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.

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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Like that Little Train

I've been dog sitting this week, and the time I would spend knitting (5:00 AM to 7:00 AM) has been spent getting ready for work and travelling, and I still get to work later than when I'm at home. So very little knitting has gotten done. I did finish Mike's scarf at knit night on Friday, but not much else has been done. When I get home on Sunday, I shall devote the following six days to making Tim's scarf (same yarn, different colour), attempting to knit 10 inches each day. Like The Little Engine that Could,

The other knitting I've brought along with me while dog sitting is what will probably turn out to be the last of the Honey Cowls (number six!). In Madeline Tosh Vintage (as opposed to DK), the colourway is Tart. That always makes me laugh. I'd show a picture, but I'm only about eight rows from casting on, and it doesn't look like much except a tangled schmatta on circular needles. But I think it will be gorgeous when done.

I'm still trying to determine a pattern for my niece's scarf. I like Malachite (free pattern on Ravelry) by Alina Appasova. It looks like this (please note that I did not knit this sample, that I ganked the photo from the Ravelry page):
My only worry is that it would knit up slowly because of all the single stitch cables. But it is lovely! The niece is in her Freshman year in college, and is in New York's snowbelt, so I know it's going to get cold and that she'll need some warm and wooly things to keep her from freezing. I've got the yarn to make her several cowls (I kinda went crazy during the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl), and not all of it is green (her favourite colour). She needs to have some variety.

I really am feeling confident that I can pull it all off (well, the revised knittery), and finish this cowl, two more scarves, a sweater, and then three more cowls. Like the picture above says, I think I can, I think I can!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Progress and other musings

Life, and posting, would be so much easier if only I had internet access at home. But I don't, and we are entering the season when cafes which provide internet are closing earlier so I don't have enough time to bang one of these puppies out. The tribulations of modern life. O spite! O hell!

Enough whining. I am almost done with the first of the two scarves I'm making for Tim and Mike. I ended the first skein on Mike's scarf the other day, and added the second yesterday morning. I reckon it will be about five feet long when done. I am also going much slower than I had projected.

I wonder about my inability to accurately reckon how long something will take me, or how much time in a given week I'll have to knit. I also don't figure on fatigue from sitting in a tailor position for a long time, which is usually how I sit on my bed at home where I do most of my knitting.

Trying to get a handle on this, I realised that the first half of the scarf was 30 inches long. So if the second skein will produce the same length, then I have to knit 10 inches each day to finish with a five foot scarf. I was able to knit the requisite 10 inches yesterday, and this morning before leaving for work, I was able to knit 30 rows, which is about five inches. So, another 30 rows before bed, and I'll be on track for this project today. If I can knit up another 60 rows tomorrow, I'll have it done, and can embark on the next project, which is the mate to this scarf, only in purple.

I am pretty sure I can get everything done before it's all supposed to be done. I am calm, I am collected, I am cucumberesque. No, really. Because I still have almost two months before Christmas, and three of the cowls don't need to be done until mid-January. And I'm confident. I am. Really.

I just wish I were independently wealthy so I could devote more time to knitting.

I am determined that next year I'm not going to do this to myself, and that I am actually going to knit some things for myself. I want to make a few sweaters, and actually use the yarn in my stash to do it (though I saw some awesome blue tweed yarn from Scotland that looks like it would make an awesome sweater). I also want to knit myself a traditional Aran sweater, in that creamy Irish yarn that is redolent with lanolin.

Next year will be the year of selfish knitting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Yarn Gets Notional

What happens when the gorgeous, expensive, silky-merino yarn you bought for a project (two, actually, scarves for a soon-to-be-married couple) fights you even while you're casting on? I tried casting on this afternoon and couldn't get the right number of stitches, the yarn kept splitting when I tried to knit it, and this was after trying to cast on six different times.

I have heard it said, by knitters who are much more experienced than I, who are, in fact, better knitters than I will ever be (which doesn't mean I don't try to push my limits, but I'm still scared stupid by Estonian lace), who are adamant in their belief that if the yarn doesn't want to be the project you intend for it to be, then it won't happen. And if it does happen, then it will be a long road of sorrowful knitting.

As an atheist, I have a hard time giving agency to yarn (never mind the Universe, so don't let's talk about karma, 'kay?). It's an inanimate object. I bought it to knit up some scarves for my friends, and while I have a pretty limitless stash, I don't have the right colours (purple for him, and red for him) in the same type of yarn. (Yes, I'm making matching scarves: fibre, pattern, number of stitches. Deal with it.) I could buy more yarn, but I'm trying to de-stash, not re-stash. But back to my main point (yes, I do have one). Does the yarn tell us what it wants to be? What if we want it to be one thing, and it wants to be something else? Who wins? I mean, I paid good money for this stuff, and to have it be so recalcitrant is quite unnerving. Can it be balky, and not take the shape we want for it? If I don't knit this stuff up into the scarves I'm planning, then I really won't have any use for it. I have four skeins, two in each colour, and I got the last two of the purple. Returning it is not an option, since one skein of each colour has been wound (and cast on, and cast on, and cast on, and cast. . . well, you get the picture). I want to know just who this yarn thinks it is that it can be so defiant and not knit up into what I picture it to be, nice warm scarves for people I care about. If yarn can get notional about what it wants to be knit up into, what happens when I buy enough of something to make a sweater, and it decides it really wants to be a shawl? Cheeky.

I will admit that I was having a bad day, and while I was knitting with the small group, one of the knitters was being very unsure of her project and kept asking me about yarn choices, pattern choices, needle choices, methods of felting (about which I am no expert, having felted only once, not that she was making a felting project, and besides, she was knitting with a yarn that was 75% acrylic), and I probably should have realised that I was not going to get any of my own work done today and just focused on her questions (which is not my job, I know, but sometimes you just have to suck it up).

So maybe the yarn was not doing what I wanted it to do because I was having a bad day, and I was distracted by the questions of a not-really-newbie knitter who was anxious about her yarn choices (she doesn't understand my dislike (read: disdain) of yarns that are acrylic), and who wanted to talk about patterns while I was trying to count stitches I'd just cast on.

Or maybe the yarn really doesn't want to become a scarf for my friend, and I'm really screwed.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finished Object Friday!

I have two objects that were recently finished. I'd hoped to add a third (almost done with that damn scarf!), but alas! I still have about another five iterations of the pattern to go through. So I'll be done tomorrow. Feh.

This is the feather and fan scarf, knit in an intense purple (so why does every picture make it look blue?), from a handspun/hand-dyed yarn I bought in the Provincetown farmer's market when I was there in July. It is 60% merino, and 40% silk (and is splitty as all get out!). But it's pretty. The ends need weaving, and it wants blocking, but this is how it looks now.
It's five feet long, and I think it will keep the recipient quite warm.

This is the Honey Cowl, made from tussah silk, added to my stash last year, from the delightful and eclectic store The Artful Ewe, Port Gamble, WA. Tehis is a smokey grey, with highlights in green and yellow. 
The ends need to be woven, and it needs to be blocked. And I'm still not sure who is going to get it. But it sure is pretty.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cool as a Cucumber

I am calm. I am collected. I am cucumberesque.
I am calm. I am collected. I am cucumberesque.
I am calm. I am collected. I am trying not to freak the fuck out with all the knitting I want to get done before the holidays kick me in the nuts.

So I think I have it in hand. I'm knitting an Irish Hiking Scarf for my nephew in Malabrigo Rios, Ravelry Red. The texture is really different from the Madeline Tosh ones I've already made. I've forgotten how pleasant it is to knit with Rios.

I keep track of the rows by making a hash mark for each row completed, I am alternating colours for days: black on even days, red on odd. And measuring it at the end of each day. Since I have Thursday and Friday off this week, I hope to finish it before Saturday. I reckon I have about 18 more iterations of the pattern to complete.
This is the card where I'm tracking my progress.

I've divided the weeks of the month for each project. This week is the nephew's scarf.
Next week are the scarves for Tim and Mike, some friends of mine. I'll be doing the same pattern for them, and it's a fast pattern, so I reckon I'll get them done in a week.
The third week of October is for my niece's scarf. Not sure what I'm doing there, nor how long it will take.
The fourth week of October is for Kristen's cowl. Not sure of the pattern yet, but I do have the yarn.
The month of November is put aside for Brad's sweater, Steven's neck warmer ('cause he's a guy, it isn't a cowl), and maybe the fingerless gloves for Lauren and Rachael.
The first two weeks of December are put aside for the Grace Jones cowls for Maddy and Grace.
Steven's warmer and the cowls for Grace and Maddy can wait til January if they must, since I won't be seeing them until then.

I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Progress Report: three months before the holidays

It was Lao Tzu who said, "The journey of 10.000 miles begins with the realisation that 10.000 miles is one hell of a long journey."

OK, no he didn't. He did say, "The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step."
When I started my holiday knitting in March, I had ambitious plans. I made a list with a dozen cowls, half a dozen scarves, a sweater, a vest, and maybe even some hats.

It is the beginning of October, and I have admitted defeat. I am not going to complete 12 Honey Cowls by Christmas (I've done four, and have one on the needles!), and while I might get four more scarves done, it will be through sheer bloody mindedness. Plus the sweater on the needles that is almost half way done (well, I've got 18 inches of fabric, and need to get to 21 before I can indent for the armholes, then another 12 or 13 inches of knitting to finish just the back).

What have I accomplished thus far?

  • Four honey cowls
  • Two Irish hiking scarves
  • One bulky knit scarf
  • One feather-and-fan scarf
Eight items for about six-and-a-half months' knitting. 


The following projects and yarns are what I hope to accomplish before the holidays set in and when I'm done, I can sit down with a giant martini.

Scarves for Tim and Mike
Scrumptious Chunky by Fyberpates. Red for Mike, purple for Tim. I'm thinking a quick pattern of two rows of garter, two rows of 1x1 ribbing, repeat. It knits up fast and looks good. This stuff is 55% merino and 45% silk. 

Scarf for Michela
Juniper Moon Farm's Moonshine! At 40% wool, 40% alpaca, and 20% silk, this is rich and luxurious. I'm not sure what the stitch definition will be like, so I'll do a swatch. If the definition is good, I'll go for a cable scarf, maybe the Irish Hiking Scarf, by Adrian Bizilia (check out the Ravelry page, it's a free pattern!). I got this yarn on the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl, with a scarf for my niece in mind.

Scarf for Peter
Malabrigo Rios, in Ravelry Red! I know the stitch definition in this yarn is good, so I'm thinking of the Irish Hiking Scarf. I think my nephew would like it. I got this yarn at Quarter Stitch in New Orleans.

Cowl for Kristen
Madeline Tosh Vintage, colourway? Tart, of course! Not that Kristen is a tart, but she'll be vastly amused by the name of the colour. I would like to do a fast cowl for her, even though I really like the Honey Cowl, I think it might be too slow to knit (what with all the stuff I need to get done!). I'll look through Ravelry to find a decent pattern. This yarn is from Stitch House in Dorchester. I grabbed the last two skeins.

Cowls for Maddy and Gracie
More Moonshine from Juniper Moon Farms. I think Maddy likes purple, and Gracie likes teal (yes, that lower yarn is teal, though you can't tell from the picture). I got this on the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl, with these two young women in mind. I didn't have a pattern at the time, but I'm thinking the Grace Jones Cowl (see Ravelry, it's really cool!). 

Neck warmer for Steven
I have yarn. I have an idea for a pattern. I just don't know which yarn or which pattern. Steven doesn't like scarves, but he does like his neck to be warm. I have some beautiful orange yarn by A Hundred Ravens which might do well for Steve. Have to think about it.

Scarf for John
This beautiful hand spun black (undyed!) alpaca was gotten from one of the tents during Webs' Tent Sale. It's from Donna Young from Western Massachusetts. I think I have only 300 yards, so I have to think carefully about the pattern. I had wanted to do something with cables, but, first, I'm not sure John is a cable kind of guy, and two, I don't think I have enough to make a long enough cabled scarf with this. But it's soooo lovely!

And of course, the sweater for Brad
I've got about 18 inches of fabric here. It's Lamb's Pride Bulky, 85% wool, 15% mohair. It's fat yarn on fat needles, and it knits up right fast. I got it at Mind's Eye Yarns last January, right after our reunion. I started knitting it in July, but I think now that it's cooler, I'll enjoy it more.

Nine projects in three months? It took me just over six months to knit eight projects.
Can I do it?  Of course I can make it!

Which is why I'll need the a-fore-mentioned martini when I'm done!