Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Various and sundry
I just finished dyeing 2 skeins for myself to play with:
Details on the Hopalong blog -- as soon as I get my stir-crazy kids aired out somehow.
A huge shout-out to Wendy and Christina, for thinking up the idea and doing so much to get the project going. I really appreciate it. If you are looking for a podcast to listen to, check out Knitty D and the City. Occasionally you may even hear the dulcet tones of my heinous Philly accent on there.
Excellent New Pattern Source
My pal Courtney, who is a Rosie's staff member and extremely talented knitter, crocheter and designer, just began her own line of patterns, called Smith Island Pattern Factory. You can visit her blog and purchase the patterns there; they're also available from Rosie's. Her adorable pattern for a vintage-styled baby jacket knit in Koigu, called "Beatrix,"
is flying out the door at Rosie's (along with our new shipment of Koigu....) and I've already purchased a great men's sock pattern that I might knit up with some BBF yarn. I wish I was one of those people who only needed to sleep three hours a night. There's so much I want to do and not nearly enough hours in the day.
Excellent New Yarn Source
Loyal reader Barb Brown, who is also a regular at Joe and Marilyn's blogs, has begun her own enterprise, called Wild Geese Fibres. Barb is another amazing knitter, and she is offering some unusual breed fibers in various weights. I've seen some samples and they are lovely.
Louet Spinning Wheel for Sale
And last in the category of shameless commerce, my friend Mary is looking to sell her used but in excellent condition spinning wheel. Sadly, I have lost both the Post-It note on which she wrote what kind of wheel it is (although I believe it's a Louet) and the JPEG she sent me of it. However, she takes excellent care of her wheels (she has several; hence the need to divest herself of one) and is a kick-ass spinner and knitter. She lives in the Philly area. If you would like more info, please email her at MtheSpinnerATverizonDOTnet.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
No-Bull Book Review: The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for Older Kids
Relief, of sorts, has come with The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for Older Kids, by Julie Carles & Jordana Jacobs. (Please keep in mind the "of sorts.")
The subtitle of the book is "quick-to-knit patterns for four- to ten-year-olds," and that is exactly what the book provides. Nothing terribly fancy or challenging -- but rather quick-knitting patterns in larger sizes with fairly straightforward styling.
Contentwise, the first 40 pages or so are devoted to the ubiquitous "how to knit" stuff. This seems to me to be a waste of valuable book space: the same authors having already published a beginner's guide and a follow-up to the beginner's guide, do we really need another rehash of how to cast on? Timid book editors constantly assume that someone who's never picked up the needles before is going to start with this book. They are wrong. Better to omit the elementary stuff and add more patterns, or chop a few bucks off the price.
The patterns are organized in small sections; most have three patterns in each section, for a total of about 30 designs. Sections include Basic Pullovers, Beyond Basic Pullovers, Basic Cardigans, Beyond Basic Cardigans, V-Necks, Hats, Scarves, Just for the Girls, and Blankets & Pillows. As with prior books, each pattern is prefaced by a perky vignette describing a well-heeled Manhattan customer of the authors' knitting shop and how the pattern was designed to meet his/her needs. You may find them charming or you may occasionally retch.
The patterns themselves are quite basic. We're talking drop shoulders, simple necklines, no shaping -- which doesn't matter nearly as much for kids as it does for adults, and certainly will make the knitting go faster. There is a slight feeling of saminess to some of the patterns;
for example, in the Basic Cardigans section, two of the three patterns are very similar -- plain stockinette cardigans with contrasting buttonbands, collar and cuff -- except written for slightly different gauges. Likewise, all three hats in the hat section are all very simple round hats; the scarves are so simple that more advanced knitters will surely find patterns for them unnecessary. Basic may be just fine for you: sometimes it's nice to follow a pattern and not have to think about it. However, if you are handy at designing your own items, particularly if you have sweater designing software, you'll want to look carefully at the book to see if it's worth spending your money on.
Gauges for the patterns tend to be on the chunky side: 2 to 3 stitches an inch for a lot of the designs. Decide whether your kids like thick, chunky sweaters (if you live in a warm climate, think long and hard) before picking the book up or you'll be sorry. Style is, again, basic: lots of colorblocks and stripes, minimal cabling and intarsia. These designs probably won't look dated for a while and they are certainly un-dorky enough for most kids to wear without fear of mockery by their peers.
As with any chunkier yarn, if you use the recommended yarns, you'll pay dearly for the speed with which the designs knit up: for example, the Camping Out sweater, a basic design, requires 3 balls of Classic Elite Tigress for the larger sizes, at $34 a pop, with a total yarn cost of $102; the Waste Not, Want Not requires 15 balls of Bliss Cashmerino Aran for a total of about $135;
and the Supersize Me sweater, above, knit in doubled Koigu (which isn't chunky and so won't go as fast as a 2 to the inch yarn), will run you $144 for the 10-year-old's size. If this fits into your budget, swell. If not, you better be comfortable with yarn substitution. (I'm thinking a lot of these designs are going to end up being knitted in Encore and the like.) It also bears pointing out that many of the yarns used are NOT machine washable, which may be a deal-breaker for some people.
The production values of the book are high, as is usual with PotterCraft. I like the bright photos that show the garments clearly; each design (except the chapter for girls) is shown on both a girl and a boy, in different colors; schematics with measurements are given. I haven't yet made anything from the book, so I can't speak to the accuracy or clarity of the pattern-writing.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Join the Hop-along!
In the meantime, I've been ogling the mittens on display as part of the Bitchin' Mittens event. Holy crap! What a wide variety of stuff, and the level of creativity is amazing. Don't stop scrolling 'til you hit the Dorothy Parker mittens. (Now I'm mulling a knitted throw pillow that says "What fresh hell is this?" for my living room.) Set up by Dave D. of Cabin Cove, dyer and blogger and knitter -- and knitalong organizer -- extraordinaire.
While on vacation, I knit the lion's share of a quickie sleeveless sweater for Grace in undyed cotton. (Of course when I tried it on her, we had some head fitting through the hole logistical issues....but we're working on that.) Next step is to -- brace yourself -- tie dye it. Photos when it's done.
Oh, yeah, I need a new project like I need a hole in the head. But I decided that I am going to knit some sweaters for myself this year. Starting very humbly, with some Rowan Soft Tweed, a.k.a. the dryer lint yarn, from Rosie's. I've got a Knitting Pure and Simple pattern that I may try. This ought to be one of those mindless, ongoing projects to pull out when I'm too tired for complex things. (In other words, most days.)
So in case you're counting, ongoing projects include 6-ply socks I started on vacation, other bootie and baby cap for Tom's coworker's baby, Hopalong project, numerous swatches for possible designs in various states of unfinishedness, and, um, well, I'll just stop there.
And while I'm being ridiculous, I am about to do some reorganizing of the old stash. Mostly to consolidate and weed out some stuff I don't think I'll ever use (my problem is optimism: I truly believe that some day I'll get to using it all...). The husband, usually delightfully mellow about knitting-related things, has been -- sharp intake of breath -- nagging me about making more closet space. (Doesn't he have his priorities straight?) So while I do this, I've decided to make a list of the quantities and gauges of what I have, to make it easier for me to match up a pattern with yarn. I'll let you know how it goes, once I start, and if I find it helpful or not.
Coming soon: another No-Bull Book ReviewTM, and more Hopalong details...
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Knitting books I shan't be purchasing, part 2
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
More sleeve talk
First, some reader comments in response to the first sleeve installment: Jove mentions that The Girl From Auntie wrote a tutorial on sleeves, from a designer's perspective, on Knitty. I hadn't seen this, but it's -- as usual for anything done by Jenna -- thorough and well-done. It may be more information than some of you need at this point if you don't plan on designing your own sweaters, but very helpful if you do want to design and don't have math anxiety.
Guido from Boston and Ted (from Canada) both ask how the drop shoulder vs. set-in sleeve distinction applies to men. Okay, let's look at a guy's body. (Oh no. Not that.)
Men generally have broader shoulders and chests than women and generally they have more muscular upper arms than women. (I said "generally"!) Unlike a woman's torso, which tends to taper in and then widen for the hips, men taper in more gradually and don't tend to start curving back out again (beer bellies aside).
In theory, the drop shoulder style should fit men better than it fits women, because the boxier shape would more closely match a guy's broader shoulders & chest and thicker upper arms. Better alignment with the natural line of the shoulders and arms means less excess fabric and therefore less pooching of said excess fabric. If you are, then, lucky enough to be built like David, and have broad shoulders, you can probably wear a drop shoulder sweater and look just fine in it, with minimal excess fabric at the shoulders and chest.
As Ted points out, however, not every man is built like Ah-nold Schwartezenegger. If you're a guy whose shoulders aren't exceedingly broad or rippling with muscle, then you will want to consider set-in sleeves. You will probably need to set the sleeves in less than a woman would, i.e., bind off fewer stitches and maybe decrease fewer stitches as you go up the armhole, because you will need to eliminate less fabric, to dip in less, than a woman would.
My best suggestion when trying to tweak items to fit your particular body -- whether you are male or female -- is to find a sweater that fits you well and take a good analytical look at it, using a tape measure. Figure out if it has drop shoulders or set-in sleeves (or some other kind -- don't worry, I'll try to hit them all in the next few posts) and figure out how many inches the sleeves are set-in, along with a general idea of the slope of the armholes as they go up. Then try to replicate that when you knit your next sweater. You can just lay out the existing sweater like a template, and put your piece over it (taking into account seam allowances and so forth).
Today, let's talk raglans. I am a personal fan of raglans because I like the way they fit me, but women with large boobs or muscular shoulders generally don't like them as much. The raglan is styled like the old-fashioned baseball jersey: the sleeve piece extends all the way up to the neckline, making a diagonal slash from armpit up to that little bony piece that sticks out on either side of your neck (scapula?).
To accommodate that, the front and back of the sweater are decreased pretty dramatically up the front, making a shape like the roof of a house.
Raglans do a good job of cutting out excess sleeve fabric because instead of rectangles attached to rectangles, you are angling the body and the sleeves of the sweater. I also like them because they tend to let the sweater drape along your natural shoulder line. Raglans should be a good style for most men, too, since men don't mind if their shoulders look broad. (Of course, men with large breasts should steer clear of raglans as well.)
Can there be more sleeve talk? You betcha. Plus a Black Bunny Hop-A-Long....
Sunday, August 20, 2006
More vacay pix
I tried to take a few shots
but, sadly, I'm no Franklin. The residents clearly are all gardeners and even small yards were filled with perennials, crape myrtle trees and other blooming plants.
We visited the Cape May Lighthouse
and Tom and James climbed to the top,
while I entertained the twins below. Well, sort of; you can see from Grace's expression how she was enjoying it all.
Our house had a row of birdhouses
along the fence, and we were very close to some of the protected land that is designed to provide a safe haven for birds to nest without being disturbed. The number of butterflies -- I recognized monarchs, but not any others -- was breathtaking.
James flew a kite on the beach
with his dad's help
At one point, the wind, which was quite strong (our beach umbrella blew over and conked me on the head), took the kite out of James' hand and blew it toward the ocean. James started yelling, and a woman who surely was a marathon runner or decathlon athlete took off down the beach after it, even diving in the waves to try to retrieve it. Alas, it was already blown out to sea. James cried and I suggested we walk down the shore to see if we could spot it being washed in by the tide. Lo and behold, some very kind kayakers rowed out to the kite, rolled it up and let the waves carry them ashore, handing us the kite. Such a sweet gesture of kindness that meant the world to us.
Wonder of wonders, look at the print I noticed on the living room wall:
It was a good omen.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
We stayed in a charming little house that belongs to one of Tom's father's clients (Tom's dad is a painting contractor):
The house was conveniently located near a mermaid crossing:
Charcoal made the trip with us and was an all-around good sport. He (unlike the other children, I might add) did not whine or complain a single time in the car, and made himself at home in his little pen, although it was difficult to get him to put on sunscreen:
Doesn't he look more relaxed already?
The beach was gorgeous and the water was warm. Sand castles were built:
a real-live crab was spotted (and not on a dinner plate)
I got some knitting done:
sunglasses were worn:
and an adorable, curly-haired mermaid was spotted, trying to revive herself in a beach bucket:
Imagine my chagrin, however, when I realized that I had not remembered to pack my "brat" shorts:
Coming soon: more vacation pix and the long-overdue sleeve tutorial continues...
I'm a tired & tan girl,
But couldn't resist this ad,
The "poem" made me hurl.
If your Lab isn't black,
Please: stay mellow,
It comes in a version
Where the Lab is yellow.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
An American Tragedy
The Jon-Benet Ramsey case has bugged me for quite a while. There's just so much tragedy and heartbreak involved in it. The loss of a lovely six-year-old girl, not through illness or accident but through the malevolence of another human being -- that's a soul-crushing blow that I cannot imagine ever recovering from. I think pretty much everyone agrees that the authorities who initially investigated the case bungled the investigation, through inexperience, incompetence or maybe even a little malice toward the well-heeled Ramseys. Ten long years dragged on since Jon-Benet's murder, during which her parents and her brother were the only ones consistently mentioned as serious suspects. Just a few months ago, Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer, leaving her husband and children bereft again, without a resolution to her child's murder and without personal vindication.
What surprised me the most about the media coverage in the past 24 hours was the continued hostility toward the Ramseys. Several commentators, instead of stating outright that it looked like the Ramseys had been vindicated, used very cautious language: "there are still a lot of unanswered questions," "I've always thought certain things about the case to be very odd," "pedophiles will say anything to build themselves up," and even "if I were stuck in a Thai jail, I'd confess to anything to get sent back to the US."
I suppose it's hard to say conclusively that the Ramseys had nothing to do with it, given that so much is unknown about the suspect. But numerous media reports indicate that the suspect, apparently a previous sex offender, not only confessed but also revealed to investigators certain facts about the crime that have never been released to the public. If this is true, then either this guy did it, or he heard those details from someone, presumably the killer. He is reported to have lived in a suburb of Georgia, where the Ramseys lived before moving to Colorado, and an ABC report suggests that the suspect had some kind of obsession with the six-year-old, saying he was in love with her. And the Philly Inquirer reports that the suspect stayed in touch with someone in Boulder who was close to the investigation, apparently to keep tabs on what law enforcement was doing. So why the continued hostility to the Ramseys?
The strange details of the crime? (It happened inside a home on Christmas Eve and no one heard anything, there were suggestions that Jon-Benet had been wrapped in a favorite blanket, the particulars of the ransom note, and so on.) My husband thinks it was the fact that the Ramseys immediately "lawyered up," as he puts it. (I saw Mark Klaas, the father of murdered child Polly Klaas on TV last night, and he reiterated how when his child was missing, he told the cops over and over, "I'll take any test, do anything, keep me as long as you want, just do whatever you have to to eliminate me as a suspect and find her" -- something the Ramseys apparently didn't do, or didn't do effectively.)
For me, though, the indelible images of Jon-Benet are the ones from her beauty pageants. The six-year-old -- SIX! -- moussed, pouffed, heavy makeup, clad in bizarrely Las Vegas-ish costumes, and most of all, the sashaying, the swinging hips. The turning of a sweet innocent girl who should be playing with Barbies into a real-life Barbie doll. What always left me cold about the Ramseys was their seeming willingness to allow their young daughter to be sexualized, because if you see those videotapes of her working it for the judges, tarted up like a streetwalker, that's the only way I can describe it. I suspect that a lot of other Americans felt the same way when they saw those video clips, and it is that lasting icky taste in the mouth from seeing them that has people so willing to believe the worst of the Ramseys.
I hope the case is solved. I hope that authorities can take off the streets the dirtbag who did this, both to punish him and to prevent any other children from being victimized by him. I hope the Ramsey family can find some small comfort in knowing that the crime is solved, that they can achieve the exoneration they certainly must feel is long overdue. Most of all, I'd like to see some photos of poor Jon-Benet where she was not gussied up like a show pony, where the natural innocence and beauty of an unadorned child, who never got the chance to live out her life, can be seen clearly.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Don't miss me too much
The annual beach vacation is coming up, so I won't be posting that much, at least not that I can tell, starting this weekend. I'll try to check in depending on whether we have internet access, and how good a connection we can get, but if you email me and don't hear back, rest assured I'm not ignoring you but simply taking some R&R. Also, Black Bunny orders will not ship again until August 22nd.
I spent Monday sitting through a painfully dull videotaped course to keep my law license current. Each year, attorneys in Pennsylvania are required to log twelve hours of "continuing legal education" credit. Personally, I think the most pronounced effect of this rule is to create a burgeoning market for people who make money putting on these seminars, and that conscientious lawyers will stay on top of developments in their area of expertise regardless of whether it's required or not. However, it is not for me to question the wisdom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, so six hours of videos on how to try a medical malpractice case, of all things, were mine to sit through. About the only thing I took away from the seminar was a visceral dislike of the old fart who, when discussing jury selection, informed us smugly that if we represent a plaintiff who happens to be an attractive younger female (heh, heh), we should get rid of all jurors who are "older women," because they will undoubtedly be jealous of the young attractive plaintiff, and be unable to judge the case on the merits, and will find against her out of spite. I surfaced from my Elinor Lipman novel just long enough to write a blistering critique of the jury selection moderator on my feedback form, then returned to my knitting.
The pink baby sweater is nearly done:
Rowan Summer Tweed, pattern from Erika Knight's Knitting for Two. I also finished one baby bootee and half a baby hat, knit in Artful Yarns Candy (love that lycra on the crippled hands!) for the new baby born to someone in my husband's office. I'm going to take some sock yarn with me on vacation, since I'll probably be too distracted to work on anything particularly complex.
Down the shore
We're off to the beach, or "going down the shore" as we say in Philly.
See you in a week!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Damn these outages
Friday, August 04, 2006
We Have a Winner!
If you're looking for a good buy on some Rowan Yorkshire yarn, check out Rosie's Ebay listings under the seller name "yarncellar." Now that Rowan's discontinued the entire Yorkshire Tweed line, Rosie's is auctioning off the remaining inventory in various lots -- aran, DK, 4-ply and chunky. Some are sweater quantity; others are mixed lots great for colorwork.
Sorry for the short entry: the dyepot is a-calling, and I'm trying to finish a baby sweater for my friend's new daughter. Note to self: do not select inelastic silk/cotton yarn while experiencing joint pain.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Fall '06: Rowan
Rowan Magazine No. 40
features designs from Kaffe Fassett, Martin Storey, Marie Wallin, Sarah Dallas, Amanda Crawford, Carol Meldrum, Leah Sutton, Jennie Atkinson, and Lois Daykin. In other words, the usual gang of suspects. As I mentioned before, No. 40 includes revised sizing for its designs: I've read that something like half of the women's designs will go up to a size 22, and the rest up to size 18. An XXL size has been added to the men's designs.
Rowan Magazine always features themes, which they call "Stories." This year, you'll see "Fade to Grey," which focuses on designs in black and gray. "Kindred Spirit" is an autumnal theme, with an English country feel. "Legend" is a more glam theme, with brighter, richer colors and more drama. For some better pictures of specific designs, and Lisa Myers' impresssions, you might want to visit RosieBlogs' archives (just click on this link).
New yarns include Little Big Wool, a less bulky version of the popular Big Wool, and comes in ten colors, about evenly divided between pastel tones and brighter shades; Country, 100% wool in tweedy kind of color blends, 8 or so shades, 2.5 sts to the inch; Tapestry, a wool-soy blend, in eight space-dyed, self-striping shades (the sample garments at their fashion show looked lovely); and Romance, a chunky yarn with some metallic in it, in pastel shades.
A pattern booklet called Arabesque (above) is devoted to the new Little Big Wool (anyone else reminded of General Custer?) and as my discerning readers may have guessed, features a dance-ballet theme. A second booklet called Country Escape
is devoted to pattern suing, you guessed it, the new yarn Country.
Rowan's offshoot, RYC,
introduces some interesting new yarns, including Silk & Wool DK (half wool, half silk); Baby Alpaca DK (100% baby alpaca); and Alpaca Soft (a wool/alpaca blend, in a chunker weight). For those of you who like CashSoft Aran, but found the palette dreary, RYC is introducing some new colors to expand the range (and better compete with similar yarns, like Debbie Bliss's Cashmerino Aran). Martin Storey -- whose designs I quite like -- takes the helm with four RYC design books:
Classic Style (devoted to the Silk & Wool DK), featuring women's garments; Classic Spirit, featuring both home dec and women's items in some of the bulkier yarns; Classic Alpaca (you guessed it: featuring the new alpaca DK yarns, which includes menswear and women's designs, and traditional techniques like cabling and fair isle; and Classic Landscapes, women's and men's designs in the chunkier alpaca, including bulkier cables and outerwear.
Jaeger, Rowan's sister company, is introducing Pure Silk, a DK-weight which I am forced to assume is 100% silk. (The promotional materials on Jaeger were much less detailed.) Jaeger is releasing two pattern booklets, both by Lois Daykin;
JB41 (catchy title, innit?) appears to be women's sweaters and accessories in Jaeger's DK yarns, including the new Pure Silk. JB42 contains jackets, sweaters and accessories in the bulkier Jaeger yarns.
Just what you wanted to hear in the middle of a heat wave, right? All about wool.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Sneak preview: JCA/Reynolds
Reynolds, home of the hallowed Lopi, is introducing three new yarns. First is Whiskey, a sport-weight 100% wool in ten autumnal colors. Rosie's should have this one on the shelves soon. The sample garments we saw at TNNA got us excited about Whiskey. (I'm still having trouble loading photos, so I guess we'll make do without photos for now, but if Blogger fixes itself, I'll add some later.) Revue is 100% extrafine superwash merino, worsted weight, and a palette of 22 colors. Smile is 72% acrylic/28% wool, 2.5 sts per inch, and comes in what look like self-striping or melange-ish colorways. My promo materials only show 3 colorways for Smile; I'm not sure if that's all or if there are more that weren't shown. Four new colors -- three brights and one deep charcoal -- for the popular Blizzard (also a Rosie's fave), which is the 2.25 sts per inch alpaca/acrylic blend.
The glimpses of patterns under the Reynolds label look quite nice: some fair-isle inspired patterns but with more contemporary shapes, many of them in Whiskey, some cabled patterns and even a pleated skirt in Rapture (which is a silk/wool blend and a very lovely yarn).
Artful Yarns introduces Heroes, 60% nylon/40% acrylic, a sort of novelty-ish looking yarn with a thread-like binder, knitting at 4.5 sts per inch. All multicolors, with names like "Rosa Parks", "Mother Teresa" and "Jonas Salk." Soap is 80% wool/12 acrylic/4% poly/4% nylon, again multis but with a metallic binder. Names are all soap operas, natch. (I'll have to check out "Days of Our Lives," my ancestral soap opera.) Last is Reality, 51% wool/40% acrylic/2% nylon, which, colorwise, looks very much like a Noro yarn with long stretches of deep tones melding into one another, but a chainette construction. It knits at 3 sts per inch, with 8 colors named after .... reality TV shows. (sweater made in "Survivor" anyone?) New colors in Heavenly, Portrait, Broadway, Circus and Serenade (Serenade is a 70% pima cotton/30% angora blend that is quite nice to work with, and now AY has added four non-pastel shades, to increase its versatility).
Adrienne Vittadini's got a new booklet of patterns, with that Vittadini look, and three new yarns: Chiara, a novelty-ish metallic yarn, looks to me like two plies, one with a halo of fuzz (cut me some slack; I'm trying to discern what the yarn looks like from a 1.5-inch cutting). Knits at heavy worsted/aran gauge. Mia is 100% wool, looks like a lofty singles to me, with chalky pastel colors reminiscent of Rowan's Big Wool Fusion. Rosie's will have this on the shelves soon, too. It's 100% wool and about 2.75 sts per inch. Lucia is 53% wool/47% cotton, also heavy worsted/aran, looks like it has a fairly tight twist.
So there you have it. If I can update with a few photos, I will later. In the meantime, I'm dyeing and swatching and trying to finish a teeny baby sweater for my friend's newborn (before the baby outgrows it).
Coming soon: Rowan sneak preview and more sleeve talk (as soon as I can load photos), and maybe a review of some of the fall magazines I've been getting...