Sunday, December 30, 2012

focus on the sweetness

2012. What year of highs and lows; of complex problems and simple happiness, of triumphs, and of losses.

there's the Honey Cowl in action, dogsitting this am
What can we do but move ahead, trying to make the world a better place in whatever way we can ? That's all I got,  in the way of words. But in the way of visual: plenty on  the sweetest simple pattern, the Honey Cowl .2honeys
I am so late to the party!  I watched Kay Gardiner,  aka canary in the coal mine for good knitting patterns,  declare allegiance to the Honey over a year ago. I even photographed her in a gorgeous grey one. And it went through my LYS like the flu. I wondered why it had, like,  gazillion (seriously, over 9000) versions on Ravelry.
felted honey cowl
Looking good even after an accidental partial felting in the washer/dryer, And btw? Isn't Zoe looking old?
Giuliana saw it online when I offered to make her a scarf.  She chose a green Cascade 220, despite my steering her toward fancier yarns. Eh, nice color,  I thought, but it's not going to be anything special. Fool on me!  The stitch is somehow zenlike.  It transforms the piece.  After a soak and pat out to shape,  it was soft and elegant.  The cowl looks good from any angle.  It's been in constant use by her since, making me ridiculously happy.
quick phone shot, you'd think we'd use some real cameras more often, right?
There it is, above, before the partial felting incident.  With the Thanksgiving flan*
honeycowl detail 
I immediately cast on for another, for me, with a skein of Enchanted Knoll woo/silk in a bulky weight. A quick gauge swatch , I changed up the numbers and  knit it with size 10.5 us needles. While in process, I fretted the handyed color shifts. I wished I was using a solid for me, too.  For a while it looked a  like a 2 day old bruise, hue-wise. (One of my beloved smartasses at knit night named the colorway Domestic Violence.  No disrespect to the social problem. We have a dark undertone to our humor).
crappy phone self-portrait. shoemaker's kids, and all that.
Anyway, I love how it turned out. It won't be my last from this pattern.
Wishing you all a year of sweetness and light and satisfying outcomes of all kinds. I'm making my usual resolutions: finish projects underway (knit and other), act on my ideas, do more yoga, be kinder to those poor people who work phone customer service jobs for annoying corporations....y'know the usual stuff. What about you?
* One of my happy accomplishments in 2012 was perfecting my Peruvian flan. The one shown, the Thanksgiving one, was double sized and not as pretty as usual, I'll need to remember to get a shot of it done right. Next I want to try curing my own salmon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

gift ideas + book reviews + footnotes

Annotated. Because who doesn't have a few more words on the subject....
My fellow knitters & crafters! Unless you're casting on a chunky quick project*, or demonically speedy, it is time to put down the needles and step away.  Shift the focus.  A promise of the handmade, perhaps? 372_1212GaleZuckerFV
These three from PotterCraft. They do good books. **
So you're short a finished project?  A bookmarked page with a promise of the item in January is a loving gift.  Infinitely preferable to snarling at your dear ones "Don't even TALK to me, dinner, uh NO,  I NEED to get this done...."***
To help you along , here are reviews from my opinionated self:
 Bruce Weinstein**** totally nails it in his new book, Boyfriend Sweaters. He delivers  on his premise: rock solid designs for guys that anyone would want to wear.  Including straight non-metrosexual guys.  And you. And, um, me. All sized for, and modeled by, both genders. 390_1212GaleZuckerFV This is the rare knitting book that keeps disappearing in my house.  I've had "wouldja make me" requests from it, across 2 generations and two genders and their friends, ages 17-55. That's a pretty good road test right there. The sweater above was 1st choice from 3 people.***** 387_1212GaleZuckerFVI'm all over this one. Maybe I'll make it for Dave and then steal it sometimes.388_1212GaleZuckerFVHere's another one. Win-win-win. Props to Jared Flood's photos, too, for the commerical yet natural catalog-ish appeal.389_1212GaleZuckerFV 
I hate knitting fitted sleeves for myself but I really really want a Z sweater. The whole alphabet is charted. Love it

Warm Knits, Cool Gifts from Sally Melville and her daughter Caddy Melville Ledbetter also gets my thumbs up.  It has a broad range: baby knits, accessories, sweaters, xmas type things, cute kid knits, anafghan. A keeper, but I have to admit, it's been here most of the year, and I haven't knit anything from it.
Then I offered Giuliana , who appreciates my knits in the most endearing way, a sweater of her choosing****** I pointed her at my shelf of knititng magazines and stack of books.
379_1212GaleZuckerFVShe chose this Center-Paneled Vest / Sweater , which I'd totally overlooked. Oversized, interesting front hem shape with shirt tail in back, nice drapey neck, and knit in worsted weight but with a center panel of fingering weight yarn. What a fun way to incorporate a skein of something too special for socks, right? I'm looking forward to casting on for it.383_1212GaleZuckerFV 
I kind of love it as a vest, too. 386_1212GaleZuckerFVExtra snaps to the book for the Flatter & Fit comment boxes along the way.

Next category: handknit dolls & toys. Love 'em. Almost never make'em. When my fabulous niece Ariana joined me at Rhinebeck this year, the one thing she wanted most was to cast on for stuffed animals, her fave kind of knit. So, I have the perfect gift for her:
A Kuku Doll kit. (This is Bella).  When Lisa , of The Creative Warehouse had me teach last month, she brought a bunch of her dolls as subjects. They are adorable, and come in every ethnic mix imaginable. If you have a multiracial family like mine, you perhaps have spent some fruitless hours looking for sweet non-caucasian dollies?  Lisa and a partner  have a very cool social initiative business, with the knitted/felted dolls available for purchase, or as kits & patterns to make them yourself.  Read more about the Dolly-Mamas here.
Then, there is this new book
Knitted Farm Animals by Sarah Keen
There's a lot to like inside. The animals are not twee, in fact some are downright soulful.
If I were a good granny, I'd be knitting this for Zoe. She loves her some sheep. (Me? Responsible? M-a-a-a-ay be). Instead, the book'll go to Ariana as well, and she can be a good cousin.******* In case you're wondering if I've slacked off the gift knitting, compared to other years, the answer is, sort of. Details when all done and delivered. I'll show you what I'm knitting today though. It'll be done later, I'm sure.393_1212GaleZuckerFVI't's that reversible variation of Fishermans Rib stitch again, related to the Decibella pattern. This is a smaller, dialed down, more subdued cowl. I'm  thinking of it as Sottobella. Pattern soon.
* A few chunky cowl projects you can whip out between now and 12/25:  Decibella, WhamBam, PuffDaddyBulky Mobius Cowl...those are just a few, add yr faves in the comments, please! (yes I am on a cowl bender, thankyouverymuch)
** My last book with PotterCraft, Craft Activism  still makes an awesome gift for anyone who appreciates handmade. (Just saying).  They sent me the books above, for review.

***Not that I've done that the last 2 weeks.

****Bruce Weinstein has also published several cookbooks, and shares his homemade nosh at his book signings. Whatta guy.

*****Unfortunately, I had to trot out the "nuh-uh. not knitting sweaters for anyone on size 4US needles" clause..

******As long as the pattern called for size 7US or larger needles. See above.

*******Is this offloading guilt? Maybe. Works for me. What's your strategy?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

gifting on the 1 trick pony

I had this notion I'd do a series of posts with good gifting ideas all month. Not because I 'm a gifted gifter. But because I get a lot of books sent here for review that you should know about, and I meet a lot of very interesting artists and designers. Who you should also know about.I'll get to them....
. Decibella_sm11GaleZuckerMeanwhile I am just a bit obsessed by Decibella, (more about my pattern in the last post.)  Put together a super quick knit that lets you play with colors, and throw gas on that fire in the form of my dear friend &  knitting hero Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting . She not only cranked a beautiful Decibella herself one night this week (scroll down in that link to view it and read her eloquent description of why the stitch entertains) but has engaged me in  tweaking-the-design alt yarn convos that have utterly blotted out any other gift knitting or blogging ideas. One track mind and all that! Decibellas for all this year!decibella_GaleZucker_cowlSm So, tata and toodle-ooo I am off to my LYS to get me a couple of skeins of Malabrigo Rasta, or maybe Peruvia Quick or Misti Alpaca Chunky...all nice substitute for the Cascade Magnum shown here. 
Let me suggest a do-not-miss new book you might want to gift yourself (or another knitter) with: Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting By Cap Sease
Yes you read that right, 211. The book is fabulous. It's a MUST HAVE. You may not recognize Cap's name, but you have been knitting her designs from Green Mountain Spinnery for years. The books is spiral bound, so it behaves itself while you reference a well-organized collection of bind offs, cast ons and edges, with clear color photos, and easy-to-follow illustrations of hands executing the steps in each manueuver. It's super useful  for BO's and CO's you may not use often, or that  solve a problem or add a little something extra. Her breadth is mind-boggling.  It is just right for looking up an icord cast on or bind off...which comes  in handy....when you knit a Decibella. (see what I mean? neigh!) 
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Disclaimer:  I shot the author's photo of Cast On, Bind Off, and received a gift of the book. I wouldn't say anything here that wasn't 100% honest in my reviews, though. This book is an essential for your knitting library.

Friday, December 07, 2012

decibella !

 Meet Decibella, a cowl that makes itself heard.
 It's  a chunky, stylish, reversible cowl in a quick-to-knit variation on Shaker Rib. You can probably make one this weekend-it's that easy. Kind of fun, too.
As I mentioned in my last post,  the muse knocked me upside the head to knit a big orange cowl as a prop, in a stitch that seemingly has no official name,  for a photo shoot. Once we finished photographing, I felt like it had potential, so I went ahead and reworked it and wrote her up, and walla! A published pattern.*
decibella_2_galezucker I'm particularly happy with the applied icord edge. Why have I never fallen in love with this finish before? I watched Kay Gardiner  icord around a very large  Fussy Cut blanket with mindblowing speed and dedication.  It looked spectacular. Now, I get it.
Both the pattern stitch, which uses some K1 below action, and the applied icord are easy to learn, and they elevate the piece to something a little special. Want to try it yourself?
I'm itching to make another Decibella this weekend, too, in a lighter weight yarn- maybe a garden variety bulky or even heavy worsted- and maybe do the icord around both the top and bottom edge. ...or it could be worked as a smaller, closer fitting cowl that stands up around your neck ...or maybe use an ombre for one of the two yarns.....
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* the price is 4. it includes plenty of photos and also, how to do the applied icord. Not that you can't find gazillion video tutorials online to do the same thing, umpteen different ways--but sometimes it's nice to have all the info you need on the same pdf/printed pattern. You may not think of me as someone who writes patterns, and it's true I don't publish frequently.  But after co-authoring two craft/knitting books, I've been to the rodeo and even cleaned up the arena after the broncos. If you know what I mean.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

welcome to my process (with a query)

It started  simply enough, and it had nothing, nothing I tell you, to do with knitting.
I'm in a photography exhibit early next year, at a lovely gallery, with some respected photographer friends. I wanted to create a new image for the show, to suit a theme. So, I let a bunch of ideas roll around unattended in my brain. Then, just before the deadline ,  inspiration struck. It demanded a large, assertive prop. Nothing felt quite right. At the  very last minute I decided to knit the prop:  a nice loud large cowl.
I’ve named it Decibella. A cowl that makes itself heard.
The photo shoot happened, see out take, above. I made my deadline. All's well and good, right?  But then?  I ripped and re-knit the cowl, finetuning, fixing some awkward design elements. Whoosh!  Suddenly it is all about knitting. I figured I'd write up the pattern.  I'd worked out the kinks, it's pretty awesome in its assertiveness. Maybe someone else will want it, too. 
So here's my query:   It seems I used a pattern stitch that doesn’t have a name. At least, not one I can find. It looks brioche-y but I can assure you, it's not.  I thought it was Shaker Rib, but no. Here ‘s the only place online  I can find the exact same stitch, and it's a Craftster.Org post from 2004 in which the  the knitter says she unvented it. So, what is this stitch's name?

I am skeptical there's actually anything new in stitches. That's one of the things I find so cool about knitting. You think you just made a fresh new design in tote bags? Nah. A sister in Greece sitting on a rocky island used the same stitch combo 100 years ago. I know I used a variant of Shaker Rib in the round, that much I can tell you. Check out that link , and if you know what it’s really called,  help me, please.  I’m admittedly a few volumes short of a full stitch library (coughnoBarbaraWalkerTreasurycough) so I'm thinking crowdsourcing might just be the ticket. I'd like to be able to say what stitch I'm telling you to use in the pattern, along with describing how to do it.
I'm looking forward to the answer to this mystery.  And if you also come up empty-handed? Just make up a name. I bet it'll be better than any I've thought of. Two Color Double Half Fishermans Rib anyone?

Monday, November 12, 2012

some class

I mean that in the same way that Charlotte said "some pig".

photo 3  
Many thanks to our fabulous model for the day, Jessie.
Holding a Photography for Knitters Workshop day at an historic schoolhouse in Needham Massachusetts makes for some great photo settings.   
helping Having clever & talented students in the class, makes for fun ideas.

Caps for sale anyone? Seriously, these hats by Kathy Zola are for sale, on her soon-to-be-open etsy site. She has the pattern up on Ravelry for free--although if you look at these, you quickly realize the pattern is more of a blueprint and she makes all sorts of added textures and stitches on each hat she creates.

groupose The whole gang. Many thanks to Elissa's Creative Warehouse  for hosting the class. That's Elissa and one of her Kuku Dolls , on the far right.  Afterwards, I met Maryse at the shop and  we found ourselves staying for Saturday Night Knit Club. We didn't mean to,  we were powerless to resist the warm welcome , combined with the plentiful yarn fumes.  So we  plunked down knitting.  If you've never been to Elissa's shop, you need to go. She's got an amazing selection, nice staff  and some crazy fun projects going on.

photo 3 Rules for the day.

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Want me to teach a workshop near you?  Shoot me an email and I'll see if I can find a guild or shop that would like to sponsor me. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

a few quick things

• This Friday night 7 pm Nov 9th, I'm the guest speaker for the Common Cod Fiber Guild. I'll be doing a slidetalk on my favorite subject (or, one of them, anyway); 10 Tips for Fabulous Photography of Knitwear, and Beyond . It's a best hits of ideas from classes I teach. All wrapped up in a bow, with very little jargon. If you're not a Common Cod member no worries, $5. gets you in the door.
So..that's, like, 50¢ a photo tip? Good deal.

 • Where?  In Cambridge Massachusetts, at MIT. Heh, I am giving a talk at MIT. 
You have no idea how dorky I've been,  saying this (over and over and over).

• On Saturday, I'm teaching an all day class in Needham MA, same subject. But hands on, with plenty of shooting time plus time to do a quick edit and review/critique what we shot. We're meeting in an historic school house, which should be an amazing setting for shooting your knits. Thanks to Creative Warehouse for making this happen! There's till room for a few more students , last minute is OK.  This is going to be a special class.
Best use of pompoms that I've seen in ages, right? 
• I've already misplaced my wonderful new mitts. I wore them at Rhinebeck and then they evaporated. I know I brought them home. This is so disheartening. And, my hands are cold.
Pompom style. Only the very few can carry it off. In this case, on a kindergarten field trip to the US capitol. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

postcards from maine: swans island yarn

 Saturday 11/10 : a full day Photo for Knitters Workshop in Needham MA.
A one-of-a-kind class:  meeting in an historic schoolhouse (props! setting!), with enough time to learn, shoot, and to edit, look at work and critique too. Thanks to Elissa at Creative Warehouse for sponsoring this!
If  a hands-on photo workshop might be a bit much,  Friday night 11/9  I'm doing a slidetalk : 10 Tips for Fabulous Photos: Knitwear & Beyond  for the Common Cod Guild in Cambridge at MIT (heh , me teaching at MIT) 7pm.   Info here.
Back in September, one misty morning at Fiber College, I played tourist with  Mary Lou Egan. We set out on a short drive south to Northport.
0941_0912GaleZuckerFC Not on the island anymore.0995_0912GaleZuckerFCThey welcome visitors.0962_0912GaleZuckerFCWe're both crazy about Swans Island yarn, and this is where it comes from. 0964_0912GaleZuckerFCIt's all organic and naturally dyed. The displays show the plants & nature that go into the colors. 0961_0912GaleZuckerFCShowrooms of the stunning wool woven blankets (sliver at left) and the yarns. If I needed to receive to give a special gift, it'd be a Swans Island blanket. So elegant and simple. 0958_0912GaleZuckerFCSide room with irregular colors,  off dyelots. 0959_0912GaleZuckerFCThese are amongst the discounted skeins, from mixed dyes or limited runs. To call them seconds is unfair, they're so beautiful.  I bought one skein of a green, but wish now I'd chosen some of the indigo on the right, as well.0990_0912GaleZuckerFCWe toured behind the scenes too. Natural yarn, waiting to be measured out.0977_0912GaleZuckerFC 
Skeining yarn before dying.0985_0912GaleZuckerFCPre-soaked skeins waiting to go into dye baths.0978_0912GaleZuckerFC 
It was very very warm in the dyerooms. 0981_0912GaleZuckerFCYarn drying. Mary Lou had taken an all day workshop the day before, with head dyer, Jackie Degraff aka DyeMama. I was utterly impressed, as were the dyers working, that Mary Lou called out the name of the nature dye source on these skeins.0947_0912GaleZuckerFCWe visited the weaving rooms too. The looms are so wide, they have an airpump assisted shuttle that makes a satisying whooooooosh.0949_0912GaleZuckerFCWeavers' worktable.0956_0912GaleZuckerFCThe Swans Island woven signature.0969_0912GaleZuckerFCOne of the things I love best about visiting dyers is how their colors and sensibilities reflect the local palette.1015_0912GaleZucker_Camden MaineIn this case, the local palette couldn't be more beautiful. Camden harbor, just down the road.

A few last thoughts, if you're still with me: 
• Swans Island yarn may be available at your LYS. It is at mine :-)

• An oft repeated but wondrously true aspect of naturally dyed yarn is it all goes together. You can't make a bad color combo.

• Yarn like this, from small producers, costs more than commercially produced imported skeins. Choosing it is to vote with your pocketbook (as we like to say around here). To knit with it is a joy, no question.  When you buy it, you're supporting small business and  enabling real jobs in a challenged economy. These are people who put great care into what they create. You can read more about who's behind Swans Island here.

(sorry that was kind of preachy but I just had to say it, stepping off the soapbox now)