24 February 2008

Library Dedication

On 2 February the Friends of the Lancaster Library dedicated their bookstore within the library to my mother's memory. Here's the photo of her, a small plaque explaining why, and the official Los Angeles County Library System sign.

This was at the annual meeting and they also installed their officers and had a great speaker, a local author who has sold one of his books to be a movie. A lot of my mom's friends and fellow volunteers were there and everyone said wonderful things about my mom, even the speaker who had only met her once, some years ago, and had remembered her very well for her efficiency and her kindness. He writes a column in the local newspaper and, it turns out, mentioned my mom in his column after the dedication. I haven't seen it yet, but one of the volunteers saved it for me and is going to drop it by later today.

I said a few words about her love of reading and of books and how important the volunteers and the library were to her. Everyone seemed to like what I said and they laughed at my little jokes and nodded in agreement with what I said.

Here's a close-up of the official sign, made to match all the other official signs throughout the entire county system:

And here's the photo of my mom, taken at an angle so that the flash wouldn't reflect off the glass and ruin the picture:
Isn't that a pretty frame that they picked out? I'm very impressed with it.

22 February 2008

Another Finished Lace Shawl

Here it is, the beautiful Angel Lace Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark. It's knitted from two skeins of KnitPicks Gossamer in Caribbean. This yarn is 100% merino wool, 440 yd (a quarter of a mile) per 50-gram skein. This shawl used almost exactly two skeins, half a mile; I don't think there's more than two yards left over. As I was binding off, I was starting to wonder if I'd make it. Not that it would have been the end of the world or anything, since I have another half a mile in the same dye lot. It just would have been a nuisance.

In this photo the texture of the lace is a lot easier to see. Of course, that will all vanish with blocking, but it's pretty. It's just that to retain it, I'd have to make the shawl about twice as large and never wash it. That's not practical.

I'll get it blocked in the next couple of weeks, along with the two other shawls that are waiting to be blocked, and put up photos of all three of them in their final glory. Two of them are for me, the only ones I've kept of the eight lace shawls I've knitted so far. I hadn't realized I'd given so many away until I just counted them up right now.

Here are two close-up photos, showing the angels and their wings. They also show the colors of the yarn.

I've had the pattern and the yarn for a while, although they weren't intended for each other. What inspired me to get both out and start knitting was seeing a beautiful version, knitted in variegated blues, on Wendy's site. You can see it here, just as I did. In other words, it's all Wendy's fault.

I looked at that and said to myself, "Self, you've got that pattern and you've got an entire bin of lace-weight yarn, so what's stopping you?" My self replied "Nothing, but it won't look just like that because there's no yarn just like that in the bin." (My self is fond of pointing out the obvious.) So I picked out an interesting yarn and started knitting. I pulled the first version back because I had the wrong size needles, but it still went very quickly. I was going to give it to a friend, but decided to keep it for myself instead. I'm not sure how fond the friend is of chartreuse, which is a color about which most people have strong opinions

21 February 2008

De Source For Denise

I've mentioned before that I use Denise needles, particularly for Moebius scarves, and really like them. In all my tidying up and sorting of needles, I discovered that I've lost one US 11 tip. I've looked in every project bag, turned my knitting accessories bin upside down, and moved furniture looking for this tip. It's gone.

When I took Cat Bordhi's suggestion and bought the Denise needles and long cables for Moebius scarves, I looked all over the net and asked several people for recommendations. Based on this, I bought everything Denise made from The Patchwork Frog all at once. I got the basic set, the companion cable set, the three long cables, and the US 15 and 19 tips. The transaction was quick and graceful and the shipping was practically instantaneous (although this wasn't exactly surprising, as we're on opposite sides of Los Angeles County). The needles were all I expected and more and everyone was happy.

Then I lost the tip. The Denise company doesn't sell the individual pairs of tips separately, I discovered. What to do? Remembering how well the original purchase had gone, I sent a forlorn yet hopeful e-mail to The Patchwork Frog. She replied immediately, offering to take a pair of tips out of one of the sets she had in stock and send it to me, while ordering a replacement from the company. Doing this means that she now has a set in stock that she can't sell until the replacement tips arrive. She's willing to do that, rather than make me wait for the replacement tips to get to her.

That's a lot of stock to tie up for a $4 pair of tips and she doesn't know me at all. We had one transaction ages ago, is all. Yet she's more than willing to go to such lengths for me. Folks, this is what customer service is all about. Let's reward it and shop at The Patchwork Frog.

I'm just a customer, by the way, and have no other relationship with her. She, I, and over nine million people live in this county, so we're not what anyone would call neighbors, even. I've never met her in person and probably never will, but I recommend her highly.

17 February 2008

Sorting Needles

I've been tidying up my rolling bin full of knitting needles and other accessories. I got pretty much everything but the needles done and finally gave in to the inevitable. I have too many needles. I had too many before my mom died and I inherited hers. I'll probably still buy more needles for specific projects.

Among the circular needles my mom had were two with metal cables. Fans of Elizabeth Zimmerman may recall her writing about the first time she saw and, briefly, used a circular needle. That needle had a braided metal cable, as I recall, and one strand of the braid had broken and would snag the yarn, but still the needle was regarded as a wonderful tool that EZ wanted. My mom's two needles are in extremely good condition, a beautiful bit of knitting history.

She also had some 14" plastic single-point needles in US 2 or 3, which probably date from the '40s. A lot of knitting back then used much lighter yarns and much higher stitch counts than we do now. I think of worsted weight as being pretty standard for sweaters, but then it was sport or fingering weight.

She kept up with the times, though. There are a lot of larger needles, including circulars. I remember using a one-piece nylon circular in about a US 13 to knit a top-down raglan sweater in coral Spinnerin Frostlon. It had a vee neck and was a perfect color match to a straight skirt I had. That was when I was in high school. I also remember knitting a lace shell in avocado at about the same time.

My mom knitted a lot of slippers from a pattern popular in the '50s. They used a US10½ needle and two strands of worsted weight yarn in the adult size. Smaller sizes used lighter yarn and smaller needles. They were really simple and I, too, knitted a fair number of them. I could probably reconstruct the pattern without much effort. Anyway, she still had three or four pairs of 10-inch US 10½ needles, the ones we used for these.

Obviously there's been a lot of nostalgia involved in this needle sorting. It's been thirteen months since she died and I still miss her acutely. The probate closed last week, incidentally. It had been complicated by one particular asset that we had a little trouble getting transferred or it would have been done last year.

Another reason I have too many needles is that I have a personal quirk that I like to have complete sets of things that come in sets. I bought the larger tips and longer cables that weren't included in the KnitPicks Options and Harmony sets, for example, and I'll probably finish out the 16" circular needle set one of these days (I'm missing US 6, 7, and 9, which were out of stock earlier). I also really like sets that come with nifty storage systems for all the components, like the Options interchangeable circular needles. Fortunately my quirk is controllable and I can limit it to inexpensive sets. About the most expensive knitting set I have is the Weldon's Magazine facsimile set, all twelve volumes of it, and I bought at least half of those as Interweave Press brought them out.

11 February 2008

The Dramatic Stole Is On My Mind

It's kept me awake a couple of nights, fretting about it. My friend J. picked up some Lion Brand Incredible yarn in the Rainbow colorway when our local Hancock Fabrics closed up. She wanted a Dramatic Stole and she's exactly the right person to wear one. She's tall and carries herself beautifully. Drama becomes her.

I, being a knitter who is always looking for projects, said I knit a dramatic stole for her and we went to the new LYS and picked out some Blue Heron Rayon Loop in Blueberry, which is a very nice boucle. I haven't knitted much boucle, so this promised to be an interesting experience. And the colors are so luscious. Boucle knits up into a unique fabric in garter stitch. It's too loopy to knit into fancy stitches, as they won't show.

For a textural contrast, we chose Yarn Place Vivace (bamboo) in Purple Rain. Believe the promise of the yarn in the skein, as you pick it up and feel its soft slinkiness. It truly is soft and it has that wonderful heavy drape of rayon and silk. It also holds a stitch nicely.

So here's the total collection.

My first thought was symmetric stripes in random widths starting at the center back, sort of like the spreading zone in the middle of the Atlantic. I tried that, starting with the Vivace and following with the Rayon Loop, but it really didn't work. The Vivace needed more of a pattern and the gauges were just too different.

Even that little bit of knitting with bamboo yarn had kind of hooked me, so I'd gone back to my LYS and picked up three balls of SWTC Bamboo, which is DK weight, and restarted Faina's Scarf[1]. I got about halfway though it and had an idea for the Dramatic Stole. I decided to make lace panels in the Faina's Scarf pattern in Vivace and join them with garter-stitch panels in the Rayon Loop. I've knitted two lace panels. The panels are about 11" by 22", although I can change the size a fair amount.

Here's a close-up of one of the panels. I should point out that this pattern is copyright Fibertrends, so I won't be showing the whole thing in loving detail or anything.

And here's a close-up of the other.

Chevrons and diamonds, to summarize. You can probably just see that there's a chain selvedge on the side of the panel. I'm going to knit a Rayon Loop panel, picking up the selvedge stitches, to join these panels. There will be five lace panels and six boucle panels. Then I'll edge the whole thing with Incredible, in a knitted-on i-cord, and add the Incredible fringe. That should be dramatic enough, even for her.

[1] More about the Faina's Scarf soon. I need to take photos in good light because the yarn is all blues and lavender, which doesn't photograph well in poor light. The colors are beautiful and I want them to show up in all their glory.

03 February 2008

Another New Scarf

I started another quick scarf, after buying three balls of SWTC Bamboo yarn from my LYS. This isn't a very good photo, partly because the yarn is very shiny (and soft) and partly because it's been cloudy here. These are also difficult colors for the digital camera. The yarn is variegated from a light lavender to a medium teal via light green blue. The colors are actually very pretty and not all faded out, the way they look in both these photos.

The colors are a little better here. The pattern is Faina's Scarf, from Fibertrends. This is at the end of the first chart, the increase at one end.

See the pretty seed stitch border? it's also got a slipped-stitch selvedge that is visible along the left side. While this is lace, it's not very lacy, which sounds contradictory, but isn't. I started this scarf once before in red Lion Brand Microspun, which is very nice yarn, but was way too heavy for this scarf. The Bamboo, which is DK weight, is really a bit too heavy, too, but it's a lot closer. The pattern wanted sport weight, but I didn't have anything really pretty in sport weight.

I'm actually almost done with the second body repeat, but it's too cloudy to get a better photo. As soon as it clears up I'll snap a photo to show it off in its true colors.