"AlterKnits" wrap-turned-"wimple"

When “Alterknits” first came out last year I was so excited. I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. In fact, I ordered it from Amazon because I was too impatient to wait for it to arrive in the local Borders or Barnes and Noble. What a gorgeous book! The photos and editorial styling is amazing. I agree with many readers who say that the creativity exercises leave something to be desired, but that’s a small enough issue to overlook when there’s so much mouth-watering knitting to slobber over.

Every pattern appeals to me in one way or another, but the “tube scarf”–made of Rowan’s Kid Silk Haze with a length of chiffon inserted through the middle–appealed to my love of textures. And I’ve been longing to work with that particular yarn for a while. I had a burnt orange color in mind… something not-too-bright. Down to my LYS I went, and home I came with two balls of “Marmalade.” But in the light of day, it was so bright I knew I’d never wear it. Plus, I realized I didn’t buy enough.

Back to my LYS shop I went. Bought three balls of a luscious lavender color and did a quick swatch. All was well. I cast the project on during a three-hour swing dance my husband was playing, at Glen Echo Park, outside of DC. It was a cold night, and I wasn’t feeling well, so didn’t want to dance. Plus, my fingers were aching to dig into that yarn. I was using Denise needles at first, but the join–which usually doesn’t snag–caught in the yarn. So I eventually switched to Addi Turbos (size 8). Also, in the beginning, I’d decided to put in a couple of rows of eyelets (YO, K2Tog) on each end.

And I knit. And I knit. And I knit. The progress was slow.

As the wrap grew, I started to believe it didn’t want to be a wrap anymore. One evening it decided to be a “wimple”/neck-warmer. Was it the project speaking, or was it my impatience? No one (least of all me) will ever know. So I cast off and tried it on. I loved it, loved how the open work framed my face when I pulled it up over my head like a hood. I planned to buy some silk ribbon to criss-cross through the eyelets (like lacing a shoe) to snug it up around my neck…

But the next day (yesterday), I realized I’d made a mistake. I blamed my impatience for stunting the scarf’s growth. When I got home–despite all the warnings I’ve heard about mohair–I pulled out the bound-off edge (or tried to). Oh, my God! It bunched. It knotted. It didn’t unravel. The stitches seemed to migrate so I couldn’t tell one row from another. It was awful. Finally my husband, a kind and insightful man, stooped over and kissed me and said that no art was ever born without mistakes, and that he knew I’d find a way to turn it into something great.

Half an hour later I was stitching around the wrecked end with a yarn needle threaded with the same Kid Silk Haze I’d knitted the project with–looping the needle around the wrecked part and into the knitting in a spiral motion. I caught up all of the loose stitches and pieces of yarn, with the result being a kind of deconstructed, cool-looking flared hem. The length of the neck-warmer/wimple was still intact. But now it curved gracefully out over my shoulders, ending in that rolled, handkerchief-style edge that adds a bit of substance to the design.

Here’s a picture, with Maggie and Katja in the background…

I still plan to buy some leather lacing to weave through the eyelets. I like the idea of mixing leather with the gossamer-weight mohair and silk.

The moral of the story: Don’t make a mistake when you’re knitting with mohair because you can’t fix it. Don’t drop stitches, because you can’t pick them up later on. But if you do make a mistake, remember this: “All profoundly original art looks ugly at first.”–Clement Greenberg, art critic


Welcome to Knit*Six

When I picked up my first pair of knitting needles and a skein of pink yarn the color of cotton candy (at the time, when I lived far, far away from real yarn stores, that harsh acrylic stuff didn’t seem so bad…), I never dreamed I’d become so completely obsessed with textiles. I’d always thought of myself as “a writer.” That was my art. But lately–perhaps because I write for a living–I’ve found myself getting my writing out of the way so I can get back to my real passion.

Textiles have always delighted me. And while sewing never drew me in the way knitting has, I often find myself drooling over bolts of yummy woolens and silks in fabric stores and drawing on my sewing abilities to enhance my knitting. For example, I can’t imagine knitting a bag and not lining it… What would happen to my pen, or to a stray hair pin that I might happen to slip into the bag when I let my hair down (!)? So, no matter how tightly knitted or crocheted, I will always line my bags. I also happen to like zippers (for the same reasons), which makes having at least a semi-skillful sewing ability essential.

Just a few weeks ago, I dropped into my local yarn store (Stitch DC in Georgetown), and bought a little KnowKnits bag to hold my small knitting project (a VERY conservative navy-blue fisherman’s cap my husband requested).

Here’s Chris, wearing the cap, next to Maggie–it’s a Karabella pattern:

So, anyway… Nothing can fall out of the KnowKnits bag (a little lime-green parachute cloth bundle) once the drawstring was closed, and it’s lightweight and easy to carry. Not only that, it has a yarn-guide inside, which helps feel the yarn directly from the ball and through the bag’s opening. I loved it. But somewhere in my mind, I started to realize how simple it could be to make something equally as useful, but prettier.

Several days later, a knitter showed me her Lantern Moon silk project bag. It was literally a lunchbag with handles–no drawstring, no lining…just a simple little bag that could almost hold a bottle of wine. Within a few seconds I’d memorized the construction.

So, that night, I went to work. Out came some Asian-inspired pink brocade (not real silk, unfortunately) and some slippery black lining material. I hacked the fabric into strips on my lap and started sewing, adding seam-binding tape when the fabric began to fray. I also used the binding tape to create a little button-down loop that serves as a yarn guide. Finally, wondering if and how to close the bag, I came across some spare yards of mint green satin ribbon I’d saved from Amazon’s wrapping job on a birthday gift I’d received. A few stitches and some thin black ribbon later, the bag was done.

(You can also check out the new photos I posted on 2/19.)

So far, every knitter who sees my this bag loves it (I don’t know why, but it reminds me of lingerie and feathered-mule slippers). The yarn guide works perfectly. The seams are smooth. The closure protects what’s inside. And, best of all, it looks like a pricey little purse when I carry it on my wrist. The conservative hat lived in the bag until it was finished. Then a lace-weight mohair wrap. (See “This is your brain on mohair…”) Now, the bag houses a pair of gloves I’m knitting as a (belated) Christmas present for my sister.

But best of all… One day I happened to carry the lime-green parachute bag I’d bought into my LYS. (Of course, since I was nearby, I had to stop in and “browse.”) After only a couple of minutes, the person who’d sold me the green bag noticed I wasn’t carrying the one I’d made, and exclaimed: “Oh, no! You’re carrying the wrong one!” No compliment could have been sweeter.