Monday, July 29, 2013

Dreams of Fall

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All it takes is about two days of hot weather—and by the way, “hot” equals about 85 degrees F here in the North Country, and I know that makes me a complete wimp, but I guess my blood is thick or something—and I become a shrieking harridan.  Also, the lazy kicks in and everything, everything is so much work.  You know what I mean?  Just hauling the laundry around seems like it takes all I have.  I have to take little breaks, just to lie on the floor, panting, in front of the fan.  So, when the air turned a little bit crisp yesterday, and the sun came down through the stormy-looking clouds, looking so dramatic, like an inspirational poster from the 70s, my head suddenly cleared and I felt awake and all the fabric in the cupboard looked good together, and I was moved to make another quilt.  Which is silly, since I haven’t even made this one yet, but you know how it is.  The startitis is fully upon me.  I wanna be starting something. 

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This is my favorite palette right now.  Plum, mustard, dove gray, peony, russet, navy, sage.  Muted and dusty, like an illustration in an antique book.  Faded. 

Cool weather also inspires my knitting, and even as I continue to knit umpteen hats, I started another Chevron Skirt, in oatmeal, browns, and grays, and shorter this time, which will display my aging knees, but that can’t be helped. 

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I think of wearing this with tall brown boots and a serious dark brown turtleneck, carrying a very important-looking stack of research papers and striding across a leafy campus, on my way to a lecture, my long blond hair in a strict bun, and leaving behind me the subtlest scent of Arpege.  School dreams. 

I’m in that lull right now, between mad bursts of getting ready for something, or cleaning up after something else, and it leaves room for planning new projects.  Quilts, scarves, sweaters, hats.  I feel it all coming. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hats

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There’s something about knitting a hat that makes me go a little crazy.  Might be how small and quick they are to finish, or how portable, or how readily they lend themselves to color play—mostly it’s that, I think.  I just know it seems to work for me to have a combination of Big Projects (such as that goes with me, you know—the seed stitch wrap is proceeding at an appropriate crawl, you’ll be pleased to hear) and smaller, more manageable projects that can be accomplished so I can move on to something else.  A hat is done before I know it, and as I knit, I am eyeballing the yarn pile, waiting for the next brainstorm. 

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I’ve used a few different patterns here—I’ll link them all for you next time—and some are improvised by me on the spot.  Really, once you know the formula for making a hat, the world is your oyster.  Here’s a quick and dirty hat recipe:  Cast on a number divisible by X, work a ribbing or edging or whatever, then knit around in whatever stitch pattern you want until the hat is however long you figure is right, then start decreasing by knitting X -2, then knit two together, around.  Knit one round plain, then knit X –3, knit two together, around.  Etc.  Until you run out of stitches or feel like it’s getting too pointy, then you just knit two together all the way around for a little while, or decrease every row.  When you have a small number of stitches left on the needles, cut the yarn and run the tail through them.  Pull them up snugly and weave in the ends.  Add a pompom if you want.  Done. 

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I’ve said before that I don’t often knit for other people, but this pile of hats (and there are more to come) is headed toward a good cause, and along with the satisfaction of helping others and stuff, I have gotten this in return as well:

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That’s an original oil painting, done by my beautiful BFF, who can obviously see into my dreams because this little alpine cottage, nestled in the pines at the edge of a poppy meadow, is where I want to live forever.  She is an artist and a rock star.  Everybody wins here, but mostly me. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tropical heat, and tales of woe

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Well.  You can’t win them all.  This shirt/shift/blouse-y contraption seemed like a wonderful idea.  It looked fresh and bohemian, especially on the waif-like teenage model in the pattern photo, and that should have been a clue to this seasoned crafter—I even know enough now that I can’t really wear a pullover with any kind of aplomb—but I made it anyway, and woe is me, it looks terrible.  Blind enthusiasm does not always lead to success. 

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The basket of finished hats is about half full.  So much for big projects.  Why can’t I just work on something slowly? 

It is tropically hot this week, and my poor mama, who will find 65 degrees F a little too warm, is here for a visit, so we’ve all just been lying around in varying states of undress, drinking champagne cocktails and mopping our boiling selves with damp cloths.  Eating out every night.  Manufacturing errands so we can get in the car and turn on the A/C.  Yearning for a thunderstorm. 

In the process of crafting theater props, I have burned my fingers (again!) with hot glue, which, let’s face it, is really just molten plastic, so then I spent the evening with my hand inside a bag of frozen edamame and getting called Lefty.  Note to self:  hot glue is hot. 

Speaking of tropical, I squared off against a huge snake the other day, which dropped down next to me from above as I opened the garage door.  Which is like living in Borneo or something, or a horror movie, maybe.  I lifted the door, which is heavy and wooden, heard a big thump, turned to see what had fallen, and there was a three-foot-long serpent lifting his head and coiling around to face me.  This is the North!  What’s with all the huge varmints?  As I jogged around flapping my hands and freaking out a little, the great snake casually disappeared under a cupboard and has not yet been apprehended, so naturally, I can never go in the garage again.  Google tells me it is not venomous, but that it would still like to bite me if I gave it a reason to, which I will emphatically not do. 

Meanwhile, since my fingers are burned, I can’t knit at the moment (noooo!) so In the wake of my having read this book, we went to the (ugh) mall and spent hours smelling perfume—oh, perfume!  Sensuous, often maligned, sometimes fraught with memory.  I love/hate perfume, you know what I mean?  It can be so lovely, or so invasive. Today I am wearing Versace Crystal Noir, heavy in this heat.  I feel like a burgeoning lily, drooping and ripe.  Do you wear perfume?  What’s your favorite?

Did I mention I can’t knit?  Which means all I want to do is kniiiiiiit. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Copious Knitting

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Striking a swap deal with my BFF, who is a Woman With A Mission, I have agreed to make a LOT of hats.  So naturally, what I did was knit until my thumbs ached, and stay up until the birds were almost singing, choosing yarns from the cupboard and arranging them in piles, and going generally whacko imagining the endless fun possibilities.  The girl snuck past me to the kitchen for a midnight snack and raised a sardonic eyebrow at the sight of me in my nightie, pawing through bags of yarn by candlelight, saying, “Huh.  Well, have fun with your insomniac crafts.”  Which I did do, and have been doing ever since—having fun, I mean.  How lovely it is to have a big project.  I am always searching for one, always, and finding one with no trouble, and then finishing it in two weeks or something, which is not really what constitutes a big project, and I’m really hoping not to do that this time.  Though I’ve made a bunch of hats so far, a real big bunch. 

Also in big projects, the Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap, adapted to laceweight, is making its languorous and gradual progress on my needles.
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This is the palette.  I might add a dove gray, just because doesn’t dove gray go in everything?  The rose pink at the upper right is about halfway gone now.  There will be oodles of knitting in this, just the ongoing and endless same-ness of seed stitch, across 189 stitches, until it is 78” long.  Oh, happy day!   The seed stitch slows me down considerably, and the knitted rows accumulate at a barely noticeable rate, but—I keep telling myself this—that is how I want it.  It is there in a basket beside my chair for times when all four of us are noisily gathered, and the boy plays his guitar or somebody mentions Art Garfunkel, which spurs somebody else to scrounge up our thrift store LP of Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits and put it on the record player, which makes everybody sing along to The Boxer, and there isn’t any row counting or paying attention required at all.  It is family knitting.  When they say, “Oh, Mom, listen to this,” I can look up, rest my hands for a minute, and listen.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giant Half Granny Wrap


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The doctor has put a band-aid on Miss K, but the fluttery cotton poet’s tunic we made together makes me look like a pregnant grandmother.  More on that later.  This awesome granny triangle thing is way more satisfying.
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Such extreme wrappiness!
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It’s just what I wanted.  I miss working on it already.  How many is too many, do you think? 
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This is really just a big granny triangle (here's a tutorial) worked in sock yarn.  I used a US F crochet hook, and the yarns are Cascade Heritage Silk and Louet Gems Fingering Weight (the gray only).  So.  Much.  Fun!  Why is the granny square thing so much fun to do?  People say they are addicted to this pattern, and oh, I am a believer.  I might be a granny square addict myself.  And granny triangles now, too.  I look down at my hands as I work on this, and they are just flying, they’re a happy blur of hooking.  Fabulous. 
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Extra thoughts:  I had Raspberry Shortcake for breakfast, which Dean says isn’t a thing, but it totally is, since I just finished eating it.  The wild orange lilies are a profuse firework next to the old patio.  It is cool enough today to think about making soup.  Maybe Potato and Leek.  I love leeks.  The sky looks churned up and stormy, and the treetops are tossing like a ship at sea.  This summer is so different from last year, when we lolled and baked under a merciless sun, each day more stunningly tropical than the one before.  This season feels stirred up and unsettled.  I stand on the porch, looking across the orchard at the distant clouds, wondering what could be coming.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wraps and more wraps

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Gosh, it’s hot. I don’t know why I’m so moved to make wraps right now.  No, that’s not quite true—I think it’s because they don’t have to fit anybody.  You know?  I think that’s the appeal.  It so deftly avoids that hideous moment where you put the finished thing on and then look at yourself and there’s that crushing, sinking feeling, and you think Ugh that did not work, and I am tired of that moment.  I am done dealing with that moment for the time being.  With a plain wrap, as long as the finished thing is at least vaguely triangular, I can consider it a success, put it on the pile tuck it carefully away against cooler weather, which will come soon enough, and turn immediately to the next plain and simple project. I have very basic yarn needs right now, but hoo boy, do I have them.   

You know this already, but yarn is such an effective antidote to the small, everyday aggravations of communal living—there are four boisterous adults banging around in the teeny Cozy Things cottage, along with a huge dog who sheds competitively—so unless I’m cleaning up after somebody, I am, at least currently, melting away in the shade with yarn in my lap. 

Now and then, I want to sew something, and I sorta wanted to sew something today:

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Eventually, this is going to be a filmy cotton top, pattern from this book, and I made all the pattern pieces and cut it all out, from some lovely old fabric, but it’s on hold now because (scream!) my beloved Miss Kastner is on the blink.  Sob!  Her tensioning is askew, and I can’t seem to figure it out.  These poor, lovely sewing machines, they always break down on me.  I do blame myself.  Oh, the shame.  Crush, sink.  How I wish I knew more about her machinery and how it all works.  That’s something I really want to find time to learn.  Until then she patiently awaits the ministrations of the Doctor, who knows about these things. 

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I guess that means more yarn.  This is going to be a huge (I really think so this time) multicolored wrap in lace weight yarn on US #4 needles.  It should take a really, really long time.  Goodness, that’s like a big deep breath to me.  Bring it on. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Big Enough

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This isn’t really as epically big as I was hoping—it’s epically wide, about ten feet wide, which is, on the whole, perhaps unnecessarily wide—but it is Big Enough.  It turns out that one unraveled sweater’s worth of DK-weight wool isn’t really enough yarn to make anything epically big, but the idea of the giant half-blanket is still with me, and I will definitely be revisiting it. 

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So this is just a regular-sized wrap, but that’s okay with me.  And, you know, at this point it was a free project, recycled as it was, which always makes me extra happy. 

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Here’s my recipe for this thing, in case you’re interested:  Beginning at the center back point of the triangle and using the main color—my yarn is Kathmandu DK, and that color is some kind of desert sand-ish color, a tweedy warm beige—I cast on 2 stitches.  Then, working back and forth in stockinette stitch, I increased one stitch at both ends of every row using kfb, and just kept doing that, with the rows getting longer and longer, until the yarn had almost run out.  Then I worked a couple rows of garter stitch, in an attempt to ward off the inevitable curling at the top edge.  I bound off the top edge in the last of the sand-colored yarn, with just inches leftover.  The main triangle part was easy, and didn’t take any time at all, and I could do other things while I worked, which was probably why it went so quickly. 

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Then, feeling overly optimistic about yarn quantities, and switching to garter stitch, I picked up stitches around the bottom edge with the lighter of the two purples, packing them tightly along a ridiculously patched-together length of Denise interchangeable circular needle.  On the second row, I doubled the stitches by kfb every stitch.  Holy carpal tunnel.  It was about 700 stitches, point to point, and I increased by two stitches in every row at the center point only, which, looking at the above photo, seems like too much.  Next time, I’d only increase every other row, which should keep it from jutting out like a bad miter.  I didn’t work any increases at the side points on the ruffle edge.

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The bind off took an hour, and I ran out of yarn less than halfway across it.  (Why did I think one little ball would make a big ruffle?  This isn’t my first rodeo!) I scavenged some scraps of worsted wool in kind of a grape color, and finished the bind off—you can see it, but as it kind of continues the ombre gradient thing already happening in the ruffle, it isn’t bugging me. 

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I’m glad to have this finished, since it appears to be monsoon season here in New York.  Will it ever stop raining?  I’m about to start sprouting moss.

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All the rain is making the garden so lush.  It feels tropical and soggy, but the vegetables are huge.

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The doctor picked a salad for lunch.  I love summer.