Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday pattern roundup

I’m migrating the pattern roundup to Tuesdays, and keeping it on the small side – hopefully that means I’ll have time to write it every weekend!

Since the last roundup, new issues of Twist Collective and Knitty are out. Both have great patterns and you’ve probably been through them already. My favorites are Jennie Pakula’s Celandine, the Twist cover design, and Miriam Felton’s Anthemion wrap.

For this post, an assortment of mostly smallish projects – cozy sweaters that fill my lap aren’t what I feel like knitting in spring. First, an unusual new shawl pattern, the Leaflette shawl by Stormy Autumn Designs:

It’s a delicate tracery of twisted stitchwork on a purled background, plus a leaf lace border. I love lace combined with texture – what a beautiful design! Available as a Ravelry download for $4.00; uses 450-500 yards of fingering weight yarn.

Next, a brilliant little pattern for those one-off skeins of handspun, the Wabi-Sabi Handspun Mitts from Kristen TenDyke. These fingerless mitts with a turned-back cuff are designed to be knitted at the same time from two ends of a center-pull ball so you can use every bit of your yarn. Knitted flat and seamed up one side. Free download; uses about 100 yards at a gauge of 16 stitches to 4”.


Here’s a pretty cardigan for girls aged 2 – 12 years, Melissa LaBarre's Tiny Tea Leaves. It’s a sized-down version of the adult Tea Leaves Cardigan from Madelinetosh. Written for worsted-weight yarn, but I think it would make a beautiful baby sweater in a finer yarn. $4.00 download.

How about a summer hat? I love Roxanne Seabright’s Flower Frog Hat in Artfibers Bistro, a cotton/nylon ribbon yarn with chenille edges (although I might dispense with the embellishments). Uses 150 yards; knit it for $15 (the pattern is free). Worked in the round from brim to crown, stiffened by sewing the brim edge over a hoop of millinery wire.


Linden Heflin’s
pretty Fresh Mint is just the thing for summer – a stockinette tank with a bit of lace, in DK cotton. It’s worked top-down, beginning the the lace yoke sections – once they’re knitted, you join and knit the body down to the lower edge in the round. $5.00 download.


Until next time – enjoy!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Retreat, and the lure of spinning

My knit group retreat last weekend was short, but idyllic. There was a foot of snow on the ground in the Sierras, but the weather was sunny and gorgeous. Most of our Saturday was spent on the deck:

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Knitting was the excuse for the expedition, but there was also just lots of good company, great conversation – and delicious food and wine. What a blast!

I didn’t do much knitting (although I did finish binding off my Brandywine shawl), but my trusty wheel rode with me and I did do lots of spinning. First some plying to clear my bobbins:
Softly-spun merino-wool in lavender, silver-gray, and sheep’s black. I spun all of each color before going on to the next, then made a two-ply. Where the colors don’t match exactly, there are marled black-gray and gray-lavender transitions. I think it’ll make a nice color-banded hat or mittens.

Then I spun this Corriedale in three coordinating colors the same way (these flash photos are quite accurate):

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The fiber is from Royale Hare - a mixture of dyed and natural gray carded together, for a lovely, complex heathered effect. It has yet to be plied, but should make a nice slightly fuzzy worsted-weight 2-ply.

It’s time for me to tell you my spinning story. When I started knitting, I thought I should give spinning a try, and eventually I had a drop-spindle lesson from a friend a couple of years ago. It was a group lesson, and several folks were instant spinners. Not me – hopeless. With some relief, I decided I didn’t need to spin after all. One less enthusiasm to complicate life.

However. I’ve got a great virtual knitting group – we’re friends who’ve been talking knitting, and other things, for years online.  Many of the group are longtime spinning enthusiasts, and enablers par excellence. After that spindling lesson, I told them I’d been there, done that, no thank you very much. But they knew better. Last summer, a great deal on a preowned Matchless cropped up in the discussion. I seem to have expressed some interest, because before I knew it, the wheel was delivered to my door. As a surprise, the whole group got together to make it happen – and over the cliff I went.

Here’s Ms. Matchless on the day she arrived:


I still haven’t figured out what I did to deserve this incredibly generous gift, but it has proven to be the beginning of a love affair.

My day job is serious left-brain work. Indexing is reading, writing, and analyzing; often I’m thinking about abstruse, complicated topics like identity politics in the Caribbean or the emergence of modernity in the Middle East. Knitting is a great complement to the work I do, because it’s about handling real materials and making real objects. But knitting is just a little bit technical. The lure of spinning for me is that it’s so elemental and so different from my paying work.

A long time ago, I baked for a living for a few years. Knitting is like pastry making; spinning is like sourdough bread baking. Oh, I know, I could be a technical spinner – but I prefer to spin intuitively. It’s simple in some ways, but mysterious and complex in others – so there’s always something to learn. And when spinning, I feel connected to a tradition that goes back thousands of years. It’s satisfying in the same way it is to grow food, or make wine. In short, it makes me feel human.  So thank you, dear friends, for making this adventure possible.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Long time no see! I’ve been mired in book indexing work, and sick, and well…there hasn’t been time to blog.

There hasn’t been much knitting either. The two current shawl projects are both stalled. I started to bind off Brandywine, eager to block and wear it – and discovered an errant yarnover that I can’t live with:


It’s been sitting in time out ever since, but I’ve decided that designer Rosemary Hill is right – don’t ladder back and fix it, just bind off and sew it closed. Actually there’s another mistake you can see in the photo – but that one I’ll just live with.
Then there’s this one:


Miralda’s Triangular shawl
, in my own handspun (Targhee from A Verb for Keeping Warm). Love the pattern, but there are some nupps that need repairing, and I don’t have the patience for it right now. Not loving the quality of my yarn – I think it’s overplied – but will stick with it anyway.

There has been a little bit of spinning. I reward myself for finishing work quotas and taxes and the like with spinning time. I recently finished this skein of Lisa Souza BFL (in Aww-tum):

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and I’m working on this one:



This is some nameless wool/merino/nylon I was given in small quantities. The colors are related – a bit of the lavender runs through both the gray and the black, so I divided each color in half, and am spinning all of each color in turn. Hoping that they will come close to matching when plied, with some interesting marling at the transitions, and make a nice color-banded hat or something. I’m trying to teach myself to spin (and ply) a bit more softly.

I’ll be belting my wheel into the back seat of the car tomorrow – I’m off for a mini-retreat in the Sierras with a dozen friends from knit group. We’ve never done this before, but it’s going to be a great time!  Here’s what the cabin surroundings looked like a couple of days ago:


Looks like perfect knitting-and-spinning-by-the-fire weather to me - I’ll report next week! [ETA: no cell phone or Internet either. A true vacation!]  I hope to be bringing back the Pattern Roundup soon, and to have some Knitfinder news for you before long too.