Monday, September 15, 2014

Good gifts . . .

I have to admit that my favorite kind of gifts are the kind I got not long ago -- two great gifts in one weekend.  First of all, they were totally unexpected - it wasn't my birthday, or Christmas, or Mother's day, or, well anything.  And though I appreciate the generosity of any gift, they were not embarrassingly extravagant.  What they were was perfect.  Really perfect for ME. 
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The first gift was the box of card catalog note cards.  It was a gift from someone who knows me very well, and it really is exactly right.  The box looks like a little card catalog drawer, and contains replicas of catalog cards from the Library of Congress.  They're all of cards from classic books.  On the back, there's room to write a short note, and there are little envelopes to mail them in that look like the ones that held the date due cards in library books in the olden days.  (You know, the olden days, before libraries used barcodes and scanners.) Eventually I will use them to write notes, but right now, the box is just sitting on a table in my living room, because I can't bear to part with any of them yet. 

The book journal was from someone who probably doesn't know me all that well, but who works in a bookstore.  And it too is just the thing for me.  For quite a few years, I have been keeping a list of the books I read and listen to.  My not very impressive reason for doing this is so that I can remember whether or not I've read a book (or just read about it), and to recall titles of books I'd like to recommend to one person or another.  The flaw in my plan is that I write down books as I read them, so there's no easy way to find a particular book except to skim the list, which by now is quite long. 

This journal is designed like an address book, with alphabetical tabs on the side and a page for each book.  When I counted the pages and looked them over, I realized first of all that there aren't enough pages to last very long, and that I probably didn't want to reflect quite so much on each book I read as to take a whole page.  So, I'm using the alpha tabs (by author) but not using the whole page, just a paragraph or so, and a star rating for each book.  Also, I'm using some blank tabs at the back to STILL keep a chronological list of the books I'm reading, because sometimes I need to be reminded of the title (or author) of a book I just finished. My mind really is a sieve like that, I'm afraid.  And so far,  this journal is working out great!

How about you?  Have you ever received a perfect gift, just because? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

One Last Summer Sweater



  Cascade, by Marie Wallin

  • made of Rowan Silkystones yarn, 52% silk, 48% linen, color Grassland, 10 skeins used though the pattern asked for 9 (more about this later)
  • US size 5 needle (pattern calls for a 6)
  • Size M (designed for 36-38 bust, for a 46" garment (!!)
  • On Ravelry
 I actually fell in love with this yarn first, when I saw this picture in a magazine:
But this sweater is crocheted, and I don't crochet (much), and didn't think this much crochet, with such a textured yarn (and oh, I did love the color and texture of that yarn) was a good idea for my first project.

But when I looked at the Silkstones pattern book on the Rowan site,  I decided it would be worth a try to make Cascade, a lacy KNIT sweater with a similar shape.

Working with this crunchy (it washes out to a softer, drapier garment, but the knitting was definitely crunchy) yarn wasn't too difficult, but estimating size and gauge was tricky.  I did wash and dry my swatch, and used those measurements to knit to a certain number of rows, rather than the centimeters specified in the pattern.  It was a good that I did, or my very oversized sweater would have been HUGE!


Before blocking
And after -- just smoothed, not stretched.



The first time I tried on the sweater, it looked like this:


Too oversized!

I didn't really want to reknit - so I did some pulling and pinning and finally decided to take about an inch and half off the top of the sweater -- this lifted the neckline, and made the sleeves smaller.  Still perhaps not ideal, but certainly an improvement. (Compare with the photo at top.)  And as to needing the extra skein of yarn,  maybe with tighter gauge or a smaller size, 9 would have been fine.  The next smaller size called for 8 skeins, I think. 

This sweater illustrates a problem we knitters (and seamstresses too) can have - we (usually) don't get to try on garments for size and style before we put hours into making them.  I knew at the outset that this might be an iffy style for me.  I am not a waif-like 19 year old model for Rowan, who wanders listlessly on the Spanish coast.  So, time will tell if this sweater really works in my wardrobe, for my body.

But in the meantime, there's this rustic lace.


Which I know I love. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Never EVER too many black sweaters. . .

Once the weather got warm this spring, I really missed my black cardigan.  Last year I made Miriam, and I find myself wearing it at least once a week when the weather is cool.  But I really can't wear wool once it warms up.   Though Miriam isn't a big bulky sweater, it is a warm one.

So, I interrupted my regularly scheduled knitting (Breckon, you are who I am thinking of) to make a black sweater I can wear in the spring and summer.  I chose Bonne Marie Burns' Abria sweater, because I have enjoyed knitting her patterns in the past, and it's similar to Miriam, but not the same.
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I think it's going to be just the thing.
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It's made of Juniper Moon Farm Zooey yarn, a linen/cotton blend.  As you can see, it's kind of a thick and thin yarn.  I think it's nice to have some texture in this simple design, although it may not be the optimal way to show off the lace detail.  Also, it came in black, which turned out not to be so easy to find in a dk yarn that blended cotton with silk or linen.  I hoped the linen would enhance the drape and body of the cotton yarn, and it seems fine.  Also, it's not too warm.  Really, though I might appreciate those sleeves after dark or when I'm somewhere with too cool air conditioning, what I really wanted was the look a cardigan can give to finish an outfit.  Warm wasn't wanted.
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The construction of this sweater was really fun.  It was the first time I have knitted a sweater from the top down.  First, I knit the back of the neckband, then picked up stitches for the back and sleeves.  Then, stitches are picked up for the front.  There are short rows and some nice shaping.  I made it as written, except to add some rows of length at the end -- two extra 8-row repeats of the short row shaping, without the decreases (though I did the decreases as written up to that point).  I don't know if my row gauge was off, or if my torso is long, but when I tried on the sweater before the ribbing, it wasn't long enough.  So, I got to see for myself one of the advantages of knitting from the top down.  I also used one size smaller needle for the bottom ribbing, and two sizes smaller for the sleeve ribbing.

Initially, I used the same size as the rest of the sweater for the sleeve ribbing, as directed.  I think I was afraid after the slightly too-tight sleeves of Miriam (which do stretch on wearing, by the way).  But the sleeves on this sweater are fairly generous, and cotton and linen are inelastic.  So, the first time I wore the sweater, the sleeves stretched unattractively at the elbows.  It was but the work of a couple of TV viewings to unravel and reknit them, and totally worth it.  Here's the "before" picture of the sleeves:
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Details

  • Chic Knits Abria, knit to size 38
  • Juniper Moon Farms Zooey, 60% cotton, 40% linen, 284 yards in 100 grams, color 10 (Anise) 3 skeins (from Webs)
  • size 4 (US) needles for the body,  size 3 for the bottom ribbing, and size 2 for sleeve ribbing
  • knit as written except for two extra repeats without decreasing of the front (wrap) shaping rows, and using smaller needles for ribbing.
  • On Ravelry here


Monday, June 30, 2014

Special delivery

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Sometimes, the biggest gift is received by the giver - and this was one of those times.  This past spring, we joined my daughter, for a couple of weeks, in Italy, where she was studying.  We had the privilege of meeting the woman who hosted her homestay.  I had made the Alby scarf for her, and it was such a treat to present it in person. 

My daughter helped me (by phone and LONG distance) to choose colors, and I was so happy that they looked so pretty with her eyes. 

What a blessing this lady was -- of course room and board had been paid, but she gave my daughter so many things money can't pay for -- kindness, care and concern when she was sick, friendship, good advice, and so much more.  She even invited us for a meal in her lovely home.  It's hard to out-give a generous soul, and so my knitting was only a token.  So glad we got to meet face to face.  Ciao!
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Giving away what you'd like to keep

I've always thought that wishing you could keep something for yourself that you bought (or made) for a gift is a good sign you've chosen well.  A couple of weeks ago, I finished this little scarf I intend for a gift.  And I think it's turned out rather well.

I won't get to give it to its recipient for a while, so thus this picture of me.
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  • Alby, by Bonne Marie Burns. 
  • Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere (70% superwash merino wool, 20% Cashmere, 10% nylon), colors Dark Current and Scorched Lime
  • bought at Yarn Folk in Ellensburg 
  • on Ravelry here
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I think there's enough of the yarn left to knit another scarf if I reverse the colors.  Maybe that one can be mine, or maybe it'll be another gift.  By the way, if you're reading this, the scarf pictured isn't for you -- sorry.   The colors are prettier in person, and the yarn is altogether fabulous.  The pattern is just interesting enough, and well written.  Maybe I'll get better pictures, in better light, when I give it to its intended wearer.  What do you think?  A good gift?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Roving Kind of Cowl

A couple of years ago, I made Trish Woodson's My Kind of Cowl for my sister for her birthday. 

This year, I made one for my birthday.  For me!
My kind of cowl - Imperial Wool two-strand roving

My Kind of Cowl, designed by Trish Woodson
  • Imperial Yarn bulky two strand pencil roving, dyed charcoal color, two skeins, 100% wool
  • US size 11 needles
  • 38 stitches, knit for 42 inches, grafted (That's the whole pattern, really)
  • on Ravelry here
I started thinking about making this cowl when I saw a picture of my faux leather top with a similar cowl.  I made it "longer" than the first one to fit over my shoulders.

The pencil roving makes a wonderful, warm, lofty piece, but it is tricky to knit with - it's better to avoid quick tugs or tight knitting.  It is REALLY tricky to graft with.  I used some good instructions for garter kitchener stitch, but then got it backward.  I could show you, but I won't.  I'm not fixing my mistake, because I don't think the roving would hold up to a re-do.  Even with twisting the roving often to keep it from wisping apart, I had to splice the grafting yarn back together fairly often.  This is a great piece of knitting for a beginner, but I'd suggest a beginner use a more constructed yarn.  On the other hand, if you're NOT a beginner, give this pencil roving a try.  I'm very happy with my cowl.

Another bit of birthday happiness was waking up to this photo in a text from my daughter -
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Dilys, being worn in Italy.  Happy.






Sunday, January 19, 2014

All I got for Christmas (knitter's version)

Well, not ALL, but I was blessed with quite a lot of knitting-ish presents this Christmas.

First of all, there are few women and even fewer knitters who think that "too many bags" is a real thing.  So, I was delighted to get two wonderful bags for storing and toting my knitting.  From my mom, the wonderful Swift bag from Tom Bihn.
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As many of you might know, this bag was a joint effort between Tom Bihn and the gang at Knitty.  You can read more about all its cool features - but I'll just say, it really is a terrific bag.  It doesn't feel or look much bigger than a medium-large purse, but it holds a whole sweater's worth of yarn, and the pattern book, and a bunch of knitterish tools.  And your phone.
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It includes what Tom Bihn calls a medium stuff sack. 
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I brought some knitting to the movies the other night, and knit with a cake of roving from the stuff sack.  It worked great.

The other bag was from my son, and it's double terrific.
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A Tardis, and though maybe not TRULY bigger on the inside, it still holds two skeins and needles.  Plus, it's a Tardis.

Then, my sister and brother-in-law drew my name this year.
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Knitivity: Create Your Own Knitted Nativity Scene. Fiona Goble
The Knitivity book is quite inspiring.  I like the idea of knitting one figure (maybe two) a year for a nativity scene, maybe for myself and a few other family members.  Will I do it?  Maybe.  Is it a good idea?  Yes!

I don't have a link for the mug, but if you find one, you'll like it.  The "knit" part feels unglazed, but the top and inside are glazed.  It feels great in your hand, and it's made my morning coffee even MORE welcome.

And then there's this:
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My kids channeling awkward family photos in their "twin" Urban Aran sweaters.

Knitting love for Christmas.