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.

3 Free Patterns

Let me begin by saying that none of these are mine—oh, how I wish they were. I found them while poking about the net in between finalizing tomorrow’s class plan and (it’s endless, I tell you) reading student essays.

Dipsy’s Cable Lace Scarf The small photo doesn’t do this piece justice. Click on it to get the larger view, then swoon. The blog featuring this pattern is a fun read with lots of details about actual knitting, as well as chattier entries.

Sleepytime Wrapper I wish the pattern for this baby robe came in my size. (Of course, I can always start “what-iffing” about the possibilities of designing my own adult version.) It’s knit on US 2 needles with sport weight yarn. (I bet I could get it up to a child’s size just by using knitting worsted and US 7 needles, hmm?) This is one of many patterns avaiable at Free Vintage Knitting, a site that posts older patterns that have entered the public domain.

Dr. Monttville’s Double Helix Seaman Scarf is an offering from Twosheep, which presents a very eclectic mix of topics, knitting and non. (The latest entry describes a Charo concert.) I will be knitting many of these scarves between now and next December to give as gifts to the various scientists in my life.

I finished the Urban Trekker hat last night and added my own finishing touches to it—twisted cords and tassels, rather than braids and pom-pons. Now I’m playing with Shine, Knit Picks‘ cotton/modal sport-weight blend and thinking about colorful summer wear for kids. While admittedly stiff to knit with, as many cottons are, boy does Shine ever make a soft, tempting-to-touch fabric.


This weekend, I’m reading a set of student essays, so I can’t spend as much time as I’d like thinking and writing about knitting. But with Melissa‘s help, I am going to get some pictures posted so you can see what I have been/am doing in those moments I can squeeze out for myself.

I’ve completed two of my bulky tams in Cache. (Pattern adapted from One-Skein Wonders.)
Two tams!
As you can see the mossy colorway (“Smartie”) knits up into much clearer stripes than does the more neutral colorway (“Serengeti”). I’ve still got two skeins of the “Siren” colorway to play with—I’ll post info on its stripe-ability (or lack thereof) when I get some results.

This is Sparky, our aspiring yarn reviewer.
Sparky in the yard
He feels he should have been asked to test the Serengeti Cache, since it compliments his personal colorway so well. He would have made something very interesting out of it—maybe a free-form bathtub liner.

Here are the wrist warmers with the new matching hat.
Wristwarmers and a hat - all for $3.99
All that from one $3.99 ball of yarn!

Last of all, Here’s my current work in progress—
My current work in progress
—the “Urban Trekker” from Lion Brand Yarn‘s Just Hats (it’s the cover project). I’m knitting it in Cherry Tree Hill‘s potluck bulky wool in the “Earthtones” colorway. (Note that contrary to my claims of seldom using patterns, I am using a pattern—perhaps I’ll have to rethink my self-concept a bit.) I chose this pattern because a) I think it’s darling and b) I wanted to practice top-down hat knitting using a substantial yarn in order to minimize the wiggliness of the first few rounds.

Now, I’m back to the land of student essays. Melissa will add the photos and post this when she finishes playing with her new etching press. Whee!

On Second Thought (And a Question)

I probably shouldn’t post the tam pattern because it might violate copyright, even though it bears little resemblance to the original at this point, but I’ll definitely have pics up by the weekend. And I’ll see if I can track down the author to ask permission. I did start a second tam out of Cache, in the “Serengeti” coloway, so I’ll have two versions to photograph this weekend.

One-Skein Wonders (source of the original, sport-weight tam pattern) is a great book, and I highly recommend it. I love leafing through it with a skein from my stash in hand and thinking about what I might want to try.

The only comparable book I’ve found is One Skein, which is nice, but which I think comes in second to One-Skein Wonders because a) it has fewer patterns (63 counting generously v. 101), b) more of the patterns are for odd little knick-knacks I know I’ll never knit (a knit cupcake, for example), and c) it calls for some exceptionally large skeins of yarn, which is sort of a sneaky way around the one-skein rule.

Still, I did like One Skein enough to buy it, the photos are lovely, and pretty much everyone will find something to try in it.

Question: Yesterday, while I was in my LYS picking up a circular 16″ size 6 Addi Turbo that I needed, I found a skein of yarn that I also “needed”: KidLin Worsted in the “Tropical Mango” colorway. It’s 53% kid mohair, 24% linen, 23% nylon, comes 120 yards to a skein, and is a marl made of four strands twisted together—three mohair in spring green, orange, and purple, one linen in orange. Have any of you worked with this yarn? Do you have any genius ideas for what I might want to knit out of it? It would make a gorgeous shwl, but I’m not sure I want to sink the money into buying several more skeins. (Of course, if I did get more, I could use it to play with the copy of Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today that I got for Christmas. The used book buyer just stopped by my office and paid me $25 for two old texts—maybe it’s a sign.)

Tam (Pics and Pattern to Follow)

Last night, I finished up my bulky-weight reworking of the basic tam pattern in One-Skein Wonders. I’d left the book up at Melissa‘s apartment and she was very patient about dropping what she was doing to read various bits of it to me. (We had variations on, “It’s a tam. The pattern is after the photo section in the middle of the book.” “Is it X [insert name of the wrong pattern here]?” “No.” “Is it XX?” “No.” Once Melissa located the pattern, we moved on to things like, “Just before it says ‘decreases’ does it say how many inches are knit?” Bless her a thousand times over for her generosity of spirit.)

Of course, I wasn’t actually following the pattern, per se, but I was using it to help with my “guestimations.” I used Moda Dea Cache, which I’d found on sale for $2 a ball—can’t resist a bargain! I’m snowed under at work just now, but in the next few days, I’ll post the pattern and the “formula” I’m planning to play with to continue trying this pattern in other yarns.

I’d worked with Cache once before on a scarf and had mixed feelings about it then. There didn’t seen to be any real pattern to the color changes and the yarn itself is rather coarse: essentially two strands of roving with a metallic thread thrown in. (Again, pictures of yarn, hat, etc. to follow.) The tam pattern was much better for this yarn: I got nice, narrow stripes around the hat of variegated peacock and rose, with wider bands of the main color, moss.

I also picked this yarn up in two other colorways—one pinks and yellows, the other silvers and beiges. Although I’d be risking another round of same-hat despondency, I’m tempted to knit these up into tams, too, so I can look at them side by side.

BTW—Melissa sent me a mock-up of the postcard with the hat pattern. It’s going to be great! I’ll put that up here too once it’s ready. I am so stoked that I’ll have something to share with the folks I meet at Stitches West.

Also BTW—Our kitten Spartacus (Sparky) has nominated himself to be a guest yarn reviewer for this blog. He feels I’m leaving out all sorts of important things, like kick-ability and bite-ability and how many laps you have to run around the house to use up an entire skein.

One more BTW—I just figured out that I have to approve comments before they appear on this blog (oh, brave new world!). So if you commented and felt tragically excluded from the conversation because your contribution never showed up, that situation has been remedied.


Two quick additions to my last two postings:

• I got a great “what if?” question about the Louisa Harding Fauve yarn. What if, instead of being frustrated about the way it contracts into a very small, very stretchy fabric, I used this to my advantage? I’m imagining it would make snug, but elastic cuffs on a sweater, for instance, or a nice waist inset to shape a sweater.

• That wonderful/evil Soft Delight Extremes acrylic yarn? I knitted a nice little double moss stitch hat out of it, using the same skein I’d used for the wrist warmers. Not bad: wrist warmers and a hat (both of which could be mistaken for Noro at a distance) for just under $4.