Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Apple a Day

Every now and then we knitters assemble the materials to make a "dream project". These are the kits that are so stunningly beautiful that you feel sorry for all of the non-knitters in the world because they don't know what they're missing. Today was one of those days for Bohus Wild Apple pullover kit arrived by post.

Now I'm the first to admit that I was late to the Bohus party. My knitting friends were rabbiting on about grey mist this and forest darkness that and I looked at the websites and for the life of me couldn't see what the fuss was about. Then last fall at Rhinebeck, one of my buddies brought her Bohus kits so we could see the yarn and the colours. The light went on. I finally got it. While Bohus kits don't have the "over the top" colour imprint that a Kaffe Fassett or Starmore design does - they do shine in a very regal way. These designs typically display a large collar of colourwork set against a solid background. The eye goes directly to the yoke and it sparkles like a beautiful necklace. The effect is aided by the fact that the yarns in this particular kit are a decadent blend of 50% angora and 50% merino. The colours don't pop - they glow through the angora haze.

Wild Apple called to me from the start because it uses all my "A team" colours: Moss green, chartreuse, gold, copper, clover and teal. It's a similar colour story to Rheingold which I'm currently knitting. This however is much richer and brighter at the same time.

I don't know much about the history of the Bohus sweaters. I know they originate in Sweden and were a cottage industry from the late thirties to the late sixties. The book Poems of Color details the exact history of these designs. There is a lovely summary here detailing how in 1999 the idea to make these couture designs available for a new generation of knitters was born. Solveig Gustafsson is a master dyer who is lovingly re-creating these works of art by matching the colours of the original sweaters and dyeing them herself. I emailed her in February about Wild Apple and was told it would be a few months so this has been in the works for a while.

Wild Apple has about 14 colours and the kit included a colour chart complete with snippets of the yarns on a colour key to help identify the proper shades. It's done on very tiny needles (2.5mm I believe) with a gauge of about 34 stitches per 10cm. If this project were an exam question it would be a 3 page essay but it's one of those special sweaters so, it will be savoured and lovingly knit when I start my cold weather projects this fall.

What wine did I open to celebrate the arrival of la belle pomme? Thirty Bench Chardonnay. It's elegant, very rare, beautiful and has a hint of caramel apple on the palate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'm bamboo-obsessed. I don't know why but all of a sudden I want to knit it and spin it all of the time. I've even been researching how to dye it. I'm also intrigued by this chitin (pronounced Kite-in) that's been added to Southwest Trading Company's sock yarn Tofutsies. Wow - kitchen waste in my yarn. Tres cool. I suspect that the fact that bamboo and shrimp shells can become beautiful yarn appeals to my fantasy that everything in this world if given half a chance can in fact - turn into luxury yarn. I'll never look at another shrimp cocktail the same way again. Overheard at a restaurant: "Excuse me sir, were you going to finish that?"

My spinning guild will be preparing a display this fall and the theme is Japan. I'd love to spin and knit something for the display and what fiber screams Japan more than bamboo? I found a lovely vendor in Florida called Oceans of Fiber who hand dyes beautiful fibres - including bamboo. I purchased 4.8 oz of 100% bamboo roving from her hand painted selection in a colourway called Sunflower. It's the most amazing mix of pale blue, sage and gold. As you can see, Holly presents her roving in such a lovely way with a co-ordinating ribbon. Now I circled this new acquisition for a while wondering if I had the skills to tackle this different breed. I'd love to make enough lace/fingering weight yarn to make the Hanami Shawl from Pink Lemon Twist. The motif is pure Japanese and it would look stunning in this yarn. In the end I fired up the Schacht, took a big sip of Chardonnay and went to town. I gotta tell you, spinning this stuff is like walking across a wet floor in stiletto heels. It's so silky that there's no grab as the spun yarn is pulled onto the bobbin so it goes like stink. I've had to back off of the tension quite a bit. I am developing a rhythm and the Woolee Winder is a must have for me here because I don't have to stop and fiddle with hooks - this puppy just flows on like chocolate fudge on a sundae. Here's a shot of what I've spun so far. I'm not sure if I'm under-spinning it. When I have to pull some off the bobbin if I get a break, it's tending the shred on me fairly easily. I know silks are often used single ply and I'd love to use this single ply but I think a double ply will hedge my bets and give a bit more balance. If there's anyone out there who's a spinning maven on bamboo or silk - I'd welcome some advice. The spun yarn just glows with the gold distributed though the strands.

Bonsai tunic - she plugs along. I had to rip back a few times about 3 inches. Missing bobbles and incorrect row counts - Oy! (permission to invoke an Oy requested Hope?). Life is really busy this week with the boys writing final exams. If there's a god/goddess of exams - please let me know and we'll arrange a live sacrifice (I'll decide who later on).

My Tulip Baby sweater kit arrived. Oh the joys of Dream in Colour yarn! Here are the colours clustered around the pattern. A lilac shade has been subbed for the pale pink but I think it'll look very nice so I'm cool with it.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering why Chardonnay pairs best with bamboo - here's my rationale: It's gold in colour, smooth and creamy and aged in wood.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tickled Pink

I've been waiting patiently for my Dream in Colour Tulip Kit to arrive from Lettuce Knit. Apparently, they were swamped after the Yarn Harlot posted them on her blog. As I sat tapping my foot peering down the street waiting for the mail man to deliver the squishy goodness - I had a horrible thought. What if the baby was a boy? This little sweater had pink at the collar. I first tried to reason to myself that "Heck, a little pink didn't matter. After all, this was the new millennium - gender neutral is in". I then checked with the mom to be. "Weeelllll...she said hesitantly, if it weren't pale pink and if it were just a bit". I then became furious that society put so much emphasis on one little colour. After all, a girl can wear blue without nary a batting of an eye. In the end, I did what any determined knitter would do, I went to "Plan B". I was lucky enough to be in Toronto on business recently and stopped at Lettuce Knit between meetings. Megan was very helpful as we looked at the pattern and pondered my quandary. In the end, we decided that the nice ruby colour may just prove to be a worthy substitute for the pink and if I bought two of the ruby - I could have enough left after the Tulip cardi for this beautiful little Dream in Colour shrug. They had a sample in the store done in emerald green. Yummmm. Done Deal.

Of course, since then the Yarn Harlot has done a few other colour ways that are perfect for boys and Threadbear in the US has done a gazillion colourways too. There's just something about this original design that begs me to knit it. My SIL called me today to say the ultrasound has indicated the baby is a girl so we're good to go.

In other knitting news; I'm finally up to the front of the Bonsai Tunic from Interweave Knits. I'm falling in love with this design all over again. This part has a whole lot going on with decreases for neck shaping and increases happening all at the same time on different rows (along with lace and bobbles) but the bamboo is a joy. I rarely run out and buy the same yarn over again but with my LYS and their "never ending farewell 40% off tour" I got some more Bonsai at 40% off in the gold colour (Bamboo) to make this charming little number. It's a free pattern on the Berroco website. Watch out if you head on over there. Norah Gaughan (cue the organ music) has some new books coming out that I already want to make things out of.

And what wine does one pair with the girly Tulip Baby Sweater? Why a rose of course. Hillebrand Artist Series Gamay Rose with the amazing portrait on the label called "Lady". After all- a little pink never hurt anyone.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ooops I Knit it Again

Are you a fussy knitter? When you make a mistake do you always rip - or never rip? I've been pondering these questions lately. Mistakes - making them and fixing them have been top of mind for two reasons: because of a wonderful essay written by Meg Swanson in the new "The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine 25" book (amazing book by the way) and because I messed up the front of my Bonsai Tunic.

In her essay "Fussy Knitting" Meg Swanson provides a few technical tips targeted to those little details that often bother fussy knitters while pointing out that if you want perfection, maybe a mass-produced or machine knit item would be the less stressful route to accomplish that objective. I know some knitters who would rather crawl over hot coals than rip and some who can't stand the thought of fudging it. I tend to be a ripper...gee, that didn't sound good...when it comes to my knitting.

I've also discovered why I prefer cabled or colour knitting over lace knitting. I love the look of lace but the stitches disappear and reappear as you work them and this means stitch count is variable. With colour or cables - the number of stitches is the number of stitches - no slight of hand. Here's the section on the tunic where I went off track. I had been knitting visually - simply working to one before the previous yarn over and creating the next yarn over. I didn't stop to check that I had the 7 stitches in each section needed. When I realized that in this section I had only 6 stitches, I knew it was one of three reasons:
I forgot a yarn over

    I knit an extra k2together

    I dropped a stitch

I checked the work and couldn't see a dropped stitch so, I decided to simply make one and carry on. Here's the section after I created a new stitch to get the number back on track. You can't really see the fudge but I was bothered by it. If it was a dropped stitch - the whole section could unzip after it was done - with my luck, right in the middle of a presentation to the Executive Team at work. I decided to put it down for a day and think about the right path to take.

I really had to examine how I felt about mistakes and what level of perfection I was demanding of myself. If I ripped out, I could easily be tossing several nights of work down the drain. Was that worth the comfort of knowing it was perfect? Why did I care?

In the end, I decided that I was the type of person who was OK with making a mistake but that I needed to at least know where I went wrong. If you don't know what the mistake is, how can you decide if you can live with it or not? I needed to know to deal.

I ripped back. It was about 8 rows worth before I found the problem. I had forgotten a yarn over. I needn't have worried about unraveling but that missing yarn over did mean the lace design was out of whack so, I was pleased that I did choose to rip. I'm now nearing completion of the lace panel on the bottom of the front and will start the waist ribbing soon. I'll spare you the photo because it's exactly like the back.

I've also finished the first sleeve of Maritime. Now here's a nice easy, breezy project which lends itself nicely to ripping out.

To rip or not to rip - that is the question. Knitting is one activity that does lend itself to Mulligan shots. Most things don't - if your screw up...a "do over" isn't even an option. It's actually a privilege to be able to rip. It may depend on the nature of the mistake and at what point of the project said mistake is discovered. The answer will however always teach you something about yourself.