Sunday, July 20, 2014

even more perseverance

I thought I had figured out the myrtle leaf lace pattern, but when I looked at the blocked piece closely and compared it to the picture in the book, something was amiss.  I thought that the pattern was a bit wonky, the way half the leaves closed differently than the other half, but figured it had to be that way to make the pattern work.  Wrong! As it turns out, there was an error in the original pattern, and soon after Victorian Lace Today came out in 2006, a correction was provided by the book's publisher.  So, here is the result of attempt # 4.
done correctly
Comparing this to the previous attempt pictured below, you can see that the leaves are now uniform.
done horribly wrong
With these multiple attempts to get it right, I find that I am now very familiar with each row and am no longer consulting the pattern.  It's going rather quickly, in fact.  I can't say that I have fully engaged my default mode network in doing this project just yet.  It still requires me to pay attention without being too taxing.  A perfect distraction when I'd rather not think of the day's challenges.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Dear Oogy,
Greetings from lace knitting purgatory.
After reaching row 34 and not having the right number of stitches or a clear enough understanding of the Myrtle Leaf pattern to know what was wrong, it was time to start over.
Lace can be ugly.
The same dilemma occurred a few rows earlier on the second attempt, and I was ready to abandon this project for good.  Back to the melon stitch for scarf #3!  But then I opted to read instead of rip, and a section of Tara Jon Manning's book resonated with me: "Exploring our discomfort, although unpleasant and sometimes scary, is perhaps one of the more compassionate things we can do for ourselves.  Maybe you just hate that pattern or that yarn." (p. 18 in Mindful Knitting).  I knew that I actually liked the pattern and the yarn, so decided to give it another chance.  I picked it up a few hours later and was able to do the 12-row repeat with minimal reference to the pattern, so it might not be such a lost cause.   I thought I might derive further encouragement from pseudo-blocking the 50+ rows I have managed so far on attempt #3.
It looks much better when blocked!
I'll send a progress report soon...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

re: mindful knitting

The report in the journal Science last week that people find it difficult and unpleasant to think without doing anything else surprised me.  The media coverage was extensive and one example from the Washington Post is here. At first I thought, in contrast to the outcome of the study, I relish opportunities to be alone with my thoughts.   But then I realized this experience usually involves knitting.  In fact, having nothing to do but think does seem unpleasant.  What a waste of time when one could be pulling weeds, or knitting, or kneading dough.
It is when I have a lot to think about that am drawn to projects that have a mindless quality to them.  I can organize my thoughts, or work through problems easier when I’m knitting a project that I can settle into.  When my current and ongoing obsession with lace began a few months back, I settled on a pattern that became easy to generate without much need for focused attention or alertness.  Two scarves later, I moved to another mindless pattern, and am now working on what I hope will become a third option.  These projects have in common an aesthetic appeal of color and silky texture.   They capture just enough of my attention that I can focus on the knitting for extended periods of time without getting tired or bored.  Perfect thinking conditions!  
Most recent melon stitch scarf
Another scarf, this one in a shell lace pattern made with mink yarn
Often my thoughts are focused on questions about neural function and knitting, hence the meager existence of this poor, neglected blog.  Recently I have been trying to understand the nature of the default mode network, or DMN, that has been characterized as the neural activity that occurs when nothing is happening.  Daydreaming on the bus, staring at people walking in and out of the lobby of your doctor’s office, watching cars pass in front of you while you wait at a red light—all DMN-inducing conditions.  This network is interrupted when a task is to be done: it’s your turn to cross the intersection, the receptionist calls your name, your stop is next, and the DMN is switched off, in favor of the specific circuits needed to complete the task at hand.  When I first started reading about the DMN, I thought it might be something to foster, that it would be good to be able to engage it, to promote creativity and problem solving.  The more I read, however, the more it seems as though it might be better to gain more control over the thought process, and prevent the DMN from taking over.   This is how meditation is described, and there is evidence that experienced meditators have a modified default mode that differs from the DMN that most of us have. 
All this reminded me that I once read the book by Tara Jon Manning called Mindful Knitting about using knitting as a tool for developing mindfulness.  I have dug it out of the bookcase and am considering it anew in light of the DMN.  Perhaps some of the benefits of knitting on mental health are mediated by an ability to control the DMN?  While all of this is roiling in my head, I plan to continue knitting some mildly mind-engaging lace.
Rows 1-13 of Myrtle Leaf Shawl with Willow Border from Victorian Lace Today

Saturday, June 7, 2014

get your sunglasses

As a way to celebrate the beginning of summer, friend H and I went to the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair.  Sometimes you know when you're home, and that was how it felt that day.   We signed up for a wool dyeing workshop and learned some techniques that produce very beautiful color progression.
We could choose between sock and shawl blanks.  This is my shawl blank, dyed with the warm end of the color spectrum because that's where I was at the table and everything else I dye includes green.  It was fun to learn some new techniques from our workshop leader, Rue Meeks-Johnson.  She was so enthusiastic and had some interesting views about how best to work with fiber.  I'm looking forward to using what I learned from her.  She sells beautiful yarn at her etsy shop:

Here is what happened to the shawl blank:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lace Update

Six weeks between blog posts.  That's a spring semester, if ever there was!  It's not over yet, so here is just a short post.
My friend's lace project inspired me to tackle one for myself, and after a few false starts, I settled on a scarf version of "Melon Pattern" from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today.  I used Juniper Moon Farm Findley, a very nice 50-50 wool-silk blend, in the color graphite.  The pattern was at the right balance of complexity and ease to provide a calming influence during these busy weeks.
before blocking
after blocking to 13'' x 72''
melon stitch up close

Monday, March 24, 2014

Retinking lace

Lace has a weird effect on me.  I find lace-weight yarn very appealing, and have acquired a nice collection of it as a result of this.  I find pictures of lace shawls and scarves difficult to resist.  However, I have a habit of starting a lace project only to let it languish indefinitely after a few days of work.  Lace has its challenges, that's for sure!

I recently helped a knitting buddy revise her own abandoned lace project.  She had ambitiously set out to make a large lace shawl for a friend as a retirement present.  It was a very complex pattern, with 3 sections, each with unique and intricate patterns made with linen.  She almost made it to the end of one section before realizing that it would never be finished.  It sat in a bag that way for at least a year, until a few weeks ago when she handed it to me (for the second time, it turns out--I had helped her take out a few rows to fix a mistake awhile back) and said she'd like to take out a few inches to render a simple triangle that could be used by itself as a scarf.
I put in a "life line" a few rows up from the widest part of the section.  The life line turned out to be on multiple rows, but I managed to pick up enough to salvage it.  Then I tinked about 7 rows.  Have you ever tinked a row of lace?  Painful.  Several sessions of tinking, with the aid of a few drinks to make it fun, and I was ready to apply an edge and bind off.
Now it's beautiful.
You might expect this adventure to turn me away from knitting lace.  Instead, I've started (and abandoned) one project, and started another that I'm still working on.

Other adventures:
Milano is offically done:
A duplicate stitch heart, on my sleeve.
And I have recently visited Beaver Brook Farm:

 Those lambs are too cute.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Not Quite Done

Dear Oogy,
Here I am, all excited to be posting on the blog about my fabulously completed sweater, when I discover that it's not actually done!
I started Milano a few weeks ago, using Palette colors that I have accumulated over the years (thanks to you!).  I chose 13 colors and arranged them as instructed in Carol Sunday's amazing pattern.  I made a few mistakes and switched one of the colors midway, but the overall result is very appealing:
I liked the way the design called for a wide body and reasonably fitted sleeves.  I didn't make mine as wide as the pattern indicated--it's 56 inches around, instead of 71.  I also liked how the neck was constructed:

Look at the nice cabled decreases:
The applied I-cord around the neck stabilized the opening and made the decreases look great.  I used the applied I-cord around the sleeves, as well.
The pattern calls for the sleeves to be knit from the cuff and then sewn into the shoulder, but I take any chance to go the other direction to avoid the seaming.  I determined that I should pick up 4/5 of the stitches to make the sleeve fit properly.
About half way down the first sleeve I realized that I was violating the pattern in a major way, using the  prescribed sequence of colors in reverse order, but by then it was too late.  A mistake made twice becomes a design element, right?

One word of caution, in case you consider making this yourself: There are many ends to deal with.  
I managed it by weaving in the yarn at each color change, and then trimming the strands to about 1 1/2 inches.  The inside is looking a bit hairy, but I'm sure that the ends are secure.

I usually work on multiple projects at the same time, choosing each to suit my mood and energy level.  However, this was the only project I worked on for the past month.  The color changes and interesting edges kept me engaged, while the endless miles of stockinette allowed me to mull over work and family issues.  I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal, and am now eyeing the still-substantial collection of Palette.
It looks done, but it's missing a very important element!
As seen from this picture from Sunday Knits, there's a cute duplicate stitch design added at the end.
I had thought of using duplicate stitch on the elbows to look like patches, but it's only now that I'm remembering that!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


And the best kind, one that was called the day before based on a dire forecast of snow followed by sleet and freezing rain.  Good decision: it was quite an adventure getting the paper and feeding and watering the birds, with little daggers of ice falling out of the sky. We are having what the paper this morning calls an "old-fashioned winter", with one snow/sleet event after another.
The dogwood nicely coated with wet snow before today's storm gave it a second coat.
It's true that a snow day comes with some inconvenience, with snow removal activities pending, the possibility of being without power, and the fact that it isn't safe to leave the house.  Oh, and the fact that whatever was supposed to happen in school today (opioid pharmacodynamics) still has to happen some other time. However, every kid knows that it is all balanced out by the gift of a free day.

My plan:
Coffee and research articles
Mindless knitting to do while reading for class
The mindless knitting
In case you were wondering, I have calculated, with the aid of unit converters on dem internets, that I have so far completed 6431.1428 inches/178.64 yards/ 0.1015 miles of knitting on this project.

Stay warm!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Dear Oogy,
Even though it hasn't been the longest interval between posts, it feels as though it has been forever.  As you might expect, the lack of blog posting is not an indicator of a lack of knitting.

I finished a little project with the hand-spun fiber from the last post.
There is a bit of the yarn remaining, which is here next to the computer where I can gaze at it and occasionally give it a huff.  It smells so good, like it just came off the sheep.  The hat has come in handy in the arctic winter weather we've had so much of.  Now I am spinning a large collection of shetland wool that I have accumulated over many years.

Work has been so busy that I have not had the energy to design anything new, but I have become obsessed with Carol Sunday's pattern Milano.  The yarn in the kit she offers looks wonderful, but with the extensive collection of Knit Picks Palette in my possession, I thought it best to use some of it for this sweater.
As Kate Davies pointed out in her blog post about making this sweater, it is miles and miles of plain stockinette in the round (more miles in my case than hers!).  Perfect mindless knitting, to do while watching TV, riding in the train, plane or automobile, and while mostly asleep before the coffee does its job in the morning.  The color changes happen at perfect intervals--just when it gets a bit too boring, it is time to switch.  The color sequence is arranged by color undertones, alternating cool and warm with the same sequence, which allows all of the colors to make both narrow and wide stripes.   Her kit has 11 colors and my rendition has 13.

Stay warm!
Brownie demonstrating how to spend a weekend afternoon.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year, New Theme

Happy New Year everyone!

Oogy and I have completed 2013's Thing-a-Month theme.  It went very well until we both got rather busy as the holidays approached.  My October luxury fiber project is stagnant and December's woven rug was disappointing enough that it will not be mentioned again, and certainly not shown.  These minor issues should not distract from the overall success of our endeavor.  If I had to choose a favorite, it was January's BFF scarf, which I wear at least once a week.

We have devised a new theme for 2014: Many Rs.  You are probably familiar with the 3 Rs of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  This concept can be extended to apply to knitting, and might also include Reinvent, Reassemble, Repent, Repurpose, Repulse, Resume, Revile, Revise, Refine, and so on.  This theme is meant to encourage us to look deep into the stash for items that have been languishing there.

My first R project this year is to Revise a sweater that I finished last year, after struggling with its design for a few years before that.  I used wool from Beaver Brook Farm in a very homey natural brown color, with a subtle accent edging of another CT-grown wool that I dyed blue.  I wore it once, but hated the way the sleeves were set.  The sweater body was too wide at the shoulders, making the sleeves poof out in a very unflattering manner.  I dug it out of hiding and took it apart.
It was finished, but not exactly wearable.    
I ripped it out to the waist.  The resulting ultra-curly skeins were washed and made into nearly-new balls.
I decided to make the sweater a bit longer in the body, so I added about an inch before making new underarm openings, and then proceeded to reknit the back and front.  The earlier version featured an interesting neck-line, but the revised version is a high crew neck, not quite mock-turtle neck.  It is on the drying rack and will be featured in the next blog post.

My assistant was his usual helpful self during the revision.

I hope your 2014 is off to a great beginning!