My house looks like it was invaded by sheep who left their wool behind for care and feeding. I’ve been spinning, weaving, knitting, and scheming on more projects, waiting for warmer weather so I can add dyeing to the mix. Time is precious, so I’ll just post some photos today.
The weather has been capricious here; one day 77 degrees and sunny, the next in the 50’s with 8 inches of rain and enough thunder and lightning to power a small city. I’ll bet that black beast, Manny Bearilow, is awake now.
Spring brings thoughts of cleaning, which are quickly quelled. However, some benign bestowals of fabric needed a place in my storage cabinets, and some shifting of studio contents had to be done. During this endeavor, I excavated a forgotten treasure: some skeins of 10/2 Tencel purchased at the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat of 2016 from the now defunct Just Our Yarns.
After conferring with the friend who had been with me at the time, who had purchased some for herself, I was reminded that we bought them to weave shadow weave scarves. Oh yeah, now I remember!
I found a draft I liked enough to weave, planned a warp for two scarves, and before long my treadles were clicking contentedly away.
Meanwhile, I have transferred the rag rug to Thrugbot, the AVL rug loom, rewoven all I had unwoven, and added a few more inches.
Spring means that summer will soon be here, and summer means we have an Undertaking to, uh, undertake. Paint the house red? We shall see!
For some time now I’ve had the best intentions of working the hand-manipulated woven lace sampler published in a booklet by Eleanor Best and available online for free.
Many months ago… more than 12… I put a 7-yard warp of 72 ends of 10/2 perle cotton in a pale peach color onto the Oxaback Lilla, aka “Tinker Bell” aka “Flower” and it sat there, beamed on and threaded, with no more progress until yesterday.
I was feeling somewhat depressed yesterday; the weather had been gloomy and my body was tired from getting a very wide, very heavy warp onto Thrugbot the AVL rug loom. All I really wanted to was sit around and wait for the day to be over. But I have learned over a lifetime that sometimes it’s best to at least try to do something, so I decided to “putter”.
Puttering took me down to the studio, where I took pity on Flower and finished sleying the reed, tying on the warp to the front bar, and tying up the two treadles needed for plainweave.
This morning I found a nice slim weaving sword in my cabinet, sat down with a slim Handywoman shuttle and began at the beginning.
At first, I was packing down the weft as I usually do for cloth, but realized this was a lace sampler, so decided to pack gently and create a more balanced but open weave for the plainweave portions. I found it quite calming and pleasant to work the first few samples and look forward to making this my morning routine until all 40-odd samples are done.
Between each sample I’m throwing 12 picks of plainweave so that each can be examined on its own, hopefully without competing with the samples above and below it. I may run out of warp, but I know how to put another one on!
The time changed, so I lost a Sunday. These things happen. But here I am, inexplicably awake early on a Monday, watching the sky lighten and drinking coffee that Brian made earlier without having to warm it up. The joys of retirement!
I’ve been joining some zoom get-togethers lately, for knitting and spinning and a 5-Saturday tatting class that has now ended. To knit while socializing is a skill not to be scoffed at, so the simpler the better. I recently indulged in the purchase of enough Noro Silk Garden yarn (thanks to a 50% off sale) to knit the Mitered Square Blanket. This blanket is simple yet at the same time interesting, and I love the slow and quirky color changes of the Noro.
However, one would be misleading one’s readers if one were to pretend things could not go wrong with this. Take the very first square, for example. The programmers among you understand the famous one-off bug? Well, here it is in the knitting world. This square will have to be re-started and knit with more attention paid to the number of rows and, hence, decreases in each corner.
But why do that now when I can put it off until later?
A couple of weeks ago I promised an evaluation of Twitter as a social media platform. I deleted my Twitter account– does that tell you anything? Honestly, if you want the news almost as soon as it occurs, Twitter is your best bet. That’s the best I can say about it.
If you’ve ever watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer, you may remember seeing an episode where Buffy is somehow able to hear all the thoughts of everyone around her. She nearly goes crazy. That’s how Twitter is. All these thoughts flying around, and not just once– people “retweet”; many people retweet identical tweets, and so you are forced to wade through way too many repeats of the same tweet you’ve already read. Also, tweets are stale within minutes. And forget about getting a question answered if you ask one about the contents of a tweet.
I identified several main categories of tweets.
First and best: the informative tweet. It is just that– it conveys information that may be useful. News reporters and medical experts are chief among those who inform.
Second is the commercially or financially motivated tweet. Authors, actors, political activist groups, and people who want you to help them fund something (a new roof, a new fence, a pet’s surgery, criminal defense, you name it) all want you to follow them and of course, want your dollars to follow them too.
Next is what I call the “inane question” tweet, written because the tweeter must be extremely bored or thinks everyone else is. Either that or they are trying to harvest data about individuals. Questions are, for example, “Grateful Dead or Abba?”, “What’s your sign?”, “Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Jemima, or Log Cabin?”. They get thousands of responses. Do I think the originator actually reads or cares about the responses? I do not.
Another major category is the needy and/or the whiners. “I tweeted that it’s my birthday today and nobody responded.” “I tweeted that my mother-in-law’s brother’s girlfriend’s daughter went into the hospital today and nobody cares.” These tweets then end up getting a bunch of guilt-activated responses which are, I am sure, entirely sincere.
There are the pets who somehow paw their tweets in quickly-tiring pawtalk. “My hooman is trying to think pawsitive”.
There are what I call “Tweetisms”:
- “I don’t know who needs to hear this but blah blah blah“;
- “Blah blah blah. That’s it. That’s the tweet.”;
- “Blah blah blah (person) is about to go through some things.”
Originality is not the strong suit of the average tweeter.
It seems like the whole game with Twitter is to *get followers*! You have street cred if you have oodles of followers. I was active on Twitter for about two months, and ended my illustrious Tweeting career with nearly 300 followers. One of my tweets went viral (it contained a very good pun), which is what garnered me most of my followers. So what? I’ve never been the type of person who cares that much for public acclaim or credentials or the spotlight. I don’t even enter my fabrications in the state fair! I am, obviously, not the target of Twitter. One of the ploys to get followers? Respond to anyone’s tweet with “I followed you!”, which apparently is a poke for them to follow you back.
So, bottom line– if you have lots of time to waste, don’t have much of anything concrete to say, don’t mind reading thousands of misspellings and grammatical errors, want to get into written altercations with trolls and like to bond with total strangers, go for it. Oh, and don’t worry if some of your favorite tweeters disappear for a few days. They routinely get put into what they call “Twitmo” for violating Twitter policies. Many of them do this so often that they create a second account and ask you to follow that one too “just in case” they are banned. One other thing– if I were an employer, I would ban Twitter at work unless it was part of the job.
Instead of Twitter, try Tatter! That would be you, after you’ve taken a class from The Lace Museum. Tatting is the last form of lace that can only be made by hand. It’s not terribly difficult, but it is quite tedious and requires attention. It is virtually indestructable, and therefore mistakes cannot be easily fixed without simply cutting it out and redoing it. This little heart is full of mistakes. It suffers from twisted arteries and needs major surgery. Ah well, as Blaise Pascal says, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
It has been years since I embarked upon a significant fair isle knitting project, one with multiple colors patterned throughout. But not long ago, Knitty published a design called Halmsted by Todd Gocken that caught my attention because it features a unique way of knitting the lower part of the sleeves together with the body, with steeks in between. At the armholes, the pieces are merged together to form a circular yoke. (For those not in the know, a steek is an extra set of stitches used to join two pieces of knitting, usually so that the garment can be knit in the round rather than back and forth. Once the knitting is completed, the steek is cut open with scissors and the edges finished. Knitting back and forth in colorwork is especially ornerous.)
Over the years I have developed an intense dislike for knitting sleeves in the round. One reason is that there are two of them, and though I have no desire to lose an arm, I dislike having to knit the same thing twice. Witness my lack of pairs of hand knitted socks. Another reason is that I do not enjoy knitting small circumferences in the round– mostly because it is annoying to switch needles if using double-point needles, or to pull out the loop if using the magic loop technique. I would much rather knit a sleeve flat and then seam it up. (Many knitters will go to great lengths never to have to sew a seam, which is unfortunate because many times seams provide strength and structure). Traditionally, Fair Isle sweaters are knit body first, then sleeves are picked up from around the armhole and knit downward in the round.
While looking at the Halmsted pattern and considering whether to knit it, I realized that I didn’t really like the final product for me. The color pattern and style just aren’t my thing. But I was emboldened by the idea of just knitting all the pieces at once with steeks between. I chose a Marie Wallin pattern from her Shetland book, a short cardigan called Unst. However, I wanted a longer V-neck cardigan, button bands that are not ribbed, and a to-be-determined-later style of hem or cuffs. In other words, ” an Article of Clothing Somewhat Resembling Unst.”
So here it is after almost a week of knitting.
There are Things one must consider when planning the all-at-once steeked approach.
- Sleeve length vs garment length– they are rarely the same
- Shaping of each piece – sleeves, armholes, necklines and any desired waist shaping
- Where the body and sleeves will end in relation to the color pattern
- Gauge and body measurements (as always)
The first point was the most exclusive to the whole-steeked approach. I rummaged in my cedar chest and came up with a pullover I bought in the Shetland Islands in 2001, when a cruise I was on docked at Lerwick. I carefully analyzed it, noting that the total sleeve length was the same as the total body length, but that the sleeve ribbing is 4 inches (meant to be turned back) while the body ribbing is 2.5 inches. I also saw that the sleeve was a modified drop shoulder, the armhole bindoff was straight (not angled as in some designs) and that it was 2 inches into each side of the body. (As an aside, note that this sweater, like most of those sold in Lerwick was “hand-loomed”, meaning it was knit on a knitting machine by an individual, which is somewhere between handknit and commercially knit. Thus the neck, cuff and bottom ribbings are knit separately and then seamed on using a linker. Typically these ribbings will be a solid color because ribbing in color on a machine is tedious and time consuming.)
I then looked for and found a design that was a V-neck cardigan, fair isle, at the same gauge as I expected my Unst to be – 7.5 stitches and 8.5 rows to an inch. (This was an assumption based on the type of yarn, Jamieson’s Spindrift, and my own experience knitting with it in the past). I chose the Roscalie design from Alice Starmore’s In the Hebrides because it had a neckline and front band that I like.
I decided what amount of ease I would like for the cardigan, made my calculations, came up with my stitch counts and shaping schedules, and went right to work.
I cast on 517 stitches using a provisional crochet caston so that I have the flexibility later on to decide how long or what kind of ribbing or hem to knit. These stitches incorporate a left front, a steek, a right front, a steek, a back, a steek, a right sleeve, a steek, a left sleeve and a steek, joing back around to the left front. I am increasing each sleeve by 2 stitches every 4 rows, so at this point, about 44 rows into the sweater, I now have 539 stitches. I look forward to losing stitches once I start shaping neck and armholes!
I’m quite delighted with this method so far. It pleases me immensely that once I have completed this vast tube of knitting, all that remains is ribbing, button band and seaming. Another advantage is that since each row is different, my memorization of that particular color pattern is good across all the pieces, making it easy to knit for longer periods of time, and ultimately I am switching colors quite a bit less. Yet another advantage, as a friend of mine discovered, is that if your gauge isn’t exactly what you had planned (swatches sometimes lie), or if you miscalculated initially and find that what you are knitting is going to be too large, you can simply incorporate those extra stitches into your steek (and then reduce the size of the steek) and carry on as if nothing had gone awry. Making a mistake in the opposite direction (causing the pieces to be too small) won’t be as easy to fix, but they wouldn’t be in “normal” knitting, either.
An amusing coincidence– as I was knitting Unst it occurred to me that parts of this color combination seemed awfully familiar, and I once again rummaged in the chest and found the reason. In the early 90’s, Pendleton had a shop in downtown Seattle that I would walk past every day when going to work. For a while, there was a fair isle/intarsia sweater in the window that I absolutely lusted after– it was whimsical and cheerful while at the same time traditional– but in no way could afford to buy at that point in my life. As time went on, the sweater disappeared from the window, and some time later I went into the store and searched the sale rack and there it was, in my size, 50% off! I had just received a raise, and so I indulged myself. That was the era of shoulder pads, and this sweater had them but I have since taken them out. Here the sweater is pictured with the balls of yarn in some of the colors I’m using for Unst.
The election and subsequent events, which dragged on for months, I am sorry to say, are now hopefully behind us and I can wake up each day not expecting imminent disaster. Therefore I feel I can resume the blog and try to post weekly.
I took advantage of the blog timeout to thoroughly evaluate two social media platforms that I had opined about in the past but hadn’t really tried to make work for me. On Facebook, I decided to try the approach of only having friends who I really know in real life, or did know at some point in time. This has worked pretty well, along with making it clear in my little bio as to some key aspects about me that might make someone think twice about friending me if they hold opposite views. It’s fine if my friends disagree with me but I didn’t want FB to become a bickering place. At times I will present facts and data that refute what some friends say if I think it might help; otherwise I’ve just learned to scroll right past. So Facebook gets a qualified upvote. I’ll talk about Twitter in the next post.
Meanwhile, for the past six weeks I undertook both a revival of a long-ignored craft and a personal challenge in the form of a crocheted throw. This design is rated “intermediate” in difficulty but honestly I don’t know how you could get much more difficult in crochet and I’m not sure I want to know! It’s Scheepjes 2020 crochet-along project, l’Histoire Naturel, based on the Natural History Museum in Paris. A friend had made it during the actual CAL and showed it on Facebook, and I was smitten. It’s a free pattern available on the Scheepjes web site, and I was able to find a kit at Jimmy Beans (though you can also buy the individual skeins of yarn– it takes 38, in 7 different colors. Here is my completed (but unblocked) version in the “Conchology” colorway. The yarn is a sportweight cotton/poly. The completed throw is pretty heavy and will eventually go on the guest bed in the so-called “Girls’ Room”. It’s about 55 inches square.
When the weather is warmer and I have soaked and blocked the throw I’ll photograph some details and write a bit more about it.
It has been more than six months since I left the house. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Four outings in one year. Yesterday Brian got his second dose of vaccine and is doing fine, but I’m at the end of the line in terms of priority, so I’ll continue to stick around the house and watch the new Spring commence.
I feel like I’ve come to a point where I have nothing entertaining, educational, humorous or useful to say on this blog. I have no idea whether more than one or two people still read it– it’s not like the early days of blogging. These days, blogs are mostly (with a few exceptions, of course) about people trying to make money by blogging. Blogs with more than one flashing ad, more than 3 or 4 still ads? I pass them on by. Blogs with buttons for donations? If I like them, I’ll donate. Blogs that repeat the same phrases over and over in hopes of getting higher search engine prominence? I detest them. Blogs that teach competently without superfluous ads? I love them when the subject matter is of interest to me.
Because of the sad state of blogs in general, or as an answer to them, the prevailing trend is that people are glued to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. While these platforms encourage interactivity, they kill individualism (and time) and can promote mistruth. Everyone says the same things, posts the same memes, uses the same trendy phrases. Even if they do have differing thoughts or opinions, they don’t dare to express them outside the exact group of people who reflect them. If they do express an opinion that doesn’t happen to click positively with everyone, they are mercilessly, immediately and thoroughly condemned by one person, and then more people pile on like bullies. Whatever happened to polite discourse? You can make your own point without belittling others. You can respect and love other people even if you don’t agree with them. If you wouldn’t say something in person in front of others, you should not say it in writing on social media. And I am happy to tell you that in person!
As a side point — One of my typical rants is about the focus on teamwork these days (in education and technical jobs anyway) to the exclusion of allowing an individual to maximize their talents. An employee is less likely to truly excel if they care about their team and fear their team members will resent them for it. There is nothing wrong with being a team player. There are definitely things wrong with not letting talent shine.
If you have a moment, I encourage you to watch this video: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose if you haven’t already. If more teachers and employers understood this, more students and employees would be happy and productive.
I plan to put the blog on pause until after the election and focus on working on ongoing projects. You don’t need to see 3 rounds of knitting on a gansey every couple of days. You aren’t interested in how I adjust my coffee grinder on a bean by bean basis to get the best cup of espresso. And there is no way I can put you inside my head to understand an ongoing coding challenge. In short, I will bore you to death if I continue in the short run.
If there is anything you are interested in that you think I have something to say about, I’m always happy to write about it. I’m not a teacher, but I’m happy to share knowledge and opinions. Otherwise, I hope to see you after a joyful celebration of the results of the presidential election. Please vote, and stay well!
I think I’m a peaberry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I might have preferred to be a normal coffee bean. You see, most coffee beans are twins inside the coffee fruit. A peaberry is a single bean that somehow lost its twin or never had it in the first place. A lonely little seed with a slightly different flavor than normal twin beans. Not exactly an outcast, but a bean with a different role in life. I believe this explains my difficulty in finishing the second of a pair of anything: socks, sleeves, gloves. And sometimes the first of anything (she says sheepishly).
I’ve been tending my stash for a little while each day, trying to make sense of it and weed out that which shall not be knit. Every once in a while a huge question mark floats above something on the needles. By every once in a while I really mean practically every day. Like this sweet little… something. A headscratcher.
Through many distractions, I’ve managed to add another inch to Mrs. Laidlow.
And after many days of waiting, our new friend Brunello arrived. Brunello Bianucci is an Izzo Alex Duetto IV here to serve up espresso drinks for the next 20 years.
He came with his own wardrobe, but just one piece is missing, the blind basket, which the seller will make right forthwith. For now, we’re using his reservoir, but Brian will plumb him into the main water in due course, and that is what the hoses are for.
Why Brunello? It’s an Italianization of Bruno, our favorite French gourmand from the “Bruno, Chief of Police” book series, and an ode to the divine Italian wine, Brunello di Montalcino. Bianucci? That was the name of a classmate of mine growing up, and I just always liked the sound of it. There was a famous Italian restaurant in Chicago run by Fanny Bianucci. Legend has it that Kraft offered her $75K for her salad dressing recipe back in the middle of the last century, but she refused to sell. A woman of principle
It took a while to figure out Brunello’s preference for grind fineness. I wrote my friend that I had wasted a lot of coffee in the process, and she pointed out this was simply the by-product of “swatching”. Loom waste! Coffee thrums! Here’s a shot of a double shot that wasn’t expressing itself. I love all the gauges! The digital readout is the shot timer when the lever is up, and shows the temperatures of the boilers when it is down. The paddle at the top, combined with the gauge at the front, is a flow control device– this was an additionally purchased part that doesn’t come with this espresso machine but is designed to work with this “group”, which is the assembly that holds the portafilter and forces the water through the grinds.
Back to the beans: the Bean surname is in fact one in my ancestry. I believe it was pronounced ‘bain” and was Scottish, but what do I know? The MacBean motto was ‘ Touch not a catt bot a targe’ which means ‘don’t touch this cat without a shield’. I should embroider that on a collar and put it on Stonewall as a warning to all. I’m not certain whether there was ever a clan for the MacPeaberrys. Probably its last lone kiltbearer touched the wrong cat, without a shield.
According to the apostle Paul, “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance.” Of course I’m referring to Paul Simon, who is to me a person whose music can be listened to repeatedly without ever becoming dull. It has a pulse to it, melodies and harmonies and weird lyrics that sometimes almost make sense.
Mrs. Laidlow is well begun, and working with this violet Frangipani is a real pleasure. It’s on a cone, which is on a spinner meant for balls of yarn though it works fine for allowing me to pull the yarn off the cone from the side, thereby avoiding putting more twist into it.
Fall is creeping in, the chameleon-like mountain ridges shifting to gold ever so slowly. The sunny days are still in the low 70’s, the cloudy and rainy ones more chilly. I love the four seasons here, and when I think about it I realize that my years growing up in central Illinois were the last time I had four seasons until we moved here.
Seattle had two seasons: summer and cloud. Mississippi, California, Colorado, Texas, Alcala de Henares (Spain) all managed to skip at least one definite season. Apart from the season thing, they each missed some important element. Trees but no mountains. Mountains but no trees. Trees but only evergreens. Sun but never clouds. I feel like everything is finally in its place.
The sound of the train in the distance that everybody loves is the thing we look forward to, the next thing to be anticipated. Without anticipation, life is dull. Currently that train sounds a lot like a FedEx truck upon which a certain espresso machine is said to be riding on its final journey today, right up to my house on the golden ridge. I’m ready and waiting. And reading the epistle of St. James, one of the latte day saints.
Ever since I saw and acquired the dark violet Frangipani 5-ply gansey wool I’ve had gansey brain. I think that the Net Loft sent some extra special little creatures with my order. They have infiltrated my psyche and whisper to me non-stop of ganseys, gansey patterns, shoulder straps and gussets.
Despite the fact that I put the Bebbanburg gansey into timeout, I’ve proceeded with other fisherman gansey forays. Firstly, I have to admit that I brought out one gansey that had been in timeout for so long that I had forgotten when or why I designed it or knitted half of it. I’m going to blame in on chemo brain and put its origin around 2012 when chemo brain was a thing for me. Fortunately, it was easy enough to figure out how to proceed. I’ve dubbed it the “Absentminded Gansey”.
Meanwhile, the dark violet yarn was eyeing me with great anticipation. What would I do with her; what was her fate to be? I pored over my gansey books, searched through online photos of old ganseys, looked through hundreds of examples of ganseys knitted by Ravelry users, and finally came up with a plan. A plan is more likely to succeed with a swatch, so a swatch ensued, and on 2.25mm needles my gauge is 8.57 stitches per inch.
This is an adaptation of Mrs. Laidlaw’s pattern from Seahouses (which is a place, in case you didn’t know, on the northeast coast of England, not too far from Scotland, and north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne). It’s essentially a tree of life motif topped by a “crab” motif and flanked by “flags”, which are purl triangles. I’ve put some ropes (cables) around it and added a ladder motif… salmon ladder? I love Alaska salmon! I’ve named this “Mrs. Laidlow’s Gansey” because I am laying low due to covid-19.
I have a special place in my heart for England, Scotland and Ireland, because that’s where most of my dna comes from (except for the bit from France and Bavaria). It is therefore special to me that I can learn about and recreate the knitting from these places. Although my English/Scottish/Irish progenitors came to North America far before ganseys were a thing, I am sure that they left family behind who became part of that creative and practical tradition. It was surely a hard life, making one’s living by the sea– and likewise hard for the wives and daughters, waiting for their men for months on end, hoping there were no accidents; praying for good catches. You can tell by the number of times ganseys were mended how hard these men worked, and how important to them were the sweaters that kept them warm.
I love this photo, taken in the ’30s, of a 3-year-old girl knitting with a knitting belt. How spoiled I am, sitting in my big comfortable air-conditioned or heated house on a padded sofa with good lighting and plenty of food. But the delight in a furry companion transcends time, does it not?