Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm BAAAAAAACK... with the end-of-summer wrap-up!!

*TWO* MONTHS??! Wow. I knew it had been quite a while since my last blog post, and that in the interim I had completed my tenure dossier, a new school year had started, and a whole lot of other momentous things had happened around our household, including a flea tsunami that engulfed our 100% indoor cat and rabbit population (go figure...), and the arrival of two little rescue kittens (4-5 weeks old), who turned out to have ringworm, a fungal infection that is terribly contagious to cats and rabbits, and to humans as well. So in the last two weeks, just as the flea situation was finally getting under control, we have had to implement a vigorous new regimen of quarantine procedures to protect ourselves and our other pets while the ringworm decontamination runs its course. There are now "plague kittens" by the names of Ghost and Goblin holed up in what used to be my bathroom.

In other words, I have had a lot on my mind lately. Along the way I have been knitting a fair bit, although not as continually as I did in June and July. I have also been keeping track of my progress on Ravelry, and even posting the occasional picture on my project pages. I received a generous birthday check from my mother in early August, which led to the purchase of many yummy and long-coveted things, including yarn and pattern books and even a woolly board, about which there will be more to say eventually. But in all honesty I did not realize how long I had managed to let the blog lie fallow while all of this was happening. It nagged at me, though. I kept telling myself to do something about it and not quite getting around to it, and time just kept going by...

Apropos of which, I learned something interesting a day or two ago. Apparently Mark Twain did not say, "The rumors of my demise have been exceedingly exaggerated," as I have so often heard it quoted in various contexts. What he really wrote (and you can click here for an image of the actual handwritten page) was this: "James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration."

Fascinating tidbit, yes? And having set the record straight, let's see what we can do to breathe some life into this blog of mine. Ever since the completion of the wedding gift in late July, my energies have been concentrated on continuing to wrap up as many WIP's as possible, and delightfully, we can now check three more items off my long list of unfinished projects.

I. The "Other" Niebling

The first thing that I did, knitting-wise, when we got home from the wedding at the end of July was to go back and finish up the other Niebling square. This was originally meant as practice for the wedding gift, in white no. 10 crochet cotton as opposed to the silvery gossamer silk, but I had to abandon it partway through, because there were only 3 weeks left until the wedding day and I needed all of that time to finish the "echt object" in good order. I had gotten through the first chart (rows 1-90), though, so all the cotton square needed was the 42 edging rows, which took only a few days. I had known all along that it was going to be a substantial piece, just from the heft of it on the needles and the fact that it used up two full balls (= 800 yards!!) of the thread. But nonetheless I was amazed to see it block out to a full 36" square. Here are some photos of the finished object, which brought my total # of WIP's on Ravelry down to *10* once more, where it had been before the onset of the two Niebling projects. As always, click on any of these images to take a closer look.

I would like to display this piece of lace in my home someday, if I can just find a way to put it under glass and away from those mischievous kitty claws!! ;-)

II. Candlelight Kimono

At one point I had been hoping to wear my scaled-down rendition of this sweater to some part of the wedding festivities, in order to show off my handiwork that was nearly two decades in the making, but the intricacies of the Niebling project — which clearly took priority — soon put paid to that idea. On our return home, I had the back all done and the lace section of the two fronts as well, which meant that I still had to finish the fronts and knit the sleeves (including Japanese short-rows, which were a new technique for me), then block all the pieces stretched out flat, and carefully sew the whole thing together. The pattern called for the back neckband to be knitted as a strip and sewn in place, but instead I used a technique similar to the one by which a perpendicular edging is grafted onto the live stitches of a lace shawl.

It took several weeks and some painstaking work to complete the project, but I was absolutely THRILLED with the end results. I felt especially proud of the sewing job that I did, because the seams turned out nearly perfectly, giving the sweater just enough structure to show off the magnificent drape of the silk fabric. All the loose ends also had to be invisibly tacked down by hand on the wrong side of the fabric. The photo gallery includes a picture of the sweater when worn, which was shot from below (because I stood up while my husband with the camera was sitting down) and thus emphasizes my natural curves to an unusual degree. But I think the glowing smile on my face pretty much says it all. For of course I now had only *9* WIP's left on Ravelry. Getting that vital number into the single digits felt really, really good. As always, click on any of these images for a closer view.

III. Fiddlehead Mittens

Adrian Bizilia's Fiddlehead Mittens are ENORMOUSLY popular, with 1068 projects currently listed on Ravelry. It's not hard to understand why either, because they make for a relatively quick and easy knit. The clever stranded design incorporates traditional elements and yet has a snazzy contemporary feel, and the pattern leaves lots of room for creativity in the selection and arrangement of colors. The luxurious lining is just icing on the cake (or perhaps more aptly filling in the jellyroll, given its position on the inside rather than the outside), adding a sybaritic extra layer to the stranded fabric that is already pretty cushy by itself.

I made the outside of my first mitten way back in March, but then it got too hot to think about snuggly warm things anymore, or so I told myself. I certainly would not have any use for them until the depths of winter anyway, so I waited until the mood was right to finish the job. Oddly enough, despite the heat, the moment arrived in late August, right before school started, when I had a brief window of opportunity to blitz through the remaining steps in quick succession — 2nd mitten body, 2nd thumb, 1st lining, 2nd lining — and check off another completed project from my list, bringing the total # of WIP's on Ravelry down to an eminently manageable *8* (where the tally stands to this day). The mittens fit me perfectly, cozy and comfy on my small hands and not too much like giant oven mitts, since I went down a needle-size from the pattern specs to make sure that the gauge would be just right. The jewel-toned yarn on the outside is Swedish wool from my stash, purchased long ago (Borgs V√§vgarner S.N.2 garn), and the lining is buttery soft alpaca from KnitPicks (Andean Treasure).

Here is the third and final photo gallery for this post, showing my Fiddleheads in all their matching glory. As always, click on any of these images to take a closer look.

As this last photo shows, if you look closely, each mitten laid flat is nearly an inch thick!! I am SERIOUSLY looking forward to the sovereign protection that these mittens will provide for my hands on those frozen winter walks to and from campus. Bring it on, Boreas...

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