Friday, 15 December 2017

Merry Christmas me.

I didn't just give myself a book for christmas.  I also gave myself some very special yarn.  I bought some yarn from a local to me person who had some really lovely things on offer.  On Ravelry, look for the Edmonton Knitters Group thread called Spring Cleaning - Major destash Handpainted yarns.  

I treated myself to a some very special things.  

She had some of my most loved Fleece Artist BFL 2/8.  If I make a sweater from this, I need a little more of the grey, but a sweater is not out of reach.  The other thing this would look great as is a colourwork shawl, using the two together for a massive thistle or something like that.  No matter.  It is really wonderful stuff .

And then, a yarn I looked at seriously when I bought from this person before. Yarn Love's Amy March in the Silent Night colourway.

I have a lot of navy cascade 220 and I can think of several sweaters that would perfect using that in combination with this. 

There.  All my Christmas shopping is done.  All my gifts are here except for one book and if that doesn't arrive on time, it is okay.  Well and the maker ones we have yet to do.   Amazon did pretty amazing this year.  Having the post office do the delivery job has been a real bonus in my eyes.  Everything is safe and dry and warm till I go pick it up. 

I love small towns.
Tuesday, the same day as I dug out and put away all my books several times over, I did some other stuff too.  I went through all my WIP bins to make sure they were clean and tidy and to see what was in each of them.  

I spent some time taking apart Amy's Pole Sweater that I have been avoiding working on for months.

 I was deeply, fundamentally unhappy with the joins.  Such ugly work, and I didn't quite understand why.  Still don't.  I've done perpendicular joins before and they have been fine, so I have no idea what the difference was on this project.  I am restarting and will do better.

Then I took out all the socks and some of them have had work done on them.  No real surprises there.  I always work on socks and I knew these were out there somewhere.

Then I pulled out the red sweater to see what was what.  I had decided to knit the little cap sleeves so that I could just knit till the yarn was gone.  Of course I made that decision before I realized I still had a whole skein of yarn that was not yet wound in this colour and this dye lot.  So no worries.  It will be long enough.  I also realized that if I could finish this little top, it might be nice to wear at Christmas.

And there you have it. Cap sleeves.

Well, maybe just a tad longer than a cap sleeve, but a nice short sleeve, to wear with many different combinations of what I already have. Sleeve one took one evening of knitting time.

Two sleeves! Sleeve two took another evening but now they are done and my hands once again will have some relief on the long sweater rows.  

I am pretty sure it was the small scale circulars I was using that made my hand hurt.  I am not really sure what I do with them, but there was a place on these sleeves where I couldn't knit with dpns and it has made my hand just a bit more tense and inflamed it the smallest bit.  So easy knitting only today and then I will consider retiring my entire fleet of small dimension circulars.  Dpns have never hurt my hands.

So, bins cleared and ready for after seasonal knitting.  I should wrap up the sewing project today, or very close to it, so all that remains, of big things to do is the Batman Batgirl Avengers batcave/dollhouse.  I might just make it to ready for Christmas yet.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Birdies Set Two

Well, there you have it.  After a day doing nothing, there was a day of prodigious output.  First the epic post about stitch dictionaries and then, completion of set two of the towels.

Little birdies all complete with wings and decoration inside as on the pattern.  I may yet add some tummy decor on the singing birdie.  She seems to be missing something.  But, all in all, pleased with it. 

I finally got the second towel finished as well.  That took a lot of planning, first to find the repeat and then to decide exactly what I wanted to show.  And yes, this part did feel a little like art.   Each set of towels is reflective of my families.  The first set's red balloons was something from their wedding photos and the second, the little birdies, mom and little ones, reminds me of my daughter in law's mum and how she is always looking cheerfully forward, family close to her, and how she radiates this through her family.  Warmest heart on the planet.

This sets birdies are singing symbols of nations both dear to that family's international heart.  The second towel is inspired by a photo from one of Olga's visits to her mom's home in Kyiv.  The photo comes from a trip they took to her grandmother's house in Rivne (spelling this phonetically) of the flowers and things growing in the ditches and edges of fields.  There was a shot of cornflowers poking their clear blue tops through heads of wheat and grasses.  It was just such a beautiful composition.

A teatowel is not the place for a representation except in the simplest form.  But I tried to include the grassy edge, golden heads of wheat and tiny bright blue buds. It is really quite striking and the colours are much much stronger than you can really tell here and for a winged it design, I am pretty pleased with the way it turned out.

I am so pleased to have these embroidery projects done.  I have been planning them for years, right from the time Olga brought me this lovely linen back from Kyiv.  There is plenty of linen left for but I want them just as plain linen.  I have some cotton tea towels for more embroidered ones for me.  And then there is a whole long roll of a natural coloured linen that I would like to do some hardanger and some blackwork embroidery on. 

That is for another day.  For today, I am putting down my needles and threads for a bit and am going straight to work on pants.  Lots and lots of pants, with knitting in between.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Living It - the Further Tales of If You Give a Mouse A Cookie.

I did take a wee nap after posting yesterday.  It was lovely and by the end of the day, I felt so much better, human, almost even adultish (translation:  no longer whining for her mama).

Because there was not a lot of knitting or other work going on, and because my mind was thinking about all the books spilling all over here for Christmas, I started thinking about my library. Specifically I started thinking about my library of knitting books. More to the point, I started thinking about how I ought to put away the stack that has piled up in front of the bookcase on the floor.  If I ever mean to put up a tree and get these gifts wrapped, they need somewhere to go and that somewhere is right there, where the stack of books was.

I took the one book that was on my coffee table, and wandered over to the pile.  You saw the Japanese Stitch Dictionary I got earlier this year.  I started to put it on the shelf, but 

it reminded me of my other Japanese stitch dictionaries.  I hadn't seen them lately so I searched and there they were.

As I was finding them, the thought crossed my mind that I had a lot of stitch dictionaries, and I wondered if I had ever really looked at them en masse or if I ever talked about why I love stitch dictionaries so much.  If I did, it probably was a long while ago.

So I will begin with the Japanese books, any of them, all of them, even the ones I don't have.  These are fantastic books.  There is a distinctly Japanese sensibility to the design of the stitches, the calm ordered approach to something where a small change can make an old stitch extraordinary and utterly creative in ways that change what you see and do with them.  Unique happens in each of these volumes and I highly recommend them.  There are a couple of others I wish I had, but you can't have everything, though I do try.  :)

If you were looking for good basic dictionaries you cannot go wrong with the classics.  I bought these early on in my knitting life and I have never regretted it.  On a Saturday afternoon when my hands are tired, and my mind is done with thinking, I will sometimes have a cup of tea and just sit back and pull one of these off the shelf to thumb through.

I usually spend a lot of time mulling the first two volumes, though I may have to change that up a little.  With my recent forays into slip stitches, I find myself becoming fascinated by what happens when you use them.  There are a lot of designs out there lately where slip stitches play a big role, and familiarising myself with one of the best sources for them may be a thing whose time has come.  All the volumes have significant sections of slipped stitch goodness.

And one of my oldest groups of stitch dictionaries.  

I had a full complement of the Harmony Guides but one crochet volume has gone walk about.  Good basic stitch guide and an entire volume of knitting techniques too.  Sadly these are no longer sold in this format. 

I have one more basic stitch dictionary , though to call it basic in any way, under rates it in the extreme. 

This is a truly fantastic book, all texture all the time.  It verges on lace without being lace.  It verges on cables without being strictly cables.  Like my lovely Japanese stitch dictionaries, this too, has a very particular sensibility about it. 

This books makes me think I heard about something I read about Bach.  " It was within the "confinement of the law" that Bach burst out with unprecedented creativity. This proves, against all expectations, that the "finiteness" of the law leads to infinite riches. What Bach proved as nobody else was that it is not in novelty that one reaches the deepest of all human creative experiences, but in the capacity to descend to the depths of what is already given. Bach's works were entirely free of any innovation, but utterly new in originality.  "  (from an article by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardoza )

This isn't a book that colours outside the lines.  This book isn't one that colours the leaves of the trees anything other than green.  This is a book that makes you see and feel every single shade of green  with every, nuance and variation and hue under heaven.  It plumbs the depths and heights that green can be all the while staying within the lines of green and leaves you feeling utterly sated and pleased with the world as it is given to you, in stitches.  This book is a masterwork.

And then my favourite old stitch book, or rather encyclopedia.

I love this book.  It has a nice beefy section on knitting and some wonderful stitch patterns.  It's only limitation is the patterns are all written only, no graphs, but I go to this again and again.  When I cannot decide, it is sometimes helpful to have fewer to choose from.

Then there are the technique based dictionaries.  There is lace.

This Barbara Abbey book is a particularly fine collection of edging stitches and insertions or what we more commonly use them as today, borders. It does have a few patterns in it, but on my bookshelf, it is all about the edgings.  A serious lace lovers book to be sure.

If I could have only one book that I viewed as a lace stitch reference book, I would go with one of the Haapsalu books, any of them, just for the sheer beauty of the book.  There is a third one out recently too but it hasn't quite made it to my shelf yet.  So many books, so little shelf.  I have to keep telling myself this. 

 Technically neither of these are stitch dictionaries, but that is how I use them and think about them.  They are a superior resource of tradition and of stitch patterns. These books are really works of art, with knitting inside and at least one ought to grace a well curated shelves. My must be doubly well curated then.  I do have two.  So far.

There are oodles of nice little books out about sweaters for what we generally call a gansey.  This is one of the oldest and while some of its history may be suspect, the stitch patterns are some of the finest ever collected.  There are smaller collections of stitches in every other book on traditional ganseys, but they all refer to this one. 

If you are talking stitch techniques, one of my favourite dictionary type books is this one. 

This marvelous resource of twisted stitch knitting made me dream of a sampler.  My large project that once was a tube and now is a wrap was knit using stitches from this book.  There will be many more things using this book down the road.

In the technique dictionary class, I also put these lovely books from Nicky Epstein.  These are a dictionary of shapes and cool interesting things you can do with the shapes of your knitting.  There are some truly amazing things inside each of these.  Take a basic shape and see how you can play. It's a fascinating way to look at your knitting.  I remember Nicky Epstein from the pages of  McCall's Needlework magazines in the 80's.  Nicki Epstein made me dream of knitting.  She still makes me wish...well that is really for another post. Meanwhile, I am just thrilled that I had the chance to meet her in person.  One of the highlights of working at the yarn store, without a doubt.

But there is another much admired person I recall from those selfsame pages of McCall's Needlework, Kaffe Fassett.    I got to meet him too, at the yarn store, which was another truly lifetime thrill.  I got to chat with him on a quiet afternoon.  What a nice man.

A couple years ago, he published a book of  forms from his knit designs.  Many of these are like old friends, some having been published in those same McCall's magazines and in the many books published by him over the years. A lot of intarsia if you were trying to nail down a technique, but you know what I think of this book as?  A dictionary of colour bravery, for that is how I see his work.  His colour forms shapes and those shapes turn into things and fabrics and movement and life and art.  This is a dictionary of inspiration to the colour timid.

Before I get into the last category of technique dictionaries, there are a couple others I have that I have very mixed feelings about.  Each of these are on my 'if I need to make room on my bookshelf' list.  I often think about giving them away.  It isn't that they are bad books at all, but they don't strike my imagination for the most part.

The Up Down All Around book was a disappointment, not because it isn't a great book, but more that I was looking and hoped for something more.  I  wanted a book to teach me how to take some of the lovely motifs I see in all my other books, and knit them so that the leaf  or patterning remained oriented in the same way as in the original presentation, rather than just recharting motifs to present the motif upside down.  Some knitters may not feel comfortable doing this on their own, but I do.  I was searching for something more, something that would blow my mind to a way to get what I wanted without having to figure out the possibilities and impossibilities myself. 

The 400 Knitting Stitches, too.  Just an ordinary batch of stitches well presented, well displayed, but nothing that blows the top off my imagination.

This one too.  I bought this just as I was learning to knit.  It was in a bin at a grocery store, those remaindered book bins they sometimes have.  It was 5 bucks, so not a huge investment.  I thought it would go the long haul, like my owned since forever ago Harmony Guide crochet dictionaries.  Knitting went someplace very different than crochet ever did for me and the book, while nice in every way, just isn't quite enough anymore.  I am sure you already see that from the long list of books above!

Now to my last category of stitch dictionaries, the stranded colourwork dictionaries.  Yes, ah yes, and entire category of things all on their own, special and unique.

There is something special and unique here to be sure.  It is a masterful collection of shapes that work magic in your knitting just by changing the colours within the rows as you knit.  But that is one of it's challenges for me.  It is simply the patterning in black and white.  There is a huge section of colour advice at the back of the book, wonderful marvelous advice, but this book kind of intimidates me.  I know that what I need to do is to change my perception of the book so that I see it as a challenge and I am working on that by using a few other stitch dictionaries and oddly enough an embroidery book about colour too.

There is a  lot of comfort in seeing how the stitches look laid out not just in different colour variations in the same pattern, but seeing the array of colours used across many patterns to help you gain a feel for what colours choices you would like to see in your project no matter what stitch patterns you want to use.

Though the approach to motif is quite different here, this book does the same thing.

 There is a level of comfort in seeing a motif in living colour laid out along other motifs.  If you are colour chicken like I am, this is a level of comfort and reinforcement that I am not crazy, that my choice will work, without being weird or overwhelming.

And that kind of takes me back to the beginning of this post, The Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible. A couple of weeks ago,   I posted about how difficult a choice it was between that book and Alterknits for my fall book purchase. Well, difficulty no more.

Frazzledknitter had borrowed the library copy and kindly brought it for me to look at one morning.  A choice between these two books is simply not possible and I decided that one of my Christmas presents for myself is this.  I love this book.  I already have serious plans for a sweater featuring one of the sweet little motifs.

I am living If You Give a Mouse a Cookie aren't I? 

If you give a knitter a book, well, really if you give this knitter a book, she needs another book.