Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A bit at a time

Knitting progress has been very slow, although I do manage to do a few rows every day on a baby blanket (a la Cobweb Crepe) and the cardigan, of course. I'm dying to cast on for some summer socks using the yellow Sockotta (cotton-wool) that I bought in a friendly little shop in Medina, NY the other week. I cannot in all good conscience do that when I have half of the second sock of another pair to finish and all these other projects going. That hasn't stopped me from buying things, however. My big excuse has been that our nearby yarn shop, KnitnPurl is going out of business as of June 20th and there are big discounts to be had. Back to Medina. We went there to visit a charming little cemetery in search of the grave of George Kennan the Elder, which we did find, but we also found this:

Poor Erastus Averhill's stone has fallen down and instead of the pointing to heaven, the etched finger is pointing accusingly to a patch of dandelions:


After lunch, I bought the Sockotta:


And I totally forgot to report this little purchase, made in a barn sale this past Sunday. 8 patterns, including 4 Sirdar gansey patterns for 75 cents.


This is to say nothing about what I have been buying at KnitnPurl including luxurious things like...

8 skeins of SRK Ovation - Mohair and Silk like Kid Silk Haze in the exact same shade of brown as the Mini Weaver shawl. The poor Mini Weaver may have to be frogged and the yarn reknit together with Ovation. Too bad. It looks and feels nice but the pattern is too complex for mindless knitting and too dull for fun knitting.

9 skeins of an Australian cotton yarn called Invito:


14 skeins of, no, it is too much... must go knit. I leave you with a picture of progress on the porch:


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mindless knitting and a visit to a garden

It is Memorial Day weekend here in the US. Last Monday was "the Queen's Birthday" in Canada and, I assume in other places too. So good to have an extra day off work to rest and get ahead in the garden.

On Saturday, some friends and I visited Linwood Gardens, the horticultural attraction of which is its distinguished collection of Tree Peonies, some of which were developed there. The garden is owned by a family trust and is only opened to the public a few days a year. Creative workshops are also offered at other times. There is a very Rudolf Steiner-ish feel to the place, perhaps because of the delicate beauty of the surroundings and the atmosphere of cultivated artistry.

When you arrive the family welcomes you, along with the calmest dog ever:


There are the remains of an Arts and Crafts period house which burned down many years ago. Lunch is served outdoors and there are, of course, the gardens.

Here is a beautifully restored formal garden:


Another with an old swimming pool...


Masses and masses of Tree Peonies...



A collection of very old children's playhouses...


And just when when you think you think the trees have all finished blooming, you are struck by the beauty of the Red Bud...


I took the plain center of a baby blanket with me to knit and gazed at the view from a horizontal position. No that is not my stomach - just my jacket bunching up!


It was so lovely, I came back on Sunday with my husband. Then stopped by the requisite number of country nurseries to purchase tomato plants and admire annuals.

At home, I had planted Dahlia roots before leaving this morning as I expected to be completely knackered by the time we staggered home. Will turn my attention to the vegetable garden tomorrow. It's being taken over by strawberries and oregano at the moment. Something has got to go, most likely the oregano, which I never use. I continue to work on the Big Swatch cardigan - I have about 20 rows left on the body sections and then on to the sleeves. Looks like I may have enough yarn to do a collar of some kind.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big Swatch progress

What an awful name for a sweater. I'll have to think of something better. It is kind of like a big swatch, since I'm making it up as I go along. 

OKAY. I got the fronts and back knit up to the underarms (Seed border plus 11 repeats of Fleurette). I put them in order on one needle. On an earlier swatch I had obtained a gauge of 5 stiches per inch and 8 rows per inch. I decreased 5 stitches plus another 6 (1 extra for luck) on alternate rows for armhole shaping. I used the basic instructions in the excellent book, Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book.  

Since that point the trick has been to match the decreases while maintaining the lace pattern. The Fleurette pattern has 12 rows. It's pretty easy to eyeball it and keep the motifs centered but here's the catch. In row 4 you increase the total number of stitches and in row 6 you reduce them to the original number. Then you do the same thing in rows 10 and 12. This adds a bit of interest to maintaining the ongoing decrease for the armholes.

While contemplating a dish of cream, my aunt's husband was asked if he wasn't worried about cholesterol. "There's a pill for that," he replied. Well, I can just hear you all saying now, "there's a computer program for that."  

Well then, it wouldn't be any fun as far as I'm concerned. I am handling it by keeping a couple of principles in mind. First, you don't want too many holey bits near the edges because you will have to set the sleeves in and will need something to stitch onto. So, opt for getting rid of yarn overs on the sides. There was a Knitting Daily piece about this recently which was very helpful. Second, I keep looking at what I've already done. It helps me figure out how to start the row in mid pattern.  I'm also writing down everything as I go to help me keep on track.

I am very glad that I am doing all three pieces at the same time so won't have to experience it all over and over. Oh, and I did remember to put in lifelines. 

All this has caused me to think, why did I pick Fleurette? If I'm using a lace pattern only to break up the colour pooling in a variegated yarn, why not just do a basic eyelet pattern? Why bother with a pattern that is complicated by varying numbers of stitches? There is no good answer to this question, only the consoling thought that if this does work out, I will be able to repeat it in a solid colour and have another lovely lace patterned cardi. Good thing I enjoy the process.

Meanwhile, work is being done elsewhere. On Sunday night we saw the last installment of Mrs. Gaskell's Cranford on PBS.  At one point Judi Dench's maid says to her fiance in horror after he pledges to build her a house, "But I could never live in a wooden house!" Well, here we do live in wooden houses and very happily I might add. I can tell you though that being inside one that is being banged on is not fun. My consolation is that I will soon have a covered porch on which to sit and knit!


And to end on a better looking note, a final hail to the lilacs...


Thursday, May 15, 2008


Everything is moving slowly. The Spring, the workweek, the knitting. I moved the Hemlock Ring to a longer needle and have slogged up to row 112. There are now 536 stitches on the needle. There are 36 more rows at the end of which there will be 792 stitches. Worsted weight. Pain in the neck. Literally. I've put it aside and returned to the cardigan. 

I'm stilling proceeding slowly towards the underarms on the fronts and the back. You may remember that I'm working it in a small lace stitch. I've been a little worried that if I make a regular set in sleeve that somehow the lace stitch will conspire against me and it will end up not fitting. I had in fact chickened out of doing a set in sleeve and was ready to do a drop shoulder style and avoid the whole question of fit. 

Setting the project aside for a few days was a good idea. I have come to my senses. My plan now is to get the fronts the same as the back, blocking them to be sure of it and put in a life line. Then I can safely try out a set in sleeve and if doesn't work out, frog back and go for the drop shoulder. Why rush?

We've been having one hell of a slow moving Spring here. It has been spectacular. Anyone with allergies will tell you it's been too spectacular. Waxy yellow forsythia lurking like triffids outside the dining room window. Hosts of purple lilacs looking like lollypops crowding in at the second storey. Blooming dogwoods hovering around like flying saucers. The Lilac Festival lies between home and work and a lot of streets are closed off. Alright already. 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day post

I remember my parents laughing and saying that this is a consumers' holiday, meant to sell cards and flowers.   We kids would bring home presents that we made in school, pictures and the like. We all kind of sort of observed mother's day with a small "m," more and more as the years went by though it was never a catastrophe if you forgot it. 

My Dad likes to remind us that this holiday is a spin-off of Mothering Sunday, a church holiday dating from medieval days, which gave spread-out families a rare opportunity to gather together on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

On Mother's Day, I like to put my feet up for a while and think about my mother and what a wonderful person she was. I won't go on, so here she is in pictures... 

My father's mother, my older sister, me and our mum holding us up on a wall, way back in the dark ages of the 1950's, in springtime, somewhere in the North of England, doubtless all wearing at least one knitted garment...

Much later, my mother, probably around 1980, flogging her hand woven and tailored clothes at a fibre event...


I just love this picture of her sewing in what was a spare bathroom in our house....


I hope everyone had a good day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Buttonholes...yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

I am determined that the buttonholes on my Koigu cardi will be nice and not in need of reinforcement like the ones on the North Sea jacket.

First, I tried Elizabeth Zimmermann's method of making buttonholes on page 73 of The Knitting Workshop. OK, but the corners were a bit weak.

Then I went to YouTube.

I followed along with this method and it worked well:

This one is from Brazil and shows two methods of making horizontal buttonholes that look really good. Proves that the language of knitting is international! Here's the blog of Regina Rogers. She has some other great videos on YouTube too:

Then I started typing the word "knitting" in foreign languages into the search box for example, вязяния means knitting in Russian. I came up with more fun videos. These dames have a whole series in Russian called Crazyknitting. I was going to show you part one, but it includes a long segment of someone's husband eating a piece of chicken, rather too long and too close up. Here's a respectable segment that demonstrates how to knit a fringe...

In French, a series on le tricot, sounding very nice:

Anything to avoid actually doing the buttonholes....and finally, for the non knitters among us....a good laugh...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I blame it all on "The Book"

My sciatica is driving me mad. So mad, that I uncharacteristically phoned my younger sister at 8:15 this morning in order that she could remind me which Yoga poses help relieve this condition. Frances was somewhat surprised but generally sympathetic. Sympathy from a fellow sufferer was key. Answer: gentle Sun Salutations and carefully executed Downward Dog. 

I blame The Book.

On Wednesday I stood up for 2 hours during The Celebration of The Book. at work. On Thursday morning,  I stood up and climbed up and down a step stool for three hours installing the faculty authors' Books into a display. Later that day I sat for several hours in one of those nasty folding chairs that they have in school auditoriums and movie theatres listening to eminent authors speak. Now I lie recuperating under the Grey Amusement.

In knitting, I am on row 88 of the Hemlock Ring Blanket, really an oversized doily which I am knitting in Berrocco Ultra Alpaca on 4.5 mm needles. I'm on the third skein and it's beginning to feel quite heavy. I've set it aside until I can get my hands on a longer circular needle.

Knitting the Ring was a nice holiday from the cardigan but now it seems a relief to get back to smaller needles and finer yarn. What was I thinking? I've knit the back close to what I think will be the underarms (had to block it to be sure) and then read about gussets in gansey books, namely - Beth Brown-Reinsel and Gladys Thompson

Having read, I decided to knit the fronts and cast them on, 60  stitches each including 7 for seed stitch at the center. I knit them up until they are the same as the back and then arrange fronts and back on one big needle and proceed. I have to think about the sleeves some more though.

Spring is in full throttle with everything blooming at once from Forsythia to Red Bud and Lilac not mention the usual bulbs and fruit trees...