Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wine for knitters

Stephanie Pearl McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, came to our neck of the woods. ( She came all the way from Toronto, Canada to Petaluma, California to promote her newest book, The Yarn Harlot Casts Off, right here in our county!

She was delightfully funny and entertaining. Operating on almost NO sleep (see her blog for details), she still managed to project her warm humor to hundreds of people who showed up to hear her. And she stayed at Copperfields bookstore until past 10:30 p.m. to make sure everyone who wanted to got her autograph in their book. She had about a one hour drive back to her hotel in San Francisco, and a 3 a.m. wake-up call to get to the airport to catch her flight on to Seattle the next morning. But still, she remained gracious and kept her good humor. Amazing.

I wanted to share a bit of the wine country with her. WG, as you've probably guessed, works for a winery, so we have no shortage of wine around here. In fact, it's threatening to take over our house. Soon we'll be forced to do what one of the employees of another winery WG worked at did--make furniture out of the cases of wine he was given by the winery in lieu of decent pay.

But what wine to give? Stephanie did not respond to my queries about what wine she likes. I'm not upset, given the huge volume of mail she must deal with every day (she regularly receives HUNDREDS of comments to each of her blog posts). I know she likes beer, but had no idea what kind of wine. Red, white, pink? Sweet or dry? Light or bold???

Finally, it hit me.

(You might have to click the picture to read the label and see what the wine is called)

Well, duh!

The wine maker and WG graciously signed the bottle for her, and I included a corkscrew in case she felt the need to drink it before schlepping it back to Canada.

But just in case,

I whipped up this felted wine tote to protect the bottle in her luggage.

Incidentally, Jazmine, the brain-damaged dog is overly fond of stealing my knitting and chewing on it. so this is what I had to rig up to dry the tote after felting:

Oh, and here's the "before" picture:

The tote was a little wide--I just guessed--but it serves the purpose. I hope Stephanie enjoys it as much as I enjoy her books and her visit here.


Stay tuned--next time more felting.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Ratty Old Sweater

This is my ratty old sweater. I knit it about 10 years ago. I love this sweater.

It’s made out of Woolease, so I can throw it in the wash.

It pills.

So what?

(Except for the time it needed an emergency wash (for reasons I’d rather not say), tossed it in the wash with whatever was in there—happened to be WG’s lab towels, and it picked up a million little WHITE balls of towel lint that I’m STILL picking off).

It’s got a small but unnoticeable tear in the button band.

So what?

It’s lost its buttons permanently.

So what?

It’s a little misshapen from many washings (it looked very nice when it was new, HONEST!!!!!!!), but

So what?

It’s warm, it’s soft, it fits over anything. It has huge pockets that hold tons of tissues when I or the little one has a cold. It’s there when I need it, and I love it. It’s everything a sweater should be. The ultimate comfort sweater.

Here are the particulars:

Title: Diagonal Jacket_

Pattern: Knitters 22, Spring 1991, page 28

Designer:Nadia Severns

Yarn: Woolease Sprinkles

Color: Various colors which have now been mostly discontinued

Gauge: 4 stitches to the inch

Needles: Not sure of the size (probably US6), but I think they were 40” Susan Bates Circulars—I used those coated aluminum ones in those days.

Size: Large

Changes: I knit this all in one piece, which made it challenging because of the intarsia. At one point, there were 22 of those round, doughnut shaped plastic bobbins (EZ Bobs-- hanging off this thing.

The doughnuts made the whole thing heavy and awkward. I called it the “octopus”.
My workplace had a retreat and I brought it to knit on during the discussions. Trying to follow the conversation and wrestle with all of those bobbins was a challenge. But my coworkers were understanding, and it was really COLD at the retreat center, so I had a nice, warm thing on my lap.

Notice how there are little side vents? Because I chose to knit it in one piece, I had to cast on provisionally at a point where all the bottom edges met. I knit up to the armholes before separating out the fronts from the back. I completed the fronts and the back and joined the shoulders together in three needle bind off. Then knit the sleeves down from the shoulders, but back and forth rather than in the round because of the intarsia. When all of that was done, I went to the bottom, picked up the provisionally cast on stitches, and knit down each section to form the vents. The whole thing was finished off with a round of applied I-cord.
This was the first time I did knit-in pockets and they came out great.

There are a few hidden tweaks. I added some short row shaping in the back of the neck for a better fit. I had just taken a class about short row shaping from Sally Melville at SW, so I knew what I was doing. Not sure if I even know how to do that today if it’s not written into the pattern. I was much smarter back then!

The other tweak is that I missed two stitches on one side of the pink stair step located at the top of the back—very noticeable, but not, unfortunately, until I’d finished the entire back. Instead of ripping, I decided to duplicate stitch where those stitches went. It looks absolutely perfect from the front, but if you look closely on the inside, you can see the repair.



Blocking: Minimal damp blocking on towels on the living room floor.

Buttons: A friend of mine let me raid her button collection for some large old black round buttons. They may even have been bakelite. But they have all lost their shanks in various washings and fallen off, so now I wear it without buttons.

What I liked: Knitting with Woolease was really pleasant. I couldn’t afford the Takhi called for in the pattern, but the Woolease was soft and knit smoothly and easily. And the whole sweater cost about $40.

Knitting in one piece to avoid most of the seaming was a good strategy. I’f I’d had to deal with bobbins and matching all those color blocks, I’d have shot myself! This way, they all match, PERFECTLY and smoothly.

I love all the colors in this pattern. I like that it’s washable. I won second prize in the county fair for this sweater. It’s the only thing I ever entered, and I was very excited to win and see it on display.

What I didn’t like: I hate intarsia, and this sweater is a lot of the reason why. This is not something that you can have little butterflies with a yard or two of yarn. Since I was carrying the pattern across each front and the back, each bobbin had to be filled with many yards of yarn to avoid having to add yarn in the middle of a color change. It was heavy with yarn bobbins that clackered together and were unwieldy. But, the results were worth it.

It took me about 5 months to finish this sweater. I finished it (sewing up, weaving in the ends, blocking) on the hottest day of the YEAR. It made just trying it on unpleasant, but then I was able to resist wearing it before I entered it in the county fair. Overall Impression: This sweater has been my faithful companion for perhaps 10 years now. I love it and I’m happy I knit it. Would I knit this again? Not likely because of the intarsia, but I wish I could wave my magic wand and make it new again.

Stay tuned. Next post is about what kind of wine to give a knitter for a gift.