Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Jersey knitting idyll

We've spent the past several days far away from the the grim realities of Nascar, PA. at my in laws in Bergen County, NJ.

Things I love about this:

-going into the city on Christmas Eve, unfettered by the normal congestion, getting a parking space and visiting with family in the most possibly relaxed way

-having coffee and klatsching (her expression) with my MIL

-being in a close proximity to a Whole Foods Market where I can get my favorite hippy yogurt

-having guilt-free hours and hours to knit to my heart's content

-visiting a new yarn shop!

To wit: Yesterday I went to Teaneck and checked out a fantastic yarn store, The Skein Attraction. The shop is right downtown, is very accessible and owned by Julie Friedman and her two lovely, helpful daughters, Shaina and Adina (see pic below). They have an excellent selection of yarn, patterns and needles.

The thing that most impressed me was the kind, careful help that Shaina and Adina gave their customers. There must have been at least 10 knitters all clamoring for help on a variety of projects, and they were incredibly patient with everyone. I bought a yarn I'd been dying to try--Filatura di Crosa Zara--and made another Center Square Hat. Yes, I am a creature of habit. When I find something I like, I stick with it, as evidenced by my strong attachment to this pattern, Summer Knitty's Fetching, and Triscuits. I am happy with how this yarn worked with the pattern and am not ruling out doing several more. LOVE this store, if you're in the area, check it out...

Things I didn't love:

Inexplicably, my customary yarn stop, Majestic Yarns, in Ridgewood, had the following highly distressing sign posted on their door:
Now, I realize that occasionally things happen...but come on people! I braved major traffic and aggressive drivers to make my way over there. Closing early? WTF?!! Sorry, I don't care if you are a major Karabella crack den, I'll be spending my ca$h at other yarn joints from now on!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Making Christmas knitting my b*tch!

Yes, a vulgar title for this post, but I feel like a dominatrix (or shall I say domiknitrix?) today as I have officially vanquished all those Christmas w.i.p.s, whipped them into shape and knitted them into submission. They are all done. So it's back to my regularly scheduled self-indulgent stitching, people!

Above you see the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon's Koigu socks. I hope he enjoys them. Christmas and the requisite profligate spending and general gift mania tend to engender a lot of analysis and hang wringing on his part and generally take him to the dark place. Hopefully these will coax him off the ledge... They were done on the recommended 3 dpns, but turned out slightly too slouchy. Next time--and there will be a next time as I have a lot of Koigu in my stash--I'll do some ribbing and try them out on 2s. As I've been trying to get away with doing socks out of non-sock yarn on big needles, this will be a rude awakening, no doubt.

I made what I hope will be my last pair of Fetching for awhile. I am just tired of this pattern (5 pairs in 2 months, yeah, it's getting old), but pleased nonetheless with this particular pair. They are for the above mentioned grouch's mom--I love her to death--and I know she'll get a lot of wear out of them. I cast them on yesterday morning and finished them today before lunch time. I made them out of a yarn I'd never tried before: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Cashmere in the color 'petrol'. It is luxurious but costs a pretty penny, so I doubt that I'll ever use it again for anything larger than a hat, but it was a treat to work with.

I hope you all out there are set to enjoy the holidays in whatever way you see fit. Our gang is going to NJ/NYC tomorrow, just in time for Christmas traffic jams in the Lincoln tunnel and last minute hemmoraging of ca$h in Manhattan...peace to all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Now that's more like it!

I am exceedingly happy with my second attempt at the Center Square Hat as the soon-to-be discontinued Maratona (sob,sob) shows off the pattern much better than that stodgy ol' tweedy Rowan. What was I thinking? Please. People, this is a seriously fast knit. If any of you are flipping your Holiday knitting wig right now I highly recommend this pattern. Use any dk or worsted and hold two stands together using an 11 and you'll be done, as they say in Georgia, in a New York minute. This particular model is going to my best friend from high school who is always thoughtfully sending me and the tiddly winks presents that arrive in time and demonstrate a lot of thought on her part. So I'm hoping that the "joy of a hand knit gift" (yes, it's a treacly sentiment) will be all hers when she opens the box.

Yesterday our church knitting group met again and worked on the Caps for the Capital project. So far we've done about 25 hats. It's been a lot of fun seeing the different hats that people are coming up with, from complicated fair isle numbers to very basic garter stitch affairs. One pleasing aspect to the project has been that knitters of any ability and level can participate. We'll send them out next week and hope to boost the total number of hats from Pennsylvania on the Save the Children interactive map.

Since I am on a bit of a roll with the whole Maratona hat thing, I decided to quickly knit up a hat for my father in law. I cast it on last night and finished it today while my class was taking their final exam. It occurred to my how unfair it was that while they were racking their brains trying to write cogent essays about the French New Wave, I was blithely stitching away on knitting autopilot. Then I remembered that I would be the one reading those essays later that day...and night...and the following day and night...and suddenly I didn't feel quite so bad!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fair Isle mania...

Indeed everywhere you turn these days, there seems to be a huge buzz about Fair Isle Knitting. The most recent Vogue Stitchionary is all about knitting with color, Interweave Knits has been featuring many intriguing Fair Isle patterns in every recent issue to date, and the newest issue of Knitty is laden with color patterns a-plenty. Never one to shy away from a trend (yes, I was rocking stirrup pants and asymmetrical hairdos with the best of them in the late 80s), I am fully absorbed in the mania. Just call me the perfect lemming/target consumer! Sadly Fair Isle can't be churned out at the rapid rate that other objects can as they do require attention, counting and a general level of concentration that say, socks on size 5 dns do not. However, I am enjoying myself immensely...the biggest challenge so far has been keeping the tension even so as to avoid the puckered look. The recent issue of Knitty has a good little article about that that I found to be helpful.

For those of you looking for a quick Fair Isle knit and a killer stashbuster project, might I suggest the Center Square hat featured on the splash page of said knitting publication? I cast it on last night at 9 and finished it several moments ago. I am not entirely convinced that I love the decreases at the top, but the pattern is very easy and seems uniquely modern. Unfortunately the Rowan Harris DK that I used from my stash doesn't show the contrast as well as I would have liked, but I'm hoping my next one will show the pattern off more. Yes, I have found my perfect Christmas gift--move over, Fetching, there's a new quick knit gift in town!

The Children's neck down pullover from Knitting Pure and Simple is almost done. All that remains are the sleeves. I am realizing that sleeves are the second sock of the sweater world--so very tedious.But I am trying my best to get them done asap because Mademoiselle has spoken loud and clear: she wants that sweater immediately!

I have also been working on two other projects. One is a random free-form hat that ie allowing me to use a bunch of Dale of Norway Neon Falk from my stash. As you can see, that is one loud yarn, but I love it as I still worship at the altar of all things Scandinavian. In the same vein, I am also slowly working on a pair of Gotland Island mittens from the Folk Mittens book. This is definitely not knitting to be undertaken while trying to do anything else, this is sitting at your kitchen table with the chart knitting. But I am enjoying it as it's allowing me to channel my innner Swede!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bipolar Knitting Frenzy and a weekend of firsts...

Gee, with this type of rapid production of finished objects, you'd think that I have no life and that I spend all my precious free time whiling away the hours in front of the fire, knitting away. Errr...umm--euh, right! Moving on...

The scarf you see the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon sporting here represents a series of firsts. It's the first time I have put fringe on anything--I'm not normally a fringe type of person (if that type of person does indeed exist), but this yarn is so odd, somehow it seemed appropriate. It's also the first time I have ever done anything is garter stitch only. Strange but true! I am an avowed stockinette hag, and don't normally like the garter stitch look, but again, there it seems fitting. This scarf is also the first time I have made a scarf for the above-mentioned individual. "Oh wow, I love it. Is it for me? Thanks I'll wear it all the time, I really like it so much. Thanks Bunny!" (Yes, we have cutie pie nicknames, don't people like us make you ill?). After the outpouring of heartfelt gratitude, I didn't have it in me to disabuse him of the notion that I had actually made it for someone else, so it'll have to be another pair of Fetchings for the originally intended recipient! The scarf was made out of Zitron Turmalin that I picked up here. I knocked it off in a few hours and am pleased with how it turned out.

This weekend I was also able to complete the Lite-Lopi scarf from Weekend Knitting. I started it back in March and then, as per the dictates and demands of my usual attention span that is similar to that of a gnat, I put it down sometime later that month. I love this pattern so much, as you can easily memorize the pattern and be off and running. I thought it would be a good idea to make a matching hat, which is also pictured here. I was told by someone to cast on 90 sts for the hat. Which I stupidly did. I worked all Friday evening on it, and guess what? It came out frightfully too big. Now, along with Conan O'Brien, I myself am sporting a gigantic Irish head, but this hat was way, way beyond any head size I've ever seen. I was annoyed, but take the blame. So I decided to felt it, another first for me. I just threw it into the washing machine and let 'er rip. What you see pictured below is the result. I am thinking of making a series of them and calling them 'placemats' and giving them to someone for Christmas. I know, a shitty gift, but I'm desperate over here!!

At the yarn store on Sat., the tiniest kiddie winkie asked me if I'd make her a blue sweater with white snowflakes. Given that I am a terribly selfish knitter who has basically only ever made socks and mittens for her family, I felt that it was time to shed my self-oriented knitting ways and 'give over' as my Lancashire relatives would say. So I bought some Kraemer Summit Hill (love this stuff btw) and rocked hard on it all day yesterday. As you can see, I am far enough along to have finished one set of the fair isle snowflakes, which is exciting.

I'm going to enjoy this spurt of bipolar knitting production while it lasts, because let's face it, I can't keep this up forever. My house is filthy, the laundry is piling up, my cooking has taken a turn for the worse, and the student term papers are staring to trickle in...but for the time being, I am a maniacal knitting fiend.