Monday, May 30, 2011

knitting about town

I'm back to working on that green alpaca cardigan again. I unraveled the lower 8 inches -- thousands upon thousands of stitches -- and have been steadily re-knitting it. It was the one project I brought to DC with me, and I brought it everwhere. From a hip speakeasy bar ...

to an outdoor cafe in Alexandria ....

and rolling around town on the bus!

My sister and I were laughing about putting together a Dr. Seuss green-eggs-and-ham post about knitting a cardigan ... I will knit it in a bar. I will knit it in a car. I will knit it on the bus. I will knit it in a fuss! And so forth.

But we weren't consistent about taking photos everywhere I was knitting, and then I had to hop on the plane back to Boston.

Now I'm back. And suddenly it's hot and muggy, and I don't feel like knitting. I feel like sitting outside with a cold drink and a picnic, which is exactly what I did with a friend last night. We sat on a dock by the river, laid out watermelon and potato salad and cold chicken and a bottle of spiked iced tea, and watched the sun set over MIT .

Friday, May 27, 2011

green ramble in our nation's capitol

May has been the month of travel for me. Here I am on yet another quick trip to DC! This was a serious work trip -- with a workshop, research in the Library of Congress, and interviews for my dissertation research - but I did sneak in a happy ramble one afternoon.

I strolled by the Capitol building, then through the U.S. Botanic Garden. I was dazzled by the orchids, the passionflowers, the bromeliads. But what drew my eye most was the simple, stunning beauty of the ferns.

I love ferns. We had a fern motif on our wedding invitations. And when I briefly had a line of naturally-dyed yarn, I letterpressed my own tags with a fern stamp, made from a scanned fern from my backyard.

I'd love to draw ferns into my knitting. Maybe I'll have to play around to make a fern-evoking lace pattern. Wouldn't you love this draped across your back like a shawl?

After the Botanic Gardens, I wandered down the mall to the Natural History museum. It was oppressively hot and humid. So I ended up taking a break in the shade of a soaring elm tree

I put up my hair, let the faint breeze cool my neck, and pulled out my knitting for a bit of a dreamy green spell.

Monday, May 23, 2011

dark & jagged

It's hard to look dark and jagged when the sun has come out for the first time in weeks.

Ha! If you remember, this is the scarf that I started in February, back when it was icy and bleak. I'd wanted to knit a big, spiky thing to wrap around my neck and be angry in.

I knit this -- which is an improvised crescent with a knitted-on border in black Cascade Eco Wool -- and was immediately disappointed. Even after blocking, it rolled so viciously that it turned into a snake (a snake with spikes, a stegosaurus snake) rather than then a voluminous wrap. I'd tossed it into a corner and vowed to frog it. That's why you didn't see it on the blog all these months.

I still had about half the ball of Eco Wool left. When I fetched it last week to make my curious cardigan, the dark & jagged scarf fell off the shelf. And I was shocked to find that it was more fun than I'd remembered. I finally sewed in the ends, and ta-da! wore it around town on Saturday.

Saturday, by the way, was predicted to be dark and stormy. Perfect for photographing my scarf, perfect for wandering about town and searching for other dark and jagged things like moss (above) and sweet shrub (below).

The sky was still threatening thunderstorms when I left my house. But by the time I reached my friend's place in Jamaica Plain, the sun had burst through the clouds, and we had the first glorious day we've had in weeks.

So, in sky and in scarf, I ended up with sunshine despite my best efforts!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

little black shrug

I was back in DC last weekend for a luscious spring wedding.

I whipped up a curious little cardi-shrug in time for the ceremony. I'd only started it a few days earlier and never really thought I'd finish it to wear over the weekend. But I got so much knitting in during the Friday rehearsal that I said, hmmm, maybe it's possible ... let me look up on my iPhone to see if there's a shop nearby where I can get a button.

And lo and behold, it turned out that the rehearsal was literally around the corner from Looped!

What a lovely, lovely shop. Beautiful yarns. Inspiring space. Gorgeous light. And super friendly people. I can't wait to go back when I have more time.

And they had just the button I needed. On Saturday, I bound off the sweater while my sister was helping me properly blow dry my hair, and I sewed on the button on the way to the ceremony.

A little strange ... needs a little adjustment so it doesn't scallop up in the front ... but for an improvised eleventh-hour knit, it's kind of quirkily fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

purple blossoms

I had the loveliest Mother's Day this year. My sister and I took a little road trip down to Durham, North Carolina with our beautiful mom. Here are the girls, reveling in the gorgeous Duke Gardens. It was amazingly lush and purple!

As it happened -- unplanned -- I was working on a purple, flowery lace project that coordinated perfectly with the gardens. This is just a swatch. The rest of the project shall remain secret for a while.

But tell me, what kind of flower does it look like to you? I'm thinking maybe a crocus ...

Monday, May 09, 2011

yarn aesthetics

I did a bit of spring cleaning in my apartment recently. Swept out the ghosts of winter. Took stock. Rearranged. And in doing so, I was struck by how much my yarn and fiber and lace knitting has become a part of my home aesthetic here.

There's the still life on the bookshelf. Bones, antlers, sagebrush, photos of the West. But also balls of yarn and a darning egg.

On another shelf, there's a stack of antique books. Mostly gardening and naturalist books, with a charming 1923 Nature journal in there that I should show you some time. And at the top is my 19th century account book with the lace knitting patterns.

Then there's my white alpaca wedding shawl, draped softly over the kitchen doorway.

And all the rest of my shawls - four Storm Cloud Shawlettes, two Vermont shawls, an Aeolian shawl, my Cactus Wren Shawl, a Cedar Leaf Shawlette, and a couple of scarves -- draped on the coat rack on the front door.

The biggest discovery came from rearranging my stash by color. I brought this yarn and fiber in dribs and drabs from Phoenix over the year, and most of the time it's been a jumble on my bookshelf. But when rearranged, I suddenly realized that I was looking at a perfect representation of my color palette: earth tones, blue-greens, and a splash of crimson. When I look at my Ravelry projects, that pattern is striking, too. A real self-realization!

There's more ... the Shetland sheepskin rug from Charlotte's farm, and the lace blanket draped over a chair in the corner, and the photos of sheep from Rhinebeck framed on my wall ... but this is what was catching my eye this morning.

Monday, May 02, 2011

19th Century Knitting Book

I was back in Connecticut for a few days recently. It was beautifully "silver" weather -- steely skies, drizzling rain, misty and foggy. Lovely weather for knitting. Lovely for walking through the park and looking at the magnolias.

And lovely weather for antiquing. An old friend and I spent an afternoon doing just that, and I found a treasure. Buried on a shelf of 19th century poetry books was a little notebook. Its covered was tattered, its leather binding mended with a scrap of brown plaid fabric.

It was some kind of account book, with carefully hand-written records from 1848 to 1855 of goods (barrels of flour, gallons of molasses, yards of calico, bushels of poughtatoes, half pint of turnip seeds) and services (sawing, oxen, a "horse and wagon to gow to Poughkiepsie"). The book was already delightfully charming on its own. But what made it a treasure was this: pasted over the earliest records were a dozen or so knitting and crochet patterns.

I love to think of a 19th century woman carefully snipping these patterns out of a magazine and pasting them into the accounts book. I love to think of her trying out the different laces -- fluted lace, oak-leaf lace, torchon lace, German lace, and more -- or casting on for the knitted shoulder cape or the clover leaf bedspread. I love to think of all the things that had to line up in this universe for her book to have found its way to me.

Once I have a chance to try out some of the stitch patterns, I'll definitely be sharing this find in more detail. But for now, I'll leave you with my mom's kitty cat. She was on the bed while I was taking photographs of the book, and she was getting tired of my movement and provocations ...