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July 29, 2006


Things I have learned in the very recent past:

1) It is possible to plan and knit a Fair Isle sweater on in five days when up against a deadline. It isn't much fun (in fact, it bears a marked resemblance to Sisyphean torture), but it is possible.

2) Life goes on in those five days - after all, there's the office to go to, dinner to be cooked, laundry to be done. Necessities of money and food and habiliment can be managed, somehow, but all the rest falls away. Thoughts, worries, itchy niggling descisions about the sweater - not the sweater, The Sweater - loom ever-present during all daily activities. As a result, those five days are only remembered as a blur, a sort of black hole of knitting, forever collapsing inwards. No real recollection survives.

3) Because The Sweater takes on such disproportionate importance, little things are magnified and distorted, as though reflected in a spoon or viewed through a fish-eye lens. Steeks become a thing of monstrous prettiness, too lovely to cut:

And successful wrangling with the problems of bulkless, hemmed slit cuffs and passably matched sleeve cap stripes cause tears of relief.

No, I haven't gone off the deep end - but it's definitely a strange thing for a piece of knitting to become so...well...consuming. It's a sweet, modern Fair Isle in an allover brocade pattern for the winter Interweave - the antithesis of bulky, droopy, baggy Fair Isles (wondrously beautiful though they may be). It would look great with a trumpet skirt and riding boots, tweedy trousers and loafers, a denim skirt and ballet flats. I can't wait for it to come out and for you to see the whole thing - I'm really proud of it.

Back to real life now - back to a mountain of email and backed-up projects and patterns. Sisyphean, too, in its own way, but at least it's familiar.


I've been spinning a little, here and there - I tried out Jacquard dyes on some glorious Bombyx top:

I was going for a sort of subtly tonal effect, but I think my dyebath was way too acidic - I poured the dye on, and the silk drank it up right away where it struck, leaving none to disperse through the water. It's spinning up prettily, though:

So far, I'm just trying to get a feel for it - I bought it for an absolutely phenomenal price, and don't feel bad about waste. Silk is hard to spin - the pre-drafted top is so fluffy it catches on wrinkles and callouses I didn't know I had, no matter how much talcum powder I rub my hands with, but leaving it in its compact state makes it impossible to spin. Then, too, it takes a lot more twist than I expected it to - the high-speed whorls and bobbins I ordered haven't come in yet, so I've got the braking on the bobbin so light it barely turns, and I'm treadling so fast I feel like I'll take off. And it still feels undertwisted. It's such a pleasure to handle and admire, though - the luster of the silk shows beautifully in the places that did get enough twist - it's a soothing sort of challenge.

I've been working slowly on some Merino/Tussah top I bought at Sheep and Wool, too:

It was originally a shockingly pink color, streaked with the white of the bleached silk - I overdyed it with blue, which left it a more muted blend of purples running to deep raspberries. Nice for lace, maybe, someday.

And then, the wonderful Amie gave me the most wonderful present a beginning spinner could hope for - samples of all kinds of delicious things.

There's Ashland Bay and Polworth wools, linen and cotton, Suri Alpaca, Quiviut, and a fluffy ball of wispy angora. Thank you!

July 16, 2006


The weekend's project: 500 yards of Shetland laceweight-ish 2-ply. My first "big" spinning project - the last of the Shaela grey Shetland top from Sheep & Wool, dyed in diffuse emeralds and violets and spun quickly, hungrily. The colors in the plied yarn are deep and cool, overwhelmingly green at first glance but slipping here and there into the gloomy purple shade seen in an old-growth forest. It makes me think of kelp forests stretching towards the far-away sun, floating nori nets, dulse and wrack clinging to wet rocks - in honor of the last, I think this will become large-gauge lace in a very open, geometric pattern loosely evoking seaweed and waves, maybe with some more yarn spun for a deep, luxurious fringe. You know, the sort of thing a wistful selkie might wrap herself in to walk along the water, dreaming of going home.

As top:

And as singles:

I love the way the singles look, though I felt they were a little bright for use on their own.


Don't worry - I still knit, really.

I adore this little swatch with my whole heart - I love heavy texture and fine detail. I was fooling around with linen stitch (with linen yarn, of course, yuk yuk), and came up with this faux-herringbone variation. It creates a slightly stiff fabric with a wonderfully crisp hand, that still manages to be quite light and airy on the right size needles - perfect for a seriously tailored, seriously flirty summer jacket.

I've been a little obsessed with stand-up collars lately, particularly those that aren't an applied neckband but rather are extensions of the front pieces. They flare gently away from a low closure - somewhere just above the bust - and stand a little away from the skin to frame the throat in the prettiest way. This fabric, finished with a wide rolled hem, will be absolutely perfect in a sunny, wear-me-with-shorts sort of way. I have needles, I have hanks of Euroflax pre-washed and dried, I have these wonderful antique leather-covered buttons - ready, set, go!

Almost Argyles

I'm proofing the pattern tonight - glad there's been such an interest!

July 14, 2006

Punch Drunk

I feel a little intoxicated. I am making yarn.

Adventures in 2-ply:

and 3:

I have absolutely no use, of course, for hideous red-and-grey or brown-and-pink jumperweight, but it was helpful in seeing just how this whole twist-untwist thing happens to the single as plying happens. The 2-ply was plied with no tenstion on the singles at all, and no adjustments to the wheel - I used my fingers to spread the threads, and they just ran through freely as the wheel did all the work. The result is soft and squishy, and very well balanced - of course, it's also very uneven because of the imperfect singles.

I don't stash yarn, ever, but I see, all too clearly, how fiber stashing could happen very, very quickly. I'm living in this sweet delirium of roving and top, drunk on possibilities of blending and mixing, wanting a boxful - a roomful - a houseful - to pick and choose from and play with. I want to pull brightly contrasting colors together off a comb for a chunky striped top; to ply three very subtly different shades of the same color together; to make tweedy yarn (how do you do that? Quick, someone tell me!); to try wool from every breed of sheep under the big blessed sun. And then there's dyeing - I want to try making roving with subtle color progressions and see what happens when you ply several singles of it together, I want to hot-pour for deep, diffuse highs and lows of color in lustrous silk, I want to dye almost-solid rovings and bright rainbow ones. I want to do all these things, and a million more, right this second.

Maybe feverish is the right word.

Two (almost) argyle socks:

If you're into subtlety and tiny little details, you'll appreciate these - the way the lines outlining diamonds and lines within diamonds never cross except in a very specific pattern, the way the moss stitch is worked out to lie centered inside even-numbered areas, the careful plotting to make the lines flow organically out of ribbing and into the heel:

After all, neatness counts.

Pattern closeups

Moss stitch diamonds, unstretched and on the foot:

Twisted rib diamonds, unstretched and on the foot:

Patterns: My own (coming this week!)
Yarn: Koigu Premium Merino, in colors1500 (teal) and 2343 (avocado)
Yardage: less than one 50 gram ball for each (about 150 yards per)
Yarn Source: Woolwinders
Needles: 2.75mm (US 2) Brittany birch DPNs
Gauge: 8 st/inch over stockinette stitch
Modifications: --

July 12, 2006


Through the stunned afternoon, when it's too hot to think
and the muse of this inland ocean still waits for a name,
and from the salt, dark room, the tight horizon line
catches nothing, I wait. Chairs sweat. paper crumples the floor.
A lizard gasps on the wall. The sea glares like zinc.
Then, in the door light: not Nike loosening her sandal,
but a girl slapping sand from her foot, one hand on the frame.

Walcott, Midsummer XXV

In the right mood, the prosaic looms mythic and immense.

Spinning is good for me, I think. The breathing, the rhythm, the tiny adjustments of hands or feet to maintain consistency, the ability to see with the fingers - improvement at these things seems to me to come from deep intimacy between producer and process and product, from long experience, from plain old practice. Less room for scholarship and pedantry; more for doing. I'm absolutely forbidding myself to go about this in the way I do everything else - no excessive treadle-counting or twist angle-checking for me - and instead, to try any and everything I can, avoiding freaking out about waste or imperfections and learning from the mistakes. Monumental, in its way.

When I first started thinking about buying a wheel (which happened with rather alarming speed after my very first encounter with a spindle), I decided that portability and versatility were my biggest priorities. As I did some research, though, it became clear that true portability necessarily comes at the expense of drive wheel size and, hence, versatility. At Maryland Sheep and Wool, at Spinning Day at The Mannings, I tried all kinds of wheels - nearly all the Ashfords, the adorable Merlin Hitchhiker, Louets, and lots of others. The Lendrum was high on my list for a long time - pretty portable, lots of ratios - but then I sat down at the Schacht.

I'm happy that it'll do everything I'll ever want to do, of course, but my reaction to it was a lot more visceral, more intuitive, than I expected. Everything about it is immensely appealing to me, on a level I can't quite explain - the sturdiness of the build, the heft of the wood, the way the flyer assembles, the responsiveness to the smallest adjustments. It feels precise, know what I mean? There's nothing crude about it - and on top of everything else, I think it's a great-looking piece of furniture.

So now, it's here, and I couldn't be more pleased (June, Amie, and Chris at Clover Hill all gave hugely valuable advice in this - thank you so much!).

I guess I'm not much used to extravagance - it must have gone to my head, since I went kind of crazy at the store today. I've got:

More bedtime reading than you can shake a stick at;

Luscious alpaca in a warm, naturally tweedy brown;

The most lustruous, softest, daintiest silk top you ever saw - I'm thinking of dyeing this in deep, tonal shades of blue and green for a shawl pattern I've been dreaming about;

And some Euroflax in this delicious melony color (curiously named terra cotta - not in my world, it isn't) for a pattern I'm anxious to start working out. Sketching and swatching tonight...that is, if I can tear myself away from the wheel for two or three minutes altogether.


There has been a little knitting around here - just a very little though, in the form of (gasp!) socks. Test-knitting, in fact, for a charming little set of patterns coming this week.


For the third time in as many weeks, some enterprising spammer has cleverly put my email into the "reply to" field of his messages. This spells annoyance for lots of people, I'm sure - not least for me, having gotten thousands of returned emails from bad addresses in the space of a few hours each time. If you've sent me an actual email in the past few days, it may very well have been thrown out with the mass junk deletions I've had to do - please do try again!

July 05, 2006

Twisted Stitch Sweater


A bright spot of color in a week of dreary grey. Who needs fireworks, after all?

Pattern: My own (pattern available someday)
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fine, in color 230 (Victorian Pink)
Yardage: 5 50 gram balls (about 1000 yards)
Yarn Source: Clover Hill Yarn Shop
Needles: 2.75mm (US 2) Crystal Palace bamboo circular needles
Gauge: 8 st/inch over ribbing
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project