Soggy Weather

After a very dry January, which should be the wettest month of the year here in Northern-Central California, February has been very wet. I have several things to block, but with 60% humidity and low-to-mid-60 temps in the house, I’ve been hesitant to pin wet handknits to a towel on the floor (or run a fan). So I’ve got a stack waiting to be blocked:
Knits to block
On the bottom are the two fronts and back to the La Gran Mohair cardi, which I want to block and seam at the shoulders before I knit the sleeves, as I’m certain I’ll have to shorten them. The first time I knit this cardigan a couple years ago, the sleeve length was good for M, who is long limbed and 6’4″ tall; I have short arms and legs and am 5’6″. Next up, Tudor Grace is ready to block! Very excited by that. I finished the second stockinette sock in CTH Champlain Sunset, and they need a wash. On top is a swatch for the periwinkle Lamb’s Pride worsted you may remember I was trying to find a pattern for. I have a pattern! Unblocked the swatch is very close; I think blocking will do the trick. But I won’t say more until I know the swatch really is OK–don’t want to jinx it.

So during the two days that haven’t been rainy and sodden, M’s parents were here visiting and we went up into the Sierra Nevada Foothills to Placerville. Placerville was a gold rush town, and so it is chock full of historical buildings and things to do. It even has a yarn shop! I got to go to Lofty Lou’s. Here Nancy and I head into the little shop:
Nancy and me outside Lofty Lou's

M and Bob outside Lofty Lou's
M and his dad, Bob, weren’t that thrilled with the thought of crawling through a yarn shop (Crazy! I know.), but Lou had anticipated this. There were chairs outside on a little patio, and they had a good chat and did some people watching while Nancy and I shopped. There were a lot of novelty yarns and sock yarns, but I had a couple of scraps of sweater yarn I want to get coordinating yarn to knit scarves with. And I found a winner! Trabajos del Peru, a new merino yarn from Plymouth Yarns was scrumptious!
Trabajos del Peru
It’s aran weight (4 spi on size 9 needles), and two skeins had nearly 300 yds of yarn and cost less than $20. A real deal. It’s hand-dyed and single ply like Malabrigo. I wonder if the dyers from Uruguay (Manos del Uruguay), Paraguay (Malabrigo) and now this yarn from Peru feel a sense of competition. Do they look at each other’s color cards and make snide comments? Well, these colors are lovely, and the greens match my Wool of the Andes (Peruvian yarns rule!) in Fern.
Fern WoA and Trabajos del Peru
My current plan is a February Lady Sweater in the Fern and a chevron/feather and fan sort of motif for the scarf. But all that could change!
Well, before my headache really becomes a migraine, I should wish all of you a great weekend, and now I’ll get off the computer.

When only pretty will do

I felt the need for pretty this past week, so out of the bazillion WIPs I have, these two got the most attention.
Tudor Grace-long view
Tudor Grace pattern from Knitspot, which I’m knitting in the scrumptious Silk Sock from Yarn Lust in Currant. It’s 70% merino/30% silk, soft and strong, warm but not wooly, and it has a little sheen to it. Did I mention it’s soft? Babies weep that their bottoms aren’t this soft. And of course, the Tudor Grace pattern is a dream. It’s very easy, but still fun to knit. There are 3 “lace” rows to the 10-stitch, 6-row repeat, and one row has a double YO, one has a right twist and the other changes the order of the left and right slanting decreases. So, it mixes things up a little. Easy but not monotonous. And it is pretty!
Tudor Grace WIP
On a rainy day last week, I thought about starting the Flicker sock, but I had this wonderful pink and green sock yarn that look so cheerful and springlike that I couldn’t resist. I did stick with a Cookie A. pattern however.
Monkey leg
I finally got around to trying the Monkey sock. I know they are called a “lace” sock, and I haven’t been one to knit lace socks, although I’ve made an “official” decision to get over that in 2009 (hence the Flicker sock). However, the Monkey sock is lace? Really, people? That’s like saying YO increases along a raglan edge are lace. These socks have “decorative increases” paired with directional decreases. That’s my take on it. It is knitting up very pretty in this yarn I bought from a local dyer at our Farmer’s Market last October. Here it is stretched out on my sock blockers:
Monkey leg stretched
When talking with the dyer, she promised me there would be no pooling as she did very short color repeats. There is no pooling and her color repeats are short. The base yarn is identical to Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, which knits up very nicely.
Monkey sock yarn
The Monkey sock may become my “go to” pattern for highly variegated yarn if these socks fit me well. Because we like the pretty handknits when it’s rainy and grey outside.

Four Final FOs of 2008

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with peace and good cheer! M and I spent two weeks in Illinois and Wisconsin visiting family and friends. All our flights went smoothly with no delays, and we had a good time. We even got to experience quite a bit of snow in Wisconsin. Among many wonderful gifts, I received some knitting books, the Harlot’s 365-day calendar and a whole lot of yarn–my entire Webs wishlist in fact; but all that must wait for another post, as I must post about my final four 2008 FOs before any more of 2009 goes by. So without further ado…

Socks knit in Seacoast Merino/Tencel in the Baltic colorway:
Baltic Socks
Baltic Socks heel flap
I made up the pattern using a yarn-over “cable” and a beaded rib, which I deem so-so. I also made the heel flap a little short for my instep and the sock circumference a little small for me by accident. However, these will fit my MIL very well, I think, and they are colors she loves. Voila!–one pair of socks for Christmas 2009 done. The yarn and colors are superb.

But I did end up with hand knits for me! The grey tweed pullover has worked out very well. It’s roomy, but I got the sleeve length perfect, and I modified the rolled neck of the pattern to stockinette with purl ridges to better match the detailing on the sleeves and body. I’ve worn this sweater A LOT.
Grey Tweed Pullover
I also knit myself a hat with leftover yarn with the same rolled edge with purl ridges. I like this hat! I usually hate hats.
Grey Tweed Hat and Pullover
Grey Tweed and Malabrigo
You can see the machinations I go through to photograph myself. Glare is not kind. But you can see my final FO–the Malabrigo cabled brioche scarf. Wow! So soft! So cushy! So warm! This might be my favorite hand knit so far. It was wonderful in Wisconsin. I didn’t block it as it looked good and was the perfect width for my short neck without blocking. I went beyond the neckwarmer I originally planned, and I was glad for the extra warmth. It’s about 42 inches long, as seen on the couch-o-meter:
Malabrigo Scarf on Couch-o-meter
Well, that’s it for 2008 FOs. 17 in all. A goodly number. Onward!

Overdue FO, a prize, and some good reads

OK, so I suppose getting around to blogging for the FIRST time about a FO I gave to my mother for Mother’s Day (she received it early too) during the first week of August is a bit tardy.  But here at Molecular Knitting, I am a strong believer in better late than never when it comes to posting FOs.  So lets take a look at the mohair scarf I sent Mom.  She likes it too!
Stained Glass Scarf
Yes, I drink my fresh-squeezed OJ from a footed, crystal glass.  Once when I was in San Francisco, I saw a man leaning out of his 3rd story flat window, sipping OJ from a footed, crystal glass one bright, sunny morning while he enjoyed what I can only imagine was a spectacular view of the city.  I thought he had the right idea.  I didn’t live in San Francisco, and I couldn’t have afforded his home even if I did.  But I could find a footed, crystal glass in clearance room at the Mikasa outlet.  Yes, I feel very special.

I call this the Stained Glass Scarf for what I think are obvious reasons. The yarn is Artful Yarns Portrait in Weeping Woman. The Potrait series of colorways are all based on famous portrait paintings, and I assume this colorway is for the Picasso Weeping Woman painting. This drop stitch pattern was the third stitch pattern I tried–yes, I did rip mohair but very, very carefully. It was the best for the short stretches of color.
Stained Glass Scarf detail
Garter Drop Stitch:
Row 1: knit
Row 2: knit, wrapping yarn 2X around the needle (I used US 9 needles)
Row 3: knit, dropping extra wraps
Row 4: knit

While my computer was on the fritz, I won a prize! I won a skein of sock yarn in Claudia’s Bike for MS fundraiser. I got sent a lovely skein of CTH supersock in the Simply Sock Yarn Company Anniversary Colors.
CTH SSYC Anniversary Yarn
I have a twisty-ribby idea in mind, but I have other socks to finish first. More on those socks in another post. But I do want to mention a new series of historical mysteries (the first two are out) that I have enjoyed very much. They are the Lady Julia Grey mysteries by Deanna Raybourn.
Deanna Raybourn novels
The setting is mid-Victorian period in Britain. Silent in the Grave is the first novel, and it deals with the death of Lady Julia’s husband. Lady Julia assumes her husband’s congenital heart problem has killed him, but one of her dinner guests, Nicholas Brisbane, a private detective to the rich and famous, is sure it is murder. When Lady Julia realizes Mr. Brisbane is right, she decides to solve the murder, and asks for Mr. Brisbane’s help. Mr. Brisbane prefers to work alone. Lady Julia insists on helping. Sparks fly, and the culprit hasn’t a prayer of escaping.

The plot is clever and the characters are a great deal of fun. Furthermore, Ms. Raybourn is a good writer. She has an ear for dialog too. I am a very picky reader. My dad, a literature professor, taught me to recite from T.S. Eliot’s and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems when I was in grade school. I learned a love of words from this which led to an aversion of flat, lackluster writing. I am happy to report that I didn’t groan once while reading these two mysteries. I liked the first so well, I had to go out immediately and buy the second. Now I wait in loneliness for the third. Good mysteries are hard to find; I highly recommend these.

Fire

I have many things to share, but I think I will blog them in separate posts in a vain attempt to remain comprehensible. So, today we have some fire.

The knitting fire wasn’t the fire I had planned at all for Lolly’s Project Spectrum: The Elements. I planned to knit some socks in a luscious raspberry merino. However, having chosen a pattern and knit almost a whole leg, I now want to knit something entirely different with the yarn (I think).

Thank goodness my father-in-law needed a new scarf. For Christmas 2006 I had knit Bob a scarf in some chunky alpaca. He thought I was really nice to knit him something, but unknown to me, he didn’t really wear scarves. That is until this past bitter winter. He loved the scarf; it kept his neck very warm, and then he lost it. He lost it in a hospital where he was taking part in a Parkinson’s Disease study (the study was called “Tango Boot Camp”), and now we believe someone else is wearing the scarf as it wasn’t turned in to the lost-and-found. More chunky alpaca to the rescue! I changed the stitch pattern to Twin Rib from a diagonal rib of the first scarf. Both patterns follow my ideal for men’s scarves of reversibility. The color, Cinnabar Melange, is the same as the first scarf (yarn is Misti Alpaca Chunky) and is a burning ember red.

Naturally, as this is Molecular Knitting, our first photo of a scarf must take place on the couch-o-meter. Bob’s Second Scarf knit up to a little over 2 cushions in length.
Bob's Second Scarf on the Couch-o-meter

Yes, the scarf and sofa color clash. Neither the couch or the scarf was very happy with the photo shoot, but they suffer from being inanimate and therefore are unable to do much about the situation.
Here’s a close up of the stitch pattern, unblocked, and I mailed it unblocked so it would arrive by Bob’s birthday. M said it looked fine, but I feel a bit guilty.
Bob's Second Scarf

Although I wasn’t really looking for a photography subject for Project Spectrum, we had an absolutely spectacular sunset on March 15th. I put some of the photos in there own Flickr set, but here are three in time progression from just after the sun sank below the horizon until about 20 minutes later. None of the photos have been played with digitally.
Sunset early 031508

Sunset late 031508

Sunset very late 031508

It was some pretty cool fire.

P.S. Be sure to check out M’s posts about the Blood and Sand cocktail at Cocktails with M, if you haven’t already. It’s yummy, especially with his mods.

The Luckiest Man Alive Gets a Scarf

M has been making use of his new Pinnacle Chevron Scarf for the past couple of weeks, so I figured it needed to be my next blog post. The weather has actually grown too warm for this Ultra Alpaca scarf, as the almonds and daffodils are in bloom. Here is M wearing it outside in his shirtsleeves a few weeks ago.

M and his scarf

M is not a “wrap the scarf around your neck” sort of guy, so I knit it to his specifications in terms of length, which was about 5 feet long. The width before blocking was 7.5 inches and I blocked it to 9.5 inches wide, opening up the rib some but not a lot. It seemed to be what the scarf wanted. The pattern is simply three repeats of Pinnacle Chevron Rib (a repeat of 18 +1) which I got from Barbara Walker but is also in the Harmony Guides and countless other stitch dictionaries. I used size 8 Addi Turbos.  The scarf lies wonderfully flat and is completely reversible, which is almost a prerequisite in my book for a man’s scarf. No fuss or putting it on wrong.

Pinnacle Chevron Scarf

My plan was to use up the Berroco Ultra Alpaca I had left over from knitting myself the Aran Pocket Shawl. However, due to M’s desire for only a 5-foot long scarf, I still have 1.5 skeins of the yarn left over. M’s sister does want a hat for skiing in a dark green, so she may get her wish.

Now, M isn’t the Luckiest Man Alive because I knit him this scarf, but I alluded to this title in a previous post, and a few readers wanted to hear the story. For the story to make sense, you need to know about two highways in California. The first is Highway 1, which is the coastal highway. If you’ve ever seen in a movie or TV show a convertible driving along the winding coast with the top down, you’ve seen Highway 1: very scenic, not really very speedy. The 101, on the other hand, still runs up the coast, but is enough inland to be the equivalent of an interstate: not very scenic, but really very speedy. So here’s the story.

M and I had a wedding to attend in Monterey, California, which is a couple hours drive for us. First we drive west to the Bay Area and then head south on the 101 until we get to the exit for the Monterey Peninsula. The wedding was at 4:30, and we planned to get to our hotel by 2:00 in order to have time to change, get a bite to eat and get to the church. Between the Monterey exit and our place on the 101 was one of the “world’s largest” flea markets, and the traffic that Saturday afternoon was at a near standstill. M was driving and getting very impatient. We were 2-3 miles from the flea market exit, and 5-6 miles from the Monterey exit. However, M had had enough, and he took the first exit that we came to; it had no city, town or highway associated with it. I was not amused.

“What are you doing? This road doesn’t seem to go anywhere!” I cried.
“The clutch is smoking and my elbow was burning,” answered M (his elbow was hanging out the window).
“That’s just stupid! I don’t want to be late for a wedding. And I won’t go in my shorts and T-shirt. I have a new silk dress.”
“Don’t worry. You’re with Michael. Everything always works out for Michael.”

I ground my teeth and seethed silently. Soon we were no longer on a road that could be called a highway, and shortly after that the road was no longer paved. We were driving around large fields of strawberries on the little dirt roads the migrant workers use. We could see them picking berries and we were driving right past their beat up pick-ups parked along the road side. I was convinced we were going to dead end around the next field. But after about 15 minutes of meandering around several fields we ended back on a paved road. Just a couple miles farther and we could see a line of moving traffic in the distance. Then we saw the sign: Junction with Highway 1. M was jubilant.

“See, Highway 1 right ahead! That goes right in to Monterey. We’ll get to our hotel in plenty of time.” he said.
“You are the luckiest man alive,” I managed to grind out.
“Yes, yes I am,” he replied with a completely inappropriate (in my mind) grin.

We arrived at our hotel and were able  to change, eat and get to the wedding with time to spare.   Now anytime we veer from the path laid out by Google Maps, if I suggest this might not be the best plan, M reminds me of his navigational abilities and how he got us to Highway 1 and Monterey.  Is it any wonder that I prefer to do the driving?

New WIPs: the small projects

M’s scarf is blocked and awaits time and better weather for a photo shoot. The Minimalist Cardi is blocked but perhaps not correctly. I’m confused a bit by some of the measurements in the schematic compared to the measurements in the pattern, but I think I did it OK. If the sleeves don’t fit, I’ll be reblocking. In any event, I’m awaiting the arrival of Janet Szabo’s The “I Hate to Finish Sweaters” Guide to Finishing Sweaters. I don’t “hate” to finish sweaters per se, but I do hate not really knowing what I am doing. I’ve decided to put myself in the hands of a master before all that knitting goes to waste or looks lousy due to finishing ignorance. In the meantime, I’ve cast on some new projects: socks, a scarf and a sweater.

The socks are a simple 5×2 rib that I’m knitting up in Great Adirondacks Silky Sock in the Chili Peppers colorway. The yarn was a gift from my only knitting friend I can see in person, LC (previously Elsie on this blog), who gave it to me for my birthday last November along with some stitch markers. LC knows I love red, and she loves the Silky Sock yarn, so she thought this would be perfect, and it is.
Chili Pepper Sock 1
The leg is 63 stitches and the colors shift so nicely. After the heel and gussets I got some pooling, but the pooling on the sole of the foot is cool. M called it a “Harry Potter lightning bolt.” I wonder if I’ll have magic powers when I wear these socks?
Harry Potter Lightning Bolt sock
I’ve cast on for the second sock, and ideally would like to finish it by the end of January. I want to design a sock I’ve had swimming about in my head for a February-March Project Spectrum project.

So I have some lace to knit (Kiri in Christmas red suri alpaca is on hold for a bit), I started the Dainty Bess scarf for myself. The yarn is Malabrigo laceweight in Curazo, and I love the colors and the softness of it.
Dainty Bess 012208
This is my third start to this scarf. The first attempt met with disaster, including screwing up one garter edge so weirdly that I couldn’t fix it. The second attempt–well, we need not go into it. I started wondering why this was SO HARD. Then I figured out that I didn’t like the chart. The knit stitches were squares, which I think distorted how the pattern actually looks knitted, and the wrong side rows were all charted, even though they were all garter edges and purling across. That was distracting. I used my own knitting graph paper I made in Adobe Illustrator and recharted the scarf. I knew all would be well when I could draw the second half of each repeat after only looking at the first half. And the knitting has been perfectly fine since I made my own chart.

Well, I’ve been prattling away. But do stop by Cocktails with M to see M’s post about the Oriental cocktail. It is a superb cocktail, although in our inebriated state we took a goofy picture of it centered in front of the table lamp. If I weren’t having a beer with our cider-braised pork shoulder for dinner, I might have another tonight. Oh, well, tomorrow is another day…

Starting Again

You know the cartoons where the snowball starts at the top of the hill the size of a baseball, starts rolling down the hill and becomes the size of a house? That’s pretty much how I felt in November and December. Nothing actually bad happened, but I got the blues pretty badly from lots of little things real and imagined. Most sadly, I LOST THE WILL TO KNIT! It was pretty bleak. I didn’t read many blogs, and the few I did, I usually didn’t leave comments. A few nice people noticed my absence and asked if I was OK, but since I didn’t feel OK at the time, and I didn’t want to be a downer, I kept to myself. I’m starting to feel better now, so I am hoping to blog at least once a week, get back to commenting regularly on your blogs, and DO MORE KNITTING!

I did knit a pair of socks for Michael’s grandmother for Christmas, but I didn’t even take a photo of them. I used Shibui sock yarn for them, and it did work very well–it seems identical to my favorite sock yarn, Cherry Tree Hill. I found out that gift socks for non-knitters need not be fancy (I wasted moderately fancy knitting), and just pretty colors and a well-fitting ribbed sock is more than adequate for future gifts.

I didn’t get the scarf I was knitting for Michael done in time for Christmas though. Now it is my main thing I am working on, and its simple chevron rib stitch pattern is good for getting me back in the knitting groove. It is close to 3/4 done, which is two cushions on the couch-o-meter.
M's scarf at 2 cushions.JPG

The yarn is Ultra Alpaca left over from my Aran Pocket Shawl, and I think I’ll still have a skein left over after this scarf. Here’s a little closer picture of the stitch pattern:
Pinnacle Chevron Stitch Scarf.JPG

I’ll save my other WIPs for the next post, so I won’t feel panicky about having nothing to post about, but I do want to write a little bit about a Christmas gift I asked for that my Mom got me (Thanks, Mom!). I subscribe to Janet Szabo’s newsletter Twists and Turns: for Lovers of Cable Knitting and I really enjoy it, so I wanted her first book on cables, Cables Volume 1: The Basics.
IMG_0875.JPG
It’s a great book! It is divided into chapters based upon the number of stitches in the cross from 1 to 8(+), plus a chapter on basic fundamentals, a chapter on unusual cables and another on designing cables. The book goes beyond the basics though (unless you are Janet, apparently) For example, the chapter on 4-stitch crosses contains the following headings:
1/3 Knit Crosses (2 charts)
2/2 Knit Crosses (20 charts)
2/2 Purl Crosses (11 charts)
3/1 Knit Crosses (1 chart)
3/1 Purl Crosses (5 charts)
1/2/1 Knit Crosses (1 chart)
1/2/1 Purl Crosses (1 chart)
She has ideas for “further exploration” accompanying many of the charts and clear step-by-step black and white photos of the the basic cross for each type. It is a very well thought out book and resource. She even signed the copy my mom bought me (through her website Big Sky Knitting Designs) with “May all your cables cross the right way!” I’ll be using this book a lot, and I recommend it for cable lovers and those who want to become cable lovers.

Well, I better get back to knitting. I hope all of you are well, and I intend to see you at your blogs very soon!

Returning with Eye Candy

M and I went on a junket to visit my family in Wisconsin for the first week of August. We had a wonderful time. I thought I would get a lot of knitting done, but that was not the case. I worked on a WIP for M, and I started an entirely new sock for myself. I have single socks and partial socks all over the place, but we don’t have to discuss that right now.

I do have three FOs to post about and several WIPs. However, the Fall IK was in the mailbox when we returned. Tonight is a swatch. I must do it. The pattern won’t leave me alone. But you’ll have to wait to see what I am swatching (keep your fingers crossed that I get gauge!). Yes, I’m mean. I will say it’s a sweater. I hope the yarn I want to use will work (I can’t find the blog post of the yarn, so you’ll have to wait for that too I’m afraid). It was intended for a different sweater last Fall. But I’m 18 pounds and a couple inches smaller now, and the old sweater has six inches between sizes. What would have been generous ease before would be ridiculous now. So, it’s the Fall IK to the rescue!

It’s less than three weeks until my 1st Blogiversary! And I am nearing my 1000th comment. Contests are coming! Pictures of FOs are coming! WIPs and new projects are coming!

But I have to get my act together first.

In the meantime, here’s a little garden eye candy all the way from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Hollyhock
Hollyhock, Mom’s garden.

Coleus at Paine Art Center
Coleus, Paine Art Center Gardens.

Happy Knitting!

VLT Scarf FO

Finally, I found time and space to block the wide-bordered “Scarf” from page 80 of Victorian Lace Today. The patterns in this book were obviously not named with blog posts and knitting bloggers in mind! Before beginning, I had trepidations about the orthogonal changes in knitting directions, so I chose the easiest pattern. Let’s just say I didn’t feel challenged during the knitting. I did love knitting with Sea Silk!!

Before the blocking:
wet
“I’m not feeling my prettiest right now,” Scarf.

After the blocking:
VLT Scarf in Berry Sea Silk
“I’m feeling so much more open and relaxed!”

I chose this yarn for myself originally, but over Christmas, when Grandma Adeline told me that she had lost the feather and fan scarf I knit her a couple years ago, AND that she would love another scarf in a different color (she still hoped to find the first), I decided the Berry Sea Silk should be for her. I guess I could have been vexed that she lost the first scarf, but I decided it was a real compliment that she had liked the scarf enough to confess to losing it and asking for another.

Grandma Adeline is not tall, so I only knit five of the seven repeats of the border, and then I knit the entire scarf to 42 inches long (including both borders). This blocked to 49 inches long. I did a gentle block as the Sea Silk is not stretchy. I soaked the scarf in cool water for 15-20 minutes, squeezed out the excess water, took embarrassing photos of the wet lace scarf blob, then laid it out on a beach towel. I only pinned the points of the borders. I like to try the gentlest blocking method first with non-wool fibers, and then if that doesn’t work, I can always reblock with more muscle. This gentle blocking satisfied me. The border is simple but rather attractive, although it isn’t absolutely symmetrical in design.

Godmother's Wide Border in Berry Sea Silk

The best part of this project is that I have 59 of the original 100 grams of the Sea Silk left! It’s like having my cake and eating it, too.

Happy Knitting!