A soft fuzzy

All done!

It has been cold, cold, cold here in Texas…. OK, wait, now everyone on the east coast of the U.S. is going to want to strangle me because “cold, cold, cold” is not quite the same thing as “buried alive under 5′ of snow.”

But considering that usually in mid-February the highs get into the 70s, this year’s highs of 40s are quite a shock to the wardrobe. I simply do not have a lot of winter clothing, because normally I use it for about 10 minutes of the year. (Before you again reach to strangle me, let me remind you that for six months out of the year, you could bake a cake on my front lawn. Without an oven.)

So this year I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be a knitter in colder climes, where you decide to knit things based on “what you need to keep your body warm,” rather than “what you are willing to sweat in because damn it, you’re going to wear knitted garments for at least a few days before summer hits.”

This scarf is a happy. It is soft and toasty and light on my skin. It does not tickle my nose, nor make my skin itch. It’s purty. It’s a nice change after once again failing to knit a sweater for myself that I like.

It all comes full circle

I’m not usually the sort to like a fuzzy yarn. I like sharp stitch definition, and I believe there’s almost nothing more annoying than fuzzy bits tickling your nose.

I also do not crave lace knitting. I shake my head in wonderment at the popularity of shawl knitting these days. They are utterly gorgeous, but I’m just not femme enough to pull off something like that.

And yet, here I am knitting this lace scarf. Don’t know what possessed me. There I was, minding my own business in that yarn store during our winter vacation in Colorado, when this mohair/silk lace bit me (Kid Seta). Just bit me, I tell you. As if it were a rabid cur. So I had to take it home and give it its shots.

There are really just one or two things that you can do with about 200 yards of lace-weight mohair, and a small scarf is one of them. I found a lovely — but simple — lace pattern in Barbara Walker’s second treasury called Ostrich Plumes. And off I went.

But what really cracks me up about this project is not so much the fact that it’s fuzzy nor the fact that it’s lace. No, the truly funny aspect of this project dawned on me just a few minutes ago. My very first knitting project — started when I was 12 — was an oversized pullover knit with teal green mohair. The mohair not only clung to itself — making frogging a nightmare — but it also clung to my aluminum needles because apparently sweaty tween palms and knitting do not mix. The whole giant fuzzy lump got about 2/3 of the way to being an actual sweater and has been dying a slow death ever since in a box somewhere in my parents’ garage.

Poor unfinished sweater. Consider this my homage — nay, my heartfelt apology — to you. This scarf is wispy and soft and nearly error-free and will be finished. And worn.

The curse of Barbara Walker

Tip for the week: Don’t ever think that you can base a pattern that you’re designing on a pattern from one of Barbara Walker’s amazing stitch dictionaries, and still expect to feel original by the end.

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I’ve been working on a stole design for months now. (That’s it in the photo above.) I’ve got the concept all worked out – it’s just taking me a long time to execute the prototype. I want to make sure it looks in reality like what I have in my mind’s eye.

The repeating lace design at the heart of the thing is the Embossed Twining Vine Leaf pattern from page 238 of Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It’s a stunning piece of lace and lovely in its complexity: it takes 24 rows just to finish one repeat of the pattern. I’m going to layer some additional elements on top of this, but I’m delighted with how the vines look as they trail along the length of the stole. It looks especially fabulous in the rich semi-solid tones of Dream in Color Smooshy in the Happy Forest colorway.

Then, the winter issue of Interweave Knits arrived in the mail, and my smugness was shattered. There are not one but TWO patterns in this issue that use this very vine pattern: the Climbing Vines Pullover and the Stenton Garden Pillows. (Weirdly, each pattern has a completely different chart, though the knitted result would be the same.)

Now, I’m grateful for the charts, because following Walker’s written instructions was making my eyes cross, and my attempts to chart the thing had reached the limits of my charting intelligence.

And even though seeing these IK patterns makes me feel like I just showed up at a party wearing the same dress that two other women were wearing, you have to figure, hey, it’s got to be a great dress if all three of us are wearing it, right?