Pangea: My First Lace Shawl Design (KAL Preview)

I’ve finished knitting up Pangea, my first lace shawl design. I bound off on Thursday, and my friend Chris helped my do the blocking on Friday. As soon as the yarn from Curious Creek arrives so Chris can start test knitting, I’ll begin posting the pattern as a KAL. Chris will stay a step or two ahead of the published pattern—that way, if I’ve made mistakes in writing up the steps, I’ll only tick her off and not a whole crew of knitters.

Here’s the shawl on Thursday afternoon, pre-blocking:
The shawl, draped

And here it is all pinned out on Friday:
The shawl, blocked

This yarn in this particular coloway (Silk Noil and Shetland Lamswool in Melgund from Simply Shetland) is just a nightmare to photograph. In real life, it’s a lovely creamed spinach shade (yes, I’m using lovely and creamed spinach in the same sentence). On film it washes out to a grubby grey-green that doesn’t begin to do it justice. Wearing it makes me feel like a forest nymph, draped in soft mosses. In case you’re more of a river nymph type, don’t worry: Chris will be knitting up the individual steps in a delicious, watery blue, so you’ll have two very different color options to consider.

The hardest—and most delightful—part of designing this project was deciding how to transition from one stitch to another. I had fun playing with shortened/lengthened/widened versions of one stitch as a segue into the next. My goal was to have a series of stitches that were each distinct, but that didn’t separate out along a fixed, hard line when one looked at them. (Now I’m toying with ideas for a very hard-line shawl, but that’s still in the incubation stage.) The hardest bit of knitting this project was the last nine rows, which are true lace, with the pattern knit in on both right side and wrong side rows—definitely neither bed-time knitting nor knitting to drink wine by.

Once the KAL gets going, I hope you’ll enjoy this project as much as I have. Meanwhile, I’m toting the shawl about with me, petting it during breaks between my various work and home chores, and forcing all my non-knitting friends to admire it.


No doubt Damian is due all the credit—we must have had some kind of kitty magic on the box. After all, he can run like the wind; so wouldn’t he be able to transfer a wee bit of his velocity onto our dishrag parcel?

Team Deuces Wild has officially won Dishrag Tag this year! We are a happy bunch.

Tuesday Mewsday: Dishrag Tag Edition

I haven’t written much about Dishrag Tag this year. One reason for that is that I was assigned to the anchor leg for my team, so I knew it would be a long time until the box came my way.

Well, the box did arrive on Saturday afternoon and I was lucky enough to have a small break in the start-of-the-year whirlwind at work, so I dropped everything and knit like a madwoman. I finished that dishrag in one hour and forty-five minutes! Unfortunately, I started knitting at 1:00 and the local post office closes at 2:00 on Saturday. So there my dishrag sat, all dressed up and no place to go. Damian kept it company.
Damian guards the box until it can be mailed

Monday morning I was leading scoring of writing placement tests for our incoming frosh, so Melissa steeped into the breech and made sure the box was at the post office when the doors opened at 9:00.
The box arrives at the post office

My team this year is in contention—let’s hope the USPS is kind to us!

Art Talk: Roadworks and “Open Season”

Sarah-Hope has asked me if I would write an occasional blog entry about art. This past weekend I took part in Roadworks at the San Francisco Center for the Book, so now is a perfect time to write my first Art Talk entry.

The San Francisco Center for the Book is a great resource. They not only offer classes in printing, bookbinding, letterpress, block printing, and other related crafts, they have a small gallery in which they display books and book-related art. Their current exhibit is “Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship”, in which 50 artists respond to threats to intellectual freedom, past and present. (And more on that later!)

Roadworks is an annual fundraiser and street fair organized by the SFCB, during which they make giant linoleum block prints using a steamroller as a printing press.

roadworks sign with prints

I have to say, using a steamroller to make prints is absolutely brilliant. I think all printmakers have a bit of the gadget geek in them; you make art using knives, scrapers, acid baths, light boxes, barens, printing presses, and so on. So we all drooled over the rumbling rollingness of the steamroller, fantasizing over keeping one parked in our own backyards.

The gadget geekiness spills over into the craft of printmaking. Not only do you use specific tools in order to make a print, you need to follow a complete process that is painstaking and usually time-consuming. The photos I took at Roadworks illustrate the process of making a block print. Even though the scale is much larger than usual, the steps are the same. (Knitting is a mystery to me, and I often find printmaking is a mystery to knitters. If this is all old news to you, skip to the bottom of my post.)

After drawing your image and carving it into the block –that’s another story!– the artist needs to ink the block. For Roadworks, a group of 6 artists was invited to carve 3-foot-square linoleum blocks, and random local artists (like me) could volunteer to carve smaller 1-foot-square blocks. This picture shows volunteers inking one of the large blocks. Ink is rolled out on a plexiglass plate using a rubber brayer, which is then used to roll the ink evenly over the surface of the block.
Volunteers inking a large plate

Here is a picture of one of the large prints after it’s been printed:
One of the large prints

For steamroller printing, inked blocks were laid down in a grid on top of a piece of plywood:
Laying out the little linos

Even with a small press, you need to protect the paper (and block) from the pressure used to make the print. When you use a steamroller, you stack up several blankets and a hunk of carpet and lay them on top of the blocks.
Covering the blocks with felt and blankets

Then stand back! Here comes the steamroller over the princess-and-the-pea stack of blocks, paper, and blankets!
The steamroller

The moment of truth. The blankets are lifted off, and volunteers –the “clean hand” crew– peel the paper off the inked blocks.
Peeling the paper off the blocks

And here is my print, hot off the press:
My print, hot off the press

In keeping with the larger theme of books, book arts, and banned books, I decided to make my “little lino” a piece about current events, specifically, the presidential race, and even more specifically, the story about Sarah Palin trying to dismiss the Wasilla town librarian after she refused to take some “offensive” books off the library shelves. The print is called “Open Season”, subtitled “In Which Sarah Palin, Far to the Right, Enjoys Taking Out Some Library Books.”
Open Season

Shameless commerce department:
In keeping with the fundraising spirit of Roadworks, I’m putting this print to some good use. I’m selling signed original prints on Etsy, with 50% of the proceeds going to the American Civil Liberties Union. And I’ve also put it on shirts, tote bags, and print items (note cards, etc.) on Cafe Press, with 100% of my profits from them also going to the ACLU. (While you’re there, also check out my “No on 8” products, which urge California voters to support same-sex marriage in November. Proposition 8 would change California’s constitution to specifically ban gay marriage.)

Art, books, politics; it’s a fine mix and made for a wonderful afternoon. Using my little hand press in my garrett will seem somewhat mundane after this!

[Guest blog by Melissa]

You’ll Want to Click


Don’t be afraid to then click on the “download attachment” button. You won’t get a computer-eating virus. You will get the absolutely beautiful Garden of Alla Shawl pattern from the Lucky Find Salvage Company. That’s Alla as in Nazimova.) It’s also available as a Ravelry download.

I absolutely cannot be casting on additional projects just now, but this beauty makes me want to throw all caution to the winds and start rooting through my stash.

Armed and Ready

With knitting and for meetings, that is.

I’m going with the Abby cowl from Knitty in a hand-dyed wool/cotton blend that ranges from apricot to plum and the Drops neck warmer—my friend Chris had exactly the yarn called for (in a nice grey-blue) left over from a sweater and gave it to me. I’ve got Abby on the needles with the first pattern repeat knit up, so it’s ready to go. I’ll need to pick up some size 13 circulars this afternoon for the Drops piece and get it started, so I don’t have to fiddle with casting on during meetings.

Meanwhile, if, like, me, you have young Potter fans in your life, you’ll want to get Freshisle Fibers‘ Golden Snitch Hat (link to a pdf; you can also find this pattern on Ravelry) into your queue. I know at least one boy who needs this hat for Christmas. (You may also want to check out their self-striping watermelon sock yarn, which is sadly out of stock—but it’s still a delight to look at.)

Meeting Knitting

I’m narrowing down the possibilities for meeting knitting in preparation for the marathon that will be next week. Below are the finalists. I just need to go through the stash now to see whather any yarns volunteer to be knit up into these projects.

1. The Lacey Small Shell Cowl from Intrepid Fiber Wizard. This simple, pretty piece has the virtue of being knit in the round and uses an easy-to-memorize four-row pattern.

2 and 3. His (Birthday) Scarf and the Have a Heart Scarf, both from Smoking Hot Needles. These are slightly more complicated, but each has a striking, clear pattern, so I’d have no trouble knowing if I’d gone off course.

4. The Keep Me Warm Cowl (it’s a Ravelry download, so you’ll have to have a log-in to get it) by Breeanelyse. This pattern is not only lovely, but has the virtue of being written for Malabrigo—which moves it right to the top of my list.

5. This heavy-weight, textured neck-warmer from Drops. It’s mostly moss stitch with a bit of ribbing—I could keep that going through even the most mind-numbing of meetings.

6. The Abby Cowl from the new Knitty. This is a simple enough lace stitch that, even with 18 rows, I could keep it going comfortably while making my own meetingly contributions to the group’s (as opposed to my personal) work-at-hand.

It will all depend on what the yarn says to me.

School’s a-Coming

Is that how I should punctuate the title? I capitalized the a at first, but that looked even funkier than the current version. And—dear me—how will I ever manage to teach another year’s worth of frosh if I can’t even decide how to write my own blog headline?

The shawl is gorgeous and will definitely be appearing as a knit-along soon. (I am trying to tantalize without giving too much away before everything is really ready to go.) If you are looking for a holiday gift or a new winter party wrap, stay tuned! I’ll be featuring two versions: one, knit by me, in a silk/lamb’s wool blend from Simply Shetland; the other, knit by my friend Chris, in Glacier Lakes Wasonga from Curious Creek.

Next week is the hideous week of meetings that always precedes the start of school. A full day (I’m in charge of half of it) on working with students who haven’t yet met the entry-level writing requirement. Then a whole day of Writing Program business. A day off—then a whole day on the team-taught class I’m working with during fall quarter. I must come up with some simple knitting pronto to keep me going through all this fal-de-rol.

Of course, since my time will soon cease being my own and I will have gajillions of tasks to juggle, I’m brim-full of knitting ideas. Last night a quick leaf through EZ’s The Knitting Workshop
Knitting Workshop
gave me just the wrap shape (pelerine!) I needed to crystalize yet another shawl design in my mind.

The document I was going to edit at work hasn’t made its way into my in box yet, so I’m going to sneak off for a gym workout and the local farmers’ market—followed by knitting! (Do not worry that the University of California is not getting its money’s worth out of me—academia will be running me ragged any minute now.)

Tuesday Mewsday: Great Cat Quotations

Over the years, like many I cat lover, I’ve been given various little compendia of cat quotations. Mostly they provide momentary amusement, but two are particular favorites of mine.

From naturalist and theater critic (there’s a combination for you!) Joseph Wood Krutch:
Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many different ailments, but I have never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.

From physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer:
There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.

Apparently the poor soul didn’t know about option three: knitting.