Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Favorite Sweater

I started working on Ann Bell's Favorite Sweater from Modern Knits Vintage Style while I was on vacation. The starting didn't go as smoothly as I would have hoped. I'd chosen Honor for the project. It was exactly the same gauge as the pattern called for and I figured it would be a no brainer.

It was a long flight and I thought I'd be able to get a significant start on it while were in the air. I dutifully knit a gauge swatch and even though the little voice in my head told me that US 2's seemed awfully small, I went ahead and cast on. I got through two inches of ribbing on size 1's and the little voice got louder. It was so tight, it was hard to knit. I not a huge fan of ribbing and I told myself that it was just the ribbing that was the issue and that as soon as I got past it, everything would all be OK. Two inches past the ribbing, I got my tape measure out and sure enough, I was knitting far too tightly. I took a deep breath, frogged the whole thing and started over.

I sometimes feel a sense of relief when something like that happens because I figure once I get past the hump, it will be smooth sailing. Not this time. I was about half way through the second try at the ribbing and it was much easier going. The gauge looked right and the knitting felt good. Not too tight like it had before. But something was still amiss. The little voice told me that the sweater looked too small. I checked the number of stitches and I had the correct count. Again, I thought that once I got past the ribbing everything would work itself out and told the little voice to be quiet. As it turns out, I had the correct stitch count for the wrong size. Rip. I had completely wasted 12 hours of perfectly good airplane time and all I had to show for it was a kinky ball of yarn and two empty knitting needles.

But the third time is a charm. The back is finished to the armhole decreases and I am seriously loving this sweater.

At 7 sts/inch this isn't going to be a quick knit, but I don't mind. It's an easy pattern to follow and the yarn is perfect. I've even checked the sizing against one of my go-to sweaters and it looks like it's on track.

I have this little dream that I might finish it in time for market in January, but I'm not going to get my knickers all bunched up if I don't. This is about enjoying the process.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Pledge

Mary Schmich published this in the Chicago Tribune today. I am going to do my best to follow her lead.

Thanksgiving is the most peaceful of holidays, and therefore I pledge that I will not initiate, nor will I be dragged into, a discussion of Sarah Palin. Should the conversation turn to aforementioned person, I will promptly switch it to a topic on which we can all agree, such as Charlie Sheen.

2. I pledge that if I am traveling this Thanksgiving I will stay as cool as Chicago's weather, even if the weather messes up my travel plans. If I am in an airport, I will be pleasant to airport personnel. They'd like to be on holiday too, remember? I will not use the phrase "Don't touch my junk," and frankly wish I had never heard it.

3. I will not eat too much, though I make this pledge with the understanding that "too much" has an expansive definition on Thanksgiving.

4. I pledge that if I am dining with my (choose up to 4: siblings/children/parents/ex) I will not revert to my worst role-defined behaviors. When I do, which I will, I hope that they will not revert to theirs, which they will. I pledge not to blame them if they don't blame me.

5. I pledge — let me take a few cleansing breaths first — I pledge that I will not resurrect insults and arguments from previous Thanksgivings, even as a joke.

6. I pledge that I will not make a big deal of my dietary preferences. Nor will I make fun of anyone else's. No one should be tortured into eating food they don't like at Thanksgiving, but neither should diners insult their dinner mates or the cook.

7. I pledge to praise the cook. If I am the cook, I pledge that I will not pout if the praise for my hard work is insufficient; I also pledge that I will sit down and enjoy the meal while somebody else replenishes the mashed potatoes.

8. If I am watching football on TV, I will do so at a volume that doesn't deafen others. Maybe. If I loathe Thanksgiving football at any volume, I will use this day to Google the visa requirements for residency in France.

9. I really hope I will not spend the day checking my BlackBerry or iPhone, or otherwise engaging in self-abusive technological addictions.

10. I pledge I will not drink too much. Sobriety will make all of the above easier.

11. I pledge that after eating and drinking too much, I will not whine about how bad I feel. The only thing more annoying than people who whine after their self-indulgence is the overindulgers who piously announced beforehand that they would behave.

12. I pledge not to spend one minute of Thanksgiving thinking about shopping on Black Friday. Day of peace, remember?

13. If I did not help cook, then I pledge to help clean up. Or at least offer.

14. Here is the pledge that will enable all my other pledges to come true: I will get some exercise before I eat.

15. I pledge to take a few moments to reflect on the bounty in my life and to acknowledge how much I have to say thank you for, even if I and my Thanksgiving aren't quite perfect.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Year of Being Fifty

Yesterday was my birthday.

Up until the last few weeks, the prospect of turning 50 bothered me. Alot. I don't know why. After all, my life is pretty darn good. I am healthy. I have wonderful friends. I work with pretty string every day. I've made a nice home. I worship the man I am married to. (I think he likes me OK too.)

So, why the angst? It took me a long time to put my finger on it and an even longer time to own up to it. I was afraid of being the stereotypical middle aged woman who knits. And I don't even have a cat.

There were two incidents that helped turn me around. First was my visit to Wild Purls in Montana. Julia, the owner, turned fifty over the summer and she was embracing it. She went to a reunion, she organized a girlfriends weekend, she called friends and offered them the "opportunity" to buy her lunch. After all, this is her Year of Being Fifty. I think that has a nice ring to it.

The other thing that happened was a conversation with my dear friend, Frank. He had stopped by the studio to visit during the Ravenswood Art Walk. I mentioned that I was less than thrilled with this birthday and told him my misgivings about the yarn lady thing. He looked around, cocked his head and started laughing uproariously. Then he said "You are a yarn lady. What does your age have to do with it? No one is going to love you any less."

So here I am. Fifty. Would you like to buy me lunch?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Purple Mustangs, a Book and a Contest

A new book is hitting the shelves today, The Knitter's Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn. Lorna Miser, the founder of Lorna's Laces, is the author. Who better to guide you through how best to knit with these wonderful yarns?

A copy of the book arrived last week and I immediately stopped what I was doing to take a look. Yowsa! The book explores variegated yarn like it's nobody's business. Early on, she shows how different kinds of multi-colored yarns behave and why. Then she walks you through how to work with them to get the results you want. You become the master of your knitting destiny. Pretty cool, yes?

Even better, Lorna Miser and Lorna's Laces got together to create a new colorway for our Color Commentary Series to coincide with the book's release. It's called Lorna's Purple Mustang to pay homage to her vintage '65 Mustang and favorite color. She was even nice enough to design a shawl using the color.

The Lace Rim Shawl shawl calls for three skeins of our Shepherd Sport and is available for free download at Lorna's website http://www.lornamiserdesigns.com/.

Best part? We are having a giveaway! Leave a comment here and using a random number generator we will select a winner wto receive enough Lorna's Purple Mustang to make the shawl. We'll close the contest at midnight on November 19.

Who's in?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Orchid Thief

I finished my Orchid Thief over the weekend. The pattern calls for 440 yards of a fingering weight yarn but I decided I wanted to bump things up a little and went with our Shepherd Sport. I've been knitting lots of small shawls and socks lately and thought it might be fun to work with a slightly heavier yarn for a change. There were three skeins of our Baltic Sea colorway that jumped right up and said "pick me, pick me!"

The first three charts went really quickly. (There was some errata but it had been identified and posted.) I had some trouble with the transition from the third to fourth chart, but found help on Ravelry and was buzzing right along in no time. I'm still not sure why I got hung up. I usually prefer charts to written instructions but something about that row just didn't click with me. I guess that's why we often see patterns written both ways.

The unblocked shawl was about 41 x 19.

I didn't block it terribly hard and ended up with a finished product that was about 60 x 30. It could have been quite a little bigger if I'd have pushed it. I kind of like the curviness of it this way.

I ended up using about 1/2 of the third ball of yarn...so about 500 yards or so. I'm really liking the squishiness I got with the Shepherd Sport. It's an entirely different end product than I would have gotten had I used Shepherd Sock.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How About a Trade?

I went to SOFA over the weekend. SOFA stands for Sculptural Objects and Functional Art. In layman's terms, it's a big fancy pants art fair where most everything is three dimensional. That means you won't find much in the way of paintings and photographs. You will find lots of textiles, glass, ceramics, bronze and wood. I have nothing against painting but I tend to prefer the other things. Makes sense given that I work in yarn.

Most of the art there is way beyond my reach. There was a great bronze of a rabbit skeining yarn into a ball for a mere $15K. I saw several things with price tags that rivaled my mortgage. I'm not complaining, it's always inspiring to see so much great art. But, I don't have any illusions that I was actually shopping. This was more like going to a museum with price tags.

While I was there I got an idea for an art piece. This crazy idea would require lots of buttons. Unfortunately, my button tin doesn't have very many buttons in it.

My first thought was to start scouring local vintage stores and second hand shops for buttons. And I know I can find plenty on ebay. But it occurred to me that it might be more interesting to see what happened if I just simply asked for them. Community and all.

So, I would like to propose a trade. If you have any buttons you are willing to part with I will send you a Lorna's Laces button.

We have about 85 of them. If you are one of the first 85 people that send buttons, I will send you a button in return.

The address is:

4229 N Honore St
Chicago, IL 60613

Monday, November 1, 2010

Modern Knits Vintage Style

Lately, more books have been coming our way. It used to be that publishers sent us books as a matter of course. Usually because we'd provided yarn for one of the models. Then there was something of a dry spell. We were still sending yarn, but we weren't getting the books. I don't know what changed, but I am thrilled to receiving the sample copies again!

A really wonderful book, Modern Knits Vintage Style, arrived the other day. The concept was pretty darn interesting. The editor, Kari Cornell, asked some of today's finest designers to give new life to classic, vintage patterns using modern yarns and current sensibility. Boy, did they deliver!

There are sweater, skirts, hats, shawls, belts, gloves. You could dress yourself head to toe using patterns from this book.

Franklin created the Jacqueline Bouvier Stole. He was inspired by the veil and dress she wore on her wedding day. It uses a single skein of our Helen's Lace. It's quite elegant in Natural, but would be equally beautiful in any of our colorways.