Monthly Archives: November 2011

snapshots from home

With all the traveling we did in November I have to say I’m really looking forward to a quiet, cozy December. One with lots of knitting in it!

I think our animals have been feeling neglected with their people so far from home.

upsidedown critters

I mean, don’t they look soooooooo pitiful? Clearly we need to spend more time with them…
(you’ll have to excuse Neil, he’s not feeling well. He’d be mortified to learn I’m putting this picture of him on the interweb)

Thanksgathering

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, always has been. Even as a kid the absolute, pure fun of gathering with my family for a whole weekend of visiting, games, and food was better than Christmas.

thanksgathering2011

Our family Thanksgathering may be a little different from most. We meet at a lodge in New Hampshire (or as I like to call it, a neutral location) This means no one family has the stress of hosting. It also means we have access to a commercial sized kitchen, a walk-in fridge, and bunk rooms for everyone to sleep in. People start arriving Wednesday afternoon and the fun goes on for days.* Everyone brings food – something for the feast, some dessert, eggs and bacon for breakfast, fruit for snacks throughout the day, a dish for the Friday night potluck… Between us all every meal is covered.

I have memories as a child of not even realizing that I was related to all these people. They were just the cool kids who’d somehow been invited to this awesome thanksgiving get together. We frequently have discussions about how so-and-so is a second cousin once removed whereas this other person is a first cousin three times removed… How many people even know relatives that distant?

thanksgathering2011-3

This year several of the regulars weren’t able to attend. We had fun even though they were missed, and we still managed to have 62 people for dinner on thursday.

I hope your holiday was good too!

thanksgathering2011-2

In other news, commenter #8 -Diana- won the give-away for Everneath. Congratulations!

*well Saturday is mostly for cleaning and travel.

Everneath

Along with knitting and sunscreen I also took a good book on vacation with me.* I was especially excited about the book, because it was Everneath which isn’t coming out until January. The publisher was kind enough to send me an advanced reader edition.

Everneath amazon link

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld… this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

If that sounds like a retelling of the Persephone story, well, it sort-of is (and I do love a good retelling). But for Everneath that’s only the jumping off point. Brodi Ashton tells an amazing story, weaving ancient myth and modern day life together into a seamless fabric.

The story is told from a first person point of view. And while I have struggled to fall into** first person narration before there was no such problem here. Well, almost none. The book starts out following a very dark, moody, and troubled teenager. There’s a lot of similarities between Nikki’s troubles and those of a drug addict. I was beginning to wonder if maybe I was just the wrong reader for this book; maybe I couldn’t get behind our heroine Nikki. But just in time Brodi drew me back in:

Even in this room, electric morsels of energy reached me, triggering my hunger, reminding me of where I’d been and how much of my own energy had been stolen. I closed my eyes and allowed myself a moment to wish that I had my own emotions back, that I wasn’t so empty.
I realized how much had changed. On the other side of a century, I had wanted to feel less, not more. Maybe most teenagers wouldn’t think like that, but when the drunk driver killed my mom, I wanted more than to stop feeling sad. I wanted to stop feeling. Period. I wanted it so bad that when Cole offered to make it happen, I went to Everneath with him. Willingly.

The metaphor isn’t broken, but it’s softened. I know this is a personal opinion, but I get enough of real-world problems in my real world. I read to escape those. I don’t think it will ruin anything to say that Brodi leaves us desperately hoping. Hoping that Nikki and Jack can find a way out of the dark fate that overtook so many of their mythological counterparts.

I enjoyed this book so much I’d like to give someone else a chance to read it before it’s released!  Please leave a comment on this blog post to be entered to win. To prove you’re not a spam-bot just let me know who your favorite author is! You have until Monday noon (EDT – my time) to enter, at which point I’ll pick a winner. This is only open to people in the US, sorry.

*I also took a wide brimmed sun hat – it’s like I’m trying to fit a stereotype or something.
**my favorite books are the ones I fall into so hard I find myself on the last page at 3am wondering what happened to the rest of the day. Yes, I did exactly that with this book. Then I had nothing to read for the rest of the trip.

Baking

This weekend I did some baking in preparation for thanksgiving. I made this pumpkin* spice cake** along with my standard apple and pumpkin breads (from the old faithful Joy of Cooking recipes)

My pumpkin bread went into muffin tins since the apple bread was using both loaf pans.

pumpkin muffins

And then I went to get the apple bread out of the pan

apple bread

Yeah, that didn’t go so well. Neil enjoyed it though, since he got to eat most of that loaf. The second I left in the pan. I’ll try and remove it tonight after it’s THOROUGHLY cooled.

*For both pumpkin recipes I used mashed blue hubbard squash A) because blue hubbard has way more flavor and B) because I have way more blue hubbard available. But the flesh is much drier than pumpkin, so I mashed it with a little apple cider before using it in the recipes. How can that possibly be a bad thing?
**I haven’t tried it yet, but it certainly looks good!

Cables cables everywhere

First and foremost! I’d like to congratulate Sherry in Idaho who had the winning comment number (23) on my shawl give away post!* She’ll be getting the PDF right away, and the yarn through the mail.**

I was so inspired reading everyone’s first (or favorite) cable stories. Some people started logically, with something small. Some people started with something they really loved (you know, so you have a goal to work towards. I’m not ashamed to be a project knitter) I’m not sure, but the afghan square folks might have started with both a big and small project, all at the same time (sneaky!)

And a few of you started with cabled sweaters. Which strikes a cord with me, because that’s exactly what I did. My first cabled project was Rogue. Which was also my first sweater project.***

oldrogue3

According to my ravelry project page I started it in December of 2004. This is a rouge estimate. I didn’t even join Ravelry until 2007, but I was so taken with it’s ability to track my knitting that I carefully went back through my computer photos and mental memory and entered all my old projects. Every. Single. One. Everything I’ve ever knit is on Ravelry*** (ok, so I have one entry for “dishclothes” but you get my drift)

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, winter of 2004. My friends and I had recently found our LYS and I was SO EXCITED to move to real yarn from the plastic crap in Michaels (I remember being so frustrated in Michaels that they didn’t have more than 30% wool in any of their yarns. Even before I knew it was possible to get good yarn, I was already a wool snob) I was still scared of the internet as a place to get knitting information***** mostly because it was so overwhelming. I’d do a google search and get THOUSANDS of hits and not know where to start. But one enabler friend had sent me the link for Rogue and I knew I had to knit it. I’d never made a sweater, and I’d never worked cables, and I’d never downloaded a pattern before.  But who cares!

oldrogue2

I think I got very lucky. Rogue is 19 pages long and contains extremely good details on how to do everything. After reviewing the pattern and picking my size I went to the store and picked out enough brown sheep lamb’s pride to knit myself a sweater. And I dove in. This sweater took me MONTHS to finish. At that point I was only working one project at a time, and it still took months. I went on a school wildlife/birding trip that involved driving from southern Georgia to the keys in Florida and back to Georgia – this was the only knitting I took with me. And it still took months.

I must’ve ripped the bottom 4 inches three or four times. I remember twisting the join at least once. I also struggled with the twisted stitch hem being too tight. I had read that I could have mirror image cables if I reversed the chart – so on my first attempt I worked the cables on one side following the chart from right to left, and on the other side following the chart from left to right. (Turns out that’s not how you reverse cables, but I didn’t know because it was my first cable project)

cabled pocket

But by the time I got to the kangaroo pocket (which is knit first) I was ready to start experimenting. I put mirrored cables on the edges of the pocket. By the time I got to the neck I was able to get the cables worked on the wrong side of the left edge of the hood correct on the first try.

Don’t get me wrong, this sweater is full of mistakes. I was wrapping my purls incorrectly on the kangaroo pocket, so half the stitches are twisted. I had NO IDEA how to graft in pattern at the top of the hood. The seams on the undersides of the sleeves are smoodgy at best (that’s the technical term) The cables I extended all  the way up the sleeves gave way too much extra fabric in the shoulder cap – I could pad the shoulders and fit right into 80′s fashion.

But I love this sweater, I still have it, and still wear it. The mohair in the lamb’s pride yarn might not have been the best choice for showing off the cables. But it’s given me 6 years of constant and continual use – this sweater has been boating and camping, on planes and long car rides, soaked in nature’s miracle after a dog peed on it, and washed more often than any other sweater I own – yet the only pills are under the arms and the seams and hems look as good as they did new.

oldrogue

*since I have a mirror blog on LJ I assigned numbers 1-40 here first and 41 to the entry over there – in case you’re curious.
**since no one has come up with a way to send solid things electronically. Is anyone working on inventing the transporter yet!?!
***I still have a tendency to dive into something new with both feet…
****and on that note, I just cast on my 200th project yesterday.
*****is that irony? I’m always bad at that definition.

on the needles

I’ve got quite a bit of knitting going on right now, so talking about what’s on my needles is as much for my sanity (or at least organized insanity) as it is for your amusement (I can hear you, wondering to yourself how I plan on knitting all this)

Short version:
Knit four hats and three other accessories before December starts. Knit a big secret thing in December. Knit two sweaters and one shawl before spring. Spring sounds like a long time from now, until you look at this list in detail:

Christmas knitting:

  • 3 hats, 1 cowl, 1 pair of mitts, 1 pair of slippers. This list is vague because most of the people on my Christmas list read this blog (hi mom!)

Designs in progress:

  • A shawl – thousands of stitches (seriously, the last row is over 550 stitches, and of course each row increases a few stitches each time to get there) due in May
  • A big, secret project I can’t tell you about. Also, I don’t have the yarn yet. Also, it’s due at the end of January.
  • My Boyden sweater, the standard drill: grade it for all 9 sizes, knit the sample, noting changes as knitting, polish the pattern, get it tech edited, setup and model a photo shoot, layout the whole thing in a reasonable number of pages (including charts) Hopefully done by April? (Indie patterns get pushed around when I get deadline projects in hand.)
  • Another sweater: same drill as above, except with different gauge/shaping/charts (of course) This one due in May.
  • A hat design: good news is this one’s done except the layout and tech editing, so it doesn’t count as “on the needles.” Bad news is I want to publish it in December…
  • ANOTHER hat design: This on is literally on the needles, and in my knitting bag right now. Should be done soon, except for all those designerly details. Oh yeah, also due in December (but flexible)
  • Some more mitts, working title Gifford. There may be a complementary slouchy hat? The mitts have been the backup project any time something gets tricky and I don’t want to think about it right away.

So it’s probably needless to say that right now I WANT TO KNIT ALL THE THINGS. It doesn’t help that the most gorgeous issue of Twist Collective ever just came out. It was right on the heels of Tangled and just before Knitcircus. Why do they do this to me, WHY?? So here’s what I’d be casting on for, if I didn’t have so many things (which I truly do love) already going:

knitwishlist
1. Peacock Mitts by Stephannie Tallent, from California Revival Knits, 2. Wetherell by Leah Thibault, 3. Zosia by Marnie MacLean, 4. Corcovado by Carol Feller, 5. Eira by Ann-Marie Jackson, 6. Sandrilene by Jessamyn Leib, 7. Marilyn by Marina Orry, 8. French Roast Cardi by Rachel Dickman, 9. Smorgasbord by Tracy St. John, 10. Moore by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, 11. Dove by Agnes Kutas, 12. Telemetry by Bristol Ivy, 13. Tessellations by Tracy St. John*

All photos copyright to the publications/authors/photographers linked.

*Yes, both of the patterns by Tracy involve CROCHET but it’s my wishlist, and I say it doesn’t matter that I can’t crochet. I do what I want.

vacation knitting

You may have noticed that with all the pictures from my vacation – knitting didn’t show up, not even once. Don’t worry I haven’t lost my senses, I knit THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of stitches on vacation. I’ve just been requested to keep the colorway of my vacation knitting a secret for a while longer.

But I can tell you it’s a shawl. A lovely, lacy, full sized shawl of my own design! If you like to knit shawls I can strongly recommend Wooly Wonka’s Shakespeare in Lace shawl club. This year’s shawls are all inspired by sonnets, and it looks like I’m in the company of some impressive designers!

March 2012 – Spring: Merino laceweight in deep rose and pale shell pink. Floral and leaf motifs scattered over the shawl. Designed by me and myself.
June 2012 – Summer: Merino/Silk laceweight in rich emerald and grass greens. Becky Herrick is going to tackle this one.
September 2012 – Fall: Glenna C is going to design a fall-themed fingering-weight shawl in merino/silk in an absolutely glowing russet/mahagony red colorway.
December 2012 – Amanda Bjorge, who designed the Aurum shawl using my Nimue yarn, will be closing out the year with an icy blue-gray laceweight shawl. This new yarn’s a beauty – merino, silk and a dusting of silver threads shot thru it.

“Rich emerald and grass greens” doesn’t begin to express the depth and beauty of the yarn Anne sent me after I mumbled something vague about “fields of grass and grain with a storm on the horizon.” The yarn she dyed up specifically for my design is gorgeous. The stitch patterns I’ve woven together will represent fields of grain. I can’t wait to share the finished object with everyone.

Well, once it’s finished. I suspect I’m about half way through the knitting (each row is longer than the last, so it’s hard to be sure) I’m at that point where I wonder out-loud about exactly how many stitches-per-row there really should be on a full sized shawl. (answer: A LOT)

There is also an accessories club, which I’m sure will be very nice :-) But when Anne asked me to design for one of her clubs I was hip deep in fingerless mitts and really looking forward to a change of pace.

Vacation

If you were paying attention last week you might’ve noticed I was a bit quiet outside of the blog. That’s because Neil and I headed out of town for a friend’s wedding. One of those destination weddings where you’re not gonna get a chance like this again: we went on a Caribbean cruise.

caribbean mosaic 1
1. Aruba bar view, 2. sea snails, 3. big boat, 4. dutch neo-classical architecture, 5. white sand, 6. fancy hotel, 7. tourists, 8. wedding guests, 9. adobe building, 10. tiquila plant, 11. curacao, 12. fruity drinks, 13. wedding day

It was a beautiful wedding, and an interesting vacation. Not wanting to sound whiny about such a great opportunity I’ll just say that Neil and I are definitely not cruise people. The food was amazing, we loved exploring the islands, the people were all so very friendly (even the locals off the ship) And it was sunny and warm, what’s not to love?

caribbean mosaic 2
1. 100_4355, 2. 100_4604, 3. 100_4480, 4. 100_4603, 5. 100_4580, 6. 100_4565, 7. 100_4560, 8. 100_4548, 9. 100_4542, 10. 100_4541, 11. 100_4519, 12. 100_4515, 13. 100_4489, 14. 100_4482, 15. 100_4588, 16. 100_4404, 17. 100_4397, 18. 100_4389, 19. 100_4383, 20. 100_4465, 21. 100_4354, 22. 100_4364, 23. 100_4366, 24. 100_4357, 25. 100_4362

mountain colors 4/8s wool

Thank you all for the wonderful comments and positive feedback on my Kathryn Margaret shawl. It means a lot to me. I’d be designing things for myself whether or not there was anyone else interested in them. To be able to share my patterns with other wonderful knitters is an honor.

So to say thank you, I’m having a little give-away! One lucky winner will get a the pattern for this shawl AND enough yarn to knit their very own.

The yarn used for this shawl is Mountain Colors 4/8s wool. It’s a great workhorse of a worsted weight yarn. soft enough to wear, durable enough to wear well. I’ve loved their colorways since WAAAY before I started designing. So when I needed a subtly variegated solid color for this shawl I reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in collaborating. I’m glad to say they were, and soon I had two lovely HANKS of 4/8′s in the Harmony Honey colorway:

harmony honey

I’m calling them HANKS because these suckers contain the yardage two skeins each. It’s how they’re put up for dying before re-skeining them for sale. That’s about 1000 yards of yarn total and I clearly did not use it all. I thought with all the cables that I might need upwards of 700 yards*. But this shawlette is knit out of just 450 yards!

Leave a comment on this post telling me about your first cabled project (or will this be your first?) On Friday the 18th (noon EST) I’ll pick a winner! And yes, international folks are welcome. I’d like to thank Mountain Colors for donating the yarn for this give away. You all know how much I love working with small independent companies!

KM7

*estimating how much yarn I need for a design, when I haven’t even got any to swatch with, is one of the trickiest parts. Once I have the yarn in hand and a swatch and a schematic made up it’s much easier to calculate the yardage needed for other sizes. Well- easier if you like dimensional analysis, which I do.

tailoring

I do both sewing and tailoring projects.

pinningdarkfabricishard

These are very different activities so in my head I give them different names. Sewing is when I make something out of whole cloth*. It’s creative. It feels like a big accomplishment when I can step back and say “I made this dress/coat/set of curtains.”

Tailoring is more subtle work. It involves taking something already made, and making it fit better. In a perfect world when the tailoring is done a general bystander can’t tell anything has changed. Only the wearer (or someone looking at before and after shots) can tell the fit has improved.

insideoutpocket

Tailoring is trickier work. I never know what I’m going to find when I start turning a store-bought garment inside out. Sometimes I gain insight into how to make garments fit well**. Other times I discover that the plastic stays in a strapless dress are GLUED in, not sewn into place. (At least that explained the “dry clean only” warning on what otherwise should have been a washable dress…) I can tell you that there are more tacks (holding random flaps of fabric to other random bits) inside a store bought dress/suit/coat than you’ll ever see written into a home sewing project. All these tacks make it nearly impossible to get to that bit that needs adjusting (the waist band itself, the top of a strapless dress: both places where fit is most important and also hardest to get to)

And zippers. Don’t even get me started on zippers. I’ve gotten to the point where if Neil or I needs a zipper fixed I take it to a professional.

But it still feels like an accomplishment to take an acceptable store bought garment and turn it into something striking, just by tailoring the fit.

*and here we have yet another expression used in its first format. Next I’ll tell you about putting all my eggs in one basket, and what happens when the dogs find said basket…

**hint: full linings. A fully lined garment always fits better than something with just a hem trim that’s folded under and ironed. Also, seam tape, cotton interfacing, and other things that make collars stiff, waistbands stay unwrinkled, and other edges behave as they should.