Saturday, September 19, 2009


The cashmere spiral cowl is finished and blocked, and man, is it beautiful! The yarn bloomed and softened even more with the final soaking I gave the finished piece, and it's just a pleasure to hold up to my neck.

Now the dilemma is the perfect vintage button to use. I've narrowed down my selection to this (admittedly still large) array of options:

Clockwise from the top they are:

1) creamy mother-of-pearl with sort of feather detail around the edge, a family heirloom
2) dark gray faux mother-of-pearl shank
3) black plastic faux braided leather
4) heavy cream mother-of-pearl or bone (this one seems really old to me)
5) dark gray abalone or mother-of-pearl shank
6) dark gray mother-of-pearl with fancy etchings
7) dark gray mother-of-pearl with four holes
8) dark gray bone or something
9) black plastic with sort of art-deco detailing
10) brown plastic with flower-shaped indents
11) dark gray mother-of-pearl shank
12) dark gray mother-of-pearl shank
13) black plastic with sort of art-deco detailing

Thoughts? Personally I am leaning toward #11, I think. It will blend in nicely and I like its style and size. Were I to go for personal meaning, I would pick #1. If I wanted something that would pop, I think I'd go for #9 or #10. On the off chance that you care as obsessively about this choice as I do, you can click on the picture for a close-up that shows the detail better.

I thought I was going to give this away as a present, but it's just sooo lovely...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was

Whoa. The first few days of the school year hit me like a steamroller this year! Between not being prepared either for the classes I was teaching or for my own reading, dealing with multiple technological issues in the office, assisting with a big medieval conference (at which I discovered that one of my personal medievalist heroes is also a knitter on Ravelry!), putting together loan documentation and board package materials for an apartment I'm buying, and triangulating multiple times a day between the lawyer and the broker, not to mention dealing with a mouse infestation in my current apartment, I am exhausted! And that's after only a two-day week of school!

It's a good thing that this also arrived this week: lovely, unbelievably soft cashmere yarn from Colourmart.

Now I know what everyone's gushing about! This yarn arrived quite quickly considering that it was sent from England. It came on a cone, oiled for spinning, and I skeined it and gave it a hot bath with dish detergent (twice with the detergent, followed each time by about five rinses). It still hasn't bloomed as much as it could, and it also smells really strongly now of Mrs. Meyers' Lemon Verbena dish soap. Even so it is heavenly to knit with -- sooooo soooooft, with a gorgeous fluffiness that is also somehow satiny, just like the most luxurious cashmere sweater you could imagine.

I'm using it to knit a spiral cowl. I am not usually a cowl kind of girl, preferring not even hand-knit scarves but big thin pashmina-type wraps, but when I saw all the cute pictures on Ravelry of this, I was convinced to try it. I certainly now appreciate the pleasures of knitting a cowl -- just round and round and round, no shaping, a nice size for subway lap knitting. I tried out a prototype with some leftover Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it knit up. It's been a while since I knit anything in a gauge larger than 7 stitches per inch, I guess. Off the neck, it's pretty, but rather unimpressive:

But on and buttoned, I think it's really quite nice, sort of floppily structural. Pardon both the double chin and the visible bra straps:

There are many nice things about this pattern. The picot hems give it a polished, feminine look and maximum stretchiness; the eyelet spiral keeps it interesting and looks much more complicated than it actually is; it uses only about 200 yards of yarn, so you can buy something luxurious; and it's a great way to showcase one awesome button. For this red one, I used a metal "pelican in her piety" button that was a present from the ex-boyfriend -- it's a long and nerdy medieval/choir inside joke.

Baby Cashmerino was not really the best yarn for this pattern, and I'd warn people against using any bouncy, multi-ply superwash yarn like it for their cowls: it's just too stretchy and heavy and floppy really to hold the great structure that makes this pattern so cool. You definitely want something luxuriously soft and with some drape, but not perhaps stretchy -- lots of these cowls on Ravelry are knit with Malabrigo merino silk dk or Manos Silk Blend, and those both seem like a perfect choice. I have high hopes for this cashmere. I've also picked out the perfect button from my collection of antique buttons -- I have so many singleton beauties I've been dying to use!

Now for a nice, slow afternoon of luxurious knitting therapy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Beatrice Day!

With only a few minutes left in 9/9/09, here's wishing you all a happy Beatrice Day. Bea is all about the number nine in the Vita Nuova. She's nine when he first meets her, 18 when he sees her again, and the day of her death is the ninth day of the ninth month -- today -- with a bunch of other nines thrown in for good measure.

Ah, Bea. Light of Dante's life, fire of his... fervor for God.