Thursday, May 8, 2014

Froggit Friday: The Sweater That Would Not Die

So, several months ago (it seems much longer) I destroyed an old sweater to create a new one. The Resurrected is not exactly what I planned, but I'm at peace with it.

It blocked out bigger and slinkier than I thought. Weird things happened along the way; I love Classic Elite Firefly, but it shows every discrepancy in the stitches. The short rows at the bust line look a little Frankensteinish.
 That was supposed to be a shawl collar, but just wouldn't. After doing it twice, I gave up and grafted it into a sort of asymmetrical thing.
                          You'll notice I can't get the hem to block out quite straight, either. 
This was my first time doing picked-up set-in sleeves with short-rows. While it may be my new favorite technique, it has a very noticeable look when done with something that isn't wool. I think it looks cool, but it was a little surprising!
 I sound so negative, but for all that, I really do like it! It's the perfect Spring pullover, and I wear it all the time. It fought me the whole way. It was totally worth it. 
For more details, check out my Rav entry.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Illustrator: Kay Nielsen

This illustration, from Kay Nielsen's exquisite East of the Sun, West of the Moon, is one of my earliest memories. The Danish illustrator's exquisite 1914 collection of Scandinavian fairytales was one of my obsessions when I was learning to read, and the elegant prints captivated me.
Years later, I was surprised to learn that Nielsen was behind my favorite sequences in Fantasia, the "Ave Maria" and, of course, "Night on Bald Mountain".
 I don't think there's ever been anyone quite like Kay Nielsen. You might see some parallels to other Golden Age illustrators like Harry Clarke and Aubrey Beardsley - artists on the cusp of Art Nouveau. But Nielsen was a master or restraint, leaving open backgrounds of color and space which remind us of the fragility of the characters. His angular work still seems incredibly fresh.
Sadly, in spite of the huge body of work he produced in his lifetime, many of Nielsen's projects never came to fruition.
Can you imagine if Disney had produced The Little Mermaid in 1940?
Illustrators have never really been accepted by the wider art world, and Nielsen passed away in poverty. He has been remembered as little more than children's entertainment. Thanks to the internet, a wider scholarly acceptance of fairytale narratives, and a more anarchic view of what constitutes art.  Nielsen finally seems to be finding the fans he deserves. I know he will always have a place in my heart.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Home Sweet Grrr Arrgh

    Mum recently designed this custom needlepoint canvas for a lady who definitely shares my, shall we say, taste. (Groan if you feel the need, but honestly, you'll just be perpetuating the pun.) Yes, those are little pink brains in the corners, complete with medulla oblongata.
   I think every pro-zombie apocalypse household needs one. If you happen to be a sick stitcher, or have questions, please leave me a comment and I'll put you in touch with the Mastermind.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February Illustrator: Daniel Danger

I recently watched the great documentary Just Like Being There. While I'm not a fan of indie rock, I'm very interested in the thoughts and lives of working artists, and this glimpse into the thriving world of screen-print poster art was tremendously inspiring. However, one artist really stood out for me - New Englander and fellow "art-brat" Daniel Danger. 
His images are haunting - houses flying apart, visitations from ghosts and wolves, all imbued with the sense that the watcher is seeing something no one else gets to see. This is elegant modern illustration, catching the heart as well as the eye.
Most of my favorite artists are gone. Danger is still young, producing new work, and impossibly cool. I hope to be following him for a long time to come, and maybe own a picture or two someday.
 I mean, honestly. So perfect.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imbolc Bread

There are few things better than making bread. The warmth of the kitchen, the feel of dough in your hands, the subtle alchemy of turning yeast and flour and bits into something delicious.
This is the Cookbook. My mother and I started it years ago, and when I moved to Portland, it came with me. It has illustrations (yes, those are rum balls amusing themselves amongst the powdered sugar). It contains many wonderful things, in no particular order...
...including this recipe for a Finnish coffee bread, know as Pulla. Mum used to make it at least once a Winter, and I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate Imbolc. Speaking of how awesome Mum is, she also made my favorite apron:

This bread is lightly sweet and cardamom infused. It isn't hard to make. It takes a little patience, but it's totally worth it. Recipe after the jump...

Friday, January 31, 2014


I do elaborate things with my head. This cowl has a nice, deep hood to cover hair without crushing it. It loops around to keep everything in place, and to tuck nicely into your coat. The stitch pattern is fun to work, and attractive from both sides. This is a quick project, suitable for both the enthusiastic neophyte and the experienced knitter.

Aran weight wool, about 475yds; I used 3 skeins of Cascade Yarns Cloud.
24" US #10.5 circular needle. 
Small amount of waste yarn for provisional cast on and holding live stitches.
Extra needles for working 3 needle bind off (I used a #8 to hold live stitches and a #13 for binding off).

This springy lace stitch make gauge highly variable. I had about 5.5sts over 1" before blocking, and 4sts over 1" after aggressive blocking. 

You can find instructions for my favorite provisional cast on here.

Provisionally CO 39sts. Set up row: K3, p33, k3.
R1 (RS): P3, (k1, yo, ssk) to last 3sts, p3.
R2 (WS): K3, (p1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
Repeat R1-2 until cowl measures about 58". Do not bind off, but cut yarn. Place live stitches on a piece of waste yarn. Block severely.

When fully dry, remove provisional CO and waste yarn, so that you have two sets of live stitches. Fold cowl in half with RS facing, and join with a 3 needle bind off, keeping your bind off loose.

Starting at seam, and with WS facing you, pick up and knit 45sts from cowl edge. Turn, p3, k42, pick up and purl 45sts from cowl edge. I picked up 3sts for every 4 rows.
Set up row (WS): K3, (p1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
R1 (RS): P3, (k1, yo, ssk) to last 3sts, p3.
R2 (WS): K3, (p1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
Repeat R1-2 until hood measures 10" from pick up.

Shape crown:
Dividing row: P3, (k1, yo, ssk) 13x, bind off 6sts, yo, ssk, (k1, yo, ssk) 12x, p3.
You will now be working back and forth over only one half of your stitches.
R1 and all following WS rows: K3, (p1, yo, p2tog) to end.
R2, 6, 10, & 14: (K1, yo, ssk) to last 3sts, p3.
R4, 8, 12, &16: BO 3sts, yo, ssk, (k1, yo, ssk) to last 3sts, p3.
R18: K27, p3. Do not bind off. Cut yarn, place live stitches on waste yarn.

Rejoin yarn at center back with WS facing, (p1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
R1 and all following RS rows: (K1, yo, ssk) to last 3sts, p3.
R2, 6, 10, & 14: BO 3sts, yo, p2tog, (p1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
R4, 8, & 12: (P1, yo, p2tog) to last 3sts, k3.
R15: P3, knit to end. Do not bind off. Cut yarn, place live stitches on waste yarn.
Block hood rigorously. When dry, place stitches on needles. Fold in half with RS facing, and join with a 3 needle bind off. Sew remaining seam shut.

Weave in ends. You can steam the seams lightly if you want them to lay nice and flat.

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!