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, February 28, 2014

In the Pink

I've started knitting again since my recent sprain. It hurts, but in a good way. Okay, it hurts to knit, but not badly enough for me not to do it.

And what I've started to knit! Last December, I was visiting Ptown, and my friend Adrienne lives in Provincetown, and somehow it happened and I asked and she offered, and I have a place to stay for a week in July. For free. On Commercial Street, right in the centre of everything. For free. So of course I offered to knit her something as a thank-you and a way of repaying her. We decided on a heavy shawl, but she didn't particularly care for the one I usually make, with the ruffle on the ends. Okay, I can live with that. So I've been casting about for a pattern that struck me, and I settled on a modified Irish Hiking Scarf, by Adrian Bizilia (it's a free download on Ravelry). I added some stitches and a couple more cables, bringing the number up to five, and cast on using size US 13 needles, which is what I normaly use on my big ruffled shawl.
Quelle disastre
That's French. 
I think. 
I don't really speak French.

A bit of background. The ruffled shawl pattern asks for size US 11 needles. When I make it, I don't get anything like gauge, and in order for it to be big enough, I need to use size US 13 needles. So I reconfigured the Irish Hiking Scarf pattern to include four rather than three cables, and cast on my brand new Knitter's Pride needles. (I love these needles, and should write about them sometime. They're wicked pissah.) I knit five rows on these 13s, and it looked awful. Wretched. Vomitrocious. In short, it sucked.
Let's face it: God don't like ugly. I don't like ugly, either.

So I grabbed another skein of the yarn (I've got six of them!) and cast on using size US 11 needles, and began knitting away. It looks better. I think it would look even better on size US 10½ needles, but I don't have them in the right circular length, so to hell with it, we're using the 11s. Sometimes you just have to deal with it. Reconfiguring some more, I added another cable to the pattern, so there're five. Math is not my strong suit, and counting is hard! I figured it out, eventually, but whoever invented numbers and counting had better stay the hell out of my way. If they ever cross my path, I'm gonna kick them til they're dead.

So, after twelve rows, and one cable twisting, this is what it looks like. I think it looks pretty good, and once it's finished and blocked, it will be a proper shawl. I will, however, send a photo to Adrienne, to make sure she likes it. I don't think I want to knit through six skeins, 600 metres, 648 yards of shawl, only to have her say, “Yeah, I hate it.”

Now that would really suck.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Of Ice, Knitting, Zip-loc Baggies, and Christmas Ornaments

I slipped on the ice, and severely sprained my right wrist.
My dominant hand is my right hand.
This means that I cannot do a lot of things with ease and élan that I normally do.

Like knit.

I tried to knit today, and while I was able to knock off a couple or 150 stitches, it hurt. Badly. Enough that I eventually stopped because I thought I wasn't doing myself or my healing any good. The really ironic part of this is that I took up knitting in a serious way after I broke my leg in 2005 (after slipping on ice) because my orthopædist suggested that I take up knitting or crochet or fancy work, because one could not watch TV all day. Or read, because I haven't owned a TV since 1979.

And now I can't knit. Well, not without pain. And knitting shouldn't cause pain. It should result in wicked awesome hand made goodies that you can give to the people you love. So this sucks.

So while I convalesced at home today, I got the new zip-loc (™) baggies to hold all my yarn that I have been acquiring. I say "acquiring" because I promised myself that I wouldn't go wild with yarn buying this year, seeing that I've got more than I can possibly knit up within the next 10 years. But none of it is really "free-range-yarn," or yarn that was purchased without a project and recipient in mind. Except for the other two skeins of Tosh Vintage Fathom I found (I've got four skeins!) and that extra London Blue Baah skein I found (honestly, I only remember buying one of them; where did the second skein come from?). I now need to clear all the Christmas ornaments out of the bin where they're residing (still in the bags from the stores whence they came) and use that bin for yarn. The ornaments can go someplace else. I'm not sure why or where all these ornaments have come from, since I've not put up a Christmas tree since 2008. Why am I buying Christmas ornaments when I don't put up a tree, and when the money can obviously be used to buy more yarn, instead?

Since I will probably spend at least one more day convalescing, my chores, if I can do them, because lifting things is hard, and having to rely on my non-dominant hand is unnatural, include:
1. Find someplace safe for all these ornaments (I really like the Buddha one, and the lumberjack is really rockin'!)
2. Move the newly-bagged yarn into its new home (ie., the bin that is currently occupied by ornaments)
3. Somehow lift the bin to the top of the Wall o' Yarn (my collection of stacked bins, each filled to the brim with yarn goodness)
4. Collapse in total exhaustion, and have a bit of cognac to soothe my nerves, if not my aching wrist

I think I can handle all that.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Cavalcade of Cowls

Many years ago, a friend told me that when there are three or more soup tureens on a table it is called a Cavalcade of Tureens. Who knew? I'd like to showcase my Cavalcade of Cowls.

All of these are made with Malabrigo Mecha (which means "single ply" in Uruguayan Spanish). I often had some leftover yarn, and sometimes used it in the subsequent cowl. The colours include Polar Morn, Persia, Cereza, and Lotus.

The first is Peggy's Cowl.
Polar Morn and Lotus

The second is Alexa's.
The colours are Polar Morn and Cereza. I can never be accused of not running with an idea.

This is my much beloved cousin Alexa modeling her cowl.

My cowl.
The colours are Persia, Polar Morn, and Cervaza. I used the left overs from Alexa's cowl, and got the darker Persia for mine and I am so very happy with it! I like wearing it more than a scarf, and it doesn't get caught in the strap of my courier bag (which is really a Timbuk2 bag).

My friend Alexandra took the next two pictures, while I was working on Alexa's cowl.

The Shakers used to say, "Hands to work, and hearts to God."
My own more secular version is, "Hands to work, and knitted warmth to my beloved community."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Frogging as a Way of Life

I think I have mentioned that I'm mad for cowls. I finally cast caution to the wind (along with some projects that are awaiting completion) and cast-on the Honey Cowl. Tosh DK weight, in the colourway “Cove” which is really pretty. I carefully cast on 220 stitches, made sure it was not twisted, and began knitting. I completed the four rows of stockinette. I began the pretty purl-slip (wyif, thank you very much) pattern. I completed eight rounds of the pattern (plus the four rows of stockinette) and realised that I had mobiused the damn thing.

Rip it. Rip it. Rip it.

Let the frogging begin.

Okay. The frogging is done. I even managed to undo the carefully twisted knitted cast-on I had done. I managed to do this without knotting it, without having to cut it, and with out swearing (too much). Well, I reckon if I enjoyed working on it the first time, I'll enjoy it just as much the second.

Besides, I think I messed up the second row of purl-slip (wyif, thank you very much) and purled two stitches in a row, thus making a major (well, small major, but not really minor) balls-up. But it's all frogged now, and I don't have to worry about it.

I would do well to remember that I do have other projects waiting for completion, and casting-on something new is really quite naughty of me. But alas! I cannot find my copy of the Milanese Loop pattern, and I don't have a printer, and though I printed it at a friend's house, I forgot it, so of course I can't work on that. And I still have to start Adrienne's shawl, but I can't decide on a pattern, so six skeins of bulky alpaca, in light pink, are sitting in a bag, staring at me reproachfully.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Do You Know What You're Doing?

Sometimes when people find out that I am a knitter, they say, "Oh, I could never do that!" Or, "How do you know what you're making? How do you know what it will turn into?" Or even, "Wow, you're so talented!"

Thanks for the kudos, but let's unpack these statements.

First, yes you can do this. Knitting does not take any special talent, skill, or magic. In many places it's child's work, and in Scandanavia children learn as early as 5 how to sling their sticks and string. 

Second, I know what I'm making because I either have a pattern that gives me detailed instructions, or it's something I've made so many times I know what I'm doing. A knitted touque is not something I even think about, from cast-on to bind-off.

Third, I am  not all that talented. Anyone can do what I'm doing with sticks and string. All it really takes is perseverance to master what might be a somewhat steep learning curve and to get through the "swear and stare" phase of knitting. 

When I am making a hat with worsted weight yarn, I know that 96 stitches on size US 7 needles will usually do the trick. That is perfect if I want to do a 2x2 rib, that the decreases will work out perfectly if I start at K10, k2tog across the row, and that there will be no extra stitches (or too few!) if I've counted correctly. One of my favourite scarf patterns is to cast on an even number of stitches and knit two rows, then do a 1x1 rib for two rows, lather, rinse, repeat. It gives a scarf with an interesting pattern. I've made the Brooklyn Tweed Noro Striped scarf so many times that I can cast it on in my sleep. It's when I make a Fair Isle hat that I'm really flying by the seat of my pants. I know how many stitches to cast-on, but I never know what I'm going to do first, or how many rows of it, or what's going to come next, until I get to that row. 

What prompted this is that I ran into a former co-worker and told him that I knit. I showed him my hat, a simple 2x2 rib, and he was amazed. To me, it's a simple and brainless piece of knitting. I probably didn't really pay any attention to it once I had established the pattern, until I got to the decreases. And then I need to remind myself that nothing is easy at first. I have been rapper sword dancing for over 15 years. Learning to listen to the swords, and which way to turn my body, and to protect my  hands (and legs, and face, and neck) from getting sliced by the blades was a bit of a challenge. But now, like knitting, sword dancing is second nature. I don't have to think about what to do, the swords tell me what to do. Likewise with knitting: the needles may not tell me what to do, but the pattern sure does! And if I don't have a pattern, then the yarn tells me what to do. Which  means that with ten years' experience under my belt, I've gotten good at intuiting what should come next. Or maybe everything I make looks all the same.

I like to knit. I like it so much that I cast-on lots of projects. Now if I could only finish a few of them! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doing Something I Said I'd Never Do

I have said, and more than once, that I will not make a sweater for another person (baby sweaters excepted), and that if someone wanted me to make them a sweater, I would instead teach them how to knit, from cast-on, to bind-off, and everything in between. So how is it that I find myself the proud possessor of 13 skeins of bulky Lamb's Pride yarn? How is it that I have the measurements of my friend Brad in my possession, measurements which I took myself? How is it I got a pattern and needles sitting by my side, ready to cast-on?

Because I'm insane an idiot happy to knit for the people who are important to me. I've made several things for my friends from the Annual Pushing 50 Parties, from shawls, to scarves, to hats. Mostly for the women in the group, since most guys don't want shawls or lacework. And I would like to make something new for Brad, but really, how many scarves and hats can I make for him? So a sweater.

A sweater for Brad is no easy task. First, he is six-feet, five-inches tall. Which means he has a loooong torso, which will entail countless rows of knits and purls. His arm measurements are 34 inches. Neck to waist is 25 inches. This means a helluva lot of knitting. I think I'm going to incorporate the single cable up the centre of the front panel, rather than just straight knit and purl rows. It will make it a bit more interesting and challenging.

When we all met in January, and I took his measurements, I told him that I was not going to make him a sweater, that I was taking the measurements for when his daughter, who started knitting that weekend, was proficient, and she could knit a sweater for her dad.

Yeah. Right.

One of the first things I did when I returned from our gathering was to order the 13 skeins of yarn for this project from Mind's Eye Yarns. Here they are, all of them.
13 skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky yarn, 85% wool, 15% mohair, the colour is blue denim.

They came in while I was in New Orleans, and I picked them up Saturday from the shop. As I mentioned in my last post, I have so many on-going projects that I feel like an airport with too many in-coming flights and not enough runways. Do I really want to take on something as all-encompassing as a sweater? Especially one for someone of Brad's dimensions? Sure, why not? I've got just under a year to make it, and I can keep going on it while working other projects. I am actually considering making a spreadsheet to track all the projects I've got, the on-going ones, the abandoned ones, and the ones I want to get started (and I reckon that's a subject for another post).

I hope I get it right. With the recipient 500 miles away, I can't try it on him to see if I've gotten it right, and I do want it to be a surprise next year when we all get together.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stop Me Before I Yarn Again

I attended the stitch and bitch at my LYS the other day, as I usually do on Friday nights. They had just gotten in their latest shipment of Madeline Tosh. An entire table covered, chest-high, with Tosh Vintage. Another table was covered with Tosh sock yarn and DK. And Tosh pashmina and prairie in baskets. In other words, a plethora of Tosh. I have to say that this lot's colours mostly looked fantastic. The Fathom was great, the Betty Drapers Blues was awesome, and the Tart made me want to make something in red for a change. The Terra, though, was more orange than terra cotta.

However, like dear Princess Victoria, I was good. Even though I wanted to buy it all and roll around naked on it when I got it home.

Of course, this morning I saw a notice from Juniper Moon Farm that there are still openings for their Cormo CSA, full shares for $175 and half shares for $87.50. I don't know if I can be that good. Yarn CSAs really rock my stripy socks, and I am too late to participate in the one from Foxfire Fiber. I have gotten CSA yarn from Juniper Moon before, and it's excellent stuff. What to do? What to do? Because I can't be good all the time.

In other topics, my friend Janet noted on the Book of Face that she has cast on the Honey Cowl, with Tosh Pashmina. I really want to make that cowl for my friend Dolci, and I have the yarn in my stash in the right colour (which means raiding my stash, and that's hard for me to do). But I noted in a comment to Janet that I have too many other projects in front of it, and that I feel rather like an airport with too many incoming flights circling, and too few runways for them to land. If only I had unlimited time to knit. If only I didn't have to work, or cook, or eat, or sleep.

On the needles, an abandoned project that I've just picked up again. The Scarf That Never Ends, in laceweight Rooftop yarn (merino superwash), 1000 stitches cast on; I've not touched this in over 18 months. All knit stitches on tiny needles.

Someday, somehow, this well get done.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Quarter Stitch!

I'm back in New Orleans, and that means, of course, a trip to the Quarter Stitch.
The last time I was here, the shop was on the other side of the street, so when I walked down Chartres, near the Cathedral, my face was turned to the left hand side of the road, looking for the shop, to no avail. I turned around, frustrated, and asked my buddy to Google it, when there it was, on the other side of the street, with a new sign. They'd moved! Oh joy! Oh sublime!

The store's new digs are a bit larger than the old, and there is an amazing selection of Malabrigo Rios. Colours I don't see in other shops back home seem to find their way here. However, I eschewed the Malabrigo (at first), and got some other stuff for myself. These two skeins of Noro Silk Garden will, alas, become the basis for yet another striped scarf. I need to pick an A and a B to go with them.

These two skeins of Mountain Colors, lilac, caught my eye. This stuff is something I cannot find it in any of my local yarn shops. The only one that carried it has since gone out of business, and so I am bereft of it. It's 85% merino, 15% silk. I'm thinking a scarf for someone, or maybe some hats.

My friend Jayson does not have any of my knitting, so I told him I'd make him a scarf, and he chose this. He likes red, and I think this will knit up prettily for him. I plan on using a 1x1 rib straight up.I even got some needles to get it started. This is more Mountain Colors, this is Twizzle.

Later, I went back to buy some Malabrigo Rios, to make a scarf for my friend Brendan. This colour will suit him well. Ravelry Red. The name tickles me.

It wasn't a huge haul from Quarter Stitch, but I promised myself I wouldn't buy too much free-range (or rogue) yarn this year, with neither project nor recipient attached to it. So I think I did very well.

One last thing, I saw a beautiful fleur-de-lys needlepoint pattern on the wall (there are four of them with backgrounds in green, red, purple, and blue). I was not able to photograph it, because the canvas designers have asked the shop not to let people do so, since then their designs could be copied at a loss of revenue to themselves (and which explains the weird angles of my in-shop pictures of the yarn baskets), but I am going to go back to the Quarter Stitch and get me a fleur-de-lys canvas, and learn how to do needlepoint. Because knitting and spinning (okay, I can't spin, but I have a spinning wheel and a drop spindle) aren't weird enough.

The Quarter Stitch does not have a website, but does have a Facebook page. The address is

629 Chartres St
New Orleans, LA 70130