Fingerless glove

looking for what's missing... I'm a knitting, spinning, mother of teenagers with a big dog, a small cat, minus the lovely rabbit Meliflua.

My Photo
Location: Virginia, United States

Right now I'm listening to "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh, reading "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan, knitting mittens, and thinking about casting on a hat.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Much better than stuffed in a grocery bag on a shelf

I sent Azucena Plus off to Mom for Mother's Day. (I really should have invented a better name for it. Azucena means either "madonna lily" or is a Venezuelan telenovela. Neither fits.) I admit that although I was knitting it for Mom from the beginning, I had not started the project with this particular holiday in mind. It is just the way the planets seemed to align.

I am delighted that she thinks it is very beautiful, and happier yet that to her, beauty should be enjoyed. That means finding a place for it, not stuffing it in a plastic grocery bag where it will migrate over the years from a chair in the corner, to a spare room, eventually to retire to the attic.

I recently read that the self-storage business is bigger than Hollywood, and I am just this side of contributing to that industry (off-site storage, not entertainment), even after donating boxes of Stuff to the recent Boy Scout yard sale. Today, I am digging through more boxes and channeling William Morris: "Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful."

Of course, all yarn is useful and all books are beautiful. But does anyone need 6 Kimberly dolls? (One is packed away.) They accumulated because they are a pleasure to dress; just ask Martha Pullen. She wrote an entire book about dressing Kimberly in heirloom clothes and how this was the next Toni doll. So how come mine are mostly naked?

Numbers 2 and 4 are going to find a new home. (Baby steps...) Any takers?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Azucena, from August to April

Done. Blocked. Ends sewn in. Photographed. I present Azucena, a shawl from a 153 round Christine Duchrow doily (plus a 45 round, 12" border of my own. That makes most of these stitches of my own design, pi and geometry being what they are and the outer rounds having so many more stitches than the inner rounds.) I cast on 612 stitches at the tree tops and knit to the center, then picked up stitches and knit to the outside edge. From an unnamed Italian cashmere/merino blend (60/40) purchased at Stitches East in Baltimore around 2006, on size 5 needles, 70" diameter, 1014 stitches in the final round (It ruffles a little. I could have gotten away with fewer, maybe 942). Here it is unblocked:

It is a mini-travelogue from my youth. The trees are a stand of pines on the drive to Hartman Creek, the borders are the mountains of Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks, in between are little bubbly rows of DYCs -- the ubiquitous little yellow flowers of western National Parks. The center has the symmetry of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. (OK, so to see this connection you have to use your imagination. Love those domes: so unexpected.)

I might take a better picture of it once I have it off the alphabet blocks, but right now the white truck is gone. (The hood of a white car is my new favorite background. So big, so white, so nondescript!)
If I could have figured out a way, I would have included the Devil's Tower, pueblos of Mesa Verde, Yellowstone's mudpots, the hot asphalt of a Kansas A&W parking lot, Oregon's rocky coast and northern California's giant redwoods.

Maybe next time I'll knit some Great Sand Dunes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dear Bob, Maybe we won't use alpaca.

I am at that stage on my circular lace shawl, Azucena, when every round is over a thousand stitches long and it would take less time to wash an elephant than it does to knit once around the thing. In spite of the neverendingness, I really do not mind this stage since I like the feel of this merino wool/cashmere blend, and I don't have to think too much.

Still, the end is in sight and I can entertain myself here in the homestretch with dreams of what to knit next. I rarely knit to deadlines or for an occasion. I cast around for what I feel like knitting, then decide what to do with it after I have a good start. I knit for the pure pleasure of it. If the end of a project happens to coincide with a gift-giving holiday, so much the better.

This is how it usually goes, except sometimes I get a little nudge in my project selection process from the outside world. My darling brother asked if I would knit him a hat, not just any hat but Meg Swansen's Swedish Dubbelmossa that I knit once for our dad and once for our younger brother. We had long discussions about details like the softness of alpaca compared to the more boingy unspun Icelandic wool.

For me to knit the same pattern more than once means I REALLY like it, so that is one point in dear brother's favor. Then he said magic words: "as for color, something unique would be nice" and "if there are other fibers you'd like to experiment with, feel absolutely free." Carte blanche! He really knows how to charm a knitter. How could I not be excited to knit a pattern I love in whatever colors and fibers move me at the time?

OK, so Burgundy and Porcini (more taupe than the photo shows) are not exactly going out on a limb, colorwise, but they are positively wild compared to the undyed gray and cream or brown and cream of the first two hats. The yarn is KnitPicks Gloss sock yarn -- a merino wool/silk blend. Not alpaca after all, but the merino has enough boing to make a nice fitting hat; the silk makes it interesting. Even a little bit of silk makes me feel like I am basking in the ancient fiber tradition of a great civilization, aside from the sheen and color it adds. It is soft as pudding, but still has enough grabbiness to make stranded knitting a pleasure (if you like stranded knitting to start with. If you don't, the yarn probably won't change your mind, even if it is nice yarn.)

It won't be cold again for a long time, so there is no pressure for a quick finish. This is just something to keep me occupied while I decide which circular shawl to knit after Azucena.

And the Miss Marple socks? We won't mention them right now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Lesson on Persistence

We had gorgeous spring weather for Easter, and everyone heaved a collective sigh of relief that our record breaking winter was over. Then along about mid-April it turned cold and icky for days on end. I even saw the cold drizzle turn to big flakes of snow, an "onion snow" that didn't stick. The cherry blossoms in DC had come (and mostly gone, along with the spring crush of tourists), but up in the wilds of Pennsylvania I found this lone tree, blooming in the face of adversity. To look at it you wouldn't even have thought it would make good firewood, but I thought it was a marvel.

With nothing for soil except the rocky leftovers from a reclaimed coal mine and bark on only half its twisted trunk, this tree is hangin' on.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Letting go

In the Great Spring Cleaning of 2010, I finally admitted to myself that this hat just wasn't working:

So I let it go. It was a lot bigger than this when I started. It was such a dud that it didn't occur to me to photograph it for posterity. Or as a cautionary tale about throwing together two hand-dyed sock yarns. I was just thinking I might get good at this letting go business when this showed up in my stash (I have no idea how it got there):

The Dale of Norway Notre Dame ski sweater.

When the Yarn Harlot knit the Dale of Norway Whistler sweater as her Olympic Knitting project in February, the pattern book (Dale of Norway Commemorative Collection 8501) started selling like hotcakes. Then it went out of print. Then it sold out. Just about everywhere. A copy of this booklet that had been recently sold for $16.95 suddenly went for over $200 on eBay. There is only one word for that.


The problem was that after it was impossible to find, I became captivated by a different sweater in the same booklet. I never had the tiniest urge to knit a Norwegian sweater, not even a little bit, but this sweater called to me. I Googled. I lurked. I eBayed. I commented on Ravelry. Vicki saw my comment and sweetly mentioned she had seen a copy in a shop off the beaten path. Nordic Accents in Elkhart Lake is not a yarn shop. She sells lots of beautiful Nordic things but also just happened to a have copy of the elusive booklet, and would I like to buy some yarn with that? Since the goldenrod and tartan green are discontinued colors, and soft blue seems rare, I put together my yarn pack from two different sources. It was a multi-email endeavor, but the proprietress was so patient and helpful. The next time I am in Elkhart Lake, I will be browsing her Finnish glass birds.

Now before you all rush to eBay to splurge a couple of C notes, WoolyBaaBaa now has the patterns available as PDF downloads; reprints may or may not be on the way. Oh, and thank you Vicki. (I think.)

Monday, March 15, 2010


I have been doing my part to keep the winter weather from coming back: knitting warm, felted, woolly mittens. As long as I keep knitting mittens to conquer extreme cold I figure we are guaranteed 65 degrees and sunshine, and these mittens will stay on the shelf until next December. Jane says it is like washing your car to make it rain.

The Virginia Tech mittens AKA Hokie Hands:
The mitten on the left has been through a few hot water washes to shrink it down from almost 20 inches to a normal mitten size. I experimented with intarsia in the round to put a VT logo on the palms, then decided it would be winter 2020 before I worked that out. Plain stripes are the better part of valor. Chicago maroon and burnt orange are unique when it comes to college colors, not beautiful, but they did kind of grow on me.
Knitting mittens has got to have at least as much mojo as Phil the groundhog, don't you think?
(I used a cobbled together pattern from a mountain climbing forum to simulate Dachstein mittens using about $1.75 worth of thrift store wool yarn on size 10 needles. The orange is worsted weight, the maroon is 2 strands of fingering held together.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blocked and Everything

I-cord around the neckline & armholes, washed, blocked and wearable:

Knitting through the back loop makes the cables and ribbing stand out better than they otherwise would in this soft half merino-half alpaca yarn. I like that, especially in the ribbing. Next time I will work in some shoulder shaping. My gauge on the cables is not only narrower but shorter. It makes my neckline pull down.

Knitting something shaped like a person has me thinking about knitting a sweater for myself. The ratty, black wool, cabled cardigan I bought in the last millennium and wear regularly desperately needs to be replaced. I love it because wool is an honest to goodness miracle fiber. Even mountain climbers have swung back from the techy trend to wool and wool blends. Since the biggest thing I ever knit for myself was a scarf, a new red wool sweater would be an event.

Maybe after I finish the Virginia Tech mittens.

And Miss Marple socks. And another Swedish Dubblemossa. Did I mention I am still working on the circular shawl Azucena? I am at the interminable stage. I knit for hours to get ... 2 centimeters.

In the meantime, to celebrate today I made a lemon pound cake and my favorite sauce to go with it. The recipe starts, "Boil together a cup of water, a small half-cup of sugar and a piece of butter the size of an egg." One can hardly argue with directions like that.