I’ve never had much luck in finding yarn. I can dream of some fantabulous yard sale, the result of a knitter’s stash guilt, or maybe even (come on, you’ve thought of it, too!) their death. The idea of skeins of wool, of cashmere, even of humble cotton, dance before my crazed eyes. Long term yarn deprivation can do that to you. It also starts to make Red Heart Super Saver feel like the finest silk, but that’s when intervention by good friends is needed.
I’ve had better luck in finding books about knitting. It takes patience. I have sifted through dozens of quilting and needlepoint books to find just one or two titles. But this past weekend, I found a little stash of vintage sock pattern pamphlets—for 25 or 50 cents.
The first is from 1975. It’s a Bernat pamphlet called, “On Your Toes,” and one thing that I’ve immeaditely noticed about all 3 pamphlets that I found is that there are many more men’s patterns than you usually find today.
This is actually probably my least favorite of the three pamphlets, but I’m really fond of this pattern here, poetically entitled, “Style No. 2333-218,”!
There’s a knee high version as well, all knit in the well-known Bernant Berella Sportspun!
The next pamphlet (and possibly the most amusing) is, “Bear Brand Hand Knit Socks, for Men, Women, Children.”
And possibly for someone who is extremely fond of argyle.
There are also some very classic sock patterns (mainly cabled) also included in this book. Many are sized for men. For example, these are Men’s Cable-Stitch Socks and Anklets, No. 2224
Or perhaps you prefer the more dashing Sport Anklets for Men and Women!
What about a pair of Girl’s Knee Length Socks?
There are more patterns, including some rather overdone Aran things, but I’m moving on to what is possibly my favorite of the pamphlets—The All-American Sock Book! (No Communist socks for you!)
Now this sock, if I’ve ever seen a classic vintage sock pattern, it’s this one. It’s simply entitled Men’s Striped Socks.
Not quite sure where they’re hiding the cable on this pattern.
I love old-fashioned socks. They have odder shapes, different sensibilities than we do now.
This next pattern is very sweet and possibly one of the easiest to translate into a modern pattern—just shorten the length, and keep the adorable heart motif. This pattern is called Big Girl’s High Socks.
A possible future project, if I can ever dig myself out my current obligations!
And I love this. This history of knitting, of feeling like I’m rummaging around someone’s old trunk and finding treasure. It makes me laugh at myself, because I’m sure that in 20 years, I will look back at my “argyle” knitting and laugh. And maybe by that time…we’ll be knitting argyle again!
My knitting runs in bursts. Inbetween knitting a t-shirt, starting my first lace wrap, finishing my first pair of Monkeys and learning how to seam my first sweater, you would think that I would learn my lesson and stop starting new projects!
However, this story has a happy ending. Remember this yarn? Named Wood Elves, it instantly brought to mind the play that my older sister is starring in. She is playing the role of Hermia in Midsummer’s Night Dream by Shakespeare.
Yes, that is a finished object. A hat.
Pattern: The Sand and Sea Tam
Yarn: Handspun from Enchanted Knoll Farm Pencil Roving
Colorway: Wood Elves
I love the colors. I think I could pass as one of Titania or Oberon’s fairies or as a short, stumpy and odd looking elf in Middle Earth.
OK, maybe not. But a girl can dream. After all, they stuck around for 4 months after the bloody council before they left. That’s plenty of time for me to work my…wiles.
Colorway: Grawk (top picture) and Thraven (bottom picture)
I swapped my copy of Poems of Color for these skeins of STR. I was actually very pleased with the way that the colors showed up in the pictures. The Raven series is notoriously difficult to photograph. If you’ve been wondering how these two colors look, than here they are!
I don’t have a paticular project in mind for either of these yarns, but I’ve wound up Grawk (my favorite color) and I’m thinking of…oh, maybe a lacy beret, or something similar. I like the firm twist I’m feeling; I like a good bouncy yarn. I’m finding the idea of actually knitting with these beautiful yarns as bordering on sacrilige.
If someone has a suggestion for a pattern, I would love to hear it. Anything dark, moody, and maybe with a touch of fall or winter would be good. If I knit it now (in summer) hopefully I will have it ready for when the weather cools off.
You know. Hopefully.
“So, I was thinking about all these acrylic debates, and I just can’t figure out why people have to be so mean. Some of us can’t afford anything other than Red Heart, and it’s really offensive for people to act as though you can only knit with cashmere.”
“I agree; my grandma knit an acrylic blanket 80 years ago, and it’s still pristine and perfect. Acrylic has its uses!”
“Well, acrylic is a fire hazard. It melts when it burns. I never use anything other than cotton or wool when I knit for babies.”
“Honey, if you’re so close to a fire that your clothes are melting, you have bigger problems than your sweater. RED HEART 4EVER!”
“I don’t use acrylic because it’s just darn nasty. It’s squeaky, ugly and come on, there are totally affordable wools out there. Knitpicks, Webs, come on! Cost is just an excuse.”
“I know that some people can’t afford anything better, but I just can’t stand it. I only knit with organic yarns, handspun from the wool from my own sheep. That, or I just buy Malabrigo, why knit with something you hate, lol! I have 27 tubs of the stuff in my house…”
“I NEVER use yarn from animals. Shearing sheep really hurts them. Have you heard about those poor sheep that get mutiliated? It just sickens me with this wanton cruelty.”
“I don’t know about acrylic versus wool, but breastfeeding in public really annoys me.”
“Knitpicks DOESN’T SHIP TO CANADA, ARGH! HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO SAY THIS! The only thing I can get in my town is acrylic and it works just great for whatever I knit. It’s washable and durable.”
“Have you tried Knitpicks?”
“My knitpicks circular needles broke 3 times. I just stopped bothering returning them. Susan Bate forever!”
“It’s called mulesing, and it’s actually more kind to the sheep than letting them get infested with flies. They’re phasing it out anyway.”
“Breastfeeding in public is totally normal. I should be able to pop out a boob whenever I want. If you don’t want to see, DON’T LOOK!”
Moderator Wannabe: Everyone! Stop being so mean! Acrylic and wool have different uses, let’s agree to disagree.
“Isn’t anyone thinking of the children?”
Friday before last, I showed off some beautiful grey laceweight yarn that I bought for the Seascape wrap. I’ve never knitted so much lace before, but it seemed like a good time to start. Meanwhile, I moodled around a bit, looking at the other patterns by Kieran Foley, the designer.
Finally, I decided that I needed to know more about this mysterious designer of lace. So I shot off a quick message to Mr. Foley, asking if he wouldn’t mind doing a little interview for my blog. (I’ll confess, I was trembling a little; I don’t usually talk to a Real Live Designer.) Fortunately, this real life designer was extremely obliging, and so you get to read the first ever interview on the Lumpy Sweater.
(enter: Kieran Foley, designer of the Seascape Wrap. He lives in Dublin, Ireland, and has been knitting since before his interviewer, Barbara, was born!)
Barbara: Before I delve into questions about your designs, I’d love to know a little bit more about your background in knitting. Did you teach yourself to knit or did someone else?
Kieran: I learned to knit from my mother when I was 8 or 9. She used to knit and sew clothes for us. At the time I made an egg-cosy, and did some stranded work as well.
Barbara: Following up that question, what prompted you to take up knitting?
Kieran: A couple of years ago I decided to make myself a hat, looked around for a pattern, and discovered the virtual world of knitting.
Barbara: Have you ever experienced odd reactions from people because you are a man who knits? Many people still consider the province of lace and knitting to be strictly female occupation.
Kieran: No – but I don’t kip! [Knit in Public, gentle readers!]
Barbara: Seascape, your lace wrap design that was just released in the Summer issue of Knitty, has attracted a lot of attention from the knitting community. What is different about Seascape, in your mind, that sets it apart from the many other lace shawl patterns?
Kieran: I haven’t thought about this before…..I didn’t approach the design from that angle. It has a big repeat and quite a lot of plain knitting. You could say it is more linear than textural.
Barbara: For someone who is very much new to knitting lace, the idea of designing lace is even more intimidating—and fascinating! From concept to finished shawl, how long did it take to design Seascape?
Kieran: “Arctic Lace” by Donna Druchunas introduced me to the basic stitches and techniques, and the concept of charting. Seascape started out as something very different – it was going to be called Sensibility Stole and look like something that a Jane Austen character might wear. It had a much more complicated border which I knit and frogged a couple of times, and eventually gave up on as the Knitty deadline. The current wave pattern is an exaggerated version of part of that original design. It probably took a month from start to finish.
Barbara: Were you inspired by a paticular character or book by Austen?
Kieran: I was thinking in general (and without much concern for historical accuracy) about the kind of embroidered shawls that were imported from India around that time, with richly decorated borders at each end, and a central medallion on a plain ground.
Barbara: A knit-a-long for the wrap has already been created on Ravelry.com. How has Ravelry affected your ability as a designer to communicate with people knitting your design? How does it affect your ability to see how people are interpreting your design?
Kieran: It was very exciting to see the reaction on when Knitty was published and the knit-a-long started. It’s very interesting to see the yarn choices, and to watch the projects develop.
Barbara: One of my personal favorites is the woman who is knitting a red-hot Seascape out of fingering weight yarn, rather than lace weight.
Kieran: I love that one too.
Barbara: With all the buzz surrounding Seascape, does that make you even more enthusiastic about your next design project?
Kieran: The buzz is very much a Knitty buzz. Designs introduced on my own website get less fanfare.
Barbara: I’ve browsed your website, kieranfoley.com, and noticed some lovely Fair Isle charts and designs of yours. Also, you mentioned in your Knitty biography that you love Scandinavian mittens. Any chance that we might be seeing something along those lines in the future?
Kieran: Yes, my current design projects are stranded. In the future I’d like to do a stranded sock.
With that tantalizing statement, I’m sure that there are plenty of us that will be keeping our eye on Mr. Foley’s future designs!
Meanwhile, I’m working my fingers over my own Seascape wrap, which I’ve rather predictably dubbed, “Grey Sea,” and which has been (at least for my limited lace skills) a trial in patience. The adamant advice of friends, (LIFE-LINE, YOU FOOLS! PUT IN A LIFE-LINE! IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR YOUR SORRY SOUL!) has helped a lot.
The redeeming factor, as it usually is with my more difficult projects, is the yarn. The Silky Alpaca feels very light and soft. You might think that the silk would make it difficult to knit with, but the alpaca adds a nice grabbiness to the yarn that makes it less prone to slip.
Yet, somehow, this makes no difference when I have ripped out the same 8 rows over and over and over and over and…yes. I have the stupids.
But when I smooth out the few, soft inches, it somehow…
makes me a heck of a lot glad that I’ve got a darn lifeline in it!
If I close my eyes and wish really hard, I can imagine that the entire front of my nothing but a t-shirt is done. I’m almost to the neck shaping now, so I’m not too far away.
Michelle has a jump on me, however, and has an entire sleeve finished!
Jen doesn’t have updates on her t-shirt, but she does have a lovely scarf that she knitted in public last Saturday, and she actually got to teach someone to knit!
This coming week should be jam-packed with pictures and more pictures—new yarn, new projects, a mysterious finished object and, well, a little extra surprise on Monday. Cheers!
I have pictures. I have knitting that I’ve knitted. But I’m experiencing some technical troubles with the camera plus the computer. I apologize for the delay in updates. The blog should be running smoothly by tomorrow!
Explaining the dynamics of the local poetry group would be difficult. It’s like trying to explain an in-joke to someone; it never pays off. But I’ll try.
Well, I always bring my knitting. Knitting is a safe refuge if the weaselly looking guy decides to read a Ribert Frost poem—an unfortunate incident which occured as follows. The scene is the Seattle Best Cafe. I have a laptop on my, er, lap, and a short, skinny little man stands up to read.
Weasel Man: (In flat, nasal voice)
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
Me: (Starts to giggle)
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Me: (Starts to giggle even harder as he speaks each line like he’s dropping a dead animal onto the floor)
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
Me: (Now visibly convulsing in my chair, barely able to stop from exploding into laughter. Did I mention the bristly little blond mustache, that simply adds to the weasel impression? He read on, blessedly deaf to my muted explosions.)
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there’s some mistake….
By the time that he reached the very famous last lines, “And miles to go before I sleep,” I was this close to lying on the floor, writhing with hysterical laughter. It may have something to do with the fact that this was November and I was in NaNoWriMo, a novel writing challenge that required 1,667 words per day. Emerging for the poetry reading was one of the few social ventures that I made that month. I guess that it showed.
However, now I have knitting, and I knitted alternately on my t-shirt and on a hat, which is not going to pictured here until I have found out whether I actually have enough yarn for it or not. Tonight, everyone put their poems in a bag and so everything was anonymous. The evening went well. Poets are strange and sensitive breed, so when everyone starts laughing, you know that it’s going well.
Afterwards, me, the Artist and a bunch of the other poets, including Matt, piled into our cars to go to the ice cream shop nearby. Fueled by sugar, everyone began to share stories.
“I remember the best fanfiction line ever,” Matt said, “You know Doom, the computer game, with the marine? Well, this fanfiction story is about John, the marine, and he’s on the phone with the commander. And John says, ‘I have to defeat all these demons!’ and the commander says, ‘YOU are the demons,’.”
He paused, savoring everyone’s expectant faces. Then he giggled, which spoiled it slightly.
“And then he was a zombie.”
Everyone gaped for a moment.
“Seriously, that was the ending of the story. And then he was a zombie. That’s it.”
This spurred many stories about fanfiction horrors, another memorable ending line being, “BUT WHO WAS THE PHONE!” because we are all geeks, and probably everyone there had written at least one fanfiction story. However, Rob, a generally good natured guy who enjoys teasing, started to dig at my and the Artist, namely because everyone in my family is rather short. I joked that at the family reunions, we have a ruler that says, “Must Not Be Taller Than This,” because if you’re taller than a certain height, you’re not actually a member of the family!
However, this did not stop him. Instead, it encouraged him. I knit on my cotton t-shirt, and reached the end of the row. My needle—my size 6, 14 inch long bamboo needle—was free. Finally. He made one more quip.
I flicked the blunt end of the needle against his leg, not too hard, but enough to make a point. Bamboo needles sting.
“Ow!” he said, whining.
He got no sympathy, however, simply laughter. When all the ice had melted, finally, me, the Artist and her friend needed to leave. As I got into the car, he called out,
Darn it. Maybe I should start using metal needles.
Note: There will be a t-shirt KAL update this week, probably Thursday or Friday. Sorry for the delay.
Somehow, LeAnne keeps wandering into my blog posts, but this week’s project update is largely due to her help, so…
The orange sweater is now seamed—partly. Last Saturday was Knit in Public day, and it provided the perfect excuse to go the yarn store. Feeling inspired, I brought a treat, because lately, I keep seeing cupcakes on knitting blogs. Tienne and her daughter make cupcakes from scratch (curse them and their skills!) and Ysolda makes healthy and deliciously cute mini cupcakes on her blog. She also has a recipe!
However, I have no such skills. I bought a box of white cake mix, some generic vanilla frosting and waltzed into the store with two bags on one arm and two plates of cupcakes balanced on my hands. Someone, seeing my plight through the big glass window, kindly opened the door.
Perhaps the bribe helped, but when I helplessly gestured to my bag, full of the pieces of my Basic Black cardigan, Leanne put aside her afghan square to help. Secretly, it may have also had to do with the fact that the stitch pattern for the square wasn’t working out. Instead of looking like cute little leaves, it looked rather like an afghan square decorated with bobbly nipples–sorry, Leanne! Anyway, I pulled out my tapestry needle, the smell of incense filled the air and I woke a few hours later, with this in my numb hands…
Actually, there was no incense, but it did seem like magic when Leanne showed me how to seam the shoulder parts together.
Also, despite their humble origins, the cupcakes went over rather well. A steady stream of shoppers meant that I didn’t have to bring home too many. Ah, Betty Crocker, we worship at thy cardboard altar! Even the older woman who cheerfully referred to me as “kid,” seemed to enjoy her cupcake. (Also; since when did old people call people ‘kid’? Doesn’t that just happen in movies?)
I have officially declared my missing six 6 needle dead. I wept, and then bought another pair of them, bamboo, to match the old ones. Wednesday I will update the t-shirt KAL. Thank goodness for DK weight…my struggles with laceweight, well…they’ll make another blog post…filled with fake swears…
Let’s put it this way: I am the most unlikely person to have become a knitter. The other day, I turned to my mother.
“If you had to pick between any of your daughters,” I said, “Would you have ever picked me as the person to start knitting?”
She grinned slightly.
“No,” she answered and I could tell that she still couldn’t believe that I was knitting.
This Friday, I added a new skill—spinning. Heidi, at Ravelry under the name knittinggalore, took pity on me. I wanted a spindle, badly. She had a spindle that she no longer needed. In fact, the exact spindle that I wanted; a Little Si spindle from Cascade.
Guess what came in the mail on Friday?
It’s light, smooth and beautiful. But Heidi didn’t just sent a spindle. No, she knew that I was learning how to spin, so she tucked in a little surprise. A light, fluffy merino surprise that weighed 3 1/2 ounces—hand-dyed pencil roving in the colorway, “Woodland,” from Enchanted Knoll Farm.
That pencil roving made me look a genius.
I grabbed the roving, my spindle, and used the leader that Heidi had already thoughtfully attached.
Yeah, and…well…as you can see from the picture above, I was kind of sucked in. I spun all of it. Every last bit. I washed it, and now it’s dry, fluffy skein of amatuer, spindle-spun yarn. I didn’t have to draft anything. I spun. I wound. My family gaped.
“Let me try,” my younger sister insisted.
Left to my own devices, I never would have picked this color. But that name, Woodlands, instantly reminded me of that famous comedy, A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Maybe I have it on my mind because my older sister is acting in a college production of the play. She causally strolled home and announced that she had snagged the role of Hermia. The play starts next month; meanwhile I am forced to read everyone elses’ lines so that she can practice.
I would guess that it’s around a worsted weight. It’s single-ply, because I have no patience (or skill) to try plying it yet. Did I mention that this is soft?
At the yarn store this Saturday, LeAnne was forced to listen to me prattle about how much fun that I had, and how cool this was, blah, blah, blah. She offered some advice–don’t weight your drying yarn; that’s what you do to weaving yarn, not knitting yarn. I grabbed the phone and told my younger sister to take off the (literal) hand weight that I was using because a book—oh hallowed book—that said that I should. Book VS LeAnne, who do you think won?
The pencil roving spun very easily, and it made me so much more confident. The beginner spinning class starts on the second Saturday next month. Pat, the owner of the yarn store, will be teaching the class. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, my friends.
Now I have to make something with my yarn!