Thursday, July 24, 2008

Change of Heart

I haven't said much about the Afghan for Afghans shawl lately. It is deserving of more. When even my brain feels cross-eyed with cables and graph paper, it's a refuge of sanity and simplicity. Not only that, and even better, it has ceased to be the Red Shoes Project. I admit I was still a bit queasy over the color scheme, even after adding the red stripe. Once the wide (ish) green swath was in place, I was much happier with it.

So happy that I'm willing to share the recipe.

Directions for the "I Did It My Way (and I'm not a Frank Sinatra Fan)" Shawl.

Choose your yarn and circular needles. I'm using Unique Sheep Super Wool in Evergreen for the base and an assortment of Dale of Norway Tiur (the pink) and Baby Ull (the rest of the colors) for the stripes.

Swatch (sorry, but it's necessary).

Do the math (sorry, sorry). Stitches per inch from the swatch times the length or width of your shawl (depending on how you want the stripes to run).

Choose the kind of border you want and cast on. I used the crochet cast-on -- because I like the way it makes the cast on edge match the bind-off -- and an odd number of stitches -- because I wanted a seed stitch border (or is it moss stitch over an odd number and seed over an even?) that began and ended with a knit stitch -- and cast on 301 stitches for the length of the shawl so my stripes would run horizontally.

Knit your border - garter, rib or moss/seed stitch. I did 5 rows of moss stitch.

Knit in stockinette, maintaining a 5 stitch border at each side until you can't stand using the same yarn anymore. Add a stripe. I made it for about 3 inches. Here's the part where you see why you needed to use circular needles. It wasn't just for the huge stitch count. Slide back to the base color. Knit a row. Add another stripe. Slide to the other end. Knit a row. Continue for as many stripes as you want. Make the stripes farther apart by knitting more rows of the base color and carrying the contrast yarn up the side. Make wider stripes by knitting more than one row of the contrast.

Make up the pattern as you go along, repeat in it reverse once you've reached the half-way point.

One word of warning. If you go for the single row of contrast color, when you slide your yarn over, if you keep doing K1, P1, K1, P1, K1 for your border, it's going to get out of whack. Sometimes you're going to have to do P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, so look at your stitches. Remember that, for mos stitch to work, you need to knit into the purl stitches and purl into the knit stitches. I don't want to discuss how many stripes I went through and how many times I dropped down to fix the border before I figured that out.

It's knit. The ends are woven in. It's blocking. I'll send it off to San Francisco as soon as it's dry.

Wonder what I'll find next to help me avoid The Cable Project.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday's Inspired Silliness on Saturday

Mason Dixon-have a lot to answer for. Kay introduced Matt (it's the July 9 post). I've spent way too much time watching him dance across the world. Then I spent way too much time playing on Youtube. We haven't had overt, pointless goofiness here for a while. I found this classic.

Why? Because!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Oooh! Presents.

If one is participating in a bi-monthly yarn club that has 7 mailings, one of the mailings is going to arrive earlier than every two months. The s(p)in that arrived early? Sloth. This amuses me.

It's a rather - interesting- collection this month. I like each yarn. The one on top is a little bit of black angora for lining (one of the patterns has ear-flaps). The other two are Footprints yarn in Siesta Fiesta (the multicolor) and Studmuffin (the brown) by Unique Sheep.

I quite like the slouchy, sloppy, slothful hat pattern (not the one on the front so much, there's one inside called "Path to Purgatory" for those of us disinclined to do the "work of atonement" the featured hat requires). I'm just not sure I like them all together.

The little extra treats are always fun. The tin that will someday house part of my stitch marker collection has "Slothful" tea (green tea, chamomile, peppermint, and catnip). The logo pin is for my knitting bag, but will probably come to live on my kitchen bulletin board. My favorite is the little post-it pad. When I lined up the shot above, I hadn't given the package as thorough an investigation as I should have (evidence of more sloth?). While I was playing with it all over coffee this morning I found this.

A rainbow sloth.

Take all these goodies and factor in the current Chicago July weather -- 90's and very, very (did I mention very?) humid -- and I just may have found a deadly sin I can take to heart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wild Fiber

Come inside Galena's Main Street Yarn store, Fiber Wild. Right next door to the Quilt Shop (Phat Quarters) and across the street from the Needlework shop (The Timeless Needle, Ltd.). I turned the camera over to Marco. He was very thorough.

Fiber Wild has original patterns and knitted gifts.

Fiber Wild has spinning supplies and their own brand of yarn.

Fiber Wild had kits made up. These came with a skein of Claudia Hand Paints.

I created my own kit. Their pattern (yes, that's a cable) plus their yarn (Wild Sox Handpaint) and a handmade, felted, embroidered, wool pincushion. Perfect.

I know. I only went a little wild. It was fun, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Running Away from Home

We've been in Galena. Himself had a conference. It was wonderful and not like being in Illinois at all. For one thing, Galena goes up. The Illinois I know, Eastern Illinois, doesn't.

I've never been in a Midwestern city where the streets were connected by stairs.

We did all the geeky tourist things: Grant's home, lunch in town, the Old Firehouse stairs, the local bookstore. Galena has trolleys, although we never managed to get to the trolley stop at the right time.

The Galena History Museum was my personal favorite. Did you know 9 Union Civil War generals were from Galena? That Galena made it's money from lead and zinc mining? That the original of Thomas Nast's (of Santa Claus fame) painting of Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox is on the second floor of the museum? Well. good for you. I sure didn't. All of that and you can humiliate persuade your kids and take a Civil War picture.

We peered down an actual lead mine shaft that predates the building - when the museum/mansion was built as a private residence, they threw the construction debris down the shaft. One of the docents said it took an act of Congress to get the shaft re-opened.

I can hear you in my mind's ear, jittering with impatience. "This is all well and good, but what about the important stuff? What about yarn?"

Tomorrow. You'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Breaking Through

Maybe. Sort of. I bet you've all been wondering if any real knitting on the Blessingway Blanket was ever going to happen. The problem, at least the latest one, is this bit. That loop that extends into the tip of the triangle.

That's actually, from a knitting point of view, the conjunction of a closed ring cable with a travelling cable. Once I'd spent way too much time trying to chart a flat oval cable (cable patterns tend to be tall or round), I spent way too much more time trying to convince myself that I could cross the cable and do the increases for the closed ring at the same time. I finally realised I couldn't. Maybe someday, years and years down the road, but not now. Besides, I'm getting kind of tired of it - the swatching and the not knitting.

Which brings us to the sort of, maybe, breakthrough. Novel thought. Why not get the travelling cable in place and then do the increases? So obvious, isn't it? Eh. Sometimes I have to use a big brick.

I can't help noticing that the swatch doesn't pull in and flare out like the blue bit does. I'm wondering, at my level of skill (Minimal. Ambitious, but minimal.), instead of attempting the clever combination of increases and decreases that Hannah Cuviello used to maintain the same stitch count over the whole motif, if I tried the method used by Elsebeth Lavold and Alice Starmore and only did one set of increases at the start and one set of decreases at the end, could the triangle be persuaded to stay more of a triangle?

Here I have to stop a moment and enshrine my new knitting deity, Elsebeth Lavold. She figured out how to do cable increases over 4 stitches. Of course, moving the travelling cable and charting the flat oval loop on a 4 stitch base means my charting is no good anymore. I'm wondering, too, if I can't find a way to tuck the closed ring cable under the travelling cable right there at the start. I see one more chart and one more swatch in my future.

Oh, and one more thing.

I've changed the color.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Another diversionary post. Bear with me. I have a number of interconnected ideas that I want to write about. Sort of a Six Degrees of Separation thing, or possibly the result of the intertwined thinking produced by extended contemplation of cable patterns.

First, there's the "Why hasn't anyone charted a triangle?" issue. On which enough has been said, yes? Once I've got an insurmountable opportunity like that not only renting space in my head, but settling n for a prolonged stay, I realize I need something to look forward to.

Furthermore, when one is convinced that one's knitting is from hunger, one's best friends may turn out to be one's knitting books. Unless, of course, there's a dearth of cable books in your knitting library.

Which leads to the way knitters have of recognizing real desperation and coming out of the woodwork to encourage, suggest, reassure, and point you to a new resource or two.

There are the resources themselves. This time, Alice Starmore and Elsebeth Lavold (thank you, Jess). No, they didn't chart triangle cables ( a piece of knitting I'm realising doesn't exist for a reason), but they, along with Barbara Walker, give you the tools (At least, I think they do. Until I achieve triangle cabledom, the jury is still out.).

If you've been reading for a while, you know that Clare spent the last nine months, with the exception of a little over a week at Christmas, at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Note that Norwich is in Norfolk, which is on the coast of the North Sea, from which fishermen get fish. The same fishermen who wear Arans and ganseys.

Now, go back to Alice Starmore and Fishermen's Sweaters.

You know I'm going to have to find someone to knit this for.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Progress Report

I keep thinking I'm going to have exciting cable news to give you and I keep being wrong. Perhaps not so much wrong as there keeps being more. One thing leading to another. Confusions and convolutions sprouting and intertwining like kudzu. In fact, it's rather like my pantry last week. I keep getting close. It's just that, every time I think I've solved one problem (the elongated cable I need for inside the tip of the triangle, for example),

some new twist smacks me upside the head

(as in, now I have to cross this thing?).

So, instead let me reassure you that the expanding universe (alpineflower's theory and my favorite) known has The Pantry has contracted, but left a gift. Behold, the advantage of having to spread out newspapers to drain the myriad artifacts once the dust of ages has been removed. Have you seen this?

Clever English-style knitter supplies rock bands with custom made guitars. (Not really. I looked it up. It's about a New England senior citizens chorus that covers rock hits. I like my story better. )

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Applied Science

The law of the conservation of matter states that, in a closed system, matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Lomonsov and Lavoisier have never visited my pantry. I'm cleaning it out. I have been cleaning it for days (weeks, months, years). I begin to believe I will continue to clean it until the sun falls into the ocean.

I should explain, once upon a time, when this planet was young (that is, before we bought the unit), it was a pantry. Since I've had control over it, it has been storage. We call it the pantry out of courtesy -- rather like one refers to a former admiral as "Admiral" -- but it hasn't held comestibles (unless you count cat food) for, well, a long, long time.

Further, let me state, it has so been cleaned since my children have been born. I know this because among the items on the upper shelves is the pink and white building block planter which screams baby gift (as does the blue with white polka-dots baby-diaper-shaped one that says "BOY" and the blue ceramic vase with white clouds). They would never have made it above my reach if I hadn't cleaned at the point where I couldn't bear to throw them away, but couldn't imagine what else to do with them.

It cannot be denied, however, that this project has taken on aspects of an archaeological dig. How to explain to your 13 year old that what looks like a fishbowl complete with marbles in the bottom was, in its day, that de rigeur accessory, the over-sized flower bowl as featured at the time in Apartment Life (now Metropolitan Home)? When your 21 year old cocks an eyebrow at you, aren't you compelled to explain that no one, no one, throws away Tupperware? That once upon a time, you used those barbecue tools and that that explains the three started bottles of charcoal lighter fluid?

If the law of conservation really works, how did I, the mother of 3 children, come to own 7 sand buckets but only 2 shovels? Five bubble tumblers but only 4 bubble wands? Two squirt guns (did I allow two siblings to gang up on the third)? The pantry can't be more than 4 by 6 feet. Even if you allow for the 10 foot ceilings, I can't see how, emptied, it can fill two rooms.

There was a plan (isn't there always?). The original plan was to haul out anything that hadn't seen the light of day for over a year and send it off to Salvation Army, thus freeing up space for the stuff that, having spilled off the radiator covers, now occupies various corners of the floors.

Then that dangerous word, "just," started being bandied about. In scary sentences like, "Well, let's just empty the top shelves and strip the old shelf paper." "You know, if we just moved this rolling shelf, we could wash that wall." "If we just empty the big, free-standing shelf, we could patch those cracks." "I'm thinking, we could stop at the Ace and just pick up a bucket of paint."

If navigating the unit wasn't unlike attempting to thread a maze, I might think this an elaborate ruse to duck my knitting, all of which I despise at the moment. To protect my credibility as a knitting blogger, here's the obligatory picture.

This is where it sits at the moment. It will continue to sit here for a while.

The pantry is emptied, spackled, sanded, primed and, as God is my witness, the final coat of paint goes on this morning. Just in time for me to try to organize tomorrow's parade. Then maybe I'll be able to knit again.

Of course, there's always the possibility that my pantry isn't a closed system at all. That it is, in fact, a portal to another system. Obviously, one that manufactures plastic children's toys.