Saturday, January 29, 2011

WIP: Cilantro

Cilantro + this yarn  = best pattern-name-colorway combo ever!

People really split over cilantro, and either love it or hate it with a freakish fervor usually reserved for politics,  religion, and other people's children. I am among the lovers, and might make a T-shirt (or knit an intarsia sweater) with the logo "I heart cilantro." Anyway, I am not quite sure why this pattern is even named cilantro because the lace pattern itself doesn't look very cilantroid and the sample is knit in orange. In fact, I believe it is the same Checkered Acre pattern which was in the Cameo Blanket. Right now, prior to blocking, it is quite crocodile-y and lumpy-bumpy.

The shape of the shawl is a right triangle, casting on with just a couple stitches and increasing every other row on the hypotenuse edge, and keeping a jagged leafy edging along the opposite (long) edge, and binding off on the adjacent (short) edge. Right now the lace curls up along the hypotenuse like challah bread.

I've done as many repeats as called for in the pattern, but it is comically small (see how it compares to the paper the pattern is on) and there's lots of yarn left.

From what I can tell, there is an error in the pattern: it says 20 stitches are added for each repeat, when actually only 10 are. So I think I should do 16 repeats, not 8. In any case, the proportions look ok, and I'll just keep knitting until the yarn runs out.

I'm going to Tulum (yes, again) soon, and Cilantro would be a perfect travel-knitting project, especially to Mexico. but after a traumatic Addi-circular-cision last year in airport security on the same trip, and being a devout carry-on-luggage-only person after my knitting was lost in checked baggage,  I've decided to play it safe and take a project that uses double-pointed bamboo/wooden needles. (When packed with pencils/pens, they get through security without a hitch.) I'm sick of socks, and would knit them 2 at a time on circular needles anyway, so that leaves gloves and hats. My knitted gloves get worn a lot more frequently than my knitted hats, so I figured gloves are so much more sensible. After knitting the Alice in Wonderland gloves recently, I'm hankering to knit more gloves with colorwork, and after a looooong search for patterns, could not decide between the last 2 contenders. So, in a rather in-sensible manner, I decided to knit, and got yarn for, both.


These are for the Flutter Butterfly Mittens by Eskimimi. Not only are her blog and knitting delightful, these gloves are inspired by the Meme subplot in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Eskimimi's explanation is heart-achingly beautiful.



These yarns, Crystal Palace MiniMochi and Regia Silk, are for the Hippocampus mittens, by toritot. As a neurologist, I could not resist this pattern! (The hippocampus is a structure in the brain responsible for memory formation; it is named after the sea-horse, aka hippocampus, because the cell layers are whorled similar to the tail of a sea-horse.)

Now for the hard part: which mittens should I take on this trip? Help me decide!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

FO: Damsel not in distress

Oh what a difference a blocking makes! Here's Damsel before,

And here she is after!

The pattern is Damsel, by Oceanwind Knits. With only 14 others of these on Ravelry, this is #2 of my 12 under 43 projects for the year. The only mod was changing the weight of the yarn--I used Alpaca with a twist Baby, which is a DK or sport weight 100% alpaca yarn. Instead of the full 5.5 repeats of the main lace, I used one of the suggested smaller sizes and did just 4 repeats. There's only a plum-sized ball of yarn left, so the yardage worked out great (there are 549 yards in the ginormous 250g skein).

The main lace is similar to the one in Aphrodite. It's easy to memorize, and the wrong side rows are all purled, so overall it's a relaxing lace pattern to knit.

The edge lace is really unusual, and it's cool how the designer did the math so that 3 of the diamonds of the center pattern flow into 1 of the edge motifs. The edge seems spidery to me, with web-like pointy bits

alternating with doodads that look like fancy spiders.

If you are wondering what all the little white specks are, that's snow! On top of a big (~6") snowstorm a couple days ago which has not melted at all, a couple more inches fell last night, and it's still snowing! I had to dig a path to the crabapple tree (aka shawl model) through the snow. I worked fast, but even so, the flakes cling to the downy alpaca:

The shawl turned out quite large, 24" down the spine and 55" winspan prior to blocking, growing to 31" down spine and 74" wingspan afterwards. It's big enough to wear like a cuddly babushka-hood-cape. This is part 3 of the fairytale-themed gift, along with the Beanstalk blanket and the Alice mittens. The other parts were shipped off earlier, so Damsel-not-in-distress will travel on her own.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Two other knit-group peeps and I visited Amana last weekend, a cold but delightful trip. This is #2 on my long list of former utopian colonies to visit. (#1 was Oneida.) It is actually a collection of 7 villages in Iowa, each a couple miles apart, all settled by a group of pious Germans by way of upstate New York. Like Oneida, the Amana folk were economically successful, and disbanded their communal ways only recently (1930's). Many of the old buildings are standing, the religion/sect lives on, and some born during communal times still live in modern-day Amana. They didn't have to do anything too nutters (like lots of sex like the Oneidans, be celibate like the Shakers, be teetotalers, etc) and so except for having to attend church 11 times per week, it seems like a pretty simple and good life!

We stayed with some wonderful people who live in a converted portion of one of the old churches. All the churches have these spare hand-made benches only, no other decoration.

The blue on the walls is Amana Blue, whitewash mixed with indigo from the mill. Whaaaat? Did you say woolen mill?

Yes, indeedy! Currently they don't make the yarn, but do have giant weaving looms that hook up to dozens of cones of yarns at a time.

Lovely woven blankets, available in both cotton and wool. I couldn't pick one and ended up blanket-less.

The only yarn for sale is non-local stuff that one could get anywhere, unfortunately.

However they do sell these little sheep models, which are adorable!

Another industry was wine and beer-making, and most of the old buildings are covered with these vertical trellises, for grapevines. We tasted local wines and beers, and I forgot to take pictures. I like the trellises so much, I'm going to put some on my next house.

One of our hostesses obtained keys to the museums, so although they are closed for the winter, we got a private tour. One of the displays was about the children--they were educated up to 8th grade, including instruction in knitting.

Notice the label to the lower right of the teeny-gauge gloves knitted in moss stitch. This pattern was used to teach children how to knit items for sale! Yikes, they were good!

These lacy gloves were knit in such a fine gauge that you have to squint to see the stitches (similar to the gauge of modern-day T-shirt fabric). It's still not clear to me where they would get needles thin enough to knit at this gauge. Wood needles that thin would be too bendy, and while they had their own tinsmiths, tin seems like it would be too floppy as well. Oh the mysteries of old utopias!

Filet crochet seemed popular as well.

Here's a little domestic scene, with knitting on a bed. (Procreation was tolerated but discouraged, hence the single beds.)

This is one of the bonnets that the Amana women wore (and still wear) to church, all black with a big crocheted bow over the forehead. Very chic, in a minnie-mousey-nun sort of way.

Cute booties with leather soles!

And proto-amigurumi!

Our hostess is the boss lady of one of the general stores, set up as it would have been in old times. Again, we got to have a personal rampage since it was otherwise closed for the season. We admired all of the wonderful old and new goodies lines up on the shelves,

oohed and aahed over the tin ceiling,

and came away with Amana brand canned veggies, jams, and mustards. All of mine have been very tasty so far! I also made another purchase which is so special it will have to wait for its own post!

The other big industry the Amanas had was woodworking, and this continues today. You can get hand-made furniture and clocks--they aren't cheap, but worth it for something local, handmade, and will last for generations. The hand-rubbed finish on all of the wood furniture is unbelievably smooth, especially unbelievable if you have ever finished wood yourself and ended up with a hot gritty mess.



There were some smaller wooden items as well, like little clocks and rolling pins. I especially love the ridged rolling pin, presumably used to cut sheets of dough into long noodles.


While it was freezing(!), the snow highlighted the simple and orderly Amana aesthetic. All of the old buildings are plain and built with the same somewhat unusual proportions. This example is built from the local sandstone that they quarried.

Even the graveyard is spare and beautiful. Everyone got the same type of headstone, and was placed the same distance apart, in order of death (ie not next to immediate kin).

This wee building is one of the few old Amana buildings not built to the same slightly squat proportions--I guess whoever built it decided it was ok to get all fancy since it was a chicken coop!

The farmland is now farmed by hired hands, producing cows (for meat) and corn. With the snow blanketing the fields, it wasn't hard to imagine how things would have looked 100 years ago.

We had a marvelous time, and I think I wasn't the only one who didn't wistfully yearn to join the old communal Amana.

Thanks to the 10 hours as a passenger during this trip (thanks Colleen for driving), and some cozy knitting time with our hosts (thanks Anna and Brandi! (click through, they make amazing things)) there's another FO! Here is Damsel, pre-block. Next time, she'll be all blocked and purdy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

FO: Gobi cowl; and knitting Phoenix


Gobi Cowl, designed for the yarn, Gobi Bijou Spun Limited Edition, from Bijou Basin Ranch. This kit, including yarn, pattern, and buttohs, was a wonderful christmas gift from my niece! The yarn is sooooo soft, a combination "70% Pure Yak Down" and "30% Pure Camel Down." (The word "Pure" seems funny, as though anyone might sell "Impure" fiber and label it as such. Plus the "Pure" is a bit tempered by the percentages in front.) We passed around the yarn in our knitting group and had a swell time fondling it. This pattern was the perfect travel-knitting, small, easy, and quick. I cast on at the airport on the way to Phoenix, and was about 90% (Pure) done at the end of the flight. (Don't be impressed--it is a big lace swatch rectangle.) The only mod was that there isn't enough yarn to do as many repeats as it calls for; there was some ripping back and super-tight binding-off, and the yarn tail was about 2" long. The cowl blocked on one of the hotel towels quite nicely. Meanwhile, I ventured out to a nearby yarn shop.

Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint, is located in its own colorful and adorable bodega-like building in Scottsdale. So cute!

Check out the palm tree and blue sky in the background. Oooh.

Inside are two large rooms filled to the gills with yarn.


There's so much yarn that some of it hangs from the ceiling.

Also, lots and lots of buttohs!

Whenever I am greeted with a sight like this button display, I just choke at having to make so many decisions, that I end up getting nothing. Which is really stupid, because good buttons are hard to find!

I wanted to get some local yarn, but other than locally-dyed yarn, there wasn't anything. Apparently because it is so warm, the sheep (and similar) don't have good wool in the area. So I cast the net a bit wider, and got this gorgeous green skein of Crazyfoot sock yarn, from Mountain Colors (Montana, close enough, right?).

The color is far too vibrant and wonderful to be hidden as socks--this yarn will be a shawl or scarf!

Back to the Gobi Cowl...After it finished blocking, it was even smoother and drapier, and I even enjoyed sewing on the buttons. Aren't they awesome? They are speckled with goldish and silverish bits and coordinate with the yarn wonderfully.

And then I put the cowl on. Alas! It's sneaky-itchy! It is so ridiculously soft and downy in the hand that it hadn't even occurred to me to try holding it up to my neck. I don't know whether it is the (Pure) yak or the (Pure) camel or (Pure) both, but it is immediately started prickling at the neck. I took some modeled shots but found I was grimacing in all of them! However this seems to be an idiosyncratic reaction (as we would say in medicine), as when the FO was passed around at knit night, only one other person found it similarly itchy. So this FO will be flying the coop, to a distant relative I've just met who is also a knitter, and fingers-crossed that she won't find it itchy.

As of today, there are 14 other iterations of this pattern on Ravelry, hence, this is my first of my 12 under 43 resolution projects for the year!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A fascinating tale of Phoenix

I visited Phoenix this past weekend, and something there completely restored my faith in the goodness of people, crafters especially. To take a step back...I like fascinators. Fascinators are the feathery head-dresses that Brits wear to weddings, and I, being an anglophile who likes hair/head decorations, follow suit. So for this wedding trip, I ordered a very cool custom-made kanzashi (art of folding fabric tightly to make a shape) flower fascinator, with red feathers, from a local (St Louis) person on Etsy, ScarlettandMaria.
(picture taken from scarlettandmaria's listing)

Then I went clothes-shopping, which I intensely dislike, and bought dresses for the various wedding events. Then I came home, and thoughtfully put together dress-and-fascinator combos (yes, plural), which made buying the dresses so much more bearable. Then, I anal-retentively made a list of items to pack, fascinators listed just above knitting. (I later realized I actually listed knitting twice.) And I put everything on the list together on the bed including the tissue-wrapped fascinators, got out the bag, and packed. Usually, I take great pride and comfort in my list-making and packing skills; they are some of my best talents.

That is, until I arrived in Scottsdale at the hotel and unpacked. No fascinators in sight! I dug through both bags (now empty--I also take pride in my un-packing skills) several times, and realized with horror that the fascinators had been accidentally left out, no doubt in my urge to leave them to pack at the top of the bag so they wouldn't get smushed. Oh sadness and rage! After seething at my own stupidity for a good long while, a light bulb came on. You can search by location on Etsy! So at 3pm on a Friday afternoon, I sent a desperate email to the maker of the only fascinators listed for Phoenix, asking if she could deliver it to my hotel the next day the same time.

In the meantime, I went to other wedding events (sans fascinator), went to a yarn shop (more next time about this), and ate huevos rancheros at David's Diner in the Scottsdale arts district (very tasty, no website though).

All the while, I was a nervous twitchy wreck, not knowing how I would survive this event without a fascinator!

So I went to a book shop Guidon Books

with funny-creepy civil war figures sitting out front,

where there is at least a shelf dedicated to each army regiment or person. Lincoln, Lee, Grant, and similar each get a whole wall practically. There were no knitting books (yes, I asked), although there were a few books on weaving blankets.

Despite the comforting scent of old books, I worried and fretted. I distracted myself with the cacti which look totally fake, like cartoon cacti, and are super-tall!

Unless they are the squat kind.

Finally, a couple hours before the big event, spacecadetjewelry called to tell me she was near the hotel. And in quite possibly the strangest and most fascinating hotel-driveway hand-off, she gave me this:

(picture is shamelessly taken from her listing because she did a much better job that I would)

A hand-made, hand-delivered, upcycled, local, beautiful fascinator, at the last minute on a weekend in a strange city! Hooray for etsy angels! Thanks Space Cadet! (Not her real name.)


Fascinator, DH, and I had a great time!