I was knitting merrily along yesterday as giant breaths of wind gusted wildly through the Pacific Northwest, hurling branches and debris at moving targets and kicking over flower pots like a tantrum driven two-year-old. It was the kind of day Pooh would call “blustery”. My gauge on Saint Olav was spot on (as Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old British chemist and lover of poisons might say while examining the specimen under a microscope in her late great-uncle Tar’s laboratory) and I had just progressed to the main part of the lower body where I would begin my vertical columns of white.
May I direct your attention to the picture of the sweater in my last post? Can you compare my beautiful green and red border with that of the design photo? Take your time… I’ll wait.
Why no, as you can plainly see, you cannot compare them, for the design calls for red and white, not red and green! Three steps forward, two steps back, and here I am, starting the border over again.
The weaving went a bit better, and I’ve added about an inch, despite many rescues of yarn tails from little kittens.
Because of the Blustery Day, we (along with thousands of other people) lost our power for about 12 hours, and were forced to revert to primitive means of getting our morning coffee– to wit, driving around until we found an open Starbucks and having them fill our two Thermos containers. If we had been better prepared, we would have procured a battery-powered coffee grinder and made cowboy coffee on the gas grill.
I don’t know if the era of the knitting/weaving/spinning blog is past or not. I notice that many blogs have gone by the wayside and wonder if it’s because the blogger just tired of it, got too busy, thought nobody cared, or some other reason.
From time to time I think about resurrecting this blog, but I’ve never really had a compelling reason. I’m older, it’s harder to try to be funny (though I can’t help being silly sometimes), and I just don’t have as much time and energy as I used to.
But now I look around me and acknowledge the data that tells me that I will likely not finish anything I start. In the past, it was fun to show my progress on the blog and get encouragement. Just by knowing that I wanted my photo to show a bit more progress on the next blog post, I was motivated to work on an item.
Last week, a reader of one of my former blogs from many years ago wrote me to tell me how much I had helped her and enabled her, in turn, to help someone else. That was a heartwarming message, and caused me to further consider the future of Material Thoughts.
So here I am, with Plan B (plan A: knit one thing at a time and finish it, has been declared officially impossible).
Plan B is the Blog plan. For one month I will commit to posting 3 posts per week. Each post will contain description and/or photos of my progress on projects.
If I can do this for one month, Plan B will get approved and extended to 3 months. And so forth.
At my company, we use what is called the Agile methodology to plan and execute how we build software. “Stories” are written in a specific way. They have to say what is being done and why, and the why must be measurable, in the format “As a [person, organization or system] I want [something] so that [statement showing value]. So here is my story:
As a maker of things from yarn, I want to write blogs posts 3 times per week for one month showing continual progress on one project from each technique (knitting, weaving and spinning) so that I can make progress on works in progress.
Seems simple, right? I hope so!
The Project On The Needles
Just started yesterday, Cynthia Wasner’s fabulous Saint Olav and his Men cardigan. I am using the yarn called for (Rauma Finullgarn) in the colors called for, except subsituting Rose for the Orange. This is the photo from the pattern, since my 1/2 inch of ribbing isn’t very photogenic right now:
I’ve committed to also knitting the Dale Peace Sweater, so I will be posting about both of those projects, which should both progress, but I haven’t received the yarn for it yet, and it will require some design changes so as to avoid knitting fair isle back and forth.
The Project On A Loom
Started last week (after actually finished a class sample), a small Navajo rug of my own design using traditional motifs. I have two inches of this complete. The goal of my Navajo weaving is to accept that Navajo weaving goes slowly, to savor the satisfying placement of the colors and the beat of the fork and to delight as the pattern emerges.
This is the design, which I created in Excel:
And here is my humble 2″ start. The bottom is wobbly because I am a beginner and didn’t secure my edge twining properly. Next time!
The Project On a Spinning Wheel
In line with Navajo weaving, I ordered a lot of Navajo Churro rovings in different colors, from Desert Churros Rovings on Etsy. This is beautifully prepared roving, not too “rustic” and the shop owner is absolutely wonderful.
I have spun up about a dozen skeins of this so far, on my cherry Hansen miniSpinner, aiming for a sport weight. I have at least that much more to spin. The darkest churro comes from Dyers Wool, and it had a bit of dandruff in it (I knew that before I bought it) which is hard to get out, but I hope it comes out with washing. The dark heathery charcoal also comes from Dyers Wool.
It’s hard to get things washed these days, thanks to the new inhabitants of the laundry room, who haven’t quite attained citizenship in the Greater Household. Spencer and Katie were adopted last week, born of feral mothers from two different Washington locations. This brings us up to four cats and one dog.
it has been nearly two years since I posted on this blog, and as you may have noticed, I waved my magic wand and made all my prior posts private. In part, this was due to not wanting to be reminded of the unpleasantness of the events of 2012, in which the C word played a major role, in part because I could think of nothing to say, and in part because I was trying to hide from the world.
Truthfully, my thoughts have not been material and my material has been less then worthy of thought.
But lately, I have perked up and become interested in a variety of textile arts, mostly of the weaving ilk, that I thought I could blog about and if you want to read about it then we have what is commonly referred to as a mutually convenient situation.
As I sit here eating my dinner of half a flax-seed English muffin with organic peanut butter and local honey, accompanied by a glass of my favorite low-cost red wine of the year (H3 Merlot, 2011, a Columbia Valley wine produced in Washington State), I consider what to tell you first.
How about this: I am a grandmother! This to a sweet little girl born the first of June, given an Irish name loaded with more vowels than is legal in Scrabble. She abides in a land far far away in the regions of the maritime Carolinas, and I shall refer to her with such monikers as seem proper at the time, including but not limited to Sweetpea, Babydoll, Sugar and the like.
As a new Grannie, my current knitting project is all about Baby. It grows slowly in the form of many shades of pink, which I am informed is her favorite color. Indeed, from my own entrance into the world and up until and including the present, my own favorite color has been any shade of pink. I well remember my bedroom curtains and bedspread as a child with its three wide ruffles of successively deepening pink. I remember them mostly because they were cotton and I was the one who had to starch and iron them. (My baby half-sister hated them and as soon as I left for college she burned them and painted the bedroom blue.)
But I digress. The idea is that I am using the stitch pattern from The Rainey Sister’s Surrounded afghan, reducing it to a 3″ block, and knitting these in 3 shades of pink plus a pure white (the yarn is Dalegarn Baby Ull). These will then be arranged in nine-patch blocks so as to produce a traditional quilt arrangement called Sunshine and Shadow, thusly:
The knitted blocks look like this:
I have completed 7 of 9 for the first nine-patch, and am working on the last 2 simultaneously. So I am almost 1/16th done. Hopefully I will pick up speed and get it finished by September, when I plan to visit my magical wee girl descendant in the land of her birth
The best thing to do with fingertips that have betrayed you is to ignore them completely. This is best done while traveling to visit in-laws, and on the way enjoying non-fingertip activities such as wine tasting. This is easy to do in eastern Washington, where there are 12 viticultural regions.
We began our little trip by visiting brother-in-law Number One (aka Little Brother) in Richland. He and his lovely wife took us to lunch at Wine O’Clock in Prosser, a lovely little wine bar run by the Bunnell Family, which just happens to produce wine. Our lunch was delicious, and we bought our first bottle of wine. Here is my dear Brian and I before our lunch.
From there we proceeded to the Red Mountain viticultural region; specifically to the Hedges winery, where Pete Hedges (a friend of the BIL) had generously offered to give us a private tour. Outside the winery stood rows and rows of raw material; wine on the vine. This year’s grapes are awesome due to the unseasonably wet spring and the nice sunshine following. Wine grapes, of course, are tiny little things. So very cute, don’t you think?
We learned many things; all about how wine barrels are toasted; how they are made of any number of varieties of oak; how a by-product of wine is cream of tartar, and why Pete Hedges will never again jump into a wine press to fix it. After the tour, we tasted.
We also got a good look at the wine “library”, a collection of all vintages that the Hedges winery has produced since its inception. Here we are with Pete in the wine library, a dark, cool place where I wouldn’t mind being imprisoned as long as I had a good corkscrew handy.
We bought three bottles of wine (knowing we can find more in our local wine stores) and bid a fond farewell to Red Mountain.
I think my favorite winemaking region is Walla Walla, and as luck would have it, our journey took us to see our dear friends Dicksie, Gale and Deb in that very city. We had a fabulous time there, and may have gone wine tasting at four or five other wineries. Here is one of my all-time favorites, L’Ecole No. 41, whose owners converted an old schoolhouse. A sign near the bell invited me to ring it, and so I did.
Here are our young friends Dicksie and Gale standing on the schoolhouse steps:
It would be impolite for me to say exactly how young Gale is, but I would encourage you to thank him for being a B-17 pilot in World War II. He is an amazing guy, and his wife is no less wonderful. If it were autumn, you would see them in glorious handknits. But for now, you can see her knitting here and his other amazing photos here. You’ll want to grab a nice merlot and spend some quality time browsing those pictures. While doing so, you will see beautiful photos of the Grand Tetons. We received sound advice from Gale on where to go to get great photos, which as you will see later on was exactly right.
From Walla Walla we drove to Bozeman, Montana, taking Highway 12 along the Snake River. There we stopped to stay with Sister-in-Law No. 1, where I got to hold little babies (her grandchildren) and play with their older siblings.
Brian, as you may know, is a twin, so next we caught up with Brother-in-Law No. 2, aka The Twin, in Cody, Wyoming. No wine in Cody, but we were well supplied from Walla Walla. From Cody we drove through Yellowstone and thence along the Grand Tetons to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Breathtaking scenery accompanied us for miles and miles. After a day spent touring around Jackson, we went out to Schwabacher’s Landing (recommended by Gale) to take photos. I can’t decide which I like best– I’d love to hear your opinions! I’ve numbered them from 1 to 5 for ease of reference.
The rest of the trip was just as good as the first part, but I will save that for another post. My fingertips are better, but they still don’t like so much typing!
How many times have you heard someone say “there’s no such thing as the knitting police”? Well, I’m here to tell you that there IS such a thing. They are unpaid volunteers, heroes– brave creatures who risk their reputation as a “nice person” to tell you the truth about your knitting or to keep you out of trouble to begin with. You may not want them to work in your universe, but in mine they are essential citizens. They provide criticism or advice as warranted. They are the ones whose compliments you trust because you know they will tell you the truth. They warn you of bad design choices– sweaters that will make your Rubenesque curves look like charging hippopotami, armholes that emphasize your aging, sagging bustline, negative ease that you should have left behind in the ’80s.
If you aren’t aware of the Laws of Knitting, these enlightened enforcers will illuminate your path so that you can obey them in the future. They may write you a ticket for bad grafting, but at the same time teach you how to do it right or refer you to source of proper instruction. They may give you a warning for curling button bands; they may point out the egregious nature of the stockinette you produced while drinking the fifth rum and Coke (thought you’d gotten away with that, did you?). They may even have the nerve to tell you that you will have to rip something back fourteen inches to fix it. They are your friends.
Not everyone loves the knitting police, and these seek to deny their existence. Many there are who believe that in this cruel world only kind and positive things should be said. Instead of saying words to the effect that short sleeves make you look like a sumo wrestler they say “oh, I’ll bet you’ll love those short sleeves in the spring”. Rather than telling you that your neckline pickup is sloppy, they’ll suggest you wear a scarf over it to “pick up the color of your eyes”. Not quite as bad as offering you aloe vera for your burns as you blaze upon the stake, but along the same lines. In the very wise words of the song from Ishtar (sung endearingly off-key):
Telling the truth can be dangerous business.
Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.
If you admit that you can play the accordion,
No one’ll hire you in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Of course it is possible for our knitting police officers to cite offenders with tact and compassion. The ratio of compassion (the “eggshell factor”) should be inversely proportional to how well the officer knows the perpetrator. Practically strangers? Approach with caution, use tact and euphemisms; do not scare the knitter into defensiveness. “Maybe it’s just me, but is that cable crossed incorrectly near the bottom of the back… I could be wrong. In fact I probably am. Don’t worry about it, it’s probably just the light.” Longtime friend? Fire at will. “Your increases don’t match and you left out the right bust dart“. Plain and simple, straightforward and honest. If more knitting police would come out of hiding, knitters would (probably) be grateful. Think of the times when you’ve had spinach stuck in your teeth. Your companion lets you know; you are grateful. It’s the same kind of thing. Really.
The Knitting Police Academy does teach that habitual offenders should be left alone. If they do not have a proper appreciation for the Laws of Knitting and fail to show interest or aptitude for such, they should be kindly tolerated. Like the colorblind cartographer who doesn’t care if his socks match or not, these known knitting lawbreakers pose no threat to society.
One more thing: there is corruption among the Knitting Police. Outliers on the Force will be intentionally cruel and possibly not even well-meaning with their interpretation of knitting edicts. They might be open to bribes in the form of delicately hand-dyed qiviut or combed merino top, but they will never help your knitting skills, so you’d best buddy up to a KP officer who is honest and perhaps curmudgeonly.
Ok, lecture over. Here’s a photo of what my fingernails look like right now. Cool, huh?
My left hand is worse, so I’ve got surgical tape over the first two fingernails. The official name for this condition is “Onycholysis” (some websites report the condition as “painless”, and by this it is obvious they have never endured it) , so I guess I’m officially an Onychoholic. Although by the grace of god I was able to put down the bottle of Taxotere and conquer my addiction to chemotherapy once and for all, I am stuck with this hurty condition until the nails grow out. Until that happens, I’m doomed to knit only a row now and then, but I’ve got a cushy side job. I’m high in the ranks of the Knitting Police.
Just as we were about to have galoshes surgically attached to our northwest feet and umbrellas implanted atop our Seattle skulls, the sun arrived. Every year the weather teases us just a little bit more, and only the intrepid and those who take massive Vitamin D supplements can survive it.
I suddenly remembered (perhaps due to the sunlight) that I am supposed to occasionally tell you about my fiber endeavors, including (but not limited to) knitting. Though I have missed a few months’ worth of Nihon Vogue classes, I still try to learn what is taught and thanks to good friends and fellow classmates I can do that.
My current project is just underway– a cardigan to be knit with Madelinetosh sportweight merino in a color called “Composition Book Gray”, which is a beautiful hue of cool grays trending toward lavender. Lately I am drawn to this color like a caricature, as you will find out in future reports of other projects. After having dutifully swatched and tallied up my gauge in all its permutations, I work on my draft in my little studio room, for once unencumbered by cats, who are presumably elsewhere in the house doing what cats do best– napping and dreaming about that poem where the cats creep in on little fog feet.
This particular cardigan will be round necked, with a twisted stitch motif placed on either side of the narrow button band. The vertically knit bands will be created separately and sewn on for a nicer finish. I am also putting in bust darts, shaping the waist, raising the back, adding short rows to the bottom sides, and raising the bustline for a nicer and more flattering fit. The ribbing will be twisted rib.
Here are the swatches more plainly seen:
I have cast on for the back with a provisional caston and commenced with the first few rows. It will be slow going, because unfortunately, since my fingernails are detaching from their beds, knitting hurts. My oncologist assures me that this will “only” last for a few months. I’m sure he meant to be encouraging. Meanwhile, I’m in the process of trying to figure out how best to knit without using movements that involve, however remotely, my fingernails. This is harder than you might think, because as you push the yarn along the needle, there is a pushing and pulling against the nail bed. I’ve tried wrapping my fingertips in various substances, to no avail. I’m hoping to have an epiphany any day now.