Tag Archives: blue

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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Feeling peckish…

I hate most fabric marketed to babies, or rather their keepers, since perhaps babies would really just like giant boob prints, but most of it is just pathetic and timid, too cartoonish, sometimes oddly and vaguely religious, too pale and sickly pastel, and just plain ugly (however I do like some vintage baby prints).

But this one caught my eye a bit ago, and I knew about an upcoming wee one that needed a sewn item.

woodpecker-fabric.com

(Michael Miller fabric, pic from fabric.com)

I don’t make many things for babies now – at first I made many things because I only knew one.  Then more people started having them, and then the first one got a sibling, and I couldn’t keep up, or the charm wore off, or they started to blur together in a drooling blob and I couldn’t remember what I’d made and for whom.

(My apologies to all of those second children out there.)

So I whipped up a little quilt for the wall, but it could still be used as a quilt.  I had a grand idea of massive three dimensional applique with crazy depth and perspective, but in the end I kept it simple – a bit of applique birds and leaves and machine quilting.

woodpecker quilt

I had to buy thread again too – you’d think I would have learned from the last time I moved and couldn’t find it…

But the paint is drying in my new studio room at the moment, and next will be a freshly sealed floor (and then it has to become the bedroom for a while while I work on that room) and then I’ll be able to unpack allllllll of my sewing things!  So I see that day not so far off in the distance now.

But back to woodpeckers – I’m a fan of them.

I like their almost jungle-sounding call.

And their rat-tat-tat drilling (as long as it isn’t the house).

And though I don’t like that they damaged our lovely Magnolia, I’m fascinated by the pattern that they made – almost as if the tree had ripped out stitches…

woodpecker damage

…or machine gun fire.

woodpecker damage with moss

Maybe the yard is run by Woodi Peccaroni, the ancient don of the fermented tree sap bootlegging era…

 

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Old blue quilt

oldbluequilt-full

Many years ago, I found this old narrow reversible quilt at my old favorite thrift store.  I loved that it was made from scraps, improvisational, hand and machine-sewn, and the fact that it was just plain old, and I like old sh*t.

I sewed a sleeve on the opposite of what I considered the more public side and hung it in my bedroom to ward off the cold seeping through the walls in my old apartment – I loved that place too because it was old – but damn, it was also cold.

oldbluequilt-ties

It’s tufted with knots of white, blue, and reddish-pink (perhaps formerly red?) wool yarn.  The interior might be filled with wool as well as it’s just a mass of somewhat disgusting clumpy lumps now, but I’d need to perform a little surgery to find out.

(And I don’t think I really want to see what’s in it in case it’s nasty).

oldbluequilt-pinwheel

The reverse has a pinwheel and some nice fabrics not seen on the front.  This pinwheel got into my deep brain and caused me to make many half-demented pinwheels last summer, or maybe the summer before…  I think I probably have enough to make something from them… I should find them.

oldbluequilt-squiggle

I like this squiggly block.

The back has a few stained blocks, but were stained in their former life perhaps as clothing, as the stains were sewn over.

A few faint splotches look suspiciously like blood, or a really robust coffee mixed with a hearty and delicious red wine.

(That is also part of the reason I chose the other side to display).

oldbluequilt-plaid

And there are some lovely hand stitches too.

I also love that delicate blue pattern on the left side.

I can’t date it – there are definitely some old fabrics in it, perhaps from the 1910s, and the red, white, and blue color scheme could place it in WWII times, but some of the other fabrics have a 1950s and ’60s vibe?  Though the shape is also older – long and narrow – somewhat too big for a crib and too small for a twin bed.  It would probably best fit one of those narrow cot-like beds (don’t they have a name???).

But it seems that it could have been made from old clothes from a number of members of a family perhaps for a notable baby or a soldier – as a memento, or a comfort for someone leaving home.

But things are rarely as they seem, right?

When I was trying to pare down my things after I moved to N’s house, I gave it to him to give to one of his family members who was having babies at the time – I thought it would be nice for a wall in a kid’s room.  But he wanted to keep it, though we didn’t get around to hanging it up then.

Or in that apartment of late of which I’d rather not speak or remember.

And we still haven’t put it up in the new house (or anything else yet until the painting is done…

rather, all of the repairs that need to be done to the walls before I can even begin to paint them).

But I rescued it from storage a few months ago, and I’m  really glad I still have it.

And I love hate love hate love hate love that he enables me in the keeping of old sh*t.

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Lana blu

I think I’ve gotten all of the post-vacation brain fog and re-adjustment whining and rambling out of my system.

Abruzzo-clouds

I’ve spent the last week attending a training session and conference in my field, a grad school open house, and doing some networking.  I’ve been getting up at an ungodly hour to take trains to the nearby cities.  It almost felt like I was working again, but  it also made me feel lucky to work the few hours I do from home – I haven’t really seen daylight apart from a quick lunchtime walk for the last few days.  I’m a terrible commuter too – knitting, reading, and doing anything other than staring out of the window on buses and trains gives me motion sickness, so I spend the majority of the time fidgeting and stewing about how much time is being wasted.

But on to more important things, like wool.

A few posts ago, I wrote about meeting Valeria last year in Italy and buying her yarn.  And quite luckily, I was able to meet with her, and fellow fiberphile Antontella again this year.  You can read more about the Damiani Ovid and AquiLANA wool business in one of her recent posts here (Google translator is your friend).  She showed me many new yarns she’s produced this year – from delicate laceweights, to a gorgeous drapey one-ply fingering, to multiple plies in increasing weights up to bulky, and including a one-ply bulky that would probably felt/full quite well.   Luckily for her, she’s sold a good portion of the year’s stock (and for me or I’d spend myself into ruin) so I stuck to only a few skeins of the yarn in the new weights, and more of the aran/bulky I got last year in case I want to do some colorwork.

So when I say colorwork, I mean one color would be this intense lovely shade of blue – the exact color of the mountain sky.

lana

I’ve shied away from blue in the past – it’s one of those colors that I don’t like in the lightest or darkest shades, or in an “electric” form.  But it is also a color I’ve been gravitating to more and more in the past couple of years.  And I love that I have the creamy wool from the colors of the earth and sheep and now the blue wool of the sky.  Even better, the yarn is dyed naturally from Guado (Woad).

Abruzzo-octogonchurch

This trip was all about the blue sky – perfect weather and intense clarity day after day (at least after the first day which had an intense stormy sky that didn’t amount to much.)

plant with butterfly

And several of the alpine plants are blue too (along with the butterfly).  This one is Cardo, a thistle – perhaps also known as Sea Holly – it makes a yellow dye.

Abruzzo-blue door

And the ubiquitous old door – I wish I had a dollar for everyone who “just loves to shoot doors.”  I like old doors too, but I’m not out to make a calendar or something.  But I saw that the faded blue paint was the same color as my new yarn and had to snap it.

Abruzzo-bluebottle

And one of my trusty water bottles and favorite wool zippered jacket/sweater thing are blue too.

Abruzzo-Vasto

And though we haven’t seen it since our first Abruzzo trip in 2008, the Adriatic hugs the region’s eastern boundary, so the blue reminds me of the sea as well.

Valeria also showed me some gorgeous caramel colored yarn and the oak galls she used to dye it – she recently posted about it here too.  I got a couple of natural laceweight skeins with the thought of trying to dye it up myself with galls as well, though perhaps I’ll have to use black walnut since now that I’m looking for oak galls, I can’t find any – perhaps suburban pesticides keep the wasps away?

abruzzo-yarn

The other three blue skeins are a heavy fingering to sport weight.

yarn-laquilana

And along with the aran/bulky skeins, I’m thinking about some hats, or a shawl, or there might even be enough to eek out a short-sleeved lace pullover…

But whatever it might become, the yarn will certainly remind me of the amazing land, people, history, and animals from which it came.

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[Jet] lagging…

I made it to 5:12 a.m. this morning and feel triumphant!  Then I realized it was daylight savings,* so the jet lag beast has been tossed a scrap and is still pacing a bit around the room.  No more middle of the night pancake dinners/breakfasts though, but the last one was quite tasty with the last of our White Mountain edible souvenirs.

pancakes

My brain is still buzzy and unfocused and my body mildly flu-like.  I came home with mountain legs as firm as two well-aged prosciutti, but now they’re returning to their younger non-dead jiggly piglet state.  My body and mind are out of synch with my reality and just want to put one foot in front of the other until a pleasing distance and vista and lunch spot have been reached.

murder on the mountain **

I know it is incredibly pretentious, but I feel more culture shock returning to the U. S. rather than being outside of it (at least in the European bits).  Americans weigh too much, they are sick, they are loud, they drive enormous machines, they wheel enormous luggage, they can be demanding of bedraggled clerks and service workers, their children are wild, and worst of all, they build and live in suburbs – vast expanses of land without sidewalks or farms – utterly purposeless and ugly.

But this is where I was born and legally reside and thanks to N we can leave it once in awhile.

But I’m also just another American wishing she could eat, pray, love (mostly the eating part) under the Tuscan (I’d prefer Abruzzo) sun.  But there are a few things in Italy (and probably Europe in general) that are downright magical that even more increase my desire to stay.

  Dairy.  I have dairy issues in the states – I don’t know if it is lactose or casein or something else, but even when I get the organic grass-fed hoity-toity localish stuff here, I can have problems.  I can tolerate milk, ice cream, cream, etc., about 15% of the time here, so I usually just forgo anything not aged or fermented – cheese and yogurt are ok-ish.  In Italy, I have about a 99% tolerance rate – the only bad dairy experience I’ve had there was from a mediocre cream-based pasta sauce at an even more mediocre tourist trap restaurant in Rome a few years ago.  So I load up on the stuff while I’m there – cappuccino, gelato, cream sauces, oh yeah!  And of course cheese – I especially love the sheep and goat stuff – pecorino dolce, ricotta di capra, caciocavallo etc., etc., etc….

 Allergies.  I barely have them there, and leave behind my constant ropey mucous companion dangling down my throat here.  That probably has a straightforward reason about the different climate and fewer useless expanses of lawns and less proliferation of non-native species with their companion herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

So now that I’ve established that my brain is broken, my body atrophying, my nose dripping, and I’m suffering from a vague yogurt induced gut cramp, I must mention fiber – specifically my travel knitting.

I started the first pair of socks since my sock knitting debacle months ago.  Again, my sock mojo is off – I used a bit bigger yarn on my preferred shorty wood needles with my 64 stitch vanilla pattern, thinking it would firm things up and be ok, but they’re big – baggy ankle big.  But I don’t give a damn and still have to finish the leg parts, so I can firm up the upper ribbed section.  I’m constructing them in a strange fashion, but it makes sense in my head and should allow me to use up all the yarn.  I’ve dubbed them my “Nostalgia Socks” as the color reminds me of old quilts, 1970s sweaters, and now my trip.

sock in progress

The colors in this pic are wrong, but accurately portray the weak blue light that just barely stretched down to our nearly subterranean Italian apartment.

nostalgia socksThis is how the color should look – and if you look closely you can see one of the two knots I’ve found so far.

And remember my giddiness over Pigeonroof Studios Mimsy BFL roving?  And even more over the Hitchhiker pattern? I can call it a finished project now since I shoved it in my bag at the last minute.  It was one of those that ended sooner than I was ready to finish, and previously I only let myself knit a few rows here and there as a reward for meeting some goals on my portfolio pieces.  Ok, I may have over-rewarded myself, but this is my favorite handspun yarn to date – the softness and drape are wonderful (if I do say so myself) but most of that is due to the inherent qualities of the fiber itself.

Mimsyhiker on wall

My yardage was less than the suggested amount and I used bigger needles, so I didn’t quite make it to the original 42 points.  Mine is 41 1/2 – instead of a half a point, I just made the last one wider.  I watched 42 on the plane over and hoped I could have that numerical reference as well, but I didn’t quite make the team.

Mimsyhiker & acquedotto

Mimsyhiker & biscotto

I finished it in the first few days we were there, so I was able to wear it again and again and again – it’s finally taking a rest drying from a light blocking to stretch it out a little.

As for acquisitions, I bought some cheap (but ugly) sock yarn, and some cheap (but lovely) mohair in the market.

But of course I bought more of the real thing.

yarn-laquilana

It deserves a post of its own next time.

* Daylight savings happened in Italy last weekend.  We spent a day wondering why none of the cafes were opened when they should have been, rushed to return the rental car when we didn’t have to hurry, and even left for the airport an hour before we needed to – but none of it was the problem it would have been in the spring.

** I love this picture that N took – in the camera it appeared that I had been steamrolled, but now it looks more like a Nancy Drew book jacket for “Murder on the Mountain.”  I love sleeping on mountains – some bedroom designer should get on that – forget beds – rig up a soft inclined meadow and mimic warm sun and chilly breezes in a room instead.

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Neck stretches and why I’m not an archaeologist

waneka-no face detI can now reveal my Waneka cowl by the fabulous and fun designer Annie Watts (aka Wattsolak).  I used my recent Kool-Aid dyed yarn for a super bulky version and totally love its gargantuan squooshiness.  The pattern is easily and brainlessly adaptable to any weight of yarn – thinner yarn = more coils, thicker = fewer.  And it looks great with gradient dyed yarn – a perfect one-skein project especially for the thousands of beautiful indie dyed hanks out there at wool shows and in webworld.  I also made a  worsted weight version out of the maligned Lion Brand Amazing, and though I love the colors and the pattern, I still hate the feel of the yarn.

Waneka-with lamb

And I actually prefer my obnoxious-hued, still slightly noxious-smelling version.

waneka-no face

I can even wear it on my head.  Aging old-time Hollywood actress turban-chic.

This has had me remembering my youth (yet again – I guess I’m doing some mid-life thing) and the countless hours I spent traveling via National Geographic magazine.  I couldn’t stop thinking about neck rings worn by Kayan and Ndebele* women while I was knitting.

 400px-Kayan_woman_with_neck_rings ndebele1

Of course Waneka won’t ruin your collarbones or require marriage…

But as a child, I was utterly fascinated about the rest of the world – especially cultures that seemed unchanged or little changed for thousands of years.   When not reading or playing with animals, my other favorite pastime was digging up old sh*t – fossils in the creek, arrowheads in the field, or broken saucers, rusted scissor halves, and bottles in buried trash heaps in the woods.  By the age of nine, I was quite certain I wanted to be an archaeologist.  Luckily around that time, we had a class assignment of interviewing someone who was what we wanted to be when we grew up.  We lived in the sticks; I have no idea how most people were employed around there apart from service and functional jobs – teachers, undertakers, auto repair persons, farmers, and the like.  I don’t remember what my classmates wanted to be (and most girls were destined for early motherhood and possibly marriage anyway).  But my parents actually found a relatively local archaeologist at a university in the closest thing resembling a city 40 minutes away.  I was nervous about interviewing this professor – it was like meeting Indiana Jones or glimpsing into my certain glamorous and fulfilling future.

At first glance, his office was full of books and sunlight was streaming down on piles of Very Important Documents about Very Intriguing Finds.  He was (and yes, I could be making this up) cloaked in a brown corduroy blazer with worn elbow patches, mussed with unclean hair and a lack of a shave, and sporting a timeworn look of fascinating experience and adventure.

Then he opened his mouth.

I don’t know much about children, but I know that up to a certain age you should deceive them into thinking that life is ok.  If you study and work hard you can achieve whatever you want within reason.  Money should matter less than happiness.  It’s best to do something you love and the world will embrace you and appreciate your effort.

But instead of encouraging my little sh*t self, he launched into an epic and exceedingly bitter rant about the profession.  It boiled down to: don’t do it because the pay is sh*t, the days are long, hot, and tedious to the point of self-immolation, your projects won’t be funded or so severely underfunded that you will pay out of your own pocket, you will have to resort to teaching and you will not be respected at the university and will have to sell your soul to campus politics, tenure games, and administrative delirium, you will loose your marriage, your kids will despise you, your dog will run away and you’ll die stinking in the streets.

So today, though I work somewhat in the history business, I am not an archaeologist.

Trash from woods

I still occasionally dig up old broken sh*t in the woods though… (when not knitting of course).

* Pictures (that aren’t mine) yanked off the web from here and here.

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Who’s my momma?

thrift stitchery

In the sometimes sad cruel world of thrift shop discards, I occasionally come across some artistic foundlings.  Who wouldn’t dream of finding a lost masterpiece/rare historic document/load of cash hidden behind a paint-by-number rendition of a horse in the desert?  But sadly, the only hidden score I’ve ever made was five bucks stuck to some used gum in a jacket pocket.  But once in awhile I’ll come across some decent handmade items – amateur paintings that are crude but appealing, wonky but charming efforts from a ceramics class, or stitchery – much in the way of beautifully embroidered home items.  With vintage stitched tablecloths, napkins, dresser scarves and the like, I assume they were made by a long ago grandmother.  They were lovingly kept, passed on, and possibly used for decades until the family ended, someone had to make a significant move or downsizing and was sad to let them go but had to, or the maker was a mean old bag and no one wanted her crap.  But these two wool canvas work pictures caught my eye since they didn’t seem to fit the mold of someone making them long ago or an assignment for a community arts class or freshman art 101.  One was framed professionally, and the other somewhat sloppily.  I’m dating them to the 1980s since the whale pattern reminds me of the cotton lining of a kelly green rubber raincoat I wore with navy duck shoes* that I had then.  The primary colors in the other also make it a good fit for the decade, or perhaps as early as the late 1970s.  I haven’t dismantled them enough to see if the canvas was printed and thus a kit, and thus I wouldn’t really be interested in them anymore, so I don’t want to know quite yet.  So I am seeking opinions, identifications, possible makers, reference leads – help?  I found them in a Goodwill in Mahopac, Putnam County, New York last fall on the way up to Rhinebeck 2012.

*Links for visual references only, I’m not pushing this Etsy shop, nor is it mine.

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