Wings Spread

Published on Thursday October 1st, 2009

It’s out of the chrysalis for the Cocoon-Stitch Half-Circle Shawl (a thoroughly unromantic name—make yourself free to propose something better!). Actually, I’ve been wearing it for some days, but it took some doing to achieve the necessary husband + camera + daylight confluence to document the occasion.


It was windy and bright up on Powell Butte (why yes, I absolutely DID steal the idea to go for a little hike and shoot photos of a new shawl up there from the talented Miss Emily of the Family Trunk Project, whose trunk show I hope to attend at Twisted next Friday), which is why I’m looking so squinty and ruffled in these pictures.




I do love this little number. Sooooo soft. Soooooo cozy. My preciousssss. I’ve been wearing it all different ways—points free, pinned in front, cattywampus and pinned at the shoulder. It’s a perfect size to warm your neck and shoulders without dragging its points in your soup or snagging on the furniture. If you can bear to knit from line-by-line directions, I absolutely recommend it.

Now, your good wishes, if I might have them. I may have torn my cornea (courtesy of grit in the eye while cycling). It doesn’t feel that bad, but it doesn’t look that good. Do please cross your fingers that the optometrist won’t insist on any treatment more drastic than a piratic eyepatch. I shall wear my most swashbuckling boots to her office in the morning in an attempt to turn her mind in that direction.

Another reason to knit local

Published on Wednesday September 9th, 2009

I haven’t written a lot about the Cocoon-Stitch Half-Circle Shawl, but I’ve been steadily working away at it this summer. The pattern is written line by line, with no chart, so it requires a good stretch of uninterrupted knitting time and a well-placed Post-It note to make progress. I took it for train knitting when we went up to Seattle in August to see a Mariners game, and then I had a nice quiet evening of knitting with my friend Leigh to bring it close to the end. I actually almost finished the pattern on the Seattle trip, but I had quite a bit of the glorious Toots Le Blanc merino/angora yarn leftover and didn’t want to waste a yard, so while Leigh was regaling me with stories of her trip to Ireland as we drank lemonade and ate Irish bourbon chocolates on a sticky summer night, I worked back through the pattern to find a point where the increases would align so I could add another couple of cocoon rows. (I had to go all the way back to Row 78, in case you decide to do the same, to match up the peculiar scheme of increases. I worked Rows 78-89 over again before I knit the edging.) Two ridges of garter edging seemed a bit skimpy, and I still had yarn left. I thought I might as well add some nupps before the cast off, since they’re so adorable, and since my Addi Lace needles make me want to show off with nonchalant p7tog maneuvers.


And I still had some yarn left.


I started the bind-off during our book club meeting as we discussed Reading Lolita in Tehran (which we agreed was a disappointment, but did make us want to read or re-read the classic novels Nafisi mentions). I wasn’t too far in when I realized I was in trouble. Yes, I was running out of yarn. This has become a bit of a theme for me this year… I don’t know whether I’ve gotten over-confident or what. I already knew there wasn’t a lot in the stash that might blend well enough with the Toots Le Blanc to get me through the second half of the bind-off. I looked anyway the next morning, when I had some light to really compare colors. Nope, nothing really close enough to do justice to such an elegant little piece of knitting. But Toots Le Blanc is run out of Hillsboro, OR, just over the West Hills. Maybe I could beseech them to clip me just a few yards of Fawn merino/angora? I wrote them an e-mail.

The following day I had two messages back, one from each of the owners, saying that they did often have mill ends and would check right away. In no time I had confirmation from Michele that she had a few spare yards of Fawn and could pop them in the mail to me or hand them off in person on her return from a business trip. So we arranged to meet in a Starbucks parking lot. She pulled up with her minivan stuffed to the gills with bags of beautiful piebald Jacob fleece, and we quickly skeined off enough of the merino/angora for me to finish my little shawl.


So I was able to finish comfortably, and now I’ve popped the luscious little thing into a Eucalan bath so it can bloom to full bunnycrack goodness. (I won’t block it very aggressively, as I’m quite fond of the three-dimensional character of the cocoons.) Just one more reason to seek out a great little local company, folks! Toots Le Blanc really went the extra mile for me, and I couldn’t be more in love with their product. I’d love to have the budget for enough of the merino/angora for one of the big shawls in Nancy Bush’s Estonian lace book, but for the time being I’ll hope to try Toots’s Blue-Face Leicester/Pygora laceweight, which could yield a small shawl for $30. So go forth and knit local—you never know when it’s going to save your bacon!

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.