Monday, September 18, 2017

Fading pullover, in handspun

No, wait.  First the yarn:
A few weeks ago, Ann Weaver was having a destash on Instagram, and for one lot of random chunks of spinning fiber from her collection, pieces of who knew what all sorts of sheep or wool or states of prep, I got there first and bought it.  So there was this peach and gray and cream fiber from Carodan Farm with no color name, so I spun it all fluffy and gave it a name:  "Grilled Salmon."  It is as soft as butter. 
Next was something else mysterious from Spunky Eclectic--it is pink and purple and more pink, with a little bit of yellow, possibly accidentally.  I called this one "Plastic Pony."  (I love good color names.  Why wouldn't you give it a great name?)  
This is a merino/tencel blend in a misty blue-gray that matched my ring almost exactly, so--"Moonstone."  
This is another Spunky Eclectic, and it had a label--this is Wensleydale, and she called it "Perfect Storm".  Wensleydale is a "longwool", and on the sheep, the fleece looks like--I'm not kidding--my own hair.  Look.  Dyed here, and spun into a two-ply, it looked less like me and more like tourmaline.  More jewels.  
This last one is a combination of everything and the kitchen sink, including sparkle.  I spun two unrelated fibers as singles and then plied them together, and they made the prettiest yarn of the bunch.  Deep blue and glitter, with flecks of foam: "Ocean."  
The yellow ("Big Yellow Taxi") didn't make the sweater cut, but it looks so good, doesn't it?  Anyway, even though my first impulse is to add these skeins to the stash and let them sit there forever, or at least until they've become way too precious to use for anything, I thought they just looked great all together, so I decided to make a sweater out of it.  I counted up the total yardage, figured out that I had spun this all mostly at an aran weight, and knit a swatch--4 stitches per one inch, on a US 8.  I drew a quickie sketch of what I wanted, measured myself, set Doc to calculating how many rows of each I would need to knit in order to both use it up and also not run out, and started knitting, a self-drafted, top-down pullover.  I measured it a lot as I went, to make sure I was still on track.  I'm not gonna lie, I fretted some; this, I'm sure you've noticed, is not gray.  Purply-pink yarn?  Peach?  Bright blue?  But then, what else is the point of all the spinning, if I'm too chicken to wear the yarn?  Guess what, self?  It's pretty.  You made that.  Shut up and knit.  The project bristled with needles as, at one point, I had the body and both sleeves going at the same time, with strands coming up from both ends of two balls of yarn, and then I came close to running out of yarn--there's no finding a second ball of any of this anywhere--and then, because I'd decided not to use the yellow, I did run short and had to stash dive, coming up with a handspun from my friend Deb's sheep, a rescued orphan of unknown origin called Liam, a few batts of whose fleece I spun four years ago, and which was (shockingly) beautifully balanced and kind of perfect, and which was the perfect finish for the hem and cuffs.  Whew, some gray.  
You guys.  This is my favorite thing I've made this year.  It is so warm, and so cozy, and so just right in every way.  Because it was made exactly for me, it fits perfectly.  It's a little bit heavy, so bring it on, winter!  I'm not afraid of you!  I wore it for ten minutes on Saturday, to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, and no less than Jill Draper told me it was beautiful and that she loved it, and that I had done a good job.  I folded that moment into a little origami heart and tucked it away for a rainy day.  Then I took off the sweater and stuffed it in a bag because it was a gorgeous 81 degrees, and bought a whole bunch more yarn.  And a fleece.  For more spinning.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Rhinebeck Sweater For Doc, or: It Happened at Midnight

Well, it's done.  Friends, this is what comes from my knitting for other people.  I should stay selfish.  I am a downright stinking selfish knitter deep in my dark little heart, and I know it.  You know how sometimes anything that can go wrong will go wrong?  That's the story of this poor sweater.  Doc's sweater for Rhinebeck is finished, and it was a battle, and there was crisis and frustration, and it ended, finally, last night at midnight--which is when all significant things happen--in a tie.  To begin with, even though I measured him, I chose the wrong size.  I also chose the wrong yarn (I will not speak its name.  The leftovers are going to Goodwill, and good luck to whoever gets them) and gambled (and lost) on a collar modification, and even as I hoped that sh** would block right out, I knew that this thing was going to grow and grow and groooooowwwww, which it did.  He could have worn it as a dress.  It was eight inches too long.  That's really an awful lot.  [ROW GAUGE!  Rage Alert!  Row gauge, I hate you.  We are not friends.  Don't call, don't write.]  So I cut away the extra (of course it was a bottom-up project, why oh why?) and put all the stitches back on the needle and re-knit the ribbing, and then--and this tells you everything you need to know about me--at five minutes to twelve I impetuously decided that one aberrent stitch at the middle of the upper back could be removed and replaced.  You guys, the ends were all woven in.  It was blocked.  It was, after all the above problems had been solved, completely finished.  But there was one bit of blurf in one stitch at the middle of the back.   
See it?  It was a production blob in the yarn, and because I was probably knitting in the dark or was all absorbed in Father Brown, I didn't see it go by, but in the light of day, it was pretty visible in this very smooth, pale gray yarn.  I was prepared to try and ignore it, but then Doc pointed to it and said, "What happened here?"  And that was the end of that.  I really wanted to go to bed with this project DONE.  So I thought, "I'll just snip that out of there and graft in a new row.  Take a couple minutes.  Easy peasy."  Four ugly attempts later, as it dawned on me that there were a couple things I didn't know yet about how to do this, I realized it was never going to work, and I was overflowing with regret and thinking about having to rip out the whole huge collar and the whole enormous yoke, just to go back and fix this little mess of my own making, and the yarn was getting blurfier and the stitches at the edge of the growing hole were getting looser and uglier, Doc--this tells you everything you need to know about him--just sat there calmly, listening to podcasts on his phone and saying, "take all the time you need", and I was wailing "Whyyyy?  Why did I do this?  Just wear a backpack!"  Finally, I made an approximation of a reasonable-looking graft, got it wet and thumped it into place, and called it a draw.  I'm not sure whether it looks better than before, or worse.  If you see us at Rhinebeck, stop me and I'll show it to you.  He'll be the great-looking guy in a kilt, these kilt hose, and a new, near-perfect, but not-quite-perfect sweater.  Who knows what I'll be wearing.  There's a month to go!  I'm still knitting.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When one is not enough

This skirt, you guys.  What a success!  I can't even tell you how much I love it, and how much fun it was to make this.  If you are unfamiliar with the general look of what's going on here, put down what you're doing and go look at Alabama Chanin right now, I will wait.  The concept is basically jersey knits + handstitching + texture + no rules, ya'll.  I made this one double-layered (the outer layer is from a piece of jersey I found at the thrift store, and the lining is made from two men's XL t-shirts from Target) because I hadn't yet decided whether or not to cut out the stenciled shapes--in the end I decided that this stencil pattern (AC's Magdalena) was a little too fine for me to tackle on the first try.  I'm glad I did, though, because the double-thickness of this skirt feels really substantial, and like it might be nice and warm for winter.  Which is coming.  We will not think about that right now.  I feel completely het up about this concept--jersey + handwork + do whatever you want--and I want to make All The Things out of jersey knits and paint and stitch them all up with a needle and thread and wear cottony clothes all day every day.  I will wear this with boots and black tights and black or blue sweaters--up there is my Folded, all fixed and fitting me just like it should, hooray!  I think my Stormtracker will work with this skirt, too.  It's just so good.  So satisfying, that it fits so well and comfortably, that it has a place in my wardrobe, and that it was tremendously fun to work on.  You can do this too, try it.  Just scrounge up a few big t-shirts, borrow one of the Alabama Chanin books from your public library, and make something.  I want to make another, longer skirt, with a different stencil and maybe cut out the shapes this time, and then a long-sleeve t-shirt (double-thick, and embellished like crazy) and then a tunic dress, oh, friends, there are so many things to make.  I want to show you this, too:   
Here's the Walnut sweater, in action--Walnut Grove.  This one makes me so happy.  Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments when I first showed this piece on the mannequin.   You are all so wonderful, really, thank you.  I don't know anything about how to write and grade a knitting pattern so somebody else could follow it, otherwise I would be delighted to share it with you, but I want to tell you that I know for a fact that you can make something like this, too, without any pattern.  I know you can!  You just need to measure yourself, knit a swatch, do some basic multiplication, and start knitting.  Truly.  If you know how big around any given part of you is in inches, and you know how many stitches per inch you will get when you're knitting, you can make anything.  Don't be afraid to try, because (as Doc pointed out to me yesterday as I planned my next project) it's only knitting; it's only a sweater!  The potential for real disaster is monumentally low.    
Doesn't that just look like fall?  There's a nip in the air today, and dew on what I am quaintly thinking of as my dye garden (ha!  It's a huge thicket of weeds that are beginning to intimidate me) I might wear Walnut Grove to Rhinebeck, or maybe I'll wear it to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival (less than two weeks away!  I'll never get last year's fleece spun in time!) or maybe there will be something else that turned out pretty well coming up soon...the knitting is happening fast and furiously around here right now, with pauses here and there for handstitching on jersey.  It just feels like the thing to do.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I let the garden go this year.  I love vegetables, but I don't enjoy gardening, and my neighbor is a farmer, and the yard is overrun with squirrels and rabbits anyway, so I've decided to leave the tomato growing to the experts and spend my time doing other things. It's a four-minute walk to the market from my front door anyway, so why fight it?  What I probably should do with what used to be the garden is to move the (very few remaining) plants I want to keep, and till up the rest, and plant some grass seed.  [Ugh, grass.  This fascination with your LAWN.  Don't get me started.  I wish I could have a big truck come and dump gravel over the whole thing. Anyway.]  If I'd done that when I should have, though, the goldenrod wouldn't have had a chance.  I know, goldenrod grows in every ditch at every roadside in America, and there's no shortage of it, but it was kind of nice watching it take off here, in what used to be my garden.  The stalks are towering.  They are, I'm not exaggerating, eight feet tall.  
They glow in the sunlight.  They are sneezy little handfuls of pollen, to be sure, but they are the most succulent lemony-lime yellow.  
I waited until they looked like this--partly open, but not fully-blown, all the way open.  Just a couple of the florets had popped, and the rest were still loosely budded.  This is when I love goldenrod, before it blows all the way open and looks like powdered mustard.  Right now, it looks delicate but tough, like something from the prairie.  The goldenrod patch is a tremendous forest, with one little angel wig on top of each tree.  I clipped them into a pot, a few handfuls at a time, as they were ready, and boiled them in my kitchen, in my dedicated dyepot.    
This is my big 12-quart dyepot, filled about 2/3 full with flower heads.  I covered the flowers with water, soaked them overnight, and then boiled it all for an hour the next day.  We tried in vain to decipher the smell.  Doc and I could not decide whether it stank like holy hell, or whether it smelled vaguely of asparagus, which we love.  It is not a food smell, at all, but something about it is not terrible.  It smells like baby powder and feet.  Or carrots sauteing in butter and old garbage.  Maybe I've lived in the country too long.  Get me to the Chanel No. 5, stat!  Anyway, after an hour of smell-related light comedy, I removed the plant material and Gently added two skeins of mordanted yarn (I used Paton's Roving in "Aran") simmering it gently for about 30 minutes.  I rinsed the skeins until the water ran clear, and then hung them to dry.  In a week's time, I had this:
Summer, captured.  That'll be a sweater.  Not gray, not gray at all.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Walnut Heather

A few weeks ago, I saw someone wearing a poly-fleece jacket with zipper and a little stand-up collar.  It looked warm and comfortable.  Relaxed, but also somehow put-together, if that can ever be said of a sweatshirt.  She had it zipped only in the middle, kind of at the waist.  Slim-lined, long-bodied, good.  I coveted it, but poly-fleece jackets with zippers are not my jam; handknits are my jam.  I came home and drew (on my favorite thing ever, Fashionary Panels--if you're trying to make your own clothes in any way, you should go get yourself some) this little drawing, imagining the lines of it in a handknit sweater.  I gave it ribbed sleeves for ultra-sleeve-slimness, and a folded ribbed collar for maximum stand-up-ness, tall because my neck is ridiculous.  I moved the waist shaping fifteen stitches to the front and back of the side seams, for more polish.  I dove into the stash for some Cascade 220 in Walnut Heather, a diffuse grayish-brown that seems to crop up in my stash over and over again.  It is the most nondescript color in the world, the color of mice, the color of my hair before it started to turn gray.  I keep finding myself with a bunch of yarn that's this color, and it must be I love it.  I knit a swatch, measured myself, did a little math, and started knitting, and now I have this:
Pictures of me wearing it have been delayed by the fact that it is (I know) actually sweltering here right now.  (I know!) Weather permitting, I might wear this to Rhinebeck?  I guess that is going to be true of anything I finish between now and October, now that I think about it.  This won't be the last thing I knit between now and then, let's face it.  And, as a few have pointed out, this is New York, and October in New York is a capricious thing.  It might snow, and it might be 75 degrees, and a knitter should plan accordingly.  Whatever the weather, even if I have to pair them with shorts, I will be wearing handknits to Rhinebeck, and this might be one of them.  Neutral sweater, crazily-colored accessories?  I think that sounds like so much fun.  There is at least one more neutral cardigan nearing the finish line at the moment, so anything is still possible.  Maybe it will be cold enough to wear them both!  Or maybe just armwarmers and a bathing suit, I don't know.  New York, after all.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Hey you guys, I am going to Rhinebeck this year.  It is happening!  I feel like an eight-year old getting ready for her first trip to Disneyland.  The wall-to-wall woolly-ness.  The leaves and the cider and the like-minded people all around.  Oh, sigh!  Lovely.  The first thing to figure out is:  what on earth to wear?  Rhinebeck is where yarn lovers let their mad skills out and let their freak flags fly, and I thought this would make all my current mostly-stockinette projects fall by the wayside so I could plan some kind of epic garment--there has been a LOT (more than usual, even) of trawling through patterns, but I am as yet undecided.  Anything I make specifically for that occasion still has to fit into the regular wardrobe when I get home, and that makes a delicate balancing act.  I love the idea of starting something special.  I think I will enjoy the lengthy search through pattern options, and if the search turns up nothing that really wants to be my Rhinebeck Sweater, I'll just wear something from the shelf in the closet and be happy.  I do have these to show you, little mitts I made while the weather was too warm to be worrying about cold hands, but they will be just right in October.  These were designed by me, using up some scraps--the two main colors are Dream in Color Classy, in a discontinued colorway, some kind of antique gold [here are their current colorways, lock up your credit card before you click that link, whoo] and the ubiquitous Patons Classic Worsted in Lemongrass.  The contrast colors are all from the leftovers basket--I think the pink is from my experiments in dyeing with avocado pits.  I thought about going on ahead and making them into mittens, and once October is over and winter sets in hard and there is no place in my life for naked fingertips, I might do that, just pull out the bind off at the top of the hand and thumb, and do some decreases until the fingers are covered.  Meanwhile, though, I like them this way.  By the way, the main stitch pattern is from this book, and the contrast color band is something I just improvised.  
Maybe instead of a whole sweater just for Rhinebeck, I'll wear a ton of accessories, like these?  A hat, a cowl, interesting socks.  Less commitment.  Especially since, what with Doc as always coming along for the ride, and as always planning to be kilted up and looking fine, he will be needing a new sweater.  
A Rhinebeck Sweater for Doc.  Coming up soon. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stormy Weather

Catdog reclines in an elusive patch of sunlight.  She'd rather be outdoors, but it is already raining again.  I have a finished cardigan to show you--Mazzy, by Elizabeth Smith--which I've worn all day today and I love it, but it has turned gray and gloomy and there is not a ray of light to be found.  This cardigan is pretty great though, in spite of a huge chunk of mistakes (made by me when things on Orphan Black got really compelling--no spoilers, I'm only on Season Three) in the cables at the back of the collar:
Keeping it real.  There are at least twelve individual mistakes in that photo, but Donnie was in the car with Dr. Leekie, and my attention was not on the cabling.  Orphan Black!  I am in the grips of that show.  If you're current on happenings in recent episodes, please don't tell me.  
Anyway, Mazzy is going to be a great layering piece for fall and winter.  And apparently for right now, too.  I used KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Wellies Heather, and there are just enough flecks in it to disguise the incredible quantities of dog hair that cling to me everywhere I go.  Dogs are great.  Dogs are the best.