Friday, July 18, 2008

Tommy Trojan

My Dad's birthday is Tuesday, and he's a tough guy to give presents to. But I saw this on the Craftzine blog and knew he had to have it. He's not an obnoxious Trojan, as so many of them are, but he and my mom the Bruin have an ongoing rivalry. One reason I chose to attend a school without a NCAA football team.



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Workbasket

I have 10 years' worth of The Workbasket, from 1954 until 1964. Someone in my knitting group brought them to a meeting once, and I snapped them up, loving vintage patterns as I do. Yet, somehow, I never sat down and went through them all. Since going through magazines has been my major way lately to avoid picking up the stitches for another domino motif, I found this particular stash over the weekend and read them all.

The theme is crafts for home and for sale, but it's a weird split. The needlework patterns are incredibly fine and detailed, mostly crocheted and tatted doilies, but with lots of knitted doilies and sweaters, then some oddities, like huck embroidery, netted hammocks and hooked rugs. There is equal space again devoted to gardening and to recipes. The recipes are, surprisingly for a mid-century women's magazine, almost all from scratch. They often look quite tasty.

The crafts featured seem way too time-consuming for anyone to make them for sale at a church bazaar. The reader-supplied tips for money making verge on the bizarre, however, with lapel pins made out of pecans and cupcake carousels decorated with magazine cutouts.

Then there are the ads. Hoo boy! The most common ad is for selling greeting cards to make money. For some reason, coffee urns as prizes feature prominently.


There is a Postum ad every issue. This one is my favorite.


Lots of weight loss ads, as you might expect. But, just as I would wear a year 1954 size 16, fifty years has brought some change to our understanding of what being overweight means.


Two categories of inexplicably numerous ads are for hearing aids and accordions. Coincidence?


There are ads for needlework supplies. This one strikes me a quite defensive.


There are career opportunities which have nothing to do with selling greeting cards.


And finally, there are ads that you just won't find in Interweave Knits.



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

If you don't want to buy any yarn, don't go to yarn stores.

You know how unutterably tiresome I've been about "not buying any yarn?" Even though I bought all that alpaca to finish my last project, and I was still claiming not to be buying any yarn? Well, I'll shut up about it now.

My sister-in-law is in town, and what do you do to entertain out of town knitters? You go on a yarn crawl. (Let's leave aside the fact that she grew up 10 miles from here, and isn't staying with me, needing to be entertained, anyway.) Karen had never been to Yarndogs while I was working there, so we were off to Los Gatos this morning. What did Deborah have now? Why, Colinette's Jitterbug in the colorway I had admired at the Maker Faire. Somehow, although I was able to go for months at a time working at Yarndogs without buying anything, the same could not be said for taking my sister-in-law to visit.

We ate lunch and pastries at Fleur de Cocoa and went on to Elisabetta, where I hadn't been in at least five years. It was much the same as always, and, as always, I ended up buying something. Love, from Filatura di Crosa, was on sale for half off, and a big cone of wool silk reminded me that I wanted to make a black cardigan.

We went on to Green Planet Yarn which seems to have even more yarn than last time I was there. My knitting group meets there now, however, so I was able to fondle everything and leave it all there, secure in the knowledge that I could come back and see it again in a couple weeks.

This is really why I don't go to yarn stores, since my not needing any more yarn hasn't changed. Beautiful stuff, though.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Revisiting the revistsas

Every once in a while, just as I go through my yarn stash to remind myself how much yarn I own, I go through my magazines to remind myself of cute patterns I've noted in the past. As you can see from the post below, that's a lot of magazines. I have Knitter's from 1996 until 2004, when I stopped subscribing, Vogue Knitting from inception until now (thanks to back issues I bought from a long-ago knitlister) albeit with some gaps, Piecework and Threads from about 1996 until 2001, the complete Interweave Knits, KnitSimple, Interweave Crochet and Family Circle (Easy) Knitting. I have a year of Anna from the late 90's and Burda Moden from 1990 until 2001. Plus assorted random knit and crochet magazines.

All told, I must have over 1,000 knitting and crochet patterns. I think that almost half of them are cabled sweaters; it's amazing how many variations on a theme one can come up with. Looking at them all in a short period of time, as I did last week, left me with some new impressions, aside from just how many cabled sweater patterns there are in the world.

My favorite magazine, in terms of the quality of the designs, in Interweave Knits, although VK is a close second, followed by the Nancy Thomas era of Knitter's. The shapes are fitted, the details are fine, as are many of the yarns. I also like best the layout of the pre-Eunny Jang IK, once they settled down with the typography after the first couple years. I like the models and the photography, and I don't think that the new grouping of designs into stories is an improvement. Vogue Knitting has always done it, but going from standalone designs to smaller groupings instead of issue-long themes hasn't worked for me, either with IK or Knitter's.

The less said about Rick Mondragon's chunky, oddly-seamed, garishly colored pattern choices, the better. He's a wonderful person, and has a lot to say about design, but I've not seen anything I'd be tempted to make in Knitter's for most of this century.

There are more crochet patterns out there than I remembered, especially in Family Circle Easy Knitting.

The 1990's Burda Moden was also my main source for sewing patterns. and I'd be tempted by the food photography, but never got over the European measurements and oven settings. But 95% of their knitting patterns are drop shoulder, mid-thigh length sweaters with some sort of either cable (of course) or all-over stitch pattern. They were my main exposure to knitting patterns when I first started to knit seriously, but I've never made one. The few patterns that don't fit the mold really stand out, and I have a couple of them queued in my head now, especially ones that combine knitting and crochet.

I'm not sure why I subscribed to KnitSimple. Maybe I can switch the subscription to Knit.1.

Piecework mainly tempts me to embroider, as does Anna (which, since it's published by Burda, has the same problem with its knitting patterns.) I'm surprised that Piecework never featured techniques like broomstick, daisy loom, hairpin or Tunisian crochet.

It's pretty awe-inspiring how much technical information was crammed into magazines in the 80's and early 90's. Back when VK was the only game in town, it had several meaty articles every issue. And Threads has articles to return to again and again, about fitting and design and techniques.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stash of Stashes

One can posit the set of all sets, but it leads to paradoxes. So I'll just talk about my stashes separately, not as the stash of all stashes. Paradoxical my stashes may be, but not is a way that would involve Georg Cantor.

So I have a jam stash.

It's the compulsive enhancement that qualifies it as a stash. I volunteer for a group that gleans fruit from backyard trees and small orchards, and I end up with a lot of fruit. Last Tuesday it was 45 pounds of ripe apricots. I make a lot of jam.

There are smaller stashes. Like buttons


and trim


(kind of messy, that one.) I have lots of fabric


knitting and crochet magazines


and books.


Of course, the main stash is the yarn stash. It's all in the same room. but cannot be encompassed in one photograph.



more yarn


I could put it all on Ravelry. i could. I know that larger stashes than mine have been. But I'm not going to.

Friday, July 4, 2008

And another thing

I was thinking about what I had posted, and realized that I had left out a few things.

I never see a pattern, decide to make it, and go out to buy yarn for it. In fact, I can think of only one time in my life I've ever done that, for my seed stitch tank, for which I went totally overboard and ordered the actual color card for Berroco Pronto and then ordered the yarn.

I buy yarn for its own sake, like how Jocelyn says her real hobby is collecting yarn.

And I know I'm being quite tiresome about this, but I'm trying not to buy any more yarn at present. This means that I am not au courant with current trends in fiber like bamboo or milk, and this actually puts somewhat of a crimp in my design activities.

I left out the category of Yarns I Physically Enjoy the Action of Working With, which would be merino wool, hands down.

And the idiot knitcheting is really just what I prefer in the moment. I enjoy very much the process of designing a sweater, of considering what the yarn would like to be, of perusing the stitch dictionaries and doing the calculations. I enjoy learning and using new techniques. But when I want to sit down and just work with my hands, then I'd rather not have to think.

Just thought I'd clear that up.


There are different categories for me, in the world of things made of yarn, and they are very discrete. In no particular order:

  • Yarn I like to buy. I love handpainted yarn in the skein and luxury fibers. I also like yarn on sale (usually a separate category itself.) All of these lend themselves to smaller purchases.

  • Fabric I like to wear. I will wear wool, and I like to wear cashmere and alpaca, so it's not a complete disconnect. But I love stretchy cotton and don't actually like the feel of excessively drapy fabric.

  • Fabric I like the look of. This is mainly to say that I don't like the look of most handpainted yarns knit in stockinette, or really in any combination of just knits and purls. I like non-pooling stitch patterns like slip stitch and Tunisian crochet, or motifs.

  • Patterns I like to work. I like idiot knitting and crocheting. A lot. I like to grab my project and be able to work an arbitrary amount, without having to count or cut the yarn or do anything fiddly. The body of a top-down sweater in an easily-memorized, single color stitch pattern is my favorite. Except then I am getting antsy to finish it, since I'm a one-project-at-a-time girl.

  • Patterns I like to wear. I like to wear garments that are fitted, sweaters with set-in sleeves.

  • Garments I actually need in my wardrobe. I need a black cardigan, and I have for quite a while now. I don't need any more tank tops or skirts. I need solid-color pieces that I can wear with the huge number of prints and multicolors I already have.

  • Patterns that catch my eye Well, fitted patterns, yes. Peplums, waist shaping done with gathers in the back, 30's and 40's styling.

So, not completely mutually exclusive, but impossible to satisfy all at the same time. How does my current project fit in?

It's a tank top design by Vivian Høxbro, called "Domino Shells Top" from the Spring, 1998 issue of Interweave Knits. (The fact that I usually design my own sweaters is another wrinkle, but I've been going through all of my magazines this week, which is the subject for another post.) The yarns are from my stash: bronze silk, cream merino and chocolate-brown alpaca. All were purchased separately over the years (the merino was on sale.) I had a few balls of each. They're the leftovers from my last project. i also chose this pattern because I was going away last weekend and wanted something I could start without doing any calculations. I even used my swatch as the beginning of the garment, once I figured out how many more I'd need.

It's mostly silk, so feels good to wear. The slip stitch shells mix the colors up (although they're all solid.) But it definitely violates the rule about idiot knitting, Each shell starts with very fiddly picking up of stitches, and there are already a bazillion ends (six for each motif.) I don't like to stop in the middle of one (just because, not that I lose my place) and each motif takes about 20-30 minutes.

It's not particularly fitted, and the size of the motifs constrains how close I can get to my actual bust measurement. I don't need another tank top. And I also chose it because I'd never done any modular knitting before, and I wanted to give it a try.

There are other factors, too, Such as the season, and how old the yarn is, and whether I have a bee in my bonnet about anything. Last week, I was on fire to knit a lace hat, á la Annie Modesitt. Now I'm caught up remembering an old Burda pattern (from 1993) that combines knit and crochet lace strips. By the time I finish this project, though, who knows?