June 03, 2008
Salve Bellas! Photos from Italia
Clockwise from top left: Us on the terrace in Vernazza; Horse by the Spanish Steps with a crocheted head dress; M basking in the sun in Vernazza harbor; Vernazza from above; Me & Mishka at Trevi Fountain; Me in Venice; the Colosseum; Us in the Bardini Gardens of Florence; M at Trevi Fountain; Florence's Duomo; My baby belly at Trasimeno lake in Umbria; Vernazza Harbor; Stoic Cats in the Bardini Gardens.
Most photos are clickable, but the ones of Moxie aren't.
We're back! Both tired and happy. It was a wonderful romantic trip and a great way to steal some time for ourselves before the little bundle of joy hijacks our lives. Many knits were worn, and some were photographed. The little snippet of pink in the first photo is the River Stole, Mishka made it to the Trevi Fountain and Rome, the Daktari Skirt strolled through Florence, and several sweaters kept me warm in chilly Venice.
I had originally hoped to finish the Bubble Pullover prior to our trip, thinking that at least Venice would be sweater-worthy. When that didn't happen, I realized knitting memories are created on trips even more than before, and that I would probably enjoy making the Bubble Pullover in Italy more than I would enjoy rushing through it to wear it there. I'm still not quite done. I have about five and a half inches of collar left to knit, two sleeves to seam together and buttons to sew on. I'm going to savor the process and finish when I do. I won't be able to actually wear this big alpaca sweater until late fall, regardless. It has been a lovely journey as well - my first Norah Gaughan pattern after years of admiring her work. And the Misty Alpaca yarn is heaven. I'll try to get some decent progress shots so that you can enjoy it, too.
The Bubble Pullover may well be the only knit just for me this year (gasp!). I have several projects for publication that I'm working on this summer and I'm going to sneak in some baby knits where I can before D-day. I have a feeling that the end of the year will get swallowed up by a screaming, pooping, boob-wrecking baby who has already stolen my heart.
May 08, 2008
Knits for an Italian Honeymoon
Well, a pregnant Italian honeymoon. If you've known me since the early days of blogging, you know that our honeymoon was supposed to happen four years ago in Italy. Time and money have gotten in the way, but as soon as I got knocked up I was determined to go to Italy this spring, even if it meant waddling through Rome! Happily, I am not nearly as large as I envisioned at this point, so if the kid can manage not to balloon me out for another month, it should be a pretty easy trip, pregnancy-wise. In preparation for the trip I've been going through my closet to find things that fit with room to spare, because I have a feeling that all that wonderful Italian food will aid in the expansion campaign. Happily, I have much more than I thought because, wonderful things that they are, knits stretch! I'm so glad I tried things on rather than assuming I didn't have anything. The shopping can be confined to Italian shopping - the best kind.
Knits In Action!
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: River, Birch, After Dark Nightie, Pia (top) & Daktari (skirt), Japanese Motif Skirt (Marnie), Nautical, Deciduous (Marnie), After Dark Nightie ('cause it shows off the bump)
Now I realize that it's no big shocker that the shawls fit, but it is nice to have them to accessorize the cute little empire waist dresses that have over-run my closet. (This one is from J-Crew, and may technically be a beach cover-up. Ask me if I care.) I have a little snippet of lingerie that I've been stuffing myself into, but it's short, so the belly makes it looks ever more ridiculous. The after dark nightie is much more forgiving. The skirts were a bit of a surprise. Marnie lent me the Japanese motif skirt when I visited her in March, and lamented the 40 inch waistline - how fortuitous was that? Fabulous and tons of room. The Daktari skirt still has a lot of play, too. The tops were probably the biggest surprise. Pia is still a little big on me without a blouse underneath it - a testament to how off the sizing was in the first place - and nautical fits perfectly with the aid of that fabulous invention, the yoga skirt. (Seriously back-ordered, but worth the wait if it appeals to you. I have two!) Deciduous is probably pushing it, but with a bella band I could probably manage that, too. Absolutely nothing I'm wearing is maternity. (And I'm showing more than in these pictures - my waist is 7" greater in circumference than it was when this all started.) Between yoga-wear and those adorable waistless dresses everyone is wearing, I've only gone to maternity for things like jeans and shorts. Normally I can't get anywhere near one of those empire waist dresses that pouf out below the bust because they make me look pregnant. Now that I am pregnant, they rock. Comfy, too.
The next time you see these knits of yesteryear they'll be in front of Italian architecture. Yay!
March 09, 2007
Knits In "Action": River
I recently found out about the handknit street style flickr pool that Lolly started. (Via Kodachrome - thanks girl! I live under a rock!) I love to see knitters wear their handknits to places other than the yarn shop. One of my favorite moments was in an airport about a year ago when I spotted a woman wearing Kim Hargreaves' First Aid from an older Rowan - how often do you get such a cool sighting? Over the last few weeks I've taken random shots on the days when I wear my knits.
February 22, 2007
Create-Along: Why the #$%!@?! Yarn Restrictions?
I probably should have written about this in my initial CAL post, but the fact is that I am so annoyingly verbose when it comes to things like this that if I had, no one would have ever gotten around to reading the explanation. Instead, I'm giving the topic it's own post, so I can be as wordy as I please. Feel free to skip this if you are not creating-along!
The madness does have purpose, and it was a choice on my part, which I stand by even though I have about seven designs that I'm playing around with now and only one of them is in one of the create-along yarns.
Purpose the First:* One of my favorite recent knitting books is Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature. Gaughan talks extensively in the book about how she is more creative when she has a limitation, and in each of the six parts she introduces the pieces, both individually and as a group, by writing about each limitation - a shape found commonly in nature. This device wasn't invented by Gaughan. If you ever took a high school art or writing class you were probably asked to do the same thing: "Here is a theme that everyone has to work with, see what you can do with it."
I think most of us creative types chafe at these restrictions initially, but it is absolutely fascinating to see what different people do with the same limitation. It really forces you to start to think outside of the box and it gives an insight as to the perspectives and visions of others. I actually find that the first time I work with a theme it is difficult, but that during the process I come up with all kinds of ideas for working with the theme in the future. Sometimes we have to create that first idea in order to be able to move past it. A yarn limitation gives everyone a starting point (and in this case a choice of five starting points), but it's much less restrictive than suggesting that we all attempt to design around the concept of phyllotaxis. Agreed?
Purpose the Second: Yarn is a big part of design, and the way that a particular yarn behaves can make or break a piece. One of the hardest things to figure out as a new knitter or a new designer is how a particular yarn is going to affect the final garment. The second scarf that I ever made was an eyelet pattern in thick, chunky wool. Now if you are intending to break the rules and use big needles to make an over-sized modern scarf that is one thing, but I was fully expecting a lacy, drapey piece that conveyed elegance. My tweedy wool scarf with occasional holes did not achieve that goal. With many people using the same yarn, there can be significant discussion about its characteristics, and we can all learn more about the limits of certain fabrics. The particular yarns we chose are all yarns that Marnie and I have worked with before and have on hand. I chose the Premiere and Cotton Classic, she picked the Calmer and Denim, and we threw in the Kidsilk Haze because it's something we both have that can work in spring weather. Although I know it's ass cold in most parts this time of year, most of us will finish our projects in spring or summer, so it made sense to work with a warm-weather array of fibers.
I feel that our knowledge of these fibers is important for several reasons. First, we have yarn available to design something in each of the yarn selections during the course of the create-along. This will keep us active in the blogging process and in the process of helping other -alongers. We're also sure to have an example of at least one project made in each yarn. As we design there will inevitably be tips we remember that are yarn-specific. Working with each one keeps us present in the process. Second, we already know what these yarns are capable of, and can help guide create-alongers in their process if they are struggling with the materials. Third, and this is important to me, we know these yarns will wear well over all and that the quality of the create-along projects will not be compromised if you use them. It would devastate me if someone designed something for the first time and it looked terrible after only a few wearings. Although some of these yarns are more resilient than others, they are all reliable and you should be able to get significant use out of them.
Purpose the Third: Whenever you design a piece, you will come up against some type of limitation, and usually you will have several. It may be what yarn you have in your stash, the amount of yarn in a certain dyelot, or a specific color or set of colors. If you go on to design for publication, or if you have already designed for publication, you will find/have found that even more limitations are placed on you. In fact, unless you design for a specific yarn company or yarn in particular it will be pretty common for the publishers to look at your design concept and pick yarn and colors for you. Boy, oh boy, is that fun! (I'm not a fan of this convention, as you can see.)
Given this nearly universal propensity for limitations on design, I thought we could use it as a unifying principle. I think knitalongs work best when there is a common theme. I didn't want to go with choosing a specific type of project to design, because I wanted to attract knitters from a variety of skill levels in both design and knitting. I'm hoping that through this process we can take some of the mystery out of design and make it more accessible to everyone. Not all knitters will be interested, but I'd love it if those who are interested would be less intimidated. I feel that if you can start out with more simplistic shaping more people will join. I also think that the common theme of a few yarns can be cohesively repeated. If this is a success, we can do it again with fall yarns, and attract a different set of knitters.
*I've been reading too much Thomas Hardy. This is how he labels the parts of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Anyone remember that book from school?
Photos, from top to bottom: River in Kidsilk Haze; Citrus Moon in Pima Tencel (same fiber content as Premiere); Thelma in Rowan Denim; Birch in Kidsilk Haze; Tea Set in Cotton Classic; and Marnie's Deciduous in Calmer.
August 12, 2006
The River Stole: Pattern Notes
River flowing over the sea, and gliding past the island of Kauaii.
For those who choose the path of the River, do as I say and not as I do: take the time to put in some lifelines in the early stages. I spent as much time tinking this shawl as I did knitting it, and if I had even once used a lifeline to avert disaster rather than snaking one through in a haphazard manner later, I probably would have saved a lot of time.
That said, I had the same experience with River that I have had with many other long, rectangular projects, and somewhere in all those rows, adrenaline or madness or something kicked in and I became so attached I was almost unwilling to finish it. This was not the experience of all who knit River, but for me it became somewhat entrancing. If you are thinking of embarking on the River journey, know yourself. If some unknown force kicks in when you see piles of fabric spilling out before you and allows you to engage despite obvious repitition, go forth. If you get bored easily, go elsewhere.
As far as I could tell, there were no mistakes in the pattern, although I did not make the accompanying beaded scrunchy, so I cannot speak for that portion of the pattern. My one request to Rowan would be to start using charts for lace for pete's sake! Having to read thirty-six lines of written lace instructions does not endear me to you. That said, finished project? Gorgeous.
Impressions of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze:
Possible substitute yarns:
Tips and Tricks:
*My esteemed photographer sometimes forgets that the knitwear is his subject. For clear shots of the lace see my previous entries.
July 08, 2006
Blog! Blog Like the Wind!*
The other thing I accomplished this weekend was the finishing and blocking of River. I cast off Friday morning, and this morning I wove in the (two!) ends and threw her in the sink with some lavendar eucalan for a little soak. After a quick spin in the washer (spin cycle only, to get rid of the excess water), it was out to the side porch for blocking. One of the better features of the house that we rent is an abundance of deck with an abundance of deck furniture. Our landlord's picnic table makes an excellent blocking surface, and the oppressive hot, dry weather we've been having ensures that the job is quickly done.
The stole was 50" unblocked, and when I tossed it over my shoulders, it really didn't seem long enough. I wasn't hopeful that blocking would resolve the situation, and had started making plans to knit a border with some yarn that is in a different dyelot. Because of this I wasn't as excited as I usually am for the blocking process to finish. When the shawl was dry I very unceremoniously removed the pins and prepared to bring it indoors. When I lifted it from its blocking beach towel, however, everything changed. It's truly miraculous what blocking does to lace. It is grogeous - a level of stunning that I was completely unprepared to see. I took it inside and put it on and - miracle of miracles - it was also the perfect length. The points hit at exactly the right place on my fingertips. I love it. Blocking added only 3" of length, but that was what the stole needed. It is perfect. I love it.
Photoshoot to follow...
July 05, 2006
But still. We've had a nice ritual. I get up early, grab River and the i-pod, and sit on my front deck for a few hours before work, listening to either Knitcast or Fibercast, drinking my tea, and knitting away. I've worked through a lot of my mohair issues with River. Prior to this, I've collected mohair at an almost frightening pace (thank you, Suzan), and yet rarely knit with it, because I hate knitting with mohair. By perservering through Birch, and now River, I think I understand where my issues lie.
I'm a very visual knitter. I work off pattern at the earliest point possible by reading the rows below as I knit. I rarely need stitch markers or a row counter, because I can simply look at what I've already done and see where the next increase or decrease lies. Most of the time, this is a great way to knit, but it does not serve me well with mohair lace. I find that mohair is easiest to knit when all the stitches are bunched up close to the ends of the needles. This means that a 17 stitch repeat will be shoved into a space of about 2 mm - not great for viewing what's gone before.
I will miss it. Perhaps this means more of my mohair will get knit.
June 21, 2006
To everyone who has kept me on their bloglines subscription, stopped in on the blog, e-mailed to see how everything is going.... It constantly amazes me that you all continue to check in and to be so caring. Your interest in this blog and in me are an honor. I am so happy to have become a part of this wacky little knitting community.
During that period it was hard to find my voice, and to be honest, I wasn't always interested in it. Sometimes the work we do requires silence. I know that all of you who blog must understand. Although we put much of ourselves out here, we also strike a daily balance between the things we say and the things we don't. When there is too much of a tension between blog and life, person and persona, the writing just doesn't work. You have to take the time to recalibrate, and find that truer voice again. Come into synch with yourself. It's a process that I actively engage in from time to time.
If you're missing me, know that I'm cleaning house.
In the process of this personal house-cleaning, I've decided to do some blog house-cleaning as well. Over the last week I've been working on streamlining the site so that it's more in keeping with my own freshened state. Not suprisingly, that has taken a good deal of work as well, and I imagine it will be another week or so before the construction is complete, or at least livable enough that I can unveil it while I continue to paint the walls. When it's done I will be back to blogging again - nothing crazy like you daily bloggers, but hopefully writing a few days a week - and I hope you'll be there. Although I've been quiet with my comments as well, I've been checking in on you guys and watching your progress, because, after all, we are friends.
September 19, 2005
So this is why they call it Crack-Silk
I am a woman of strange talents, and one of the talents that I have is the ability to see connections between things that other people might not notice. (Or aguably, connections that may not really be there.)
Today I've been knitting cracksilk haze and pondering the similarlities between knitting lace in a fine-gauge mohair after a long hiatus and, say, mountain biking up a steep trail after a similar lapse.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away in The Time Before Moxie*, I had a boyfriend who was a kick-ass cyclist. We met while I was training for my very first sprint distance triathlon, and to this day I credit my ability to complete that race to this boyfriend, who was surprisingly sweet and patient in the face of myriad newbie triathlon problems, such as how to get one's full-length wetsuit off fast enough to race into the port-a-potty without losing considerable amounts of time and how to pretend to be a competitor while dog-paddling in the swim portion of the race, etc.
This boyfriend ("The Cyclist") raced mountain bikes and road bikes, and it was inevitable, especially given that I was presumably training for a triathlon, that we should start riding together. Soon, one of our favorite places was Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin, where there are some wonderful single-track trails on rolling hills through the woods, with lots of fun trees, rocks and other woodland obstacles to hop over as you race along. During the year that I dated The Cyclist we went out riding almost every weekend, and after a while I became a respectable mountain biker (for a girl), if not a good one.
The thing about mountain biking the very first time, or any time after you've had a bit of a break, is that it is SCARY AS HELL and REALLY SUCKS. For some reason I forget this, and am seduced back by its siren call every once in a while only to remember when I am in the midst of careening down a mountainside at top speed saying to myself:
If I can make it past the phase of total and complete fear of death and get back out on the trail a few more weekends in a row (which I also spend careening down a mountainside at top speed saying to myself "FeatherthebreaksFeatherthebreaksFeatherthebreaksForChissake!!!!"), I can actually do alright and get to the point where I am not thinking of my immanent death at every moment and maybe even manage to have some fun.
So, too, kidsilk.
Just as there is a beautiful Jamis mountian bike in my basement collecting dust, there is a pile of gorgeous mohair in my yarn closet that grows every day without hope of being knit. I am seduced by its gorgeous colors and lovely halo even though I know that if I am honest with myself I will admit that I hate working with it.
And yet. It's there, right? And it's beautiful. So I must. And after at least a year has passed and I have forgotten the last round of trauma, I do. And so the farce that is Julia Knitting Mohair (very similar to the farce that is Julia Mountain Biking) begins.
Inevitably, I boff. Boff, for those of you who do not know, is a technical term that describes a very complicated manuever on a mountain bike, which entails falling uphill and is usually the result of a combination of large boulders and tight toe clips (those wonderful contraptions that secure you to your pedals so completely that it can be impossible to free yourself from them as you topple from the highest heights over the roughest terrain. Thou shalt not be seperated from thine bike, even in the falling). The knitting equivalent of the boff is the yarnover or yo! (as in "Yo! you forgot to put me in again!)**
It usually takes a couple weeks of boffing, yo!ing, tinking, frogging, ripping, cursing, knitting? (yes, occasionally there is knitting), boffing, yo!ing, tinking, frogging, ripping, cursing, and knitting (yes! knitting!) before the light appears at the end of the tunnel, and I can begin to think to myself (quietly, in a whisper): I might just be able to do this again.
Then slowly after more weeks of knitting, still tinking here and there with the occasional boff, but mostly knitting, I think to myself (louder this time): Well, damn, I think I am doing this.
And then finally, finally I shout (often in the middle of the night, just to give those crazy f*ckers who call themselves "neighbors" a dose of their own looney):
And it becomes a little addictive. And I find myself thinking: I AM HAVING FUN. I LOVE THIS. I WILL DO THIS ALL THE TIME. MOHAIR IS GREAT.
Until I look down and I notice that the downhill, it is very very steep. I have one repeat. It took me four weeks to make the one repeat. The pattern has twelve.
And that, folks, is why knitting lace is like mountain biking, with the notable exception that lace-knitting, unlike mountain biking, can be performed from the safety of one's bed while having a morning cup of tea, which is why I did not find myself on the single-track today.
*When I was a virgin.
*And, yes, I know you can pick up a yarnover on the purl row that follows it, so please don't give me any great advice on how to fix things on the next row. My problems always occur several rows down!
September 13, 2005
I just wasn't loving River on size 10 needles. And honestly, it wasn't loving me. I had gotten to the point you see pictured above twice and ripped out the whole thing due to irritation with sloppiness and mistakes, despite the fact that, as lace goes, it's a pretty easy project. There's just something about the combination of those huge yarnovers and the fine, fuzzy mohair that sends things awry for me. I was not a happy camper.
I really should have known better. Because I only knit with fine mohair about once a year at the most, it is always a struggle for me.* It's inevitable that I will rip back the first couple repeats numerous times before settling into the pattern, and that I will end up tinking here and there along the way when I get cocky and inevitably screw up. I had the same experience with Birch, the last mohair lace I knit, so I should have been a little more mentally prepared going into the battle.
I wasn't, so progress stalled for a few weeks, but then this weekend I went to Michael Levine's in downtown LA with Mary Heather, and I stumbled across a wonderful motivator - Bryspun circular needles. I am a long-time afficionado of Bryspun straight needles, and acquired an entire set the first time we lived in LA while I was working at the Knit Cafe. I recommend these needles for beginners because they have just the right amount of grip (not too much, not too little), are easy on the hands (not too heavy) and are extremely well-priced. Every time I teach a class or help a new friend to knit, these are the needles I pull out. Bryspuns are also my needle of choice for mohair lace. Again, they have just the right amount of grip - not too much, not too little.
Despite my devotion to these needles for two great purposes (and I believe there is a different needle for each purpose, which might explain why I have so darned many), I had never encountered Bryspun circular needles in person. There has been some talk about them in the River Along, so my interest has recently been peaked. When I discovered them at Michael Levine's, I knew that I had to try them. So, in keeping with my thought that the 10's were making this lace look too big and sloppy, I picked up a pair of 8's in 29-inch length.
I have found them to be most lovely:
And my crack-silk haze seems to be liking them, too.** The addictiveness is starting to kick in as well. I don't know if it is because I went down in needle size or because I have knit this segment to the point that I finally have it memorized, but the tinking and ripping is easing up and I'm finally able to enjoy the lacy confection which is the River Stole in Candy Girl Kidsilk. Oooh, loverly.
The interesting thing that I'm noticing now, is that although the two versions are very different in person, they may not be so evidently different in the pictures above. (Can you guys tell the difference?) In fact, the lace on 10's is much more in the spirit of the original River. And the second time around, I may very well make it on 10's. I think the sloppiness may be what gives it that gossamer appearance that we all love in the photograph. Blocking does a lot for a fine lace piece, and it's probable that the original is brought to life through blocking. For now, I like the tidy neatness of my River on 8's, however, and I am finding it much more manageable to knit.***
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't add in a word about the Bryspun circulars. They're great for this project and I really love them. They're slick and sleek and have a very nice join. The Cracksilk does snag on them, but honestly it's so fine that it will snag on anything - trim your hangnails before use! - so you really can't blame the needles. I'll be picking up more on my next trip downtown.
*Mohair lace and cotton intarsia are the Achilles heels of my knitting. You are unlikely to see much cotton intarsia on this blog, as I have little use for cotton intarsia knits for the most part, but the mohair is in the stash, and it must be knit!
**Although some people may disagree, I think the name crack-silk haze is aptly applied, because at least at the beginning stages, you need to be on crack, or at least really jonesing for a lace hit to knit with the damned stuff. Please refrain from flaming me for this belief. Sometimes *heresy* is true!
***Yes, another footnote! To make up for the loss of width due to the change in needle size, I'm adding a fourth repeat. It's something to consider if you decide to monkey around with the gauge, but want to keep River stolische in appearance.