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Bad blogger, good fix…

Dear Jan,

I believe it has been about 3 months since I promised a bit of a photo tutorial on how to fix a cable long after the sweater is finished. Sorry it has taken so long, but better late than never, eh?

Here is the cable – missing its cross, but only discovered about 15 inches later.  Sure, you could have dropped down and cabled them all again, and I could have, too, but I don’t know that my marriage would have survived the aggravation that would accompany such a maneuver.  Instead, how about just hiding the mistake?

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First step – pick up a row of stitches the width of the cable immediately above the last correct cross.  Pick these up through the sweater – put the needle right through the center of the stitch and draw a loop up from yarn held below the sweater.

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Now knit the proper number of rows until you’d normally cross the cable.  You’ll form a little flap.  You can use the working yarn that you used to form the loops – just pull an end up through the fabric from the back.  It won’t take much to do this fix, just a foot or so of yarn.

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When you get to the row where you’d normally cross the cable, go ahead and cross it.

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Now, neatly and tidily, graft the flap right into place, matching rows.

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Weave in the end, and it will take more than a casual observer to ever find this fix.

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That fixed the cable, but I’m not sure it will fix my blogging frequency.  We’ll see.

Love,

Ellen

Bohus Baby…

Dear Jan,

Once upon a time there was a woman married to a kind hearted man.  The woman knew what she wanted most for a special gift –  a Bohus sweater.  The kind hearted man wanted to please that woman, beyond her wildest expectations, so he gave her not just a Bohus sweater, but the matching hat.  Such was her delight to receive Den Grönsiska* in a matching set that some time later she had her portrait made with her firstborn while wearing the lovely garments. 

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The woman loved many people, including family and friends, and later in life she in turn gave the hat to a friend.  Even later, that friend knew someone who would cherish that hat just as much as the woman, and they gave it to my dear friend, Susanna, who shared story and hat with me during my recent visit.

And that is the story of how I got to hold and admire this hat myself, quite some time ago now, but still fresh in my memory.  Bohus magic.

Love,

Ellen

*Green Finch

Never bored with Bohus…

Dear Jan,

As you are well aware, the knitting world saw another bit of history this month.  On November 2, Solveig Gustafson announced that several of the Bohus reproduction kits which she has meticulously created in collaboration with the Bohusläns Museum, would no longer be available.  In short order, the list of available kits grew shorter and shorter as word spread (much of the spreading occurring on the Ravelry Bohus group) that she had decided to enter a more relaxed period of life with time for other creative pursuits.  And then the museum had to start marking its stock of Solveig’s kits as unavailable, too, as Bohus devotees swamped their website in search of one more lovely kit.  At the time I write this post, every kit except Mountain Peaks on Solveig’s site is now unavailable, and I believe the museum is also out of stock.

Many in the Bohus-loving portion of the knitting world  are wishing they’d ordered a kit or two more when they first fell in love with them.  Many are being philosophical about it, appreciating the great effort Solveig and her husband made to create the kits even as they wish they had just one more in stash. And the English speakers are also appreciating the translations by Susanna Hansson.  Susanna will continue to teach her Bohus class, and well worth it, it is, for the history and inspiration and chance to see the Bohus Stickning originals in her collection.

Here is one of those originals, which I had the opportunity to photograph on a trip in 2013.

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This is a design that was new to me – Cornflower.   Susanna had not just the sweater, but also a hat and scarf.  This design is in 100% wool, so the design stands out crisply.

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And for something to really blow your mind – Bohus bits.  The original Bohus designer who shared them with Susanna just whacked pieces off for her.  THAT, my dear, is true friendship.

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For those of you who would like to indulge in even more Bohus beauty, check out my Flickr set for lots more beauty shots and some pics of a modern reproduction of Red Edge (Susan Newhall’s work) laid next to the authentic garment, showing the amazing job by Solveig in dyeing the new yarns.  You’ll also find a Lemon and a Blue Light, plus shots of a special hat.

Yes, I did feel a bit faint playing with these beautiful originals.  And with the end of an era of Solveig’s dyeing, I feel a bit fainter.  Thank you, Solveig, for the wonderful pleasure of working with these wonderful garments.  I am so glad I am several kits ahead in my stash and have many hours of Bohus knitting in front of me.

Love,

Ellen

Episode 25 — Three + One = Five

In which we discuss trips to Ohio, visits with siblings, fiber processing workshops, the secret to drum carding, poncho-mania, knitting and saunaing in the north woods, prize winning knitting, the size of Wilson’s head, the size of Ellen’s head, Jan’s loss of brain cells, dizzes and punis, safety to dye for, and the good fortune to be heading to Cat Bordhi’s Fall Retreat.

Thanks to those who leave iTunes reviews and star ratings – we really appreciate it.  And Jan appreciates the wonderful swap package that pgknittingnurse sent her as part of the Caithness Craft Collective coaster swap.  (We love you, Louise!).

Jan’s grand-kitty, Monkey, has come to live with her, along with Marie, Jan’s daughter.  Marie’s wife, Heidi, will be joining the farm soon while the young ladies hunt up their own place.  As if that weren’t enough, Jan bought four more alpaca – three from Ohio, one from the Lancaster area – and ended up with five.  One was pregnant! Billy, aka Sweet William, is an adorable lamb, I mean, cria.  She also reported on the fiber prep class which she took in Ohio – washing, carding, dyeing and more.  Look for some beautiful fiber to come from her (soon we hope!).

Two drum carding lessons that Jan passed on – don’t pull back on the fiber as it enters the drum or it will wrap right around the licker drum, and when pulling fiber off the drum to form a roving, get the diz close to the drum to hold the fiber together.

And because Jan was in Ohio when Ellen was also in the state for work, all 5 of the biological children of our mom were able to get together.  Too bad we couldn’t connect with our other sisters, Beth and Patty, too, or brother, Brent.

Ellen has been processing tomatoes and okra from the garden she adopted.  She also fit a quick tech edit into her schedule for the Finitio Scarf by Mary Lou Egan.  Poncho-mania hit the Twin Cities at Lisa’s – several of Ellen’s knitting friends joined Lisa to hand-loom the fabric for the Easy Folded Poncho (not the Modern Poncho, as we said in the episode) from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.  Ellen’s poncho is out of a cashmere/angora/merino/silk tweed ordered from Colourmart.

Ellen reported on the fun of the Sisu Lost in the Woods retreat (which included a quick poncho looming!).  This trip up north marks the start of autumn in Minnesota for Ellen – winter won’t be far behind.  She was excited to report seeing an OTTER in the wild!  Fair season started and finished nicely for Jan – she entered 7 items and received 6 ribbons in the West Lampeter Community Fair, including a second sock syndrome ribbon (2nd place on her socks!).

Jan continued working on Misty Morning, her version of Paula Emons-Fuessle’s Lullaby Rain shawl.  Jan resolved her yarn issues by ordering two more balls of yarn.  Jan is also working on her Fog Lights sweater; the original design is the Green Mist pullover by Kerstin Olson, Jan has substituted some different colors and is getting great results.  She is likely going to finish the sleeves first, then she can make the body as long as possible with the remaining yarn.

The Great Dayne sweater is back in Ellen’s hands after a few months rest.  She’s improvising fingerless mitts (not sleeveless, though it will be that) out of Tunisian Crochet.  Ellen finished one Harmonia’s Rings cowl by Sivia Harding, out of Berroco Vintage, a washable wool:synthetic blend and is well into a second, this one out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

Jan got bitten by her knittin’ when she was at Dale’s 35th anniversary of his graduation from West Point – luckily she caught a dropped stitch before it got too far away.  It was a few rows back and she simply laddered it up to the correct row.

Ellen had a similar incident with her Grey Mountains (Mountain Peaks, a Bohus reproduction) hat (kit from SOLsilke) and also knit the geometric design twice because of an error the first time, then knit the following stripes a second time for the same reason.  Her version of Sarah Punderson’s Adirondack, Black Spruce, caused some issues when she accidentally inserted the short row wedges that shape the shawl on the wrong side.  Ellen did finish both of these projects despite the issues.  She also finished a little mobius cowl from a skein of handspun yarn that was a gradient from yellow to blue.

Jan finished a scarf, Monet’s Argyle,  where the yarn did the colorwork for her and resulted in an argyle pattern through deliberate pooling of color.  Artful Color, Mindful Knits is the book which guided her in this project.

For a new design challenge, we introduce our first knit-along (KAL), and pair it with a design-along (DAL).  We’ll be doing a DAL-KAL based on Jan’s pattern, Swagger.  Two threads are up in the Twinset Designs Ravelry group – one for chatter, one for finished projects.  If you add your own design variation to the project, you get two entries! The big prize is a skein of Wollmeise Twin, an 80:20 merino:nylon sock yarn – an appropriate prize.

In 360 degrees, Ellen has been spinning a bit with her Jenkins Kuchulu, a very small (and cute!) Turkish spindle while on conference calls and has gone to the other extreme by working with her Great Wheel on different fiber preps.  Suffice it to say that some work better than others.  Her medium sized wheel, her Louet Victoria, was just right for spinning up some more of her CorriedaleX that has been in the works.

Jan plyed up the alpaca/merino/stellina that the spun last week and also skeined and washed some yarn from Finnsheep.  She also spun up a little art batt from her fiber processing workshop, and also finished up the last bit of her Into the Whirled batt and will soon get it plyed up.

Jan described the meaning of the fiber term, diz, a device used to draw a roving from a comb or drum carder.  Ellen discussed punis – a fiber prep form for spinning.

Jan challenges us to investigate Stitch Maps, JC Briar’s new approach to charting without a grid, resulting in a depiction of what the knitting will actually look like.  Go take a look at the web site and we’ll be discussing this again soon!

Ellen’s slick trick is a way to eliminate ends in Fair Isle knitting.  It works for feltable yarns – figure out how much yarn is needed for about 5 sts.  When you come to the end of a color, stop 5 sts before the end of the color and break the yarn off with 2x the length you determined that you’d need for those 5 sts.  Lay this across the new yarn and fold it back on itself, then fold the new yarn back on itself.  Adjust so the intersection is exactly at the point that gives just enough the length needed to knit those last stitches.  Felt the join together by dampening it and rubbing it together between your palms (if working with a non-feltable yarn, you might try a Russian join).

It will be a slick trick if Ellen gets the show notes up before she has to pack for the Cat Bordhi retreat which she and Jan are attending in mid-October.

Don’t knit like my sister!

Shawl we dance?

Dear Jan,

It seems that I shawl knit nothing but things to adorn my shoulders lately.  Why in the last few weeks alone, three shawls have come off my needles.

First was my version of Steven West’s Pogona, which I call Herbstetology.  Yes, I know our readers will be fascinated by the etymology of this name.  I will indulge them…

Pogona is the genus of a group of lizards.  Herpetology is the  study of lizards and other reptiles.  Herbst is German for autumn.  My Pogona is knit out of the Rambouillet roving that our friend Erica dyed to represent the autumnal glory of Rhinebeck.  Really, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it?

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The more mundane details – knit out of my 2-ply handspun, semi-worsted spun, 600+ yards out of about 4 oz of fiber, so a lace weight.  I knit it on US size 3 needles, if my memory serves.  So much fun knitting this fabric – it was lightweight and soft and will be a joy to wear.  I added several extra sets of increases to increase the flounce factor.

Next off the needles – my version of your very own pattern, Swagger  (Readers, coming soon to a Ravelry store near you!).  Mine is smaller, not as long or wide, more of a Sashay, really, which is what I named it.  More handspun, this some Coopworth batts spun woolen and chain plyed to about a heavy worsted weight.  I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn.  It was supple rather than soft, lively and strong but also obedient. The pattern, need I say, was great, too.  Very intuitive – after one repeat of the cute little swag and I was off script. And it was sweet that the design let me use all but about 5 g of this yarn.  Well done, Sister!

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The only thing it lacked was more length – even making the scarf quite a bit narrower than your version, it was not going to give me tails long enough to comfortably wrap around my neck.  So I added a buttonhole at one end, and now I have a shawl/scarf/cowl that I can wear three ways!

The last shawl off my needles is one I’d been wanting to knit a long time – Alison Jeppson Hyde’s Bigfoot Shawl out of her Wrapped in Comfort book, sadly now out of print (but check Alison’s blog, SpinDyeKnit – she can help you find a copy).  Alison’s shawls are shaped like a bagel with a wedge cut out so that they sit and stay on one’s neck, even if knit a bit shallow because one runs out of handspun.

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Yep, more handspun, this out of  Jacob fiber.  Jacobs are those crazy looking sheep with 2 and sometimes 3 sets of horns going every which way.  I had some tan and some chocolate brown, so spun one 2-ply yarn with both plies tan, one with both in brown, and one a marled yarn with a ply of each color.  I then knit pure tan, mixed, pure chocolate from neck to bottom edge and am very pleased with the flow of the color.  I call it Wrapped in Jacob.

It also pleased me to realize that the shawl you had knit from Alison’s book, Ann’s Big Heart, was also the Bigfoot.   Twin moment!  (And I admit to being pleased that the gradient that my hair is becoming matched the shawl really well!)

So what’s on my needles now?  Really, do you have to ask?

Love,

Ellen

Scratching an itch…

Dear Jan,

Ever since WestKnits Book One came out, I’ve been itching to knit Pogona.  The interesting construction with multiple increase points (not just another triangular shawl), the organic way it curved around the neck with just enough ruffle for flow and not so much to be girly, and the wearability of a shawlette for work or play – I knew this shawl was for me.  And when I got my Rhinebeck braid of Rambouillet (dyed by Erica at DesigKnit) spun up into a lace weight yarn, I knew I had the right yarn, too.

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Erica captured the color of autumn foliage perfectly.  I actually toned down the saturation in this photo – it is that gorgeous!

My only problem is that the gauge is much finer than that for which Stephen West designed the shawl, so what should be a super fast knit is more of a slow but enjoyable process.  I’m using a smaller needle and have a lot more stitches, but the fabric is fine and dreamy – even better to allow the fabric to drape.

Here is some more brilliant color I’ve enjoyed of late, a Baltimore Oriole (first I’ve seen, ever!).  He would go well with the shawl.

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And for a bit more color, in case that wasn’t enough, we got our first-of-the-year ruby-throated hummingbird to the feeder.

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And that reminds me – I need to go refill that feeder!

Love,

Ellen

Cherry blossoms in summer…

Dear Jan,

We have become very bad bloggers.  We are maybe pretty good podcasters*, but our blogging has really dried up.  I feel bad for the folks who read blogs but don’t do the podcast thing, and I also like to have a bit of writing, not just audio of our lives.  Still, to try to catch up at this point would make for an interminable post.  Instead, I’m going to pick one thing at a time and post about it, and maybe much of what has happened in recent weeks will get recorded, and maybe it won’t.  I doubt anyone will miss the “gee, it’s hard to believe it isn’t spring yet in Minnesota posts”, so I’ll skip right past those and get into summertime cherry blossoms.

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Yes, we went straight from winter snow one week to temps in the 90’s the next, and it sure prompted my North Star cherry to bloom quickly.  I had some blooms of my own to hang on it – my Umeshu stole, my version of the Hanami stole by Melanie Gibbons.  The stole represents cherry blossoms falling from one end of the stole to the other – the geometric lace reminds me of garden fencing.  I used Knit Pick’s hand dyed Shimmer lace weight yarn (70:30 alpaca:silk) on size 3.25 mm needles.  The yarn was a tonal of plum colors, hence the name “Umeshu” which means plum in Japanese.

img_4703.jpgThough the color was pleasing, I found the tonal was really more of a stripey and was disappointed at how the lace pattern was obscured.  It really bugged me, so I decided I had nothing to lose by tossing it in the dye pot.

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I used Cushing’s Perfection Acid Dyes in burgundy and white vinegar as a mordant.  The dye exhausted pretty thoroughly, but boy did I have to rinse and rinse to clear the alpaca/silk of the dye.  After the first few rinses resulted in continued bleeding, I retreated and reheated with vinegar solution and rinsed and rinsed again, using some woolwash to help free up loose dye.  Finally, about 9 rounds later, I was reasonably satisfied that the dye wouldn’t immediately transfer onto my skin when I wore the stole.

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No doubt, it was worth the trouble.  If you look very closely, you can see the ghost of the stripes, which just makes it more interesting and rich.

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The beaded cast on reminds me of dew drops.

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I modified the pattern by making it one multiple wider than called for and adding some length.  And instead of going to the perfect lace grid on the ends, I repeated the more organic random grid several more times and am very happy I did so.  Finally, I made the ruffle more ruffly by doing a triple increase in each stitch and then finishing with some garter stitch (which is wider than stockinette) before binding off.  You can see the details in my notes on my Ravelry page.

It felt so good to get this piece which I started back in 2009 off the needles that I may have to go UFO diving again soon.  Hey, at least it didn’t take me 4 years to write about it!

Love,

Ellen

*and even the podcasting has gotten slowed up in the rush of spring, but a new episode should be up soon!

Imagine a moth…

Did you know that the last stage in an insects life is the imago, plural imagines?  While I wish I had imagined this, unfortunately I didn’t.   A moth flew out of my closet a couple of days ago.

Though said insect is now smashed to smothereens, I am sure it was Tineola bisselliella, the dreaded clothes moth.  Powdery, silvery green wings, erratic flight, yup, sure is the fiber artist’s nemesis.

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As many of my sweaters were due for a wash, I went ahead and used my soaking and spinning machine* to work my way through all of my wool sweaters over the course of a few days. I thoroughly vacuumed the drawers in which I keep them and the closet itself.

The shawls gave me pause. All of that blocking to be redone was more than I could face. So I baked them.

Recalling that at work (where we handle tons of grains and flours) we occasionally heat the whole building up to quell meal moth infestation, I wondered if something like this would work for wool moths. After some research in agricultural texts and on-line information**, I concluded that if I got my knits over 140F for several minutes (or 160 F for less than a minute), I should be able to knock out any and all forms of moth – egg, larva, or adult.  Combine this info with my favorite feature of my kitchen range, the warming drawer, and you’ve got a straightforward method for disinfesting delicates of these pests.

I set the warming drawer on High, wrapped the shawls in a light cotton towel, stuck a meat thermometer into the middle to make sure I get them up to 140F, and baked my shawls free of any insidious infestation.

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Bonus – thanks to this unasked for prompt, I have gotten my annual sweater wash done earlier than ever before.

Imagine that.

Love,

Ellen

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Note – do not do this with garments that you aren’t sure are clean. Heating causes all sorts of great chemical reactions between sugars and proteins (like the ones in that egg salad that dripped on your sweater the other day, or the sweat that has been accumulating on the edge of that cowl) and these reactions create delicious flavors and very brown stains. This is what is happening, by the way, when stains slowly appear on old clothing – the heat just speeds all that up.

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*A.K.A. washing machine – great for soaking multiple sweaters at once and spinning the water out – just don’t ever let it agitate them!

** Tang, Juming; Mitcham, Elizabeth; Wang, Shaojin; Lurie, Susan. 2007. Heat Treatments for Postharvet Pest Control: Theory and Practice. CAB International, Oxon, UK.

**Cranshaw, W. 2003. Fact Sheet No. 5598, Indian Meal Moth. Colorado State University.

Image of clothes moth from Wikimedia Commons.

And you thought that was an ice bucket…

Dear Jan,

When the hotel sink won’t hold water, you find something else in which to block your new socks.

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And the shelf under the sink makes an excellent place in which to dry them.

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Yes, Sockesan! is a finished project, and I am still highly pleased with the Noro Kureyon Sock yarn.  Post blocking the fabric is thin, supple, and soft.  The colors were always fab.

The pattern, well, there really isn’t a pattern.  Cast on about 72 sts, decrease at back of sock (paired decreases about 4 sts apart every 8 or 10 rows) down to 62 sts, work heel flap from other end of ball so as not to interrupt stripes, then pick the original working yarn back up to work the gusset and foot.  Kitchener closed.  Block in ice bucket.

I am pleased.

Love,

Ellen

Houston, we have a problem…

Dear Jan,

I have started rooting for the owls to come out during the daytime.

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While watching the squirrels raid our feeder, I’ve been working on my Fiber Fusion sweater.  After the precision demanded by the Master Knitter program, the freedom to create a knit fabric that is organic and rustic and in which I have no preconceived notion of the final garment is quite freeing.

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I did get back that first round submission, by the way.  I’m pleased with how I did.  Several swatches to reknit or reblock, a few more swatches to rewrite, plus a reknit of the wrister (I forgot a row in the pattern – huh!?).  But the big happy is that all of the reports were accepted!  Lisa and I will start back on our work this week.

I’ve decided I’m going to make the Decibella cowl by Gale Zucker.  It just keeps haunting me with its magnitudeness.  (I’m sure that is a word.)  But I didn’t want to spend the big buck for the big yarn suggested.  Good thing I know how to make my own!

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I’m using the cerulean blue fleece, colored in the remnants of the dyebath that I used for all that 5-ply yarn I spun a while ago, drum carded and spun into singles.

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I saved a chunk of the last batt  to blend on the drum carder with some more of the natural colored fiber.  The misty blue that resulted is equally enchanting.

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Six plies of each makes for bulky yarns with just enough contrast for interest, and close enough that your eyes won’t hurt looking at the cowl.

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Too bad I don’t have that cowl done already as we are getting socked by a good snow.  Nothing like out east this weekend, but enough that getting to work in the morning will be challenging.  And that morning will come fast enough, so bye for now.

Love,

Ellen