Thursday, 29 December 2011

FO: Odessa Hat and Another Fortnight

I am a spontaneous gift-giver. There's usually no rhyme or reason to the care packages I send out. It's just, surprise!, it's August, but I made you mittens because it will be cold one day. It's not the most practicable way to be, but I find that life is more fun that way.

My co-workers won't adopt my system. Bummer. Like clockwork, the week before Xmas, the bottles of booze start piling up on my desk to the point where it seems like I might have a drinking problem. I don't; I can't get through 7 bottles of Scotch this year, that's all. I've tried to politely hint "please stop" by just keeping these bottles around to gather dust, but it just seems to give people the idea that I love this Scotch so much and oh, here's another bottle. Granted, I do love the stuff. The rocky romanticism of the Scottish isles come alive on the palate- it's really quite transporting and one of the most reassuring taste I could imagine. I'm just a sipper though- I'll have a wee dram watered down before bedtime in the cold dark winter, and that's about it. It's really hard to finish a bottle. It might take years.

In return for their generosity, I usually run home, paw through my stash, and cast on for a hat. The next day, my co-worker of choice will have a nice warm hat to keep their ears warm when they choose to wear a hat, which is usually not often since their is a vanity issue with the hair gel and styled spikes and whatnot. It's the most non-corporate gift ever, and they really don't know what to do with it, but they are usually tickled to death to get one.

First up (and for my only female co-worker) is the Odessa hat:


I used yarn leftover from my Eastlake pullover. Actually, I tried to make a frilly pair of beaded wristwarmers with it, but they came out so sloppy and weird that I frogged it and re-purposed the yarn. It's Berroco Inca Gold merino and silk blend, and it held up fine through the entire process and looks fantastic. The hat is a free pattern (I do love spirals) and it took me a bit of the afternoon to make.


The second hat was the exact replica of another hat I made this past fall- the Fortnight. I used leftover Shelter from the Grove mittens. The color is "Soot".


It's simple and fun- tons of garter stitch with a slip-stitch cable pattern at the crown. Another hat I could turn around in a day. That's exactly what is needed as I'm fairly certain that both of these hats will end up in the wash cycle on hot, and a nice hot spin in the drier as well, and then re-gifted to a newly-born sprogling. I leave instructions on pretty custom gift tags. They are usually ignored. Maybe this is why I need a barrel of Scotch in my office.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

FO- The Importance of Being Ernest Shackleton

Finally! I can start to show off a few of the things I've been quietly working on in hopes of actually surprising people.

First up, a sweater I designed myself. A men's sweater, inspired by the great Ernest Shackleton.

I've been completely fascinated by the Man and the Adventure for ages. Here we have a captain and crew of 27, sailing for Antarctica for a chance to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent. The year was 1914.

Very close to reaching land in February 1915, their ship, the Endurance, was trapped in sea ice. The hope was that upon springtime in September, the ice would release the ship and they would continue their journey to the Continent. However, the melting and shifting ice pack shredded the ship to pieces in October, leaving the men to scavenge the ship for supplies before the Endurance was swallowed by the icy sea.

For two months, they camped out on an ice floe, hoping the drifting currents would get them close to land. They had lifeboats and supplies, and they survived by eating their sled dogs (gasp!) and whatever seals and penguins they could kill.

Eventually, the ice floes broke up and the crew spent five harrowing days in their life boats, trying to reach land. The reached the tiny, uninhabited Elephant Island. There, Shackleton decided that the majority of his crew needed to stay behind and took his five healthiest men to try to get to a whaling station on South Georgia Island, which was 800 miles away across open ocean. On the 24th of April 1916, they launched the tiny boat, promising to come back to rescue the rest of his crew.

The tiny lifeboat and crew were tossed around in hurricane-force winds and high seas for 15 days. With only rudimentary navigation tools and very little chance to use them properly with all the tossing seas, they actually made it to South Georgia Island. Except they were on the WRONG SIDE from the whaling station there and they had to cross the mountainous interior on foot for 32 miles, which had never been attempted before.

Upon his return, Shackleton borrowed a boat and had to wait for months before the weather cleared enough to make the journey back into the Antarctic. He went and picked up the rest of his crew from Elephant Island, who had been eating penguin and living in the overturned lifeboat for more than 4 months, waiting for their captain to come and get them, not knowing if he was even alive, all of humanity ignorant of their whereabouts.

That just amazing, right? If any manly-man story could give me the warm fuzzies, this would be it.

Sadly, it did not end well for old Ernie Shack. He returned to a different world in England in 1917 largely forgotten- World War I had broken out, and he considered a failure for losing a ship and not making his intended journey. Several books and films later, and his character has been largely restored to his rightful place as pretty much a super hero.

Back to the knitwear.

Looking through the old pictures of Shackleton and his crew made me jealous of their insanely warm knitwear. These are the days before synthetics- everything was wool or skin or fur.

Look at those pimp fur mittens. Seeing that sweater made my heart go pitter-pat a bit, so I set out to make one. It's pretty simple- just a drop-shoulder shapeless man sweater with a basketweave stitch pattern up top.

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I used a little over two skeins of Cascade Eco.

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It's designed for a man, so therefore, it had no shaping. It makes me look bulkier than I need to look, but I was the only available model that the sweater would fit so I'll have to make do.

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I did take my liberties from the original photo and did away with the turtleneck. In my experience, most men are loathe to wear one. A simple roll neck worked just fine.

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It's cozy and warm and functional, which is perfect for the Maine winters that the recipient endures, which by the sounds of the whining I hear are just as bad as spending an entire winter out on the Antarctic ice. I did block the sleeves out again- they were a little funky and bunched up at the shoulders, and a good second blocking was exactly what it needed.

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I used size 8 needles and got 14 stitches and 22 rows to 4 inches, and figured out the math from there for a 40" chest size.

The recipient loves it apparently. Being nice to me gets you places, or, at the very least, it gets you knitwear.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

An Early Winter Walk

Hiya! I hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas, Hannukah, Whatevermas. If there were latkes and mulled wine and gift-giving involved, I can usually find it in my heart to celebrate equally.

Now that the holiday crazies are done with, I love to take advantage of the sunshine when we get it, bundle up and walk. We were lamenting the lack of giant blizzard this year- last year that was a real treat to be snowed in for so many days. We took great walks and came home crusted with snow and ice, and then settled in to drink hot cider and whatever ended up in the huge vat of soup that was on the stove constantly. I really hope we get a good winter this year. Nothing makes you appreciate springtime more.

Regardless of the unseasonable warmth and muddy footing, walks were taken.



The light in winter, however brief it might grace your face, is perfect for pictures nearly all day.


The woods and underbrush were fairly silent- there were almost no songbirds at all. The deafining noise was all the from the large gatherings of big water birds- gulls, geese, grebes and ducks.


As the sun was setting over the bay and giving Manhattan a final peck on the cheek, we watched intently as gulls cracked mussels and clams on the beach.



Ever since I saw a Jamie Wyeth exhibit at the Farnsworth Museum I've had much appreciation for gulls. They are annoying as hell in summer when they are stealing from your beach bag and fighting over hot dogs and pizza crusts, but in winter, they become such interesting creatures.

It was mesmerizing to watch them.


Some of them were better at this game than others. Other birds have decided that the art of the steal is a more useful skill.











Alas, darkness fell, and we trudged back through the mud and back to our urban dwelling, craving raw shellfish in great numbers.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It's the Solstice

I can feel the gradually returning sun warming my bones already. Never mind that the real-deal winter wear has yet to be put to good use and it's getting to be drearily unseasonable. I will put a pot of mulled cider on the stove and do a little wassailing, just for fun, even if it means that turning on the stove means I have to open all the windows in the house to keep from breaking into a sweat.

I have plenty to write about and share, but it 'tis the season of secretive crafting. I'll let you in on the goods shortly. Also, I am having a dye day soon and I will have a whole lot of new yarn and roving up on the Etsy shop.

I will leave you with an illustration of what happens when you buy one of those beer kits for someone and they decide that brewing might be the right hobby for them. One year and 110 gallons of beer later, this is regularly what I have to fight past to get some leftovers warmed up.

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Friday, 16 December 2011

Making Time to Spin

That's really my biggest spinning challenge now. It takes me so long to set myself up and sit down in front of a wheel that I need to commit time to it. Also, it's bad to run back and forth from spinning to cooking dinner, as no one wants chunks of alpaca in their kale and bean soup.

So here we go.

I'm still trying to consciously control my spinning and not just zone out and make laceweight like I do when I'm on autopilot.

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4 oz of Spunky Eclectic Corriedale/Alpaca blend in "Thunderstorm".






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At 62 yards, this is not my personal best yardage-wise, but it is a true bulky weight yarn, and I managed to keep the singles even enough so that I don't have to call this a thick-and-thin yarn. Whoo hoo! My first bulky yarn that I'm happy with. Sweet Victory.

Here's another one. This one started out as a Spontaneous Spinning Batt from Loop.

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Holy Tinseltown. This was ridiculously fun to spin, but I have sparkles everywhere now. I mean- it worked its way into everything I own, to the point where complete strangers would stop me on the street to point out the big clumps of tinsel attached to my tail. I just cooly and calmly smiled and pretend that I wanted it there. I'm sure there's been a fair amount digested as well. Actually, I'm positive.

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I also had an assortment of purple babycakes that I've been collecting. Ever since Loop opened up a studio close to NYC, there's been a pretty hefty trade in these going on. I felt like the don of purple babycakes.

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I striped the babycakes (which are just 1oz mini-batts) into the big 4oz batt so I have a nice variegated skein of purple yarn. This was my try in spinning artsy imperfect singles.

The results:

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Squeeee! It's so girly and pretty. I'm thrilled with it. It needs to be knitted up ASAP.

On the other end of the spectrum, here some of the fleece from Muriel the Moorit Merino.

Merino fleece

Which was processed into this by the mill:


And which I spun into this:

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330 yards, woolen, dk weight. It's so soft. I have oodles of this stuff left- I'll never be able to spin through the pounds of this that is in my spinning basket, so I'm selling off some of it on my Etsy Store. For the rest of the month, it is 30% off.

Also on the wheel is some Merino/Tencel blend from Silver Moon Farms. I got this at Rhinebeck ages ago...even though pastel rainbow isn't really my color scheme, I decided to give it a try.

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I've never spun tencel before. It wants to be lace and it's a bit slippery, and I'm finding that it wants to be spun worsted rather than woolen. It drafts out like butter and I'm enjoying it immeasurably.

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It's shiny! The tencel is almost luminous. I'm thinking of making a delicate lace scarf with it.

Enjoy your weekend, and get some spinning done!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dim Sum and Dancers

I'm pretty sure I could piece together my life story based on what obsession I had at the time. My whole attitude of "go cashmere or go home" applies to lots of things. Some of these preoccupations are more useful than others, and I usually end up dropping the obsession once I realize how impracticable it might be. I COULD turn my apartment into a cheese cave, but I probably won't since that would require me to never allow anyone over for social affairs again as we bounce from one room of cloth-bound aged cheddar to the next, dodging huge vats of dairy products and heating tanks as we try to find a place to put down our glasses of wine. In-house cheese caves kill your social life. Also, if I were to make my own cheese seriously, it would require me to keep farm animals if I want to do it right. Now is not the right time for my fromage obsession to come to fruition. Maybe one day.

I'm not mutual with the idée fixe, either. I can always make room in my life for many of my obsessions to happily clamber for my attention all at the same time.

I've been on the dumpling wagon for a while now. Two years maybe? It started out with some gyoza, and took off from there. My weekly trip into Korea Town for a fix of freshly handmade mandu has been a bonus to my work week. Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai whenever I happen to be in the neighborhood. Wontons in hot chili oil at all the Schezuan places I frequent. Shu-mai and pork buns and, ya know, perogies and ravioli are dumplings as well. I don't discriminate.

So, obviously, I'm really into Dim Sum. You can go to a dim sum palace for breakfast, and get served many varieties of dumplings. These places are usually large and sprawling, with lots of space in between the tables so the nice ladies who push the carts laden with dumplings can get to you as you frantically wave them down. Once I got over the idea that there won't be pancakes and waffles for breakfast, and I've never seen anyone pour a mimosa in one of these places, I'm pretty much in heaven. I'm cautious around many items on the cart- chicken feet and tripe soup earn their places in the halls of "not breakfast food" in my book. The fact of the matter is that you're mainlining dumplings until you can't possibly have another one. It's as close to a religious experience as I've ever had.

We were overjoyed to find that one of the better places to get a breakfast of dumplings in the city was only a few blocks away from the abode. It's in a building that used to be a car dealership.


East Harbor, you are my Sunday morning home. I didn't take pictures of the actual dim sum meal, as we were sharing a table with other couples, and I find it annoying when other people take out the camera and start snapping away before every bite. I'm more likely to do that when I'm among friends and not disturbing total strangers in their quest for dim sum glory. Next time.

After sampling 9 or 10 or 30 different types of dumplings and drinking gallons of good green tea, it was nice to go out into the sunshine and take a walk. My attention shifted as I saw some women dancing on the sidewalk with drums tied to them with bright red sashes.