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It has been cold, dreary, grey, rainy and windy here in California. Not even the sight of mist swirling in the Berkeley hills is cheering me up as it normally does. Usually the rains vanish by mid-Feb and the signs of spring are unmistakable as the birds and plants go crazy and it gets warmer and brighter. This year, these damned wet spells keep coming back every few days. Yes I know, we haven’t had any snow so I shouldn’t complain, but to add to my woes every second person you meet piously reminds you that “we need the precipitation” in that annoying, self-satisfied tone that Californians have perfected.
So yesterday, I ventured out on a wet and blustery afternoon to meet Huan-hua and Kristin for a small bloggers’ meet-up at Stash. I hadn’t seen Stash’s new digs (very nice!), and it was great fun to poke around with them in the store gossiping about Ravelry forums and discussing yarns and patterns. My eyes met a freshly-arrived batch of Madelinetosh sock yarn, and I fell in love, abandoning my plans to wait until Stitches to splurge. Some hot yarn pr0n to take the edge of the wet chill:
It is called ‘Nutmeg,’ but to me it is the colour of vasant (spring), of marigolds and mustard flowers in full bloom, of the vasant panchami festival. Our JNU campus in Delhi used to be awash in this colour on this day, when the Bengalis (the campus was awash in them all year long!) celebrated Saraswati pujo by wearing mustard-shaded sarees and kurtas. It was a sudden visual shift from the foggy colourlessness of December-January, and a prelude to the magenta explosion of bougainvillea amidst the rocky terrain in March.
There were so many unbelievably gorgeous Tosh shades – little flickers of deep purple in grey-black, midnight blues and deep sea greens and bright fiery reds and pale, grassy sage – I could drown in those colours for hours. But you probably remember that I love mustard-yellow, and just last week, a friend and I had been thinking about this colour as we bitched and moaned about the grey weather. So I snatched up a skein to make a pair of simple stockinette socks, to wrap the spring around my feet and celebrate Saraswati pujo (already past this year) in my own way.
As if it heard me calling out to it, the sun came out briefly as I was photographing the skein near my window, and glinted on this golden ball. As the strands slide off the cake it really is like liquid sunlight and dry hay and a fresh mustard blossom all rolled into one. I cannot stop looking at it.
More yarn pr0n to come after this weekend!
So, I cleaned up around here a bit, and gave the blog some new digs. Less clutter, more room.
In the same spirit, ahead of Stitches West, to be held right here in the bay area (Santa Clara Convention Center) next weekend, I decided to take stock of my stash, and see what I already have, before salivating about the ones I will see in the booths. I wound up loose skeins, added up the yardage for each yarn in my Ravelry stash page, arranged it into separate bags, and collected all the swatches lying around, to turn into an ugly patchwork blanket someday. I feel most accomplished.
So, this is what I have:
There’s that drawer, and this one:
And that’s all. Not bad, huh? It’s less than I had imagined, and more orderly too. I have:
1. 3 skeins of Cascade 220 in charcoal (a cabled vest for my dad?).
2. 11 skeins of navy Berroco Inca Gold (intended for the Turbulence Pullover, but that project didn’t even take off, alas.)
3. 8 skeins, some half worked, some fresh, of a bright orange Creskeld Guernsey 5 ply, which I am hoping will work out for a suitably modified Caftan pullover (check out this gorgeous, albeit heavily modified one!)
4. 3 enormous skeins of the Brooks Farm Mas Acero (plans for a sweater are swirling in my head right now – stay tuned!)
5. 7 skeins of Elann Esprit which are going to be rapidly converted into baby things for two new babies that just arrived in the neighbourhood.
6. A scarf’s worth of an old, old Rowan yarn called Edina Ronay Wool Silk. that I have set aside to try a variation of Frost Flowers & Leaves, but which I never actually get around to designing.
7. 3 laceweight yarns for several lace shawls – Textiles a Mano Lanita, Brown Sheep Naturespun Fingering (the magenta cone), and Jaggerspun Superfine Merino in Black (also on cone).
8. 1 skein of Trekking Pro Natura sockweight, nearly 1 skein of Regia, and some sock leftovers.
9. 2 skeins of llama-wool DK weight which sheds like the devil, but which is very soft.
10. 8 skeins of Elann Pure Alpaca, maybe a thickish lace shawl for an aunt-in-law who gave me a suitcaseful of yarn many years ago, including the Rowan and the Creskeld listed above.
I have enough for 3 pullovers, 1 vest, several shawls, plenty of baby stuff, and a couple pairs of socks. So what should I be getting at Stitches, and what should I be definitely avoiding?
I am going to stay away from the lace, that’s for sure. Quite apart from the fact that my red sampler shawl is languishing without a border (I left the Victorian Lace Today book in India, if someone would kindly photograph or scan the instructions and motif for the border and email it to me I will be most grateful), I have enough to cover myself in shawls. So, no lace.
I really should say no sweater yarn either, because three + a vest is quite enough for now. But I have this desperate desire to knit another Ribby Cardi, one of my favourite patterns, in a hardy, rough-wearing yarn like Blackwater Abbey. And they don’t sell online or in shops, so it seems like a shame to pass up the opportunity when they’ll be right there with all their gorgeous shades. I got a shade card last time, and I have already spent countless hours matching different shades for the pattern.
What I am going to get, I think, is some sock yarn – some gorgeous hand-dyed stuff. I did finish the red Koigu socks I was bitching about last time, but more about them later. Yes, sock yarn, mmmmmm.
Anybody going to be at Stitches West? Please holler in the comments if you are – I will be there on Saturday afternoon, and wearing my Ravelry Desiknitter badge. I’d love to meet up!
I knew this would happen. No sooner had I waxed eloquent about the Koigu highs and the Koigu hues, than things began to go wrong. I found the most beautiful socks to knit with my deep red Koigu, and they seemed to have an interesting, yet simple construction. The pattern, happily, is freely available here.
So I knit the first sock up to where the interesting arch shaping begins, and like Slippedstitch’s version linked above, decided to continue the ribbed pattern on to the arch and foot. The arch shaping takes place along the two lines of the triangle (with its tip facing towards the toes). So you decrease as usual for the gusset (right line), but also do paired increases at the centre line of the sole that are matched by decreases alongside the left line of the triangle.
I was chugging along nicely, except I realised that I had far too many stitches midway down the foot. So I started the second sock, hoping to pay closer attention this time and then figuring out what went wrong with the first, when I find that I keep getting left with more stitches than I need. The triangle lines meet too soon, making me wonder where to continue the gusset decreases that still remain, and which the pattern asks you to complete. Although the pattern is a bit oddly worded in parts and confused me with a lot of extra instructions for magic loop (I’m using DPNs), nobody in blogland or Ravelry has pointed out any major problems. I find I’m frogging, frogging, frogging, making even more silly mistakes, and very little progress. The pair currently lies in disgrace, reminding me of a couple of bloody, decapitated fish.
Which brings me to the whole Koigu rant. I still love the colour and feel, but this yarn is such a bitch to place back onto the needles, especially when you’re already knitting firmly with size 0s!! It splits every other stitch, and makes a ghastly sound when it does so. (Yes, the splitting is actually audible!) It also doesn’t stay put, so you always have to pick up stitches that have slid down a few rows. But last night, this really made me mad:
A knot! There is one in each skein. And they came apart with very little tugging!! They also appeared when I was doing the foot, which means whether I spit spliced or carried over the fresh yarn a few stitches, I’d have a bump on each sole, reminding me of its existence every time I walked. I did the best I could, but honestly, with that price, quality and following, you’d think the least Koigu could do was avoid knots in its skeins. (Yes, I know, my fucking up the pattern has nothing to do with the yarn, but hey, while I’m mad I might as well vent all around.)
I am tempted to frog the whole thing and start over with another pattern for now, but I keep thinking that I should just frog back to the heel, take a deep breath, get over the putting-stitches-back-on nightmare, and finish the damn pair. I should, shouldn’t I?
But first, I think I’m going to cheer myself up with some brunch.
Last week I went to Madison for the big annual conference in our field. Like all good conferences, this one allowed me to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And some friends I knew, but had never actually met. Like Mary and Huan-hua, long time blog friends. They took me to Lakeside Fibers, one of the most beautiful yarn stores I have ever seen – bright, large, welcoming and full of glorious natural light.
We sat out back in the coffee room, which was playing Aretha Franklin, and was lined with finished projects and a whole wall of Cascade 220.
I think I want that kind of home decor – some finished projects, a wall of books, another of yarn, some great music and comfy chairs to lie back and chat or read, and the aroma of coffee and baked goods that isn’t overpowering. If there’s no french vanilla or cinnamon, that should take care of that, I think.
I even knitted a bit on my shawl!
I love Madison, especially since I’ve always visited it in fall when it’s riotously in colour. This time it had a special twist – Mary and Huan-hua, thanks so much for the wonderful meet-up! To commemorate the lovely warm light in that room that afternoon, and the warmth of new friendships, I chose these shades.
The variegated bronze is Zauberball, a wool-polamyde sock yarn whose colours are supposed to diffuse in the fabric like this. Isn’t that stunning? The solid at the back is a more simple Cascade Heritage, with which I want to try one of Cookie’s genius sock designs. It’s in the shade cinnamon, which is so much nicer as a shade than an ingredient in desserts.
Mary also generously gifted me this fabric. Tracy, you were very much missed, although you were present on Mary’s camera screen with us. Thank you so much for the fabric! I cannot wait to make something with it, and hope that when we all meet next – somewhere in India in December or January? – I will have turned it into something wearable.
The Lavold folks named this shade of Silky Wool “sandstone”, but it conjures up mustard for me.
And mustard brings to mind so many things – seeds for tadka, indecision at sandwich counters, Kajol & Shahrukh in the fields of Punjab, steamed hilsa in banana leaves, tangy nostrils.. but above all, it evokes for me a beloved colour, and a most heady experience in a Madras saree shop many years ago. I merely expressed the wish to see some mustard-shaded sarees with contrasting borders, and for the next half an hour the attendant had me awash in shades of yellow with red, brown, green, black and maroon borders. I can still see some of those gorgeous silks; alas, I didn’t buy any. My senses felt like I had squirted a whole bottle of mustard into my mouth and swallowed, and I couldn’t decide.
When someone asks me what colours I like my pat answer is reds, earth tones, purples, but I also tend to gravitate towards mustard shades, especially in Indian clothing. Like the embroidered shawl you see above, or like the kurtas the silky wool is nestled in below. There are many many more kurtis, sarees and dupattas; for years my father despaired of what he colourfully called my “monochrome wardrobe of chicken-shit hues.” This observation was as frank as it was gross; fortunately, it was also apt and somehow funnier in Kannada. This is the first time I reached for a mustard shaded yarn, though, and even though it’s really mustard-lite, I’m really liking the fabric so far.
This Silky Wool is most unusual and like no other yarn I’ve used before. Very close up its silky nubs have the potential to make it look tired, plucked and ragged, but it surprisingly manages, overall, to avoid such a look. The nubby texture gives it a fine, grainy and crinkly look, but it is also quite soft. It’s so airy and light as to be almost weightless, even on size 4s. At $7.50 for 190 yards the price ain’t bad either, and if it wears well with washing, this could fast become one of my favourite yarns. What I cannot figure out is, why, at 6.25 spi, is it working up so fast?
And look! I have a new toy, which I got recently as a hand me down, actually. A Sony digital SLR DSC F828, which has so many buttons and such a large lens I can barely hold it up; so far all I have been able to do is snap some general pictures and figure out its macro function – not bad, eh? It’s so heavy I don’t know if I’ll go slugging it around to shoot pictures when I’m travelling, but I gotta say it takes good pictures of yarn. If it can also photograph food, I think I’m set. So what if it’s like killing a bug with a bazooka, right?