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Recently in Accessories Collection Category
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
The entire Accessories Collection will be up SO soon: late today or tomorrow! We are working hard on the last details. In the meantime, meet the final design in the series: the Caulfield Beanie.
I know J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield is kind of a controversial character; a lot of people can't stand him, and I can see why. He's angsty and self-absorbed, takes his privilege for granted, and he says "crap" and "goddam" more than he probably needs to. But I have a deep and abiding affection for Holden and The Catcher in the Rye; I think it's a totally masterful novel. From the very first line Holden's voice is there in my head, with such strength and energy that I walk around hearing him narrate my own life for days after I finish it. And even though he's going through a rough patch during the course of the novel, I feel like he's getting through it, figuring himself out. Like he'll be a good person when he comes out of it.
So this hat is my tribute to the young, collegiate (and anti-collegiate) hero (and anti-hero) of Salinger's novel. Its twisted stitches lead organically from one element to the next: from the ribbing to the main argyle body, and then into the decreases of the crown. The version shown, sized for a man, is worked in 100% Cormo Worsted from Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm, but the pattern also includes ever-so-slightly altered instructions for knitting a women's version in a DK-weight yarn, because existential teenage crises are a gender-neutral proposition. The pattern also includes instructions for working those twisted-stitch cables without a third needle.
The worsted-weight yarn and needle-free cabling make this a super-quick knit. Several of my test-knitters whipped it up over the weekend, and I think it would make a great holiday gift. I can't help appreciating the irony of naming a good gift-knit after Holden Caulfield: after you've alienated your parents by getting expelled from school and drinking yourself silly in Manhattan on Christmas weekend, make it up to them by KNITTING THEM HATS.
I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass. While grandmother took the pitchfork we found standing in one of the rows and dug potatoes, while I picked them up out of the soft brown earth and put them into the bag, I kept looking up at the hawks that were doing what I might so easily do.- Willa Cather, My Antonia
...a light shawlette inspired by the wide, waving fields and circling hawks of bygone times in the American heartland. I can imagine a schoolteacher in Cather's Black Hawk, Nebraska throwing just such a light shawl over her shoulders on her walk home from the schoolhouse in the early fall, after releasing Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda from their lessons into the prairie wilds.
(As always, click on all images for a larger view.)
I knew I wanted to include a small shawl pattern in my upcoming accessories booklet - one that would, hopefully, be workable from one skein of sock yarn. As it turns out, the Antonia pattern includes two separate versions: a standard, triangular shawlette that can be worked with a single skein, and a slightly larger, L-shaped version that takes just over one skein (you can see the shape in the first photo above). I've never seen an L-shaped shawl before, but it's actually an excellent use of yarn; with only slightly more yardage than my triangular version, I got a much larger-seeming garment - one that overlaps easily in front, and hangs further down the wearer's back.
(I thought the idea of buttoning the shawl's edging onto a blouse was pretty clever - do people do this? It leaves your hands free.)
My Antonia versions are both worked in Fleece Artist Sea Wool, which Erin at Eat.Sleep.Knit suggested, and which is a new love of mine. I knew I wanted something with the spring of merino but with a slight sheen, and Sea Wool turned out to be exactly what I was envisioning. The colorway, "Brick," is the perfect mostly-solid to show off the two lace motifs used in Antonia. And although "brick" sounds more like a red, the orangey-wheat quality of this yarn evokes perfectly, for me, the red scrub grasses and prairies of Cather's novel.
I structured the whole pattern around this scalloped edging: the entire bottom edge is cast on first, and the edging worked before the body of the shawl. I loved the adaptability of shaping created by the scallops; the initial bottom corner of the triangle is created by inserting more purl stitches in between the ridges of the center shell, and decreasing them all out by the top.
After the edging is worked, the shawl is shaped by centered decreases, with panels of a second lace motif converging at the mid-point of the shawl. I'm trying to err on the side of making this workable for the maximum number of people, so the pattern actually features written-out instructions for each row of both versions. This means the finished pattern may look huge and intimidating, but take it from me - it's really not. My test-knitters are finding that, after working a few repeats of the panel lace motif, the knitting gets a lot more intuitive and their speed picks right up.
This is the second-to-last pattern in the accessories collection, and I'm starting to feel like we're closing in on having the thing ready to release. I have some reflections about releasing things in chunks rather than individually, and what I've learned from the process, but I'll leave those for another time. For now, I hope you enjoy Antonia; she's being test-knit right now and should be on the market before too long!
Meet Wednesday: a playfully goth-inspired sock pattern, named for the lovably austere young daughter of the Addams family.
I actually can't believe how difficult it was for David and I to come up with a name for this pattern. I knew that between the dark purple/navy colorway and the cables that evoke lacing and braids, I wanted to pick a fictional character with distinct Gothic leanings. I toyed with the idea of calling them Ligeia, after the Poe character who comes back from the dead to haunt her former husband, or Madeline, after the incestuous sister of the House of Usher. But really, these socks aren't quite that dire - they have a certain asymmetrical playfulness that doesn't take itself too seriously.
I considered Lydia, after Winona Ryder's super-cute character in Beetlejuice. She has just the right combination of gothy aesthetic and lovable quirk, but frankly, I don't love her actual name. Given my amazingly strong crush on Morticia (as portrayed by Angelica Huston) when I was seven, it's hard to believe that it took me so long to think of little Wednesday Addams, with her neat little braided pigtails, Peter Pan collar, and games of "Is There A God?"
There's still a trace of a Poe influence here, though, because Wednesday is worked in Socks That Rock Mediumweight in the "Lenore" colorway. STR Mediumweight is significantly heavier than the sock yarns I normally use, meaning that this pattern is a good one for all you loose knitters out there: it features a 60-stitch cast-on, as opposed to the 72 I usually use. I've heard from a few people who have trouble replicating such a fine gauge, so Wednesday might be the socks for them! (Although, if you are a loose knitter, you might want to work these socks in a lighter yarn than STR Medium.)
Wednesday has a couple of details I particularly like. The twisted-stitch ribbing on the cuff transitions nicely into both the braid and ribbon motifs, and there's a column of twisted stitches centered on each large ribbon:
And there's a similarly organic transition to the heel flap, with the ribbons morphing into a standard slipped-stitch pattern while one of the braids extends down the length of the heel (and the other one extends down the side of the instep):
I'd say this pattern requires a bit more attention than the Julia Socks, with which it will be released in October. Wednesday features twisted-stitch cabling on every round, and knitting from four charts. On the other hand, the charts are easily memorized pairs of two, with the ribbon and braid motifs mirroring each other. Once you've worked a repeat or two it's easy to read the knitting and see what's coming next, since both sets of motifs are logically predictable.
I'm pleased to say I got this (and another design!) all ready for test-knitting yesterday, so things are moving right along on the accessory collection front. It's so glorious to be home, and productive again!
Thank you so much to everyone who commented, emailed, or messaged on Ravelry about our car accident. It was scary, and we've been very sad over here having to say goodbye to our trusty friend and car, but having such a supportive group of internet and real-life friends is a great help. I'll probably do a goodbye post about the car sometime soon; she was definitely special.
In the meantime, things aren't all bad by a long shot! For one thing, anyone in the Boston area who'd like to come hang out and see the Family Trunk garments in person (as well as the new line of accessories) should mark your calendars; we're having a trunk show there! Here are the details:
Family Trunk Project Trunk Show
August 29, 1-4pm
at Windsor Button, 35 Temple Place, Boston
(right on the red, orange, and green lines, just off Boston Common)
I'm really excited about all the cool stuff we're putting together for this, and about meeting folks I've only known online. We're hoping to have pattern hard-copies and CD-based pattern collections for sale, along with a few little pieces of "merch" that have yet to be revealed. I've been totally flashing back to my days of playing in a band!
And if you need a little extra impetus to show up, how about a sneak peek of another accessory pattern that will be included in the fall collection?
And that's not all...
This hat and mitt set, christened Gerda by my friend Homero (after the brave little girl in Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen), were originally intended for Knitty.com, but are now slated for release along with the Julia Socks and three other accessory patterns in the fall.
This pattern really is a tribute to friendship: not only was it named by an internet friend in honor of a literary friend, but the yellow yarn (Indigo Moon's lovely Apricot colorway, in fingering-weight sock yarn) was donated to the cause by a dear Ravelry friend. Plus, the three pieces all match! (I'm not sure how that continues the theme of friendship, but in my mind it all makes sense.)
We hope to have this pattern and Julia done by the August trunk show, so you should drop by and check them out! And if you're not from the Boston area, I'm working on setting up more of these, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I'll be posting about the other three patterns as the summer progresses, as well as the rest of the fun & silly stuff we're planning.
Thank you so much, everyone, for your comments, emails, and Ravelry messages of support about my lost day job. It was a sad time, making it through my last week there, but now I feel I can start looking to the future. Not that I've been idle in the meantime, mind you. I had to be knitting something during all those Miss Marple episodes, after all.
I finished this design during my last week of work, so I was thinking of naming them for something related to the whole experience - "Anxiety," "Melancholia," et cetera. But then I thought, why belabor the obvious? David and I were listening to The Night Watch by Sarah Waters while I was designing these, and as I knit them they began to remind me of her character Julia Standing, on whom I nursed a bit of a crush. So I'm calling these the "Julia Socks."
The Julia of Waters's novel, living in London during and after World War II, is a semi-bohemian mystery novelist. She's feminine, but has a bit of a swagger, wears trousers, and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty (during the war she works as an assessor of bomb damage). I thought these socks mirrored her character - a little bit arch, a little bit glamorous, but slightly menswear-inflected and casual enough to wear while sitting around the flat listening to the wireless.
I worked with a new technique for this design, one I found in a Japanese stitch dictionary and with which I'm now quite enamored. I'm not sure what to call it - if you know, please tell me. The lace-looking units that form the diamond shapes are worked over three stitches: you pull (elongate) and then slip the third stitch on the left needle over the two in front of it, then work a k1tbl-yo-k1tbl over the two stitches remaining. Working groups of these units (I'm calling them "pull stitches" in the Julia pattern, but I'm open to better ideas) creates very distinct, pretty designs that are easily distinguishable even in a semi-variegated yarn like this one: Sundara Sock in colorway Peach over Pear.
And it's easy! I'm surprised it's not more widely used, but I, for one, have a few more experiments up my sleeve involving this technique.
As for the Julia pattern, it's ready for test-knitting as we speak, and I'll be releasing it in the late summer or early fall as part of my accessory line. As I'm envisioning things right now, all or almost all the patterns will be available singly, and they'll also be purchasable at a discount en masse, in e-book form. I'm not sure how many patterns will be included, but I already have three finished and two more in the works, so it should end up as a satisfying little collection. Inspired by Julia and an earlier pattern christened "Gerda" by my internet friend Homero, I've decided to name all the accessory patterns for fictional characters, who are, after all, pretty much members of my family too. Maybe I'll even hit on a few of your favorites! Stay tuned for more previews as the summer progresses.