Monday, January 7, 2008

A post that isnt quite so short as I thought it would be

My parents have safely and happily come and gone. We had a lovely weekend, about which more in another post, in which much was accomplished. However, as I woke up on Thursday morning with a stunningly horrific head cold, and spent a great deal of energy during the weekend ignoring it, I am pretty washed up right now. This is why I haven't been quite so diligent as usual in replying to everyone's comments -- I'll get back on track, I promise!

Knitting did, in spite of all of this, occur. I finished the strap for the Calla Lily bag on Thursday evening, and felted it on Friday morning before we left for the zoo. It felted amazingly quickly, and turned out, if I do say so myself, quite well.
I don't know how well you can see there. It's been raining cats and dogs and it's still extremely overcast. The whole state has been deluged (Mammoth got 10 feet of snow; can I tell you how much I want to pack up and head out?). The upshot is bad natural light for photos, alas. (It also made for slow drying time on the bag. My impatience got the better of me and I used it on Saturday when it was still outgassing, and everything inside it was a bit damp and limp by the end of the day.) However, here's one with flash of all of the lovely folds and openings that the construction of the bag makes possible.
Three compartments! How fun is that? And look at the wonderfully subtle variegation in the malabrigo. I have a serious love on for this yarn. I could sleep in it, it's so soft.

So, to recap. This is the Calla Lily Bag by Cat Bordhi, from The Knitter's Book of Yarn, made with Malabrigo Merino worsted weight on size 11 needles (Addis, if you're wondering).

I have entered into a period of serial project monogamy (a nod to Stell, here, who just went through the same thing, with great success). In the case of this bag and the project I'm working on now, it's because I really really want the FO; moreover, I'd really like to have them done when classes start, in a mere two weeks (no panic here, though, nosiree bob), which means some dedication. The one which will come after my current project is the knitting for the Loopy Ewe swap, which comes to a close in early February, so I'll need to bust a move on that. I must be missing my usual promiscuous ways, though, as I dreamed last night that I'd accidentally knitted a sock for myself when I wasn't paying attention (knee-high, too -- how come that never happens in real life?), and I felt pretty bad about not focusing on this next project.

One thing that is making all of this much easier is the love I bear for the yarn in these two projects. You've already heard how I feel about malabrigo, but this next yarn is It. My love for the malabrigo is as nothing compared to how I feel about this yarn (just finished re-reading the Princess Bride, can you tell?). I bought it when I visited the Temecula Yarn Company the other week, as you may remember. I only bought one skein, figuring (for reasons which will soon become apparent) that I'd make something small from it, like a pair of mitts. I took it home, and rubbed it on my face and neck and thought about it some, and petted it some more, and thought some more, and figured too warm be damned, I'm making me a sweater.

See, it's alpaca. One hundred percent pure North American undyed happy-making alpaca. And alpaca is warm. And weighty. However, once again The Knitter's Book of Yarn came to my rescue. Some words about this book before I go on. I bought it a few months ago when I was starting to think about maybe getting into this spinning thing, and thought that knowing about fiber might be nice. And boy howdy, is it ever. (I'm starting to feel like this post should be entitled "Love Fest", but who knows what kinds of hits I'd get then?) This book is well worth the price of hardback admission. The fiber information alone is amazing. The detail and clarity of explanations are excellent. I'm a slow learner, but I'm starting to understand little by little why some fibers work as they do, and what they can be used for (notice it actually occurred to me to worry about the possibility that an alpaca sweater might be a bit much; this is major progress, even if I have gone ahead with the project -- at least I know what I'm getting into). And then it's got all of those lovely patterns, including the bag above, and this sweater that I've just started.

I have only one minor critique regarding the patterns, and honestly, it's very very small, and should in no way deter anyone from getting this book (no, I am not being paid to say this), since the fiber information is worth every penny, even without the patterns. The small critique has to do with the somewhat telegraphic nature of the patterns. I think that this brevity is an understandable reflection of the fact that this book is not meant to be a pattern book, it's a fiber book, and the patterns are just there to give an idea of what can be done with different weights and plies of fibers. I don't usually mind really telegraphic instructions (a la EZ), but it is nice to have one of those merry little diagrams that shows all the pieces with all of their top and bottom and lengthwise measurements; makes it easier when fudging yarns and construction. That's all.

In spite of this, though, it is this book which inspired me to go forward with the all alpaca all the time sweater. Mostly because of the all-angora sweater that they have in there, which has construction details geared towards mitigating the heat factor of particularly warm fibers. To wit: 3/4 sleeves, an open cardigan front with just a clasp, and lovely little lacework detailing up the raglan decreases. The gauge of the yarn they used was exactly the gauge on the label of the alpaca yarn I'd bought, which pretty much clinched the deal (when I really want to do something, I am inclined to see Signs from the Universe all over the place; thank goodness the Universe thinks as I do about these matters). So I called the store and asked them to send over four more skeins, and busted a move on the bag so I'd be done when they arrived.

I was, and I cast on immediately, and I have now completed the first sleeve.
Yup, all stockinette all the time. The only fiddly bits are picking up the hems at the beginning, and later when I do the raglan and neck decreases whilst knitting the little lace pattern. Something to look forward to. In fact, I'm thinking that the body is going to be so painful that I'm going to do it next, and save the relatively quick-moving second arm for a reward. Isn't this yarn lovely, though?
That, my friends, is alpaca-colored (one of many, as I understand it). Isn't it beautiful? The label says grey, but it's a browny, heathery grey and, as I may have mentioned, I love it. It's heavy in the hand, almost oiled, and feels a bit like a silk blend. I can see why my friend who ordered the Kauni yarn with me had so much trouble going from the project she'd been working on with alpaca-blend yarn to the Kauni yarn, which is admittedly rather rough. It's far rougher by comparison to this beauty. So this is by way of saying that project monogamy isn't quite so bad when each of the projects involves such luscious yarn. (Is this an excuse to buy something equally luscious for the Loopy Ewe exchange project? Why yes, I do believe it is.)

I have also been spinning, although less than I would like. I'm alternating between my two spindles, trying to get a feel for them both. Here's my latest attempt on the high-whorl spindle (I don't have pics right now of the turkish one's results).
Sorry about the flash-bright picture there; the ones without flash were much prettier, but made the actual spinning impossible to see. It's still in no way even, and I am still having great fun. In fact, the plan for this day is to wade through my inbox to beat it into something resembling submission, to get through one chapter of the reading I'm thinking of assigning in my new class, and to order some books for that class on interlibrary loan. Then I will cast on for the body of the sweater and maybe take a nap. This is the last day I will tolerate this cold, so fair warning, oh cold, you'll be gone by tomorrow.


Courtney said...

I love that you're seemingly afflicted, as am I, by talking (or at least writing & thinking) in the syntax & voice of the book you've just read. I just got through one set in Tudor England... let me tell you, THAT gets obnoxious to friends and family pretty quickly!

Your bag looks great. I share your love for malabrigo, but unfortunately the only LYS in Atlanta that carried it just stopped. :( Where do you get yours? LYS or online?

I hope your head cold gets better soon. Never fun to be so under the weather.



Marianne said...

Ok... LOVE that bag! and apparently I need to get my hands on that book because I've been searching for just such a sweater!

As for that nasty beastie that's taken over your system... OUT! YOU FIEND! OUT! (waving magic wand)..

Feel better soon :^)

Rachael said...

The bag looks great!

Isn't alpaca dreamy? I got 1300 yards of it in a natural charcoal color - who knew alpacas came in those colors?? - and I love it so much I have been loathe to commit it to a pattern b/c I haven't found the perfect one yet.

In my head I have a vision of an open cardigan with seed stitch edging with classic styling...I haven't found it yet, so I might have to design it.

Helen said...

The bag looks terrific. I think I am going to have to get that book. I have been trying not to, although I'm not quite sure why. It would be an excuse to knit with Malabrigo, after all.

Carrie K said...'re buying more than one skein? Malabrigo or another alpaca yarn?

The Calla Lily bag looks good! Three compartments is really sweet in a bag.

The storm of the century! Our canal actually filled up.

Anne said...

oh dear, sorry about your cold! but I'm glad to have the weather report, and the alpaca report, and the book review, and pictures of the bag. Girl, you've been busy! No wonder you're feeling it today. Hope the nap vanquishes all the nasty germs (do the kids never have colds in Harry Potter ? Why is there no "begone, influenza!" charm?).

Bea said...

wow that is a long post. I think the bag turned out very pretty. (I imagine it in better light.) You sweater looks quite soft and the spinning looks great.

I'm sending good thoughts you way that your feeling better very very soon!

Stell said...

amazing bag, well done! I have just cast on a sweater for a small boy in Merino Possum, which is so so soft, all because I can't work out what to do with a sweater worth of teal alpaca intended for me. I hadn't made the connection of matching sweater design to yarn fiber, but you have me thinking. Hope the head clears soonish, well before classes resume. thanks - Stella

Anonymous said...

You have quite a list for a day tolerating the cold.

Beautiful bag and fascinating construction.

The more I read around, the more books I need.

I love natural coloured yarns. I have a couple skeins of silver grey alpaca in my closet...

That is a beautiful sleeve.

Gwen (still not remembering my blogger sign-in)

=Tamar said...

The other reason for three-quarter sleeves is that pure alpaca always stretches, in both dimensions. Do a big swatch and block it firmly, or just loosely baste the sleeve together with waste yarn and wear it for a few hours.

twinsetellen said...

LOL - it was YEARS before I got the joke "Q: How do you get down from an elephant? A: You don't get down from an elephant, you get down from a duck."

And you get very pretty fiber from an alpaca.

mehitabel said...

I think I need to check out that book--I have some lovely alpaca yarn and I need to make something out of it! Hmmm, have some Malabrigo, too. Must start looking at patterns...