Well well. Have I really skipped the entire year of 2015 without posting once? You would think I would have something to show for it – more money, a new person in my life, another excellent hobby – but no. Just same old me doing the same old stuff.
Truth be told, I did knit a bunch of things in 2015. Not as many as I’d like, of course, but there were a lot of long flights and some solid weekends upstate where I powered through a lot of projects. Was there a common theme? Not especially, if you look at the FOs – mittens, throws, lots of hats. But if you look at the yarn, my objective is clear: get. rid. of. all. that. fucking. yarn.
I admit it, I have a touch of hoarding disorder. I like to think of it as Temporary Pack Rat Syndrome, since I like to hold on to a lot of shit and then one day I snap and throw it all away, because I truly like simplicity and lack of clutter. When we lived in Park Slope, I kept all my yarn in bags behind the couch, out of sight. But occasionally a guest would look back through the windows…and then down…and then shriek in horror. Rightfully so, there was a lot of creepy looking yarn back there. It was the physical manifestation of my compulsive yarn purchasing.
Around a year ago today, I had a “snap” moment and actually threw out a bunch of yarn. It was cathartic, but still there were a handful of skeins I just could not part with. Some I just had too much of, some was just too soft and beautiful.
Two projects worth mentioning: one, an easy knitting and highly customizable hat pattern from Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The fun part about this one is getting creative with stripes, patterns, earflaps and most notably colors. I got rid of ALL of my leftover skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (check out the new website on Debbie! said as Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, i.e., check out the big brains on Brad!). Here’s one sample of probably 5 hats I made.
I also had a lot of leftover Loops & Threads Cozy Wool super bulky yarn in various colors, but mostly an off-white, not quite ivory. This is essentially the Michael’s store brand, and it’s very similar to Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which I adore. The Michael’s brand tends to be slightly less expensive, which is a little nuts because Michael’s is 50% wool and 50% acrylic, and Lion Brand is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. Oh well. Either way, the acrylic makes it nice and washable without a grody wet wool stank.
I’m continually impressed with the Purl Soho site and selection of patterns (not to mention their yarn – swoon – more on that in a subsequent post). Most of 2015 was mild and pleasant, not exactly the kind of weather where you’d need mittens (esp knitted in super bulky, where they turn out like oven mitts, see another project of mine). However, I knew the day would come, as it did, and these mittens have been invaluable during morning and evening dog walks. This is the Ancient Stitch Mittens pattern (they have a scarf version as well), and it was a pretty fun little pattern to learn. For whatever reason, my thumbs ended up in the middle of my palm, but that’s probably my mistake. They still work, and are still so pretty.
In conclusion (I guess in beginning and conclusion) 2015 was about being more efficient with yarn, and doing so via Joelle Hoverson and her Purl Soho empire. Not a terrible way to spend a year! And oh yes…one big change in 2015 – we adopted another labrador! Sweet old Rocky passed away in August 2014. We were terribly heartbroken, but our hearts have been mended by one large, sweet 7-year old chocolate lab named Mobley. We adopted him via Labs4Rescue, a fantastic group of volunteers who were able to secure a foster in Shreveport, LA, where he was found as a stray wandering the streets. Being heartworm positive, he was on the euthanasia list until L4R pulled him. Since January 17th, 2015, he’s been enjoying the good life of snuggling, napping, chewing bones and chasing squirrels in Brooklyn and upstate in Barryville. We absolutely adore him.
One other big project I completed earlier this year was a huge-ass, extremely cozy (at times, downright hot) cardigan from a pattern I found on Ravelry, Kyoko Nakayoshi’s Bobble Cardigan. It’s almost incorrect to call it a cardigan, because it’s like wearing a gigantic blanket. It’s a Slanket, no question. But I loved the big shawl collar, and the bobbles were pretty fun to make – oddly enough, I think the bobbles actually took up a decent amount of yarn. I had originally knitted a men’s sweater (the rolled collar pullover from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts, thanks again, Joelle), but it was a bit long for Greg, and frankly hot as balls. I knew Greg would never wear it, so I frogged the whole thing and started over with the same yarn.
And perhaps this is my biggest issue, my obsession with Bulky weight yarn. Why do I like it? Am I a lazy knitter? It does knit up quickly, and I like to make throws and cardigans, but I never really like clothing items (or even hats) made from bulky yarn, because they make me look bulky. It’s not good to take on airplanes (or even to a local watering hole where I like to while away an afternoon in the winter), mistakes are spotted easily and it often fuzzes like crazy. Why do I gravitate towards it?
Alors, because: it looks better in the store. That’s it. I see those smaller, stringier yarns…they look small. Not warm. Skimpy. Spindly. Like things I don’t want to knit. Those bulky yarns…they’re voluptuous. Sumptuous. Supple.
I must avoid this temptation, this sinful approach to yarn that will only result in fat, less wearable projects. I solemnly swear, from now until…my 38th birthday, or something…I will not buy any more bulk yarn. It will not make me happy. It will not make me a better knitter. It will not make me voluptuous, sumptuous, or supple. Lord, or rather, Andrew Luck, give me strength!
Or your guts? Lily Tomlin said, “What is reality anyway? Just a collective hunch.” So if I have an individual hunch, is it just as valid? Well, I’m going to go for it. We’re moving back to Brooklyn! I’ve got a feeling, a hunch, a Karen Smith weather alert, and we’re doing it.
In honor of the intuitive reckoning that drives detectives, Quasimotos, and, well, me, I present the Hunch hat, by Wendy Bernard of the fantastic blog Knit and Tonic. I knitted this extra slouchy (took the 1.5″ suggestion), using a bulky yarn that I frankly don’t consider bulky – Lion Brand’s Martha Stewart Craft line, alpaca blend. I’ve used this many times before, and it’s inexpensive, soft, and incredibly versatile. Imagine my horror when the kindly Lion Brand store employees told me it was half off – because they’re discontinuing it! Say it ain’t so, Lion! Or Martha. Or whoever. I immediately bought as many as I could take on the plane. A couple of skeins of Buttermilk, which I used in this pattern here, also used to make the previous Chevalier Mittens project for my friend Devon (I made a pair for myself too), and a couple of skeins of Pea Coat Blue, a pretty, almost marbled dark blue that’s not quite navy. No idea what to make with that at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
Back to the Hunch…this knit up fairly quickly, as you might imagine with mostly all stockinette, but I particularly enjoyed top down knitting. Don’t think I’ve ever done that before, but it gave me more control over the slouch and allowed me to check the fitting more accurately (I think) as I went along. And the finished product? I’m pretty proud, not the least of which because Greg actually said, “Hey, you can like, wear that!”. I have a hunch that I can.
It’s Easter Sunday, which means I get to indulge in lots of things that are usually forbidden: swedish pancakes, champagne in the morning, deviled easter eggs, a BBC marathon and knitting. Pretty much everything I want in life, so thanks Jesus. And there’s nothing like dyed easter eggs and marshmallow peeps as a gorgeous spring pallette for inspiration, even if all the yarn I own is black, gray, white or tan. Come to think of it, that’s consistent with my wardrobe too.
Speaking of the tan yarn, I started and then abandoned a capelet a few years ago, but kept the pricey yarn. The pattern haunts me from the back of the yarn closet, but the yarn is a really lovely Filatura di Crosa, which I think is part of the Takhi Stacy Charles empire. What to do with this yarn? And so much yarn…enough yarn to make a “capelet”, which sounds small but is something that Gandalf would find cozy. Let’s start with something small, and adorable, and huggable, and spring-like.
Lucky for me, a lovely friend from work gave birth to a sweet girl named Wesley (what a great name!) a few weeks ago. She (both mom and daughter) are small, adorable, huggable and spring-like. So I made baby Wes a small, adorable, huggable and spring-like toy: a floppy eared bunny from Joelle Hoverson’s More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. These patterns (there’s an elephant and a bear too) are modeled on vintage toy patterns, and are fairly uncomplicated designs. It’s also pretty fun to play with stuffing, and it was an interesting challenge to tackle. I made one version about a year ago for baby Ryan, but this yarn is much finer, making some of the sewing and increases and decreases a bit more tricky. Still, all in all a fun Easter pattern for a small, adorable and huggable creature in springtime. Ryan the mom even sent me a photo of Wesley, who looks ready for adventure dressed as the Red Baron! With bunny rabbit beside her, she’ll be ready for anything. Squee!
One of many things I like about my man-friend are that we agree that gifts are fun but experiences are better, so we decided to hit storied Half Moon Bay for his birthday weekend. It’s usually a stone’s throw from SF, but this weekend happened to be the Mavericks Invitational, in which super famous and floppy haired surfers convene around a world renowned spot for tasty waves. So while we made great time for the first 13 minutes of our trek, the last 5 miles were 2 hours instead of 2 minutes. Parking illegally, walking into the beer garden without a ticket, and we didn’t even see any actual surfing (they keep people from the beach for safety). However, it was sunny, hot, the 49ers won the NFC championship, and all was right with the world.
In addition to staying here, and having a room that had a real fire pit in it (well, outside of it), we also tooled around the downtown Half Moon Bay, which was utterly delightful on a holiday weekend. We stopped in at the San Benito House, right on the main drag, lured in by the promise of the “Best Bloody Mary in the Bay!”. Hey, advertising works. Turns out, they meant HMB, which includes maybe one other bar/restaurant, but it seriously was a phenomenal bloody – the secret apparently being the addition of lots of smoked paprika. Greg certainly enjoyed it, even if the massive celery stalk proved somewhat challenging.
The other signal that HMB is a winning town in my book is that they had a yarn store. Fengari is full of yarn ideas, books, projects and has a ton of inventory in the back. The lovely ladies working there were kind and helpful, but not all up in your grill. Aside from the fact that I already had about a zillion projects underway, I simply could not help myself – I bought a beautiful bright lemon yellow yarn, with the idea that I might make the lovely swing sweater pattern I’d seen a few months ago in Knit Simple. Here’s the good news, the news of my improvement: I bought cheap yarn. I bought yarn which had a sign next to it that said, “Good for Felting!” which might as well mean, “Wipe your ass with this!” I don’t care – it’s a solid wool, slightly scratchy, and incredibly cheap Lamb’s Pride in bulky weight. If I am still going to battle my uncontrollable yarn urges, at least I will make them more economical. This color is called Lemon Drop, and it’s bright, but a slightly darker “lemon” color – as if you added some Dijon mustard to it. It’s actually 85% wool and 15% alpaca, so not entirely a hairshirt experience.
The Knit Simple Bell Sleeve Turtleneck is a really cute design, although I loathe the garter stitch. I really do. There, I said it. It looks JV. It looks dumb. It looks like worms worming around each other, especially in bulky yarn. So I decided it would look better in stockinette, realizing there would be a roll at the bottom, but thinking I could live with it. After, oh I don’t know, 25 rows or so, this bitch was still rolling. Rolled up like a rugelach, or a rug. Rolling, in a way that was just wrong. So, I’ve just taken it apart, and starting over. The question is, do I follow the wormy garter stitch pattern? Or do I do a tiny garter border and keep it in stockinette, as I wanted originally? What a cliffhanger! Tune in again in about 6 months to find out. See how I roll.
I am not talking about the Mormon wonder.
Several months ago, I responded to a blog post from one of my favorite yarn shops in Brooklyn, Stitch Therapy. Maxcine is a phenomal instructor, yarn procurer and nice lady, and every other Sunday night, she holds knit alongs or sessions on a topic. This particular one was for learning the Magic Loop, which I’d read and heard about before, but never really understood. In addition to the joy of being held in Maxcine’s shop, the class featured cool local ladies and the inimitable Kris Percival, author of Knit Knack Kit and other tomes.
Here’s my opinion of Magic Loop – it only gets magical after 8 rows. It is really challenging for that first part! But I learned, via Maxcine and Kris, a mitten pattern called Chevalier, which is available for free on Knitty (click the link for the pattern). This feels like my first foray into potential Fair Isle territory, which is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Like Ralph Wiggum, seen to the left, I’m happy AND angry about it.
Anyway, I made two pairs, a gray pair which I promptly lost, and a fuzzy white pair using Martha Stewart’s line of craft yarn from Lion Brand in Alpaca Wool.
I gave it to my friend Devon for the holidays – Devon who is a tiny person with very petite hands. I think she uses them as oven mitts, seriously. But anyway, second time around to knit the somewhat complex pattern ensured that it was nearly flawless! Nearly. Now I patiently wait for some of her famous Gougeres right out of the oven.
I’m mostly posting this just so you can see an Elf Hat in action. The lovely and talented Sarah was kind enough to don an elf hat on her infant son, Jackson, who is also a neighbor. She swung by last weekend during our football playoffs extravaganza (go NY, go SF). Sadly all the babies I knit this hat for grew out of it almost instantly, but Jackson got a photo in edgewise.