A post high on colour and short on text. Captions and snapshots from the sprawling yarn extravaganza at Santa Clara Convention center yesterday.
In front of the giant Ravelry poster:
Before and after the Slaughter, or Spotless Fibre Loses Battle with Dye:
ManDuka peers through the lattice work of an Orenburg shawl at the Skaska Designs booth:
People go crazy at the massive sale pit in which crawled bags and bags of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, Elsebeth Lavold Angora and lots of lots of Drops yarn:
My precious, bank-breaking, luscious, awe-inspiring, Brooks Farm acquisition, Mas Acero worsted wool-silk:
A monster storm cometh our way in the Bay Area in a few hours, and in the time it took me to upload the photos and write this post, rain clouds have already smothered the sun. But nothing can smother the high I am feeling after inhaling all those yarn fumes yesterday and just swimming in a sea of stunning handknits on display! I do believe I saw the largest number of triangular shawls in one day. I also squealed in delight on spotting Nancy Bush and shamelessly asked for her autograph. She looked a little startled but took it in her stride, the good woman.
Now I do have some of my own handknitting to show you, but you have to excuse me. I have to pack and cross my fingers for good weather at the airport, because I hope to be listening to some Fado very soon:
Thank you for all the comments on the Endpaper Mitts! I have been wearing them off and on this past week, but of course, warm mitts is just what the weather needed to turn sunny and glorious, right? No matter; if sunny warmth is here, to misquote somebody, can grey and cold bitterness be far behind?
I have been knitting a bit on the cardigan, but have nothing but a green blob to show. February is the Month of endless blather and boredom Job Candidate Seminars, Conferences and Symposia. It has also been a challenging month for various other reasons, among them being an unwieldy and quite exhausting course I am teaching on South Asian civilization. I call it “India from the Indus Valley to the Silicon Valley” because it begins in Harappa c.2500 BC and ends with the Indian tech boom in the early 21st century. 4500 years in 16 weeks is dizzying, and not merely because in the first few weeks I am well outside my comfort zone of the 18th century and onward. I am enjoying catching up on new research on the previous eras and finding interesting ways to link up this longue duree with the present, without making it seem like a literal longue duree in the classroom. Dynasties? Out. Battles? Out. Everyday life? In. Material culture and trade? Yeah. Social relations and religious practices? Sure. But this excitement comes with the slightly nauseating feeling of being on a roller-coaster for a bit too long. I want to get off, because it’s only the 8th century and I’m already sick of talking about long-distance trade and pottery.
This emphasis on everyday life reminded me of a documentary film series on South Asian history by Arvind Das, a journalist and historian with tremendous energy, verve and humour who drew on the Marxist historian D.D. Kosambi’s approach to South Asian history, but added a good dose of his own polemic. With very, very few material resources of his own, Das just set off with a camera team to capture on film Kosambi’s argument about the material practices of the South Asian past discernible in the present, and put together a remarkable set of episodes about Indian history. Most of these are now available on Google video. Fresh out of my master’s, I worked briefly on the project during its initial stages as a basic research assistant, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I like to think that it was there that I began formulating some ideas about historical memory that I examined later in my doctoral work.
The link above is to one of the episodes on the Mauryans and the Iron age. Suddenly coming across these files on the web after more than a decade, I spent hours poring over them. Some of it is so clunky and informal, and some of it absolutely inspired. It is delightful to see Arvind again in his familiar blue shirt and oversized glasses facing the camera, and remembering bygone times when we argued fiercely over everything from Buddhism to Maoism. My flood of memories reminds me how my own historical thinking has changed and sharpened over the years, but also how eagerly, and how much, he taught me. I miss him, and like to think that if he had not died so young, so soon, we would have continued to argue, over lots of Glenfiddich and Classic Milds.
There was a time when patterns were merely described as “fair isle mittens” or “cabled socks” with AC-230 or some such official-sounding number attached to distinguish one raglan and its distributor from another. Knit-blogging has changed all that. Designs now have names of their own. To be sure, there were always patterns like Dorothy’s socks or some such, but patterns with names like Clapotis and Pomatomus have taken on a presence that is so much larger than the sum of their designers, yarns and knitters put together. Sometimes the knits seem like people – just as real (or virtual) as their knitters in the online world itself. Admit it, have you never felt that Clapotis was a slightly annoying French girl, or that Selbuvotter was actually was a hero from some Nordic saga? I find it fascinating how this new interplay of technology, language and communication is changing not only the actual craft, in bringing together so many different styles, patterns and ideas, but also its discourse. I like reading about why a pattern was named what it was – I don’t know if it always adds value to its attractiveness, but certainly, it makes it stand out. DROPS seems to be the only holdout in this regard, doesn’t it – doggedly continuing to mark its patterns as “Design 10-B7″ and the like!
All this being said, I couldn’t have cared less if Eunny Jang had called these the Sandpaper Mitts, instead of the Endpaper Mitts, because they are soft and wonderful and altogether quite lovely:
I decided to make them fraternal twins, instead of identical. I have been trying to design a rangoli motif onto a pair of mittens for the longest time now, but Life and Work have intervened in dramatic ways, and following someone else’s pattern is about all I can manage right now, it seems. No matter, for I quite enjoyed the mindless peace of just following the instructions.
Pattern: Endpaper Mitts, from Eunny Jang (free!) Needles: Size 1 bamboo for the main pattern, size 0 for the cuffs. Yarn: Rauma 2 ply Gammelserie, in grey and navy. I used maybe 150 yards of each skein.
I bought this yarn in Oslo in 2004. It is perfect for fair isle, and given the way the grey stuck to the blue, I imagine steeking will be quite hassle-free with it. Not that I’m looking to steek anything anytime soon, but just a thought. As you can tell below, the grey is a lot hairier than the blue, I wonder if the extra dye on the darker yarn made it smoother?
I omitted one repeat of the long cuff, cause the mittens are long enough. The Italian tubular cast-on really helps to smoothly stretch them past your wrist on to your upper arm. I couldn’t decide which colour to use for the cuffs, and was worried about running out. So I compromised and knit them as mirror images, even though I wasn’t quite sure that this would look good. But in the end, I think I prefer my twins fraternal, even though it’s really not that easy to tell them apart when you peer closely. One seamlessly blends into the other, doesn’t it?
If I were to make these again I’d probably choose a sharper colour contrast and even omit another cuff repeat. But these are really warm, and perfect for my chilly flat and office and running errands around town. And they go quick.
There are so many good blog-friends to whom I would like to pass on this button, but let me mention just a few, whose posts I have really begun looking forward to.
1. Ruth of Ruthless Knitting,
I love reading about Ruth’s design process and the very individual look she achieves in her original designs. Her clear, elegant writing is a pleasure to read.
2. Amy of Stashknitrepeat,
Amy’s projects and yarns are to die for, and make me want to try so many patterns I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
3. Kelly of Kelpknits.
Kelly’s photos (especially the socks in the black shoes!) always delight me when I see a fresh post from her. Even if I don’t make that pattern myself, I find her detailed notes on her projects very insightful.
I have followed Lobstah’s knitting adventures since the time I began blogging, and love the fact that she shares stories of successful projects, and also confesses to occasional shortcuts!
In the meantime, I’ve been knitting. I started the Puff-sleeved Feminine Cardigan from Fitted Knits. I know, I know. “Puff-sleeved-feminine” conjures up all kinds of ghastly images. But something about the pattern caught my eye, and after seeing various versions on Ravelry gave me this mad desire to knit it. Fear not, I am not knitting it in baby pink. I decided to roughen up the look a bit by trying it out in the mossy, heathered Cascade I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I believe it will look more “rustic” with the right buttons, although I hate that word as well. Can you imagine something comfy+shaped+not-fussy+but-with-nice-detail? I have a feeling, or am hoping anyway, that this yarn and pattern combo will do it. No worries, if it turns out badly, I’ll share it with you anyway and we can all jeer it off the blog and out of my wardrobe together.
I wish I could capture the right shade of this yarn. It’s got some very unexpected tints of brown and yellow. I tried photographing it in natural light and under a flash, but both are somehow unsatisfactory. Above is the one in natural light, and here is the one with the flash, which is actually a truer shade:
I haven’t done a top-down raglan in years, and it’s fun. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to modify the shape at all – I thought I’d try it on as I went along and see. I also decided to knit the button band alongside the body, instead of doing it later. I just cast on seven extra stitches after the collar and am doing it in seed stitch, with a button hole every twenty rows. I got gauge at 21 stitches on Susan Bates 6 (4 mm) instead of 22, so I’m knitting a smaller size.
Last night ManDuka brought some Donegal Tweed she’d acquired in a sale over to wind into balls, and brought some delicious dinner along as well. I have this old “Mama Bear Swift” that is a flat four-bar floor swift with movable spokes, and over the last year I have had the devil of a time getting the spokes to stay in place while the swift is rotating at high speed. If I kept the swift on the floor with my winder screwed down on a shelf, I had to bend down to keep the yarn taut at a low angle so that it didn’t tug the spokes off as it sped into the winder. All in all, not a happy task winding skeins, because lots of skeins got tangled into an unholy mess with spokes flying off midway through the winding.
But wonder of wonders, after we inserted some sandpaper into the spoke wedges and placed the swift on one of my side tables instead of on the floor, everything worked like magic. No more holding the yarn down, no bending, no unstable spokes wandering off. I am so glad I resisted the temptation to break it into two and feed it into the fireplace over the last few months! Now Mama Bear is whirling like a veteran dervish. If I get tenure, I’m definitely buying a polished umbrella swift, but Mama Bear can keep twirling until then.
I have been knitting something else as well, but will post finished pictures in a few days….. stay tuned.