Monday, November 23, 2009

A Fine Move

In November, Maxcine Degouttes moved her yarn shop to a new location. Stitch Therapy now shares a beautiful space with Brooklyn Mercantile in Park Slope at 335 5th Avenue. Maxcine, Brandy and Tamara paused for a photo.

Getting the place ready was a minor Herculean task of rearranging, but after only a few days both shops were up and running with barely a hitch. Two shops under one punched-tin ceiling offer fine yarns, and quality fabrics & trims.

Handmade throw pillows and quilts invite you on a treasure hunt through exquisite bolts of fabric and spools of trim. Brooklyn Mercantile is more than a notion shop. Tamara Lee has a beautiful collection of fabrics for upholstery and drapery as well as wares that will lend an accent to any home — antique coat hooks, note cards, wire baskets, essential oils, and scented candles. Brooklyn Mercantile also holds sewing classes in the basement studio.

Stitch Therapy's cubbies are stocked with jewel tone colors that brighten those somber winter days. Luxury yarns like Cupcake are yummy, and Chiara and Noro satisfy your appetite. The new poly-fiber blends are perfect for a beginner's wallet. Books and magazines perk your interest while you settle in the comfy chair as knit hats and sweaters spy from above. Always in demand, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and stitch markers sit conveniently on the counter in baskets. Liberty Print project bags hang on a Shaker peg rack. Maxcine's mother makes them for the store.

Maxcine loves the new hold-everything counter that I built to outfit her space. She worked out the traffic patterns and customer flow to figure out the dimensions. I lightly stained the birch to bring out its natural burl, and to blend in with Stitch Therapy's other furniture. The light honey colored scheme contrasts with Brooklyn Mercantile's dark wood setting.

The counter is made from furniture grade birch ply topped with a solid maple butcher block surface. The maple is raw but buffed, the birch is finished with 8 coats of water-based urethane — satin smooth, durable, and stroller-proof.

It almost holds everything: cash register, laptop, printer, books & magazines, needles & hooks, shopping bags, business files... etc. Mostly of all it plays well in the new environment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

River Folk Boatneck Sweater

James is a barista at Prospect Perk Café. A "barista" is some one who serves coffee,  not a member of a Guatemalan resistance group. He's serving up a hot panini with a half-caf latte to some cranky old wizard guy. That's the boss man in the red vest.

James is modeling another LOTR-inspired pullover that I designed called "River Folk" — a boatneck sweater with half-moon pockets. I bought this yarn last winter from Stitch Therapy but had no real plans to do anything with it until recently. Elsebeth Lavold "Silky Flammé" is a highly textured yarn with an untwisted core wrapped into various thick and thin plies.

River Folk is a typical box-cut sweater with a few extras. Ram's horn cables travel from front to back flanking each side. A bucolic Garter stitch trims the neck, cuffs, and hem. Sleeves start with a 2 X 2 garter rib leading into a plain stockinette on the arms.

The hem is vented, the back sitting lower than the front. Vents are a convenient feature, expanding on command for those beer 'n' pizza nights at the Green Dragon. They also make it easier to grab your wallet without exposing your beer gut to all at the table.

I knit flat pieces separately to get the most texture from this yarn. It almost looks like a well-worn tweed. I found that when I knit in the round I get a "hairy puff ball" pattern, which is more suitable for Orcs. The gauge is 22 sts wide by 28 rows deep over a 6" square on US 10 1/2 needles. This made for a quick knit.

The front pouch isn't very functional, but very roomy. It works better as a hand warmer. I wouldn't put my keys in there. The construction isn't complicated. Stitches are picked up through the middle of the garment, knit downward, and knit in with the body at the hem. The pouch sides are sewn to the body making them appear almost "invisible."

It takes a total of 984 yards of Old Gold (12 balls X 82 yds) to make this medium men's sweater. "Silky Flammé" is spun from Peruvian wool, alpaca, and silk which makes it feel light weight and warm. The silk gives the yarn a burnished sheen like autumn oak leaves. Overall, I think this is the quintessential "messy guy" sweater that no Halfling should be without.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Knit PH at Freddy's Bar, Nov. 15, '09

Beer and balls at Freddy's — I arrived to find Valerie meditating, she looked so at peace. "Reiki" she calls it.  I set up the swift and winder quietly and set out some yarn for the exchange – ancient Berroco poly-wool (circa 1980). Valerie put a few skeins out too.

Done! Diana's handsome cardigan is finished, pockets and all. My photo doesn't do justice to this fine piece. Honey comb cables and seed stitch make for a sweet design. The antiques button with an embossed "1" close the deal.

Eliza is sending off our blankets to the Afghans for Afghans charity. It's hard letting go of these beautiful pieces — as Adrienne demonstrated. With the way this war is going this might be an ongoing charity. Eliza brought in a few more loose squares for the next round and started on a new set. So did Diana.

Although I posted the patterns on our Meetup page, many Knit PH members would like a little instruction on the Afghan project so we decided to make the next Meetup a "granny square workshop" for knit and crochet— so I guess I know what I'm doing this winter.

Valerie's green hat is getting bigger. It might make for a round pillow cover if she doesn't stop. Eliza on the other hand doesn't look that pregnant yet. Sarah is finishing part two of her tea cozy, it's larger than I though it would be. I guess her parents drink a lot of tea.

Mari frogged a scarf and started a seed stitch neck warmer, Diana approved. If you think about how a scarf really works one rarely uses the full length unless it's wrapped around the neck 6 times or so. I finished the last sleeve of my sweater and went to the bar for another beer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Knit PH at Prospect Perk Cafe, Nov. 10 '09

This fall weather has more mood swings than a poetry major gone off-meds — freezing rain one day then a muggy mid 50's the next. It's hard to figure what to wear when you leave the house. Golden ginko leaves are the last to fall on blue slate in Prospect Heights, which means the short days of winter will soon be here.

I'm digging into my stash to put aside yarn for the Afghans for Afghans charity blanket drive. As I root through my bins I'm reminded of my collection of singles gloves. I only lose the right glove for some reason. Why do I keep these things? I wonder if there's a charity that takes single left-handed gloves — a sinister charity?

"Do you speak Spanish?" Emma asked. She and Silke were the first to arrive at Prospect Perk. I'm not very good with crochet instructions and my Spanish is OK at best. The crochet instructions were in fact English, but although a long-time Brooklynite, she is from Venezuela. We definitely need a knit to crochet form of Esperanto. Mari gladly lent a hand. She took a break from her scarf. Meanwhile Silke is reacquainting herself with knitting.

Diana is new to the group, she lives just a few stops down on the 2/3 in Brooklyn Heights. She's making a handsome orange cardigan with Knit Picks "Swish  DK" for her year-old grandson. It's her own design, rich with honeycomb cables and seed. The front and back are sewn together, now all it needs are sleeves. I admired Diana's Boye™ Needlemaster, a full set of interchangeable circular needles. It's the best deal going at around $40. Diana recommends washing and blocking each piece before sewing. I tend to block the whole garment when I'm finished, but washing a large wool sweater is cumbersome — like sponge bathing a baby seal.

Sarah is also new to the group, she live towards Crown Heights. She's making a dove gray tea cozy in a  2 X 2 rib. This belated Christmas gift for her parent is a great beginner-project. At first Sarah said that it was OK if she went off pattern, but halfway through she ripped it out and started over as mysterious holes developed. Meanwhile. I've starting another sweater. As I dug deeper into my stash I found 17 balls of Elsebeth Lavold yarn stuffed in a bag within a bag. I should investigate my bins more often, or least organize them better.

As we gathered in this cozy coffee shop I marveled at the diversity of our neighborhood. Emma and Silke are both Venezuelan by way of Italy and Germany, respectively. They've lived here for over 30 years. Diana, a native New Yorker, is ethnic Cantonese from Great Neck. I'm a pacific islander, try explaining that to someone. Murat and Ori, the café owners are from Turkey. Now where is Sarah from? I forget, but she's globe trotted her way around to Africa and back.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Black Rider Saddle

My friend Heather asked if I'd been working out. "No, it's definitely this sweater." I said as I ate my slice of pizza. My Black Rider saddle sweater is finished! The saddle structure makes for very broad shoulders and a closer fit to the body. Initially I made it for myself (mens medium), but it turned out a bit snug around the chest (boy-rexic XL) — looks like Stephanie is getting a black sweater.

I think this pullover wears better on a woman. Here's my favorite sweater model, Brandy, demonstrating my point. Black Rider is knit on US 8 needles with 9 balls of Berroco Cuzco (merino/alpaca) — from the chest down US 6 for a slight taper. It's very soft, warm, and spongy, perfect for those blustery damp days.

Dragon bones are flanked by ram horns adorning the chest like hunting trophies while cables on the back roam freely like a running stream. The collar, hem and cuffs are finished with a simple 1 X 1 rib, ending in a 2-row knit roll for better definition.

Gauntlets arms frame the body like arcane wrought iron gates. They start at the forearm twisting down to the cuff. Cuzco has great stitch definition which makes for deep ribs and sharp cables. Although similar, the sleeves are not identical — cables twist at different rates ending in varying rib patterns.

Black Rider is knit down from the shoulders. The sleeves are picked up from the body and knit to the cuff. Back in April, I started this sweater as an exploration of cables on a knit ground. It's been ripped out over the course of months many times but the yarn has held up well. This is a testament to Berroco Cuzco's integrity and quality.