Sunday, March 28, 2010

desert afternoon

By nature, I am not a person of the desert. But this landscape is slowly seeping into my being.

Mountain Man and I drove out to the McDowell Mountains today for an afternoon of rock climbing. It was breathtakingly beautiful, with springtime wildflowers and the honeyed sunshine of late afternoon. Deep blue lupines, radiant golden poppies, and luxuriant green grasses carpeted the hillslopes. Here and there, a Parry's Penstemon stood up like a fuschia sparkler.

The most exhilarating part of the day was our encounter with a Red-Tailed Hawk. While we were up on the cliff, the hawk kept soaring back and forth below us. It was magnificent, and I felt my heart skip a beat every time I saw it fly past or heard its call.

We reckoned that the hawk's nest was on the same granite crag that we were climbing, but we had no idea how close we'd come to it until we were rappelling down at the very end of the day. The crack that we'd just climbed took us within 20 feet of that beautiful bird's nest.

It was a spectacular feat of engineering, carefully constructed some 100 feet up the face of the cliff. Inside the nest, nestled among soft grasses and leaves and feathers, were three perfect eggs. Magical.

Back down at the ground, we watched the mama bird swoop back in to her nest and hunker down. She must have been relieved to see us off the cliff, and we, in turn, were relieved to see her return.

There was some knitting today, but it seems prosaic after all this natural splendor, so I think I'll leave that to talk about another day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Mending day. A quiet Saturday where I felt like tackling the little tasks that I've been putting off, like darning holes in handknit socks. Have a look at the heels, and you can see my handiwork.

There are two main techniques for patching holes in handknits: weaving and duplicate stitch. I went with duplicate stitch in the original yarn because I thought it would be least conspicuous. But I suspect the weaving technique would be faster ... I don't know, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

It turns out there was a good reason to put this task off for so long. It's dreadfully time-consuming and annoying! I don't think I would've started it today if I'd known how long it would take. But grumpiness aside, I was so pleased to have the socks patched up that I kept full steam ahead and mended some clothing.

I mended a tear in a linen shirt, re-sewed a zipper in a pair of slacks, and patched holes in two pair of pants. These are the kind of tasks that are very satisfying in a quiet way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday was climbing day for Mountain Man and me. We had a lovely drive out past the Superstitions, past the old mining town of Superior, up into Lower Devil's Canyon. After all the rain a few weeks ago, the low desert has sprouted a luxuriant green carpet -- grasses, wildflowers, mosses -- and it's spectacular to drive through.

I brought no fewer than three knitting projects to work on, each tailored to a different set of conditions for knitting (sort of akin to the way that Incan farmers had potato varieties exquisitely adapted to each microclimate of altitude, sun, terrain, etc.).

For the drive there, I brought the sleeves of my cardigan. Tedious, but I needed to keep up momentum on this project, and its boringness let me enjoy the scenery and even knit on the dirt roads.

For breaks between climbs, I brought a new shawlette experiment in a springy gray-brown sportweight wool. It was a lightweight project to carry in my climbing pack. And most importantly, since my hands get dirty with metallic dust from the ropes, I needed a darker yarn for this knitting microclimate.

For the nighttime drive home, I need to be able to knit by feel, so my third project was stockinette in the round. I can't show it to you, though, since I was knitting in the dark!

On another note: here's sending out a big thank you to Acorn to Oak, who nominated me for a Kreative Blogger award. What I'm supposed to do now is post the award logo and nominate 7 more blogs and reveal 7 interesting things you wouldn't know about me ... BUT one thing you do know about me is that I don't like following patterns or rules, so I'm going to do it my way.

I'll cut right to the chase and share a handful of blogs that have been making me happy lately: twoandsix, cocoknits, knittyvana, lolly knitting around, The Times We Are Living In, Ecologicalartist, naturally nina, Colette Patterns

Friday, March 19, 2010


I had a birthday this week. It was a beautiful day, blue skied, sunshiny, with a sweetness on the breeze. It was the day that the first grapefruit blossoms burst open ...

I made myself grapefruit cupcakes with hints of coconut and honey, which were delicious, if I do say so myself. I decorated them with sugar orchids from the specialty cake shop ...

But to tell you the truth, it really wasn't a good day. That pretty cupcake you see? Moments after I took that snapshot, I knocked it onto the ground, smashing the orchid and smearing the frosting with dirt and grass (Isis did appreciate it, though). There were bigger things, too. My sister, who was visiting, fell horribly ill, so that much of the day was spent worried in doctor's offices. And I felt grumpy about my age; turning 30 felt good, as the symbolic passing of my angsty 20s, but 31 not so much.

Anyways, the sun kept shining, and the earth had little birthday gifts for me. It saved not only the first grapefruit blossoms for my day, but also the first jasmine flowers, which burst into fragrant tumbles of blooms on the back porch ...

Definitely a day to focus on try to focus on the sweetness.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the vest step

I bound off the collar last night, prematurely, to get a sense of how it was laying. The cardigan still needs sleeves, obviously, but here's what it looks like with the shoulders grafted, the bottom border re-knit, and half the collar:

Mountain Man commented that I could just stop here and wear it as a vest. I'm tempted to follow the suggestion, as I'm getting tired of the project and am dreading the process of adjusting the sleeve caps to fit my armscye modifications. Also, it's pushing 80 degrees, and a wool/mohair cardigan seem rather unseasonable.

BUT. sigh. I don't like the flare of the button band.

The extra volume of the garter stitch makes sense around the neck, as it's supposed to be able to fold over into a shawl collar. But, down at the bottom, it ends up making waist-coat points, which are really not my thing.

This aspect didn't seem so noticeable in all the other versions I saw on Ravelry; maybe once you've got the full width of the collar, with more overlap of the sides, the points aren't so pronounced. Or maybe .... gulp .... I've got to re-knit the collar with fewer stitches picked up at the bottom! Stay tuned ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

sunny afternoon

Just another sunny spring afternoon in Arcadia. Sitting in the backyard, watching the grass grow ...

and the hummingbirds come and go, come and go ...

and the dog, panting in the easy sunshine ...

and the never-ending collar of my cardigan, taking shape stitch by slow stitch

Ah, the comfort of slowness. But, oh, how I wish it would go faster sometimes!!

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Late this afternoon, after a marvelously strenuous day of yard work, I sat down to deal with the edge of the sweater. I started off by running a long circular needle through one row of stitches ...

Next, I cut the yarn in the row above the needle, starting about an inch or two in from the edge so that it'd leave a tail. I unraveled it towards one edge ...

And then started the painstaking process of picking out the stitches all the way down the sweater. It was terribly time-consuming because of the twisted stitches, which have extra friction and don't pull out as smoothly. But it was easy work. And by the time the sun went down, I was left with a nice, clean row of stitches on my needle ...

It turned out to be a simple process. My heart skipped a beat when I made that 'snip,' but overall it was not so difficult. Now I'm ready to re-knit the bottom border!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

two steps forward ....

I've got progress on my Katarina cardigan to show off! Although, things are slightly awry.

Good news first: I've finished knitting the front and back. Naturally, I had to tinker with the pattern, so I knit this portion of the sweater seamlessly and adjusted the armscye and waist shaping for my own body.

Bad news: My stitch substitution for the bottom edge just does not work. I didn't like the original rolled edge, so I swatched and convinced myself that twisted ribbing would work instead. I'm in love with the texture of twisted ribbing. But in the final garment, I have to admit that it doesn't pull in enough, such that the bottom edge flares or could even flip up.

So, instead of casting on for the sleeves at my knitting night tonight, I'm afraid it'll be time for sweater surgery. My plan is to cut off this bottom section, pick up the live stockinette edge stitches, and knit downwards in garter stitch on smaller needles. UGH.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Knit Green

I've been awash in a sea of expansive white stockinette, between the cardigan and a secret blanket project. It makes for boring knitting and boring blogging, so it was with immense pleasure that I whipped out a clever little project:

Still white stockinette, but oh-so-much more fun. The pattern is the Knick Knack Paddy Whack dog toy from Joanne Seiff's brilliant book, Knit Green. The original pattern gives several variations on the pattern in organic wool.

I substituted an organic cotton yarn, Henry's Attic Inca Cotton, because that's what I had. I knit it tightly on Size 3 needles. Sent it through a hot wash. Stuffed it with an old t-shirt (recycling!). Sealed up the ends with a 3 needle bind-off. It's fabulous. I almost want to chew on it myself.

But this bone belongs to Isis. She LOVES it. It's perfect for tug-of-war, because she can really get a good bite on the flared end of the bone, while my hands are kept at a safe distance. Ha ha! She gets a low growl in her throat and absolutely refuses to let go!

Quite aside from my own knitting pleasure and Isis's chomping pleasure, I was glad to knit this up because it gave me an opportunity to talk about Joanne's book.

I can't lavish enough praise on Knit Green. It is the single most intelligent piece of writing that I have seen on knitting and sustainability. She takes her reader on an exploration of environmental and social responsibility in all its nuanced dimensions -- agricultural sustainability, biodiversity, veganism, fair trade, buying local, etc. -- and writes thoughtfully about the trade-offs between these values. It's in a similar philosophical vein of what I did with my Green Knitter website, only taken to a far greater depth.

There are a few qualities that put this book in a class above everything else I've read about eco-friendly knitting. First, it is exceedingly well researched. I consider myself to be very knowledgeable about these issues already, but I learned a ton from this book.

Second, it communicates the salience and complexity of these issues without veering into self-righteousness. She makes you feel inspired and empowered, not guilty or frustrated by unattainable purity.

Finally, it's just an all-around well-constructed book that in every way hits the sweet spot of being sophisticated but accessible. The writing is clear but engaging. The patterns are simple but with clever twists. The photographs are artsy and interesting but still show off the knitting perfectly. All in all, highly recommended!