Tuesday Mewsday: Stump Speech

Normally the cats eschew politics in favor of more constructive activities, liking biting shoelaces in half and looking for new spots upon which to cough up hairballs. But every so often an issue of such importance arises that even the most narcoleptic of cats will drag herself up from her nap in order to speak (I guess that would actually be mew) her mind.

Cats say VOTE NO on Prop 8

In an unheard of show of solidarity, Damian, Archy, Penny, Maggie, Bea, and Sparky (clockwise from upper left) have joined together to urge you to vote no on Proposition 8. Having been made legitimate by their mothers’ marriage in June, they have no desire to return to their former shameful state of bastardy.

(I have a few things to say on this subject myself, but I’m still wrestling with the words, so for now I’ll let the kitties speak for me.)

Pangea Shawl KAL Step 4

Here’s step 4!

Step 4 of the Pangea shawl as knit by Chris

As you read through the pdf, you’ll see that this step gives you the option of lengthening the shawl as much as you’d like or of shortening it slightly.

Not surprisingly, Chris found this step much more time-consuming than the first two (those rows are getting longer!). I’m going to publish the pattern in five steps as originally promised, but based on her feedback, I’m going to suggest an option for dividing up the work over an extra week and will extend the picture mail-in deadline for the prize draw at the end. You’ll have two options—

Option 1: The Hare
If you’re a quick knitter—or a compulsive one—just keep going as you have been. Work Step 4 (Charts E, F, and G) this week and Step 5 (Charts H and I) next week. Then email me a picture by noon California times on Monday, November 24, and you’ll be entered in the draw for some delicious hand-dyed yarn.

Option 2: The Tortise
Work Charts E and F this week. Next week, work Chart G and Chart H, which will be published as part of Step 5. The week after next work Chart I to finish up. Then email me a picture by noon California times on Monday, November 24, and you’ll be entered in the draw for some delicious hand-dyed yarn. (And if you’re inclined to feel at all chagrined about being a tortise, don’t! Remember who it was that won the race.)

We’ll also have a Test-Knitter’s Choice Award that will go to the knitter of Chris’s choice. She’ll have the fun of going through all your pics and selecting her favorite. I’m letting her decide on the criteria: workwomanship, fiber choice, photo quality, originality of model pose, whatever speaks to her. I haven’t chosen the prize for that honor yet, but it will be something special.

So, have fun knitting! I’m honored to have all of you using my pattern.

P.S. Here are the large-scale versions of Chart E, Chart F, and Chart G.

Step 4 of the Pangea shawl as knit by Chris

Boutique Knits

cloche 1

I’m really impressed with Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits: 20+ Must-Have Accessories, just out from Interweave Press. Normally neither boutique nor accessories would inspire me to pick up a knitting book. The first sounds too fussy; the second too inconsequential. But this book arrived one afternoon last week when I was hanging out in my LYS, The Golden Fleece, suffering that big-project ennui that hits us all from time to time. I did have projects to work on, but they all felt too complicated and too in need of close attention for me to want to pick them up on an unseasonably hot (85º F in late October) day when I felt half brain-dead.

So, instead of knitting, I leafed my way through the latest shipment of books. (Margaret, who owns the shop, cleverly orders single copies of a great many new books, then orders additional copies of the best, once she sees what her customers get most excited over.) I started with Nicky Epstein’s newest (a disappointment) and Continuous Cables (lovely), then picked up Boutique Knits once I’d been through everything else.

“I’d like to try that.” “I wonder how she constructed that piece?” “Nice use of texture.” I found myself responding to a number of the pieces in this book. But the piece that really got me was this great cloche hat with a twisted, faux-cable trim, knit in baby alpaca grande. It looked interesting, fun, and wearable. And—quelle coincidance!—The Golden Fleece carries baby alpaca grande. I turned to Margaret and asked, “Want me to knit one of these up for a shop sample?”

Minutes later, I’d pulled needles from the wall rack, Margaret had wound the yarn, and I was knitting away. Yes, the temperature was still in the 80s and the yarn was alpaca, but its softness and the small size of the project kept me from over-heating. I got the body of the hat knit up that afternoon in the shop, then finished it up at home in the evening. That’s it right there on the shop counter next to the book.

cloche 2

I did make a few changes to the original pattern. Irwin designs ready-to-wear for a Seattle boutique, and her patterns seem to make a fair bit of use of separately knitted parts sewn together, which no doubt speeds up production of multiples of the same pattern, but which I’d prefer to avoid. The cloche hat pattern as written began with a rectangular band. Next stitches were picked up along one edge of the band and the crown was knitted back-and-forth. Only after that was the piece sewn up. Then stitches were picked up along one edge for the trim, which was knit lengthwise then sewn down at the start of the crown.

I eliminated two of those three bits of sewing by stitching up the hat body as soon as I finished knitting it, so that the crown stitches could be picked up and knitted in the round. I also picked up the stitches for them trim and worked it up before knitting the crown, which allowed me to knit the trim into the crown, rather then attaching it afterwards. I’ll probably make similar changes to some of the other patterns, but her directions are straightforward enough that adapting these shouldn’t be hard.

If you want to do some original, feminine knitting for holiday gifts (or other purposes) you’ll want to check this book out.

Odds and Ends (and a Belated, Token Nod to Tuesday Mewsday)

I have been a bit scattered lately and have cast aside all my major projects for simple, semi-instant-gratification ones: a poncho on 10.5 needles (finished, but disappointing), an inexpensive 5″ x 5″ cat needlepoint, lots of sudoku.

What have I been avoiding (beside various things at work)? The knitted-on border for my Kerry Blue Shawl, since I just can’t quite decide on the right stitch and I’ve wearied of the whole k-n-i-t: t-i-n-k thing. My lovely big shawl in Rustic, for which I charted a sixty-row border pattern quite a while back—but if one things is more daunting than charting a sixty-row stitch, it’s knitting the darn thing up.

If I were a magician, this would be the moment where I wave my hands about wildly, crack jokes, and do all I can to distract you. Instead, let me share a few pictures from the archives that have never made it into the blog.

We have the simultaneously darling and creepy pork sausage sign from an abandoned factory in San Jose.
Pork sausage sign

Then, there’s the demonstration of ways non-beer-drinking knitters can use those little beer slings that get built into camping chairs.
Alternative use for beer sling

Finally, here’s a shot of the cupcakes at the party Melissa and I held in August to celebrate our wedding.
Wedding cupcakes
Cupcakes may say “marriage!” But cupcakes with kittens on them? They positively scream “two crazy cat ladies uniting their lives!”

Food for Thought

This is non-knitting related, but—

If you shop/eat/cook/try to balance a budget/worry about nutrition and health, you’ll be fascinated by Terry Gross’s interview with Michael Pollan. Pollan, who’s on the faculty at UC Berkeley, has written a number of popular books on eating and the history and politics of food, including The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

This interview ranges across all kinds of territory: food prices, government subsidies of agriculture, global production and transportation of foods (including the impact of rising oil prices on food costs), the slow food movement, and more. Gross is a warm, engaging interviewer, who nonetheless asks difficult questions. Pollan loves this subject (and is one of the most knowledgeable in the world on it), and his enthusiasm keeps the exchange lively.

If you have a few minutes, give it a listen—you can knit while you do.

Pangea Shawl KAL Step 3

This week’s picture is a bit janky: we wound up trying to take it much too late on Sunday night and found ourselves having to cope with all kinds of assistance from various felines. Damian, in particular, was in the mood for a game of “Kiss the Camera.”

Just focus on the bit along the upper right-hand edge that’s in focus and be kind about the blurry bits.
Step 3 illustrated
Note that Chris has run a second red thread along the boundary between steps 2 and 3.

The instructions for Step 3 are here.

The large version of Chart D for the Pangea shawl is here.

To be honest, Step 3 is the most boring step. It’s a continuation of the stitch pattern established at the end of Step 2. The nice part is that you’ll be able to enjoy the undulating lines this stitch adds to the shawl and to see all the texture purls add.

Recent Favorites

After what’s felt like a bit of a drought (to me, anyway), I’ve been spotting some cute free patterns once again. In case you’re interested, here’s a sampling.

• Life is Uneven, a great cowl, designed by Jessica Price and available at Cut Out + Keep.
life is uneven cowl
It’s knit in bulky yarn, so it should work up quickly, and the variety of stitches looks positively complex (though it’s really quite straightforward).

• Turpan by Deborah Newton and available from naturallycaron.com.
turpan cardi
I love, love, love the texture on this piece and the variety of stitches.

• A new DROPS shoulder piece, with cables and a nice, snug tie front to keep it from flapping about.
DROPS Shoulder Piece
I’m planning to make this in the new Malabrigo wool/silk blend (with maybe a bit of futzing to get gauge).

• Last, but not least, check out these darling goldfish by Susan Dennis.
I’m usually deterred from casting on for little trinkets like these by the thought of all the fiddley bits—but how can I resist?

Tuesday Mewsday: The Pussycat Princess

Several years ago, my mom gave me a wonderful book for Christmas: a history of cats in comics. The book included all the usual suspects—Garfield, Mooch, Krazy Kat—but also cats I’d never heard of before, including the Pussycat Princess.

The Pussycat Princess was created by Grace Drayton (originator of the Campbell Soup Kids—you’ll notice a chubby-cheeked similarity) and later taken on by Ruth Carroll.

pussycat princess

If there were ever a comic book character who deserved resurrecting, it would have to be this lovely lady. She occupied just one page in the anthology I originally found her in, and although I’ve looked high and low, I’ve come up with only a handful of references to her. Always the lady in full princess garb, she was nonetheless an adventuress as well, exploring uncharted lands and facing dangers bravely. In the panel above she’s on an expedition to find new rarities for the royal zoo. One of her finds—the scowling hyena.

Hello Kitty (of whom I am quite fond) may have all the powers of modern merchandising behind her, but she pales in comparison to the Pussycat Princess.

Pangea Shawl KAL Step 2

Here’s Step 2 for Pangea, again illustrated by Chris’s lovely handiwork in Glaciar Lakes Wasonga from Curious Creek Fibers.

Step 2 of the Pangea shawl

She’s run a red thread through her work at the end of Step 1, so that you can see the new section you’ll be knitting.

For this step, you’ll be finishing up the area you worked in Step 1. After that you’ll work two transition rows, which are written, but not charted. These will bring you up to the right number of stitches to continue on in the new, eight-stitch repeat lace pattern. The decreases in the eight-stitch pattern will be done as purl stitches. They’re mostly P3tog and P2tog, but there are a few P2togTBL—if you’re like me, you’ll need to concentrate a bit more on these (and perhaps stick your tongue out a bit), but they get easier as you go along. Knitting Help has a video of this stitch, just scroll down through the glossary to get to it.

For those of you who want larger charts, click here and here.

I’m so delighted to have people enjoying ths pattern and to see the beautiful pieces you’re working up and the yarns you’ve chosen. Keep me posted on how it’s going and feel free to send pics of your WIPs to me at shATwhatifknitsDOTcom, so I can share them with everyone else.

Note: On Chart B (both versions) the divided carat symbol stands for Sl2, K1, PSSO. My apologies for not catching that one—if you’re not sure if you have the corrected version, click here for the full instructions, and here for the large chart.

Cool Stuff (Knitting-Related and Not)

• Jane Davis’ Knitting: The Complete Guide
I can’t offer a full-on review of this book. Thus far, I’ve only flipped through it in passing while visiting a local book store. But one section caught my eye and was enough to convince me that I’ll need to pick this volume up at some point: a whole section on using embroidery on top of knitting to create smocking and other effects. I haven’t seen anything like this elsewhere—and I’m pretty compulsive about staying on top of stitch dictionaries and related publications.

• Some Great Podcasts
BBC’s Best of Natural History Radio
This year’s podcasts feature On the Move, a series about migrations—including everything from moths to African grazing animals and the lions that follow them. Who knew that some moths migrate from England to Spain? Who knew what fascinating audio could be made from that fact?

CBC’s Beethoven Nine in 9
(You’ll have to scroll down just a little to find this.) This series, which was originally broadcast in March 2008, incluldes performances of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies and lectures on each symphony that discuss both Beethoven’s development as a composer and his life story. I’ve found it a real delight to move back and forth between the lectures and the concerts, applyiing the new things I’ve learned to make my listening experience richer.

CBC’s How to Think about Science
(This one will require a bit of scrolling down as well.) This is a fascinating, if somewhat mixed, series that includes substantive, challenging conversations with scientists, science historians, and philosophers. I’ve listened to my favorites from this series repeatedly—there’s enough content there to make them worth revisiting.

PBS’s Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason
Like the previous series, this is one that bears repeat listening. Each and every interviewee has thought deeply about questions of both faith and logic, coming to a wide variety of conclusions. Moyers’ interviews are respectful, yet probing, and always engaging.

The New York Academy of Sciences’ Science and the City
These are recordings of talks given under the auspices of the NYAS and range widely in topic (Dava Sobel reading from Galileo’s correspondance accompanied by period vocalists to a presentation on mummy DNA). My personal favorite is the Novenber 24, 2006, broadcast, “Carl Sagan’s Search for God.” These pieces go into a good deal of depth and generally run about one hour each.

• Hopkin Green Frog
This series dates back to 2004 and may already be familier to some of you—but if you’ve never seen it, click now and check it out! (You”ll need to click on each page to bring the subsequent page up.) Based on a lost-frog flier that originally appeared in Seattle (the first image that you see at the site) a whole series of increasingly complex frog-search images was created. These are delightful for their humor and, in a somewhat unusual way, their empathy.