Category Archives: knitting

Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

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Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

Bathroom reno time? #miniature #dollhouse #childhoodthings #idontneedanotherhobby

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And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Randomly, near the end of another year

I’ve been trying to feed a few thoughts to bulk them up for a bit more substance – so I can chew on them for a bit, but all of the social and political static and noise has been throwing off my appetite.

And so it begins… #snow #backyard #greyday #monochrome #december

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The house has been up to its unpleasant hijinx again as well – the boiler finally shat the bed, and gave us a couple of cold weeks followed by a couple of long days with the plumber followed by a much thinner wallet. And then my docile old car got a whiff of the spirits and acted out unexpectedly, but at least not too extremely…

Wool thief. #ohtherocco #wooldog #iwastryingtosellthat #sweater #dogsweater

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But the silver lining that really isn’t, is that I was already in the middle of another round of selling off shit online. I’m now unburdened of a few more pounds of old art supplies and bulky thrift sweaters that would have made lovely yarn once unraveled, but that were still in perfectly good wearable shape. And I feel better about that too – yes, I feel better about getting a few extra dollars when I need them, but I sometimes feel guilty about unraveling perfectly good sweaters and usually just try do it to ones that are already damaged or misshapen. I’ll miss a few of these – more accurately, I’ll miss the cardigans and bulky pullovers that they would have been re-knit into and became my favorites, but only existed in my brain and likely would have never come close to fruition – so I can’t really miss something that never was and would likely never be, right?

Old sweater = new shawl/scarf #knitting #thriftstoresweateryarn

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But I still have plenty in the rougue’s gallery of moth-eaten and slightly felted/fulled – all are of varying degrees of unpleasant to unravel, but all will be more truly “rescued” and recycled. I started a new gradient shawl out of a striped Shetland sweater and a few others in greys and purples (it’s not really yellowy-beige as seen above) and it’s a fun little sheepy finger journey right now.

(Other things on the needles have been on them for a bit and have already shown themselves here.)

A good amount of mending has been going on in these parts too – old wool socks that refuse to give up the ghost, outdoor wear that seeks out every thorn, and our beloved wool underthings that wear like iron until they pop an inexplicable hole.

And disappointingly, one of my top wool underthings companies is going under itself. Most of my most worn t-shirts are wool – the non-sport cuts are nice enough to wear where I work and then they can do double-duty under sweaters in the winter or on the trail – I could get by with a minimalist wardrobe with them if I was in to that kind of thing (but when traveling I do). And I pretty much need a layer of sheep’s clothing over most of my body surface once it drops below 75F. And the clothes were largely made in the USA, and pretty much the only things I bought (or received) new (on sale) once a year or so. I really like another company’s wool shirts that are 100% USA wool and manufactured, but their selection is more limited and I’ve sadly had two shrink to crop tops. I am too long-trunked for crop tops.

So ’tis the season for being a little more bummed out (and broke) than usual, but at least the solstice is soon and the ho ho hoing bullshit will go away soon too…

 

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A lazy post about another pair of socks

Eh, shit’s busy – working more to make up for vacation time, dealing with more house malfunctions, putting the garden to rest, and feeling the need for more rest that comes with less light.

Once again (as always) just as I though that the cuffs would never end, they did.

And since it’s cold now (several premature-ish killing frosts here already) there are always wool socks in the laundry, so I have room in my wool sock drawer for them after all.

When it officially becomes a sock. #sockknitting #socks #sockyarn #foot #dpns

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I’m still not in love with the colorway, but I’m happy with them and their process to completion. I bought the yarn somewhat on impulse and very much on sale just a couple of years ago – in fact, I think it was the last time I bought any sock yarn, and it was knit up within a reasonable amount of time and became something I will wear often.

I’d come off a stretch of not knitting any socks for a few months and wasn’t particularly excited about starting this pair.

But then they took off and I favored them over other projects.

I finished the feet and the first couple of inches of cuffs while on vacation.

Most of the time I sat on a footstool in front of an open window listening to a neighbor dog sing along with church bells and feeling the autumn sun warm on my shoulders while my fingers did their thing.

(And there was a memorable several-hour knitting session at the base of a mountain I couldn’t climb while N could.)

Then suddenly we were home and it was cold and the light was gone and my fingers did their thing in the dim in front of the boob tube.

And now cold rain falls and they’re on my not cold feet.

Next pair? These left me with enough scrap that I finally have enough total scrap for a scrappy pair. Or I can suck it up and finally make some boring fine-gauge “business socks.” Or I can double up the yarn for another thick pair. Or I think I’ve got one more ball of this same yarn kicking around somewhere so I could do a quickish repeat, but it is a brown/light colorway and I need more greys and darks. So the last option is probably out, but the others are all up for grabs.

Knitting notes: ONline Supersocke (sport weight) on US 2 dpns. The yarn was a mess – many knots and color breaks – it could have been a seconds batch since I got it cheap, but the label didn’t have any seconds/defective markings…? Provisional cast-on 64 stitches, plain knitting to toe while reducing 4 sts on foot, then unpicked CO and knit cuff up. I decided to do a p3, k1 ribbing so more of the smooth side would be against my leg and for the sake of something different, but I didn’t want to p3, so I knit on the inside stitches first, then turned the sock inside out so it was k3, p1 after all.

 

 

 

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Autumn home and away

We finally made it back to Italy.

I17-fonte pacile

New needy house, new needy dog, future uncertainties, and the fluctuating costs of travel kept us away for the last few years. It was all over in a flash though, and I’ve never been less interested in returning to my home country…

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But for a few brilliantly sunny days we hiked some familiar and new trails, ate some familiar and new food, and stuck much closer to the familiar little city, but in a new little house.

I like mountains. #italia #appenini #abruzzo #majellanationalpark

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We were oddly thwarted from many planned days – mountain passes closed (since just after we were there last 3 years ago!), restaurants too crowded for lunch, other places inexplicably shuttered – but we found other routes and other places and all was fine in the end.

I17-celano golle-n & tree

Even better than fine – my shredded knees kept their complaining to a minimum and I finally felt their restrictive grip released a bit for the first time in years.

(And Italy is always downright magical in terms of taking away all of my allergies and mild dairy/digestive issues…)

But there’s always one hike that flirts with going very wrong in every trip, right? One new-to-us trail that was supposed to be an easy/lazy couple hour meander suitable for infants and elderly (according to a tourist map) took a turn for the tired, sweaty, and absurd and involved mildly frightening encounters with wild boars, an unavoidable boot-sucking mud pit, and hand over hand scrambling underneath power lines.

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It all went tits up when the trail markers ceased and all signs pointed (inexplicably in english) for endurance in all directions. But the tourist map was still accurate for way finding, though it left the infants and elderly in the dust looking for their broken glasses.

And several hitchhikers joined me for a few excursions – the mantis population seemed to have exploded and grown to monstrous proportions.

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And we sought N’s ancestors and ancestral places – finally finding a house (or what was left), but not graves – most of the town was pointlessly annihilated in WWII.

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I missed visiting with a few fiber folks and buying wool, but I ate the beast from which it comes and sipped from the same fonts.

The weather was entirely perfect, the autumn in full color, and the markets still stocked with the peaks of harvests.

But autumn is still here at home – even a bit slower perhaps – and the white throated sparrows are back, and the garden is still giving us patty pans, carrots, greens, and a few last winter squash…

But we also returned to a dead boiler, yet more job rejections for me, and my need to re-enter the shitzoo that passes for public healthcare in this (currently really fucked up) country.

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So while my mountain sunshiny vitamin D high wears off, and I’m not making up work hours, I’m getting my nesting game on – clearing out (or at least organizing) the clutter, shaking out the woolens, considering baking a bit, debating yet again if one of those light alarm clocks is worth the clams, and knitting and spinning with more ferocity to keep my hands warm.

And snuggling with the beast.

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Starting fresh (small and easy edition)

I love my most recently finished neck thing – one of those things that feel like I’ve already had and loved for longer than I have – and it’s even gotten some legitimate wear with the sudden onset of autumn-like temps around here. Both this and the last started as easy, go everywhere projects, but as they grew, I had to toss a not-very-exciting washcloth knit in my bag for easier transport. So instead of working on a few larger long-suffering works-in-progress, I’ve spent the last week or so casting on a new portable project that should stay small and portable to the end.

Socks have always filled this need for me, and that’s what I started with, but they weren’t quite scratching the itch. The yarn and my vanilla pattern are both tried and true, but I liked the colorway of this yarn better when I saw it online – I love the mustardy bit, but not the red and blue that should have been a little more burgundy and aqua – and what I thought was more charcoal, is brown – so they’re yet another pair that look fine with my casual earthy-toned clothes but don’t really work for my work clothes (that are still relatively casual but made up of more blacks, greys, and greens).

So I don’t hate them, I’m just less than enthused, and my preferred sock knitting method can get a little bulky and very pokey once I’m on to both cuffs at the same time, so it isn’t an ideal portable project – better for knitting somewhere once I’m there, rather than during the getting there part.

Next up was frogging a Hap for Harriet I’d started 3? years ago. I still like the pattern, I just didn’t like the fact that I’d have to pay attention to yardage or weight around the halfway point – I prefer to do that when I have more than one ball/skein of yarn – so there’s a good chance I’ll make it, but not with this yarn.

I actually have a small need for warmer weather neck things – times like now when it feels a little off to wear something less than lightweight and drapey, but more coziness is needed than a woven cotton thing can provide. So I started a 2-row rectangular mesh scarf (I’ve more to say about rectangular scarves, but perhaps not now) and it’s already driving me a bit mad, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I need. – BUT – I’m again fearful of the yardage and thinking I should re-start it with 9 or so fewer stitches, but it’s a little fiddly and slippery and I hate the first few rows of anything and this meager inch is already about 3 knitting sessions…

So to take the stress down yet another notch, I cast on a cashmere tube.

It had been a tank top.

Then it wasn’t.

And yes, once again I’m a tiny bit ambivalent about it. It is utterly unfussy, unpokey, and easy (knit a tube until it’s a good loop/cowl length, unpick the provisional cast-on and graft together, done) but decisions need to be made about stripe sequence or not, other colors or not, and inside-out or right-side out or not. I’m thinking I’ll just do a one-row stripe, but then would it look too machine-made? Like something from the bulls-eye store? And varying stripes would look sporty in a way that I am not? Do I even care since it will be a soft cozy thing?

Maybe I need to keep casting-on…

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Path of totality

I can’t stop repeating that in my head – it sounds like a threat, an end game, a complete takeover – but also a great summation and completion of fragmented parts – it is frightening and reassuring. And I know it’s just the term for the visible swath of an eclipse. But it’s a shitstorm out there and it has been for some time, and we keep breeding and uneducating shitcloud seeders, and there will always be a changeable swath of stupidity and a great joining together to make that path more narrow or wide.

I started this knit this time a year ago – we were on a vacation made stressful by either my still jobless status or anxiety over starting a new one, recently taking on a reactive dog, my foot-dragging acceptance of a body that now hurts more often than not, and the election that seemed far off and the candidate who got inaugurated seemed enough of a joke that even the most dense should get, but I still felt uneasy and dubious it would work out in the end. I grew up in a town with a population of more ignorant folks than not. Folks who hid behind religion and “tradition” and practiced tokenism to prove that they weren’t “bad” people, but folks who also tolerated klansmen as neighbors. None of my family lives in that town anymore and few live in the state – we did what we could when we were there, but the path of totality of intolerance was too scorched and wide.

I’m erroneously remembering that this pattern, Isabell Kramer’s Paris Toujours, was designed in response, or as a memorial to (one of) the Paris attacks. But it looks like it was commemorating a happy weekend (maybe there was a knit-along with this after the attack instead?) Either way, I knit it because it was easy and side to side – just the way I like to make and wear scarf/shawls – I’d clearly confused the designer’s intent and blurred yet another violent act of many so I can’t say I knit this as a statement against ignorance. But this kind of knitting feels like my own little path of totality to keep my fingers calmly and constructively moving through another year of shit, coming out at the other end with something soft and warm – and I won’t say safe, since there are no “safe places,” and let’s face it, a scarf could be quite deadly as a garrote, or a gag, or bindings in the middle of nowhere without access to food and drink (though it would make it at least a cozy slow death).

I was a little surprised that I finished it by my secret deadline, and by the end of the summer. I’d started it in the mountains and planned to work on it in another set of mountains later this year, but I’ll likely be wearing it there instead – it’s already my new favorite even in the muggy dog days.

The yarn was from a thrifted JCrew cardigan, slightly felted, in a wool, cashmere, viscose, and rabbit (I’m assuming angora) blend – and it is mad soft and not at all sneezy, with great drape and enough definition.

I would have liked it to be a bit larger – I was hoping that the last band of garter would be twice as wide as the one before it, and I lost yarn chicken twice at the end and had to unknit a couple of times, but it is large enough.

A couple of heads up about the pattern that are obvious for those in the know, but need to be stated for those who aren’t (me), especially if you deviate from the stripe sequence like I did. The stitch counts will be off unless each section is done in even numbers of the pattern repeat, so after the set up, if you want to keep doing lace, then start with row 3 of the lace pattern. I was often off with this, randomly ending up with 2 (as per pattern) or 3 stitches at the end. It didn’t really matter to me since fudge is good to do and to eat, but I kinda preferred ending in 3 stitches – if I did it again, I’d keep up with the 3 (or more) stitches at the end of the lace since a tiny bit more of garter makes the edge a little more stable. And then I can’t really describe this but the first row of garter after the lace makes a row of stockinette, so the lace sections aren’t symmetrical – again, it didn’t bother me enough to figure out how to fix it (a row of purl somehow?) but I think it could make some itchy.

This (or rather another loose variation thereof) will likely be on my needles again. And I’ve got my eye out for another one of these sweaters – wondering if it came in other colors – not that I don’t love this olive though, it’s among of my favorites. And this finishing up older projects thing has been working for me these days although everything that is left is vastly more complicated – but my path of unfinished totality is pleasantly closing in…

 

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