Archive for May, 2014

I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a jam. The next project is a girl’s sweater. The pattern isn’t something I would freely choose, though I can appreciate that others would absolutely love it. At the same time (this sounds like a knitting pattern) I need to knit a boy’s hoodie. The yarn I must use for both projects is totally new to me and comes from Europe. With such a long period of travel, customs, and what not before I have it in my hands I placed both orders together.

Such a long transport time should have raised a red flag warning in my brain that said choose your color selection carefully for the sweater you don’t love. This is no time to “experiment” with color combinations. Unfortunately that red flag didn’t go up. A loose nautical theme ties the children’s wear line together this year. Colors for the boy’s hoodie had been set from the start, which was great because I couldn’t make a mistake. Would that the girl’s colors had been so set.

Instead of getting out my trusty color wheel and reviewing my notes on color theory, on a whim I decided I wanted the girl’s sweater to be done “in earthy colors”. That’s the exact phrase my mind used: “earthy colors”. Immediately the sane part of my brain (and here I am assuming that I still have a sane part) should have responded “wait a moment, nautical is not earthy”. But that didn’t happen. This malfunction is only made worse by the fact that the girl’s sweater has stripes. Stripes and nautical go together like peanut butter and jelly. Seriously, how could I have missed this?

When the yarn finally arrived I opened the package to find a grouping of nautical colors and another of “earthy” colors. That’s when my whole brain went “uh…..I don’t know about this” as if it had nothing to do with the bad decision that was in my hands.

Let me be more specific about the “earthy” colors my brain chose. They are so earthy that they would look fantastic as a military uniform for a land invasion in a forest environment.

Maybe, my brain says, the colors will look different once they are knitted in stripes.

They look even more like military camouflage than they did in separate skeins.

I ended up ordering more yarn. No, not completely different colors for the girl’s sweater. That would be the sane thing to do. My brain wants to stick with the moss green and light green. The color it selected this time to punch up the greens is russet. Yes, nothing says nautical like dark green, light green and russet.

Sometimes, I am hopeless.

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Yarn Rascal and I each had a fun filled productive weekend in our own dysfunctional special ways. I finished knitting another stranded hat and the 3 year socks. Yarn Rascal held his 3 favorite toys hostage and methodically destroyed customized them one by one in front of me while I was knitting. The Skipper ignored both of us and watched every sports event on television. It’s his way of dealing with our madness. But the Golden Paw Award goes to Yarn Rascal, who truly outdid himself.


Saturday found me determined to finish the hat.

another hat

I used Cascade 220 in Silver Grey and Sapphire. I had been eyeing those colors along with five others for a blanket design and wanted to see how they played together. I like the muted look, which is what I’m looking for in the blanket design and I like it in the hat too. The hat is from Charlene Schurch’s book Hats On. It’s really a great book and if you’re into making hats you should check it out.

Yarn Rascal did his best to derail the finishing. Since it was stranded I was working from two balls of yarn at once and this seemed to push him over the edge. He has an uncanny knack of identifying the worst moment to jump in my lap. Maybe it’s the slight hesitation I make with the yarn, maybe it’s the worried expression on my face when I realize the stranded pattern I’m knitting is not the stranded pattern in the directions for that round, which then makes me wonder what round am I really on and the next thing I know Yarn Rascal is in my lap, bamboo dpns in his mouth and all four paws and body are miraculously entangled in the yarn. The more I try to untangle him the more snarled he becomes, so I have to proceed slowly.

First it’s best to beg coax him into letting go of the needles tightly clamped in his jaw while secretly and slowly untangling the yarn from one paw. If I am lucky, he’ll let me continue in my failure to release the needles from his mouth and I may get a second leg separated from the yarn. Rarely do we get farther than this. A squiggle and a scramble and he’s enmeshed himself in the yarn once again. Only now he’s laying on his back in my arms like a baby, staring up at me with those soft, dewy eyes that say “I know I’m wrong, I just can’t help it.” I coo at him. I am putty in his paws. I am a total sucker for that little face.

One of his favorite toys is by my foot. Clumps of white fluff litter the floor. Mr. Care Bear has had it’s stomach ripped open and the stuffing pulled out of him. End of putty in his paws. Now I am all business because I am hoping he didn’t eat any of the stuffing. Thirty minutes later, the dog is separated from the yarn, live stitches have slipped off the needles and are freely hanging in the air, the yarn is tangled up on itself, the stuffing from Mr. Care Bear has been picked up and trashed.

This is Mr. Care Bear after his emergency appendectomy.

Mr. Care Bear after the operation. Notice his ears have been chewed off. Rascal did that while I was working on the baby carrier.

Mr. Care Bear after the operation. Notice his ears have been chewed off. Rascal did that while I was working on the baby carrier.

Sunday morning finds me knitting the final decreasing rounds on the hat. It’s a moment in the project when I really must pay attention to what I am doing. I cannot be disturbed. However, I don’t make this announcement. My strategy is to fly under Yarn Rascal’s radar. If I don’t project angst and worry, if I don’t make any sudden moves, if I don’t breath for the next 20 minutes I will finish the hat without interference. Yarn Rascal has Mr. Dragon in his mouth and is watching me. I pretend that I am not sitting on a keg of dynamite that is about to explode.

Twenty minutes later the hat is finished and so is Mr. Dragon.

Notice all the spiny things have been eaten away.  This is part of Rascal customization process. It also gets him a visit to the vet for stomach troubles.

Notice all the spiny things have been eaten away. This is part of Rascal customization process. It also gets him a visit to the vet for stomach troubles.

Mr. Dragon’s wings are partially detached from his body. Mr. Dragon is Yarn Rascal’s absolute favorite toy so I take it to the toy hospital (the kitchen table) and sew the wings back on. Yarn Rascal stares at the procedure the whole time, worried that his best friend might not make it. His little face, so filled with concern, just kills me.

Sunday evening, I finished the socks. Yes, the three-years-in-the-making socks are finally done. The yarn I used was Jill Draper Makes Stuff Splendor in the amethyst colorway. She has since changed her sock yarn. I loved the Splendor, but haven’t had the chance to try her new stuff. It wasn’t a smooth dash to the finish line.

Three years later these socks are done. Unblocked, hastily photographed, but done.

Three years later these socks are done. Unblocked, hastily photographed, but done.

Mr. Platypus was the sacrificial toy for finishing the socks.

He ate the mouth away from Mr. Platypus.

He ate the mouth away from Mr. Platypus.

Eating away Mr. Platypus’ mouth may or may not mean a trip to the vet today. We are on stomach watch.

rascal watching toys

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This Spring is a little out of sorts for me. My beloved house wrens have arrived late and found all the wren houses I’ve made and bought for them taken, including the prime real estate one by the kitchen door. The black capped chickadees have raised a family in that one and they only fledged yesterday. I do so love watching and hearing the little house wrens, they are such wound up, comical little birds. When they found the house they love taken, the male protested loudly and persistently for two days at the kitchen door. I think he wanted me to eject the tenants. But I couldn’t do that. I have since made and hung a little “For Rent” sign from the tiny perch outside the house’s entry, but no wrens…yet.

The purple finch who usually nests in the wreath on our porch sang his little heart out for two weeks. Alas, he didn’t find a mate. I haven’t seen many purple finches around. I fear the winter was no friend to them and so the wreath sits unoccupied. For 15 years I have watched the purple finches raise their young in that wreath. It feels so lonely not to have them there.

My much loved mourning doves, however, have decided to nest in the lilac bush / tree. They are a sweet young couple who are hard at work building a nest. I love to hear their soft cooing at dusk.

The bluebirds have occupied all the bluebird houses. They are so beautiful to watch. We even have a pair of Baltimore Oriels nesting in the crab apple tree. At present, the bright orange feathers and the dark pinks of the blooming tree slightly clash, but in a modern sear the eyes out of your head kind of way.

On the knitting front, the more I work the more I fall behind. The winter hat for The Skipper (yes, even a train stops) is nearing the end. I have maybe two more nights’ work on it. Yarn Rascal has been occupying my evenings. He sleeps all day and is a little devil all night. I’ve taken to calling him Vampire Dog. Try as I might to tire him out, I am the one who is exhausted first.

I have to finish a pair of socks now three years in the making! It’s not the socks, it’s me. They are part of a set. I have knitted the other items in the set three times now so the knitting mojo for that particular pattern has lost its edge.

I have two hooded sweaters I must get off the design boards and onto needles. I have one vintage baby girl sweater and hat set that I need to test knit and puzzle out as to how the original was meant to look. Yes, vintage patterns are not always whole. It’s a Scottish design. I used the picture below as my inspiration for the color scheme. The picture was photographed by Ian Cameron. It is of Glenlivet, Moray Scotland. The yarn I am going to use is DROPS Lima. I’ve never worked with it before so I am excited about trying a new yarn. It is winging its way here from England as I write this.

ian cameron glenlivet  moray scotland

Isn’t it beautiful picture? I love Scotland. When I move, I am going to Scotland.

In addition to all the above, I need to begin mending a shirt for the start of my own Visual Mending Project. I just need to find the time to research the best mending stitches for where the holes are. It’s a dark teal, long sleeved tee and I’ve decided to keep with a watery theme, so the mending thread will be in the colors of water. I’d like to find a kind of netting type of mending stitch. My inspiration is the picture below for both color and texture of the stitches.

colorful fishing nets

The photo credit for the picture above goes to Lucy of Attic24. It was taken in Dorset, England.

I don’t plan to get all this done this weekend, not even close. If I finish the hat and start swatching the hooded sweater for a boy, I will consider the weekend successful. The weekend could be a huge success if I get Vampire Dog to turn his internal clock around.

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Mending As Art

I’ve become quite smitten with the idea of Darning As Art. The origin of the idea did not spring forth from my head like Athena did from Zeus. I discovered it in the blog Tom of Holland. He calls it Visual Mending. All I can say is, I can see endless possibilities in which the skill of darning crosses over into and becomes art.

The basic idea is to conserve well lived-in clothing. A while back, I had written that I rarely knit myself sweaters because I’m afraid to wear them. I don’t want them to become worn. It would kill a little bit of my heart and soul if I had to chuck a hand-knit sweater. But in what Tom does, the mending becomes a visual part of the item, adding character, charm, interest, another story line, entwining another life with the original and thus giving it continued life. Visual Mending is a wonderful way of conserving and being able to continue to use clothing that can’t be mended invisibly. What I love about it is it doesn’t pretend to make the garment look like new. Instead, the mending itself becomes a form of art adding to the personality of the garment.

This picture is posted with the permission of Tom of Holland. All rights belong to him. Please don't reproduce it without his consent.

This picture is posted with the permission of Tom of Holland. All rights belong to him. Please don’t reproduce it without his consent.

The picture above is an example of different mending styles. The mending was done in crewel wool. Below is the close up of the work.

Used with permission from Tom of Holland. All picture rights belong to Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce without his permission.

Used with permission from Tom of Holland. All picture rights belong to Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce without his permission.

This whole idea took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. Every pair of jeans I wore were carefully repaired with needle and embroidery thread in worn out areas. They were a constant work of art in progress. The Home Economics teacher and the Art teacher always stopped me to see if I had embroidered any new designs. I was able to enjoy wearing my jeans and extend their usefulness in colorful and fun ways. I had forgotten about this until I saw Tom’s blog.

This picture is used with the permission of Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce it without his consent.

This picture is used with the permission of Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce it without his consent.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a fine skill with needle and thread to do the work that Tom does. But I am eager to explore the various mending patterns out there and try my hand at it. I keep thinking, what if mending patterns were intentionally included in the original knitted piece? As both a form of decoration and in the places most likely to get worn out first? This idea keeps running around in my head and I am already designing a little boy sweater that will incorporate intentional mending.

I find it interesting, in an almost inexplicable way, that in the myriad of knitting books, and knit wear design books, little if anything is mentioned about the skill and art of mending. I have The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt and of the 790 plus pages only 1 page briefly mentions mending. How absurd that mending would not be given as much attention as the knitting itself. After all, I am not, for the most part, knitting garments out of stainless steel wool (though I have ruminated on the possibility). I am knitting garments meant to be worn and enjoyed and I can’t do that if I am fearful of ruining it.

In some ways, Tom’s Visual Mending, has given me the freedom to knit items for myself and opened a way for me to feel good wearing them. After all, isn’t having to be mended a sign that something has been both well-loved and well-worn?

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A moment of pure elation always follows the completion of a project that has posed creative problems along the designing way. The feel of that pure elation is always greater and more satisfying than the aggregate of troubles. The happiness and deep satisfaction I feel having completed the carrier is worth every bit of angst and hard work I put into it. It’s even worth the lymphedema I am now suffering through.

This piece is all I wanted it to be. The lights and darks of the river’s water, the heavy ropes of a boat, the visual feel of the boat’s movement in the braids, even the orange of the underside of the boat that shows above the waterline when the ship is not laden. What I saw in my mind is exactly represented before me. It’s a high like no other.

North River Baby Carrier

North River Baby Carrier

Two sizes, 0 to 6 months, and 6 to 12 months are designed to fit a fully clothed and diapered baby without restricting movement. The button front opening provides no fuss easy in and out for baby. The carrier is that extra little covering to help keep baby warm while running errands with mom and dad.

My next obession project is very interesting and I have much to learn. Darning as Art. I’ll explain next time.

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TGIF. While I am not doing more, the time I have to do it in seems to have shortened. I don’t understand why 24 hours does not seem like 24 hours anymore but that’s the way it’s been around here.

Water is still on the basement floor, not from the washing machine, but the monsoon rain. The sump pump is working. It’s a sensitive object. The smallest things upset it and it stops working. When its quiet for a while, I open the cellar door, remind it that it’s a nice sump pump, and nice sump pumps always pump water. It chokes and gurgles to life and I go about my work until I don’t hear it again.

Yarn Rascal has relapsed into deviant behavior. Ripping out grouted tile, tearing up rugs, and totally new behavior: stealing circular knitting needles. He likes to tightly clamp the cable part in his mouth and tear around the house like a Ferrari. Even when I catch him, it is pretty near impossible to get him to give up the needles. When he doesn’t want to open his mouth I can’t do it for him. So I’ve resorted to food treats, a piece of cheese (he likes cheddar) or his favorite bacon biscuits as a sort of hostage exchange. The negotiations before the exchange takes place are a bit long, depending on how determined he is to keep the knitting needles. His favorite pair is a 16″ (41 cm) length 5 mm / US 8.

Which brings me to the North River Baby Carrier. I am knitting the sleeves in the round on dpns. The sleeves are done in Seed Stitch. Since the Seed Stitch pattern can’t be easily maintained through decreases the same is true with increases. Sleeves need to have a gentle taper that grows wider as it reaches the upper arm. In a moment of delusion hope I thought of working the sleeve from the widest point down since I had spent so much time figuring out the decreases on the hood. It seems, (surprise, surprise), that a hood and its decreases are way different from a sleeve and its decreases. The major distinction being the distance between the decreases. In a row on the hood the distance in stitches between decreases is greater. In a round on a sleeve the distance between decreases is only a stitch or two. The sleeve decreases need to be kept in the middle of the sleeve underneath where a seam would be if I were working them in rows. The decreases with only a stitch or two separating them didn’t look all that great.

Back to the main idea, gently tapering to a wider upper arm. Swatching, ripping, swatching, ripping, research, research, swatch and rip some more and finally I learned a few things. There is no way to keep the Seed Stitch pattern completely intact and so I decided to use a little knitting trompe l’oeil.

Basically the knitter can use whatever increase is his/her favorite. Mine happens to be the lifted increase. An increase of 1 st on either side of the central marker keeps the disruption at the center of the sleeve underneath where a seam would naturally fall. The only two stitches affected are the immediate ones on either side of the marker. They got the knitting trompe l’oeil treatment when I decided to keep them as the same stitches within the round but alter them on each round.

Normally the two stitches would be k1, p1 on one round then change to p1, k1 on the next round. The increases atered that so the two stitches wanted to be the same stitch on each round. On the first round after the increase they wanted to be k2. So I thought let them be k2, on the next round they will be p2, on the one after that they will become k2 again. I was “maintaining” the way Seed Stitch alternates on each row. After working more rows I looked at the effect and the eye cannot see the increase. Neither does it pick up the two stitches that are similar within a round. Because the increases have a large number of rounds between them, there is virtually no disruption of the Seed Stitch pattern either on top or underneath the sleeve.

I am planning to have the baby carrier completed by the end of the weekend. Go ahead, laugh. But really, am I not due for a break?

Have a good weekend.

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