Purls of Joy

Saturday’s Brave New Knits signing was such fun. It was a great opportunity to see Purls of Joy in its new space, right in the heart of downtown Healdsburg, one of the many charming towns in the northern CA wine country. It’s a wonderful combination of colorful, open and cheery, with a great variety of yarn.

Charming owners Pat Boland and Rosanne Park were my hostesses for the afternoon. We had first met at TNNA back in January, where we chatted briefly about the possibility of my doing a signing/trunk show at their shop. It’s so nice when those casual conversations actually result in an event as fun as this was!

They turned all of the shop’s display space over to the Brave New Knits trunk show samples, so everywhere one looked there were inspiring projects. I wish I had a dime for every customer who said that seeing the projects “in person” made them buy the book – and then some yarn to make one or two of the projects.

Some of the Saturday afternoon regulars were more than happy to talk about the book and get their copies autographed.

All in all, it was a very fun afternoon in one of my favorite areas. Lots of BNK copies flew out the door!

Knitting for Babies

Lately, it seems as if everybody I know is having a baby. Some of my older friends have grown children who are starting families of their own. Some of my younger friends are adopting or bearing children at an alarming rate. Alarming only because I want to knit for all of them, but am simply not that productive.

Yes, I know baby clothes are small, use less yarn, and ostensibly work up much faster than handknits for adults. This is often true, but when you’re a slow knitter like me sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and pay a visit to Baby Gap.

This particular item will be a cardigan for a new baby girl. I started with the sleeves to make sure I’d be happy with the way this yarn knits up in the textured pattern. Sure enough, the effect is quite pleasing. The texture masks any pooling of the Koigu Kersti yarn I’m using (US Size 6 needles, for anybody who is interested).

I love these colors; they remind me of an especially vibrant tropical sunset. I even have plenty of skeins, having purchased enough to make an adult-sized sweater. In fact, I should have enough to make a couple of baby sweaters, with hats and booties to match.

This Kersti has been in my stash for a long time, and although I quickly decided it wouldn’t work for me as an adult garment, it seems quite perfect for a child.

When swatching with it long ago, I discovered that unless I am constantly vigilant, it splits quite horribly as the point of the needle goes into each stitch. Who needs that kind of headache? For a full-sized sweater, I don’t have the patience. But for a baby project, I can put up with it.

Now to search through my stash for the perfect buttons!

Knitting In the Sun

Why, yes, there is a book of that title by Kristi Porter. And yet, it seemed an appropriate title for this post because it explains why – for at least one week out of the last few, I did not post here. My daughter was on spring break, and we took her to Jamaica.

I dared to travel without my computer. What a mistake that turned out to be (more on that later).

After record snowfall back east this winter (and rain here in CA), we almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves in all that sunshine. Almost. But we soon figured it out.

Gazing out at the clear turquoise sea was always popular.

Sampling the seemingly endless variety of sugary, high-octane tropical drinks was also high on the list.

 

We each had our own method of relaxing. Some of us read books – Fiction! For Fun!

Some of us stayed up very, very, very late into the night playing pool at the resort’s nightclub.

And some of us – well, me anyway – did lots of knitting. Isn’t that what everybody does on a tropical island?

While my daughter worked on her tan, I assiduously maintained my nearly phosphorescent pallor through frequent applications of sunblock in SPF Gazillion. It seems to have worked; all I can claim is a few more freckles on this otherwise pasty alabaster skin.

And when we returned home, Shadow made her displeasure known in no uncertain terms. What were we thinking, to have left her behind?!!

(While we were away, my Facebook account got hacked and countless,egregiously obnoxious amounts of spam got dumped on all of my FB friends. Every time I ventured down to the resort’s Business Center to get onto one of their three computers and at least change my FB password, I practically had to take a number and get in line because so many other pathetic souls had the temerity to think they could go on vacation sans laptops. It was a nightmare. Sorry. Sorry! Oh, so sorry!)

It was probably a blessing that I couldn’t keep up with the comment stream, because some of my “friends” got pretty testy as the spam continued to rain down on them. Fixing that was the first thing I did when we got home. Before I unpacked, even. Really.

Brave New Knits Signing Today

Just a reminder that this afternoon from 2 – 4 o’clock I will be visiting Purls of Joy (429 Healdsburg Ave.  Phone #: 707-433-4569 ) in Healdsburg, CA, where I will be signing copies of Brave New Knits.

Come on over if you’re in the area – I’ll  have the trunk show of knitted samples for oohing and ahhing, and the lovely staff at Purls of Joy will be on hand to help you choose the perfect yarn for your own BNK project!

Life’s Little Indignities

Yesterday I ventured out into the rain to the post office, where I mailed a large padded envelope containing a light scarf. I used the post office’s time-saving Automated Postal System machine in the outer lobby, which I do as often as possible to avoid the long lines inside. Excellent – check one chore off the list.

From that point on, rain literally spewed down from the sky like Niagara Falls at full capacity, complete with high winds and hail. Open-your-mouth-facing-skyward-and-you’ll-drown kind of rain. I enjoyed watching it from indoors, knowing I didn’t have to go back outside.

Then today’s mail arrived, including the very same large padded envelope that I had posted just yesterday. Returned due to “Insufficient Postage.” How, you might ask, is this possible, when I had used the U.S. Postal System’s own automated postal machine, located on the premises of our local post office? Well, I wondered that myself.

I returned with said envelope to the post office today (still raining, though fortunately not as hard as yesterday’s deluge) and stepped up to the counter with this very question. The personality-free postal employee informed me that the size of my padded envelope meant it was not actually, despite all appearances to the contrary, an envelope, but instead had mysteriously been designated a “parcel.”

This, despite the fact that it was totally flat, padded, and contained an adhesive flap at one end. Oh, silly me. How could I possibly have mistaken this article for an envelope when obviously it’s a parcel?

Of course, “parcels” are more expensive to mail than “envelopes.” And of course, nowhere on the Automated Postal System’s machine does it tell the unsuspecting individual anything whatsoever about this bizarre and seemingly arbitrary fact. So, I ponied up the additional postage and headed back out into the rain, muttering under my breath.

Shadow just wants to know why nobody licks envelope flaps anymore – licking being a special talent of hers.

Say Hello To My Little Friend March

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring in my part of the country…

Of course, we’re being revisited by the torrential downpours tonight through tomorrow…

So I shall have to enjoy these glimmers of things to come while I have them…

Hope you’ve enjoyed them, too!

Blue Pleated Cardigan

Every once in a while, I remember something I forgot. The Blue Pleated Cardigan is one of those.

After I finished making it in 2009, I wore it to death for at least a year. Then, for reasons I no longer remember, I consigned it to the top shelf of my closet. That is to say, the shelf I can reach only if I stand on the kitchen step stool and reach up as high as my arms will go because that damned shelf is really high. The things that wind up there often don’t see the light of day ever again, or at least not often.

But the other day, I was fishing around up there looking for something else, and I rediscovered my old friend the Blue Pleated Cardigan. Tried it on and wondered what I could have been thinking when I put it up there, because I still love it, it fits me just fine, and the yarn (which I’m pretty sure is Shaefer) is so soft and warm – perfect for this time of year.

As detailed on Ravelry, this project evolved out of my desire to create a classic button front cardigan that combines supreme comfort with stylish design details.

Seed stitch ruffled “pleats” fall gracefully over the hips and taper up into a bobble, from which point they carry up into the body of the sweater as widely spaced ribs. These pleats result in a feminine and flattering peplum effect that eliminates the need for any additional waist shaping.

It is knit in pieces from the bottom up, with set-in sleeves that bell out at the ends due to the pleat detail. The seed stitch collar and button placket add texture that does not compete with the lovely shades of teal, green, and purple in the yarn.

Gleaming art glass buttons were the finishing touch of which I was most proud; the colors in the glass are dead-on against the colors in the yarn.

Not intending to self-publish this design, I never wrote up the pattern from my notes. I could probably recreate the notes now and devise a pattern, but I kind of like the idea that this cardigan is one-of-a-kind!

Your Exit Here

Congratulations to Kelly-Ann, who won the final pattern collection from the current issue of Knitcircus online magazine!

The above shot was taken in late January, when I was in NY attending VK Live among other things … late afternoon at a subway stop in Queens, snow on the tracks, whipped by the wind into a vortex of icy crystals that frosted your face as you stepped out onto the platform. You know what I’m talking about.

And our little impromptu road trip when we got stranded in NY over the holidays because of Snowmageddon, and wound up driving a rental car down to Dulles airport in the DC area in order to get to our next destination. Really made me envy people who live so close to their families that they have to travel only a few blocks to celebrate the big holidays together.

Traffic photos thrill me… there’s something both comforting and desolate about driving along the highway as the sun goes down and the lights come on, when the road is full of cars and all those cars are full of people, too, having their own private conversations, listening to their own music or talk radio … the shared experience of being in the same place at the same time as all those other drivers, yet each driver in his or her own little world.

My, aren’t we in a philosophical mood today.

Valentine’s Day: And In The End…

… the love you take is equal to the love you make*.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate it.

Shadow and I wish you a happy day, full of yarn and chocolate.

*The Beatles

Not Your Traditional Knitter: Meet Mens Knitwear Designer Kevin Kramp

If you thought you’d seen all possible permutations of knitwear for men, let me introduce you to something completely different.

Kevin Kramp and I first talked several months ago when I interviewed him for an article in our university’s alumni magazine. I was immediately struck by his idiosyncratic creativity. In fact, the lede in my article quoted Kevin’s design mantra; “I think my work is stunning, and I want you to be stunned.”

Looking through images of his menswear designs prior to our interview, I understood in an entirely fresh way what people mean when they talk about artistic vision.

Not because I can actually imagine a “regular guy” wearing one of Kevin’s creations, but because he has an emphatic, highly original perspective on knitwear and menswear. His work is uncompromisingly true to this concept, despite published comparisons of his work to “Snuggies for men,” and other unflattering descriptions.

Kevin’s designs have won numerous awards in the world of high fashion, where his knitwear is assumed to have evolved from the work of avant-garde fashion designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyaki, and Comme des Garcons.

He rejects these comparisons, however, arguing that existing fashion is, instead, anti-inspiring in the creation of new fashion.

You may not like what you see, but I’ll bet it gets a reaction out of you because you’ve never seen anything like it before (oh, wait a minute, of course you have: think about ghetto kids with their jeans riding so low on their hips that their boxers are entirely exposed; think about oversized sweaters that make some of us feel – if not actually look – smaller).

If you appreciate nothing else about these images (Just for starters: luxe fabrics, texture in abundance, movement and drape), you must at least acknowledge the unique quality of the designs. 

Next month, Kevin’s work will be featured as part of a prestigious fashion design exhibition, Unravel: Knitwear in Fashion, at the MoMu Mode Museum in Antwerp, Belgium. The exhibition will introduce visitors to knitted garments and accessories from across the last centuries, with a focus on high fashion pieces and their vernacular interpretations.

From the exhibition press release: “Top pieces by national and international designers and labels (Ann Salens, Vivienne Westwood, Sonia Rykiel, Versace, Missoni) historic couture pieces (Schiaparelli, Patou, Chanel) as well as more avant-garde and cutting edge pieces by established designers and newcomers on the international fashion scene (Sandra Backlund, Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, Mark Fast, Kevin Kramp) will sit side by side to reveal the richness and diversity of knitwear in high fashion.”

Perhaps I should have stated at the outset that Kevin is not a hand knitter. He works on knitting machines that allow him to manipulate his luxury fibers, slowly creating sumptuous textured fabrics. A single swatch takes hours to develop (hand knitters can definitely appreciate that), and a prototype of a single garment can take him ten months to complete.

Although you won’t find Kevin on Ravelry, next time you find yourself in search of inspiration, a scroll through his site just might turn your knitting mojo upside down!

All images accompanying this post are courtesy of Kevin Kramp.

Knitcircus Giveaway, Part II

Contest winners/commenters are: Kirsi for a one-year subscription to Knitcircus magazine, and Barbara for a pattern collection from the current issue. I have already forwarded your emails to Jaala Spiro, the Knitcircus editor. Thanks for entering!

To keep the fun going a bit longer, there is one more pattern collection from the current issue of Knitcircus to give away to a random commenter who gets in touch between now and midnight PST on Saturday, February 12th. This could be your lucky day!

In addition to a maah-velous review of Brave New Knits, this issue is chockful of great articles, interviews, and beautiful patterns, one of which is modelled in the cover photo above.

The Big Spring Fake-Out

Those of you living in the frosty, snow-covered parts of the world might want to stop reading right here. I can’t help you.

In northern California, you see, we are in the midst of a week of “faux spring,” and yesterday the temperature went up to 80 degrees. I sat outside with my knitting, but was so drunk on sunshine that not much progress was made. I just had to soak it up, and in a week or so when our winter rains start up again, I’ll remember this respite.

With no new knitting content to share, instead I thought I’d show you what is blooming right this minute in my garden.

For example, these primroses, which are perennial and thus pop up like colorful clockwork every winter outside my front door.

We planted a couple hundred more daffodil, narcissus, and crocus bulbs last fall (you think to yourself, “How can I possibly find spots for so many more bulbs?” yet before you know it all those little bags from the nursery are empty), and already some are in bloom.

The flowering quince is among my favorites; they bloom before their leaves come out, giving them a lovely Japanese-y structure and simplicity that makes beautiful arrangements.

And of course there are the hellebores. Ah, yes.

And those ruffled, freckled show-offs, the double hellebores.

Knitcircus

The Spring 2011 issue of Knitcircus is up, and it’s a terrific issue full of gorgeous patterns!

In addition to a collection of fabulous patterns and articles, it includes a lovely review of Brave New Knits. There’s also an interview with Alana Dakos, of Never Not Knitting fame. There is also a delectable-sounding recipe for French macarons, those sublimely light and crispy cookies with the soft center that just melts in your mouth. As the recipe is gluten free, I will try it this weekend – and let you know how they turn out!

Knitcircus editor-in-chief Jaala Spiro (the soul of generosity!) has invited me to host a giveaway featuring one one-year subscription and up to three pattern collections from this issue. Does one of these enticements have your name on it? Leave a comment on this blog post by midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, February 9 to be entered in the drawing.

I’m working on a new sweater project… despite a nasty bout of flu, my knitting mojo has finally returned. Will share WIP photos soon, so stay tuned!

Downton Abbey, Revisionist Version

I’ve already let it be known that I loved, loved, LOVED Downton Abbey, and now I stand corrected on an earlier assumption.

According to one of my commenters (thank you, Rhian!), U.S. viewers of Downton Abbey did, in fact, get all but a few “judiciously” cut minutes of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classics. Although our four episodes comprised a total of 6 hours of commercial-free viewing, the UK version ran 7 hours but did include commercial interruptions.

I’ll take the commercial-free version any day, thank you.

Those Edwardian ladies certainly loved their lavender!

An Amazon.com reviewer, in reference to the Downton Abbey “unabridged” DVD, does mention that she saw the series both in the UK and in the US, and found that the US version contained some choppy scene shifts and changes in the order of character appearances that were, to her, a bit jarring.

From this article, kindly forwarded by the above-mentioned Rhian, http://www.televisionaryblog.com/2011/01/in-defense-of-downton-abbey-or-dont.html, it seems clear that PBS director Rebecca Eaton did snip a few minutes here and there to make sure Downton Abbey fit into PBS’ intended 90-minute episode schedule.

There is, however, none of what has been called the “dumbing down” of the series for the American viewing audience. Evidently, our famously short attention spans are not so short, after all.

More lavender! Lovely on Lady Cora, no?

Personally, I was mesmerized by every second of the series, and had no difficulty following along with the intricacies of the “entail” and other British-isms. Now, all those forks and spoons at the dinner table – that’s an entirely different matter.

Downton Abbey, My Latest TV Crush

Did anybody else out there adore this show as much as I did? And was anybody else equally annoyed to discover that we poor Americans viewed the lamentably abridged version of the series, which cut a full hour (by my calculations) of the delicious goings-on in the Crawley family and among their servants? I assume it had something to do with what PBS was willing to pay for, but still – I felt gypped.

With a full-blown case of the flu that has left me a shivering, sniffling wreck this week – fever and all – I’d gladly park myself on the sofa with a mug of hot tea and the unabridged version of Downton Abbey, if only I could figure out where to view it. I just may have to buy the DVD, unless there are any other suggestions?

Isn’t this hat absolutely to die for? Wonder how much it weighs?  And how many endangered species donated their feathers to embellish it? Not to mention, how on earth did Lady Cora pass through doorways wearing it? Sideways, perhaps. I’ll tell you, sometimes it’s a burden looking back on fashion through the lens of modern times.

I looked hard for signs of knitting in the series, but didn’t see anything that convinced me the Edwardian era was as knit-happy as our own. Although some of the ladies sported what appeared to be woven shawls over their airy silk gowns, I didn’t see any of the exquisite knitted lace I expected. However, it is possible that Lady Violet is wearing knitted wrist warmers over her gloves in the photo below – what do you think?

Of course, it seemed that most of the episodes took place during spring, summer, and fall, so perhaps the Crawleys didn’t feel the need for woolens (though my heart skipped a beat when Lady Mary joined Evelyn Napier and poor cardiac-challenged Kamel Pamuk on the hunt – I thought for sure someone would sport a snug argyle vest under his hunting jacket, or at the very least a pair of finely worked socks. But no such luck.).

Can’t wait for the second season… and perhaps those Brits will let us have the entire episodes this time!!