Monday, October 19, 2009

Knit PH at Freddy's Bar, Oct. 18 '09

Fall is here in full force, 39° and damp all weekend. I helped Stephanie clean out and paint a room at her parent's house. She packed me dinner-to-go as I rushed back from Long Island speckled in Tropic Breeze and Kilz® primer. I was so hungry that I slurped down some of the home-made chicken noodle soup on the train. A man craned a disapproving head at me. Sarcastically I asked "Want some of my meatloaf? It's delicious." It's best that I didn't bring my home-made kimchi to share.

We had an intimate group this past Sunday. Karen is new to Knit PH. She returned from the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival on Saturday. It didn't rain upstate but it was near freezing-cold. She reported the many woolen wares, tools and fibers, and had some photos of sheep that looked like stuffed toys.

She inherited her grandmother's fine hooks and is experimenting with typography in fillet crochet. Here's a sample of her work (above).

Meanwhile Valerie's SC scarf is getting bigger — very warm and cozy for weather such as this. Valerie meets with a crochet group at the Mill Basin Library. She also had some SC rounds in progress... could be a hat, maybe a bag, perhaps a kippah. I asked if they'd seen Todd Paschall's Crochet by Numbers project. He did an awesome portrait of Redd Foxx. Fascinating stuff.

I saw the most beautiful kippah the 2/3 train last weekend. An orthodox college kid proudly sporting the most intricate, colorful yarmulke— multi-colored silk with black Hebrew embroidery. Nana worked hard on this one, he better not lose it. Feh!

Tracey is trying her hand at embroidery, she's making this keepsake for mother. It's very clever that kit — it comes complete with loom, floss and needle, cloth, instructions, and the pattern is applied as an iron-on. This is a adept craft, I'm very impressed at her skill. Eliza had an announcement — 6 months pregnant, she and husband are expecting a boy. Eliza is one of those ladies that don't look pregnant. It turns out that she and Chris are taking birth classes with Ellen Chuse, a very good friend of mine and one of New York's leading midwives. Eliza is in good hands. Tracey asked her if she feels the baby kicking. She said is feels like an eel squirming in her belly.

They looked into Chris' Mayflower family names but realized was that some early puritanical names were a bit morbid, names such as "Hate Evil Wall" or "Posthumous Wall." I like Floyd as a name... Floyd Wall. How about Brick? Brick Wall. She finished a baby hat and celebrated over an O'Douls — baby boy due in February.

My black sweater is coming along well, the working title is "Black Rider Saddle." The knit-on-knit cables have finally come together. It's not charcoal gray, I lightened these photos to bring out detail from the black.

Here's the front. Fish-bone cables and rams horns twist at regular intervals. It looks like chest armor, no?

Here's the back. I like how these free-hand cables twist on alternate 4th, 8th and 12th rows and end in a 2 X 3 rib.

Here's a detail of the gauntlet sleeve(s) and the back. I think this classifies as another LOTR knit.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knit PH at Propsect Perk, Oct. 13 '09

We started the fall by knitting at Prospect Perk Café. The temperature was quickly dropping, but it was good to see old faces and some news ones come in from the cold and warm up over good conversation. Tomo and Mari were there first. Tomo brought her Noro leggings and Yarn Harlot's "Pretty Thing" for show and tell. I brought my black sweater.

Mari is also a member of the Park Slope Knitting Circle. More of a hooker than a knitter, she worked on a wheat and moss crochet Afghan. Beautiful work, it almost looked as if she wove it. Valarie comes all the way from Mill Basin, it's a bit of hike but she feels motivated by the group — especially since she's been having some arm problems. She asked me to promote a crochet circle at the Mill Basin Library. Marina showed off her neck warmer hat.

She's sold a few on Etsy. I like her sparkly yarn doubled with a plum Cascade 22o. The antique buttons close the deal.

Amy, my coffee buddy, stopped into Perk to get an after-work snack. She had her subway project in her bag, a thick short scarf. Adrienne brought her own stool and some books to ponder, she was feeling stuck. Books and magazines are good that way, they serve to inspire. She's already made a few things for her husband, but now what?

My conclusion is that most of us suffer from U.F.O.S. or Un-finished Object Syndrome. We all admitted to having more stash than we need, so we agreed that a yarn exchange is in order for the December meet-up. This will help prevent symptoms of I.F.H.S. (Involuntary Fiber Hoarding Syndrome). At this point I just want to finish my sweater whether it fits me or not and move through my stash.

Lisa remembered to bring the Tiger Moth Shawl that I designed for Stitch Therapy. It's a simple lace pattern that repeats one row. It works best when made with variegated yarns such as InCanto (cotton/linen) or Silk Garden (silk/wool), but it's also a good way to use up left over yarns from other projects.

Tiger Moth Shawl Pattern
This reversible lace shawl is knit from the neck down working flat on circular needles. Every row increases by 4 sts with the central pattern remaining 24 sts wide. "M1" is an annotation for "front & back" increase method: Knit into the back of stitch to be increased (on left needle); with the stitch still on the needle knit the front of that stitch; transfer the 2 new stitches to the right needle.

You'll need:
• 600 yds (548 M) or more of any medium weight yarn
• 36" US#11 Circ. Needle
• 2 stitch markers

Cast on 44 sts and divide them into 3 section with markers as such: 10, 24, and 10 sts.

Row 1:

Right section: K1, yo, (k2tog, yo) X 4, M1 into last stitch. Place marker.
Center section: (K1, yo, k2tog) X8. Place marker. (total of 24 st)
Left section: M1 into first stitch, yo, (k2tog, yo) X 4, k1.

Row 2:
Right section: K1, yo; (knit k st and yo together, yo) rep. until before the last st; m1 into last stitch. Slip marker.
Center section: *(K1, yo, knit k st and yo together) X8. (total of 24 st). Slip marker.
Left section: M1 into first stitch, yo; (knit yo and K st together, yo) rep. until before the last st; k1.

Repeat Row 2 for a total of 60 rows (or more if you want it bigger). Bind off loosely, cut yarn, sew in ends. Wash, block, and dry flat.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A French Twist

My friend Clermont and his band were in town to play at the Atlantic Antic. He's the musical empresario of the French rock band Les Sans Culottes. Long ago, I played with Monty in faux jug band. They were all French but they put on a decent American accent — isn't that a twist! Pressed for time, we met for a drink after rehearsal.

"Allô allô." said Clermont. He tipped his favorite hat at me — a chunky two-color scally cap that I made for him a few years ago. Kit Kat, Johnny, and Jacques we're deeply engaged in a conversation. She blew me a kiss and told me I need to wear more navy. "Du Bud, no?" she bought me a beer. Edith arrived, cell phone in one hand, a slice in the other. "Eh, ou est Jeanaté?" We toasted Brooklyn and sat for a few drinks but we didn't get to catch up much. Les deux chanteuses needed their beauty sleep. I'd see them on Saturday.

After re-engineering this hat pattern a few times I felt it was only right that I should name it after Monty when I release this pattern in the fall. "Clermont Ferrand," along with a few more of my patterns will be available through

Saturday afternoon at the Atlantic Antic, the weather was warm and the streets were spilling over with celebration — food, jewelry, clothing and shoes, rides for children, and of course music and live entertainment at every corner.

I heard them in the distance as I waded through people, baby carriages and wandering dogs. I went back to State Street to avoid the crowd, took a wrong turn and ended up in front of Magnetic Field. By the time I got to Last Exit Bar they had just finished playing "Apollinaire." Edith winked at me from the stage. Ms. Kit Kat pointed at her mouth asking if she needed more lipstick and jumped right into "Les Chantons."

So many people — friends, neighbors, strangers, tourists... some danced and sang along, most just listened in awe. Perhaps they were expecting a patriotic Revolutionary movement and not a band?

Les chanteurs éclectiques: Kit Kat, Clermont, & Edith...

Thèo and Jeanaté avec guitar and bass...

Johnny and Jacques, keys and percussion...

Go-go dancers emerged and climbed their way onto the tall speakers and like a musical mirage the band vanished into a sea of applause, fini. Although I caught the better half of the first set I couldn't stay the next hour to hear their new songs. They return to New York on October 31st to play at Mercury Lounge.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

In the Black this Fall?

As President Obama announces that the recession is nearing the end we are far from being in the black. So where are we now? Nationwide unemployment is now at 10.7% and many industries are in a gloomy 3rd quarter assessment as more layoffs are eminent this fall. Manufacturing, publishing, banking, real estate, legal services — all sectors have been affected in varying degrees. In this economic climate it's difficult to make a fall forecast, but the changing leaves and cooler weather tell us autumn has already arrived. Fall is here, it's my favorite season.

I pulled out the black saddle shoulder sweater that I started last year. It's made from Berroco "Cuzco" (50 alpaca/50 wool) — soft and sturdy, always feels spongy like brioche bread. But working with black has proved more difficult than I thought. As I ponder my first black sweater I realize that there are parallels to our current state of the economy.

Running Cables
I have mixed feeling about cable work. In my opinion some people wear cables like old Speedo trunks — too busy, too low, too loose in the front. Carefully placed cables are flattering but over-application to one area makes one look "shlumpy." As I worked halfway down the chest I decided I hated it. The Saxon braid on the front was out of scale for my chest, sagging in the middle like an over-valued real estate. My freehand cables on the back collided hazardously like MBAs following the path of a jobless recovery. The recent economic wisdom seems to have been "look busy," but ersatz persistence only makes for unmanageable clutter.

Grey Looks Black in a Dark Room
At some point I inadvertently used half a ball of dark gray Malabrigo. That would've been great if I wanted a stripe over my beer gut, but this was no happy accident. Comparable to that, most who are still employed may not know how deep we've traveled into a recession. As Condé Naste folds four magazines this fall for lack of ad sales, people still act surprised at this falls new pink slips. "Someone may have a crappy job, but they at least still have a job for now..." advised a friend from the Wall Street Journal. In a rough economy a crappy job and a normal job bear little difference, just as gray and black are almost indistinguishable in a dark room.

Stocking Up on Your Stash
Dropped stitches, split yarn, purls where knits should be — most of all my yardage calculation was short by about 300 yards. When designing cables plan ahead and add 15% more yardage to your stash. Otherwise one can't guarantee buying the same dye lot when it's needed. Those who are re-entering the work force may have found that job descriptions and requirements have drastically changed. Some one who had managed a department for over 12 years may now require a management certificate to qualify for the same job they once had. It's getting obvious that many companies are reluctant to hire anyone over 30. Current job-hunting wisdom suggests deleting the college graduation date from your resume especially if you are turning 39 again. To remain competitive one may have to return to school to stock-up on new skills and put a current date on that dusty resume.

A Fresh Start
Taking a tip from financial pages, there was only one thing to do about my sweater — start over. This sweater is knit from the top down. On US #8 needles the gauge measures 4.25 stitches wide by 5 rows deep per inch. Notice the ambient hair from Stephanie's cat, Mr. Fu Man Chu.

The Shoulders
I started by making two shoulder panels (16 wide by 25 deep). The loops are held open and will eventually be worked into the sleeves. Now this is what I should have done in the first place, mark all edges with a crochet slip stitch in a contrasting color. Stitches will be picked up from the edges to create the back and the front panels. To pick up the correct amount of stitches over rows I picked up 4 stitches, skipping the 5th stitch. Therefore, over 25 rows I picked up I picked up a total 20 stitches.

Back Panel
Casting on 36 stitches, I knit a rectangle 8 rows deep. Next, I picked up from each shoulder panels at a grade (similar to a raglan construction). This slight grade presents a better fit. (RS) Working flat, I picked up 4 stitches (as before) from the right shoulder panel, turned, then worked across and picking up 4 stitches from the left panel (WS). I repeated working back and forth until I had a total of 76 stitches ending on the right panel.

Front Panel
Instead of continuing around, I cut the yarn and created a new point of origin at the front right shoulder. This makes it easier to manage increases and pattern. Now on the front, I picked up stitches straight across, there's no need to create a grade. (RS) Switching to circular needles, I started by picking up 4 stitches (as before) from the right shoulder panel for a total of 20 stitches. With waste yarn, I made a cut-away panel to picked up 36 stitches for the neck area, then picked up 20 from the the left shoulder panel, totaling 76 stitches on the front panel.

Working in the round I continued to the left shoulder, over the back, to the right panel ending at the new point of origin. The sleeve and body increase at different rates at each seam. The sleeve's cap increase at every other row. The body increase every at 4th row for (4X), then every 8 row (3X). There's more, but for now I'm putting this sweater aside with handwritten notes, markers and reminders.

So that's where I am with this saddle shoulder sweater, I have no idea where we really are in this economy. But I'll have a black sweater by winter.