Thursday, 22 April 2010

Times Square at Night

It's not often that I linger in Times Square. For me, it's always been an annoyance more than anything...the lights, the crowds, the traffic, the gaudy tribute to mass consumption, the 10 minutes it takes to cross the street while getting body-slammed by people stopping suddenly to look up and take pictures.

Occasionally I'll have to be in the city for early morning meetings. Early, early, early mornings that take me several cups of coffee just to come to grips with simple things like the alphabet. Instead of risking me coming in late, work will put me up in a hotel wherever the meeting is. It makes my morning a little less stressful and I can make pretend I'm a tourist like everyone else.

Since last summer, Broadway has been shut down to traffic and it's become a pedestrian street...this makes it much more easy to navigate. I don't miss having to push my way down the sidewalk at all. It now involves a bit more leisurely strolling.

(As if someone from New York would ever do anything at a leisurely pace).

I can understand why people will loiter there...In all hours, it is blindingly bright. Over-stimulation is something people crave apparently.

I'm dying inside a bit that they were having a big deal Earth Day celebration in the most unnatural place on earth.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Spinning Work in Progress

I'm finished spinning all the singles for my fleece-to-sweater project, the Oatmeal Cardigan. I just have to ply a bit more and set the twist. The whole process took a couple months to complete...I don't get a chance to sit down at my wheel and spin every day. If I did, it would probably have taken me a week or so.

wips 028

I love this yarn. Every time I sat down at the wheel with a fistful of soft gray Romney, I gave a blissful sigh that is normally reserved for when I get a deep-tissue massage.

I've been spinning the singles on my Kromski Minstrel (large wheel diameter means you can spin faster) and then plying on my Majacraft Gem (which has bigger bobbins so I can fit more on there).

Based on weight and guesstimation, I should end up with over 1300 yards of 3-ply worsted weight. That's a lot of singles! A bit mindless perhaps, but every fleece to sweater I've done has been a huge improvement over the last. I sampled several times (sampling is the spinner's equivalent of swatching) and knitted several swatches before finding the right spinning technique and settings to get the end result sweater that I want.

My first fleece to sweater was a bit of a crapshoot.

sheepy 122

Handspun shetland pullover

Perry Sweater

That was from a Shetland fleece from Wild Apple Hill Farm in Hudson, NY. His name was Perry.

Shetlands are great fleeces to start with. They are on the small side- usually 2-3 lbs, so won't be overwhelmed with fleece. They have little lanolin and very strait, silky locks so any dirt and grease comes out easily instead of hiding in the crimp. They usually have a very long staple length as well. As an added bonus, you can also get several colors in one fleece. This one was white, gray and reddish-chestnut.

I had the idea in my head that I wanted to make a cable sweater, but ended up with a chunky weight two ply and not nearly enough yarn for something cabled. The fact that I didn't sample at all and just jumped to the spinning part probably was a good indicator that I wouldn't get exactly what I had wanted. I abandoned the idea of cables and ended up with a simple rustic-looking pullover, which I love and wear all the time. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I think that this is a lemonade kind of sweater. As in, I made lemonade when I made myself a lemon of a yarn. But lemonade is good, regardless if you made it intentionally or not.

Lesson learned. Sampling good.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Some Works in Progress

I put the Biggy Smalls sweater down for the week. It's hard to carry it around with me and pull it out on the subway at this point, but I haven't been home too much either. I have 6 more inches of sleeve to go. I should just finish it and deal with my little mishap later (which just looks a bit smudged and fuzzy at this point). It is my goal to finish it this weekend.

After a 90 degree day a couple weeks ago, I went ahead and cast on for Pucker.

It's a simple summery top by Norah Gaughan from her Volume 4 book of designs for Berroco.

I'm using Berocco Seduce in the Jaunes Vermeer colorway, which is a really interesting blend of silk, rayon and linen. It's like knitting with straw, but when you wash the fabric it turns fluid, drapey and graceful. Stitch consistency is kind of a problem as it has no forgiveness at all. I love the sunny yellow color.

Well, that was a letdown. It was hard to get a good representation of the yellow in an indoor photo. There are some gold highlights in it. The picture makes it looked washed out and weak when it's really more sunshiny and bold. I'll try harder next time.

I also cast on for a Lobster. It's probably not a great choice of project for me as I hate finishing and finicky little sewing jobs. Still. A lobster is needed. So far I have the tail done:

The yarn was some leftover worsted weight mystery stash from eons ago. It was white so I dyed it something close to a boiled-lobster red.

Oddly enough, I'm making something else that has a shell:

These are the Norwegian Snail Mittens by Adrian Bizilia. I love Escargot. They taste so good. It's very earthy tasting...kind of like mushrooms but with more tooth. Plus, I could mainline drawn butter and garlic, so it makes the consumption of that a bit less conspicuous. Also, I love these mittens. They are my second A-Z stashdown challenge in Artyarns Ultramerino. I also used some leftover Shubi Sock Yarn in Seaweed for the cuff. It adds a bit of slime to it.

I had two skeins of the Ultramerino in fingering weight in my stash. I overdyed one darker blue so I could do the colorwork.

The cuffs are a bit involved- They have a lot of decorative elements that take some time and patience. I'm on to the actual stranded pattern now and it's moving along now.

Hopefully I'll have a FO or two to show off next week.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

My workplace is kind of relaxed. If I have to have an office job, I feel pretty fortunate to have landed one that allows for me to have some freedoms. I'm not micromanaged, I work at my own speed, I get time off when I want it. I put in lots of time there every week but I can still sneak outside on a nice day and sit in the park for a couple hours on occasion.

My boss doesn't care that I knit during meetings or conference calls. I'm not able to knit a lot, but I do manage to get a row here and there done. I find it easier when I'm on a conference call to pay attention if my hands are occupied. Otherwise, the computer distracts me and I start zoning out while answering emails and getting caught up with work, instead of focusing on what I should be.

I was on a call Friday, knitting away on my Big Cables Little Ones Too sweater. I started it back in February and put it down a few times since. I finished a sleeve and have most of the second sleeve done. So I'm plugging away listening to a call and I put the sweater down on my desk in order to take some notes. Except I couldn't find my sharpie pen. Where could it be?

Yup. Right underneath my sweater. Behold the wicking power of wool.

I found a Tide Stick (which makes me always want to say "Thai Stick") and after soaking it and loading it up with handsoap and club soda, I went to work with the stain-remover pen. Lots of gentle blotting.

I got home, soaked it more and then put laundry detergent directly on the spot. More ink leeched out.

So now I have a sweater that has a wee bit more sleeve to go. The ink stain is at the top right of the neckline. It's about the size of a quarter. It's faded, but it still looks like a stain. I was very careful to be gentle, but all the blotting and futzing has made the area a little felted- the stitches aren't as well defined. Since it's top-down, if I tore it back from the neck, the stitches wouldn't line up perfectly since I would be then knitting bottom-up. I'm going to try to duplicate stitch over the spot, or maybe just wear it as a badge of stupidity.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Shop Update!

I just completed a rather enormous shop update.

A gentle springtime green glass.

Celebrating European travel delays with Lavastone.

I am really in love with springtime colors.

But, you know, being in New York means that you can wear black every day of the year and not be considered goth.

Check out my Etsy store for more!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

FO- A child in sheep's clothing

A friend of mine, Ta, has this habit of spawning children that cause anyone with a beating heart to seize up and die from their cuteness.

I'm not one to fawn over babies but I can't help but wanting to steal one of hers just to blow raspberries on their tummies. Look at her Sophia Loren lashes!

I'm pretty sure that cuteness on this level should not be allowed. Plus, my friend is a rocking mom who sends me pictures of her spawn wearing knits that I made. I'm always curious as to whether things I make and give will get some use, so it is really nice and appreciated to have a bit of evidence that it did.

Anyway, I got a birth announcement from Ta in the mail the other day as she outdoes herself once again with another round of smooshy cute awesomeness. I right away made this:

Sheep Hat133

It's the Baby Sheep Hat by Melissa Burt. This caused me some confusion at first as I was wondering how a baby sheep was to wear a hat. Oh, I's a hat with sheep on it meant to be worn by a baby human! That explains everything.

I cast on Monday morning on the bus, and finished during my ride home on the subway. Vrrooom. Naturally, I didn't read the instructions....the black parts of the sheep are supposed to be duplicated stitched at the end, but I just triple-stranded and kept my floats loose in back.

Sheep Hat 134

The specs:
I used less than a half skein of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK (which may or may not have actual cashmere in it) for the main taupe color, a tiny bit of Cashmereino DK in black for the face and feet (I would have used even less if I would have duplicate stitched). The white yarn is some merino handspun that I had leftover from another project. It's soft and lofty and loosely spun, giving it a fluffy sheep texture.

Sheep Hat

I did one modification, which was I added a couple rows of 2x1 ribbing at the bottom so that the brim wouldn't flip up. It hasn't been washed or blocked yet (and I'm hiding the ends that need to be sewn in) but I'll do that tonight and send it out tomorrow.

It's not machine washable (I'm usually a big fan of washable cotton knitwear for children) but really, how dirty can an infant's hat get? Something tells me that I might be happiest remaining ignorant of that answer.

Monday, 12 April 2010

FO- Owls

I love owls. There is something so mysterious about a bird that can hide itself so well in plain sight and move with such stealth. Their forward-facing eyes make them eerily human looking.

Owls 124

While owls are solitary creatures, they gathered pretty cutely on my sweater. A rare gathering of owls is known as a parliament. I'm pretty sure George Clinton is somehow involved with this.

Owls 129

I will now drunkenly stagger around and threaten to show everyone my hooters.


The specs:

The Owls pattern is by Kate Davies. The sweater is simple in design and it works up fast...something you could finish in under a week if you put your mind to it. I made long sleeves but it would look cute as a short sleeve top as well.

I used up all 6 skeins of Rowan British Sheep Breeds Blue Face Leicester- about 720 yards- for a size 4 (38"). This is the yarn that I dyed using Brazilwood chips a couple of month ago. It's a worsted-spun round 3-ply chunky-weight yarn with excellent stitch definition- perfect for cables. Of all the yarns in the British Breeds collection (this is a lovely idea as I love breed-specific yarns, especially those that promote rare breeds) the Blue Face is by far the softest- I can wear this next to my skin with absolutely no discomfort. If I were to use a different sheep breed in the line, I would go up a size so I could easily put a layer on underneath and have less skin contact with the fabric. The BFL makes a silky, drapey fabric with gorgeous sheen. I also loved the fact that this yarn was lightly processed- it smells vaguely sheepy, which means I could sit there and huff it in public for hours with no regard to what others might think.

Is it wrong of me to want a few more crisp, cool days so I can wear this before it gets put away for the summer?

Monday, 5 April 2010

FO- Lion Neck Cardigan

I forget how much city there is around me after a long snowy winter. As the weather turns suddenly, getting outside becomes a priority. I spent the past few days revisiting New York places that I abandon during the winter. Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park. All of these places are much nicer when you aren't sliding around on ice.

I had finished this rather dramatic cardigan a few weeks ago. Thankfully, the nights are still cool enough to need a cozy layer and I have gotten quite a bit of use out of it already. I was always a little leery of sweater coats. They looked frumpy and too bath-robey for me. I was fond of one that I had a few years ago that had a collar trimmed in ostrich feathers. One of my co-workers got drunk and told me I looked like a Mexican wrestler. ¡Dios mío! That comment tainted my Bette Davis fabulousness I felt when I was flouncing around the office donning my elegant sweatercoat.

april 2010 123

It's just fabulous enough. The ruffle makes it Bette Davis chic, but not so overboard that it would be considered Bette Davis drag queen impersonator chic meets Nacho Libre. Meow.

april 2010 122

april 2010 121

april 2010 118

The specs:

I used 9 skeins (about 1000 yards) of Rowan Scottish Tweed Chunky in Burgundy (funny, I just noticed that it's not a tweed yarn at all.) It's a fuzzy woolen spun 2-ply yarn. It does have a bit of an itch factor to it, but not so bad that it's uncomfortable on my bare arms.

The pattern is a top-down raglan from Wendy Bernard's "Custom Knits". It's a simple and fast knit, with enough shaping to make it elegant and slimming. I made the large size- in the sample, she has a tie that stretches across the front to hold the two cardigan halves together. I would rather have them meet in the middle and button in the front, so I went up a size from what I normally would make based on measurements. I crocheted an loop and salvaged an oblong wooden button from my button bucket. Unsurprisingly, the ruffle took a ton of yarn- at least 240 yards. After blocking, I ripped the sleeves back and re-worked the ribbing since they grew quite a bit.

I have two woolie sweaters that are almost finished, and then it's on to more seasonal knits for me. I approach this time of year with mixed knitterly feelings- wool is my absolute favorite material to work with, but it's hard to sit on the beach in 80% humidity with an ever-growing wool sack resting on my lap.