A Yarn Story

Way back in undergrad I decided I wanted to learn to knit. I made the decision fairly spontaneously in the middle of a craft store while I was buying painting supplies, tossing a skein of variegated worsted weight acrylic yarn into my basket. It was Red Heart’s Super Saver economy line, and its color is called Painted Desert. It evoked so many tranquil, outdoorsy thoughts in its mix of jewel tones with a warm tan and sienna color that I just had to learn how to knit it.

My mother lent me a pair of her needles and taught me how to cast on and make a knit stitch (I’m sure this is why I knit English – my mother is left-handed). I didn’t learn to purl, so the first thing I ever knit, over the course of several years in college, was a massively wide garter-stitch scarf-wrap type thing that I wore outside of the house exactly once.

It was a disaster of dropped and accidentally added stitches, wonky irregular gauge, and basically all the classics of a new knitter’s mistakes. In 2006 I decided to learn to knit again, branching out beyond garter stitch rectangles, and it stuck. I found a sweater pattern that I thought would show off the little bursts of color in this yarn, and I bought quite a few more skeins. I knit up the back in what became a somewhat Ravelry-famous example of spectacularly dizzying, ugly pooling.

Not surprisingly, I frogged it, and the yarn hung out for years. It actually looks pretty nice in a ball, so I was willing to relegate it to a random decorative accent on my bookshelf, but it bothered me.

I kept thinking there was a secret to this yarn that I hadn’t cracked. I didn’t like the way it looked in garter stitch, nor in stockinette. Because I have such a large quantity of it, I was considering working it into an openwork afghan. I don’t know what made me think of it again, but I browsed through all the projects using this yarn on Ravelry, and I saw a beautiful seed stitch scarf. I fell in love with the fabric and immediately cast on.

It is so pleasant to watch the colors shift and combine in seed stitch. Each color tends to stretch about 3-4 stitches, and although it has pooled a touch in some places, I like it overall. I’m so pleased to have found a way to make this yarn do what I knew it could.

I have a whole slew of projects planned with this yarn in seed stitch, starting with a moebius scarf, then matching hat and gloves. I also want to make a set of cushion covers for my couch and maybe some slippers or house socks. I expect pretty soon I’ll be surrounded in Painted Desert yarn.

FO: Montana Neckwarmer

Pattern: Montana Scarf by Craig Rosenfeld, free pattern from Loop Knits. My project page is here on Ravelry.
Size: converted to a buttoned neckwarmer (I need to measure)
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky 12-ply bulky, 80% acrylic / 20% wool, in color 127 Walnut; I used about 1.5 skeins, approximately 210 grams, which was 229.5 yards/ 210 meters
Needles: Size 10.5 (6.5 mm)
Buttons: 6 La Mode style 2906 3/4″ (19mm) brown, washable and dry cleanable
Modifications: Shortened to a cross-over neckwarmer with buttons

Started: October 7, 2015
Finished: November 3, 2015

I made this neckwarmer for my nice brother as one of his birthday gifts this year. To say he spends a lot of time outdoors would be a gigantic understatement. Between working on a charter boat and hunting, he is basically always outside, even when the temperatures are below freezing and he is getting covered in snow. I discovered this pattern last year and made a buttoned neckwarmer in green for my father last Christmas (which no, I still haven’t photographed yet, oops). My brother coveted it and asked if I’d make him a brown one for the start of duck season this year, and fortunately enough time passed that he forgot he’d requested it, so it was actually a surprise by his birthday.

I love this pattern, as it is simple and fun, producing an attractive reversible rib that lays nicely flat despite being worked in a bulky yarn. I went with an acrylic-wool blend so it would be machine washable and soft against the skin because even though my brother is an outdoorsy tough guy, I still want knit things to be squishy and pleasant to wear. I made simple yarn-over buttonholes, which I reinforced with a single ply of the yarn using what I now know is called a buttonhole stitch.

Because my birthday is November 1 and my brother’s is November 3, we always celebrate together with our family. This year I made us a German sweet chocolate cake from scratch and immodestly declared myself Star Baker, as it is probably the loveliest thing I’ve ever baked.

I’ll try to get photos of my brother wearing his neckwarmer (and my father’s, while I’m at it) the next time I see them.

Shifting the seasons

Even though it’s finally feeling like fall, I thought I’d sneak in one last laceweight, candy pink sweater that I almost certainly won’t wear until next spring. It’s like a very colorful form of hibernating, to promise something for my future self.

After this, I’m switching gears to something bulky and Icelandic.

I brought a suitcase full of yarn back from Iceland five years ago, so it’s a little embarrassing that I haven’t finished any of the projects I had planned for it yet.

I hope by the time New York returns to its polar vortex state, I’ll be armed with a big sweater to keep warm and remind me of my trip.

That time I wore my damp sweater to work

Success! I avoided literally killing my new sweater while killing the acrylic last night, and I was able to wear it to work today.

(The lighting and ambiance in our work bathroom is maybe not ideal, but I hope you get the idea).

When I put it on this morning, it was still damp, but I was intent on wearing it today. It wasn’t damp like you could wring out the hems, but even I can recognize that it is a bit strange to put on a sweater and then spend half the day irrationally afraid that someone would touch my shoulder and wonder why I was so clammy and cold.

I’ll try to take some nicer photos and put together a proper FO post soon, but in the meantime I am very pleased that I actually finished and got to wear this sweater in the spring, before it became too hot to consider for another year.

A time to kill

I’ve killed before, and it came out so nicely it made me a devoted acrylic lover, but for some reason I was very anxious about killing my recently completed Mint sweater.

It’s got to be the most nerve-wracking form of blocking because it’s irreversible and so easy to accidentally leave the iron over one place too long and end up with a flattened, lifeless bit. I very dopily scorched a light-colored sweater when killing without a press cloth two years ago and still haven’t forgiven myself for it.

I had half a mind to wear this sweater to work tomorrow without washing or blocking it, but I bit the bullet and carefully steamed it. It’s sitting in the kitchen with a fan trying to hasten it fully drying and, ideally, fluffing back up into something soft and lovely.

Fingers crossed!

WIP: Art Deco Lace-Edged Cardigan

I don’t know why I’ve never knit a DROPS pattern before, seeing as there are so many gorgeous free ones out there that appeal so specifically to my taste and style. All that is changing now.

Described as DROPS 113-33 Jacket with Lace Pattern, I’ve rechristened it my Art Deco Lace-Edged Cardigan because the pattern reminds me so much of my favorite details from Art Deco architecture, especially the Chrysler Building’s spire.

© Carol M. Highsmith, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m knitting it in a lovely sagey blue-green shade of CotLin DK, a cotton and linen blend that is quickly becoming one of my favorite yarns.

This project has everything I love about knitting going on, and I’m enjoying it so much already.

All about that lace, ’bout that lace, no cables…

(Actually I have no truck with cables, but I couldn’t resist the rhyme.)

This weekend, cranky about the snow, I finished knitting a bright pink seamless lacy sweater. I didn’t weave in the ends or find / sew on buttons yet, but I’m already really happy with how this one is coming along. And if the temperature ever rises consistently out of the 30s this spring, I’m looking forward to wearing it over floral, springy dresses.

Soon, I really hope.

Thinking nautical thoughts

Working for a jewelry company, I frequently encounter charming, beautiful things that I’d love to own and will probably never be able to afford.

Like this 1930s bracelet I came across last year that uses nautical flags to spell out “I LOVE YOU.” Lacking a spare $14,000 for this one, however many thousand a Cartier “DEAREST” would cost, or even the several hundred dollars that contemporary charm versions run, I had temporarily disregarded my vision of a nautical bracelet spelling out my name.

For a lark, I read The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach today. I was feeling a little homesick for the super preppy town where I grew up, and on a rainy Smarch day, I could all but taste salt water and feel the sun on my face while sailing.

One of the recurring references was to needlepoint belts and accessories, which I had all but forgotten from my childhood. There was also a cute quip about how the only acceptable “monogramming” of one’s car was perhaps to put small nautical flag decals of initials under the driver’s side door handle.

It all came together in my mind. Nautical flags totally lend themselves to grids! I charted out my full name and more commonly used nickname.



(Definitely prefer the way “Victoria” looks.)

And then I remembered the symmetry of my first, middle, and last names, with 8, 4, and 8 characters respectively. I compiled a 20-flag grid and voilà, an afghan pattern has all but written itself:

I thought surely someone would have already written a nautical flag afghan pattern, but a quick trip through Ravelry only brought up a crochet pattern. I am confident that with some graph paper and/or knitPro, I can come up with what I want and make myself a super-preppy afghan.

As for the bracelet, I have a few ideas I want to try, maybe including an entirely new craft. I’m psyched.

The most beautiful embroidery I’ve ever seen

I recently stopped by the beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art (from which I now live a mere three subway stops away!) to catch the gorgeous exhibit Kimono: A Modern History before it closed. What an incredible treat!

I was stricken by a bit of wall text describing the word kimono as basically “a thing to wear,” and how that has changed from the Japanese equivalent of a t-shirt or sweater into the beautiful, intricately-detailed historical costume that more typically comes to mind in the West. The exhibit was wonderfully presented, starting with traditional Edo Period kimonos, incorporating the kimono into contemporary fashion of the 1920s and 30s, and eventually presenting playful printed cotton under-kimonos that reminded me so much of men’s boxer shorts today.

I was truly dazzled by the embroidery and details, and though I apologize for the iPhone-quality photos, I hope you’ll be able to see what was so enchanting about these pieces.

Edo or Meiji period Over Robe (uchikake), mid-19th century, satin embroidered wit silk and gold thread, couched gold thread

Edo period Uchikake

Gorgeous floral embroidery

Detail view of bird and botanical embroidery

Detail of an Unlined Summer Kimono (Hito-e) with Crickets, Grasshoppers, Cricket Cages, and Pampas Grass, Meiji period, early 20th century, Paste-resist dyed (yuzen) and painted silk gauze with embroidery

I was so charmed by the dyeing technique and gorgeous design of a plain cotton kimono.

Kimono-Shaped Coverlet (Yogi) with Lobster and Crest, Meiji period, mid-19th century, Plain-weave cotton, resist-dyed and painted with dyes and pigments (tsutsugaki)

I loved a section that discussed how the kimono and details were blended with and incorporated into Western fashions for export.

Dressing gown (Yokohama robe), Meiji period, 1879, Plain-weave silk with silk embroidery

And it just plain blows my mind that such a beautiful garment would be available in a department store as a souvenir.

Iida & Co., Takashimaya Department Store Evening Robe, Meiji period, c. 1910, plain-weave silk with silk embroidery

Obi with Thistle, Meiji period, second half of 19th century, brocaded silk with metallic thread

(I adore this thistle pattern.)

Court Lady’s Garment (Kosode) with Swallows and Bells on Blossoming Cherry Tree, Edo or Meiji period, mid-19th century, silk crepe (chirimen) with silk embroidery and couched gold thread

The way these birds and flowers were embroidered is just exquisite.

Whenever I spend any time with Japanese art or culture, I wish I knew more about Japan’s history and aesthetics. I was so enthralled with the different types and styles of embroidery and textile treatment that my mind is still spinning. In addition to adding fuel to the fire of my wish to learn embroidery and to do more with textiles, it made me intensely curious to learn more about Japan and the art of the kimono.

If you are like me, I’d recommend the exhibition catalogue by Terry Satsuki Milhaupt (currently sold out on the Met’s site) or watching the wonderful Sunday at the Met – Kimono: A Modern History lecture online.

Mint mint mint

“Mint” is one of those borderline onomatopoeia synesthetic words for me, where reading or saying the word instantly evokes the crisp freshness of mint itself. Similarly, when I look at mint greens, which are among my favorite colors, I feel like I can taste mint chocolate chip ice cream, toothpaste, or something similarly creamy and refreshing.

I had this vision of a mint green pullover top, to wear with crisp white blouses and breezy skirts in those early months of spring where it’s not quite chiffon season, but I wish it were. I’m using a free pattern from Cascade Yarns (PDF link) by Vera Sanon, who designs brilliantly simple, usually seamless, highly wearable knits.

I’m working in Caron One Pound, which I’ve found turns into this beautiful, creamy soft fabric when washed and fluffed dry at a low temperature (you can read more on my love of manageable acrylics here).

I’ve got a good feeling about this one.