Published on Monday December 31st, 2012

The lost and found cowl made it to New York in time for Christmas. I snapped a few camera phone pictures before it went, I’m proud to say. (Proud that I remembered before I taped up the box, not proud of the quality of my photography.) And it is an extremely cozy cowl. It was a little bit hard to send it away (I do own matching gloves, after all!) but Marika needed the cozy more than I did.

It is, more or less, Tiny Owl Knits’s ships & seaside cowl. I went my own way with the stripe sequence, though, changing background colors at random and throwing in little bundles of stripes, some narrower and some wider, wherever I pleased. All the yarn is from the stash. The lavender is some Rowan Kid Classic that’s been in the stash since time immemorial; the neutral is Kimmet Croft Fairy Hare (oh my, this is scrumptious stuff) I got the year I went to Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp in Wisconsin held together with an even more ancient ball of Kidsilk Haze. The purple and fox red stripes are Felted Tweed. And since this cowl is a tube cast on provisionally and then grafted closed (yes, that was a loooong graft), it is very warm indeed. The wind can really bite on the west side of Manhattan, I have cause to know. I hope this double layer of wool and angora and mohair will keep my dear sister-in-law all toasty as she commutes to the hospital. And since this project had attained some seniority in the workbasket, it feels good to send it out into the world at last!

Ba-baaai, summer! Bwah!

Published on Tuesday September 27th, 2011

Time to say goodbye, Ada style, with a vigorous kiss blown at the end, to the briefest summer in my memory. All night, dozing lightly with one ear cocked upstairs for baby sounds — the only way I seem to know how to sleep anymore — I heard rain on the pavement. This morning I put on a wool sweater (Pas de Valse), a wool hat (“Mama HA’!” exclaims my small one, reaching to pull it off my head and flop it over her face for peekaboo), and wool socks. (Darned if those aren’t still the best-looking socks in the drawer, despite having been knit in 2005. My admiration for Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock grows annually.) Ada is in her reversible brioche cardigan (blue side out today) and her new boots. The boot leather squeaks and she steps tentatively in them, unaccustomed to the stiff soles.

We replenished the bird feeders this morning and discovered a mouse had moved into the seed bin on the back porch. I spotted the evidence right away, but didn’t expect to see Mouse herself peeping up at me from a hole in the bag, all sleek fur, bright eyes, and quivery whiskers. Ada, having been recently enchanted by a pet rat at the tea shop, thought we should pick her up and get to know her properly, but we didn’t. I am tenderhearted about mice, although I sincerely hope this one’s family isn’t expecting to move in with us for the winter. (The cat should be an effective deterrent. For all his faults, he’s a competent hunter and also pulls his weight when it comes to chores like dispatching house centipedes with alarming legs. (Don’t google them. If you don’t know what they look like from personal experience, thank the appropriate deity and go on your blissfully ignorant way.) And while the dog is useless against the creepy crawlies, she’d be thrilled to go all buddy-cop with Mingus on a mouse if he wouldn’t end her for cramping his style. So I’m not too worried about a rodent invasion.) But I’ll be devising a way to lock down the bin lid more securely. In the mean time, the finches seem untroubled to have shared some of their sunflower seeds. I’ve never seen a handful of birds tuck in with more vigor. They must realize summer is fading, too.

While the featheries are plumping up for winter, I’m feeling ready to turn my attention back to the thickest and warmest projects in my knitting basket. If you’re a knitter, there’s an excellent chance you already know what this is…

MiteredCross (1 of 1)

… but don’t tell, okay? Here be secret knitting. And speaking of miters, I’ve nearly finished my Mitered Cardigan: a seam to graft, buttons to attach, ends to weave, and then I cross my fingers and block this sweater like the dickens and, if all else fails, maybe take up running in case there’s a spare inch or so that could come off my middle.

Nature’s way

Published on Wednesday July 27th, 2011

SpringVines (1 of 3)

I knit this beret back in April. April is a pretty sensible month to wear some kind of hat in Oregon, because it can still be pretty wet and cool. (Actually, it turns out July can also be wet and cool, at least this year.) The yarn was a perfect spring green, and the design (Autumn Vines) of leaves and twisting vines was so evocative of new growth. But it turns out I need to wait until we’re really back in the depths of midwinter gloom to wear this hat. The yarn is colored with natural dyestuffs — plant matter — and it is even less lightfast than I would have suspected. I blocked the hat over a plate, and I thought I’d set that plate outside on the laundry rack for the afternoon so it would dry more quickly. I always avoid laying any of the woolens out in bright sunshine, especially if I think their colors might be vulnerable to fading, but this was an overcast day.

SpringVines (2 of 3)

Not overcast enough, though. After just a few hours, the top of the hat was distinctly yellowed, while the brim that was turned beneath the plate retained the original green. It’s even more noticeable in person than in these photos, and not exactly a look I was after! With wear, the whole hat should “weather” to yellow, and I’ll admit I’m curious to see what its final shade will be. Yellow is not really a great color for me, unfortunately. I can always overdye it, so I’m not counting this a failure — it’s still a nice little hat, and the yarn (a 65% wool/35% silk 2-ply from Rainshadow Yarns in Kingston, WA) was a pleasure to work with. It has a faintly crunchy woolen-spun hand with a bit of luster from the silk and the longwool fibers. And I don’t mean to criticize dyer Marcia Adams; plant-dyed fibers are processed close to the earth and it’s only natural that they should be less resistant to sunlight or hot water than fibers treated with stronger synthetic chemicals. I do mean to caution knitters to treat these special yarns with extra tenderness and to accept that change and weathering are to be expected. That’s nature’s way.

SpringVines (3 of 3)

Thanks to Lorelei for being a patient and photogenic model!

These pictures are from a little workshop I took with my friend Vivian to start making better use of my DSLR, an Olympus E-500. It’s amazing how a few simple pointers from a pro can make a difference. Begone, busy backgrounds that distract from the simple story of the portrait! I shall place my subjects farther from textured walls. I shall boost my ISO in low light. I shall think in terms of the triangle created by the photographer, the subject, and the light source. I think I shall even start saving for a 50-mm lens.

(Vivian did not, alas, impart any nifty tricks for those times when you wish to photograph small, fast-moving subjects who want only to climb the photographer and get their sticky little paws all over the camera. Plays hell with the aforementioned triangulation and depth of field, not to mention the focus. But this, of course, is also nature’s way.)

Ada, 12 months (1 of 2)

Ada, 12 months (2 of 2)

I have yet another photography class planned for Sock Summit, this time with Franklin Habit. Because it’s tough to take interesting and effective pictures of socks, and I do have a new one I’m hoping to share with you soon! By next week, I may even have two: I’m spending Friday with Cat Bordhi (whom I have never met, despite hailing from the same small town) in “Personal Footprints for Really Rebellious Sock Knitters.” I don’t know that I qualify as a really rebellious sock knitter. The word rebel comes to us from Latin rebellis and originally connoted a fresh declaration of war by the defeated party. In truth, I’m happy to knit socks in the traditional top-down ways, with their multitude of heels and toes developed in different cultures and time periods, each handsome and useful in one situation or another. But I heartily admire Cat’s toe-up architectures and have found them both beautiful and comfortable as well as mind expanding. In short, the more possibilities, the better. I go to embrace rather than to make war. And I go in happy anticipation of rubbing elbows with sock-loving fools from around the world: welcome to Portland, my people! (And how did I miss our mayor’s proclamation that this week shall be Sock Knitting Week? I am always going to wish I could step out my back door and be in the woods and fields, but I love my adopted city.)

An antidote

Published on Monday March 21st, 2011

HighRoad.jpg (2 of 2)

… to drizzly days and the sadness of new teeth (Ada’s, not mine, and I can’t see them yet, but they’re making her gums swollen and her demeanor cranky, though probably not as cranky as I’d be if my gums looked like that). This is High Road, Mary-Heather Cogar’s clever design for A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Pro-verbial Club. I’m making a present of it, but I might make another for myself. The Metamorphosis is delicious yarn and well suited to small shawls: the silk content gives it a faintly grippy hand that it helps it stay put better than my all-merino neckerchiefs. It was a quick knit — or would have been if I hadn’t made mistakes I don’t understand because I was too darn tired and I still am — and the dry desert colors are everything my home front isn’t at the moment. So even if they’re not my colors, they’ve brought me some cheer. Thanks, Kristine and Mary-Heather!