Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Day Of The Dead

It’s hard to feel sad on a beautiful sunny day like today. It’s cold though. There’s frost on the lawn and the roof next door that I can see from my window. I’m wearing my tights and a warm undershirt under my clothes. I don’t mind the cold if I can dress warmly enough. Or as Brenda Dayne says “If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.” Words to live by.

In contrast, today I’m remembering all my family and friends who have passed on. It’s important to me to keep them alive in my heart. I’ll spare you the litany (and pictures) but I think this is a celebration that should become more important in popular culture. We seem to think if we don’t talk about death that it won’t happen. It does anyway. Everything that is alive has to do the opposite. It’s just the way things are. And anyway, who would really want to live forever? Cleaning the toilet for the million-billionth time? Knitting the 6000th sock? How exciting would that be? Living longer (as long as I could stay healthy) would be ok. But I have no desire to live forever. Like the gorgeous coloured leaves that are falling off the trees, I too will be worm food one day. Might as well enjoy the ride! And hope that someone remembers me when I’m gone.

As I promised, here’s my Finished Object — the Little Squares Sweater:

(You’ll have to wait for the on-the-body shot. If I get around to it!)

Begun: May 23, 2006
Finished: October 31, 2006

Yarn: Main colour – my handspun, 2-ply, approx. fingering/sport weight, 14-16 wpi, maybe 1400 yards?, just under 500g (2/250g bags) of wool top from Aurelia in Tamarillo (black, dark green, khaki, red, burgundy). Contrast colour – Lion Brand Incredible variegated nylon ribbon yarn, col 208 Copper Penny, 110 yards per ball, 8 balls.
Needles: Denise circulars, US size 9 (main) and US size 7 (ribbing).
Gauge: 28 st + 16.5 rows = 4 inches
Crochet hook: US size H (5mm)

Pattern: Little Squares Sweater from “The Knitting Experience: Book 3: Color” by Sally Melville. I couldn’t get gauge even with larger needles so I used the instructions for the medium size but kept knitting to the correct length. I also reworked the pattern to shrink the sleeves considerably. (I have short arms.) It’s still oversized but not quite as oversized as Sally intended.

Notes: I like! It’s like wearing a blanket with sleeves! It took me for-frickin-ever to make this kimono-shaped sweater, including one whole day to sew it together. A fair portion of the singles yarn was spun on my drop spindle, the rest on my Louet wheel and plied on the wheel. I put a bit of extra twist into the yarn so it should be quite durable. Knit on oversized needles, it has a nice crunchy drape but it’s still quite heavy. The sleeves may seem ridiculously short but with the drop shoulder they fit perfectly. I was certainly right to downsize them. The collar could be a wee bit wider (an inch?) to sit better on the neck but that’s a minor quibble. Success!

Book ReviewSpin to Knit by Shannon Okey

In a way I wish this book had been written by someone who was a more accomplished spinner but on the other hand, that probably makes it that much more accessible for rank newbie spinners who are the intended audience. Get ’em hooked on knitting and then lead ’em over to the “dark side” of spinning their own yarns too. Well, if you were yarn manufacturers and retailers you’d think spinning your own was the dark side, wouldn’t you? If everybody could make their own Noro-type yarns (and out of nicer quality wool too) there would go all the profits! A sweater might only cost $20 to make (including dye) instead of $200. Hmmm…

Well, not to totally leave retailers out in the cold, several of the patterns include both handspun and commercial yarns. Can’t say I’m really taken by any of them however, except maybe the Wooly Mammoth tea cosy. I have a warm spot in my heart for wooly mammoths. And tea cosies. The Garter Scarf 2 and the Star Wristlets have potential if they were in all handspun. (I'm not against commercial yarns. My above-mentioned sweater is an example of when it's a good idea to use them because nobody can hand-spin ribbon yarn!) Maybe I’m just not impressed because her first handspun sweater looks just like my first handspun sweater — only I made mine 30 years ago. Guess I thought we’ve come at least a little ways since then? Maybe not. Maybe that’s a good thing if the Swedish Heart Sweater is any indication of modern innovation. The idea was great (I’m remembering learning how to make those hearts in paper) but would anybody look good in this? Really? Maybe that’s why the model has her back turned.

The spinning and related information is pretty comprehensive and I don’t have too much to debate with there. One or two little quibbles like the Andean plying working better with the cross on the palm side as I mentioned in a previous post. Shannon’s famous “dyeing in the dishwasher” method just leaves me wondering why. Maybe because I don’t have a dishwasher? Or because it just seems so inefficient. I found one new tool, the lazy kate for spindle cops, to be new to me. I wish there was more illustration of how it can be used before I go making myself one. The text and the photo don’t really jibe. I may have to test this one out for myself.

The part I really do like about this book is the friendly style. It’s like you’re at a meet-up and all your friends are giving you helpful hints. You are introduced to a bunch of interesting folks (including as I mentioned before, some of whom I know personally) and get a glimpse into their passions. I wish there was more of that in here. Spinning is a big subject, one which is hard to express in words. I feel that this book, along with the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook (which is actually kind of a companion volume even though I’m sure it wasn’t planned that way), could help beginner spinners get over some of the learning hurdles. It reiterates a lot of what I’m trying to teach them but they’re often too stressed to hear. I’ll be recommending them both in my classes. But they’ll likely outgrow this book fairly quickly. Most of my students already spin better than the author.

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