Monday, October 31, 2011

Predjudice and Favoritism on the Color Wheel

When I teach Color Theory, I don't teach students what colors look best on them. I figure that by the time we're young adults we've all gotten plenty of feedback about which colors "really bring out" our eyes and which ones make us look pale and sick. Perhaps some of you were even assigned a color "season" through the Color Me Beautiful program. (Wow, I just looked that up and found that it is still going strong. Who knew? I remember when my aunt got her "colors done." She was a Winter. She told me I was an Autumn).

I argue that everyone can wear every color, in moderation, mixed with other colors. I wear all of them. However, if yellow is my Superman of colors, purple is my Bizarro. When organizing my stash, I found this partially finished Wool Peddler's Shawl, in purple (here modeled as a cat blanket because I feel such apathy about putting it on):

I almost ripped it, but it measures nearly six feet across the top, so I worked a few rows of garter stitch and bound off. But I'll never wear it. It's destined to be overdyed. What is it about this blackberry color? What IS it?

I have more of the purple yarn, which is Lorna's Laces Fisherman, a 100% soft wool (merino?), worsted weight, in blackberry (you can see the colors here; this blackberry is more muted than the color in the photo). It's a great yarn, very soft and far more durable than Shepherd Worsted. I don't know why more shops don't carry it. In any case, I'm obviously not going to knit another project from this yarn.

Like purple? Want the yarn? Just leave a comment telling me your least favorite color and how it makes you feel. I'll start: Purple. Lethargic. I'll pick a comment at random at the end of the week!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Try-Works

If "The Castaway" was the first vivid chapter from Moby-Dick that I was compelled to capture in a piece of knitting, then "The Try-Works" followed immediately. In this chapter, Melville describes the bloody, infernal process of rendering a whale's carcass into oil.

February 2011: I start swatching for The Try-Works. I wanted the garment, whatever it was (at this point I wasn't sure if it would be a sweater or a shawl) to be as near to black as possible without losing the definition of the cables. Briar Rose Fibers has just those colors.

When I ready Moby-Dick in my college American Literature class, we discussed this chapter from several perspectives, the most memorable of which, for me, was as an illustration of capitalism and industry. And not a positive illustration, as even a quick flip through the chapter makes clear. I chose to feature this quotation from "The Try-Works" in my book:

"Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body."

April 2011: I finish the body of the sweater with a cable motif that reminded me of peeling blubber and smoke.

Once the fires of the try-works are started with wood shavings, these fires are fed with the scraps of blubber that remain after their oil has been rendered. The whale turns itself into a product for sale and consumption. At what cost?

". . . in front, the harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night . . ."

Melville's vision of industry is bleak.

As much as I wanted "menacing" photos of this sweater, I also wanted knitters to, well, desire to make one. So we took photos in the sun along the blue ocean.

June 2011: The photos.

This has turned out to be my favorite piece in White Whale Vol. 1. Despite the fact that it's probably not wise to wear a sample four or five days a week, I've been wearing it with everything.

October 2011: The Try-Works at Rhinebeck, with Karen of choochoo knits fame, who is wearing a dress of her own design that she probably whipped up in about three days.

In sum: Sometimes a scathing social critique, rendered in images that stick in the mind years after reading, can become something loved and practical. A great sweater that matches everything and fits fabulously. But behind it, a story. And one that's far from clear-cut. This is the goal for me, and I hope to realize it in all my future White Whale work.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Help dig me out

I'm drowning in yarn! I've been too busy lately to make much headway on my huge organization plans, but I got a few photos in today.

Note: Everything is sold and off to new homes! Thanks!!! More to come, I promise!

7 skeins of Silky Wool in a lovely dark chocolate brown. I planned a design in this yarn, but after swatching realized I will NEVER be able to capture this color in a photograph. $20 plus $7 shipping. GONE!!! Wow, you guys are FAST!

Nearly 3 skeins of Lorna's Laces Solemate sock yarn. This is over a skein of Vera, the variegated colorway, and nearly full skeins of the semi-solid green and purple. This is a great, crisp sock yarn, but once you've done one project in a certain color scheme it's less appealing to do a second. $10 plus $5 shipping. SOLD!

Claudia Hand Painted Linen Lace, about 175 grams/945 yards. One full skein (100 grams/540 yards) and most of a second skein that has been wound into a cake. It is lipstick pink, the color I used for this design:
World's most washed-out photo of this cardigan from Knit magazine. I'll be publishing the pattern as an individual pdf one of these days (note: this sweater only took about 700 yards, so this is enough for a sweater or BIG shawl). Anyway, you get the idea. This yarn rocks if you like linen. $20 plus $7 shipping. SOLD!

Still available as of 10:08 pm... I'm going to sleep and will check in in the morning...

Help me out people, and drop me an email at

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm back from Rhinebeck, which was fabulous, as always (look how much fun I'm having! Even better photo of the fun here). You can see more of me with old and new friends here. But I think I'll spend this post talking about my favorite color. If you've met me, and particularly if you've taken a color theory class with me, you know how much I love yellow. I believe I said something along the lines of "Yellow is always a good choice," or "I think yellow would be nice" six or seven times the last time I taught. Come on. It is a good choice!

People argue that yellow is a difficult color to wear. That's valid. I advocate mixing yellow with other colors, particularly deep purples and blues and neutrals. Like the Albers Cowl I knit from Icelandic laceweight and wore to Rhinebeck (I'm wearing the Try-Works, too). Or check out the Garfunkel Hat from O-Wool (I saw this sample in person at a trunk show a few weeks ago, and everyone there was smitten). Perfect use of yellow!

In fact, my friend Ann from New Jersey recognized me at Rhinebeck because "someone who looked like me" was reaching for a huge hank of yellow-orange yarn (I bet you can guess which one) at the Seacolors booth.

One of my goals at Rhinebeck was to get some true yellow yarn, the yellow hue, not sunshine yellow, not yellow-orange. Not yellow ochre. Although I love all those colors. I wanted cadmium yellow. I came back with a lot of yellow.

Front to back: Sami from Creatively Dyed Yarn in "Yellow Breeches" (the truest yellow hue I could find and also the one with the best name), Annapolis from Maple Creek Farm in "Bright Yellow" (it's got sparkles in it!), Seacolors Yarn worsted, and Briar Rose Fibers Abundance. Look for a few of these to make appearances in White Whale Vol. 2 and Vol. 3.

New yellow yarn means more destashing. Keep your eyes open this weekend for a post filled with yarn looking for new homes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I interrupt this Moby-Dick to bring you...

Rhinebeck news! I'll be there Saturday and Sunday, walking around, shopping, and meeting vendors and friends.

I'll have copies of my book with me for sale, so just find me and ask! If you want to chat and don't happen to see me (I'll be the one in the Whiteness sweater with the messy hair and Elvis Costello glasses), stop by the book sales area on Saturday between 2:30 and 4, where I'll be at the Craft Activism table, promoting this totally awesome book in which I have the honor of being included (see below).

To be clear, Craft Activism will be actively promoted in the book area. White Whale Vol. 1 will be in my bag... or, more likely, my husband's bag. Punk rock! SEE YOU THERE!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's here.

White Whale Vol. 1. A concept that became some sketches and a bunch of yarn, then some garments, then a book with photos and illustrations and quotes from Melville.

You can buy it now: $22 for both the print book and pdf (plus shipping)

$12 for just the pdf

The pdf contains all the patterns and pattern information that is in the print book, but does not include Matt Kish's incredible illustrations.

Concept to book. It's magic. I'll be posting more about the individual patterns and their inspirations over the next two weeks as I decompress.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

White Whale Vol. 1 Preview

Hard copies arrive at the house Wednesday. If you have gone, or can go, to J.P. Knit & Stitch this weekend, you can have a look at the draft copy and the samples. Like the cover? Wait until you see the interior. It's all thanks to my genius sister and Matt Kish, the artist whose illustrations are featured throughout the book. Here's the full cover image.

Here's a preview of the first pattern: The Castaway, based on the chapter of the same name.

After I finished Ambergris, this was the first Moby-Dick pattern I conceived. I came up with the idea for the photographs before I considered the details of the hat, because the image of Pip bobbing in the water, driven crazy by the vast emptiness of the sea around him, made such a strong impression on me during earlier Moby-Dick readings. Even though I hadn't read the novel for years, I could remember the sentence about Pip's head "showing like a head of cloves" on the surface of the sea.

Chris was a great sport. The texture of the hat is not actually bobbles; it's worked in the round and doesn't have large individual protrusions. I wanted to keep it unisex if worked in the right color.

Once I swatched and sketched and decided on my texture pattern, I found the perfect yarn: Lorna's Laces Honor. So soft and warm, so lush. As I knit with it I called it "Lorna's Laces Awesometown." The hat takes only one skein of the MC and about 30 yards of a contrasting color, for which you could use a second color of Honor or another complimentary DK-weight yarn you have in your stash.

Note: The hat blocked out fabulously after its salt water bath. And now it smells like the sea.

The individual pattern is ready for download for $5.00 now:

Waiting for the whole book? The price will be $22 for both perfect-bound hard copy and pdf version. You can shoot me an email if you positively cannot wait and want to preorder.