Plaits & Links Cardigan

I’ll skip the part where I talk about being a “bad blogger” and admit that I’ve knit multiple sweaters and other items in the time since I last posted (I have). The truth is, blogging about knitting often requires photographs. And it’s winter and it’s dark and when I’m not at work, I value time spent in sweatpants above almost all else. But I am trying to be better and participate in the world even in such small ways as taking photos of the things that I knit. And so here is one such thing:

plaits&links

In a shocking turn of events, I knit a heavily cabled cardigan in a rustic yarn. I know, this is very hard to believe. But here you have it. Kathy Zimmerman’s Plaits and Links cardigan knit in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, in Hayloft. I’ve had this yarn stashed for about a year, after buying it for another sweater that ended up not being very nice-looking on me. When I saw this pattern on the cover of Interweave Knits this winter, I knew that it was a much better match and kind of zipped through knitting this.

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I think the only aspect of this sweater that I feel a little “eh” about is the width of the arms. I have exceptionally skinny upper arms in comparison to the rest of my body, and I usually knit my sleeves a little smaller than a pattern calls for, but I didn’t do that this time. I don’t think I regret that decision necessarily. I kind of like the boxy, old-fashioned shape of this cardigan. And the extra room in the arms makes this a nice cozy layering piece, which I think really suits it.

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Because I live in New England, the snow is still falling and I have plenty of time to wear this little treat before it gets too warm for wool. (Though admittedly in my life, only the hottest of months are “too warm for wool.” Just wear thinner wool, obviously.) I wish I lived such a life of luxury that I could afford to knit all of my cabled sweaters out of Shelter, in all of its amazing colors. I’m especially obsessed with Nest, Postcard, Woodsmoke, and Snowbound – not exactly the most colorful of colors. But I’m a sucker for a nice neutral.

Anyway, look, a sweater! I knit it, I took a picture of it, I talked about it. I am participating in the world. I had planned on *really* participating and going on a little trip this weekend, but my beloved cat was having some health problems, and was just diagnosed with asthma last night, so I’ll be spending the next few days hanging hard with her, watching a lot of movies and knitting in bed. I’m not necessarily complaining about that.

The Bottle Show – Builds ‘Em Healthy!

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If we’re friends elsewhere on the internet (or even in real life – for occasionally I do socialize!), you’ve already heard me talk about the antique bottle show I went to not long ago. You see, one of my jobs involves surveying the history and heritage sector of my entire (tiny) state. And in the course of that work, I spend a lot of time researching what those organizations are and developing relationships with them. I am, essentially, a professional local history tourist. I really like it. But I digress. While researching something totally unrelated to antique bottles, I stumbled upon a local bottle-collectors organization. And lo and behold, their annual show was that weekend, in nearby South Attleboro. I had no idea what to expect, but the tourist in me was hell bent on going. I turned immediately to fellow lover of old things, Liz, who described our outing as “becoming a parody of ourselves.” Perhaps, but I know this: I was not in the least disappointed in my first bottle show experience. Yeah, I said first.

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To be perfectly honest, personal collections are what really sparked my initial interest in becoming an archivist. I was never interested in “history” as a broad subject, but I love learning it through the scope of a specific person’s connection with objects of any kind, whether it’s a form of media, like a record collection, or something as seemingly static as a bottle collection. When I was home in Pennsylvania, I stayed at a friend’s house one night in Pittsburgh, and her dad showed me his oil can collection. I wish I’d had my camera then – his collection was as well maintained and artfully displayed as any I’ve seen in any professional exhibit. The bottle show was another really great way to glimpse into another kind of collector’s world, and I have to say it was really impressive. I also have to say that I would genuinely go to another bottle show, this time with more money in my pocket. (Don’t worry, I’ve already established a solid collection policy for myself to prevent unnecessary acquisitions.)

Wollmeise!

I can’t believe I never posted photos from my trip to the Wollmeise shop this summer. I have often admired Wollmeise yarns online, but had never encountered them in person before. There are no yarn shops in my area of the states that carry it, and sometimes I am nervous about buying yarn online if I have never touched it, or at least seen the color in person. Not that you can’t just tell from photos that this is some extremely exceptional wool.

Fortunately, this summer I made a really wonderful new friend, and she took me to Pfaffenhofen for the Wollmeise summer sale. (!!!)

It was packed! Outside, people were admiring their purchases, looking at colors in the natural sunlight, and eating treats.

It was absolutely packed inside, but I did manage to sneak a few quick shots of some of the shelves when they were not flocked with humans.

I could have easily spent the entire week there, drinking coffee and examining the minute color differences from skein to skein. But of course, I did have a job back in Salzburg, and I had already taken one day off to go yarn shopping (fortunately my supervisor was also a knitter, and understood completely). So I had some difficult decisions to make. I ended up mostly buying lace, and because I am me, mainly solid colors. Still, let it be noted that I bought actual COLORS and only three gray skeins. And now please enjoy some glamour shots of my purchases:

For those of you who are not already versed in Wollmeise skeins (as I myself was not), let me explain. The grays pictured above are the 575-yard 100% wool sock-weight skeins. The lace skeins are the really amazing thing though – 1740 yards to a skein. That’s bonkers! That is any lace weight project I want to make, all in one perfect bundle. I’ve started knitting Jared Flood’s Bridgewater shawl in the red-orange color. For scale, here is a picture of that skein wound into a ball (will definitely be using a winder for future skeins!) and as you can see, my hand is nearly eclipsed by it. And I do not feel weird telling you that I have sort of abnormally large hands to start with. On many occasions, upon seeing them, people have told me that if I do not already, I should really consider playing the piano.

I am actually kind of glad I waited so long to post these photos – it gives me an excuse to look back over them and remember this really fun day. I’ve been feeling awfully nostalgic for my time in Austria this summer, and it’s nice to get to relive fun parts of the trip whenever possible. And in the meantime, I’ll just hope I make it back there, and back to the Wollmeise shop, too, before long.

A little knitting, a little tourism.

A small project, some  boot toppers for a coworker and new friend, who I have also taught to knit recently.

Just improvised, ribbing and simple cables. The yarn is Lang Yarns Fantomas, which I think will be nice and durable for wearing with boots. Hopefully they’ll serve well in the Austrian winter. I wish I could stay here longer and see for myself! Though I am eager to get back to my dear, dear catfriend. There is a cat that lives on the grounds here, but she is a tiger who cannot be tamed. Though I do like to admire her from afar:

With only one month left in Salzburg, I am coming to terms with the fact that I have to return to reality. I apply for a job almost every day and keep my fingers crossed that something will pan out. And in the meantime, I keep myself busy watching projected opera performances in one of the town squares, reading, eating pretzels whenever possible, and taking all the field trips I can. Including a sweaty day of cycling, complete with a stop at Schloss Hellbrun, where the gazebo from The Sound of Music is now located. Check that one off the ol’ bucket list.

 

Can’t Help It

I cannot help bragging, I’m sorry. But this is my life right now, going to places like this:

And this:

And on regular weekdays, I follow up my eight hours in a beautiful library by walking next door to the most pleasant swimming complex I have ever seen:

I am not usually inclined to believe that things can  be this good. But somehow they are? I eat food that someone else cooks, I reread War and Peace, I knit things while I drink coffee on a terrace overlooking the Untersberg. Do I deserve this? Probably not. I promise that I also spend a fair amount of time worrying about the future and applying for jobs and thinking of ways in which I can better myself in order to restore some karmic balance to the world.

Also, I miss my cat very much. I think about that a lot.

How to Knit, Actually

I wish I was the kind of person who was good at creating visual step-by-step instructions, diagrams, or videos in order to provide good knitting instructions. Unfortunately, I am not. But as an information professional, at least I am good at aggregating resources. And after all, there are already so many good instructions out there; why add more to the mix? Here are easy to follow tutorials that will give you all the skills you need to make the projects listed in my last post.

How to Knit via Martha Stewart. I secretly (actually, publicly) love Martha Stewart. Her instructions are a little bit bare-bones, but I really like the charming diagrams, and the fact that she talks about details like making gauge swatches and picking up dropped stitches. Those are very useful things to think about. Also, there are separate instructions for knitting in the round, which will be useful for making hats, cowls, or mitts.

Videos seem like the way to go now in terms of breaking down individual techniques. Youtube did not exist when I was learning how to knit. Young people everywhere are blown away by this, but there you have it. Here are a few videos that should cover all the basics:

How to cast on (long-tail cast on)

How to make a knit stitch

How to make a purl stitch

How to increase (make 1)

How to decrease (k2tog)

How to decrease (ssk)

How to bind off

I recommend waiting to watch these until it is actually close to time to use them – otherwise this all seems like meaningless jibber jabber. Or at least that is how instructions feel to me.

Also helpful is Interweave’s knitting glossary. Any unfamiliar term you’ll see in a pattern is probably listed here, often with a helpful diagram or illustration.

I personally like to have a nice library of knitting books on hand. I love old stitch dictionaries and Elizabeth Zimmerman books in particular, but for a knitter just starting out, I am especially partial to recommending Debbie Stoller’s Stitch N Bitch. My mom got me this book back when it first came out, and I found it more helpful than any other book I had seen, especially in terms of mastering basic skills. It’s also extremely charming and funny, which never hurts.

As a bonus, here is an old image of what I still continue to be essential knitting supplies:

 

Very-Beginner Knitting Patterns

I have recently been asked to teach a few friends and coworkers how to knit, and it reminded me of something I have meant to do for a long time, which is to compile a list of good patterns and resources for beginning knitters. Obviously this is much easier to do now that things like Ravelry and Youtube exist – it is a little crazy to think now that they were not around when I was learning. Technology, right? I’ll save links to online and print resources that actually teach you how to make these projects for a separate post.

Moving right along. These are patterns I would suggest as first, second, or third projects. I chose them because the instructions are very clearly written and the skills required are the first ones knitters learn – mainly knit and pearl  – but also because I think they are a little more appealing than knitting endless scarves. Not that you can ever have too many plain scarves (I would even say I don’t have enough.)

1. Jared Flood’s Noro Striped Scarf

I wish I had realized as an early knitter that just because my skills weren’t advanced, that didn’t mean I had to use gross yarn. It should be the opposite. Nice yarn will totally carry a simple project. This scarf is great because the changing colors of Noro in the stripes keep it from ever being dull, and it gives you plenty of practice knitting and purling. Bam.

2. Jen Geigley’s GAP-tastic Cowl

I like big needles and big yarn. In no time at all, you have a super wearable thing. More knitting and purling, but this time in seed stitch, which is a nice change from stockinette or ribbing, and you learn to knit in the round.

3. Helen Waittes’ Watch Cap

Another super simple and fast project. Hats are nice because they include decreases, (or increases) depending on the direction in which the hat is knit. Those are good to learn for bigger projects that require more shaping. And everyone likes to wear hats.

4. Leslie Friend’s Toast (or Toasty)

Toast is essentially a tube – just a really simple but pretty wrist-warmer kind of thing. Toasty adds a thumb gusset, which is not as scary as it sounds. Knit toast, then work your way up to toasty if it intimidates you at first. The nice thing about knitting something stockinette in the round is that there is only knitting and no purling. In my opinion, that is the best of all possible worlds.

So there you go. Four things that it would be really easy to get started with. Any of these could be a first project that you would actually want to wear on your person. That is more than I can say for a dozen garter stitch scarves.

(Nothing against garter stitch scarves.)

Setting the Bar High

Location is weighing heavily on my mind these days. This is probably true for anyone throwing themselves into the job market after school, but working overseas right now, I feel particularly untethered.

The amazing thing about having no plans at all is that you end up doing things you couldn’t possibly anticipate. If I had created any kind of plan for myself, I can honestly say it would not have included living and working in Europe after grad school. And so while I am here, I am mainly trying to just let myself enjoy the experience without worrying about the future, though obviously it would be impossible to do that completely.

So Far

Although work is keeping me very busy (in a good way), I am still enjoying much more free time than I have been used to for the past two years. The best part so far is having time for reading books again.

Even time to reread old favorites without feeling like I should be doing something else with my time instead.

And there is even time left over for some lazy knitting.

Though I do need to spend some time resuming the long-term job hunt, it is definitely nice right now to read and knit and explore Salzburg. And very nice to be in a work setting that gives me so much to learn and think about, which I will certainly have to share soon.

Crush

Here are those photos of the finished shrug for my friend’s wedding:

The pattern is Crush by Alyssa Carlburg from the most recent Stitch ‘n Bitch book. I’ve been wanting to knit it ever since my brother got the book for me as a Christmas present (not this past Christmas either; the one before).

I knit it in Schulana Kid-Paillettes in #320 Silver (if this had been a gift for myself, I’d have used #380 Pale Mauve, which makes me feel totally swoony). It’s a really amazing sequined mohair blend lace weight yarn that I just can’t say enough kind things about. I highly recommend it for knitting fancy treats. For the size medium, I technically used four skeins, but I didn’t start into the fourth until just a few rows from the end.

This project definitely helped me regain my love of knitting. Once the rain lets up, I’m off to deliver it to its recipient. Here’s hoping she’ll be as charmed by it as I am.