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, June 30, 2014

Just Because You've Finished One Project, Doesn't Mean You're Done

I have finished the third Honey Cowl, in Betty Draper's Blues. While it is the most loosely knitted of the three I've made, I thought it was the longest, until I measured all of them. My mind is playing tricks on me.
I really like the way the colour variations are noticeable in this cowl.

These are all three of the cowls so far, in Burnished, Cove, and Betty Draper.

I'm pretty excited that there are now three of these that are completed. Only nine more to go!

So now that I've finished one project, I need to cast on the next ones. I've chosen this yarn for the next Honey Cowl, Mad Tosh Heuchera. This one will have to be alternated, one skein for the purl rows and one for the knit rows. This was bought at the now sadly defunct Windsor Button Shop, and I just bought all the Tosh I could get my hands on during their last days. I have no idea if these are the same dye lot or not, but knowing what I know about Tosh, I sincerely doubt it. But the colour variations are really striking within each skein, and I'm pretty excited to see how it knits up. This is kind of funny, since I've already knit three of these, and one would think I'd be kind of over them by now.

I've been wondering if there is anything I could make for John, who really doesn't need any more stuff, and who is married to a knitter. But just as I have the bee in my bonnet about the Honey Cowls, I have another bee about the Irish Hiking Scarf. I've finished one and have another on the needles. I found some undyed black alpaca in my stash (who knew?!) that I think I got at either a Sheep and Wool Festival or at one of the tents in the parking lot at a Web's Tent Sale. The yarn is from Donna Young in western Massachusetts, and is absolutely gorgeous, but there are only 300 yards, and I am wondering if it will be enough to make a cabled scarf.

A while back I found a single skein of Mad Tosh's Forestry colourway which I thought would make a great cowl for my niece, whose favourite colour is green. But I need two skeins, and there was only one, so I got it, and decided to get the second from someplace else. I noted that Web's had the colourway, ordered it, and while I understood they would be different because they were different dye lots, but I'm really surprised by how different they really are! This one will also have to be divided, one skein for the knit rows, and the second for the purled. But that's what makes knitting fun and interesting. Unfortunately, I cannot find the first skein of yarn, which I remember as being darker than the one I got from Webs. But here it is, just to see how pretty it is.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spinning In Place

My friend Jay is a very accomplished fibre worker. He spins, weaves, knits, and sews. He owns three or four spinning wheels (and about 10+ drop spindles), and offered to help me learn how to spin on my spinning wheel. I haven't touched it since I brought it home over a year ago, and I would like to learn how to spin.

So I got my wheel, an Ashford Traditional, and carried it to the green line, transferred to the red line, enduring stares and odd looks from other people on the subway. While I was waiting for the red line, I started singing to myself.
"And spindle, bobbin, and. . . spool. . . away."

I had left the fly wheel at home, along with the bobbin and spindle. The wheel was as useless as a fur on a fish. I was carrying my spinning wheel for nothing.

I can be so clueless sometimes.

Luckily, Jay had a wheel I could use. I tried, and came up with a hot mess of spun yarn. I can't coordinate my hands to pull the roving and to squeeze the fibre and to treadle at an even pace. Even though I can dance at a 140 bpm with rapper swords, I am not coordinated enough to spin.

Oh, the humanity.

Jay suggested I try a drop spindle, to learn how to pull the roving. He loaned me a couple to try from his vast collection of spindles, and I'll give it a try this week. I will learn how to do this. I will become a proficient spinner.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thinking About Busting My Stash

I've been thinking a lot about my stash, and ways I can bust it. Without, you know, giving any of my yarn away. I have looked over my holiday knitting list, and most of what I'm making is stash yarn (though some of it is new stuff, because I didn't have the right colour or something (like one friend who likes a particular colour, but is allergic to wool. I had the right colour, but the wrong fibre. So I had to get some alpaca)).

So, after all the holiday knitting is done, I could randomly pick one bin and knit stuff in there for a given time. A month? A year? A year, most likely. I couldn't finish more than a few skeins in a month. Let's be realistic. I love knitting, but there are other things in the world that need to get done, especially in the summer, and no, I am not bringing my knitting to the beach.

I will say I haven't bought any yarn this month (I think. . . when did I get that beige cotton?). Isn't that part of stash busting? Not buying yarn? Of course it is! If you aren't adding to your stash, then you're busting it! Of course, I cannot be held responsible during sheep and wool festivals. And I only buy yarn that I can't find locally. Really! That's not really yarn whoring if it isn't available locally, is it?

While I will have used a lot of stash yarn by the end of this year, I think picking a bin and trying to knit what's in it over the course of a year is a good idea. I have 24 bins. I am 53 years old. If it takes me, on average, a year to knit up a bin, that means I have enough yarn to make it til I'm 77. Clearly I do not need more yarn.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Miles and Miles of Stockinette

I cast on the sweater this week. I've got the ribbing done and about three inches of the stockinette. Of course it's done in panels, and I'm only on the back one. And of course it's going to be 25 inches long, so I've got miles and miles of stockinette to go. And of course I'm knitting it on 12 inch straight needles. Because that's the way I roll. (I have 36 inch circulars hidden in my yarn bag just in case I decide that knitting 94 stitches of bulky weight yarn on 12 inch straight needles is wicked stupid.)

Getting gauge for this sweater was like pulling teeth. And I'm not convinced that just because I finally got gauge in my third and final swatch that I'm actually going to get gauge in the actual sweater. Gauge is a tricky thing. It's ephemeral. It's a will o' the wisp. And I think it's largely imaginary, like Narnia. Or Earthsea. Or Middle Earth. Or Darth Cheney's heart.


The swatch of doom

My hope for getting gauge.

Feh. If it fits when it's done, I've done my job.

But now that I've got some inches of stockinette complete, I really feel like I'm actually knitting something. When you have the first few rows of ribbing done, it doesn't really look like anything. You know it's a sweater, or going to be a sweater, but no one else looking at it has any idea what it's going to be. A tent? A chuppah? A blanket? An aeroplane? But it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas like a sweater. Well, at least in my imagination.

Here's what it looks like right now. I don't know about you, but I'm impressed!

The yarn I'm using is Lamb's Pride Bulky (colourway, blue flannel), and I've used this before and never had a problem with it. However, in the skein I used for the swatch, and in this, the first skein of the sweater, there are knots. Just who the hell does Lamb's Pride think it is? Noro Silk Garden? I expect knots in Noro, and while I'm never surprised when they turn up, I'm always disappointed. But knots in Lamb's Pride? Who the hell is running Quality Control? If there's a knot in each skein, I shall be wicked unhappy.

Le sigh. I'll cut the knot out and begin a new row as if I were adding a new skein. 

Knots in the yarn. Honestly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Terror of Lace

The last time I actually picked up the needles and knit was Friday night, when I worked on a gauge swatch. I know I am under a deadline to get all my holiday knitting done, which includes one sweater, but I've been so busy that by the time I get home it's enough that I have the energy to peel the contact lenses off my eyes, brush my teeth, and fall into bed. Sometimes I don't even get the light turned off, and I awaken a few hours later when I roll over and the light's still on, and the book is still in my hand (I am one of those people that no matter how tired I am, I have to at least make an attempt at reading before sleeping). And I haven't even had a chance to block the damn swatch that I made Friday night.

Today, however, will be different. After work, I'll wend my way to one of the local yarn stores where I'll meet a couple of friends and sit down and knit. I have two projects in my pack, a cowl and a lace piece. I'll buy something to drink, and sit and knit, and maybe make some progress on one project or another. Probably the lace, since I seem to only work on that when I'm at the LYS.

Later that same day. . . .

I made it and did an entire iteration of the six row pattern of my piece of lace. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with it. Maybe I'm just intimidated by the whole thing. Which means I need to knit more lace in order to get over my fear of lace. When I was a hospital chaplain in divinity school, our supervisor urged us (made it a condition of our being accepted into the chaplaincy programme) to embrace those things which we feared most, or were most uncomfortable with. Which meant I took the oncology and pediatric wards. I will admit that my time in the chaplaincy programme was probably the most rewarding of my entire divinity school career.

So, with this philosophy firmly in hand, I shall embrace the lace.

Gods below, but that sounds like a soft core porn title.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


So the first (actually second) swatch did not make gauge. Three stitches to the inch instead of four

O Spite! O Hell!

But I did not let that deter me, and I changed needles and knit up another swatch. I'm waiting for that one to dry so I can see if I've got gauge or not.

Today is Boston Pride. Last night, before I arrived at knit night, some people were, apparently, talking about me. They wondered if I had lots of kinky leather fetish gear in my closet.

I can answer that I do not have any kinky leather fetish gear.
My fetish isn't leather.
My fetish isn't rubber.
My fetish isn't even feather boas and shoes with cha-cha heels.
My fetish is. . . .


Hand dyed merino. Kettle dyed Peruvian wool. Undyed alpaca. Merino-silk blends. I am awash in a world of natural  fibre yarns. My room is stacked with bins and bins and bins stuffed full of yarn.

Most of it's blue, because, you know, that's my favourite colour.

Who has time for kinky fetish gear when you can fill your life with knitty fetish yarns?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Swatching: Because my friends will kill me if I don't

"Six inches. Really?"
"Yes, really. Now butch up and do it."

And so I ripped out my first gauge swatch that I'd made at home, which was 14 stitches across, according to directions on the pattern. It gave me a 4 inch square, but my friend Claudia was adamant that it wasn't enough to check gauge. I recast on, 26 stitches, and began to make a new swatch.

"I've got five inches of stockinette, is that good enough?"
"Six inches. Butch up and do it."
"You said that already. Man, you are a harsh task mistress."

I finished the swatch, bound it off, and measured. There were 31/2 stitches to the inch. I needed four stitches per inch.

"It's only three-and-a-half per inch."
"You haven't blocked it yet."
"Blocked it? Really? The person who taught me how to knit never mentioned blocking the swatch. And it doesn't mention it in the pattern."
"That's because it's taken for granted that you'll block it."
"Oh. That's assuming a lot."

We filled the sink with cold water, and put the swatch in. We pushed it under, and let it get good and wet.
"We'll leave it there for five or so minutes."
"That long?"
"The Yarn Harlot sometimes leaves her swatches in the water til they sink."
"Who knew?"

About fifteen minutes later (I was distracted), I pulled the swatch out of the water. I gently squeezed it, then rolled it in a towel. We pinned it to a board, six inches to the side.
"I have four stitches per inch now."
"Let it dry. It might shrink a bit when you unpin it. It might not."
"When d'you think it'll be dry?"
"Tomorrow morning. Maybe whoever is opening can measure it for you."

The store opens in about an hour. I don't know if I can wait that long.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Swift and My Stash

I found my swift and ball winder today.

Three years ago, when I moved into this apartment, I put most of my furniture, books, and belongings into storage. I didn't really plan on being here more than a year, and while I brought all my yarn (then a mere 10 bins), I packed the swift and winder into a box that I never opened or unpacked (I also found one of my favourite lamps!). I sort of knew it was in that particular box, but it was somewhat inaccessible, and I usually wound my yarn at the store where I bought it, at least those hanks that I was going to knit right away. The stuff I got on my major yarn whoring tours (like the Seattle trip), well, since there's no knowing when that will get knit up, it remains in hanks. And since I'm a bit embarrassed to bring strange yarn to my LYS to wind, I've been doing it by hand. But no more! I can wind it at home.

If, that is, I can find a surface to attach them. What with 24 bins of yarn cluttering up the place, there's scarcely room to swing a cat, never mind wind some yarn. I'll figure it out. It could be my impetus to declutter the area around my desk. To further insprire me, I shall put up a red dragon!*
The flag of Wales


In other news, I've come to realise I really do have a yarn problem. Yesterday one of the bins fell from its perch on the top of a high tower of bins. I was at work at the time, and no one was hurt, the bin is fine, and the yarn all accounted for. But still, I've got too much damn yarn in a space that is too damn small. I've got to start knitting my stash. Some of it will be put to good use in my holiday knitting. But when all of that is done, what about just opening a bin and saying, “Hell, I can make a dozen hats, a sweater, and some scarves with all the yarn in this bin,” and then just setting to, and knitting all the yarn til that bin is empty. And then moving on to the next bin, and saying the same thing, which would be more like, “Hell, I can make three sweaters, five scarves and a whole bunch oΚΌ chemo caps.”§

Could I do it? How long would it take me to knit a bin of yarn? Six months? A year? Longer? I am in my early 50s, and with 24 bins, this could quite literally take me the rest of my life, or a damn good chunk of it, anway. In a really visceral way, I understand what SABLE truly means. I literally have enough yarn that could last me the rest of my life. Gods below! I don't have time for blog posts (or work, or eating, or sleeping, or going to the gym)! I've got to start knitting!

Some of my bins of yarn, with a bag of roving on the big grey one

*The red dragon refers to the flag of Wales, and reminds of us of their national motto, Y ddraig goch ddyry cochwyn, or, in the vernacular, The Red Dragon lends impetus. That English translation is somewhat wussy, especially after all the stirring throaty [ch]s of the Welsh.

§This means that I'll have to knit up my stash of Cascade Pastaza, which has been, sadly, discontinued. I love this stuff for hats, with its 50-50 blend of wool and llama. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. On the othe hand, this stuff isn't going to last til Doomsday, so I might as well get it knit up now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Call of the Yarn Store

This past May, when I was at the NH Sheep and Wool Festival, I collected a few brochures from yarn stores in New England. I was looking through some of them today, and I realised that I really don't need more yarn.* With 24 bins, I've achieved SABLE, and I'm even in doubt if I'll get all my holiday knitting done. Who needs more yarn? But I want to take a road trip and go to visit all these stores. Looking at their websites, it isn't like they carry any yarn I can't get in the Boston area. But there's something about walking into a new yarn store you've never visited before that is just intoxicating. I don't care that I can buy all the yarns they carry locally.

While I was at the NHS&WF I did my honest best to only buy yarns that were "artisinal," meaning hand spun, hand dyed, or both. Things that are not available in stores, only by ordering on websites or by going to festivals. And I admit that I got some pretty damn fine yarns that day. Even Web's annual tent sale only appeals to me now because there are tents set up by local yarn producers in the parking lot. They sell stuff I can't find anywhere else. (OK, I'll admit that the Blythe Baby Camel is something that Web's carries that my LYSs don't carry, but I won't look at anything other than that!)

But I don't actually need to go on another shopping spree. And I did promise myself that I'd knit more of my stash this year. This is a promise which I am partially fulfilling, though I have to admit I've gotten a lot of new yarn; still, most of the cowls that will be knit in Tosh will be done in stash yarn. The ones that will be done in yarns from The Artful Ewe, well, some will be done in stash yarn, and some will be done in yarns purchased this year. I can't be good all the time.

I also promised myself that I would finish a bunch of UFOs that were sitting around my house. I think I've done a few of those, but damned if I can find the spreadsheet I designed to track them. It must be here somewhere, probably under a pile of yarn. Every now and then I come across a UFO in the wild, under a pile of clean laundry, or behind a pile of books. I'm trying to corral them all and put them in one bin, so I'll be able to just open it up and say, "Well, I think I'll start knitting this old thing again." Well, it could happen.

Right, when pigs fly over the frozen wastelands of Hell, backwards.

*While that has really hit home (I actually don't have room for any more bins), I doubt it will preclude me from buying more yarn.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I left my computer at a friend's house the other night, and that night I had an inspiration for a blog post. Sadly, that inspiration is now in the dust.

But I'll try anyway.

I'm in the throes of making a lace shawl, with lace weight yarn on US 4 needles. I have stated that making lace gives me fits. This project is not different. It might be the way the pattern is written, with the last stitch on the line below (I often miss it). And you know, counting is hard! But I persevere. I find that my hands get very tense and sore after doing a single repeat of the pattern, which is only five rows, and two of those are all purls, but still, I find it more challenging than I like to admit. And of course I've signed up for a knit along for another shawl (which I might turn into a scarf for a man (it has a Dr Who theme)). But my friend Libby H. patiently encourages me, helps me fix mistakes, and generally keeps me sane.
It doesn't look like much, but then most lace doesn't while it's still on the needles and before it's blocked.

I'm still flogging away at the honey cowls. I've just attached the second skein of yarn to the third cowl, which is looking pretty damn fabulous. Betty Draper's Blues is probably my favourite colourway from Tosh, followed by Fathom, and then everything else. I'm wondering how one of the more colourful Malabrigo yarns would look as a honey cowl. Must keep that in mind.
I'm sure that anyone reading this is as tired of honey cowls as I am. OK, I'm not tired of them (yet), but probably will be long before I reach number 12.

I currently have three projects on the needles that I'm hard at work on. The lace shawl and honey cowl mentioned above, and an Irish Hiking Scarf in Tosh Scarlet. (It really should be Scarlet!)
I should make on of these for myself some day. I like the pattern, and this is the fifth time I've cast it on.

It is my determination to work on each of these projects every day. I want to do one iteration of the shawl pattern every day. I want to do several iterations of the pattern on the scarf. And I want to finish as many rows on the cowl as humanly possible. Channeling Bob the Builder, "Can he do it? Yes he can!"

I don't think so.
But I'll give it a helluva try.