What a mess of a post that last one was! I know you certainly don’t read this blog for the sake of correct grammer and good spelling, but I hope to entice you back by good photography at least. I even missed the mark on that for the last post. Whilst I figure out the technological ins and outs of posting iphone photos, let me try to lure you back with something I do know quite a bit about, knitting.
The wee one has been benefiting a lot from my knitting lately. The past few months everything that has been wrapped around my needles has been intended for her. It’s hard not to knit for little ones. You don’t need much yarn, they aren’t yet that particular about the way they dress and all the pint sized knitting patterns are so adorable, it takes great effort not to try them out.
A few years ago I tried knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket for an expecting cousin. If you aren’t as deeply delved into the knitting world, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket is a bit of a legend. It’s a lesson in trust. Unlike today’s modern knitting patterns with lots of pictures and very detailed information, this pattern, as it’s displayed in her book, is a photocopy of a typewritten newsletter. Very bare bones in instruction, you have to place great trust in the few words she wrote. And the dear thing knits out to become the strangest looking piece of knit wear you’ve ever seen. Then carefully, after you’ve finished, she gives a general hint of how to fold this bit of wool origami, stitch together two seams and wha-la, you have a sweater. It’s a bit of a miracle if you ask me. The sweater as instructed is for newborns to one year olds approximately. But one inventive lady figured out how to make it toddler sized and so I followed her lead. My ravelry notes.
Then the wee one asked for a pink sweater. A cotton candy pink sweater. Uhg. I think the color pink is very nice, but in small doses. I mail ordered this yarn and it turned out much too pink for me to bear, so I held it double with a purple silk/mohair blend and it became much more tolerable. I love this In Threes pattern. I’d never made a short sleeved sweater before, but I’m glad I did it. It will keep her little core warm while leaving her busy arms to move freely in her classroom and outside.
The last, the Ice Cream Sundae, was inspired by Soulemama’s version and a trip to my favorite yarn store, which had just the right colors for it. In the end, I don’t know that it’s my favorite sweater, but with vintage sparkly buttons, my little girl feels very special wearing it, which is all that counts. And look here, another short sleeved sweater for her to add to the closet.
(the hint of dress you see is an Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress, which appears to be out of print, in vintage found-in-my-grandma’s-sewing-stash-fabric.)
Now on my needles is a rusty fall colored yarn that I’ve been waiting for autumn to knit with. Perfectly timed with Taproot‘s newest issue with a barn sweater knitting pattern. Thank you Taproot! And this one, it’s all for me!
A year and a half ago I started Niger Hollyhock seedlings in hopes of dyeing with them. I ended up with about six plants, three of which blossomed, one that was incredibly happy, sent up many stalks and bloomed proficently (you can see them in the garden here). For months I collected the blossoms and dried them on my desk. Late last week, fed up with a desk full of dried blossoms, I decided to take the plunge and make up the dye. I had high hopes that this would yield me a beautiful blue, and it did, sort of. As you can see, I got two different colors, a blue on the left and a, well, what color is that? Greige? That’s because I divided the dye up into two batches. Half of my yarn was mordanted in alum and that was what took on the blue-ish color. The color on the right came from being dyed in a copper pot, which also acts as a sort of mordant (mordant being what makes the wool able to properly absorb the hold onto the dye.). What was most interesting is that at the last moment I dropped in a bit of left over yarn from a previous project that was 80% wool & 20% silk into the alum dye bath. That yarn soaked up the dye just beautifully! From now on, I know to use a mixed wool/silk yarn for any dyeing I do.
Already the blue yarn on the left is on the needles being knit into new fingerless gloves to replace my roadkill gloves.
85 dried niger hollyhock blossoms soaked in water overnight. Premordanted half the yarn in alum. Divided the dye into two, one half going into a non-reactive metal pot, the other into a copper bowl put over a simmering pot of water. Placed presoaked yarn into the pots as the dye water was heating up. Left all to simmer for about two hours. Turned heat off, let sit together for another hour, took the yarn out and let it sit for 20 minutes before rinsing it (as instructed by Harvesting Color) and letting it dry.
I finished Relax the other week. You may have remembered that I have been working on this knitting project since early November. The stockinette knitting seamed to go on and on without end. This winter I was able to take a great chunk of time to sit and devote to knitting and through that I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that it’s finished, I’m so happy with it. It’s a boxy fit, which it totally freeing as a knitter, because one main worry I always have when making a sweater is, ‘is this thing going to actually fit me?’ I didn’t have this worry this time. I love the drapey, loose fit. Totally worth all those months of stockinette. I might even make another….just maybe. If you are a beginning knitter or someone who loves a mindless knit (or mindful knit, depending on your mindset), you should certainly make this. It’s my favorite sweater at the moment.
(My apologies for the oh so serious self portrait in the mirror. I am absolutely am the worst at taking photos of sweaters I knit, most end up as badly cropped mirror shots.)
In other knitting news my son was playing out in the front yard by where we park our car last fall and found this in the bushes. Oh the horror! This is one of my fingerless gloves that like the above sweater I labored over for months upon months. A number of years ago my girlfriend and I took our kids up to Glen Ellen to Brookfarm Alpaca and I came home with this insanely soft alpaca yarn. And then I found this fingerless glove pattern that was insanely intricate. And knit on insanely small #1 needles. Should I ever go blind, all my blame will be placed on this knitting project! It’s no fault of the amazing yarn nor of the beautiful pattern. It was purely my fault for mixing fluffy charcoal colored yarn with an intricate pattern on a teeny tiny needle. The end result, much like the sweater above was divine. Alpaca might even be more luxurious that cashmere, those gloves were so soft. They were what I wore every cold morning. But now the left one was left as roadkill, probably fell out the car door one day last winter.
A new pair of fingerless gloves will go on the To-Knit list, but maybe I’ll either pick a smoother, light colored yarn for that pattern, or a simple pattern for that alpaca this time around.
I’m not quite ready. Each year I envision that I’ll have all my Christmas busy work mostly done in November, so that all of December I can easily move through the month, baking and decorating and listening to good holiday music. Every single year for about 7 years I’ve had that grand plan in place from January to October. Then November rushes by as fast as any month can with hardly a moment to prepare. This year I did pretty good. I didn’t fuss much over what to get anyone, I bought quickly and with firm decision. But there are always so many loose ends to finish up! Oy!
The kids opened their advent calendar the other morning and declared (that day) that there were only 8 more days until Christmas Eve, which is when my entire back seized up and the countless loose ends went spinning through my head. Yesterday I woke up with excruciating pain bolting through my back thanks to the bolt of reality I was shocked with the day before. Nothing on my to-do list involved not moving, so I went about my day, but boy when those kids got in bed, I sat right down in that couch with a heating pad on my back and my knitting in hand. I’m still working on Relax, which is still a fitting name for a garment. The knitting work isn’t all that relaxing as you work back and forth working front and back separately. There’s a lot of purling involved, as much purling as knitting…and as I’ve said before, Elizabeth Zimmerman was right, no one wants to purl if they don’t have to. The Madeline Tosh yarn is incredible. Rain Water it’s called.
Yes, I’m reading Taproot, but I’m also reading Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. Though it’s the base of the movie by the same name, this book is actually a collection of three short stories, all which I’ve sunk right into. He’s certainly become on of my favorite story tellers. It’s amazing to me how good writers can combine words so beautifully.
We had a long series of freezing weather last week, which took a hard toll on our citrus. We must have had a hard freeze three years ago, right before we moved here, because the three citrus trees that were here looked dead when we moved in. Two came right back to life. The lemon tree especially. We babied that thing and this year it finally seemed to be thriving with hundreds of lemons all over it. And then the freeze hit this year. The poor thing. We wrapped with with both christmas lights and sheets. It will make it, but it sure does look pathetic now. The second unknown citrus was about to reveal it’s character to us as it had finally set fruit, but it took the brunt of the freeze and looks as dead as can be. The lime tree looks bedraggled and the kafir looks kaput. A tough winter for our citrus.
I’m joining in with Ginny’s knitting & reading today. After knitting my latest sweater, I hit a bit of a knitting lull. My fingers needed a break and when they were ready to start again, I went for small needles and a little colorwork. This Bayard beanie is a great hat project. I made another one of these last winter. It has just the right amount of slouch to it and has this neat design detail in the back that gives it character. If you haven’t tried working with two colors before, this is a good intro project since you don’t have to carry the second color in your left hand. You only work with one color at a time, there aren’t any tangles or confusion about which color should wrap around which finger.
That said, I’ve ripped this hat back three times. I’ve become somewhat of a knitting perfectionist in certain cases. What you see at top got ripped out and then reknit on Sunday at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. My oldest son and I went together specifically to see Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, the latter who I’ve adored since high school. We both brought our knitting and at one point as I looked around there were three other women knitting. Apparently we sat right down in the knitting section of the Banjo stage. Alas, concert knitting results in something that once again I had to rip out. Good thing it’s enjoyable knitting project.
As for reading, I’m reading Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. I read her book Animal, Vegetable Miracle a few years back and this is another work of non-fiction. It’s an older book, written after 9/11 happened. It’s beautiful! Just right for this season, I think.
Are you knitting or reading anything good these days?