Knitting in the Fall: Bedford Redux

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Bedford

Pattern:   Bedford by Michele Wang, from Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011

Yarn:  About 10 years ago I went to a wool market and got sucked into buying this hand-dyed silk and kid mohair yarn. The yarn was absolutely gorgeous, and I had visions of knitting something luxuriously fabulous with it.  It didn’t matter at the time that I really dislike mohair.  I really thought if I had just the right project, I would LOVE mohair.  It never happened.  The yarn became three different sweaters, and this is the fourth and final incarnation, because of course mohair should not be frogged, ever, let alone three times.

Modifications:  This is the second version of Bedford; I didn’t wear the first version  because while there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it was just a tad too thin to wear a shirt underneath.  And at some point I needed the yarn for a new version of Bryn Mawr dress . . . .  For this Bedford, I knitted the raglan two stitches wide instead of four, made the body longer and the sleeves shorter.

Thoughts:  For such a detailed (over-written, as I think BT patterns tend to be), the directions for the neck shaping doesn’t work.  It is a good thing that I haven’t followed neck or sleeve instructions — for ANY pattern — for at least a couple of decades, mainly because I am a small woman and I routinely modify patterns to suit my dimensions and preferences.  But back to the instructions:  Michele Wang really should have done a better editing job with the directions for neck shaping.  Her buyers, and Brooklyn Tweed  fans in general, deserve better.

As for the finished sweater . . . .  I don’t love variegated yarn, I don’t love mohair, so I am pretty sure I will not be wearing this top much.  On the other hand, I do like how the sleeves turned out:  even though I also don’t like reverse stocking stitch in general, the purl fabric works well for this variegated yarn.  Maybe some day, someone will see me wearing this sweater and love it so much that I will just give it to her!

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Knitting in the Fall: Svalbard Redux

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Svalbard
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Svalbard

Pattern:   Svalbard, by Bristol Ivy, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 6.

Yarn:  Laramie, a hand-dyed merino wool in worsted weight from Mountain Meadow Wool (Buffalo, Wyoming), in color Prairie.  The yarn is rustic but soft, in a color that is outside my comfort zone — but the ladies at the yarn shop convinced me that it goes with my complexion . . . .

Modifications:  I knitted this cardigan a few years ago but never liked the Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn: it had almost no memory and was unaccountably itchy around the neck.  Svalbard 1 became one of the few sweaters I never frogged, and I gave it away without regret.  But I liked the pattern itself, hence Svalbard 2.  The only modifications I made were shorter sleeves.

Thoughts:  It was a fun knit four years ago, and it was a fun knit this time around.  I like this version much better, I even like the colour!  It is a big long on me, but now that I am solidly middle-aged, coverage is a good thing.

Knitting in the Fall: Stonecutter


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Stonecutter

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Pattern:  Stonecutter by Michele Wang, from BT Fall 2013.

Yarn:  Merino wool/silk/cashmere blend yarn from Lambspun.  I recycled the yarn from a cardigan I knitted for Mom about 10 years ago.  Green was her favorite color, and though she loved the cardigan, she didn’t wear it much because she thought it too nice for everyday wear.  I found it neatly stored away in her closet, brought it home, took it apart, and waited for inspiration to strike.

Modifications:  I made it pretty much according to pattern but with usual adjustments for length of sleeves.  The sweater grew with blocking, but I don’t mind the extra room.

Thoughts:  I like Michele Wang’s patterns; she does interesting designs that are aesthetically pleasing and fun to knit.  Having said that, today’s knitters seem to expect over-written patterns, and this one is no exception.  I continue to be surprised by 16 pages of instruction:  does anyone really need 4 paragraphs on how to wash and block knitting?

On to specifics:  I also continue to be surprised by many knitters’ enthusiasm for the tubular cast on, particularly the perception that the tubular cast on gives a sweater a more “professional” finish.  I have not seen too many hand-knit sweaters where the tubular cast on looked truly polished, and the model for this pattern is NOT one of them.  The cast on looks very bulbous to me and does not flow into the ribbing.  Obviously, the cast on is a design choice, and I prefer the traditional long-tail cast on for an edge that is flexible, clean, and does not draw attention to itself.

The designer also spent too much bandwidth on the selvedge:  I personally do not find the “wrapped chain stitch selvedge” particularly neat or structured.  In my experience, careful sewing together of edges can correct pretty much any minor imperfections in the knitted flat pieces.  This is another area, as with the cast on, that knitters should be able to figure out on their own.

Finally, I must comment on the Elizabeth Zimmerman “sewn bind off” recommended by Michele Wang.  Clearly I did not use this method:  it is fiddly, and for this particular neckline, unwarranted.  The usual bind off gives a neat and flexible finish that disappears into the gentle roll of the reverse stockinette neckband.

I am not against designers having their personal preferences, but there are many knitters tackling these patterns who are not experienced, and who may think that because a designer says to do this or that, that these methods are in fact the best.  The best, of course, is whatever works and produces the result desired.

Gravity!

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Gravity

This is the Gravity quilt by Jaybird Quilts: it is the first time I have ever bought a kit, as well as the first time I used all solids — I loved the pattern that much!  If you are as compulsive as I am, this is THE quilt to piece:  I marked every piece, check every angle before and after cutting — and it was the funnest quilt I have ever made.  The directions are precise, the templates and specialty ruler work, and of course the color wheel palette is spectacular.

I made the quilt smaller than the original by leaving off 10 inches of background on each side.  I just could not face wrestling with a 90″ x 90″ quilt, and I knew I would be hanging this on a limited wall space in my living room.  I wish I could have afforded custom quilting, but I think the edge-to-edge pattern I chose at Jukebox Quilts complements the geometric nature of the quilt.

Learning Curve: Lone Star Quilt

“I am missing Texas . . .  Will you make me a Lone Star quilt?”

GF is from Houston, and every once in a while, she threatens to move back, but mostly she tells me she misses Texas.  I don’t understand it, but I take her word for it.  So I went searching for a Lone Star quilt pattern, and found Terri Ann Swallow’s Jellied Lone Star Quilt on the Moda Bake Shop website.  I liked her pattern so much that I hunted down what may have been the last existing jelly roll of “Feed Company” by Sweetwater.  How hard could it be?  After all, it’s supposed to be appropriate for ambitious beginners, and I was under the impression that I was now an intermediate quilter.

I should have paid attention to the part about starching the fabric first . . .

And this is what happened:

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Lone Star Quilt #1

See those huge puckers?  When your points aren’t at perfect 45° angles, your sewn top is never going to lie flat.  Ever.

Sigh.

So, the quilt top is going to become this floor quilt (some day):

Lonestarversion1.1

After much stomping and whining, I made some DIY sizing using potato vodka and distilled water (1:2 ratio), bought a new jelly roll — “Mama Said Sew Revisited” by Sweetwater — and unleashed my not-so-hidden OCD with a vengeance:

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Lone Star Quilt, version 2!

 

The finished quilt is 90 inches by 90 inches, and I did the quilting at Jukebox Quilts on one of their super duper Innova longarm machines.  I fell in love with the stylized modern “chain link” stitch; I think it provides a nice counterpoint to a very traditional quilt pattern.  The star I made is bigger than the original pattern, and I chose to insert the white pieces surrounding the star using Y seams.  In retrospect, I probably should have used the same off-white fabric for the entire background, but at the time I thought it would be more interesting to have two different whites.

I will not make another Lone Star again; as with knitting, I don’t like using the same pattern twice.   It’s a learning curve, right?

Road Trip: Golden, Colorado

DH has been preparing for this bucket list ride for months (or arguably, for years).  This was his year for the 2017 Triple Bypass cycling event . . . and it was cancelled.  But for the ride, we would not have been in Golden — not that we would NEVER have gone there, but we have lived in Colorado 24 years and never even driven through the city.

We loved our short visit:

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Not named after gold, but after early prospector Thomas Golden.
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On the campus of Colorado School of Mines. No donkeys, no mining …
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The one-room Guy Hill schoolhouse at Clear Creek History Park, with the mountainside “M” (for Colorado School of Mines).

DH still went for a 64-mile ride:

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The city, from Lookout Mountain.
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A denizen of Lookout Mountain.
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Juniper Pass

Other fun things:

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A much-modified late-19th century house . . . .
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. . . . with a modern shed-roofed addition around the corner to the rear . . . .

and, wait for it:

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. . . . a set of row houses attached to the other side of the original house.

Sigh.   But what fun would it have been if I couldn’t laugh at some atrocious renovations?

Remember Life

DD has a goal for the summer:  climb as many 14ers as possible (this is a Colorado “thing”).  Last weekend she hiked four in one day: Democrat, Cameron (although it is not technically a true 14er), Lincoln, and Bross.  As she fulfills her bucket list, I think about my own list from when I was about her age.  There I was, backpacking through Europe during my junior year abroad, and ticking off as many countries and cities as I could visit on my 2-month Eurail Pass.  And let me tell you, you can hit quite a few cities if you are willing to sleep overnight on trains then run like mad from one famous site to the next.  Then repeat.

The smart phone makes it so easy for people to have pictorial evidence of their existence at any moment in time.  An actress once explained to an interviewer why she didn’t take selfies with fans:  Just because you don’t have a picture doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  I dragged a 35 mm Canon with multiple lenses around Europe, and I have hundreds of photographs of “can’t miss” places.  I have pictures of Lucerne and Zurich, and zero memories.  As in, I don’t even remember BEING there.  Just because I have pictures doesn’t mean it happened.

As I age, I worry more and more about the state of my mind.  Are these lapses in memory, lapses in my vocabulary, lapses in attention — are these significant?  Or has my brain in fact become more efficient at weeding out extraneous information?  This of course would be a much kinder interpretation.  I visit Tom Vander Well’s Wayfarer blog every now and then and come away inspired to change something in my life.  Today, the entry I read had to do with what we choose to focus on as we age (“Fixing Our Eyes on Life”).   Aside from the inherent optimism of choosing to focus on the life ahead, the message resonates with me as I watch my father dying in place.  His eyes are turned inward to all his memories of his parents (dead), his brothers and sisters (dead), Mom (dead), and finally to his own existence (what is the point?).

When DD was younger and we corrected her, she would try out some sort of explanation or excuse.  She then graduated to “I will do better,” and now she just says “Okay.”  I have no idea what “the point” is, but I keep trying.  Fixing our eyes on Life?  OK.