Monday, February 22, 2010

Greatest Yarns Ever, continued

Years ago, I heard the story of a mitten knitter, who never finished a pair without immediately casting on another. She would say, "The day that I do not have a mitten on the needles, is the day that I will be dead." The years went by, and her hands stayed busy, providing much comfort to cold hands in her family and community. One evening, as her gnarled, weary hands finished another pair, she calmly wove in the ends in the mitten, and lovingly put away her needles, and went to bed.
She never woke up.
Now, knitters are a superstitious group. So, I never finish a sock without immediately casting on another. Of course, since I usually have at least four pair on the needles at any given time, I believe myself to be pretty safe. But, hey, you never know.

As a devoted sock knitter, I would be remiss in not including what I believe to be the most delicious sock yarn ever.
Last week, I came home from work, foot sore and cold. I put on one of my pairs of socks knit from Mountain Colors, Bearfoot, and immediately sighed in pleasure and comfort. Yum.

Bearfoot is a blend of 60% Superwash Wool, 25% Mohair, and 15% Nylon. It washes in the machine beautifully, and is a dream to knit. The colors are glorious. The color below is Eureka.

This is an amazing sock yarn, and my all time favorite.

I use size 2 needles, and cast on 64 stitches. And while I truly admire the complex, gorgeous patterns for socks out there, when it comes to socks, I just want to knit around on autopilot. I always have a sock next to the telephone, and one in the car in case of a breakdown. If I have to wait for AAA, I will have a soothing, mindless project to calm my nerves.

This colorway is Sapphire Trail, and the sock that I will be knitting next.
Spring can't be far off, but you still have time to crank out a pair of cozy, soft, luxurious socks for yourself.
Knit on.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chillblains and Fingernail Polish

I have long adhered to a suggestion of Joseph Campbell- if you read a book that really moves you, then read that writer's entire body of work. In the early 1980's I began a journey through the books of Charles Dickens.

His evocative characters, exposure of the indignities and ignorance of poverty, and marvelous story lines held me spell bound through the years. Dickens is not subtle. There is no moral ambiguity. If a person is unkempt or slovenly, they are sure to be thoroughly and terminally bad. This appealed to me in my youth. I also enjoyed mentally living in this world.

So, when, in my thirties, I started experiencing little cuts around my finger tips, I thought of Bob Cratchit, hovering over a tiny flame in  Old Scrooge's office.

Chillblains. Through the miracle of the internet machine, I now know that chillblains are an inflammation of the small blood vessels on your extremities. I provide you with this definition to spare you from the horrible photos produced when googling the word, "chillblains". But years ago, to my romantic imagination, it sounded like a perfect word for a condition that until recently, I thought only Bob Cratchit and I suffered.

Now, I know that my friends Lupie and Gail have that condition also.

Imagine half a dozen deep paper cuts around the tips of your fingers and around your cuticles. It is more than inconvenient. It is quite painful.

Bandaids are expensive and futile. Liquid Bandage is an excellent option. When you put it on, expect about 5 seconds of pain. Once it dries, expect the cut to clear up in a few days.

This winter (it seems to be a cold weather condition) I have been experimenting. This seems to be the most effective treatment. Try it before bed in the morning:

1. Wash your hands.
2. Put Lotil cream on your hands, rubbing it into the little cuts.
3. Next morning, put clear fingernail polish on the cuts.

YES. I sincerely believe that clear, cheap, 99 cent fingernail polish is identical to "Liquid Bandage". I will probably get a rude message from the makers of Liquid Bandage. But that is my story, and I am sticking to it.
So, no yarn or knitting for this post. But hopefully, it will help all of you crafters out there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We interrupt our yarn series for this important announcement

The freakish cold weather across much of the US prompts this beauty service announcement for knitters.
Are you hands feeling like leather? Does the yarn catch on those dry nasty bits on your cuticles? Do you cringe when you reach out to shake someone's hand?
Somewhere along the line, I learned this very effective technique for resurfacing your hands. Try it before knitting lace, no matter what the weather.
First, get all of your supplies together near the sink. This may be a little messy, but worth it.
  1. 3 Tablespoons of sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  3. Paper towels
  4. Hand soap. I like Dove. Many dermatologists recommend it, as does Consumer Reports.
Wet your hands. Pour olive oil into the palm of your hands and rub it into your skin. Add the sugar, and SCRUB. Concentrate on your cuticles, and those icky bits. Rinse, wash your hands with soap.
See? Silky smooth. Now apply a good hand cream. (that is another post!)

If your hands are like armadillo skin, try pure lanolin. It is usually with the breastfeeding supplies in your local drugstore. I personally like the smell (sort of), but many people object to its "sheepiness". I do notice that my cats will not sleep on my bed when I have it on.
You can rub it in and then slip on a pair of white cotton gloves.
In the morning, try the sugar scrub technique.

And you think you have problems? Here is a link to a fun hand cream commerical:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Greatest Yarn, #5: Rowan Kidsilk Haze

In the pantheon of great yarns, Kidsilk Haze is right up there.

I have always had a not-so-secret fondness for Rowan. In fact, I have told my family that when I die, I would appreciate a couple of ounces of my ashes being scattered over the Rowan Headquarters.

As far as innovation and pattern support goes, Rowan is is an industry leader. This is my rule for looking at Rowan pattern magazines: the first time you look, be aware that all you may see is the styling. If you are..."of a certain age" you may think that the sweaters are too crazy for you. I usually think, "crap, there is not a single sweater that I could wear." Look a couple of hours later, and you will start actually seeing the gorgeous details of the knitted pieces themselves, and then you will start trying to decide which sweater you wish to knit first. You have to spend a bit of time with the magazine to see past the editorial excesses.

Admittedly, Rowan is so darn expensive. Why?

The colors, and even the color names, are a delight.
Above, a skein of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Drab and Candy Girl.

More KSH eye candy:



The luster of the silk, and the haze of the kid mohair, is incredible. Kidsilk Haze is a very versatile lace weight yarn.

I would recommend a size US3 needle for working singly. For lace work, try a US7. It can be doubled at DK gauge on a size US6 needle.
The pattern support for Kidsilk Haze cannot be beat:

This one is definitely in my queue..

This one used to be, hence the stash of single skeins of many colors.

Kidsilk Haze in color Marmalade

Here is a lovely scarf, called "Trinket" by Kim Hargraeves from her book, Amber. It uses 3 balls of Kidsilk Haze. I made it in Cascade Yarns, Kid Seta, which is virutally the same yarn. I may make it again in KSH, Hurricane:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Most Delicious Yarn You Have Never Heard Of (possibly)

(Ok, so I ended a phrase with a preposition.)
This is Cormo, by Foxhill Farms in Massachusetts. AMAZING stuff.

I am a farm yarn freak. And I love natural colors. My friend Karen, who is quite the yarn connoiseur, turned me on to this yarn some years ago. I have been hoarding it ever since in my stash. This yarn is so soft, so squishy, so amazingly beautiful. It feels like the most resilient cotton. I cannot praise it highly enough.

When I Googled it, to come up with a link for you to read about it, I found that many bloggers have also sung it's praises. But the owner of Foxhill Fiber, Alice Fields, doesn't have a website. She sells her yarns at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. So, next October, run, do not walk, to her stall and bury your hands in some of this amazing fiber.

I highly recommend the natural colored wool.
The Cormo sheep:

Look at this beautiful boy.
The Cormo is a breed that is a cross of Corriedale and Merino sheep. The Corriedale is in itself a Merino cross. So, you can imagine how soft this yarn is. The Cormo originated in Tasmania, and was introduced into the U.S. in 1976.

Did you know that there are hundreds of sheep breeds? Hundreds and hundreds. I have included a link to Sheep 101, so you can look at the amazing diversity in this beautiful, useful animal.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Greatest Yarns of All Time, #3

Tajmahal, by Le Fibre Nobili, Lana Cervinia

70% Superfine Merino, 22% Silk, 8% Cashmere. 100% pure silky, knitting pleasure!
Sadly, I have heard that it was discontinued a couple of years ago.I worked the swatch on a size 4 needle, and while I am a "tight" knitter, still got 6.5 stitches to the inch in stockinette. I love working with sport to fingering weight yarn, on smallish needles. The work, while slow to progress, really flows. And one's hands don't ache at the end of the evening, the way they can with those big size 11's! I grew to love working with thin yarns in 1992, after knitting a tank top in crochet cotton on size 00 needles.
Could I have purchased one cheaper and WAY faster? Yes. But if you are a knitter, you understand.

I had to dig deep in my stash for this lovely yarn. For like many knitters, I tend to hoard my favorite yarns.
Why do we do this? My friends, Kay, Gail, and I will fall on a thrifted dollar skein with maniacal zeal, but hang on to our best yarns for years, looking for a pattern that is "worthy".  Most of my favorite yarns are languishing in my closet.

My knitting New Year's resolution is to start knitting with them. I do tend to swatch them immediately.
Here is a swatch of Tajmahal that I found in the bag of yarn:

It is a leaf lace from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns, a book that every knitter needs in his/her library. The yarn shows stitches beautifully, even in black. The silk gives it a tiny bit of sheen. Altogether gorgeous.