Thursday, October 23, 2008

Handjive: Natures Palette

It is hard to believe we are still getting new yarn in at the shop. Some of the packages are expected -- yet still exciting -- standbys, some appear without warning (new amazing Japanese books in the shop!!) and some, like Nature's Palette from Handjive are well worth the wait!

When Courtney and I went to the Handjive booth at TNNA, we knew we needed to round out our selection of a perennial favorite, Nature's Palette Fingering. We brought in some new colors to add to our original grouping and now have a great selection of the subtly shaded, naturally dyed buttery soft merino for you to choose from. Think baby sweaters, hats, fair isle, socks, pulse warmers, mittens or a beautiful shawl.

While in the booth, we also saw a new yarn from Handjive, Nature's Palette Thick and Thin. This yarn is not your run of the mill bulky: it is amazingly soft, comes in whopping 150g/168 yard skeins and has really beautiful and subtle color variation. The Thick and Thin structure adds visual interest with minimal effort -- think seed stitch, a slipped stitch pattern even a simple cable. Stacy whipped up an adorable hat in mere hours using only 1/2 a skein (even with earflaps!) and plans on using the rest for a pair of matching handwarmers. One skein would also be plenty for a comfy scarf, cowl or mittens. A perfect yarn to knit a sure-to-be-loved and quick gift.

it is never too early to start knitting for holiday gifts -- whether it be a fine gauge baby sweater or socks or chunky scarf!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dayquil = Inability to do basic arithmetic

So....I was overcome with a mini plague last week that rendered me non-functional unless heavily phisically and mentailly modified withthe help of Dayquil. Along with feeling better, when under the influence of the little orange-candy flavored muse, I lost all ability to do basic arithmetic. As a result -- and even though Jen handed me an error free pattern to format -- a few errors were made in Dahlia when I was typing it up. As of today, October 21st at 11 am, the corrected version is available here.

So sorry about this!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


A few weeks ago we got Ella Rae Lace Merino in at the shop in 4 saturated and varied colors. Jen immediately dove for "Primarys" -- a skein containing every rainbow color under the sun. Armed with her very bright skein, she set forth with the task of coming up with a pattern that highlighted the sproing, drape, twist and saturation of the yarn.

The end result is a beauty. The openwork pattern really shows off the colors without looking too "clowny". The entire scarf only requires one skein, making it a perfect present or affordable fall treat for yourself.

Variegated yarns can look beautiful in the skein, but lose something when knit up -- the colors don't play well, or pool in an undesirable way. Jen's pattern paired with the Ella Rae Lace Merino is an exception to this in every way and the end result really works!

If you would like to knit Dahlia, click to download the pattern below. As an extra incentive, Ella Rae Lace Merino is the featured Yarn of the Week and a steal at only $20/skein. If you purchase the yarn online, we will include the pattern for free, or stop in the shop and grab a skein in person!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

KPPPM at Prayer (or, There's Hope for Every UFO)

It's a long time ago now that I decided I needed a new tallit, or prayer shawl. I kind of think it was sometime in 2002 or 2003, but it's hard to be sure; it's before this blog started, anyway.

It was not just an excuse to collect red skeins of Koigu, no matter what anyone says.

From a ritual standpoint, the design requirements were pretty simple: it had to have four corners, and it couldn't combine fibers of linen with fibers of wool. One thing I knew I didn't want to do was cast on a number of stitches, work for a long time, and cast off -- this was not going to be some extra-large scarf. I wanted something that was interesting to knit, but not real challenging, and I wanted a simple design for wearability (though I was also afraid that I'd get bored with the finished product, which will be worn weekly).

Koigu solved the boredom problem, because it's always changing. It would also be lightweight, which made it a good choice for year-round wear. I started with about half a dozen different red-related skeins, knowing that they wouldn't be enough, but also knowing I'd be able to blend new ones in. I used the same strategy as several of the Koigu shawl patterns: several rows of Skein A, followed by alternating 2-row stripes of Skein A and Skein B, followed by several rows of Skein B, and so on.

I also didn't know exactly how large the finished object should be. I like mitered things, so I planned to work from the center outward. But I didn't want a square. I made a (fairly wild, fairly inaccurate) guess about the ultimate proportion I'd want, and I cast on a number of stitches that was related to how much wider a tallit should be than its depth. I then picked up stitches along the underside of the cast-on and began working back and forth, increasing twice at the middle of the row.

As the rows got longer and longer, each skein ran out sooner. Eventually, I stopped working any plain sections; once the transition from Skein K to Skein L was complete, I immediately began alternating Skein L with Skein M. Not all of my skeins were full to begin with, since I'd begun to buy mill-ends any time I saw useful shades.

While all of this was happening, time was passing. It didn't take long for the piece of fabric to get too big to carry around easily, and this was the kind of project that got interrupted all the time for smaller, more urgent items. I never had a deadline, but about twice a year -- often before Passover, and almost always over the summer, as I anticipated the High Holy Days -- I'd start thinking that it would be really nice to get it finished.

But by last year, each row was over 700 stitches, and there were 5 circular needles in the thing (size 3, if you want to know). I began planning for the end -- a seed-stitch border, seed-stitch blocks in the corners where the ritual fringes go -- but progress was still mighty slow.

I finished in the Spring (though not in time for Passover). I tied the fringes myself, following the instructions in the first Jewish Catalog (Siegel, Strassfeld, and Strassfeld; JPS, 1973), though I bet you could find instructions on YouTube. And you know how some knitters, as soon as they see you wearing something you've made, turn a little of it to the inside to see how good your finishing technique is? The first morning I wore my tallit to synagogue, the first person to comment on it picked up a corner and looked at the tzitzit (the fringes), to see whether I'd done them European-style or Mediterranean-style. (European, fyi. The Sephardic technique looked harder.)

So there it is. The finished object weighs about 755 g, including fringe, so about 15 skeins of Koigu. It measures about 38" x 61". The size isn't perfect: at the Sh'ma, when we gather the fringes from all four corners and hold them to our lips, the lower edges are awkward and stretched. But I'm seriously not sure which dimension would have to change, or by how much, to fix that, and I'm certainly not thinking about un-finishing it to make the adjustment. The closer you look, the less red it is; in addition to the obvious orange and pink, and the yellow, brown, and black that you can see in these pictures, there are spots that have a little forest green and a nearly-navy blue. In short, as with anything that has enough KPPPM in it, I'm not sure there are any colors it doesn't have.

O.k., I'm not 100% sure it's finished. Most tallitot have a strip along the upper edge called the atarah, or crown. It usually has, either woven in or embroidered, the blessing we say upon putting on the tallit. (Some have the owner's name instead.) I had plenty of time to think about an atarah while I was knitting the tallit. Here are some options: buy one (no offense, but no thanks), embroider my own on purchased cloth (I'm not that good an embroiderer, and still not keen on purchasing the cloth), weave a strip of cloth (still have the embroidery problem). Or knit one: knit in the words (anyone seen a charted Hebrew alphabet lately?), using intarsia or lace or seed stitch, on some very, very fine yarn with very, very small needles. I'd welcome all citations to charted Hebrew alphabets, but don't be surprised if I don't cast on right away.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October Project of the Month!

There are a few well known things about me. One, I really really love (read: am obsessed with) my dogs. Two, I am always cold. And three, I love to design vintage and classic inspired knits with a modern twist.

A few years ago, I was given a double knit navy and white (reversible) wall hanging with traditional Selbu motifs on it. It has floated around in our house, sometimes hanging, sometimes covering the back of a chair, but never really finding a place in our home. (What do you all do with your 3' x 4' double knit motif based wall hangings?) Randomly, one day, I looked at the wall hanging and was immediately inspired

And so I began to knit!

The end result is Selbu Modern, a traditionally inspired beret with a modern twist. And whats best, it is perfect for keeping my head warm while walking the dogs. A trifecta of happiness!

The beret is knit with 2 skeins of Koigu KPM, (one each of the MC and CC) and the end result is super soft and sproingy. Any solid fingering weight yarn will do, though! Download the free pattern below and come in and pick out your favorite modern color combination!

Ravel it!