yarn. earl grey. soft.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I've been knitting Anne Hanson's patterns for a few years now. I started with her sock patterns, since many of them can be adapted for toe-up knitting, which is my preferred method for sock knitting.

Then I got interested in lace knitting.

To say Anne Hanson has lace patterns is like saying the Queen has some houses. It doesn't convey the impressiveness of them. They (Anne's patterns, not the Queen's digs) are imaginative, professionally written and detailed, and always have fabulous photos. The first lace pattern of hers I knit was the Fernfrost scarf.

Despite having only knit two other lace patterns ever, I tackled this pattern and won. And wanted to knit more lace. This design has a 32-row pattern repeat, and there is pattern work on both sides, meaning no purl rest row (purling across all the stitches). I'm not sure why I wasn't fazed by any of that. Maybe it was that the pattern width was 69 stitches, so undoing a row to fix a mistake wasn't all that painful.

Since then, I've knit the Fallberry scarf,

the Poinsettia cowl,

and the Fall Lines scarf from her pattern line.

Her patterns are always interesting, both to look at and to knit, and I've yet to find a mistake in the instructions or the charts (a rare thing in the knitting world).

My latest effort is the Peu de Pluie scarf, and in her new yarn line, no less.

The line is called Bare Naked Wool. It's naturally colored and locally sourced. And it is soft! You can knit with it and wear it next to your skin and not itch at all.

This colorway is Earl Grey. (The name makes me giggle because I don't like Earl Grey tea. The bergamot in it tastes yucky to me. I'll take this yarn over that tea any day.) That animals can grow wool in such a lovely rich color is amazing.

Her yarn line is proving quite popular - new additions often sell out in a day. I'm awaiting my order of worsted weight Chevre, which I will use for a shawl. The grays, I cannot resist them.


Friday, February 8, 2013

'Tis finished.

I've been working on this shawl for months. As a refresher, it's Wendy Johnson's Two-Thirds Shawl from her Wendy Knits Lace book. It's really two shawls joined at one seam (ie, two triangles joined together).

Wendy writes great patterns. Her instructions are clear and easy to follow, and I had no trouble with the charts. There was some moving around of stitch markers for double decreases on certain rows, so I marked those right on the pattern, which came in handy since you have to do repeats of charts. The next time through them, I knew well ahead of time when I'd have to move markers.

Despite all the knitting required for this, I never got tired of the yarn (Fearless Fibers Tight Twist in Glorious Green). It has great stitch definition so the lace pattern really pops, and it felt really good in the hand.

This was knit top down, meaning the knitting started in the top middle and worked outward from there, so every other row added stitches. By the time I was done, I had 605 stitches. In knit-speak, that's a lot of stitches.

The pattern recommends a Russian bind-off, which I'd never done before. I looked up videos for how to do it, and it seemed awfully fiddley and tedious. I wasn't sure I wanted that much fuss over that many stitches. Then I flipped to the intro section of Wendy's book, and found a section on bind-offs. Her version of a Russian bind off is a lot less work than what I saw in the online videos. So I went with Wendy's version. A few hours of effort, and those 605 stitches were off the needles, although I did end up with a cramp in my right hand.

Blocking took awhile. I used all of my blocking wires and all of my T-pins. I was worried that it was going to turn out overly small, given what it looked like bunched up on the needles. I'm ruthless when it comes to lace blocking though, so it didn't know what it was in for.

All that work was worth it. It turned out really well and sits better on the shoulders than a regular triangle shawl, given how it's constructed as more of a wrap.

And I had enough yarn left over to make a cowl:

This is the Yarn Harlot's Pretty Thing.

It only requires about 160 yards of yarn, and it can be knit in lace weight or fingering weight yarn. The original pattern is lace weight yarn. I did mine in fingering weight yarn. The pattern has a nice big chart that is easy to follow and easy to modify. My only modification was to convert a couple of the purl rows in the middle to knit rows. It only took me a few knitting sessions to crank this out so it was done in days.

Glorious and pretty indeed.

what would The Doctor knit?

Monday, January 14, 2013

This year is the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who. I mentioned in a previous blog post  that I am an old-school Doctor Who fan. I started watching the show on PBS as a kid back in the 80s, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I do like the re-launched series, but I identify more with the older series. (If you have Netflix, you can watch the back catalog of old episodes - keep in mind they had a limited budget for the series at the time, nothing like what the re-launched series has now, so the original series has a charming, amusing, sometimes cringe-worthy make-do-and-mend air about it.)

I made The Scarf-themed socks early last year out of Knit Picks Felici yarn in the Time Traveler colorway:

These socks have worn well. No thinning, no holes, no color fading, no pilling. It's great yarn that is hard-wearing, soft, and has lovely stitch definition and fun color combinations. I'm about to start another pair using this yarn in the Minty colorway.

In solidarity with the 50th anniversary, I think it would be a kick to knit a few more theme-related things.

No, I'm not knitting The Scarf. I did that already. In somewhat related colors. In thicker yarn. It's a lot of garter stitch. I'm not joking. Twelve feet is not joking. And that's the shorter version. Some people make it double that length. I may have gone temporarily mad while knitting it. Never again.

I salute those who attempt it, though. I hope yours turns out better than mine did.

I think I will make the Bigger on the Inside Shawl. Sci fi and lace knitting is fun combination, don't you think?

I have this dark blue fingering weight yarn that I got at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last year that would be great for it:

There may be enough yarn left over to make the Tilting Tardis Cowl. I've had this in my ravelry queue for awhile now. I think it's time to make it, although I might turn the pattern vertically and add more repeats so I can knit it entirely in the round and not bother with the buttons. Then again, Seal of Rassilon-looking buttons could be fun.

I realize I don't have to make these projects in blue, but I have the right amount of yarn in the proper weight, and it happens to be blue.

A search on Ravelry for "Doctor Who" will give you 247 patterns. Dolls, red bow ties, Dalek plushie toys/baby dresses/egg cozies/dog sweaters, doilies of Rassilon, TARDIS tissue box covers, fez toilet roll covers, Ood crocheted ski masks, knitted and crocheted sonic screw drivers. I'm sure if you typed in a character name or an alien type, there would be even more patterns.

When I was a kid, no one I knew watched PBS. Now, everyone does, which is good. It seems to be one of the last refuges of won't-turn-your-brain-to-mush TV, and finally, people get my PBS comedy/sci fi/mystery/period drama references. About bloody time.

dusting off the blog

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Flinging the curtains open. Blink. Blink.

Wow. I've not posted anything since August. Boy, is it dusty in here.

I can't say I've had much to post about. I've been battling recurring neck and lower back pain sustained from a car accident at the end of December 2011. That's halted a lot of projects in their tracks, especially writing, which is frustrating. I've been experimenting with a standing desk at home, since I seem to have less pain when standing. I've had acupuncture and zero balancing treatments to help with pain management, so I only resort to pain meds when I really have to. You wouldn't think a tiny 10 mg Flexeril tablet could pack such a wallop, but it can. Whenever I take one, I feel as though I'm walking through thick heavy glue for about 12 hours. Supposedly, the muscle relaxant effect of it only lasts for six hours.

Consequently, everything is more of an effort than it used to be. I used to brush off a stiff neck after hours of sitting at a desk or a sore shoulder after a long cello practice session and just push through it to keep going with things. Now, I can't do that. I have to be more mindful of the first stirrings of pain because they can quickly get worse and become debilitating.

I have been celloing and writing and knitting though, just in smaller bursts. I'll take that to not doing anything at all.

I'm well into thumb position and sixth position on the cello, and I'm starting to hear more notes that sound right. My vibrato technique has improved as well - first finger isn't so troublesome these days. Progress!

I've knit a lot of lace and a lot of socks this year, and I even started a cardigan. I would love to get the cardigan done in time to wear it this winter.

My next book will be released any day now. I'm just waiting for the various sites to review and approve the files to make sure I've formatted everything correctly. I'm working on the next novel for release this year, and I hope to expand to more venues where I can release it.

I was looking at the list of revolutions I'd planned for myself for 2012:

I thought I'd be well into the Breval Sonata by now. Instead, Ben put me through most of the Popper prep book, which I really enjoyed. I'm now working on some Lee etudes. I'm not as fond of them as Popper, but they're still interesting. I've also developed a taste for fiddle pieces. There are several in the study books I'm using. It's my Celtic blood, I tell you...

I had planned to go to Scotland in May, but my job situation took a turn for the worse early in the year, so that trip got nixed, as I wasn't sure I'd be able to finance it.

I did catalog my yarn stash and knit from it - eight pairs of socks, four shawls, four scarves, and one baby blanket. Ravelry has a nifty feature where you can set up a database of your stash, which makes pattern searching on the site a lot easier. I also re-organized the stash closet. It's lovely and tidy and easy to find stuff in it now. The only yarn I bought last year was at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I also acquired a few skeins from a couple of yarn swaps.

I've done a lot of revision on novels-in-progress, plus I've started outlining new novels. I've resigned myself to the fact that my novel writing is a lot like my novel reading - I apparently can't work on just one at a time. This is good in that it's evidence that I have a lot of story ideas, but bad in that it's hard to let just one take center stage to actually get finished.

My job situation was dismal all year long, so another degree got put on hold until I get things sorted. I've worked steadily, but not happily or productively. I seem to have had a knack last year for finding precisely the wrong jobs. I hope to fix that this year.

Other things I hope to do this year:

 - Take a knitting class. I've never done this. I'm mostly self-taught, which is fine and works, thanks to great books and youtube videos and whatnot. However, the camaraderie of a group of knitters is a beautiful thing, and I would love to take a lace blocking class or a sweater design class or something.

- Publish another novel. Also, investigate making physical copies available, as well as physical copies of the previous ones.

- Continue to lessen the severity of the back and neck pain. If it weren't for acupuncture and zero balancing, I'd be a crying, stiff, and inflamed mess all the time and might not be able to work or even be semi-functional. I've gotten back into yoga recently as well, and all the stretching is really helping. I'm determined not to become dependent on pain meds.

 - Take another trip to Europe. Rome, I think, this year. I've missed Europe.

-  Re-mulch the front garden. The derecho in July and the hurricane at Halloween really did a number on my garden and blew all the mulch away.

- Get a certification or start another degree. This depends on my job path this year. I've been looking into the Certified CME Professional program, the Project Management Professional program, and a biomedical writing program. All would be useful, but I'm just going to focus on one this year.

- Get back to blogging regularly. What should I blog about? Keep going with the cello and knitting posts? More about the books I'm reading? My continued fling with paleo-style eating? What are you blogging about or wish people would blog about?

Read. Reading is one thing that helped me keep my sanity last year, and I'm so grateful for that. Mainly, I gorged on books by and about the Lost Generation - they are my people. Sylvia Beach and Janet Flanner are my new heroines.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I'm going to re-read both of those.

Also, thanks to a gift certificate from my mom, there are six books that will be published this year that I've pre-ordered - Neil Gaiman's new novel and a new edition of F Scott Fitzgerald's novels are among them. It will be a nice treat to get a new book in the mail every few months.

I've been downloading e-books like crazy in the past six months, and will continue to do so (I'm in the middle of a biography of Gertrude Stein; I'm at the part where she and Alice B Toklas meet for the first time). I've got the e-book version of the new Bronte biography as well, and Flora Segunda, and a couple by Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde...

I've also been fueling my book habit with a couple of podcasts - CraftLit and ChopBard. It's great fun to re-visit books and plays I've read or dive into ones I've never gotten around to and get a little guidance along the way.

And of course, reading something really good always makes me want to write. Must fuel the writing regularly.

While I wouldn't wish bad anything on anyone, it's comforting to know I wasn't alone in having a crap year last year. I don't see 13 as bad luck, so let's have a better, happier, and more productive year, shall we?

blogging questions

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

(If you want to skip the background and go to the actual queries, they are at the bottom of the post.)

I’ve not posted a blog entry since the end of May. It’s not that I don’t have things to write about – I have knitting to show you, I have writing projects to talk about, I have cello insights to muse on.

The problem is the actual device I use for blog posting because I now have an iPad.

I’m not an early adopter of technology. I’m an eventual adopter. I get around to the latest thing once I’m convinced it has some staying power in the world, won’t be a waste of money, and really will be useful to me.

Tablets seem to have some staying power. (Am I the only one who thinks Douglas Adams’ description of the actual Hitchhiker’s Guidebook sounds awfully like an iPad or a Kindle? And does anyone remember the portable device that Picard would sometimes read things on in his ready room? Looked rather like a tablet thingy.)

Anyway, I got an iPad because there were several things I wanted to do more portably – research, read, and write. I don’t always want to sit at my desk to do these things, especially reading, and laptops are still clunky enough to be a pain to move elsewhere.

I’m happy to say I do all three things on the iPad and then some. I read ebooks from Kindle and iBooks. I write my Morning Pages brain dump on 750words.com. I use Skype to chat with my mom. I watch stuff from Netflix. I post messages on Twitter and Facebook. I use the Evernote app to store novel outlines, research notes…and blog post drafts.

And then things come to a screeching halt. I have never had problems with Blogger itself as a site on which to have a blog, which is why I’ve stuck with it for so many years. However, importing text and images and links to Blogger on the iPad is Painful. I mean, Paaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnfuuuuuullllll. It’s a very fiddley and slow process.

So that means I end up having to do the actual blog publishing work on my laptop, which makes my shoulders sag at the very thought. I would love to get rid of my laptop, but unfortunately, there are still some word processing things that can only be done, or can be done more easily, on a laptop or desktop computer. Mores the pity.

I have a backlog of blog posts, and absolutely no desire to fire up the laptop to post them.

Here are my queries: Do you blog from a tablet device? If you do, do you do it directly on the site from your tablet or do you use an app? If you use an app, which one?

nice to meet you, Genet

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If you asked me to describe my childhood, it would be all about the books, since I wasn't overly sociable or sports minded. I don't remember much else about growing up, but I could tell you which books I read at what age (gives new meaning to "bookmarks"). Lots of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary from age 6 to 9. Little Women and the Little House books at age 10. Dear Mr Henshaw and Starring Sally J Friedman as Herself and the Katie John books at age 11. The entire Nancy Drew series and Madeleine L'Engle at age 12. Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Plath, Hughes, Thomas, the Brontes, biographies, and bits of French and Russian lit from 13 through 17. Anne Rice and Kate Chopin and Lawrence and Atwood at 18.

Somewhere along the way after childhood, my daily intake of the printed word diminished quite a bit because I got interested in other things. I discovered art and photography, and then re-discovered knitting (which I'd briefly learned and played with at age 12), and then cello. And writing took up more and more time as well. So did having to work to earn a living and maintain order in my digs once I moved out on my own.

I can still read large chunks of writing fairly quickly, when I get the chance to do it, which seems rare these days. I read Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad in one sitting while the repair person fixed my air conditioner, and I got through a Campion novel during a particularly bad rainstorm that was keeping me awake in the middle of the night. Now that e-books are available, it's made reading a lot more portable, and I get a kick out of being able to carry around the complete works of Oscar Wilde and Shelley and Austen and a few Wodehouse novels and the letters of Sylvia Beach on my iPhone. It means when I have a few minutes here and there, like standing in line somewhere or waiting for the previous student to pack up so I can go into my teacher's studio for my cello lesson, I can read a bit, and the software even marks my place.

Still, that's just reading in spurts when the opportunities present themselves. For awhile, I've been searching for some way to get back to a more regular reading routine. And then I came across a documentary recently on Netflix called Paris Was a Woman. It's about the women artists and writers of Paris between the world wars.

One of the writers featured was Janet Flanner. She wrote a weekly column for The New Yorker for decades called "Letter from Paris" under the pen name Genet. I liked what I saw and heard of her in the documentary, so I decided to check out her writing. It turns out that her New Yorker contributions are collected in four volumes. Because I am a writer, and because I am strange, I decided to get myself some copies of these books for my birthday, and it gave me a reading project idea.

The books arrived last week, and while flipping through them, it occurred to me that I could read a letter a day to get back some of the daily reading habit I used to have. The "Letters from Paris" start in 1925 and go through to 1970, so it will take awhile to get through them. I think it will be a good reading ritual. I might even tweet about them now and then - "on this day in 19__, Janet Flanner wrote about..."

The first entry in the first book is about Josephine Baker's debut in Paris in 1925. While the entry is short, it reads as though Genet was impressed. And in her blunt style, Genet points out that "Paris has never drawn a color line."

This is going to be fun and enlightening.

knitter in training

Friday, April 20, 2012

The London 2012 Olympics are less than 100 days away.

In the knitting world, there is an activity called the Knitting Olympics, with an offshoot called Ravelympics. The idea is to cast on for a project at the beginning of opening ceremonies, work on it while watching whatever events interest you, and then finish it before or by the end of closing ceremonies. The Games start on 27 July and end on 12 August - 17 days (if I did my math right).

On Ravelry, you can sign up for specific teams depending on what you're working on and post updates. Overall, it's a fun knitting community phenomenon.
During the last Olympics, I managed to finish a blanket that had been languishing for far longer than I care to admit. I had all the squares made, but it was a matter of sewing them all together and there were more than 100 of them.
This time, I'm thinking of working on a project that is London- or British-related. So far, I've come up with a few possibilities.
One is the Hitchhiker Scarf by Martina Behm, which was inspired by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, who was British. Ideally, you end up with 42 points on your scarf (in the book, 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything). I've made this pattern once already, and enjoyed it a lot, although I only ended up with 36 points. However, the pattern is flexible enough that if you run out of yarn before you get to 42 points, you can bind off wherever you need to and still have a nice scarf. I have a skein of yarn that I reclaimed from another project that I think would be enough for 42 points. Theoretically, the knitting of this could be divided up to work on a certain number of points each day, although because of how it's knit, the rows get longer the further into the project you get. So it would be a matter of doing more points early on, maybe.
Another other option is the Tudor Grace scarf by Anne Hanson. The Tudors were a ruling family in England (starting with Henry VII and ending with Elizabeth I). It's a lace pattern that has a six-row repeat and purl rest rows on the wrong side. It's a lovely pattern that I've been eyeing for awhile. But would I be able to pay attention to the events and knit at the same time without messing up the pattern? That is the question.
There is also the Miss Woodhouse shawlette by Wendy Johnson. It's a very pretty piece, and the name reminds me of Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse. However, Emma is my least favorite of the Austen novels, so I'm not sure I want to go that route.
I was also thinking of a Dickens-related project, seeing as this year is the centenary of his birth. However, I've not come across anything that appeals to me.
Since these are the summer Games, I'm not inclined to knit something heavy like a sweater or another blanket. Hence the scarf or shawl option. It's a matter of what can I get accomplished in two and a bit weeks of knitting, which will mainly be evening knitting. Any of the above mentioned patterns would probably just squeak in under the deadline.  
Any votes or other pattern ideas?

gotta have faith

Saturday, March 31, 2012

My cello teacher decided we should have a little break between study books, so at the moment, I'm working on a standalone piece called "La Foi" ("The Faith") by Goltermann. It's a nice, flowy, smooth piece for piano and cello, with plenty of opportunity to practice vibrato.

My vibrato has come a long way. First finger is still giving me fits, and if I'm not careful how I place my pinky finger, I get a slight shooting pain. Otherwise, it sounds like I may sort of perhaps quite possibly know what I'm doing. Kind of. If I squint my ears real hard.

I got the hang of the first page of the piece pretty easily. The second page - not so much. Frankly, the second page annoys me. It's a hell of a lot of shifting, although a large section of it is only on the A string and not at an overly fast pace. In theory, that should make things easier. In practice, it does not. Not to mention that one has to hold the right bow arm up for rather a long time, which can be tiring. Also, I've noticed that my A string sounds awfully bright compared to the other three strings, so it's a bit jarring when I get to that section in the piece. (Don't start in about changing out the A string for a new one. Cello strings are not cheap. I've got to work with what I have.)

I'm hoping the third page of this piece will be less annoying. I would like to be able to play the whole thing at least somewhat respectably. Right now, it's a trudge.

4S Saturday: glorious

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My grandmother loved her shawl. My aunt loved it, too, and kept trying it on. I'm adding some additional projects to my gift knitting queue this year, so the paternal aunts will get some lace at some point.

My mother also liked my grandmother's shawl and asked for one as well, instead of a mark II of the Fernfrost scarf that the wind took away from her last year. I started working on that with the yarn that was intended for Fernfrost the Second, and I added a pattern repeat on the middle section to make it bigger. However, I misjudged the amount of yarn that I would need for the size increase and ran out, so the project went on hold until the additional yarn I ordered arrived. I finished the middle section at my knitting group session today, so there's just the edging left to do, and yet I still may be short on yarn to get it finished. Generally, I'm pretty good about making sure I have an adequate amount of yarn for a project, so I don't know why this one is different. And I can't show you any progress pictures of it because my mom reads this blog.

I can show you this, though:

This is the Two-Thirds Shawl by Wendy Johnson from her Wendy Knits Lace book. The yarn is a tight twist superwash merino wool fingering weight from Fearless Fibers. The colorway is called Glorious Green. Indeed.

I had tried two other shawl patterns with this yarn, and neither worked. Third time appears to be the charm. I like the pattern so far, and I've had no problems following the charts. I'm already through the first section and well into the second set of charts. I have just under the amount of yarn the pattern calls for, but I'm making this on a smaller needle size as well, so I think it will be okay. I may regret saying that, given my recent struggles with yarn amounts.

There are quite a few patterns in this book that I would like to make, so it may be an additional knitting goal this year to work through a bunch of them. I started the Stacy Shawl awhile back, but ran into problems with the pattern. I thought I'd worked out a fix, but it was still giving me fits, so I put it down for awhile. More people have made the pattern now, so I'm hoping I can find some help to figure out where I'm going wrong.

I also made this recently:

The pattern is Minnie by Jumper Cables Knitting. The yarn is Waverly by Bernat in the Breath of Blue colorway.

The other scarf I'd been wearing had stretched out too much and was curling on the long edges, which doesn't provide much protection from wind and cold. It was driving me nuts. I thought I'd put in enough garter stitch so it would lay flat, but apparently not.

I didn't like the idea of doing a beginner-looking garter stitch scarf, but I did want something that wouldn't curl. I poked around on ravelry and came across this pattern and had a hallelujah moment. It has the needed garter stitch, but it also has the bobbles and lace edging to make it more interesting. You start at one end with only five stitches and you gradually increase stitches on one side only until you have it as wide as you want and then start decreasing on the same side - that gives you a long, narrow triangle shape. Easy and fun to knit, and I like how it turned out. Exactly the sort of scarf I wanted.

5S: again with the socks

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Scarf/Shawl/Sock/Sweater Saturday (or Sunday)

I finished my time traveling socks:

These really give me a giggle. I mentioned in a previous post that the colorway was derived from one of the scarves that the fourth Doctor wore. I watched some of the Tom Baker episodes on Netflix while I worked on these. Seemed appropriate.

I'm really impressed with the yarn. It's Knit Picks' Felici fingering weight yarn. It's 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon, which is a good combination for socks to make them soft, long-wearing, and stretchy. The yarn has great stitch definition, too. (I used a garter rib pattern.)

As soon as finished them, I started another pair in the same yarn, but a different colorway, and a seed stitch rib:

The colorway is called Mixed Berries. I'm not a fan of pink (especially after this week's news), and the pink in these reminds me of Pepto Bismol (which one might have needed after this week's news). However, it's only one stripe of pink amid four stripes of varying values of purple/lavender, so I can live with it, and it makes me happy to knit on these.

After I get these finished, I think I'll go back to less variegated/stripey yarn because I'm getting tired of doing afterthought heels to preserve the striping sequence. Although clever, it's a fiddley process, and I'd sooner go back to Wendy Johnson's gusset heel since it's easy and doesn't require anything fiddley.

Why do I suddenly have the urge to play a highland reel on the cello?