Sunday, May 23, 2004

Back in the saddle...and a pithy review of "Stitch and Bitch."

Well, here I am. Have my Knitting Pony saddled up again after mandatory distraction from the main trail into Blogland.

It's been several months since I last updated. Not because I haven't been knitting, but family obligations, an unexpected kitchen renovation (as in, "eeek, the floor's about to collapse!") and then my boss's long illness kept me away from "extra" leisure activities like this blog. Since I am not a rabidly addicted blogger at this point, but I need my knitting to get me through rough times, knitting won the attention of my limited spare time for the past six months or so.

While my kitchen was gutted for three months in the middle of winter and my food preparation area consisted of a cart in the den bearing Mr. Coffee, the microwave and my backpacker's stove, I knitted. In the few moments of leisure time I had during my boss's illness, I knitted. Now both kitchen and boss have been fully repaired and are in better-than-original condition, so I can update again.

So, back to the future. My major knitting project during this time has been the Ruana from Cheryl Oberle's "Folk Shawls." A must-have knitting book, by the way.

This Ruana got me through many a long, kitchen-less winter evening. If you don't know what a Ruana is, it is a traditional South American shawl, like a very long rectangular poncho, but slit up the front so that one long side can be tossed over the shoulders. Looks smashing on almost any body size and shape.

First comment: it's a great pattern, truly. For those of you who follow patterns stitch by stitch, it's so easy that you won't be intimidated by the small amount of numbers to crunch or the small amount of self-design involved. It's more of a guideline than a pattern, but enough of a pattern that a stitch-by-stitch, blind-pattern-follower will have a happy result. My only complaint was that the shawl-style gusset collar was a wee tad too "round" of a fit for my very square shoulders. So I modified the neck-back for some raglan-esque shoulder shaping, and now it stays on. If you are a softer, rounder cowgirl than I, following the gusset pattern as written should fit you fine.

Important note: this question of fit is another good reason to put the work on waste yarn before adding the final edge and trying it on. This is one of those things, like swatching, that some knitters consider a "waste of time." I promise, it would have been a much greater waste of time to rip out both the Fun Fur edge and the gusset. I only had to rip and re-do the gussett. This is no different from pinning and basting a sewn garment, and having a try-on, before committing the fabric to machine seams. So do it already.

I chose for My Ruana the two bags of Lane Borgosesia "Spectrum" which have been aging in my stash since 1994. This is a softspun, thick and thin, acrylic/mohair blend with a cocoa-colored base alternating with space-dyed jewel-tones and held together by a fine black binder thread. Yummy and soft with a lovely subtle sheen. The medium-length color repeats give it an Ikat-weave look -- this garment is knitted side-to-side in garter stich. To give subtle emphasis to the direction of the color movement, I interspersed an occasional row of a fine, nameless chocolate chenille given to me some years ago. The finishing touch is the dark brown Lion Brand Fun Fur to trim all the edges.

I figure when the Fun Fur look is glaringly passe, I can rip it out and add a more traditional selvedge edge and a tad of fringe on the bottom ends.

As of today I have only the faux-fur trim to add.

I have also obtained and read "Stitch and Bitch" by Debbie Stoller and I have to give the book three thumbs up. The book contains a fair amount of Debbie's knitting philosophy and thoughtful personal ramblings -- I consider that a big plus in any knitting book. Any sophomore fashion design student can crank out a few decent patterns, but a knitting book is rarely inspiring if it contains little or no text besides pattern directions. Big kudos also to Debbie's smart, fun-to-make patterns which are hip enough to appeal to young knitters and fresh enough to remind us baby-boomer age knitters of what it was like to be a groovy young bohemian knitter. It's almost Karmic: this young generation of knitters is haunting the thrift stores in search of the very garments we hippies wore while haunting the thrift stores in 1970-something. Like, wow.

And I am absolutely enchanted by the knitting cowgirl avatar she's created. You go, Debbie.

Till next time,

Mambocat

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