Wednesday, July 27, 2011


If I can give one piece of advice, it would be this:  Do not underestimate The Blog.

I was completely blown away by the response to my last post about the Kromski Mazurka.  You were all so eager to offer advice, hunt down wheels, suggest other options, and sympathize with me that it left my head spinning.

Thanks greatly to all of you wonderful readers, I spent much of yesterday online looking at wheels and considering my options.  It has been a whirlwind of emails and phone calls and discussions with countless people.  I have read about wheels until my eyes glazed over and considered everything I am looking for in a spinning wheel and now my brain kind of hurts, but I will tell you this:

I am going to have a spinning wheel in the very near future, and it isn't a Mazurka.  Shocking, right?  After taking everyone's advice and doing more research about wheels, I decided to go with another wheel in the Kromski family.  I'll let you all know more about it in a couple of weeks when I'll be able to see it in person and I thank you all so much for your eagerness to help me with this exciting purchase!

And speaking of exciting purchases, I mentioned the other day that I found some wonderful yarn at my LYS (in Minnesota, where I am currently located) recently and here it is:

I've been trying to limit my yarn purchases lately to yarn I have never seen or used before and I have to tell you, this one practically jumped off the shelves at me.  It's Imperial Stock Ranch Tracie in the Canyon Shadow and Indigo Heather colorways.  Have any of you ever used this yarn?  It's a woolen-spun, 100% wool sportweight yarn and it feels incredible.  It's much softer than Bartlett or Briggs and Little and still has that wonderful lofty, wooly feel.  I haven't knit with it yet, but the swatch at my LYS was amazing.  This yarn blooms so nicely when washed and I personally think that it is definitely next-to-skin soft.

In addition to being wonderfully soft and lofty, the wool is grown and spun in the US on a farm that seems to place great importance on sustainability and environmental awareness.  I don't mean to be an infomercial and I'm not being paid to praise this yarn, but I do encourage you to check out their website and look around.  I've only rubbed this yarn on my face and buried my hands in it, but I think they have a great product and I'm pretty confident that I'll be returning to it several times in the future.  And at roughly $18 for a 4oz, 450 yard skein, I think it's also a great deal.  (And the tags double as coasters!  (Not my idea.  It's suggested on the tag itself.))

Monday, July 25, 2011

Woe Is Me

Oh my dear readers, I am so distraught.

For years (like maybe two) I have wanted a spinning wheel and I have spent countless hours online looking at all the beautiful options, reading about what I should look for in a wheel, learning to understand the different terms and how different things affect how yarn is spun.  And years ago (maybe just one.  Go with me here, I'm building drama.) I decided on the wheel I wanted.  The Kromski Mazurka.  It's just stunning.  Really, it's beautiful to look at and it would be perfect for sitting in the corner of my little apartment or out on my "patio."  I imagine it would make me appear well-learned and sophisticated, with a hint of maturity and an appreciation for well-crafted art.  I love everything about it.  I knew I wanted a Kromski wheel when I noticed that (most of) their wheels are named after different types of pieces that Chopin composed and with Chopin being my favorite composer of piano music, it was a perfect match.

I have put aside the thought of getting a spinning wheel because I know I won't have much time to use it while still in grad school and it's not really something that will easily fit into my budget, but in the back of my head I continue to yearn for one of my own.  And today I began to think that it's not as far out of my reach as I had once thought.  If I begin saving - putting aside money here and there for just a few months - I would soon be able to own my beautiful Mazurka and we would live happily ever after in a harmonious marriage of music and wool.

Imagine my shock, then, when I went online just now to check on my beautiful future wheel only to discover a note.  A red note.  In bold.  A bold, red NOTE: and it wasn't good.  In fact, it was the opposite of good.  This soulless, dream-crushing note informed me that the Kromski Mazurka had been discontinued only four months ago.  Just when I thought my wheel was within reach, it has been snatched away and I am beside myself with grief.

But perhaps one of you can help.  Do any of you know of a source for Kromski wheels that may still have a Mazurka in stock?  Or, though I doubt this, do any of you have an alternate wheel recommendation that I might fall in love with just as deeply and profoundly as I have with my beautiful Mazurka?  I'd be happy to hear about it.

I know there are several things about the Mazurka that are a bit, well, lacking - it's single-drive and it only has four ratios (the fastest being 12:1) - but I love it all the same.

If you need me I shall be wallowing in a pool of self-pity and sadness.

(I promise an actual update in the next few days.  My knitting continues to be unbloggable, but I have some amazing yarn I found at my LYS in Minnesota that I want to show you guys.  I love it even at a time when my heart seems to have been drained of love.  That's a lot.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The World's Most Boring Post

Right on schedule, I finished my sisters arm warmers yesterday.

The only trouble with things going smoothly is that it doesn't make for very exciting blog fodder.  The most "exciting" thing about this project was when I thought I started the second thumb gusset half a repeat higher than I started it on the first one, but I was wrong about that and didn't even have to rip out to realize it.

Pattern:  Green Cabled Arm Warmers by Elizabeth Martin, Yarn: Tosh Sock in the Tart colorway, Needles: 2.75mm

I'm not sure if I followed the pattern or not.  Once I charted the written out cable pattern, I changed the cast-on number and never looked at the pattern again.  I did eight repeats of the cable and then did a generic thumb gusset until I thought it looked big enough and finished off the hand however I pleased.  All in all I think they turned out just fine.  I think they look kinda cool all scrunched up, too.

My sister wanted slouchy arm warmers, so hopefully these fit the bill.

Wow, I must be hungry or tired, because my brain is really not functioning right now.  How about some nature photos to finish things off?  I snuck up on a groundhog this afternoon and snapped some pictures of him.

and in the half hour that I sat still in the sun as a spider built a web on my hand, I was surrounded by a whole flock of beautiful dragonflies.  (Don't look at the water.  It's super gross and I feel bad for all the bluegills that have to live in it.)

and here are some flowers, which were not the source of the sweet smell I was looking for.  In fact, they smelled kinda bad.

And with that, I'm going to go find some food.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Musings

1.  I saw a man taking a picture of "The Pussycat" on my way to school today.  It's a kinky lingerie store on Forbes Ave.  I don't want to know why he was taking a picture.

2.  I am finally making progress on my sister's arm warmers.  Yesterday I knit an entire one and didn't have to rip out ever.

3.  Yes, I'm blogging from the practice room again.

4.  I don't think I'm going to be able to knit an entire one today.

5.  This means I won't be done until at least Wednesday because Tuesdays are for Tom's afghan.

6.  Happy Independence Day to all you readers in the US.  Now don't do anything stupid - we don't have universal healthcare.

7.  I've never done anything stupid.

8.  Ever.

9.  When did I become monogamous with my knitting?  I remember a time when I used to work on more than one project.

10.  I kind of like finishing things, though.

11.  Speaking of monogamy, I have been getting a lot of emails asking about The Composer and why he hasn't been on the blog lately.  The reason for that is because we broke up several months ago.

12.  Yeah, that means no more pictures of a Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike for you guys.  Sorry.

13.  After my lengthy post about my love of colorwork mittens it's looking like my next pair of mittens may not be colorwork at all.  In fact, they may be pure white.

14.  I borrowed that picture from my digital copy of Knitting Traditions, Winter 2010.  It actually belongs to them and is attributed to Joe Coca.

15.  I blame this new mitten desire on Ivar.  His twined knitting is just too damn impressive.

16.  Those mittens are going to have to wait like the rest of them, though, because I have a few unbloggable projects in the lineup that I have to do first.

17.  I know.  Boring.

18.  Maybe I'll show you the UFOs I've been finishing along the sidelines.  That'll keep you entertained.

19.  Maybe.

20.  Back to practicing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I often have trouble knitting two of the same thing.  I think this is part of the reason why I don't enjoy knitting socks.  (The other reason is the fact that I have canoes for feet.)  I know this about myself and I also know that it has caused problems in the past when six, twelve, eighteen months pass before I knit the second sock, or mitten, or whatever and my gauge in that intervening time has changed so much that I have two of something that aren't the same size.  It usually happens with things that take the largest investment of time, like colorwork mittens.  It would never happen to plain stockinette socks.  That would be too easy.

This is why when I finished the first Estonian mitten and felt myself slipping away from the project, looking for other things to cast on instead of the second one, I immediately gave myself a talking to about how wouldn't it be nice if I knit two mittens that were the same size?  Even if I know they're not going to fit me because the first one was too small, wouldn't it be nice to be able to give someone else two mittens that are the same size?  Shouldn't I just sit down and knit that second mitten?  Because really, the first one only took a day and a half so it shouldn't be too much trouble.

And you know what?  It wasn't.  (I figured out why the cast on was so much freaking bigger the second time around.  It's because the first time I cast on using Knit Picks harmony needles and the second time with Clover bamboo needles and the difference in slipperiness changed my tension.  Crazy, right?  But it's all fixed.)  I even discovered that knitting this mitten a second time was just as enchanting.

Pattern: Marko's Mittens (rav. link) from Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush  Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift  Needles: US 0

There was so much to love about these mittens.  I love how the thumbs practically disappear against the palm.  (Look at the one on the left.  You can barely see it!  So cool.)  I love the simple black/white of the mittens.  I think it's charming.  I love - and this is an important one - I love the fact that by knitting these mittens, I was connecting to a history.  A knitting tradition.  These are essentially reproductions of actual Estonian mittens, only I made them.  How cool is that?!  I love the little bits of red thrown in for a pop of color.  I love the braided cast on, and the bit of lace on the cuff.  I love the jagged looking pattern and the way that if you put the two mittens together, it makes another diamond pattern between them.  And I love how the inside of the thumb is like a little surprise for the wearer.

And I love that each mitten only weights 30 grams.  And they're warm like an oven, too.  Those Estonians know what they're doing.  I also love that I didn't have to break into my second ball of black because I had so much left of the first one when I finished.

I find these mittens so incredibly wonderful that I have a feeling I may be running into a knitting jag.  You know, where when you once thought you'd never be able to knit the same thing more than once because it just gets so boring and then all of a sudden you can't stop knitting hats and then all of a sudden people know you as the hat guy and you have so many that no one wants any more of them?  (It happened to me with the Kiwi Hat.  My brother's boyfriend now owns like five of them.)  That's what I think is happening here.  I want to knit colorwork mittens always.  I want to knit mittens from Latvia, and from Estonia.  Mittens from Scotland, mittens from Russia, Turkey, the UK.  I can't wait to explore all of these different knitting traditions through mittens and I've already picked out some wonderful color combinations in my favorite yarns.

Some nice warm heathers in Cascade 220:

Bold, eye-searing Malabrigo:

Natural colors in Harrisville:

Jewel tones in Manos:

You get the idea.  Mittens mittens mittens.  I don't know about you, but I want to knit mittens forever.  I just don't know which ones to start with.

(Ooh, and I just got a copy of Rae Compton's The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting (which, by the way, do you see that original hardcover edition for $360?  Definitely glad they reprinted this gem) and there are some pictures of mittens from the 1800s that I definitely want to recreate as well.)

And then when I was feeling a little, well, upset because I've been looking for authentic traditional mitten patterns and it seems as though so many patterns these days are "based on traditional mittens" but then maybe they're knit at a bigger gauge, or the pattern is made easier, or the shaping is changed, all to make it "easier for the modern knitter" and I was throwing a bit of a fit in my apartment because "I don't need the pattern to be made easier dammit I want to do things right!" (I don't really like change) when Yayo of the comments messaged me on Ravelry and pointed me to a pair of mittens that she had knit.  Go look at them and marvel at their amazingness.  Fully-lined mittens knit on size 0000 mittens.  Like I told her, I've been looking for the real deal and I'm pretty sure I just found it.

I need your input though.  The yarn called for, though excellent, is also only available from either (I find this endlessly amusing) Elizabeth Zimmermann's company or Nancy Bush's and although I think that verifies that it's great yarn, if I were to buy all that I needed these would be $100 mittens and I'm not going there.  So I'm going to the other end of the yarn spectrum and I'm looking at either Knit Picks Palette or Brown Sheep Nature Spun (which is what Ms. Yayo used) and I'd like to know which one you guys would choose.  I've never knit with Nature Spun, so if you've knit with both and have an opinion, I'd love to hear it.

So that's that.  Mittens.  I'm knittin' 'em.  Oh!  Except I have to knit some arm warmers for one of my sisters first because I promised her years ago that I would and I haven't yet.  So I started those.

It's not going well.  This post is quite long already so I won't go into much detail, but it went from that point to here:

Three different times using three different designs and they're all just too small.  I knit the first five inches of the first one and ripped it out, and then I knit it again a needle size up and ripped, and then I went up a needle size again and decided the pattern wasn't right.  So I switched to the pattern you see above and knit all that you see despite knowing that it used the same stitch count as the pattern before, which ended up being too small, and this one has a cable so it's definitely going to be too small especially because my sister wants slouchy arm warmers, but I kept knitting anyway.  I finally ripped that out and started a third pattern of my own devising only to realize four inches later that it's just stupid and crap and ripped it out and now I have nothing, but I'm going to return to that second pattern you see above and just use more stitches.  I don't know why I was being an idiot but I think my mind was elsewhere.

Like mittens.

P.S.  Thanks to DavidA for correcting me on that coral bridge.  The tour guide was wrong and it's actually made out of volcanic rock, which both sits better on my conscience and explains why every time I walk across it I think, "Huh.  Coral?  Really?  It kinda looks more like volcanic rock to me."  So there ya go.  Thanks DavidA.  (Only I couldn't reply to your comment because I don't have your contact info.)

P.P.S.  There are a lot of other comments that I also have not replied to yet, but I will.  I'm just behind and the only place I have internet is the practice room at school and it's already 1:45am and I don't want to be in a practice room any longer, so I'll reply to them later.

P.P.P.S.  Size 0000.  I'm just so frikkin' excited!  (That links to an SNL skit.  Very funny.  I bet she knit her sweater.)