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, January 30, 2012

Finished Object: Brad's Scarf

This was a very quick knit, a scarf for my friend Brad. It is made of Araucania Coliumo yarn, 70% wool, 30% silk. It is very soft, and was knit in a 1X1 rib, on size US 11 needles. It knit up very quickly, and I love that it looks like stockinette, and you can't see the line where there was a colour change.

Taking a page from the Brooklyn Tweed Striped Noro Scarf, I carried the yarn up the side so I wouldn't have dozens of loose ends to weave in. It took me a time or two to figure out the best way to do this (it's not like I'm a professional knitter), but once I did, it went quite swimmingly. I will mail Brad his scarf this week.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Manly Art of Knitting

As a guy who knits, I sometimes encounter. . . incredulity that I am playing with sticks and string. When I walk into an unfamiliar yarn store I am often confronted by a bemused clerk, wondering if I've wandered into the wrong place. When I wandered into the yarn store in Doylestown  a couple weeks ago, I heard one woman call out to me, "We're all ladies here!" I refrained from discussing the difference between ladies and women, hesitant to be accused of classism. However, as soon as I identify myself as a knitter, I am treated like a long lost member of the clan, the extended family, the mishpokhah of knitters.

One of the guys from Nine Inch Needles (our men's knitting group) has been known to knit on the subway! He says that if he is knitting on the subway then no one sits next to him. I rarely knit on the trains, usually because I almost always fall asleep when riding the trains. However, the trains can get pretty crowded, so maybe if I knit on the trains I'll get a bit more room to myself.

Or is that selfish?

One of the frustrations I have is that when a new book of knitting patterns comes out, there are usually only one or two patterns for men. I'm not inclined to buy a book with 15 patterns and only one of them is something I can knit for myself. There are several books written specifically with men's patterns as their theme, but almost all of them are written to the woman knitter making something for the men in her life -- husband, son, father, boyfriend, fiance, brother -- but with a very few exceptions, not written for men who knit.

I get it. We are a very small demographic. I go to a knitting night on Fridays, and I am almost always the only man who shows up. I like knitting with the ladies, but sometimes it would be nice if another guy showed up. But men knit. Really, we do. You'd believe it if you could see my yarn stash. We know that historically there were places men knit, like on whaling ships out of New England. There were long periods of down time between chasing whales and rendering their blubber. The hour were filled with crafts, knitting included.

And we know that knitting is a manly art. What could be more manly than a cowboy? That very icon of American manliness.
This book, from 1975, can be found on Amazon for a mere $175.99 (new), or $79.95 or $129.49 (used). Something tells me it isn't something I'll be adding to my library any time soon. But I like the idea that the Marlboro Man could whip up a quick neckerchief between drags on his cigarettes and while making all those little dogies git along.

Maybe I'll start knitting in public more than I currently do ('cause maybe knitting in hipster cafes doesn't really count). If anyone gives me any shit, I'll look 'em right in the eye and say, "Knitting. It's a manly art."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time Off

I have discovered the joy of making lace. I made a lace shawl for a friend for Christmas. I have made and am making lace scarves for friends for the just-passed reunion (one down, two to go!). I LOVE making lace. Just love, love, love, love it.

But there's a fly in the ointment. You knew there had to be one, didn't you?
While I like making lace, I have a hard time manipulating needles that are smaller than size US 5. I am not sure if it's my big ham-hands or if I just lack the dexterity. Years ago (I say it was 15, but it's more like 20), when I was studying ASL, I was the best fingerspeller in the class. I practiced fingerspelling every day, sitting on the subway trains and fingerspelling every word that appeared on the advertisements. It got to the point where I was better at fingerspelling than the teacher, who was herself Deaf.

I'm out of practice these days with the fingerspelling, but I thought that I'd be able to handle small knitting needles. Not to put too fine a point on it, but FAT CHANCE!!! I've got some lace on the needles right now, it's a gorgeous pattern, the yarn is actually the stuff recommended by the pattern's author, the colour is sublime, and I know who is going to get it when it's done. If it gets done. Because I can't make my damn fingers do what I want them to do when I'm knitting with these tiny needles!

Hey! I know! I'm using a circular needle with a 36 inch cable. I'm really used to using straight needles if I'm making anything other than a hat. It's not my hands' fault! It's the needles' fault!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Forever Yarn

This past holiday weekend I've been in Pennsylvania for the second annual reunion of friends from my grad school days (the first degree). Steve and Carlene and I drove down from Boston, Brad and Alexandra and their girls drove in from Maryland, and we all converged on Libby and John's house outside Philadelphia. Good friends, good food, and of course, good yarn.

On Sunday, several of us visited the James A. Michener Museum for the astonishingly brilliant exhibit on the Pennsylvania Impressionists. What an amazing show! The curator deserves major kudos for pulling this exhibit together. In short, I liked it, I really liked it.

After touring the exhibit, some of us decided to wander the shops in Doylestown. While my friends explored the bookshops, I hit the yarn store. Forever Yarn (no website, alas) has a terrific collection of high end yarns. I entered through the back door, and there were about seven women sitting in the front room. I heard one of them call out, "The place is full of women!" Like I'm not used to that. I replied, "On my Friday night knit I'm usually the only man there." When they realised I was a knitter, they were very welcoming. They asked if I'd made my hat (I had), and what was I looking for, and were very friendly. I was just looking around, seeing what they had and if any of it appealed to me.

They had a lot of yarn that really appealed to me. I only wish I had more money so I could have gotten some of the yarn I saw there. I did get some beautiful yarns (pictures to follow!), but I couldn't quite justify the absolutely beautiful Swans Island (100% organic merino), even though I wanted to buy out their entire stock. I did, however, take the information for this yarn, and when I am able, I will be getting some of it. Just gorgeous!

The yarn I did buy, though, is not just stash yarn. I've got plans for this stuff, y'know! First, there was some Madeleine Tosh. I've never bought Tosh before, though I've looked at it. I don't make socks, so it never occured to me that you could make shawls or fine scarves with it. So I got four skeins in two colourways to make a scarf. In the store, one looked like burnished gold, and the other a cobalt blue. But when I got them home, the blue looked more purple, but I think it's going to work anyway.
I think these will work well together. I'm looking forward to working with this yarn.

I also bought some Shibui Silk Cloud which is 60% mohair and 40% silk. It is a rich cranberry colour, and alas, there was only one skein left. However, after talking with the ladies, one of them said that she had two skeins that she was planning on exchanging. We exchanged information and she's going to check her stash, and if the dye lots match, she'll contact me and I'll buy it off her.
I am hoping that we have a match, since I will need the extra yardage for what I'm planning on doing with this yarn. And the picture doesn't do the colour justice.

Everyone at the shop was friendly, the owner told me that if I lived in the area she'd offer me a part time job (!) which just made me laugh. I'd love to work in a yarn store, but I'm not sure how much of my paycheque I'd take home. Something tells me that my stash would increase exponentially.

It was a terrific experience at Forever Yarn. The addition to my stash is very pleasing and everyone at the store was friendly and welcoming. I'm looking forward to a return trip at next year's reunion.

Forever Yarns, 15 W. Oakland Ave, Doylestown, PA  18901

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Feather and Fan

I just finished a silk lace scarf for a friend. I've never made a feather and fan pattern before, and I really enjoyed it. The pattern came from Mind's Eye Yarns and can be found here:

The yarn I used was Tao by Colinette, 100% pure silk. I've got two more of these on the needles for other friends, and am thinking of adapting the pattern to make a shawl. That idea sends goose bumps all over me, since I think it would make a terrific shawl. I'll also search Ravelry for feather and fan patterns, just to get a better idea about them.

This still needs to be blocked and I need to sew in the loose ends, but I'm really happy with it.
Now I've got a week to finish two more of 'em!