Feeling Pretty

Mmmmmm. Pretty colors…

I promise to talk about something else after this, but I just had to share my recent sock yarn madness. This is the stash accumulated, mostly, during the past month…Largely rewards for meeting a goal I set for myself :-)

The two “cakes” are Lorna’s Laces Watercolors and Neighborhood Fiber Co. (NFC) Brightwood. The skeins, clockwise from the top are: Claudia Hand Painted Chocolate Cherry; Sundara Yarns’ Cherry Blossoms; NFC’s Brookland (teal and purple); a gorgeous cranberry-colored semi-solid from NFC (I forget the color’s name!); and Claudia’s Pink Dot.

And, to quote Basie, “once more once,” before they head to the post office today–the oh-so-pretty Orchid Socks (AKA Simply Lovely Lace Socks in Koigu KPPPM)…complete with sewn-down picot edge.

Please be advised: These socks are meant for far smaller feet than mine! (As you can tell.)

Finally, because Maggie’s been getting all the attention lately…

This is Katja, looking pretty and pensive. Despite her precious “Fancy Feast” appearance, she’s actually a hellion–a wannabe barn cat. We love that about her.


Sock Yarn Love!

OK, you just have to see this gorgeous hank of Neighborhood Fiber Company yarn that Karida delivered a week ago…I can’t get enough of these colors:
It’s named “Brookland.” Teal-green and purple sock yarn–lovely, stretchy, puffy superwash merino sock yarn! (Yes, it’s Gems Fingering, my utter favorite.) Thanks, Karida!

And, speaking of sock yarn, I received my Cherry Blossom yarn from Sundara yesterday!!! It is SO luscious, I could absolutely EAT it! No photos yet, but soon, I promise. (Since every hank is a little different, I think a picture is in order, just to celebrate the pink prettiness sitting on my coffee table, don’t you?)

All of which leads me to socks…
This is about 10 rows short of where I currently am on Waving Lace (first sock), from Favorite Socks. (For more, check out the Favorite Socks KAL…)

The Lorna’s Laces is working out nicely with this pattern, though the yarn’s natural stretchiness may be exaggerated by the stretchiness of this particular lace. At any rate, I tightened up my knitting a little bit, and was happy with the results.

Have I mentioned that It’s hard to find a true US #1 circular needle these days? (I haven’t been feeling so great, and so can’t remember what I’ve said lately.) Well, most #1 needles are actually US #1.5, but are not labelled that way–kind of irritating, actually. I wish we could get needles in UK sizes.

Measuring needles in millimetres instead of random numbers allows a broader range of sizes. I know I can go to DPNs, and I have many #1 sets, but I wanted to do magic loop so I could carry these in my purse without losing needles. Plus, I was craving the mindlessness of it.

So here you have it: Yummy new yarn and a new pair of socks in a really fun pattern.

Life is good.

Orchid Socks: Finis!

I cast off on Sunday, and blocked them to make sewing the picot edge at the top a bit easier. Trying to wrestle a rolling edge into a nice, neat hem is a real pain. Sewing will probably happen today, but in my book this is now a finished project!
Pattern: Orchid Socks AKA Simply Lovely Lace Socks (IK Spring 06)
Yarn: Koigu (Can’t find the band, but I’ll try to remember to look up the color #)
Needles: Addi Turbo 32″ US #0 (magic loop method)
Mods: None! This was a simply lovely pattern, and came out perfectly!

I must say, I really enjoyed knitting these. The stitch pattern is SO easy to remember, so you can just relax and knit. They were a wonderful project for knitting in public, since I love people-watching and don’t like to have to watch my knitting instead. Of course, I keep a close eye on what I’m doing, too…Dropped stitches aren’t a disaster, but they slow you down!

Last Friday I found myself in Georgetown after a doctor’s appointment, waiting for my husband to meet me for dinner at Old Glory. BUT I’d forgotten to put my knitting in my purse! Oh, my God, what an emergency. And it was such a beautiful day. All I wanted to do was find a garden bench at the Old Stone House and knit in the sun. So…I made a quick trip to Stitch DC, spent money I couldn’t afford to spend, and emerged with two skeins of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Watercolor and a rather cheap set of DPNs (US #1).

I cast on for the Waving Lace socks, which you can see on the cover of Favorite Socks. I chose to do a twisted 1×1 rib instead of the prettier pattern shown in the book’s photos. Ribbing is just more practical for me…I like pretty socks, but they have to stay up or I know I won’t wear them.

(Maggie’s feeling MUCH better–YAY!)

Waving Lace sock #1 is much farther along now, so I’ll take more photos today and get them up here. Meanwhile, you can also follow this project at the Favorite Socks KAL: Just click on the button in my sidebar.

Have a great day, everyone!

Bad Yarn Karma Reversed!

First things first. Here’s some belated eye candy:

The image quality sucks–I snapped this with my cell phone camera yesterday–but those colors were just gorgeous.

Anyway, I’ve been away for a few days. Not feeling so hot. I had a medical issue last week (Maggie wasn’t the only one) and followed up with a doctor’s appointment yesterday. I’m sure it’s nothing, but it might be exacerbating my usual complete and utter exhaustion…

OK, enough of me. Let me show you some more cell phone photos:

That’s right! The striped hat is actually DONE. Bad yarn karma (BYK) banished. And just in time, considering we went out to a Phillies/Nationals game the other night and it was COLD. Actually, I finished it just minutes before the DC United game I went to last Saturday, when it was cold and rainy.

You see, when DC had its faux spring a few weeks ago, we packed all my hats away with our winter stuff. So when the day of the football (soccer) game dawned chilly and damp, I was a bit worried. That afternoon, I rushed home, wove in ends, made tassel, and caught the Blue Line out to RFK Stadium just in time.

That makes two cold RFK visits in one week. And both times, I was thankful for this hat. For months, it’s languished in a bag, slung over a chair back (all the doorknobs are taken). This is the pattern you have to knit to accomplish Level 1 in TKGA’s Master Hand Knitter program, and I’m not very excited about it. It’s OK. Just not the kind of hat I’d choose to make on my own.

But once I got going with the new pink yarn–which extinguished the BYK–it basically finished itself. All stockinette in the round. Knit, knit, knit, change color, knit, knit, knit. Needless to say, I made it in front of the television, watching BBC mysteries from Netflix.

Here’s a blurry photo of Pat Burrell’s butt–the same way I saw him when I used to go to Reading Phillies games in PA. Funny to see the same view five years later and a few hundred miles away ;-)

As for the Master Hand Knitter program…I’ve completed all of my swatches and the hat. Haven’t answered the questions yet. But for some reason, I’ve lost interest. Now that I’ve done the work, I’m just not all that concerned about having the Master Knitter title. I’d rather knit for myself, for fun, for art. Not to adhere to someone else’s subjective ideas of perfection.

So, the hat I scorned for so long will go into the box with my other woolies. It’s not the hat’s fault that someone wrote a dumb pattern. It’s kept me warm when no other hat was around…I think I’ve grown a bit attached to it. And all of my swatches will join their friends in my bag-o-swatches, and someday become part of…well…something. A throw, perhaps?

(I can’t toss a perfectly good swatch, can you?)

Ode on a (Non)Grecian Yarn

Why is Louet Gems fingering weight yarn so lovely to work with?

This is Koigu KPPPM in the colourway I think of as “Orchid.” (Gorgeously hand painted on Gems fingering weight)

I love the delicate sheen, the tiny little pillows of puffy merino, the yarn’s gentle stretch and “steel magnolia” strength. I love the texture of Gems Pearl when it’s knitted up, whether in stockinette, cable, or lace. The slight pebbly nature that adds interest to anything I knit…And, of course, I love the way it takes up colour. (I’m suffering from Anglophilia today.)

Is it weird to love a yarn that much? To take it out and gaze at it because the way it’s spun makes me (oddly?) happy? Or am I not alone? Do all knitters feel that kind of passion for one yarn or another?

Neighborhood Fiber Co. uses Louet yarns, including my favorite. In fact, Karida dropped off a little cake of Brightwood the other day. Hand-painted yarn house calls…Now THAT’S luxury! I can’t wait to use it. I’ll be casting on for my chevron scarf as soon as I finish the second Orchid Sock.
Here’s my yummy little Brightwood “yarn muffin” (blue), waiting with its friends to be knit into something wonderful. (BTW: I also adore her Brookland colourway…Uh oh. I feel another purchase coming on.)

Looking at my “I-can’t-wait-to-start-these-projects” stash, I see that nearly all of my current and future projects involve Louet Gems fingering weight yarn in one way or another. Socks, of course. And the soon-to-be-mine Chevron Scarf. And the edging on Tahoe (sadly pushed aside while I complete the Orchid Socks, but I’ll be back to work on it soon!).

And Gems is not just sock yarn–it can be used for almost anything. Check out Melissa’s lovely Annabelle design (scroll down a bit, on the right-hand side). She made it in sock-weight cashmere. But wouldn’t Gems make a great substitution?

(My small collection of Claudia Hand Painted yarn, also based on Gems.)

At last year’s Maryland Meat and Wool Festival, I saw dozens of knitters crammed like sardines into the very small Koigu booth, grabbing armloads of skeins out of baskets marked “Sale.” I was shocked…

To me, some of the colours were a bit–how do I say this–garish? But my fellow fiber-holics didn’t seem to notice the colours. They just pushed, grabbed, and bought. I attributed this to the sock-knitting craze that pre-dated today’s lace knitting craze. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was the yarn itself, and the mostly-fabulous colourways were the icing on the cake…

I really would like to know what you think. Do you feel the same way? Or are you true to another? Tell me: What yarn makes YOU lapse rhapsodic?

Go ahead, I know you want to comment…and I promise not to let the cat out of the bag ;-)

More on Inspiration: Where do you find it?

It’s been a difficult two weeks. Just that long ago I was wearing sandals…SANDALS! And today I was bundled up in my February clothes.

My mild resentment about this cold, wet spring makes me feel a little guilty. Somehow, I picked up the belief that I “should” find inspiration everywhere, on every day. And I guess I could, if I really got the whole acceptance thing down.

But it’s been wet and cold and gray for what feels like forever. Which is more than a bit painful after a lovely stretch of early spring warmth at the end of March. So, instead of looking around me today, I thought I’d look to the past for some relief and vicarious, photograph-induced Vitamin D…

This is the view from the porch at the Albert Stevens Inn, in Cape May, NJ.

Have you noticed that I return to Cape May frequently in my writing/blogging? That’s because it’s one of the coziest, most relaxing, unstressful , romantic, beautiful, and accessible places I know. We can get there easily: Drive up through Delaware and catch the Cape May-Lewes Ferry for a fun ride across the mouth of the bay (some day I’ll tell you about our hurricane crossings!). When we disembark in NJ, our favorite room and a big warm welcome are guaranteed to be waiting for us at the Albert Stevens.The inn embraces us, filling us with that wonderful “coming home” feeling.

This is the high bed in our room, or rather “Bessie’s Room.”

According to legend, Bessie has been known to let a guest or two know if she prefers they sleep elsewhere. Chris and I respect the Stevens’ house and the memories of their family. We’re both aware that we’re guests in their home. And we’ve never had any unpleasant awakenings. I believe it’s possible, but really, I am quite happy not encountering the stern presence of the mistress of the house late in the night.

The Stevens are all gone now, and the new owners have revived the house to its turn-of-the-century glory. (I imagine this makes Dr. and Mrs. Stevens, and Vesta, their daughter, quite happy.) I know it makes US happy! Jim andLenanne are the best of hosts. He always has the latest scoop on Cape May happenings (theater, concerts, great early-bird specials at pricey restaurants). And she cooks up THE most delicious (and filling!) breakfasts.

In the late afternoon, as guests trickle back from long walks along the shore or a day’s worth of exploring the town’s many tourist shops and fancier boutiques, tea is served, complete with crackers and cheese, home made cookies, sherry, and (in colder months) hot apple cider.

This is our cozy little bathroom.

OK, I know this reads like a travelogue. But that’s not my primary intention.

My point is that, when the days get dreary and damp, making me feel like every thing I do requires a major effort, I can close my eyes and go back to Cape May…all the while anticipating our next visit. I can see the patterns of the clouds on the steel-blue Atlantic the honey-colored sun streaming through the breakfast-room windows; the brilliant hues of leaves and flowers; and the crisp red and white of the Cape May Lighthouse.

The pastel and jewel hues of Cape May’s Victorians, the quality of the sea-side light, the scent of salt and fireplaces, the patterns and textures of sand dunes and shingles and roof tiles…These are among my treasures. When my world is drab or frightening, I can take them out, hold them, polish them, press them to my cheek and feel their sleek perfection and comforting shapes, sounds, sights, smells, and tastes.

Inspiring, yes. And encouraging. And hopeful. Do these reflections find their way into my art? I think so…I know so.

For me, inspiration IS everywhere. But that doesn’t mean the best inspiration is always in my immediate surroundings. It can be in our memories. In our histories–cultural and personal. Inspiration can be found in a dream, a conversation, a photograph, or a good book.

Well, that’s probably enough about me.

I would love to know what places inspire you. Do you find elusive creative encouragement close to home? Or do you need to travel the world to collect your treasures? What role does “Setting” play in your creative process?