Archive for the ‘My knitting’ Category

And then there was August ….  dancing with family in West Virginia, choral singing with the Orchestra in Saratoga Springs, working a way into volunteering for the general election, knitting, and more knitting, for the Ravelympics.

My annual upcycling contribution to the CDSS Family Week auction this year was a crocheted tote bag made with kitchen cotton and prepared juice pouches.  As in years past, I worked on this at camp, and was glad to see how enthusiatically friend and children responded to this recycling effort; three little ones left camp with some semblance of crochet skills to explore with over the year.

Much energy went into creating the first of a set of flags for the 198 Countries Peace ProjectI signed on to the project early, claiming the flags of Israel and Palestine for (for obvious reasons), as well as the flag of Cambodia (in honor of my friend Onn, a survivor of the genocide). I finished the Cambodian flag in early August, exploring ways to translate into knitting the special structural details of the 11th-c. Wat Kohear Nokor temple represented on the flag.  I managed to finish designing the Israel-Palestine flag in August, but set the knitting aside for after the Jewish holidays.

With the excitement of competition, I cleared up the “studio,” sorting out piles of unfinished projects to enter in the WIP Wrestling event.  I managed to complete quite a few projects, among which were:

  • five hats for the HatDash (on the ChinaCare team, which executed hundreds of hats for Chinese orphans).
  • my Passover “unborn egg” (based on Mochimochiland’s Reversible Egg pattern).
  • the embroidered coins on a felted tote bag inspired by Tink Knits Penny Bag and the [198 Countries Peace project; I composed and international coin mosaic with all the coins retrieved from my sons’ rooms (received from their grandfather after his travels).  Having made the “rather large” Noni carpet bag already, I thought I’d have a go at the medium.  It’s a very nice size, though a bit narrow – like a laptop case.  I don’t know if I can bear to give this one away, though I really don’t need it.  Maybe it will be my new laptop case.
  • a felted bowler, to add to the growing collection of Jewish headgear in my Minyan Project.
  • a reversible cabled Steam Scarf, lusciously thick and cozy.
  • a niece’s neglected birthday present (fluffy tutu, too heavy to be worn, so turned into a pillow).
  • a densely-knit cap (DIY Peasant’s Cap), made from ultra-soft bulky merino from handpaintedyarn.com.

In August I joined a group aiming to help resettle Iraqi refugees (mostly families of translators who had helped the American military and had to flee for their lives).  To add something handmade to the used household items we collected for their new homes, I designed and knitted a number of dishcloths based on the traditional Hamsa (Khamsa) Hand (the Hand of Miriam for Jews, and Hand of Marjam or Fatima for Muslims).  I modifed the traditional hand, converting the outer fingers to peace doves.  With the eye in the center of the palm, the design is suitable for Jews; without it, I make it for Muslms, for whom (I’ve been advised) the eye is pagan and offensive; to my knowledge, Jewish folk tradition has always made affirmative use of the eye symbolism.

This seems like quite a bit was accomplished, and yet I recall being disappointed with what I wasn’t able to finish as well (I had to withdraw quite a few projects from the WIPs Wrestling match).   But by the end of August, the heat of the season and the presidential campaigns were serious competition with the knitting baskets.


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Be the change that you want to see in the world. Mohandas Gandhi

There’s been a lot of orange on my needles this past week since I crossed paths with Ravelry’s Color Orange group. Not that there hasn’t been plenty of other projects to work on or finish. But the Color Orange campaign’s goals really grabbed my attention and inspired me. According to the website:

We are launching the project The Color Orange to highlight the violations of the human rights in China on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Beijing August 2008.

The idea is both sophisticated and simple: We want to introduce The Color Orange as a symbol of the protest against the human rights violations in China. The strict censorship can ban the use of obvious symbols of human rights, but the use of The Color Orange cannot be banned.

So we will encourage sports people and spectators to make vast and creative use of the color for clothing and all sorts of accessories. It can be anything, like an orange hat, camera bag, tie, pen, paper, dress, suit, bag etc. Even pealing an orange will be considered a poignant statement.

So what could I contribute? These knittivist projects are usually terrific opportunities for creative thinking and knitting, and the chance to create visible expressions of solidarity with human rights victims and activists especially motivating.

Returning to the knitnotwar 1,o0o peace crane seemed a natural starting point. I rustled up a couple of birds with some satisfyingly orange Araucania Nature Wool, which felted quickly and beautifully. I’m not sure how they’ll be used in Beijing, especially the one I “stiffened” into a rigid sculpture after a soak in my “ceramicizing” recipe (a mixture of white glue, water and acrylic medium).

I looked for other symbols relevant to the issues and venue. Knitted chains have been on my to-try list for a few years (inspired by Knitty’s Marley’s Ghost and Loop d Loop’s version), and felted orange chains followed quickly. I’ve given them a name for the sake of the project: Un-chaining Tibet. Whoever gets to wear these will enact in a small way the discomfort of life without basic human rights – these are pretty scratchy.

Not wanting to subject another Olympics spectator to the discomfort of the chain necklace, I’ve made a felted medallion of Olympic rings which will get a black waxed cotton lariat. These took the knitted chain technique a few steps further, a pleasant challenge for me, and more importantly, a valuable symbolic exercise for the inter-connections among all peoples, grounded in common human rights.

None of these items took long to make – a few hours at most – so there’s no excuse for any of us with a concern for human rights not to contribute. There are plenty of ideas, and more information, on the Color Orange website, and its Flickr group is working to promote distribution of the handmade orange items.

In the meantime, I’ll be working out some knitted sculpting techniques, so that I can contribute a couple of orange figures from the website, who are literally appealing for support for the campaign.

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Even the eye of Horace couldn’t see through the Darkness

This week is the Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew), commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery, as narrated in the Hebrew bible (the Five Books of Moses or Torah, known to Christians as the Old Testament). Throughout the centuries, in all lands, Jews have gathered on Passover to retell the Exodus narrative and eat unleavened bread or matzah (“flatbread”), the holiday’s primary symbol (of the hasty departure from Egypt). Most of us are familiar with the story: we’ve all seen Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, right? We know about Moses and the burning bush, his threats to Pharoah to “let me people go” before each of the ten plagues inflicted on the Egyptians to persuade them of the superior power of the Israelite god, and watched the Red Sea part to enable the Israelites’ escape, and then engulf the Egyptian army, right? In their haste to leave the Israelites baked their bread before it had risen, producing matzoh, or “unleavened bread”.

The Hebrew name for the festival, Pesach, refers to the scriptural account of the sacrificed animal that offered the Israelites protection from the fatal final plague. The holiday is also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread (since that’s the only bread to be eaten during the week), but it also gets its English name from the scriptural account of the tenth plague, when God “passed over” the Israelite homes and killed the firstborn Egyptians (a more faithful translation of the Hebrew narrative describes God hovering over, or guarding, the Israelites … passing over to them rather than from them).

As members of the Reform Jewish community, my family’s celebration of the holiday consists of a family Seder (or two, if possible) the ritual meal in which the narrative is retold (and even re-enacted symbolically), and a week of matzoh and Passover-friendly cuisine. As the oldest sibling in my family, I made most of our family seders when my sons were small. Now my youngest sister has taken this on, and we all contribute to the meal. This year there were seventeen of us at the table, from three states, aged 5 to 75, and including one Holocaust survivor. It was a very special seder.

I’ve been “knitting” Jewish holidays for the past year or so, producing knitted fruit (knitted etrogs and grapes) for the autumn harvest holiday of Sukkot, and a knitted dreidel and menorah for Hanukkah; these were part of a series of Patterns for Peacebuilders I’d initiated to publicize the co-existence and peace-building efforts taking place between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. I’d planned to create a pattern for Elijah’s Cup, used during the Passover seder to welcome the prophet heralding the age of peace. But as I researched the background of the cup, I decided to expand the project and “craft” my own seder – to explore the ways in which holiday traditions and meanings are created (and to have another way to delight my youngest niece-let at the seder table – it’s always a challenge to keep children at the seder table given the length of the service and meal).

So this year, in addition to my usual contribution of freshly-ground horseradish (maror), gefilte fish, and chocolate-coconut macaroons, I studied and knitted the principal symbols of the seder:

  • Maror (bitter herbs), representing the pain of slavery (I knitted the top of the root, which we use on our table)
  • Charoset, a sweet paste made from dried and/or fresh fruit, nuts and wine, signifying the mortar used by the Israelites in their labor for the Egyptians
  • Karpas, another bitter vegetable (typically parsley, as I knitted), the humility of servitude, which is dipped in salt water (slavery’s tears) before being eaten
  • a roasted Shankbone – the Pesach (sacrifice) before the 10th plague; and
  • a roasted Egg – a symbol of spring by Reform and Conservative Jews (or a symbol of mourning for the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem by traditional Jews
I completed a silver cup for the prophet Elijah (and plan a cup for Miriam for next year), and a plate of knitted matzoh. Researching the ten plagues and sorting out how to execute them was the principal challenge of the week leading up to the first seder – as I worked my way through them I explored materials (including plastic bag yarn, or “plarn” – for blood, lice and hail) and techniques (including felting for the origami-knit frog), and strategies of representation, from the most playful (the hail-cloud), or costume (mask of darkness), to realistic (afflicted cow and locust).

Along the way, I played with other elements of the meal, “cooking” a bowl of felted matzoh ball soup (with sliced carrots) and a plate of felted gefilte fish and boiled egg on a bed of TikkunTree leaves. A very last-minute addition (completed only minutes before we sat down to start the seder) was the kosher-for-passover chocolate cake, to celebrate the five April birthdays in the family, and the liberation of my sister’s mother-in-law from a German concentration camp.

(More photos of my “knitted seder” are available here

UPDATE:  3.23.09

If you are interested in knitting your own seder, patterns for the knitted seder plate items are now available on Etsy, here.

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In the weeks between music projects, there’s been time to explore projects large and small, to finish a few UFOs, to work out and work on so many bits and pieces of larger ideas, research and sketch a few new ones, and search through stash and baskets of scraps in order to get a few more on track. At times it’s felt a bit like suffering from knit addiction, as if the next stitch might be my last, bringing to mind that knitter’s favorite, The Last Knit.

What’s been on, and come off, my needles these past few weeks? For the first time, I’ve been knitting bags to felt (or full, to be more precise). Some friends who recently learned to knit asked to make bags together, so this was my opportunity to reach into my ideas folders. Inspired by a couple of examples from Tink Knits (the Penny Bag, Silver Leaf Satchel and Pebble Beach Bag), and Noni’s many bags, I’ve started two.

The first is one of Noni’s “Rather Large” carpetbags, in Araucania Nature Wool, celery green, olive green and gray green.  It may be that making one of these bags requires knitting addiction even more than ordinary commitment, to persist with the hours of stockinette, working in circles over and over, as the bag grows to gargantuan proportions.  Fortunately, it did felt to a reasonable size. I’m on the fence about decoration, unable to decide whether I want to disrupt the calm of the stripes with a (more or less bold) flower. But if I do go the flower route, it will be peonies or chrysanthemums.

A second bag is on its way – a medium-sized black carpetbag (Knit Picks Wool of the Andes), to be felted and embellished with a mosaic of the international coins my father has given the boys after his travels. (What else does a grandfather do but empty his pockets of those leftovers?). The idea of gilding felted knits is especially appealing, and I’ll be working out a way to extend this special Tink Knits technique to a special project, as well as on some leaves for the TikkunTree.

Other projects are in various stages of design and preparation … especially for Passover. Much more to come, if I can keep the machine running.

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I don’t know how long I’ve been looking at the vinyl bag that held this project, tucked under a stool in my kitchen “studio/office” … five years? ten years? Yes, it’s come out from time to time, as I “borrowed” the circulars or double points holding it in limbo for another more pressing job. I even made a bit of progress at one point, beginning the decrease for the top.

It’s hard to imagine what kept me from finishing it, along with the other stranded colorwork projects I began so many years ago (the Kaffe Fassett sawtooth vest and diamonds tunic remain unfinished as well), when my boys were little and naptimes were devoted to knitting or quilting. Work, returning to school and graduate school, the boys’ middle and high school years, discovery of Kureyon and felting, clogs and cables, all conspired to keep this cozy unfinished.

But no longer – what began as the materials that came in a Classic Elite kit: a booklet (copyright 1994!!) for Whimsical Tea Cozies, Tea Box Covers, Trivets and French Pres Coffee Cozies, the “recipes” for inventing stranded designs to accomodate various sizes of tea and coffee pots, a vibrant photo of examples, and eight balls of colorful wool & mohair blend yarn, has at last achieved final form.

So yesterday afternoon, with a steaming cup of our favorite new tea discovery (Rishi Tea’s Organic Pu-Erh Ginger blend) at my side, I tackled the top of “the cozy”.

I’m not sure it’s perfect – the chevrons I’d planned inside the “petals” don’t read well, but the final bobbles and loop are very, very satisfying. All ends securely woven in, I expect I’ll line it for added protection and effectiveness on the Brown Betty. Perhaps most importantly, it’s finally finished, and waiting for company to appreciate it’s wit.

Charts and general guidelines for the “recipe” to follow shortly (they’ll be edited in to this post).

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Cables and diagonals have been flooding my knitterly imagination and knitting bag lately. Daily rehearsals and/or concerts have meant a fair amount of walking and waiting time, therefore progress on a number of small projects.

On the cable front: my Chevalier Mittens are done, in all their diagonal cable glory! A very, very satisfying knit, leaving me with a taste to try the matching hat. My reversible cable scarf, inspired by the reversible ribbed cable in Vogue’s Stitchionary 4 (p. 157), is inching along. I’m working with 50 sts to produce 4 undulating cables bounded by slipped selvedge sts. The Cascade Dolce is lovely to work with, yielding about 14″/hank, by it does pill (leaving silver gray alpaca filaments wherever I work).

Encouraged by the arrival of a copy of Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters early in the week, I tested the Coriolis Sock pattern (also available on DIY) for this week’s gathering of the R.S. Tikkun Knitters group. Remnants of Paton’s SWS used for a couple of pairs of Keep Away Felted (Turkish) Slippers (pattern here) were all that was necessary to execute a pair of these interesting little test socks (I used a Turkish cast-on to start them).


While the design is ingenuous, I expect that novice sock knitters will find the directions difficult to follow, especially if they are working on dpns. Cookie A’s Thelonius Socks and Millicent Socks redistribute the increases of the ordinary heel flap and gusset in similar (and intriguing) ways. Plenty to think about working on when the weather turns fair (my favorite time to work on socks, keeping the wool out of my lap).

It seemed the Cobblestone Pullover would be finished last weekend, but a last try-on before completing the neck opening disclosed the need to lengthen the yoke just a bit on the 43″ size to accomodate my buff boy’s chest and biceps. So, the frogging will have to wait until this coming weekend.

For a lark, I also set aside a bit of time to knock out a knocker, or rather a nipple, for The Nipple Project. The Nipple Project is a collaborative project which will be part of the group exhibition “Enclosed, Encased & Enrobed” next June at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in The Artist Village in Santa Ana, California. (More information and examples of some of the creative contributions are found here). My contribution is made with a few yards of the seemingly endless cones of sportweight silver metallic cord purchased from KnitPlace Yarn Store on eBay for my silver dreidel and menorah patterns.

(additional photos will be edited in once the camera battery finishes charging)

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It’s always difficult to juggle the big and small projects with a schedule that keeps me moving. Small ones fly off the needles as I move between appointments and rehearsals, and large ones fill my lap when I sit and catch my breath. This week has seen endless rehearsals and many performances (of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s premier of Jennifer Higdon’s “The Singing Rooms” with the Philadelphia Singers Chorale), so I’ve had to do my knitting in the interstices …

I’m especially pleased to have finished the first set of dpn caps based on this vintage pattern, the Knitted Punchinello Caps for Knitting Needles, c1890, from The Ladies Treasury. With a set of 2.00 mm (Size 0) dpns, a bit of leftover Trekking, a plastic cork and a couple of hours, they were breeze to complete.

I experimented with the tops, attaching a button to one end (from which I cast on, through the button’s holes!), and a knitted “button” on the other end. This set just fits my 5″ needles, but I’m ready to make another few sets with some of my silver cord, once I get my hands on some sturdier short steel needles and a few lengths of elastic cord.

In addition, I managed (just about) to complete the second sleeve on my son’s Cobblestone Pullover, finished another couple of inches on my DIY Peasant’s Cap (it would have been nice to have had it to wear against the bitter cold wind today), and began yet another brioche beret, this one requested by a fellow singer (based on Nancy Marchant’s Rooftop Beret pattern). My second Clapotis has grown by three inches (nearly ready for it’s first dropped stitch); this project is especially nice to take out when time permits, since the Handmaiden Kidsilk is so splendid to handle. I still need to add the buttons to the pair of Saartje’s booties finished for a rabbi’s new daughter, but the matching Sweet Baby Cap

and Toasty Topper for her “big” (toddler) brother are ready for delivery. I used some lovely Nature’s Palette (Oddfellows” colorways) for the cap, and a skein of Encore Colorspun Worsted by Plymouth from a more ancient corner of the stash for the helmet.

Charity knitting is seldom absent from my tote, and I’ve also managed to complete a couple of hats to contribute to an upcoming Ravelry collection for the local Women Against Abuse project, organized by a local member of the City of Knitterly Love group. This little pink Noedel by Andrealea worked up quickly with some leftover Ejido 160. A half-finished blue Zeebee by Schmeebot should keep an older child very warm – it’s made with three strands of mystery Takhi tweed from the stash (re-purposed from a frogged cardigan begun decades ago for my husband). These little hats, and the many booties that accumulate in my basket, are among the most satisfying to execute in the interstices of the day or evening; I never seem to tire of making these for the small people I imagine wearing them. And of course finishing them slowly and steadily reduces the piles of UFO’s and stashed yarns.

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