Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A yarn about yarn

Irish Diamonds is finished.

And it's huge.

It's more like a cape than a shawl. I think I love it.

I made this from Bartlettyarns 2-ply fisherman's wool in Blackberry. It's not the recommended yarn for this pattern. And it's not what I originally intended to make from the yarn. My plan was to knit an Aran sweater -- a twin to the one I made my brother almost 20 years ago, during the summer I really became a knitter.

My 3-year-old son and I had gone to a cottage in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It belonged to my ex's aunt, and she wasn't using it that year. So we were blessed with a free stay in a home overlooking Boothbay Harbor, on a balsam-covered island, during a summer that was, at least in my memory, sunny every day.

My ex was supposed to join us after two weeks, and then we'd drive home together.

He "forgot" to get his plane ticket.

Which meant I had 11 weeks alone in Maine with a 3-year-old, no TV to speak of, and not enough to read.

But there was a yarn store in town. All she sold was Bartlettyarn from Harmony, Maine. It may not have been the softest, but it came in heathery colors and still smelled a little like sheep. Somehow, it went with the rocky coast. I bought enough to make a sweater from Maine Island Kids. It had a little sailboat and some fir trees on it.

Then I made two more -- with apple orchards and chickens.

I made a Christmas stocking for a new nephew.

I made a sweater with intarsia loons on the front for my then-husband. The irony does not escape me.

Then I began the Aran sweater.

It was for my brother, who was my best friend. He came to visit me in Maine and we shopped for just the right pattern. He wanted a cardigan, no collar, and classic creamy wool. The Bartlettyarn was perfect for this project, and the yarn store owner had the perfect, out-of-print pattern, which she gave me.

I cast on that summer, and knit about half of it -- but then life and other, smaller sweaters got in the way.

When I finally picked it up again, the pattern was gone -- tossed in the trash by my then-husband. I was not as yet proficient enough to carry on without a clear map, and thought I'd have to rip back. But, amazingly, I found the pattern in a tiny, old yarn store in Tecumseh.

I finished the sweater just in time for Christmas that year. My brother loved it, took it to work, and wore it often.

A couple of years ago, I was on a fiber and winery tour in the Fingerlakes region of New York and bought this yarn. I planned to make the exact same sweater as my brother's.

Then life intervened again. My mother died. My brother, who had struggled with alcohol for a long time, gave into grief in the most destructive ways. He survived, but our relationship has not. He no longer speaks to any of us, least of all to me.

When I picked up knitting again, I knew I wanted to do something with this yarn. It reminds me of when I first learned to knit. It is simple and warm and its smell takes me back to long quiet evenings in Maine -- when I knitted while my son slept.

I didn't have the heart to make the Aran, though -- and so I chose something else. I wanted to keep the Irish theme, and I wanted something warm enough for chilly Michigan or perhaps for visits to Maine. I also wanted something that would wrap around me like the hugs I miss from the people I have lost.

This will have to do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mildly annoyed

I am almost finished with Irish Diamonds. I'll post photos tomorrow or the next day.

And there are things about this yarn I really love -- mostly having to do with the memories it holds -- more about that tomorrow or the next day as well.

But there is one thing about it that really irks me --

This skein alone has had at least four.

I have had a lot of practice untying them and grafting the yarn with the "Russian join." My mouth is getting dry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A time for fiber fun

Friday, I drove to Grand Rapids to see my daughter's play. We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking, and then I hit the road at 7 a.m. so that I could get home in time to go to the Black Swamp Spinners Guild fiber event.

Scott chatted with the people who make spinning wheels and spindles.

I chatted with fiber and yarn.

Briar Rose was there --

I managed to resist the temptation at their booth, but I did buy a couple of skeins for felted slippers from Amazing Grace FarmsThey had other stuff, too --

I could not resist some gorgeous English Angora fiber from Prissy --one of Jan Vandenhout's lovely bunnies:

And what about the shawl?
I knitted in my hotel room before my daughter's play, and afterward, while we talked.
I knitted while Scott drove us to Bowling Green for the fiber fest.
I knitted last night.
I knitted this morning.

I started promising myself little rewards for completing a row -- like a couple of these:
or a trip to the bathroom.

I am on the last patterning row, followed by two rows of stockinette, an eyelet row, two more rows of stockinette, and then 12 rows of garter stitch -- which I am referring to as the Bataan Death March edging.

While knitting, I've been singing --
"This is the shawl that never ends; it goes on and on my friends;
some knitter started knitting it, not knowing what it was, and she'll continue knitting it forever
just because
this is the shawl that never ends ..."

You know the tune -- feel free to sing along.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This is the shawl that never ends ...

Why do so many shawl patterns begin at the neck?

Is it because the construction is more efficient?
Will the shawl fit better?
Does it make the stitch pattern line up correctly?


It's because nobody in her right mind would voluntarily start a pattern that began,
"Cast on 810 stitches."

That's why.

It's never going to end.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More yarn?

When I came back to knitting last month, I virtuously proclaimed my intent to knit only with stash yarn. After all, I still have yarn. A lot of yarn. When I went to visit the stash, it was like greeting old friends -- the Cherry Tree Hill silk in the Dusk colorway (so pretty), the Fleece Artist mohair and worsted combo skein for mittens (so warm), and of course, the balls of alpaca roving (so soft)

So how come the mail delivery personnel brought all this to my house?

Zen Garden 20
Knitpicks Gloss Knitpicks Palette

The Zen Garden is for socks for a friend who had surgery. Merino, cashmere. How could I resist?
The Knitpicks yarn came with a delivery of these. I thought I'd use them to block the Irish Diamonds shawl, but I think I'll need a few more sets.

Can you see how long one row is? I put a pen on the floor for comparison -- hundreds of stitches .

But back to the yarn. Obviously, I had to avoid shipping charges, right? So I needed to get up to $50. I was being thrifty.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Holy cow, it's been a long time since I've posted ...

A really long time. Until about a month ago, I hadn't really knitted in almost three years. I'm blaming it on the family tragedies/drama of the last couple of years. But really, I just didn't care about anything woolly for a long while. I still liked yarn, I just didn't want to do anything with it. Then suddenly, a month ago, I got interested again. Really interested.

I went on a knitting retreat at Sauder Village in February, and just was inspired by all the creative knitters. And the yarn everywhere. I was supposed to take a workshop on knitting lace mitts. But when I started to do the three rows of homework, I got carried away -- I picked a lace stitch pattern and just winged it. By the time the workshop was supposed to start, I was here:

And then I just got carried away -- I made two pairs of these:

one for me and one for Caroline!
I made these for my darling sister in New York:

And I'm about 2/3 of the way through the Irish Diamond shawl from Folk Shawls. I am making it in Bartlettyarn in blackberry -- it's going to be really warm, and the perfect alternative to the Aran sweater I thought I'd be making with this yarn.

Although I've been away from blogging, I've been writing a lot, and have had some poems published. And I have a new favorite activity:

Scott wouldn't camp in a tent -- but he will in this little beauty! We bought a pop-up two years ago, and I am in it every weekend I can be. This year, it's going to Allegan with me for the Michigan Fiber Festival in August. Hope to see you there!