Chameleon Changes Form

Ribbed Chameleon

When I should have been fast asleep in a post-feast haze on Thanksgiving night last Thursday, I was up late watching the Alan Arkin classic The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and starting a new Ribbed Mini-Scarf. It turned out to be a welcome change of gears from my other projects, and in two days it was finished.

If the yarn looks familiar, it’s because I frogged Bainbridge Scarf I and used the yarn, Chameleon by Karabella for this my second Ribbed Mini-Scarf. As you may recall, when I made the first Bainbridge Scarf the results weren’t the best, and it was pretty much destined for frogging from the beginning. How satisfying to make something that knits up quickly!  I really like this yarn, too; it’s very soft. The button is a spare button to a cardigan I bought at Target last year. I used a 4 mm circular needle. This pattern is available directly from the designer’s website (click on Ribbed Mini-Scarf above) and as a pattern download through Ravelry.

We did some cleaning around the garden today and I have to show you the size of the leaves off the maples in the adjacent woodland….


They are truly the size of dinner plates (diameter: 10.25″/26 cm), and if I’d thought about it, I could have used them as placemats for Thanksgiving.

A close call.

I discovered Twist Collective over the weekend and caught wind of Sylvi in the process.  If you don’t know if you know Sylvi yet, and if you like cables and cool looking coats, Sylvi might just fit the bill for you.  I came really close to ordering the yarn and the pattern within hours of meeting Sylvi, which would have caused me to throw my other projects aside.  So fickle.  So typical. I can’t bear to look at the picture, really, because every time I do, my heart rate goes up, and well…. I guess it’s what some people go through when they look at some heartthrob of the moment, like Brad Pitt or someone. For me, it’s knitting that does that. Okay, well, Robert Redford in the 1970s or Mel Gibson in the 1980s did do that for me back in the day. You get the picture.

My son and I were in a minor car accident last week. Lots of fun with insurance companies and the lot. Other driver accepts full responsibility. We’re fine other than a bump and a small cut to my son’s head. Luckily the guy doing surveying work in the middle of the road didn’t get hit. Whew!

I’ve been enjoying this mammoth, nearly 2-pound box of Godiva that miraculously recently arrived at my door as if in answer to my prayers, “I need chocolate.” While, by no means the quality it was once was, Godiva still falls in the category of chocolate; it’ll do, especially during these crazy days of the car accident, contentious 30th high school reunion planning committee meetings, and holiday meal preparation. Everytime I look at Sylvi, I take a piece of chocolate. Zephyr has the best perspective on how to deal with stress: just kick back and role on the floor.

To make things even sweeter, my neighbor just gave me this beautiful necklace for taking care of her houseplant while she was away.  How pretty!  No?

A Painful Tale of Process Knitting

Grand Duchess is progressing about as fast as paint peels.  That means about a row a day.  Let’s see, that would put a finish date at about late 2010, after you factor in taking my current average of about 2 days a week off from it. The good news is that I think I’m finally getting into the groove with it, and I can plan on about 20-30 minutes to finish one row that has patterning in it and about 10 minutes to finish one row with stockinette for the shawl body (the border always has patterning in it). There are a few reasons why it’s coming along better:  1) dying the yarn crimson makes it easier to see what I’m doing; 2) I’m using KA Bamboo circular needles; 3) I’m using dental floss for a lifeline.

Lifelines
I tried using various fibers for a lifeline, but none of them were very satisfactory, mostly because other fibers drag the mohair through the stitches, which makes it really hard to rip out if necessary.  I tried using nylon fishing line, but that was hard to see and it slipped out too easily.  So for all but the last 8 cm of the 24 cm (9.5″) I’ve knitted so far, I’ve gone without lifelines. And it’s been painful.  However, one day I was listening to David Reidy’s Sticks & String podcast (highly recommend it) and he mentioned using dental floss in his knitting, and what a huge difference it makes in Grand Duchess. The dental floss is soft enough that it just lays within the stitches, it has enough drag in it to so that it doesn’t slip out, but it doesn’t have so much drag as to pull the mohair through the stitches. And it’s minty-fresh!

Needles
I am now using KA Bamboo Classic circulars, but quite by accident. One day I had to break the yarn because of a snag, and being too lazy to get scissors I actually tried breaking the with my hands. Silk doesn’t break easily and by the time the yarn broke, I also broke my KnitPicks Harmony wood 2.25 mm fixed circular needles!  Digging around my stash of needles, I came across the KAs which I’d bought at Bad Women Yarn and were packaged (by the manufacturer) as 2.0 mm but miraculously turned out to be 2.25 mm (luckily I hadn’t used them on a project yet, although it probably wouldn’t have made a huge gauge difference in this project).  These are really nice needles!  There’s the durability of bamboo, very nicely crafted needle points and excellent cable joins to the needle, which turned out to be much better than the cable joins of the Harmony fixed circular on which the fine Orenburg yarn stitches kept getting stuck.  So the needle switch turned out well and besides, I didn’t like the Harmony 2.25 mm needle tips and feel that they could be better finished, and the red yarn against the mostly red Harmony 2.25 mm made it hard to distinguish the stitches, which took me back to the beginning of the whole project when the yarn was grey and I was using light colored metal needles.

Actual Knitting
In the pattern a typical stockinette row looks like this:  border pattern (ranging in 18-22 sts in width), 273 sts of stockinette, ending the row with another 18-22 sts of border pattern.  A typical pattern row for the body has yarnovers and K2Togs throughout and requires close attention to the count of the pattern.  A typical patterning of rows for the body of the shawl has two rows of pattern, followed by two rows of stockinette, and while the stockinette provides a welcome relief from the close attention to detail that the pattern rows require, it also means that mistakes can go unnoticed until as many as three rows later.  Noticing mistakes three rows later means ripping back rows to fix the mistakes if the mistakes involved dropped stitches or, if it involves just losing a stitch, then picking-up a stitch where the body meets the border or at some other well-planned location within the pattern (not easy to do because you can’t see how the knitting is coming along because it’s so fuzzy).  Ripping back a few as one row can set me back a week or two of knitting depending on how bad the mistake is (or how hard it is to figure out where I went wrong), because as I remove stitches, other stitches come undone with it, but that should be less of a problem with the addition of the lifeline.

Orenburg Yarn
Containing 80% mohair and 20% silk, Orenburg yarn is a sneaky little minx. Don’t be misled, the yarn is very slick to deal with so  that even the stockinette rows require fairly close attention. In fact, the yarn is so slick, I’ll rest my hands in my lap for a few seconds to look at something else or answer someone’s question, and pick the knitting up to find 20 stitches have conveniently slipped themselves off the needles, with a few of the stitches coming undone in the process.  Getting them all back in place is like creeping-up on our wiley formerly feral cat Zephyr when we have to take him to the vetrinarian:  “Shh, be very quiet.  Close the doors to the room he’s in.  Don’t breathe. Don’t move a muscle. Okay, get him!”  One false move, and I’ll be darned if more stitches come undone in the process of putting them back on the needles.  If I were to use a simple merino wool or similar low-fuzz fiber, this project would move along much faster for a few reasons: 1) it would be easier to see my mistakes before I get too far along, since the way the pattern works, I do not to know that I’ve made a mistake until three rows later when the pattern count is off; 2) I would be more able to fix mistakes without having to rip back rows by using a crochet hook; 3) I would be able to rip back rows easily without fighting the mohair to give up a stitch, causing me to damage the mohair in the process; 4) the unspun nature of the silk (there is no twist in the silk, so it’s just strands of silk lying together, loosely-wrapped with lots of fuzzy mohair) makes it easy to split the silk strands and the silk slips off the needles suprisingly easily; 5) the fuzzy nature of the high percentage of mohair makes it hard to see the fine silk strands, and if I don’t catch the silk strands, then I inadvertantly lose stitches because the mohair will not hold the stitches, and I often have not realized it until 1-3 rows later; 6) I have to knit the stitches in an exagerated manner, because if I knit in method and at the speed I normally do, I don’t catch all of the yarn with the needle or yarnovers simply slip of the needle without my even noticing it until, you guessed it, 1-3 rows later.  As a yarn, I don’t like the way it is spun, or lack there of, and the mohair makes the yarn slubby, so it’ll be smooth for a 3 inches and then there will be this fat bump of mohair (which later forms a ball of mohair when stitches are undone), so it doesn’t produce the fine shawl I’d envisioned. Finally, Orenburg really doesn’t like to be undone, and the more times it gets undone, the more the yarn develops lovely clumps of mohair along the silk thread, that require stretching and smoothing it out with my fingers just before it gets knitted.

What do I think about this project?
I can’t quite make my mind up about the project yet, and maybe I’ll know better when I’m done. I can visualize making another one of these, but only without Orenburg yarn. Would I try it again with Orenburg? Maybe, but check with me in 2010 when this project is all done. Would I recommend Orenburg yarn to other knitters? Not enthusiastically.

Birthplace: Tuscany

Fresh off the needles: Kusha Kusha Scarf.

Kusha Kusha was cast on during a day trip through Tuscany in late September.  We were on our way to Volterra and it was a beautiful day.  Rolling hills, topped with farm houses flanked by tall cypress trees.  The fields had been harvested, so the dirt lay as a dusty taupe blanket on the hills.  Grapes were still on the vine, hanging in all their succulence, tempting the lips, and tempting the camera.

Knitting Kusha Kusha. Well, it is entirely stockinette stitch, so there’s not a whole lot of entertainment value in the knitting, and in fact I was surprised how long it took to knit. The way it is knit is that for the first two-thirds or so of the scarf you knit the strands of superfine merino (I used brown) and silk-wrapped steel (black silk with glints of steel peaking through) together as one, and then at about the two-thirds mark, it’s just the silk-covered steel strand.  I discovered that although there’s nothing magical or mystical about knitting with silk-covered stainless steel, it wasn’t as easy to deal with as it appeared because the yarn doesn’t just wrap itself aroung the needles like typical fibers, but it bends and you wrap it around the needle.  It doesn’t exactly fight being knitted and it’s not like trying to knit with cable off your TV or anything, but it just has it’s own mind despite it’s threadlike appearance.

The best part about the whole project is felting it, because just when you think it’s not going to look any different, suddenly the fibers open up and felt and you have this very interesting piece of subtle wearable art to hang around your neck. After I felted it, I pulled at the rolled edges in various places to give it a toothsome edge.  Ironic for me that Kusha Kusha is so subtle and that the project I finished just before it is Norah Gaughan’s Cabled Coat, which is so in your face, that when I wear it, people do double-takes (which, isn’t quite me, I have to admit).  If it weren’t so slow going, I’d jump on it to make another one, but I think I’ll wait on that for a bit.

Would I recommend knitting a Kusha Kusha to anyone who has yet to try it?  Absolutely.  Why?  Because it has to be experienced.  You’re knitting with stainless steel, for goodness sake, and it’s just too different a concept not to try it.

Out and About

(I tried to post this on my phone last Saturday, but for some reason the WordPress app. for my iPhone was acting-up and wouldn’t let me post it after I’d written the whole thing.  These apps. that developers create for iPhone seem to be a bit unstable to varying degrees, and it just makes getting things done on the device kind of unpredictable (think: roll of the dice). I was relying on my phone to post because we had to erase everything off of my Mac and re-load it all, and so I couldn’t use my Mac until recently. So here I am a few days after my intended post date, re-typing (because iPhone doesn’t do cut and paste or copy!) the post onto my Mac and finally posting from my Mac instead of my iPhone, which was supposed to be my back-up for posting.  Go figure!  And then while trying to post from my Mac a couple of days ago, WordPress was acting-up and wouldn’t let me post again!  It just goes to show that the very devices that are supposed to make our lives easier, just make it harder to accomplish much.  So here’s my post.)

We were out and about Saturday doing a few errands, which included going back to the Genius Bar at Apple Store to out why my iPhone Calendar and Contacts weren’t syncing very well with my Mac.  And because we’re driving around, I have a hodge-podge of stuff to cover.

I saw a cute sweater at Nordstrom, in fact there were a lot of cute sweaters, all of them synthetic blends with great styling, but ridiculously overpriced for synthetic, even despite Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly Sale prices.

Err, well, take my word for it, despite the photo this sweater coat looks cute.

While riding in the car during our errands and knitting Veste Croisee, I lost one of my stitch markers, so I made a new one using an emergency seatbelt cutter (there is a practical application for that otherwise useless stocking stuffer from Christmas past afterall!) and a plastic straw.

Just-made stitch marker.
New stitch marker in action.

We found the first Carl’s Jr.® we’ve seen in this state in North Renton, Renton Highlands to be specific, and my husband was beside himself with joy (apparently, it’s one of three in Washington State).  Recently opened, the place was packed.  We can only hope that an In-N-Out Burger will soon follow suit.

We wrapped-up our drive with a stop at Newcastle’s best kept secret, Sweet Decadence Chocolates, which opened earlier this year in a storefront in an office building on Newcastle Way. Located just off Coal Creek Parkway and a couple of miles south of Factoria, this place is worth seeking. Although I will succumb to Milky Way bars and Junior Mints I am a chocolate snob, and often avoid such small start-up chocolatiers around here, because honestly, many of them just don’t understand good quality. Sweet Decadence is an exception, and my second visit proves that it’s worth visiting. In the ten minutes I was there, there was a steady trickle of regulars and the two women behind the counter were very enthusiastic about their product. Heck, their kitchen is covered in granite countertops. I think they’re serious about their product, don’t you? I came away with truffles flavored with port, raspberry, blackberry, pumpkin spice, and my new favorite, raspberry with habanero. If you ever find yourself on Coal Creek Parkway, stop in for some chocolate to sweeten your drive.

Trip Plunder

I’m finally posting some pictures of the knitting stuff I bought during my trip to Europe.

Two-100 gr./1250 m. skeins of Cento Undici by Sandilane SAS, 100% washable merino wool, 2-ply in antique rose.

Four-50 gr./90 m. skeins of Opale by Adriafil, 47% acrylic, 36% mohair, 17% wool, colorway 90.

Three-50 gr./70 m. skeins of Andromeda by Lana Gatto, 50% acrylic, 26% polyester, 22% mohair, 2% lamé.

I believe these buttons are horn with plastic shanks: one 30 mm. and eight 18 mm.

Four 27 mm. buttons with abalone shell tops and one 34 mm. button that looks like it has birdseye maple encased in plastic.

I bought this 30 mm. pewter button at La Droguerie in Paris for Veste Croisée.

Whew! Of course, not pictured here is the alpaca and mohair yarns bought for Veste Croisée.  After I bought all of that Cento Undici, I thought I’d overdone it, figuring that one skein would have been sufficient for a nice lace shawl, and I wondered what would do with the extra 1250 m. skein. But then my copy of Nancy Bush’s new book Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns, and Traditions arrived and then I remembered that along with my copy of Victorian Lace Today and my Ravelry queue I’d have plenty of options to use all 2500 m.  I’m really looking forward to knitting something with it, but it won’t be until next year and until I get some other projects done.  As for the Opale, I thought I could make a fun simple scarf with it, and the Andromeda is for my mother, who fell in love with it the last day we were in Montecatini Terme, Italy, and asked that I make her a scarf of it for Christmas.  Other than the pewter button for Veste Croisée, the other buttons I bought just to have on hand for future projects.  Actually, the few times I was around buttons, were more tempting to me than the yarns because the buttons were amazing, although they were pricey.  Afterall, I have plenty of yarn in my stash, so I was relieved that I came away with as little as I did. I guess having a yarn stash makes up for all the times I didn’t knit because I couldn’t afford most yarn for large projects (and wasn’t really into scarves—i.e., back then I thought to “really” knit I had to make sweaters—and didn’t know how to make mittens and socks yet).