• friends,  knitting,  photography

    Garden Trellis Mitts, More Photography

    Work is continuing apace on the kitchen and we are definitely in the home stretch now.  (That’s going to be it for my sports metaphors.  I know very little about them.)  A window was put in this weekend and now we are waiting for the cabinets, which are set to arrive on Tuesday.  It had been a bit of a down weekend for me for kitchen responsibilities, so I invited the lovely Maya over for a sleepover.  I was determined to have an utterly sterotypical sleepover, so I bought nail polish and spent the evening utterly failing to manage to do my nails properly.  I ended up repainting my left thumbnail no fewer than four times because I kept trying to knit before they had fully dried.  On one occasion, I managed to grab the wrong nail polish and painted it a totally different color from the rest of the my nails.

    As you can see, I am extremely good at this.

    Kindly, Maya agreed to be a model for my 365 photography project, so I spent Saturday morning fussing with lights and playing with props.  Our torn down kitchen is actually a brilliant photography backdrop, since the walls are cream and we now have lots of natural light.  As there’s no cabinetry up, there’s very little in the background to detract from the subject.  I don’t have much experience doing portrait photography, so it was nice to have a willing and patient subject to allow me to fool around with lights and readjust at my leisure.  It was my first time working with a model willing to sit for longer than five minutes and I think that it was a good learning experience.  I haven’t invested in a lot of tools for photography, but taking Franklin Habit’s photography class at Vogue Knitting last year definitely paid off in making me so much more aware of how light affects a photograph.  I am pleased with the way the sitting went.  I also have a few items on my very short list, because hanging drop lights off of temporary ceiling fixtures is likely to result in a house fire.

    Garden Trellis MittsThe rest of the weekend has been extraordinarily lazy.  I watched no fewer than four movies in a 24 hour period, which did result in nearly finishing the Garden Trellis mitts, which is a nice pattern that knits up quickly.  I’ve been working them in a Rowan Tweed, which is one of my favorite yarns of all time, and have enough leftover yardage for a hat and cowl.  Cleverly, I’m working them in a dusky blue, which means that they will not actually match any of my colorful collection of winter coats.  What they will do, however, is work nicely for being able to operate my camera outdoors in a New York winter.

     

  • knitting

    I do actually still knit

    It’s true. I have been knitting. What I haven’t been doing is taking pictures of my knitting, so here’s a few.

    I have my first handspun project that doesn’t stand up by itself. The fiber was 100% alpaca, which I bought at SOAR this year. I had four ounces of it, which didn’t quite give me enough yarn to finish the Georgiana Shawl from the first Jane Austen’s Knits. The shawl was designed for a thinner yarn than my homespun, so I got quite a different look than the one in the magazine. I had about 400 yards, which is what the pattern called for, so there’s an important lesson about homespun. It’s modeled on the lovely Kate, who needs to hurry up and move to New York already.

    I also spent quite a bit of time on some socks of my own design, which I kept meaning to write the pattern down for, but have undoubtedly forgotten too many details to do it now.  Still, I’d love to go back and design some fingerless mitts with this pattern, which rather unintentionally turned into a pretty traditional Celtic design.  Anyone know what the little circles are called?

    Beyond that, I’ve been working on another sock pattern that was chosen by my knitting circle. I’m well behind everyone else making the sock, but I’m okay with it. I was trying to practice cabling without a cable needle on them, but I did such a terrible job that I had to rip back the sock and redo the cables. Worth doing, though, as the result is much nicer and I would have regretted all of those mistakes forever. Of course, that means I’m still on my first sock, but it’s a much nicer sock.

    I’ve also been trying to finish up my resubmits to the Knitting Guild of America’s Master’s Knitting program. I’m onto the project, which is a striped hat that I completely fussed the gauge on. It’s amazing how making the same hat you don’t want to wear twice will inspire you to really do it right – it’s been a great program for pointing out to me what I thought that I knew, but didn’t actually. My knitting has gotten much better and neater – and it turns out that I’m not the only knitter I know that doesn’t do her SSKs right…!

  • knitting

    Narragansett Sweater, Creative Angst

    I never posted pictures of the Narragansett sweater that I made.  The design is Thea Coleman, who is BabyCocktails on Ravelry.  This was, like most of my sweater pattern choices, a quick knit. I think I made it in about two weeks.  It should be understood that I spend two hours a day commuting on a train, so that probably translates into something like twenty hours of work.  It’s a seamless top down pullover, which is pretty much the fastest knit that you’re going to find.  It’s also majority stockinette, so you should choose a yarn with some visual interest, though too much visual interest will make it overwhelm.  I chose Yarn of the Andes heather tweed, because I adore heathered tweeds.  I think the fabric came out nicely.  My picture is crappy, so you’ll just have to believe me.  (It’s hard to control the photography when you’re also the model and your photographer has a very short attention span for fiber projects.)

    I made it too big.  it’s supposed to fit as it does in the pictures, but when I wear it, the neckline moves up and begins to choke a bit.  I have a 36″ bust, so not wanting it to be too small, and having learned to differentiate between my size and garment size, I went for the next size up, which was 42″.  Six inches of ease, I thought, would make certain that even if my gauge were off, the sweater would still get over my frame.  Well, it does, with enough room to spare that it’s not as flattering as it should be.  Whoops,  lesson learned.  This was before I went to the lecture by Debbie Bliss, where I learned that knitting fabric stretches a lot, so you’d be surprised who a 36″ sweater will fit.  The next sweater will be for a 36″ bust and we’ll see how we do.  If I ever finish the socks I’m working on.

    I’ve been having serious focus problems with my knitting lately.  I find that when I’m facing challenges in the rest of my life that it often does translate into a sort of artistic angst with my needlework.  When I’m stressed from work (the current issue), suddenly nothing I’m doing on the needles is right.  I tear out projects, doubt my yarn choices and feel completely unable to actually accomplish anything worthwhile.  The creative reserves are depleted; my beloved fiber work becomes a source of distress.   Augh.  Recognizing this does seem to help me stop the madness and I think that I’ve just reached that point.  My work stress is unlikely to resolve soon, since it’s dependent on several large projects that are going to be slow to complete (even though I am a rock star), but the least I can do is turn it off when I get home and actually enjoy the things that are supposed to give me pleasure.  This week I turned the heel on that damn sock and for this week, that is just going to have to be enough.

  • geek,  knitting,  spinning

    A handspun bag

    My obsession with my Gtab continues; so I used the opportunity of needing a case for it to use up some of my early handspun yarns. Lately I seem to be too impatient to bother with finding other people’s patterns,so I just sort of made it up as I went along.  I knew that I wanted to use stranded knitting to make the bag thick and I happen to really enjoy alternating yarns over 1 stitch (i.e. *K1 MC, K1 CC, rep from *), so that’s what I did.  One of the yarns that I chose was the last thing I spun before going to SOAR – it is overtwisted and overplied, which makes for yarn with the basic consistency of bundles of straw.  Not very pleasant.  The second yarn I used was yarn that I spun in Maggie Casey’s class at SOAR from a fleece that we handcarded ourselves.  In comparison, it is the softest and fluffiest yarn that you could imagine.  Even standing alone, it’s a yarn that I can actually knit with, which differentiates it quite a bit from all of the yarn that I made before taking her class.

    My bag is scratchy and scruffy and rough, but it absolutely does the job.  And how many Gtabs get to be carried around in a hand carded, hand spun, hand knitted bag?  At the end of the day, that’s what all of this fiber madness is about.  My bag might be a little rough and unfinished looking, but every single scrap of it is the reward of the labor of my hands.  I go to bed satisfied that I have brought something into this very mass-produced, commercialized world that is totally unique and mine.  And I had a lot of fun doing it, though knitting with my pre-SOAR yarn did contribute to a carpal tunnel flare.  I’m really looking forward to knitting with some of the other yarns that I’ve made since, since I can tell by their feel that they’re nice and soft.

  • knitting

    Vogue Knitting 2012

    Just like last year, I started this year by going to Vogue Knitting with a hacking cough and taking a class, while wishing all the time to be drawing significantly less attention than I was.

    But I was signed up for Franklin Habit’s Photographing Your Fiber class and I was *not* going to be missing that. (Also, I am cheap.) The class was excellent and informative, with a good grounding in photography basics. I already knew the basics of photography, the aperture and shutter speed bits and that photographing is quite literally recording light, but I’ve really struggled with how to take good photography of my fiber projects when I have no north facing windows and only see my house in daylight in the winter months on the weekends. He had some great suggestions. He also had a light tent. Now I desperately want a light tent, so that will be next weekend’s project.

    I took the picture above in the class in the lightbox; it’s also my latest handspun, which is yarn that I’d actually like to knit with. I’m getting a lot better, though I’m not sure what I want to knit with this. It’s a nice change from my normal mode of putting the project on my gray driveway on cloudy weekend days. Color saturation will always be a problem, so his advice was not to worry about it. I am proceeding to not worry. See me not worry.

    The yarn is green. Really.

    I went to a lecture by Debbie Bliss, which was not what I expected. I thought it was going to be about customizing knitting patterns to your body, or at least in picking designs that will suit your figure type. It was more of a marketing event for Debbie Bliss, in which she proved to us that she does have very many nice patterns indeed. The sum up of useful information is that knitwear stretches a lot, so negative ease is fine as long as there’s a good fit in the shoulders. Also, A lines under the bust suit just about everybody.

    Fortunately, I was feeling so ill that I left having purchased only 9 balls of yarn and four ounces of llama. It’s not my fault; the llama was local to Long Island, so I was just supporting local farming and I had to. Also, it is llama. LLllllllamma.

    I am still quite sick, but I did finish a hat this weekend for the Man, who has such a big melon that he’s never had a hat that fit properly before. In fact, I couldn’t find any patterns for hats that would fit his head, so I had to make one up. It actually fits and he likes it a lot, though he is a very impatient model. (Franklin warned us about that too. He’s a genius.)

    He likes it so much that he’s decided I’ll be knitting one for his brother. Ahem.

  • family,  friends,  knitting,  relationships,  spinning,  wedding

    2011 Holidays

    Christmas was a quiet affair filled with good friends and family, which is what it’s all about. I made out with some very thoughtful loot and ate slightly more than my body weight in cookies.

    But I have prevailed; the cookies are all dead. In my belly.

    I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Years an awful lot because it is so quiet. After all the hustle and bustle of lights, tree, cooking, family, etc., it becomes almost necessary downtime. The trains are quiet, nearly everyone is gone from the office, and I have no excuses for not getting a great deal done. As a productivity nut and worker bee, this makes me very happy. As a person with an exciting life to write about, well, not so much. But it’s been a nice quiet. I’ve been able to conquer the world in Civilization get some writing projects done, master some Bach and finish some big projects that have been hanging over my head at work. It’s a nice feeling.

    I see other bloggers out there doing lists of what they’d like to do next year. It’s made me think about some of the highlights of this year. This year, I:

    – got engaged to the love of my life (this is a celebration, not an accomplishment)
    – actually managed to get good enough at the piano to be able to sight read stuff where the left hand does more than play chords. Slowly, mind.
    – learned how to fox trot, to rhumba, to merengue
    – learned that if fox trotting, rhumbaing or merenguing with a 6’3″ man, heels are a good idea. Otherwise, neck injury occurs.
    – (self)published a knitting pattern
    – had the realization that not being my skinniest weight ever does not, in fact, make me a bad person
    – watched my ward pull in grades higher than he thought possible on his report card, despite having skipped most of two years of school a few years back.
    – adopted a house hippy. Everyone should have one.
    – learned to rip up carpet and stained all the wood for a new staircase in a weekend
    – went to a spinning convention and actually learned how to spin yarn that looks like yarn
    – fell in love with the mountains of eastern Oregon and took some awesome pictures
    – bought a cowboy hat
    – knit multiple sweaters, learned to not hate knitting socks and designed a few more things on my own
    – have actually done a little bit of wedding planning, despite hating it like you wouldn’t believe
    – actually genuinely enjoyed the holidays for a third year running

    It has, all in all, been a good year. We are all safe and happy and the family grew again this year (see the house hippy aspect). I am filled with gratitude and can only marvel at my good luck. Life is good; my only goal for next year is to keep it good.

    Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make 2012 even more filled with light than 2011.

  • knitting,  nature,  spinning

    December String

    I’ve been very distracted lately, because I’ve discovered Librivox, which is a collection of public domain audiobook recordings. For free. This means that I can knit and have someone read Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Bronte to me. If you don’t know about it, go now and download the books you always wished that you’d read, but never made time for. You can multitask! It’s a dream.

    We went down to Virginia for Thanksgiving and had a very quiet visit, which was actually really what the doctor ordered. I took my new spinning wheel, the Majacraft Rose, because, well, it has a carrying bag. And carrying bags ought to be used. I managed to spin up about 2 ounces of alpaca, which I really ought to finish working on, as I have another 2 ounces left. My spinning has gotten so much better since SOAR, so now I must show a picture of the last skein I finished:

    I’m not a master by any means, but I have improved an awful lot, which feeds into spinning as a new obsession. I’ve picked up a few tomes on spinning techniques now, as well as having subscribed to SpinOff, which mostly seems to be an excuse to look at pictures of weird looking sheep. Like merinos.

    I have been doing a fair amount of knitting as well, including picking up a cardigan that I never quite liked the fit of and making the shawl collar twice as wide. It’s the first sweater I ever made and nearly took me two years to complete, as I naturally picked the most difficult cable pattern in the universe to learn how to cable on.

    I feel like this picture should really be called Self-Portrait. Plants, books, games and knitting. If only it paid better.

    Somehow it became December without me looking, but I’m procrastinating finishing up my holiday shopping. (I can say that, as I have purchased exactly two presents already). Tomorrow I’m going to find someplace in the house to put the tree and potentially procure one. I never used to be much of a fan of Christmas trees until I realized that having something gigantic and organic (unlike, say the giant fern in the picture above) is kind of awesome. We may even get ambitious and climb ladders and put up lights – coming home to a nicely lit house makes the dark of December so much more bearable.

    As does sock yarn.

    *Cough*.

  • cooking,  knitting,  new york,  politics

    Memory

    It’s September 11th, ten years after the event. There’s so much that’s been written about this that I couldn’t dare, even if I wanted to. But I find that I don’t want to – that day was horrible enough to live through the first time. Perhaps it’s cowardly of me, but I can’t stand to watch any of the coverage. I hate being reminded that we live in a world where people exist that spend all their productivity on hurting other people. The September 11th attacks are a demonstration of the worst part of humanity. I don’t want to give people like that any more attention than they already get. And I don’t just mean Al-Qaeda – every country and every group has its murderers in the population. We must understand ourselves and each other as humans first. We are all responsible for and to each other.

    I’m a Washingtonian and a New Yorker. My two homes were attacked. But I want to live a life filled with gratitude and light. It is so easy to drown in the badness in the world. Spending a day reliving the emotions of that day, as I tried to track down the safety of people in both of my cities, is just too much.

    I spent this morning watching kids play soccer at the community center. Kids who don’t remember the attacks, or a world unchanged by them, but are out and joyful and worried about nothing more than keeping the ball out of the goal. I was surrounded by family, knitting in my hands. I was filled with gratitude. The day was crisp and beautiful, like it was ten years ago. We talked about it. Looking back, we all seemed so young. It’s one of those pivotal moments in a culture that people just don’t forget. Major hurricanes, volcanoes, terrorist attacks. You remember where you were.

    We were so young ten years ago. And yet, time has gone on. I decided to celebrate life.

    I ran some errands. One of them was to fix my car, which someone tried to break into during the hurricane. They fortunately did this rather ineptly, so I have a car to fix, but they did knock out my turning indicator, which means I can’t drive it. But this is a minor problem, compared to the “evacuate because a hurricane is coming” problem of two weeks ago. It’s hard to be too upset, although it was done while we were evacuated, which means it was probably someone I see every day. But it’s just stuff. The car is just a thing.

    We ran to get groceries and then I spent the afternoon doing the cooking for the week. (And pie!) While I was chopping vegetables, listening to Norah Jones on Pandora and filled with peace, I looked out the back door into the yard. There, my fourteen year old cat and my thirteen year old cat were pouncing on dried leaves like they were newborn kittens. Even today, when we’re all thinking of death and murder, life goes on, unstoppable and, in some places still, innocent.

    In the darkness, light.

  • cats,  knitting,  spinning

    Unabashed knitting and spinning post. And a cat.

    Now that I’ve started spinning, it’s a lot harder to have a generic “this is what’s on the needles” post, since I now also have to include what’s on the bobbin. I am still very much a beginning spinner, so my spinning tends to sound a like like:

    “Spin, squeak of wheel, spin, spin, spin, SQUEEEEAAAAK, whoosh!, @#$@@”

    For those of you that are not spinners, let me translate. What is happening is that I’ll get into a spinning zen and the spinning will be going along. However, I only know how to spin one thickness, which is Very Thin Indeed, so inevitably I’ll reach a point in the fiber I’m spinning where I’ve spread it out too thin and the yarn I’m spinning will actually break. At this point, the flying maiden, which is the part of the wheel that feeds the yarn to the bobbin will make a joyous leap for freedom, snatching my yarn straight out of my fingers. And then the spinning stops while I fix this. Repeat.

    Currently, I consider success the slow extension of the duration of time between these moments of high spinning drama, which are getting longer. Here’s a picture of my latest attempts, which may not actually just be cut off and discarded, like the last attempt.

    It’s really just an excuse to accumulate baskets of sheep fleece, which I’ve managed to keep limited to one basket so far, a significantly smaller basket than my knitting basket, which I think I could actually sit in if it were ever empty. Which it is not.

    I’m working on two things in knitting at the moment, as my wrist permits. I’ve been very interested in learning to design my own patterns. I took a class back in January, even. Since then, I picked up the Vogue Sock book, which my brother had bought for me shortly after my mom died. (Sometimes my brother is very cool.) Not being much of a sock knitter, I never did too much with it, but I figured that socks, being small, would be a good place to start. And so I did:

    Unfortunately for our heroine, I used the sock knitting chart calculator in the Vogue book for the wrong yarn weight to my yarn. This is a really basic mistake, but when you’re on the train and you’re *pretty* sure that you’ve got DK weight yarn in your bag, but it turns out that it’s actually fingering weight, well…oops. Thus far I have the nicest beginning of a sock for a cat. Back to the pattern board, which is just as well, since the stitch design I put on there is probably too complicated for such a colorful yarn.

    Speaking of cats, someone’s been partying hard. Or, well, found all the crap that I pulled out from underneath my brother’s desk yesterday and decided it was the snooze spot until someone obnoxious with a camera came around and ruined things.

  • knitting

    A quickie….blanket

    Last week, I finished my second baby blanket, which is the termination of a wee experiment of mine. I knitting my first baby blanket entirely in stockinette stitch (note: do not do this), which most people ooh and ahh over because it has a zillion colors. I’m not an expert, but I’ve been told babies like lots of colors. Being as I don’t really remember being one myself, I’m going to have to presume that it’s true. So the first blanket looked like this:

    Stupidly, I never took another picture of it, even after it was finished. I sewed on a fleece backing to it and did some embroidery* to decorate the front. It took so long to do that by the end I swore I’d never do another baby blanket. The pattern is here for anyone I didn’t just scare off.

    * I suck at embroidery.

    Then one day I got tired of saying that I was a decent knitter, but I couldn’t crochet at all, so I learned how to do it. Crochet is a totally different beast from knitting. It really only has three major stitches, with the majority of crochet stitches being a variation of the single crochet stitch. Once you master the chain stitch and the single crochet, you’ve pretty much just figured out crochet. You could go a whole lifetime without learning afghan stitch, which is not actually required to make afghans. So, it’s a lot simpler to learn. It also has basically no limitations as to the direction of your stitches, which makes it a lot more sculptural than knitting. It has 90° turns. It’s like the wild and crazy cousin of knitting that failed out of school, but gets invited to all the parties.

    It’s also fast and loose. Well, fast anyway, so when I heard of the latest pregnancy among my friends, I decided it was time to give the experiment a try. I adapted a full size blanket down to the purpose, which is easy to do in crochet because of the prevalent use of the awesome colorful granny square. I just made fewer of them and a slightly smaller border. It worked beautifully, once I got my brain wrapped around what was required to make one such square. Here’s a picture from the blocking*:

    * I also suck at blocking. Or, well, need to invest in some of those foam blocks you can stick your t-pins into rather, than, say, a totally not solid towel. That’s definitely my next knitting purchase as the next thing I have to block is a queen-sized bed sized lace shawl.

    I am pleased. This blanket took easily half the time that the other one did. I am no longer afraid of baby blankets, which is unfortunately a bit theoretical, as my wrist has been in such sad shape over the past few weeks that neither knitting nor crocheting for any length of time is a good idea at all. While this is frustrating, I’ve been spending my time writing patterns that I cannot yet knit. Pattern design is fun – it’s quite a bit of math, but I can’t wait to heal enough to actually be able to turn them into real creations. Lest I, dare I say it?, start designing baby blankets.

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