October 14, 2005

Smile like you mean it

Now this is interesting (provided, of course, that by "Now" you mean "No one in the entire world but Eunny Jang will think").

This is one of the links that shows up regularly in these AdSense boxes I'm testdriving. They handknit and sell sweaters using "traditional clan patterns" traced from your last name. Like, if your name is Ó Caomhánaigh (or, you know, Cavanaugh), you'll receive a sweater patterned with honeycomb for work and cables for good luck.

It's a beautiful sweater - but I thought it was well-established that the Aran sweater as we know it had nothing to do with family crests, ancient symbols or identifying dead fishermen washed up an shore. The Aran sweater - drop-shouldered, saddle-strapped, and patterned in a symmetrical fashion with any number of textured stitches - is a commercial product of this century, born with the arrival of big fishing outfits and tourism to the Isles. The Scottish gansey, with its utilitarian gussets and quick-knit construction, is a traditional fisherman's garment, but the Aran is purely an item for export. The motifs have no traceable meaning or symbolism; Alice Starmore even goes so far as to say that most of the "traditional" textured stitches we know were made up over a period of years by one woman whose name has been lost to time.

The idea of an ancient homespun tradition is mighty appealing, though, especially when combined with the thought of discovering a heritage you may not have known you had. This company (which seems to have a pretty big footprint in the economy of the Aran Islands) has certainly done its research. They know exactly what your average baby boomer American tourist wants to hear. They make wonderful things - and I bet they do a bang-up business selling them.

Don't you just love it when you go to pull out the center end of a new skein, and this happens?

I really think it's my favorite part of knitting. I can't decide what I like best about it - the tangled ends, the snarled center, the inability to transport the's awesome, really.

The sweater jacket is moving a bit faster now:

I finished both back sides and knit across them to join, and am at the first few increases. It's hard to get a sense of scale in a picture, but it looks...curiously tiny. It's been pinned to meaurements for the photo, but it looks like doll clothing. I don't know if it's a function of the pattern, or the shape, or what, but hey - if it looks the same way on me, that'll be a good thing, right?

I leave you with this - a booklet published by the Chungsong company, promoting their cotton crochet thread. It doesn't contain patterns, but instead just has pictures of the things you could make, I guess, if you bought their yarn. It's mostly stuff like badly photographed and utterly irony-less antimacassars and doilies, but the cover shot is worth note:

Knitting as art therapy for the deeply, deeply insane.

October 13, 2005

Pull this thread

Only a little bit to report on today: the sweater jacket is progressing, very slowly. I'm working the pattern out as I go, and keep running up against miscalculations and construction conundrums.

This is the right side of the back. The wonky bit in the center is the line along which decreases are being made, in this fashion:

It looks much better in real life; less like I screwed up with the Fair Isle and more like a piece of patterned fabric that has been cut and seamed, matching the pattern. Which is precisely why I wanted to do the shaping along tailoring lines in the first place.

Kate asked about the yarn - my mom brought it back as a gift on her last trip to Korea. It is sport or DK-weight virgin merino, in a chocolatey brown and a very pale cream-grey beige. The label is a bit mystifying:

I can't tell if "Fine Wool" is a brand or a generic descriptor; the Hangul at the bottom of the first picture just spells "Pa-Een Ool", or "Fine Wool" transliterated to Korean ears. So then, is "NY Wool" the brand? Or "Textiles Vertrauen?" And how many yards are in 100grams, anyway, like 200 yards or so? Ehhhh.

It does seem like a very high-quality yarn; it's wondrous soft, evenly spun, and has had no defects I've come across. I don't think it's highly processed to feel that way, either - it has a marked tendency to felt, to the point that I feel it happening a little as I knit it up. I know a lot of Shetland wools will do so, but I've never actually had it happen before. Should have made this sweater with those crazy no-sew steeks, heh.

Postscript - Sorry about the ads, guys. I'm just trying a couple things out; they might not be permanent. Quick headcount - do they bother you or make reading the blog irritating?

Post Postscript - Do you know anyone who appears to gain a lot of nourishment from self-created drama and loudly proclaimed martyrdom; who actually seems to draw life from manufactured angst and until he becomes a monstrous, self-parodying caricature buoyed up by nothing more than his own bloat and the backs of bystanders steamrolled into taking part in whatever that day's ridiculous emotional distress happens to be? And then has the nerve to be vain about it? Uh, not that I do, or anything.

October 12, 2005


A Play In Two Acts

Cast of Characters

The Baby Fair Isle------A shower gift.
The Circular Shrug-----An experiment.
Dad's Gansey----------The martyr.
The Lace Scarf---------The lucky one.
Martha---------------The good girl.
The Rib and Cable Sock-A filler.
The Striped Sock-------A second filler.
The Sweater Jacket-----The vixen.
Eunny----------------------The narrator.

Act The First

(Lights come up)

Eunny: There are things I ought to be knitting. There's the shower gift for January, the one that started fine but looked all wonky and had to be restarted.

(enter The Baby Fair Isle)

There's sweet, lovely Martha, who I loved briefly and then chucked without a tear or a kind word.

(enter Martha, the Good Girl)

And there's Dad's gansey - the long-suffering sweater for my sainted father, the WIP who's patiently borne my indiscretions and my straying ways, the one I'll come back to, the only one that means anything to me.

(enter The Martyr)

Act The Second

(Lights come up, this time in lurid red)

Eunny: Then there are the temptations, the things I want to knit, the things I covet and dream about and creep out doors at midnight to rendezvous with in seedy bars and nightclubs. The ones for whom I duck into yarn stores, the ones for whom I buy presents of materials, the ones I lavish time and attention on - the bright moths that captivate and then disappear, having flown too close to the flame.

I'm going to rip out that shrug and start again. It gives me no grief, no pause - after all, it's just an experiment, right?

(enter The Shrug)

And the socks - who cares? I'll knit them when I feel like it. They're just socks, a dime a dozen, they don't mean anything.

(enter The Socks)

That lace scarf? I'm done with her. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Already forgotten; she was beautiful, but she was shallow and cold.

(The Lace Scarf enters, but remains at far stage right)

I've moved on.

(enter the Sweater Jacket)

I give up. I've tried and tried to reign myself in, but I just can't seem to control my appetites. I embrace my profligacy; I welcome licentiousness. Monogamy is for suckers.

October 10, 2005

Business as usual

Thank you so much for all the sweet, thoughtful comments on the USMP. You guys make me blush.

On to pattern notes, and questions about the sweater -

Yarn substitution is a big issue with this garment; the Plassard alpaca called for isn't widely available on this side of the pond. Frog Tree Alpaca, Knitpicks Alpaca cloud, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, and some singularly gorgeous handspun have all been spotted over at the knitalong, but I am deliriously in love with the Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca I used. It's a fingering-weight 100% alpaca yarn that manages to be really rather all-around decadent and reasonably priced at the same time (poor man's cashmere, indeed). It even comes in an enormous palette of beautiful, sophisticated colors to boot. Four and a half skeins (about 900 yards) of main color and most of one skein (about 150 yards) of contrast color went into the smallest size.

On 3.25mm (US3) needles and a gauge of 7 stitches to the inch, it took exactly two weeks from caston to weaving in the last end. Therein lies a huge part of the appeal of this garment - though the shaping is fresh and architectural and unusual, the knitting itself couldn't be simpler (plain stockinette, done almost entirely in the round). The payoff is exponential to the amount of effort put in.

Pattern mods - I modified the bell sleeves to 10 stitches (about an inch and a half) smaller in circumference - it made a big difference. I also worked the sleeves a little differently than called for - I worked the short-row cuff as written; then decreased 1 stitch at each end of the round on every 19th row 5 times to give an even flare to the sleeve, starting about halfway down the forearm. The way the pattern is written, the sleeves are knit to measurements rather than row counts - I think I took about one inch off the total length.

Blocking - though I covet a blocking board with the lust of a thousand nuns, I'm still blocking on the guest bed mattress. I wet-blocked, squeezed out excess water, and pinned carefully, matching stitch for stitch and checking with a big T-square.

With all that said - I want to keep this! < /three year old >

Back to business as usual around here - we went to see The Corpse Bride tonight (it looked spectacular, of course...but I think Tim Burton's starting to mistake creepiness for whimsy and forgetting to put his tongue in his cheek). The rainy weekend we had seems to have ushered in fall proper - it's getting so a little something at the throat would be welcome. I've started a scarf with the leftover white alpaca, using the lace pattern from the Kimono Scarf and a simple garter stitch border:

and I'm ready to start on a new project (that will be mine! MINE! Muahahah!) - the sweater jacket, re-imagined:

In playing with the Korean merino, it turns out that fair isle produces a marvelously smooth, sturdy fabric.

I think I'll do this little jacket as a nipped-waist type thing, patterned brocade-style with a very simple light-color lattice over a dark brown background. I'm thinking princess shaping; I'm thinking seamstress detailing; I'm thinking I need to start right. This. Second.

October 05, 2005

Todos Sobre Mi Madre

Bless her. I went to pick her up from the airport yesterday, and managed to go from this:

to this:

while waiting for the ice caps to melt, for the sun to go out, and for her to clear customs.

I guess I attracted a lot of attention, doing the knitting-while-standing thing with my eyes fixed on a book propped on the rail in front of me, needles pointing in every direction and the yarn ball looped over my wrist. A lot of people came over to strike up conversations (I'm making a sweater for my pet boa); one broad just started fondling the fabric and flipping through the pattern magazine without a word (Gahh! Are your hands clean?); and one woman looked at the porcupine in my hands, decided I looked clumsy and not to be trusted, and hustled her kids away (I should have worn safety goggles).

Bless my mama, too, for the lovely suprise she brought me:

100% virgin merino from Korea, in a deep chocolate and a greyish beige. She bought eight skeins of each, still wrapped in their factory bags. Unfortunately, the labels say only that they're 100 gram skeins of "D4" weight new wool and give washing instructions - no yardage or US weight. Undaunted, I played with them a bit this morning, and found that they knit up beautifully on a 3.5mm (US4) needle to 5.5 stitches and 8 rows per inch:

and that both colors felt marvelously.

The question is, what should I make with them? Gloves? Mittens?

I do have an idea I've been mulling over, for which the chocolate merino would be perfect -

A structured sweater jacket, with an inverted back pleat to give it shape, a self-belt, big covered buttons, a wide shawl collar, slightly belled sleeves, and same-shade lace peeping out at cuff, hem, and neckline. I was thinking of this in a tweedy brown wool, but this new stuff would be mighty tasty, too. The grey wool might be nice for showing off cables.

Unfortunately, I have infinitely more ideas than I have time to execute them, and way too many WIPs as it is. I guess I'll finish the USMP, and then decide what to do.

Here's the motif of the circular shrug:

And a shot of the other little giftie my mom sweetly brought me:

Post Script - Using the highly scientific and technically infallible method of "First Come First Served," I'm going to send the Trinity sweater to Eastern White, whose blog is compulsively readable indeed. Email me!

Post Post Script - a lot of people find this blog by Googling my name; it's a little creepy, I guess, especially when the IP gives me an idea of who they are and wonder why on earth they would look me up, but no biggie. More and more people are finding this blog by Googling knitting terms and the names of projects I've done, which is really cool. But who is the person finding this blog by Googling "tall women clips", and how did it bring them here?





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