November 29, 2006

SNOWVEMBER

Snowvember.jpg
Obligatory ironic photo showing our summer furniture after the recent snowstorm. Another snowstorm is on its way later today.

Snowvember. I didn't make that up; I heard it used by one of our local talk radio hosts. This kind of word, made by combining two words so that the new word contains the meaning of both components, is called a portmanteau word. I love this kind of wordplay. Mark Twain used a lot of portmanteau words in Huckleberry Finn, and I used to teach that novel when I taught high school English. And so what we're experiencing now in our neck of the woods is a snowy November - or, Snowvember. And this concludes your English lesson for today, Dear Reader.

Think of snow, and one might think of avalanches. And one might associate avalanches with avalanche yarn. At our Feral Knitters gathering last week on Monday, Andrea had done what you wouldn't think possible -- she'd knitted some Fair Isle sweaters using this chunky rug yarn.

AndreaAvalancheSweaters.jpg
Andrea, seated, and Ryan, standing. Each is holding a kid-sized sweater with Fair Isle motifs and a shawl collar that Andrea knitted from avalanche yarn. The hats they are wearing, also knitted from avalanche yarn, were made by Feralites Peggy and/or Rebecca. You wouldn't think avalanche yarn would lend itself to the delicacy of Fair Isle work, but Andrea was there to show us it can be done.

At Ferals last week I was casting on for a new project. I've been commissioned to knit a scarf for a young man in college. He has a wool allergy, so I've chosen to work with the cottony goodness of Rowan Calmer:

LicoriceansCoffee.jpg

I'm using the colors Coffee Bean and Licorice Onyx. The black yarn has a bit of a sheen to it, and is just the shade that licorice is. Every stitch that I knit, I'm thinking "licorice and coffee, licorice and coffee." I even ran out to the store (before the snowstorm) and bought myself a big bag of licorice. I'm staying pretty well caffeinated while working on this project, too.

I can no more take credit for the scarf design than I can for coining the word Snowvember. This is the "Sasha" scarf from the book Rowan Junior. I've always loved the striping sequence of this scarf -- it has these graduated stripes at each end, and the center is one long section of main color -- and so I'm tickled to have this opportunity to knit it. The Calmer yarn that I'm using knits at a finer gauge than the original yarn in the pattern, so I've increased the stitch count. Funny thing about this ribbed scarf: when the ribs hang together as in the picture above, the scarf looks about 6 inches wide, but when you stretch it, it goes to 10 inches wide. I like scarves that compress around the neck like this. I hope the intended recipient likes it, too.

Posted by Karen at 11:41 AM | Comments (7)

November 18, 2006

NOVEMBER 17

FrontSalina.jpg
When I've had a spare minute here and there, I've been working on the Salina sweater for the Red Sweater KAL. What you see in the photo is the front of the sweater; I'm working the left placket. Salina is from Vintage Style (newly reprinted as Vintage Knits, copies coming soon to Two Swans Yarns), and the yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed in the color Rage.

Yesterday I met with my group of Master Knitter Wannabes -- and they remembered that it was my birthday!

BirthdayMKGroup.jpg

Lizabeth, me, and Laura-Lee. Joy was behind the camera.

They gave me that beautiful poinsettia -- and pink ones are my favorite! -- and also Joy enclosed a clipping from the newspaper of my horoscope for the coming year. How thoughtful!

When we met yesterday, I worked a bit on the mystery gift that I'm not blogging about, but I spent most of the time picking up stitches on the baby sweater that Joy is making for her new grandchild. The sweater is nearly finished and just needs its front bands. Essentially a stockinette sweater, there's a border of moss stitch on the fronts. And it was in these moss stitches that Joy was having a devil of a time picking up stitches and making it look good. I'm here to tell you that it is possible to pick up stitches in moss stitch in a way that looks good, but it takes (a) patience, (b) the technique of picking up and knitting stitches with fresh yarn (as opposed to simply picking up stitches), and (c) the smallest needle you've got -- a US 0 or 1 -- to pick up and knit those stitches.

In the evening, my family took me out to a restaurant, The Veronica located in North Bend, to celebrate. It was a bit of a drive, but special for two reasons. First, the occasion. But second and more importantly, the restaurant is owned by one of Allegra's ballet teachers and her husband. So it was fun for us to see this place that we had heard about, and to see the "other side" of the ballet teacher. And, I just can't let an irony go by without pointing it out: Here's this slim, dainty and delicate ballet teacher serving up these gourmet dishes.

At The Veronica, the ambiance was not fancy (there was obviously some remodeling in progress), but the food was fabulous. We started with a cheese fondue that was served inside of an onion, and came with slices of pear, crostini, and grapes for dipping. We shared salads: a Spanish Caesar salad, which was a typical Caesar salad with the addition of some spicy roasted corn kernels that had quite a bite, and also a walnut-gorgonzola-beet salad that was equally good. (The Spanish Caesar salad was my and Allegra's favorite, but the rest of the family preferred the tamer beet salad. My philosophy is that, with spicy food, you know you have eaten.) Prime rib with horseradish potatoes and asparagus for the main course. I had creme brulee (and the dish came with a lit candle in honor of the occasion). But what the girls ordered for dessert was the best thing: a cookie topped with ice cream. I had visions that this would be a dish of ice cream with a couple of cookies stuck in the scoops like ears. But no! What arrived at our table was a little frying pan, 6 inches square and half an inch deep, in which a chocolate chip cookie had been baked (bar style as opposed to drop cookie style) and was still hot from the oven; this cookie was topped with scoops of ice cream and garnished with more chocolate chips and a mint leaf. The charm of the presentation was surpassed only by the deliciousness of it.

Then at home, gifts:

AllegraLookingSoMySpace.jpg
Allegra, looking so My Space, prepares to cut the triple strands of ribbon so carefully tied around my package. Gorgeous wrap job courtesy of DD#1, Jennifer. The kitchen shears Allegra's using were part of the gift, as were the ginger bath and body products in the foreground. Candles at the side are a reminder of this week's windstorm, which knocked out our electricity for a day. [And that evening Allegra and I amused ourselves by playing Scrabble by candlelight. She beat me, 295 to 260. But -- I digress.] Inside the box? A giant non-stick frypan. Ah, the romance of birthdays. I guess it's back to the kitchen for me.

In Two Swans Yarns news: I've gotten in a whole lot of new items, including the humorous line of knit-themed greeting cards published by my friend Denise Satterlund and her company Unravelled. Since we've so recently covered the topic of the necessary evils of swatching, I'll show you this one:

Swatches-fogu.jpg

Inside, the card reads: Swatches? We don't need no stinking swatches! The "ammo belts" these fearless knitters are wearing are actually hanks of yarn, and the "ammo" are knitting needles.

To see more of the Unravelled line, click here -- you'll have to scroll down and even click over to the next page to see all 14 cards.

Also, the latest Evelyn Clark shawl pattern published by Fiber Trends arrived this week. This is the Spinner's Lace Shawl, that Feralites Rebecca and Peggy had test-knit. (They showed off these shawls on their blog, and also at Guild in September.)

S2017.jpg

Evelyn Clark has taken up drop spindle spinning in the last year or two, and this shawl was designed with handspun yarn in mind -- but it would look equally great in Kidsilk Haze, Jamieson's Ultra Laceweight, or whatever weight of yarn you prefer for your shawls.

And, as the saying goes, much, much more is new at Two Swans. Check it out!

Posted by Karen at 11:03 AM | Comments (9)

November 10, 2006

THE PROBLEM THAT WASN'T

Some facts about the Salina sweater:

  • I was knitting the red Salina sweater on size 4 needles, mistakenly thinking I was working on size 5s.
  • In the process of knitting what I'd gotten done so far, I hadn't ever stopped to measure gauge.
  • When I performed that assessment last week and measured the width of the back piece, the number I expected to see -- had I been using size 5s and been remotely close to gauge -- would have been 20 inches, or maybe 19.
  • The number was 17-1/2.
  • Although I couldn't get up much enthusiasm for it, I did knit a good-sized gauge swatch last weekend on size 5 needles.
  • Measuring this gauge swatch showed me that I had two more stitches per four inches than the gauge stated in the pattern. I would still need to go up at least one needle size to get the gauge stated in the pattern.
  • I could get up even less enthusiasm for knitting a second gauge swatch on size 6s.
  • Which brings me to this last, subjective fact*: Re-knitting Salina, which is 97-percent stockinette stitch, was going to be pretty damn boring.

I remembered my experience in Catherine Lowe's workshop earlier this year, where she had said that, in general, your knitting will relax and your gauge will get larger when washed. My swatches for that workshop that had been right on gauge right off the needles. However, when I soaked and blocked the swatches, the knitting relaxed, and they ended up larger.

I got out the pieces of Salina that I have knitted so far -- the ones that are knitted on size 4 needles. I thought, I have nothing to lose.

I soaked and blocked the back piece yesterday, and here's how she turned out:

SalinaBackBlocking.jpg

I didn't pin her out or stretch her in any way. I just patted her flat with my hands.

SalinaBlockedMeasurement.jpg

Miracle of miracles, the knitting relaxed a whole inch-and-a-half. I couldn't ask for anything more.

So I'm just going to keep going with what I've got, with my size 4 needles.

*Can facts be subjective, or must they always be objective? This is the kind of question I spent a lot of time puzzling over, in my days as a Philosophy major. We expect facts to be objective, verifiable, and true. So can a statement like, Re-knitting a piece that's 21 inches long and 19 inches wide and almost completely stockinette is boring, which is a subjective statement, be verifiable? Can it be true? Or is it mere opinion?

Posted by Karen at 08:48 AM | Comments (9)

November 01, 2006

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A NOT-SO-SMART KNITTER

I'd been suspecting for some time now that I was having gauge issues with the Salina sweater; it seemed to be coming out just a little small.

But Karen, you ask, what makes you think that? Didn't you make a gauge swatch before you started it?

Well, I had something even better than a gauge swatch: I had the Elfin sweater, which was spot-on for gauge, knitted on size 5 needles. And the only difference between Elfin and Salina would be the color of the yarn. I know that the most stickler knitters among my readership are thinking: You still gotta make a gauge swatch, because even different colors of the same yarn can work up in different gauges. But I thought I was too smart to need to gauge swatch the red yarn.

I had happily knitted the back of Salina. I had sort of noticed that the back had come out a little small, but I was in denial -- it was nothing a little blocking, and perhaps a little dieting, couldn't cure. I started knitting the front.

Then one morning, as I was knitting on her, suddenly this unshakable feeling came over me: These needles don't feel like size 5 needles! I remember that morning so clearly: one moment I had the yarn threaded around my pinkie and was moving the stitches along on my needles in my usual way, and the next moment I was gazing off into the distance, rolling the needles themselves between my fingertips, and thinking, These don't feel like size 5's!

I looked at the markings on the needles and thought really hard about what 3.5mm meant. It meant I had been knitting on size 4's. D'oh! I thought that the knitting police should come that morning and confiscate all of my needles.

That was the point at which I put the sweater-in-progress away in a drawer, where she's sat for lo these many months. But now I've joined the Red Sweater Knit-along, because I really would like a Rage-colored Salina sweater. And joining that knit-along has made me get out the pieces of the sweater and assess the situation. (Before I could make this assessment, though, I had to drive to the fabric store and buy a tape measure, since the half-a-dozen I already own seem to have disappeared into the far corners of the house. I arrived at the fabric store at 8:58 AM when the doors open at 9:00. Stood out on the sidewalk, cooling my heels in the frosty morning, until they unlocked the doors and let me in -- so determined was I to get this done. Today.)

It was time to shine the bright light of scrutiny on Salina:

Salina1.jpg

Salina2.jpg
At her widest point, she is only 17-1/2 inches. (Mind you, I thought I was knitting the largest size.) Egads.

If I was going to intuit that these needles don't feel like size 5's, why couldn't that feeling have hit me just a few inches into the knitting of the back piece? Better late than never, I suppose.

Posted by Karen at 03:28 PM | Comments (3)