Blog

Randomly, on a Thursday 8

Finns Hat

This has been a banner week for communication. Sometimes it seems impossible to accomplish anything when it involves appealing to far away people I don’t know for a response. It can feel like my phone calls and emails are just wafting off into the void. The last few days have been different, though.

One communication success didn’t have anything to do with knitting, but I’ll tell you about it anyway. I wanted to express my views on a particular situation to the mayor’s office. I couldn’t find an email address and so resorted to calling, thinking I’d either reach an administrative assistant who’d just mark down my position on a list or, worse, that my call would be routed into voicemail hell. As it turned out, I did have to leave a message, but to my huge surprise, the mayor himself called me back not twenty minutes later! Can you believe it? I was blown away. We talked for about ten minutes. He gave me some suggestions about additional people to contact, and I walked away a happy citizen. Imagine that.

There have been a number of other minor communication successes, but the really fun one you might actually be interested in has to do with knitting. I’m teaching a class on double knitting at the upcoming Knotty Ladies Fiber Retreat on Roan Mountain. I’ve been enjoying poking around trying to figure out how the popularity of the process evolved in recent times, and I kept running into a significant gap.

Double Knitting

There aren’t a ton of resources available on double knitting, but up until the late 80’s, it seems like everything out there proceeded on the assumption that the technique must be accomplished in a particular way. If you know about double knitting, the “way” is with the knit or purl one and then slip one method. This allows you to do things like work a tube with two straight needles or to make a piece of flat knitting that has two layers. It gets the job done, but because it takes two passes to complete each round, it’s slow.

The modern way of doing things is to knit each side (of the tube or of the double-thick flat piece) simultaneously. It’s much quicker and more efficient. I learned this method from Alasdair Post-Quinn. His book and his Craftsy class are amazing resources.

DK Books

Anyway, as I perused some of the earlier explanations of double knitting, I started wondering if Alasdair was the first to use this modern method. Before his book, the most comprehensive examination of the topic was Beverly Royce’s book, Notes on Double Knitting, and she does things the old way.

So I sent Alasdair an email last night via his website and figured, not that that was the end of it, but that it would be at least a week or maybe even a month or more before I heard back. The man has a full-time, non-knitting job, plus he writes and travels all over the place to teach classes.

Well, guess what. First thing this morning, I had an information packed response from him that was just as helpful and nice as you could ever hope to get. It absolutely made my day.

In case you’re still following along with the technical end of this and are interested, the short version of the answer he gave me was that he wasn’t the first to use the modern method, but that the earliest source to which he could trace it didn’t present it with the sort of fanfare you’d expect to accompany a true innovation. This makes him think that someone, somewhere must have introduced this technique before. The other things published around the same time as the article Alasdair mentions and those that immediately precede it all seem to teach the old method, though, so it appears we’ve still got a missing link. But thanks to Alasdair’s terrific response, it’s a little gap in my understanding of the timeline now rather than a massive, gnarly one.

If you’re not interested in double knitting, this is probably a pretty boring blog post. But maybe the take-away can be that, every now and then, reaching out to someone in the public sphere for direction or information can actually produce real results.

Checks and Balances

In other news, I’m still working like a maniac and just getting my knitting in where I can. I’m almost finished with the front of Paul’s Checks and Balances sweater, and then I’ll just need to do the sleeves and join everything together.

I also started a double knit hat for my godson who left for his freshman year at TCU this week. That’s it in the photo at the top of this post. Since there’s about a 101% chance Finn doesn’t read the blog, I’m not at all worried about spoiling the surprise.

Poor Alice is moulting.

Alice

Augie is pretty much living in this blanket pile because of the crazy thunderstorms we’ve been having . . .

Augie

Everyone thinks they’d feel better about the weather if they could mooch some homemade ice cream.

Ice Cream

The garden is winding down.

Bounty

And there were peanut butter cookies.

PB Cookies

That’s it for now. Knit on, my friends!

“I hope fireflies remember to do exactly what it was they used to . . .” 16

Birthday Cake 1

I think I’ve mentioned that soon after we moved to the mountains, my father moved up from Texas to be near us. We love that, and I think he does too, but he misses his Texas friends. Well, for his 84th birthday this past week, a couple of them came up to visit him.

We went with him to the airport to pick them up, and I knitted on a new pair of socks while we waited for the plane to land.

Airport Knitting

For Daddy’s birthday, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt Cake. It might have been the best cake I’ve ever made. Instead of using three kinds of berries, I used all blackberries. They were some of the ones we picked this summer. And I added birthday sprinkles.

Birthday Cake 2

It was a happy cake for a very happy occasion.

 

Birthday Wish

With visitors in town and a lot of work insanity going on, there could not have been a better time to come across this post on Wool n’ Spinning about getting your knitting in when you can. Wise words right there, folks.

I took the advice to heart and ended up working on Paul’s Checks and Balances sweater in ten-minute spells here and there to the point where the progress on it started to actually offset some of the frustration that’s been going on with work lately.

 

Knitting 1

Knitting 2b

Knitting 3

Another yarn-related thing I read this week was this post on the huge number of spindle whorls archeologists have found buried with female skeletons. Some are from as far back as Neolithic times. I knew about this in a vague way, but the article made me think more specifically about what it means that women were taking their spinning with them into the afterlife. I’m still thinking about it.

Here are a couple of other pictures from my week.

Chocolate

Work was hard. Paul brought me chocolate.

Our little friend Shanti stayed with us while her mom and dad went on an end-of-summer trip. She and Lola alternately played until they couldn’t play anymore and then passed out.

Shanti and Lola

Even though it’s only mid-August, the air is starting to feel like fall. I’ve been working on the porch when I can. Rasta likes to help.

Rasta

The title of this post is a line from Josh Ritter’s “Song for the Fireflies.”

With intermittent rain and shine
the sky re-started six or seven times
It’s blue because it sees
All our infidelities
We both know that it’s been so long
I’m not sure what to say so I hope
Fireflies remember to do exactly what it was they used to

I’ve been listening to Sermon on the Rocks non-stop.

Connecting 13

A few weeks ago Donna Druchunas posted a list of her ten favorite knitting books. One of the books she mentioned was Knitting Heaven and Earth by Susan Gordon Lydon. She said, “This is hands-down my favorite non-pattern book about knitting, and the best writing about knitting I have ever read.”

Knitting Heaven and Earth

I ordered it so fast I didn’t even realize I’d gotten a used copy. I don’t mind buying a used book, but when I do, I like to make sure it’s a clean copy with no writing in it or serious damage. I’m actually a little OCD about these things, so when the book arrived and I saw that a previous reader had highlighted passages throughout it in red crayon, I was pretty disappointed.

I’d just finished another book, though, and because of the no-being-between-books-or-you-could-die rule, I needed to start something else right away. So I dove in. And an interesting thing happened.

Almost every time I reached for my pen to mark something important, the red crayon person had already marked it.

Untitled

At first, the red crayon annoyed me. I just tried to ignore it and keep going. In the back of my mind, I thought–if it turns out that I really like this book, I’ll get another copy.

As I read my way through the pages, though, it began to seem interesting that the red crayon person and I had marked so many of the same things, especially since not all of them were obvious things someone would mark. I felt my heart start to soften. I began to be less annoyed by the red markings. In fact, by the time I was halfway through the book, I realized I was really okay with the fact that the red crayon person had been there before me.

We began to have a sort of dialogue. When I marked something the red crayon hadn’t, I wondered why. Did the red crayon person not think that passage was significant? Had her mind wandered for a moment–wasn’t she paying attention? And when the red crayon marked something I wasn’t inclined to call out for a  future me, I thought, “Mmm-hmm, now I see what you’re all about.”

I’m pretty sure the red crayon person is a woman, for instance, and that she’s probably a bit older than I am. I got this from the passage she liked about the women’s movement. Susan Gordon Lydon says that if she’d told the other feminists she knew in the 1970s that needlework could become a spiritual path, they’d have laughed her out of the room.

I also wonder if the red crayon person may have had to deal with breast cancer. She marked the lines that read: “Suddenly everything was different. Welcome to breast cancer land. Life as you know it is now over. All your plans, all your dreams have been replaced by nameless terrors and fears.” My heart sank for her, and when she marked again, I marked right along with her: “Above all, I didn’t want to lose my ability to knit.”

Knitting has a power.

p 94 web
I’ll never know what the woman with the red crayon ultimately thought about the book, but it seems fair to say that many of the same passages spoke to both of us.

I differ from Donna Druchunas in that I don’t think this is the best writing about knitting I’ve ever read. It’s as much an exploration of a certain period in the author’s life as it is a book about knitting. I agree, though, that there are a number of places where something essential is captured about what it means to be a knitter.

Plus, it includes one of the most fascinating tidbits of information about Elizabeth Zimmerman I’ve ever heard. Apparently, she used to knit while riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle! (The red crayon  wasn’t impressed.)

So anyway, I finished Knitting Heaven and Earth last night, and I’m glad to have read it. Some of it will probably be with me forever. Certainly, the warm feeling that there are other people out there who know that knitting is so very much more than a hobby is something I’ll hold onto.

In the introduction to the book, Gordon Lydon references E.M. Forster’s famous epigraph to Howards End, “Only connect.” She says:

Knitting connects. It connects us to one another. It connects us to our deepest selves, to the vastness of our ancestral knowledge and internal landscape. It connects us to the elemental forces of the universe, the pull of gravity, the solidity of earth, the majestic roll and swell of the oceans, to weather and wind, the animal, bird, and vegetable life around us, the ethereal heavenly spheres where our inspiration flourishes. Humble though it is, I believe knitting has the power to connect heaven and earth. And according to the I Ching, or the Chinese Book of Changes, when heaven and earth unite, what happens is profound and enduring peace.

Knitting does connect. I see it all the time, even in this funny experience of encountering another knitter through the marks and margin notes she left in my book. I hope that wherever the woman with the red crayon is now, she’s knitting. And I wish her peace.

I’m off to listen to Swing Out Sister’s Where Our Love Grows. I have a feeling I’m going to like it.

Swing Out Sister

Sooo Smooth! 13

Smooth Operator Socks FO 7 web

Woohooo!! I finished my Smooth Operator Socks this morning, and I love them!

I learned about the pattern from Alex, and because I’m a sucker for stripey socks and I absolutely cannot resist a good knit along, I joined in the Itty Bitty Knits Group KAL for these.

The main thing the pattern does is show you how to preserve the stripe pattern through the heel– something that brings me no end of happiness. That’s not all, though. It also has some super helpful tips about sock knitting in general. I’d have paid for the pattern seventeen times over just to read what Susan B. Anderson has to say about the Kitchener stitch. Pure knitting gold.

So I had fun knitting along with the group, got a cool pair of socks, learned a few things that will improve my sock knitting forever and ever, AAAAND I tried a new technique.

I knit these two at a time!

Smooth Operator Socks Progress web

Back when I knit socks one at a time exclusively on DPNs, I thought I’d never want to do it any other way. Then I became a two circs convert, and I kept knitting one sock at a time because I didn’t really see any reason not to. I don’t have second sock syndrome, and there is something I really like about the tidy little motions involved in knitting one sock.

If I were ever pinned in somewhere and couldn’t move my elbows or even my wrists, I could probably still manage to keep on knitting one sock pretty easily just by moving my fingers. You know, like if I were in a plane crash, and we were all crunched into a teensy ball of wreckage waiting for rescue, and no one could move anything but their fingers. You understand what I’m saying, right?

Well something about this project made me decide to throw caution to the wind and take up a little more space. So I knit these two at a time. And you know what? I LIKED it!

Smooth Operator Socks FO 5 web

For one thing it made it feel like the socks were finished in an instant. Surely, knitting these socks took the same amount of time it would have taken to knit two socks individually, but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like magic. Poof! Two socks!

The other thing I did with these was use magic loop. I usually find magic loop kind of fiddly, but something about having two socks on the needles actually made the two circulars feel awkward. I decided to give magic loop a try instead, and I got into a groove right away.

I think I may be hooked!

Smooth Operator Socks FO web

See Ya Next Year, Tour de Fleece! 16

tdf-yarn-swap

Aaaaand another Tour de Fleece is in the books. Do you know about the Tour de Fleece? It happens every year at the same time as the Tour de France.

It was the brainchild of a vey cool woman named Star, the blogger behind Keep on Knitting in the Free World. The idea was that while the Tour de France riders spun their bicycle wheels, fiber spinners could spin along with them on their spinning wheels or spindles and cheer the cyclists and each other on.

For the first two years, Star actually ran the whole Tour herself. The idea took off, though, and what started out in 2006 as a handful of spinners chatting in the comments section of her blog had by 2008 become 15  organized Ravelry teams, sharing daily photos and competing for prizes.

These days, there are a well over a hundred teams, maybe even two hundred, and people all over the world take part. It’s crazy to think about thousands of people out there spinning their hearts out for 23 days, but it happens. I just love that!

tour-de-fleece singles 2

For the second year in a row, I spun with a team organized by the fabulous Dorothea of Spinfoolish Designs. She is ahhhhmazing! I know for a fact that she was born knitting, and she probably would have come into the world spinning, but her poor mother (“Saint Mummy,” I know you’ve heard of her) had to draw the line somewhere.

Every day, Dorothea sent us an email with info about the Tour or some interesting spinning topic. Plus, she organized all kinds of contests and games to keep things fun and keep everyone in touch since some of the team was pretty far flung.

With everything I had going on this year, I only managed to spin a tiny bit, but even that was nice. I also entered the team yarn swap. My swap partner lives in Canada (so cool), and I’m sending her the batch of alpaca/BFL in the photo at the top of this post. It’s some of what I spun last fall. I’m hoping she’ll like it.

Dorothea asks a few people to join her in writing the Tour emails each year, and this year I contributed an article about knitting with your handspun. As I was writing it, it occurred to me that I never posted a picture of my finished handspun pillow on the blog! I actually had to go back and check to be sure. I posted about making the pillow, but I never showed you the final result.

Here it is!

Handspun-Pillow-outside

Handspun-Pillow-outside-back-2

I can’t tell you how much I love this misshapen, lumpy bumpy pillow. It’s from my very first handspun, and everything about it makes me happy.

Speaking of happy making:

Augie

Augie is exhausted from the Tour frenzy. He’s so tired he can’t even guard the tummy.

And more happy making:

banana-cake

Banana cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Also known as dinner. Yes, I did. Found the recipe here.

 

When you walk through the garden . . . * 9

knitting 3

Things are overwhelming.

Cancer is the devil. Since the last time I posted, I’ve learned that two people dear to me will probably die from it in the next days or weeks and that one precious friend is facing it again, after fighting a long, hard battle to beat it once already.

And work. I’m so grateful to have it, but the stress is huge.

And the world. Ohhh, the world . . . I’m trying to remember to breathe, do yoga, eat healthy food, get enough sleep, love on the dogs and Augie, take at least a little time to touch base with the wise people in my life, and of course, knit.


Augie

This morning, I was in serious focus mode: “This 45 minutes, in between all of these other things, will be spent dedicated to making progress on this particular work thing.” During the 45 minutes, I got two separate texts about two new and complex obligations that have to be added to a schedule that feels like it’s already unworkable.

For a second I was teetering on the edge . . . but then I put the texts out of my mind as well as I could, finished out my 45 minutes of work, and like I was reaching for a life raft, picked up my knitting. I actually set an alarm for ten minutes so I wouldn’t have to keep looking at the clock, and I knitted on the  Smooth Operator socks I’d cast on last night. 

Smooth Operator Socks CO

It helped.

I’m saying this here because it’s been six days since I posted, and I didn’t want to just disappear. It’s also a note to my future self: knit. I can’t imagine I could ever forget that, but just in case . . .

The other thing I’d like to mention for the record is this huge life lesson: Cut everyone you’ve ever known a ton of slack. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume people mean well, and hope they will know that you do too.

This is such a cliche, but I’m understanding it in a way I never was able to before. My younger self somehow felt on top of everything, all the information, mine, yours, theirs. If I didn’t know, it was just that I needed to find out, think more about it, ask some questions. I didn’t even realize I thought this way. But now, as I face new challenges and I see people I love face challenges that my younger self just flat didn’t have the wherwithal to imagine, I realize how much every single one of us needs a break.

 

*Way Down in the Hole

Rabbit Holes 16

Since things are feeling a bit insane around here workwise, I will make no mention of my own knitting projects today. Instead, I want to tell you about the explosion of blog serendipity that happened yesterday.

I was catching up on recent posts from my favorite blogs and intending to keep a tight rein on my habit of following links down rabbit holes, but darn it if Fiber and Sustenance didn’t draw me in with a picture of stripey socks and desert boots. I accidentally kept reading and was reminded that she and a friend were doing a hap KAL and that I’d wanted to check out said friend’s blog over at Rosalind Craft Supplies.

Well . . . Kate of Rosalind Craft Supplies posts lots of pictures of books and knitting against which, it just so happens, I am powerless. Ten or fifteen happy minutes later, I got ahold of myself but fortunately not before I’d discovered this awesome video that Kate shared in a post about her pick for the Top Nine Television Knitters.

I LOVE this guy. And it turns out he actually did finish the bow tie!

So anyway, determined to avoid future detours and stick to the essentials, I stopped by alexand knits. I had several posts worth of catching up to do, and wouldn’t you know it? There’s this post about how Alex’s friend Carol of knit equals joy gifted her a sock pattern. That led to my checking out both Carol’s terrific blog (awesome, awesome photos!) and the sock pattern, Susan B. Anderson’s Smooth Operator Socks.

Well . . . it just so happens that there is a KAL starting for the Smooth Operator Socks in Susan B. Anderson’s Ravelry group, itty bitty knits. You know what that led to, right?

Moving on . . .

But not really. See, in the same post where Alex mentioned the Smooth Operator Socks, she talked about a Wolfberryknits post and said it was really worth checking out. Oh. My. Heavens. Check THIS POST out! It’s the best thing I’ve seen on a blog in ages. It’s about taking local fleece and dyeing it with dyes made from local plants, and spinning it, and knitting it into a glorious pair of 100% Australian socks. There are tons of pictures, and the socks are insane.

Should I mention that as I was reading the comments on the Wolfberryknits post (I told you it was bad) I came across this sentence: “I have always been attracted to shiny things. I am a life experience magpie who wants to know how things work and who collects processes like other people collect random paraphernalia.”  You know I had to find that person.

Turns out, that’s narf7, and her blog is Serendipity Revisited. And yes. It’s an extremely cool blog.

That’s it. Back to work. But first, the final stop on yesterday’s out-of-control coffee break: Woman Sentenced to Five Months of Knitting for Road Rage Punch. Yes–she did, and she was. Here’s the scene of the crime:

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 10.49.58 AM

(Picture: Cascade)

 

Knitting Love 4

IDF-Hat-1-web

The Ribbed Watchman’s Hat has got to be the most basic hat ever conceived, but I love it, especially when I’m knitting for someone whose head size I don’t exactly know. Between the fold-over brim and the ribbing, it fits just about everyone.

Someone who is very important in my life is going through chemotherapy right now and has just begun to lose his hair. I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I’d like, so I knit him this hat hoping it would carry my love and concern for him and give him a way to keep those feelings close even when I can’t be there myself.

IDF Hat in progress 2

The yarn I chose was Berroco Comfort in the Finnian’s Rainbow colorway.

In the past when I’ve needed something super soft and washable, I’ve used Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo. I also really like Tahki Yarns Calypso for softness, but it’s not machine washable, plus it’s been discontinued (it’s on sale at Webs right now if you want to grab a skein or two for half price).

Do you have a go-to soft, washable yarn that has enough spring to let whatever you’re making hold its shape? It seems like I’m forever looking for something like this, so I’d love to hear about anything you’ve tried and liked.

Back to the Berroco Comfort . . .

IDF-Hat-2-webThis yarn is super soft. I can’t imagine its causing irritation to even the most sensitive skin. And it does have a bit of elasticity. The thing I’ve been wondering is how it will wear, but guess what! Dana over at Yards of Happiness just posted about using it for a sweater, so I’m encouraged!

In other news I’m sorry for the lack of posts over the past week. It’s just been hard, ya know? The world is too much with us. . .

Sanity

Spinning, Knitting, Summering 6

This is what I’ve been spinning for the Tour de Fleece.

Finn-Singles

It’s Finn in the colorway “Little Islands” from the Spunky Eclectic fiber club.

Finn from SE Fiber Club

These aren’t colors that I’d normally pick, but I’m really enjoying the shades of blue and cream. One of the great things about being part of a fiber club is expanding my color horizons. I’ll probably end up chain plying this when I’m finished with the singles. Then I was thinking I might use it for the yoke of the Garter Yoke Cardigan. What do you think?

I’ve also been working on Checks and Balances here and there. This was porch knitting this evening just before a major, much needed rainstorm rolled in.


Porch Knitting

I got this new project bag from Fringe Supply Co recently, and I love it.

Fringe Supply Co 1

It’s sturdy, so I feel like I can drag it around all over the place with me without having to worry about messing it up. It’s also got several nice pockets inside–a big one on one side and several tall narrow ones for needles and pens or pencils on the other side.

Fringe-Supply-Co-2

In other news, I’ve been pickling.

Pickles

Picking blackberries.

Blackberries

Making banana bread.

Banana-Bread

And opening packages of fun things that have been arriving for the goodie bags for The Knotty Ladies fiber weekend on Roan Mountain that’s coming up at the end of the summer.

Goodie-Bag-Goodies

I have a little work left to do tonight, and then I’m going to get back to spinning the Finn. I’m trying to ease the pain of returning to work after my nice break by interspersing plenty of knitting and spinning. Oooh, and I’m watching The Wire. Don’t know how I missed it the first time around.

 

Casting On 5

What better way to kick off the 4th of July weekend than by casting on for a heavy wool sweater?! Woohoo! Seriously, I’m pretty excited. I started Checks and Balances for Paul.

Checks-and-Balances-Yarn

I’m using one of my absolute favorite yarns. It’s a mohair/merino blend from Good Fibrations. The mohair is the magic ingredient. It gives the yarn this incredible loft that makes it wonderful to handle, and it knits up into garments that are exactly what you want from wool–light but sturdy, comfy, cozy, hard wearing . . . It’s the perfect sweater yarn.

And the color! The artist who raises the angora goats who contribute the mohair is a genius with the dye pot! I posted a picture of a mind blowing red she dyed back in October. The colorway I’m using for Paul’s sweater is called “Soft Suede.” I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture, but in its way, it has as much depth as that glorious red.

M-and-G

The best part about Good Fibrations yarn and the very special woman behind it is the goats themselves. My friends, these are happy, happy goats.

Gracie 2

These pictures are from a visit to the Good Fibrations farm during kidding season. I think that’s what it’s called. It’s the time when there are goat babies everywhere!

Goats

Gracie 1

The cute is unreal.

I cast on for the sweater last night and knit a bit here and there as we ran errands today. I found a shady spot behind the library while Paul ran into the bank.

Checks-and-Balancs-CO

This is going to be a busy weekend, and the Tour de Fleece starts tomorrow, so there will be lots of spinning for the next few weeks. That probably mean progress on Checks and Balances will be slow for awhile. That’s okay. I’m happy to have gotten started.

Happy 4th of July weekend, everyone! I hope you get to spend it doing the things you love.

%d bloggers like this: