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Monday, June 18, 2007

Inaugural spin

I'm beginning to feel like a real knitter! When I was in Milano, in addition to my yarn purchase, I bought a simple, but lovely wooden swift. I've resisted this for years, preferring to wind yarn hanks either with my husband's help or by laying the hank out on a flat surface and carefully picking my way through it; but ever since I've started regarding knitting more seriously (first, with a sample knitting gig with Hickory at Knitting Etc, then with designing), I've slowly started accruing the tools (toys) of a proper knitter. Now, armed with a blocking board and swift, I think I'm only missing a ball winder (though I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting).

I've documented the inaugural spin of my swift here:

And here is the swift neatly folded up and ready to be put away:

The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Cotton in Color 628, destined for the Lutea Lace Shoulder Shell by Angela Hahn. Can't wait to start knitting it. Hopefully I'll have it done by the time the weather cools a little bit (Blue Sky cotton is quite heavy due to the gauge and isn't exactly a summer yarn in my opinion - it's more spring/fall-ish).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Hexagon Bag now available at One Planet Yarn and Fiber

My Hexagon Bag is now available at One Planet Yarn and Fiber. This is the first pattern I've done for them and everyone there is so nice to work with! I have another pattern in development with them and I can't wait to get started on it.

This was my first felted project and I was so entranced by the experience that I immediately casted on and finished another felted project (the Lucy Bag) within hours of finishing the One Planet project. It was a bit scary to put the bag into the washing machine. Fortunately, my cousin is a felting extraordinaire and she kindly lent me both her washing machine and her expertise. Here's an action shot of her helping me stuff the hexagon bag fresh out of the washing machine:

The bag's main two panels are done in fair isle to give it a bit more structure. It was fun to not worry too much about tension in my fair-isling since I knew the felting process would erase all (almost) sins. Here's a picture of it wrong side out:

And a side view of the bag to show off the slightly tapered side panels:

The yarn (Lanas Puras) is incredibly soft and nice to work with. I was initially worried about felting such a beautiful, handpainted yarn - that its beauty would be wasted, but the felted fabric still retained the handpainted striations. The felting softened the effect a bit, but that was gorgeous in its own way.


Everything worked out in the end and the flight itself - other than a short half hour delay - was uneventful. Unfortunately, for some reason Alitalia didn't show any movies, just the map of the route with a small plane icon inching its way slowly across the Atlantic. So I read a small volume by Gino Strada, an Italian doctor who volunteers overseas in Africa and the Middle East. The book was in Italian, which was challenging for my rusty skills and my poor husband was interrupted from his reading (a Diabolik comic) every ten minutes by my persistent questions. When he later fell asleep, I was left to my own devices, but I managed somehow. I need to rally and re-commence learning Italian so that our next trip out there will be smoother for me.

Last Wednesday I took advantage of the few nice weather days we had in Italy to spend the afternoon in Como and meet Angela, a fellow knit blogger. You should have seen the look on my mother-in-law and sister-in-law's faces though when I told them I was meeting someone I met over the internet :) This was my first in-person meeting with a blogger and the experience was great. Angela is just as lovely as her many beautiful designs.

We walked around the old town center - I especially liked the ancient walls dating from the Roman era that still surround parts of the city - and then took the funicular to Brunate. This is the view from the funicular. Unfortunately, my camera isn't the best and I couldn't get rid of the glare coming from the glass - still, you should be able to make out the main duomo and the many red roofs of Como.

We then had lunch at one of the many cafes dotting the lake side and afterwards walked a bit more. Before leaving, Angela kindly pointed me towards two yarn shops. Yarn shops in Italy are strange beasts. Instead of a retail space devoted just to yarn, knitting tools, and pattern booklets, Italian yarn shops seemed to be split evenly between yarn, embroidery/cross stitch crafts, baby items, socks, and house linens - making their identification by sight a tricky proposition. For example, I took a picture of the shop window to the first store Angela pointed me to below (I love the honeysuckle vine on the wall!):

Despite not intending to buy any more yarn, I was swayed by this lovely linen yarn (a material I haven't tried knitting in before). I bought just enough to make a sleeveless shell for myself. It's a yarn company (Silke by Arvier) I've never heard of before and is produced locally in Bergamo. At least, that was my justification for the purchase!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ancora Qui (Still Here)

Due to a mix-up with Orbitz and Alitalia, we are still here in Italy. Unfortunately, this isn't as grand as it sounds. While we're grateful for the additional time with my husband's family, the last two days we've been chained to the house while my husband calls (and is often put on hold for 30 minutes at a time) Orbitz, Alitalia, and Virgin airlines. Each passes us to the next company, eschewing responsibilty. Apparently, our original flight for Sunday was canceled altogether and Orbitz (or Alitalia, we're not exactly sure which) rescheduled us (without notifying us) for an *earlier* flight. Needless to say, we missed it and it's been a circus ever since.

At any rate, despite the bad weather of the last week, we managed two quick trips (afternoon only) to Como and Milano and stash acquisition was achieved.

First, we went to Milano where I visited the Centro della Lana again and got my skeins of Principessa. They are of a heavier weight than I remember (sport vs. fingering), but I think they'll still make a nice cardigan. Here they are languishing in the sun in my mother in law's garden:

We didn't do too much in Milano, but we did go up on the roof of the Duomo - an imposing, gothic-style church full of intricate details (life size statues encased in wrought spires, etc). My favorite feature is the repetitive motifs (it appeals to the physicist in me) evocative of the delicate branches of a fractal. I tried to capture it in the below photo, but I wasn't too successful I think:

The day after that we went to Como, but I'll save that for another post. Suffice to say, Como is a lovely city. Previously, I had only seen it at night, and I will definitely drag the poor husband out there again in the future (especially since it's only 20 miles away from his town and parking along the lake is cheap - 1 euro for 4 hours!)