Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Knitting on the Edge

Here's a project I've been meaning to take up: reviewing the best books in my knitting library.

Knitting on the Edge: Ribs*Ruffles*Lace*Fringes*Flora*Points & Picots - The Essential Collection of 350 Decorative Borders
I'll start with the book that's inspired my current project, a lace edged scarf. I borrowed the lace edging from Knitting on the Edge by Nicky Epstein. 

Okay, so you've got your stitch pattern books, right? You've got guides filled with lace patterns, cable patterns, and whatnot, right? So what happens when you get to the edges of your project? Well... there's... ribbing... and, um... ribbing... and, oh, let's see, maybe moss stitch? Garter stitch? Gee, what can you put on the edges?

That's where I've found this book to be most helpful. Nicky Epstein's book is all about edges: bottom edges that begin with a cast-on, edges knitted separately and stitched on, edges picked up and knitted, edgings knitted lengthwise, fringes, ruffles, bobbles, if you want it, this book's got it. Each edging is photographed in color against crisp, white backgrounds, so it's pretty easy to compare the instructions with the results.

I have just one little quibble with the illustrations: some of the samples are knitted up in a slightly fuzzy, deep rosy pink yarn that makes it a little harder to see the stitch definition than in the samples that are done up in lighter shades and in yarns with a tighter twist.

I have one other bigger quibble: all of the instructions are written, with no charts. I'm not a strict "chartist," but I do like having both charts and written instructions. Written directions are fine when there are short repeats and only a few rows to the pattern, but anything longer and I'd rather see the instructions -- that means chart form. I've had to drag out the graph paper to figure out what's going on in some of the edgings I was interested in. Knitters who are more into written instructions than charts, however, will be right at home.

If you're into designing your own knits, or if you just want a pretty edging for a pillowcase or baby sweater, Knitting on the Edge belongs on your reference shelf.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Astounding FOs

When there's something particularly stunning to show off at a knitting afternoon, why not show it off?

Demetra, our lovely Greek lady, just finished an absolutely stunning tunic-length version of Alice Starmore's St. Brigid out of the Aran Knitting book (with a V-neck instead of the original neck):

And our long-legged Katie polished off a pair of gorgeous lace knee-high socks while we watched:

When one considers how far Katie's knees are from the floor, a pair of knee-highs is an accomplishment, indeed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A solemn anniversary: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. In just half an hour, the fire snuffed out the lives of nearly 150 young factory workers who were trapped in the upper stories of the building. Many of them flung themselves out of upper-story windows, forced to choose between burning to death or perishing in an eight-story fall. Outrage over the fire became the impetus behind a strengthened union movement and a push for the workplace safety regulations that we enjoy today. But as the first linked article notes:

In the aftermath of the Triangle fire, public opinion, shifting political allegiances, and an active labor movement resulted in state and federal laws regulating industrial working conditions. A hundred years later, however, with the decline of organized labor and the rise of free market economics, factories that exploit immigrant workers are once again doing business in the U.S.
Must these young women have died in vain? Must we return to those bad old days of massive profits for the few through exploitation of the many? Must the workplace return to the grim, inhumane conditions so vividly depicted in novels ranging from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist to the more recent The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman?

How do we resist a backslide into the 19th century?

One way is to support worker's rights and union rights -- at the polls, in letters to your representatives, letters to the newspaper, wherever your voice can be heard. Money talks, and while those with the biggest bankrolls get to shout the loudest, the collective voice of many can be just as loud.

Another way, which takes even more effort these days, is to seek out clothing and goods that are not made by exploited labor, goods made by union factories, fair trade collectives, local businesses, and individual craftspeople.

Every time I knit or sew a garment, especially if I use handspun yarn from local sources, I reflect on how I am not contributing to the exploitation of garment workers. But I can't manufacture everything I wear -- shoes, jeans, and foundation undergarments particularly -- so I'm trying to find sources for union-made and fair-trade clothing. The choices are, alas, limited -- mostly to t-shirts and similar casual wear, some underwear, and fair-trade clothing in... well... casual "hippie chic" styles that look great on some folks, but might not go over well as office wear. Anyone have any good sources of union-made or fair-trade office attire? Let's start a list in the comments and see what we can come up with.

ETA: I just sent this letter to all of my federal and state representatives:
Today, March 25th, marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Nearly 150 young people lost their lives in about one-half hour, many of them forced to choose between dying in the flames or perishing in an eight-story fall. The fire gave impetus to the union movement and to the push for workplace safety regulations. Today, corporate-driven politics are pushing us straight back to 19th century labor practices, stifling unions and pushing for the "right" to exploit workers. Please help fight this backslide. Please support union rights, worker rights, workplace safety, and policies that reward corporations that keep jobs on American soil instead of shipping them overseas. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

FO: Silver and Gold Filigree Scarf

Here's a mathematical proof I think we can all get behind:

One skein of luxury yarn (Artyarns Ensemble cashmere and silk blend in a silver and gold colorway)...

plus one elegant pattern (Scroll Lace Scarf by Ysolda Teague)...

equals two yards of bliss to wrap around one's neck.

Isn't math fun?

The yarn is slightly heavier than what the pattern called for, so I made some adjustments: I found I preferred US size 7 needles, I made only 25 repeats of the lac border pattern instead of the 28 called for, and after picking up stitches along the edge of the border, I had to recalculate how far to knit to begin the short rows that shape the body. I used a gram scale as I knit the border and stopped when I was within 10g of having used up half of the yarn, figuring about half was in the border and half in the body. I finished the picot border with a very small ball left, so my figuring came out right. The pattern calls for knitting the body in stockinette, and many who have tried this pattern complain that it rolls -- I tried knitting the body in garter stitch to prevent rolling as others have done, but it was too much texture and didn't enhance the sheen of the yarn like stockinette does. So I ended with a garter border on the upper edge before the picot bind-off.

And it still rolls. Dern. Oh, well, it still makes a lovely scarf. If I try the pattern again, I may try some other stitch pattern for the body that is mostly stockinette but has enough purls or yarn-overs to stop the roll.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I can hardly fathom...

...the extent of devastation in Japan.

The New York Times has this interactive satellite before-and-after image of Natori, perhaps the worst-hit area.

Also, this interactive map with photos of the post-tsunami devastation.

On their way or on the ground already are first-response teams from the Red Cross, Shelter Box, Doctors Without Borders, and other relief organizations.

A huge swath of the country has been shaken, scoured, flooded, burned, or otherwise wiped from the map. Tens of thousands of people are dead or missing.

Parts of the Oregon and northern California coast were hit also -- far less structural damage on land, but the marinas full of commercial fishing vessels, on which the economy of those communities depends, were hit hard.

Please give. Please give generously.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pablo Neruda is a knitworthy poet

After reading this poem posted on Ravelry, I'm going to have to learn more about Pablo Neruda. I've never been a huge reader of poetry, but anyone who loves handmade socks that much deserves some consideration. Well, that and winning a Nobel prize.

Ode to a pair of socks
Maru Mori brought me 
a pair 
of socks 
that she knit with her 
shepherd’s hands. 
Two socks as soft 
as rabbit fur. 
I thrust my feet 
inside them 
as if they were 
little boxes 
from threads 
of sunset 
and sheepskin.

My feet were 
two woolen 
in those outrageous socks, 
two gangly, 
navy-blue sharks 
on a golden thread, 
two giant blackbirds, 
two cannons: 
were my feet 
They were 
so beautiful 
I found my feet 
for the very first time, 
like two crusty old 
firemen, firemen 
of that embroidered 
those incandescent 

I fought 
the sharp temptation 
to put them away 
the way schoolboys 
fireflies in a bottle, 
the way scholars 
holy writ. 
I fought 
the mad urge 
to lock them 
in a golden 
and feed them birdseed 
and morsels of pink melon 
every day. 
Like jungle 
who deliver a young deer 
of the rarest species 
to the roasting spit 
then wolf it down 
in shame, 
I stretched 
my feet forward 
and pulled on 
and over them 
my shoes.

So this is 
the moral of my ode: 
beauty is beauty 
twice over 
and good things are doubly 
when you’re talking about a pair of wool 
in the dead of winter.

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