23 August 2008

The Big Tease

What's 300 miles wide and a big tease?

A week ago, we Atlantans were salivating and giddy with delight at the prospect of finally getting a good dousing from tropical storm remnants. Although the drought is better, it is still not gone. We really do need the occasional hurricane remnant to refill our water table. A foot or two of rain dumped on Lake Lanier would be just fine, thank you very much. Now we've watched Fay slow waltz over Florida, making a lot of trouble for those fine folk who don't deserve such bother. Today is our second day of dark, heavily overcast skies and brisk wind. But no rain. The forecasters keep saying we're going to get rain, but I keep not seeing it.

So, if anybody knows how to ship water from Florida to Atlanta, please, feel free to speak up now. Or please tell Fay to waltz her windy, wet hurricane butt over here where she'll be appreciated. What a hussy!

By the way, the picture is our house in high summer earlier this week. The dogwood has a few yellow leaves already, likely an indication that it wouldn't pass up a good watering. The stick in the clay pot at the bottom of the stairs is a hibiscus that keeps being eaten by something that doesn't mind cayenne pepper or bitter apple or slug repellent. The last time it bloomed well was in 2004, the year we had three tropical storms. That hibiscus loves stormy tropical weather. And there should be lots of nice green moss in the shade where the Bermuda lawn won't grow, but we haven't had enough rain for that. Sigh. We were so close.

22 August 2008


We needed some photos for updating the Atlanta Knitting Guild blog. So, I got out the yarn, went outside, and took pictures. I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what was up with me as I lovingly laid out skeins and carefully photographed them. Then I burned the whole mass of photos to a disc and passed that off to the webmistress. I've also been listing my stash in Ravelry. Oddly enough, I'm feeling a little stashed-out right now. All this looking at yarn has reminded me of some of the wonderful things I've already bought. Some of these I even have plans for in that I already know what I want them to become when they grow up. Anyway, I thought I'd share some stash pictures here. You can see at left that I keep most of my stash in a stack of rattan boxes in the studio. The boxes were purchased at Hobby Lobby. I must admit to having a tremendous weakness for the basket and boxes section in that store. And they run 50% off sales frequently.

The stash is, therefore, divided into roughly three groups. The big box (right) contains generous supplies of one kind, and most of it is worsted weight. There are 10 balls of Jungle ribbon that I bought on clearance at one of the local shops. I have some Julia in both black and white. I'm not sure what I want to do with it, but it is a great blend. There's a generous pile of Tonalita in the upper right that really ought to become a jacket.

The medium box has a lot of "true" stash. I was planning on making a jacket that would match an awesome pair of earrings the cuddly hubby bought for me at the Monterey Aquarium some years back. So I had been acquiring yarn in the appropriate colors, typically two balls or skeins at a time. I rarely purchase one ball of something. For most yarns, one skein isn't enough to do anything. But two skeins, that's different. Two skeins can be combined with something else to make a bag. Or two skeins are enough to make a trim design on a cardigan or jacket. I also seem to have gone through a mohair phase. Anyway, it is obvious that I have more than enough yarn to make a tastefully arty jacket.

The small box is mostly sock yarn and lace yarn. I've knit one pair of socks for myself. I've also knit a Christmas socking and some small practice socks from Cat Bordhi's book. I've knit one lace shawl and would like to do more. With all the lace yarn, this is the box that, should I ever be marooned, I ought to have with me. Many, many hours of knitting here. Ten balls of Kid Silk Haze that ought to become a lacy black shawl. Three skeins of ruby red Jade Sapphire cashmere silk. A couple lovely skeins of Anne that could become socks or a shawl. And I even have beads to coordinate with some of the shawl yarns.

I also have some stash yarn in the bedroom. The Noro and Karaoke are stored there. And there are several yarns that are project yarns -- set aside and ready to go. And my stash of leftover scraps is there are well. The other precaution I've taken is that I keep a Stash Will in the small stash box. While I fully intend to live a good long life that includes knitting up most of this stuff, I don't want it to fall into ungrateful hands. So I keep a list of knitting friends and what they like so that, should my stash need to be disbursed, it would end up in the hands of people who love yarn and can make beautiful things happen with it. And who would appreciate the joy that comes from having two balls of qiviut.

20 August 2008

What's in a name?

I’ve been wanting for awhile to write a review about Lynne Barr’s book, Knitting New Scarves (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007). I typically buy my knitting books in local yarn stores, but I bought this one last year while browsing at a big box store. And I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't browsed through it, read a pattern or two, and realized what this book really is. I hadn’t seen it before or read anything about it in the knitting magazines. When I see “scarves” in the title of a knitting book, I think this is a book for beginners. After all, scarves are beginner-level projects, right? And there are several scarf books available that are just that. But Knitting New Scarves is not a scarf book and it is not a book for beginning knitters.

If you like the work of Norah Gaughan, Cat Bordhi, or Debbie New, you need to see what Lynne Barr is doing. This book is basically a series of interesting knitting experiments. Some of the techniques are quite unusual. And Lynne Barr thinks geometrically in three dimensions, not two. Many of these scarves are small-scale sculptures. There are few books where I just knit the patterns as written, but this is one where I am interested in knitting most of the 27 designs. Some of these ideas may be tricky to apply to knitted garments, but I think they are well worth considering. And I also think this would be a great book for someone who is looking to run a monthly knit-along. Each month could be a different scarf and a new technique.

Along those lines, I'll be teaching a class on these in September. I've knit up two samples and enjoyed both of them very much. The green one is the Linked Cables scarf (pp.56-61). The cross-section is a three-pointed star, sort of like the center of the Mercedes logo. The shaping is based on the principle that 1 x 1 ribbing and double-knitting are close cousins. Part of the scarf is ribbing in the round. But part of it is 1 x 1 ribbing knit as flanges on double-pointed needles. I've used the Rowan Summer Tweed as Lynne Barr recommends. She calls for only two skeins, but mine isn't nearly as long as hers, so I'd recommend three skeins. If you are making a yarn substitution, a cotton or linen yarn that has some body and stiffness may be needed because the flanges stick out and need some structure. And you'll want to work at a tight gauge, again for structural reasons.

The grey scarf is the Shifting Pleats scarf (pp. 30-35). I've used a different yarn than the one called for in the pattern. In this case Jenna, our local knitting store Yarn Pimp (her term for herself), wisely suggested Elsebeth Lavold Baby Llama. Like Linked Rib, Drifting Pleats is also worked in 1 x 1 ribbing but using a very odd set-up. Each pleat is held on a separate double-pointed needle. Thus, if you wanted to knit a scarf with many, many pleats, you'd need more than one set of double-pointed needles. Every fourth row, the pleats shift, until eventually they meld into the edge. I got two full repeats of pattern out of each skein. Lynne Barr's pattern calls for five repeats, but I did six. (What was I going to do with half a ball of Baby Llama?) This made a sumptuously cushy and soft scarf that is interesting, warm, and yet gender-neutral. In the proper color, this could be a very nice holiday gift for the fashion-forward man on your list.

Not sure when I'll have the time, but I'd like to try some further experiments with both of these techniques. In particular, I'd like to alter the pleats/flanges by making them grow wider and narrower throughout the project. I think the Drifting Pleats might be interesting moving back and forth across the scarf instead of always to the right. And I'd like to try the Linked Rib with a cross-section other than three-prongs. And there are other scarves in this book that I simply must try.

So, note to book publishers: choose titles carefully. This great book for bold, adventurous knitters may be passed over by its target audience because "scarves" equals "newbie project." But those of you who read my blog now know better.

14 August 2008

Wonderful good friends

Our friends Camille and Clayton were here in town over the weekend. They met through an online dating service, fell passionately for each other, and Camille moved from Atlanta to Lexington. Clayton is a cool enough person, however, that we forgive him for robbing our Dungeons & Dragons game of a very talented (if often hidden) halfling. They had just enough time for us to meet for Sunday brunch. And my cuddly hubby actually got up early on a Sunday so that he could join us! Wow!

There is a truly excellent bookstore where they live in Lexington KY. This is even more true now since Camille found there and bought for me an autographed copy of AntiCraft by Renée Rigdon and Zabet Stewart! Zabet is infamous in knitting circles for the snatchel. Their blog is also well-admired. Of course, I had to take the book to knit night and show it off amongst my knitting friends. And all of this just a couple weeks before Dragon*Con. Good timing, indeed!