Friday, October 24, 2008

A Little Subtle Color

It was cold and rainy the other day, so Harry decided to reorganize his stash. He kindly allowed me to assist as long as I didn't pilfer anything (or try to steal back my priceless ebony circulars). He did, however, graciously assent to my taking anything he didn't want. Among his rejects, I unearthed a small ball of uninspiring white Aran-weight cashmere silk and a partial skein of variegated Richmore Count 10 mohair.

A few hours later, Kyoko-san's birthday present was finished:

I was intrigued by the fact that, no matter how close I looked, I couldn't see two separate yarns. The Count 10 is so thin that it virtually melted into the heavier-weight yarn, while still imparting its lovely variegation and fuzzy silkiness to the finished object.

The pattern is a free Ravelry download called Beaufort--get a copy here.

As I was working away on the hat, I noticed Harry carefully placing a skein of hot pink fun fur into his neatly arranged stash drawer. When I asked him what he intended to do with it, he mumbled something about a blow-up tarantula doll ... pink furry legs... I really do not want to see that finished object any time soon...

Monday, October 13, 2008


I ordered some stuff from Yarn Place a few weeks ago (Why did I do that? Why?). When the package arrived, there was a sweet treat inside--a free ball of Dolce, a new gossamer lace yarn.

Of course, a sample was in order, so I wrestled my #0 needles away from Harry and unearthed my standard lace testing pattern from his well-hidden library (clearly not well-hidden enough, however).

Here are the specs:

Yarn Place Dolce
50% bamboo, 50% merino
7640 yards/lb
62.5 grams/1093 yards per ball
Needle size used for swatch: 0

I photographed the swatch along side Yarn Place's Angel for comparison. As you can see, Dolce is quite fine--apparently much finer than Angel (8423 yards/pound), even though the specs say otherwise. Dolce is tightly spun and I think #00 needles would enhance its appearance, but I was too lazy to knit a second swatch.

Pros: Pleasantly springy, slightly silky yarn with a tweedy appearance (at least in the color I received). Dropped stitches don't run away immediately.

Cons: Colors are subdued and the selection is limited to muted shades. No black, no white, no red. Fortunately, no pea green, either. I couldn't knit this with my eyes closed--it required my undivided attention.

I personally prefer Angel's cuddly and lively feel, but if you like your fine lace yarn a little polished with a bit of a bounce, go get some here and knit on!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

No Two Snowflakes...

...And no three skeins of Handmaiden Seasilk, either. I had ordered three skeins of Violet some time ago and, while two of the skeins were a pretty good match, the third skein was too red to even be designated a fifth step-cousin twice removed.

Triinu's shawl, like Hyrna, has a pretty, fluted border, so figured I could drop the mismatched skein into a pot of dark blue dye and use it for the edging. As you can see here, I followed through on this inspired thought and the shawl came out looking rather pretty.

My copy of the pattern is, well, intensely hilarious, sprinkled with directionally randomized double decreases, as well as a few single decreases meandering in the wrong direction. I giggled through the body, and by the time I got to the edging, I was laughing out loud with every row. The finishing row evoked sidesplitting laughter--the sequence given for crocheting off the stitches had nothing to do with the actual number of stitches on the needle. The fact that I paid an extortionist price for the, erm, directions, contributed a final sprinkling of mirth.

Fortunately, it was easy enough to fix the errors by checking which way the leaves were leaning, and crocheting together sensible groups of stitches at the end.

And boy, there was an abundance of leaning leaves...

...and held up the the light, the pattern is both graceful and dignified.

I received one email from a reader who said her pattern had no errors, so the designer must have made the corrections in later versions. If you can bear the $30 price tag, it's a quick and pleasant knit. Ordering information can be found on this Yahoo group.

After finishing Triinu's shawl, I was depressed to note that my WIP sink* was empty. Unlike most knitters, I loathe starting projects. Find project, find yarn, find needles, experiment, repeat...table littered with notes, needles, pattern fragments, eraser crumbs...ugh

But I persevered and now have two more Niebling shawls (I need more shawls, right?) and a pretty sweater on the needles. Alas, they are too diminutive for photography at the moment.

In lieu of eye candy, however, I would like to point out the usefulness of a trained lapcat.

Here I am peacefully knitting around, when suddenly, Laptop spots an error!

She points her nose right at it so I can pinpoint the problem.

She certainly knows her Nieblings--what a cat!

*My knitting lives in the kitchen bar sink.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's In The Bag

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Japanese is their endearing ability to make something out of nothing. Well, almost nothing. What other culture could have invented the Corn Flake Sundae (corn flakes, whipped cream, maraschino cherry); karaoke (microphone, tin ear); and the subject of today's post: the furoshiki (square cloth)?

Furoshiki literally means bath (furo) spread (shiki). The term was coined in the Edo period (1615-1868) when public baths became popular. Patrons arrived at the bath house with a change of clothes and other essentials, tidily wrapped in a furoshiki. The cloth was then spread on the floor, giving the bather a personal space on which to change clothes.

More recently, furoshiki have evolved into a package-wrapping art form. The concept and execution are quintessentially Japanese--space-efficient, ecologically sound, totally practical, and exquisitely elegant.

I purchased several instruction manuals on my last trip, and I especially recommend this one. For some inscrutable reason, the directions are in both Japanese and English, and the wrap jobs are just exquisite.

Although these wrappings look complicated, they are actually easy to do, requiring only the ability to make a square knot. And frankly, a granny knot seems to work just as well, although the ties might not look quite symmetrical.

Today's post will show you how to make two quick knitting bags and the most sought-after container in the galaxy: a watermelon holder. You know you need one. Go ahead, snicker. But the next time you go to the market and wrestle with an awkward, slippery, round, heavy watermelon, you'll remember I Told You So.

All you need for this lesson is a square cloth. Obviously, the larger the cloth, the more it can hold.

Let's start with the watermelon holder, which, by the way, can actually hold knitting, a bowling ball, or some frolicking chipmunks.

Place your watermelon (or pile of chipmunks) towards the back of the furoshiki.

Tie the two back corners together with a square knot. Notice the hole behind the knot. You will be using this in a minute.

Pull the front two corners through the hole.

Lift them up...

...Twist them...

...And tie them together with another square knot.

You're done!

Here's a slightly more complicated bag.

Start by tying an overhand knot in each corner of the furoshiki.

Tie two of the knotted corners together. And then tie the other two knotted corners together.

You're done!

If you want to, you can pass one handle through the other, like this:

Finally, I'll show you how to make a bag with real handles. In this case, I used a set of plastic circles. You can buy these on eBay or get them from a shop like SpinBlessing.

Pull two corners front to back through one handle.

Bring the corners around to the front and tie them in a knot.

Do the same with the other two corners.

You're done! Here's what the open bag looks like:

I love these bags for two reasons: first, when not in use, they occupy little space, and second, you can tailor the size of the bag to its contents. And, of course, when people admire your knitting bag, you can tell them you make it in under two minutes.