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Monthly Archives: May 2014

I am, most decidedly, a lover of the color grey. Almost every article of clothing, yarn, fiber — the first thing I reach for is grey.

And in the ocean of grey, there is another color that makes a pretty frequent appearance in my wardrobe. (No, not black — that’s just another shade of grey.) I love orange. I think it’s such a happy color.

And, it goes well with grey. Of course.

I must be missing an element of happy recently, because I’ve finished two projects in my happy color.

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First, Carpino, by Carol Feller. It is a sweater from the Wool People 6 collection — the collection that I had a bit of a preview of, at Knitter’s Review Retreat last November. Of course, I promptly fell in love with every single piece of that collection, in a way that I never would have had I seen it in only in print, as beautiful as the Wool People Look Books are.

This little sweater is very flirty and a little bit retro. It has an i-cord edged ballet neckline, 3/4 length sleeves which are fitted. The front is a fun bubble like lace pattern (which is very easy to memorize).

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I knit this sweater in a singles yarn. I knew even before I cast on, in my brain somewhere, that this is probably not the greatest strategy for a long lasting, well wearing sweater. But I did it anyway. Why? Because it was the perfect color, Del Rey from Neighborhood Fiber company.

I have already worn the sweater a couple of times…so far so good. As long as some naughty canine that I live with does not hook her little paws into the lace in front of the sweater!

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Have you ever had a “O.M.G. I have to spin this/knit it right now” moment? Of course you have. The second project was one of those things. I purchased a beautiful commercially processed Shetland top from the UK at the Feederbrook Farm booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool. It is charcoal grey (surprise!) in a way only nature can produce, I knew exactly how I wanted to spin it, and as I was spinning the fiber — I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.

I spun the fiber woolen, from the fold. I wanted lofty, squishy, and light in weight…a shetland version of LOFT.

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The urge was so great that as soon as I plied a skein and the twist was set, I wound the skein and cast on — while the rest of the yarn necessary to complete the project was still sitting on the wheel.

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Then, for contrast, I wanted a bit of….Orange! And I looked in my Pigeonroof Studios non-Superwash grab bag that I had in my stash…and voila. A few little bits of rusts, oranges and yellows. I wasn’t sure what the fiber content was (I think it is Polwarth/silk but I’m really not sure.), but I only needed a bit over 100 yards so I was sure it was going to work.

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The shawl that this yarn was destine to be? Kelpie, by Jared Flood (Who else?).  It’s a take on the Classic Shetland Hap Shawl, a bit citified. My gauge was bigger than the stated gauge of the pattern, so I knew this would be a large shawl.

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It is large, 74″ across with a 37″ drop. I didn’t think the shawl would grow to quite this size, but it is soft, light, very squishy, and the orange in the feather and fan border makes me smile.

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I am looking forward to wearing this often. (It sort of matches the sweater too!)

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I think I’ve gotten the Orange out of my system for now! Better go find some grey yarn.

One of the best mementos of another fun filled weekend at Shepherd’s Hey Farm is this photo.

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Doesn’t it look like Lucy is belting out a tune and the poodles in the back are doo-wopping in the background? This photo has been making me laugh all day and I’m sure it will make me chuckle every time I see it, imagining how I would caption it.

I was not the one who was trying to make a photograph happen here, so I got to observe one of the funniest photos develop.

We were approaching the house, where we had left all dogs except Finn (who got to push some sheep and was very proud, but his adventures and another installment of Lucy’s Excellent Adventure coming soon to a blog near you).

As the dogs were milling in the garden, my friend Lee tried to take a photo of the dogs behind the beautiful purple salvia.

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Of course, her dogs, Bridey and Fargo heard her. Right away. And knew what to do. (Look at their approaching Human with a camera pointed at them).

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Jack, the other poodle, eventually realized what was going on and joined in.

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Eventually, Lee got the shot. That’s Bridey, with her sons Jack and Fargo. The poodles are looking good!!!

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Note where Lucy is in all these photos. It’s like “Where’s Waldo”. Do you see her? Ruining every frame? I have a feeling some body part of her’s has been cropped away from the above photo.

Looking through the photos (judging from where the poodles are, it happened not long after the above shot) later that day — we found it. THE shot — well, for me, anyway. So funny, and the advantage of having a digital camera (in this case attached to an iPhone) on you all the time.

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The dog trainer in all of you will note how Bridey and Fargo held their positions throughout this photo shoot. And one little very busy border collie, who really finds it difficult to stay still,  jumped in for one second and stole the day.

Funny Lucy!

I used to not be the biggest fan of knitting swatches.

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It seemed like an extraneous step. Since the items that truly need a good gauge match is a sweater, I had always started sweaters with the sleeve, using it to make sure that my stitch and row counts would not produce a garment that was too big or too small.

I was also convinced that a gauge swatch “lied”. The tension on my knitting, while it does not vary wildly, do change due to mood, what’s on TV, weather, anything. From that viewpoint, a swatch was not very useful. While there were many who sang the praises of a large (8″x 8″) piece of a test fabric in order to overcome the variability in your knitting due to environmental factors, I was not convinced.

I still think all of these things.

And I think much of what I disliked about swatches was rooted in the “you must” part of the “You must knit a swatch” part of the sentence.

I started changing my mind a few years ago about knitting swatches. I’m not sure what the actual turning point was. I think I was trying to decide between two different yarns for a project, and they varied wildly in fiber content both from each other and from the suggested yarn in the pattern. This was the first time I knit a swatch to get a feel for what the knitted fabric would be like, rather than a test to see whether I needed to alter a pattern.

I think that thinking about knitting a swatch as part of the creative process was really helpful. It wasn’t a waste of time, but a part of the project itself. Somehow, this changed the status of a swatch as a “must do” to a “want to do”.

And then, while bopping around on the Internet, I saw this photo. (It’s Jared Flood, of course.) THAT’s a SWATCH???? It is beautiful, isn’t it? Of course, the cynic in me says that the piece was knit for a photo, but I think not. If you do a search for “swatch” on that blog, you will see many many examples of these “swatches”. They are each beautiful — knitted beautifully, blocked perfectly, and clearly used to look at the textures, the fabric, the color — and very much part of the design process.

And then, of course, there’s The Swatch Queen of the World, and what she thinks about these knitted pieces of fabric. Clara Parkes tests yarns for all of us, knitting swatch after swatch, “wearing” these swatches, and road testing yarn after yarn.

If that wasn’t enough, I started spinning. I cannot tell what a yarn is like in the skein. I have to knit it at different gauges, block it, hang out with it, before I know exactly how the yarn is going to act in a garment. It appears I am well on my way to joining the swatch brigade.

So, here I am, and as I am hosting a bit of a Knit-Along with a couple of my friends, to impart some swatching “tricks” that I have picked up along the way.

1. Knit a swatch that’s big enough but not too big. For me, this is a fabric that is somewhere in the vicinity of 4″x 4″ or slightly bigger. i like to make it big enough so that if I feel up to it, I can sew up a few edges and make a little pouch out of it. It’s nice for gifts or housing reading glasses. 4″x4″ also makes a pretty nice sized coaster.

2. Border the swatch in garter stitch (from Jared Flood’s photos). It will keep the fabric from rolling, and it makes me feel good that the swatch looks less like a swatch and more like a little object on its own.

3. Either make purl bumps or pair yarn-overs and k2tog for as many stitches as the size of your needle. (from Elizabeth Zimmerman) This way, we don’t forget what size needles we used on the swatch.

4. Block the swatch. There are some yarns (cormo, Brooklyntweed yarns, super wash merino) that drastically change on the introduction of some water and drying time. It really is well worth it to block your swatch (soak it, squeeze it dry, pin it to dry)  to see what the fabric will end up looking like. There are people who recommend that you weight the swatch to see whether the fabric will have memory in a garment…I’ve not done this, mostly because I have already learned the lesson about knitting a sweater out of 100% alpaca (as in, don’t do it unless you mean to have a dress).

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5. Measure the gauge by counting whole stitches on your swatch, measuring it, and doing math to get to the right unit of measurement to compare your gauge to the stated gauge of the pattern (from Amy Herzog). What was that? Amy has you outlining a piece of your swatch (the area you are counting) with a contrasting piece of yarn, which I have found very useful. Then, all you have to do is measure the dimensions of the area, translate it to what the # of stitches or row/4″ would be.

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So, in the above swatch, I’ve marked off an area that is 21 stitches wide and 27 rows in height. The width of the rectangle marked in yellow is 9.8 cm and the height is 7.5 cm (equivalent to 3.86 inches and 2.95 inches, respectively). This gauge would be equivalent to 21.7 stitches (21/3.86 x 4) and 36.6 rows in a 4″ square.

The stated gauge for the garment that I want to knit is 24 stitches x 37 rows. At 22 stitches and 37 rows to the same size, I have a few decisions to make. Do I like the fabric of the swatch? To me, I would not mind the fabric being a bit denser. If I liked the fabric, then I would adjust the pattern to fit the fabric (by knitting a different size, or adjusting the pattern to exact measurements, taking into consideration that I have a border of a lace pattern that needs to fit within a certain multiples of stitches.).

Will I knit another swatch? Probably not. I will start the garment with the sleeves though, so if I’m still more than a stitch off gauge, it won’t be too painful to rip out.

Happy knitting!

 

 

 

She has been with me eight years today, the dog that told me that her name was “Lucy”.

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She was supposed to be a “Becky” or a “Sawyer”, to go along with Finn. It became very evident in a very short time that she was not a Sawyer. Try saying that name along with most dog commands. “Lie Down, Sawyer.” “Leave it, Sawyer”. “Good Girl, Sawyer”. Doesn’t work very well for me. So, she was going to be Becky or Becca if I kept her.

Except she really wasn’t a Becky or a Becca. She was most definitely a Lucy. Lucy, as in the character from the Peanuts, the one that pulls the football away from Charlie Brown every time after manipulating him into thinking that this time, she wouldn’t.

So, I named her Lucy. Her fancy name is “Kei’s Piccola Bella Luna”. I’m not sure why she is Italian, although one of my favorite characters in a movie is Cher’s grandfather in “Moonstruck” — the one that always has about 10 dogs trailing behind him, and that there’s a scene in that movie where the grandfather looks up at the moon and says, “aaah Bella Luna”. Maybe this was a sign that I would be rolling my eyes toward the moon with this dog!

What is amazing with the name “Lucy”, is that I found out later that it was her name before she went into rescue!

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Lucy is most definitely a conundrum. The one thing I absolutely wanted in my second dog was that she was trustful of humans. And Lucy thinks humans exist to give her pets, so I did get that in her. If you call her over, she will come to you, put her head in your lap…look at you with her big brown eyes, suck you in….and then you go down the rabbit hole of giving her scritches on all parts of her that she presents to you.

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She is very strange about food. Not only is she not food motivated, when presented with a new item to eat, she will trot off into a quiet corner with it, and examines it (if she had a scalpel she would dissect it) before she decides if she wants to eat it. Most times, she will leave it in her corner, guard that corner, lying in wait for some other dog (Finn in most cases, her Poodle Friend Fargo has been snared in this trap as well) to come check out her food — just so she can tell them off. It’s as if she is running a test….”let’s see if some other dog wants it. If he does, then I want it.” When I am in a situation when I absolutely need her to eat, the magic words are, “Can I give it to Finn?” (She will clean the bowl.) I often give non-kibble bits — yogurt, green tripe, vegetables — in my dogs’ food. Lucy will eat it in the order she likes them, no matter how much I think I’ve distributed the bits throughout. And yes, she licks the yogurt off the kibble before she eats the kibble.

The best command I taught Lucy was the command to go to the bathroom. It’s very handy, particularly if we are traveling. And she has a secret signal for me. She spins clockwise before she pees, and she spins counter-clockwise before she poops. It’s like she’s telling me….get that bag ready because here I go!

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The other not-so-secret handshake Lucy has with me is that she wears her emotions on her sleeve. Ears at 10 and 2? She’s relaxed. Ears pasted back?  Scared/unsure. Hackles — are they up? And her tail — it speaks volumes.

When I first met Lucy, her tail was a scrawny puppy tail. Over the years though, it has filled out. It’s quite magnificent, actually, and she is very proud of it. She fans it out on display. She will hold it high on alert and interest. It can be found up by her chin if she is scared. And she has about 1,000 different wags. If you ever meet her, and you get the helicopter, you know that you’ve been invited into her club. That’s her special wag.

There are so many stories I can tell about Lucy. And I hope to be able to tell more, year after year.

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Happy adopt-a-versary, Loony Lulu Lucy!

I love natural colored wool yarn. But once in a while, I like not-so-naturally-occurring-on-sheep colors as well.

I have been “stalking” a sweater, Ravello by Isabell Kraemer, since it was published in August of last year. It’s striped, which I love, has a boat neck, which I find flattering, and the sweater looks nice and casual and cool. (Probably 100% due to the styling, but what can I say? I am gullible.)

I have been wearing my stripy sweater that I knit last year to death this spring. It’s Breton by Jared Flood, knit in Sweet Fiber Yarns Cormo, which was a limited run yarn. The cormo is light in weight, it is perfectly warm but not hot, and I have washed and re-washed (gently in wool wash) without too much effect on the sweater. (I have had to re-seam the arms a couple of times and have now re-seamed the arms on with sock yarn — the woolen spun cormo just isn’t strong enough for all the activity that this sweater is getting, I’m afraid.)

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I wanted to make another cormo striped sweater. I had the natural white and natural dark grey cormo in woolen spun fingering from Elsawool. Ideally, I think I would have knit the sweater in white and 2 shades of the natural grey. But how about color? What if I introduced a color in this sweater?

I decided that color was exactly what I wanted. And I wanted….RED.

I have dabbled in dyeing my own yarn periodically with food-safe dyes (Kool-aid and food coloring). I felt strange — a mix of trepidation and even a bit of guilt — for taking one of my favorite fibers, in its pristine creamy white, and introducing color from an artificial drink to it. But dye the yarn I did.

There are many resources on the Internet (Knitty article here, a palette of colors and formulae here). All the articles use 1 packet of unsweetened Kool-aid for every 1oz of fiber. Some suggest using a water and vinegar solution and some say that the citric acid present already in Kool-aid is enough for the color to set.

I presoaked the yarn in a vinegar solution, and I also added vinegar in the water bath….because I have, in the past, tinkered with the color on the fly using food dye. (The creamy cormo yarn is beautiful, isn’t it? Looks like the perfect Somen soaking in my sink.)

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The concoction for my precious cormo yarn was mostly Bing Cherry Kool-aid (which is a deeper red), with some Cherry Kool-aid (which is the color of the jug that comes crashing out of walls in commercials for Hawaiian Punch) to brighten the red a little, and a little bit of Americolor super red (the dye that’s in my cupboard for red velvet cake, a bit more brick than the kiddie red of the Kool-aid). The food coloring I added once the yarn was already in the dye bath, because in the past this has produced a bit of that “kettle dyed” effect.

I love watching the dye bath go clear as the color is transferred to the yarn. Here’s the concoction that sort of looks like some sort of a sick spaghetti!

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And here is the result.

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I will be using it along with the natural dark grey and the cream for the stripes.

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It sort of looks like Neapolitan ice cream, doesn’t it?