Posted tagged ‘lace’

Don’t believe me just watch

June 24, 2015

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Pattern: Minami by Emily Nora O’Neill
Yarn: Robin Turner Back to Basics Prima Pima Cotton (100% cotton)
Needles: U.S. 5 & 6 Harmony wood Options 40″ circulars

FOMO. It stands for Fear of Missing Out. When this acronym started to achieve wide usage, I understood, for the first time, something about what drives my decision-making. As they said on Arrested Development, “then at least you’ll have it.

I’m spending 2015 trying to “stash down,” use yarn I’ve got rather than buying more. And a lot of yarn that I’ve got I bought because of FOMO. Especially Tuesday Morning yarn. If it’s a nice fiber and not some crazy novelty texture, I’ll snap it up at Tuesday Morning. It feels like a “find” because the selection is essentially random and unpredictable. Better get it “just so you’ll have it, because then at least you’ll have it.”

Then it sits in my stash for two years, like this DK-weight dark green cotton. (Two years is actually a pretty short time, for me. When I first got it out to use it I could have sworn it was only one year, because I still had it mentally filed as a recent acquisition.) The color is not calibrated to inspire me … doesn’t feel springy or summery. Earlier this year I moved it to the “for sale or trade” section of my stash on Ravelry and threw it in the “sell or give away” basket in my physical stash storage.

When I got the email from Berroco with this free pattern, though, I immediately went looking to see if I had any yarn that would work for it. And suddenly this useless yarn acquired a shape in my mind, the shape of this lace tank.

I modified the pattern to work it in the round, rather than in front and back pieces; that meant eliminating four stitches (the ones that would have been eaten up by seaming) and adding a purl column on each side for a faux seam. It also meant working this lace pattern on the right side only, which wouldn’t usually be a problem since wrong side rows are usually just purling back; knit across instead, same thing. Except this lace pattern is what they call “lace knitting” which means it’s got decreases and increases on every row, including the wrong side. So I had to figure out what decreases to use to get the same look working them from the right side. A couple of times I dropped a stitch in the lace, a scary thing when every row is patterned, but in both cases it was in the very regular lace border, not that meandering central part, and I laddered it back up like a champ.

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Best of all was the photo shoot. It fit perfectly. And that’s even more special than usual, because this fit was on my new 30-pounds-lighter frame. I’ve been sticking to a calorie budget (using MyFitnessPal) since December 12, 2014, and only have 5 pounds left to go to my goal. I went out last week and bought new clothes for the first time in a couple of years because my pants were all falling off of me. I didn’t take any deliberate “before” pictures, and although I can easily see the difference, I don’t think it’s all that dramatic to the casual observer; I carry my weight, I suppose, by just being slightly thicker everywhere, so it’s like I’ve been whittled down all around. But maybe you can see it. Here’s before:

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And after:

I’ll write more about the reducing process over on the other blog sometime soon. Here it’s all about the handknits. Just look at this thing. Yarn acquired for no good reason (really, for a very bad one), redeemed. My favorite kind of knitting story.

Call me at the station, the lines are open

January 16, 2015

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Pattern: 198 yds. of Heaven by Christy Verity (rav link)
Yarn: Ella Rae Lace Merino Worsted (100% merino), overdyed
Needle: U.S. 7 Knit Picks Sunstruck wood 26″ circulars (worked flat)

One of my favorite things about knitting, at a certain level of competence, is that you can create things that would command luxury prices in a boutique — but in actuality can’t be bought anywhere, at any price.

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Here’s an example. This started with a poor orphan skein of yarn at Tuesday Morning that had lost its label . Sight and touch made it obvious that it was a bouncy merino, and I initially pegged it as Fibernatura Yummy, a sportweight I had bought at the store before, with a similar twist. But careful examination showed it was heavier, and a colorway not found in that yarn. My curiosity piqued, I searched stash photos on Ravelry until I determined its true name and nature.

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Then into the dye pot it went, with my favorite Easter egg colors — spring green, denim blue, and teal — dumped directly from the dye cups that had held eggs the day before. Pure alchemy. You be the judge.

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It sat in my stash, a reminder every time I caught sight of it of its priceless singularity, until the moment I decided to make my mother a lace scarf for Christmas. That moment came one week before she was set to visit. I had a deadline.

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With a day to spare — a day needed for blocking, at that, so really right at the nick of time — my version of this popular pattern came off the needles. There are 5523 other scarves like it on Ravelry. But this one is mine, the utterly unique and unrepeatable combination of serendipity, experimentation, and technique.

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Gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Anyone who appreciates beauty would crave it, even with three or four figures on the price tag. But it’s not for sale. It’s for Mom.

I’m a fool to think something so impossible

June 21, 2014

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Pattern: Princess Franklin Plaid Collar by Franklin Habit
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light (50% wool, 50% alpaca), colorways Redwoods Mix, Blueberry Mix, and Pea Soup Mix; Aslan Trends Santa Fe (85% merino, 15% nylon), colorway Crudo; Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport (100% wool), colorway Caution
Needles: U.S. 2 nickel Options 24″ fixed circulars, magic-loop style

 

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Pattern: The Age Of Brass And Steam Kerchief by Orange Flower Yarn
Yarn: Knit Picks Diadem DK Special Reserve, (50% alpaca, 50% silk), colorway Copper
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 36″ circular (knit flat)

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Pattern: Julia’s Cabled Headband by Pauline Chin
Yarn: Mirasol Yarn Miski (100% llama), colorway Gold
Needle: U.S. 7 Harmony wood Options 16″ circulars (knit flat)

Ravellenics 2014 was a bittersweet experience. Political chaos and controversy tore the group apart, and fractured the moderating team that had worked together for six happy years and three previous Olympiads. We weathered the Great USOC C&D Debacle of ’12, but we could not recover from early mistakes handling politically sensitive issues. Yes, in a knitting competition with imaginary prizes, there are politically sensitive issues.

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But even though it put me at odds with old friends and colleagues, I worked hard to stay engaged and to keep the event going. When the dust settled and the actual knitting began, I got busy on two major projects right away. One was a quest to use some of this lovely yarn, an alpaca-silk blend. I finished knitting this simple scarf while at a symposium on science and religion at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

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The other, and by far the most difficult challenge of the Ravellenics, was this cowl, which was knit flat in stripes and grafted together (poorly) before single strands of contrasting colors were woven perpendicular to the knitting direction, through the garter ridges, to create the plaid pattern. It was demanding, exacting, time-consuming, and utterly magical. I spent four solid days weaving, watching the Games, and dreaming about what colors I would use to make another one.

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In the very last days of the competition, I hurriedly cast on for my last planned project. I got this skein of llama yarn in a swap with another Raveller. The theme of this Ravellenics was stash, and this beautiful soft buttery yarn had been sitting in mine for way too long.

I’m balanced in so many ways between what I spent a long time building, and what I want to come next. Sometimes you’ve got to clear out what you’ve accumulated. But I’ve never been able to just throw useful things away. I want to make something beautiful with them if I can.

Let her dance to our favorite song

October 14, 2012

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Pattern: Shaelyn by Leila Raabe (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal (75% merino, 25% nylon), colorway Royalty
Needles: U.S. 5 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular (knit flat)

This was my travel knitting project during our summer vacation to Atlanta. As longtime readers will remember, I have very specific requirements for travel knitting. The project has to be fine gauge, to get maximum knitting mileage out of yarn that takes up minimal space in the luggage. Socks do the trick, but socks have one drawback — I’m not experienced enough to be able to turn heels without lengthy careful attention, so sock projects always come to a point where I can’t easily pick up and put down the knitting at a moment’s notice. So my default travel knitting is a fingering weight scarf.

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And lately I’ve been all over lacy triangular scarves. I think my favorite one I ever made was this Larch for my mom — or maybe it’s a matter of absence making the heart grown fonder. The Shaelyn pattern reminded me of that one, only with more lace. I did have to count rows, and sometimes with travel knitting I go for something truly mindless, but since I wasn’t going to be knitting while sitting in meetings or conference sessions, I craved a bit of complexity.

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Purple knits are always in style at my workplace, since the university’s colors are purple and gray. And I love nothing better than a colorful accessory. I tend not to wear neutral outfits, so I’m piling color on top of color in most cases. But I don’t care what purple does and doesn’t go with. Red, green, blue, another shade of purple — that pretty much describes my wardrobe of solid, basic tees, and I’ll throw a scarf of almost any color on top of any of them.

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Tone-on-tone, semisolid yarns are my absolute favorite to knit with. The colors are always one-of-a-kind, rarely pool or stripe unattractively, and never fail to coordinate. The result is a garment or accessory that couldn’t be purchased off the rack — a true original, a statement, a signature. This beautiful scarf, with its luxurious deep hues and gracefully shaped textures, perfectly illustrates that quality

The brass bands play and feet start to pound

August 14, 2012

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Pattern: Montague Bulky Lace Vest by Melissa LaBarre (Rav link)
Yarn: Berroco Sundae (50% acrylic, 50% wool), colorway Stilton
Needles: U.S. 15 and 11 Harmony wood Options 36″ circular needles (knit flat)

Right up to the start of this summer’s Ravellenic Games, I was working on administration, setup, answering questions, working out processes. Three days before the opening ceremonies I finally decided to try to use some stash from 2009, and luckily one of the few super-bulky patterns that appeals to me is in a book I own. I swatched with 13s and 15s, and the 15s (the ballband recommendation) gave me a gauge that worked out well for the plan of knitting the smallest size numbers in order to get the medium size. When the opening ceremonies began, I was ready to cast on.

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There were only nine days before I was due to leave on vacation, and there was no way I was taking a huge bulky-weight sweater project with me to Montgomery Bell State Park, and when we got back there were only going to be two days left in the competition. I needed to take full advantage of the large needles and huge gauge in order to get it done, or nearly done, before leaving.

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The back went fast. I didn’t knit on it every night, but it still grew quickly. Each narrow front side took only a few hours. With a couple of days before our trip, I decided I need to try seaming it up, even though ideally one would block the pieces to measurements beforehand; there was no time to wait for them to dry, and if I came back with seaming still left to do, I didn’t think I could be confident of getting the bottom band and the large front bands done by the time the flame was extinguished. So I seamed. The magic of mattress stitch amazed me yet again; I had been careful to knit the back and fronts to exactly the same row counts. Now only the bands remained.

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WHen we left for Tennessee, all the knitting was done. I had even woven in the ends. When we returned, I soaked the super-bulky fibers, squeezed as much water out as I could, and laid the vest out carefully to the measurements of the medium size. It was wet. Damp. Really damp. THere were about 36 hours before the closing ceremonies, and the Ravellenic Games. I could count it finished, but I really wanted to wear it for photographs before then. I got out an electric fan to try to dry it faster. When Sunday morning rolled around and the front of the vest was dry to the touch, I knew I was going to make it.

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Noel took these pictures at about 11:30 on August 12, six hours before the deadline. This is the first sweater medal I’ve won in the Games-Formerly-Known-As. No sleeves, bulky yarn, sure — but it’s a complete garment in seventeen days with five days off in the middle. And look — isn’t it beautiful? Nothing done at such short notice with materials on hand and so quickly has any right to turn out so well.

I can’t wait for fall. It may be glory earned as much through dumb luck as through skill, but it’s Ravellenic glory, and it’s mine to wear.

The question to everyone’s answer

June 26, 2011

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Pattern: 128-11 Top with pattern on round yoke in “Muskat” by DROPS Design
Yarn: Louet Euroflax Sport (100% linen), colorway Melon Mix
Needles: U.S. 4 Harmony wood Options interchangeable 60″ circulars (magic-loop style) & U.S. 3 nickel fixed Options 47″ circulars

While reading Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s book Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years — Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, I became fascinated with linen. Barber reveals how difficult it actually is to extract fiber from flax and make it usable, and how we can tell that tomb paintings in Egypt depict linen thread being spun by noting the little wetting dish the fiber passes through on its way to the wheel.

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Knitting with linen yarn is an equally fascinating and complex process, for which I received plenty of advice via my Ravelry research. The yarn is coarse on the fingers, so I soaked and air-dried the skeins before winding them into balls. Because of the twist that must be imparted to the yarn when spun, and the inelasticity of the fiber, stockinette stitch tends to bias, or lean; a square ends up as a parallelogram. I made a swatch to test a “half twined” technique that some said counteracts this tendency — wrapping every other row backwards so that the next row of knitting twisted the stitches to the right — and the results were good, so I forged ahead.

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Given this experiment, and a fiber whose properties I had not yet experienced, I was nervous about the outcome of this top. No one on Ravelry had knit it in linen, although there were a few cotton versions (as the pattern specifies). Could I keep a consistent gauge? Would it grow uncontrollably upon washing, drying, or wearing? Would it even fit, and would I like the style? I perserved for months, making slow progress toward the lace section at the yoke when I could finally cease the labor-intensive effort of half-twined stockinette. When I got there, I raced toward the finish, but with trepidation in my heart. How would it emerge — as a garment with all the cooling, refreshing, and flattering properties I could dream, or as an unwearable poster child for failed theory?

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I tried it on after binding off the neckline. To my relief and delight, it fit perfectly. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Linen is stiff and rough until washed; with the application of water, the abrasion of washing, and the heat of drying, it becomes soft yet crisp, a cloth that pampers the skin, catches the light, and drapes like silk. But washing and drying not only change the nature of the fabric but also its gauge. Wet, the plant fibers swell, stitches move and slide, length increases, width shrinks — or maybe vice-versa. I wasn’t brave enough to toss it in the wash, at least the first time; I hand-washed, rinsed, then packed it in a lingerie bag and put it in a drier on my usual medium setting.

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It was late at night when I took it out an hour later. But I couldn’t wait. I tried it on and — magic. Softer, lighter, clingier, but with the same perfect fit. When I started this tee, everything about it was a gamble. I didn’t know how it would look on my torso, how the yarn would act, how all my alterations would turn out. What happened was way beyond my expectations. It’s not just a warm-weather top that taught me about linen. It’s an alchemical transformation of plant into yarn into cloth into a human-friendly shape, and I’m frankly stunned that my hands had anything to do with it.

We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

December 5, 2010

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Pattern: Larch by Tinks and Frogs Rue (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Arucania Ranco Solid (75% wool, 25% nylon), colorway 102
Needle: U.S. 4 Zephyr acrylic Options 26″ circular needle (worked flat)

After a month of hat knitting for our Conway Cradle Care Service project, the coffers were filling and the gift-giving date was approaching. It was Thanksgiving week. The kids were out of school. The grandparents had arrived. I felt like I could knit something of my own choosing.

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And I knew exactly what I wanted to knit — not the exact project, but certainly the genre. I craved a triangular lace scarf in fingering-weight yarn, a one-skein knit to indulge my love of wearing them and to enable me to make one more complex and thought-provoking than my last two easy, mindless Baktuses. I went digging in my sock yarn stash and found this semi-solid green yarn already rolled into a ball, intended for one of those Baktuses a couple of months ago but substituted out at the last minute. Then I went digging in my Ravelry favorites for the tags triangle-shaped, fingering, scarf, lace, one-skein. The picture of the luscious sample (in Dream in Color Smooshy Strange Harvest) for this variation on the popular Multnomah shawlette called to me immediately.

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I cast on Wednesday afternoon. By the time the Thanksgiving turkey was digested, I was done with the garter increases (the scarf is knit from the middle back outward in two triangles with their hypotenuses forming the bottom edges) and had started the border chart. By Sunday morning, the day before my parents left for home, I had finished the two lace chart repeats and was ready to bind off. The body of the scarf took about sixteen hours to knit. The sewn bindoff took four hours all by itself. When done, it was squishy and garter-stitchy and beautifully mottled and disturbingly small, too small to wrap around your neck and have the corners hang down in front for the stylish wearability my mom had admired (midway through the lace portion knitting, she had secured a promise that I would give her the scarf when it was done). Time to block with maximum aggression and wait for moisture and tension to do their magic.

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Magic indeed.  The rustic ridges of the garter stitch relaxed into the subtlest of textures.  The old shale border opened and expanded like a bird taking flight.  Three days of knitting, one day of “stopping knitting” (as Cady Gray’s instruction book amusingly calls binding off), and three more days of blocking. The result: exactly the knit I envisioned — fancy, frivolous, classic, satisfying — and the perfect scarf beyond all my hopes. Enjoy it, Mom!