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?