Sunday, October 25, 2015

A cotton-candy striped party sweater for the catdog

This was pretty much inevitable. Any dog who has a heated bed with her own handmade quilt and bobble-trimmed feather pillow--I'm not exaggerating--is bound to get a handknit sweater eventually. It is just possible that somebody around here is spoiled...fancy organic venison dog food, anyone?

[I'll admit that part of me made this only because of how cute it looks on her...]

Does she need a sweater? According to the vet, she doesn't. Would she like one? I think most definitely. This dog would nap with her head directly in the fireplace if it weren't for the glass front. She gets up on the couch to stick her cold feet underneath my leg. She presses her face against the blowing furnace vent and sighs with a deep, rattling moan of contentment. She likes to be warm. Well, what kind of knitter would I be to deny her the great pleasures of a handknit pullover, fancy with cotton candy stripes?

The pattern is here. I made the large size for the 44-pound Catdog, and used all acrylic yarns--vintage, thrifted, the kind of yarns that are made with "Orlon" and have an outer layer of armor. They come in those sausage-shaped skeins and have 59 cent price tags. You know the ones I mean. This yarn is, um, durable. Five billion years from now when the sun has swallowed the earth in a cataclysmic supernova, the only thing left, floating alone in the silent vastness of the Milky Way, will be this dog sweater. Catdog, you're welcome.

Nobody around here is going to be cold. Not on my watch.

 

 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Appreciation

 

It is so beautiful here. I will not use the word crisp...it is apple-y and mushroomy, and the sky is ripe with charcoal clouds, and mornings are gold. You can breathe with satisfaction. Color is so abundant, and so vivid that I am inspired to take up oil painting, have a rummage in the attic for Grandma's brushes, collected in a paint-spattered wood box. We walk after dark when it's quiet, wearing wool hats with big pompoms on top, feeling snug and jaunty, holding hands. Shadows and honking geese and a tiny, trembling deer mouse, lost in our cellar, captured and turned loose into the leaves. Spicy woodsmoke. Catdog and I nap beside the fire--she is a top-notch appreciator of a nice nap in a warm spot. I plan more striped and patterned projects in a bright fall palette, because wow. It's working. Fall is nice.

 

 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Milano-ish

 

The madness of fall sweater knitting is fully upon me. Here's another one, finished, which makes four so far this year, and I haven't worn any of them yet, because it has been just so relentlessly nice outside, and I do appreciate that, really I do. Somehow, it hasn't made me stop knitting sweaters. I'm ready to start another. Madness. So, they pile up. I do have a lot of handknit sweaters (the more I look at that word, sweater, the more I hate it; sweater. Sweater. Yuck.) but I have a strategy for managing them. If I love it a lot because it fits well and makes me feel good when I put it on, I wear it into the ground, until it's full of holes and falling apart. I love it when that happens. If I like it right now, I wear it for awhile, a few seasons or maybe years, and then either donate it or unravel it, to stash the yarn for another day. If I don't like it at all (this happens a surprising lot of the time, because I am known to make things just for the sake of making them, and I am unapologetic about that) I sometimes throw it on the fire. Okay, I only did that once. Usually, I donate my handknits when I lose interest in them, or take them apart to recycle the yarn.

I am not about to stop knitting sweaters (urgh...) any time soon, so that's my solution. Pass them on, or recycle. The closet is bulging with clothes I actually love already, so it's not like I don't have anything to wear. I like to knit. There. So, this striped pullover (oh, that's so much better) which I LOVED knitting, is probably not going to be worn into tatters. It is a little too big. Sad face! It feels like it might do for a weekend layering piece for awhile. I considered felting it, and I still might do that, if I get to feeling reckless. A good, solid felting might be just what this thing needs to be perfect...ack, it's scary, though. There's no control over how it shrinks, and I'm likely to end up with something short and wide, strangling at the neck, with no salvaging other than to cut it up into potholders. I happen to know that this yarn--KnitPicks Palette, mostly--is just dying to felt. It wants to felt with a barely-concealed longing. Palette is not a yarn that will forgive that one mistaken trip through the wash, oh no. Felting will be a huge leap into the unknown. We'll see how I feel about it after awhile.

I love Palette, though. It comes in a huge array of colors, with wonderfully evocative names: Lichen, Mermaid, Fedora. The color-namer at KnitPicks is brilliant. What colors did I use? Oh dear, I knew you were going to ask me that...I tried, really I did. I made a little sample card and everything, but then I ripped out the first version of this project and started over with different colors, and it became slightly less organized. Okay, let's see: I know I used Pumice Heather, Mauve, Lichen, Sagebrush, Turmeric, Seafaring, Blossom Heather, Urchin, and Almond. (Aren't those great names? Urchin!!!) At that point, I stash-dove for other things that were leftover and label-less, but I know there was Green Tea, Wallaby, Oregon Coast Heather, and Mineral Heather, and then also Mist and Navy from Jamieson's, too. That might be all of it...I really don't know why it's such a challenge to keep track of these things. Anyway. Palette is a fingering-weight yarn, so this pullover is an EPS garment, and was worked on US 3 needles, in a stripe sequence inspired by Kate Davies' yoke-construction version of Milano by Carol Sunday. All crazy and ill-advised color choices here are my own.

There really won't be a whole new finished sweater (bleah...) here every week. I don't think.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

As We Go Along, feat. Jill Draper

" I can tell by your face that you're looking to find a place

to settle your mind and reveal who you are

and you shouldn't be shy, for I'm not gonna try

to hurt you, or heal you, or steal your star.

Open your eyes, get up off your chair

there's so much to do in the sunlight.

Give up your secrets, and let down your hair

and sit with me here by the firelight.

Why think about who's gonna win out?

We'll make up our story as we go along.

There's so little time for us to try and rhyme

and so many highways to travel upon."

Carole King wrote that for the Monkees, which they used in the soundtrack for their very weird 1968 movie "Head". I have thoughts about that movie--you might have to be a superfan like me to appreciate it in any way, what with its having been written in a weeklong marijuana haze by the Monkees and Jack Nicholson--but the soundtrack album is truly beautiful. In case you've heard two or three Monkees songs and you think you know what they're about, please go listen to "As We Go Along". I can't even read the words on the page without hearing the lovely music that goes with it, and Micky's beautiful singing; wait, you should hear it, too--I really love it, so much.

This is one of those things that just kind of means a lot to me, you know? That song, those lyrics, the Monkees, my knitting. You're not here to listen to my Monkees origin story, so I won't bore you, but let's just say I've loved them pretty much my whole entire life. Then there was this, which was honestly the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to anybody. The Monkees. Adore. Anyway. This project came to me by way of the jazzy and fantastic yarn artist Jill Draper, who when she saw me fondling her Each Stitch sweater (it was on a hanger, okay?) at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival last month, in a fevered glaze of inspiration, very kindly talked me through her process and invited me to have a stab at it myself. Jill's original project was made as part of an art installation, and I fell madly for it. To sum up, here's how I remember our conversation:

Me: (back to fondle the Each Stitch for the fourth time in an hour) Waaaah! This! Is! Fabulous!

Jill: Thanks very much. It was made as part of an installation for the O+ Festival in Kingston, NY [info here].

Me: Brilliant idea. Now you can get your flu shot!

Jill: Er, yes!

Me: I want to make one. Like, immediately. Please, please, tell me you have a pattern for sale...

Jill: Nope, I made it up.

Me: Waaaah! But I love it!

Jill: You can do it too, just get out your graph paper, tape and scissors, spend thirty-jillion hours making a chart until it looks right, then knit it into an EPS Sweater. That's it. Use high contrast yarns if you want people to be able to read it.

She definitely was more articulate than that, and very generously spent several minutes spelling it out and encouraging me. She's right about the contrast, but you can see I didn't totally take her advice about that--I wanted the song lyrics to blend a bit, to be sort of a little secret, something just for me. You can read them, but only if you're looking, which is perfect. The EPS Sweater, in case you're the last to know, is an Elizabeth Percentage System Sweater, devised by the great Elizabeth Zimmermann to allow you and me and everybody else to make up their own sweater using any dang yarn, stitch pattern and size/gauge/needles etc. they might want. If you are venturing nervously forth into the wilds of garment knitting, you would do very well to begin with her. EZ, I love you. Yarns used are Malabrigo single-spun worsted in sort of a denim-y color, recycled from an ill-advised long sweater coat I made a really long time ago--only Malabrigo is worth unraveling something that big and that fully-pilled with wear--Malabrigo single-spun worsted in Frost, also recycled, and Dream in Color Smooshy in Amber Glass. I'd estimate I used about 800 yards of the main color, and 250 each of the contrast colors.

She even spent a moment admiring my sweater, the Highland Heather coat. Jill, you're lovely.

 

 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Progress

A cold wind scrapes the branches against my windowpanes, which means there is much knitting happening right now. I am up to my ears in wool. I have to tear myself away from working on this pullover, inspired by my conversation at the Fiber Festival with the brilliant indie yarn dyer and knitwear artist Jill Draper, and her installation art piece, the Each Stitch sweater. I feel kind of hopped up on this project. I think about it all the time. Knitting as art. Oh, deep happy sigh. Here's the very messy working chart I made from Jill's instructions. Ten points and a gold star if you can tell where the words I chose are from:

The stripes-in-every-color pullover is flying off the needles, too, because it is plain stockinette and because the color changes keep me interested well past my bedtime. I'm knitting both sleeves at the same time so I don't have to keep track of where I may or may not have decreased, gah, I am no good at that. This might end up being one of those things I made for the sake of making it, or maybe it will go with every single thing in my closet and I'll wear it every day. Somehow, it doesn't even matter right now.

In natural dyeing, I had a little bit of fun with some black beans--you wouldn't believe the huge array of beautiful colors that can be achieved (probably temporarily, it turns out) with them: bright indigo, navy, red, green, lilac, pink, black--crazy. Have a quick search, you will be amazed. I soaked beans for 24 hours and then strained the dark and cloudy liquid into five big jars. The beans went into a soup pot for dinner, and mordanted yarn went into the dye--I left the sediment in because I was hoping for gray, and other grayed colors--somebody out there said they got a color they called "zombie" and I aimed for that, with success. I also got greenish yellow (far right) by adding washing soda to the dye, and pink (second from right) by adding vinegar. Sadly, it looks like color from black beans is probably fugitive, so I don't have my hopes up that these very pretty silvery gray/pink/yellow skeins won't fade, but right now they look like Miss Havisham's wedding dress, which is perfect. My results are very pale probably because of my lack of experience with pre-mordanting. There is so much to be learned. It was a fun science experiment, and the beans were delicious, too. It seems to be all about the process around here right now.

Thank you all for your lovely anniversary well-wishes and sweet comments. It's so good to be here with all of you. Doc wore his gorgeous kilt and kilt hose to the Fair and looked like the Prince of the Realm, drawing much admiration from the knitters. He carried the bags and waited patiently while I felt up every skein of yarn in the place, and bought me this amazingly beautiful hank of handspun shetland wool, absolutely the smooshiest piece of magically spun fiber I've ever felt, because he totally gets me. On the label is a picture of the sheep who grew it. Swoon! I think I will never knit this into anything, because I want it to be just like this, smooshy and perfect, for all time. That's just fine.