30 May 2006

Icarus, Day Four

DH is off putting food on the table, so I had a little difficulty finding a way to photograph this. I ended up pinning one of the stitch markers (aka safety pins) to the string in the middle of the window blind, sticking one of the needle points between the blinds, and letting it hang from there. The result looks more like a bat poised to fly away than anything relating to the Icarus legend, but oh well.

Don't pay any attention to the official dating on this blog before this point - I put all the posts together from my old knitting page (the old-fashioned kind of plain web site), and have been messing around entirely too much with moving things around here and there. Starting right now, no more playing with the computer. So I can get more knitting, er, writing on my dissertation done!

Although, maybe, one of these days I'll finally get around to correcting the mistakes on my page of Russian knitting terms, and putting together a printable PDF version. Hubbster can help. Will start actually answering my email, too. Or...I could get that dissertation written....

Oh, and btw - I thought I was much further along on the shawl than I was/am. I was counting the first completion of Chart one as one of the 5 repeats - not because I missed the instruction to repeat rows 19-42 five times "MORE," but out of sheer wishful thinking. Damn. So I'm just now almost finishing the third repeat. Grr. All the fault of the @%^@% blog.

Vital Statistics

And, oh yeah, here's the essential data on the Icarus:

Pattern: Icarus Shawl from Interweave Knits, Summer '06

Yarn: "Baby Fleece" Alpaca, made in Peru, distributed by Orlis, in Moscow (where I bought it, at the cute little store near the Kitai-Gorod metro stop. The shop is called "Orlis" [or something like "OPLUC" in cyrillic] and it's next to the 36.6 apothecary store, on the main square when you get out of the subway. To the right if you're facing the statue. That's the best I can do from memory). It's 100% baby alpaca "pukh" or down. 25 gram balls, 100 meters, recommended needle size metric 2.5-3. I bought it for, if memory serves, 67 rubles each. That's about $2.30. It feels like butter.

Needles: US#3 Addi turbos. Too slippery, tips too dull, but the joins are of course nice and smooth. I have no choice - I'd love to buy some bamboo circs for this, but I just can't justify the expense...

Stitch markers: coil-less mini safety pins. I hate them. I want something small, round, thin, without breaks or joins. My compadres on the Icarus KAL have suggested plastic drapery rings (interesting) and warned against the breaks in metal rings made for jewelry (duly noted). Will have to do some shopping, at least before I get to the vital edging sections...

Lifelines: This is the first time I've deigned to use them, but I'm so glad. First, the added security seems to make me, paradoxically, more careful, as I haven't screwed up yet. Second, I put them in at every chart repeat, so it allows me to stop and savor the accomplishment while hunting for another piece of thread and laboriously weaving it through the stitches. Third, I can tell at a glance how many repeats I've done, and since I seem to often be stopping for a while after finishing one, then I can see how much I've done when I start again...

Knitting conditions: So far, on the easy part of the pattern, I find I can work without the chart, and even watch TV (as long as it's something I can mostly just listen to, rather than watch avidly). But I have to be sitting, in a comfortable spot with good light, and not be particularly tense about anything!

Sunlight (Day Three)

Here it is, held up to the light to show all the pretty holes. I think my yarn is a bit thicker than some of the ones others are using.... I didn't even see how many WPIs it is, since I liked my gauge swatch...

Spit-Felted Join Working Fine

My yarn comes in tiny 100-meter skeins so I'm going to have to do a lot of joins...it's 100% alpaca, so I took a deep breath and spit-felted the ends together. I'd only tried this twice before (once it worked, once it didn't, probably because it was a blend masquerading as a wool). But it seems to have worked beautifully here! I should have overlapped the ends a bit more - the felting made the join a little thinner than the yarn -- and I was afraid the felted part would be noticeably less shiny than the twisted, plied, main part of the yarn. But looking at it in direct sunlight today, I'm happy to say that the join doesn't show in the least. Not that you can tell from this picture, so you'll have to trust me. It helps that the yarn fuzzes up a bit....

Icarus, Day Two

Progress was going strong, until I started messing around with this damn blog and my web site...

Icarus, First Picture

I can't stop taking pictures of my Icarus shawl's progress everyday, since I've joined the Icarus KAL. Rather than post them every day and annoy people, I'm going to post them here. This picture is the first taken of the Icarus.

27 May 2006

Craft Closet

Oh, and did I mention, we moved into a much nicer new apartment with great closets and so....(drumroll) I now have my very own craft closet!?! A dream come true, I'm not even kidding.

Icarus Knit-A-Long

And, the biggest news of all, I've started my first shawl. I've been opposing shawls for a very long time, and knitting lace almost as vehemently, but the folks at Interweave know what they're doing, and Icarus has proven just too tempting.... But I figure I'll need a lot of support to get through this, so I've joined my first Knit-a-Long. My shawl is made from a Peruvian baby alpaca yarn I bought in Russia. My best size 3 circs are unfortunately Addi turbos (I never thought I'd put the words "unfortunately" and "Addi" in the same sentence, at least without "don't have any"...), so they're a bit slippery for this project. Hence the lifelines I'm using liberally - another first!


But because it IS summer (I believe, I believe, I believe) I had to also be knitting something summery. A trip to H&M had me thinking, "I can knit that myself!" and so I did: a little wrap top out of pink ribbon yarn from Turkey, of unknown composition. I made the pattern up myself, and that only seems like bragging because I'm not showing you the extremely ugly under-arms, where I miscalculated and, instead of ripping it all out and starting over, invented an imprompty underarm gusset. Functional, and pretty -- as long as I don't raise my arms.


Because my dear husband can't get enough of natural fibers and I can't get enough of visiting School Products, I'm also gradually working on a scarf, in their luscious, in-house Yak/Merino blend.

Dishcloth Mania

I got the glorious Mason-Dixon Knitting book, and got into dishcloths for a while. I made this one starting according to the pattern, but decided it was too big for either dishes or a facecloth, so I kept going and made it a tea towel (see above). Then a made a little one that I'm (dutifully) actually using as a facecloth (see below), and also two other medium-sized ones in white and taupe for my mom, which I forgot to photograph.


For my birthday, and inspired by recent goings-on over in knitty-land, I bought myself a spindling kit and got started. It's totally fascinating, but it's taking me a while to get the hang of it...so tempting to over-invest in silk hankies and even a wheel, but not until (if) I get a job...someday...

Viking Sweater

Then I decided I wanted to do some colorwork, for the first time in a long time, and came up with this brown sweater for my husband, inspired by a lovely hemp sweater by LanaKnits, but made instead out of alpaca out of the stash, as I'm trying to reduce, and with my own version of the pattern, to fit my available colors and totally different gauge (the sleeve picture below gives the more accurate idea of what the colors really are). I've got the main part of the body and one sleeve, and have paused to consider collar options. I'm thinking Norwegian pewter clasps. I'm also gearing myself up to rip out the last few rows of the body. Somehow, my gauge in the plain main-color knitting got waaaay looser after doing the color panel. So I'm taking a little break before attempting to fix it....


There's been sadly little knitting time since I've been back in the States (though I have actually been getting considerable work done on my dissertation - that's probably for the best). But I did manage to design and knit this Budyonovka hat for my husband, out of Peace Fleece. It was based on a hat his grandmother made for him when he was little (the lighter blue one above, at left), but the grown-up version mostly resembles an early Soviet military hat called the Budyonovka, hence its name.

Socks Soar

Throughout the whole year in Russia and to this day (almost another year later) I've been working a row or so at a time on some lovely socks. They're in a Regia yarn with elastic, and I'm knitting them both at the same time on one super-long circular. Best possible antidote to second sock syndrome, of which I live in fear. Plus, I found Addi turbos at a fantastic bargain price in Moscow, but they're all 120 cm long. Oh well, I prefer the one long circ to dpns or two circs, anyway!


I also started the Rosebud pullover from knitty.com while in Russia. I'm using pink microfiber instead of wool, so since it doesn't have the elasticity it needs, I'm planning to thread actual elastic through the ribbing. It's deliciously soft, though. But, like the ballet sweater, I got bored out of my mind doing the sleeves, so as of now (May, 2006) they're both still languishing in my WIP pile...

Ballet Sweater

I also got halfway-through a light ballet sweater with a curious design adapted from my friend Kim's store-bought sweater (she's making one too, as her first foray into knitting, ura!), made with black Baby Silk Alpaca on big needles. But I took it home with me over xmas thinking I'd finish it there - naturally, I was too busy for knitting, didn't finish it, and then decided it was ridiculous to drag it across the Atlantic twice when I have more yarn in Russia than I can knit here already, and so left it at home. The shape is really unusual. It starts as a tube at the bottom of the body, but instead of making armholes, you split it in the middle front and back as for a V-neck (but on both sides), and continue the same decreases up and up, forming shoulders, until after about 8 inches or so (if I recall correctly) you start knitting the two side as tubes for the sleeves. The result is that the only "seems" (mine is seemless but of course the original store-bought version had them) are along the upper part of the sleeves and down the center front and back. Oh, nevermind - I'll try to draw a schematic sometime, or it'll never make sense (since the black doesn't show up well in a photo, either).

Knitting According to the Almanac

Elizabeth Zimmermann's baby jacket and leggings from Knitter's Almanac, with dark red alpaca. I've finished the jacket and am very pleased with it. Update: finished the leggings too! They turned out great, or rather, as I believe they're supposed to - babies have odd proportions, it seems.


I've also finished a gorgeous blue wrap-around sweater using a denim-looking AlpaFina yarn I got here in Ivanovo. I designed it myself and am quite proud of how well it turned out.


I was inspired by a towel I happened to see hanging around here to make a scarf with a strange combination of colored stripes. I was going to submit it for the knitty.com upcoming men's issue, as I think it's a nice way of forcing a male to branch out into new color territory - there are still some neutrals here and the overall effect is I think definitely masculine - but I decided it was probably too boring for them, and in any case probably can't get pretty pictures online in time for the deadline.

Samurai Sweater

And using the same yarn, and I think the same book, I also made the baby ballet-sweater, though we like to think of it as a Samurai sweater. Unfortunately they didn't have enough of the tweedy yellow I began with - this pattern takes a surprising amount of yarn - so I had to alternate with plain yellow for the last half...

Chunky Baby Cardie

Using the afore-mentioned wool/cotton, I made this beautiful Chunky Baby Cardie, which I got from a book, I think one of Erika Knight's, though I'll have to look it up.

Yarn, Yarn, Yarn!

At the top are a few of the many gorgeous yarns I've picked up. I'm big on baby silk alpaca (about $2.10-$2.50 per skein, at 183 meters - the wine-red in the middle of the picture above), microfiber (pink, above), and the Peruvian AlpaFina (tweedy dark red, above) which I particularly adore. In Ivanovo I also found a wonderful 50-50 wool/cotton blend (pictured below) for an astoundingly cheap $1.30 per skein! I forget the yardage, but it's quite decent.

Yarn Frenzy

But speaking of Moscow yarn stores. I've found quite a few more than I did on my last trip, and Ivanovo isn't a bad place for yarn shopping either, by any means. So the stash has grown considerably, sigh. The main Russian brand, Semyonovskaia, makes this one yarn in a super-thin feather weight, 100% wool, in a huge variety of colors. So I've begun attempting a pair of gloves using as many colors as possible, cut to varying lengths and stranded together until they come to something like sock weight. I got the idea from a magazine pattern, though I"m afraid I've forgotten which. Unfortunately, cutting all the lengths of course takes forever....

Sockie Wockies

From the same mall kiosk, I bought some really lovely 1-ply variegated alpaca. The first ball, in a range of oranges and browns, went into a pair of footies for Sergei, as he loves those colors. The second pair, in blues, is for me. I used Priscilla-Gibson Roberts' toe-up method to make them, but the idea of making thick little sockie-wockies with short tops came from my friend Ruth, who has a magnificent map of Moscow Yarn Stores on her site. While I'm on about socks, I also started another pair in a variegated sock yarn I bought back home, which was the first time I've tried knitting both together on one single circular needle (the "Magic Loop" method). I love it! Especially using a super-long Addi Turbo needle, which I found relatively cheap at a store in Moscow.

Keeping the Head Warm

Then I embarked on a hat, making it up myself for the first time. This one began with spying this crazy yarn in a kiosk in one of Ivanovo's many malls. Then, realizing that I would need something considerably warmer (this was long before I resorted to the fur hat), I also knit a second hat in plain red 100% wool, casting on at the point where the ribbed brim begins with non-felting waste yarn, then felting the body of the hat, picking up the stitches in the original wool yarn, and knitting down for a big long brim that could be doubled or even tripled to keep the nasty wind from my forehead. The idea was to be able to wear the bobbly red hat on top of the felted hat for maximum warmth in times of extremity (i.e., January through April). But I didn't felt the plain hat far enough, and now it's too late to do more since I've already knitted on the ribbing. Oh well. They work nicely enough as two separate hats, even if they didn't prove sufficient for the Russian winter!

Archive Gloves

These were possibly the most essential accessories for survival of my Fulbright year in Russia: felted archive glove/mitts. I invented the concept myself to suit the peculiar requirements of a year spent huddling over documents for 7 hours at a stretch in freezing cold archive reading rooms. Needless to say, we all sit there in our coats and scarves, but what to do about freezing fingers when the whole point is to be scribbling as much as possible? So I made felted mittens, with one innovation - the first finger on the right hand is separate, as for a glove, and at the tips of both that finger and the neighboring thumb I cut a small hole, so that I can grip a pen but not lose any more warmth than absolutely necessary. They work well, though they're a trifle bulky. I wear them long enough to get toasty warm, then take them off again for an hour or so for a break. It's probably good for my hand and wrist muscles to vary the grip, in any case! I used a Russian brand of 100% wool (Semyonovskaya), stranded with a fingering-weight wool of the same brand in a contrasting color (though the picture doesn't reflect it, it's actually cherry-red yarn with lime green stranded in.) NB: I did much of the work for the first mitten while watching the National Tragedy of an election unfold on TV at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.


Then I embarked on Elizabeth Zimmerman's seamless sweater, for the first time. I used a chunky grey Norwegian 100% wool that I bought in Moscow, and added some waist and bust shaping. Raglan sleeves, and my name and date knitted into the hem in Cyrillic, though unfortunately the only scrap yarn I had handy to do this in wasn't contrasty enough, and it's very difficult to read. Here's the whole sweater, the bust shaping (short rows) and side shaping (paired decrs and incrs, which made the sides sort of point down, but not so much as to look ridiculous, I hope - but next time I'll just spread the decrs and incrs evenly around the whole body), and the hem with its nearly invisible message.

School Products Cashmere

And now we come to the projects I've completed since I've come to Russia. The first few were necessities for keeping myself warm for the Russian winter, done in a rush in the fall. The one shown here is a very, very long scarf in a simple checked pattern of knit and purl, made with the absolutely gorgeous and very reasonably priced in-house cashmere from School Products, Inc..

Knitted Sept, 2004, originally posted Fall, 2005

Lace, Part 1

August-Sept, 2004

When I'm feeling more in the mood for a challenge, I've been slowly working on the pillowcase inserts from Weekend Knitting. I picked the intertwined pattern, and am calling it our wedding present to ourselves. I'm a little over halfway through the first one.