sweetfigs   s w e e t   f i g s


                in pursuit of a fruitful life


Monday, December 18, 2006

Seeing the Sights in Wisconsin / EZ Rocks!

On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing many of Elizabeth Zimmermann's garments in person at an exhibit hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The exhibit, New School Knitting: The Influence of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Schoolhouse Press, was free and open to the public between October 27 and December 17, 2006 at the Design Gallery of the School of Human Ecology.

150 miles/240 kilometers lie between my Chicago home and the gallery, so sadly I missed the opening reception with Meg Swanson on October 27th, as well as the KIPing events on the first Sunday afternoon and the first three Thursday evenings in November.

Even so, I enjoyed seeing EZ's handknits, as well as original correspondence between EZ and her yarn suppliers, and vintage magazine pages.

It was especially nice to see that many of the sweaters were well worn. If you study the photos below, you might make out the small, dark stains on the front of EZ's orange Hybrid Variation Shoulder Cardigan and the frayed right cuff on her original Adult Surprise Jacket.

D, who has impeccably good timing, gifted me with a new camera the day before I made the trek. However, I wasn't comfortable with its macro mode, so I didn't bother with any close ups. If you want details about the designs and materials, head over to my flickr account.

Designs are in chronological order.

1956, Original Rib Warmer:

1959, Ski Sweater:

1961, Tomten:

1967, Baby Surprise and 2006, Cully-designed Collared Baby Surprise:

1980, Hybrid Variation Shoulder Cardigan:

1981, EZ's original Adult Surprise Jacket:

1982, MS' Long Sleeve Bog Jacket (I didn't realize until I got home that I failed to take a picture of EZ's beautiful 1982 Bog Jacket):

1983, Gaffer's Bavarian Jacket (the shoulder shaping is stunning, sorry the photo doesn't do it justice):


Friday, December 15, 2006

Under the Weather

See you next week.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Decision Made

PDRM3160Earlier this month I dug up a scarf project that was almost but not quite finished for more than a year, and did the last few stitches in time for the end of Lacevember.

As I worked with it, I chided myself for not completing it sooner, and tried to remember why it got buried. Was I uncertain about the appropriate bind off? Uncertain about which pattern row should be the last?

Well, after a few days, the answer came to me -- the edges were rolling and they would only roll more when the scarf was tugged and draped for wear, and I didn't know how to fix it. A quick, plain I-cord, or something more complex that was knitted or crocheted?

I've kept the scarf on display while working on December's other projects, and now the solution has fallen into my lap.

The Windy City Knitting Guild is hosting a crochet class for knitters, and participants are invited to bring a pre-knitted scarf that needs edging. Sign me up already! Since the class is at the end of February, I'm putting Marnie's Scarf on the back burner until then. See you at the workshop?

Getting StartedCrochet Workshop with Judy Swartz
Crochet for Knitters
$35 WCKG Members / $40 Non-Members
Sunday, February 25, 2007, 9 am - 4pm, Chicago, IL

Judy is one of the leading designers of contemporary crochet knitwear, former editor of Interweave Crochet magazine, and author of several popular books: Hip to Knit, Dogs in Knits, Hip to Crochet, and Getting Started Crochet. Judy has been an active crocheter for more than 30 years and inspires, encourages, and motivates her students and readers in this popular craft.
Hip to KnitA native of Wisconsin, Judy earned an MS degree in textile design from the University of Wisconsin. In the early eighties, she moved to Chicago, where she began teaching courses at the Textile Arts Centre and designing her own patterns. For ten of her Chicago years, she managed the Weaving Workshop (now the Knitting Workshop), a textile arts retail store in Lincoln Park.

She creates garments for knitwear companies, yarn companies, and publications, as well as for private clients, including a commissioned sweater for the late Fred (Mr.) Rogers.

Now in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Judy runs the general store, Nina's, where she hand selects the yarns for their burgeoning needlearts department.
DogsJudy regularly teaches classes and workshops in knitting and crochet, including sculptural crochet, from beginning techniques to creative expression. She writes for Interweave Press, and has had TV appearances in New York City, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

Hip to CrochetWorkshop Info

Skill level: Beginning to intermediate crocheters. The instructor assumes that students will also have an advanced beginner’s knowledge of knitting.

Morning session will include a lecture about how knitters can use crochet, and conclude by learning to apply crochet to knitting. Students will review/learn basic stitches using their homework swatches.

After lunch, those ready for adventure can start a trim-a-scarf project. If you bring a pre-knitted scarf (garter st or st st), you can edge it and embellish it in a variety of ways. The instructor will have several finished samples so students can pick and choose techniques ranging from simple to fancy, from flowers and squiggles to lace edges and more.

Techniques covered include: picking up for crochet along a knitted edge; gauging correct number of stitches for picking up; slip stitch crocheted seams; using slip stitch crochet to stabilize a knitted edge; using blanket stitch embroidery to crochet an edge in a fine weight or woven garment; single crochet as front band, including buttonholes; backward single crochet (also known as crab stitch); simple scallop lace edges; crocheted motifs (e.g., flowers).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Quick Project

Over the weekend we started the round of holiday festivities.

Marie ClaireOne of our annual parties includes a gift exchange, and this year I was lucky to draw the name of someone who enjoys gardening, cooking, and wine collecting, and it was fairly easy to shop for him. He has treated us to many gourmet meals, so I put together a collection of kitchen tools that I haven't seen him use.

It felt a little like cheating, though, to just go buy a gift. So I used a pattern in this French magazine -- Marie Claire Idées Hiver 2006 -- to make something for him.

See the paper flowers in the bottom left corner? The folks at Marie Claire Idées suggest using them instead of a big bow to top a gift.

paperIt takes at least an hour to make one. Doesn't that seem like a lot of work for something that's going to be thrown away?

Instead, I made a suncatcher or an ornament for the Christmas tree.

I found these translucent papers in the scrapbook section of the local Joann superstore. I made photocopies of the pattern, then laid the translucent paper on top of the photocopy on top of a stack of newspapers, and cut out the shapes with a razor. It would have been easier and faster to use an X-Acto knife and a self-healing mat, and this wasn't the first time I've struggled a little without the proper tools, so I'm asking Santa to shop at the art supply store this year.

When all four shapes were (finally) cut out, I used a few drops of clear scrapbook glue to lightly tack near but not in the center. I wanted the center to be clean so I could poke a small hole with a sharp needle for the hanger. I threaded a short piece of fishing line (about 12 inches/30 cm) through the hole from back to front, added a small red seed bead, then ran the fishing line out the back and tied an overhand knot near the ends.

Here's the final product. The photo is badly lit and doesn't show that the paper is very translucent in real life.

By the way, this was my first issue of Marie Claire Idées, and it probably won't be my last. It includes about a half-dozen embroidery, knitting, or easier projects that I would like to do. I found this copy at a local European book store, Europa.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Eye Candy Friday


I'll bet you weren't expecting this from me. Yes, it's a kitty cat! Her name is Totoro and she lives with one of my sisters. She's about 12 years old and is a very sociable girl. I think she could even make friends with my favorite dog. Ooops. How did a dog slip into this post about a cat?

Happy Friday, everyone!


Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Here, It's Here!


If you're an artist or crafter, you know that project ideas sometimes come to fruition quickly and sometimes not so quickly.

Yesterday's cranberry stringing project was the quick variety.

Today's project is the not so quick.

This yarn has been on the back of my mind for several years, finally came to live in my house, and, hopefully, next year will become warm, cozy sweaters.

It's rustic 2-ply wool from Cottage Craft Woollens in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada/Calais, Maine, U.S.A.

Cottage Craft sells sweater kits and they offer a little discount to people who buy 3 kits at once, so I ordered a sample card and enticed two knitters to join me in ordering.

Bonne Marie's choice was the Kelp yarn on the top of the pile -- a blend of green and black fibers. Corrine's choice was the St. Croix Navy in the middle -- a blue so dark it looks almost black. My choice was the Blackberry on the bottom -- a dark denim blue made from a blend of green, red, and blue fibers.

We each got about 2176 yards/1984 meters of light worsted wool and a sweater pattern for $34 + postage. If those numbers don't mean anything to you, I'll tell you its a lot of yarn and not so much money.

I think Cottage Craft is hinting at a slight price increase in 2007, so if you're intrigued by this stuff, you may want to ask them for a yarn sample card and order form ASAP. Happy knitting!


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Quick Project

I made this fresh cranberry garland for our door wreath in about an hour. If Martha saw this, she would probably snicker up her sleeve, but I'm happy to have a quick project that added color to our holiday decor.

It's about 9 feet/2.75 meters long, which is just enough to tuck into a large wreath or drape along the mantle with some pine bough roping. It would take quite a few of these to decorate a Christmas tree.

I used a sharp needle, some red sewing thread doubled, about 1 pound of cranberries (a whole plastic "clamshell" of berries from the grocery store), and 2 short pieces of red ribbon.

I used the short piece of ribbon as the first and last item on the thread, and when all the berries were attached and the thread knotted off, I tied a bow in each piece of ribbon. If you omit the ribbon, you'll have to make a huge knot at each end, which is a little awkward when the berries are sliding around on the thread and the strand is trying to twist upon itself.


Monday, December 04, 2006

December's Projects

After a little flurry of hats, I'm devoted to a new crop of WIPs.

I put this scarf photo up on the lacevember blog a few days ago.PDRM3160
You've never seen this project before because I did most of the knitting in the pre-blog days. The pretty pattern is a freebie from generous Alison J. Hyde. Materials: I used 4mm needles and slightly more than half a 4 ounce skein of handdyed Anne from Schaefer Yarns (60% merino wool superwash, 25% mohair, 15% nylon). There never was a name or a number for this colorway.

I've been calling it an FO, since I cast off and all it needs is to weave in the loose ends and a better blocking, but lately I'm rethinking the FO status. See, the thing is, I think the sides are going to roll in, even more than they are in the photo. And then I would never wear it.

So I'm considering the addition of a crocheted picot edge, a knitted sawtooth border, or even some attached I-cord. All 3 options have their drawbacks, like I don't crochet very well, I would have swatch a lot and calculate the number of stitches for a knitted border, and I'm skeptical that attached I-cord would be effective. In other words, all options would require a lot of work that is likely to get ripped out.

It's too freaking cold in Chicago to wear something so skimpy, so it's going to linger, somewhere between FO and WIP a tad longer.

In the meantime, I'm diligently working on my mother's Almost Lost in Translation scarf. This is just the mini swatch. Yep, I've moved on to actual size. But there's so much unravelling going on, it hasn't earned a photo shoot. It's even too small for a lifeline. Stay tuned.
I also want to make us some felted Christmas stockings this month. I drew my pattern on a paper bag and realized that I want a strong L shape, instead of a droopy foot. This will probably mean knitting a tube but shortrowing the heel section. I hope to find some feltable natural colored wool at the LYS this weekend, and will make Libby's first since her's will be the smallest of the three.

There's also a Libby-related project that I have to keep secret until Christmas.

My sweet girl found a sunbeam this chilly weekend so I found the camera. By the way, I haven't said anything about her health lately because we still don't know what caused her brain seizure last month, so we don't know whether she will have another. As time passes uneventfully, I grow less worried.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Eye Candy Friday

PDRM3174Hello December!


We were wearing t-shirts over the weekend, but the new month brought us ice and snow.

Forecast is for 6 inches/15 cm by tonight.