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August 2006

As If I Don't Have Enough People to Knit For

Chilly orphans all over the world, and guess what my next knitting assignment is. This weekend, while celebrating my younger sister’s birthday (why does the fact that she’s getting older freak me out more than the fact that I’m getting older??) I was talking about knitting some dog sweaters for my aunt. (Yes the aunt of the horrible unwanted gifts.) She's dropped hints of dog sweaters, and if it keeps her from getting nasty on Christmas, so be it. Turns out they want sweaters for their dog too! My BIL wants one ala Paris Hilton/any of the Gabor sisters – pink sparkly yarn with a hood and anklets made of white fluffy furry stuff. My sister wants one more along the lines of a classic aran sweater. The only dog sweater pattern I have is from the first issue of Knit.1. I think I could make it work for both. I’d just cast on more stitches for the cabled one to keep the size the same. I think. And washable cascade 220 seems to be my best bet. Anyone have any experience knitting dog sweaters that they could share? Anyone else think my sister and her husband are nuts?

You Know A Project Has Been A WIP For Too Long When

Dscn3460you can't remember what size you were making. My mind won't accept the amount of math needed to start from the cast-on and figure out how many stitches I'd have if I were making the different sizes, so I'm just going to continue knitting around and around and around for 10 more inches until I decide what size I think I was making. It's not that I don't know what size I am, it's that I don't remember how big I wanted this to be. This is the top-down tunic by "Knitting Pure and Simple" and is a great pattern for watching subtitled movies (which I watch 90% of the time.) It's also a very dark brown, but I had to lighten the pic so you could see that it. The yarn is some Austerman stuff that I got cheap from Elann, but it's not very soft. Hopefully it will soften with washing, or it won't matter what size it is because I won't wear it and will end up sending it to Mongolia.

And thanks for all the comments last week! Some of those stitches posts took hours to do with all the pics and linkage and everything, so it's nice to know when someone is reading!

Leftover Beauty

Dscn3439I love this yarn so much I just had to do something with it. And the entrelac stole in Scarf Style has been haunting me, but the yarn would be so expensive! So I'm compromising by making an entrelac scarf instead.

I can't stop looking at it.

Look Ma! Two Socks!


Trekking XXL Ombre Color 107 on sz 2 addi turbos, magic loop method. Wavy cable pattern from Ribbing - Plain and Fancy by E.J. Slayton. The secret to getting both finished? Work a sock from each end of the ball, alternating after each pattern repeat.

Stitches '06: Swatches

Dscn3476_1Only because Mai asked to see them, here are the swatches from my classes. Remember that I bailed on the Estonian Lace ones to play with shawls. Notice how tiny the beaded ones are. Notice how lumpy my mitten is. Notice why I wasn't going to show them to you.

This is, I promise, my last post about Stitches this year. Tomorrow I'll show you socks. Yes, that was plural. There are two of them. Socks.

Stitches '06: What I Brought Home

The Market. Living in a city where the LYS count is dwindling, there are lots of yarns and tools that I've seen on blogs that I can't get here. Wouldn't a lot of other shoppers be in the same situtation? I harbored imaginings of women shoving other women, spindles brandished, needles waved dangerously near eyes, all in pursuit of the perfect ball of Quiviut. Would it really be that bad? Well, just in case it really was madness, I developed a method.


The project cards really helped. Not only did I not have to struggle to remember the yardage necessary for different shawls, but making them before the trip forced me to prioritize what I really wanted to make next. Color-coding the map of the market was probably a little silly, but gave me something to do while waiting. The pink ones were the stores I wanted to go to first, the green ones booths I didn't want to miss. Like that would happen. I spent hours in the market. Some booths I visited several times.

Most Desired Yarn

Dscn3417Dscn3418Ever since I first heard of it on Yarn Harlot, I've wanted to see what Sea Silk is all about. Yarn with seaweed? Both of these pictures are of the same two skeins. I thought I'd make a shawl, but I'm picky about variagated yarns making bigger stripes at the pointy end, so I shy away from them. And at $35/400m, it's a little expensive for me for a wrap. But I had to have it! This was the first of the pink squares on the map, I was the first in the Yarns By Design booth, and darnit I was going home with seaweed yarn! (I did find an interesting pattern for it - check out the new "In the Queue" album.) It is lovely, lovely, lovely stuff, and really does smell like the sea. Well, I think it does, anyway.

Dscn3415Project cards in hand, I also picked up some creamy Blackberry Ridge Silky Merino for the Snowdrop Shawl. Blackberry Ridge is one of those names that I know I've seen somewhere but can't get locally. It's worth the trip to Chicago alone. If it hadn't been my first booth, I'd have bought a lot more.

Most Anticipated Booth

Dscn3414Even my LYS owner said, "You have to go to Brooks Farm." I've been reading about their yarns a lot, and couldn't wait to see their mohair creations in person. They did not disappoint. Still sticking to the project cards, I knew this skein would be beautiful for Midwest Moonlight. There were so many colorways that I could have stashed, but since this was my second booth, I restrained myself. And this wasn't what I'd call cheap either, but since it was so beautiful I think it was worth it.

Most Surprisingly Affordable

Dscn3407I would have thought that a company that makes yarn from paper and stainless steel and is located in NYC would be really expensive, but it wasn't! (Next year they're getting a pink square!) I bought these over several trips to their booth. I just kept going back! Drawn by the siren's song of their bamboo yarn, which is softer than the quiviut stuff they were hawking down the aisle. But I didn't buy that - I can get it online when I know what I'll do with it. I was doing pretty good with the "only if you know what you'll use it for" thing, but on my 3rd or 4th visit, something that I'd been looking at was gone. And I was a little broken-hearted. It was a very fine bamboo yarn wrapped in copper, which makes the yarn pink. Turns out they'd only moved it to another table, but I figured from my reaction to its disappearance I had better get some. That's the four pink cones. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, or even if it will stay pink forever or get greenish like copper does, but I don't care. I love it and it's mine! The red is a ramie (that's cotton, right?) that I'm going to try the Print O' The Wave Stole with, and the green and gold are merino and will be used for a shawl in the Victorian Lace Today book, that we got some preview patterns from. All of the cones are very fine gauge, so I'm going to double them, but at less than $6 a cone, it's still really affordable. The skein of bamboo at the bottom if for a very small scarf. I am so crazy about the natural, subtle, classy colors of Habu. I think it's because they're Japanese. I see the same colors on women in movies and magazines from Japan, and if I thought I'd ever get my behind into their clothes I'd fly to Tokyo to do all my shopping. I think it was the colors, and not just the prices, that kept me going back to Habu. I'm really going to pay attention next time someone explains what those numbers mean (like 2/24) in a yarn description too, so I can order lots more from them online - and know what I'm getting.

Oh, yeah, I DO have a spindle

Dscn3406Grafton Fibers had some lovely rovings. This is a corriedale in a dark grey, black, plum mix. I picked the dark colors on purpose - hoping that the uneveness in my spinning may be somewhat less visible. Since I haven't touched my spindle since last fall when Margaret gave me a lesson, I'm going to save this for a bit. I saw lots of gorgeous spindles at a few booths, but I'm not going to get another one until I know I'll use it.



I picked up just a few patterns. The first was for the Lily of the Valley Shawl, by Fiddlesticks, from the Yarns by Design booth again. (By the way, Barb gets my award for Favorite Vendor. She was just so nice and helpful and patient and enthusiastic - everything you'd want in your LYS. Unfortunately, her store in in Wisconsin.) I've been coveting this pattern on line for a while, so I picked it up when I had an opportunity to not pay shipping. I've had the color in mind for a while too - the pale blueish purple color of early pansies. I thought it would be a life-long search for the right yarn in the right weight in the right color. And then, hiding amongst some other Zephyr cones, there it was. I could have cried. And the wonderful people at Susan's Fiber Shop even made me a deal and wound off just the 4 oz that I need. (And it takes a while to wind off 4 oz of laceweight!)

The sweater was modeled during the Fashion Show and I really liked it. I think it will translate well from Ping size to my size. The sample was made from Quiviut too, which felt much softer than the stuff in the balls did, or maybe it was just a better musk ox. I think I'll try this in Knitpicks Elegance before I splurge on the good stuff. (And lose a lot of pounds to save on materials cost!)

The shawl pattern was from Jojoland, and the designer herself was working the booth. I really like the shawl on display, but think I'll make it bigger for me. Hopefully I'll have enough of a handle on the pattern to do that. The pattern calls for the cashmere they were selling in the booth, but I ended up with a big cone from WEBS. The only decent picture of it is in the "In the Queue" photo album. It's a light silvery grey with just a hint of green.

Almost Lost

Dscn3424For the last week since I've been home I thought I'd lost this skein of alpaca laceweight from Yarn Barn. I'd done a show-and-tell for my parents when they brought me home from the train station, and this wasn't in the bag. For a week I've been sad. Then I pulled everything out of the bag to take pictures for the blog, and there it was. And the makeup bag I thought I'd left in the hotel room was there too. I think the yarn goddess was very, very kind to me. Anyway, this is over 2000 yards of alpace laceweight (for the bargain price of $22!) that I'm saving for the shawl of my choice when I find the right pattern for it. (Who else thinks it will be the sampler shawl or the alpine lace shawl from Jane's book?)

I'm A Winner!

Dscn3430I won a market doorprize! Coasters! Stop snickering. Yes, these coasters are probably what I could have used the least out of everything in the market, but it was a prize and I won it so stop it. They also came with a GC so I got a sz 1 40" addi turbo for future sock looping. That was well worth it.

Dscn3428Everyone who attends the Student Banquet gets something, and I got a prize from Skacel: two balls of Trevari Print and a set of 10.75 needles. I'm going to try a cross-over drop-stitch pattern that I saw, fittingly, in the Summer issue of Knitters magazine as a scarf with this. It's sooooo soft.

Happy B-Day!

Dscn3425November saw my expression when I picked up this bag of tassa silk sliver, and offered to get it as an early birthday present. And a bonus sheep too! I'd seen these little knitted sheep in the gift shop at the Art Institute, but didn't want to spend the money on them before the Stitches shopping had even begun. And it's a black one! Thanks, November!

What I Thought I Wanted But Didn't

Socks that Rock. Koigu. Cherry Tree Hill. After Habu, I just wasn't in the mood for garish colors. Black Sheep Lantern Moon measuring tape. They aren't that rare after all.

What I Would Have Bought If I Hadn't Run Out of Money

Blue Moon Kabuki bamboo yarn. Anything from Tess's Yarns.

Overall, the Market was better than I thought it would be, I stuck with my budget and project cards (mostly) and no one poked me in the eye with a knitting needle. I'd say it was a success!

Stitches '06: Who I Saw

I want to preface this post with some history. I'm not a gusher. If I see someone famous (as I did quite often when I worked for a big hotel and some popular restaurants) I tend to look the other way after I see who they are. I like space and privacy and expect that everyone else does too. And I want to admit that until I went to Stitches I never paid attention to the names of the designers of the patterns that I like or the books that I have. I read them, but I wouldn't know a Nancy Bush sock or a Beth Brown-Reinsel mitten on sight. So when someone would say, "I have a class with Sally Melville" or something like that, I was more interested in what the class was about than who was teaching. When I registered for classes I didn't even pay attention to the names of the teachers.

Then I did it. It was Friday evening and the market preview was going on and I'd taken my first class and suddenly I was poking November in the shoulder and saying, "Oooh! There's Nancy Bush!" (And typing that it suddenly occurs to me that non-knitters think that's a totally different person than the one I mean. Really. I just got that.) Anyway, so there I was, doing the gushing thing. I had become a knitting groupie.

Franklin, like everyone who meets him says, is absolutely charming. He’s as kind and gracious as he seems in his blog. I had really, really hoped to meet him this weekend, and when I saw him in the market I had to do the groupie thing and tell him how much I enjoy The Panopticon. Unjaded, he talked with me for a few moments, even asking which classes I was taking. What a nice guy.

I also met Sean, who I later had “Estonian Lace” with, and Lars was in my “Norwegian Mittens” class. Poor Lars. Maybe he didn’t mind, but he was surrounded by women who felt the need to talk constantly about the most inane things for the whole 6 hour class. Why can’t women just shut up sometimes? Not all women, but there is a type, and you know what I mean. Talk talk talk talk talk. Nonstop. I hope he could concentrate on his pattern.

Lily Chin
Dscn3389In the market on Friday evening, November pointed out a woman to me who was sitting in a chair and crocheting outside one of the booths. She said, “She’s the fastest crocheter in the world.” And that’s all she said. It wasn’t until we sat with her at the Student Banquet that it was revealed that she is Lily Chin. I don’t have cable, and her yarns aren’t in our LYS, so I’d heard her name but that was about all. Lily is a trip. She was wearing a kimono that she’s crocheted herself, and had even purchased and wore grey-blue contact lenses to perfect her “Memoirs of a Geisha” guise. She was energetic and fun, but I can’t say how much of it is really her and how much is a persona. I’m not sure about the whole working-in-sweatshops-at-13 part, but I admire her drive to get American designers on the knitting map. I would have liked to talk more with her about the knitting industry, but she and a couple others at the table thought talking about Project Runway was more relevant. Again, a show I’ve never seen.

Merike Saarniit
Merike was also at our table during the Student Banquet, but as she was on the other side of Lily I didn’t get to talk to her other than a few words of goodbye. She seemed the sweet and patient type, so I’ll look for classes with her when I go again.

Jane Sowerby
Dscn3355When I grow up I want to be Jane Sowerby. I took this (very blurry) picture of her, not knowing who she was, because I admired the shawl she was wearing. Turns out she’s the author of “Victorian Lace Today,” which will be the highlight of my November when it comes out. She researched and translated and modernized over 40 patterns of Victorian lace for this book, using tiny 150+ year old pattern books for her sources. These patterns may never have been brought to light if she hadn’t spent years doing this work. And she knitted all of the shawls and scarves herself. They were everywhere during the convention – in the booth, on the models, on Jane and the XRX staff during the banquets. I could have tried them on myself but it didn’t occur to me at the time.

These pictures are from the Opening Day Luncheon, after Jane’s presentation, where the models roamed among the tables, letting everyone get a closer look.

Dscn3358This is Ping wearing the Baby Cap shawl. The original was done on needles as fine as wire and would be the size of a ... baby cap. Done on larger needles, with a few modifications and in KSH, you get this. Wow.

Dscn3373Dscn3376This is Rasa, who was so into the knitting thing that she even made a point of wearing lace-knit sweaters to and from her gig. She's wearing a hexagonal shawl that can be done as a large one, like this, or just half of it. Stunning.

Dscn3370Ping and Kristen wearing some of the smaller shawls. There are lots of small ones and scarves in the book too. They were really great about letting people touch the shawls, (which would totally creep me out to be touched so much by strangers) and posing for pictures so that the shawls and not themselves were the center of attention.

Dscn3367Lastly, the sampler shawl, in it's smaller version, backlit too much by another flash. I wish I had a picture of the big one to show you - it's stunning. Jane advised me that it's complicated because the border and the center panel have different row counts in the charts. (One is done only on the RS, purling back every other row, while the other has patterning stitches on both sides. And she says she's not an accomplished knitter. Yeah.)

One of the fun things about Stitches is that people are so accessible. You can talk to any member of the XRX staff if you want to, especially if they’re in one of the XRX booths, and the teachers are usually signing their books somewhere too. I spoke with Jane a few times and I am so enamored. On the last day I asked Jane when we could all come to her house and sleep over and play with lace knitting. And she thought I was serious. She took me literally. She responded, in her glorious British accent, “Well, we do have 4 bedrooms….” And I said, “Oh, I wasn’t serious about the sleeping over part!” But she was already thinking about it. “Of course I couldn’t cook for everyone…. But the workshops would work out at the house just fine…. How many people do you want to bring?” I was a little in the headlights by that point. “Uhm, just me so far.” “Well, we’ll e-mail. But not for a fortnight at least, because I’ve got to edit the book.” So, who wants to go to England???? I spoke with the book editor who told me that XRX is getting away from doing tours because they are so labor intensive, so we may have to cook one up ourselves. I’ll keep you posted if she actually writes to me. She’s a person that you just have to experience, and you’d be so glad you did.

Stitches '06: What I Learned

Nordic Color Interlay
Double cast-on ala Nancy Bush
Why Interlay is faster than embroidering



My first class on Thursday afternoon, and it was a great one to be the first. Simple knitting, a new technique that saves time, a bonus of a cast-on that creates a really pretty decorative edge, a lesson in Estonian history, and plenty of time to work on the swatch. This was the first of two classes that I took with Nancy Bush, and I highly recommend them. The pictures are of some samples she passed around and of the cast-on I learned. My swatch is not suitable for viewing.

Beautiful Beaded Borders
Difference between knitted CO and cable CO
Beading – pre-strung and placed
Slip-stitch cuffs
CO picot edging

I don't have any photos from this class because the items she passed around are for a yet-to-be-published book and because I was too busy knitting. Lots of info in this one, and I think it should be an all-day class. The smocking was really cool, and I had a great idea for a shawl in my head, until I saw exactly what I was thinking of at Tess's Yarns. Great minds and all. Candace Eisner-Strick is a hoot, and if you haven't seen her Merging Yarns collection and patterns, check them out. Really pretty, even if the colors are a little strong for me to wear.

Intarsia in the Round
Double cast-on ala Beth Brown-Reinsel

This was the class that I was the most nervous about. It wasn't until we were registered and the homework was mailed out that I saw that it stated, "Experience with Stranding and Intarsia REQUIRED." And I had none. Beth Brown-Reinsel was going to smell my fear. As it turned out, it was an easy technique and I did OK. My swatch isn't worth showing, but I do have a new pattern for fingerless gloves if I want to make them. Beth is a sweetie, the kind of woman I'd want to hang out and knit and drink tea and talk about old boyfriends with. This was the first of two classes that I had with her, and I'd take more.

Norwegian Mittens

Yes, the stranding that I was supposed to know the day before. But I'd read several references and pretty much understood the technique. But, as you'd expect, reading about and doing are two separate and very different things. My mitten looks horrible, but I know everything that I'm doing wrong and how to fix it, so expect to see some mittens suitable for viewing in the near future.

Estonian Lace
Estonian bind-off


Nancy brought mountains of Estonian lace patterned shawls and wraps to show us. I got to see up close the Lily of the Valley Pattern that I want to do in the Fiddlesticks shawl of the same name. But what really got me excited was this:

Dscn3402Madli's Shawl. THE Madli's Shawl. From the first knitting magazine I bought right after I learned to knit. The pattern that made me think, "I want to do THAT." The pattern that drove me to learn all kinds of new stitches and lace patterns so that someday I could attempt it. I did at one point, but I really hadn't been knitting long enough and couldn't tell a stitch from a yarn-over on the needle and was pretty lost. I'm going to try it again. Really, really, soon. Holding this shawl was pretty cool.

I am a slow knitter.
Seriously. I even had Beth give me extra homework for the mitten class because I was so far behind in the intarsia class. And then I did it on the wrong needles anyway. I’d be half-way through a swatch and everyone around me would be finishing up. I wasn’t always the only one behind. During the beading class I and the people around me were on row 4 of a 16 row pattern, and Candace called out, “Ok, 5 more minutes for this one!” Huh? So most of my swatches were never finished. I don’t even have swatches from the Estonian Lace class because I dropped more stitches there than I normally do in a month, so I gave up and played with the shawls instead.

Sometimes you just have to see the finished product.
The Fashion Show on Friday night displays pieces from the current and upcoming issues of the magazine, and from the new books coming out. I saw some sweaters, primarily the one on the cover of the Fall issue, that on the page I think, “Ick” and in real life I think, “Wow.” I’m definitely going to be examining patterns more closely and not just evaluating a garment by one picture in the future. And if you are a Knitters magazine reader, and a pattern you like says it was designed by the “Knitters Design Team,” chances are it was designed by Rick Mondragon, the magazine's editor. A member of the staff told me that in grade school Rick was crocheting Barbie clothes and selling them to the girls in his class. Definitely a man born to the fashion industry, and his enthusiasm for knitwear is infectious. He was so kind and understanding of the work that went into each garment presented during the Student Fashion Show, even some that I thought were kind of hideous. Though, I want to say, that some of the people who designed their own stuff should have book deals of their own. Amazing, beautiful, innovative things. Truly.

Knitting isn’t a craft – it’s a segment of the fashion industry.
On the final day there was a presentation on trends for '07-’08. The editors and staff of Knitters Magazine go to Paris and Italy for trade shows and window shopping to research the latest styles and materials. While most of the information seemed like it would apply for any given year, a few things were interesting. And when I picked up a copy of Vogue Knitting at Union Station later that day most of it was repeated there. Big collars (like from the ‘80s) are going to be fashionable next year, so start on those shawl collars now! (Slow knitters like me will need the extra time.) And applying crocheted pieces to finished garments, knit or not, seems to be on the horizon. Screen printing designs on finished knit pieces is in the forecast as well, but I’ll leave that to the manufacturers.

So, I can honestly say that I learned about 5 times as much as I expected to at Stitches, and I understand why everyone there is so excited and warm and devoted. If I have the money and the time I'll probably go as often as I can. It's definitely worth it.