Melissa’s Camino de Santiago Prints

Melissa has a show up in Sacramento at the moment (although it’s coming down next week—I am not as timely as I ought to be) featuring the prints inspired by her hike across northern Spain last fall along the medieval pilgrim trail, the Camino de Santiago. It’s at Butch ‘n Nellie’s Cafe, in case you want to drop by this weekend.
Art and customers at Butch 'n' Nellie's
While I enjoy all of Melissa’s work, these prints are something special.

She worked on them for the better part of a year, and I had the pleasure of watching them come into existence one-by-one.
Second Saturday at Butch 'n' Nellie's
I also got to suffer along with Melissa as she experimented with different inks and papers, looking for the perfect medium. Carving the block is only the start of the work. Then one has to learn each block’s particular whims and whiles—how it wants to be fed into the press; which spots need heavy inking, which need light; how often it is willing to be printed before it wants a nice, sudsy bath and some time off.

If you go here you can look through all the prints in this series.

I’m also both delighted and saddened that she recently sold one of my favorite paintings, Grace of Summer Boughs. In a selfish corner of my heart I almost hoped that no-one else would recognize how lovely this piece is, so that we would still have it to hang in the home we plan to buy together when we retire.

Paintings are a lot like knitting in that way—you watch them emerge, drink in their beauty, then send them off into the world knowing that you may never see them again and hoping that they’ll be loved.

By Hook or By Crook

Ok, so I can’t buy yarn. We didn’t say anything about knitting books. So today when I went to buy cat food I stopped at The Golden Fleece (quelle coincidence—it is only two blocks away from the pet supply store) and picked up a copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop. Pretty much, I had to. I mean I’ve been knitting for over four years now and still didn’t own a copy. My Knitters Cred (like Street Cred only fluffier and more decorative) was on the line. Now I can have a go at rib warmers, tomtems, and baby surprise jackets.

Things are getting festive in Santa Cruz.
Christmas in California
Ho, ho, ho, Dude!

Shawls, Shawls, Shawls

First off, I present you with the finished Revontuli.
A beautiful shawl, horizontal cut
I am delighted with this piece and expect to get a lot of use out of it.

I knit it in Kauni on U.S. 9 needles. This yarn blooms a good bit during blocking, so the needle size, while seeming somewhat large as I worked, was just right.
Revuntuli detail
If you look closely here, you’ll be able to see the one change I made to the pattern. At the top center (the bright apple green), I am working the double decreases as written: Sl1, K2tog, PSSO. This results in a leaf-like or woven-looking decrease A bit further down (the gold-green), I changed to my favorite double decrease: Slip 2 together, K1, Pass Slipped Stitches Over Together. This decrease gives a raised vertical stitch, with a straighter, more architectural look.

When I was a kid and my mother sewed clothes for us, she used to say that she really felt she’d gotten her money’s worth if she used a pattern twice. In that spirit (though money’s not an issue, as this was a free pattern), I’m knitting a second Revontuli in Noro Silver Thaw (on sale now at Little Knits!).
Revuntuli now in purple!
Because this is a heavier yarn, I used U.S. 10.5 needles and I knit 9 fewer rows than the chart calls for, which allows me to end with a set of eyelets, followed by a K row and the bind off as in the original. This version is done now except for that bind off—and my fingers are itching for the moment when I can leave work to head home and get it done.

I’m also done knitting the Wanda’s Flowers Shawl from Wrapped in Comfort, though I haven’t blocked it yet. (Melissa takes great delight in doing little cheerleader moves while chanting “Block that shawl! Block that shawl!”)
Leafy shawl detail
The colors are a bit washed out in this shot, so imagine rich forest hues as you look at the photo.

The leafy lace pattern goes perfectly with the Malabrigo.
Leafy shawl detail, with bench
I modified the pattern slightly, beginning a few rows in for a wider neck band and moving up several needle sizes to suit the yarn. I’ll write those changes up and post them soon with a picture of the blocked shawl.

Meanwhile, I am itching to try another shawl from Wrapped in Comfort.

I’m also thinking about using my Malabrigo in the Bergamota colorway to make this shawl. And I love this shrug (though I don’t know if I love it enough to justify buying a $15 pattern book). Yum!

Tuesday Mewsday: Thankskitty

Melissa and I celebrated the holiday a bit late, on Saturday, instead of Thursday. We also celebrated simply with a roast chicken, black-eyed pea and veggie salad, pineapple couscous, and a pomegranate for dessert.

The cats celebrated in their own way—particularly when they got the leftover fat and organs from the chicken. Each of them had much to be thank Bastet for.

Bea was thankful for what hadn’t happened every bit as much as she was thankful for what had: another year gone by without me murdering her—though the fact that I haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean she’ll let her guard down. She also has a whole list of things she’d like to be thankful for, such as Penny getting struck by lightening.

Sparky gave thanks for the stick end of his feather-on-a-stick toy. As far as he’s concerned, the feather is pointless—but the stick is a source of endless amusement. He also gave thanks for the bipedal “kittens” next door who love to play with him and are willing to trail a stick along the ground for hours on end so he can pounce, pounce, pounce. Finally, he gave thanks for the delight that is puff-in-the-catnip-canister, which he can kill-kill-kill, only to have it retreat back into the canister and be resurrected a day or two later for more kill-kill-killing.

Penny gave thanks for a home that is not a drainage ditch.

Archy gave thanks for soft things to knead against, like the feather comforter; the lycra-covered, stryrafoam-pellet-filled pillow shaped like a baseball; and Melissa’s basoomas.

Maggie was thankful for babies (aka hair ties) to tote about and give swimming lessons to, as well as the oddly lick-able television remote.

Damian felt he had the grandest thing of all to be thankful for: that he is himself. What could be better?

Ack! and Argh!

I keep expecting things to settle down at work, and I keep getting surprised. I feel like my life is a gigantic game of Whac-A-Mole (more mole whacking here and here, in case you just can’t get enough). We only have two weeks of classes left this quarter, so things will have to slow down eventually, but I don’t know how many little academic-rodent-equivalents I’ll have been forced to take a mallet to by that time. For the most part, this is due to my new administrative position: I’m doing a whole lot of things for the first time and learning about many of them the hard way.

I did manage a good spurt of knitting over the holiday and will post pictures as soon as Melissa has time to upload them.

Meanwhile, behold the glory that is the Dante Hat, courtesy of Jen at Looking Glass Knits. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for those of you who appreciate knitwear with poetic and medieval flair, it will be just the thing. Melissa has a wonderful edition of Dante’s trilogy, translated by Marcus Sanders and illustrated by Sandow Birk. We’ve spent many a lovely evening leafing through these volumes, so I am absolutely certain that Melissa will be needing a Dante Hat posthaste.

Clarification, a New Design, and My Ravelry Queue

In case any of you are thinking Melissa is a brute for denying me the opportunity to buy yarn, allow me to clarify. She did get me to promise to hold off on buying more (with my inserted list of exceptions), but only after I’d been both celebrating and bemoaning the fact that I’d purchased a nice lot of Soy Wool Stripes and other basic wools that I found on sale at Michaels (thanks Mrs. H!). The celebrating part needs no explanation, of course. The bemoaning has to do with not having sufficient funds in checking and deciding to put everything on the credit card. I will pay it all off at the start of the December, but I’ve worked long and hard to get myself to purchase yarn with cash (or the equivalent) only, so this was a slip-up for me.

Melissa is actually quite understanding about my sudden, desperate needs for new yarns, needles, etc.—just as I am understanding about her sudden, desperate needs for paints, canvases, gigantic rolls of watercolor paper, and the like. We’ll save money by buying cheaper food and fewer cleaning products, thank you.

At the The Golden Fleece‘s community knitting on Sunday, Carol showed me the new Smooshy Sock yarn, and I was instantly smitten. I am happy to report that she, Margaret, and I have worked out a deal: I’m designing a pattern for them in Smooshy in exchange for some of the yarn. So, if you’re local be on the lookout for the results. Here are two hints: I’m making a hat, and I’m using two colors, Cloud Jungle (370) and Gothic Rose (340).

Melissa will verify that I have been absolutely rapturous about Smooshy. The Cloud Jungle colorway, which is a warm, but unassuming grey grey at a distance, is marvelously rich close up—shot through with plums and greens and deep teals. It takes about thirty seconds of working with this yarn to relieve my nastiest post-work headaches. (Carol and Margaret were probably wise to work out this swap with me. They’ve created an addict, and I won’t be able to stop with the two skeins I currently have in hand.)

This has been a wretchedly busy time at work (see headache reference above), and to distract myself I’ve begun working on my queue on Ravelry. I try to knit from free patterns when I can, so my queue is essentially becoming my own customized on-line pattern book. I can click on the project, then go from there to fetch the pattern or to see what results others have had with it. I’m trying to be reasonable, so I’ve managed to keep my queue down to only fifty-eight projects thus far.

Tuesday Mewsday: Opera Club

Bea and Penny have formed an Opera Club. Its meetings tend to be impromptu: Bea suddenly meets Penny coming around a corner or Penny trots upstairs to find Bea stretched out on the bedroom floor. Then the singing begins! We have coloratura, we have arpeggios, we have leitmotifs, and—of course—we have diva-histrionics galore.

The other night, even my neighbors were out to hear the Opera Club. Unfortunately, the concert was abruptly cancelled due to artistic differences.

I have suggested to Bea and Penny that perhaps a nice folk music sing-along would be easier to manage than all those arias, but they just glared at me with eyes that knew me for the cretin I am.

“You could try Kum By Ya,” I offered.

“Loser!,” said Bea.

“Boring!,” said Penny.

“That song’s for kittens who are too stupid to sing anything else!,” they both cried.

But later that evening, I caught Bea doing air guitar and singing to herself:
Penny’s breathing, Lord, strike her dead.
Penny’s breathing, Lord, strike her dead…

Must. Not. Buy. Yarn. (In Which Our Over-Excited Narrator Uses Far Too Many Hyphens)

Melissa has made me promise not to buy any more yarn until after the new year. I, of course, added a modifying clause: “except-for-Kauni-if-the-Golden-Fleece-gets-new-colors-in-and-except-for-the-Malabrigo-I-ordered-the-other-day-but-haven’t-paid-for-yet-and-oops-that-one-additional-skein-of-Noro.”

There are absolutely sooooooo many colors of Kauni I want. You can check them out here. Sweet, simple EN. Vivid, vivid EU. Business-like EC. And the shop has a swatch of a variegated red colorway that I can’t find on-line and that I am convinced is an absolute necessity for both my mother and me. While you’re at it, check out their catalogues and see the amazing things that can be done with these long-run self-striping yarns. My favorite catalogue is Katalog 2006 II. I’d like to knit up half a dozen of those projects. When I finish office hours, I’m going directly to the Golden Fleece to see if they can order some of those patterns for me.

The Malabrigo I’ve committed myself to is a new color called Snow Bird. I can’t even find a picture of it on-line. It’s largely a red and green mix with a few other autumn-leaf colors thrown in, and it just screams “I-am-buttoning-on-my-cozy-sweater-now-blow-you-north-winds-blow.”

Of course, because I am not to be buying yarn, i am seeing yarn everywhere that pulls at my heartstrings. Look at this great organic cotton from Elann for just $2.98 a skein. Eight different natural colors—none of it dyed. If I ordered two skeins in every color, I could make the most amazing rectangular shawl. I am experiencing a genuine agony-of-not-buying over it. (Maybe I could get one of you to write Melissa or my mom or some other potential gift-buyer and explain why this yarn would make for The Best Christmas Ever.)

Then there’s Zara and Devon and Peruvian Highland Silk and I am not buying any of it, so if you spot me somewhere gnawing my own arm off you’ll understand why and won’t have to ask any embarrassing questions.

Book Review: 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders

Like many knitters, I’m unable to resist the temptations of yarns that catch my eye, but at least I usually manage to limit myself to a single skein when I’m buying a yarn without a specific project in mind. This habit leads me to a second addiction—knitting books that promise to show me amazing things I can do with just one ball of yarn. The latest of these is a follow-up to last year’s One-Skein Wonders—
One Skein Wonders
—101 Designer One-Skein Wonders. Both of these books come from Storey Press, and both are edited by Judith Durant, who also authored Never Knit Your Man a Sweater.

First off, a project tally. Six of the projects are crocheted; the rest are knit. This book offers patterns for…
Shawls/Scarves/Wraps: 22
Hats: 20
Bags/Bowls/Containers: 18
Kids: 14
Socks/Slippers: 8
Gloves/Wrist Warmers: 7
Belts: 4
Toys: 3
Bath Items: 3
Vest/Shrug: 4
Jewelry: 3
Ties: 2
Plus a cat toy, a set of egg cozies, and a pillow.
(If my numbers don’t add up—and I just know there’s someone out there who will do the math for sheer perversity’s sake—it’s because some projects fall into more than one category.)

Like the first volume in the pair, 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders is organized by yarn weight, which makes it convenient for browsing. Go to the stash, choose a skein, flip open the book, consider the possibilities.

Of course, not all skeins are the same size. In the laceweight category, three patterns call for four-hundred-and-something-yard skeins, which are pretty typical. KnitPicks‘ laceweight yarns come in 440 yard skeins, for example. But the remaining projects in this section require skeins measuring anywhere from 875 to 1736 yards, which strikes me as a bit of a cheat, given the one-skein claim.

One Skein Wonders spread

There’s enough variety in these patterns that every knitter will find something to love—and something to roll her eyes at, too, no doubt. Leslie Barbazette‘s Wave Jumper for infant girls, makes wonderful use of a single skein of sock yarn. The photo of this piece in the book uses a dark yarn, but I’d love to see it knit up in a really loud self-striping yarn that would make any baby the center of attention (as if babies aren’t that already). The Little Green Wristlets by Therese Chynoweth are charming, simple and decorative at the same time, with just a bit of shaping to ensure a good fit. The eggs in my house will have to make do without Miriam G. Briggs’s Egg-Cozy Hats—but these might be just the thing for a wee friend’s dolls.

You may also want to visit the One Skein Wonders web site and sign up for their Skein-of-the-Month Sweepstakes. What a great way to put the book to use!

Want to Guess…

… what this lovely yarn is for?
Yarn ready for the slipstitch scarf
It’s Mondial Gold from Little Knits, 80% wool, 20% cashmere. These five balls are all I have, and I’m planning something very particular for them.

If anyone guesses the garmet type and the knitting technique I’m thinking of by, say, Tuesday at noon, I’ll pack up a little knitting gift as a prize.