Thank God It (Was) Friday…

Here’s a little belated eye-candy. I meant to post it last Friday (eye-candy Friday) but just couldn’t get to it…



A few shots of my new Kromski Sonata to help raise my spirits :-)

Last week was a tough one–nothing catastrophic, but I feel like communications are mixed up and things that could go wrong have gone wrong. Which can be very physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. So I’ve been trying to “recover” over the weekend.

Lots of knitting, of course. I finished all of the swatches for Level 1 of the Master Hand Knitter program (MHK). I started last September, but have been working on lots of other projects instead of focusing on finishing the Level 1 requirements. I’m also nearing the end of the socks I’m making as a gift for someone whose name I will not mention. Photos will follow soon.

On Saturday, Karida and I went to A Tangled Skein–our new LYS, in Hyattsville, MD–where I bought some yarn for the MHK Level 1 hat I need to make. What a lovely store! And NICE people working there. Perhaps the nicest LYS experience I’ve had in the D.C. area! If you live nearby, you really should check it out…it’s not hard to get to, and is SO worth the trip.

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Keeping Warm with (less than) One Skein

I love warm weather, and can’t wait for spring to arrive! But if it’s going to be cold, snowy, and icy, I’d at least like to cash in on some of winter’s beauty…instead, this was about the extent of D.C.’s ice-covered, sparkling wonderland:(My focus is a bit off, but you get the idea…)

We also got 4 inches of snow/sleet/slush in the District (now frozen into a solid, dirty sheet of ice). And it’s been SO cold this week! Looking on the bright side, though, it’s great weather for making and wearing our woolies. I have a few FOs to show off…I’ll start with the most recent:

Last weekend, with a friend’s birthday just days away, I decided to use up a skein of the wonderful alpaca yarn I bought at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last year (Alpaca Fun Fiber Works, Web site unavailable). I’d already decided upon the rib and cable neckwarmer from Leigh Radford’s One Skein.I’ve already made two of the two-cable scarves: one for my husband, and one for my stepfather. These patterns are well thought out, fun to knit, and quick to finish.

A couple of days later (after working on various projects in my typical fickle fashion), I finished. I thought it looked gorgeous. The alpaca yarn (from Bailey, one of the cuties at Alpaca Fun Farms) is a rich, glossy chocolate brown, soft as butter.
I didn’t use cable needles…they’re slow, and get on my nerves. So the first couple of 3/3 cable rounds, in slick alpaca on Addi Turbo needles, was a real adventure! But once I got into the swing of things–thanks to Grumperina’s tutorial, which I discovered a year ago–the needle-free cabling was no problem at all.

When my friend opened the package (wrapped in the comics section from last week’s paper…why do I never have wrapping paper on hand when I need it??) he seemed to genuinely appreciate it. I just love knitting gifts for friends and family, letting them know how much I love them by investing time, thought, and creativity in their presents instead of money.
(The FO, next to one of my mother’s early sculptures, titled “Grandmother Sleeping.”)

My only complaint about the pattern is that the finished neckwarmer stretched significantly within a couple of days. I offered to thread some elastic through it, but Thom said he liked the drape and was wearing it “cravat style.” If I make another, I will definitely go down another needle size (I already went down from US#6 to US#5), and will probably cast on fewer stitches, as well.

Still, it’s lovely (thanks to Bailey!) and soft, warm and handmade with love. And in the end, isn’t that the real gift?

Bohemian Mama: A Scarf for Bonnie

My mom is an artist. I don’t mean she dabbles in watercolors or quilting…She’s never dabbled in her life! She’s also quite Bohemian…but not BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian). We’ve never had enough money to merit THAT unfortunate title, thank God. Nope. Just honest to goodness, old-fashioned Bohemian. She’s also beautiful. See?(Bonnie and Hannah at Cafe Italia, May 2006)

When I was a little girl, she used to play the piano and the flute; she’d studied music and voice at Eastman School of Music, and played beautifully. My favorite was Moonlight Sonata. She’d sometimes play it downstairs after my sister and I went to bed…To this day, that haunting melody takes be back to the little townhouse the three of us shared in Hillsdale, Ca.

Around the same time, she was also producing a LOT of paintings. Her canvases could be found around the house in varying states of completion and dryness…I can still see, in my mind, a rather abstract painting of a tree, layers of dark and light paint spread like frosting, sitting on the kitchen counter with its top leaning against the cabinets. That particular work hung in my grandparents’ home until they passed away.

About 15 years ago (or more!) she started working with clay. It didn’t take long for pots to turn into sculptures. Winning aclaim from all who saw them, her gorgeous sculptures simply “fly off the shelves” whenever they’re exhibited. Now she’s working on a commission for the museum store at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento.

Meanwhile, in her spare time (ha!) she writes poetry, which has appeared in several journals over the past couple of years. Most recently, her wonderful poem “To a Daughter” appeared in Manzanita: Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode and Sierra (2006, Vol. 5). She said I was her muse–and I immediately knew the moment she had in mind :-) Its notoriously difficult to gain acceptance to Manzanita. But then again, my mom’s an ARTIST. Did I mention that?

So when she mentioned a friend’s Himalayan recycled silk scarf right before the holidays, I immediately decided to create something for her with the wonderfully soft skeins (from http://www.kpixie.com) in my stash. The rich, dark colors glow quietly, sparked here and there with a painterly dash of bright sari pink, yellow, or turquoise. Perfect for my mom. And an idea for a pattern (of sorts) blossomed in my mind…
After casting on three stitches–I used Brittany birch straight US#7 needles–I worked in garter stitch, increasing until I had about 18 stitches total. The body of the scarf is corrugated in random stripes of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch. I like the rough texture in the glossy silk, and it has the added benefit of not rolling up into a tube. At the other end, I decreased back down to three stitches, and for the grand finale I added the tassels. (Not a great photo, but I like the way it shows the texture.)

The tassels worried me a bit, because they happened to sit on my chest like a stripper’s pasties–you know, those little nipple tasssels? But I’m taller, broader, and much bustier than my mother. She’s tiny, like her mother was, and NOT “chesty.” In fact, sometimes when my shoulders and upper back ache, I yearn to be built like her. Alas.

So I wrapped the scarf and shipped it out to her in January. She loved it, and wore it to the Art Museum the next day to show it off–she IS a mom, after all! Thankfully she didn’t have tassels at boob level…they were just right.

Though, knowing my mom, I’m sure there must have been at least a LITTLE tassel twirling at some point during the day. There certainly was when I tried it on! Could any decent bohemian artist-woman resist?

Pink

I’m not particularly girlish (and despise the word “girly”). But I’ve always loved pink. My favorite is the tender pink of ballet slippers. I can still smell the leather and remember the simple pleasure of sitting in the dusty dressing room with my friends, sewing the straps on our new shoes before practice…
Then there’s the yummy rose pink my grandmother always called “Bon Bon.” And I love pink that’s so pale it’s almost white…like early spring blossoms. Not keen on “hot pink,” though. I prefer subtlety and complex tones to vivid brights.

So is it any wonder that I chose a lovely salmon-rose (very close to Bon Bon pink!) for these sweet little slipper-socks?
They’re a gift for my sister, who’s been dealing with a particularly painful problem since December.

Feeling helpless because I live 3,000 miles away, I felt compelled to send her a knitted hug–something warm, pretty, and cozy. Here’s what I decided on:

Twisted Slipper Socks
(my own design)
Yarn: 2 balls Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (color 602)
Needles: Addi Turbo 32″ US#4 Circulars (magic loop method)

I really love these socks, and hope my sister does, too. They’ll hug her feet with soft pink tenderness and warmth when I’m not there to give her a real hug.

PS. I love this photo, and have no idea where I got it. If you know the photographer, please let me know. I don’t like to use anyone’s work without permission!

Euroflax Linen: Am I the only one…

…who finds knitting with Euroflax Linen unpleasant?

I bought some in a flush of excitement shortly after Mason-Dixon Knittingcame out. Loved those hand towels! I couldn’t wait for the yarn to come so I could cast on…gift plans swirling about in my head.

Well…I got this far:


Yes, it’s pretty. But Louet’s Euroflax Linen felt harsh and unyeilding in my hands, and I had trouble getting a gauge I was happy with (those are US#5 needles in the photo). The yarn softened up a bit as I ripped and re-knitted, ripped and re-knitted. However, I found the whole process frustrating and disappointing, and kept thinking: “Isn’t this supposed to be FUN?”

The funny thing is, I WANT to love it! I want to experience that washing and softening process, and the “drapeyness” Ann and Kay talk about. AND I WANT THOSE DAMN HAND TOWELS! But I am completely unwilling to spend that much time wrestling with yarn that feels horrid to my fingers.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I am a true wool lover. And alpaca? Like heaven. On the other hand, I don’t care for cotton too much, unless it’s mixed with something else, like silk (though I do like that cheap cotton yarn for dishcloths or “warshrags”). I’ve never tried bamboo, but I’m willing and curious. And silk, well…it’s SILK…so glossy and delicate, yet strong, and always lovely.

So all this makes me wonder…Am I the ONLY knitter who doesn’t love knitting with linen? Or is there anyone else out there who feels the same way I do?

Knit Your Bit: Knit a scarf for a WWII vet

I usually knit for family, myself, and–in the world of compassionate knitting–for animals. But there’s a new “charity” project called Knit Your Bit that really touched me.

The project is sponsored by the National WWII Museum. They’re collecting knitted scarves to distribute to WWII vets in veterans’ centers.

It’s a beautiful thought, and I believe these guys deserve all the love we can give them.

So go ahead. Knit Your Bit.