Nana's Knitting Shop

Knitting tales of a lifelong knitter
and yarn shop owner.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where's Wally?

Melaine just completed beginning knitting and did a very fine job. Everyone chatted as they learned to cast on, knit and purl. Melaine, we all discovered, is somewhat of a celebrity or she has the most uncanny luck of being in the right place at the right time to meet celebrities.

She brought in pictures of her posing with George Clooney, Noah Wiley, Diane Keaton, and last but certainly not least, Tony Dow. Remember Tony? He played Wally on Leave It to Beaver. I certainly hadn't thought about Tony Dow in many, many years and yet there he was with Melaine, a much older and grayer Wally Cleaver.

Oddly enough, I was flipping through the channels over the weekend and there on VH1 was a child star biography featuring, among others, ol' Tony Dow. It seems Tony went on from child stardom to be a director and producer. Did you know Wally directed Swamp Thing, the 1990 TV series and that he produced The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space and It Came from Outer Space II? Wally to sci-fi - it must have been June's influence.

Ah, the odd things you learn when you're knitting.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Put Your Math Where Your Mouth Is

The Interweave Knits Fall 2006 Trunk Show will be here on September 26 and there will be a great selection of projects from this issue on display. I am particularly excited to have this lovely cabled sweater by Ann E. Smith, the Sienna Cardigan, back in the Shop!

If you've ever spent anytime in the Shop, you've undoubtedly heard me complain about pattern errors.

"Doesn't anybody review these?" I've been heard to moan. "Isn't anyone actually knitting them?"

One day, I was particularly bent on pattern errors as I had just finished a sweater from a pattern rife with them. As I railed on, someone in the Shop at the time, looked at me and said, "Why don't you do something about it, Smarty Pants?"

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I set out to find a second job. Over the summer, Interweave Press hired me as a freelance Technical Editor and my very first technical editing project was the Sienna Cardigan.

Creating a perfect pattern takes checking, rechecking and that's right, checking again. I'm responsible for verifying the stitch and row gauge against the knitted garment and the pattern. I calculate the measurements for the schematic. I verify the stitch patterns, the instructions for sense and technical accuracy and I verify all shaping. Whew. Lots of detail, but lots of fun.

I've just finished up three projects for the Spring Knitscene magazine with several more on the way and I can't wait to see my name in print.

Some say knitting is an art, some say it's a hobby. I say knitting is a science.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sweater Worthy

There’s a lot of talk these days about sweater worthiness. There’s even a new book coming out in December called Never Knit Your Man A Sweater* *Unless You’ve Got the Ring by Judith Durant.

My husband and I have been together for 12 years and I’ve never knit the poor man a thing. Appalling as that may sound, I hope this true story of treason will elicit some sympathy and understanding.

The year was around 1984 (again with the eighties) and I decided to knit my then boyfriend a sweater. A tedious blue gray tweed Aran cardigan. Here’s a picture of the pattern. I worked long and hard on this sweater – talk about considering a vest – the sleeves were very, very long!

It was a beautiful fall Massachusetts Sunday. The trees shone in all their autumnal glory, the sun was shining, and the temperature was cool. I had just finished putting the last wooden button on said cardigan and called my boyfriend into the room for the big reveal. This was the first time he would try it on and I was pleased as punch to see that my measurements were perfect. The sweater fit him to a tee. He buttoned it up and went to look in the mirror. He came back into the room, told me how beautiful it was, that he was thrilled to have it, and then went outside.

After a time, I went outside. I stood on the porch overlooking the driveway and saw his legs sticking out from underneath his car. I called out, “What are you doing under there?” He poked his head and torso out from the side, still wearing the just off the needles sweater and said, “Oh, I’m changing the oil in my car.”

Like Scarlett overlooking Tara in ruins, I raised my fist in the air and defiantly whispered, “As God is my witness, I will never knit a sweater for anyone again!”

That is, of course, until now. I stuck to my proverbial guns for over 20 years, narcissistically knitting sweaters only for myself. Does my dear husband fully understand the magnitude of this earth shattering reversal to knit him a sweater? Can he handle the pressure?

It can’t be just any sweater either. He came to the shop one day to pick out his yarn and pattern. He chose this Aran number from Men in Knits by Tara Jon Manning. He also chose a lovely gray extra fine merino sport weight yarn. Aran cardigan, Aran cardigan…my hands began to tremble and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. “Honey, I said, “I think you better let me choose the pattern and the yarn. Trust me, it will be better that way.”

So after a long search, I decided on Rowan’s St. Mawes sweater. Rather than making this little beauty in cotton, I chose to make it out of one of my all-time favorite yarns, Cascade 220, in this gorgeous shade of burgundy. It will look smashing on him and I’m thrilled to be knitting it. I haven’t shown him the picture because I’m afraid he won’t be able to get over the model’s kilt. I could reassure him that the kilt is not requisite to wearing the sweater, but it’s easier just to let him watch the progress.

Oh, and my husband has never changed the oil in the car.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What's On Your Needles Part II

Deloris: Deloris knits more sweaters than anyone I know. I would venture to say that she knits 10 sweaters a year! She loves to knit in the round which can be a pain since she's a lefty. Deloris is forever adjusting patterns, but her perserverence is absolute. Deloris’ career was in retail so she has lots of helpful tips for me; she loves to challenge me, sometimes scold me, but she takes very good care of me. Deloris just finished this Oat Couture sweater using Cascade’s beautiful variagated Butterfly.

Linda: Deloris’ dear friend, Linda, is also a huge sweater knitter. She’s making the famous Tahki Cat Sweater. Speaking of the eighties, this funny little sweater was featured in the 1986 Vogue Knitting Holiday issue and I'm told that it's been Tahki's most popular pattern ever! The original calls for Donegal Tweed, but sadly, Linda can’t knit with wool. Her alternative was the spectacular King Tut cotton. The sheen of this cotton is beautiful.

Therese: Therese knits like crazy for her family and I’m constantly trying to get her to knit for herself! Finally, she’s making this Plymouth Rimini Poncho for herself and is finishing it right now.

Mae: Mae too usually knits for her family and as long as I’ve known her, she’s stuck to scarves, belts and other small projects. She says she knits too slow, but the truth is, Mae is far too busy to knit bigger projects. At 94, her dance card is fuller than mine has ever been. She is taking the plunge, however, and is knitting the Rimini Poncho with Therese and making serious progress!

Kathy: Many, many months ago, Kathy bought S. Charles’ Ritratto yarn in a beautiful shade of green to make the ‘Evening in Eden’ shawl by Cabin Fever. This mohair blend variagated yarn shows off the pattern beautifully. Kathy’s now making some great progress after we spent some time together going over how to know what’s what with lace knitting. Just a wee bit of confidence is all it takes.

Abby: Abby is a high school art teacher and her
talents seem to be limitless. She took the Lady Eleanor entrelac stole class and is the first one to finish before the end of the three week class! That is some fast knitting! She’s now making this incredible sleeved poncho from Dale of Norway out of Bollicine’s Dolly, an extrafine Merino.

Connie: Speaking of ponchos, since the very first day that Connie came into the Shop, we’ve had poncho issues. She came in with a pattern that just wasn’t working with the yarn she had chosen. We found another pattern, but it required some serious adjustments and I believe she scrapped this second poncho as well. She finally made this Fiber Trends poncho using Filatura de Crosa’s 127 Print yarn (I made it too to keep her company), but alas, her row gauge was a little off and it ended up being too short. After a lot of blocking, I believe it now is wearable. I don't for sure because we don’t really talk about ponchos anymore. Connie, you're a terrific knitter and you make beautiful things. Ponchos will be out of style soon anyway.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

“Do That To Me One More Time” or “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”

Ah, the eighties; I remember them well. As I was perusing the Fall Vogue Knitting, this little number certainly gave me pause.
Leggings and high heels? Oh no, say it isn’t so. I could hack it when the seventies came back although I’d never wear bell bottoms again. The eighties however, are a very different story. Big hair, big shoulders and those awful ripple enhancing leggings. The Vogue story this season is: “Pump Up the Volume! Bigger is better again, so loosen your belt a notch (even if you don’t have to).” I for one, don’t have a belt from the eighties that fits.

I was a prolific knitter during the eighties, however. Here’s just a sampling of the interesting items I made:

Do you remember that in the eighties, novelties
were called “fancies?”
Fancy indeed.

This Aran looks a lot like the Michael Kors "Sweater of the Season" on the front cover of Vogue Knitting, doesn't it?

Who knows what I was thinking when I made this striped number. Retrospect is an interesting phenomenon.

I actually really still like this one and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I still wear it! It's the only one left from a very busy knitting decade.

This one speaks for itself, doesn't it? It was called "Elegance and Top Secret." Top secret?

The eighties were a weird fashion time and while they appear to coming back this season, I'm thrilled to report that there are many beautiful and classic sweaters in "vogue" this year. I know I won't be going back to the eighties any time soon. My shoulders are big enough without pads, my hair was never big enough even with a perm (I'll never again subject myself to that abuse), and my back is way too fragile for high heels.

If anyone is interested in seeing the plethora of pattern books I have from the eighties, be sure to stop by the Shop. I'm certain copyright infringement no longer applies.

By the way, I know Boy George is getting in his community service hours sweeping the streets of New York city, but what the heck happened to The Captain and Tennille?