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Archive for July, 2008

Hidcote Garden Shawl

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A new shawl!

This is the Hidcote Garden Shawl, by Miriam Felton. I knit it with some cobweb-weight bamboo silk yarn which is made by Habu, a Japanese company that DSCN0147makes the most interesting yarns. They make yarns with metals, paper, and even fruit! The bamboo silk was totally lacking in elasticity or bounce, which made certain types of decreases difficult, but after I found the right project, it became most cooperative. I used two 574 yard skeins for this shawl, and size 2 US (3.0 mm) needles – a somewhat fine gauge for a project this large.

The final results were well worth the wait.

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The finished, blocked shawl is 84″ across, 42″ long, and gossamer-thin. I wore it this morning and it was fabulous – cool enough for a 103 degree day, but just enough to make me feel that my shoulders were covered enough for lunch at Siena. (Lunch was very, very good! Fresh, handmade pasta and sausage, goat cheese, a tomato sauce that was just spicy enough to be interesting without setting my mouth on fire, and all for a decent price!)

Onwards to my next shawl!

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Rain

We had some rain yesterday, courtesy of the recent hurricane. It made for a nice day, sitting inside and knitting. We hadn’t had any substantial rain for a while; our lawn turned crispy a few weeks ago. The lawn service came to mow it this morning. This is only the second time all year the grass has needed to be cut!

The main focus of my attention is still the Hidcote Garden Shawl, in Habu bamboo laceweight. The yarn has certainly been interesting to work with. The DSCN01381 bamboo “silk” has certain qualities which are similar to regular, worm-produced Bombyx silk – it has a lovely drape and sheen and retains a block quite well. It is also relatively inelastic, which as I’ve noted before, makes certain stitches difficult and has influenced my choice of pattern. Unlike regular silk, it remains quite crinkly until it is blocked, as you can see in the photo. The lace patterns aren’t quite as easy to see at this point; the fiber acts more like wool in this regard. I have also discovered that this yarn has a tendency to knot easily. I spend about 40 minutes yesterday untangling a huge DSCN0141 knotty mess, when a portion of the ball I am currently working with slid off the main ball prematurely. Although I was able to resolve that knot successfully, other knots have not been as easy, meaning that I have had to break yarn a few times and add additional joins to the work – not so fun.

I’ve included a photo of the border against my hand to show the scale of the work. I’m working this shawl on size 2 US (3 mm) needles. Despite the small gauge, it will be quite a large shawl, which explains why it is not done despite the fact that I am knitting several hours a day on it. For a triangular shawl, this sucker has a lot of stitches!

DSCN0142 My tatting has also been progressing, and is beginning to look a bit more respectable. I printed out some tatted snowflake patterns the other week ago, only to discover that tatted snowflakes aren’t the easiest patterns out there. So, I’ve had to backtrack a bit and I’m working on an edging. In line with the grand tradition of tatting, I’ve ordered some handkerchief blanks from Lacis to edge.

 

Despite the recent spate of +100 degree days, I’m still bicycling around town quite a bit, and therefore still running into odd bicycle racks that don’t want to 0723081514b cooperate with either my bike’s frame geometry or my locks. Here’s a recent one from the Arboretum, a shopping center which is quite close to my house. Is this rack perhaps meant to be modern art of some sort? I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much – most of the strip malls, including the Arboretum Market across the street, don’t have anywhere safe to lock up at all, which has put a bit of a dent in my usual shopping habits.

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105

Yesterday, the high temperature was 105 degrees. I think that this is the warmest that the weather has been since we moved to Texas two years ago. So, of course, I was running around town on my bicycle. I went to Hill Country Weavers to pick out some mitten yarn (because nothing makes you think “I need mittens” like 100+ degree weather!) and had a nice lunch at Whole Foods. Then I took the bus home.

Mittens are actually excellent hot weather knitting because there are no layers of fabric to sit in your lap and make you feel hot. Socks are also good for hot DSCN0128 weather. I finished a sock a few days ago. This is out of the Holiday 07 issue of Interweave Knits (the one that is totally sold out and now out of print).  I’m using Lorna’s Laces sock yarn, on size 0 DPNs. I’ve worked with this yarn before, and really enjoy it. The solid colors have a nice depth to them, and the sock is quite comfy. I have found that wool socks are excellent for hiking, especially in hot weather, because they absorb sweat so well and do not give me blisters. Dry, pain-free feet!

DSCN0130Word from my mother is that she is now allowed to wear lace-up shoes on both feet! Therefore I have cast on her other sock, so she can have a matching pair.

 

 

 

My current shawl has assumed that amorphous blob-shape that all large shawls seem to assume at some point. I am making this shawl with a bamboo laceweight yarn from Habu. I love the drape and texture of this yarn. The DSCN0133 blocked swatches feel like water in my hand – light, smooth and cool. Actually knitting with the yarn has been a bit of a pain. This is my third attempt at wringing a shawl out of it. The first shawl was not a good fit to the yarn – the stitches required a manipulation that the yarn did not want to deliver. The second shawl was going swimmingly, until I realized that I only had about half of the yardage required. The yarn is a bit expensive, so I declined to buy more of it and frogged the shawl. Shawl #3 is the Hidcote Garden Shawl, designed by Miriam Felton. I have made some of her other shawls before, and her patterns are very good.

Being such an avid shawl-knitter, and therefore also a shawl-wearer, I’ve been looking for a nice shawl pin for some time. Those who know me well know that Copy of DSCN0125I’m a bit picky about my jewelry and have a very definite style that I like to go for. Poking around on a knitting message board one day, I saw a reference to this site which has many lovely pins for a very reasonable price. After several  days of checking the mail for a package and finding only disappointment, today my pin arrived! It looks even nicer in person than it did on the website. Now I’m going to have to find somewhere air-conditioned to go hang out, so I can wear a shawl and use my new pin! Maybe a trip to another yarn store is in order…

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On my way to go camping back in June, I stopped in at Rosewood Yarns in Boerne. I had been there once before, with some friends, but we were on a timeline, so I didn’t really get to see much of the shop.

This time, I had all day and could stay as long as I wished. I surveyed the yarn, fondled some fiber, gazed longingly at a Russian supported spindle, and glanced skeptically at a lace flyer that would fit my spinning wheel… maybe not. For $160, I can treadle faster. Where I got sucked in at was the books. Not the largest book selection I’ve seen, not by any means, but I was impressed by the variety – the shop has many books which I had not seen before. There were fewer beginning knitting books, and many more volumes about advanced lace and colorwork. There were books on tatting! And thread crochet! I hadn’t DSCN0114learned to tat yet (an omission which I have since remedied) but a Japanese book full of thread crochet doily patterns soon found itself going camping with me.

Now, I don’t read the first word of Japanese. However, I’ve always heard wonderful things about the virtues of Japanese charts. Crochet has a standardized international chart system. Believe it or not, this book, which is entirely in Japanese (I’m not even sure what the title is) is easier to work out of than most patterns which are written out longhand in English.

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I finished up my first doily from the new book this week. The pattern I chose was really a centerpiece, but I got a little bored with it, so I picked a good stopping point, added a simple picot border, and called it a doily. It is about 14″ or 15″ across. Hunching up over the ironing board to pin out every single little picot wasn’t so fun (as my back likes to remind me, I’m not 18 anymore!) but it came out looking quite good. After it was all dry, I gave it a very light coat of starch, wrapped it gently in tissue paper, encased it in some strong cardboard, taped it up, and took it to the post office on the back of my bicycle. Now it’s on its way to Wisconsin, to live with someone who’s always been very nice to me!

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A sock for Mom

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I’m sure that everyone who knows my mother is aware that she broke her foot a while back. When I talked to her the other day, she seemed a little down and discouraged about it. She is tired of wearing one shoe everywhere and unhappy about missing prime golf weather. She also mentioned that on chilly days she has been wearing a cut-off sock toe on her broken foot, because she can’t put a whole sock on.

So, to cheer her up, I knit her one sock, plus a toe cover.

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(Don’t you just love my “I bicycle everywhere in Birkenstocks” tan lines?)

This is the O’Socks pattern from The Sock Journal, which is published by HeartStrings Fiber Arts. Mom had pointed out that pattern and mentioned that she really liked it some time ago. Once I learned to cable without a cable needle, the pattern was a piece o’ cake. I subbed in a twisted rib cuff and eye of partridge heel, lengthened the heel flap slightly, adjusted the gusset pickups accordingly, and used my standard toe instead of the spiral toe suggested in the pattern.

I used some Louet Gems 100% merino sport weight sock yarn and size 2 needles for a 52-stitch sock that knit up a lightning speed – I cast on and had both the DSCN0057sock and toe cover finished in less than 24 hours.

This sock yarn is awesome. Mom was surprised to hear that the sock is made out of wool – it is that soft and comfy. The yarn is lofty and has fabulous stitch definition – the gusset decreases cut a truly sharp diagonal line, and the cables really “pop” out from the backround. 

I used just slightly over half of one skein of yarn for the sock. I bought two skeins – I’ll make up the other sock in the next few days and mail it to Mom when she gets done with her “boot” and can wear two regular socks and shoes again. I’m thinking that if I buy a third skein, I could make a whole ‘nother pair of socks. I’d like to extend the cable pattern all the way down the top of the foot. I’ll have to adjust some stitch counts and maybe do some more tinkering, but it should be fun.

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Knitting is a fairly useful craft. Sweaters, socks, even lace shawls – they are all fairly functional. Crochet, not so much. I have a crocheted snood that I wear on a regular basis, and some crocheted socks that are quite comfy, but most crochet is relegated to decorative function only.

Tatting – now I haven’t quite figured out what is is useful for. At least it is easy! It is also quite cheap. High-quality mercerized cotton thread for tatting and crochet generally doesn’t run more than a few dollars a ball (this is what initially attracted me to thread crochet as well) and basic tools are fairly inexpensive as well, although antique and vintage tatting shuttles can go for quite a bit. Yep, you guessed it: I spent my weekend learning to tat.

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Speaking of thread crochet – a few weeks ago I picked up a Japanese book full of thread crochet patterns, mostly doilies. The book have so little English that I’m not even sure what the title is, although I can tell that the designer’s name is Ondori. I can tell you that the international crochet chart symbols are everything they’re cracked up to be. The patterns are beautiful and the charts wonderfully easy to read! It is the kind of book that makes one want to sit around and make doilies all day.

I’m also on something of a spinning kick. I’ve spun quite a bit here and there, mostly sampling the differentDSCN0066 types of fibers available, but not generally enough of anything to do a project with. A few nights ago, however, I finished and skeined about 200 yards of heavy two-ply laceweight in a 50/50 merino-tussah silk blend that I bought from Lynn’s Texas Fibers while at Kid ‘N Ewe last fall. The fiber is lovely and silky, and as you can see from the photo I’ve spun and plied it quite loosely in order to preserve that lofty silkiness.

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Lest anyone think I’ve been slacking off in the knitting department, I also have to show Attempt #3 at making a shawl out of my Habu bamboo laceweight. My first and second pattern selections refused to play nicely with the yarn, so now I am seeing how it goes with the Hidcote Garden Shawl. So far, so good… which is what I said regarding the first two projects… I really do like the yarn. Knit up, it has a drape and flow that is like nothing so much as water, and should make a nice shawl for hot summer days.

DSCN0067I’m also on another pair of socks, of course, even though we are well out of sock-wearing season. This pattern is out of the Holiday 07 Interweave Knits. This is my second project out of that issue, which was quite good and sold out very fast. I guard my copy very carefully, and intend to make a few more things from it still.

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Seen from my bike:

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A hang gliding class! You can’t tell from the photo, but they are at the top of a nice hill. I’ve seen this class a few times now, either standing at the top of the hill, or hauling the glider back up from the bottom. One of these days maybe I’ll actually see someone in flight!

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