Saturday, November 30, 2013

Froggit Friday! Sweater's Demise

Last night, I tore out my not-really-a-whisper cardigan. It's always fun when you start something like this, and realize you have no memory of what you did or any idea what the hell is going on here. I had completely forgotten that I worked the lower bands separately on smaller needles, then tacked them down. No wonder it always kind of pulled up weird in front. Crepes. Then there was a very awkward, tangled hour while I figured out how to disengage the sleeves from the band (hint: I should have started with the lower body, not the sleeves).
I was left with a handful of disheveled skeins. This morning, I cross tied them thoroughly, loosely, and let them soak in warm, soapy water for about an hour.

Inter-dimensional being expressed as bubble congeries and nameless chaos,
 or yarn bath? You decide!
I rinsed, and they had another short soak in warm, not soapy water. Then I them gave them a squeeze and hung them up to dry. I debated weighting them, as hardcore frogging purists insist, but everything seemed pretty relaxed, and I ending up deciding I didn't want to risk stretching out the yarn, especially a plant fiber/synthetic blend.
Poor bedraggled sods. They do smell quite nice, though. I have a feeling time, wear, and frogging has changed the Firefly a little. It seems fluffier. I'm curious to see if I notice a difference knitting with it. I remember it being a little stiff, though not unpleasantly so, and full of flax fibers.
I can't wait for them to dry so I can swatch!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fat Bottom Bats

                                             Need a pocketful of bats? Of course you do.

Danger Level: Intermediate/Fiddly

Fingering/4ply wool
US #1 double pointed needles
small amount of stuffing - I just used extra yarn scraps
something to stitch teeth - I used Neon Rays needlepoint ribbon
beads for eyes

About 1" tall x 3.5" tip to tip
Bigger yarn will make bigger bats.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October Illustrator: Sidney Sime

"There's something those fellows catch - beyond life - that they're able to make us catch for a second. DorĂ© had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And Pickman had it as no man ever had it - or I hope to Heaven - ever will again." 
H.P. Lovecraft, Pickman's Model, 1927 
 The Soul of Andelsprutz - 1910
I discovered Sidney Sime a couple of years ago, through this exquisite and very complete post on Monster Brains. It's weird that it took me so long, as I the authors he worked with are some of my favorites. I mean, Lovecraft name-checks him, and Sime's work fulfills all the elements I love in illustration - that other-worldliness, that expression of something "beyond life".
It - 1911
Born poor in Manchester in 1867, Sime worked for five years in the coal mines before making his way to art school. He rose quickly as an illustrator of fantastic themes, just as such stories were becoming wildly popular. In 1904, he began the partnership with Lord Dunsany that would define his legacy. The most complete collection of Sime's work can still be seen, by appointment, at Dunsany Castle in County Meath, Ireland.
The City of Never - 1911

Romance Comes Down Out of Hilly Woodlands - 1910

I'd love to see some reproductions of these books published as they were in the early 20th century. Until then, I'll be combing the shelves for the illustrated Dover editions.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Froggit Friday! The Sweater With No Name

During the Last Great Closet Purge, I realized something. I have way too many sweaters that I never wear. It's not that they're horrible. I even get compliments on them when I wear them. They just. Well. I just don't like them. Many are early sweaters I knit for myself. They have flaws that other people might not notice, or things about them I would do very differently now, and send me cursing. So! Knitter's Resolution #1: Frog the little bastards. Make new sweaters that I do love, and will wear.

First up, A sweater I made three years ago. The idea was something along the lines of Hannah Fettig's lovely Whisper Cardigan.
I added a cabled panel down the spine, and used a sportweight linen/viscose blend, Firefly. The first thing that's wrong with it is that the bind-off on the collar, which really should have been wider, is too tight. It always bunches unpleasantly. Urgh!
Then there's the fact that it doesn't quite give me enough coverage to go over the straps on sleeveless tops, which means I have to safety pin it in place, or it becomes useless for wearing to work in Summer, the purpose for which it was built. This is an unpardonable offense.
Finally, it's just a bad, bad shape for me. It manages to draw awkward attention to the places I go out while concealing the places I go in. And see the thing with the collar again? Excuse me while I twitch a bit.
  I think there are five balls in it, and I have two more in my stash. I am going to try for a slinky, henley style pullover; with a low neckline and 3/4 length sleeves, I believe I'll have enough.

Favorite Haunts: Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery

I don't know how many people take into account the proximity of a good graveyard when they house-hunt, but the closeness of Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery was a big deciding factor for me when we moved over to the Southeast. The largest of 14 historical Portland cemeteries, I can spend hours there, admiring the stones and their inscriptions.

The Friends of Lone Fir used to put on a great Halloween event, complete with speeches from historical ghosts, called The Tour of Untimely Departures. They have stopped in recent years, which is a shame. It was a fun way to learn Portland history, and some of the ghosts were great actors. They still offer a monthly, non-haunted tour for free. (One of these days, I'll be up that early on a Saturday.) The cemetery is also a quiet city park, managed by Metro, filled with wildlife and the occasional yoga enthusiast. I'll definitely miss it if we ever move.
The Macleay mausoleum is the highlight of any visit. It's straight out of a Hammer Horror, and I love it. The second story houses a chapel, while steps lead down to the gated crypt in front.
More ghoulishness after the jump...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Painless Provisional Cast On - Part III: The Shawlening

I love knitting triangular shawls. Well, to be fair, what I love is starting triangular shawls. There's always a point in there somewhere when the stitch count is over the moon and I wonder why I don't have a sensible hobby, like carving the Colosseum in a human tooth. And I do love wearing them, provided they are big enough to keep the chill off when skimming through the black void in the arms of my nightgaunts. I don't have many those little shawlette/bandana things; I need something practical for fleeing a haunted castle in.

My favorite way to start a triangular shawl is with a garter tab. Most patterns will have you begin this way, because it gives a perfectly smooth garter edge along the wingspan. Start with a provisional cast on of three stitches. With working yarn, knit an odd number of rows; in this case, I knit seven rows. Make sure you end with a right side row. What's facing you should look like this:
Not like this:
If you loose track of how many rows you have worked, remember that each ridge on the right side counts for two rows. When you've knit seven rows, turn the tab on its side. You will now pick up one stitch in each ridge. Just slip the tip of your needle through the little bumps closest to the edge.

Knit these three stitches. This will lead you down to your cast on edge.
Now, we want to get those cast on stitches live. In the picture above, you can see what looks like two and a half stitches, right under the provisional cast on. We'll turn that half stitch into a whole stitch in a minute. First, slide your free needle through the right sides of the two whole stitches:
...and under that last strand at the edge, holding the tail of your working yarn to the back:
Ready for a trick? Take a smallish crochet hook, and slip it up through the edge of the ridge immediately below your cast on. Grab the tail of your working yarn with the hook, and pull it through the ridge so that it forms a loop around your needle.

Knit these last three stitches. You now have nine stitches all together, with three for each edge and three for the center, and you are ready to work a wrong side row. Go ahead and unzip your waste yarn.

Let's work a few rows, with typical shawl increases, so you can see the what happens.
R1(WS): K3, p3, k3.
R2(RS): K3, [yo, k1] 3x, yo, k3
R3 & all following WS rows: K3, purl to last 3sts, k3.
R4:[K3, yo] twice, k1, [yo, k3] twice.
R6: K3, yo, k5, yo, k1, yo, k5, yo, k3.
Neat, isn't it? This is really all you need to start a triangular shawl. You could keep going and going in stockinette with garter borders, increasing at each edge and on either side of your center stitch, every right side row, until you reach the point of madness. Or you could throw in a stitch pattern or two, just to keep the gibbering at bay.

I hope you've enjoyed this little series!
Painless Provisional Cast On Part I
Painless Provisional Cast On Part II

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September Illustrator: Harry Clarke

The Irish artist Harry Clarke is probably best known for his edition of Tales of Mystery and Imagination, first published in 1919. These intensely detailed illustrations remain some of my favorites for the works of Poe, macabre and lush. 
Clarke's portrait of Poe could be of Roderick Usher. This Rasputinish expression turns up on most of Clarke's figures, as if expressing some madness barely contained.
In his day, he was known for his incredible stained glass, and this tendency toward burning gazes shows up even in Clarke's saints and angels.
It is easy to see his influence on modern illustration, especially graphic novels - the use of big, black space reminds me of Mike Mignola's work, for instance.
                Harry Clarke died young, most likely from exposure to the chemicals of his art. He left behind a legacy of imaginative darkness that is still shaping the art of the 21st century, more than 80 years after his death.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Case I Need to Exorcise a Nightclub. You Never Know.

Some events render purses an encumbrance. Some clothes do not have pockets. So I made myself a utility belt. I used a couple of pouches from the army surplus store, the strap from a pair of old cargo shorts, and some heavy duty canvas.
The embroidered amulets come from old grimoires, via A.E. Waite's Book of Black Magic.
I'm kinda in love with it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Painless Provisional Cast On - Part II

Last time, I covered my favorite way to start a provisional cast on. Today, I'll go over getting the stitches from the cast on live and workable, and how to graft the ends together.

Make sure your last row was a wrong side row. Leave your stitches on their needle. Now, let's examine the cast on edge. With the right (knit)side facing, push back that little chain of waste yarn. You can see the live stitches peeking out:

                                     Take a double pointed or circular needle, and insert the tip
                                                    through the right leg of each stitch.
You are going to end up with one less stitch than you cast on. This is that inevitability I mentioned. No matter what you do, this is how it will be. This is immutable knitting physics. Sure, you could cast on an extra stitch at the beginning, work it just once, drop it off your needle and save it for later. Or you can try to fudge it by tucking the tail of your working yarn into the edge. Unfortunately, either technique will throw your graft off, and actually wind up looking weirder. For now, accept your fate.

When you have picked up each stitch, you should have something that looks like this:
       The end of your provisional chain is on the same side as the tail of your main yarn.
                                         Pull this end of the waste yarn out of the chain, thus:
     The chain should zip right out, or at least come undone with a little tugging.
                                       You now have two sets of live, untwisted stitches.
                                       Your cast on edge, with it's one less stitch:
You might notice something peculiar about this edge. Right where the garter and stockinette meet? That's right - it looks like everything is shifted half a stitch! This is because we're picking up the stitches from their bottoms instead of their tops, which means that what we're really dealing with is the part of the stitch that falls between, linking the stitches together. This is why one less stitch.
Since this post is so photo heavy, let's tackle that graft behind the jump...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Exquisite Stitching: Yumiko Higuchi

Yumiko Higuchi is amazing. I found her on Pinterest, and quickly became obsessed with her perfectly balanced compositions and flawless stitching.
She scatters blossoms over linen, then transforms the fabric into charming little clutches. This combination of heirloom needlework and functional object, is irresistible.
These crustaceans are my favorites amongst her new works - those expressive claws!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Painless Provisional Cast On - Part I

The provisional cast on method is everywhere these days. Just check out all these beauties a quick Rav search brings up. It's an invaluable tool for very particular situations - sort of the allen wrench in your toolbox. Generally, you'll be asked to use it when you knit something sideways, and want to join the ends seamlessly. It basically gives you a set of "live" stitches as a cast on, held by waste yarn which can be removed easily when the stitches are ready to do their thing. It's a little fiddly, and can be a bit daunting if you haven't done it before. I thought I'd share my favorite method for a provisional cast on, with some tips and lots of photos to make it as pleasant as possible.

First, grab your supplies:

-Knitting needles; I just used dpns, but use whatever you're going to use
  for your project.
-Crochet hook; while the size isn't important, it will be easiest if it is close to the millimeter size of your needles. You don't need to know how to crochet to do this, so don't worry if you're not bi-craftual.
-Waste yarn; this can be anything - smooth cotton in a strong
  contrast color works best.
-Working yarn; that is, the yarn you will be knitting with to start your project.

OK, let's go!