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Archive for September, 2007

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Yes, I admit it. I have a lace addiction.

At least I’m addicted to something safe, cheap and moderately wholesome. I could be addicted to expensive jewelry, or narcotics, or driving fast on the highway. The worst thing I’m going to do to myself while in the throes of lace-making is poke myself in the thumb with the sharp implement of the day. Some of those crochet hooks have been known to draw blood.

Above is the beginnings of what hopefully will be the Lightweight Mountain Peaks Shawl, by Mirian Felton. I say “hopefully” because I’m all but tearing my hair out over the thing. I am working it in a yarn called “Graceful” from The Yarn Place. I wouldn’t have named it “Graceful.” I would have labeled it as a vasoconstrictor. It’s certainly making my blood pressure rise. I’ve torn the blasted thing out at least 6 or 7 times already. I couldn’t tell if it was the pattern or the yarn that was giving me grief, until I swatched the pattern with some trusty Zephyr. This yarn is the tool of the devil. You wouldn’t believe the language I employ while knitting with it.

 Of course, I’m not doing the sensible thing and putting it away to rest. No, I’m determined that I will master it and make it into something beautiful. That, or I’ll use it as kindling.

My frustration with the not-so-Graceful means that I haven’t been knitting so much lace lately, and therefore starting to show withdrawl symptoms. I think that the owner of the local yarn shop knows this, because she has strategically positioned the laceweight yarn so that it is staring me in the face from my usual spot at the table. In the middle of the rack sat a skein of Baruffa Cashwool, all 1400 yards of it, in the most lovely periwinkle color.

The store staff had already regaled me with a sordid tale of a skein of Baruffa that jumped off of the ball winder and rolled across the floor earlier that day, so I knew better than to ask anyone to wind it. So, I brought it home and spent about 40 minutes last night winding… and winding… and winding…

Halfway through the skein, the yarn snagged and broke. It’s OK; the ball was already about as large as I like them, and half the skein is probably just enough for another Icarus.

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It’s quite fine, and looking just lovely on the needles. Nice and satisfying to knit with, not like Graceless above.

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 I’m doing “Icarus” again because I need something mindless that’s easy on the hands. I think that this one will be going up to my mother – I thought of her right away when I saw that periwinkle.

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Pattern: “Tiffany,” from Knitty.

Materials: Knitpick’s Merino Style. 2 skeins each of colors Vanilla and Maple, and 1 skein each of Coal and Fog.

Needles: Size 2 DPNs.

Cast-on: May 2007

Finished: September 12, 2007

When I saw last winter’s edition of Knitty, my eye was immediately drawn to these mittens. However, I live in Texas. Winter lasts for 2 weeks here. So I started thinking, “Who could use a nice pair of mittens?” I knew from the mittens I made for my husband that knit mittens in stranded colorwork would be very dense, warm and somewhat waterproof. So then I thought about his mother, who lives in Green Bay. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Green Bay gets cold. The very first time I visited his family, I think it was 17 degrees below zero (no exaggeration). So I called my MIL, asked her what colors she wanted, and ordered the yarn.

The pattern is so very pretty. I knit a bit under gauge, so they are about 11″ long – long enough to overlap with her coat sleeve and keep out the wind and snow. What I did not like about the pattern was the incredible number of floats. On some rows, I was twisting the yarn every 4 stitches or thereabouts. I know, I know, I could catch the float on the back of a stitch, but I’ve tried that, and it shows, and I’m a perfectionist, so I can’t deal with that. I also dislike the afterthought thumb. This is the first time I’m done such a thing, and I’m not sold on it. It was easy enough to knit, but because there is no gusset section below the thumb, the mitten feels tight at the base of my thumb, where my hand widens. This could partially be due to my long fingers and thumb, which might be putting the widest part of my hand in the wrong portion of the mitten. I’m thinking of designing my next pair of mittens, so it’s good to know these things – adding a thumb gusset should be easy enough.
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To block the mittens, I stuffed the tops and thumbs with plastic grocery bags, and then inserted a beer can into the body of the mitten. Beer cans are just the right size! No, I don’t drink Schlitz. Ugh. We keep the Schlitz around for marinating bratwurst. I would, however, be happy to make a set of mittens for the first person who can arrange for a case of Molson Golden to arrive on my doorstep. We can’t get Molson Golden down here, and my husband and I miss it. I’m making do with Harp.

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I wish, I wish, I wish that I could take a decent photograph of this shawl.

Alas, it is not to be.

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Pattern: Icarus Shawl, by Mirian Felton, published in Interweave Knits, Summer 06.
Materials: Claudia’s Handpainted Yarns, Silk Lace, color “Woodland Moss.”
Needles: Size 3 circular
Cast on: May 26, 2007
Finished: June 26, 2007

I can’t say enough about the yarn. The colorway is beautiful. I had the skein (all 1,100 yards of it!) wound into a center-pull ball, and it looked like spun gold. The silk is soft, lustrous and smooth, everything that silk should be. I took it home to pet it for about a week before I did anything else.

Being silk, it blocks ridiculously well. I blocked my swatch and then put it through my usual test: dropped it in the bottom of my knitting bag and left it to rattle around for a month. I forgot it was there, pulled it out one day, and it looked like I had just knit and blocked it that morning. I pinned and spritzed both the swatch and the finished shawl to block.

Do you know how strong silk is? It is one of the strongest natural fibers. Spider silk has a tensile strength comparable to steel. A few weeks ago, I visited someone’s house while wearing this shawl. He had a little dog. The dog jumped up on me, and his dewclaw caught the edge of my shawl. The poor dog! He yelped and cried and couldn’t get free no matter how much he struggled. We finally got him detached and then everyone looked at the shawl, very panicked. We couldn’t even find where he got caught. The shawl is fine. The dog was quite unhappy. (He recovered quite quickly and 10 minutes later was running around like nothing had ever happened.)

The pattern is straightforward; most of it is stockinette. The only trouble I had was when the weather was warm and my hands began to sweat, because the yarn clung to my fingers instead of sliding through as it should.

This colorway is lovely. Greens and golds and browns, just the thing to go with red hair. As I already said, I can’t get it to photograph well. I did use a cropped photo, in sepia, for the header of this blog. Here’s another photo a friend took while we were shopping one day:

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Why yes, that is a knitting needle you see in my hair! It’s a size 8 Clover bamboo DPN. If you would like to view a tutorial on this hairstyle, please visit this page of my blog.

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