Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Into the Spider’s Web

I blame Stephanie. She blames Julie, but she’s just as bad. Of course, I’ve encouraged my knitting friends to join MS3, so I’ll be equally to blame.

Being addicted to lace, as well as being a very impressionable knitter, I have more shawls started than I will ever admit. I have finished shawls, too, most of which have gone to other knitters as gifts, since only they seem to appreciate how much work goes into one.

And now along comes MS3 and I of course have to lurch along with 6000+ knitters worldwide to the next knitting fad.

It’s okay. I’ve found a use for these:

Two skeins of “Sterling” Jade Sapphire Mongolian cashmere and two tubes of Number 8 beads.

I’m late to the party, too, as usual. It just means I’ll have to put everything else aside and start this immediately. I skipped the swatch part. I’ve knitted so much lace and used nearly every fiber and fiber combination available, I just don’t need to swatch anymore. I also tend to be a very casual knitter.

Because I don’t really have any progress to show on the Mystery Stole project just yet, I’ll distract you with a couple of shawls from the start of the 365 Days of Shawl project.

Here is a small section of one of the spiral shawls from A Gathering of Lace by Meg Swansen. This was knitted on US 6 needles using hand-dyed sportweight alpaca from Tess’s Custom Yarns, purchased some time in the last 10 years at Maryland Sheep and Wool.

The color is really supposed to be almost exactly the color of the Magenta crayon in the Crayola box.

This picture shows just the lower point of the Celtic Knot Shawl by Judith Shaw, from an issue of Knitting Now (which I believe is Knitting Now Defunct, but if someone knows otherwise, drop me a note!) It is knitted in a long-discontinued Crystal Palace silk/wool blend.

The Celtic Knot Shawl is my favorite shawl to knit. I’ve made about 8 of them in Jaggerspun Zephyr wool/silk blend, Classic Elita Inca Alpaca, Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals mohair, Fare Baruffa Cashsilk (yum yum yum!), Running Wild Farms Lamboramere and Corpacamere, and Cascade 220. I’ve used the pattern so much, I had it dry-mounted on foam core and put an easel backing on it so it stands upright on its own.

Thanks for stopping by! I’m going to work on the MS3 now. I’ll be back when I have something to show.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ce n'est pas une publicité
(This is not an advertisement)
With an apology to Magritte, but not a very big one

Normally, I would not post about a product, particularly not a DESIGNER product. If I had both the money and the square-footage, I would consider this for both its ability to protect AND display yarn. This appeals to the knitter (and show-off) in me and it tickles me that a very chi-chi furniture design would be so right for the gentle and extremely low-tech knitter. I am entirely without any pretensions about the "designer" state of my house. Which is to say, I live in a renovated Victorian house surrounded by antique furniture which I sometimes think of as "used furniture"!

We now return you to my regularly scheduled knitting.
I am currently nearing the finish line of this, which is the Icarus Shawl by Miriam Felton in Interweave Knits.

I'm using Sea Silk from Fleece Artist.

It's lovely, and I have posed it next to my Eicholtz paperweight, which appears to have been the inspiration for the colorway.

This is a close-up of the K2tog-yo-K1-yo-K2tog between the strips of stockinette. (Sorry about the grayed color, I blame the flourescent lights in my office.) This portion of the shawl has gone on for about 440 yards, about one skein, which is halfway for me.

Since I took this photo, I have plowed through the first three and a half charts of the borders. I have 10 rows to finish, and I expect it will be done tonight.
Photos from the blocking will be posted.Eventually.

Also, for those of you who might have been waiting for a close-up of the tablecloth details, here are some pics.

This is the center motif (a little off-center in the pic)

This is a detail of the next motif out from the center.

This is the outermost motif and a snippet of the border.

I'm looking forward to starting the next tablecloth. Don't worry, I'll still show lots of shawls!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Storing Blocking Wires

How many of you lace knitters own a set of blocking wires?

I'd be willing to bet that most of you are still storing them in the plastic bag they came in, or if you ordered them from Zonta, you are using the PVC pipe that they were shipped in, right?

I've designed and created a container for blocking wires that is easy to make, inexpensive and well within the abilities of most knitters to make.

Tools you will need:
Hack saw with fine-toothed blade (really, any blade will do, but a fine-toothed blade makes it quicker)

A small patch of medium-grade sandpaper (a scrap is fine)
A miter box (this is for stability while cutting as much as accuracy)

A measuring device, either a tape measure or yardstick
Note: whenever possible, try to borrow these tools. Unless you're planning to go into production, of course.

Materials you will need:

8' of Schedule 40 PVC Pipe in the desired diameter. "What is the desired diameter?" you say. Well, if you just want to store the wires alone, 1/2" diameter is the smallest and
cheapest and the most flexible - it has significant "bend" to it. I recommend a minimum of 3/4" diameter.

My original container used the 3/4" diameter. My current one is more than 2" in diameter, since I use it to store an altered yardstick and a carpenter's pencil.

NOTE: I used 8' of PVC pipe because I have two lengths of blocking wires. By cutting carefully, I was able to make 2 holders from one length of PVC pipe. I store my shorter wires separately from the longer set.

A very small can of PVC pipe cement. I recommend Oatey brand because it has a foam applicator and comes in a small container. If you can manage it, try to borrow a can off someone else - a handyman friend, the building superintendent, since you need only a very small amount.

One (1) Schedule 40 PVC endcap, in the same diameter as the pipe - NO THREADING. There are several styles of caps; it makes no difference whether you buy the rounded or the flat top.

One (1) Schedule 40 PVC coupling (FIPT), in the same diameter as the pipe - this should have threads on the INSIDE and the non-threaded end should fit the pipe.

One (1) Schedule 40 PVC threaded plug (MIPT), in the same diameter as the pipe - this should have threads on the OUTSIDE and should fit the threaded part of the coupling (above).

The picture above shows 3/4" and 1 1/2" fittings.

NOTE: When you buy the pipe, the fittings are all arranged by diameter, so they should be really easy to find. Be sure to test them on the pipe before you buy them!

Now, measure your blocking wires and add 4" to this measurement. This is the length you will need to cut the PVC pipe. Use the miter box to steady the pipe while you are cutting and to help you make a straight cut (although this is not absolutely crucial - the cap and coupling will not go on crooked anyway!)

Cut the pipe and use the sandpaper to smooth the cut end of the little bits that are created when you saw through the pipe. This isn't crucial either, but I like to "neaten the edges" of my projects.

When you are ready to add the endcap and coupling, I recommend that you work outside. You are using only a small amount of cement, but the smell can get to you.

Using a small amount of cement on the applicator, go around the OUTSIDE of the PVC pipe at one end. Immediately place the endcap on this end and apply some pressure. You can stand the pipe on the endcap and push until it is completely seated.

Now apply a small amount of cement on the outside of the other end of the pipe and place the threaded coupling on it, pushing down until it is completely seated.

Allow to dry overnight.
Screw in the plug.

Done! You have a rigid container for your blocking wires. If the diameter of your pipe is sufficient, you can store a yardstick in the container.

You can also add an eyelet screw to both the threaded plug and the side of the pipe, connect them with a chain, and now you have a secured plug that won't get lost when you unscrew it.

Here is the finished holder with a regular (unsecured) cap. The idea for the chain only came to me AFTER I used the holder for a while and realized that I was having to pocket the cap in order not to lose it!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Tablecloth

I was brought up to be modest. I was taught that self-agrandizment was not pretty or ladylike. There is something uncouth about self-congratulation and preening.

I am throwing all that upbringing out the window in the face of THIS

I know the photo is out of focus and badly lighted and the background isn't high-contrast. I'm still working on getting a good photo.

The blocking is wonky - I'll spray it and get out the yardstick and t-square. I only blocked it to this point so I could find broken threads and to see if it could take the tension of blocking.

I am still stunned by the fact of the existence of this tablecloth. It took more than two years to knit - nearly three if you count the three months it took me to recover from undoing more than 26,000 stitches.

I knitted this tablecloth and, damn, it's beautiful!

It's even better in person.

Okay, now I need to get over myself!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Tablecloth is DONE DONE DONE!!!

I have a tablecloth that has taken the better part of three years to complete.
Not because of any particular difficulty with the pattern (Burda / possibly Niebling?).
Not because I can't follow a pattern slavishly (well, don't ask my friends about that statement!)
No, it's because I don't read German and tried to guess what the chart meant.

I guessed wrong to the tune of 20 rows of about 1300 (yes, thirteen hundred) stitches each. You do the math.

No, I'll do the math. That's about 26,000 stitches.

Oh, sorry. I had to go have a little lie down after typing that number.

Here is a very poor picture.

Do I REALLY have to point out the mistake?

I made four of these errors around the circumference of this tablecloth. FOUR. Twenty rows of FOUR MISTAKES.

Sorry, I'll try to stay calm. (DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS).
I have a method for ripping back multiple rows at one time, going around the tablecloth once while ripping out 20 rows from every stitch.

As you can see, it's quite messy, but if executed correctly and carefully, with lots of mindfulness
, it works. It is also not for the faint-of-heart, the easily distracted or the impatient.
This particular application of the method worked, but it took nearly two months to complete the ripping back.

The tablecloth is now finished, except for the blocking and drying. Time from start to finish - 30 months.

Here is a sneak view of a detail from the tablecloth.

Finished tablecloth pictures soon, maybe tomorrow if the light is good tonight.

Also, thanks to everyone who has been patiently waiting for a new post. I finally have a good connection to the internet and a computer whose hard drive and OS have been uncorrupted after a drive-by infection from the internet.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We apologize for the inconvenience . . .

No more blog posts until I can get a more reliable connection to the Internet. I apologize for this, but I have been struggling to upload images and even edit text.

My new connection should be activated on Monday, February 26. After that, I am hopeful that posting will be more regular with more pictures.

Until then, I am suspended, like the blue man in the Chagall. . .

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Hundreds of thousands of stitches. Maybe a million stitches, maybe a hundred million!

I have no idea how many stitches I have knitted in the past 45 years. Sometimes I calculate the number of stitches in a delicate shawl and am surprised to find that, despite imagining there are half-a-million, there are really only 170,000! I'm nearly as surprised to find that a pair of mittens has 25,000 knits and purls spiraling round and round to warm a pair of hands.

My first thought in the morning is “What shall I knit today?” and I usually knit a few stitches before I leave for work. I carry my knitting with me, so I am never far from it. When I have to wait for anything, I knit. I can be calmed by a few rounds on a sleeve or rows of a simple scarf when waiting for a test. I am never disturbed by delays in flights or trains because I have something that occupies my hands and frees my mind.

When I began knitting as a child, I never imagined knitting would take me to foreign countries and reveal the secrets of strange languages. I couldn’t have known that it would wrap friends and lovers and family in warmth and color. It has helped me through the lean years, when money was hard-earned and carefully spent. Knitting enlivened my life when money was freer and could be used to fill the shelves of my studio with fibers from around the world.

I never expected knitting to bring me new friends, new skills or to send my feet on journeys around my country discovering the animals and plants that create the threads and the colors. Nor did I ever think my knitting could save me from despair and grief at the loss of my parents. I could cling to knitting in the face of depression, anxiety and pain.

My knitting brings me joy, too. The baby blanket that will envelop a new life is a reminder that life is sweet and should be celebrated. The toddler’s sweater or puppet mittens bring smiles of remembrance of the first snowball fight. The complex shawl that will be used as a veil for my goddaughter’s wedding brings thoughts of love, enduring and everlasting, that are embodied in the shawl as well as the vows.

Hundreds of thousands of stitches. Maybe a million stitches. Will I ever have knitted enough?


As long as there are children’s heads and hands to protect, as long as there is someone who needs the comfort of a shawl’s hug, as long as feet need warmth inside work boots, as long as I am able, I will knit.


PS. I'm sorry that I've been away so long, glad to be back and looking forward to posting more regularly in the future!