Turning the corner, down at the heel…

      I have been knitting my first pair of long ‘stockings’ all winter. With all of the other projects large and small in the middle, I have just now arrived at the heel and turned the corner. Fortunately, for this project I decided to knit both stockings at once so that I can’t finish one and let a year pass before I finish the other!
The pattern is the first one in Nancy Bush’s fine book “folk socks” which is a lovely resource for patterns and techniques even if, like me, you have a tendency to not be able to follow any pattern without making just a little change or like to mix the gauge and technique from one source with the textures or colours of another. 
     I did just that with the modified highland hose, mentioned in a previous post, where I combined the gauge and construction techniques of the finnish socks on page 97 (which suited my heavier yarn – The Wool Box’s Morron Bouton 2x) and the leg ribbing pattern of the highland kilt hose on page 109.
     Even with these stockings with clocks, I couldn’t resist adding the honeycomb patterned reinforcement stitch to the heel, both because it’s beautiful and because I really do wear my hand knit socks all the time!

Now, having seen how nicely the seam comes out, I have an idea swimming around in my head to make a pair of long stockings like these but with the ribbing, the seam and a textured heel and sole in a contrasting color….but first I’m going to turn the other heel and finish these stockings so that I can wear them :). 

Thanks for reading and happy Wool-works!

Norwegian Wool and the Magic Sweater!

This beautiful sweater was made for my husband Matthew when he was an exchange student in Norway. He was 16 then and is now edging close to 50.

It’s like a magic sweater out of a fairy tale. Matthew tells a story of how he took it off at a party when he was studying at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore and when he went to get it off the pile of coats he found it had gone missing. He thought it was gone forever. Then, three years later when he had his truck packed to move back to Texas he saw it. As he passed St. Johns University on his way out of town, he saw a woman walking the other way wearing his sweater. He stopped the car, jumped out and asked her where she’d gotten it. She said she’d found it at a thrift store. He told her the story of the sweater (then only 10 years into its history) and offered to buy it from her, offered to pay any amount she asked for. She kindly gave it back and he’s had it ever since.

Now that I think about it, this sweater has survived without a single bit of darning for more than half his lifetime. The wool is still glossy; there is not a single ‘pill’ anywhere on the inside or the outside. It has moved from Norway to Texas to Maryland back to Texas and, along with Matthew, settled in Italy. Now in it’s 35th year, I have put a few reinforcing stitches at the cuffs and have noticed that the yarn is thinning around the elbows. I wash it carefully in cold water, dry it flat; despite its age, we both wear it often. It has seen me through a few cold, Lombard days when no other thing in the house could keep me from shivering. This is the kind of sweater that a knitter aspires to.

Inspired by this sweater I recently ordered some Norwegian wool (washed, carded and combed) from a local Italian wool co-op. The box arrived and I have to say it’s beautiful. The same gloss as the wool in the magic sweater. It’s a dream to spin, the staple at least as long (if not longer) than the BLF that I tried at the spinning workshop I went to last fall. It’s also about a third again less expensive than BLF (1.50 euro/100g for the Norwegian wool vs. 2.20 euro/100g for the BLF).


Now the challenge is for me, not only to do a decent job of spinning it, but also to make it into something as beautiful and enduring as the magic sweater.

Back to the Wool-Works!

I spent all of February putting heart and soul into International Poetry Month. Now it’s March (and still crazy cold, wet and even threatening to snow) here in Lombardy…

So I’m happily back to knitting and about to think about starting in on spinning the wonderful fluff that I ordered from The Wool Box back in January. Want to see what’s in the basket?

beautiful pink fingerless gloves requested by my daughter

new pair of ‘highland hose’ adapted for bulky yarn
here they are from the side where you can see the reinforced heel.

My new hat that I just finished yesterday! Love that SSPTBL decrease….

Just a few things in the basket…

The gloves are from a pattern in the Winter 2012 issue of ‘Knitting Traditions’. I modified the left palm to have a heart and monogram and turned the pearl-stitch ‘ring’ into a spiral knitted in green.

When I was in Texas this last Autumn, my mother gave me the gift of a spinning workshop at the Kid and Ewe wool show in Borne. It was loads of fun and I learned how to spin (a little bit) but haven’t had much time to practice since I got back. Before Christmas I spent most of my ‘wool time’ making these gloves for my husband (about which he is beyond happy):

Meanwhile, my bags of ‘fluff’ and spindle were languishing in the project pile. So, yesterday I had the luxury of sitting by the fire for half a day spinning and I managed to come up with a little ball of brown yarn which, together with the ivory coloured yarn I spun at the workshop and some blue that my mother made and sent me last year, I decided to work into a cozy collar. It’s almost finished so I’ll post a picture soon. Meanwhile, my little girl is photo crazy and took 10 pictures of ‘mamma spinning’ of which I found two that are in focus! Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen what fabulous fiber art my mother does, go take a peek at her blog http://sarazmuz.blogspot.it.

 I’m excited to say that I’ve also found a local wool supplier for both fluff and un-dyed local wools in nearby Biella where they are working to save the traditional local wool industry. I wish they had more than the title in English but the pictures are pretty!
Biella The Wool Company

Mini-Cowl from Mamma’s handspun yarn

My mother, who you can find over at saramuz, sent me some of her beautiful hand-spun yarn for my birthday. You can see her blog about this yarn and the Hill Country wool market HERE.

I played with it for a few hours, mixing it, doing stockinette stitch and garter stitch until I decided on a mini-cowl based on the one they have attached to the hat in Lynne Barr’s Reversible Knitting.

I knitted it up on #15’s (US) and it made up in about 7 rows of circular stockinette which rolls to show the purl side. I love it! Simple and a nice extra warm something with no dangling ends that have to be kept from falling into the soup (or the dishwater). In our climate where I don’t go out without a coat, it shows above the coat collar, doesn’t come loose or get caught in the zipper. Thanks Mom :)!

Flowers…and more flowers!

portrait of a lady 
Jan Joseph van Goyen

Had a great birthday weekend in Milan! The city has so much to offer even if it’s spread out from one neighbourhood to another. After our trip to the Pinacoteca di Brera where I got an eyeful of wonderful paintings. Matthew did most of the  girl wrangling so that I could look in peace while she had a tour of fancy chairs with velvet cushions. Some of the most engaging paintings were the smallest; I loved the portraits by an unknown Venetian painter that were over to the side of the door in room 20. Trying to look at a notebook sized painting by Brueghel, I had to keep slipping my glasses up and down to see it, I really felt like an old lady! Next to it was this jewel of a Dutch seascape:

After the museum we stopped for a glass of wine and then went on to see our friend Renato at Mint Market, the beautiful home/beauty/flower store for which Matthew designed the furnishings. Renato was just finishing up with some customers so we ordered aperetivi from the bar down the street (one of the pleasures of the city is that, if they know you, the local bar will deliver cocktails down the street to where you are). While we were waiting, Matthew said, “Did you see that bouquet of white flowers?” pointing to a stunning arrangement of roses, broom, miniature lilies and fresia that was as big as our daughter. As we walked over to admire them he said, “Those are for your birthday.” I felt like an actress who’d just won an Oscar without having done anything to deserve it!

My birthday bouquet from Mint Market

 As a testimony to the quality of the flowers at Mint Market, these survived being carried through the very crowded Milanese metro three times, a night in a warm apartment and a 2 hour train ride before I took this picture!
Mint Market’s owner, Renato Baldini, is a truly lovely person. He gave my daughter Robin Kay a splendid bouquet of sunset coloured runculus so that she would feel special too:

Robin’s Runculus and my Cake

Then he let her help carry the flowers in before closing the store. He also gave me this elegant hyacinth so that now the whole house feels like spring right in the midst of winter.

Hyacinth bulb waiting to open

Olive oil from Sicily: a mouth full of flowers and memories.

A summer long, long ago on an island not so far away my husband and I were working with a friend to renovate a house just outside of the town of Marsala in Sicily. The client put us up in an apartment nearby and provided us with olive oil in 5 litre jugs. There was a grove of orange and lemon trees on the property and open-air market two days a week. I would ride there on a borrowed bike with an orange crate wired to the back to carry the produce. Much to the dismay of our friend I did so in a skirt; he said that would attract the wrong kind of attention while I felt it would somehow keep the erratically driven cars from crashing into my erratically piloted bicycle. As far as I’m concerned, my strategy paid off.

It was the end of June and cherries were in season. I bought them 5 kilo at a time; Matthew and I ate them on the roof of the apartment in the cool of the morning while looking out over the suburban rooftops and antennae, towards the sea where we imagined we might glimpse Tunisia.

It was gloriously hot and we ate lunches of melon with prosciutto crudo and sandwiches of fresh tomato and buffalo milk mozzarelle and basil grilled in the skillet. All of it with this olive oil that densely green, perfumed and which tasted like a mouth full of flowers.

We left Sicily in late July having visited Trapani and Palermo all too briefly; having watched Italy win the world cup on the television in a barber’s shop where complete strangers had invited us in to watch and then joined in the explosion of jubilation in the streets that followed. On the way back north, with us we carried 5 litres of olive oil, it didn’t last long enough.

Olive oil is to Italians (and some ex-pats) as chilli is to Texans: everyone has an opinion. Tuscan oil is best, but no, the stuff from Abbruzzo is just as good and less expensive; still, others prefer oil from Umbria or even as far north as Lago di Garda where a microclimate allows olives to survive the cold winters. I’m a solid fan of Sicilian Olive oil although I have to say that I’ve bought jars of olive oil from Trapani at the supermarket in hopes of recapturing that mouth full of flowers and found it light and bland. We’ve made due, enjoyed other lovely olive oils from other parts of Sicily, and lately had some nice oil from Lazio.

Matthew is working again with that same friend, this time designing a staircase for an apartment in Milan. He came home for the weekend of the Epiphany with this:

My mouth is singing flower songs. Orange blossoms tumble in with memories of rooftop cherries, summer swimming in crystaline, warm water and platters mounded high with fresh, steamed mussels. It’s hard to imagine a lovelier way to start the new year.

I wrote a suite of 4 poems about this experience, you can find some images and the audio HERE.

These things happen when you’re not looking!

I was just checking up on all of the blogs that I follow when I looked at my dashboard and saw that I had a new follower! Wow, how cool was that…who could it be? I clicked; it was me! Somehow, I’ve ended up following myself. I felt like Pooh tracking the hefalump prints in the snow. Maybe at least now I’ll be able to find out what I’m up to.
I still have the flu, or something like it that gives me a sinus-headache-of-death every day. My daughter is well! She even went to school today without a fuss. My sweetheart went off to work in Varese so I was finally able to finish my second essay about poetry and catch up on reading my favorite blogs. I love writing about poetry, I just wish that I were faster.

The sun has come out since my last post and that’s a relief. I have sworn off sponges and cleanser this year and replaced them with hand knit dish cloths and scrub-cleaner made with dish-soap, baking soda, and a few drops of lavender oil (all stuff I have in the house anyway). Now it’s time to go and pick up my girl from school…nice to take a walk in the sunshine.

New E.U. mandate replaces the Sun with an Energy Saver Bulb

This is my town, Gemonio, at 4:30 pm today. It’s been like this for the last several days. Not so cold, above freezing every night and up in the 40’s during the day, but grey. I hate to be a whiner but these grey days get to me…it feels like working in a fluorescent lit office building from which there’s no escape.
After a few days I begin to feel disconnected from everything as if my lovely apartment that is so full of windows has become an aquarium and I’m some exotic tropical fish floating around inside doing the laundry. Although there’s no change in the intensity of the light, the colour shifts: this morning the light was grey-green, now it’s changed to grey-blue verging towards grey-black.
As I was thinking about this day I read Bobbie’s Blog and thought…well, at least it’s not snowing. But now I don’t know, snow has a nice hard splang! to it; real cold that crunches under your feet and blows in the front door. I console myself with the brilliant red of pomegranates and the idea that it can’t last forever….can it?

p.s. I’m loving the beautiful scarf that my Mother sent me….take a LOOK at her blog full of beautiful stuff!

List: I’m just the type…

I'm just the type for whom
no end is suffix (ient):
tap (drip, drip, drip)
where is the beer, the syrup, the flow in this day?
clip (ed) to the
     do I mean to to say kissed where my ship comes in
     or pinned to the dry velvet of a leaf?

finish (ed)
board (ing)
     shall I wave my handkerchief as I sail off
     or thank the landlady for lunch as I wipe my lips
     sliding my legs across the polished wood?

I must be at least two tired to get anywhere,
    looking in wonder through the iris
    that will bear
    up under
    the snow. 
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