Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Being at Stitches for four days this year was crazy. We got there at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, and worked throughout the day getting the booth ready. While Blue Moon was just down the aisle, and Brooks Farm was right in my face, shopping was the last thing on my mind. Around 6:30, I went to get coffee, and noticed a long and winding line had formed outside the convention floor. Is Springsteen in town? I thought, and realized that everyone was in line - for yarn! It was crazy. We weren't even finished with our pricetags. There was a mad rush, a frenzy. And then, a calm. I calmly purchased my Brooks Farm yarn, knowing exactly what I was going to make (see Gertrude below). I eyed up the Blue Moon booth, but shrugged, eh, not this year. I don't need anything else, I thought. I'm done shopping.

Right. Every day something new caught my eye - Friday was Habu, Saturday I got sucked in to Blue Moon, Sunday, it was Lisa Souza. Skaska was in there somewhere too. And, of the Rosie's bunch, I seemed to be the only one accumulating purchases. Isn't anyone else going to buy something???? Am I the only yarn slut in town? And then it happened - it must have been just the right kick from Flippy, but Courtney finally got the bug - late Saturday - she had to have Shadyside Farm. Must Have Shadyside! Shadyside is a mom and pop kind of farm - the yarn is homespun and hand dyed. Kind of hidden by Webs, dwarfed a bit by the Yarn Barn of Kansas, mom and pop Shadyside had a lovely booth - and Courtney must have visited them ten times, trying to pick out her perfect fair isle combination. I admired the yarn - but frankly, I was broke - mohair and bamboo from Habu, laceweight from Blue Moon, Skaska and Lisa Souza, sweater quantity from Brooks Farm - I stepped away from the yarn - and was more than a bit jealous when Courtney made her final choices. Oh Shadyside, would we ever meet again?

Of course we would - at Rhinebeck - Pop Shadyside even remembered Kate and I - in the midst of conversation with Pop, I spied the sale bin - I swooped in - and grabbed the last five skeins of their homespun Alpaca - in a colorway called Pear. Five skeins, 220 yards a skein, 1100 yards. 1100 yards makes me nervous. I generally make a medium, and need at least 1200 yards. Anything else is cutting it close. But, rather than let my lovely Shadyside languish in my stash while I contemplated what to do with almost sweater quantity yarn, I hopped on Ravelry, and found Wicked from the very talented ladies at Zephyr Style
Wicked is a perfect pattern.
Knit from the top down, there's NO SEWING! And, like Ribbi Cardi from Chicknits, there are lots of options. Do you want long sleeves or short sleeves? Do you want to add extra shaping? Sure, throw it in! How about a pocket? Love it - love the options! And, of course, the ability to try as you go.
The collar is a faux cable, and the same detail is on the cuff. The cuff in the pattern is about 2 inches long, I decided to go for four. I intended for it to hit just below the elbow, but it turned out a little shorter than the picture in my head, but that's ok.
I debated the pocket. To pocket, or not to pocket? I pocketed, and I'm pleased that I did.
And the yarn, sigh. Isn't it pretty? And it's cozy cozy. For the most part, the twist is consistent, but there are a few flubs along the way - but I love them - it's like a homemade Valentine's card, or fresh baked cookies straight out of the oven. There's something very real about it - the flaws make it accessible. I once dated this sculptor - he made all of these crazy pieces in different mediums - wood, concrete, slab, etc. When he showed me his work, I had very little to say about the abstract constructs, um, it's nice? So, he pulled out a very small piece - a figure lounging on a rock. Smugly, he said, maybe this is more accessible for you. Obviously, this guy didn't last long - but that's kind of the way I feel about this yarn - nothing fancy, nothing pretentious - just pretty, homemade yarn. And yes, I'd take the little figure on the rock over the towering pile of rocks anyday.

Friday, November 16, 2007

So, I've been quietly working away at MS3/Swan Lake. I say quietly, I guess, not because I'm oompahing or banging on the drum while I'm knitting other projects, it's just that this project is completely stationary - the chart is practically attached to the arm of my couch, there are beads all over my living room floor, in the crevices, as my dog as turned over my bead cup several times, and the big ol' ball of yarn is not portable. So, while other things can be held up, and I can sqeal, "looky looky!" this is a solitary project, that I plug away every night.
I was never really intrigued with the idea of knitting a stole - the idea of repeating a pattern over and over for what would seem like miles and miles - and I was therefore really surprised at what a challenge this has been (at least in the beginning), and how it's strangely different from other lace knitting that I've done. First, at least in the beginning, I was completely wedded to the chart. There's no pattern repeat, no markers. Each row is a different. And . . .


I could go on about my stole, and the differences between the stole v. the shawl - but I got completely distracted this weekend, and I have to show you what I made!!!!
Working at the store on Saturday is so distracting . . . a new yarn comes in, and I MUST HAVE IT. And, what is this yummy, soft, jeweltoned beauty? I'll let you guess.
I was so in love with the multi, that I did the popover part with it - I don't love that, and I'm going to rip it back and knit it in the solid. Hopefully, I won't have second mitt syndrome, and I'll finish the other over the holiday weekend.

Speaking of the holiday weekend, I'm going home to my parent's for four days, and in my head, I'm bringing every unfinished project in my house, and I'm going to finish them ALL!!! I'm going to finish Tangled Yoke, MS3, Wicked (which I haven't shown you), four pairs of socks, the Bird's Nest Shawl, and my Koigu sweater. I guess when I go to pack, and I could fill 2 suitcases with unfinished projects, I'll have a large dose of reality, and settle on what I'm really going to finish. Or not . . . and start something totally new . . .

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Brooks Farm Bonanza

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Brooks Farm's Four Play? It's pretty. It's warm. It's soft. It's so pretty. It's got a lot of give, and it's easy on the hands. It's squishy. And, have I mentioned it's really really pretty?

So, first up is the Ribby Pulli from Chic Knits. I think I got this stash of Brooks Farm at Maryland Sheep and Wool this past May. This is a great, easy to follow pattern, with many options - you can make it with short sleeves and a hood, you can make with a pocket, you can make it with a crew neck, you can make it with a funnel neck. The pattern has many pictures, so you don't have to guess what the different combination of options is going to look like. And, drum roll - there's no sewing! And, it's perfect for a yarn that is slightly variegated. This sweater, like my Wallaby, is sure to become a staple of my winter wardrobe.

And, another soon to be staple Gertrudefrom Smith Island Pattern Factory. Courtney knit the original in Cascade 220, a very durable, dependable option - I think I snazzed it up a bit by knitting it in a lovely green (hmmmm . . . maybe we've seen this color before? It's actually slightly lighter than the Wallaby) Brooks Farm Fourplay. I told myself at Stitches that I wasn't going to buy anything - ha, silly me - we were right across the aisle from Brooks Farm. Since the original Gertrude made the trip to Maryland, it seemed like the perfect marriage of yarn and pattern. And, voila - the vintage button lady was right down the aisle as well. You can't really see the buttons in the picture, but they are fantastic.

Another pattern that worked particularly well with a slightly variegated yarn - it's knit in one piece, starting at the back, casting on stitches for the sleeves, and then working the fronts separately. Only 2 seams - you can't beat that! Well, I guess you can - see above, no seams!

I did make one little oopsy with this sweater. Again, like the Cobblestone pullover, even thought it was for me, I was a bit paranoid that it wouldn't fit. Because it's knit in one piece, and because there's that ribbing in the midst of all that garter - the thing looked like a shrunken doll jacket - so when I went to block it, the measurements call for the back to be 20 inches, and the 2 fronts, 10 each. Because the yarn is so stretchy, I blocked the back at 22, and the 2 fronts at 11. Just because a yarn can do something, doesn't mean it should do something. Now, well, it's a little less fitted than the original, and I think I took a little bit away from the yarn - the fabric seems thinner than my other Brooks' sweaters, it's definitely lost some weight. But, it's still soft, and its still, have I mentioned -- really really pretty!

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've always been a bit wary of the Secret knit-a-longs, both they Mystery Shawl or the Mystery stole variety. On one hand, the mystery, the clues, the anticipation of seeing what its going to grow into, that's all pretty exciting. And, at least with Goddess Knits (Mystery Shawl), and Pink Lemon Twist (MS1, MS2 and MS3), you can take a look at their old patterns, and it's a pretty good bet that they'll always turn out a good design. On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in picking the right yarn for the right project, and if you don't know what the project is going to look like, it's a crap shoot.

But, even knowing what the project is going to look like, it's still easy to make a mistake in choosing the right yarn.
The forest path stole has been on my list of things to knit for some time. I had Carol dye me up some Black Bunny laceweight in a color called Acorn - I saw fall, I saw a forest - all nutty and golden. But, when I cast on Forest Path, the seed stitch looked like, well, mud. So, a tossed my 2200 yards aside, mad at the yarn - how dare you knit up like that? You have foiled my project!

Having been one of the earlier Ravelers, I got to see MS3 grow over the weeks into what would become Swan Lake. I loved it - I love the point on one end, the wing on the other - it looks simply ethereal on (I have to admit, it does look kind of goofy blocking - it really needs that wrap affect to do it justice). Instead of just buying the pattern when it came out, I signed up for Secret of the Stole, and was convinced that it would be equally as fantastic.

I won't show you pictures of my Secret of the Stole - I'm just not loving it. The yarn I chose, a rust, slightly marled alpaca, just isn't right. And, I'm not going to say anything negative about the pattern - it's very well written, the charts are easy to read, and a lot of people are really loving knitting it. I, however, knew from the beginning of the first clue that I wasn't in love with it - I just don't like the finlike way it started - I like butterflies and winged creatures, not sharks, or dolphins, or other fin-ny creatures. So, it's simply a matter of taste - and I abandoned it, and bought Swan Lake.

After buying Swan Lake, I purchased this yarn, and these beads at Stitches.
From Skaska, its 1600 yards of laceweight yak/silk. Someone else in blogland mentioned that the yarn has a very distinctive smell - I haven't noticed the smell, but when I cast on, I did find that it's slightly thinner than Zephyr, and doesn't have any fibers that will bloom. While I had this idea in my head that I wanted Swan Lake to shimmer, to be a silver color, I had again picked the wrong yarn. I could have gone down a needle size, but the beads looked really bulky on this yarn, and this yarn just doesn't seem to want to do a lot of stockinette. So, I tossed it aside - and revisited my Black Bunny.

I really didn't want to use a variegated yarn - I didn't think the lace motifs would show. But, it was kind of just sitting there, and I just had a "huh" idea in my head, and I cast on - figuring that if it looked like crap, I would just abandon it again.

But, voila - I love it. You can't really see the beads in the pictures, but they're gold, and really compliment the yarn.

And, I'm not any less excited about knitting it than had I been if I were receiving the clues on a weekly basis - I can't wait to get to the wing. And, Secret of the Stole has not soured me on secret knit-a-longs - just the chance that I'll like something as much as Swan Lake, or the ever emerging Secret of Chrysopolis (which I am still kicking myself for not signing up for!), is enough to roll the dice and take a chance. So, I've got myself signed up for Spring Surprise, and Secret of Bad Nauheim - I think I'll stick with tried and true Zephyr, though - foolproof!

And what about all of my purchases from Stitches and Rhinebeck - I do have a Brooks Farm sweater on the needles, pics coming soon. And, I feel some quality time coming with my stash, as I assess my winter knitting - secrets or no secrets, this winter is going to be exciting!