Thursday, October 25, 2007


I've been thinking about the properties of alpaca. It's all inspired by a small hank of worsted alpaca that I bought at Taos for a hat. It's beautiful yarn, almost like a rope at first but melting into a lush, heavy fabric when knitted up.
One of the reasons I love alpaca is that it's no one-trick pony. Spun into laceweight yarn, this hollow fiber can create an etherally light and lofty fabric. Spun into a worsted yarn, it becomes nearly the opposite - dense, drapey - because it doesn't have wool's crimp and spring to hold it up.

The more I think about it, the more I'm reminded of snow: a fresh, dry snow can be so beautifully lofty, but as the snow piles up, it gets compressed into dense drifts. And in keeping with my theme of exploring textures in nature, I've tried to capture this feeling in the hat. I've played around with all kinds of stitch patterns from embossed snowflakes to eyelets to cables of every variety, finally settling on a dense, all-over cable pattern that evokes snowdrifts:
Note: the flare at the bottom just comes from the angle, not the hat shaping! This next one shows the shape better (really, it's just a loose-fitting cap with a bit of ribbing at the bottom), but doesn't quite give you the sense of how luscious and soft the fabric is:
Anyways, I'm afraid I have to reconcile myself to that fact that I don't have enough yarn to finish (those cables really gobble up yarn) and have no way to obtain more. *sigh* So I'm left trying to decide whether to frog it and knit a non-cabled hat on bigger needles, which would probably stretch the yardage enough for me, or whether to add ribbing at the top and wear it as an earwarmer.

In either case, it's clear that I've lost touch with reality, since (hello!) I moved to Arizona and don't need dense, cabled, alpaca headwarmers anymore. It's just that sometimes the yarn talks to you, and you have to listen...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

yarn games

The bonnets are on the backburner. I've had trouble finding the ideal bootie pattern, so now that's on hold as well. Mostly I've been playing around with textures, with the concept of finding nature-inspired patterns that reflect the colors or feel of the fiber.

For example, I've been working with Print O'the Wave in tussah silk singles. I feel like it really captures the glimmer of waves on sand:

And I've been working a Feather and Fan pattern in some of the indigo-dyed wool/tussah blend from La Lana. The scalloped edge reminds me of a stream winding its way through the landscape. I really love this yarn, though their smooth bombyx silk might have been better texturally.

In other yarn-game news, I've devoted far too much energy to finding contests for WiKnit, my new knitting contest blog. I'm pretty excited about what I've found - yarn giveaways on blogs, knitting design contests, knitting photo contests. Please check it out, and please let me know of any contests you run across!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taos Magic

There are times when life hands you gifts, gifts so beautiful that you wonder what you've done to deserve them and you vow to be a better person for the rest of your life. This is what I felt like last weekend. We were thinking about driving to see a friend's fantastic film - Dalai Lama Renaissance - in the Taos Mountain Film Festival. All resentment about the 9 hour drive evaporated when our friend said these magic words: "By the way, there's a wool festival in the park right next to the film festival."

So we were off to spend the weekend looking at films wool! Here are few images:

good husband carrying off some of my purchases

local emergency service men clustered around a spinner

awe-inspiring plant-dyed yarns from Earth-Arts

The plant-dyed yarns were the surprise treasure of the festival. Although I went absolutely ga ga over all the handspun alpaca that was there, I went all out for the naturally dyed wools. I came home with these beauties:

The weekend wore out my driving stamina and my shopping stamina -- expect a yarn moratorium for a while now. But I'm totally invigorated for learning about the west (Taos is gorgeous!) and for checking out all the fiber arts that are going on here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

baby bonnet marathon

It's been all baby bonnets, all the time here. The pattern: Lacy Bonnet, from Knitting for Two

It started with the one on the far right, knit with super soft worsted wool from the last batch of cochineal dyeing. The knitting went by so quickly that I started the more delicate cream-colored one in the middle. Captivated by clever construction, overwhelming cuteness, and quick knitting, I started the third one, in hot pink ribbon.

Doing three at essentially the same time is a great way to learn about the virtues of different yarns. Each results in a very different garment, and each has its charms. The worsted wool (similar to Cascade 220) makes for a substantial and richly-textured fabric. The fingering-weight wool (Ornaghi 'Merino Kind Superfine') makes for a much lacier, girlier, more delicate fabric. It feels truer to the pattern, but I also miss the substance that comes with the worsted yarn. As for the the ribbon yarn (Moda Dea Ticker Tape), it makes a very stiff fabric on size 5 needles. The feel is neither baby-delicate nor winter-cozy, but it's a nice way to make a denser cap (with wild colors!) for babies in warmer climates who really don't want wool on their head.

I have a lot of finishing left to do. And I'm trying to find a good baby bootie pattern to match (I tried the book's "Delicate Booties" and was sorely disappointed. I think the seed stitch looks clunky, and I resented having a horrible tangle of seven ends to sew in - good picture here). So - yay! - there will be even more baby bonnet pictures to come in the next week.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I've started another blog whose sole purpose is to catalogue knitting blog contests: it's called WiKnit (say it out loud - "win it!")

It's kicked off with a terrific contest from The Jilly Knits. So check it out -- and spread the word -- if you like to enter blog contests or have a contest of your own that you want to publicize.