What have I been doing of late? Well, being lucky, I can work from home, so that’s been taking up most time, especially with major deadlines in the past week. In the time that’s left over, I have to stay busy, and not as a sacrifice to the “cult of productivity.” Mostly because unless my hands are occupied, my thoughts wander to dark places.
I have subdued a reluctant sewing machine and run up some face masks for my family:
I’ve been knitting a pair of socks from a gorgeous ball of yarn I had put away as being “too good for socks.” Well, I deserve nice things, too.
I’ve done some casual research, and found another rendition of The Old Castle design, dated to 1590-1610. I added it to my round-up of the designs in that family.
And I’ve embarked on a new stitching project. It’s a curious one that has no short explanation behind it, and in a way – it’s the ultimate FanGirl project.
As I’ve mentioned before, The Resident Male (pictured above) writes prime SF/fantasy. He is currently working on the second book in his Blair and Terendurr series. One of the delights of living with an author is that you get to read the output long before it escapes into the wide, wide world. And if you are really lucky, parts are read out loud to you as they are completed.
One of the stories in the forthcoming second book features a rather unusual band of confederates. I can’t go into more detail because I don’t want to post spoilers. But they have a motto in an other-worldly language, “Lucus Orthai Ta,” which translates roughly to “Life’ll kill ya.” I thought it would be fitting as his #1 fan to make a present for my author: an embroidery of this phrase, framed with The Dance border I posted here last week.
I started by combing through my usual haunt for unusual alphabets, Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts collection of near 100 year old Alexandre, Sajou and other pattern booklets and leporellos, The one I picked is the third one on this page. They don’t get much more baroque or difficult to read than that set of squiggles. Perfect for an alien language.
And so I present the start – working out from the center and in cross stitch for the lettering, on 44 count almost-evenweave linen in “art silk,” it will take me a while to get to my skeleton army in double running stitch. But I will…
As for the story, you are just going to have to wait for him to complete the second book. It will be worth the wait!
I wish I weren’t but it’s been so, and for a while.
Sadly this means that not much substantive is getting done on any of my main projects. I feel quite badly about this because I promised a pair of Octopodes Mittens to a niece. Thanks to the ungentle hands of the Philistines at TSA, during my trip to Florida, my on-the-needles project was unceremoniously dumped out into my checked baggage, the needles were pulled out of the work (and one was lost); the magnet board I was using was bent, the magnetic strip that marked my place is missing, and they broke the yarn to remove and lose the Strickfingerhut knitting thimble thingy I use to make stranding easier. So progress has been stalled while I replace the needles, Strickfingerhut, and magnet board.
Here is the barely-begun first mitten prior to TSA’s pillaging:
Back to Square One on that project.
In the mean time, my mindless “briefcase project” socks march on. These require little to no thought, and are done in stolen hours while waiting on line at the post office, in large group meetings at work, and the like. The ankle patterns are improvised on the fly. Since January, I’ve done 3.75 pairs – all toe-up, quick knits on 76 stitches around, (US #00s – big as logs…)
Starting with the blue pair with red accents, yarns used were blue striped Cascade Heritage 150 Prints, with Kroy Sock toes/heels/ribbing; orange Cascade Heritage 150; Plymouth Neon Now (it really does glow under UV light); and Berroco Comfort sock, in pastels – which is an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool in it at all. The last one is an experiment, we’ll see how it feels to wear, and how well it holds up in regular sock rotation.
Now that I have the requisite replacement materials, it’s back to the Octopodes Mittens. Winter 2018 may be almost over, but I have a feeling the niece will appreciate them in 2019.
Ok, I know it’s been a while. Where have I been?
Working on several projects, two of them in major Stealth Mode.
Stealth Project #1 is a baby blanket. That much I can say. I can also say that the recipients are family, and they have specifically requested cotton and pink. I’ve done something original, an improvised pattern, and it’s done. But I won’t post pix here because family does visit this page and I want the finished object to be at least a bit of a surprise.
Stealth Project #2 is for my Stealth Apprentice. She’s starting up an Etsy business, hand-dyeing silk embroidery thread using researched historical dye recipes. She’s busy perfecting her products, and I’m her Beta-Tester-in-Chief. I won’t show the sampler where her products are being play-tested against standard DMC cotton floss, but eventually we will break Stealth Mode and post details and links.
Project #3 is a volunteer effort. I’m one of many people in the Arlington Knitting Brigade, a town Council for the Arts project that is working to do a yarn-bombing installation on the public bike path that bisects the town, for display in September. The group provided acrylic yarn in orange, light turquoise, white, and fuscia, with permission to eke out that lot with stash colors, in order to make a piece that’s 2×5 feet – knit, crocheted, in macramé, weaving, whatever. I’m woefully behind, but getting there. As you can see I’ve chosen a rather chaotic mix of crochet and knitting. Younger Daughter says that the thing has a look that reminds her of the classic kids’ game Candy Land:
I am going to have both aggressive blocking and a TON of ends to finish!
For the record, my piece goes at the very top of one of the trees, far from eyes that can see the questionable bits.
Project #4 is yet another pair of socks, the latest in my constant stream of briefcase projects. I carry a pair of socks on the needles with me just about everywhere I go, working on it in stolen moments while waiting for appointments, getting the car inspected, waiting for a movie to start, or standing on lines at post offices or ticket counters.
This pair is in Plymouth Neon Now, worked toe-up with a short rowed heel, on US 00 (1.75mm) needles. It’s 76 stitches around (19 stitches on each of four needles), with an improvised texture pattern on the cuff. The feet are totally plain – I find that is the most comfortable inside my shoes. I started this pair in mid July, and finished last week while waiting at the optometrist. Needless to say, I immediately cast on for the next pair.
A frantic interlude of work related deadlines later, I return to this page.
And the recipient of the Crusher pullover, modeling it with standard ironic teenage attitude during Thanksgiving break:
Eye roll aside, she loves it. Really. Especially the three-quarter sleeves and front pocket. She’ll wear it with a collared denim or chambray shirt underneath, so the wide neckline and shorter sleeves (for rolled up cuffs) is spot on what she wanted. So armed, Younger Daughter returns now to college, full of turkey, and cocooned in wool.
On the knitting front, I am well into a Licorice Whip pullover possibly for me or Elder Daughter. I’m still trying to fit The Great Stash Largesse into my yarn boxes, so to make room, I’m doing up some quick knits from the bulkiest lots in them. This one is to use up some Araucania Nature Cotton, an Aran-weight thick-and-thin, kettle dyed cotton I’ve had on hand for at least six years. The skeins are not uniform, not even within dye lot (probably why I was able to snag it on special sale), so I am working from two of them at the same time, alternating to meld the colors and avoid any visible horizon likes (like the deliberate one in Crusher, above, where I used to strong contrast yarns on purpose).
The color is sort of washed out in the photo above. Red Licorice is really a very bright candy-apple red, veering to orange. The cotton is cushy and soft, but prone to shedding. It will most certainly be a gentle hand-wash garment when it is done.
In other news, two more pairs of briefcase-sox accomplished using Great Stash Largesse yarn. Standard figure-8 toe/short row heel, 76 stitches around, plain feet/interesting ankle. One brown pair already with its recipient, the other pair is mine, mine, mine:
I also completed two baby sweaters, for Salazar Clan grandchildren born last month. One is with its target baby, the other is here in my basket, awaiting word of where to send it to rendezvous with the target great-nephew. Both are the same Lopez Island pullover and use same long stashed yarn in two different colors. Red is a 6 month size, and Blue is a 9-12 month size:.
In other knitting news, I will be needing a small project to carry with me on a trip the week after next. The bulky red pullover being too big for in-flight knitting. For that one, I’ve settled on Sandra’s Shawl, using a shaded deep to medium green laceweight from an earlier shipment of Largesse. I’ll knit up the larger size. However, I’m not a big fan of working nupps (the little bobbles that accent the edgings). Instead I will use silver beads. Cast on for this will be sometime this week, so I will be well enough along for relaxed knitting on the plane.
And finally, progress on the long stalled Second Carolingian Modelbook project. As I feared, in the format I had chosen, parallel to the original book, production – even in electronic format – will be prohibitive. I am now redrafting for release as a series of shorter works. The first of these will be a very short pilot folio – probably only five or six plates worth. By contrast, the book as I originally conceived it was 75 plates. If that works out well, I will continue with similar scheduled releases.
It’s been lonely here at String. So few posts over such a long period of time. I apologize for that. Life has been hectic, with work deadlines, the close of Younger Daughter’s school year, and house projects just getting under way.
For a start, here’s Younger Daughter, decked out for Junior Prom.
No copycat column dress for her, she took inspiration from decades past, and found a bargain repro-1950s dress on line. Much child/parent conspiring took place to round out the outfit. The rhinestones for example are excavated from my jewelry box, and ultimately belonged to my grandmother and great-aunt. Younger Daughter looked great, and had a wonderful time. And not a bit of envy for dance-able comfort from some of her more elaborately dressed peers.
On the Trifles sampler, I ran into a roadblock. I tried drafting and tracing meshed gears, which I intend to use as a background, filling each one with a different counted blackwork-style filling. But I wasn’t finding a great amount of success. So I caved in and bought a plastic stencil. I’ll use selected bits of it, tracing the precision cut cams onto the cloth and tiling the thing where needed (it’s calculated to do that!). More on this once I get going.
I’m also working on a two-person knit-along with Friend Kim – a mesh-knit three-quarter sleeve pullover from a Kate Bellando pattern. I think we’re both at about the same mid-sleeve point:
For the record, we’re both using SMC Select Reflect, a light DK/heavy sport yarn in rayon/cotton blend. I can say that both of us have had extreme problems making gauge and have had to adjust needle size and move down in selected garment size to compensate.
And I’ve done a ton of socks as I noodled out the various problems and challenges, above. This pair was knit up from a hand-painted sock blank – Plymouth Happy Choices, in the Fiesta color.
In essence, a sock blank is a long scarf-like machine knitted strip that a dyer then paints with her or his chosen colors. When the scarf is unraveled for use, its patterns knit up in unexpected ways. I knit mine straight from the blank rather than re-winding, working my standard figure-8 toe, short-rowed heel sock. The crinkle made no difference in the finished product, and the convenience of working from something that wouldn’t escape and skitter down six rows was perfect for airplane knitting. The lace pattern on the ankle is from Walker’s fourth treasury.
And on larger, family projects – we start to consider redoing our kitchen. The floor tiles are worn past their surface color, the cabinets and countertops are sagging beyond simple repair or re-use, and the layout/look is inefficient and dated. The room was spruced up around 1980, as a peace offering between the warring couple that sold the house to us. I have detested the shell pink/mint green/faux Colonial cabinet combo from the day we moved in. Before pix in next post, for sure. Ten years is enough, and it’s time!
In all of this observational and research posting what’s been missing has been reporting on my own projects.
I’ve been busy since finishing the Ganeshji piece. I’ve finished Younger Daughter’s red pullover:
Purists will note that we ended up eliminating the belled lower sleeves. They ended up being a bit too much for India’s climate. The thing fits quite nicely. My only caution is that in the chosen cotton DK it’s quite warm.
I also knit up a small teddy bear as an as-yet ungiven gift. I used the free Berroco Foliage Bear pattern, and Bernat Mosaic on US #9 (5.5mm) needles. There’s enough in one skein of multicolor Mosaic to knit at least one more bear of this size. Stuffing was cannibalized from an inexpensive throw pillow bought at the local supermarket; crafts stores and virgin stuffing materials not being exactly common in Pune.
Special thanks to long time needlework pal and multi-century enabler Kathryn, who gave me this wildly bright acrylic skein to share with my kids. I sheepishly admit that it crept into my backpack, and I diverted it to my own use.
I also finished yet another pair of socks. I’ve taken to knitting at the bus stop while waiting with Younger Daughter in the morning. This pair is done, and there is another behind it, well along on the needles:
It’s my standard figure-8 cast-on, toe-up sock, but done on log-huge US #1s – 64 stitches around. The lacy meander on the side is from the first Duchrow collection (page 35). I’ve used it before on a baby blanket. These stripy blue socks are also meant as a gift, along with the men’s pair I’m working on now.
And I’ve started doodling with Kasuthi embroidery. I’ve got a large piece of somewhat even-weave fabric. Big enough to make a half dozen napkins. So I am doing a different motif, totally double sided, on each one. I will stitch all six motifs, then cut apart the cloth and hem the napkins. Motif Number One is complete:
You can see the stepwise logic of the filling pattern in the star flower’s petals. The resemblance to stepwise Western band patterns (like Jane Seymour’s famous cuffs and Anna Meyer’s sleeves) is even more pronounced in Kasuthi border/edging designs. A couple of those are on deck for future napkins. But first, I’ve GOT to do one of the traditional elephants…
Where have I been? Busy, mostly.
I’ve been getting our India-bound household goods shipment organized – buying what’s needful, and sorting the rest out from our domestic inventory. There are tons of details that have to be settled before we go, and not enough time to do them, of course.
But that doesn’t mean that stress abatement isn’t happening. I’ve taken to watching Dr. Who with Younger Daughter, after dinner is picked up and homework is complete. I’ve worked a bit on stitching, but mostly knitting. Holidays are coming up after all, and there are gifts to be stockpiled. Plus in all of the rushing around there’s a fair amount of “hurry up and wait.” I don’t do that well, so I always go armed with some sort of handwork. My big frame isn’t portable at all, so small knitting projects have been accompanying me on my rounds.
So far the tally for September/October is two pairs of socks, four Wingspan scarves (three were my variant on the basic pattern), and two pairs of booties. The socks below – finished yesterday – are my standard 72 stitch circumference short-row heel/figure-8 cast on toe-ups, with an improvised Old Shale/Feather and Fan variant on the cuff. The other pair of socks is making its way cross country to Elder Daughter (chasing the first Wingspan, sent several weeks ago), and the booties have been distributed. The two remaining Wingspans will be blocked this weekend.
Last night and this morning in the splendor of the Sears auto repair shop waiting room I worked on an old friend – my Kombu Scarf.
I’ve knit a few of these since first posting the pattern in 2004. The initial one was in Schaefer Little Lola, a space dyed mix of greens and browns, that combined with the undulating shape of the center, gave the scarf it’s kelp name. Since then I’ve done it up in other yarns, ranging from sport to worsted weight.
Kombu is a graceful, narrow scarf that can be made from as little as around 280 yards of yarn. The design is both bold and a bit fluttery. The pattern knits up well in every fiber I’ve tried (cotton, wool, acrylic, alpaca, cashmere blend). It’s reversible, attractive on both front and back. There’s no seaming – the bottom edging is knit as a narrow strip, then the scarf body is picked up and knit north from there, with the side borders worked at the same time as the scarf center. At the end, the final bit of edging at the top is worked across as a finish on the remaining live stitches, right from the needle. There’s no need to sew on or pick up and knit an edging, and if done from a large ball of yarn – there are only two ends to darn in when it’s done.
Here’s the latest. It’s in Marks & Kattens Indigo Jeansgarn – leftovers from one of my all time favorite projects.
I started this one in part because I needed something on the needles, and I wanted to add to my pile of presents-to-be. But also I got a shout out from a Ravelry reader who was wrestling with her own Kombu project and needed help. It’s been a while since I knit one of these, I had to cast on in order to lend a hand. Happy to say, she appears to be over her problem, and is now knitting away again.
If you’re interested in the Kombu pattern, it’s available as a free PDF download, at the “Knitting Patterns” link at the top of the page. There’s a German language version there, too.