March 16, 2015

7 Proving A Pattern Name Wrong -- Bleak in Rowan Brushed Fleece

Yes, oddly, this pattern is named Bleak!  I looked up the word in the dictionary to see if I was missing a cheerier meaning this long, long winter:

Charmless and inhospitable?  Not hopeful or encouraging?!  Tell me about it.  But then this saved me:

Aha!  That's me that's me!  Shining and white in my bleak wintry Maine.

It's been a trying winter my friends.  I'll tell you about why later, but at least I've had a little cardi to keep me fluffy and happy.  This is Bleak from Kim Hargreaves, from her wonderful book North.

The cable has a bit of a DNA look too, hey?  Good project to maintain my new rep at The Jackson Laboratory (I'm an "Associate Research Scientist", after all).  You don't see the front in the pattern pic, but there is a nice embellishment of bobbles down the opening of this little guy.

But let's start with the yarn, shall we?  This is Rowan Brushed Fleece, which was what the pattern was written for (I know, I'm über conformist this time around).  It was my MOST favorite yarn released in the last year, from the A/W 2014 season.

There are two things I love about this yarn.  First, it is soft, warm, lofty and just begging to be cuddled up in.  But there's lots of yarns like that, right?  The unique part of this yarn is the weight per yardage.  This is a bulky yarn that WEIGHS HALF AS MUCH AS YOU ARE USED TO.  It is made of 65% wool, 30% alpaca and 5% polyamide... I think the polyamide just holds this stuff together because it is spun like cotton candy... seriously, they should come out with a pastel pink shade just for the very good correlation!

Listen, let me give you an example.  Here's a pattern for Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky that I've had my eyes on, Scafell by Marie Wallin.

Both yarns knit to a 13 stitch gauge, but guess what?  It calls for 1.2 kilos of Sheep Breeds yarn for size small (!omg), but a Brushed Fleece version would only need 600g!  Which would you rather wear on a long walk on the moors?

You have got to get your hands on this stuff.

(But... ok, it's not candy floss straight from heaven.  It's soft, so be prepared for pilling.  It will pill around the elbows and such, and you will need to groom it.)

This is one of those few patterns I've really followed from start to finish as is, with the usual arm lengthening of course.  The yardage is off by at LEAST one ball.  Do make sure to buy an extra -- actually, I'd buy 2 extra if I were you.

My favorite quest of late was for the buttons.  Back when I was on the lam (and I mean not working rather than running from the law), I visited Fabricate in downtown (yes, we have one) Bar Harbor.  It's mostly for quilting (and oh!  the things!), but there is a little yarn and a serious button stash.  It's not easy to find matching sets of buttons in the color coded jugs, but wouldn't you know, the co-owner/writer/welleverythinggoodyoucanthinkof Nessa showed me a big button collection she had just received.  Apparently an older gentleman from town had just come to unload it (there may have been a clean-it-or-else ultimatum involved), and many of the sets looked like they came from coats.  Score!

Spot the Werther's Originals.

I bought 3 sets, but in the end decided that the clear bubble buttons would mirror my bobbles beautifully.  Most of them actually have air bubbles inside, but I would need some fab macro camera to show you them.  **so just come visit and I'll show you

It's an immensely pleasing piece and quick off the needles.  If you want something light to throw on but warm like a heavy wool sweater... go for it!

As you can see, the snow doesn't abate.  It was charming in January, but now it's just become a chore and a liability.

  1. Ginormous plow bill.  $
  2. Propane truck refuses to come because of ice, then comes and gets stuck in driveway for 3 hours, needs to be hauled out with a front loader.  $$
  3. That little aluminum shed that we didn't pay any attention to because well... WE'VE NEVER LIVED HERE TO EVEN OPEN THE DOOR YET??  Yep, the roof caved in.  $$$
  4. Worried about that, we pay to have someone shovel our actual roofs.  Cha-ching!  $$$$

I've really had it.  No, really.

In other news, after living 4.5 weeks on our living room couch, our beautiful upstairs hardwood floors are in!

This was the Evil Teddy Bear Room.

Stair transition.

Our home cinema room.  Someday?

I just love how the dark boards (that I was too cheap not to keep) match the honey brown trims.  It's really nice, but obviously way colder than the wall to wall carpeting that was there before.

Now for area rugs antiquing... this one caught our eye!  It's Iranian and so long and heavy, I had not a chance to show you the whole thing.

Okay, the deer hoof rack also caught my eye, but maybe for other reasons?

We also finally received the kitchen island cabinetry.  Here we are high on wine thinking about putting it together.  You will be please to know we were sober enough to desist.

Well, I have a ton ton ton of stuff on the needles, so I'll be doing a WIP tour soon!  I know you all like those so you can spy on how crazy I really am.

See my Anything But Bleak on Ravelry

Hey, what on Earth is next?  Go ahead, follow my blog!

February 17, 2015

16 If Ever a Sweater Had a Romantic Backstory, It Is This One.

I love this sweater for a ton of reasons.  I love how intricate it looks, I love how the colors shift.  I love how damn good it looks on, and I love how it's been worn (to my surprise!) virtually every day since the December birthday it was gifted on.  But most of all, I love the story behind this sweater -- because for me, it describes how my husband and I have somehow managed to knit ourselves together.

For this story, we get to rewind to a time before him and I -- to a time when we were deep in other lives.  Never had a handknit crossed his path, nor was there any hope that one from my hands would ever come to pass.  This story begins far far from home in Japan, the land of Noro yarn.  A surprising turn of events had us visiting Tokyo for work, as colleagues, and on an off-day I invited him to see the city through a yarn-o-phile's eyes.  Now, some of you may know that following a determined woman with a list of yarn shops is quite an adventure.  Take a lady like that up on her offer, should it come, look what could result!

Well, I had a big list from Ravelry and an even bigger map, but oh my -- is Tokyo EVER so big.  We found ourselves on trains, trams, streets and suburbs.  Lost in a wealthy backdrop on the way to La Droguerie, passing 3 times back and forth until we spied Avril in Kichijoji, repeat offenders at 2 lovable Tokyu Hands, and the final stop to the ginormous out-of-this-world craft mecca Yuzawaya.

Yes, Yuzawaya has the best logo ever created.  (take that, Apple!)

Listen -- it's a big complex trip out to the suburbs, but if you are ever in Tokyo, you must go to Yuzawaya.  This place is a crafting warehouse -- with at least 5 floors, and each absolutely enormous floor devoted to a single craft!  I AM SERIOUS>>> There is no more craft-devoted place on earth than Japan.  It just makes you want to scream every time someone says in North America, "Oh my god you knit?!  My grandma knitted but I haven't seen anyone your age do it!"

We climbed past the scrapbooking floor (the size of, the beading floor (the size of Walmart) up and up to the YARN floor.  To give you a better idea of the enormity of what I am talking about, you can't even buy single balls.  There are just bags and bags and bags of 10 balls of yarn.  You buy 10, 20, 30, 100 or nothing.  There is a Noro WING, for god's sake!!!  Bags and bags and bags of Noro, and you know as well as I do that you need to buy double the Noro you may need if you want to match the darn stuff.

I will curse myself to this day for not getting a photo -- but I saw a brand of yarn with a young Brad Pitt plastered on every ball band.  YES.  Brad Pitt yarn.  You know the Bill Murray movie Lost in Translation, highlighting the phenomenon of famous American actors featuring in strange Japanese ads?  Well, Bill Murray was lucky, he had high-end whisky.  Brad?  He was 100% acrylic.  HA!

This bag is filled with 20 balls of Noro Silk Garden.  Not picked by me.  Picked by my husband-to-be 3 years prior, before we were even together!  I picked the crazy pink and orange and green one, and he kept pointing to the sober manly blue and green and yellow one.  And I gave in.  Probably the last time in our relationship.  ;)

Let's fast-forward five years, shall we?  A 180-degree turn and we are astounded to find ourselves on a bigger adventure together, married and buying a house in Bar Harbor, Maine.  B. is spoiled, expecting his yearly handknit sweater of course, and I show him a stellar free pattern from Rowan designed by Brandon Mably, Balkan:

He loved it - BUT he didn't want the Rowan Colourspun it called for -- he wanted the Noro he "picked for it" 5 years ago.  As in, 5 years before the pattern was designed??  I said, "Hey, that Noro is for me, you picked it for me!"  And with a serious don't-f-with-me look he makes it clear that no, no, silly woman, he picked it for himself.

Hmph.  Sneaky.

Actually, it wasn't quite in that order.  He liked the pattern, but the shrieking for it to be made didn't really happen until he found the contrast yarn in a Montreal yarn shop 10,371 km away from Yuzawaya.  This is the absolutely sublime Stonehenge Fiber Mill Shepherd's Wool.

The idea was simple, use the Shepherd's Wool as the background and let Noro do the talking.

And man, did it talk!  How awesome is this sweater?!  It's more of a hit than I anticipated.  In fact, the Shepherd's Wool is such a soft wool that it may not be hardy enough for the daily wear it receives.  I've become that chimp that surreptitiously removes pills while he's trying to do something.

I highly recommend this pattern.  It is manly, hipster, loud, quiet and high-end all at once.  And, did you get that it was free, too?!  Put that on your bass and pluck it.

And now for some house updates!

First off, we were tricked into thinking that this wasn't a very snowy place.  Look at our great wonder at some measly flakes.

WELL.  That became this.

Yeah, why not look awesome while you shovel?

Do you remember that overwhelmingly "6-feet under" feeling we used to have?

Enter a breath of fresh Cape Cod air!

Bare bones after painting.

I can't wait to show you the finished decorated version -- but now we are living downstairs on that couch because we decided we couldn't stand the floor-to-floor carpet upstairs.  Hard wood floors, here we come!

Remnants of nasty carpet pad!

We learned the hard way (by smelling like burnt steak for 3 days) that our over-the-stove vent was only recirculating grease and smoke back into the house, so we had a hole poked through our house to vent it.  Yikes, that freaked me out!  Especially when they cut the stud that (of course) was exactly placed there.  All good, we celebrated in non-smoky style with seared lamb chops!

And do you remember the abandoned property that is behind our house that I was very interested in knowing more about?

 Well, an owner of a local yarn business found my posts through Ravelry!  Can you believe she used to live there, learned how to spin in the little housy-house above, and helped clear the land in the 80s? She has been in the yarn dyeing business for a good while, and I will be visiting her new venture Seven Sisters Arts in Blue Hill, Maine this Saturday!  What a small world, hey???  And to imagine the story even involves yarn, oh Maine.

So excited to see this stuff...

Otherwise, we are hunkered down like most in Maine, waiting for the thaw (and the inundated basement).  Next big house changes: kitchen island, mud room and screened-in porch before the black flies.  No rest for the weary!

See my Balkan in Noro on Ravelry

Want to follow my adventures in Bar Harbor, Maine?

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