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.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Double Knitting

Tragic though it may seem, I grew up in the '70s, the era of shag carpets, polyester, and double-knits.  Shag carpets were seen in all the playrooms in my neighbourhood, usually in shades of lime green. Polyester? I'll bet they had to kill six duPonts each to make some of those outfits. And dressy trousers that were available were labeled double-knit. I'm not sure what that meant, exactly. Double-knit. It was blaring on all the signs, on tags attached to the trousers, and seemed to be the best thing since sliced bread. I must say, ever since I've had any say in what I wear, I have avoided double-knit trousers. Shirts, too. They all seem to be made out of polyester.

However, this weekend past I attended a workshop on double-knitting, and it had nothing to do with either polyester or cheesy trousers from the Watergate era. I had tried to learn double knitting on my own. I am making a Harry Potteresque scarf for a friend, and I didn't want to do it in the round. I also didn't want it to have the thin stripes of yarn visible on the backside where I changed colours. So I instantly fell upon double knitting. I watched an instructional video on YouTube, and discovered about casting on (which I did, but dismally), and that I needed to carrry both yarns in front when I was only purling with one of them, and likewise, carry both to the back, when I was only knitting with the other. What I didn't catch onto was the way to keep the garment closed. The scarf was joined where I changed colours, but the other side was wide open, a gaping maw of stockinette. Well, thought I, I'll just block it and sew it when I'm done knitting. How else do you close this stuff?

The workshop showed me a better way to cast on. It's a bit tricky, and I'm none too co-ordinated doing it, but it is, in the long run, easier than the method I devised. I learned about twisting the yarn to close the garment on the sides, two different methods! I learned a lot about this technique, and can't wait to try more of it. Of course I have to make a hat! And some scarves! What fun!

The scarf I started for my friend? Harry Potteresque? Remember that? Yeah. I've knit about half of a couple of balls of yarn, I'm about a quarter of the way through. The whole thing will need to be taken off the needles, and begun again. The. Entire. Thing. But now I know, and the end result after the massive frogging witll be prettier and more stable. And I got a couple of ideas on a way to make the ends look cooler than I had originally planned. I'll post pictures when I finally get it done. Lessee, how many weeks til Christmas?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lace 'n' Stuff

Last year I made my first lace shawl. I had promised Miss Caroline, the mother of a good friend, a shawl in light purple or lavender, whichever I found first. I tried several yarns, one, a lovely alpaca-wool-silk that I bought in Canada (the brand was Aztec, if I can remember a-right) had a sheen to it, sedate, lovely, but with a bit of pizzazz. A touch of flair. And soft! Really lovely stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't really know what I was doing, and that yarn didn't work out for me. I started to resent the yarn. The fact that the shawl wasn't coming together was the yarn's fault! Yeah! How dare this yarn be all nasty and recalcitrant and refuse to get all knitted up for Miss Caroline's shawl. Miss Caroline is one of the nicest people I know, with a wicked* sense of humour and a sharp eye that doen't miss much, if anything at all. How could this yarn do this to Miss Caroline? What did she do to you that you should treat her like this?

I put the shawl aside. And felt guilty. Really guilty. See, I'm ethnically Italian. I get the Catholic guilt thing. Add to this that I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, and I have a lot of Jewish guilt, too. Guilt is a funny thing. It makes me procrastinate. The guiltier I feel, the less likely I am to do whatever it is that is weighing on me. You could almost think I enjoy wallowing in the guilt. Sort of like a luxurious bath. Calgon Guilt, take me away!

Eventually, I found another yarn, mostly bamboo, with a bit of silk. That stuff was fine. Pretty. And the silk gave it that sheen that catches the sunlight. So I knit that puppy up in almost no time! Well, no time for lace. It took a few weeks, and there were setbacks. Like the time I was visiting my friend, Miss Caroline's daughter, and was working on the shawl. I put it down for a moment, and when I came back to it, one of Miss Caroline's grandchildren had taken it off the needles. Ninety-nine stitches of a 32-line pattern on small needles had to be put back on. No, I hadn't used a life-line. I had bought the mercerised cotton for lifelines, and even carried the spool in my knitting bag. But I had never actually used a life-line. Yes, there was tinking that night.

Eventually, the shawl got finished. Hooray! But it had to be blocked. I had a mental block about blocking the shawl. I'd read all sorts of things about how to block a shawl. You needed wires, or had to run a string through it and I was, frankly, intimidated. Finally, I just blocked it like I would a sweater. No strings. No wires. I just pinned it to my blocking board, spritzed it and let it dry. It worked. I finished knitting the shawl in October, 2009. I blocked it in July, 2010. Miss Caroline got it shortly thereafter.

Of course I forgot to take pictures of it. So my friend took a couple of pictures of it for me before she sent it to her mother. Naturally, she photographed it Right-Side-Down. Here are a couple of pictures of it that she took. She's promised me when she sees Miss Caroline over Thanksgiving, she'll take a few more.

The pattern is Upstairs Shawl, by Michaela Behrends. It can be found on Ravelry.

*wicked in the Boston sense, as a superlative.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On Being a Yarn Whore

I bought yarn this weekend. which is precisely what I don't need right now. As mentioned in yesterday's post, I have nine bins of yarn. And other extraneous yarn strewn about the flat. I need more yarn like I need a hole in the head.

But I am a yarn whore.

So, I bought some beautiful green eco-wool + to make a sweater. Three skeins ought to do it. And I bought some brown eco-wool to make a vest for someone. And then on Sunday I bought some more eco-wool to make a vest for me. And of course, there was this beautiful mohair just sitting there, calling my name, "Ken, knit me." How could I resist the siren call of mohair? It's so soft and fluffy and pretty. So I'll make an easy shawl with it, but for whom?

I really have to stop walking into yarn stores. I don't need any more yarn. I could dress a small village with what I've got in my stash.

But I can't resist.
Because I am a yarn whore.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Achieving SABLE*

I am a graduate student in library science. The Spring '10 term was pretty awful. I was working at a job that I didn't like, taking a course that was knocking the stuffing out of me, and generally being all depressed. I was in class two nights a week, at my internship one night a week (and Sundays), and in the library all day on Saturdays and on Sunday evenings. The only night I took off from this mishegas was Friday nights.

Every Friday night I would get off the subway one stop early and visit my local LYS, Mind's Eye Yarns. And every Friday, I would greet Lucy, the owner, and say, "I'm not gong to buy any yarn tonight." Then I would proceed to buy anywhere between $50 and $175 worth of yarn. Not that I had time to even knit this stuff up. It really was just retail therapy, and made me feel better for a little while. Until I had to get up early the next morning to get to the library when it opened at 8:00 am so I could fit in some studying.

But I had yarn.

I was surveying my yarn stash this weekend. It fills nine large plastic bins, and there's overflow in a small container (which is really overflowing) near the bins, and then lots of zip-loc baggies with one or two skeins in the living room near my sofa. Not to mention the plethora of yarn stashed away in my bedroom that has yet to make it to any of the nine bins.

There's lots of cool stuff in there. Lots of pastaza, eco-wool, and alpaca. There's bags with 15 or 20 skeins that are destined to become sweaters. There's sock yarn, and I don't even know how to make socks. There's cashmere, lace weight alpaca, and mohair. There are strange things that I bought on sale (who can resist wool/silk yarn dyed a grape-purple at $2.00 per skein?) that I have no idea what to do with. And let's  not mention the abandoned projects projects that are currently on hiatus. Or vacation. Yeah, that's it! Those projects waiting to be done are on vacation.

Not a pretty sight.  You'd think someone who wants to be a cataloguer when he grows up would have his stash better organised.

You heard it here first: Over winter break, I am going to organise my yarn stash! I am going to catalogue my stash! I am going to figure out what projects are on the needles and what needs to be done to finish them! I might even finish one or two of them!

Yeah, right. I hope I live to see it.

*SABLE: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectency

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why, we just have our hats

There is a story told of a traveler to Boston, who approached a Boston Brahmin matron, and, admiring her hat, asked, "Madam, where do you Boston ladies get your hats?" The great Boston lady stared at him uncomprehendingly, and replied, "Our hats? Why, we just have our hats."

I like to make hats. I like to wear them in the cold weather, and I like to give them away to friends, after asking them their favourite colour or colours. This month was supposed to have seen a reunion party for me and my two former housemates, Steven and Libby, to celebrate the fact that we are all pushing 50, to get together with each other and some friends from the days when  the three of us lived in the house we named Le Maison du Futon, after the futon sofa in the living room. My original idea was to knit a shawl for Libby and Steven each, in bulky alpaca. Then I figured I'd knit one for Steven's wife, Carlene. Then I realised that it would be nice to make something for Libby's husband, John. Then when we decided to invite some other friends from those days, I thought that hats or scarves for each of them would be a good idea. I can knit up a hat in a day or two so I didn't think it would be a problem.

Well, the shawls are all knit. The scarves are done, except for the blocking. And the hats. Five hats, all knit up, and ready to be worn as soon as the cold weather arrives.

I spent much of the summer knitting all these gifties. I didn't work, as I'd promised myself, on any of the sweaters I have on the needles, just waiting for me to finish them, so they can be worn when winter comes. And then Libby, a minister (did I mention Lib and Steven and I had all met up when we were in divinity school?) called to say that there was a pastoral need for her in her congregation the weekend we'd planned out party. Her next free weekend isn't until January, so the party is postponed. At least the knitting is done, and will be ready in January when we hold our reunion.

These are some of the hats I made for my friends.


Alexandra's Hat, pastaza, wool/llama blend
Brian's Hat, pastaza, wool/llama blend
Brad's Hat, pastaza, wool/llama blend
Seth's Hat, nashua, Italian wool
Some of the hats

Cynthia's hat, while done, was not photographed, mostly because I forgot to put it in my bag the day I took these pictures. I like making hats, since it's done quickly, I can play with the stripe patterns, and I can adjust the colours for the person who will be receiving it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yarn Snob

I have no idea where this picture came from. A friend sent it to me recently, knowing it would amuse me. I'd love to try knitting with stuff like this. Imagine a hat made of this stuff: you'd be able to light your way home on dark and rainy nights.

OK, let's get it out of the way. I'm a yarn snob. I only like to knit with natural fibres. Wool, alpaca, llama, and sometimes silk and bamboo make up my collection of yarns. And I'm beginning to shy away from bamboo, since the process of creating yarn from it does horrible things to the environment. I like the way wool smells, sometimes very sheepy, redolent with lanolin. I love the softness of alpaca, how good it feels against skin. When I'm knitting, I always smile when I come across a bit of bracken entagled in the yarn. Even though it might be dyed fire-engine red, or autumnal sky-blue, this fibre was once part of a living animal, and I marvel again at the millenia-old partnership between humans and beasts.

All that said, I am not such a snob that I will disdain common yarns. Cascade 220, that work horse of the knitting world, has some amazing colours, and makes a warm wool hat. Beruocco ultra alpaca, that 50-50 blend of wool and alpaca, makes terrific hats and scarves, with the warmth of alpaca and the memory of wool. Which is not to say I'll turn down something exotic and wonderful if it's in my budget. And as God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again someday I'll knit with qiviut.

But I won't knit with acryllic. No. I don't like the way it feels, I don't like the way it drapes, and I don't like the way it can't be blocked. I know that it's great for baby things: blankets, hats, sweaters. I don't have any babies. And I'm not so foolish to knit things for them since they'll out grow anything I make before I get it off the needles. OK, I admit to making a few baby hats. I use cotton for those. But no acryllic. Not now, not ever.

Give me natural fibre. And I'll make you something that will keep you good and warm through our damp New England winters.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


In my  Digital Libraries class, we learn that when creating a digital library, one must have a mission statement and a vision. I'll skip the vision for now, and think about the mission.

In the six or so years that I've been knitting, I've become both a fibre snob and a yarn whore. I'm becomming more involved with it, and as I enter my last year of graduate school, I am beginning to think I don't so much want to be a librarian, as much as a yarn store co-owner. Rather than catalogue books, I'd like to catalogue yarn.

My intent is to use this as a knitting blog, albeit with some forays into other topics. But by and large a place where I can talk about my knitting, and what I'm trying to do with it. I'm not a designer, or a fibre-guru. Just a guy who likes to knit, and who obsesses about it from time to time. Sometimes I'll even try to post pictures here of things I'm working on or have made. Maybe even talk about my stash, which is beginning to get out of control.

Knitting. The K is silent.