January 27, 2006


I've been meme'd! Thanks, Jewel.

Four jobs I've had in my life:
1. Bookkeeper
2. Power sewing machine operator
3. High school English and drama teacher
4. Yarn store owner

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. Alice (directed by Woody Allen and starring Mia Farrow -- my all-time favorite movie!)
2. Hamlet (the version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, with Kate Winslet as Ophelia -- I cannot stand the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet)
3. Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen's musical -- some scenes set in Paris! -- fun, fun fun!)
4. Dances with Wolves

Four places I have lived:
1. a little suburb north of Seattle on the shores of Puget Sound
2. a little suburb north of Seattle with easy access to Interstate 5
3. a little suburb south of Seattle
4. a rural area south and east of Seattle

Four TV shows I love to watch:
I rarely watch TV, so I really can't answer this question. Instead, I give you

Four books I can -- and do -- read over and over:
1. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
2. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
3. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
4. The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz by Russell Hoban

Four places I've been on vacation:
1. Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada
2. Paris, France
3. Cancun, Mexico
4. San Juan Islands, Washington state

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Two Swans Yarns
2. My bank
3. 43things.com
4. Yahoo groups

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Chocolate
2. Lasagna
3. Blueberry pie
4. Watermelon

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Hawaii
2. Having coffee at a bohemian little cafe
3. Carmel
4. France

Four bloggers I am tagging:
I am taking a page from Rebecca's blog, here, and throwing this out into the open -- if you feel moved to respond to these questions, then consider yourself tagged! Go for it!

Knitting news:

Because Chinese New Year is next Sunday, because I'm in a sort of Nicky Epstein mode recently, I thought it would be fun to knit the Nasty Dog Dragon Scarf from Scarf Style. What's one more project? I'm not much of one for intarsia knitting, but I am reveling in the tangled mess I'm making:


Posted by Karen at 12:31 PM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2006


Our Feral Fair Isle knitting group had posed ourselves this challenge: To get as much knitting as possible out of only two 25-gram hanks of Shetland jumperweight yarn. No fair jumping up to size 5 needles, either!

How much knitting can you get from two hanks?

The answer is: a lot!

My way to resolve this problem was to knit a stocking cap. My plan was to graduate the tapering down to the pointed end, by judging how much yarn I was using up as I went along. Unfortunately, I didn't get more than about 4 rows done on Monday, so the cap still is unfinished, and doesn't look much different than when you last saw it:


I used size 2 needles for the ribbing and size 3s for the main portion.

Andrea started working a week earlier on her Challenge Project than I did, and has a completed pair of mittens to show for her efforts:


Andrea reminded me, in a good-hearted way, that when I'd first proposed this Challenge Project, she had said, "Oh, you can get a pair of mittens out of two hanks," and I'd said, brashly, "No way!" She'd done it before (twice!), and she knew. Me'n my big mouth -- I was eating those words on Monday. But if I'd listened to her in the first place, then we wouldn't have had the Challenge Project, would we?

Here she is, modeling her mitts (and isn't that a great Fair Isle vest she's wearing, too?):


Her mittens were made from Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in the colors Black and Cherry, knitted on size 0 needles. She used the "Checkered Mitten" pattern from The Swedish Mitten Book (unfortunately, now out-of-print). Very cleverly, so as to have as little yarn left over as possible, she started at the wrist with a provisional cast-on, and knitted both mittens to their tips. Then she picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and knitted the cuffs downward so that she could make the mittens as long as possible. Isn't that a brilliant strategy? She knitted both cuffs at the same time, using the technique of knitting one mitten from the yarn at the outer part of the ball, and the other mitten using yarn drawn from the center of the same ball. (Only, of course, this was two-color knitting, so she was knitting with a ball of black yarn and a ball of cherry yarn at the same time, drawing the yarn for one mitten from the outer parts, drawing the yarn for the other mitten from the centers.... My mind boggles.) Andrea had half-a-dozen little lengths of yarn left over, and each of those was only a couple of inches long.

But the piece de resistance of our Challenge was June's tea cozy:


She's knitted in the words to the children's rhyme, "I'm a Little Teapot." She knitted from the lid downward to the base, and finished off the bottom with a few rounds of corrugated rib. She knitted steeks for the spout and handle -- here's a close-up of one finished-off steek:


(Please excuse the tippy angle of this picture!)

After all of this knitting, she still had yarn left that needed to be used up! So, in keeping with the Shetland origins of Fair Isle knitting, she used several rounds of Old Shale lace at the top (Old Shale being a traditional Shetland lace pattern). And, she knitted a coaster to rest the teapot on:


I'm extremely impressed with how June approached solving the Challenge. It's probably obvious to you that her tea cozy required far more advance planning than my hat, since June had to chart out the words to the poem; she started her project months before Andrea and I started ours.

June used Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in the colors Willow and Rosemary, and size US 2 needles for her tea cozy. She brought along a little baggie of her leftover snippets; like Andrea, she had half-a-dozen little pieces of yarn, none longer than about three inches. (Weavers call their leftover lengths of warp thrums; needlepointers call their snippets of thread orts -- what do knitters call these bits?)

Even though I'm still finishing up my hat, I'm eagerly wondering what our next Challenge Project might be.

Posted by Karen at 12:59 PM | Comments (8)

January 23, 2006


ChallengeProject 001.jpg
Those Feral Fair Isle Knitters will meet again tonight. Since this is our meeting closest to the grand Scottish holiday of the anniversary of Robert Burns's birth, this is the deadline for those of us who are participating in the Challenge Project to show what we've knitted. (Lest that sound like a non sequitur, let me explain that we chose Robert Burns's birthday as our Project deadline because Fair Isle knitting is so closely associated with Scotland -- and, at the time we challenged ourselves, January seemed like a decent interval into the future.)

I spent some time over the weekend working on my Challenge Project. The challenge is to see how much Fair Isle knitting you can get from two 25-gram hanks of Shetland jumperweight wool. What you see in the photo above is what I've done so far. It's about 5-3/4 inches tall; the ribbing is 136 stitches around and knitted on size 2 needles, and the main part is 160 stitches around and knitted on size 3s. All stitch patterns are from The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting; the yarn is Jamieson's Spindrift in the colors Sapphire and Black.

You can see by the size of the balls of yarn at left that I've got some knitting to do today in advance of tonight's meeting.

The other project I spent time on this weekend was the clearing out of the garage, with an eye toward the goal of turning the space into a studio for my weaving and other creative projects. Since we've moved into this house, 2-plus years ago, the garage has been full of boxes of books, old toys, various kitchen items that rather obviously don't get used very often, and more books. (When we first moved in, Scott had stacked all of these boxes all very neatly, with a path on either side down a center stack of boxes, and more boxes against either wall; as time has passed and we've from time to time rummaged through boxes, anything resembling order has been lost. With no small sense of irony, I will confess that there's been, sitting askew on top of some opened and shoved aside boxes on top of my weaving bench, a book on Feng Shui. Ah, yes, the art of placement -- I must learn that, some day.) So over the weekend I did some unpacking, tossed out some things, identified some things that can be donated to charity, culled some books to sell or donate to the library. Converting the garage into a studio is not a one-day or even a one-weekend project.

I was re-inspired to work on the garage last Thursday. That was the day that Laura-Lee and I went to see the Bellevue Art Museum to see the exhibit by local bead artist David Chatt. (This exhibit has been so popular, it's been held over into February at BAM. Read a review of the exhibit here. In the Chatt exhibit, Laura-Lee's favorite piece was the Wisteria Vessel, while I liked the Ivory Tower. We both were amused by the piece called Confrontation in the Green Room. )

The first thing you see, entering this exhibit, is an installation piece -- it's the bead artist's studio. And it literally is his studio, dismantled from his old house, waiting to be moved into his new house, and in the meantime installed in the museum. Take a look at David Chatt's home page, and you'll see what I'm talking about: the shelving and countertop with beads and various small trinkets were installed in the museum. What you don't see in the photo but what was there in the museum were also his purple chair, side table, lamp, his current-work-in-progress draped over the purple chair. He has a very neat and orderly studio, with the beads all arranged by color.

And I thought, I can do that, too -- have my studio with my yarns arranged by color.

More motivation for this project came from seeing a few woven pieces at the Bellevue Art Museum (not part of the Chatt exhibit, but other textiles that were on display), and having conversation with Laura-Lee, who is not only a knitter, but also a weaver, and just in general, an all-around creative and artistic person. Turned out that Laura-Lee has the same goal of clearing out her garage to turn it into a studio. And we made a date to go to the Seattle Weavers Guild, whose January meeting is coming up this week.

In Two Swans news, I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new book, Nicky Epstein's Fabulous Felted Bags, and kits for the projects in this book. I received in advance two kits for two of the bags so that I could make shop samples. So here's a preview:

Abbondanza, the Italian word for abundance. The leaves, stems, and berries on this bag are knitted and felted separately, and appliqued onto the bag. The bag has a small flap and a one-button closure.

Tropicana, a large tote adorned with parrots. The branches that the birds are sitting on wrap around onto the back side of the bag. This one is knitted using the intarsia technique.

Don't be misled by the size of these two large bags. The book also has several smaller projects, for use as an evening bag, or for a kid's bag. There's also a bag called 'Swanderful, which has a swan on it -- can't wait to see it! The book and the kits will be arriving any day now.

Now, back to finishing up my Challenge Project before tonight's meeting!

Posted by Karen at 09:10 AM | Comments (7)

January 18, 2006


We've had quite the rainy spell: 27 consecutive days of rain. There was so much rain, our street flooded:
Projects 001.jpg
There's a bit of blue sky in the photograph. That's because I took this photo on Sunday, which was the first (and only!) day we had no rain. The water over the roadway was actually much deeper and more dramatic during the previous few days, but I didn't want to walk down in the rain to take a picture of it.

It rained again on Monday, but that didn't stop the Ferals from meeting. We watched as June knitted up the thumb of her glove and presented us with her completed Glove #1 of our knit-along:


June has the good knitter's work ethic, and immediately began casting on for the second glove. (I caught her in mid-sentence in this photo.)



Wendi (above) was working on two matching sweaters for her nieces, using some yarn inherited from her grandmother. Wendi said, very sweetly, that her grandmother "left behind lots of unfinished projects, and I'm sure my mom will, too, and when the time comes, I'm sure I will, too." I loved how sweetly, and matter-of-factly, and totally without any whisper of feeling guilty about it, Wendi was able to say that she has a lot of projects.


Ryan, at left, told us how many projects she finished in 2005, while Diana, at right, tried on June's glove.

Which brought us to the topic of knitting journals. My New Year's resolution to keep a knitting journal is supposed to help me to keep my momentum going on projects so that I can work those projects to completion. You might be wondering whether I've kept the resolution.

I ended 2005 by making a preliminary list of all the projects that are currently on the needles that I want to finish, and projects that I want to start soon. There were 15 items on the list. Hmmmm. 15 items, that's like knitting 1.25 items per month in the coming year. Hmmmm. So that was Step 1, creating this list.

Step 2 was going to the office supply store to look for potential journals. I haven't completely made up my mind as to what format I want. The journal will be more useful if it is not too bulky or heavy to carry in my knitting bag. I went to the office supply store two weeks ago to see what was available; there I found a fancy spiral bound notebook that allows you to interleave dividers into it. But it had only 5 dividers for five subjects. Well, that would mean that I could only include 5 projects, I thought. But that might be okay, that might force me to focus on only 5 projects at a time, get them finished, then move on to the next 5. This thought was immediately followed by the thought that, if I really wanted to work on more than 5 projects at once, all I'd have to do is to buy two notebooks. At the prospect of buying two notebooks I panicked, and fled the store.

In the interim, I've been recording my daily knitting work in the typical kind of spiralbound notebook with ruled paper that students use. It ain't fancy, but it allows me to keep my resolution.

Yesterday, I went to a different office supply store that carries a different selection of products. I found these:

Projects 010.jpg

A 3-ring binder, and dividers for 15 subjects . . . er, projects. This is still in the trial-and-error stages, and has yet to be seen whether is will become too heavy or bulky to be useful.

Back to Ferals's glove knit-along. I had begun working the hand portion of the glove. The pattern would have you knitting the palm side in a sequence of stripes, alternating main color (MC) and contrast color (CC). In my very strong opinion, that's not a very good way to knit Fair Isle, because of the potential the fabric has to buckle when knitted in stripes for any great length. If you carry the CC in your left hand and the MC in your right hand, as I do, the CC stitches come out a little larger and more prominent -- which is very desirable for a stitch pattern. However, if you're knitting stripes, you'll have these columns of slightly more prominent stitches overpowering (and potentially buckling) the columns of slightly less prominent MC stitches. It's just not as pretty as it could be.

So I had made up my mind from the first that I would knit the palm in a checkerboard pattern.


I was happily knitting along, making a checkerboard on the palm, but following the pattern directions for the thumb gusset. I got this far when I realized that the thumb gusset was coming out in stripes, naturally. (At the top left in the photo, you see the checkerboard on the palm, and at the top right, the striped thumb gusset.) I thought it looked really strange, a striped thumb and a checkered palm. So after getting Allegra to take the photo of my glove, above, I ripped back, and will re-work both the palm and the thumb gusset in a checkerboard.

But the glove is on hold for a little while, due to my two newest projects.

The first of these is not one I would have predicted a week ago that I would be knitting:

Projects 009.jpg

It's the Shedir chemo cap from Knitty.com, and I'm using Rowan Calmer out of stash for it. It's for the wife of our accountant, who was diagnosed with cancer last week and had surgery last Thursday. I love this color of Calmer -- it's so soft and feminine. I am thinking healing thoughts for her as I'm knitting it. (The Shedir cap was designed by Jenna Wilson. Click here to read how she designed it.)

My second new project I began during our Ferals meeting last Monday night. It's my entry in our 2-hank Challenge Project to see how much Fair Isle knitting we can get from just two 25-gram hanks of Shetland jumperweight wool. You can see that I chose the Black and Sapphire combination:


What will it be? Stay tuned.

Posted by Karen at 12:10 PM | Comments (6)

January 11, 2006


I greatly amused myself at the Ferals meeting on Monday night by taking a photo for my blog of Rebecca taking a photo for her blog:


(She's taking a picture of the legwarmers she's knitting for her best friend. To see Rebecca's point of view, click here.) For some reason, the zoom setting on my camera had gotten stuck that evening, so any zooming in or out I had to do by physically moving closer to people or further away. Rebecca looks like she's smiling, but she's actually gritting her teeth and saying, "Karen, would'ja just take the picture, already?!" Rebecca is as enthusiastic and energetic about the New Year and setting goals as I am. Check out her list!

Diana was working on a Fair Isle bag, a design by Beth Brown-Reinsel that appeared in Interweave Knits a few issues back. She's using Spindrift for the yarn for it.

And Ryan, seated behind Diana, was finishing up the baby sweater she's been working on.

Also with us that evening were Devorah, working on a Fair Isle vest; Norma, working on some lace swatches; Susan, gathering more ideas and more yarn for future projects; Andrea, approaching the end of the Estonian Garden Wrap; and June, who showed us a completed Fair Isle tam she'd made for her husband (an annual tradition), and who was knitting the fingers on her Floral Fair Isle glove.

I'd brought my Floral Fair Isle glove-in-progress. It's part of our knit-along, after all. And although I got the thing out of the bag, and fondled my yarns, I managed to keep myself busy talking all evening and didn't knit a stitch.

Since last I showed a picture of my glove-in-progress on this blog, I've been having second thoughts about the colorwork on the cuff -- and third thoughts, and fourth thoughts, and on and on. At first, I was going to do a peaks and waves sequence of blues (moving from a medium blue, to a lighter one, to one even lighter still, and back again, in diamond shapes). But what made me abandon that plan was that I've been wearing my Bronte scarf recently, and I love the green color (Yorkshire Tweed 4-ply in the color Lustre) that I knitted it in, so I wanted to incorporate that color into the gloves. (I have half a ball of Lustre left over from the scarf, so why not use it?) So I was going to make a band that would be a background of Lustre with some Fair Isle work on it. Let's not revisit how many times I changed my mind about what contrasting colors to use. Suffice it to say that, after trying and rejecting many yarns, I noticed that one of the tweedy flecks in Lustre is exactly the same shade as the Spindrift color Jade:


Jade is a color that isn't much used or loved. At Two Swans Yarns, it's a color that I've never had to re-order. But see how it pops, against that Lustre background? (Kinda makes me want to go get my sunglasses.) Jade is right at home here, on my Floral Fair Isle gloves. And it amuses me to find such a good use for a color that is . . . so unpopular . . . so assertive . . . so nonpareil.

Once I was in the groove of having fun and playing with the colors, I chose Brill Pink for the center of this peerie -- and, to make it even more fun, decided to use all three colors in the center rows. ("Brill" must be a British-ism for "brilliant." Back in the days of my youth, we would've called this color "hot pink.")

Brill Pink is from Rowan's Scottish Tweed line of yarns. The very dark blue tweedy color that I'm using for the glove's background is Knight; it and Lustre are from the Rowan Yorkshire Tweed line of yarns. Jade is, of course, a Jamieson's product. All of these are Shetland wools, all knit to the same gauge, and all can be intermixed in one project.

The peerie is a stitch pattern that I picked out from The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting.

In other Two Swans news: I was delighted to find in my inbox an e-mail from Chiaki, who's one of Two Swans's steadiest customers. She sent me photos of a sweater she recently completed:


It's the Hjaltland pullover from Simply Shetland Book 1. Chiaki used Jamieson's Double Knitting in the color Clyde Blue. Nice work, Chiaki! And I'll bet the person who received it as a Christmas present was delighted to get it, too.


And that little bundle of fun is Chiaki's new puppy, named Chibi. Awwww.

Posted by Karen at 01:15 PM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2006


For the first time in years, Scott and I didn't go out for New Year's Eve. Instead, we spent a quiet evening at home, watching movies on TV. First we watched Groundhog Day. Then we watched Cinderella Man. If I had that evening to live over again, I'd watch those in reverse order.

Groundhog Day is one of Scott's all-time favorite films. So much so, that whenever it's happened to be on tv in the past few years, he's had to drop everything and watch it. This habit of his didn't escape Allegra's notice. On her own initiative, she put a copy of Groundhog Day into my shopping cart on Amazon.com so that I could buy it on her behalf so she could give it to her dad for Christmas in 2005. (Ain't online shopping grand?) So we were primed to watch it for New Year's Eve.

I settled in with my Level II vest knitting to watch Groundhog Day. We've had the movie on so often around here in the last few years that it had become sort of background noise. But this time I watched it more carefully, even while knitting.

This movie turned out to be an excellent choice to fit the mood of New Year's Eve. Bill Murray plays a tv weatherman who's assigned to cover the annual appearance of the groundhog in what he considers to be a real podunk town. If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Of course, the groundhog does see his shadow, and there are six more weeks of winter. Bill Murray's character is, in Jungian terms, full of shadow -- he's egotistical, cynical, he uses people. And he becomes trapped in that town, doomed to relive the same day over and over and over again, until he confronts his shadow and reforms into a virtuous person. His transformation is slow, but he does eventually become someone who does good deeds and wins the heart of the girl.

And the movie is full of witty and wonderful dialogue about the nature of Time:

"Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today."

All in all, very fitting for New Year's Eve, as we make resolutions to become better people, as we consider the passage of time.

I can sum up Cinderella Man much more briefly. We'd heard it was inspirational, so we rented it for the evening. It's the movie where Russell Crowe plays the boxer who becomes world champion. Yeah, it was inspirational enough, if two hours of guys pummeling each other can be considered inspirational.

I hit a milestone in my knitting, that evening. I started out the evening by knitting a couple of rounds on the vest, which was about 10-1/4 inches long. Then I realized, Hey, I'm at the center round of the repeat -- this would be a great point to start the armhole and neck shaping. I put all the stitches on a string so that I could take the needles out of it and try it on -- and that confirmed my hunch that the length was not too long and not too short, but just right. I've been on the fence as to whether I would steek the vest, or simply break and work the fronts and the back in rows back and forth, and the determining factor was how much yarn I'd have. I started with a total of 5 hanks of this purple dye lot, and wouldn't want to use up a lot of yarn in a steek if I thought I might run out of yarn. But, I've used only about 2-1/2 hanks, so I decided to go for the steeks.

After trying on the vest, I put the stitches back on the needles. Counted and re-counted stitches to ensure that I'd set the steeks in the right places. Referred to Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design book to refresh my memory about shaping. And then, with much sense of accomplishment, put my underarm stitches and center neck stitch on holders and cast on for the steeks:


Knitting two rounds, then setting steeks may not seem like very much knitting to get done in an evening, but I considered it highly symbolic progress, good for my psyche. The vest has progressed from Phase I: The Ribbing, through Phase II: The Lower Body, and arrived at Phase III: The Upper Body Shaping -- and just in time for the New Year.

In other knitting news: I've been making lots of notes about projects, with an eye toward my New Year's Resolution to keep a knitting journal. I believe the knitting journal will serve a purpose similar to the kind of journal that dieters are sometimes asked to keep, where they have to record what they ate, how many calories it was, where they were, and how they felt when they ate it. I imagine that the benefit of a journal like that is that the day comes when you look at the piece of fudge and ask yourself, Do I really want to record that I ate that? And you can forego the indulgence. The journal helps keep you on track. Similarly, with the case of startitis I've been feeling recently, and how vulnerable I feel when faced with the prospect of a knit-along, and how many knit-alongs are springing up for the New Year all over the place on the internet, I expect the knitting journal will help me to focus on the projects that are already on the needles without starting a gajillion things willy-nilly.

In addition to the Level II vest, and finishing Level II in general, here are a couple of my current projects:

The Feral Knitters are doing a knit-along of the Floral Fair Isle gloves. I've been working on my first glove, recently, and having fun choosing the colors for it. I've tried to get a good photo to show here, today, and it's just been a blur. (It's a trick to take a photo of something that's on your own hand.)

The Feral Knitters also have going a Challenge Project, the deadline for which is the Scottish poet Robert Burns's birthday. (Actually, the Feral meeting closest to the birthday, which will be January 23.) The challenge is to see how much Fair Isle knitting you can get from just one 25-gram hank of a main color and just one 25-gram hank of a contrast color of Shetland jumperweight yarn.

With the deadline fast approaching, I've been considering colors for this Challenge Project.

Some colors enliven each other:
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like Mulberry paired with Amber.

I also think Mulberry paired with Rye are really effective:
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And I'm loving how Sapphire, when paired with Black, just glows:
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What would you choose? Leave me a note in the comments -- you're not limited to the three choices, above.

Posted by Karen at 03:05 PM | Comments (8)

January 02, 2006


I Am Running into a New Year
by Lucille Clifton

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twentysix and thirtysix
even thirtysix but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

From: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir by Lucille Clifton

Posted by Karen at 05:04 PM | Comments (2)