how does your garter grow?

August 30, 2010

i’ve been pretty quiet lately,
and there’s a good reason for that.
i’ve been lucky enough to test knit the xeriscape,
ms. mary-heather of rainy day goods’s latest design.

“Inspired by the richly textured rock and low-water gardens of the American southwest, Xeriscape is a shaped, scalloped scarf knit in a drapey and luxurious hand-dyed yarn. Worked in garter stitch, Xeriscape looks great in solid, semi-solid, and variegated yarns. The long, narrow shape makes it easy to wrap, tie, and wear in a variety of ways.

Xeriscape is perfect for beginners who are ready to work on shaping through increases and decreases, and still has the thoughtful details needed to make it a breezy, meditative knit for more experienced knitters.”

let me tell you,

there was something about the design i loved immediately.
and i knew i needed to have it when the pattern came out.
but to be able to test knit it? to be one of the first people to ever knit it?
that was special.

since this was going to be my first time test knitting a pattern, (officially)
i vowed to be swift and thorough.

but it wasn’t easy.

first, i had a week deadline.
mary-heather said i could take longer if i needed,
but the pattern was getting published in a week.
being bred from overachieving stock,
everything else got pushed aside.

but when it came time to cast on,
i could not for the life of me find a yarn i liked.
there was just nothing i had on hand that would work,
at least not the way i wanted it to.

and i needed the yarn now.

so i began knitting one in a yarn i thought might work,
but it just didn’t.
i hated my yarn choice
and it killed the design.
the end result was completely unworthy of the blog,
and it’s has been properly shamed and put away.

then, out of the west,
ms. tina newton,




which is ironic i think since she’s a vegetarian.

she had paula tackle the postman,
threaten him with a size q crochet hook,
and sent me this little lovely in record time*

it’s the lovely new yarn marine silk sport in the “spruced” colorway.
(isn’t it crazy how differently silk takes color?)
i wish you could see the beautiful iridescence
the subtle navy hidden beneath the calm green.
it’s beautifully soft and made knitting garter stitch worth it.

it is simply divine.

in fact,
take a few minutes to stop reading,
and order a sweater lot.

go ahead.

i’ll wait.



then, as my friend michael would say,
the flames were coming off my fingers as i finished the real xeriscape,
the one i could be proud of,
the one worthy of the blog.

isn’t it lovely?

and in honor of the spirit of mary-heather
and her lovely pup charlie,
i had my mo model the xeriscape

it’s very rare for me to knit for myself,
but this one’s all mine bitches!

go buy the pattern and knit one!

* this version of events may or may not be exaggerated. i can neither confirm nor deny if a postal worker was tackled/threatened.
but the truth is out there.

it took my ten days.
only ten days and a xanax.
by the end, my hand was cramping.
and i’m pretty sure if there had been any more edging,
i’d have developed “the claw.”

it took just under one skein,
(since i stupidly knit it with a size 6 needle)
but i’m confident that it will be the perfect size blocked.

what am i talking about?
why jared flood’s most recent masterpiece, the juneberry triangle.

it was definitely the most difficult knit i’ve done thus far

and yet,

once i got going,
things made sense.
and i got to thinking,
i meet so many knitters and too many of them say things like,
“was that an easy knit?”
“i could never knit that.”
“is it hard?”

when did knitting something easy become a badge of honor?
why wouldn’t you want to knit something that was challenging,
that took you to the edge of your abilities?
sure i like mindless knitting sometimes,
but knitting is like a puzzle to me;
it’s the figuring out part i love.

so no this wasn’t an easy knit.
i had to think
and pay attention.
in doing so, i figured it out.
and i conquered this mothah f*ckah!

tonight, it soaks.
tomorrow, the blocking begins.

in other news,
the travels of the girasole continues.
shara has been toting it all over the uk,
carrying it with her to historical sites,
and showing it off at yarn stores.

here it is at the wool clip

castlelrigg stone circle

(that’s shara on the right. not sure who she’s with but she looks cool. must be a knitter.)

she then took it to hadrian’s wall

and to see the angel of the north

my mom wrote me an email about the girasole.
she wondered if i was jealous that my knitting is traveling more than i am.
(because apparently she is)

i told her it’s the complete opposite.
i’m thrilled something that i made is traveling all over the uk.
i should start sending more knitting out into the world.
like a chain letter.
and people send a picture.

i feel a new project coming on.

whips and chains

June 10, 2010

i’m in an s&m relationship with jared flood.
or, to be more precise, his juneberry triangle.
initially, it destroyed my self esteem,
and seemed impossible to conquer.

i dried my eyes, dug down deep,
and countered with my own instruments of pain:
a mechanical pencil, graph paper, and a calculator.
and beat that mother into submission.

(the yarn is madelinetosh “pashmina” in copper penney)

the reason it was so difficult (at first) was because of the second chart.
if you look at people’s notes on ravelry,
all their trouble was chart 2 related.

the reason?
chart 2 doesn’t display a repeat per se.
rather, as the shawl grows
(from the yo’s at the sides and center spine)
one works the pattern into the new stitches if there are enough to do so.
remember, if you have enough stitches to do a decrease, you must do it’s corresponding increase. and vice versa. and you never do a double yo. that tip is key.

when you have completed the eight offending rows,
and are ready to work them all over again, there’s a twist:
the first stitch of the chart doesn’t correspond to the the first stitch on the shawl. instead, you continue working in the established pattern (and death death to all designers who use the phrase “work in patt”), stacking the diamonds on top of each other, and “growing” that pattern outward as more and more stitches are created. this coupled with the fact that there is patterning on both sides made me want to die a little.
here’s a closer look:

see how the diamonds “stack”?
that concept really helped me get over the hump.

i soon got into the grove of it.
since, actually, it’s a fairly easy pattern.
and banged out the second chart in an evening.

go me right?
not so much.

as i was finishing the second to last row of the section,
i saw a little “4” flashing in front of my eyes.
a closer look revealed it to read 4mm.
that would be a u.s. size 6 needle.
not the 7 the pattern calls far.


i am fairly sure that i started with a 7.
but must have needed them for a second.
(i use addi clicks so i probably clicked them off)
and then replaced them with 6’s for who knows why.
once again, the juneberry made me it’s bottom bitch.


my main point is this;
contrary to my original feeling,
this pattern is definitely doable.
it was just written in a way that isn’t standard,
at least when it comes to lace/charts i’ve encountered.

in my mind, it’s another example of a of a blight in our community: designers writing patterns, but not writing them for the dumbest possible knitter. if you’re good enough to design something like this, and then have one of your friends test knit it, of course they’ll get it. they’re probably good knitters, and they have you there to ask little questions. you need to have strangers test knit things, people who aren’t as comfortable with their knitting skills so that their problems will aid you in clarifying patterns.

and please, pay the extra money and write out a complete chart!
they’re already tiny so why not nix one photo of the shawl,
and put a chart there?

i’m done ranting.
something happy?
how about a couple of fo’s:

that’s anna’s february lady sweater,

and plain green socks for mitch,
a.k.a. lisa b.

(isn’t she a great foot model?)

it’s the fo’s that keep me going.
and photos like these remind me why i knit;
i knit because i love the feeling of making something beautiful with my own two hands.

so keep ’em coming jared.
i’ll knit whatever you can throw at me!.

and i’m here to recruit you.

(ten points to whoever recognizes that reference)

so by now, many of you have seen the “poll” on stephanie’s blog.

i have to say i am blown away by the shear volume of replies.
i never thought my late night appeal for help would cause all this,
nor did i realize how testy some knitters can get.
but i suppose if you poke the wasp nest,
you’re gonna get stung some.

so just to add another dimension to things,
here’s the prologue to the story:

i am a worker bee at natural stitches,
and it’s got to be the best job in the world.

this means that for our summer of socks and lace,
i compete against the rest of the staff, as opposed to the customers,
we get to knit at work,
which gives us an unfair advantage over people who can’t.

i personally entered the “double threat” category
meaning i’ll have to knit both socks and lace.

so obviously, i was keeping my eye out for patterns to knit in addition to the february lady, shetland tea shawl, stora dimun, and plain sock i’ve already started. (we knit as many items as we can)

when i came upon the whisper cables pull over

totally scammed the photo from veronik's flickr. all rights are hers.

i immediately said to myself, “that’ll do!”
and took the pattern into work to select yarn etc.

when i showed my coworker the pattern,
she looked at me like i was an idiot and said,
“you can’t do that. it’s not lace.”
(identities are being concealed to prevent possible teary phone calls)

the problem lies merely in the fact that we have two different viewpoints on how to judge what constitutes lace. i took in the whole image and said, “that’s lace.” she looked at the pattern and determined the necessary techniques that currently define lace in the knitting world are absent from the pattern.

i think that’s kinda dumb and exclusionary.
but i suppose definitions are meant to be.

she comes from the old school, steeped in tradition and love for st. elizabeth zimmerman. i’m from the new generation of knitters who’ve learned the craft online or in the new lys’s instead of from their grandmothers or mothers. hell, i learned to knit on aluminum boye needles and fun fur in the wee hours of the morning at meijer from a crazy knitter lady.

you can’t get much further from tradition than that.

the debate then spread to the rest of the staff:
what counts?
what doesn’t?
what about scribble lace?
what about things with yo’s but no corresponding decreases?
(like the simple yet effective)
if one technically follows the ez rules,
wouldn’t one have to count yo k2tog button holes?
what about hairpin lace?
which brought us to crochet and . . .

don’t even get me started on the crochet contestants.
i’m just gonna take their word on it;
if they tell me their project is lace,
i’ll believe them.
(honor system hookers!)

even though i see the deliberate instruction in the pattern to knit on a larger needle in comparison to the yarn in order to create regular patterned openwork, openwork stretched and held in place by the regular patterning of the cables, as a way of creating lace . . .

no one else did.

what did i do when everyone was against me?
(please note the comical melodrama, not sincere despair)

i appealed to a higher power.
the highest power to which one as lowly as i could appeal:
the knitting celebrity.

in this case, stephanie pearl-mcphee.

i filled her in on the basics and she suggested we put it to a vote.
i said what the hell!
what have i to lose?

and now you’re all caught up, selecting your a, b, c, or d
casting your vote to let the world know what you think about lace.

if i’m honest,
and i tend to be,
i knew going in that i wasn’t going to “win” the argument.
my only hope was that a few voters would see things the way i did,
so i wouldn’t feel like some crazy face knitter.

so last night,
i decided to start reading through the comments
me and my little friend pouilly-fuissé:

(please note my great grandmother’s crocheted lace doily. irony?)

the harlot said i needed a beer for this,
i was out.

let’s look at some of my favorites from that initial peekaboo:

anna wrote:
A. He can’t be serious… Since when is cable knitting with fine gauge yarn and big needles lace?

i am serious and maybe since now?

gretchen wrote:
Put me in the A camp. When Steven finishes a real lace shawl, let’s see what he thinks of his theory then!! Sorry, buddy. A

i have actually. and i gave it away. it now lives in london. my theory still feels pretty good.

sally wrote:
Steven, I’m going with whatever answer gets me that skein of cashmere. (Otherwise I’d have to go with C leaning towards A) But I really, really want that yarn, so if you like I will write a Treatise on Lace Options if needed and send it to your Store Ruler. Yup, I’m on your side.

that’s an awesome answer, a true harlot at heart.
(and a good way to win some cashmere)

willowcaroline wrote:
Well, I see it differently. When I looked at the pic of the sweater, I saw “lace” between the cables.. no matter how it got there. So B or D, which seems to be the minority opinion. I am not saying this is Shetland lace.. but that openwork look sure looks lacey to me.

yay! i am not alone.

rodger wrote:
I vote B.
And not just because Steven is cute.

um . . . what’s your number rodger?

there were some not so nice ones,
throwing around things like
“be a man”
“get over yourself”
“put on your big boy pants”
“man up”

how did my manhood get caught up in this?
when did cabling become easier than lace?
when did people start taking knitting so seriously?

ultimately, i’m going to bed with a smile on my face.
because little ol’ me,
born in detroit, and raised in the sticks of michigan
caused an international debate.

the great lace debate of 2010.

and queer as my perspective might be
(no wise cracks megan)
i found out some people saw things my way,
and that the definition of lace is debatable.

whether or not this sweater is eligible for the contest,
i’m still gonna kick their butts.

i recently received this question from pattylatty:


I’ve written to you before about your three Malabrigo blankets and finally bought a bag of Mal and have started one of the blankets. But recently I’ve been hearing about how much Mal worsted pills. So I thought I’d write to you and see if you have had any problems with that.

And why haven’t I seen you on the Malabrigo Junkies group? It’s a fun place to talk with people who are as crazy about Mal as we are.

Happy knitting.


well pat, there’s a few things i have to say on the subject of malabrigo.
if you make it into a sweater, it will pill.
but so will any other natural fiber.
the friction of body movements it just gonna do that.
malabrigo just pills more easily because it is a single ply.

now in terms of my blankets,

i can only speak for the zig zag.
(the other two of were gifts)

veronica and i used it pretty heavily this winter,
and while it hasn’t pilled,
it has a little halo going.
a nice soft halo.

you can’t see the spaces between the fabric anymore,
and the yarn has relaxed nicely.

i say go for it.

hell, you’ve already bought the yarn.

but if you’re really worried about it,
and can return the yarn you have,
get malabrigo twist.
just as soft but plied for durability.

if you can’t,
just add a pattern repeat,
and knit on a smaller needle (us 7/4.5mm)

hope to see the finished product!

chapeaux et cadeaux

February 8, 2010

i have this pet peeve.
i hate it when people point out a problem in the world, going on and on, and never propose a solution. it drives me nuts and i seem to encounter the phenomenon on a regular basis.

and yet, i kinda did that in my last post

sorry. it was a bitch ass move on my part.

so i propose my real tangible solution to startitis/knitting sluttery


let me explain . . .

finishing a given knitted object is the best way to curb startitis because it reminds one of such joys as, choosing a bind off or contemplating the best method for blocking. if nothing else, it gives the illusions to those non-knitters in your life that you actually do make things, and can create a good level of envy in your fellow knitters who have been toiling away on their tomten for six months.

so why hats?
first because i get to indulge my startitis by casting on something new but i can usually whip one out in a day thereby reminding myself that finishing something feels deeply better than the fleeting sugar buzz high of casting on. they’re also perfect for a forgotten birthdays or the pushy non-knitter aquaintence who wants you to make something for them. And luckily, i have my own basic recipe gleaned from many sources if i can’t find a pattern i like.

this fix of mine does of course presents its own set of problems.

the first, and most obvious, is fit.
(self explanatory i think but just in case: what if the hat doesn’t fit the person? i might do a gauge swatch for a sweater, i’ll even wash and dry it. but i’ll be damned if i’ll do one for a hat. besides, most of the hats i knit are for people i can’t measure anyway.)

the second, and most emotionally trying, is appreciation.
(will the non-knitter understand how much of you got put into this and how crazy fast you knitted it up for them? and if for a knitter, will they only see that twisted stitch and bad color jog, or will they see the love in each spiraling decrease?)

the third and most important, is whether or not the person you are sending your gift/hat to (often a non-knitter god bless ’em) understands how important it is that they take a photo of themselves wearing the hat so you don’t have a white square on your ravelry project page. (i call it the white square of death, but perhaps i’m more anal than most about their ravelry)

for example,
i knit this turn a square hat as a thank you/birthday gift:

Travis is a knitter and therefore photos promptly arrived in my inbox

(note the happy smile of knitterly appreciation)

and i knit this simple beanie (my recipe) for my good friend Kevin:

he does love his hat, and has worn it regularly for months now. however, he is not a knitter (the dear), and after months of begging, it was only when he came for a visit that i was able get the shot. (my ravelry page is that much more complete >maniacal laughter<)

note, not the glee of a knitter, but the toleration of a good friend willing to stand in the snow without a coat so the crazy knitter friend can put a photo on the internet and possibly blog about it.

my solution to these hat problems . . . prayer? that bottle in freezer?

i suppose any solution can be a problem in sheeps clothing and the only real answer is distraction.

so here loves, look at this pretty shiney handspun pghrachell made me on her brand new wheel.