This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Most Glorious Place

I am going to Northampton, MA this weekend! O Joy! O Sublime! We're going to hear a concert by the Nields, a pair of sisters who sing contemporary folk music and who have awesome and tight harmonies (you can youtube some of their music here). And while we were in Noho, we figured we'd stop by Webs, America's yarn store. Normally, it's closed on Sundays, but I know that it is open on Sundays before Christmas. Except the last Sunday before Christmas. The day we'll be in Noho. So thinking I'd be going to Webs, at first I was like,

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the face of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate and bid it open
You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light
March up to the gate and bid it open, open*

But then I was like, 
§


I guess I won't be going to "the most glorious place."

Well, worse things have happened to nicer people.

Knitting continues apace for the holidays. I do not think I'll get anything out on time. I just washed and wet-blocked the last honey cowl this morning. If it is dry by tomorrow, I'll wrap it and pop it in the mail to my friend in Texas, and hope beyond hope that it gets there in time. I cannot for the life of me find my knitting bag, with all my stitch markers, stitch holders, scissors, and most importantly, T-pins, with which I could block my niece's feather-and-fan scarf. I may need to send it to her unblocked. I might be able to block it at my LYS tonight, and if I can, I'll have to scurry like a bunny tomorrow to pick it up, wrap it, and get it and her brother's scarf in the mail (tomorrow I also have a Chanukkah party, a Christmas party, and a late-night cookie party; will this endless round of frivolity never end?) so it reaches them in time for Christmas morning.

Like I said, worse things have happened to nicer people.

Thanks to knitting maven Claudia, I learnt how to unbind the bind-off of the teal/blue Grace Jones cowl, and have started lengthening it. I have five more rows to go before I can bind off again. I'm not too worried about this one, since I won't need it til January, but I like to keep knitting. Tonight, after I finish it, I'll cast on yet another cowl, the Ombre cowl, in mink. I've never knit with mink before, and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a gradient cowl, holding two strands of Colour 1, then one strand each of Colour 1 and 2, then two strands of Colour 2, through to Colour 3. I'm going monochromatic, with grey, white, and black, since the person it is for likes that sort of thing. I might substitute a light brown for the black, but we'll see.



*Optimistic Voices, from the Wizard Of Oz, 1939
§ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Some Cowls

Today is 16 December. It is the first night of Chanukkah (chag same'ach!) and I just bought the last gifts that are not knitting for friends this evening. It's a good feeling that all the knitting and shopping is at last done. Not including the stuff I need to finish for our January reunion (still knitting-knitting-knitting for that!), I have made six Honey Cowls, 3 Irish Hiking Scarves, 3 scarves I'm calling the Grid Pattern, and two feather-and-fan scarves.

Whew! No wonder I'm knackered!

These are the Honey Cowls I was able to manage. I had originally wanted to make 12 of them, but wisely stopped at six. I'd gotten quite tired of the pattern at this point. I still want to finish them out, but that might wait til next year.
The five on the left are Madeline Tosh: Tart, Betty Draper's Blues, Huechera, Cove, and Burnished. The one of the far right is tussah silk, purchased at The Artful Ewe, in Port Gamble, WA. Of all these cowls, four were knit with stash yarn! That was one of my goals this year, and with this particular project, I think I did OK.

Some close ups of a couple of them.

Burnished

Cove

Tussah Silk

While the pattern itself is easy, I found that I spent an inordinate amount of time knitting these. I'm glad I'm done for a while with them. There are other, interesting and fun projects I've got in mind for the first few months of the new year. These include the Deathflake as a double knit scarf, the Red Dragon Beanie, the Ferrous Wrap, and maybe even some Fleur de lys patterns!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tortellini

One of my favourite cartoons ever was Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watersen. Of all the ones he drew when he was still drawing C&H, this has always been my favourite:

I like it because this was me as a child. Afraid to try something because I might not like it.
Operative word: might.

I am sometimes like this when it comes to knitting. I look at the picture of a beautiful pattern and I think, "Wow, that's so cool, I'd like to make that for someone." Then I read the pattern and discover there is a particular stitch I don't know how to do, and rather than asking someone's help, or looking up a video on the internet, I determine that I don't know how to do this, so I can never do this, and so, lovely pattern be damned, I'll never make it.

I have a lot of patterns in my collection that I've determined I'll  never be able to make.

So, one of my New Year's resolutions is to learn how to do stitches I don't know how to do. Little things, like knitting through the back. If I am unable to do it on the internet, then I'll ask one of the many knitting mavens I know. I refuse to be limited in my knitting any longer.

Oh, crap. I guess this extends to learning to read charts. There are a lot of things I'd like to make that are only charted, but I've never really learnt the secrets of charts (yes, I can read Hebrew and Arabic, and I can puzzle my way through Cyrillic alphabets, but knitting charts just stymie me). Le sigh. I think I have a steep learning curve ahead of me next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting A Handle On Things

When I first began to knit, I said that I would only work on one project at time and that I wouldn't have a stash.

And then the Universe bitch slapped me.

I'm trying to get a handle on things. Right now, I am very focused on getting all the holiday knitting done. I've finished knitting the stuff that's due on Christmas day, and now I'm focusing on the stuff that needs to be done by mid January. I don't know if I'm going to finish the sweater. But everything else will be done.
Probably will be done.
Might well be done.
I think I'm done for.

Stash. What is it about new yarn? The smell? The colours? The jumbled, jubilant plethora of wooly goodness? I have so much damn yarn in my house I could open a yarn shop. I see yarn in the yarn store and I see new projects, friends bundled up in warm woolies, gorgeous handknits falling off my needles as I finish binding off.

The reality is quite other. I have bins and bins and bins of yarn. I say there are 25 of them, but I really don't have an accurate count. I have acquired so much yarn this year that I need to buy a couple new bins. There's so much of it, and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I don't have any place to put it, and have actually sent six bins over to a friend's house to live in her basement. At least until I'm in a new apartment and have more storage space for my obsession.

I need to think of my New Year's resolutions soon. I need to assess how well I met the resolutions I made last year. I already know that I cannot promise not to buy yarn next year. I've already started saving up money for the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival in May. And I've started putting aside some money for Rhinebeck in October.And then there's the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl in September. Maybe if I limit myself to just those three occasions next year? This year's promise not to buy yarn is already shot to hell, and good thing, too, since next week I'll be in Northampton, MA with some friends for a concert. Which means a trip to Webs. Well, worse things have happened to nicer people.

Who am I kidding? I saw some wonderful Arran weight yarn at a local shop, and the owner promised to order me some to make a sweater. And I want to make a traditional Irish sweater this year, in that wonderful lanolin-heavy cream-coloured Irish yarn. Yeah, I'm going to limit my purchases to just three festivals next year. I wonder if I will need to learn to read charts to make this sweater? Probably. Charts, like Estonian lace, scare the snot out of me. But if I make my quest to become a Knitter (as opposed to a knitter) then I reckon I'll have to learn how to read them.

O spite! O hell!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Time to Knit, a Time to Purl

The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us, "For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven." I have my own version of this passage that follows this lovely introduction:
A time to cast on, and a time to bind off; a time to knit, and a time to purl;
a time to choose yarn, and a time to put yarn away.
A time to knit quietly, and a time to hurl the knitting across the room.
A time to go with the flow, and a time to panic.

I am at the point of panic right now. I have completed the last project I need to have finished before Christmas. I still have three more cowls, a scarf, and most of a sweater to complete by mid January. I still have three scarves to block.  And all of it has to be wrapped and mailed so that it arrives in various locations around the country before the Big Day. And I still have most of last year's wrapping paper! I'm so frugal!

Of course, I have not completed a small list of things I wanted to complete. There were originally 12 Honey Cowls, not a mere six. I wanted to make a vest instead of a cowl for someone. And I am not certain now I will get the sweater I've got going completed. It's bigger than I thought it would be. Who knew that a 6'5" man would need so much knitting to make just the back panel of a sweater!

But I do have some complete projects.
The last of the Honey Cowls is finished. Madeline Tosh Vintage (rather than the prescribed DK), in Tart. I really like the way it came out. I just need to sew in the loose ends.

Feather and fan, in Juniper Moon's Moonshine. Deep pine green. I need to sew in the loose ends.

Now, on to the Grace Jones Cowl, which I have not touched in a week.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Out and About New Orleans

When I began writing this blog, I said that it would be mostly about knitting. Which means that sometimes it can be about things other than knitting. This is my 23rd (?) trip to New Orleans. It's a place I really like to visit, and have often thought of moving here. I'm not sure if it would be a good match for me, but I have to admit that I am enjoying the current 75 degree temperature, while back home they're shivering in the 30s to 40s.
Standing with the Mississippi River behind me. I've never seen it so low before.
New Orleans is a strange town, a blue dot in a red sea. Not that there aren't conservative Republicans in town, but I've seen more signs supporting Mary Landrieu's bid for Senator than her opponent (he looks like he's had way too much botox). There are a lot of hipsters in NO, and a lot of . . . what to call them? My friend JP calls them Bohemians, my friend Poncho calls them Gutterpunks, and another, unnamed friend, calls them Trash. They are homeless young adults, often with dogs (which apparently are not fully vaccinated, or at all), begging for lose change, especially around the area of the French Quarter near the French Market. I mention them, because. . . .

Yesterday, I stopped by the Quarter Stitch, and asked the nice ladies there if they could recommend a cafe where I could get a cool, refreshing beverage (sweet tea, y'all) and where I could knit quietly, without being disturbed. Cafe En Vie was the recommendation, and I hied there with a slow haste (it's too warm to hurry around here). It's on the corner of Barracks and Decatur in the Quarter. Near the favourite hangouts of the Bohemians (let's use that term, so much nicer than the others). And while I was knitting my holiday gifties, a Bohemian walked in. He was tall and thin, and bearded. Not unhandsome. He was wearing a brown, sleeveless t-shirt, leopard print suspenders, leopard print fingerless gloves, leopard print tights, boots, and denim shorts that are known, I believe, as Daisy
Dukes. I wish I'd been able to get a full picture of him, but this is what I was able to manage.

Paraphrasing Rita Mae Brown, honey that ain't no southern boy, that's a miracle! He also had a small chihuahua in the chair next to him. It can never be said that New Orleans does not have its fair share of eccentrics. In fact, the city nourishes them.



One of the more delightful things you see around New Orleans, are koi painted on the sidewalk. A local artist paints them, for a fee. If I lived here, I'd definitely want to have some painted on my walk.


 These were taken outside Horn's, a restaurant on Dauphine St, outside the French Quarter, but they can be seen in various places around the Quarter and the Fabourg Marigny.

I think I mentioned that it's a quirky city. On Royal St in the French Quarter, there is a vacant lot, from a building being pulled down. On what would have been the second floor of the missing building, one sees this.
Why a bit of paneling, a bit of table and lamp were left behind, I can only imagine. Urban art, perhaps? In any case, just a fun bit of nonsense for the observant walker through the Quarter.

I'm not sure I could actually live here. But I know I could never stop visiting this city.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Return to Bornside Yarns

Failure is not an option.

So at noon I left my B&B, intrepid soul that I am, and returned to Bornside Yarns, and met Bette, the proprietor.
She was delightful,with a warm smile and a welcoming demeanor, and we had a wonderful conversation about yarn, Boston (her son went to MIT), and bath tub* Madonnas.
Bath tub Madonna, Somerville, MA
While I was there, I decided to get some yarn to make a warm shawl for someone. Not sure yet, but I know it will be something wonderfully soft. I got De Aire, by Plymouth Yarns. It's 100% fine merino wool, and looks like a knitted chain and the colourway is New England Nights. I've never knit with anything like this, though I've seen yarns like this in various stores. I'm thinking a triangular shawl, really simple, with a yarn-over increase at the end of each row.


New Orleans being New Orleans, Bette also gave me some lagniappe. After I purchased my yarn, she was asking what she could give me as lagniappe, and I said she didn't need to. Then she realised she hadn't rung up a single ball of yarn, and decided that this would be my laigniappe.
In beautiful shades of orange, it's 100% wool, and very soft. I thought it was Noro at first, but no, it's Universal Yarns, Poems. I'm thinking a warm hat, or maybe a soft cowl, very simple, not too many stitches, to keep someone's neck warm.

It was a fun little store, and I'm glad I made the effort to return. Bette has a sign over her desk, which she says is her philosophy.
If I'm not in New Orleans, I'm in exile!
For those of us who know and love New Orleans, it is a true statement.


*Sometimes bath tub Madonnas are put in these pretty shells, and sometimes they are put in real claw-foot bathtubs (with the claw-feet removed). Regardless, they are called bath tub Madonnas. One can also find other saints in these tubs or shells, St Anthony, St Francis, and Jesus with the Sacred heart being the most common.