Thursday, July 30, 2009


Mountain Man returned home yesterday from two weeks of fieldwork in the Atacama desert, and he brought me back a magnificent jewel: a ball of handspun, naturally dyed alpaca yarn in a luminous grass green. He found it in an artisan's shop in San Pedro de Atacama and carefully transported it home amongst the rock samples and dusty boots.

Now that's love.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I finished the second lingering project -- a silk and linen camisole -- just before leaving Taos. Larky snapped this photo of my moments before I climbed into the truck and started the long drive home.

Yarn: Hand Maiden Flaxen, 2 skeins in Peridot
Needles: Size 3 circular

This top was a long time in coming. Originally I envisioned something like my blue hemp cami from a couple of years ago, only with a narrow cable down the center of the front and back. Then I hit a snag in the top shaping and put it down in frustration for an entire year.

This summer, I thought I'd salvage it by turning it into a simple tube top. But I hit another snag: I'd miscounted when placing the cables, such that when the front cable was centered, the back cable was off by 6 stitches. In the end, I ran with the asymmetry and turned the tube around me so that the cables were well off-center and could lead into cabled straps. Thank goodness I hadn't done any waist shaping.

The only thing I'd like to change is to have it a bit looser. I'd made it so small because I wasn't sure that 2 skeins would give me enough yardage for a roomier top (also, when I started it last summer, I was a wee bit smaller myself!).

But all things considered, I'm happy with how it turned out. The gray-green colors are soft and subtle, and the silk/linen blend drapes beautifully without losing its crisp stitches. It's one of the loveliest yarns I've ever knit.

Monday, July 20, 2009

last days in Taos

My time in Taos is drawing to a close. Before I leave, though, I wanted to share a few of the more colorful experiences of the last few days. First up: a visit to Phi Beta Paca, a lovely alpaca farm on Taos's high sagebrush plains. I love, love, love alpacas, and this was a particularly spirited and friendly bunch.

Sociable little beasts

comical faces

Larky's fuzzy ears

On Sunday morning we helped out on a barn razing, which is to say that we took down a small barn (a chicken coop, actually) to move to another property. Manual labor can feel damn good sometimes. And my eyes were drawn to the contrasting textures of the day ...

Tin roof

Weathered planks and leather

And on Sunday afternoon, I finally made it out to the Taos Pueblo. The thunder clouds had moved in, and we were struck with a dust storm in the late afternoon, and it made for an eerie but very cool atmosphere.

Taos Pueblo

Adobe Window

Chili peppers after a dust storm

Taos is such a captivating place, and I wish I could stay longer. Maybe even forever ....

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One shoulder tunic

I finished the first of my stagnating projects. This one-shouldered tunic is splendidly simple, which, of course, means that it was very complicated to figure out.

Here are the basic details: knit from the bottom up, with a turned hem, straight middle, and angled, mirrored front and back. It's knit in just over 2 skeins of Farmhouse Yarn's kettle-dyed bamboo on size 5 needles. The angled top is made by binding off 2 stitches at the beginning of each row, finished off with 2 rows of double crochet.

It grew nearly 2 inches in length and an inch in width with blocking, unexpectedly transforming it from a tight top into a flowing tunic. It's lovely and very easy to wear. I wore it today, in fact, when we went to visit the amazing Earthships just outside of Taos. And, awesomely, I wasn't the strangest-looking person there.

So, that pattern synopsis sounds simple enough, but it took me a long time to get it all figured out. I finished the main body by April or May. I knit up the front top with what I thought would be a clever, self-finishing method: turning the outer 3 stitches into I-cord and doing the decreases as K2tog next to I-cord. But this made for a tight and inelastic edge that pulled the fabric weirdly. I was so frustrated that I just put the project down for a month or two.

When I picked the project last week, I quickly figured out that I needed to decrease by binding off stitches at the edge. But it took me 8 painful tries before I got it all done with the right angle, needle size, gauge, and dyelot (unfortunately, my third skein was drastically different from the first two, so I needed to knit every last inch of those before adding in the third skein). I was so relieved to have it finished. And I'm so pleased with the (ultimately) simple formula that I plan to make another one soon and then write up the pattern for the blog.

On another note, I've gotten requests for "more Isis." Here she is, looking regal and serious against a backdrop of sage and mountains. It's ridiculous how much I love this beast.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Welcome to Taos

As you may have guessed from the sagebrush and clear light of the last post, I'm not in Arizona anymore. Mountain Man and I are in Taos, New Mexico. And how I love this place, with its rugged, high desert beauty, its summer thunderstorms crashing through the big sky, its perfume of sage and pinon pine!

It's a landscape that really resonates with me (or should that be the other way around?), and I feel so blessed to be able to escape the heat and house-sit for friends here for a couple of weeks.

The knitting projects that I brought with me are all fittingly in blues and silvery sage greens. I didn't plan it that way. It just happened that I wanted to bring along some projects that had been stalled for a while, and the colors were serendipitous.

From left to right: first, a simple tank top in Hand Maiden Flaxen, which has been lying unfinished for over a year; second, that dreadful cotton smock that I'm going to frog and re-knit; third, a slinky one-shouldered top in Farmhouse Bamboo.

I'd love to have these all finished by the time we descend back to Phoenix.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

lovely blue

After the debacle of my improvised smock top, it's good to watch something pretty roll off my needles.

This little beaut is Flower Trim Tank, knit up in Jo Sharp Desert Garden Aran Cotton. I modified the pattern to a smaller needle, larger gauge, and circular construction, which made for easier knitting but, unfortunately, trickier finishing and mistake-fixing.

It's basically a brioche stitch tube with a higher front. The smocking comes from stitching together the brioche ribs after knitting, which means you can very easily tailor it to your own proportions. My favorite part are the crocheted straps:

In other blue-hued news, I had a wonderful visit to Liesel Orend's Earth Arts dye garden and studio. She's lovely, friendly, and inspiringly talented. I brought home two skeins of indigo-dyed yarn: a wool single, to be made into a purse-sized Contemplation Pouch, and a merino/silk blend, for a lace kerchief.

She also sent me on my way with a handful of woad seeds from her garden. She has a veritable forest of these plants, dripping with lustrous purple-black seeds!

I'd love to get these to grow in my own modest garden, to make some of my own natural blue hues