The Wall Of The Roses

Never one to resist the lure of a good pun (or are puns, by their very nature, bad?) I was stopped dead in my tracks on the way out to fetch the paper this morning by this:

A wall of roses just waiting for the morning sun to hit them so they could release their fragrance into the spring air. These are Eden roses, a most excellent climber once established (which is not to minimize the fact that the process of their establishment was fraught with uncertainty for the first couple of years. Every aphid within a 50-mile radius seemed to have special radar for these roses, and latched on with the intent of sucking them dry, and even a slight misting of rain would bring out mildew and rust on the leaves. Once they struggled up tall enough to benefit from regular sun on the leaves and buds, however, our worries were over.).

Does this make up for the fact that I have no knitting content to discuss today? I am working on another secret project in addition to the Emily Dickinson shawl, on which there has been no progress worth blogging about. Once these are complete, however, I will begin work on a new self-published design. Feedback on that, when the time comes, will be much appreciated!

Emily Dickinson

Have I mentioned that I started the Emily Dickinson shawl by Kieran Foley after I saw what an absolutely bang-up job Ann had done with it?

Here is my start – and the fabulous color of this Woolen Rabbit yarn in Chocolate Chambord laceweight is dead accurate in the photo, for once.

I completed the border and decided that the beads I had selected were not shiny enough to show up.  And if they aren’t even going to show up, why am I even going to go to all the effort of working them into the shawl? The remainder of the project will, therefore, be beadless, but I’m excited to wear it nonetheless. I suspect Emily would approve; she seems to have been as austere in her person as she was emotional in her verse.

Zucchini and String Beans and ‘Maters, Oh My!

Last weekend, we planted the vegetable garden. I had just about given up on it (was truly on the verge of suggesting that my husband might want to convert it into a sport court) because our neighbors’ trees have grown so tall in the last couple of years that much of the garden has been shaded out – obliterated, is more like it. Then, my observant husband pointed out that the next-door neighbor had removed several large, broken branches from the tree that is the worst culprit of all. Not because it had been shading my vegetable garden, mind you, but because those broken branches were dangling perilously over their driveway – directly overhead from where they park one of the family cars. Personally, I don’t care what their motive was for removing those branches – the sun is brilliant once again, and that has made all the difference!

My husband and I have our specific gardening chores all worked out after all these years. He digs the soil amendment (Bumper Crop mixed together with the compost we make ourselves) into the raised beds – and this is the really back-breaking part of the job, but it gives him a great excuse to play in the dirt (and it means he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about how sore my back is afterwards… it’s a win-win situation, really). Then we make a trip to the local nursery for seedlings. Then, I step in with my spade and after much consideration of sun patterns, aesthetics, ripening needs, etc., I plant everything. Job done.

We scaled way back this year, just in case. Only 6 kinds of tomatoes – two years ago, we peaked at 12 varieties and were still eating home-grown pasta sauce six months later. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

This year, we’re also trying something a little different. After learning the hard way that the side yard does not get enough sun to produce anything edible (kind of like trying to make a certain yarn work well with a stitch pattern that is simply incompatible with its texture), we had to give up on that particular little patch of earth. My husband is not thrilled about the idea of planting what he sweetly refers to as “crops” in the front garden, and I thought I’d never hear the end of it when I snuck some lettuce plants in among the lavender one year. BUT – there are several gigantic clay pots on our back terrace, and I don’t know about you but I get a little bored with planting flowers in them year after year. It’s a nice sunny spot, too, and it suddenly occurred to me that we could plant some of the vegetables in those pots.

After filling the vegetable beds with tomatoes, string beans, zucchini, and cucumbers, and leaving plenty of room for basil and other herbs, those patio pots began to seem like a better and better idea for the overflow. So, very soon they will be home to two different kinds of eggplant, and two different kinds of peppers. Both are attractive, flowering, and edible. So much more interesting than the usual flowers, don’t you think?

Passiflora Errata

It has come to my attention that there is a problem with the lace charts in my Passiflora pattern, and I wanted to let knitters know how much I appreciate the feedback.

Something got lost in translation between submission of the pattern and its publication, and instead of stacking the yarn-overs and the ssk/k2tog repeats one above the other throughout the lace charts, the published versions show these stitches offset by one stitch place. What a perfect example of how one tiny error, repeated over the expanse of any lace pattern, will result in a complete inability to reproduce the lace correctly.  A few clever (and fearless and perhaps more experienced) knitters have been willing to experiment and discover the correct stitch placement on their own. As a proponent of trial and error myself, I am in awe of these intrepid individuals since my own efforts don’t always produce the desired results.

Please rest assured that the fine people at Twist are all over it, and that the pattern updates with corrections will be published shortly. Your patience is much appreciated, as well as all the kind feedback about my debut pattern. My post with further details about it appeared on the Twist blog here, for those who crave more information about my inspirations and intentions for Passiflora.

For those wishing to substitute yarn for the tunic, I was pleased with the performance of Sundara’s Aran Silky Merino. I used it to swatch the lace motifs, and found that it had both the soft drape and the lovely sheen to bring the lace motifs into beautiful relief. Another good option would be Sublime’s Bamboo and Pearls DK. Again, it has both the drape and the sheen to pull those lace motifs into sharp focus, but will require careful blocking to prevent it from growing too much.

Many thanks to Twist for publishing this pattern, and to Caro Benna Sheridan for her lovely photographs. Her work highlights all the best features of my design.

I’m Ba-a-ack…!

So you’ve probably noticed that I have finally resurfaced after a couple of weeks of radio silence (just what IS radio silence, anyway? I’ve always wondered…). Was off traveling to see my aged and not-terribly-healthy parents, and to take them to visit my daughter at college. She (my darling daughter, that is) was performing in a modern dance program – a timely occasion that proved sufficient enticement for my parents to make the four-hour car trip with me from NY to PA to see her.

With a double major in Business and French, I’m not sure how my daughter is finding the time to minor in Modern Dance, but she loves it and has come to regard the classes as nothing less than her guaranteed hours of exercise every week. The performance was wonderful; it was a choreographer’s showcase with about two dozen short dances created by a group of former students and professional choreographers.

Got to spend one day in NYC, where I met my publicist for Brave New Knits and a yarn shop owner – Pearl Chin of Knitty City – who would like to host a signing/trunk show when the book is released this fall. She is so nice, and I am really excited about spending more time in her wonderful shop!

When I returned to California, it was to this:

and this border of lavender and poppies along the driveway:

And the first of the roses; the Joseph’s Coat are always the first to bloom:

And the irises, which have really taken off this year. They are everywhere!

February in April

Finally, my February Lady Sweater is finito!!! Several months past my original self-imposed deadline, it’s true, but with the sudden spring cold snap we’re having here in the Bay area, I am wearing it right now and feeling very comfortable. Pamela Flint’s pattern (or should I say Elizabeth Zimmermann’s?) was a pleasure to knit up – oh, wait, I guess that’s DOWN, since this is a top-down pattern! Once the body was complete, I enjoyed trying out my 12″ long Addi’s for the sleeves. This was much easier going once I’d knit a couple of inches, and in fact for the second sleeve I began with my trusty dpns and switched to the circulars once I’d made a bit of headway. Does anybody else find this to be the case with the short circulars, or is it just me?

This yarn, Fleece Artist Organic Wool, was ridiculously soft and squishy, and blocked out beautifully. Pre-blocking, I couldn’t quite close the cardi around my middle, and the sleeves were decidedly 3/4-length. Now that it’s blocked, it closes nicely in front (I used giant 1/2″ snaps behind these 1″ diameter buttons from Wooden Treasures rather than work in three buttonholes), and the sleeves are perfectly full-length. With 500 meters per skein, I purchased only two for this project – and as it turned out, I have enough of the second skein left over to make at least a hat or a pair of mitts, and possibly both. A neckwarmer might be nice, too, come to think of it…

I’ll try to get some modeled photos over the weekend, when my husband will be around to take a few shots. Meanwhile, trusty Grayce will have to be my stand-in.

While photographing the FLS outside the other day, I couldn’t help noticing that the clematis blooming around the garden is exactly the same color as the Fleece Artist yarn:

Twist superlatives

Now that I’ve finished admiring my own handiwork in the latest issue of Twist, I’ve gone back through the rest of the patterns and decided that this issue is the best one ever! When I can’t make up my mind about which project to download first, and when there are fewer designs I probably won’t want to make than there are designs I definitely, absolutely must queue up immediately, that ratio suggests **winner** to me, big-time. At the moment, these are my top three:

I love all the shawls and wraps in this issue, but the Abrazo shawlette by Susanna IC really captured my heart; I picture wearing it all summer either draped lightly over my shoulders or wearing it twisted as a wrap in my hair. Love the beading, love the open fabric, love the deep lace border. Any number of skeins in my stash of Sundara laceweight yarn would be well-suited to this project, as would the Woollen Rabbit laceweight, the Fearless Fibers laceweight….. maybe I’ll just have to make more than one version of it!

Poplar & Elm by Carol Sunday is a masterpiece of lace, feminine shaping, and stylishness. I love everything about it, and have a few different yarn options that would be lovely for it.

When I first saw the fabulous Timpani by Connie Chang Chinchio, I thought immediately of my stash of Elspeth Lavold’s Silky Wool, and of wearing it in the fall here in California, where that fiber blend is perfect for the climate. I just love the crisp military styling of this jacket, and although I might have to do a bit of regauging to accommodate the yarn weight (although knitting it on slightly smaller than recommended needles would give the fabric more stability), it would be worth the effort to have such a snappy garment hanging in my closet.

So, no shortage of possibilities in this issue. Paging through the options makes me appreciate all the more the good company in which I find myself. Comments on Ravelry regarding my Passiflora tunic have been interesting and enlightening. Some readers don’t like the thought of their bras showing through a garment and will consider omitting the side lace panels as a result. Some don’t think the A-line shaping flatters their figure type, and are likely to add waist shaping to their version of the design. Since I modify nearly every project I knit that has been created by other designers, I can hardly protest when others see fit to alter mine – in fact, it’s this kind of dialogue, this realization of knitting’s infinite possibilities, that makes the craft so intellectually challenging, creative, and fulfilling.

Twist Collective Spring issue: Passiflora!

I’ve been looking forward to the launch of Twist Collective’s Spring issue for quite some time, and here’s the reason:

The Passiflora tunic is my debut design for this wonderful magazine. I couldn’t be happier with the photography, the styling, or with the way the editors highlighted the various lace elements of the design. In creating Passiflora, I designed a reversible garment because I appreciate that kind of versatility in my own wardrobe. It can be worn as shown in the Twist photo with the modest single lace panel in front, or with the more revealing, repeating lace panel facing the world, depending on how much skin the wearer is comfortable showing off. I’d probably wear it with a camisole in either case, but I’m also thinking it would look adorable with a fitted teeshirt underneath.

Here’s the back-to-front option:

My other goal with this design was to create a simple garment with drape and ease in all the right places; the kind of tunic you wear out to dinner not just because it looks pretty (although that’s an awfully good reason right there!), but because you also know you can make a total pig of yourself   lick your plate clean  eat a proper meal and not worry about whether your Spanx investment is up to the job. Sometimes we just can’t stop ourselves from overindulging, and Passiflora makes those occasions a lot more comfortable.

Just Call Me Georgia

And by that I mean this:

And this:

Not that I would ever compare my photos to the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, but I do seem to be drawn irresistibly to take extreme close-ups of the flowers ripening in the garden. I love to study the abstract quality they assume, the new textures and colors they reveal, when the camera lens turns into a magnifying glass. 

Insane rainstorms the last couple of days, including a lengthy and rather loud episode of hail last night. The sound of it on banging onto the kitchen skylight was quite dramatic. I couldn’t bear to go out to the vegetable garden today to inspect the tomato plants, which were already unhappy with the weird spring weather we’ve been having. Even Shadow looked up from her usually laser-focused personal ablutions to try and figure out where all the noise was coming from.

This year, spring is definitely going out like the lion, and I cannot say much for the lamb – that gentle creature is nowhere to be seen. In another few weeks, it will be hot every day. The rolling hills that surround us will fade from their current lush emerald green to a dry, toasted brown. At that point, I am invariably mesmerized by their resemblance to monolithic sleeping dinosaurs. Only the live oaks are still green by then, and patches of  our state’s most pernicious weed most beloved flower, otherwise known as California poppies, splash their brilliant orange petals heedlessly across the landscape.

Counting Down

I’ll pick up my knitting needles again this weekend for the first time in a month. PT is helping with the flexibility in my hand, and I prefer to believe that knitting will only supplement the progress I’ve made despite all indications to the contrary. First up, finish the last sleeve of my February Lady Sweater, which did not get completed in February after all.

Although Spring is fully underway here, I should get lots of end-of-season wear out of it in the evening when the temperatures still dip down into the 40’s. I may need some votes on the button choices, however, and will post photos of the options.

Next up is a secret project that I’m excited to start on, as well as a couple of other projects that have been languishing in my WIP pile for far too long considering how close they are to completion. Another cardigan is one of those WIPS, and it’s still in the WIP pile because I got discouraged at how small it seems in its unblocked form even though I made a few sizing modifications. It’s the Mr. Greenjeans pattern from Knitty’s Fall 2007 issue. Now that I’ve taken another look at it, I am hopeful that my yarn choice (Elann’s Peruvian Sierra Aran in a luscious bottle green) will block out nicely. Again, just one sleeve to go!

Shall I Compare Thee To An Uncorrected Proof?

What could be more exciting than the promise of a peach harvest this summer, even after a heavy pruning to minimize the damage of broken branches?

What could be more delightful than finding this riot of California poppies in the garden this morning at the same spot where only a few days ago,

there was only this lonely pair?

What could be more wonderful than discovering that the newly planted gazania are adapting happily to their new home?

What could possibly be more thrilling than the sight of the new Japanese maple tree bursting into wonderful spring color on the site of the recently-deceased pear tree?

How about a box full of galleys of my book, Brave New Knits? As happy as it makes me to wander the garden with camera in hand, none of it brought a smile to my face that could compare to this.

Counting the Days

Counting the days until I can knit again, that is. But to tide me over until then, I’ve been admiring the stash enhancements I found at Stitches West at the end of February. Pigeonroof Studios figured large in my acquisitions; the color “Vitals” in particular lured me into Krista’s booth – it’s a saturated, dramatic red with subtle deeper flecks that add mystery. I scored 4 skeins of it in DK weight (enough for a sweater!) and one in a heavy laceweight that contains sufficient baby alpaca and cashmere to bring me practically to tears at its softness.

On my photography day, this cyclamen happened to be in full bloom in a nearby pot. Its rich rosy color reminded me every so slightly of “Vitals,” although with the sun shining through the petals it has a pinker glow.

More luscious fiber from Pigeonroof:

Having visited Habu Textiles in New York City last summer, I was eager to see what treasures their booth at Stitches might have, and was definitely not disappointed. Habu’s colors and textures are so modern and unusual that I don’t like to rely on my computer monitor for accuracy. Being able to touch the yarns (made with fiber blends that include stainless steel and paper – not your everyday yarns by any means) and compare the colors was wonderful, and I stocked up while I had the chance.

Finally, today is my nephew’s twelfth birthday. He wants to be a chef, which impresses the hell out of me because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was twelve. There are those who would maintain that I STILL don’t know what I want to do when I grow up! Tempering his experiments in the kitchen, however, is a competing passion for skate-boarding. Happy birthday, Moses!

Coming Soon – Brave New Knits!

Is it a book yet? Not quite. However…

Not only is my book now available for pre-order on, but late last week I received copies of the galley! The galley is an advance uncorrected proof that shows the size and contents of the book (but not the project photos, charts, schematics, or actual layout). The galley is in black and white, with a separate packet of color photos showing the book’s projects.

There are several details on the cover itself that still need to be corrected, but it is pretty exciting to see – in a general way – what it will look like.

And with my hand PT sessions lined up for this week and next, it’s a matter of days until I can knit again. Something else to look forward to! No more evenings in front of the TV with nothing but a pettable skein of yarn in my lap (either that, or the cat making herself at home).

A Wave Is As Good As a Salute

I’m not sure what’s up with the military references the last post or two, but I’ve been pre-occupied with hands lately because of my recent surgery.

I got the stitches taken out of my right hand today, so I couldn’t be happier. In two weeks, with any luck I’ll be knitting again – once the physical therapy has had time to kick in. Even now, my hand feels better than I expected. I can bend and flex the two fingers that were operated on and although it hurts to make a fist, I’ll be working on that exercise to re-build my flexibility. What a relief!

More recent appearances in the garden:

I’m always amazed at how tenacious the California poppies are. The seeds scatter in the fall, and rebloom reliably each spring – but ONLY in the sections of the garden where they get full sun. They are concentrated in the front, and have (so far) never gotten a toehold in the back garden. The hostas return every spring. This is when they look their best, actually – before the snails and slugs get to them.

All-Volunteer Army

An all-volunteer army of flowers blooming, that is. Now that the rain has stopped and the sun has come out, the garden has exploded. Much of what I’m finding was planted years ago… gotta love those perennials.

Each year the mounds of low-growing blooms spread more widely across the ground.

The daffodils and narcissi bulbs divide themselves underground so that every year the clusters are more heavily populated.

These black callas are always among my favorites, despite the fact that they smell like elephant dung and bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain human anatomical feature…

Not that I’m complaining. For melodrama in the garden, they really can’t be beat. Plus, that chartreuse and deep merlot color combination is a visual thrill.