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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Tangled Web

Yesterday, before going to work, and after getting home, I spent six-and-a-half hours untangling a single skein of yarn. I bought this yarn during the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl back in September. It's a lovely wool, black and blue, my favourite colours. I didn't open the hanks to check them, foolish me. One hank is fine. The other was, well, calling it a mess is not really accurate. It was just pitiful.

 This is the offending yarn, all rolled up in a ball, next to the unoffending hank. It's Artyarns, Zara Hand-Dyed. It's merino wool from Italy.

My friend Bee is a yarn whisperer. She's probably the best person I know who can disentangle  yarn problems. But I have to admit that I did pretty well today on my own. Even though I used more than six hours of my life that I will never get back. But I'm not bitter. Much.

Of course, six-and-a-half hours of untangling yarn leaves me wanting a stiff drink, but I shall forebear and leave the vanilla vodka bottle, the one I received as a gift two years ago, yet unopened.

I will cast on this yarn and start the next iteration of the Spiral Staircase Shawl. I think it will work well, because the colour lines are long before they change. It would probably work better in stockinette, but I'm going all out garter with these shawls.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Water, Water, Everywhere. . .

I finished a project the other night, the fourth iteration of the Spiral Staircase shawl. This one in Mad Color Fiber Arts sport weight, called Wicked. The colourway is Rock Lobster. I love the way it looks in real life, with bits and pieces of lighter and darker red. I want to knit with this yarn again. Luckily I bought several skeins of her stuff at the New Hampshire Sheep &Wool Festival!

After I finished that, I sat on my bed with the contents of two bins emptied over the comforter. I looked, I prodded, I felt and sniffed and held various colours up to the light. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I looked at the pile of yarn in front of me and cried, "Oh no! I. Have. Nothing. To. Knit!" No, seriously, I have nothing to knit! All that yarn and nothing to knit! Yarn, yarn everywhere, and not a string to knit!

OK, seriously, I have plenty of things I can knit. I just don't feel like knitting them right now. Sweaters? It's too hot. Another Spiral Stair? Um, can I do something different before I do the fifth iteration of that? The awesome hats for a couple I know whose marriage is now recognised in their home state? Yeah, but the pattern is a finicky Fair Isle, and I want to be wide awake when I attempt it. Besides, in order to do it I have to do some (cue scary music) math! Math is hard!

Later. . . .

OK, I've cast on the hats I'm making for my newly recognised married friends. Doing the math is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I mean, 96 stitches divided by 24 is. . . 4! Easier than I thought, especially when I used my trusty phone calculator. Phew. Besides, I can do the ribbing and the foundation before I start the persnickety Fair Isle stuff. Well, it's not really Fair Isle, and more like stranded knitting because it isn't a traditional Fair Isle pattern of circles and squares. It's bears! I'm making the Polar Bear Hat, by Susan J. Flanders, and which is distributed by Three Kittens Designs, which can be found on Ravelry. I'm making Grizzly Bears instead of Polar Bears, because I have brown yarn, rather than white. Besides, my friends are more like Grizzlies at this point than Polar Bears. I'm using MadTosh Vintage, in colours Celadon and Betty Draper's Blues for the hats, and Whiskey Barrel for the bears. I'll post some pictures when I have more than some ribbing (because, you know, 2x2 ribbing is SOOOO interesting to look at!).

Much later. . . .

These are the colours I'm using for the hats.
Betty Draper's Blues, Whiskey Barrel, and Celadon.

These are the hats so far. I'm making the ribbing with US 6 needles, the stockinette part on US 7 needles, and the stranded knitting part with US 8 needles. Which is why I can have both hats going at the same time (never mind that I have multiple sets of all three sizes).
At the top of the celadon hat, you can see the beginnings of the bears' feet. There will be four bears walking around this hat. As with all stranded knitting, it's always a question if the finished product will fit an adult head. You see, these two guys who are getting these hats are on-line friends, whom I've never met in meat-space. But I love an adventure, and adventures in knitting are the best kind!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Because Knitting Isn't Weird Enough

Because knitting isn't weird enough.

Recently I've become interested in making soap. A few years ago I found a book in a used book store and idly picked it up. I read through it, but most of the soaps were made with tallow, and I'm a vegetarian so I wasn't quite interested in making them. I certainly would want to put the little bunny logo on my soaps that indicate that no animals were harmed in the manufacturing of my product.

And then I discovered one of the recipes was for a pure olive oil Castilian soap. And I decided that I had to make my own soap. Because I love olive oil soap. Years ago, I used to buy a large square bar of olive oil soap from France. It was huge, and I could barely hold it in my hand. A single bar lasted several months, and I used it for everything: washing my self, my hair, as shaving cream. Sure, it makes you smell like a salad, but it's so good for your skin.

There are several items I need to buy: an accurate scale that can be reset to zero; dishwasher-safe buckets and pitchers; spoons that won't dissolve when stirring lye mixtures; safety goggles and rubber gloves; a large plastic mold for the initial pouring; a kitchen where I can do all this, because with the piles of mail my roommate keeps on our kitchen table, I'll never be able to do this work at home. And I want to try my hand at milling the soap, grating it down after it's been made, to create a hand-milled soap, where I can add things like ground up lilacs, or a bit of vanilla fragrance. At this rate, I'll be wanting to make my own bread (in the oven, not in a bread maker), and keeping chickens out back for the fresh eggs.

What has any of this to do with knitting? Well, absolutely nothing. It's just a bee I've got in my bonnet. But if I made my own soaps, I'd have the perfect excuse to knit up a bunch of wash cloths to give to friends along with a bar of home-made soap, with various logos like Daleks, or bears, or fleurs-de-lys knit into them to delight the recipients. I've got a lot of cotton yarn in my stash! I've seen the patterns on Ravelry! I could wrap the soap in the wash cloth that I'd knit!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yarns to Dye For!

One of the things I've been interested in for a while is dying. Come July, I'm going to get my chance to try my hand at it. Huw's friend Mirabel is a dyer, and uses natural plant dyes rather than chemical dyes. I think we'll be using indigo and maybe woad. One of them, I've heard, needs what is known to dyers as a "piss-bath" and I'm sure if that's true, it will all be so very charming.


I've been scouring my stash for any undyed yarns I might have. I've found quite a few, but these nine are the ones I think I'll bring with me to dye.

A few years ago, I signed up for a yarn CSA out of Martha's Vineyard, which has since relocated to Virginia as Juniper Moon Farm. At the end of the season, I got two skeins of Romney and four skeins of Corriedale.

These are the Romney skeins. The yarn is beautiful, but not particularly soft. I need to do some research about Romney yarn, and what it might be best used for.

These are the four skeins of Corriedale. I don't think I've ever knit with Corriedale before, so I'm looking forward to making something interesting with these once they're dyed.

In 2007 I visited a friend in Bellingham, WA, and on a trip to Orcas Island, we passed a sheep farm and I bought these two skeins. I wish I'd also bought the natural brown yarn, but I was limited in funds. These are from Coffelt's Farm from the island, and I've carried them with me a long time, and a long way. While I know these are wool, I'm not sure from which breed, and the website doesn't mention which breed they use for the wool, though there are Romney, Dorset, Coopworth, and Texal on the farm.

At a recent craft fair, I got this sport weight skein of alpaca yarn. It's from Sunny Knoll Farm in New Hampshire. I don't know much about this yarn, only that I've been told that alpaca accepts dye beautifully, and that it will look good when done.

I will continue to look through my stash to see if I have other undyed skeins of yarn. I know that I have a few skeins of Cascade Epiphany, a discontinued line, in a mustard yellow. Mirabel tells me that this can be overdyed, and if I can find it, I'll bring it with me. I only bought it because the yarn had been discontinued and I knew that when my LYS was soldout, it would be out of reach forever.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


This is my third attempt in a week to write a blog post. The computer ate my previous efforts (it crashed and refused to yield up my efforts when I got the damn thing running again). So much is going on that I'll just write a miscelany.

Item the First
I finished the third effort at the Spiral Stair Shawl. This one is in a blend of merino and mohair and was hand dyed by my friend Lucy. I think it came out well, and the other morning, I cast on the fourth effort at this shawl.

It's a crappy picture, but it's the only one I have of this iteration of the shawl.

Item the Second
I have been moving my bins of yarn to the basement of my friends Laura and Bill. I sublet from my roommate, and he is in danger of being evicted. If he goes, I go. So I'm getting the important stuff out of the house before the landlord gets the chance to leave it on the sidewalk. So far there are about 19 bins of yarn that have been moved. There are still 8 in my room, but a lot of the yarn in these particular bins needs to be put into ziploc baggies. I am currently out of baggies and don't plan a trip to La Boutique Target (that's French) until later this weekend. Then I'll finish bagging, and then I'll finish moving the bins. I'm keeping the yarn for the next 10 or so projects, but what'll I do when those are all knit up? Of course, their front door is a climb of about 30 steps up from the street, and then when in the house, one must navigate down a narrow set of steps to the basement. It's always an adventure!

Item the Third
One of the things I found whilst bagging my yarn is this sweater I began sometime between 2005 and 2007. The back panel is done, and about half of the front. It's in Berocco's Peruvia, and I think at some point I might even pick it up again and finish it. I kind of remembered it was floating around somewhere, but I wasn't quite sure where. I'm glad I found it.
It's a Gurnsey by Yankee Knits, the ribbed sections are actually in black alpaca.

Item the Fourth
I am a yarn whore. I know this. Gods below! I have 26 bins of yarn, and I need to buy yet another to fit all the yarn I got when I was at the NH Sheep and Wool Festival. My friend Huw sent me this picture, and I quite agree.

Item the Fifth
About ten days ago I hit a patch of not knowing what to knit. I had just finished a project, and while I have a long list of projects I want to get done, I couldn't decide which one. I cast on three different ones, and they are still sitting by my bed, the stitches cast on and nothing more accomplished. What I finally realised was that I really wanted to knit with the Mad Color yarn I'd gotten at NHS&W. Dyed a vibrant red, Rock Lobster, it's a Blue Face Leicester wool that is lovely to work with. I only wish it were a slightly heavier yarn, since I'm knitting on US size 3 needles, which is about as small as my paws can handle. But I'm loving the texture and colour variation, and the soft feel of it.
This is the fourth edition of this shawl that I am making for all the women on my holiday list this year. This is three-and-a-half repeats of the pattern.

Item the Sixth
I am looking for patterns for a cowl for my friend Dolci. I made a New Bittersweet Cowl for her sister, but I am reluctant to make the same pattern, since the second time usually looks better than the first attempt. I need to hit up Ravelry today. I think that will be very pleasant.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Hampshire Sheep & Wool!

I have been so busy that I haven't even had time to think about writing. But I'm on vacation this week, and in New Orleans. What could be better than sitting in a cafe in front of the computer in the Crescent City, banging out a blog? Besides, Brandon had to work today.

Last weekend Huw, Lucy, Peter, and I went to the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. We got there early in the morning, and we stayed for the entire day. It was glorious! There was yarn! There were sheep! There was yarn! There were alpacas! There was yarn! There were bunnies! There was yarn!
Freshly shorn alpaca with big hair

I had a list of vendors whom I wished to visit, and was able to make it to all of them. And I bought yarn from all of them, too. My list included Mad Color Fibers, Good Karma Farm, Decadent Fibers, Dirtywater Dyeworks, and Jan Marek Raczkowski Studio. I also patronised several other booths (I'm generous like that), and took the cards of several others, because, you know, my cash is a finite resource, and storage space is getting limited. But I had the best time, and a wicked fun conversation with the owner of Mad Color Fiber (she had dyed her hair purple). The colours in her yarns are so deeply saturated, and gorgeous. I actually went back to her booth to pick up one last skein of yarn. I actually have projects in mind for three of the skeins I got!
This is Rock Lobster, in Blue Face Leicester yarn. She also had a wonderful red called He's Not Dead Yet, but it was not the weight I wanted. But I can always order it on line. This red will become a Spiral Staircase Shawl for someone. The red is so intense.
Land of Oz, for a special niece who likes green. I'll probably knit these two skeins at the same time, since the colour values are slightly different.

From Good Karma Farms, these skeins are 60% alpaca and 40% wool. They'll make a man shawl for a friend of mine who is a one-year cancer survivor, but who cannot get warm.
800 yards of warm wooly goodness, waiting to be knit up.

And from Dirtywater Dyeworks, this gradient fingering yarn to make into a shawl or cowl. I've got a pattern in mind, but I'm not sure for whom yet. I've never really knit in fingering weight. The needle recommendation is US 1 to 3.

Other yarns were purchased, but I don't have people of projects in mind for them yet. I'll post them as I think of them. I am hoping that these yarns don't end up languishing in my stash, but get knit up right quick.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mood: for cattle, or a reason not to do something?

I've been thinking about writing a post all day. And now that I'm finally in front of my computer, pictures downloaded and ready to upload here, I'm  not in the mood to write a blog post. I am so very mindful of Frank Herbert's book, Dune, where young Paul Atreides, not in the mood to practice with weapons that day, is told by Gurney Halleck (who is the Weapons Master, if I remember aright) that mood is a thing for cattle or for making love. He then proceeds to attack the Young Master and gets him to practice after all.

So here I am, in front of the keyboard, typing so very bravely, mood or no.

Last night I cast off the second Spiral Staircase Shawl, in Tosh's Fragrant, and cast on the third. I'm not sure the yarn is quite right for this project, it's a hand dyed merino/mohair that I bought when Mind's Eye was owned by it's original founder. It's a pretty yarn, all variegated blue, and all, but I'm not convinced that it's the right yarn for this project.  I made a swatch on both a US 5 and a US 6, and decided on the latter. I think that was a mistake, too. Of course, I've only done one iteration of the pattern (plus a bit more), so I guess I could take it off the needles and try again, or search through my endless stash to find something more apropos for the recipient of this latest endeavour. But it has to be in tones of blue, since she likes blues.

This is the yarn, about 350 to 400 yards of really pretty hand-dyed stuff. I may frog what I've got and try it on a smaller needle, or just rummage through the stash. I've got to have some blue Tosh somewhere, I reckon.

While I've been dithering over this is the right yarn, or even the right needles, I've also started casting on for a project I plan to complete before I fly to New Orleans in two weeks. Using some Cascade that's 70% merino and 30% silk, I'm going to make a New Bittersweet Cowl for Brandon's mom. It looks like I'll finally be meeting her, since I've been invited to his niece's 8th Grade Graduation. I reckon she'll be there, too, so I need to bribe her make a good impression on her. The yarn is a deep chocolate brown, and the silk makes it shimmer slightly. I'll post a picture when I've got more than half the cast-on complete.

Finally, when the the third iteration of the Spiral Staircase is done, and the chocolate brown cowl is given away, I'm going to make a fourth Spiral Staircase for the sister of the one who's getting the third one. I scored some gorgeous Zen Garden on sale. I'll bet it knits up just wonderfully!