Sunday, September 30, 2007

Small things.

The Tofutsie socks are done, and they look and feel great! The fabric is thinner than what most other sock yarns produced,which considering that they have a lot of cotton and soysilk in addition to the wool it's not surprising. I washed them in the morning and laid them on top of my dryer to block them, and was very surprised to find that they were completely dry by the time I came home from work that evening. I haven't worn them yet but anticipate that the thinness of the fabric will make them more adaptable to fitting into my shoes than most of my socks, which usually get relegated to being house socks. At least I can see and admire them that way instead of hiding them inside shoes!

I suddenly realized that it was getting to be time to start producing stuff to have for sale at the two sales I participate in each year. The earliest one is at the museum where I work; the HR department sponsors a crafts sale for employees to sell their wares to each other. I sell mostly hand-knit scarves and other knitted items, and hand-bound blank books and notepad covers. My best-selling item always ends up being fingerless gloves - my coworkers love them to keep their hands warm while typing in freezing cubicles on computers all day. The gloves are also popular with artists to help keep hands warm in unheated studios, etc.

I make them out of whatever yarn I have on hand, and especially enjoy using the limits of my stash to stimulate new ideas and styles. The versions shown here are my basic style - ribbing at the fingers and wrist, stockinette stitch for the body, and a buttonhole-like opening and a gusset for the thumb. The pairs shown here are basic sturdy tweeds in larger sizes that can fit a man or a woman with a large hand, which is why the one on my hand looks so ill-fitted - I have tiny hands so I have to remember to make a variety of sizes to suit a wide range of hand types.

The second sale I do each year is a holiday Open Studio that Thomas and I host in our live/work studio space. We first moved into this space in Vallejo in November 2002 so we hold the Open Studio each year as a celebration of another year together and in Vallejo. We are in the heart of the historic downtown district which was once a boomtown but now is slowly coming back after a serious decline precipitated by the US Navy closing the Mare Island Navy Shipyard. The shipyards were the primary reason for the town's existence for about 140 years, so the loss was significant for the community. The closure occurred before my move to Vallejo so I don't remember what it was like here prior to that but it has been very exciting to be a part of the downtown revival. So Thomas and I welcome all our friends and our now very large mailing list of people to the studio for refreshments, a showing of whatever artwork we have done in the past year, and my hand made items. This year will be our 5th anniversary in Vallejo so we're hoping to have a special celebration to mark the occasion.

By the way, I have abandoned the Einstein Coat for my niece. The gauge wasn't right for the pattern and I was having hideous problems trying to make the sizing work out for Madi, who is very tiny for her age anyway and the coat is sized as an oversize garment. So, I was juggling between the baby size and the 2-4 yr size and was just coming up with a mess. Supposedly the pattern makes the knitter feel like Einstein by making something so terrific out of very simple techniques but I was still distinctly in the raging idiot camp on this one. I yanked it out in a funk and hid the yarn back in my yarn trunk to wait until she's older to make her something out of it. Much older.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Newly finished and newly begun.

The circular vest is now done and even has been worn! Desdemona, my ever faithful mannequin, is modeling the vest for me here. She has a seriously Barbie-doll figure (unlike me these days) but for this garment it doesn't really matter what your shape is as long as the wearer has shoulders to hang the garment from. I wore the vest to work on Monday and it was a big hit from a visual point of view - the drape and flow of the back, especially, got a lot of attention.

However, the vest is a big circle, with the armholes created in a way that is easy to knit, but not necessarily in a shape or angle that is anatomically correct for the human female figure. In a forgiving fibre like wool the vest would probably be just fine; in a non-stretchy fibre like the silk I used it was OK, but every so often throughout the day I found one side down around my elbow instead of up on my shoulder. I pinned the fronts together with a brooch, which did help a lot to keep everything more or less where I wanted it to be.

My suggestion is that if you like the look of a lacy shawl, but find them to be too difficult to keep on, try this vest as an alternative. It has the look of a shawl but with the armholes it stays in place better, but due to the lack of figure-conscious shaping it's not quite a vest either. Think of it as a shawl with a place to put your arms.

Now that the vest is done I have begun a little sweater coat for my baby niece, who just turned 2 last week. Before her birth I bought some Koigu Kersti Merino Crepe in a blue and white colourway to make a blanket for her but for various reasons ended up using Dale of Norway's Baby Ull instead, and have had the Kersti yarn hanging around in the stash ever since. It's beautiful yarn, but it wasn't quite enough for a sweater for myself, and the dye lots on Koigu are so changeable I couldn't really get more that toned in well enough for my personal preferences.

I've been waiting for the right thing to come along to use for Madi (my niece) and finally put a few things together to come up with an idea. I had some adorable hand-made ceramic buttons with blue and white cat faces on them which were too big for a small baby, but now that Madi is two she's big enough for the buttons to suit her. I have wanted to make Sally Melville's Einstein Coat from her The Knit Stitch book for a long time; the yarn and the buttons all come together and will (if all goes according to plan) Madi's Christmas gift this year.

Along with all the knitting is some spinning. My back has felt better lately and I can spin for longer periods of time. During a visit with my Dad and stepmother last weekend at their home in the Sierra Mountains I took along my spinning wheel and the deep brown Perendale wool my Dad brought me from New Zealand and got a good start on spinning up a batch of it.

My Dad is an engineer and is fascinated with how things work, so it was a good project to take along as it kept me occupied and interested him as well. (Last year he made me a clock reel with a yardage counter which is absolutely wonderful for figuring winding off my finished yarn and knowing the yardage at the same time.) I plan to knit some pillows for their home with the finished yarn and have spun it with a bit more twist than I usually do so that the yarn won't be too soft and prone to pilling. All of the furniture in the house was built by my Dad and it just seems fitting to have handknit pillows from handpsun yarn on the couch and chairs.

One pillow will have a deer pattern (based on the Intricate Stag Bag design from Interweave Knitscene) and another based on Hawaiian tapa cloth designs, as my stepmother grew up in Hawaii and loves the arts of the Islands. Tapa cloth designs are traditionally black, brown and white so the deep brown wool plus the creamy merino my Dad also brought me from NZ will be very suitable.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Almost finished things.

At long last I finished knitting on the Pasticchio Circular vest (from and it's blocking now. I made the mistake of trying it on before I blocked it and wasn't thrilled with it, but as always happens during the process of blocking lacy things it became so much more beautiful once stretched out and opened up. The vest felt too small while it was still an unblocked, wrinkly, ugly little rag but I gained at least 6" in diameter once it was wet and stretched. It's now about 38" across. I'm taking off for a long weekend in the mountains with my folks so it will be dry by the time I come home - now I'm looking forward to trying it on again.

Earlier this week I started a pair of socks that I've been wanting to make for a while. The yarn is Tofutsies, which is a very fine, loosely twisted blend of superwash wool, cotton, soysilk, and chitin (made from crab shells). Therefore it's very smooth and silky, not wooly, and knits up into a thin smooth fabric. As I like lighter weight socks and get itchy easily it seemed like a great yarn to try. I've also been wanting to try out the Fool's Rush sock pattern from Too Much Wool. After looking at the yarn and the pattern more closely I realized that the elegant lace design down the leg and foot of the sock pattern wouldn't show up much in the variegated yarn I had chosen, so I ended up using the lace ribbing from the cuff for the entire sock. It's a very pretty lace pattern and with only 5 st/4 rw to a repeat it's very easy to work. As Ms. Too Much Wool pointed out, that's quite a change from the pattern so I'm not sure I can honestly say I'm making the Fool's Rush pattern at all, but her love of lace is what got me interested, so I feel she and her pattern deserve the credit for getting me started, at the very least!

The ball band claims a gauge of 8 st per inch on US size 2/2.75 mm needles - with my loose tension it took US sz 0/2mm needles to get 8 st per inch. Admittedly I don't do a swatch for socks - they're small enough I just launch into them with my best guess for needle size and check how the sizing is coming out later. I don't often even check to see what gauge I did get - I just try the sock on and if I like the fit I keep going; if I don't like it I start over. I wouldn't have checked the gauge on this one if I weren't blogging about it right now.

So one sock is done, and the 2nd will wait until next week when I'm back to work and commuting again. Socks are better as commuter projects for me than a being with family project when I need something even more mindless than even a simple lace rib. There's always lots of talking while I'm there and I'm much too likely to screw the thing up. Instead I'm taking my spinning wheel and a bunch of beautiful deep brown Perendale wool that my Dad brought me from New Zealand last year (he bought a whole kilo - about 2.25 pounds - plus another kilo of luscious creamy white merino - yum). I can spin and talk with no problem, and I'm planning on knitting some pillows for them from the wool once I've spun enough. Not sure yet what they will look like but we shall see........

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sad news.

This Sunday's post will be a short one. While I finished the chemo cap for my friend and mailed it off yesterday, I just heard that she passed away late last night. While it means that I was too late for my gift to benefit my friend, the making of it still helped me through a rough week, and I will ask her family to pass the cap along to someone else at the clinic where she was being treated.

The finished cap was exactly what I was looking for. In case anyone else reading this has a need to make a chemo cap for someone they care about here's some pictures and information about what I made.

I used the Striped Chemotherapy Cap by Essle Woods Bruell, found in the free pattern section on It's knitted in 2 colours of Esprit elasticized cotton yarn (elann's version of Cascade Fixation) and as I had 2 balls left over from the several pairs of socks I made a few months ago and the colours were perfect for my friend, it was a great choice (the photos are somewhat grayed out - the colours are actually a deep teal green and a lighter soft teal).

The cap was knitted sidewise in garter stitch, using short rows to shape the crown and mitre the stripes. It looks better in reality than in the picture.

It's knitted wide enough to be able to roll the brim up a couple of times, giving a nice full roll around the face. The stretchy cotton is very terry-cloth like - soft, cushy and very stretchy. I will definitely make this cap again for some sad reason I have need of another one.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Love, healing, and other knitterly thoughts.

I have been thinking a lot lately how, for me, knitting can convey so much love and a sense of healing. Whether I am knitting a hat for a soon to be born baby, or a birthday gift for a dear friend, or a chemo hat for someone with cancer, I can express so many of my cluttered, unformed, and wordless thoughts and feelings by the act of knitting. In many ways the final completed object and the act of giving it are secondary; it's what goes on in my head and heart that matters the most to me. Still, I do think in some way those good thoughts go into the knitting and are passed on to my recipient. So today's post is a brief list of some of the ways I've been trying to heal, show love and caring, and to help in some small way when it is needed - all through the small act of knitting.

A recent post on Interweave Knits Knitting Daily blog had a pattern for knitted stuffed animals (Knitted Cuddlies,; look in their pattern library) along with a story about how the Sandi (the Knitting Daily blogger) had recently lost her cat, and had made the knitted cat design from the pattern as a means of solace for the loss of her cat. An outpouring of comments including many stories about recently departed and deeply-missed kitties (including one from me for my beloved Inky, who died last January) showed how closely Sandi's story matched many of our own lives. I have a young friend who is in many ways like a little sister to me who's going through a really rough time, and has expressed interest in getting a cat to help her through some of it (a similar situation is why I had gotten Inky 13 years ago) so I made her a knitted kitty to help keep her company and to use as a "test cat" for a while. I hope it will help her, but knitting it certainly helped me to do something positive with the concern I am feeling for her right now.

Another friend is having a birthday today, so I made her a flower-shaped washcloth from cotton chenille. The pattern is from Weekend Knitting and I've wanted to try it for a long time. It's very easy and went so quickly I will definitely make more. I sent it off on Friday wrapped up with a bar of lavender soap (the chenille was purple) and forgot to take a picture before sending it so no photo for this one.

For another project, a young woman who rides the same ferry I do to work is expecting twins - a boy and a girl - in early November. She and her mother, who also rides the ferry, are very excited about the new babies and their pleasure is so joyful, so full of love, and so contagious that I wanted to share in it and celebrate it just a bit. I am making hats for the twins; the girl's version is done and the boy's hat will be just like it but using powder blue instead of pink, and will have a knot instead of the bow on top. The pattern is my own, loosely based on the proportions in the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules book. Her sizes for newborn heads are much smaller than all the other references I have, so since my baby hats are usually too big I'm giving hers a try in the hopes these hats will actually fit before the babies are past the pastel baby colour stage. Besides, the mother 's doctor has told her to expect the babies about 3 weeks early, so a little closer to preemie size is probably a good thing.

And lastly, I am pondering what I can do for a friend who is in very bad shape from lung cancer that has spread to her brain and liver. She is about to start some serious chemo in the hopes of prolonging her life a few months to enjoy her friends, family and new grandson as much as she can. I think a chemo cap might be too late, but at least I can try. She's not an animal lover particularly so a knitted kitty or some such thing wouldn't do her much good either. Two previous friends have been lost to cancer; it is so sobering to face losing another. I can't even imagine how she must feel.