Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Much Ado About Mittens

I had a plan when this winter began. I was going to knit mittens. I was intrigued with mittens. Selbuvotter had caught my eye, and I was fascinated with the intricate designs on the backs and palms of these mini canvases. These mittens really seemed to express personality - Poetry Mittens, Squirrels, abstract designs - and I saw myself making gift mittens, mittens that would be my personal Hallmark card. My messages through my mittens would be as clever as a fortune cookie, or perhaps as abstract as cave paintings, or modern day graffiti.

The text of Selbuvotter described the mating rituals that became attached to the making of these mittens - tokens of affections, signs of friendship, talents at domesticity; Value as a wife and life partner were attached to these mittens. Oy the pressure!

So, I freaked out . . . no mittens!

But, the freak out period passed, and I returned to my Anemoi Mittens. I started these mittens back in October, and returned to them partly out of affection, once again embracing the mitten as an artform, and partly out of necessity - I lost my third pair of gloves this winter, and my hands are cold!

So, now they're done, so pretty I could put them in a picture frame. And, I've worn my mittens for a day now . . . and you know, they're just not that practical. I reevaluated the mitten.

Why talents as a wife, or a homemaker, or a lover, or a friend, or a sister or a daughter, were ever attached to the ability to make something so impractical is really quite astonishing. You can't do anything with a mitten on - can't juggle your coffee, the newspaper, your files and your keys. Can't change the song on your iPod. Can't drive, probably, although I wouldn't know about that. So, then I started thinking - it can't be the finished product that had value - but the process.

And looking at my bemittened hand, I became more enamored with my mittens.

There was a time, and a place, and a prevailing attitude that had such a respect for the process of knitting, and the act of creating, that courtships would rise and fall, marriages would be decided, and friendships would be sealed. A sonnett - where design, tension, color were valued as much as rhyme, meter, and metaphor.

Which brings it all back to me - my mittens will not be hallmark cards, or tokens of affection - only another knitter could read the love, affection, loyalty, commitment knit into every stitch in this day and age. And, since I'm not gifting mittens to all of my fellow knitters (sorry my dear Rosie's friends!), I'm just going to have to make them for myself, and my mitten art will decorate the world, but perhaps not speak to it in a way that asks for acceptance, or love, or appreciation, or conveys the same. Judge not my mittens! But, you can tell me they're pretty though!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Last Cast

Mission accomplished - Kaffe is back on track! I guess . . . it kind of looks like poo to me, but I'm sure blocking will do wonders! Right? I can't even really tell you what's going on - there's a bit of Whiskey, Felted Tweed, Drops Alpaca, Rowan Scottish Tweed, and bits of other things in there - and as for the pattern, I'm just winging it. A little light here, a little dark there - throw some medium in - it's kind of the way I cook (which is probably why my Super Bowl chili, while absolutely delicious, did cause some digestive havoc). It's quite the hodge podge. I took it off the needles, and with a good blocking, it's going to fit - I think. If not, it will be a great gift for my skinny sister-in-law.

And, I finished my Elizabeth Zimmerman Yoke Sweater. Can I tell you how warm and yummy this sweater is? And how EASY PEASY this sweater was to make. Start with some Cocoon, throw in some colorful Polar and Cascade 128 and voila! Originally, I was inspired by Kate's Cold Hearts Warm Hands Cardigan. I loved the yarnny yarn - nothing fancy, just natural wool, with natural colors. So, my original color palette was all Cocoon - Tundra (the main color), Chocolate, White, Beige, Light Grey, and Dark Grey. I don't know what came over me, but I actually swatched the fair isle on one of the sleeves, and decided that the colors were too subtle, and while I was trying to be au naturel, it needed some color to make it pop. We had some Polar in the sale bin (the pinky purple color), and I threw in some Cascade 128 in a magenta - and here it is - and it was so EASY. There's nothing like going round and round on 9's. And, it's the exact fit I was going for - oversized, but not ridiculously gigantic. I've been practically sleeping in it for 3 days.

Anyway, that's Mr. Tall standing next to me - as you can kind of see, I come up to about, oh, his shoulder - it's like walking next to a wall sometimes, but I'm getting used to it.

I was so pleased with my first Knitting Workshop excursion, that I've started another EZ extravaganza. As I started talking about below, this is going to be a saddle shoulder sweater, with fair isle sleeves, and a solid body. While the finished project looks fanastic in my head, I haven't quite visualized how I'm going to get there - as you can see, I'm going to have decisions to make when I get to joining the sleeves to the body. Am I going to do Intarsia in the round - I've been carrying an article from Interweave around in my bag all week, but I'm too scared to look at it. Or, will there be one long float across the sleeve, that I'll tack down as I go across the row. Or, will I knit flat, and sew the saddles in. I don't know - right now, I'm leaning towards the long floats that are woven in as I knit.

The sewing - that's run far behind in third - dreaded seams!

And, this Saddle Shoulder creation, my friends, is going to be the last thing I cast on this winter. I mean it, truly. I went through all of my unfinished projects, and while I'm not nuts enough to believe that I can get them all done - I've made a queue, and I'm determined to clear some of them out - Monster Manos Blanket, the Tangled Yoke cardigan, stalled midway through the second sleeve, Martha, in a holding pattern 3/4's of the way through the back, a slipstitch cardigan from Vogue that I started years ago, that is only 2 inches away from being finished, the Anemoi mittens, and the Frankenmitts. Oh, there are more - but that's the finishing pile - by June. Of course, there's always that Maryland Sheep and Wool excursion that could throw me from my course - but that's still a good bit away. And, since I did the Auto Show with Mr. Tall this weekend, and I don't drive, I think he will be doing MSW with me in May - and that will, alas, probably curb my spending. Well, not so probably, probably definitely . . .

Friday, February 01, 2008


Ok, I just wrote a gigantic post of updates - restaurant week reviews, knitting updates, etc. and somehow, I deleted the whole thing!!! Its that new autosave function - uch!!!!

Anyway, I'm going to skip the restaurant reviews - I just can't bring myself to write them all over again. Let's just leave it as I'm really fat - I ate at Upstairs at Varalli's Monday (which was really downstairs at Sotto, which was abig disappointment because my whole plan was to have a great, romantic view of Broad Street), Amada Tuesday, Wednesday was a day of food coma, Thursday was Bliss (and Avenue Q - go see it!), and Friday was Xochitl. Saturday was Chinese New Year, and fried food galore, and Sunday I made super awesome chili and cornbread for the Superbowl - mmm mmm good!

Ok, so there you have it. Now to the knitting update, which I had just started typing, so it's not going to quite kill me to do it again.

For a few weeks, I felt like the biggest loser knitter. I just wasn't getting anything done. And, it wasn't the typical, I'm not finishing anything because I keep casting on - it was I'm not finishing anything because I keep messing up. And, because I came up with the bright idea to do a Kaffe Fassett workshop at Rosie's, and then found myself in the position of actually having to knit a Kaffe project - something that had never been on my radar.

But, first the mess ups - the lace. Ah, poor Spring Shawl Surprice. By the middle of clue 2 or was it 3? I realized that the fill pattern was this dreaded pattern, my nemesis from the red shawl. For some reason, even though I know this pattern kicks my ass, I decided to work on it while I was working at the shop - big mistake - no amount of unknitting the one row has been able to fix it - at least 3 rows are going to have to come out, so I've tossed it aside in frustration.

I also started Irtfa, in the recommended yarn, Laci, from Blue Moon, from the Raven colorway series. I forget what color this is, but it's in the blue family: Anyway, this is also on hold, in favor of the Kaffe project, and others - I finished the first chart, and have a bit done of the second, nothing tragic, other than it's just hibernating.

And the Kaffe project - you can read about the inception of my project, Little Circles, here. I cast on, and the knitting is laborious, to say the least. I'm not the best stranded knitter to begin with, and this pattern has three colors per row, and as Elizabeth Zimmerman says, any pattern with more than 2 colors per row should be viewed with suspicion - because there's just no need. Here here Elizabeth!

After four stripes of bubbles I put the work down, and thought about it - and I hated it. I hated working with different yarn - I didn't like the texture/weight changes. I didn't like how it looked. I didn't like that it appeared to be REALLY small, even though my gauge and my stitch no. should have been making it big enough. I really really wanted to just rip it out - or take a scissors to it and slash it into a million pieces. But, I didn't, I put it aside, and I started again. This time with Jamison spindrift, in the colors from Autumn Rose. I figured, I like Autumn rose, there's the same number of colors - it'll work.
Eh, not so much. The problem is that while there are many 2 color combinations that work well together, there aren't that many 3 color combinations that play well together in a way that you can actually see the bubble blobs.

What to do? I already returned the yarn for the first incarnation - well, the ones that I hadn't busted open the ball bands. But, that's not such a big deal - I had ended up with colors that I liked, plus colors Lisa, Courtney and Kate liked - too many hands in the pie, I think, because I ended up with some colors that I just don't like, or didn't work - specifically, the blue in the ribbing section. So, I think I'm going to set aside incarnation 2, and save the yarn to actually knit Autumn Rose. Then, I'm going to take No. 1 off the needles and block it, as Courtney warned me was really the only true solution. And, if it's going to work size wise, I'm going to rip out the ribbing, and leave a provisional cast-on there, and knit down after the thing is finished.

Or, I'm going to pick a different Kaffe project . . .

So, what better to solve my knitting frustrations but the maniacally large Manos blanket. Can you believe it - I messed that up too!

See that multi, large square that I'm working on now - at the bottom edge. Well, instead of picking up the first edge, and casting on the second edge, I picked up the first edge and the second edge, and I didn't notice until I had finished knitting that entire gigantic square. AAHHHH!!!! I couldn't even do that right. So, I tossed that aside too.

And, instead of resurrecting something, I opted for something foolproof - an Elizabeth Zimmerman yoke sweater. I had originally thought I would stick my own fair isle design on the yoke, but considering how woeful freestyle knitting was going, I opted to use the one she had in the book:

I knit this in Rowan's Cocoon. I had originally planned to do it all in Cocoon, with the fair isle pattern being subtle shades of browns, naturals and greys. But, it was too subtle, and I threw in some Polar (the purpley pink), and some Cascade 128 (the magenta). Since taking this picture on Friday, I finished the sweater over the weekend. The ends are woven in, and it just needs to be blocked. And, of course since it's warm and yummy and cozy, it's supposed to be in the 50's all week, so it's unlikely I'll get a wearing in immediately, as is needed, right? In any event, pictures sometime this week.

So, now that the EPS yoke is done, it's back to the Kaffe (whatever that may be), and, um, I bought yarn for another Elizabeth EPS sweater - this time the saddle shoulder sweater. I have this idea in my head to do the sleeves of this:, with the fair isle continuing on the saddle, with a solid body. This, of course, will require some intarsia when the sleeves are joined to the body, and some flat knitting, when the saddles are knit, but I think it'll be neato. We'll see. Between the two ends of the spectrum - Kaffe and Elizabeth - I'm in the Zimmerman camp at the moment.

So, that's the update. Still in project limbo are the Tangled Yoke Cardigan (body and sleeves knit, trepidation about starting the cable), Martha (back 3/4's done, just not enough time in the world, and it's not stirring my imagination), and a host of forgotten things -

Goal for this week? Get Kaffe back on track, whatever track that may be. Right now, it feels like a train to no where, and I'd be happy just to get to Hoboken.