Glorious decay in the garden.

I spent the afternoon poking amongst the fallen leaves in the garden, trimming, weeding, digging & marvelling at the sights that autumn brings.  Here’s what I saw:

The first surprise was this adorable little visitor hanging upside down from one of the bushes.  He would not be disturbed, and slept soundly through all of our thrashing & weeding.  A cute little brown bat my husband named ‘PeeWee’.

We’re fortunate in that our neighborhood in Brooklyn is rather quiet.  The highways are far enough away so that smog & noise are minimal.  We’re seranaded by crickets in summer, rustling leaves in fall, crows in winter & sparrows in spring.  Even so, this is part of NYC & it’s hardly pastoral enough to expect to see bats in the yard.  This was a rare treat.

The rest of what I wanted to share is rather self explanatory: the glorious colors of autumnal decay.

I know that I said the next post would be about WIPs, but I felt this was worth sharing.  WIPs will be the subject of the next post.

I hope you’re enjoying a peaceful autumn in your neck of the woods.


It’s been a while since I’ve shown any FOs or WIPs, so here we go… a largely visual post:


Appropriately timed for NaSweKniMo, I have 3 sweater FOs to share today. These are actually from last year, but I never posted anything about them in their completed states.

This is one of my adaptations of the Transverse Cardigan from Interweave Knits:

Aran Trasnverse: Longer length, pin closure, I use this as outerwear.

The penannular is a Roman design. Supposedly antique, but I have my doubts.

A bit of green for contrast on the cuff.

You can see the specific Ravelry notes here.

And this was my first Transverse Cardi. It was too short & curled too much so I added a band of aran lattice in Madeline Tosh ‘Burnished’ – a nice contrasting color – to lengthen it & kill the curl.

Buttons from Melissa Jean, purchased @ Rhinebeck 2010

Aran lattice in Madeline Tosh ‘Burnished’

You can see the specific Ravelry notes here.

From this year: My latest February Lady in Tess’ Yarns Superwash Merino:

Sleeve detail: I opted for full length sleeves & made them up in garter instead of lace, which I felt would snag on things too easily. Mistake feather & fan stitch on the cuff.

I added increases in the Gull lace to make it swing a bit:

Ravelry notes here.

Next time: WIPs.

what wool means to me

You may have heard that the month of November has been claimed as the month of ‘Wovember‘ as a celebration of wool.  It’s an idea I can heartily endorse & it inspired me to write a post about wool.

I remember how common wool was when I was young.  Winter sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, blankets – EVERYthing to do with winter was woolen.  Very little of it was scratchy, in my memory.  In my teens, the quality of moderately priced woolens had dropped considerably, so it fell out of favor in my wardrobe.  In the 80’s & 90’s, cashmere ruled, and the humble woolen sweater was rendered obsolete.

I bought a sweater at Saks in the mid 90’s that woke me up.  It was a deep brown Italian merino vest, and the softness, pill resistance & warmth was far superior to the cotton & cashmere that also hung in my closet.  I had forgotten how wonderful wool was to wear.  Lightweight & comforting – more so than static-y acrylic fleece or junky, pill-y department store cashmere.  An old friend to rely on.  I began to take notice of wool garments wherever I found them.

Some years later, I began to knit.  Alpaca was the fiber-darling of the day, and wool yarns were pushed to the lower shelves to make way for all of the cuddly alpaca yarns.  Yes, it was soft.  Yes, it was a pleasure to work with.  But man, did it stretch in the blocking process & pill in use.  I found Karabella Aurora 8 & was immediately smitten with its softness, but I was thrilled with its durability, light weight, ease of washing & wearing.  It was – & still is – far superior to alpaca yarns, in my opinion.  There are other favorite wool yarns in my stash: String Theory Merino DK, Jamieson’s Spindrift, Bartlett Yarns Sport, Sanguine Gryphon TravellerHarrisville ShetlandMadeline Tosh Vintage, and the ever-popular workhorse yarn Cascade 220.  Each one a treasure in its own way.

I later discovered the wonders of Shetland wool.  Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books extolled the virtues of wool over all other fibers, and I wondered if she was raving about yarns that were no longer available, and that I had missed my chance to use such yarns.  I missed the fair isle yokes of my youth & reading Elizabeth’s words made me realize how much I’d like to make one.  The yarn wasn’t carried in any of the LYSs, and I wanted to hear the general consensus amongst knitters before I took the plunge to buy it.  I still laugh when I think back to my early days on Ravelry when I asked for other knitters’ opinions of Shetland yarns.  The Americans that responded said it was quite itchy, but the Brits that responded said it was soft & perfectly suited for baby clothes.  Quite a range of opinions, and not terribly helpful at the time, but now that I have used it for myself, I feel I must side with the Brits.  While it can be a bit rough off the skein, it softens with washing, and softens even more with further use & washing.  It provides greater warmth than other fibers weighing twice as much, making the garments a pleasure to wear.

So what does wool mean to me?  It means warmth.  It means tradition.  It means rain-resistant.  It means practicality.  It means comfort on a level that no other fiber can touch.

What does it mean to you?

Rhinebeck 2011

Be warned, this is a cranky post.

Well, I wish I could say I was as enthusiastic about my Rhinebeck experience this year as I have in years past, but I can’t. The company was superb: I went with my good friend Susie, of Knitting Knoobie fame.  The view was as lovely…

The sheep were just as cute…

The donuts were as yummy…

But the weather was an issue this year; heavy rains the night before rendered much of the grassy parking areas unusable due to flooding. This means it took earlybirds like myself an hour and a half to drive the short distance from the Rhinecliff Bridge to the fairgrounds. After a long drive from the city, that’s torture. My first stop, needless to say, was the restroom. I consider myself lucky – those who arrived later than I did had an even longer wait.

I have written & re-written this post over the past 2 weeks, as I was unhappy with the tone of it. Suffice it to say, that there were numerous things the fairgrounds staff could have & should have done better. And I don’t blame them, the folks who should have been managing & training their staff to accommodate their customers didn’t prepare well. This is a large, popular festival & people come from all over the world to attend. It’s unfair to make people wait for so bloody long to get in. Unfair to those waiting to get in, and to the vendors inside wondering where their customers are.

After the positive experiences of last year, I had planned to go to Stitches East to do my major yarn shopping, and use my Rhinebeck time for socializing & shopping more for non-yarn items: buttons, tools, gifts, foods. Alas, most of the vendors I really wanted to see [Tess’ Yarns & Sanguine Gryphon] said they wouldn’t be going to Stitches this year, only to Rhinebeck, which is a pity. Stitches East is an indoor, well lit, spacious shopping experience. Last year I wound up buying a lot more than I had expected to because it was laid out so well, I got to see more yarns than I knew I would find there. So I spent my time at Rhinebeck hunting for yarn & nothing else.

After the frustration of getting there, I must admit my enthusiasm had waned a bit. I didn’t get to see all of the vendors I had planned to, and the popular ones booths were so crowded, it was hard to get in to shop, and harder still to find what you wanted. But I managed to get a tidy haul for myself.

Tess’ Designer Yarns was in attendance this year, and I was happy to have found them. I first discovered them at Stitches East last year, and I loved the Superwash Merino I had purchased from them. I turned it into a February Lady cardigan. I was pleased with the yarn & was determined to get some more this year. Their booth was a bit small for their needs, and navigating it was difficult due to the crowded layout & the throngs of people. It didn’t help that their location was misprinted in the map of vendors & no explanation was available in the location where they were supposed to be.

I bought this lovely Superwash Merino in a deep cranberry red for a Christmas sweater for my Mum.

Sanuine Gryphon was even more crowded than Tess’ booth, with a line of patiently waiting customers that extended out of the building, and wound its way around & around. This was too much for me after the traffic fiasco, so I decided to spare myself & leave them for the next day.

The next day, we arrived early & were first in line for Sanguine Gryphon. They booth was decorated as festively as we have come to expect, the yarns were put out and ready & the girls were in costume. By the time they opened, the line extended out of the building. We waited, ran in & grabbed whatever we could of whatever was left over from Saturday.

It. Was. Chaos. Pushing & short tempers are not what I associate with knitty folks, but that’s how it was.

Here’s what I bought: A sweater’s worth of beautiful Bugga in Ruddy Daggerwing…a beautiful coppery color that embodies autumn…

…+ a couple of skeins of  purply Vampire Moth for contrasting trim.

Considering the sad news of Sanguine Gryphon’s closing, I’m glad I got as much as I did.

There were other vendors that I never got to see: Blackberry Hill Farm has some beautiful yarns, Melissa Jean makes handmade ceramic buttons that are both beautiful & affordable, Bartlett Yarns  makes a nice sport weight in cones, but they didn’t have many colors with them this year, Miss Babs who I found at Stitches East last year & has such pretty colorways. And it didn’t help that I came down with a cold & left early on Sunday.

I will go back to Rhinebeck next year, but if it’s as crazy & inconvenient as it was this year, I think it will be my last. Without the room to move, shopping becomes a chore to be endured, rather than an experience to savor. These days, you can shop online anytime. I used to wait for the festivals & buy there, but I think I’ll be happier just buying what I want online or at my LYS. I pray that next year is better than this year.

Windin’ & lace knittin’…

I told you about the new yarn winder I bought…. well, I got to try it out last night & it was fabulous! I used to work in a yarn shop & after an afternoon of winding yarn for customers with a Royal yarn winder, my arm felt like it was going to spontaneously combust. My arm felt just fine after winding a huge skein. Amazing. I love it already~

I’m about halfway through the lace body of the February Lady cardi & have begun the increases I put into the last one that make this cardi so comfy & flattering to wear. I started by adding 1 extra stitch between each 7 st repeat of the Gull Lace patt by picking up the bar of yarn between the first & last stitch of each repeat, also making a little eyelet hole.

I’ll take a better picture to show you the detail next time…

By now, I’m certain that you’ve noticed that I seldom knit alone. That handsome devil in the picture above is my cat Tony – the only person in this house that loves wool as much as I do, albeit in a more destructive way. Tony likes to sit on wool. He sniffs it, tastes it & bites it. He waits until your attention is drawn elsewhere before trying to eat it. Needless to say, I keep ALL of my yarn, knitted garments & knitting projects securely wrapped in protective coverings. It’s a huge pain to not be able to just put my knitting down & dash off to do something, but this is the price I pay for my little cat’s intestinal health! (He’s totally worth it.)

I’ll be going button shopping in a couple of days – a daunting task for an indecisive girl, but I’ll try to update again to show what I find to suit this cardi.

Beach day…Earth Day

I knew I was going to be swamped today – Earth Day – so I tried to take a walk on the beach with my DH on Monday, but the weather was against us… it started raining hard when we got to the park, and I had neglected to bring my gore tex jacket along. Anyway, I managed to snap a few photos anyway. There was a lovely cherry tree about to bloom & some geese served as our welcoming committee.

Quick, before my cat returns!

I’ve been a bit distracted from my knitting, I admit. I had my adorable little nieces & nephews in town over the weekend, a visit from an old friend & my 25th anniversary with my DH going on, so I think you’ll find it understandable that I haven’t finished this yet, right?

Here is a little update for you; I’ve set the sleeve stitches aside & started the lace portion of the body.

I will be making a slight departure with regards to the finishing touches – last time I made a February Lady cardi I made some short rows within the lace pattern to make it a bit longer in the back – this time I will be making the short rows within the garter hem at the back instead. There was a minor little visual irregularity to the lace that probably only I can see, but I thought this time I would avoid the problem.

I also stopped in at my local fabric shop & picked up a bit of blue grosgrain for the button placket. However, the search for the perfect buttons continues. I always find choosing buttons to be a stressful proposition & I agonize over it until it’s the last thing that needs doing before the project can be called ‘complete’. I’ll be heading into the city next week to sit & knit with some friends – perhaps I’ll find something there.

I also received by new heavy-duty yarn winder from Nancy’s Knit Knacks! I’ve been wanting one of these for soooo long, and when I saw it was on sale, well I caved in immediately. I haven’t set it up to try it out yet, I have too many things piled up all over the place & have no wish to add to the chaos, but I’ll have to soon – I’ll need to wind the 2nd skein of yarn for the cardi shortly. 🙂

Is it not nifty?? They come mostly assembled, and wrapped securely enough to survive a rough ride. It’s beautifully made & operates smoothly. I will love it for years to come.

I finished just in time! My cat sensed bloggy progress was being made & came in to the room to keep an eye on things~  😉

“No more typing for you, Momma.”

Aaaand, she’s back.

Suffice it to say, this has been a rough winter. I didn’t feel like knitting (or talking) so I didn’t see the point of whinging to you – you have enough of your own troubles, I’m sure. I hope you can forgive my absence.

So, last night, for some inexplicable reason, I decided that I wanted to start knitting again. I looked over my 2 languishing projects & decided it would be more gratifying to – literally – start fresh. So I dug through the stash & decided to turn the beautiful Tess’ Designer Yarns Superwash Merino I picked up at Stitches East last October into a new February Lady Cardi. I made one last year out of Misti Alpaca worsted, wanna see?

I enjoyed making it & I enjoy all the compliments I get when I wear it, and I want to make it in a few more colors, so it was the obvious choice, really.

So, last night I wound the first skein of yarn. It had a join so 1 huge skein became 2 balls, which is just as well because my little Royal winder is medium capacity & wouldn’t have handled the whole skein properly. I did a little math in preparation for the morning & I went to bed. Shortly after I did, the thunder, rain & crazy wind conspired to keep me up, so I did what any sensible woman would; I turned on the light & cast on.

Tess’ yarn is variegated & the look reminds me of Shibui merino worsted. The difference being that this yarn is delightfully soft to the touch (softer than Shibui) & has better drape.

So my cardi is off to a good start, and it feels quite right to have needles in my hands again. Perhaps even more so because my project is one of EZ’s. I re-read her books over the winter, and her charming company really helped me to feel better.

Stitches East 2010

The buzz from Rhinebeck had *just* about worn off when I hopped into the car again & pointed it in a yarny direction: north to Stitches East in Hartford, CT.

I have been to Rhinebeck twice now, and have never attended any other wool festivals, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Stitches seems to be more of a shopping experience, whereas Rhinebeck is most thrilling for its social aspect. Ravelry does not have a presence at Stitches, at least not on the day I went, and that was a pity. I love meeting up with people I’ve been chatting with online & finally putting a face to the ravatar! However, Stitches had loads of great sales & deals on beautiful yarns to console me – too many to pass up. I bought a LOT of yarn – even more, I think, than I came away from Rhinebeck with.

I went on Friday, before the major crowds arrived for a weekend of fun, so I got to enjoy an easy, unrushed shopping experience. The upshot of this lack of frenzy was that I got to really peruse & consider the yarns – perhaps this is why I bought so many.

Shelter! at the Harrisville booth


Socks that Rock

I didn’t get pics of every booth, in fact the more enamored I was of the yarns, the less presence of mind I had to whip out the camera.

Sanguine Gryphon, String Theory, Tess’ Designer Yarns, Tree of Life patterns, Green Mountain Spinnery, Lisa Souza, Stitchuary, Black Water Abbey Yarns, Harrisville, Isager, Kauni, Shelter, Socks that Rock, WEBS, Patternworks, Flying Fingers, Debra’s Garden, the Mannings, Lion Brand, Yarn Barn of Kansas were in attendance, and many, many more. Many, but not all, offered nice discounts. There were a few indie producers, and dichroic glass artists that offered beautiful buttons, as well as jewelry & hair accessories.  Most shops had at least an armload of beautiful knitted samples of their patterns & wools to try on, and the colors & textures were amazing. I am definitely going back next year!

Next time, I will post pics of the great stuff that came home with me.