Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Cambrian Cowl Is Cursed.

I’m certain this project is trying to tell me something. Two mishaps in one day surely are an omen that No Good Can Come From This.  One mishap was completely my fault; I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing.  The other mishap, though, that’s the yarn’s fault. Totally.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMishap #1: Due to my apparently poor pattern comprehension skills, when joining the cowl in the round I accidentally placed the button band on top of the buttonhole band. So if there had been buttons on the buttonhole band already, they would lie beneath the button band. Fortunately I had only knit 4 rounds before I noticed. The frogging was minimal. I took no pictures, I disavow any knowledge of my own actions.

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There’s a tiny plastic piece from the inside of the endcap stuck in the blue cable.

Mishap #2: see photo. Yes, I broke a pair of Denise needles. You’d think I could just screw the end of the needle back into the blue cable, but you’d be wrong.

It’s not my fault, it’s the damned yarn, I swear. Up until that moment I had been loving–LOVE-ING!!–the Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky. Yes, it’s slippery, but it’s amazingly soft. It’s perfect for wearing close to the skin for warmth, and this will be such a great accessory when the weather gets cold again.  But somewhere while knitting a round the stitches bunched up right behind one of the size US 11 tips.  They were crowded together pretty tight and it was hard to spread them out a little.  While I was pushing the stitches around,  I heard a snap. At first I thought the cable had simply separated from the tip; that happened a lot when I used the Denise needles on cotton. The cotton stuck to the plastic needles. But the damage is not that simple. The small black plastic cap on the end of the cable snapped in two. Part of it is stuck in the needle, the other part stuck in the cable. It’s impossible to pull out, and even if I could, it would be impossible to glue back together.

Luckily it’s a five-minute drive to my nearest yarn store so I flew into town to get some new needles.  I bought a pair of K&A bamboo circulars and flew back home.  My cowl is saved and knitting is once again underway, but I’m still not completely happy. I’m having a hard time moving the stitches from the cable up over the join.  It’s a metal join attached to the bamboo, and it’s the same size needle as the other set I was using (obviously!). I knit loose enough so they weren’t tight and crowded, but it’s a chore to get them onto the needle. I’m just going to keep knitting, and hopefully I’ll finish this thing without further incident.

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Because I love this cowl. I really do. I love its style and simplicity. I adore the ceramic buttons I ordered from a seller on Etsy. They are going to look lovely.

I pulled the first part of the cowl I knit a year ago out of a bag and blocked it, as per the pattern. I am so glad I did. The first band is a 20-inch-long piece of stockinette stitching, so it curls like crazy.  Once blocked, it stayed flat. Picking up the stitches was effortless. I have been schooled on the need for blocking.

I’ve sat on this project for long enough and there was no need. No need! It’s incredibly easy and fast and the result is going to be a very polished looking piece.  Maybe the cowl’s taking its revenge on me for abandoning it for so long.

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One good thing about having to run back to the yarn shop was discovering these adorable little zip pouches. It’s hard to read but the character is called Miss Rabbit. The lettering on the pouch actually says Miss. Rabbit.  With a period behind the word Miss, although it’s not an abbreviation.  There’s absolutely no company name or logo on the pouch but my guess is it was made in Asia.  I love how cute these are! They will be perfect for dumping stitch markers into it. They remind me of my hometown of NYC when my sister and I used to prowl the little shops in Chinatown for exactly this type of kawaii stuff, like little notebooks, pencil cases, pouches and things. (Kawaii is a Japanese adjective for “cute, adorable, endearing) etc.  I kept the top bag for myself and gave the bottom bag to my sister as an early Easter present.

OK, enough bitching and moaning. I really do love this cowl. And Baby Alpaca Chunky? You know I can’t stay mad at you.

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Spectra Scarf: Finally Finished and Fabulous

Somewhere up above there’s a pig zooming around in the clouds, and somewhere down below they’re playing ice hockey, because surprise, surprise, I actually finished a knitting project.

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Yes, I finally finished the Spectra (designed by Stephen West) that I started way back in August. It’s not that I didn’t love knitting it, I just took my time with it. I cast on during the dog days of summer, and knit from time to time in the cool days of fall. I let it languish during the frigid days of winter–when one needs a warm scarf the most–and picked it up to finish a couple of days before the official start of spring. Since there has been a significant snow storm nearly every week since February, and there’s still a lot of snow on the ground, I don’t feel all that guilty about finishing it in the spring. It’s still cool and gusty out, even though the sun is starting to feel a little warmer on my back.  I may just get a couple of weeks’ wear out of this before retiring it until the fall.

I guess one of the reasons I worked on it so sporadically was due to the weight of yarn I used.  The pattern calls for fingering weight. I chose sport weight yarn. I’m happy with the results, but damn, the more I worked on the scarf, the heavier it got.  The solid color is Filatura Di Crosa sport weight wool; the multi is Noro Silk Garden Lite.  This was my first time knitting with Filatura Di Crosa. The yarn is super warm, very soft, and very, uh, sproingy.  It springs back just a little when touched. I’m a big Noro superfan, but the Silk Garden Lite, as with all Noro yarns, is scratchy and unevenly plied in places.  It goes from thin to thick and back again frequently. I hate the really thick stitches that stand out among the thinner ones, but you can’t beat Noro for astounding color changes.  A little Eucelin should take care of the scratchiness–it’s something Noro knitters know they’re going to encounter.

I wore Spectra today and I received a compliment on it from the cashier at the grocery store. She is also a knitter and appreciated a hand-knit when she saw one. She is a regular customer at Seed Stitch Fine Yarn as well. It proves once again that knitters are everywhere!

I don’t have any photos of me wearing the scarf because today I didn’t have anyone to take a photo of me. I took a few by holding the camera out in front of me but they didn’t turn out well.

I wouldn’t rule out making another Spectra in the future, but I’ll make it in the fingering weight the pattern calls for. So that brings me to my next crossroad: Which UFO should I finish next? I have a Noro sweater almost halfway done, but I’ll pick up something smaller first. In the running are the Cambrian Cowl from Coastal Knits, Lion Brand’s Cloudsong Cowl, and the Jaywalker socks.  I’m leaning heavily towards the Cambrian Cowl.  It takes bulky alpaca yarn, and it’s a  very quick knit.  The only reason I stopped is because the pattern called for blocking it a certain point before continuing so the cowl would lie flat when picking up stitches. I didn’t feel like blocking it.

I can be a real jerk sometimes.

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I Won A Yarn Crawl Door Prize!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here it is. A skein of lovely Malabrigo kettle dyed pure merino wool in Tiger Lily.  I won it from Hooked in Essex, MA.  They called me on Tuesday, and I happened to be home that day thanks to a snow day off work.  I drove to Essex today to pick it up and, man, I must be psychic because I kept thinking to myself all week, “Malabrigo would be nice, even if it’s just a skein or two.” I don’t know why I had Malabrigo in mind; I didn’t know what the door prizes were because I didn’t really peruse them when they were on display during the Crawl because they and the entry slips were positioned near the crock pots and baked goods. Hello, food?!?!  Maybe it was just wishful thinking because Malabrigo can be a little pricy.

I’m happy to take home a free skein of Malabrigo.  I’m going to scan the interwebs to find a nice one-skein project for this yarn.  It’s unplied but super soft an snuggly. Any suggestions, dear knitters?

This is the first Yarn Crawl door prize I’ve ever won. My sister and I seem to be on a door prize roll lately.  Back in December, a local movie theater held a fundraiser to raise money to pay for the equipment needed to go digital.  My sister entered their raffle and won dinner and a movie for two.  We saw The Hobbit for free and then had dinner afterwards! Both the movie and dinner were awesome.

While at Hooked I picked up a pack of sewing needles because, as usual, I can’t find the dozen or so I already own.  I have small notions bags stashed all over the house with knitting projects I’ve temporarily put down. So naturally, when I actually finish a project for the first time in a year, I can’t find any. So I bought more needles because I finally finished the Spectra scarf I started last August.  I just need to weave in the ends and she’s ready to hit the town.  This occasion will be celebrated with another fabulous photo shoot at the same location as the first, Forest River Park.  Until then, enjoy some beautiful Essex scenery, and a giant lobster sign.

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This looks almost like an Impressionist painting but I took it with my iPhone. I don’t know why it’s a little fuzzy but I like the effect.

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The sky and clouds are amazing today.

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Hungry?

Adventures in Bread Baking

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Last week I baked a loaf of Rosemary Olive Bread from a Weight Watchers cookbook called Turn Up The Flavor. I didn’t have any olives but I had fresh rosemary and all the other ingredients so I made it without the olives. Let me tell you, fresh-baked bread is amazing.  My whole house smelled like rosemary and cracked black pepper while this loaf baked in the oven. I’m proud of my freeform bread-shaping efforts here. I’ve only baked bread once before and I used loaf pans.  This looks like a nice crusty boule from a bakery.

This bread is delicious and dense, especially when toasted and slathered with butter. I see more home-baked bread in my future.

Yarn Crawl 2013 on Boston’s North Shore

It’s March, so once again it’s Yarn Crawl time! It’s time for the scenic drive from Salem to Gloucester and back again.  This year’s crawl seemed a little scaled back for some reason. Maybe it’s the economy, the “sequester” or the cold weather, but the stores I visited were less crowded than usual.  Even the Ravelry boards were quieter than usual as the Crawl approached.  *shrug* I scaled back a bit as well, crawling on Saturday only due to impending bills and my dental payment plan of $330 looming this week. So I gave up my Sunday route of driving up Route 22 to Newburyport. Stupid root canal…

My sister/partner in crawling came along as usual but didn’t spend any money this year.  I admire her restraint. I can’t say I practiced much of it myself Saturday, but compared to last year, I kinda sorta did.  Saturday was a beautiful day; sunny but freezing. We started our crawl at our LYS as usual: Seed Stitch Fine Yarns in Salem.

toilandtroubleFor the second year local dyer Ana from Toil And Trouble had a huge table bursting with colorful yarn at the front of the store. Can I resist gorgeous sock yarn? No. No, I can’t. Look at this spread. Ana is a one-woman color factory! It was hard choosing what color I wanted, but I knew it would be sock yarn, and I knew I would pick up two skeins because I didn’t want to run out in case one skein wasn’t enough for a pair of socks. The sign to the left is cut off, but it reads “Need sweater quantities? Let’s do it!” I like the way she thinks! Unlike some of the other stores, Seed Stitch was pretty crowded. Andrea at the cash register greeted us when we came in and said with a smile, “I knew I’d be seeing you today!” I love Seed Stitch and I’m so glad they’re in my own town. I chose two skeins of single-ply Superwash Merino in the color Kelpie from the Mythos collection:

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The flash on my camera’s obscuring the color a little, but you can see it pretty clearly. I like the little tags; they read “bookishly inspired.”  At Seed Stitch I also picked up the Spring issue of Vogue Knitting–just in time for another storm and 8 inches of snow on the ground!

farmsWe left Salem and drove through Beverly on our way to Beverly Farms.  I love driving through Beverly on Route 127 because the ocean is on the right the whole way.  We pass beautiful houses; some were built in the 1700s, some are new and mind-boggling mansions, as well as the beautiful campus of Endicott College.  I always sort of hold my breath before plunging into Yarns In The Farms much like a diver hitting the water because this store is very tiny and during Yarn Crawl it’s packed full of people.  It makes me a little  claustrophobic because the layout of the store means that people tend to mill around the entrance.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the store fairly empty. There is a large table near the front that was switched from a horizontal position to vertical and that made a lot more room near the front. I was happy to have a little breathing room (literally) but I’m sure they had a ton of people in and out during the Crawl.  I say this every year, but I love Yarns In The Farms for their eclectic vibe and funky attitude.  Some day I’ll take a class here, I swear!  My sister was disappointed that she didn’t see any CYE pattern booklets for sale this year.  I didn’t buy any yarn but I bought two small packets of roving for needle felting.

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Leaving Yarns In The Farms, we drive for miles and miles and miles through residential neighborhoods until we get to Gloucester.  It’s only a half hour or so, but sometimes the remainder of the drive seems endless until I start seeing signs for downtown Gloucester and its tourist attractions. I get somewhat restless until I know I’m approaching Stage Fort Park and the famous Gloucester fisherman statue. (No, it’s not the Gorton Fisherman, but it’s down the street from their offices).  Now Sis and I are excited: we’re heading towards Gloucester’s notorious Coveted Yarns–famous for staying open crazy late hours and during blizzards.  Their Yarn Crawl hours this year for all four days were 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. I know I can get quality spinning fiber here, and it’s become an annual tradition that Heather, aka Mad Color Fiber Company, takes over their back room with a huge rack of her hand-dyed yarn and fiber.  She never disappoints and this year was no exception.

Coveted Yarns was not as crowded as usual for the crawl; last year the cash register line stretched back to almost the last room in the store. I counted 20 people when I got on the line and staff members actually went down the line distributing free yarn to make up for the long wait! This year there were only three people ahead of me in line.  I picked up some amazing Blue-Faced Leicester in a color called “Police Box Blue.” Heh heh– It’s a special reference for special people. *coughscifigeekscough* Heather and I had a great fangirl discussion of the sci-fi TV show Doctor Who (it’s about an alien who travels through time and spacein a spaceship that looks like a blue old-time British police box, in case you didn’t know).  My spinning stash was greatly enhanced on Saturday.  In addition to the solid blue, I bought two braids of Shetland Combed Top in Acid Wash.

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The batteries on my digital camera died so i don’t have photos of the Police Box Blue on my spindle. So sad.

It’s become an annual tradition to pick up another bumper sticker at Coveted Yarns. Look at my car! So classy!

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This year, a new store participated in the crawl. Hooked Knitting in Essex opened their doors in January.  I do love investigating a new yarn store.  Foregoing Route 127, I took Route 133 over to Essex, and I could hop on the highway or stay on it to get home from there.  I like to have my driving routes perfectly planned, so if I seem a little OCD about describing them, forgive me. 🙂

onionringsThe first thing we did when we got to Essex was pull into Woodman’s Fried Clams.  This family-owned business has been thriving for over 100 years and is famous for inventing the fried clam. But I don’t like seafood, so I go there for the onion rings. Best. Onion. Rings. Ever. Seriously. Look at them! Woodmans is open year-round. In the summer the lines are out the door and around the block for their fried clams and fresh lobsters, and even on a cold day in March the line was almost out the door. 

Sated by onion rings, we set off to find Hooked Knitting, and, as far as Essex goes, the store couldn’t be more conveniently located.  It’s on the first floor of a bank building, but in the back, right on the only public parking lot in town. Since this was where I had planned to park anyway, I was pretty happy. (The OCD thing applies to parking, as well. Sorry!)

hookedHooked Knitting is a small and very pleasant store. The owner stocks some high-end stuff like Malabrigo and Shibui, with a good magazine rack in the back.  What set Hooked apart from the other stores on the crawl? Food! Yep–they had a lovely spread in a small side room with three crock pots, coffee and some baked goods.  “Have some lunch!” the owner greeted everyone as they came into the shop. It was here that I made my most extravagant purchase, and, as my dental payment looms, I feel a little guilty about it. I bought this gorgeous ShibuiKnits silk scarf kit.  Look at those beautiful colors! There was a sample knit in the store and the silk knits up beautifully.  These colors just got to me, they’re so organic. This will surely be a classic wardrobe staple once it’s done.

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So all in all Saturday was a good day.  Lots of new yarn to spin, lots of fun stuff to knit.  And the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem had some beautiful live Shetland sheep for visitors to greet outside the museum. They were holding a fiber and wool event! I don’t know if they held it during the crawl on purpose or not, but sadly, I didn’t go, deciding to buy yarn instead of learning about it’s history.  Most of the events sounded like they were geared more towards children, but I would have liked to watch the woman who spun fiber from the Angora rabbit sitting on her lap. Oh well. Maybe she’ll be back next year.

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my sister, as seen through a Woodmans onion ring.

my sister, as seen through a Woodmans onion ring.