwash wool– KnitPicks Swish– so as not to give my mom too hard of a time.
The other bad thing about superwash is that it is particularly unsuited for steeking– and this sweater has three of them (I guess no more than a human sweater, come to think of it). So, below, you see the foldy-undery bits– those have been cut apart to make room for the dog’s stomach/freedom-of-movement/annoyance-factor/etc. They would, were this wool, just stick there, and eventually irreversibly fuse themselves in place! (Wow! I think that is the coolest!) However, because the entire function of superwash wool is to resist this fusion– the scales are stripped off the wool with chlorine, then any scales remaining are slicked down with plastic (Hercosett 125)– one must sew down the steeked sections by hand, then live in eternal fear that one day the sewn/reinforced steeks will unravel and the sweater will fall to pieces. No problem. That’s what I did. Am doing.
I picked the pattern from Shelia McGregor’s Traditional Scandinavian Knitting (a true source of endless joy & fascination. I read this tiny book all the time, and still meet things I do not understand (and, truly, cannot! You should be grateful, dear reader, that this blog will never devolve into account of my forays into Nålbinding). Anyway, she notes:
Eighteenth-century Iceland pattern for a man’s knitted waistcoat from a pattern book dated 1776 in the National Museum in Iceland, which was probably intended to be knitted in a purl-and-plain as in the contemporary silk and wool jackets in Denmark, Norway, and elsewhere.
So, that about covers it. Fantastic dog, fantastic sweater. Really happy. These are my simple dog-thoughts.
*really, she does. she shivers. I am not a knitting-sweaters-for-any-old-dogs kind of girl, believe me!