Sing joyfully*

Published on Monday April 13th, 2009

For Easter has arrived and with it a respite from the Holy Week choral marathon! After singing five services in four days and being stuffed with Easter dinner at the in-laws’, I was good for very little last evening. Rain was coming down in torrents, so it was time to get cozy indoors. I swapped my lacy tights and heels for a comfy pair of handknit wool socks and my dressy Easter clothes for yoga pants and a sweatshirt, pulled my favorite Welsh wool blanket (a wedding present from my cousins in Maine) out of the bureau drawer and snuggled up on the couch with my cat, some knitting, and the third season of All Creatures Great and Small. I thought about working on this:

But it requires too much brain power. That’s the beginning of my Cocoon-Stitch Half-Circle shawl in the Toots LeBlanc angora/merino, and I’m pleased as punch with how it looks and how it feels… softer and deliciously softer as the yarn passes through my fingers and the angora halo blooms. But the pattern is written out line by line and I haven’t memorized what happens between the “cocoons” and the increases yet.

So I picked up my newest project: the Three in One cardigan for my mother, which I cast on Wednesday (which feels like a month ago) at the Close Knit knitting night. I put on my 184 stitches and got started, then remembered I was planning to work continuous garter-stitch hem/button bands with mitered corners for a nice, finished look after I steek… a nice, finished look that was going to require the forethought of a provisional cast-on. Oops. Tracy lent me her crochet hook and reminded me how easy it is to do a provisional cast-on using the hook to draw loops over your needle. I am the world’s clumsiest person with a crochet hook. (As Tracy tactfully put it, “Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone carry the yarn in the right hand for crochet.”) I can steam away with two needles at lace, cables, travelling stitches, short rows, you name it… but Galapagos finches can manipulate their insect-extracting twigs with considerably more dexterity than I can muster in wielding a crochet hook. But after a while I developed a sort of left-handed throw that was more or less efficient, and the advantage of the crochet-hook method is that I think I’ll be able to remember how to do it next time, whereas I always have to look up video tutorials of the methods I’ve tried before.

The Three and One turns out to be blissfully brainless colorwork, premium for watching Little Dorrit on Masterpiece Theatre. (I haven’t read this particular Dickens and it’s seriously stretching my attention to figure out what is going on with the truly creepy French guy and some of the other murky fringe characters who are obviously tied into the Dorrits’ and Clenhams’ murky history in some murky, confusing way. I think murky may in fact be the definitive adjective for a Dickens plot. But boy am I looking forward to the romantic payoff when Amy and Arthur finally get together. End tangent.) I’m doing the “Pheasant’s Plumage” version with the purl stitches. The major design dilemma is this: Mom wants some waist shaping. I can’t add it by decreasing without disrupting the three-and-one pattern. (Well, I could–there’s an occasional single-color plain round that would allow for subtracting multiples of four invisibly–but the vertical alignment of the motifs would be thrown off OR, if I bunched the decreases, I’d have potentially unflattering stair-steps at the side “seam.”) If it were for me, I’d throw in an extra design element: a band of about 4″ of ribbing to draw the sweater in at the natural waist in the oatmealy background color. This would echo the shawl collar I’m already planning to add (Mum and I both have slender necks that make the rest of us cold if left exposed) and the ribbed cuffs and might, with the addition of a tie-on belt using some of the contrast colors, give the sweater kind of a rad Starsky and Hutch vibe. But I don’t think my mother owns any belted cardigans, and if the belt of her bathrobe is anything to judge by, I might just be knitting puppy bait. Because apparently

fabric belt : Labrador


thumb : toddler


Coors Light : my brother-in-law.

All’s just right with the world when the two meet at the lips, you know? And also I’m fairly sure my mother has never seen Starsky and Hutch, original or remake.

So I’m delaying the decision until I can put the question to Mum, and meanwhile I’m angling in for some subtle shaping by going down a needle size now that I’m about 3″ in. (Mum, if you read this post before I see you next weekend, leave your preference in the Comments, okay?) Any advice for me, wise readers? Solutions I haven’t thought of? What do you like to do with colorwork patterns and decreases?

*Post title courtesy of William Byrd’s delightful but tricky setting of this psalm:

Sing joyfully to God our strength; sing loud unto the God of Jacob!
Take the song, bring forth the timbrel, the pleasant harp, and the viol.
Blow the trumpet in the new moon, even in the time appointed, and at our feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.

I like the bit with the trumpet and the new moon.

Lovisa Armwarmers

Published on Saturday March 7th, 2009

A quick and easy remedy against a chilly spring, these armwarmers can be readily knit from stash oddballs or leftovers from other projects. A dash of stranded colorwork and a faux button detail add eye-catching style. Download the PDF here: Lovisa Armwarmers

I used two different alpaca yarns, Frog Tree Alpaca Sportweight (the natural color) and a skein of unmarked burnt-orange I bought at La Droguerie in Paris. Both have been in the stash for some time. The buttons were leftovers, too–from one of the first baby sweaters I made when I learned to knit. They were supposed to go on a matching cap that I never made. My Lovisas have already seen a lot of wear, since they let me bring my 3/4-length shirt sleeves back into wardrobe rotation. The garter flap above the thumb keeps them nicely in place, but it’s easy to slip my thumbs out and free my hands, too, which isn’t true of my other fingerless gloves and is turning out to be a useful feature. I’m planning other color combinations. Who doesn’t have an odd 50 or 100 yards of sport or DK leftovers lying around in every shade? I’m never able to bring myself to throw them away. I could see following the same recipe but making stripes if I’m not in the mood for stranded colorwork, or if I have even shorter bits to use up. Before you go off to paw through your own stash, a few doggie outtakes:


Published on Thursday March 5th, 2009

The faintest gleam of sunshine while I was taking my lunch break yielded this:

There’s been enough interest in this “design” from folks who’ve seen me wearing my new armwarmers around that I’ll be writing up the pattern. This should be a totally foolproof process as long as I can manage the color chart in an attractive computery way, so I hope to do it over the weekend. In case you want to go stash diving in anticipation (and this is a truly stash-divey project), these are knit with sport-weight or DK alpaca. I used Frog Tree’s (warning: before blocking this stuff was shaming me as a knitter–my stitches were cattywampus and totally ahoo at the needle joins, thanks to the 2-ply construction and loose gauge. Blocking solved everything, so don’t give up in despair as I would have if this hadn’t been such a spontaneous project.) and La Droguerie’s. I’ve got loads of both skeins leftover, so these long gloves don’t take much. Rowan Felted Tweed would make a delicious substitute; I’ll definitely be making myself a pair in some leftovers I’ve got on hand.

Also, the Minaret Opera Gloves I started in Malabrigo Sock Cordovan (be still my heart and look out my husband — I could totally elope with this yarn):

Delicious rich brownness not captured here… the sun had already gone away again.

Queen of Shadows

Published on Tuesday December 30th, 2008

To close out 2008, here’s another free pattern for you. I made these fingerless gloves and cowl for Mr. G’s mom for Christmas, and now that I have a few relaxing days up home I’ve polished up the instructions. I knit the set using some scrummy Rio de la Plata 3-Ply Thread that’s been marinating in the stash: the plump, soft plies give beautiful stitch definition and the kettle-dyed “Rabbit” gray shifts ever so slightly in hue. (Rio de la Plata has inexplicably discontinued this gorgeous yarn; their Lana del Artista seems quite similar, but I haven’t seen it in person to tell. The yardage is a little less, but 3 skeins would still suffice. Any soft, heavy Aran weight will serve.) I chose the Shadow Cable from Barbara Walker’s first treasury, cast on a picot edge for a touch of dramatic flair, and designed on the fly.

Here’s the PDF: Queen of Shadows Fingerless Gloves and Cowl

How about some more pictures?

Happy knitting for 2009!