06 December 2006

All Good Things

Lots of good things have been happening, just when it was most needed thanks to holiday / end of semester stresses and that constant growling that's still coming from my two pairs of unfinished socks. I haven't touched the socks, and actually stuffed them in the closet so the growling wouldn't be quite so loud. But now that I have the plain blue yarn to finish the peacock socks with, I plan to do them while on vacation in Georgia over the holidays, since, of course, socks are perfect travel knitting, and by that time they'll both seem totally new to me and the angst about all that ripping (in one case) and yarn shortage (in the other case) will have faded.

In the meantime, I've been happily knitting up super-quick projects on huge needles using cheap leftover yarn. Yeah baby - just the right stuff for the current mood. It's all stuff for felting while we're in Georgia, in the handy suburban washing machine.

First, I finished the slippers for the in-laws:

Both in-laws have considerably smaller feet than I do (Hubbster's, though wider, are actually the same length - embarrassing). This is the sum total of my xmas knitting for this year. I've gone crazy in previous years - the scarf year, the felting year - and I think there may be a sock year in my future (most challenging yet!) but this particular year I decided I'd better just finish the bloody dissertation. I have the rest of my life to knit. (ooh, doesn't that sound lovely?)

And I actually went ahead and felted the blue pair of fuzzy feet, because I'd had to finish the toe in a different yarn (I don't seem to have good luck with blue footwear), and I wanted to hand-felt in this case to control the process. It turned out to be totally easy. This is the first time I've used Lamb's Pride, and I see now why it's such a good felting yarn - it starts felting really quickly. I love Paton's Classic Wool too for its reliablity, color selection, and price, but it does take a bit longer to get going. That's not a problem in a machine, but really makes a difference by hand. When I ran out of the Lamb's Pride I did the last toe in some 50-50 wool/mohair in red that was leftover from a sweater. It was made in Russia but called "Natural Mohair" in English with no apparent brand name - so I don't know what the heck it is. But it was exactly the same gauge as Lamb's Pride and similarly lightly spun, and in the end it felted exactly the same way. Since that sweater wasn't much of a success, I'm tempted to rip it up and make it all into fuzzy feet!

(The blue part in the corner above is from an unfocused picture that actually showed the accurate color). But so far I still have some leftovers to work with, so I'm experimenting with making another pair of fuzzy feet in different dimensions:

This one is a little bigger around (48 sts instead of 44) and much longer, because I want a slipper that's a little longer than the others, but much more tightly felted. Since stock. st. felts much more vertically than horizontally, I made it bigger in length than in width from the pattern. You never know if that sort of thing will work, though, and in retrospect I'm thinking it would have been a better idea to follow the pattern but on bigger needles with a double strand of yarn, to get more or less the same slipper but thicker. Anyone else out there experimented with this before??

Finally, I've been playing around with leftover felting yarns to make a handbag:

I wound random lengths of yarn into a ball, tying the ends (since they're just going to get felted anyway, I can snip the ends that stick out), and then just knitted mindlessly from the ball. This has been wonderful fun, especially since I forgot the order of the colors I'd picked as soon as I finished making the ball, so unwinding it as I knit felt like constantly discovering a new surprise. I think the level of fun I was having with this tells you something about my state of mind right now.

This is the body of the bag, hanging upside down over the back of a chair; I'm just working on the straps now. The bottom is a rectangle in black garter st. I picked up sts around, and just knitted a straight tube up. I didn't decrease at the top because I want the sides to sort of splay outward, as felting does with a large tube of stockinette. I'm loosely copying the shape of my Steve Madden handbag (which I found at Filene's for $20 and have been deeply attached to ever since, to the point where it's wearing out even though it's an incredibly sturdy construction). Except I want the straps to be just a smidge longer - it always drives me nuts that that handbag won't stay on my shoulder when I'm wearing my winter coat. I also wanted to make the braided straps that Laura showed us with a different, smaller handbag pattern. Of course, predicting exact length when you're not only felting, but felting a braid, is utterly impossible, but we'll see how it goes.

While I was working on my dissertation on this bag yesterday, the postman - the blessed postman! - came with a package! An early xmas present from my dad. So, you ask, did I wait, like a good girl, until the 25th to open it? Oh no. I saw the return address, and I opened. It was the DVD of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen's Knitting Glossary. I watched the whole thing all at once. I am in HEAVEN. I want to spend the xmas break (after finishing the socks) trying out every last technique in swatches. At first Hubbster was sort of giggling at me in an "oh, how sweet" way when I said I was going to watch "a knitting glossary" straight through for my evening's entertainment. Then, as he was reading his book nearby, he giggled in an "oh, isn't that adorable" way when I kept exclaiming things like

"Oh my God!"


"But that's...that's brilliant!"

...while watching two ladies knit quietly...

and then...he started watching. And then he started exclaiming! --

"Wow! That's really amazing! Can you do that?"

And I replied, naturally, "I can now!" :-)

I couldn't resist trying out quite a few things in the knitting I was doing at the same time - short rows without turning the work, two colors on the left hand in Meg's way, etc - which luckily I could do and undo in the handbag with no worries, since felting will cover any oddities in gauge. I decided to finish off the top edge of the bag in applied I-cord, now that I know how to do it:

This is just 2-stitch I-cord, which is neat because it's like the usual chain bind off, but instead of one chain of Vs along the top, you get one chain on each side of the top. I dunno, it's just pretty, and surprisingly fast. I never bothered to learn attached I-cord from any of their books before because it looked like it would be slow, and I never have patience for that kind of slow trimming/decorative thing. This was really no worse than most bind-offs, though, and there are so many possibilities for what you can do with it. And now that I'm working on the straps of the handbag - 6 skinny strips for the braids - I'm practicing knitting back backwards. I'm still a bit awkward at it, but I'm quickly becoming addicted, and the gauge I'm getting is no worse than my purling gauge anyway.

And that's not all! Actually, it seems the world is conspiring, for once, to make things nice in my little universe: the other day I received another exciting package in the mail - a music mix from Laura! I've long noticed that Laura has excellent, discerning taste in music. I used to be quite up-to-date with music when I was in college and had access to lots and lots of like-minded (like-eared??) people to trade with, but I haven't really discovered any new music since about 2000, partly because of lack of money, but really because of lack of access. I tend not to much like what's on the radio and don't really listen to anything but NPR, so I'm really dependent on hearing recommendations from people with similar tastes. And now, out of the purest generosity, Laura has sent me the most wonderful, amazing, huge music mix of totally new and wonderful stuff! I had no idea what I was missing!! I had also forgotten how well I work with music on, actually. In honor of Laura's mix, I finally went out and got the right cords to hook up the nice speakers my dad donated to us months ago, so we could play music in the living room/study. Bliss! Sheer bliss! I had really forgotten what a huge part of my life music used to be; somehow, in recent years, I just haven't even wanted to listen to old favorites, or haven't had anything but the computer to play them on, or whatever. Now I feel like I'm discovering music, new and old, all over again!

And that's not all! I ordered some of Wendy's candles for our various parental units' christmas presents, and since Wendy lives right here in NYC she graciously let me come over and pick them up instead of paying for shipping to get four candles across Central Park. So I met Wendy today!! She's just as wonderful in person as you would expect, and oh my God I got to smell the candles! Unfortunately I was trying to run a million errands in my "day out," so I didn't have much time, but I got to smell so many wonderful scents...I want them all...I think next on my list to try will be "Geisha" and "Lemon tart"...the ones I came home with are Pan, Lilac, Tranquility and Harvest Moon. They're all amazing, and it's going to be difficult to part with them. I am particularly in awe of the Pan and Tranquility scents, because they're so complex. They remind me of the scent machine Maude had in the movie Harold & Maude. Do you remember that scene? You were supposed to stick your nose in a tube, and you'd smell all the many smells of...I think it was New York City in the winter. Which is not necessarily an unremittingly good collection of smells, let me tell you, but luckily Wendy's candles really are just about the good stuff. But it's true that with "Pan" for example you smell first a kind of woodsy pine scent...and then you notice lavender, like your grandmother's sachet, and then spiced tea... It's really unlike any other scented candles I've ever encountered. I was really amazing, too, to see where Wendy makes them. As you can see on her blog, she's got this incredible shelf chock-full of the scent oils, and there are stacks of shiny stainless steel pots and the glass jars and little tins the candles go in. Everything about it is beautiful, and the whole room was rich with the scents when I stopped by, as Wendy was filling the orders that have come in in just the past fews days (yay!), since I first posted about it. The truly amazing thing is that even that really strong scent didn't bother my head in the least, even though I've only just gotten over another round of migraine. Miraculous!

So, music...candles...knitting...things are good. I hope you're all enjoying as many creature comforts as I am as we head into the homestretch of holiday knitting and/or end-of-semester writing and grading.


Beth said...

O.K. So I'm happily reading along. Loving all the stuff and you write that you've been out of touch with music and mostly only listen to NPR...Freaky. Me too.
Although I saw this one guy on TV the other night and I think I might get his CD. Can't think of his name though. I think he used to be in one of those boy bands. I'm not sure if I liked his music or if it was just the dancing and the show and the music all together. I guess I'll find out if I ever find out his name and get the CD.

Kirsten said...

I've been streaming Folk Alley a lot as I work on my computer these days. I don't know if that is your sort of thing or not. There is a lot of diversity in what they play, and for me it is a wonderful way to discover new music and artists that I had forgotten about.

The EZ video sounds fantastic. Perhaps I will leave a few little hints about that one to my family.

My candles from Wendy should be arriving any day now. I bought a bunch to give as gifts. I'm looking forward to checking out all of the scents.

Marianne said...

I absolutely love your posts...but I have to admit...I find myself taking notes to remember what I want to comment on...I'm with you on the being out of touch with the music and listening to NPR...obviously I'm not alone..The bag is going to be fabulous, I love it! Great colours! What a fortunate woman you are...music, the KNITTING GLOSSARY!!(your Hubbster is the best, his getting into it..). Wendy's candles all sound delightful, loved your description of Pan, although the Freya has me greatly intrigued. I'm glad the scents didn't hurt you;)....Harold and Maude...one of my all time favourites, some channel was showing it a few weeks ago and Bobby and I sat ourselves down and thoroughly enjoyed it once again...now the Fuzzy Feet...although I have admitted to 'forgetting' them while they were in the washer and most likely felted down more than they should have, mine wouldn't roll at the ankle at all, and I did have to pull them into shape for the feet they're intended for....I'm thinking a bit bigger needle and double stranding and just maybe a bit bigger, I do love a thicker felted fabric...but it is a great pattern...perhaps a bit more length for the ankle, I love playing around with patterns.
What a Dad! the KNITTING GLOSSARY!!!

The Purloined Letter said...

Ooh, I am off to put the Glossary dvds on my wishlist now!

David and I are knitting my brother a Satchel from Knitty--which as an i-cord bindoff and is then felted. It is so much fun to knit with these huge needles around and around. (My other project is a silk lace shawl that is DRIVING ME NUTS.)

Yea, bloody dissertation!

Anonymous said...

Hey! It was so great meeting you yesterday! :) I'm so thrilled that you liked your scents and found others you'd like to try. :)

That bag looks like it's going to be amazing!

Krista McCurdy said...

I'm so jealous! I want the Elizabeth Zimmerman DVDs SO BADLY. They're kinda expensive for me right now, though, but lucky you!

Jo said...

Yeah OK, so what do you do in your spare time, Kate?

(would love to know about the dissertation and the exact topic - I'm a glutton for other people's theses).

Love those fuzzy feet. Must make them. Where pattern?

hesira said...

What a great post. I am in the process of destashing, as well, and have been trying to practice randomness, but it was too much for me. I turned to the Fibonacci sequence, and things are going better for me now.

You sound like you're having a pretty grand time!