Thursday, August 23, 2007

Knitting for Others

The body of Raveneli is done. I still need to join the shoulders and knit the armhole edgings. I have a lot of extra yarn, so I am contemplating sleeves. Hmmm. Anyway, I am taking a short break to comply with a request to special to ignore. My coworker, Dawn, has a sister fighting the good fight with Cancer and sis needs caps for her tender, newly bare head. So, I am working up my Sophia hat in Cream-colored Classic Elite Premiere-one of the softest yarns I've ever used-cotton/tencel worsted weight. I am making another hat for her in a soft pink, but this one will be a one-off original. There is nothing so fun as just letting a had design itself. I think I'll do some cables.

I also just got the word about Afghans for Afghans latest campaign. I'm a little behind the times on this one, so I started a hat out of some old, mystery yarn. I have a vest almost done that didn't make it into the last shipment to them. A student gave me a big bag of bright read Lopi, so I am considering making a blanket from that. The deadline is October 12 I think, so my eyes are getting quickly bigger than my knitting needles, but I'll give it a go. It is so satisfying to knit for them. As I've said before, my creativity just blossoms when I forget about designing for retail. When I ask "what is beautiful and what will I love knitting?" instead of "what will sell and what will be a simple pattern for users?" my work is much better. Hmmm, there's a lesson there. I do need to free myself from trying to please others and just find my voice. I struggle with the same process in photography. I'm a reluctant artist. I just don't think I'm good enough to call myself an artist and give my work its proper due. I must change that mindset.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I am working on a design that I think approaches the elegant genius of the classic Baby Surprise. A bold claim, I know, but I can honestly say that nothing I've knitted of late (that was designed by someone other than me) has captured my interest like this. It is by a local designer who has become a friend named Jeanne Abel. (So yes, I am biased, but this gush is completely from my knitting teacher and designer point of view.) Many of her designs, especially the most recent ones, focus on really nifty and imaginative architecture. She has managed to put into action a lot of the things I've been swatching and experimenting with over the years. It's that old principle of parallel discoveries. More power to her for bringing it all to the light though. I will happily honor her talent by buying her patterns.

This one is called Raveneli. It is a vest or jacket that starts from the outside circumference-you cast on a ribbing and work it just like the bottom of a circular sweater. But wait, there's more! With a few strokes of genius, this circle of ribbing gets turned on its side as stitches are put on hold for the back neck, then the knitting continues down from the shoulders for the fronts, underarms and the beginning of the back. They are knitted back and forth all in one fell swoop while doing beautifully sculpted shaping under the arms. All of a sudden, you're done with that and a few more stitches are put on holders. Before you know it and can really recognize it, you're working up the back! This is where I am now. I realized that I need a photo of me wearing what I have so far so you can see how cool this is. Stay tuned...Just think, all your outside edges are done and finished! All that remains is the back, some careful joining and an armhole finish.

A vest, you say? Why yes, and quite a clever one. Here is the whole thing viewed with the full outside circumference spread out. Back Neck stitches are at the top on a spare needle and the front and bottoms of the armholes are on the holders at the sides. The bit that's left on the long needle curving round the center opening will become the back. Whew! The funnest part is that it is bulky-3 strands of dk weight yarn ( I'm using Lucy Neatby's Celestial Bluefaced Leicester in African Violet) and knits up in a flash on big fat needles. This one has already kept me up late because I can't wait to see what comes next.
Here it is folded in half so you can begin to imagine how it might fit on the body. Compare it with the pictures of the finished jacket on Jeanne's website. I will try to get someone to take a photo of it on my body tomorrow. It might be done by then though, because I'm pretty anxious to start working on it again. Do I sound just silly with excitement? For this sometimes jaded knitter who has gotten a little frustrated with the sameness of a lot of the patterns out there, this one has me psyched! It is everything I love about knitting: Organic shaping, great instructions, and a unique design based on sound knitting principles. It requires skill to execute, but mostly it requires imagination. Any knitter can muster enough of that to make something as delightful as this.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I am such a sucker for gimmicks and pretty things and fair trade and well, sheesh. I went and spent 22 bucks for size 0 Lantern Moon Sox Stix knowing that it was a mistake, but oh, they're so pretty and those folks in Viet Nam are benefiting, etc., etc.. Of course 3 out of 5 snapped like toothpicks after 10 rounds of my grandma's green socks. But, not being willing to give up and not wanting to bug Chris at the shop with a return, I thought about it for a while and decided to give them a manicure. Having a teenage daughter around, I dabble in nail stuff occasionally. So, we had a kit to do acrylic nail tips and I decided to try fixing the little suckers. I glued them together, coated them with the acrylic and am in the process of sanding them down. So far, so good. The join seems strong, and the coating of acrylic seems to be doing what the glue couldn't on its own. I'll keep you posted if this appears to be a viable fix. I always keep one of those 4-sided file blocks sold for manicures in my knitting bag because you can get a silky smooth finish on any fingernail or wooden or bamboo needle that needs a little help.

But here is my official "I made this mistake so you don't have to" injunction: Leave the tiny little wooden needles alone. The only ones I've had survive reliably under size 2 are Crystal Palace Bamboo. They bend, but they don't break. Some don't like the curving that happens, but that is what allows them to stay in one piece. Of course, your mileage may vary and needles are so personal. Take my advice with a grain of salt, but consider it before you plunk down your hard-earned cash for a novelty.