Monday, November 30, 2009

star crossed cap

Yesterday I made a hat for my sister. The pattern is the Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret, although it turned out more like a sculptural, cabled cloche because of the texture of the yarn.

The yarn is a gorgeous soft, grey cormo from Elsa Wool, which I picked up at the Taos Wool Festival earlier this fall. It's the yummiest, bounciest, cushiest wool I've ever knit with. I had one skein of woolen-spun sportweight yarn, which I knit doubled on size 10.5 needles.

As I said, the pattern is meant to make a slouchy beret, but because this yarn is so elastic, the fabric really pulled inwards, and it came out more like a mushroom shape. When worn, it hugs the face and then curves out to add a little volume to the crown of the head. Personally, I think it's an amazing piece, and I think my sister looks fantastically stylish in it.

However, I did promise to knit her a hat of her choosing, so I'm just going to have to knit her another version now!

Friday, November 27, 2009

greenleaf baby set

In the midst of dealing with complicated projects, it's a pleasure to have something short and sweet grow from my needles.

This is a baby hat and mitten set for my cousin, composed of the lovely Greenleaf Hat and Xois Toddler Mittens in Swift superwash merino yarn. It was one of those perfect little projects that came together quickly and turned out just as I'd wanted.

My sister made the very cool cord for the mittens by twisting (actually, plying) together several strands of the yarn. It's more elegant than braiding or I-cord, and I love the marled look of the two greens.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

subtle beauty

I'm back east now, back to Connecticut for Thanksgiving, back to the nest of my family and my childhood home. I flew on Monday to avoid the freneticism of holiday travel. It was a peaceful trip, with books on tape and the comfort of knitting and soft, subtle light over clouds.

What a shock to the system, though, to arrive to the drabness of New England November! I've gotten so used to the technicolor of Arizona that it takes a while for my eyes to recalibrate to this flat palette: cold pale light, steely skies, skeletal trees, in a chilly late autumn rain

Dim, drizzly, drippy, dreary. All the descriptive words that come to mind start with a thud and taper off in a gray shiver.

And yet, once my eyes adjust, it's a pleasure to see the subtle beauty in it. The faintest of pink in a twilight cloud. The sculptural forms of the trees. The muted dignity of a hydrangea flower, holding on until frost.

Not to mention, it makes for blissful knitting, with a cup of steaming tea and my mother's fat gray cat by my side.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rivendell among the rocks

Mountain Man I drove out to "Looner Land" this past Sunday for a stunningly beautiful day of rock climbing. It's an an amazing place, with clusters of rock pinnacles rising out of the desert floor. Here's me, rappelling off of our last climb in the late afternoon sun.

I thought such an unworldly landscape would be the perfect place to photograph my newest project: a Rivendell hat in a heavenly-soft alpaca. I also thought that it would be much chillier (like it was last weekend), but as you can see it was sunburn weather, not alpaca hat weather. Not that I'm complaining, though!

Knitting this hat was like visiting an old friend. Rivendell was the first pattern that I ever published. It came out in Magknits in May 2007, and when Magknits was abruptly taken down, the pattern went with it. I still have the pattern text, but no charts or diagrams or pretty formatting, and anyways the pattern needed some tweaking with gauge and sizing, since the original version was far too small and tight.

It's taken me a couple of years, but I've finally gotten myself around to re-knitting the hat and rewriting the pattern. This was a play on it to see how it would look with a different brim and a softer texture. I'm also working on a version that has the original flared seed-stitch brim, but I'm having some gauge issues. Hopefully it won't take me another two years :)

Monday, November 09, 2009

autumn colors

I got a precious dose of autumn this weekend on another visit to Lower Devil's Canyon. The seasonal changes in the desert proper are subtle, too subtle for a newcomer like me to appreciate. But the creek running through the canyon was another story.

Ok, it's still subtle by my Vermont standards, but out here it's nothing to sniff at! I practically jumped for joy when I crossed the creek and found a tangle of fiery Virginia Creeper on the rocks ...

And as my fellow climbers hiked up to the rock towers, I held back, skulking around the riparian zone, gazing at the Sycamore trees and wild grape leaves.

Back at home, I had another kind of autumnal color waiting for me in my dyeing pot. I've been hankering to get back to dyeing -- spurred by the Taos dye workshop and the recent snap of cooler evenings -- and I finally got out my dye pots over the weekend.

Left to right: pecan hulls, apricot leaves, persimmon leaves, peach leaves, and eucalyptus. The peach leaves are from a neighbor, but the pecan, apricot, persimmon, and eucalyptus are from trees in our own yard.

I've done a fair bit of experimenting the eucalyptus around here, trying a few different types of leaves and barks and trying different methods from long simmering to fermentation. I always have ended up with yellows. This time I just tried an unimpressive, scraggly eucalyptus shrub from our yard, and I was amazed to see the shocking orange it produced.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


My design process for the sweater has been following what you might call an "emergent design" method. I dove in headlong, ripping out what didn't work, and letting the design emerge from what I learned along the way. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. Lately it's the latter, so I've been driven to distraction ...

I've been playing with my spinning wheel

And experimenting with dyes from my backyard

And casting on for a new Rivendell hat

All of which has been reinvigorating but has not solved my problems with the sweater. I've knit the shoulders five ways already and found each to be unsatisfying. Maybe tonight I'll bit the bullet and go for lucky number six

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Spinning Witch

My friends and I did Halloween up in style this year. You have to understand -- our front door is set at the end of a covered patio, hidden from the street by a forest of banana trees. To get to it, you have to walk up our dark driveway and through a small opening in the banana trees.

To make it even creepier, we decorated with handmade bats, witches, ghosts, spiders, and graves. Taper candles flickered in the windows. Mozart's Requiem drifted into the cool night air. I sat by the door, shrouded by my long hair and witch hat, spinning dark fibers.

Would you be spooked by such a sight?

When one girl, full of bravado, marched up and asked what I was spinning, my friend cackled to her "We're making sweaters out of children! ha ha ha ha...." The girl whipped around and ran away as quick as her legs could carry her! Apparently, word traveled through the grapevine that we were the scariest house on the block.

I've also been celebrating the season by reading Casting Spells, which is a Barbara Bretton romance novel about a sorceress who owns a knitting store in Vermont. Witches, knitting, and Vermont? Perfect.