Monday, December 26, 2011

A Long Time Waiting

This is a project that I finished several months ago.  I went through a phase this past summer in which I decided to buckle down and finish a bunch of WIPs I had sitting around.  I was becoming a bit overwhelmed by the amount of half-finished projects strewn about my apartment and decided it would be better to finish those up than to start anything new.

I'm not sure why I was even stalled on this project.  I loved knitting the cables and the yarn was wonderful to work with.  Life must have just gotten in the way at some point and forced me to put it aside.

The pattern is Jared Flood's Dryad scarf and I knit it using six skeins of his SHELTER yarn in the Button Jar colorway.  The yarn and pattern were a gift from my mother for my birthday last November (not this past one, but the one before.)

Despite my numerous attempts, the winter we've been having this year has proven too mild for such an excessive extraordinary scarf and I fear that I may have to retire it from my wardrobe until the snow really starts to fly.  I feel torn, as I both love the idea of snuggling up in this swath of rustic wool and also look upon the days of Arctic conditions with a healthy amount of apprehension.

I can tell you two things:  The first is that this scarf means business.  I'm convinced that this wool is magical and very likely produces its own warmth, which would explain why I overheat every time I try to convince myself that it's cold enough to wear.

The second is that based on my experience knitting this scarf, I knew as soon as I saw Jared Flood's new fingering-weight yarn, LOFT, I would be a fool to look away.

I do believe there will be a pair of magical hand ovens in my future, just as soon as I finish, well, everything else.  I fear it may be a long time waiting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Selfish Gifting

It seems that I have done the same thing that I did last year, which is to blog through perhaps the first week of classes and then take a hiatus for the rest of the first semester.  Grad school, it turns out, is a bit of a time suck.  Let's hope that the rest of the school year continues as it did last time, which is to say that I returned to the blog and happily knit along through the second semester.  Of course, this next (and final) semester of grad school may be a bit more time-consuming as I prepare for my comprehensive review, my graduate recital, and start taking auditions for jobs in the real world.

I must thank each and every one of you for your comments, emails, facebook messages, and texts in reply to my last blog post (which was three months ago.  It's ok if you don't remember.)  The response was overwhelming and sadly I never managed to get back to all of you, but I hope you know that I truly appreciated the time you took to read it and respond.

I should also thank the number of you who have emailed, facebooked, or texted me to check if I am still alive and happy and to gently remind me that I do in fact have a blog and wouldn't I like to get back to it some day?  The answer to that is that yes, I would like to get back to it.  So here I am.

Unlike last year, I didn't completely stop knitting during my first semester of school.  However, most of the knitting I have done over the past few months have been samples and I couldn't really blog about them.  Plus, I'm not sure how entertaining it would have been to read about sweater after sweater without seeing pictures or hearing about details.

At any rate, I'm back and I do have some knitting to show you.  I've been sneaking smaller projects in among the sweaters I've been knitting and am currently working on a pair of mittens for myself.  I know, I know, I'm a poor example of what a knitter should be at this time of year.  Knitters should be selflessly knitting away the hours until Christmas creating gifts for each and every single member of their extended family while avoiding household chores and fighting the urge to eat so as to maximize the amount of time they have to create their incredible gifts.

Well, then let's think of these mittens as a gift -- for myself.

I have big plans for these mittens.  What you see above is the outer mitten, but there is also going to be an inner (removable) mitten done in the lighter blue color.  It's going to be simple and so far it's looking exactly how I imagined in my head.  Plain, functional mittens with enough personality that they can't be something found in a store.  Can I show you my favorite part about these mittens?

When I charted out my cuff pattern, I did it so that it is seamless where one round meets another.  That jog always bothers me when knitting patterns in the round and I figured that as long as I was taking the time to design my own cuff, I might as well make it exactly how I wanted.  You see that right there in the middle?  The pattern just keeps on going happy as a clam.  And that makes me happy, too.

I'm going to try to be around these parts much more often from now on.  I've been keeping up with blogs, but I hardly comment these days.  Perhaps that's the next thing I'll have to change.

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finding My Voice

Warning:  I drop the F-bomb in this post.

I have a morning routine.  You see, I'm not what you might call a "morning person."  I set my alarm to go off earlier than necessary in order to account for the several times I will inevitably hit the snooze button.  I take an inordinate amount of time to prepare myself to face the world in the morning and unless I am showered, fed, and caffeinated, you had better not speak to me unless it is a matter of extreme import.  Because of this, I have to give myself extra time in the morning to initiate my waking up routine.  I brush my teeth, I wash my face, and I shower.  As I am in the shower, I run through everything I have to do that day.  "Practice, class, rehearsal, lunch, rehearsal, practice, rehearsal..."  Then I sit down with a bowl of cereal to read blogs while my coffee brews.  This is my morning routine.  I cherish my bit of free time in the morning knowing that the rest of my day will be busy, hectic, and filled with other people (I'm an introvert.  People sap my energy faster than you can believe.)

As I was going about my routine yesterday morning, I clicked my way over to Joan's blog and encountered a bit of reality that made the rest of my day seem entirely unimportant.  If you haven't already heard, I encourage you to go read this article about 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer who recently took his own life as a result of homophobia and bullying in school and online.  I was heartbroken to have to read about yet another teen suicide in the GLBT community and I could do little more than sob into my cereal as I wept for that innocent little boy.  I was so overcome with emotion that I felt numb.  I was furious, depressed, confused, terrified, sad and I just sat, helpless, with no desire to leave my apartment and go about my day.

I wasn't planning to write about this.  I was at a loss for words all day as I struggled to comprehend this sad, sad tragedy and how it could have happened.  I didn't think I would have anything worth saying and besides, this is a knitting blog.  To be honest, I rarely even mention the fact that I'm gay because I'm sure I have some readers who wouldn't completely accept that and I don't want to make anybody uncomfortable.  But you know what I have to say now?  FUCK THEM.  That's right, I said it.  This is my goddamn blog and it's about time that these people be put in their place.  Why should I worry about making people uncomfortable?  Why should I apologize if who I am disagrees with someone else's beliefs?  I don't hesitate to mention that I'm colorblind, or left handed, or male, do I?  I don't walk down the street and hide the fact that I have blue eyes, or brown hair, or large feet.  It's this belief - the belief that being gay is something that should be hidden or apologized for - that makes others think it's ok to ridicule, torment, and harass.

I may be gay, but you know what else?  I'm also an individual and I have a voice.  We all have a story to tell, and it's up to you to listen.

Jamey's death has made me think back to my high school experience.  It makes me wonder - do the people who bullied me in high school read about these deaths and feel guilty?  Do they remember a time when they were just as cruel and wonder what they were thinking?  Does the guy who told me to go to hell as he shoved snow in my face feel any pang of regret?  Or how about those who made a daily game of seeing who could yell "faggot" louder in math class before the teacher mumbled for them to be quiet?  What about the guys who spit on me, or threw sand in my eyes, or blocked the doors to the locker room so I couldn't change after gym class?  Have they grown up and matured?  Or are they going to be the ones teaching their children that hate is acceptable and that differences are to be feared?

Reading about Jamey has made me wonder where my voice has gone.  In middle school I was one of the founding members of a group that still exists a decade later.  We called it "STAR": Students Teaching Acceptance and Respect.  The six of us would visit other classrooms and, through the use of skits, introduce relevant scenarios that taught lessons about respect and acceptance.

In high school I was presented with a Multicultural Leadership Award for my work on what my friend and I called our "Safe Speech Campaign."  We made pamphlets, handed out buttons, and organized an all-school assembly to speak about the power of language and how it affects those around us.  And we didn't only talk about derogative words directed toward the GLBT community, either.  We addressed words that targeted gender, race, religion, social class, etc.

It's interesting, then, that what I took out of high school was not confidence in my ability to speak out and stand up for those in need.  What I took away from high school was tolerance.  Not tolerance for those different than me, but a tolerance for hatred - a tolerance for the bullying and the harassment that I had to endure every day.  I didn't realize it then, but I had been defeated.  They had taken away my voice - and isn't that what they were after?  I was no longer able to speak up for myself.

This led me to form the opinion that the power to make a change lay in the hands of straight people.  It was up to them to speak up for a minority.  No one was going to listen to me.  After all, if I were to say something I would just be complaining and the only thing worse than a faggot is a faggot who whines.  But you know what I've discovered?  I've discovered that if I don't say something, then chances are that no one else will, either.

So here's my challenge to myself and to you.  No longer can we live passively.  It is our responsibility, yours and mine, to speak up  - to stop harassment, to put an end to hatred, and to prevent bullying.  You may feel uncomfortable calling someone else out on their behavior, but the importance of our doing so is clear.  By speaking up we are showing others that such behavior is unacceptable and that we, you and I and everyone else, will not stand for it.  It is so important that we do this, you and I, because you never know - the other person in the room may have lost their voice in high school.

Please, there is no time to hesitate, no more time to feel uncomfortable.  We must learn from Jamey's struggle and act to ensure that no one else has to meet the same fate.  Please use your voice and share this message with others so that, together, we - you and I - can make a difference.

I, for one, am glad I've found my voice again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Not To Do With Wool*

*or, "Who needs hand cards when you have facial hair?"

Thanks Knitnzu for the fiber!  It's awesome.

Happy Labor day to all you readers in the US!  I suggest you take the time to cover yourself head-to-toe in wool.  You won't regret it, but you might sweat a bit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Transition Time

Classes begin tomorrow and I can't decide if I'm ready or not.  It's not that I feel unprepared, or that my workload is going to be overwhelming, it's simply that I don't think I've made that necessary mental transition yet.  You know, the one that allows you to switch from sleeping until noon to waking up at 6am.  The one in which you must develop a drive so strong that you can continue day after day with only four hours of sleep a night.  The one that helps you understand that even though you've already played your clarinet for seven hours that day, the next two hours of rehearsal are still just as important and you can't give up quite yet.  The one (and this is the kicker) that prepares you for the idea that for the next nine months of your life... you may not have enough time to knit.

It's a tough transition.  And one that I hope I have made by 6am tomorrow.  (I'm bringing my knitting to school just in case.  Sort of like a comfort blankie.  I just need to know it's there.)  Of course, I think I may have a bit more time to get from point A to point B.  The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is currently touring Europe until September 12, so although classes technically begin tomorrow, almost the entire school of music faculty is out of the country, so two of my classes won't start for three weeks and I won't be having lessons until then, either.  Sometimes it's best to take it slow.

Apparently that's my motto when it comes to spinning these days, too.  I've been spending a lot of time preparing for my ensemble placement audition (a necessary evil) and that combined with all the secret knitting I've been doing lately means I don't have much time to sit at the wheel.  It's quite sad.  I did spin up the first ounce of my Cupcake batts, though.  (Oh my, I should not have clicked over there to get the link.  I barely resisted buying the gradient ocean ones.)

When I first posted these batts, I got a few emails asking how I was going to spin them up, so here's how I'm preparing the batts to be spun.

First, I unroll/unfold the batt and lay it out flat.

That is the point in which I normally do the petting.  Then I split the batt lengthwise into four strips.

I then take each strip and draft it out a little bit to make sure that the fibers aren't too compacted and I think pulling it into a thinner, longer strip helps me with fiber control as I'm sort of new to the wheel spinning thing.  The cupcake batts come in a nice crush-proof box, so pre-drafted isn't really essential, but with other fiber preparations it might be.

Once each strip is drafted out a bit, I wrap them up into cute little fiber nests.  (Except in my head they're not cute nests, but unpredictable, manly fiber volcanos.  It sounds more bad-ass.)

I just wrap the strip around my hand and then pull the loose end through when I get to it.

If you'd rather not pull your batt into four strips, you could also split it into one piece by doing some zig-zag magic.

And then once you draft it into a single long strip, you can wind it into a big fiber ball and spin it from there.

I personally prefer the smaller strips because it gives me a natural stopping point.  If I were spinning an entire ounce from one strip, I'm not sure I'd have the willpower to stop spinning in the middle of it.

Of course, you could also not do any prep and simply start spinning from one corner and go and go and go until it's gone.  There's no problem with that, either.

And because I've been stringing you all along this summer with my knitting, here's what I've been working on.

See?  That's a sweater, a sweater, a sweater, a sweater, and now a sweater.  (Things are truly unpredictable over here.)  The second sleeve is almost done.  I can blog about this one because it's a sample of Hannah Fettig's Carrot Cardigan, which is already published, so I don't think there's any harm in showing you, right?  Right.

And now, as is usually the case, back to practicing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This And That

Thing A.  This is going to be one of those random-type posts.

Thing B.  Brittany has been complaining lately that she doesn't get enough face time on the blog.  So here she is exploring the new wheel.  (She has to inspect everything that comes into this apartment.  She's kind of a diva that way.)  (Don't mind the color of these photos.  They were taken at night and super ugly so I tried to adjust the color, but I'm colorblind and, well...  here you go.)

Don't worry, I held onto moving parts so it didn't turn into some carnival ride like "The Wheel of Death" or anything like that.

Thing C.  She also sometimes likes to help me knit.

Oh, garter stitch!  You know, that was named after one of my cousins.  Doesn't look at all like her if you ask me...

Hey!  Peter!  Remember this vest that you never finished?  Do you?  Do you?  It's right here.  Look!  Remember it?
Thing D.  We had a storm yesterday that knocked the power out for a while and flooded several areas in Pittsburgh.  I live on a hill so I didn't get the flooding, but I did knit in the dark for three hours.  This is what my evening looked like.

Some knitting, a good book, and a root beer (yes, root beer.  I don't drink alcohol.)  (I was also cuddling with Brittany because without power, she gets pretty cold.)

Thing E.  Before the power went out, I managed to bake a loaf of bread.

I want to start making my own bread (you know, because being a graduate student leaves me SO MUCH free time...) and this was my first attempt.  Simple, plain, white bread.

Thing F.  It makes unbelievable toast.

Thing G.  Any suggestions for good bread recipes?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is This Real Life?

I have a friend who often says things like, "What is my life?" or "Am I a real person?" and I think both of those sentiments can be applied to my life at this moment.

As many of you know by now, this last trip found me traveling to visit our Joan and her family for a while.  Joan and I have known each other through our blogs for several years and I was very happy to be able to meet her in person and spend some quality time with her (and, by the way, I was present for the birthday package extravaganza and it was amazing.)

Several times during my trip I found myself thinking the above.  Is this my life?  How did I get to a point in which I drive around the country meeting cyber-friends for days jam packed with excitement?  I mean, come on!  Niagara Falls?

Heck yes.  We also went to the zoo, which, I must say, is always a favorite for me.  I almost always have to go to a zoo when I travel to a new city.  Not that this information shocks you with me being the animal nerd you all know me to be.  Ooh, and the pier.  That was really peaceful and wonderful.  I think it was Lake Ontario.  (Joan?  Yes?  Ontario?)

What really had me questioning the reality of my life was the fact that when I arrived, there was a spinning wheel waiting for me!  Because I've been all over the country these past few weeks, Joan and I decided to have my wheel delivered to her house because it seemed to be the most practical place to send it at the time.

We put it together the day I arrived and spun and spun and spun all weekend long.  It was glorious.  And now that I'm back in Pittsburgh, I can prove to you that there is indeed a new spinning wheel in that bare corner I showed you in the last post.

See?  A beautiful, beautiful walnut Kromski Minstrel.  I couldn't be happier!  The wheel and I seem to get along incredibly well and I haven't run into any major issues with breaking it in so far.  I did break the brake band it came with, but with Joan close by it was a quick fix and I was able to get back to spinning immediately.

I think I spun over 10 ounces of fiber while I was there, and she sent me home with much, much more.  Rambouillet, corriedale, merino, silk, pygora, yak, targhee, alpaca, BFL... I really don't think there's anything I don't have in my stash now.  Wanna see my first wheel-spun yarn?

Not too shabby, eh?  It's about 4.5oz of Corriedale, 208 yards.  I'm not going to show you my fourth skein.  It's worse than the first.  (How did that happen?!  You can see it on the bobbin in the second picture.)

Of course, Joan couldn't send me home without some of her own Cupcake batts.  I got to spin some of her batts while I was there and I have to tell you, they're incredible.  I want to spin her batts for the rest of my life.  I'm going to start spinning up these beautiful brown ones next.

But trust me, the pictures don't do them justice.

And again, I'm left thinking, "Is this real?"

Many, many, many thanks to Joan for making my new wheel possible and for being so hospitable during my visit!  And don't worry about the wheel taking over my life.  I've already established a rule that I can't spin until I've met my practicing goals for the day (and right now, as I'm still knitting on deadlines, my knitting goals have to be met too.  Oh!  Check out Hannah Fettig's big announcement!  You'll see a few of those secret projects I've been talking about lately.)

And now it's about time I use this practice room for its intended purpose.  Until next time, happy knitting!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Brief Hello

I don't mean to repeatedly go AWOL on you guys.  I just got back into Pittsburgh from a nearly month-long stay in Minnesota where I tend to ignore my email, my phone, my computer, and my clarinet.

I continue to be knitting things I can't show you, but maybe after two more sweaters and a scarf I will return to things I can take pictures of.  That would make this blog a bit more exciting, right?  (I promise what I'm knitting isn't incredibly mysterious.  They're just samples for things that haven't been published by the designers yet, so I can't show you.  That's all.)  Of course, by the time I finish those three projects the school year will be starting up again and I will be back to clarinet-ing all day long.  Let's hope we don't have a repeat of last year's Fall semester in which I didn't knit a single stitch and didn't blog for months.  (How did I manage that?)

I leave tomorrow on another trip, which I expect will be entirely too much fun and incredibly exciting.  I'll tell you all more about it when I get back, but know this:  When I return, that corner of my apartment will be occupied by a brand new spinning wheel!  Yippee!!!  (I felt that this post lacked exclamation points.)

See you in a few! (Exclamation point.)

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.)