Monthly Archives: May 2013

Falling off the wagon and joining the crowd…

I’ve never been one for KALs, SALs,* or anything-else-alongs, preferring to shut up in my hidey hole and go about my business at my own pace.  But my last experience with Pigeonroof Studios roving was something I was craving to repeat so I decided to have another little taste.

Pigeon zucchini

I’m torn between actually making this into socks which I first set out to do with my original order of PRS superwash merino roving, or having it nearer to my head or hands… I’m quite the sucker for greens and oranges and this takes the cake!  I’m leaning towards socks, so I will make this a three ply just in case.  I know I won’t get very good yardage with a three ply, but this is so summery that it begs to be short socks.

PRS zucchini

And then over the winter it was announced that there would be a special color for a limited two-month window to act as a spin-along and um, I caved when I saw it was a green blend for May/June called “Mimsy.”  I’ve never done anything at the same time with a group with the exception of occasionally knitting the same thing along with (or after) a knitter friend (who I knew in life, not virtually).  I feel like it is what… too conformist?  Too creepy and whiffs of citizens of a bad government all marching as one?  Too… what?  I’ve secretly longed to be in a few quilt block contribution projects that I learned about after the fact, but I don’t want to waste the time trolling the various interwebsocialnetworkingblatheringblogtimewasting sites to find one currently open.  At the moment the greatest benefit I can see in a -along is the motivation to work with a material in a timely manner and/or other people might be able to offer suggestions, tips, etc., if something comes up or a decision needs to be made.  I’ve been lurking on the PRS group on ravelry and they seemed like a nice bunch, so I jumped into the common soup (you can’t make me drink the cool-aid though).

Mimsy

I also justified the purchase by requiring myself to learn a new technique with this spin, so I got the colorway in BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) so I could make felted/fulled singles or try Navajo/chain plying for the first time.  However, I jumped the gun and already experimented with Navajo plying and suck at it, so it is back to a question of the singles.  I was thinking that I would make mitts or mittens with the finished yarn since it matches one of my tealy-blue wool jackets, but if I make singles, I will have more yardage than hand wear would need and I fear the yarn might not be quite as hard-wearing as it would be if plied, so neck wear it will probably be instead.

PRS with turq

(I hesitate to mention that I also have some solid turquoise-ish** roving that could be blended or plied with it to stretch it further, but I could potentially screw it up.)  But that does get me thinking…  Spinning beautifully dyed wool always results in beautiful yarn, and in a way I feel a little bit like I’m cheating since I didn’t dye it myself.  Sure everyone spins differently and the colors can really change depending on the technique, but it all ends up being uniform in its gorgeousness.  So if I blend it with another color, my potentially f*cked-up skeins would at least be unique and more of a I’ll-do-it-by-myself-thankyouverymuch along… hmm…

And then what was that, there was a sale?

Pigeon two

Yeah, I have a problem…

And the even bigger problem with this last acquisition is that I’m contemplating getting a third braid to go with this project – a striped shawl/scarf – and a third would make it larger, and I mostly like a big-ass neck thing these days.  I’m thinking either a yellow or a brighter deeper green might work… and keep it in a monochromatic-ish palette, but what attracted me to PRS in the first place is its often joyful disregard of monochromaticity, but whatever, I love these colors.

PRS eye

This is your face on PRS.

*Knit Along, Spin Along.

**None of the pictures with the color blue are remotely accurate in terms of color – anything with blue should be more greenish.  The last one is almost right in terms of the wool, however I am not pink (and I do have an index finger on that hand).

The rovings are, from top picture to bottom:

Zucchini blossom in Merino Superwash

Mimsy in BFL

Jadeite in Merino Superwash

Lettuce in Merino Superwash

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My old cardigan friend, (damn you golf again), and bullying because of thrifting…

I’ve had this c. 1950s/60s men’s alpaca cardigan sweater since the late 1980s.

cardigan full

It was among my first “thrift scores” and I have loved it ever since.  It warmed me through the amalgamated post-hippie/punk/ folk/college-rock years dubbed “alternative” (or “art-fag” if you were stupid and from my neck of the woods), a dabbling of grunge, a decades long love of emo-ish hardcore, and even got away with looking like a hip “boyfriend” sweater the last few years.  It’s been paired with Sex Pistols t-shirts and vintage hippie skirts, over-sized R.E.M. t-shirts and leggings, strategically torn jeans, boot cut jeans, and then leggings again.  I’ve mended it many times, but my elbow finally poked through one of the sleeves the other day.

cardigan hole

So at the moment, it’s not doing very well – I don’t think I want to sew on the classic professorial suede elbow patches, so I may go with some wool tweed.  And I can’t get Weezer’s Undone out of my head to save my life (even though this isn’t what the song is about).

Highly uncharacteristically of me, I never noticed or looked up label before until now…

cardigan label

And oh holy hell, what have I got here, something to do with golf again!?!?

Yep,  Gene Littler was a golf champ and probably got his own line of sportswear in the 1950s or ’60s.  At least he had good taste in fibers and got behind a smart timeless design…

But back on the subject of thrifting – I’m not quite sure when and how I got started.  Like most families in our rural area, we had a single modest income and were extremely conservative* with money.  Our food budget was supplemented by a lush garden and the slaughtering of our chickens and rabbits.  Horse camp?  Nope, I couldn’t go, or any other childhood activity that required fees.  Clothing was homemade, handed-down (yes I wore my brothers’) and never purchased at full price.  However, as a small child, my mother liked dressing me in Polly Flinders hand-smocked dresses from a previous decade.  I believe she found them in consignment shops or garage sales and recognized some of the quality handiwork that went into them (possibly from sweatshops in the ’60s maybe?).  And thankfully she stopped acquiring them when my tomboy-hood banned all things smocked, gathered, and frilled, but I believe this is what set the precedent for obtaining used clothing.

I also have a clear memory of the second grade and being on the outer ring of a group of girls surrounding a lone victim wearing a dress I had secretly liked but was clearly from an earlier generation – a blue pinafore or jumper** with colorful embroidery (I think it was a pattern of small fish).  The ringleader of the mean girls, whose name I recall was actually Ashley, taunted the girl (I’ll call Pam) without her realization of what was happening along the lines of:

Ashley:  [Sneeringly] I like your dress Pam.

Pam: [Shyly blushing and looking downward] Oh, thank you!

Ashley:  Where did you get, it?

Pam: [Brightening] Oh, I actually found it at Goodwill!

Ashley: [Sneering even more] What is that?  Is that a fancy new shop downtown?

[Ashley’s friends break out in cruel giggles]

Though this taunting was pretty tame, I am ashamed now that I didn’t punch Ashley, but I pretty much knew from then on I wouldn’t be friends with her or the others for the next ten years at school.  I remember going to a small birthday party for Pam at the local trailer park once, but shortly thereafter something started to go terribly wrong with her or her life and she often just cried by herself on the playground.  Though the school was tiny, I lost track of her.  She was one of the first to die from our class after graduation – I don’t know what happened.

Knowing I too was on the fringe and would never be a cheerleader, jock-cock sucker, star athlete, or sweet hometown homecoming queen, and I’d always have a long strange ethnic name in a sea of Smiths and Jones, was not the same religion as most of my peers, came from a liberal outspoken family, got good grades, was a band freak, was tall for my age and flat-chested to boot (then), and even the stupid fact of being the only one with a summer birthday and never having the class recognize it, and therefore me, gave me a solid f*ck-all-ya’ll attitude that the “alternative” culture embraced.  So even though I was shoved and locked in lockers, voted off the lunch table, and hid in the bathroom whenever dodge-ball was assigned, I knew life was better outside of that shithole school and town.  Thrifting was an escape, a way to time-travel, and it felt good to occupy the fabric skins of others who had passed through their shitty youths and were on to something better.

Though once in a while I did think about how the former owners of my duds could have died long lonely deaths, or still be around and be even more miserable than me…

*Conservative only in personal finance, certainly not in politics – many in the area were crazy right-wingers and their children are probably teabagging preppers these days… hopefully they don’t believe in voting.

**Brits call sweaters and pullovers “jumpers” but what do they call the sleeveless dress that you have to wear a shirt underneath?

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More progressions than halts…

I finished spinning the dirty Romney “Rhinebeck blues” roving (and I did in fact originally photograph it with the wrong Shetland sweater that matches it and will be frogged if I need to stretch out yardage).  I’m not sure what I’m going to make with this yet although I know it will be something more along the lines of outerwear since I doubt I’d want to wear this next to my skin.  This will be stored indefinitely at the moment while I work on some other projects this summer.  And silly me, I forgot to count the yardage before I skeined it for the photo…

rhinebeck-finished

During our woods weekend last month, I got out the old long-suffering UFO cotton blanket and came up with a plan of how to finish it.  I ripped out a green stripe/strip that was nearly finished just because I’d have to make another and I didn’t want to.  Instead it will have a couple of narrow white stripes and then a border of green…  I think.  I may take it with me to another upcoming woods trip to hopefully finish or at least complete the body.

cotton blanket

And I just finished a short-sleeved sweater that has yet to be mentioned in public because it was another very long-suffering UFO and I was considering tossing the whole thing in the frog pond.

chocolate top detail

chocolate top full

It is the the Chiton Pullover by Melissa Wehrle, and yes it was on the cover of the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of Knitscene.  It was the first time I got a magazine (hit newsstands in 2010) and got some yarn and started right away.  I don’t know why I didn’t get the recommended yarn (which is quite lovely) but I think I wanted a cotton blend, and I know I wanted dark brown, and what I got was very inexpensive.  But it ended up that I really didn’t like this yarn – Elann’s Luna – it is slick and splitty, had lots of knots and broken parts, and of course is without the elasticity and sheepiness of wool, so I found I didn’t feel like working on it very often.  I also fear the weight of the cotton will pull it downwards – the pattern is already long-torso friendly which I love, but things could get too long.  I originally wanted it to wear in my former overly air-conditioned office, which I no longer have.  And I also didn’t really consider the practicality of somewhat thick, but short-sleeved sweaters – indoors your torso is cozy but your arms goose-bumpy and then you go outside and your arms are comfy and torso is sweaty…  not to mention the added impracticality of having to wash the damn thing nearly every time it’s worn due to the odoriferous nuances of summer armpits.  But it’s done and I’ll keep it around for the time being.

And the latest spinning technique I’ve attempted is Navajo or chain plying.  And I suck at it.  But I found a good use for the redwood roving as my f*ck-it-up-all-I-want-because-I-don’t-care  practice fiber.  And I’m glad I used it because I would’ve destroyed some great new hand-painted roving instead, but now I need to make an old-fashioned three-ply out of it which I was hoping to avoid.

N-ply

Yarn only Roebling could love.

And I also discovered I’ve been spinning left-handed.  I’m ambidextrous in many things except writing and continental knitting (you’ve noticed I don’t do a lot of stranded color work, eh?).  But it was a little surprising that when I switched to right-handed, I sucked, so southpaw spinning is the way for me.

My other publicly proclaimed UFOs from months before?  The sweater quilt is packed away to discourage summer moths, I’m still picking at the shirt quilt, and the rug and a couple of others I’ve yet to mention…?  Well, let’s not go there just now… but at least there are fewer than before, right?  Do I get a cookie?

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Sock monkey

I finally got that sock monkey off my back.

monks

No, not you friends.

Remember this?  My first failure with a very basic pair of socks.  Now I can call them done (after three years).

sox 016 - Copy

I just had to take the ubiquitous shot of hand knit socks with (sorta) high-heeled shoes.  Does anyone actually wear them this way?

sox 021 - Copy

This is my way.  Yes, I know it is approaching frumphood, but practical – hand knits are a little grippier in shoes that slide on and off and clogs, orthopedic as they may be, are the most comfortable footwear for standing and such.

I first learned to knit socks in 2008.  That means I spent at least eight years (let’s just call it a decade) only doing garter stitch and timidly and slowly adding simple hats and a new stitch or two at a snail’s pace.  I can’t remember why I wanted to knit socks – perhaps to fit my mismatched feet, perhaps I thought it was the perfect manageable project to project myself off my lazy knitter’s ass, or perhaps I was talking about it and N encouraged me to take a class – either way I know he paid for it as a gift.  At the time, there was only one LYS in my old neighborhood and it was well, a bit strange.  They carried some gorgeous yarns but only in the worst colorways – way too much pink, bad pink, and some of the high-end novelty yarns… not much I ever wanted to buy.  I signed up for the (over-priced in my opinion*) two-session class, bought a skein of meh sock yarn from the sale bin (and I swear it was the only skein that wasn’t pink or candy-colored in the whole shop) and a terrible set of bamboo dpns that have since broken.  The class was described for beginners with basic skills who wanted to learn basic sock construction which described me.  The first session had four attendees – two of us were there for the stated purpose, one only wanted to learn how to knit entrelac, and one was there purely as a substitute for a therapy session.  (There’s always at least one, right)?  Things got off to a sketchy start – the instructor said we could buy a book with a sock pattern, use class time to download a pattern, or buy her basic pattern for $5.00.  I was annoyed at having to buy a pattern on the spur of the moment, but I thought since she was the instructor, her’s made the most sense to buy and I wanted to cast-on immediately.  So the first session amounted to nothing since none of use could get past a cuff in an hour (and bad teacher, she didn’t suggest making an anklet or child’s sock, and bad me for not thinking of it either)!  The second session (when not of course listening to the sad messed up life of the one attendee or entrelac instructions) was a whirlwind of before-to-me-unknown ssks, gussets, and heal-turnings.  I left feeling frustrated and quite under-taught and not much better off than I was before.  I spent the next few weeks poring over the $5.00 basic sock pattern and slowly churning out a legitimate first sock.  By the second one, I basically had it down and realized the pattern was sh*t and it wasn’t just me – some of the simple numbers didn’t add up and a few crucial instructions were missing.  Shortly thereafter, I was poking around in a big box craft store and discovered the $5.00 basic sock pattern was just a poorly copied version of the free pattern that came on the ball band of Lion Brand Sock-Ease sock yarn.  So, lesson learned I guess?  What lesson?  Um, so N and I wasted some money but in the end in a round-about-way it was the catalyst that got my knitting up to speed.  And the basic pattern I first used is still the one I occasionally reference today only now I carry around the ball band rather than the stupid $5.00 version.

Socks - first

The pair that changed it all, spawned several more, and yes, I do have two pairs of the same shoes in different colors…  I actually have several pairs of shoes in duplicate but for their colors (I mentioned I have mismatched feet, so I embrace acquisitions when the shoe fits).  I prefer fraternal to identical twins in sock making and it is sheer coincidence that the two pictured (my first and latest) happen to be identical in terms of stripe placement, with exception of an additional stripe on the toe of the longer one.

sox 018 - Copy

Yeah, I got me some freak feet.

The socks are bit wonky at the moment since they’ve yet to be washed and were tinked and re-knit.  The yarn is Lang Yarns Jawoll Color Aktion which I’ve loved for its durability but isn’t mentioned on their website and is possibly discontinued???  That would suck though I think I still have some more in the old stash.  It also comes with a spool of matching reinforcing thread which I love but have never used in the three pairs I’ve made with the stuff – I always forget about it!  But it will be good for mending.

And the brownish background fabric?  It will eventually become the backing on N’s shirt quilt.  It’s actually more of a caramel color but my camera sucks and needs to be replaced.  The socks aren’t quite the right color either, but at least they are consistent…

Next sockly challenge?  I keep wanting to focus on learning to do two-at-a-time from the toe-up with either magic loop or two circs.  Toe-up makes way more sense to me and I’ll never have leftover yarn or run out at the toe… but I’m really stuck in my cuff-down comfort zone and I would have to buy more needles…

*I’m not against paying a healthy fee for a class, but at the time there wasn’t much competition so they got away with charging more than usual and the teacher was bad to boot…

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Love affair…

…with the Lacy Baktus pattern.

A few years ago I came across this pattern by Terhi Montonen who made it as a variation of Baktus Scarf by Strikkelise on Ravelry.  For a while (longer than I’d like to admit) I thought this pattern was called batkus and in my often 12-year-old-boy brain, I thought of it as buttkiss, so buttkiss it will always be to me.  I knit my own hybrids of a basic watch cap, plain socks, and one particular Stephen West hat pattern over and over again for gifts and hard-wearing work-a-day items, but the Lacy Baktus is the only pattern I really feel like I could knit ad infinitum as is without modification beyond size.

I made the first one a few years ago with two skeins of the tongue-twisting Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino yarn (or KPPPM) that I picked up from School Products on a scorching hot summer day in NYC.

baktus1-in progress

I didn’t quite capture the colors correctly in the in-progress pic, but the second image is accurate.  That one also shows our former awesomely textured and colored garage wall… sigh.  But I really liked the finished scarf/shawlette hybrid.  I loved that it stretched lengthwise but it was a long tapered triangle. The only minor fault I have with this one is that it is at times slightly too short – we’re talking only an inch or two – when I tie for more warmth or protection against grabby wind the ends poke out rather than drape downwards, but no big deal.

baktus1-detail

Maybe it was the same year, or the next, but I was caught without a gift for my mother’s birthday.  I’d already picked out this Plymouth Happy Feet sock yarn for myself and had it patiently waiting in my stash, but I knew my mom liked orange and at the time had a pair of eyeglasses with purple and orange streaks in them, so it was a good match.  N and I were in a long-distance purgatory at the time too so I had a lot of time to knit in airports and trains.  I found this to be perhaps the most perfect travel project since it required no complex thought and was extremely gratifying to watch grow and then shrink, and could be interrupted and shoved back in my bag with little worry.  I even used some ghastly but surprisingly comfortable TSA-friendly plastic needles whose origins are completely unknown to me – I think they came from a box of miscellaneous sewing supplies from a garage sale.

baktus2-in progress

The Happy Feet had a bit more yardage, so the finished scarf was the perfect length even before blocking.  Mom wouldn’t model it for me, but Dad is a good sport.  I’m tempted to re-buy this yarn to do a re-run for myself, but I have plenty of other pretty things languishing in my stash, not to mention I think this color is discontinued.

baktus2-done

But I had to have another, and I thought an even bigger one would be that much better.  I actually bought the yarn specifically for this – usually I see something on sale and buy as much of it as I can reasonably justify and figure out what to make with it later, but I actually went seeking for something with a little bling.  Yes, I said bling – highly uncharacteristic of me, but I wanted a scarf that could look a little more downtown and a little less rustic farmyard.  So I bought sock yarn called “Disco Color” (audible cringe) by Schoeller Stahl’s Fortissima line, but it was perfect because the little strand of silver metallic polyester* is surrounded by hard-wearing wool and along with the grey there is a nice greenish teal that fails to show up in the pictures.  It is the same color as bits of wood I’ve been finding in the forest, though I don’t know if it is a particular tree species, fungal or floral organism on or in the wood, or tinted by green deer pee.**

ADK 2012-detail

So I worked on this most of last Spring and early Summer when I was not coping very well with the slashing and burning of my job and subsequent relocation and it was rather soothing activity.  A large section of it was done when while we were resting from hikes in the Adirondacks.

ADK 2012

Then it was done before I was ready to finish it and I had to wait for the weather to cool down into autumn to wear it.  But wear it I did, and continue to do.  It’s also been traveling quite a bit.

baktus3-restaurant

baktus3-cafe

baktus3-cemeteryAnd it does well to dress-up a t-shirt (even after it has spent a day on the trail), and I do in fact own several very similar grey wool t-shirts.  I like grey and I like wool, nothing wrong with that, right?  And at times it has also functioned properly and well as an honest-to-god good wooly warmth machine and left the cafes and city streets to go hiking with me.

The sunset just barely catches some of the bling…

baktus3-hiking

And you know what?  I decided I wanted another, and then maybe another after that.  And I thought that since I love the pattern so much, I will make one with a yarn I don’t really love at the moment to see if my opinion of it will change.  If it doesn’t, I will have another gift to give, if it does, I will have a new scarf in warmer colors.  This one will be a little larger than the second (orange) one but not as gloriously large as the grey.

Remember the much maligned Redwood Roving Mix?

Baktus-new

Yep, onward!  And a last-minute long weekend trip back to the Adirondacks last month was the perfect time to start it.

ADK 2013

I will take my time with it though since I have other things waiting to be completed.  I’m thinking this might also be a good project for the beach…***

Baktus on rock

I can’t say I’m falling in love with this one yet – my uneven (intentionally) handspun makes it look a bit more wonky than I’d like, but it feels good to be making it…

*Yes, these two words, especially in combination, typically make me run for the hills…  and I believe this yarn might be discontinued as well, but it can still be purchased from various shops and online purveyors.

**Happens when the deer eats something in late winter – you can look up a pic of it yourself.

***I detest swimwear and all things beach bum, but the sea is somewhat sorta close by and we currently have no yard so I can pretend it is our outdoor living space at the moment.

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