Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What's Up

 

From Hilde, a box full of All The Colors. The extreme beauty of this is causing an ache. This box of goodness is thinking about becoming some socks, which I think would be a pretty big happy pill.

The stash, exploded view. Post-Springfield Dress, I am on a color tangent, and am knee-deep in Kaffe right now, trying to work up the nerve to get some intarsia going on the needles. I can't even believe I just said that. Intarsia. Urgh. But Kaffe, in his supreme serenity, makes it all seem so--can this be right?--fun, and Kay is making it look actually possible. In my head, all this yarn goes together in a pleasing way, but that might just be me. I have an idea for it, and it will be a stretch. We're going to the outer limits of my ability to find all yarn related things enjoyable. Kinda excited about that!

Birthday yarn from last year, finally finding its destiny and becoming a Lala's Simple Shawl. (I was aided and abetted here by Hilde--the beautiful wool/silk yarn in delicious mushroom pink--and this new podcast from Nicole at Coco Knits, who wore one and made me want one, too.)

Birthday yarn from this year, again from Hilde, who, it has suddenly become apparent, is the Yarn Fairy. When this showed up, I think I literally dropped whatever I was holding and cast on a sock. Watching those stripes develop is more interesting to me than you would believe.

It's still so cold, here and everywhere. What's up, April? It's nice inside though, beside the fire, with all this beautiful yarn all around me, and so many things to do with it. I feel my creative mind kind of bursting. I love that.

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Springfield Dress

 

Again with this. There are things I want to make to just go in my wardrobe, that are neutral, subdued. Things with dignity. New York things. All evidence to the contrary, I somehow have a notion of myself as something of a sophisticated person, never mind the hair, someone who wears a black turtleneck and sunglasses, and who might go to a gallery opening or something, if there were pictures of dogs, maybe. Black and white photography. Kind of grown up. Then there are things like this dress that are knocking on the inside of my head, inexplicable garments that say WAH! KNIT ME! I am COLORFUL! And I am powerless. I just get a jones to make something weird. Which reminds me that the one time I've been to a gallery opening it was to an exhibit of my own work, and also at the same time the work of some eighth graders, and the eighth graders were one after another selling their art (to their parents) and I was just standing there eating all the cheese and crackers.

It is time to come to terms with that dichotomy, ya'll. I will knit for fashion, and I will also knit for art. There is room for both--there is necessity for both--in my knitting life. I am gonna let you decide which one this is. This is the Springfield Dress, my own design, made while thinking of spring fields, and also Dusty Springfield. Also, The Buffalo Springfield. Naturally.

I was inspired, a few years ago, by Lori Graham's beautiful version of Gudrun Johnston's Bressay Dress, with its miles of stockinette and simple patterned yoke, its cozy comfy-ness, but hesitated to begin one because yoke-style shaping is such a fit struggle for me. I also remember having a kind of open-mouthed reaction to Misa Erder's incredible Owl and the Pussycat Dress (shadows of inspiration from that one, I am just now realizing, have already showed up in my As We Go Along project) and I mentally filed all this stuff away to percolate. I also began to pay attention to how much I liked the way that when I tried on a top-down raglan sweater-in-progress, the unfinished armhole made a handy little cap sleeve that fit me and flattered my arm. Many times, I thought about simply leaving a top-down garment sleeveless altogether, because I loved the way it looked. Why not? Others must have done this, too.

I imagined a go-go dancer dress, short-but-not-too-short, to wear in spring or fall, with boots. I imagined a seventies palette, in mustard and mauve and rose. I imagined a not-quite all over stranded stitch pattern, something with flower motifs, big ones and small ones, that felt like I had seen it before, maybe in a Holly Hobbie dress in elementary school. All knit top-down, with raglan shaping because I like to knit that way, and because the finished garments fit me well.

I decided to make a design-as-you-go, custom fit, top-down-raglan sixties-style go-go dancer dress in worsted yarn with stranded colorwork. You know, as you do. I chose my palette--Plymouth Galway Khaki, Dream in Color Classy "Amber Glass", Jill Makes Stuff Windham "Wax Bean" and some remnants of pinks; Cascade 220, Ella Rae Classic, Patons Classic hand-dyed by me with avocado pits (the heathery pink). I swatched (yes!) measured myself (you have to!) calculated the neckline, figured out how to center the motifs and drew some charts, and commenced the thing. And loved it immediately, and also wondered why. WHY? Is the world clamoring for more of this kind of thing? Are they lining up outside the fancy shops, asking for a flowery patterned wool tunic dress with short cap sleeves? Am I? I worried about the stripes, second-guessed myself a few times which is totally my way and which I have come to recognize as part of my process, and pressed on through all kinds of yearning for plain gray clothes. I thought about Kaffe Fassett, and about something Kay said recently, that he does not concern himself with ease of knitting, but with creating beauty. Knitting as art, again. For a quick and inspiring taste of Kaffe, check this out.
There is beauty in choosing colors, blending them together, in yarn itself and in knitting it; in figuring out things that are tricky, and in being your own weird self and letting it show.

I don't know about anybody else, but I love this Springfield Dress, LOVE IT. And since it's for me, that's just fine.

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Road Trip Weekend

 

Rain, then sleet, then snow, then more rain. Road trip weather. I feel so cozy in the warm car with trucks whooshing by, the wipers steadily flapping, and the Beatles White Album on a continuous loop. Why don't we do it in the road? Catdog snoring away in a pile of quilts in the backseat. Knitting on my lap.

I thought these socks were going to be so great--the yarn is Paton's Kroy sock in Spring Leaves Mix or something like that, gray + neon yellow, which, as you know, is one of my thangs--and it was tantalizing in the skein. And maybe it's because we were on the road, but the asphalt gray, yellow and cream and black stripes ended up looking like the highway.

And they wouldn't stripe regularly--I came to a knot where the next black stripe was completely missing, thanks, Patons--and I'm not about to pull fifty yards of yarn out onto my lap looking for a place to splice while we hurtle along the Interstate. Road knitting is there to keep me from going bonkers when we hit the inevitable traffic jams and end up having to sit in one spot for hours. [Cleveland! Get it together!] So I just knit the yarn that appeared, and these socks are identical cousins. Road trip socks, finished.

Seeking out yarn shops, as one does when on the road, I found one that was open until Midnight. Let that sink in. You're at home in your jammies and your circular needle suddenly snaps without warning. You find yourself one skein short of finishing. You need six buttons but you only have five. You have emergency late-night yarn shop needs, you know you do! Well, they're open. This is such a good idea. This is Insomnia Cookies, but for knitting. Fantastic.

Another stop on the road: my lifelong best friend is an artist with such an interesting story to tell (she should be the one to tell it) that someone out there is looking for funding to make a reality show about her life. Not even kidding. She thinks it would be the most boring show in the world, but I think that's how most interesting people would feel. Who, me? I'm just living my life, nothing to see here. She's interesting and funny and beautiful. You'd watch her show. I'll tell you about it if/when it happens. Part of her wonderfulness is that she will just take paintings off her walls and hand them to you; she's a generous soul with boundless love to share.

So much color and beauty and light. I sit in with her in her studio draped with prayer flags; paintings covering the walls and piled and stacked everywhere, her dogs in my lap, the catdog running with the pack, and am amazed and inspired. Home.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tracks

 

Sunny and snowy, and cold, cold, cold. I hear the songbirds twittering away, confused. I want to sit beside an open window and walk barefoot in the mossy grass, but I think it's going to be awhile, because this is New York, and even when our season is a blessedly mild one, winter is long, and it is not over just because April is here. We are over it now, though, and we say sarcastic things at the dump and at the bank about payback and not quite true things about comparable snow quantities and we wear our sweaters (okay, there's the silver lining) and we carry around hot coffee just to keep our hands warm (I just discovered the Flat White, ohmygoodness, life-changing) and watch the icicles fail to melt. Catdog just stands there, one foot poised above the ice, looking and sniffing at the middle distance. Telegraphing confusion and wrinkling her forehead, which is how she expresses her extreme annoyance. A wrinkled brow. Serious. She is not into this weather anymore. I can't get her to sit for a polite greeting--she won't put her backside down into the snow, and I can't say I blame her.

But Doc painted the kitchen, and he very cleverly made me a lampshade out of a pillar candle holder we found at Target, and I am so happy to sit here in this clean and orderly room, in a little pool of deceptive sunshine, looking out at the garden, at the squabbling birds and animal tracks, and at the brave and burgeoning daffodils. They are under there somewhere, I know it.

I'm so absorbed by the new project, the stranded knitting in an assortment of yarn colors I have come to realize are strange choices. That mustard-ish yellow is a color that comes up for me a lot and has found its way into many of my projects--I know it looks a lot like baby poo, but I am inexplicably drawn to it. Hand-dyed brownish-pinks, khakis, muddy things. Ish colors. Muted. Those are the ones I like. I have been very uncharacteristically monogamous with this project, even though it has become large and unwieldy, with it's many different little balls of color, all of which want to roll away from me all the time. I am designing as I go, measuring myself and measuring the work and hoping for the best, and totally winging it at every turn. I'm trying to write down what I did, and I'm thinking about working this one up again when I'm done, in another colorway, because choosing a palette is so much fun, and because it would also be fun to know if I could. Can I follow my own tracks? I don't know, let's find out!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Levenwick

 

Hello there! Here I am again with another new cardigan. It looks like all I'm doing is knitting sweaters. I promise, there is more going on--I've put more rounds on the giant crocheted blanket, I covered another lampshade, we (well, he's doing it all by himself while I point out the drips) are painting the kitchen, and Catdog and I are doing another level of training classes, which is, after all things yarn-related, my new favorite thing to do. She works so hard on these good dog skills, works until she's tired, focused and serious and earnest--so earnest, it makes me ache. She is taking this being a good dog thing very seriously. I love her so.

But there have been a lot of new sweaters. This one is the lovely Levenwick by Gudrun Johnston, made exactly as written and in the exact yarn suggested--Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, "Hayloft". Oh, Shelter. This yarn is like nothing else. I would not exactly call it soft, nor would I necessarily say it's much fun to knit with--it's super-wooly, but somehow kind of like cotton. It drags on the needles, which made my hands tired. But the end result is as advertised; lofty and light, and rustic and wooly. I love it, but it'll be awhile before I use it again. Also, I'm not sure I'm wearing this garment correctly. Anybody out there done this one? I don't know where to put the buttons. I've worn it like this a couple times, and people tell me it looks good and they like it, so maybe it's right, I don't know. Asymmetry is not my usual. Also, it's really only halfway to warm enough outside to have that much bare arm showing. I was shivering while the doctor took these photos. Spring won't really arrive in my neighborhood for a few more weeks.
In other news, more sweater knitting. I know.

This one has my full attention right now.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cleanse

 

Swiftly on the heels of knitting small yarn with small needles came this; a speedy little cardigan in worsted weight on biggish (US 8) needles. It was done in a big hurry. This was kind of a palate-cleanse, if you know what I mean. Something plain and fast and already sussed out by somebody else. Just let me knit something easy. It was calming. Just what I was looking for. The pattern is here.

This yarn (I'm pretty sure it's Cascade 220 in some kind of Hershey Bar colorway--the labels are, of course, long gone) had already been knit into most of two other sweaters, and then unraveled again when I realized I didn't like either of them, and I actually wasn't sure I liked the yarn anyway, but there it was in the stash when I decided I wanted a small brown cardigan (to go with a dress I haven't made yet) and it's chocolatey-goodness seems just right for right now. It goes with a lot of my stuff. Which must be why I bought it to begin with.

 

I'm on a big sweater-knitting jag right now [thank you all, by the way, for your lovely comments last week--the Shelter, colorway "Hayloft", is going to be a Levenwick by Gudrun Johnston, and I totally rushed to finish this little cardigan so I could get started on that. It should be done in a jiffy, too--nothing but sleeves and button bands still left to knit!]

So many sweaters (that word, ugh) stacking up like cordwood has meant I've had to donate a some things, including some handknits, to make room in the closet. Manu (knit in the wrong yarn and, let's face it, gum-colored) and Marilyn (really too big for me) went in the bag and will hopefully make somebody else happy. Something deep inside me would love to KonMari this whole place and get rid of stuff so I could live an ascetic life of tea leaves and minimalism, but it just isn't my way. All the other somethings inside me would hate it. I am a collector, of yarn and clothes and folk art and bones and other oddities, and I like me. But there is limited space in the closet, and if I want to keep making things, I have to keep making room.

It's not that hard to give these things up, I find. Making them is most of the fun, and then if they never get worn, it's okay to say goodbye. There are so many things I still want to make! Onward.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunny Sunday

 

We have brunch on Sundays, because by the time we finally get up, it's way past time for breakfast. We find the darkest possible roast coffee and make a pot in the french press. He chooses two cups to suit the morning--today, delicate, flowery ones for the first day of Spring [Whoopee! Welcome, Spring. I have missed you so much] and brings it to the table on a tray, and we sit, sipping and mumbling about our dreams, sharing the songs stuck in our head (I can't remember any of it anymore) and laughing at my disheveled hair and his beard sticking out at a 90 degree angle.

Catdog gets a bath, which she loves. She sits down in the warm water, lifts a leg for me to wash, then lifts the other. Leans up with her damp muzzle to lick me in the face. Later, she snoozes by the fireplace, her face pretty much completely pressed against the glass. The sun shines on my knitting.

 

The sun shines on my life, really. On everything.