Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Start-itis is Rampant

Many people mention the inability to stop starting new projects........Joe has yarn calling to him, Amy has been on buying sprees (one with us--BIG THANKS!), Marie has loaded up on sock yarn, and Bonne Marie is displaying yarns and discussing their virtues. Is it that Spring has finally sprung from coast to coast, up the continent, and across the seas? Or is it that the publications that are out right now are repleat with wonderful inspiration?

STRIKE THAT LAST ONE. Aside from the sock I started two days ago, the new Knitter's is lacking projects that catch my eye and has for nearly two years. I used to find at least one or two sweaters I couldn't live without or wait to make. No longer. Even Interweave Knits used to have an occasional men's or unisex design, but no longer. And don't get me started about VK International--despite their running an entire men's issue about a year ago, they haven't had a regular men's pattern since the early 90s (I know--I have every issue way back into the mid/late 80s). Cast-On is getting better, but I can't recall a men's design at all, nor something just begging to be knit. Knit-N-Style ain't my style. I do have to give props to the group at INKnitters for publishing some amazing technical articles. I took them up on their generous offer for every issue back to #1 (a couple years' worth) and I've enjoyed reading about a wide variety of the technical aspects of knitting, including a piece on color and another on how yarn is spun (focusing on the spinning mule at a couple plants). Good stuff and worth your attention and maybe your funds. Most of all, however I anxiously await the upcoming issue of Knitty, as I've yet to see an issue without at least three things I had to make right away. Even if one of them was a nose cozy. Or is it a chicken hat?

Now, on to the goodies.............I've started two things today alone (longer-term projects, not a quickie like a bag or a hat), on top of starting one last night (just a bag, and I finished two yesterday, so I'm allowed, alright?). Remember, however, that some of the things I knit are simple and take little time--I can knit a hat for felting in about 2.5 hours, so that was one of my two FOs yesterday. I made it specifically to felt with the beauty you see below--behold the felted bag, made with Cascade 220 Quatro in the purples combination (skein also shown for your perusal)

Photo of yarn taken inside. Photo of felted fabric taken in sunlight.

I like this alot. A whole lot. I can see many of these in my future..........can any of you purple-fiends out there say the same? There's a depth of color that's only slightly revealed in the close-up shot you see next to the skeined yarn--imagine speckles of four different purples all assembled into a wonderful fabric (loosely think of pointillism and Georges Seurat, but with felt). Ok, that's a stretch, comparing my felting to a great artist, IS purty! (grin)

I'll post progress pix as soon as I have something of merit, but in the mean time, have you seen the BEAUTIFUL work of our friends over at Matt's blog? Such inspiration. Such amazing knitting. Such FUN PEOPLE. We are fortunate..........Be well!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I Have Mastered The Miter

Blogger just ate my post. Beeyatches! Time to try to recreate my witty entry...............but it won't be the same.

First off, a progress report. Yes, I have finished the knitting on the purple Cascade 220 Quatro bag and it's ready to be felted. I promised myself that it would be finished today and it is. Two days of knitting, with other stuff mixed in. YES. So as a reward, I started yet another one, this time in a wonderful deep evergreen heather. The bottom is finished, so I can work on the sides and such tomorrow. Bags are great car knitting, waiting knitting, reading blogs knitting, etc. So I always have to have at least one going. I have three needles I use for bags and one is currently empty--I hear a daypack coming on, in a hot orange with bright red stripes. I'm amassing bag stock because we've had an inquiry from a new wholesale customer and she wants to see a variety of things to base her order on, so I'm making several bags, a few scarves, and maybe some other stuff (really fun socks?) for her to peruse. Funny thing is, the gallery is in Columbia, South Carolina, about two miles from my home there when I taught at the University of South Carolina. I used to pass right by it going back and forth from campus, as it's in a really fun and eclectic entertainment/shopping area just east of campus. I'll felt the purple bag tomorrow (yes, pix will follow), but today's felting batch included a bright red hat that was a custom order from the Art Fair and a flap-top bag in baby rose heather knitted by a friend/customer of ours who doesn't do her own felting. I batch felt several times a week, so it's no big deal to toss hers in with ours, based on color, and it keeps her coming back for more and more yarn while she amasses Christmas presents.

As you may have guessed from the headline today, I rewarded myself for my good knitting progress by alotting some time tonight for work on this fun "Swatch Your Step" sock from the latest Knitter's magazine (see yesterday's entry for a picture). I set aside an hour in hopes of getting a rectangle completed, and it only took about 45 minutes. I really like this design (by Ginger Luters, who's writing an entire book on mitered knitting) and I think it will be smashing knit up--I can see myself making several pairs. I did, however, eliminate starting with the cuff, as I figure I can finish the entire sock and then pick up and knit a cuff. The directions had you start with it, but I didn't like how small it looked to be. So, here's my completed rectangle (shhhhhhh, don't tell Sarah that I don't mind taking pictures with dangling ends

I like it alot! And I reordered a big ol' batch of Lorna's Laces yarns today, mostly multis and solids in the sock weight, with this project in mind. Beth and company take AWESOME care of me, so I'm sure I'll have yarn by the end of the week, as they ship to me right away and it's only a two-day trip via UPS now that they're in Chicago. I really look forward to doing my second rectangle tomorrow. I'll cable cast on a short side, pick up along the long side of this piece, and then cable cast on the other short side and away I go. The fun part is that each row is progressively shorter and shorter and shorter, so the piece knits up faster and faster until it's done.

Several of you have asked about the alpaca that I am two-timing with in yesterday's post, particularly in reference to making the Forest Path Stole from the latest issue of Interweave Knits. You have EXCELLENT taste. The stole is designed by a good friend of ours, Faina Letouchaia, from our days in Michigan (yes, we actually know her). She is a master knitter of the highest type, especially in lace (it shows in this project--which I think is just heavenly), she's very kind, VERY smart (she was a biochemist or some such back "home" in Russia) and she actually knows Galena Khmeleva, of Orenburg shawl fame. Faina is an amazing teacher, and she can just look at a piece of knitting and have the design charted in a matter of minutes (she did just that with a coat someone brought back from Russia one winter). The alpaca that I blogged about is a sport-weight yarn, which would make a larger and more substantive stole, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you're wanting the same gossamer effect, I might recommend Jaggerspun's Zephyr, 50% wool and 50% silk in a lucious lace-weight yarn in 24 colors. A full one-pound cone of this from us would be $45, and you'd have over 5,000 yards of nummy fiber. The stole takes upwards of 3,000 yards, so you'd have plenty for that project and some left over for scarves and such, or another shawl in most any pattern. If you are set on a lace-weight alpaca, I've placed a couple inquiries to vendors, and one I know of does offer such a yarn, but it is not as affordable as the Zephyr (alpaca comes with a price!). We can also get any number of other suitable fibers, if you're wanting to make this incredible project (I'll probably do my first one out of Zephyr, actually). Just drop me an e-mail if your'e interested in options and the like and I'll try to match your preferences up with what we can get ahold of for you.

Tomorrow brings more felting, so stay tuned for pictures of the purple bag (I really like that Quatro, so I've got great hopes for it in felted fabric). Also, watch for continued progress on the mitered sock. It's addictive!

Be well, thanks for reading, and GO KNIT SOMETHING!

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

My Latest Obsession.........

I have to confess, I've been two-timing my Cascade Yarns. I've found a new one who's caught my eye, and I've been sneaking around on Cascade for four days now, since this vixen arrived on Thursday. What has me so captivated, you might ask? Why, it's this

Behold the luxury of three eight-ounce hanks of Prime Alpaca in the charcoal color. This is sport-weight yarn that comes in at 1,330 yards per pound, or 665 yards per eight ounce hank. And it's primo stuff. These babies never stepped below 13,000 feet when they were being grown, so it's the finest of the finest alpaca (they raise the alpacas between 13,000 and 16,500 feet up in the Andes--WOW). Mmmmmmmmm, I feel a shawl coming on. If there was a way to let you touch this, through the monitor, you'd be under her spell as well............OH, THE LUXURY

Great thing is, this fiber comes in 8-10 shades of natural goodness--a bleached white, natural white, light grey, charcoal, black, and three or four browns from nutmeg to chocolate. Even better? A hank of this little temptress is only $18.90 US from us, and we can get all you want at that price. Impossible you say? 665 yards of prime alpaca for under $20. YOU BETCHA!

I spent a good part of Saturday looking through shawl pattern books, especially Myrna Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, which I've heard rumour of going out of print shortly. We had originally ordered this batch of three for Deb, but she's since changed her mind about it. YES! MINE MINE MINE MINE!

Long Weekend? Not Nearly Long Enough

I trust this finds everyone safe and well after a long (American) holiday weekend. It was fun, but it wasn't long enough. Sure, we missed not having our surprise guests in town, but we also found things to occupy the newly-freed-up time. And it goes without saying (so why am I?) that we had a fiber-filled weekend. So here's a run-down.....

Saturday is a blur. We cleaned house a ton, straightened up the shop area, and were pleasantly surprised by a few visits (Hi Jana, Chrissy, and Heather!). Our friend Rachel was here digging around a little bit in the sock yarns and such when in popped three visitors--two former Bloomies and one current, all friends in their undergrad days. It was great fun getting to know them and to see them move from room to room and investigate the different fun colors and textures that caught their eye. In the end, Rachel and Matt got the Koigu organized (it's been a mess since we were out of town three times with it last week) and the Three Amigos left with some very fn stuff. I can't wait to see Chrissy's shell/tank out of Cascade's Sierra, as I'm totally in love with that yarn right now and trying to find several fun things to knit with it. Matt designed a fun pattern last year that is not yarn dependent, but gauge dependent. You hit a gauge, any gauge, and then you plug it into a simple format to generate your own custom pattern. He calls it his Sigma Tank, so drop him a note if you're interested in getting a copy. We figure it's good for sport to chunky or bulky yarns, most likely cotton or cotton blends. After things quieted down, Rachel went with us to the new Menard's in town, where we stalked disturbing yard adornments, new barbecue grills, and other assorted home improvement things.

Sunday was an us day, and we lazed around for awhile before heading off to Nashville, Indiana, just east of Bloomington. I started a new bag
new bag close up
Cascade Quatro 220 Purples Check out the colors!

out of Cascade's Quatro 220 in shade 9437 (the picture on the right is more accurate). I've not felted this particular color combo before, but the bag is almost finished and I want to see it ASAP. Look for finished results here in a couple days, max. Of course, I was a knitting passenger for the entire ride, so I made good progress. We have a consignment spot there who was in need of fresh goods, so we took a few tubs of our felted goodness to her shop and got her shelves closer to full. Laurie at the Acorn Cottage Gallery has been one of our best supporters over the past year or so, and she runs a great place, with a recent addition to her gallery opening as we speak. Rand-McNally thinks highly of her, too! Then it was back to Bloomington and we picked up the grill and dragged it and ourselves home.

Monday, the frustrating day saw me start and stop and knit and rip on a couple different projects. My intended project was this
from the most recent issue of Knitter's Magazine, which arrived on Friday. First off, I tried these colors
which are Lorna's Laces in Shepherd Sock, just like the pattern calls for, but in different colors. While these two (Charcoal and Flames) would have made a great version of that sock, I just wasn't into it, colorwise. I knit the first half of the mitered rectangle, liked the colors, but didn't think it was right. I had it in my head to use something more cheery, like this
Behold the beauty of Vera the multi and Violet the nearly solid. And so off to knit I went. As a rather loose-gauge knitter, I always drop one or two needle sizes to get gauge. Socks are almost always two sizes smaller than what is called for. So I went with US 0 (2.0mm) needles, down a size from the pattern suggestion. I started the sock as directed, with the ribbing first, then adding stitches to start the mitered rectangle. The cuff looked exceptionally small, even for a thin leg, but I plowed on. After a few color changes in the rectangle, I did a gauge measurement, and I was at about 8 or 8.5 sts/inch (pattern gauge is 7 sts/inch, so I was way WAY too tight--a RARITY for me). So rip again, down to nothing, and up to the recommended US 1 (2.25mm) needles. The project sits on the end table, in time out for now. And I went back to the purple bag (see above).

Last, tonight I felted the market bag knitted by our friend Helen (that's Low Helen, if you read Matt's blog). She started an entrelac market bag about six weeks ago, but she's like me--she couldn't knit on just one WIP if she had to. It would kill her (right now, she's almost finished with her version of the Obi, a multi-yarn neck scarf, a Koigu scarf, a Philosopher's Wool sweater, a couple pair of socks, and more). So it took longer than normal for her to finish it, but I must say it was worth the wait. You'll see it here tomorrow or so, I promise. I gotta have SOMETHING to make you stay tuned.......sheesh!