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August 29, 2006

Momotaro's Revenge

That's some peach!

If you'll remember, the unspun top was a delicate affair of blushes and pallors and rosy cheeks. I called it peach-like . . . peach slurpees, maybe. Pretty, still, but a little more, ah, intense than what I was anticipating. Not engaging so much as electric.

I actually planned a method and a procedure this time for the much-coveted subtly changing marl: I split the bundle lengthwise into two halves, and then split each piece lengthwise again into several strips of varying thicknesses. The idea was that pieces of differing thicknesses would create color runs of varying lengths in the singles, and ensure an interesting plied yarn composed of randomly matched and mismatched plies. All this is well and good, but damn, yo.

I'm thinking now of plying the whole length with some soft, tweedy brown wool top I have - that might be kind of sophisticated and lovely. Or maybe I will just go ahead and ply it with itself, and see if it tones down any - or see if I love it the way it is, in all its who-needs-heliotropism-when-you're-brighter-than-the-freaking-sun-anyway glory. We'll see.

Laceweight

Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments on the Ocean Mist. I have an idea for a sinuous kind of lace rattling around in my brain - something fairly simple that uses half-dropped symmetry and some judiciously placed decreases to create flowing, undulating clustered fingers. I'm thinking a simple rectangular stole right now, clean and spare - seagrass stirred by a current, like. Unfussy.

Charting and swatching tonight, if I get a spare moment. Hopefully, I'll have something to show tomorrow, if only to prove that I don't just spin nowadays - I still do knit, really!

August 28, 2006

Ocean Mist Laceweight

And I was worried about the colors.

Closer...

Closest

I couldn't be more thrilled. It's exactly what I wanted - quiet, subtle marls that shift from color to color, with vivid spots here and there where the singles happen to match. The eye perceives a gentle neutral from a distance, but intimacy reveals a discreetly complex kind of energy, a whole secret life of hue and tone and shade. I love it.

Thank you to all those who provided suggestions on how to ply it in the last couple posts. I think I didn't quite express what I wanted - what I didn't want was long, unbroken sections of color that would stripe or pool when knitted. The sections of disparate colors in the singles were rather lengthy, and Navajo plying would certainly have produced a yarn composed mostly of solid sections. Instead, I just went for broke with a simple two-ply (crossing fingers and toes), and lucked out, I suppose. With the color, anyway - the spinning itself is terribly flawed, obviously an inconsistent novice's painful effort to make a first project work. The weight moves from cobweb to lace to fingering and back, there are slubs and bumps and odd tangly spots, some bits are weak and others are wiry and hard while overall both singles and finished yarn don't have as much twist as they should.

In spite of all those things, because of all those things, this hank feels very precious and dear. I can hardly wait for it to dry to knit with it - I'm planning lace, of course (I like two-plys for lace, imagining that their flatness and lack of density allow for more thorough dressing and consequently lovelier drape and cling on the body). Something special before the summer dies: self-indulgent me feels tides and sails and lazy, lingering sun in these colors, and a reminder of those things, a whiff of salt and sunburn, will be welcome when winter seems endless.

Fiber: Handpainted Merino Top from Mama-E's C*eye*ber Fiber Shop, in color "Ocean Mist"
Weight: 80 grams
Yardage: 930 yards/850 meters (~laceweight)
Other specs: Two-ply, singles spun from randomly selected sections.

August 26, 2006

Debauched

I think I have mentioned before that I don't stash yarn. Circumstances don't allow - I don't really have the room for unassigned yarn in my cramped office, much less spare cash for picking it up in the first place. Then, too, it's very often a yarn itself that suggests a project to me - the idea behind a new sweater grows out of some little nuance of color, of feel, of luster, some specific characteristic of a specific boughten yarn. Traffic doesn't seem to flow the other way in my brain, so it's not worth it to buy anything I don't have plans for right that minute.

So why am I binging on fiber? And I mean binging. More stuff than I can possibly spin in the near future, more stuff than I can possibly dream up ideas for.

There are also, I think, six or seven other things winging their way to my house as we speak from Amy Boogie's Almost Solid Series, Hello Yarn, and Handpainted Yarn. This is a somewhat troubling trend. It feels a little...decadent, you know?

The pictured tops are more things from Erin, purchased at last night's spinning group. The bottom picture is the Flame colorway (superwash Merino), and the upper is Merino in Blood Orange. It actually reminds me more of peaches - not real live eating peaches, precisely, but the vivid, heavenly boksung-ah of Korean folktales. You know, the kind of mysteriously medicinal peach that's always being presented by some beautiful immortal broad on a cloud to a poor-but-noble peasant boy full of filial devotion to his ailing father. Something like that.

Most of my recent purchases (excepting yesterday's stuff, obviously) have been the same sort of thing, melting tones within one color, or within one closely-related color family - I think between all my purchases, I've hit most of the color wheel. Right now, I am most interested in producing the kind of yarn shown here, by the wondrously talented Cara - randomly shifting barberpoles of almost-solid color. I love the way it looks in the hank and knitted up, love the interactivity it forces: it requires a sort of active engagement from the viewer, just to see and process the way the colors move and match and mismatch. Lovely, really beautiful stuff. I could see, for example, spinning two highly contrasting yarns in this way, and then using them in a simple two-color stranded pattern - the finished work would have the same kind of energy to it, would be complex and interesting and wonderful to look at and think about. In, say, browns and greys for knee socks with a simple Faroese-style geometric pattern...or rusty reds and golds in a modern lusekoft for October bike rides?

Erm...maybe I can justify it after all. I probably shouldn't have worried.

August 24, 2006

Struck

Remember that I, uh, bought a spinning wheel? Yeah, I'd forgotten too.

Almost, that is.

Last night, I sat down and spun for the first time in a couple weeks, thinking - Oh, I'll just spin for a minute or two. I've been busy with other things, I've been stressed-out and crazy, it'll be nice just to sit and go blank and make a little yarn.

Of course, I ended up staying rooted to the stool until the wee hours. I'm using this lovely stuff:

It's handpainted Merino top from Mama-E's c*eye*ber fiber warehouse, by way of Cloverhill Yarn (full disclosure: Erin is also a friend of mine), in the Ocean Mist colorway. I bought a braid at the last convening of our spinning group, back in July - the colors were so arresting, so exactly my speed. The first go-round, I spun straight from the only-slightly-attenuated wad, and ended up with a somewhat muddy, sort of disappointing heather, when I'd been looking for subdued-but-distinctly-colored singles to make a plied yarn with shifting marled colors. Depressing.

Last night, I did it the right way - split the top lengthwise into skinny sections, pre-drafted each section carefully, took my time with the spinning - and was rendered breathless by the resulting yarn.

Here's the stuff I'd imagined, only better. The tawny sections have run into copper and fawn and even a little bit of sagey green, punctuated here and there by sections of brilliantly deep, deeply brilliant blue. It reminds me of ponds and river mouths along the Bay, of that peculiar kind of deceptively flat water that changes hugely in character with every tide, that never quite decides on freshwater or salt. Endlessly interesting, to me at least.

It's thin, too (not precisely by design), oh my good gracious it's thin: I think might make something just a little thicker than Merino Oro or Skacel Lace at a 2-ply (those yarns are about 1350 meters to 100 grams). My question is, at that grist, will I lose those lovely colors with plying? I'm not talking about a stripey finished yarn that more or less matches up color changes between singles - I want a randomly shifting barberpole, where colors between plies will occasionally match to create short runs of vivid color in a mostly heathery background. I'm planning on lace, obviously, an oceany stole, and I'm comfortable with the eye assuming a solid color from a distance. I kind of like the idea, though, that the yarn will reveal secrets of color and hue at intimate removes - the Chuck Close of yarn, if you will, which you might not, but hopefully you'll indulge me - but everything's more or less the same in value, and I'm worried that these lovely colors won't do that at all, that they'll in fact be wasted in a poorly-designed yarn that doesn't suit them at all. (I'm also worried that I'm becoming the queen of run-on sentences. But that's for a different day).

Thoughts? Experiences?

Arrowhead Pullover

I'm completely bowled over by the wonderful response to such an unassuming little sweater. I think it'll get a lot of wear this fall - clean, simple and sweet. Lace without fussiness - just my style.

Some questions:

Evelyn asked: Do you have any advice on seaming lacy items? Do you plan out a few extra selvedge stitches?

I did use one plain stitch at the edge, but could have used two - one for the selvedge, and one to create a neat straight edge along the seam. A second stitch would have given some support to the edge during seaming - lace fabric is, of course, open and floppy, and it's a nightmare to sew alongside YOs and decreases and keep the seam puckerless and yet without gaps.

Then again, that plain stitch on the right side might have created an ugly inturruption to the lace pattern, and to the new patterns created wherever partial repeats meet at the seams. Food for thought.

Maureen asked: Did you block it?

I did indeed, in pieces. The lace was ugly, of course, before a thorough soaking and pinning (crumply and bubbly and nipply, as unblocked lace usually is), and it would have been awful to sew in that state, anyway. After assembly, I pressed the seams flat as well - and steamed the collar to encourage the ribbing to open up a little.

Knitting, Speed of and Hours for

There seems to be a persistent belief that I have hours upon hours to do nothing but knit :) It always cracks me up a little when people say that - I work full-time on non-knitting stuff, I go to class, I cook, I clean, I work out, I hang out, I go to ballgames, I kill kegs. In other words, like every knitblogger, I wish I had uninterrupted hours to knit.

Although I do suppose I knit all day long in a way - I always have whatever I'm working on with me, in my purse or on my desk or in my laptop bag. I'm not one of those people you see knitting during lectures or in nice restaurants or at parties (I've never understood feeling like you MUST KNIT EVERY! POSSIBLE! SECOND!), but I am that girl knitting a row waiting at the crosswalk, doing research, waiting for coals to ash over. I hardly ever "just knit" - the only times I do, really, are at knit night twice a month - but I do like to snatch appropriate moments, and multi-task whenever I can. Reading? I'm knitting, for sure. Watching TV? I'm knitting. And so on. I guess the thing is that I don't relegate only totable things for those moments: I work on everything, any chance I get, so a lot of progress is made in not a lot of time. I suppose I do knit at a pretty good pace (about 75-80 stitches a minute in plain stockinette - knock a little off for stranded colorwork, knock a lot off for cables or lace or intarsia), but I really think the secret is in being able to pick up your knitting and work a row, a few stitches, without spending precious minutes finding your place. I talked a little bit about this a few months ago: check it out.

All this is not to say, of course, that I don't spend hours upon hours thinking about knitting. If only!

August 23, 2006

Arrowhead Pullover

Add a hat, gloves, and a chignon and a girl with her living to get could meet with the approval of Poirot himself.

I had no idea how much fabric shawl collars take - right now, there's just enough in the way of short rows to allow a tiny, rather Peter Pannish rollover. I think I like it that way right now - very soft and delicate - though I might rip and add more if it starts to feel too twee as fall moves in. Otherwise, I'm enormously pleased with this, with the economy of it: the economy of the stitch, a very simple, very effective lace that makes the most of a few holes and a few decreases; the economy of the design, exactly what's needed and nothing more, with construction elements - shaped edges meeting at seams (check out the second photo), strong verticals separating repeats - becoming ornaments as well; the literal economy of the project, at $17.00 including tax for all the materials. There is history here, apart from the obvious, a tinge of tradition to all those things. I think this is why I knit.

Pattern: My own (pattern available someday - no timeline promises just now)
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fine, in colors CW380 (dusty sage)
Yardage: 4 50 gram balls (about 800 yards)
Yarn Source: Woodland Woolworks
Needles: 2.5mm Addi Turbo circulars and 2.75mm (US 2) Inox Grey circulars
Gauge: 6.5 sts/inch over lace pattern
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project

August 17, 2006

Sweet

There hasn't been much actual knitting around here. I've been busy writing patterns (something I always dread - I'm a champion note-taker, but I also seem to excel at inventing new systems of shorthand, none of which make any sense an hour later), working on the books, planning a fun new technique series, and doing, oh, one or two non-knitting things besides. I've been working here and there on another simple little sweater:

Fair or not, I tend to draw a distinction between "plain" knits and those that are, well, unplain. "Plain" knits are ones that require only gauge swatch, a sketch and a calculator to plan - variables of fabric and edging and neckline are as easily swapped in and out as Lego bricks in a sweater that follows the usual pattern (in fact, too many books to count tell you exactly how to go about it). Unplain knits are anything beyond: tricky or unusual constructions, most of the time. Plain sweaters may be quite complex-looking - I'd put many Fair Isles and Norwegians in this category, along with Arans and other textured sweaters - "plain" just refers to the way the sweater is built. If the garment is going to be knit in the usual way, if the process is predictable, it's not harnessing the sun to drop in stitch patterns and the like, fussing here and there with the math to make it all work.

Unplain knitting is a pleasurable sort of challenge, but right now I seem to be avoiding it. It might be the only thing my frazzled brain can take right now, it might just be that I'm lazy, but plain knitting attracts me mightily lately. For one thing, once a few key numbers are established, you can just start knitting, doing the rest of the math - side, arm and neck shaping, for example - on the needles, rather than needing to plan everything before beginning. And besides, it's satisfying in its own right - there is a lot of pleasure to be had in making every humble little detail correct.

So anyway, it's a lacy little sweater in a dull mint shade of Brown Sheep Cotton Fine ( < $5.00/ball, woot!), worked in a variation of the traditional arrowhead motif.

I'm thinking half-sleeves with deep ribbing and a delicate shawl collar (as delicate as shawl collars can be, anyway). I'm going for Interbellum office girl - scrubbed-clean, competent, secretly dreaming of elegance, attaining it, a little, in small ways. Happily, the way the junction of lace and rib was planned couldn't be more Deco:

Sometimes, from some angles, I fancy that it (independent of its knitter) picked up a hint of L'Oasis. Which humbles me, indeed.

August 13, 2006

Striped Cardigan

The basic black of knitting, except not at all. Is there such a thing as basic barrier island?

I'm so pleased with the details on this one - when simplicity's the thing, details become paramount. So things like perfectly matched thread for almost-invisible buttonhole reinforcement, handmade wooden buttons on thread shanks, doubled neck and button bands for stability, and the discovery of the perfect puckerless bind-off for hems (the modified standard bind-off I described in the fall IK lace piece, with a YO after every other stitch) feel very good indeed.

Pattern: My own (if you can call it that, which I doubt)
Yarn: Phildar Crochet, in colors 0004 (atoll) and 0001 (beige)
Yardage: 4 50 gram balls (about 1000 yards) atoll, 1.25 50 gram balls (about 250 yards) beige
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 2.75mm (US 2) Inox Grey circulars and 3.00mm Inox Grey circulars
Gauge: 7 stitches/inch
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project

It was a good week. Back to work!

August 05, 2006

Lazy

It's the little things, you see.

Matching stripes across set-in sleeves is getting to be a bit of a fetish for me. The math to figure it out is straightforward enough, but there's still that moment of pleased suprise - adding up hypotenuses is never as exciting as matching the finished cap and armscye up and finding that they work, they actually work. Almost as though they were, you know, meant for each other.

The yarn is Phildar Crochet, a soft, skinny cotton 3-ply. It's not mercerized, and it's rather loosely spun - wonderfully lightweight and summery, but prone to pilling, even at the close gauge I'm working. Ah, well.

I'm headed to the beach for a week of sandcastles, steamed crabs and sunburn - and piles of work, work, work. I'll have wireless access there, so see you then!

August 02, 2006

Etude

Just for fun, you see:

I have a handful of "big" projects lingering in various stages of dream and doodle and development - by big, I mean those that require lots of thinking, that demand a little creativity - but right now, all I want is some plain, no-brainer knitting and a pretty finished object. So, then, a summer cardigan in soft crochet cotton. You know the kind: a slightly cropped, clingy thing ideal for breezy boats and roofdecks. There is nothing original about this whatsoever - it's a chopshop kind of pattern, plain ribbing at the bottom, button bands and crewneck, shaping as standard and straightforward as can be at body, armscye and sleeve cap - but it's kind of zen and soothing in its simplicity, ideal for these lazy days. Then, too, it's an excellent exercise for a sometimes over-ambitious knitter to take, since there are no frills, no bits of cleverness to hide flawed execution or bad planning. It's the steak tartare of knitting: naked, accented by only the humblest of embellishments, plainly awful when slipshod but immensely satisfying when done properly.

The colors are bright, yes, but I figure it's a summer sweater meant for the beach. Besides, how often does one find yarn and swimsuits that match perfectly?

Who could argue with that?



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