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Crazy for Ewe

Victorian Lace

The most beautiful book arrived from XRX this week: Victorian Lace Today. The photos alone are enough to warrant taking this book home for your coffee table! Victorian mansions and gardens, elegantly appointed interiors, and fabulous knitted lace stoles, shawls, and more grace its pages as well.

I am totally in love with this round pink ethereal thing, but am much more likely to knit the small scarf


While lots of the designs will appeal to teeny tiny needle knitting goddesses, there are many others for mere mortals like myself. Perhaps I'll follow Nicole's example and use one of the silk or silk and wool yarns -- maybe the stunning Karabella's cream colored Empire Silk. Wouldn't it be spectacular with the trim worked in a lace-weight mohair and the stockinette body worked in a coordinating silk...hmmm Alchemy Haiku and Synchronicity are starting to run through my mind.

As I said in the most recent e-mail, in honor of this lovely book, fingering and lace weight mohair, alpaca, and cashmere as well as selected dk weight yarns will be on sale today through next Saturday, November 18th. So, come in for 10% off Rowan Kid Silk Haze, Cascade Kid Seta, Colinette Parisienne, Alchemy Haiku, Plassard Superfine Alpaca, and S. Charles Ritratto, Artyarns Regal Silk, Fiesta La Luz silk, and Grace, Louisa Harding’s spectacular dk-weight silk and wool single ply.

And here's one last image to tempt you...

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Withholding judgement

I’ve finished the Horndal scarf. This was a funny project. I loved the colors and I love the yarns, but as I began working them together it didn’t seem right. Frankly, I thought it was ugly. I asked everyone if they thought it was ugly. No one quite had the chutzpah to say, “Why, yes, Ellen, that’s the ugliest scarf I’ve ever seen,” but you could see it on their faces. The digital photo I posted on my project blog was especially unflattering. But I’d already committed to the yarn, wound it, and worked several repeats, so there was too much invested to quit now. And I think to myself that this is how people get stuck for 15 or 20 years in a bad marriage. They realize early on that things aren’t quite right, but they make excuses for it, and the next thing you know, they’ve got 5 years in, and a couple of kids. You read about it all the time in “Ask Amy. She usually advises the relationship equivalent of “rip it out now before the yarn and needles and pattern are all ruined.” Well, hard decisions have never been my strong suit, so I kept at it.

So, Sunday, I finished the ugly scarf. I wove in all the ends and surveyed the thing in its entirety. It wasn’t ugly. It looked pretty good. You could see the rib and garter patterns move in regular succession; there was a pleasing interplay of the coordinating color shifts, and the blossom and silk garden provided the perfect counterpoint to one another. This scarf was not only not ugly, it was terrific. I loved it. And then my teenaged daughter came in and wound it once around her neck with the long ends hanging almost to her knees. It looked spectacular, and she asked if she could wear it to school. The ultimate compliment! So, I’m exceedingly glad that I didn’t rip it out. It was tough working through that doubt, but I learned something important. I should not pass judgment on things too early – not scarves, not relationships, not incidents, not people. Sometimes we need to look back over the lifetime of something in order to recognize its full pattern and appreciate its beauty.

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Happiness is a knitting project

Having just finished last month’s large project, the Faith Jacket, I’ve been a little bit edgy – unfocused. Not unhappy, mind you, just not really happy. And there’s a difference. So, what’s wrong with me? I don’t really know. Then my husband forwarded me an article from the Wall Street Journal about happiness. The article says it’s what we do and not what we have that really makes us happy. Okay, so what do we do to make ourselves happy? First, spending time with friends makes us happy. That’s certainly true. Probably part of the reason I’m nearly always happy when I’m at the shop. Friends old and new are always in for help, a new project, or for just a quick knit and chat. The article’s author cites research showing that there are parts of your brain stimulated only by the presence of other people, thus making you more active, energetic, and engaged. Absolutely true.

I read on about how we need to count our blessings, enjoy a good meal, commute less, focus less on salaries, and set goals and challenge ourselves. To be happy, the author opines, we should spend our leisure time engaged in activities we enjoy, setting challenging but achievable goals. And I realized that’s it! I don’t have any knitting goals. The Horndal scarf is in progress, but I haven’t established a goal for any big new project. So, as I ponder this fact, I consider the various knitting projects available. I could finish my Crayon Box Jacket. I could start the Collar Closing Cardigan. Or I could start one of two beautiful projects in various Noro books. The bottom line is, that it doesn’t matter which project I pick; I just need to get moving and focus on something.

In case anyone's interested, here are photos of the projects under consideration:

 

Collar Closing Cardigan



Silk Garden pullover by Jane Ellison



Kolsva by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton


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Horndal scarf

I love this scarf. It's alternating sections of Kureyon in garter stitch and Blossom in 2x2 ribbing. I decided to do it in silk garden and blossom instead of Kureyon and Blossom. It would also be great in a mix of the Nantucket (silk-mohair boucle) and Homespun (silk-wool single ply) from Ellyn Cooper.


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Finally Faith


So, black silk found, here is the Faith Jacket. I love this jacket. In fact, I think it's my favorite garment of the year. Like so many of Sally Melville's designs, it's so easy to wear, and universally flattering.

And speaking of Sally Melville, don't forget that she's coming here to little old Leonardtown this spring. I learn something new every time I knit one of her designs, and I can't wait to bask in her presence for two days. We'll begin registration for those classes in November, so watch your newsletter and this blog for more details.

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A fine day for finishing


Here's Kathy wearing her fabulous Geisha bolero jacket Alchemy yarns. Hand-dyed cashmere and silk, this is so lovely. And doesn't she look regal in it! I especially love the lace cuff. That's one of the many things I love about Alchemy's patterns, and Kathy's knitting - both have such attention to detail.

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The prodigal yarn

 

I never really appreciated the story of the prodigal son. I was a fairly well-behaved child; I did what was expected of me and never got into too much trouble. So the idea that a brother who shirked his responsibility and skipped town would get a great big party when he deigned to come home, always seemed really unfair.I’ve heard lots of sermons on the topic, and it still irks me. However, in light of recent events, I might be able to understand the joy and delight of something that had been lost. Like my stupid yarn.

Granted, the yarn didn’t walk off by itself, but I’m sure it was tempted plenty of times. This Faith Jacket is worked in La Boheme, Jamaican Spice, with the most gorgeous shades of purple cinnamon, burgundy, and black. The colors melt into one another in a very pleasing way. The rayon boucle and mohair compliment each other off perfectly, and the effect is quite spectacular. Enter black silk yarn. The purpose of the black silk is to provide a contrast and relief from the multi-color strips. And I never thought too much about it - until Saturday morning when I couldn’t find it. By Sunday I was obsessing, and by Monday I could think of little else. Even the lovely La Boheme couldn’t cheer me up. So, when I found the silk Tuesday, I was thrilled. It is cause for celebration. Come Friday morning and we’ll have a party for the prodigal yarn.

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Losing my Faith

Oh how frustrated I am! I’m just a few stitches away from completing my Faith Jacket, and I’ve run out of yarn. I have more in the shop, but this stuff is 165 yards per skein, and I need maybe three yards. So, this I can deal with. However, I am so unbelievably stupid, that I’ve lost two skeins of black silk I was using to crochet the strips together. How do you lose two skeins of yarn? I’ve asked everyone who was in on Friday if they had seen it, but no one has. These wonderful women helped me look, and even looked among their own things, but to no avail. Perhaps I put it “in a safe place”; perhaps I accidentally tossed it when I was cleaning up. Note to self: never clean up. This is so frustrating. I don’t deserve this jacket.

So, today, I went to the shop and scoured everything. It’s not in the sale bin. It’s not under the table. It’s not in any of my dozen knitting bags. Not in the car; not in the bedroom; not under the bed; not on the sofa; not under the chair. Not in a box, not with a fox, not in a train, not in the rain. I do not see it here or there, I do not see it anywhere. So my stomach churns with the following thought: Is it possible that I threw it out? Possible, yes. Perhaps even likely. My mother once lost a bank envelope containing $500. She found it in the trashcan in the garage. Would I go dumpster diving for 2 skeins of black La Luz? Maybe – only the dumpster’s been emptied.

So, I’m so angry with myself that I cannot even knit. For me, knitting is a little reward I give myself when I’ve completed my work. Something that brings me joy. I don’t deserve joy. I’m careless and disorganized. I need to be in the stocks with a sign over my head that says: “Ye stupid knitter – lost 2 skeins precious silk” I deserve to be pelted with skeins of Red Heart yarn in garish neon colors. I should be forced to knit acrylic yarn with bent aluminum needles. That would teach me to be more careful.

So, what to actually do. I ask myself, What is this jacket called again? Faith. Hmmm. Perhaps I'm not meant to finish this jacket right now. Perhaps there's something more critical to be done. But what? Who knows. But until then, I will wait, and I will have faith.

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Knit in Peace

Yesterday we received a small order of books at the shop. Among them are Stitch 'n Bitch, my all time favorite book for beginning knitters under 30, Mindful Knitting, and Knitting for Peace, a new book about various knitting related charities and projects.

As Kathy and I chatted and made coffee, we talked about the books and how they each speak to the particular way that knitting and community go together. The term "Stitch 'n Bitch," coined and copyrighted by Debbie Stoller, has spawned hundreds of knitting groups, not unlike our Friday morning Coffee for Ewe and the Wednesday Workshop. At these kinds of events, we come together to knit and to be connected. When we are here we are somehow with our own kind. We are in a place where we are understood and accepted. And there is tremendous power in that kind of community.

There is also power in the ability to quiet and calm with the simple act of knitting. In her book, Mindful Knitting, Tara Jon Manning talks about how knitting is like meditation. We find comfort and a clarity of focus in the repetitive stitches. We all tend to have at least one simple project on our needles at all times when we need to just immerse ourselves in the soothing silence of knitting. I find that knitting makes me better able to handle stressful or anxious situations - like waiting. If I have my knitting, I'm a much more patient person. An hour in the waiting room is almost like a gift - an hour to knit and think quietly that I might not have otherwise taken for myself.

And finally, Knitting for Peace - a new book that addresses the basic human principle of service to others. This book details dozens of charitable programs in which knitters can participate. It's a beautiful book with a beautiful message. There are so many opportunities to serve others and bring peace to the world one step at a time. There is enormous power in knowing that you are part of something larger, and that you can do your part to improve the life of another human being with a simple act of kindness.

As we go through life, we pass back and forth on a continuum of giving and receiving. There are times in our life when we are drained and need renewal and comfort from others. It is those times that we crave the time spent knitting in community. And there are those times when we are blessed and in a position to give of ourselves. And there is always a need for reflection and contemplation as we discern where we are on that continuum.

Knit in Peace
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Not a Celebrity Scarf

But it should be...
This is a free pattern from Skacel yarns for a beautiful short row scarf. The It's much easier than it looks. This scarf looks absolutely fabulous in hand-painted yarns from Ellyn Cooper, Artyarns, and Colinette. So, here it is:

On a size 10 1/2 needles, your scarf will be approximately 5" wide and 54" long.
Gauge is about 3 stitches to the inch.
You'll need about 200 yards of yarn.

Beginning Triangle:
Cast on 1 stitch
Row 1: Increase 1 in this stitch by knitting in the front and back of the stitch (2 stitches)
Row 2: Increase in first stitch; knit to end (3 stitches)
Repeat Row 2 until one side edge triangle measures 5"
Begin short row section:

Short Row Section:
Row 1: Increase 1 in the first stitch, Knit 2 together (k2tog), turn work around
Row 2 and all even numbered rows: Knit
Row 3: Increase 1 in the first stitch, knit 1, k2tog, turn.
Row 5: Increase 1 in the first stitch, knit 2, k2tog, turn.
Row 7: Increase 1 in the first stitch, knit 3, k2tog, turn.

Continue the short row section as established, increasing the number of stitches knit between the increase and k2tog by 1 stitch in every odd-numbered. You will soon find that you don't need to count, as k2tog is done on the two stitches on either side of the gap in order to close the space. Work until the last two stitches of the row have been knit together. Turn. You should now have all the stitches on the needle in your left hand.

Repeat the short row section until you have about 8 yards of yarn remaining.

Finishing the Corner:
Count the number of stitches on your needle before you begin this section. Work short rows as established until half of the stitches have been worked. (round the number up to the next whole number if needed). Then, knit2tog at the beginning of each odd-numbered row. Work until 2 stitches remain. Knit them together and fasten off.

I'll try to post a photo of this completed shortly. It's just lovely.

If you like this pattern, you should definitely check out Iris Schreier's Artyarns site. Iris is an amazing designer who's taken this whole modular thing to the next level and beyond. She offers a great free multi-step tutorial that will open up a whole new world of modular knitting for you.

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