Works in Progress

In the last few days, I’ve done the following knitting.

1. Knit up a Horse Shoe Cable Hat in Rio de la Plata Twist color TS-96 (a turquoise, maroon, brown, and tan marl), using the free pattern from Dropped a Stitch. (Photo this weekend.) The pattern is very clearly written and fun to work, with effective, subtle decreases.

2. Begun work on a folk art scarf I dreamed up a while back before I knew how to do intarsia. The problem is that the motifs are very scattered and I’m knitting in the round, so I’m getting long, nasty stretches of contrast-color yarn on the inside of the piece, which means I will be doing lots of weaving in ends later. Once I finish the bit I’m on, I’m going to try converting to flat knitting to see if this makes the back of the intarsia neater. I’m using Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Warm Red and Sunflower—a lovely, crunchy yarn with rich, deep color.

3. Knit around and around and around on version 2.0 of my felted bag. I’m on the solid color part now, so it doesn’t offer much excitement, especially since I’ve increased to 200 stitches from the 120 I used on version 1.0. Originally, I’d planned to do the final version of this bag in Malabrigo, but given that a) the Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride I’m using now is knitting up well, b) it’s significantly cheaper than the Malabrigo ($4.25 a skein on sale from Discontinued Brand Name Yarns) and c) I’m felting the final project, I’ve decided just to stick with the Lamb’s Pride and to list Malabrigo as an alternate yarn on the pattern. I’m using Plum as the main color, Turquoise for the contrast.

4. Felted the i-cord for felted bag version 1.0. I did this in the sink with hot water because I didn’t want to wait to do a whole load of laundry. I’m always amazed by that “it’s not felted… it’s not felted… it’s felted!” moment.

5. Played some more with cotton/modal kids’ knits—thinking about sun hats at the moment. I’d been frustrated because all the standard measurement charts for hats included curcumference, but not height, and I don’t have any kids at home to use as my test models. But I posted my question on the Forum Pages at Knitter’s Review, and Fran posted an answer within fifteen minutes.

The pattern cards for the hat featured in “Five Yarns, Five Hats” arrived Monday (whee!). I’ll be taking them to Stitches West and will post the pattern once I’m back—so you can expect that in another two weeks or so. Melissa did an amazing job on the layout.

Let’s Have a Party!

No, not immediately… but soon. I’ve been coming up with ideas for informal knitting get-togethers among friends that might help us reduce stash and generate new ideas.

1. The do-it-yourself yarn tasting. I’ve been to two yarn tastings now at Article Pract and enjoyed them both. They plan to do one every month, and I’m hoping to get to most of them. But why settle for one a month—especially one a month all the way up in Oakland, a 1.5 hour drive for me—when I could have more?

I’m imagining an individualized, “what-the-hell-was-I-thinking?” yarn tasting. Each participant could bring six (or more or less, depending on the number of attendees) ten-yard “tastes” of a particularly perplexing yarn from her stash (one of those yarns that makes you suspect you must actually be a completely depraved, substance-abusing fiend because no woman in her right mind would have purchased that yarn sober). We could play with them together, knit swatches, unravel them, knit more swatches, until we found a stitch that really worked for that yarn. Then we could browse pattern books together and think about project possibilities. A couple of hours, a little tea, some cookies or fruit, and each participant could leave with one of her great stash mysteries solved.

2. Tail-end trading. I know I’m not the only one: I’ve got three bags now of left-over yarn bits, one stored with the yarn proper, the other two crammed into kitchen cupboards because I ran out of room in the yarn storage area. I can’t throw them out, but I’m not in any rush to use them because they’re not new. They have already posed their questions for me, and I have explored and answered those questions to the best of my ability. They bore me. But they are yarn and therefore must be preserved. And to someone else, they would be new yarn. Very small bits of new yarn—but new.

Oh, the possibilities. We could each bring a dozen or so, dump them into a big bag, then draw them out blindfolded. We could put them all in the middle and take turns picking. We could play take-away bingo with yarn-ends as the prizes. Someone else’s boring yarn might be just the exciting thing I need to add a decorative to row to the edges/cuffs/whatever of a current project.

We could spend an afternoon together knitting up these ends into pot-luck scarves. Scarves knit lengthwise, changing yarns with every row and leaving long tails for fringe are gorgeous. And if you knit on big needles, you can get away with using a number of different yarn weights. Or maybe a pot-luck hat with yarn changes every round or two.

Party, party, party. I don’t know when I’ll have the time to really set one up, but I’m having lots of fun already.

Bulky Tam Pattern (and Bad Kittens)

Here is the bulky tam pattern I designed, based on Kathryn Connelly’s beret pattern in One-Skein Wonders. She’s generously allowed me to publish this version of the pattern. There’s now (or will be at any moment) a One-Skein Wonders web site. The link is here. Though I haven’t had luck getting there yet, I expect it will be working soon (and I’m looking forward to seeing all the patterns it offers). Kathryn works at Hilltop Yarn, which has both a web site and a blog.

Three wonderful tams!
Bulky Tams in Chache by Moda Dea

Bulky Tam
Yarn: Moda Dea Cachet or similar bulky weight yarn, approx. 110 yards
Needles: 16″ US 10.5 circular and double points

Note: This pattern produces a small woman’s size hat. If you would like a larger or floppier/more dramatic hat, simply add 1 or more additional decrease/increase sets and knit the body to 4.5″ inches before beginning decreases.

Kf&b: Knit into stitch twice, first from the front, then from the back
K2tog: Knit two stitches together

Cast on on 72 stitches, place marker, and close circle to work in the round.

Work three rounds of K2, P1 rib.

Work increases as follows:
Round 1 (and all odd rounds): K
Round 2: *Knit 7, Kf&b*
Round 4: *Knit 8, Kf&b*
Round 6: *Knit 9, Kf&b*
Round 8: *Knit 10, Kf&b*

Continue knitting around until piece measures 4″.

Work Decreases as follows, switching to double points when needed:
Round 1: *K10, K2tog*
Round 2: K
Round 3:*K9, K2tog*
Round 4: K
Round 5: *K8, K2tog*
Round 6: K
Round 7: *K7, K2tog*
Round 8: K
Round 9: *K6, K2tog*
Round 10: K
Round 11: *K5, K2tog*
Round 12: K
Round 13: *K4, K2tog*
Round 14: *K3, K2tog*
Round 15: *K2, K2tog*
Round 16: *K1, K2tog*
Round 17: K2tog around

Trim working end of yarn to 6″ or so, run it through the remaining stitches on needles and remove needles. Weave in ends.

On a completely different note, Sparky and Woody, the kittens, had an unfortunate breakthrough in the middle of the night. They are both quite interested in Bea, the adult cat who shares their home and who finds them both inconvenient at best and more often loathsome. Bea had worked out a sort of a truce with Woody, but was having a more difficult time with Sparky who’d become enamoured of her and followed her about chirping and rolling and waving his paws.

Well, last night the boys realized they could approach her as a pair, rather than individually. Horrors! We had any number of rounds of Bea backed into various corners or under different chairs, growling louldly while Sparky and Woody approached her from opposite sides. They played the innocents: “We’re not touching her. We’re just sitting here… and here. Why shouldn’t we be able to sit?”

At one point I put them out into the rain—which is not as cruel as it seems, as they have their own entrance and could just run around the corner and back in again—but this did nothing to cool their furry little jets. This morning when Melissa and I headed off to breakfast Bea was hiding under a nightstand and the boys were watching her from up on the bed. I’m afraid the boys won’t tire of this game for quite some while.

Yarn on the Stoop

When I got home from work yesterday, I had a bag of yarn from Discontinued Name Brand Yarn waiting for me on the stoop. Inside? The eighteen skeins of discontinued colors of Lamb’s Pride Worsted that I’d ordered—and more! I don’t know if they always include extras in their mailings or if this was a first-time buyer deal, but my bag also included a skein of a very glitzy black yarn (perfect for knitting a small evening clutch or maybe a case for some opera glasses), sample cards for two South West Trading Company yarns, three different patterns (including a cute t-shirt style knit top from Cherry Tree Hill), and a pair of 10″ US 1 needles. Wow!

Let me tell you—I would order from these folks again, with or without the bonus items. Their prices are great and their shipping is fast.

And do you have any idea how huge a bag with 18 skeins of Lamb’s Pride is? When I saw that package on the stoop I knew what had to be inside. (For those of you who are interested, I ordered six skeins each of Plum, Mahogany, and Turquoise. They had Medieval Red a while back, and I’m kicking myself for not ordering any of that.)

So until I find some Malabrigo in stock once again that suits my color sense, I will keep playing with felted bag patterns using the Lamb’s Pride.

I also got email last night from Kathryn Connelly, of Hilltop Yarn Shop, who designed the beret pattern in One-Skein Wonders that I used as the basis for my bulky-weight pattern. She’s graciously given permission for me to post my reworking of her pattern, so I’ll get that up in the next two days, along with some photos. (Apparently a One-Skein Wonders web site is in the works—more about that as it develops.)

Felting Malabrigo

I’ve successfully felted version 1.0 of my Malabrigo bag. The first time round, I just washed it on warm for fear of turning it into something suitable only for Polly Pocket, which resulted in virtually no skrinkage at all. The second time around, I washed it on hot and got a nice, thick fabric, with about 15% shrinkage. (The thing to remember here is that since the bag shrank 15% in every direction, that results in about a 30% loss of volume overall.)

I’d worked the top part of the bag in 2 x 2 K, P check to see if that affected the texture of the finished project. The answer: “no.” Or, “maybe, but only if you’re a complete loon and run it through your fingers doing everything you possibly can to convince yourself that one section does have a bit of a boucle feel to it.”

Using the shower curtain rings to get openings for the drawstring worked nicely. Now I just have to knit another half-mile or so of I-cord so I’ll actually have a drawstring to run through the holes.

I am already planning version 2.0, which will begin with 200 stitches cast on, instead of 120. Unfortunately, while I love Malabrigo, I don’t especially like many of the colors it comes in, and they don’t necessarily go together in ways that please me. Yesterday I went to the LYS that carries Malabrigo and stared and stared at the yarn, but couldn’t find three colors (or even two) that went together in a way that said “happy” and “sunny weather ahead” and “knit me now” (which was what I wanted them to say), so I actually left empty-handed. I will just have to keep cheking back regularly and hoping the gods of yarn roll the dice in my favor one of these days. (Meanwhile, I do have a number of skeins of Lamb’s Pride Worsted in dicontinued coloways coming to my house, so I can play with them—but I’d like the final product to be in Malabrigo.)

For now, I’ll go back to kids’ clothes/accessories in cotton and see if I can come up with something better than the mutant yarmulke I wound up with last time.

Dr. Belgum’s Grande Vista Sanitarium

This morning, Melissa and I set off to photograph the completed “Urban Trekker” hat at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, the site of Dr. Belgum’s Grande Vista Sanitarium during the WWI era. (Text from one of the original advertising pamphlets here.) Nothing remains of the sanitarium now but some overgrown foundation stones. However, in its day it was the ideal place for wealthy San Francisco and Oakland residents to send their addled/inconvenient relatives as it offered a highly civilized, but very out-of-the-way location and featured comforts like evening concerts and weekend dances. The site seemed appropriate for our photo shoot as the hat does give one a bit of an “elderly mad” look.

Here is the Urban Trekker modeled by a stick.
The Urban Trekker hat in the wilderness

Here is the Urban Trekker modeled by Melissa. (You can’t see it, but Melissa is perched on a bit of sanitarium foundation stone.)
Melissa models the Urban Trekker hat

The former sanitarium’s grounds present the sort of jumbled flora that typify our part of the California coast: oaks, palms, eucalyptus, spring bulbs, and various brambles.
California scenery

I’m adding a close-up of some of the flowers, just for the sheer delight of seeing them pushing their way into the world.
Lilies of the valley

As I write this, the Malabrigo bag is thumping about in the washer getting felted. I asked myself a “what-if” question: What if I attach shower curtain hangers every few inches along the opening of the bag to make nice, round holes to thread the drawstring closures through? The answer to that question and comments on felting Malabrigo coming up soon.

Another Kind of Question

My contribution to the Second Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. A bit didactic perhaps, but always worth thinking about.

by Bertolt Brecht

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years’ War.
Who else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.

To which we might add our own questions about the families of those workers and soldiers, women at home unable to protect those they love from the real harm, so instead they knit up scarves and hats and mittens and whatnot to protect them from the harm that they can fight.

Santa Cruz Hat Pattern on MagKnits

Whee! My Santa Cruz Hat Pattern is out on this month’s issue of MagKnits! I hadn’t expected it until next month, so this comes as a lovely surprise. I expect I’ll be doing a little happy dance for the rest of the day—perhaps the rest of the week.

I went on a hat-pattern-writing binge last summer and the Santa Cruz Hat is one of the results. At the time, I wanted to play with different lace stitches to make hats that would be suitable for the weather here where I live on the central California coast—that would add a touch of warmth and keep the wind from blowing one’s hair in one’s eyes, but without bringing on hyperthermia.

I’d love to hear what you think of it—and to see photos of any version of it you knit up. Please do share!

P.S. The model is my former student, Maryam, who’s now preparing for law school.

Is Anyone Besides Me…

… going crazy because the Yarn Harlot hasn’t posted since 1/25?

Last night I continued working on the bag in Malabrigo worsted, falling more and more in love with each stitch. I want, I need a sweater in this yarn. Exactly this yarn. The Col China colorway: sweet, sweet cranberry richness with occasional bursts of vivid, tangy green. I want to cover my entire body with it. (I am not alone in this. The Malabrigo folder at Knitter’s Review is currently on fire.)

I am thinking of something like Erica Alexander’s Diamond-Weave Baby Jacket from Interweave Knits, Winter 2004, but in my size. Texture, but not too much texture. Moss stitch borders (every sweater in the world could be knit with moss stitch borders and I wound’t weary of them). A few buttons up near the top and the rest left to drape comfortably. Today’s All Tangled Up has a lovely photo of one of these (baby-sized) in progress and links to several more renditions of it. I am thinking that the bag I’m knitting now will give my a nice sense of my gauge with this yarn (particularly when I work with a mix of Ks and Ps), which should allow me to do some fairly accurate estimating when I got to work on a sweater for myself.

Meanwhile, the bag brings me great satisfaction. I worked on it last night while I indulged first in reruns of CSI, then in the new episode of House. Originally, I’d been picturing this project as a textured bag in a narrow, rectangular shape, with a triangular flap and long shoulder straps. But while I knit, I kept envisioning different versions of it, including the possibility of just forgetting the whole bag thing and making it into a needle roll. The current vision is of a round-bottomed, drawstring bag—I like how the work looks on the circular needles and just want to keep that shape. So, I now appear to be knitting top down instead of bottom up. I expect I’ll need to buy one more skein before I’m through and am considering switching to a solid color for some contrast.

I just need to measure carefully to see what my unfelted gauge is before I start felting or my sweater dreams will be delayed.

I Can See That I Will Have to Buy My Own Camera

I have been using Melissa‘s camera on the weekends to take photos for my blog. (Actually, Melissa has been using her own camera to take the pictures for me. I just ask, “will you take a picture of this?,” and “how about this?,” and “this too?,” after which I say “and will you post them here?,” and “that one goes there,” and on and on.) So in the interest of eating up less of Melissa’s art time and of having a blog with some visual interest on week days, as well as weekends, I can see that a digital camera for me is quickly becoming inevitable. If anyone out there has recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.

Meanwhile, you will be forced to bear with my photo-less weekday ramblings.

The first of my brightly colored kids’ wear projects was a prototype hat, which I finished up last night. Sadly, it is less a hat and more a very vivid yarmulke with a brim. At least I got the brim right. I used two strands of yarn, then switched to one for the hat itself, so the brim has a nice bit of body to it and doesn’t go all floppy. I will mail version 1.0 off to my niece for use as a doll hat and move along to version 2.0 once I get a bit more of the yarn.

To get my mind off that project, I pulled out a skein of Malabrigo Worsted in the Col China colorway that I’d purchased back at the beginning of the month. This yarn was a new offering at The Golden Fleece, one of my local yarn shops (I’m lucky enough to have four of them). It reminded me of Manos del Uruguay, only a) a few dollars less expensive, b) in larger skeins (210 yds), and c) in somewhat simpler colorways. A and B were positives; C was a negative, but the skein I did buy is lovely.

I’d like to work on some designs for practical, but not boring, felted bags, so figured I’d start with the Malabrigo. After fretting a bit about size, I cast 120 stitches onto a circular needle and began working in 2 stitch x 2 stitch alternating squares of knit and purl. My main “what if?” question on this project regards the percent shrinkage I’ll get when I felt the bag. Once I know that, I can start playing with more complex designs. Whether knitted on I-cord straps will hold up well is a secondary “what if” question I’ll have to answer over time.

At any rate, I just want to say—this yarn feels wonderful in my hands. Soft, soft, soft, much softer than other single-ply wools I’ve worked with. I can’t tell you anything about the bag I’m knitting yet, as I’m only a few inches into it, but the knitting itself is going to be a delight.