Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Exercise in Restraint

Today was a big day at the shop; my order of Madelinetosh arrived this morning while I was in the midst of reorganizing the epic shop mess from the previous weekend. I was a good girl and cleaned up the shop and then proceeded to unpack all 50 colors of tosh merino light that were inside that glorious box. It was like Christmas morning, not only because my Christmas present from Gail was inside that box, but the joy of digging though every new color brought me a new unexpected joy.

At the end of the day I shoved all my new acquisitions inside my bag and brought them home to roost. Clockwise from the top they include: calligraphy, ink, olivia and venetian. They joined an already extensive pile of Madelinetosh that I have squirreled away for my "after Christmas" knitting, otherwise know as selfish knitting. One of the reason I have been so antsy to finish the Na Craga challenge is this pile of beautiful yarn I have waiting for me.

To make my knitter's ADD even worse than it already is, I just ordered a few skeins of Tern from Quince & co. A new yarn company from Pam Allen and Carrie Bostick Hoge; the yarn is made from 100% American Wool with a beautiful palette desirable by any knitter. Tern is actually the only yarn from Quince that is an anomaly, with 75% wool/25% silk to make a silky soft fingering weight wool.

For now Quince it is a direct-to-knitter company, still small enough for personal touches to be added to each order. (Bottom: Barnacle, Top: Kelp)

After tearing open the color card I ordered along with Tern I basked in the colorful array that waits for me in the future. I am already designing sweaters and accessories in my head with this rich palette, which I know will only expand 10-fold.

Every snip is taken with Chickadee, their sport/dk weight wool, which is perfect because I already have big plans for these little birds. Let's just say I am waiting for another birdie launch to best demonstrate the qualities of this lovely yarn.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Glimpses of Saturday

What makes me most happy on Saturday afternoons is my little group of riff-raff that settle in the shop every weekend and make my day worth the craziness. I owe them a great deal of gratitude since they help put back together what's left of me after a rough day and listen when I have to vent about one thing or another. I've gone to Rhinebeck with them, slept over in Claire's dreamhouse with them and share countless sweet potato fries at Woody's. They even indulge and participate with me when I oogle the crazy hot cook over the counter.

Carol is a little reluctant when it comes to personal photos, but we got the drop on her and caught a rare moment of reflective knitting.

But honestly this is a more accurate photo when she realized what was happening.

Then we have everyones favorite ladies man, Mark. Who I can't say enough wonderful things about- he's knitting his first sweater, Cobblestone, by our favorite Brooklynite, Jared Flood, with delicious Madelinetosh tosh dk in Crumble. I told him I was going to "borrow" it from him when he finished.

He knows I have a serious addiction to the stuff. If it went missing he would immediately know who the culprit was.

Then we have Queen Jean on the left and Nancy of the Spinning Fancy's on the right.

Jean deserves a place among the saints and a spot in the knitter's hall of fame. We have all said that Jean has forgotten more about knitting than we will ever learn. I swear it is true. I have seen remarkable things from this woman, and not just knitting wise. Patience, kindness and a bit of cheekiness: all good things.

Nancy's in a league all her own-a spinner, weaver, dyer, felter, knitter, mad-scientist and she knows the ingredient in contact solution that makes explosives. Not only can you escape into a world of colorful roving when you enter her shop, you can exclaim your excitement with any expletive you prefer upon the rush of joy experienced.

I can't say I have mentioned everyone in this post who deserves it. I simply thought to recognize some of my favorite people after taking a bunch of nice photos today. This last one is my favorite yet though.

That's the back of Na Craga, almost complete. How sweet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tea Leaves Books Dreams

Yesterday is rained all day, which led to a day of mushy earth and sticky leaves.

Being mid-November I saw my window for final yard work rapidly closing. It actually snowed a little bit just last week. So I went outside and saw some pretty leaves floating in my wheel-barrel. Then I grabbed the mower and proceeded to mulch all the rest blowing around my yard.

I came in 2 hours later cold and exhausted, took a hot shower, made some chicken soup for dinner, and then sat down with a cup of tea. As I settled in for a long night of knitting I glanced over at my little table next to me and admired the view.

A little stack of my favorite new books- New England Knits, Brave New Knits and Aran Knitting, which Na Craga hails from. When I feel my stamina dulling I reach for these books to dream about things to come.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TWIST and Shout, Hurray!

The Winter 2010 issue of Twist Collective is up today! I have blogged before about how much I love Twist Collective-they never fail to deliver beautiful designs and this issue was no different. And if you are wondering, Twist doesn't pay me to advertise for them, I just love them so much that I can't help but push every knitter I know to their publications-so go there NOW!

I had quite a rambunctious and fun-filled weekend, so by Monday 12:00 a.m. I was shaking myself awake for the Winter debut of Twist. I looked through the entire issue, articles and all, and promptly fell into a deep, peaceful slumber dreaming about all the gorgeous things I would make.

Before I continue with my gushfest over Twist, I will say that I know I have to work on my own designs, but who says I can't have a little something extra for myself on the side? Now for the gushing...

I will be downloading Leaving immediately-I have always loved Anne's lace designs, I made her Wing o' the Moth shawl for my Mommie a few years ago. So I especially love that she has applied her crazy lace skills to a very wearable garment that can be either a cardigan or pullover. Personally, I think I will be making the cardigan, but I have this feeling that I will be getting a few family and friend requests for the pullover.

I am, of course, thinking about using Madelinetosh tosh merino light for Leaving. We got a call at the shop from Texas this week- madelinetosh HQ informed us that our large shipment is going into production and will be arriving THIS WEEK! YAY! My heart is skipping beats every time I remember this (or maybe it's the carafe of coffee I drank? or both?) I get first dibs on color choices, so I will be putting some skeins aside for this one.

There are several more designs that I want to queue up as well. I had a gasp! moment when I saw Chambord-I don't know what yarn I will be using for it yet but since I had such a reaction to it I know that I will have to make it a.s.a.p.

Freija-my Mom literally squealed in my ear when she saw it. Not really a big surprise because 1. it has lots of cables, 2. it's slightly unusual construction and placement makes it all the more striking and unique.

Let It Snow-just shouts my sister's name, this is in the running for a potential Christmas present.

Skalva-it's the perfect, easy wear garment that could have been designed for me personally. The length of it is perfect to wear with boots and and leggings. I already have a pattern by Gudrun from Twist on the needles, so I think it's time to double up.

Roheline- a circular yoke, dropped stitches, cardigan in the round and seamless. Could anything be more perfectly me? Was this issue made for me personally?!

Wingspan- OMG, cables from cuff to cuff! Not only gorgeous to look at, it's an interesting design for a knitter, since it isn't the typical bottom up or top down sweater. Plus, doesn't it look so soft and squishy? I am hesitant to sub a yarn because I want that squishiness for myself.

Okay, now I have to go back to work-put my dreams aside for another day. I have some serious Na Craga work to do before I can even think about casting on for my dream knits above. But I can download them right? Read over the patterns, drool, dream of yarns to use....it's not really cheating on my Na Craga until I cast on....speaking of which, I am working on the ribbing to the back now....downloading Twist patterns too ;)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feelin' like a Champ: Day 8 NCCC, 42 left

Finished the front of the Na Craga and I'll go into the City this weekend feelin' like a champ. I can't promise the same results for next week since I'll be away from my knitting for a few days of fun times but I'll sure try. See you Monday...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Woodsmoke in Winter

So not to bore you all to tears with my Na Craga posts I have some beautiful finished objects to show off. I have recently been ripping though Brave New Knits, making one accessory after another. I already showed you my Orchid Thief Shawlette by Ysolda Teague, and like my shawlette I have made another project with madelinetosh tosh merino light.

I am a huge knit blog junkie and one of the people that got me hooked is the famous Jared Flood of BrooklynTweed. He actually took all the spectacular pictures in Brave New Knits, which is one of the main features of his blog that rocketed him to super stardom in the knitting world. He can take a photograph of the most simple scarf and unlock the hidden beauty under the ribbing. I hope to meet him one day to tell him how much his art has inspired me.

Pattern: Woodsmoke Scarf by Jared Flood
Needles: Addi Turbo US 6 40", Hiya Hiya US 6 DPN
Notions: A buttload of waste yarn, Boye Crochet G Hook

The Woodsmoke Scarf isn't the most simple scarf to knit, but it maintains the aesthetic ease and rustic charm that trademarks all of Jared's patterns. It's deliciously wearable made with one skein of tosh merino light in amber trinket and one skein of Kid Merino by Crystal Palace in Sand. I used up both skeins of yarn almost entirely-about a yard left on the kid merino and 10 left on the tosh merino light. I decided that the madelinetosh was too pretty not to use for the whole scarf, but something extra was needed for the lace edging. I picked up the kid merino on a whim and used it as a carry along, by the end I had something we all were enchanted with. The light haziness that the kid merino brought to the scarf seemed to enhance the rustic charm and make it more romantic. It's being held hostage at the shop right now, but it will be coming home with me soon enough.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cragaus Interruptus

I will temporary interrupt the Na Craga Challenge posts to bring you a long finished object. I finished this easy dress at the end of winter last year. In fact, it is so easy that the pattern is called the Moorland Easy Dress. I got to wear it a total of two times before it went into hibernation for the summer. The wearable season went by so fast that I didn't even have a chance to get a picture of me in the thing before I had to put her away.

Pattern: Moorland Easy Dress by Joƫlle Meier Rioux
Needles: Addi Turbo US 6 & 7
Yarn: Vintage by Berroco (8),shade 5182

The Goddess of Foresight was with me when I picked out my Pebble Wine Dress project because sweater dresses seem to be all that this season. Lucky me, but I would have worn it regardless. I used Jean's favorite yarn in the shop, Vintage by Berroco in a lovely heather merlot shade 5182. I used about 8 skeins to knit the endless amount of moss stitch that makes the texture of the dress. It's knit bottom up in the round up to the armholes and then divided for the back and front. The sleeves were knit separately and sew in later. Although this looks like a huge project, it was actually very simple and timely. Endurance was the biggest obstacle of knitting this because there was so much fabric to create, but any beginner knitter could tackle this project and come out with a perfect finished garment.

And if you all are wondering-I am almost done with the front of Na Craga. I have about 22" of knitting out of 25" total. I hope I am not jinxing myself, but I think I will finish it tonight. I am going out in the City for my besties birthday this weekend so my mind will be settled knowing I have one large piece completed. Maybe I'll even have a preemptive margarita ;)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 5, 45 left: NCCC

Plugging along here with the Na Craga challenge. I think I have made considerable headway in the short time I have had with it so far. So much that I feel confidant that I could finish this before Christmas, as long as I don't insert too much extra into my knitting schedule.

I have gotten about 16" into the front side of my sweater out of 23" and I haven't had any problems. The design is intuitive and symmetrical. In fact, my favorite thing about this design is that I haven't had to refer to the charts since the first repeat. One of the keys to success in any pattern is making it intuitive enough to repeat without constant reminders. The cables appear at least every other row and the waffle stitch on either side of the cable pattern changes every two rows. The brain is very good at recognizing patterns, even if you don't have a "mathematical mind", as I don't, your brain is given a little reminder, ex. on the third round of the braided cable the honeycomb or the horseshoe cable needs to repeat as well. It's a subtle and under-rated aspect of pattern design. When a knitter has to juggle several variables that aren't cohesive the more likely we are to eff-up and give up on a project.

I have to give this design an A+ so far. I can see why it has been so popular for beginning cablers and advanced knitters alike. Very smart Alice. At this rate I should beat the White Rabbit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day Two: NCCC

Day Two, 48 left.

I'll try and update with a picture of my progress as much as I am able. I want to say every day, but I think that is a little ambitious and silly for me to promise.

So far I have only made one careless mistake, which happened when I was blabbing and not paying attention to my cable directions. I dropped my offending stitches to the row below and reoriented the little sob's to their correct place in the world. I am humming along as fast as I can go, hopefully tomorrow will yield a bounty of rows.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Na Craga Christmas Challenge: Day One

They all say it can't be done. That I am crazy to even attempt it. Claire shook her head and said she was getting the sweats just thinking about it. Gail just smiled and nodded while making yarn recommendations, she knew resistance was futile. I had my mind set and that was that. The challenge is to complete Alice Starmore's Na Craga by December 25th. I have the yarn, the pattern and apparently a startling warped sense of knitting realities. I dare say even the Yarn Harlot herself would call me insane if she got wind of what I am trying to attempt here.

So today is Day One of the Challenge out of 50 with 49 left to go. I have already swatched and chosen my yarn-Plymouth Select Worsted Superwash Merino in 29, a lovely heather shade of brown with red undertones. I have my needles at attention and I have cast-on for the ribbing. And I have, if nothing else, my determination to complete this project by my set date.

Now other than feeling a rush of joy when my Mom opens the box on Christmas morning, I have also been promised a celebration if I can achieve my goal. A fiesta at Avacado's for a New Year's"ish" bash-a place that makes guacamole seem like a wonder of the world, where margaritas and tequila runs free, where you can stuff your face and drink until you explode, a place where I will rub in the face of all my doubters my VICTORY! Claire, I will be dreaming about margaritas for the next month and a half ;) Get ready.

I'll be updating frequently on my progess with photos or it didn't happen! (LSG nod) I'll be talking about the pitfalls, the whoas and the joys of knitting one of Alice Starmore's epic sweaters. Hopefully, my journey through this process can answer some questions about the complex and beautiful design of aran knitting and be a great tool for designing in the future. This also could be a diary of a young woman driven to the edge of sanity and reason. I know I'll be walking a fine line between the two, so stay tuned to see which way it swings.

Oh, and I have to figure out something to make for my sister too...any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Yule Tidey Cheer Pattern

Now that there is a nice nip in the air and the leaves have fully changed and mostly fallen I am really getting into the holiday vibe. I love the holiday season, although I know that it is an overwhelming time for many people, I find that it is centering and peaceful. It is one of the rare times in the year that I get to be with my whole family and we really spend time together. Christmas is the somewhat of a yearly miracle in my household. Usually I get woken up by my sister jumping on me and yelling IT'S CHRISTMAS! and then ripping the blankets off me. This is the one day of the year that I wouldn't punch her for doing so. Then we all get up, put on some Christmas tunes, usually by way of James Taylor or Charlie Brown, have coffee and open presents. Then we make an EPIC Christmas brunch together--even my Dad participates (the Baconmaker). Scrambled eggs, french toast made with Challah bread, sausage, bacon via baconmaker, yogurt and fruit, coffee, tea, eggnog and orange juice for good health. Afterwards, usually we are so stuffed we only eat dessert later in the day via the Italian deli in town.

We never turn on the TV, we just play games and slowly people starting trickling in, like friends who don't mind seeing all of us in our jammies, which we never change out of all day. All in all it is a spectacular tradition that came from us living so far away from our extended family. Honestly, I look more forward to this day that any day of the year, perhaps because we simply are allowed to enjoy one another without the outside world pulling on our minds. I wish there were more days during the year where we are allowed to be so detached from the world and so together with our loved ones.

So, as you can imagine, in mid-October I was already starting to anticipate holiday knitting. Some BIG needles came into the shop, I saw a bunch of red yarn that looked nice together, and I saw all the gargantuan cowls in the new magazines for fall/winter. My Yule Log Cowl emerges just a few hours after conception. It took me about an hour or so to knit up and another half and hour to jot down the pattern.

Pattern: Yule Log Cowl by Me!
Needles: US 35
Yarn: Trabajos del Peru (007) 2 skeins; La Gran (6555) 1 or 2 skeins
And: 1 BIG log button

I made it available for free through my Ravelry pattern shop and also here at the shop for some simple, fast holiday knitting.

I usually spend the weeks before Christmas knitting my fingers off making beautiful sweaters or accessories for my Mom and sister. They are knit worthy so I don't mind spending the hours of late night knitting on them. This year I want to make my Mom Na Craga by Alice Starmore.

It's a gorgeous traditional aran sweater, of which she has been asking for for years. So I will grant her a Christmas wish and make it for her. Perhaps in a size that allows me to steal it from the sweater chest every once in awhile;)