January 23, 2015

14 And Now I Will Hypnotize You Into Sending Me Yarn -- Rowan KAL Kaffghan

I hope your eyes aren't crossing too much to read my overly proud post!  This is my stunning Kaffghan (no modesty here) -- named for the designer of this 2nd Rowan KAL and one of my knitting idols, Kaffe Fassett.  Now, to be fair, he and I are loosely collaborating on this, as I've gone rogue on his design.  I talked all about my approach in this post, but the original design is a fabulous mash of colors matched in his classic highly explosive fashion.

Here is a montage of some of the wonderful Kaffghans that have been posted in the Show-off Rowan KAL thread on Ravelry, to give you a taste of the original design.  It came in 4 different colorways, brown, turqouise, red and pastel.  Some people, naturally, added their own colorful touches!

For all the authors of these wonderful versions, here is the thread filtered by photos only.

You'll spy some Kaffushions in there, too!  (Go ahead, say Kaffushions out loud, you won't be sorry).  The afghan is created by knitting squares on the bias, to create a woozy diagonal stripe motif.  63 squares are then linked together for the afghan.  It's knit using Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, a superwash yarn.  I've used it to make quite a few things now, my Martin Storey KAL Afghan and my Laszlo Cardigan.   I'd say it wears better in the blanket than the cardigan.  It's really excellent stuff for a blanket.

Download the free Martin Storey KAL afghan pattern, here.

See my Laszlo Cardigan on Ravelry, here.

Now, if you think about it, 63 squares is a weird number for an afghan.  Especially if you look at how the design forms, you'll see that the real motifs are sets of 4 squares, like this:

And 63 is NOT divisible by 4!  I wanted op-art symmetry in my afghan.  SUPREME symmetry.  One choice was to make 64 squares, but who was ever comfortable lounging under a square?  I needed one side longer, so it had to become a 10x8 afghan with 80 squares.  Yes, I knit 17 more of these little buggers -- but it was well worth it to see every foursome go cleanly to the edges.

I had originally picked all of the colors myself, but then with the extra squares I needed a couple more shades to round it all out.  That's where your knitting peeps come in!  Despite my protests, everyone told me to keep the pastel pink and bring in an almost-fluo magenta.  Couldn't be happier, good job girls.

It's my first FO in Maine, you know.  This means that it just has to be part of the decor, right?

The truth is it will just be crinkled up on the couch, because I plan for this Kaffghan to be In Use At All Times.

Some of you might have knitted all of your squares and are wondering what to do next.  I sewed my squares together using mattress stitch, just like in the first Rowan KAL by Martin Storey, that post is here.  For that afghan, the border was knitted separately and sewn on later, a bit annoying.  That post also details how to use short rows to turn corners in the cabled border.   Imagine how pleased I was to see that the Kaffghan instructions used short rows to turn corners, too?  Even better, the 7-stitch garter border included instructions on knitting it on as you go = NO SEWING.

***NOTE:*** The pattern says to link your border every 2 of 3 stitches.  I found this to be way too tight.  Go ahead and try different rates of attachment, 3 of 4, 4 of 5, etc, that will match with the drape of your knitting.  I settled on 5 stitches out of 6 and am very pleased.  I thought I would use more yarn, but I seem to still have only used 2 balls for the trim, even with the 80 squares instead of 63.

And since I have been talking about the two afghan KALs, the other requirement is of course to have something beautiful to start piling these afghans into for storage.

Now, I happen to know that Rowan is going to keep these fun KALs going  -- but don't you fear, the next one is NOT an afghan!!  It will be a CAL actually (crochet), designed by Lisa Richardson using the new 100% Egyptian giza cotton yarn Rowan Summerlite 4-ply.  You can make a baby blanket, or a small/large ladies shawl/wrap.  I just spied this ad in their newsletter this month.  You can sign up for the newsletter here, by getting a free membership at knitrowan.com.

And now for some house updates!  (Go here for an intro to my house.)  First off... THE TEDDY BEARS HAVE BEEN BANISHED TO TEDDY BEAR HELL.

Our in-home cinema room is painted in Sherwin Williams "Gray Screen" for our red carpet events...

And the nauseously happy sunshine yellow in the bathroom has been replaced by a soothingly thunderous sky...

Finally, our propane gas stove is being installed, amongst what must be real "swearing" by the sweetest Mainer gas man alive, "Ohhhhh, geez!" and "Ohhhhhh, Wowowowowow" and "Oh dear, what an unUSSSSSual construction!!!!!"

Housewarming gift, literally!

I love how big the oven window is on this thing, by the way.  And I really love the clean lines of this linear grate.  I absolutely despise all the spiny, dragon tongue, stuck-behind-a-Victorian-sewer-grate look of gas stove tops these days.

But here's the real kicker.  I had a basement guy come in because there is evidence of water penetration, and after the inspection he comes up and says, "You know, you have an interesting feature down there."  My mind ran over all sorts of weird things, mostly involving bugs or dead carcasses, but I never imagined he would say, "You have a marijuana growing box."  OMG!  At least 5 people opened that box, if not more... and it never occurred to any of us!

Yeah, it's a glorified plywood box with a fluo lamp above and lined with foil.  HILARIOUS.

I also learned some more about the property behind us.  If you remember, it's a hippie-homestead place with a hobbit house and all sorts of eco-driven enclosures, that was abandoned when the house burned.  Well, apparently from my local Bar Harbor knitting meeting which meets in this gorgeous library...

... the property was referred to as The Dark Continent.  SPOOKY.  True to its name, there are little houses throughout the forest, including this one owned by The Blair Witch, a proud supporter of Ralph Nader.

Bumper sticker says Nader/Laduke

A desk to ghost write (literally) Stephen King novels.

In other news, my painter who owns nearby Snugglemagic Farm, raises alpacas and spins their yarn, stopped by with these beauties!!!  What shall I make?  I need to count the yardage, I am so excited and thrilled that she would give me an opportunity to knit with her wares.  :)))

If you are dying to know what other craziness I discover in my new home, don't forget to follow my blog!  Oh yeah, there will be some knitting, too.  ;)

See My Kaffghan on Ravelry

January 14, 2015

41 A Warm (OK, That's Figurative) Welcome from Maine!

I did it!  I made it!  I am back in Ameeeeeeeeehrica (jiggle your singing voice on that 'e', people).  Bar Harbor, Maine to be exact.  I've been talking about this move for awhile, and as due penance for not writing much lately, I owe you guys a nice, juicy, newsy post about my new home.

You may have heard of the charming tourist town Bar Harbor, but it's just a small part of a larger tourist island, Mount Desert Island.  It's the second-largest island in the U.S. (2nd to Long Island).  Now, don't you go pronouncing it like there are cactuses and lizards about.  Pronounce it like you are about to finish your dinner with a ginormous piece of chocolate cake.  Yes, mount de-SERT, not mount DE-sert.  I kid you not!

As you can see, most of the island is covered in green: 47,000 acres of Acadia National Park.  There are only 59 National parks, you know, and 23 states don't have any at all, so it's pretty incredible to be, basically, living inside of one.  In fact, there's really a limited number of houses on the island because of land restrictions, so there is a premium if you decide to live on the island versus off the one lonely bridge leaving it.  Not to mention that a lot of the houses are multi-million dollar ocean view estates, so they are seriously off limits!  Apparently, 5 billionaires have homes here, and some famous types as well: Tim Robbins/Susan Sarandon and Martha Stewart.  (So guys, do you think I can weasel my way into her place and teach her ladyfriends some new knitting techniques??)

Also, while this move is a 180 degree flip from an urban lifestyle, it is the ultimate changeable place.  There are 10,500 of us now, but come summer, 2.5 million people will make their way through here to see its beauty.  And it really is what they say it is.  I was all "whatever, people always exaggerate, it's like when everyone tells you a movie is great and then you see it and it sucks".  But, noooo, they're right this time.  Not only is there this great undulating marriage of sea and forest and mountain in seemingly instant transformations, but there is a glow of light that I am having trouble understanding.  Every day you catch this light, movements of pinks and blues and searing rays and lava-like glows.  They are everywhere, reflecting off so many different landscape changes.  You know, to put this mildly, this could be the most lovely place I'll ever live.

As for why we are here, my husband will be starting his own lab as an Assistant Professor at the Jackson Laboratory, which is near "downtown" Bar Harbor.  This is why we wanted to be on the island, despite the higher prices and us having no chance at all of any kind of sea view.  Check out what I saw in the local paper the first week I arrived!

Actually, the "Driver flees, foot run over" story is also pretty damn entertaining...

I subscribed to the newspaper right away, that's my baby in there after all!  Local newspapers are so effective in the country, I'm excited.  From little ads I've already scored a plowing service (sorely needed) and fixed my sewing machine!

You only went in reverse in Montreal, and now WE GO FORWARD IN MAINE, you hear?!

The physical move from Montreal was fine despite the weird holiday timing.  The apartment was packed and emptied Dec. 23rd.  Why hotel when we could "camp" on an air mattress, hey?  That was fun.  Then we hitched a Greyhound bus across the border to Boston on Christmas because we couldn't rent a car and leave it in another country.  U-Haul would allow us to rent a truck, but for $550 with nothing in it!  Boston was incredibly warm that weekend, and we shopped for lots of vinyl (we are starting a collection) and maxed out the card at IKEA before making our way to Maine.

I should say that throughout this whole seemingly charming time, I was actually perceptibly aging and going gray for other very stressful reasons.  It all had to do with the down payment we had to have ready by Monday, Dec. 29th for our closing.  Any Canadians following will know that the exchange has been absolutely horrible.  After the US elections in November, the dollar tanked, so we waited hoping it would get a little better by the holidays (for the record, it didn't).  We then made a decision to use a foreign exchange service to get a better currency value, and this required 2 wire transfers.  Long story short, because of total bank incompetency and bank holidays, by the time of the morning of my closing I learned with my heart in my throat, "Ok, we see the problem, you will get your money tomorrow."  WHAT?!  Tomorrow is too late!!  My mortgage broker said there was nothing he could do.  The currency service said there was nothing they could do.  I desperately held back tears throughout the final walk-through of the house, my stress level had been through the roof for a week and at this point I was ready to fall to the floor and have a good old toddler tantrum.  Well, I am not a believer in anything except the reality I see in front of me, but some ethereal ray must have kicked in, because when we arrived back at the hotel for 11am (the closing was at 1pm), the money had arrived.  Why?  How?  Is this down to liars or angels??  I will never know, will I.

When my husband saw my pale face at hearing the good news, he poured me some bourbon like I was in a 19th century Russian novel.  (ok, that was probably brandy, this is the American version!)  Thank god we had stashed some in Boston.

And then suddenly, we had the keys to our own house, in our hands.  We had several priorities we wanted in a house.  First and foremost, privacy.  Second, some land to maintain the privacy.  Third, enough space for my yarn.  OK OK, that was not husband's #3.  His was probably something good and Swiss, like "utility".

We also didn't want to spend a lot of money, so we chose a modest home.  It's not a looker on the outside, not in any way or form.  It's a 2-story box with vinyl siding!  But it's got a bottom and top deck facing South, sunrise and sunset all day, and a beautifully cleared parcel of land to look out on before the forest closes in.

This is where B. will put his SAUNA!

In fact, part of our land and the land that is further down our private road is preserved land that can't be built on.  So we are pretty safe on our privacy goals!  Interestingly, there is a property down the road with a hobbity-house.  I need to go to the library and look for old newspaper microfilms, but I hear that it was a bunch of homesteader-type students living there from the local College of the Atlantic.  They clearly had animal enclosures, eco-water/shower systems, and had built a 3-story round house out of stones and logs.  The roof is thatched à la Lord of the Rings, I'm serious!  The fireplace hearth went upwards through the center of the 3 stories, but that's when things went wrong, as they clearly suffered a large fire and abandoned the land.  Now, the land is preserved and no further building will be allowed, so all that is left of humanity is a sign:

I will definitely be doing many a photo shoot there, the land is cleared and filled with tall grasses and wildflowers.  So let's save that property to show you for another day, shall we?

Back to our house.  The inside has it's own, ahem, charm, depending on what you like.  The house was originally one story, and it's been completely panelled in wood.   Ceiling and walls... and wouldn't you know, the 2nd owners put in a clashing wood floor as well!

We have been debating on whether to paint the walls or the ceilings a cream-color.  We just can't live in a sauna.  Or is it a coffin?  You decide!  We are leaning for the walls, because that will separate out that floor and wall clash.

The open-concept room itself is lovely though.  A huge hearth with a wood stove, and a view to love.

The other side of the open plan is the kitchen and dining room.  I met with someone just this morning to design an island, marked in tape.

Yes, our old table is the same color as all this wood, doh!

I just got that awesome glass case above at IKEA by the way -- I highly recommend it, and we even installed lights on the top like you see in the showrooms but never actually install!

Also, I finally found a use for my super-sweet vintage strawberry curtain fabric.

Upstairs is an entirely different story, literally, added recently with tall ceilings and no wood panelling (thank god!).  We love the space up here.  There is a huge window facing the "office".  Two large built-ins including this bookshelf.  The built-in on the right that you can't see has a cushions for hanging out.

The bookshelf you all wanted to see filled!

Voilà the transformation!

There is also a room-cozying propane stove in the corner to warm the floor.

Actually, all this is very new to me.  Electricity is very cheap in Quebec because all of the energy they get from water, I am told.  This house has 4 ways to heat it: wood, oil, propane and electricity.  Which to pick?!  When?!  Totally confused about this, honestly.

The house has 3 bedrooms.  We have chosen the "kid's" room as our bedroom.  Yes, every morning we are greeted by a chorus of Good Mornings from a bunch of creepy teddy bears.  (omg, can't wait till they come to paint next week).

The "kid's room", probably forever to be known as "teddy bear room" even when they are banished from this earth forever, has beautiful morning light and is small enough that it doesn't get too cold.  But also, it has a "mountain view" in the winter!  Our only view, yahoo, but we got it!  I still don't know which mountain it is.

See all those hiking trails and old-school horse carriage roads near my house?  Score!

The master bedroom, which has a big upper deck and a humungo walk-in closet will be our fun room.  We'll have our in-house cinema set-up, a place for B. to practice double bass and a sewing table for me.

The third bedroom will be my craftroom.  Ok, I guess I can stuff some guests in there amongst the yarn, too.  Before:


I've upgraded my plastic bins.  They're expensive but the lids lock down really tightly to stop those exploding Ziploc bombs from peeking out the top.  It's exciting to have all the yarn visible at once for the first time ever!

Actually, one wonders why one spends so much on things that are empty, but I also have fallen for a bunch of "knitted" wicker baskets made in Vietnam that are all over TJ Maxx and IKEA right now.

As for my knitting, I haven't been doing very much because of the house.  Funnily, we needed blankets for our air mattress adventures, but they had to fit in suitcases suitable for a Greyhound.  So I thought, why don't I just bring my Kaffe Fassett KAL afghan, and I can just work on the knitted-on border whenever I like?

See more on Ravelry here


Otherwise, I actually made an entire pair of socks, too.  So I guess we can count this all as "Dayana's Basal Level of Knitting" which I realize is probably more than some others might accomplish.  #stillaknittingknut

As for my future knitting group life, who knows?  I am putting that on hold for now, slowly testing the waters as there is no rush.  Even by not trying I see that there are library knitting meetings every week, and a painter came to look at the job and said when she saw my craft room yarnsplosion, "Yeah!  You knit?  I own an alpaca farm and a spin roving, I'll bring a skein to show you!"  (Snugglemagic Farm) Ah well, I think I've moved to the right place, don't you?!

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