Sunday, February 24, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

As is usual for art museums, the museum where I work to occasionally has Recent Acquisitions exhibitions to showcase works that have been newly acquired and accessioned into the permanent collection. I went to Stitches West yesterday, and acquired a few treasures of my own, so I felt it was appropriate to hold a sort of Recent Acquisitions blog post, if not exhibition, of my own.

I had in fact resisted for some time the idea of going to Stitches at all, as I am so weak in the face of all the delights that are there that I spend too much money every time. All my ploys to control my spending have much proven too fallible to defeat my ability to circumvent myself and overspend, so I didn't go at all last year. It was hard to give it up for 2 years running, but my budget restraints combined with the other commitments I had for the weekend convinced me to forgo the pleasure once again. But then I found out that it was my only chance to catch up with Vickery, who is here on a visit from Wyoming, and and I couldn't resist that temptation, too. So off I went.

And what did I find? My first acquisition was my very first, very own skein of Socks that Rock yarn. I've seen it on so many blogs and have never been able to see it in the flesh (wool?) before, so I jumped on the chance to acquire my own skein at last, and to pick out the colour by seeing it in person rather than through the distortions of a computer monitor. I chose Purple Rain in the lightweight version; it's a gorgeous combination of blue violet, grey and fuchsia. I'm planning on making the Monkey socks by Cookie A, with some of the modifications Cara has made, such as a slightly shorter leg and a picot hem at the top.

I also found the single item I was actually looking for - it's intended as a gift for a dear friend, and as she reads this blog on occasion I won't show a picture as the colour will be a clue that it's for her and I prefer complete surprise in this case. I'll just tell you that it's a skein of Tilly Thomas's Plie yarn, a hand-dyed silk with glass beads. (sorry; I couldn't find a website to link to for this one).

My "big" purchase was from Brooks Farm Yarns - I got three skeins of Acero, a superwash wool, silk, and viscose blend in a sportweight. It's deep teal, with an intriguing heathered quality due to the different fibres taking the dye differently. It's one of those yarns that's not as splashy as a mutli-coloured handyed yarn, but has a quiet elegance that I anticipate being absolutely beautiful when knitted up. Each skein has 420 yards in it, so even three skeins is a lot of yarn. Not sure yet what this will be, but I look forward to experimenting with it very soon.

Other, non-Stitches additions to my collection (unlike the museum, I hope the collection is not permanent in the sense that the yarns never get used; I just hope that the stash remains an intact, if fluid, entity) were the result of my sweetheart, TW, giving me a generous gift certificate to the LYS, Benicia Knitting Circle, as a Christmas gift. I decided to use it to get yarn for Norah Gaughan's Hex Coat, from Knitting Nature (which was also a gift from TW last year). The pattern calls for Lopi Lite, which I don't care for, and I couldn't find a substitute that was exactly on in gauge, so I decided to wing it and use Cascade 220, even though it knits up to a different gauge. I'll have to rework the pattern a bit but I think it can be done without too much grief. Even if it just didn't work out I still have a full 10 skeins of a luscious ruby heather Cascade 220, and how bad can that be after all?

To finish off the full gift certificate, I also got a few skeins of Silky Wool to combine in some way with the cream I have leftover from an earlier project. This might be another sweater, or it might be the beginning of a log cabin blanket a la Mason Dixon Knitting's blanket, using the same yarn.

And that concludes our show for today. Please stay tuned for future exhibitions arranged along the theme of New Work.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spring is in the air

I know the weather for folks back east is still deep winter, but in California we're having a brief glimpse of spring that so often appears in late January or early February. Temperatures were close to 70 degrees F last week, and while they're back down to a more seasonable 60ish F the skies are still clear and crisp. If one can get out of the city and suburbs into the more rural areas it is so beautiful this time of year. Mustard flowers are blooming under bare orchard trees; sheep and cows graze on the lush green grass; the air is cool but the sun is so warm. It was a great day today for a drive to enjoy all this bounty, so that's what TW and I did today. We put the top down on the convertible, bundled up, and took off for Tomales Bay for a drive and lunch. My photo of the mustard field was taken while driving so it's a bit blurry, but the glorious colour should come through none the less.

So while the rain is due back in a few days and there's still winter weather to come for e few more months, I feel the urge to focus on spring knitting. I am well on my way with the lace and cable cardigan - this is the body done almost to the armholes; I'm going to finish the pattern repeat I am on and will begin armhole shaping at that point. The sleeves are already done to the point of starting in the caps. One I stop working across the entire body as I am now and just focus on the back and fronts separately the rows will feel like they're flying by. The front will continue straight up the neck, and there will be a seed stitch collar to finish it off - the cardigan will almost be a shirt in style when it's done. Or at least, that's the plan.

At Knit Night last week Giovanna brought a hear-shaped sachet she was working on from an Interweave Knits pattern, using mitred squares knit at a tight gauge to form the heart shape. Very pretty. I've wanted to make this for a long time so she gave me the kick in the pants I needed to try it. I used stash yarns that I had in small bits and pieces to make the mitred squares. This is definitely addictive and I am not sure how many I will end up making before I get sick of them. As can be seen in the photo, one is done and stuffed with rose and lavander petals and a little wool; the second one is almost done; it just needs the last 2 squares to make the points at the top and then finishing. This is a great way to use up small bits of yarn. I believe the original pattern was done in Koigu but my yarns are rayon ribbons, silk noil, cottons, etc.

And I've been spinning - I know have 2 full bobbins of the brown Perendale top that my Dad brought me from New Zealand last year and am ready to ply them up. I'm guessing I'll have about 300 yards out of these 2 bobbins. Next I'll spin some of the white merino top that he also brought me, and once I have enough of both yarns I plan to make a pillow for him using an adaptation of the Intricate Stag Bag from Knitscene's Fall 2007 issue. That should keep me busy for a while, don't you think?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Is it a bad sign when....?

I was away from home visiting my mom all weekend, and am feeling a bit of a cold is coming on, so I haven't taken any pictures of my knitting for a few days and I don't really feel like doing it right now either. But I've had a few random thoughts in my head and now seems like a good time to put 'em out there, picture-less.

Is it a bad sign that perhaps I am overly obsessed with knitting when:
  • I get really excited, thinking I have spotted other knitters, when I see people on the ferry or walking around town that seem to be untangling large amounts of white yarn? Only to be bitterly disappointed when I realize that it isn't yarn they're untangling; it's their iPod cord?
  • I create a valentine for my sweetheart TW in which I intent to write "I love you" over and over, only to discover that I have in fact written "I love yarn" over and over?
  • I seriously start to think that it would be a good idea to expand my yarn storage area into the trunk of my car?
  • I don't count my hand-spun yarn when I inventory my stash, because, somehow, it's "different"?
  • Or that I think it's perfectly normal to reveal my failings in public via the internet, having faith that everyone reading this might actually not consider any of this to be weird?
And if any of you out there have other symptoms of over-obsessiveness with knitting, I'd sure love to hear about your "bad signs"!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

So now it's really done.

OK, it really is done now! I finally got the bias strip knitted, blocked, sewn around the cording, and sewn onto the pillow, and the ikat pillow is at long last finis, done, all over. I thought I had knit about 6 inches more of the bias strip than necessary, but ended up needing to knit about 4 inches extra to make the ends meet, but that was quickly done, especially since I had perfect knitting TV going on - football's Super Bowl. I find sports, especially football, to be excellent knitting TV and I do like to watch football anyway, so I get a lot done when there's a game on.

So what am I up to now? I'm still working on the multi-stitch, blue cotton cardigan but haven't taken pictures of it yet. The sleeves are done to the armhole, and the body (which I am knitting in one piece) is about 1/3 of the way to the armholes. It's a great project for the ferry so that's going along well, as I have 2 hours per day to knit on it.

I am also planning a major project in the form of Norah Gaughan's Hex Coat from her Knitting Nature book. Thomas gave me the book for Christmas a year ago, and this year gave me a generous gift certificate to my LYS (Benicia Knitting Circle) so I am spent a long time there yesterday looking for the yarn I wanted to use. The pattern calls for Lopi Lite, and since I am not fond of Lopi I wanted something else. I've swatched with Cascade 220, but it's too lightweight to get gauge.

I did find a new yarn - Cascade Pastaza, which is 50/50 Llama and wool, which comes in gorgeous colours. Upon swatching with a few needle sizes I find I can achieve the appropriate gauge, but the yarn makes a dense, heavy fabric that would make more of an outerwear coat then the lighter indoor cardigan I am after. So it will be back to the drawing board there. Normally I have little fear of adjusting patterns to suit the gauge and yarn I want to use, but given the complex hexagons and shaped fronts in the Hex Coat I am less secure than usual. It appears that much more swatching is in order on this one.

And last but not least, my Knitting/Spinning group has taken up the felted Bunad Mukluks as a new challenge project! The pattern, from Folk Style, is a great one to adjust to one's own taste and personal style so it will be great fun to see what everyone ends up doing with the pattern. I am using Cascade 220 (there seems to be a theme in my yarn choices, lately!) and as the colour in this photo is atrocious, it will be in a heathery light turquoise and black, with a little marigold colour as an accent. I had toyed with using stranded colour patterns in my first pair and have decided to go with that this time around. Not sure yet what the design will be, but I'm looking forward to playing around with some ideas.