Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Trick, Just a Treat: Free Scarf Pattern

Happy Halloween Y'all,

Suzanne and Renate have a nice treat for you. It's a free pattern for their gorgeous East Meets West Downtown Scarf. And please note: the weather is cooperating for scarf-making and scarf wearing. So prepare to bundle up in style. Here you go:

East Meets West Downtown Scarf
By Suzanne Middlebrooks & Renate Conn

• 3 balls of Nashua Creative Focus Kid Mohair
(75% kid mohair, 20% wool, 5% nylon; 98 yds; 50g)
in color Clay # 028
• 1 ball of Online Java (67% cotton, 33% viscose rayon; 158m; 50g)
in color 37
• 1 ball of Habu A-111, 1/ 2.5 Tsumugi Silk Combination
(100% silk; 78 yds; 1 oz) in color 8
• 1 pair US Size 10.5 needles
• Size E crochet hook

Finished Size
Approximately 11.5” wide by 72” long including crochet edging

Scarf Part
Note: only count stitches after wrong side rows

Using Kid Mohair cast on 34 sts.
Row 1 (RS): K1, *yo, k-tbl, yo, k2tog-tbl, k5* repeat to last stitch, k1
Row 2: p5, *p2tog-tbl, p7* repeat to last 6 sts, p2tog-tbl, p4
Row 3: k1, *yo, k-tbl, yo, k2, k2tog-tbl, k3* repeat to last st, k1
Row 4: p3, *p2tog-tbl, p7* repeat to last 8 sts, p2tog-tbl, p6
Row 5: k1, *k-tbl, yo, k4, k2tog-tbl, k1* repeat to last st, k1
Row 6: p2, *p2tog-tbl, p7* repeat to end
Row 7: k6, *k2tog, yo, k-tbl, yo, k5* repeat to last 4 sts, k2tog, yo, k-tbl, yo, k1
Row 8: p4, *p2tog, p7* repeat to last 7 sts, p2tog, p5
Row 9: k4, *k2tog, k2, yo, k-tbl, yo, k3* repeat to last 6 sts, k2tog, k2, yo, k-tbl, yo, k1
Row 10: p6, *p2tog, p7* repeat to last 5 sts, p2tog, p3
Row 11: k1, *yo, k1, k2tog, k4, yo, k-tbl* repeat to last st, k1
Row 12: *p7, p2tog* repeat to last 2 sts, p2
Repeat Rows 1-12 twenty times.
Bind off.

Crochet Edging

Row 1 (RS): On RS of knitting, using Tsumugi Silk Combination, single crochet 57 sts onto the edge of the short end of scarf, turn.
Row 2: 1ch, 1sc into back loops of each sc to end, turn.
Row 3: 1ch, 1sc into back loops of each sc to end. Fasten off.
Row 4: Using Java held double, fasten yarn to last sc from previous row, ch 5, *skip 1 sc, 1ch, 1dc into next sc* repeat to end, turn.
Row 5: 1ch, 1sc into first dc, * 5ch, skip 1 dc, 1sc into next dc* to last dc, 5ch, skip 1 dc and 1 ch, 1sc into next ch, turn.
Row 6: 1ch, 1sc into first sc, work 7sc into each 5ch space to end, 1sc into last sc, turn.
Row 7: 5ch (count as 1dc, 2ch), skip first 4 sc, 1sc into next sc, *3ch, skip 6 sc, 1sc into next sc* repeat to last 4 sc, 2ch, 1dc into last sc, turn. Fasten off.
Row 8: Using Tsugumi Silk Combination, fasten yarn to last sc from previous row, 1 ch, 1sc into first dc, 5ch, 1sc into 3ch space, into each sp work (1 sc, 5 ch, 1 sc) to end, placing last sc into 3rd ch of turning chain.
Fasten off.

Monday, October 26, 2009

On the Road Again

Hey Y'all,
To say I am lucky with the ridiculous number of travel opportunities life hands me is a real understatement. For example, last month, you might recall, I flew to Portland, Maine, then headed to an island off the coast to knit for a week. This month-- just the other day actually-- I flew to Portland, Oregon and then headed over to Astoria, which is on the coast, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, and where Lewis and Clark finished up their little walk.

There are so many things I love about traveling in general and Oregon in particular. Yarn, it will probably not surprise you to hear, is top on the list for both. Now Hill Country Weavers will always be my home base yarn haven. And I probably get 97% of my stash there. But when I'm on the road, I like to at least visit other knit shops, and sometimes pick up a little something to add to the stash, my textile version of a postcard.

A couple of years ago, I visited the Yarn Garden on Hawthorne in Portland and that is a truly lovely shop. This time around, I decided to see what else was out there. So after landing in Portland and before heading to Astoria, I popped by Knit-Purl in downtown Portland right after they opened at noon on a Sunday.

Talk about gangbusters! I was there about a half hour and in that short stretch the store went from having just a couple of customers wandering around to feeling more like some internationally famous yarn fest. I mean, it was more crowded than church! I met a new-ish knitter, Tom, who is most enthusiastic about his new endeavor. He's also already designing his own stuff (see the pic of him wearing the blue scarf.) Christine, who was womanning the register, was wearing this gorgeous vest she made. Now is that Fair Isle or Intarsia? I still have a hard time telling those apart sometimes.

Knit-Purl Owner Darcy appeared at some point (she'd been working in the back) and I chatted with her a bit about a line of yarn the store puts out-- it's alpaca and I got a skein of this gorgeous peacock blue. I also decided that I'm going to make Suzanne start an alpaca farm in South America and let me run it so we can have our own HCW line of yarn.

My knitting adventure in Portland completed, I headed on to Astoria, where I currently am sitting in the Blue Scorcher Bakery, my favorite bakery in the world. I am drinking far more coffee than I should. I am eating a different pastry every hour or so (pacing myself). And I am happy to report that my friend Shannon, whom I met here and see just once a year, showed up this morning. She didn't even know I was coming, but this is her hangout and, yes, she brought her knitting. So we sat and knitted and caught up.

Shannon has a friend Margaret, whom I met years ago at the Astoria Farmers' Market, and Margaret dyes yarn and sells it. So now I'm trying to track her down to find her latest batch and run my fingers over her inventory. I can't wait.

I am not kidding when I say that, on a pretty regular basis, I fantasize about just planning a long series of trips that are centered around knitting. Not just finding knit shops once I land, but actually looking at a map and saying, "I think I'll go to Uruguay and hang out with the Manos folks!" or "Off to Wales to try my hand at shepherding."

Would very much love to hear about your yarn-related travel stories so please post 'em. And I'll work on a pun about putting the "ravel" in "travel."

Here are some more pics from my current adventure:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Manly Knits!

Hey Y'all,
So we know about the Sweater Curse, right? Whereby if you knit a sweater for your boyfriend the relationship will end. I think that's because... let's see... maybe it's that he won't appreciate the hard work and that will chap you and start the fight that ends it all? Or maybe it's because he will wear it and look so hot in it and some itch-bay will steal him away? Gosh I can't remember. All I know is, I'm never knitting my BF a sweater. Of course, that also has to do with the facts that a) he never, ever wears a sweater even when it's twenty degrees out and b) he keeps me busy knitting other things for him.

You see, Warren likes to challenge me and my knitting skills. So, on his request, I have knitted him a pair of handcuffs, a hat that looks like a roasted chicken, and another hat that includes a 3-D menorah at the top. That last one was me learning a little Fair Isle on the fly. While very pleased with my results, I banned him from making requests, since he was hinting at wanting me to knit him some chaps and a Jesus costume. Thing is, it's really hard for me to not take a challenge like that, so I try to nip it in the bud. That said, he recently sent me a picture of a gnome hat and also asked me to knit a "stack of rocks." That is, knit a bunch of rocks and then put them together like a sculpture. I will likely wind up doing both-- I think I'll make felted "rocks," and, as for the hat it's a pretty simple one so no problem. But after that NO MORE knitting challenges from Warren.

Now if you are more generous of spirit and needles, and also if you like the idea of more traditional knits-for-men, and if you do not fear the Sweater Curse, then we have just the thing for you. Plenty of knits-for-men pattern books (see pics above and below). And, don't forget, we have the Ultimate Man Knitter-- Brooklyn Tweed-- coming to town in just TWO WEEKS! Yay. I can hardly wait.
Happy Man Knitting,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looming Large: AWESOME Tapestries at AMOA

Last week, I finished my book on Thursday. I was both exhausted and relieved. I have been working more hours than I can count lately. Even though I had a pile of work that had backed up as I finished up my book, I wanted to take at least a few hours to give myself a break and treat myself to something nice. I knew there were several great art exhibitions in town, so my BF and I went museum hopping. Our first stop is the one I want to tell you about. We went to see the Chuck Close installation at the Austin Museum of Art, downtown at 8th and Congress. It's called A Couple of Ways of Doing Something.

Chuck Close is famous for his portraits-- especially the enormous, photo-realist paintings he's done. In 1988 a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down. This did not stop him, and he continued to paint using a brush strapped to his wrist.

For this latest body of work, he turns to photography-- both digital and daguerreotypes. The latter is a very old photo technique, developed in 1839, which captures direct positive images on metal plates. Very cool stuff. While the photos are in and of themselves utterly spectacular, here's the part I loved the most: several of Close's images were converted to tapestries using a Jacquard Loom. This loom uses about eighty bazillion strands of thread at once to recreate a tapestry image so detailed that it looks like a photograph. So if you go to the exhibit (and YOU SHOULD) you will see these absolutely gigantic tapestries which, if you stand across the room, will look like photos. But if you move in close, and look at the back (one is hung so you can see front and back) you will be startled to see just what a complicated weaving process was involved.

Also, do not miss the accompanying video, which is shown on a loop in the Community Room, to the left of the gallery. It explains how the Jacquard Loom works. Really, really amazing stuff. I'm not a weaver but I was still blown away and, even with the explanation offered in the short documentary, it all remained complicated enough that the results still feel magical.

I just can't recommend this exhibit highly enough. But note that it goes away on November 8th, so don't wait to go check it out. Click THIS LINK for basic info on the installation. Click THIS LINK for more detailed explanation of process.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Love Letter to the Best Knit Store in the World

Dear Hill Country Weavers,
I am just writing to tell you how much I love you. We've been together for so many years now that I think sometimes I forget to say it out loud, to your face. And I know I called you "The Best Knit Store" in the title, but that technically you're called Hill Country Weavers and that you make so many weavers happy, too. But this letter is about my love for you, and me? I'm a knitter. Boy am I.

So this past year has been hard-- I've been working on this quilt history book, which is funny, since I'm a lousy quilter. Still, writing about quilts is what I do to pay my bills. In fact, just last week I had a quilt book come out. Here's a link to it and here's a picture of it:

That book was fun to write-- my boyfriend and I traveled all over the country meeting cool textile artists. But the book I'm currently working on, which is due on Thursday, has been a beast involving tons and tons of research and... well never mind the other details. It's been hard. And working on it is part of the reason I had to skip getting on the Yarn Crawl bus this past weekend. I was totally bummed about that.

By Sunday afternoon, I had worked so many weekend hours-- I've been working seven days per week for months now-- that I finally had to just stop and do something nice for myself. I'd already been planning a trip to 78704 to drop off a hat I made for my little friend Annabelle. Even though I've been so so so busy, I have continued to make time to knit. When Annabelle sent me an email recently explaining that the hat I made her as a newborn was cutting off the circulation to her brain (and she sent a picture to show me just how tight it was) I squeezed in a few rows here and there until I had what is now officially known as the Pee-Pee Titty-Tat hat pictured above. You can figure out the "Titty Tat" part. But let me tell you the Pee-Pee thing: Annabelle is busy potty training and so this hat was a reward for all her efforts. Of all the gifts I've ever knitted, I think the Pee-Pee Titty-Tat hat is going to go down in history as one of my favorites because already it is so appreciated.

Since Annabelle lives so close to you, dear Hill Country Weavers, I could not resist popping in. I needed to pick up a special order of Manos de Uruguay to finish up a very complicated sweater I will probably complete by 2015 if I am lucky. Of course the real reason I stopped by is because you are My Happy Place. I cannot walk through your door without immediately feeling better. If I'm already happy, I get ecstatic. If I am not so happy-- if I am worn out and grumpy as I have been lately-- I find myself smiling a genuine smile. And I was thrilled to see how packed you were, filled with Yarn Crawlers from all over.

I plunked down to knit a little near the sock yarn and at least one customer mistook me for an employee. The feeling that gave me was on par with the way I feel when I am in NYC and someone asks me for directions because they think I look like I fit in and know the place. And as I looked around at all your glorious offerings, I had an epiphany. I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but here is what I think I might love most of all about you:

You, Hill Country Weavers-- you are the picture of potential! Everywhere I look, every color I see, every type of yarn and gadget and doo-dad and button and embellishment and pattern and sample project-- all of these things scream to my creative heart. I think of all the things I want to knit, and all the things I'm currently working on and I get this sensation that is simultaneously a cross between wild excitement and utter calm.

Let me say it again: I LOVE YOU!

I am going to go finish up my book now, and turn it in, and then maybe collapse for a few days. But as you know, I'll be back very, very soon. Because I can't stay away. I love you far too much for that. Thank you for being the calm through so many storms-- a divorce, several deaths, relationship woes, and on and on. And thank you for being the celebration place, where I have found so many ideas and so many supplies for so many gifts I have made and given to celebrate so many occasions.

You are the very best.
All of my love,

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Time to Crawl, Y'awl!

Woo-Hoo! It is officially Yarn Crawl weekend. Now be careful out there on those wet roads, hear? And remember to make your first stop Hill Country Weavers. If you've got your passport then you probably know that each place you stop to get it stamped, you get a free gift. At HCW we're giving away some rocking yarn and a pattern booklet. Here are some pics-- of the yarn we're giving out and patterns from the booklet-- to inspire you. I can't wait to make those hand warmers.

If any of you want to email me your stories and pictures ( I'd love to post them here. So drop me a line.

Now go ahead, knitters-- start your engines!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tease, Tease, Tease! (Yarn Crawl Preview)

If you haven't signed up for the upcoming Yarn Crawl you better hurry up and do so. Last week, I took a little road trip out to Wimberley and, while I was out there, I stopped at the Old Oaks Ranch Yarn Store, which is a stop on the crawl. In truth, I'd never heard of the place, but I was down at HCW chatting with Suzanne, and I mentioned I was heading out that way, and she told me about OOR so I decided to pop by.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! You pull onto the property by making a left at the Alpaca yard. Yep, that's right, owner Sue Ellen Stavrand has a nice little herd out there, including baby Roosevelt, who is a little on the bleat-y side right now as he is being weaned. (Sue Ellen bottle fed him from birth, after his poor mama died.) I wish I had a herd of my own-- those guys are so cute with their fluffy hair, which Sue Ellen sends off to be spun into yarn which she sells at the store. She's got lots of other goodies, too. Like HCW, OOR is for knitters and weavers. There's a great Loom Room, a nice big retail area, and a little gathering room in the back, too. Oh, and there's some cool art, too. I saw a felted copy of Van Gogh's Starry Starry Night.

I took the outside tour, too. As it happens, there's a sculpture garden on the property! Big rock sculptures and bronze stuff, too. There's work from artists including: Josh Tobey, Kevin Box, Carol Savid, Casey Horn and lots of others. You can sit and knit out there amidst all the art and natural beauty-- I hope to go back soon and do just that.

Below are some more pics from my excellent adventure-- but first, let me remind you, OOR is but ONE stop on the Yarn Crawl. There are lots of others, too, including our own beloved HCW.

Sue Ellen hard at work.

Felted Starry Starry Night.

Alpaca yarn from Sue Ellen's herd.

Rock sculpture waterfall.