Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Crochet: Inspiring Option or Distracting Dream?

Oh, the siren call of the Ripple Blanket...

OK, let me first state for the record that I am not One of Those Knitters. You know who I'm talking about...the nearly-militant anti-crochet zealots. Not large in number, but they're out there.

Nope, that's not me. In fact, the "problem" I'm dealing with lately feels like a sort of fiber-arts-related ADD--You'll note, I'm sure, the complete absence of "H," or hyperactivity ;-)

I adore knitting. And spinning. I've always liked to sew, and can spend hours in fabric stores. But lately, I've been finding myself attracted to crochet...Odd, since I've never been "a crocheter" in my life. Or maybe that's the point.

Who, after all, doesn't like a challenge. And with so many mouth-watering crochet books coming out, how can anyone resist? Books like this one, my new favorite (it has an adorable "breakfast set" pattern, complete with a retro tea cozy chocolate/robin's egg blue):

And this lovely collection of delights:

And this--complete with intriguing designer interviews:

See what I mean? Oh, what's a person to do with only 24 hours in a day?

To be honest, I count myself as fortunate, having a bit more "unscheduled" time than most people I know. So the solution to my little quandry is the ever-so-simple-and-yet-so-difficult task of moving beyond the dreaming and planning stage to the learning, practicing, and executing stage. I might find I love crocheting, or---horrors!---I might find I'm not very good at it.

Oh, well. I guess that's why it's so much fun to just page through books like these and dream of all the things you could make. Don't you agree?

Until next time...Think warm thoughts, and happy knitting (or crocheting)!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Blue Friday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomatoes by Bonnie Rollin (my mom), photographed in her Sacramento studio.

On Wednesday, a wonderfully balmy day in DC, I did the unthinkable: I left the house without my knitting!

Now, I was kind of in a rush, since Chris was working late and we wanted to have breakfast together. But I'd planned on sitting out in Dupont Circle in the afternoon, listening to podcasts and working on a pair of socks.

We were a block from home when I noticed my project was still at home...in our fourth-floor walk-up apartment. Really, really did not want to climb all those stairs again, to say nothing of the back-tracking I'd have to do to get home.

So I decided to do what any self-respecting knitter would do. I hopped on a bus, went all the way up Connecticut Avenue, and headed for the Stitch DC-Chevy Chase Circle store.

After a lot of squeezing, stroking, petting, and general yarn fondling, I purchased a bag of jewel-toned, rich blue yarn: two skeins of Debbie Bliss Pure Silk in a soft periwinkle blue, and two skeins Nature's Palette Fingering in Lupine--a lovely violet blue. My plan was to make Jane's Hedgerow Socks, which I've been eyeing for quite a while now.

So, yarn wound into a nice little cake, new Addi Lace circular needles in hand, I took the bus back down the hill to Dupont, and settled in on a nice sunny bench to knit in the glorious sun. The temperature was more than 70 degrees, no breeze...just a warm, wonderful day.

Knit four, purl two, knit four, purl two...The strand of Nature's Palette felt so silky running through my fingers, even more so than in the skein. Jane's Hedgerows were going to be mine.

But wait! Something's happening...Oh, no. Not again! The color, the texture---I realized with a sinking feeling that this yarn was not destined to be the JH socks after all. My "creative genes" were kicking in, not to be ignored.

What became obvious to me was that the Lupine was perfect for a pair of socks I've been dreaming up for about six months. Later that evening, I pulled out the pattern notes I'd been keeping and started charting the pattern and swatching.

I was almost derailed when I realized I'd have to knit these socks from the toe up (which I've only ever done on one pair of booties), but I persisted and all is well. My excitement is growing...This is going to be one cute pair of socks :-)

So here I am, knee-deep (well, almost) in blue yarn. And someday soon, I'll have a little surprise for you. Meanwhile, I have plans for the Pure Silk; a Chevron Scarf and my second Pink Granite sock to finish; and a halfway-designed cloche to complete.

Wish me luck...


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pulse Check Wristers (free pattern!)

Hi, friends...Thanks for checking in!

I've been really bad about keeping up my blog. Especially since Ravelry came along. But I feel it's important to spend less time ogling other people's knitting--fun as that can be--and more time writing. Writing is good.

During the past month I've actually been reading a lot, resting a lot, and knitting a lot...

I love the extended Daylight Savings Time, but when we changed the clocks this fall, the darkness came as more of a shock than usual, because it was later in the year.

As someone who thrives on sunlight, I think I've been suffering from a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It's amazing how many people have the same problem...at least among my friends and family. Or maybe I just befriend people who are so much like me that we all burrow away the minute darkness descends. Ugh.

That's one reason why I tend to celebrate Winter Solstice more than any other "Winter Holiday."

Winter sunlight at Dupont Circle

Another reason is the obscene amount of commercialism associated with Christmas. For this is the time of year when millions upon millions of people hit the malls with the battle cry: "Consume! Consume!"

Have you ever gone into a department store around this time of year and REALLY looked at the merchandise? So much of it is crap that--at any other time of year--we wouldn't even THINK of buying! And most of it is stuff that nobody really needs. I know I don't need more stuff... Though I always "need" more yarn ;-)

Well, to each his or her own, I say. We should all do what makes us happiest, since we have one crack at life and ought to enjoy every minute of it. I would just like to think that the gifts people give each other are meaningful, and that we all focus on quality over quantity.

So, to that end, I'm offering a little something you can whip up in an evening (or, if you take your time, in two evenings) and give to anyone who needs a little extra warmth and color during the winter. That person may even be you!

Pulse Checks are like tiny hugs for the wrists. Believe me, they DO make a difference in keeping off the chill...especially in older houses, which tend to be cooler. And that's good news for those of us who like to knit or crochet during the evenings!

Pulse Check Wristers

Yarn: Dale of Norway/Dalegarn Falk (superwash wool) in colors A and B (I used red and dark burgundy)
Needles: Size 5 DPNs or 32" circular/s (I used the Magic Loop method)
Notions: Stitch marker (optional) to mark beg. of round
Gauge: 24 x 28 = 4"
Size: Fits 6.5 to 8.5" wrist (I made my husband try them on to be sure!)

Woodsman's Check Pattern*
8 rounds in circular knitting
(multiple of 4)
Round 1: *K1 A, K1 B; continue from * to end.
Round 2: *K1 B, K1 A; continue from * to end.
Rounds 3 & 4: *K2 A, K2 B; continue from * to end.
Rounds 5 & 6: Repeat rounds 1 and 2.
Rounds 7 & 8: *K2 B, K2 A; continue from * to end.

*Based on stitch pattern found in Robin Hansen's Favorite Mittens

Here's the Pattern:

Ribbed Arm Cuff
: Cast on 36 stitches (in pattern is best, if you're so inclined) and join to work in round. Work seven rounds of K2 P2 ribbing, increasing 4 stitches evenly on 7th round.
(NOTE: To make nearly invisible increases in ribbing, knit into front and back of the knit stitch that comes just before purl stitches. The little "dash" formed by Kf&b increases will blend in with the following purl stitches and disappear!)

Wrist Pattern: Joining in color B, follow Woodsman's Check pattern above (Chart lovers: I feel your pain, and will post a chart as soon as I can). Be sure to carry your yarn loosely so the fabric won't be too tight. Work all 8 rows of check pattern 3 times, then work rounds 1 and 2 once more. Break off color B (leaving enough to weave in end).

Ribbed Wrist Cuff: Using color A, work seven rounds of K2 P2 ribbing. Cast off loosely in pattern.

Weave in ends, soak briefly with yarn soap like Eucalan...or you can use hair conditioner, if you want to soften the wool even more. Press between layers of towel to remove excess water and lay flat to dry. Halfway through drying process you may want to turn writers inside out to help the inner layers dry more quickly.

Now, slip them on and enjoy the comforting hug and warmth :-)

Enjoy...and Happy Knitting!