Ishbel, now with nupps!

Published on Monday June 22nd, 2009

Let’s say you have a good friend from Estonia, and you want to knit something quick and lovely for her birthday. You see this on another friend’s blog, and you know your birthday girl likes Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, and she looks great in all shades of green…

But as you’re approaching the bind off (and running out of yarn two rows short of the goal… luckily there was still more of the Bronzed Green at The Knitting Bee), you realize something is missing. Ishbel is gorgeous as written. But you can’t knit a shawl for an Estonian girl without nupps, can you? And wouldn’t that bind off edge look fetching with little yarn pearls accentuating the points?

Ah, that’s it. If you’d like to nuppify the edge of your own Ishbel (and who isn’t knitting one of these? They’re like the potato chips of shawl knitting!), here’s how to do it: On the last RS row, k1; k into next stitch (but don’t slip it off the left needle)-yo-k1-yo-k1 all very loosely into that same stitch; work to the stitch between yarnovers and repeat the k1-yo-k1-yo-k1 into that stitch; repeat in every following stitch between yarnovers and in second to last stitch. During the purl-side bind off, purl the 5 nupp stitches together whenever you meet them, being careful not to involve the natural yo on the far side of the group. Since this is a p2tog-replace resulting st on left needle-p2tog again bind off, you’ll actually be purling six stitches together, but this is not difficult if you’ve made the nupp nice and loose. I accomplished it with an Addi Turbo, the world’s bluntest and slipperiest needle. I blocked Ishbel without any pins and found the Silky Wool was happy to show off her lace pattern with just a gentle smoothing. I pinched the nupps and tugged on them gently to make them stand proud to the RS and to highlight the scalloped edge.

There’s only one problem: now I want nupps on the edges of practically everything. Expect to see this treatment appearing in future Blue Garter designs…

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.

Wrapping up

Published on Sunday June 1st, 2008

Epic Lace Knit 2007-2008 has drawn to a close, and I think I’ve dragged the coverage out just about long enough. The fat lady has sung: the bride warmed her shoulders with her lilac lace during the wedding supper, and called it the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen and required that everyone admire it during her speech of welcome on the dance floor. That’ll do for me! So let’s say our goodbyes to the Mediterranean Ivy Lace:

I have the prettiest new sister ever, don’t I?

Final specs:

Mediterranean Lace by Maureen Egan Emlet, from A Gathering of Lace

Modified as a rectangular stole by working the ivy lace chart for the “wings” only, 16 repetitions. If you’re planning to knit this, note that 17 reps would have been a better number for picking up multiples of 42 sts for the edging. I would have run out of yarn, though. Speaking of yarn:

Most of 3 skeins (~1500 yards) ArtYarns Cashmere 1, in a color I call Pale Lilac. It isn’t listed on their website anymore, so it may be discontinued.

US#2 Addi Lacepoints for the body; US#0 regular blunt Addis, 48″, for the edging. Curse their stumpiness. I’d rather be cast into Tartarus than pick up 1200 stitches with them again.

Cast on in August 2007; finished in May 2008. I could’ve produced a baby in that time, folks. (And honestly, Marika would have been just as excited. But it wouldn’t have been as soft and pretty, and now I can sleep at night besides!)

So what’s next? I’ve just started the lace portion of my Indigo Ripples skirt. I think I’m going to like the fit a lot – I lengthened the stockinet upper part by a couple of inches for modesty, as I want to be able to wear this thing to school without scandalizing my colleagues or scarring the children. And yesterday I basted together my quilt sandwich and began hand quilting it. I’m going to do a mixture of hand quilting around some of the large flowers and machine quilting long vertical lines as given in the instructions. We’ll see how it turns out! But I’ve had to put the crafting on hold today. I’m blogging while I watch the conclusion of the Giro d’Italia, but then I need to get back to my major task of the weekend: I’m the faculty reader for a young man who has produced a 480-page historical fiction/biography entitled Aeneas of Rome as his graduation project. That’s graduation from the eighth grade, you understand. He’s been working with a classical scholar and a college English professor. The chapters open with quotes in Latin and Greek, with his own translations. The kid is going places. But he has to present his work to the faculty for review on Tuesday, so I’ve got my work cut out for me!

I drink from the keg of glory

Published on Monday May 19th, 2008

5.18.08 5:58pm: Endless crochet bind-off row ENDED! This post made possible by play-off hockey, the prolonged human interest stories leading up to the Preakness Stakes, Master and Commander, the Giro d’Italia, a couple of rides on the MAX train while hunting wedding presents for my brother (who isn’t getting a lace stole), and Shakespeare in Love. I plumb forgot to call my parents on their 34th anniversary. But in case you missed the ice-cold reward:

Hendrick’s gin and tonic with hefty spears of cucumber = best summer drink ever.

My nemesis is now pinned to the carpet in an empty house (awaiting remodel to become classrooms) at school, safe from the predations of Mingus the cat and Lark the puppy. We’ve gone from this:

… to this:

Somebody bring me the finest muffins and bagels in the land.