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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blocking Day

When I learned to knit, I dreamt about making sweaters, socks, scarves, hats, and cute little stuffed toys. I have managed most of those, but not cute little toys. But when I learned, no one ever told me about blocking. Blocking robs all the joy of knitting from the universe. It's a harsh, cold, thankless task. But if goods don't get blocked, they don't always look their best. (Don't I sound like Little Mary Sunshine?)

So today is blocking day! I managed to block six of my projects (and then I ran out of pins). Four Honey Cowls and two Irish Hiking Scarves! My friend Huw invited me over, and I've been rinsing things out and rolling them in towels all afternoon. There are three more things to block, but we've run short on pins.

Here are four of the Honey Cowls drying on the rack. They expanded! When I finished them, they were too short to double over, but they stretched! They are, front to back, left to right, Betty Draper's Blues, Burnished, Heuchera, and Cove.

I also blocked two of the Irish Hiking Scarves, in Tosh and Malabrigo. You can't really see it in the pictures, but the Malabrigo colour is much richer than the Tosh.
I've never blocked without guidelines before, so I'm hoping these don't scallop when unpinned.

I still have one more Hiking Scarf to block, and a feather and fan scarf. On the needles, currently, are a Honey Cowl and a feather and fan scarf. I hope to have them both finished before the Thanksgiving holiday. All I can hear in my mind's ear is, "Knit faster, I hear banjos!"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Random Thoughts

Dorothy Parker once said, "I hate writing, I love having written."

I have tried to start this blog entry three different times this afternoon, and each time I've deleted what I've written, sighed, and tried again. This is the fourth attempt. The problem I'm finding is that I've already spoken at length about feeling overwhelmed by my holiday knitting, and how I'm pretty sure I'll get it all done. Actually, I'm not at all sure I'll get it all done, I just tell myself that to keep from screaming in abject terror.

I did something I've never done before (damn, there goes another virginity!). I went on line and bought patterns from Webs. The Berroco Booklet, with seven different patterns. I only wanted one, the Millais shawl, but I'll live with the others. Actually, there are two others I'd consider making, the Wallis cowl and the Holman-Hunt shawl. But the sweaters are for skinny women, and I'm neither.

I also got the pattern for the cute little snow family I mentioned in an earlier post. I'll probably never make them, but I have the ability and the pattern, so maybe someday. A very plain men's sweater (basic, with a stockinette body and just some ribbing on the neck, cuffs, and waist), and a cabled afghan, which can be a lap blanket, a bed blanket, or a tent, depending on the weight of the yarn and the size of the needles. My goal for next year is to knit a few things for myself. So maybe that plain sweater, and the afghan. I've always wanted to knit a blanket!

Most of what excites me these days (finishing a project, buying patterns I'll probably never use, buying yarn!) would probably bore the bejesus out of anyone else. And I haven't really finished a project in a while. But when I bind off that last stitch, I feel like I've really done something, and then go cast on a new project. It's about all the excitement I can stand sometimes.

Speaking of excitement, while I couldn't go to Rhinebeck, my friend Kim did. And she brought me back a couple of skeins of yarn.

Approximately 120 yards each, a blend of Qiviut, fine Merino, and Silk. It hales from Springtide Farm, and is the softest stuff I've ever felt. I am not quite sure what I'm going to make with this yarn, but whatever it ends up being, it'll be luxurious and warm!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I know stuff is getting done, because I'm knitting my fingers to the bone. I'm a fat man with bony fingers. Sunday I spent the day with Hugh, and got a wicked lot of sewing in the loose ends done. Not the most glamourous part of knitting, but alas! the part that really must get done if we don't want our knitting to fall apart.

So, the goods on the needles.
The back panel of Brad's sweater, in Lamb's Pride Bulky. That's about 27 inches of fabric there, and I'm not quite done. About another six inches of knitting and I'll be able to put this on stitch holders, and begin the front panel.

This is the beginnings of a scarf for my niece. Her favourite colour is green, and this is Muniper Moon Moonshine. This colour is so rich in real life, and this picture does not do it justice. It's 40% merino, 40% alpaca, and 20% silk. You can feel the lanolin in it. And who doesn't love feather and fan.

This is the last version of my many iterations of the Honey Cowl. In Madeline Tosh Tart, it is a very fitting colour, since the recipient is known for her sharp colour sense,

I'm hoping to finish the cowl before I leave for New Orleans, but now that I've added the second skein, it looks like it isn't moving at all! Such a slow problem.

I have three projects I'm taking with me on my trip: the cowl, the scarf, and a mink neck warmer. It's all ready to go, and I leave in only 16 days!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Little Tiny Figures!

I am pretty much a basic knitter. I churn out scarves, hats, some shawls, and a few sweaters. Practical, useful things that are intended to keep the people I care about warm in the cold weather, sometimes something with a little flair to make them a bit fabulous, but really, when you get down to it, I'm a basic knitter.

So please explain to me why, when I saw the cover of the newest Webs' catalogue, that I went, “Squeeee!” It has the cutest little snowmen on it! Totes adorbz!

I have in my collection of knitting books several that give you patterns to make cute little objects.
Knit Your Own Dog, by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne. I've got two of those (Volume I only, though I should probably pick up Volume II). I have a thing for dachshunds, and since I can't have a real one, why not knit my own? At least I won't need to scoop up after it.

A few years ago, when Prince William married Kate Middleton (thus making her The Princess William) my friends Franco and Adrian, who live in the UK, sent me a copy of Knit Your Own Royal Wedding. Fiona Goble put together a delightful tableau of the Queen, Prince Phillip, and all their family. She even included patterns for the Queen's corgis. Since the book was published before the royal wedding actually happened, some of the colours she chose were wrong, but since it's now in the past, a knitter could make adjustments (she showed Prince William in a blue jacket, when he actually wore a red one, and the Queen actually wore primrose, instead of blue).

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in primrose, not blue, at Prince William's wedding
I've never been interested in the Mochi Mochi knitted figures. When my LYS did a knit-a-shark knit-along for Shark Week (no, I haven't seen Sharknado 1 or 2), I thought they were cute and funny, but had no desire to make one. Besides, I know that the Polar Vortex would flatten Sharknado. I should look for a pattern for a knitted polar bear.

So here I am, gazing at the cover of the newest catalogue, totally entranced. I opened it up, and there, on the inside cover, was the information for ordering the patterns for not only the snowmen, but for the cute, stackable trees that are on the cover with them! The patterns are only $3.99! Not only totes adorbz, but totes affordable! And if I buy a few other patterns I saw that I liked, it would make it completely worth it.

Even if I do order this pattern, I probably won't knit the cute little snowmen (you can be politically correct and call them snowpeople if you wish, but I know they're a family of gay snowmen with the lovely little showchild they adopted from China). This just isn't my style. On the other hand, along with knitting my stash, next year I want to challenge myself to go off in new directions, to learn to be a Knitter, rather than a knitter. I have some really good role models for this, and maybe now and then I need to knit something a bit frivolous.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Yarn in Summer (Winter thoughts) and Finished Objects

One of the things that constantly amazes me is that yarn stores tend to have a drop in sales during summer. Really? People don't buy yarn in the summertime? Then when the hell do they get their holiday knitting done? There are only 48 days til Christmas and I still have a cowl to finish and a scarf to start. The other projects need to be ready by mid January, so I have a bit of wriggle room there, but seriously, I've done a metric shite-tonne of knitting to have ready by the holidays, and if I hadn't bought yarn or knit during the summer, no one, and I mean no one, would be getting anything from me for Christmas this year.

Admittedly, I don't work on big projects like shawls or sweaters during the summer. I live in an apartment that lacks air conditioning, and I do not want 10 pounds of bulky weight yarn in my lap. Which is one of the reasons why I put the sweater I mentioned in yesterday's post aside for a few months. It was too damn hot to knit it. But now the cooler weather is here, and I don't so much mind a few pounds of bulky weight wool in my lap.

*********************************************************************************

I have finished a pair of scarves for some friends of mine. I still  need to sew in the loose ends, but the knitting is done. I am not sure if I'll block these or not. I've made this pattern many times, but I've

 never tried to block it before. The yarn is Fiberspates Scrumptious. It is 55% merino and 45% silk. I think it will pill something awful, but it was the first time I've used this yarn, and it's soft, warm, and should keep the lads warm all winter. The red one is for Mike, the purple one for Tim.

With the completion of these scarves, I've only got to finish one scarf (yet to be cast on) and one cowl (almost halfway there!) for Christmas. Everything else will need to be ready by mid January, in time for the reunion. I have an entire week off after Thanksgiving, so I'll take several projects with me to New Orleans, find a congenial cafe in which to set up court, and knit the days away. No, I don't need to sight-see in New Orleans. This will be my 21st trip there, and there isn't much left for me to see. Might try to make another trip to see Marie Laveau's tomb, since it had been vandalised and was undergoing restoration when I was last there in September. But other than that, I've seen it all, and done most of it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Picking Up the Oldies

Way back in January, during our annual Pushing 50 Reunion, I determined to make a sweater for my friend Brad. Understand, please, that this would be no small undertaking, since Bradley is 6'5". I realised I was looking at miles and miles of stockinette. I started the pack panel, and stopped at 18 inches. The pattern said that this is where the knitter should bind off six stitches, three on each side, for the arm holes. This would work if I were making the sweater for myself, but I'm 5'10" on a good day, and Brad towers over me by a good seven inches. I consulted with the knitting mavens, we determined the armholes should be set at 21 inches. This morning I picked up this piece of knitting that I'd set aside and knit a full two inches of fabric. It made me serenely happy to reach this point.



I'd set this particular piece of knitting aside because I wanted to get most of my holiday knitting out of the way. I think I can probably finish this sweater this month, if I knit it at home (sweaters are often too big to carry to knit night). The scarves and cowls I still need to finish can be my back-pack knitting. Plus I'm going to New Orleans for a week at the end of the month, so I can carry any unfinished cowls and scarves with me. I'm pretty confident I'm going to be able to carry this off.

Tomorrow I will go to knit night early and avail myself of the swift and winder to wind the yarn for the upcoming projects:
Michela's scarf
Grace's cowl
Maddy's cowl
Steven's neck warmer.
I'll get all the yarn for these wound up and ready to go.

I'm pretty excited about what I've got left to do!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sweaters and Superstitions

It is a well known superstition among knitters that one should never knit a sweater for one's boyfriend before one has the ring. There have even been books written about it.
And yes, I already own this book. The premise is a bit silly, written for the (single) woman knitter who has recently started dating a guy. It gives a list of projects, from hats, to scarves, to washclothes to knit each month of the relationship, until surprise! he gives her a ring. It never tackles the question that if he wants a damn sweater he could bloody well learn to knit it himself.

In February, I began a long-distance relationship with a wonderful man in New Orleans.
This is Brandon. Smart, funny, insightful, Ph. D. candidate, and cute as hell. I have already told himI'm making him a scarf for Christmas, and he even chose the yarn and the colour (Madeline Tosh, Scarlet, DK). He doesn't know what the pattern is, yet (unless he's been reading the blog, and since he's so busy pining for me down in New Orleans, I doubt he has time to read this). He has also told me he wants a "wardrobe of scarves," and since I'm a pretty average yarn whore, with a stash that could bury a house, I can keep him in scarves until Hell freezes over (at which time, he'll need all the scarves I can knit). 

Last night my inamorato asked me to knit him a sweater. Being fully cognizant of the above mentioned rule, and not wanting to be single after less than a year, I carefully explained to him the superstition that Rules the Knitting Universe, and told him I'd make him a sweater after I got the ring. Hey, I may be an atheist, and I may deny karma, and I may refuse to give agency to the Universe, but there is no bloody way I'm going to go against this knitting rule. No way, no how, no sir!

That said (and this was all by text, by the way, since that is how we modern lovers communicate), I asked him what colour he'd like. Brandon looks good in jewel tones, so I was thinking emerald green, ruby red, or maybe sapphire blue. Colours I like to work with. His reply? Yellow or pink. Oh, my dear God in Heaven, I think I need to sit down (except I was already sitting down). First, yellow and pink are my two least favourite colours (well, there are others I don't much like, but I just cannot imagine knitting these). But he loves yellow and/or pink, and I love him, so channeling Christine Lavin's song Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind, I remembered the lines,

I am at the opera, 
And I do not like opera,
But he loves opera, 
And I love him.

Do not get me started on opera (that's another story for another time, let's just say that as the son of two Italian opera fans (Mum loved Puccini, Dad loved Verdi, and the house echoed with the sounds of Madama Butterfly and Aida), I am not an opera fan), but the same principle applies. If Brandon wants a yellow sweater, then Brandon shall have one. Maybe with a thin orange stripe every few inches (and that's a lot of inches, since Brandon is 6'4", and I see miles and miles of stockinette in my future).

Brandon is coming up to Boston next week for the wedding of our friends Tim and Mike. While he is here, I'll take his measurements, we'll go looking for patterns, and check out various yarns, but I have already told him, that he shouldn't expect a sweater any time soon. I will need a break from my holiday knitting, and I want to make something for myself in January. Maybe finish one of the sweaters I've got on the needles, or start that one in the oxblood red bulky wool I've got in my stash. And maybe, just maybe, he'll find a sweater next year under the Christmas tree, in bright cheery yellow, with sassy orange stripes.

And there had damn well better be a ring under that same tree.