Sunday, June 18, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Done!

The never-ending wow...

For the first years of my knitting career, I never blocked anything.  Some of that might have been because as a novice, I mostly stuck to inexpensive, acrylic fibers.  Not that workhorse yarns don’t have their place, but once you experience the beauty of a quality fiber, it’s hard to go back.  There is something in an exquisite natural fiber—how it feels and how it behaves—that can’t be synthesized with chemistry.

When I open a brand new box of my books, the magic of that first moment never fades no matter how many years I’ve been writing.  It’s always a wow moment.  The same is true for me when I block a knitted piece. When I’m done knitting, it feels like the fiber is ready, eager to become whatever it’s supposed to be.  It’s always a brand new creation when I pull it from the blocking wires.  As if the piece steps into its intended identity. Heady words, I know, but the wonder of blocking is never lost on me. The fibers relax—literally—and settle themselves into the shape and drape we’ve both been working to achieve.

This is a beautiful kerchief.  Just the right weight to take off the air-conditioning chill while enjoying a summer dinner.  Easy enough to be pleasant knitting, beautiful enough to be a satisfying result of knitting efforts.  Well done, Orange Flower Yarn and The Wool Cabin!  If I haven’t yet convinced you, try this free pattern out for yourself.

Next up, I cast on the more complex Summer Shadow shawl from Hemstitched Heirlooms.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Day 5

What everybody wants...

This is one project where the bind-off is definitely not the last step.  In its un-blocked state, this is too small to be of any use, even as a kerchief.  This one needs “aggressive blocking” to take its rightful shape.  The way the fiber behaves, I have a sense it’s going to take the blocking beautifully.  Those eyelet rows will open up as the stockinette lays out flat and the bind off edge gains definition.

Earlier this week I “auditioned” for a speakers’ critique group I wanted to join as I seek to ramp up my public speaking career.  It’s a fine organization, but the mutual critiquing of each other’s presentations means I’ll spend three hours of sitting and listening twice a month.  Sitting and listening. Not my strength—I’m far too fidgety for long lecture/meeting scenarios.  And yet, I felt I could benefit a great deal from joining this group. 

What did I do? As I listed my qualifications and skills, I also asked, politely and professionally, that I be allowed to bring my knitting.  I explained that if I am knitting, they will get the best of my attention. I told them what I tell every presenter: “I’m not knitting because you bore me or I think you’re wasting my time, I’m knitting to help me focus my concentration on you.”  

Isn’t that what every speaker wants?  Isn’t that the exact opposite of what normally happens?  You know what I mean—people tune out after 20 minutes and check their phones or tablets, thinking the speaker doesn’t see.  Come on, we see.  No presenter wants to look out and see what, way back, we used to call “the Blackberry prayer”: head down, hands in lap, but typing, not praying.

They said yes.  I joined the group.  Knitting will get done, speaking will gain strength.  Everybody wins!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Day 4


While I tend to favor full shawls over shawlettes or kerchiefs like this, they do have one attribute I like: they’re giftable.

A full shawl represents a serious commitment of time and artistry.  And, often, the expense of  multiple skeins of yarn.  This project takes one skein of just about anything—so you can go simple or sublime.  And while it’s not something you could just knock off in an afternoon, you don’t feel like you’ve given a month of your life to its creation.  That’s not to say I don’t choose to give lavish gifts of knitting now and then, it’s just that some knitting is easier to gift than others.  

This pattern, with it’s perfect balance of simplicity and style, its modest size, and its flexibility to be basic or luxurious, makes ideal gift knitting.

With the last of the eyelet sections completed, I’m nearing the final steps of this pattern. Nothing is more enjoyable than finishing up a gift project and getting ready to delight the recipient.  Here’s hoping your experience of knitting The Age of Brass and Steam does the same for you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Day 3

"Make one" memory...

Now, with the second eyelet pattern in place, this kerchief starting to look like something.  

I admit, it still feels a bit too thick and “rustic” for my taste—especially in this woodsy green color—but since the pattern directions call for aggressive blocking, I think it will lighten up in drape and texture. 

Even if it doesn’t, I’ve not yet knitted something where, if I didn’t care for it, I couldn’t easily find someone who loved it.  The truth is good knitting is never wasted—it always finds its way to the perfect recipient.

My biggest benefit from this piece so far is this: I now have the difference between “Make One Left” and “Make One Right” firmly imbedded in my brain, thanks to this nifty tip. How delightful never to have to look it up (or write it in the pattern margin) again! Who knew all I had to do was look at the slant of the stitch leg?  I love being able to pass along such wisdom to you, DestiKNITters.

You'd think the size 8 needles are small, but instead they offer up a satisfyingly quick rate of progress.  This would make excellent vacation knitting—bigger and quicker than socks, but still engaging and portable.  And pretty enough to indulge your host with something handmade and wearable!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Day 2

The same, only different...

When you’ve knit as many shawls as I have—they’re my signature accessory, after all—certain themes come into play.  As I stitch my way through the soothing simplicity of the Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief, I’m reminded of the several similar pieces I’ve knit.

First to mind is the Blurred Lines Bandana from my trip to Dallas. Instead of a gentle solid, this one was a riot of pinks and purples, but the same concept of alternating stitch patterns loaded onto a double-increase-down-the-middle, yarn-overs-on-each-side construction.

Next I remembered the much larger scale of the Fog Shawl from Peoria, IL.  This one took the same alternation and construction to a daunting hugeness, but the colors were a charming array of ocean tones.

A version that brought a bit of lacy design to the mix was the Schmetterling shawl from my Chicago North Shore adventures.  More proof that a basic concept can host any number of variations.

How will this one turn out? There’s only one way to reach that answer—-keep stitching.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief from The Wool Cabin—Day 1

Good for what ails you...

I’ve spent the last five days nursing a cold so nasty I couldn’t even manage to knit until yesterday.  For me, you know that’s drastic!  I hardly ever get sick, but when I do, I seem to go big.  I had other plans than lying on the couch for the Memorial Day weekend, but alas, they were not to be.

Before this weekend’s terrible germ warfare began, I did get the chance to start The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief.  Unwinding the Intrepid Tulips yarn from the hank into balls proved to be a tricky business—this unique yarn likes to “stick” to itself.  I’m guessing Intrepid Tulips dyer Sarah Marsden gave this merino-bamboo blend the name “Bamboo Frost” on account of its alluring sheen.  According to Marsden, this shimmering effect comes from the different ways the dye strikes the two fibers. It’s got the frosty, shiny look I normally associate with acrylic fibers, but feels silky and and knits with all of wool’s lovely qualities.

For fun, I went in search of possible inspirations for the Orange Flower Yarn pattern title.  It may just be a general steampunk reference. “The Age of Brass," however, also seems to apply to early resistance to the Women’s Suffrage movement, as in the cartoon below.
Library of Virginia image

Opponents to women’s voting believed that granting such civic rights would begin a dangerous slide to aggressive masculine behaviors and general “man-hating.” As a woman and a voter, I’m grateful wiser opinions prevailed.

This is a pleasant, untaxing pattern, alternating basic increasing stockinette sections with touches of eyelet detail—perfect knitting for an under-the-weather gal in need of a diversion as she recuperates.

Monday, May 22, 2017

On the Spice Market Shawl from Blazing Needles -- Done!


This is as gorgeous a piece as I’d hoped it would be.  I love the dramatic graphics and the lush, rich colors.  You know you love a shawl when you immediately start planning which tops and dresses go with it, or you get the urge to go shop for more.  As I’ve said before, people often remark that I have a shawl for every outfit, but the truth is I have an outfit for every shawl.  Quick, somebody host me for a book signing so I can wear this beauty in public!

The texture is perfect for Chicago’s finicky weather.  50’s one day, 70’s the next.  Or for those of us who bring our own “personal summers” with us wherever we go thanks to finicky hormones.  It’s got enough heft to offer warmth, but not so much that you can’t throw it over your shoulders to keep off summer air conditioning.

One bit of advice: I do wish I’d adopted the strategy I did for the Leftie shawl and wove in the gazillion ends as I went.  With all these color changes, it took me nearly two hours to weave in the ends.  It was tempting to get sloppy as I neared the end, but I dug in my heels (or, in this case, my craft needle and scissors) and kept at it.

All in all, a truly exquisite piece, and one I’ll wear as often as I can. Thanks, Blazing Needles, for one of my favorite new shawls this year!