Sunday, March 25, 2012

Starting and Finishing

The last few days have been a time of doing a lot of small things.  I finished the colorwork hat:
red colorwork hat
There's actually a funny story about the hat.  Some years ago, I was waiting in an airport.  I spent a lot of time in airports in those days (it was a work thing) and this particular evening my flight was grossly delayed.  The gate was nearly empty- there were only a few other passengers there- and the gate agent was clearly a little bored.  Seeing me knitting, he wandered over curiously and watched me working on a cabled sweater.  "My mother does that,"  he told me.   "She's always knit me sweaters."  We chatted for a few minutes- his mom sounded like a pretty dedicated knitter, and the guy asked some idle questions about cables and so forth.  Then he looked at the ribbing on the edge.  "That's not how my mom does it," he said.  He tried to describe for me the way his mom did edges but it didn't ring any bells.  This was pre-internet and pretty much the only knitting techniques I knew were those I'd seen in patterns.   He wandered off after a while and I saw him on the phone, and thought nothing of it.

About half an hour later he came over and presented me with a set of handwritten directions.  He'd called his mom, and asked her about how she did knitted hems on sweaters.   (There are the directions in the photo with the hat.)  I didn't have the heart to tell him at the time that they were pretty unintelligible, as they were transcribed over the phone by a non-knitter.   I was able to figure out what the technique was later and look it up- basically it was for doing a stockinette hem with a purled turning row- and I tried it out, but in worsted weight I found it way too bulky.

But last year I did my first actual knitted hem (that I didn't frog), on the Lombard St. Socks- that one uses a YO, k2tog for the turning row to make a picot edge, and I rather liked it in the fine gauge yarn.

So- when I went to start a hat in sport weight, the first decision I had to make was the edge.  I was eager to get into the colorwork, and in worsted yarn I've often used an i-cord cast-on for the edge.  But in sport weight, I thought it might be a bit thin, and so I thought of the knitted hem.  And I love it- it makes a firm smooth edge that isn't too heavy at all.  And I kind of wish there was some way to tell that gate agent and his mom that I finally used it.

I finished the red mittens, finally (they waited on the hat).  

And I started a new colowork hat.  For this one I'm using a pattern chart from one of the sweaters in "Sweaters from a New England Village", a book my mom gave me recently.  It has some gorgeous patterns-  no firm plans yet, but I definitely want to make a couple of the sweaters from this book. 
blue colorwork hat 

The weekend was unusually free of commitments and I enjoyed being home.  I didn't move any of the house-related projects, but I did get some extra sleep and catch up on laundry.  I skeined up and washed some of the new yarn that was a bit dirty, and then I banished the whole box to the porch as there are some signs of insects.  I'm avoiding mingling that yarn with the rest of my stash until I can be sure there's nothing alive there.  (Though I expect that any moths that went for that yarn starved to death- it's pretty much all acrylic.)

I finished three books and started a couple more.  I finished ironing and sorting all the new fabric.  I hung out with my neighbor, who is coming along nicely with her first sock, and made it to my local knit group.

A nice quiet weekend- just what I needed, as the week ahead promises to be busy. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Catnip of Knitting

Okay, anyone who knows my knitting habits probably saw this one coming.  Colorwork?  The catnip of knitting.

And what better small-scale canvas to play with a new yarn than a hat?  I was a bit worried that the hat would be too thin in sport weight yarn, though certainly no less warm than say, a lace beret.  But the colorwork admirably serves the dual purpose of decoration and making the hat thicker.  And I'm completely charmed with the amount of decoration I can fit in this smaller gauge.    The only downside to the sport weight is that it does take longer.  For now I'm okay with that. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


And just when my interest in mittens was starting to flag, I have been presented with an intriguing new challenge- a large box full of (mostly) sport weight yarn.
Large box of yarn. Cat included for scale. 
There were three skeins of worsted and some odds and ends, plus a small bag of baby yarn, but by and large this is all sport weight, something I haven't knit a lot with. So. I could hold it double, but that seems quite unimaginative. Kid sweaters perhaps. Colorwork is a definite possibility. Perhaps some crocheted hats.

A whole new horizon of possibilities, ideas, new challenges, all in a box of yarn. This is what makes the whole free yarn thing so much fun for me- the challenge of finding the right projects for it. We'll just have to see what I come up with!

More Multi-Color March Mittens

More multicolor March mittens 
Like potato chips, you really can't stop with just one!

Also it's been a nutty week- errands and blood donation and concerts and social engagements.  We went to the see the Chieftans on their 50th anniversary tour in Boston on Wednesday.   That was in Symphony Hall, only a few blocks from the transformer fire that blacked out most of Back Bay (a big chunk of downtown, for those not familiar with Boston).   It was quite eerie, walking around the city streets and seeing few lights and nearly everything closed. 

There were huge generators parked in the streets (the power company was using a combination of jump cables from adjoining grids and large generators to restore power to the two grids that went down- apparently the transformers themselves are not easy repairs).    The fellow who introduced the concert told us that it had taken a call to the mayor and a bunch of frantic work by electrical crews to get power to Symphony Hall for the concert.  They got a big round of applause, as we wouldn't have wanted to miss it. 

And it was an excellent concert- great traditional and modern music, dancers, and a guest appearance by the North Shore Bagpipe troop.  (When you're the Chieftans, and you call someone up and ask for pipers, you get them.)   Fantastic. 

Yestereday, we had friends over, and then went to see the marvelous Matt and Shannon Heaton at our local coffeehouse.

Today we anticipate being taxing (as in we're seeing our tax preparer) and then have an afternoon concert and then are zipping up to Maine to see my parents for dinner.

But it has all been good for the portable knitting, though not so much for the Celtic sweater which is waiting for me to figure out the neck shaping.   Real Soon Now.  I think I feel the mitten thing starting to wind down.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Maple Mitten Music Mystery Madness

Much merriment materialized at Chez Robin this month.  Fortunately for you, I have abandoned the idea of trying to write an entire post using words starting with M.  (I don't think it's impossible but it would be kind of choppy.)   However there is a definite M-theme going.  See-

1.  Mittens-  I knew when I cast on mittens after the blanket that I couldn't stop with just one pair.    It still looks pretty harmless at the moment, but I'm going strong.  Just as well, the donation bag is pathetically empty, and fall (when the mittens will be donated) tends to be taken up with Christmas knitting.   More mittens ahead!
March mittens

2.  Maple- we had pre-mapled in February (thanks to having houseguests we wanted to take to our favorite sugar-house-adjacent restaurant) but the Real True Official Maple Expedition was this past weekend.  We watched the sap being boiled, we ate maple drenched pancakes, maple sugar on snow and came home with doughnuts covered in maple cream.  Yum.   Also, I'm thinking more exercise is in order.

3.  Music- well, of course we started the month in Texas, but thanks to St. Patrick's Day, there are a lot of good Celtic music concerts in our area in March.  We've got two concerts this week, and are looking around for what else is going on in our area. 

4.  Mysteries- the reason I've only gotten three pairs of mittens done is that I've been reading.  We picked up the third of Aaron Elkins art-themed mysteries at a used bookstore, so I've just re-read all three of them.  They make me more interested in art than I actually am--and also kind of hungry, since the characters spend a lot of time eating really delicious-sounding food.

5.  Material-  all the quilt material is washed, dry and I'm making steady progress with the ironing and sorting.  It was kind of an exciting moment yesterday when I finally took the last of it down from where it had been draped to dry and dumped it on the table (it all fit, that's the exciting part).    I may have to take a break soon, however.   Handling all the colors makes me start dreaming up designs and I need to do some actual sewing before I wind up starting a dozen different projects all at once. 

 And I'll leave you there because the mittens are calling- and also, I've got the munchies!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chasing the Sun

Friday morning instead of rolling out of bed and going to work, we packed up bags and headed off to the airport to fly to Dallas for our annual North Texas Irish Music Festival excursion.

As it so often is, the weather there was more like late spring or early summer, and we turned our pasty northern faces to the sun with intense pleasure.  We took off our jackets.  And our sweaters.  And walked around making Vitamin D, like nobody's business....what?  Oh, the music was outstanding!   The photo below is of Hailey Sandoz and Reelin'- at 12 years old, she was undoubtedly the youngest performer on the music stage (though there were younger children among the dancers).  But you would never have guessed from her playing, which was amazing.
Hailey Sandoz and Reelin' onstage at NTIF 2012
We wandered from stage to stage, listening to the incomparable Ed Miller, this year with Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse, the ever entertaining Trinity River Whalers (it may help to know that if you jumped into the Trinity River in Dallas, you'd probably break a leg, not to mention getting splashed to the knees with mud - or in other words, if you see whales there, you've probably been at the pub too long).   We caught a terrific new group of young musicians called Goitse and listened to some old favorites, like the amazing Chris Newman and Maire Ni Chathasaigh.

And when we weren't at the festival, we checked out bookstores, and walked.  Having been to Dallas once a year for over 10 years now, it's interesting to see the changes.  There's been certain amount of attention in recent years to urban planning and making the city more friendly to pedestrians.  We were walking a new route this year, so I don't know exactly when it went in, but I was much taken with several different public areas that were landscaped with moving water.   Very attractive and appealing. 
waterscaped park in Dallas

The festival ended Sunday, but we had planned to stay an extra day (lured by a very attractive plane fare), and so Monday we drove down to Austin.  It was even warmer than the weekend and beautifully sunny.  I got a bit scorched (I never seem to think of using sunscreen in March until it's too late.)

The first place we stopped was the visitor center, which was in the building of a historic bakery across from the capitol building.   They had a wonderful collection of photos of the families that had lived and worked there, as well as an exceedingly well-stocked crafts area- the quilts were especially gorgeous.  

We walked around Austin- a very pleasant small city, reminiscent of Denver in the architecture and laid back feel of the place.    They also have a tremendous amount of greenspace around the lakefront.  We took a walk out along the lake and then up to Barton Springs, a natural cold spring.  There were a considerable variety of birds and other wildlife. 
Austin City skyline over Barton Creek

The water was beautifully clear.  We could see fish darting along the bottom.
Clear water of Barton Creek

And I have never seen so many turtles in one place in the wild before.  There were a whole bunch of them.  I caught an even dozen here sunning themselves on fallen logs. 
Turtles Sunning, Barton Creek Austin

We took one of the walking tours through the older parts of town.  This is the John Bremond House. 
old house in Austin

And we finished with a visit to the Texas History Museum, which was interesting and extremely well presented.   They didn't pull any punches with the less savory parts of the history, and didn't dumb it down either.   We were quite impressed.

Naturally, being as I was traveling, there was some attention to small projects (though not as much as there might have been, since I managed to sleep through a good deal of the travel time that would normally be devoted to crafting.  And also read a couple of books.)

The plain blue socks got done- another pair of identical twins.  This time I can't really take any credit.  Two balls of yarn, they both started the pattern in the same place, the socks patterned the same way:
more plain socks

I also finished the pair of mittens I started last week in a state of post-blanket euphoria: 

And I cast on a new sock- since this is the same yarn in a different colorway as the blue socks above (and therefore I knew how many stitches around the sock needed to be to fit), I cast this on top down instead of toe up, for the change of pace. 
the next pair of socks

And lastly, the cats were naturally very happy to see us.  Cookie greeted us enthusiastically right up until the food landed in his dish (then he was busy).  And Biscuit has been following us around, checking out luggage and generally getting underfoot.  Home sweet home!
Biscuit thinks guitar cases are comfy.