Last week, holding my breath, I finally sent the tiny Sólbein Cardigan off to Texas to see who it would fit, and whether they would like it — either or both of my two littlest nieces. Friday afternoon, I got a text message from their mom saying it had been waiting for them when they got home from school and they couldn’t wait to try it on. When I saw the photos, my heart popped right out of my chest. It fits Miss M (above) perfectly, and she’ll likely still be able to wear it in the fall. Miss T (below) probably has a full year or more to outgrow it. And omg the cuteness of these two — I can’t even. Fortunately they’re good at sharing, since they apparently both love it and have been trading off since it arrived, as evidenced by the additional pics that came on Sunday. (There are a couple more on Ravelry.)
Their mom just found out she’s pregnant and expecting in October, and dropped a not-subtle hint that she’d love something for the baby in this same goldenrod yarn. Not having any idea how big the Sólbein would be (and assuming more like the pre-teen size of their older sister), I bought 5 skeins of the MC and only used about 1.25, so there’s plenty left over for matching projects. But I’ll keep any further details on that to myself for the moment …
“Being a writer who still uses ink to write out, and then cross out, each early draft of a manuscript,” novelist Michael Ondaatje writes in his foreword to Jason Logan’s incredible book Make Ink, “I had to meet him.” Ondaatje had been given samples of Logan’s inks made from peach pits, clam shells, kerosene — his specialty, and the subject of his book, is creating ink from foraged materials. When they met, “it felt like being introduced to someone with the skills of some lost medieval craft.” The fact that Ondaatje still writes in ink is astonishing, but also, what kind of craft book includes a conversation with the likes of Ondaatje, and artwork by a panoply of creatives (or “visual thinkers”) from artist/illustrator Gary Taxali to painter Hiroaki Ooka* to writer Margaret Atwood? We’ve got bookstore aisles for literary fiction and creative non-fiction, but a literary craft book is a different breed of cat. And one I’m highly on board with — albeit belatedly, as this has been sitting on my desk since September, waiting for me to notice how great it is.
There are loads of craft books so pretty you might happily put them on your coffee table and never do anything more than flip through them admiringly. Others you actually crack open and make things from. As beautifully written as it is photographed and designed, this one begs to be read from cover to cover, like a good essay collection, whether or not you ever attempt to make your own inks (or for what purpose). Especially if you’re the sort who enjoys learning the obscure histories of things — like, say, Oak Gall Ink:
“… an inerasable ink called iron gall, oak gall, or, more recently, registrar’s ink. It was the ink of record for weddings, funerals, and contracts; before that it was the ink found in one of the oldest surviving Bibles, the Magna Carta, and Beowulf. It was the favored ink of da Vinci, Victor Hugo, Bach, and the US Postal Service. This is an ink with a pedigree.”
Oak Gall is black, yes, but like any good dye book, this one is full of recipes for an entire rainbow of colors, to be used in art making or writing, on paper or fabric, presumably. I’m particularly smitten with the aqua blues of Copper Oxide Ink, and although I may not ever make any, I love knowing it’s possible. And look forward to reading every page of this gorgeous book.
. . .
Also, not a book but I recently discovered that natural dyer Kathryn Davey (who I took a class from several years ago) has a full-length tutorial on her blog for dyeing with avocados. I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time and can never find enough info to feel like I know what I need to do. It’s so simple that most dyers, when asked, go “oh it’s the easiest, just boil ’em up and add your yarn or fabric.” But … pits or skins or both? How much dye matter as a ratio to the water? Do you need to worry about mordant? Thaw the pits if you’ve frozen them? Strain it or what? I have so many questions, and Kathryn’s is the most in-depth blog post I’ve seen.
Having wrapped up multiple projects for others lately and said “see you next year” to the bulky cardigan I started in December and won’t need till next December, I’m at a rare moment: A clean slate. And rather than rushing into anything that hadn’t been sufficiently thought through (which resulted in No. 2 below), I’ve been taking my time making my plans. But this is how they’re crystallizing:
1. The shawl-collar vest After some deliberation (and discussion with you all) about using mismatched wool from my stash versus acquiring a more wearable cotton blend, I decided on the latter. I’ve bought a handful of skeins of Rosa Pomar’s Mungo — 50% recycled cotton and 50% recycled wool, all preconsumer mill waste — swatched a couple of ways, and am ready to cast on. The fabric is nothing at all like the Balance I know and love — it’s much more summery, more cottony, lighter — even though they’re both 50/50, so I’m eager to see how this goes.
2. The Luft mystery project In the absence of any specific plan or outcome, and the presence of this swoony black Luft, I’ve been knitting it into a garter-stitch triangle, which may become a rectangle or a square, or may simply be ripped out. Only time will tell. But no moment spent with this yarn flowing through my fingers is wasted. It’s a therapy unto itself.
3. The navy pullover I haven’t even so much as swatched, but I’m pretty certain the ultra-plain little navy pullover I’ve been wanting will be knitted from two strands of this deep dark blue Bummull. As it will probably be a simple stockinette top-down — a good pick-it-up-anytime project — I’m thinking of casting on and planning to knit it here and there between now and next fall, when I’ll be wanting it again.
4. The “kimono” jacket While multiple brands have renamed their “kimono jackets” to the more accurate “haori,” the fact remains that this Assembly Line pattern I’ve purchased bears the name Kimono Jacket. But name aside, I’m super obsessed with this pattern, the shape of this jacket, and am planning to sew it up in navy linen, which I have a lot of in my stash from Eliz Suzann’s $2/lb garage sale a couple of summer ago — I’m just waiting for the pattern to arrive at my mailbox. This will be an excellent all-purpose garment throughout the year.
5/6. The pants As previously noted, I’ve been thinking for a long time of sewing a pair of woven Hudson Pants, and think the guinea-pig fabric might be that stripe in my stash. (I still have those Jenni Kayne pants in my head.) But there’s also still the goal of the Carolyn Pajama pants in navy linen with black piping, for street wear. Not sure yet which will come first; either/both will be awesome with the jacket.
Wandering around Ravelry late last week, I ran across a new-to-me designer named Leeni Hoi and fell for her lovely halo-y sweaters knitted in fingering weight yarn held double with a strand of silk-mohair. This is one of the tricks I remember being awed by when I first took up knitting, and I have bought two or three skeins of silk-mohair over the years with a plan to try it, and yet I’ve still not done it. Which is ridiculous, because in addition to creating an incredibly soft and supple fabric — just look what it does for these three beauties — it’s also a good way to boost fingering yarn to a gauge I’m happier knitting at, while still creating a garment lighter than a worsted-weight sweater. Win/win/win.
ABOVE, TOP: Shimo Sweater has a pretty cables-and-bobbles motif that dovetails neatly into the hem and cuffs
ABOVE, BOTTOM: Vaña Sweater is a simple reverse-stockinette pullover with a few graphic lines of ribbing to set it off
BELOW: Uhuru Sweater looks like a super-basic pullover, but offers the surprise of a triangular detail at the cuffs and back of neck
If you haven’t seen all the great responses on Wednesday’s Q for You — or haven’t weighed in — don’t miss that, either.
Happy weekend, everyone!
IN SHOP NEWS: For the first time this year, I think, we’ve got all three colors of the Town Bag in stock, all three colors of the waxed canvas Field Bag (camo! plum!) and all four colors of the plain canvas Field Bag. (Although very few of some, so use that Notify Me button if you run into it!)
I became a knitter in the age of Ravelry, but sometimes I ponder what it was like before. My personal historical equivalent would be going to the fabric store with my mom when I was a kid, sidling up to the long tables stacked with giant binders full of sewing patterns, and beginning the often tedious task of turning every single page in as many of those books as possible to find what I was after. Then locating the actual pattern envelope in its cross-referenced file drawer — that makes me so nostalgic just typing that.
In the days before Ravelry — which created a means for self-publishing — the only way to get a pattern published was through a traditional gatekeeper: Someone publishing patterns had to likes yours and include it in a publication, which might have been a magazine, a book, or a booklet put out by a yarn company. But of curse in the days of Ravelry and other websites, all of those traditional outlets also still exist. It can be a pretty dizzying world of too many choices, and I’m sure we all have our different go-to’s when it comes to filtering through the hundreds of thousands of patterns out there.
So that’s my Q for You today: How do you find the patterns you knit? Are you high-tech or old-school? Do you keep your eyes on a certain designer or brand that puts out collections? Do you start with the vintage pattern booklets or stack of magazines you have at home? Do you go to the library and pore over books? Ask friends for recommendations? Browse hashtags on Instagram? Or do you start with the Ravelry search box and narrow your search from everything to just-the-thing? I’d love to hear about your sources and your methods — and what makes it work for you.
While I debate with myself about which yarn I want to use for the shawl-collar vest idea and which pattern (and stash yarn) for a wrap, I’ve knitted a hat for my beloved. On Christmas day, we had turkey enchiladas with our close family-friends, the elder of which was wearing a hat Bob took one look at and flashed me a face that said “please!” After some investigation, it was established that my pal Jo had knitted it from Alexis Winslow’s pattern called Cabled Dad Hat. And it seemed like a perfect use for some of the leftover yarn from Bob’s sweater vest, so that’s what’s kept my hands busy on recent nights.
If you’ve seen previous years’ posts about hats for Bob, you may recall he likes a skullcap — won’t wear a beanie that comes down over his ears — but we’d agreed he needed one that could at least fold down over them when needed. To arrive at this outcome, and following Jo’s lead, I began the decreases at 6″ instead of 7″, which for me meant 5 repeats of the chart. (If I make it again, I might stop at 5″.) And then I also shortened the crown portion by speeding up the increases and knitting fewer total rows, which I did simply by decreasing on every round starting with crown row 13.
As usual with hats, I didn’t swatch, and it’s a tiny bit big so we’ll make an effort to shrink it just a touch. But overall, we’re both very happy with it — it’s a great pattern that was obviously more fun to knit than his usual stockinette-everything requests, and it’s nice to see some texture on him.
I realized while finishing this up the other night that, as much as I’ve enjoyed knitting for him and my as-yet unspecified niece, it’s officially been too long since I knitted anything for myself. Time to solve for one or the other of those aforementioned cast-ons!