Friday, April 28

Silver Lining

Yesterday was a busy one for the mailbox here at Boca Loca Grande.

First, I received a hand written thank-you note from my new dentist. I'm framing it and hanging it up in the bathroom. "...I trust you found your examination comprehensive and informative..." Well, apprehensive and expensive was more like it but what a nice gesture. His momma should be right proud. I bet her dentures are real purdy.

These stash additions are the result of lurking around the message boards at Knitter's Review and Knitty.com. Someone mentions a great yarn, you click the link, start trawling through the colors and well....it's like having a one-night stand with a yarn shop and, instead of getting a phone call or flowers or nothing a week later, there's a package on your doorstep. Hey, remember me? That great time we had when you were stressing over the dentist and needed a little pick-me-up? Well, here I am, babylambsugarlump, ready to move in!
As evidenced from my recent purchases, I'm the Theresa Dunn of lace weight and sock yarn these days.
Let's move on to the goodies:
Here's the combo sock pack that I got from Hill Country Yarns. They pick 3 skeins of their sock weight yarns for $25. My logic was to live dangerously and economize at the same time. Uhm, made absolute sense a couple of days ago. Anyway, I opened the package and thought "Brown? Surely, I didn't pick brown?" But it's perfect for the DH whose wardrobe ranges from jeans to khakis. The pink stripes could be fun for Jaywalkers and the orange is just right for my brother the Longhorn fan who bleeds burnt orange. I may need an extra skein for him--he wears like a size 16 shoe. He's also 6'5, and a bonfide truck driving redneck with a psycho dachshund named Chili. Now imagine him stomping about in a pair of zippy orange socks. Oh happy day!

And here are the merino lace weight treats from HandPainted Yarn.com--"Paris Night" and "Oro y Vino." Paris Night is smokey black/grey with a touch of blue and purple. This could be Eunny's Print O'The Wave stole.
The jury's out on the Oro y Vino. I lived in Washington DC, so I keep seeing Redskins colors. I may double it with a burgundy kid mohair to soften the gold.

This...this...thing is something I unearthed in the yarncave. It's the left front to a cropped cardigan I dreamt up last summer. Filatura Di Crosa Nilo cotton. I don't remember knitting this. At all. I think the combination of the cables, the shaping and keeping track of numbers shut down my brain. I'm tempted to frog it but then I think it's kinda nice then I think you still have the right front and the back. My brain shuts down. Maybe I'll just hide it again.

So I go here to chill out. Check out the 'unusual animals'--geckoes and monkeys. And then I go here to get my wisecrack fix. And then I go look for Mr. Goodyarn.

Wednesday, April 26

Can you knit with dental floss?

It's another trip to the dentist for me and Bandit. I've got the stuffed animal, Valium, and chocolate pudding all ready. Sock #2 is in my bag. Currently, all male members of this family must be sedated before any dental procedures. I feel like joining the club because I went to my new dentist yesterday and found out that I 'm up for some work, as well.
If I give them my firstborn, will that cover the bill?

Edited to add:
Ok, I just got a call from my dentist and they have an opening for tomorrow am. I smell a conspiracy.

Three dental visits in one week.

Almooooost done with sock#2. I even worked on Sunrise Jacket--remember that?--when we got home. I'm determined to start the front shaping today.
Bandit's visit was stressful. The valium definitely took the edge off but he adamantly refuses to take gas. Hopefully, that's it for 6 months.

Monday, April 24

Ads in Sheep's Clothing

It was only a matter of time before some intrepid soul, driving through the Dutch countryside, looked out the window and didn't see flocks of sheep safely grazing but an army of domesticated billboards. The NYTimes ran the story on the front page today.


PICT0006_17PICT0004_21A couple of other items of knitterly interest were in the Sunday NYTimes: Chanel had these crocheted flowers for $525, now a NY boutique sells them for $15, profits help Nepalese women, two would be about the price of Nicky Epstein's new book. Illuminated knitting needles have been on Ebay for the last few months.These Knit Lite needles, $20, were designed by Edith Eig's(La Knitterie Parisienne) retired engineer husband, who accidentally locked himself in the shop one night.
I don't knit in the dark, usually I'm asleep. But they'd come in handy as mini-light sabers or for Harry Potter improv,"Cnyttanus pronto!"

Here are some lovelies I picked up for my summer projects, modelled on one of our new pink flamingoes:PICT0009_13PICT0013_7Blue Heron rayon/metallic--summer wrap, Noro Sakura rayon/poly/silk/wool--shrug maybe, Euroflax Linen--summer camisoles--think Andie McDowellesque Deep South linen and lace.

The Jamaica tank hums along nicely. Simple slightly fitted affair with cabled straps for that little something extra.PICT0014_5PICT0016_4
I'll crochet around the edges with a green/taupe cotton to add some polish. Now, I must run and consult with my dog's personal trainer. Don't ask...just go ahead and laugh. Oh, and I've got Chucho powerwashing our metal roof. Woof-woof!

Friday, April 21

How do you solve a problem like

1999 Japanese knitting mag, Dior:
Incredible work. Can you imagine how much this weighs? You could supply all the elves in Lapland with blankets made from this dress. And let's say you wore it to the Arctic Circle Assembly Debutante Ball, then what? Everytime you wore it people would say "Oh, here's Ewenice in that sweater gown...again. Looks like it's starting to pill or that's some serious dandruff, poor thing."

BUT, in my alternate knitted universe, this is what Maria wears when she marries Captain von Trapp. The nuns work overtime to get the cables and bobbles done. Carpal tunnel syndrome is rampant amongst the older knitters and Mother Abbess cleverly outwits the Germans by sending Marni Nixon dressed as a hooker to find a case of BenGay and HandEze gloves on the black market. That dirtbag Rolf nearly botches the job when he tries to pick Marni up, who is crossing herself furiously and warbling "I Feel Pretty."

Meanwhile, the invisible staff at the big house are beavering away like mad to make matching outfits for the von Trapp boys. Things get way out of hand when the butler finds Kurt's hidden bottle of Jagermeister and starts making crude jokes about marionettes and goatsherds. Much whistle blowing and shouting ensue before the Captain puts him (and everybody else) to sleep crooning 'Edelweiss.'

The big day draws near. The Baroness decides this handknit look was too much, too rustique, too Maria. So, she loads up the car with champagne, the von Bratz girls and Uncle Max to hit the mall.

Perfect. The Pussycat Dolls were Liesl's favorite band when she wasn't listening to Jack Frost on Kurt's iPod. "Hooray, no more curtain playsuits," smirks Max as he eyes what looks like the latest crop from the Salzburg slutfarm. "Georg will be thrilled, I'm sure."

The Baroness thoughtfully picks out this knitted satchel at Ferragamo($1,650) as a wedding gift for Maria, accepting that substance and a bodacious set of pipes outmatched her craven couture style and bodacious pair of ta-tas. The label said hand-crocheted but The B had seen a lot of knitting lately and knew it for the #0J87 Mon Tricot's tassel stitch variation that it was. Poor Maria, she had tried desperately to teach The B to knit, but those pesky talons kept snagging the yarn. And the Captain? Well, Christopher Plummer had a no-knits clause in his contract and wore his snappy uniform. But he was awfully tempted by these.

Cheers, Maria!

Wednesday, April 19

HEAT WAVE

Dear Weather Gods, it's only April for Pete's sake!
Other parts of the country observe Groundhog's Day as a portent of Spring; the critter either sees his shadow or he doesn't. Here we have Heat Wave Day where we get a glimpse of how scary pale white people look in Bermuda shorts and Birkenstocks and then we scurry back into our air-conditioned lairs waiting for summer to really kick in. Nothing to do but listen to the Hi-Fi, whip up some gazpacho and check out the new Slurpee flavors at 7-11.

There's been three days of record breaking temperatures and I'm ticked. Miffed. Cheesed off. Como agua por chocolate/Like water for chocolate(was that some whacked out knitting or what?). I've done about 10 inches' worth of the left sleeve on Sunrise Circle Jacket, which I'll get to wear at 3 am when the temps drop to, say, 75 degrees. Somewhat Cowl with the Blue Sky Alpaca/Silk has been quarantined to strictly indoor knitting. And the socks will not be going to baseball games anytime soon--I've got hot hands and a cold heart. There's a glimmer of hope for Lovland with Hana silk.
So, I dove into the stash and found 3 skeins of Katia Jamaica, 100% cotton, 100 gms, 219 yds. Tank Time. I thought about throwing in some kind of groovy stitch detail, but with the stripes it gets too busy or too thick. This will be a very simple, slightly fitted affair with some detail at the neckline--maybe one super chunk cable or a bit of eyelet to set it off. I'm using a size 7 needle, 5 st=1 inch, because I while I will baby my woolies(I've got 4 freshly washed winter cardigans drying on the dining room table, mothballs and storage await), I am pretty ruthless with the cottons. So I knit for shrinkage and potential dryer abuse. The only time this really backfired was with the Safari Striped Top--it still looks good but the ribbing totally relaxed. And I actually like working with cotton which is a good thing because I ain't wearing no wool until....November?

I found a lovely paean to high school, Houston heat and strip malls at Knit And Tonic (June 2005) when she knitted up her Jamaica top last summer. And then I saw her Somewhat Cowl Pattern Update. And then I had to lie down with a cool compress in my darkened boudoir, murmuring 'Euroflax Linen...Euroflax Linen...Euroflax Linen.'

Monday, April 17

BOYS AND GIRLS

"Hello, we're not home right now. We're whooping it up at a UT frat party in 1951."

Ava GardnerThe cover of the new biography by Lee Server, "Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing," reminded me of the above shot of my parents looking pretty glam. Ava herself was a real pistol, while my parents were normal at the time. But they looked hot. Three kids later, fast forward to 2006 and we get this from their youngest child and only daughter:
THE GNOME SKIRT!
Just take a polyester nightie from Target, cut off the top, sew in some darts and a zipper and POW you've got instant Craft Geek Chic. I spent half the weekend watching Star Wars II(Yoda kicks butt), III(Wookies kick butt) and IV(Rebel Forces kick butt) repeatedly with Bandit while the DH and Tex rode the Poltergeist at Fiesta Texas (no hurling) and visited Pedro and Maria at the Alamo. I also worked on sock #2, during the most uninspired birthing scene ever from "Revenge of the Sith." There's Anakin Skywalker turning into the evil McNugget from Hell, while his wife, Whatshername (which means 'so-so royalties for you, sister'), is in labor with a robot for the l&d nurse. Ewan McGregor as the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, making the older Alec Guinness/Obi-Wan sexier in some bizarre way, whisks off the newborn twins. The histrionic John Williams score goes on and on. Carrie Fisher gets to have Jimmy Smits for her dad on a nice planet while Mark Hamill is stuck somewhere near Beggar's Hollow in a dust bowl. I turned the heel.
It is only for documentary and knitting purposes that I would ever dare to photograph my feet. While extremely practical and supportive, they are not exactly dainty or sylphid. They're practically simian and I can pinch with my toes. Anyway, I'm very pleased with the socks. I used "The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns" (Ann Budd) for the pattern which worked like a dream. I'm knitting Interlacements Toasty Toes on size 3 needles and would probably go down a needle size in the future. The thermometer hit 95 degrees yesterday, so I'm not planning to wear these anytime soon....sigh.

Friday, April 14

DIY MY WAY

It's that time of year when someone always gets nailed: Snake Bites Woman At Lakeway Home Depot.
Mr. Mary has taken Tex to Fiesta Texas for a fun-filled day of roller coasters(and vomit) while Bandit is determined to watch every Star Wars movie in sequence as well as our new boxed set of Astro Boy. Bring on the Peeps, popcorn and knitting needles.

ICH BEIN EIN CABLE OBSESSED KNITTER


Here's where I got the inspiration to work the extra rows on the 'phat&juicy' cable swatch. Rattling in the back of my brain, I remembered this sweater in Rebecca #24. Talk about monster cables!

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Two new additions to our cookbook line-up: Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme and
Books for Cooks 7, a gift from a dear old friend. He was going to London a few years ago and I had told him he must check out Books For Cooks. He did and has been a regular ever since. Fast forward to last week and I get this in the mail as a thank-you, their annual round-up of favorite recipes from their test kitchen and cafe. I've already made the Lemon Curd cake, the DH has made the Maghrebi Meatballs with Spinach & Chickpeas and we've already ordered a couple of the books mentioned. Thanks, Bradley.

Mr. Mary made his first dessert ever.
Pierre Herme makes some some of the best chocolates and croissants in Paris. I used to buy bars of his dark chocolate for Christmas presents--that's how good they are. So, when the DH spied this cookbook, he was a little worried that it would be a bunch of 3-day choco/pastry ordeals that I'd make once a year and swear off forever. He took a chance and bought it anyway. There are some elaborate creations but they are balanced by a nice selection of simpler stuff like brownies, sorbet and chocolate rice pudding. The rice pudding is basically risotto cooked in milk with the addition of melted dark chocolate. So simple that the DH made it. So good that I hope he makes it again.

This is now this:


I've been on a tear lately, culling out rejects from the stash, ditching unfinished projects and frogging failed experiments. The Turkish stitch shawl was knitted on jumbo needles with recycled sari silk(yeah, I fell for that one), a strand of something metallic and a strand of Noro Hinageshi that I got on sale ages ago. I had made the shawl for New Year's Eve on a family cruise where the most memorable event(for me) was Texas beating Michigan in the last few seconds of the Rose Bowl. The shawl was festive, but blobby and heavy. I salvaged the silk and Noro, goodbye metallic. The Noro is back in the stash, the sari silk (I have a lot) may become a future rug for the yarncave. The silk is too heavy to wear in Texas, but it's tough as nails, so why not?
Here are some future projects:
I saw this yarn here and knew that I had to have me some that groovy tiger-striped yarn pronto! The sock yarn stash is growing at an alarming rate...

This is Noro Hana silk(on sale at Colorful Stitches) in 'teal' which is really a smoky dark blue and the pattern is Lovland from the Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton Book #2, full of Noro goodies. The color is perfect for the frogged tank top I made with Twist(a nightmare to rip, avoid it all costs unless you're desperate for the yarn) and Melody, soon to be a summer shawl. When I've finished the whole ensemble, I'll post the pix.
And this is the girl's nightie($15) I bought at Target that will be magically transformed into my Easter Parade skirt. Who needs bunnies and chicks when you've got shiny polyester gnomes all over your butt? And so I wish all of you Bonne Paques and Feliz Peepidad, regardless of your creed or street cred...the sewing machine awaits, BWAAAHAAAAHAAAA!

Tuesday, April 11

Cracking the Cable Code

PHAT&JUICY CABLE SWATCH



Fine, make me do all the work.
I throw out a cable challenge and y'all go running to the far ends of cyberspace. Well, some of us have grit and some of us have knitting refence libraries just for times like this. After trawling through Mary Thomas, Barbara Walker, Montse Stanley et al, I came across a couple of candidates in Mon Tricot 1500 Patterns and Katharina Buss' Big Book of Knitting Patterns. And here's what I swatched:



Hmmm, not bad, if I do say so myself. This is Furlana from el stasho knit up on 10.5 needles. More about the yarn later. The cable pattern itself is across 24 stitches with 3 rev. st. stitches on the sides--you work a left cross (8 over 8 in front), knit remaining 8 and turn, work WS row, then next RS row knit 8, work a right cross(8 over 8 in back) and finish row. Work next 8 rows normally as stitches 'present themselves.' OK, before you go flying off to make your own Phat&Juicy swatch, here's the trick:
When cabling, put the 8 stitches on a dpn the same size as your needle. Knit eight from the left needle. Now with another same sized dpn you will knit back and forth 3 times(6 rows) the stitches on dpn#1, ending with WS, ready to knit onto needle. Knit the elongated 8 stitches onto needle and finish row. Make sense? You are knitting up those cable stitches separately on dpns into a strip which is then knitted back into the needle. Your first left cable is immediately followed by a right cable on the next RS row.

Furlana is wonderfully soft with a mohair like halo of possum(20%) and 80% merino. Possum? Yep, those wretched critters are taking over New Zealand and the enterprising Kiwis decided yarn would go over better than possum nuggets on the export market. If I continue in this vein, and I will when it's not 85 degrees outside, the Furlana is 50 gms/146 yds and $8.55 at Wild String, but you may have to hunt for it elsewhere. Let's see, 1800 yds for the sweater comes to 13 skeins, $111.15. Compared to $2,250 this is a steal. I will not factor the pain in the butt labor cost because it's too depressing. Also, I would simplify the design, delete the little side cables and knit this in the round.



Sunset Sunrise...
I finished the back and here I am on the left front. This is the sleeve shaping before you get into line-by-line directions for the curvy part, 83 rows before the final front hem.
Row counter, row counter, wherefore art thou?

Weekend Update
A couple of things were extra fun this weekend. I sold some stash rejects at my neighbor's garage sale and it flew outta there, $ for stash enhancement, yippee-doo! Another was a trip to Target to pick up a shower curtain for the Truckstop Men's Room. I go to Target about twice a year because the same thing happens everytime. I go in with a list and come out 2 hours later with a cart full of fun, zippy, on-sale, cool-colored and niftily designed CRAP. I love it when you can buy bug lights, undies and dog toys all at the same place, just like the old Mott's Five-And-Dime when I was a kid. My big reward was an ice cold Dr. Pepper which blew up in the war wagon. Good thing I bought the car wash kit for $17.
Isaac Mizrahi dog toy....awaiting its demise in Archie's crazed jaws.

The other even more fun event was not the birthday party at the bowling alley with 24 crazed 8-yr old boys, but my first sNb gathering. Yes, I was an isolationist knitter until Sunday. Not because of any Monroevian group phobia, but because either I've been the sole knitter wherever we lived or there wasn't a group per se. And when I worked in a LYS in Miami, the group came to me. Now, they're everywhere...thanks, Debbie Stoller! Anyway, it was really good to hang out with like minded souls, knitting and chatting about knitting, oohing and ahhing over everyone's work. A real tonic...I encourage it heartily. Bandit asked me, "You went somewhere else just to knit?" Yep, you betcha, kid!

Friday, April 7

Wretched Excess and Cable Challenge

Wait until you see the price!!!

CABLES FROM OSCAR DE LA RENTA, FALL 2006
Lily Donaldson

Oscar Cable sweaterBergdorf Goodman ad, Sunday NYTimes

Now, normally I'm not a Gorton's sweater gal, but look at those juicy cables! How did they get them to be so poofy? I'd probably go for mock turtleneck neckline, myself.

A very helpful saleswoman at Bergdorf's gave me(yes, there were false pretences) the info:
100 % cashmere, handknit, $2250.

Well, let's see if we can do better. I'd calculate that this would take about 1,800 yds/aran wt. yarn for a women's medium. PurlSoho has the following;
Classic Elite Lavish, 100%cashmere, 50gms, 125 yds, sale $37.20--15 skeins, $535.68.
Classic Elite Luxury Allure, cashmere/angora/merino, 50gms, 110 yds, $25--17 skeins, $425.
Rowan Cash Soft Aran, merino/microfiber/cashmere, 50 gms, 95 yds, $9.50--19 skeins, $180.50.
Classic Elite Charmed, cashmere/mohair, 50gms, 130 yds, $18--14 skeins, $252.

This is just substituting cashmere blends. Anything, even the pearls of the Virgin, would be cheaper.
So, campers, who can chart this?
I'd love to do it but don't know if I'm cable literate enough to identify each set of cables. I could swing simple shaping. Sweater Project has a great cable calculator that switches written patterns into charts.
Wouldn't this be a great KAL? The "Oscar de la RipOff Cable Sweater KAL?" Whaddya think?

A few other items for your home decor:
Crochet rug, $11,580This rug, featured in the NYTimes Style Magazine, Spring 2006, costs $11,580.

Crochet rug detailBlurry detail of rug.

bronze-and-wool sheep 1965Bronze-and-wool sheep designed by Francois-Xavier Lalanne in 1965. According to the NYTimes Style magazine, some guy paid $380,000+ for a set of these sheep.

Thursday, April 6

Spring is Bustin' Out All Over

Amazing the effects of a decent rain and daylight savings time at chez Mary.
(I promise not to trash Barbie for at least a week)
Yipes! Edited to contain a correction in scarf pattern. Such a dingbat!

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First, we have flora....then fauna.
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Yardkill....then dinner.

PICT0004_13 It's crawdad time! Mudbugs, yum-yum.
(If you have issues with crustaceans for political, dietary or religious reasons, or have memorized "Annie Hall" please skip ahead.) One of the great pleasures of living back in the South(west) is that we're getting to eat fresh crawdads for the first time in ages. I personally think crayfish/crawdads/mudbugs are better than shrimp. They have a richer flavor and better texture. Unfortunately, you don't often find them fresh in the market and the frozen crawfish tails aren't that good. Here's Mr. Mary slaving over the hot stove while Bandit rounds up another maverick.
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SPRING CLEANING

And here's a box of rejects waiting to go to charity(you really don't want this--eyelash, charming, bad karma skeins, acrylic). I even ditched some projects(!) that had been mouldering forever and got back 3 sets of circulars in the process.
I feel liberated from the umbilical bonds of unfinished, unwanted, unfun knitting.
Free I tell you!

A few skeins of Trendsetter 'Gaza' (don't google this) that I picked up on sale circa 2000. The colors are muted, well kinda dingy. There's a certain something about it--maybe combined with a chunky cotton for a funky bathmat in the boys' reststop? Vote! Really, I can't decide.

SPRINGY SILKY SCARF

I have one skein of ArtYarns Regal Silk, color 106(50 gms-163 yd), that dear friend gave to me. The colors are teals, greens and rich purple. Very Easter eggy and perfect for a lightweight, lacy scarf. Time to have a chat with Barbara Walker and see what I can find in one of her "Treasury" books.

I want something lacy without the discipline of a lace pattern. Big needles for speed. Silk can be heavy, so I want to see the pattern but without too much density. That's why I love faggoting (insert crude joke here). Faggoting is the most elemental form of lace and usually you make an increase--yarnover--which is immediately followed by a decrease--K2tog--all in one row. You can pop in regular knit stitches to create columns or just work the inc/dec for a very holey effect. This row can be all you need and Turkish Stitch is one of my favorites for making shawls with chunkier yarns (*yo, K2tog* add selvedge stitches if desired, work this every row).
Here's the pattern if you want to doodle with a stray skein.

SPRINGY SCARF
(approx 4"x 48")
Yarn: Art Yarns regal Silk, 100% silk, 50gm, 163 yd., any worsted/aran will do
Needles, size 9mm/13 US
Gauge: not that crucial, here's mine: 3 st=1", 3 rows=1" in pattern stitch
Reverse herringbone faggoting: multiple of 4, *K2, yo, K2tog*

CO 13 stitches using backward loop or other very stretchy cast-on.
Knit one row.
Row 1: *K2, yo, K2tog*, K1.
Row 2: K2, P9, K2.

Continue until you have about 30 inches left of yarn. Bind off as follows:Using size 10mm/15US needle, *Bind off 2, make 1 and bind off* across row.

Options: The idea here is to take a worsted/aran weight yarn and jack it up on big needles. You may want to go down a needle size or two to tighten up the pattern. You can always cast on 4 extra stitches for each repeat. Say, you want a 6" wide scarf, then cast on 16+1. Or you could add more stitches to the sides i.e. 4+pattern stitches+4.
You could knit across row 2 for a garter stitch effect, this will make the scarf reversible. But it eats up a bit more yarn.

Fringe: Cut fringe lengths first, then start knitting. The scarf will not be as long.
Frills and doodads: You could thread ribbons across the bottom or across the length of the scarf for a 'maypole' effect. Sew beads along the bottom edges to add a little extra weight and sparkle.
Run a line of single crochet around the edges in a contrasting color for more oomph. This will add some stability to the shape.