Falling Blocks hat pattern now up for sale!

My lovely wife Amanda modeling my hat

I’ve been working on my signature hat pattern for some time — the first draft went out to the guys at the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat last May. I had some test-knitters working on it last Fall, but with the wedding and all the other stuff surrounding that, I didn’t get to processing and finalizing the pattern until last weekend. I incorporated as many of my test-knitters’ ideas into the pattern as I possibly could — there was one other good one I may incorporate later but I will have to test it first. So, many thanks to the worldwide group of test knitters who helped me get this out, and now I hope people will try out the pattern for themselves.

One of the great strengths of this pattern is that I have developed a way of notating my technique that will allow anyone — even people who have never double-knit before — to succeed with this hat.

If you are a Ravelry member, check out the pattern page, otherwise

…and Thanks!

Circles are boring … Spirals are fun!

Spirals are fun!

I’ve done a bunch of posts today and given them fake dates as if I posted them when I should have. Shhh! don’t let anyone know. I’m not a good blogger but I do eventually get around to posting what I mean to. So now I’m up to date and I’ve got so much news, but I can’t really let you all know until I get some confirmation back. Suffice it to say I am working on a bunch of new designs and trying to clean up my work and make it easier to document. This tasty little number is one of my current projects. It’s based on the work I was/am doing in the rivers on the Victorian Raffia Scarf, but subtly modified to make it more interesting and brain-twisting. To be honest, I wasn’t sure exactly how the spirals were going to interact when I started this, and they don’t do exactly what I planned, but they’re growing on me. I have two necktie designs in the wings. This is a sketch for one of them (the other side is here); the other is actually knit on the bias.

This one is knit from the tip — cast on with one stitch, then double-increased up as the spiral builds. The final design will be a little different — there will be a selvedge rather than the mottled edge you see on this one (I have worked out a beautiful DK selvedge that I will be using in all my future pieces that have edges), the side edges will be flatter (you can see I worked out a glitch in the design if you look at the first set of half-diamonds along the edges, and then the second one), and of course it won’t be knit in Lamb’s Pride Worsted on #6 needles. No, it will be in some fingering- or lace-weight wool-silk blend, probably, and the spirals will have more density to them. The narrow strip of the necktie will be one spiral wide, and the wide end will be two spirals wide. I’ll work out the gauge once I decide on the yarn.

Oh, and before someone comes in here and accuses me of ripping off this entry’s tagline, it comes from an album by psytrance group Saiko-Pod. While the album may not be one of my favorites in the genre, I cannot help but agree with the sentiment …

FiberCamp! FiberCamp! FiberCamp! … (it’s only a model)

Something Fishy

FiberCamp Boston was this past weekend at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, and even though I was running the registration desk for much of the time, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Attendance was down from what we had hoped — only 64 registered attendees — but this was our first year and the collective experience was overwhelmingly positive. People who have never attended an unconference before were understandably wary of the format, but those who bit the bullet and attended anyway were pleasantly surprised. It came together perfectly, with dynamically updated workshops and presentations offered by the attendees themselves. Of course, I taught two sessions of my double-knitting workshop, somehow managing to get the majority of the material into everyone’s heads in the space of an hour and a quarter.

I taught the first one with a projector and document camera borrowed from work. I hope someone got a photo of that because it must look ridiculous.

I also learned a new cast-on, got to stump the resident expert on unusual knitting styles, and enjoyed delicious lunches at La Casa De Pedro right next door. My wife came the second day and ran a popular workshop called the “Alice Starmore Library” where she just brought in all her old rare un-reprinted Starmore books and let people leaf through them.

Also, we were asked to contribute a handmade fish to a project done by Adrienne Sloane and Jodi Colella where they hung a giant knitted net outside the venue and hung fish all over it. This finally gave me the chance I needed to do Linda Taylor’s felted fish. I don’t know felting well enough to try it on this, so I just knit it on needles two sizes too small and stuffed it without felting. As is characteristic of me, I changed a few things — I double-knit the tail (A+ for theory, C for execution), rolled the “brim” to make lips and sewed the end in to cinch them closed, and gave it duplicate-stitch eyes.

I’m hoping everyone who came this year will bring a friend next year!


The Secret Before ...

My father and I are staggeringly similar. My wife never quite understood it until she met him at my sister’s wedding. At the rehearsal dinner he and I had ordered the same thing, and could be observed pushing the same foods safely to the margins of the plate. We have a similar sort of dry sense of humor, although his is more seasoned by age and having grown up in an era that, frankly, had a more sophisticated bunch of comedians. We are both known to push the boundaries of our respective crafts (he makes Uilleann bagpipes), and we both have packrat tendencies. The similarities go on.

Without going too far into gory family history, my father and my mother divorced early in my own history, and he remarried later on. His new wife had a son in a previous marriage whom I had not met until last year around Christmas, when my wife (then fiancee) went to visit them. He had an intense personality, and on one evening he pulled out this movie he said we needed to watch. We hadn’t heard of it. It was called “The Secret”. I looked at the back and said, “This is a self-help movie, right?”

We couldn’t gracefully get out of watching it once it was on the table. My wife made a valiant effort and sat through most of it, but my father and I couldn’t take it. It was too ridiculous. We hung out in the kitchen and made snarky comments out of earshot.

It has long been my opinion, having worked in libraries and bookstores, that self-help books are 30% common sense and 70% bullshit. They prey on people’s lack of critical thinking and poor logic skills by putting in some things that almost everyone intuitively knows to be true, but rather than continuing in a logical direction, they spin off in far-fetched pseudo-scientific directions and new-age spiritualism. People who are taken in by these books will connect with the 30% and assume the other 70% is true.

So it was only fitting that this year I play a little (short-lived) joke on my father. I didn’t get underway until late in the season so I couldn’t get it to him for Christmas, but he appreciated it anyway. I bought a copy of the hardback version of The Secret from half.com — I think I paid more in shipping than for the book itself — and consulted with a friend of mine who is a professional bookbinder. She sent me some web tutorials for hollowing out books. I used a little from each and added my own little flairs to make the technique my own, but in the end I had a book that looked normal from the outside, but the inside was hollow.

Really, what better thing could you do with a book entitled “The Secret”?

... and After

But what to put in it? I took a walk to my¬†local gourmet grocery and perused the chocolate section. I finally decided to take a gamble on a box of Lake Champlain Chocolates — a taste of home for both of us — that looked like it would fit. Not only did it fit, but it fit perfectly in all three dimensions, and the book closed seamlessly.

I wrapped it with unassuming wrapping paper and on the outside of the paper I wrote “This book CHANGED MY LIFE. I hope you will absorb its wisdom and share its contents with those close to you.”


Thanksgiving Apple Pie
A new tradition? Grandson's Apple Pie.

Well, in an attempt to branch out in my definition of art and/or craft, I want to make sure I post some things other than knitting in here. Case in point, here’s a pie I baked for my family’s Thanksgiving. My grandmother has traditionally been the pie-baker in the family, and everyone has fond memories of her pies. But it’s been a while since she’s had a real functional kitchen for baking since she spends her winters at an assisted living facility, and I offered to make the pie for this year’s gathering out in Western Mass. I’m really happy with the way it came out; it reminds me of the pies my mother made, but with my own touches — like the fact that it’s made in a huge ceramic deep-dish pan.

This is only one of two I made — because after coming back from Thanksgiving proper, my wife’s family had Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. I made another pie then (all this with apples picked up for a song at one of the last farmers’ markets of the season) and was made to promise I would bake another one for Christmas. Twist my arm!

I made these with this neat flour called Ultragrain and made the latest with Earth Balance shortening, which impressed me so much that I threw out the remainder of my Crisco.

I’m finally published!

Four Winds Hat
Four Winds Hat

This morning, Twist Collective published its Winter 2009 issue, which I have a pattern in! My Four Winds hat — the one with the compass rose on it — is up for purchase by any aspiring or experienced double-knitters. Of course, the patterns can be used for non-double-knitting colorwork too.

Twist Collective approached me in mid-summer, after my friend Guido took my portfolio and some samples to TNNA, to write a pattern and an article for their Winter issue. I got the yarn and churned out two and a half hats in the space of a month, as well as a pattern, an article and three tutorial videos. Thanks to my sample knitter Suzanne for her help, and Suzanne, there will be a free pattern in this for you as soon as I figure out how to get my hands on it without having to pay myself.

I have a pattern ready for my Falling Blocks hat (go see my old antiblog around November of 07 for more info on that) and many test-knitters who have done a fantastic job with it. I need to finalize the pattern and get that one posted on Ravelry as well. To any of my test-knitters who are reading, thanks so much and I hope you can understand the delay. What with the Twist Collective pattern and the wedding, I just haven’t had time to review the input from that hat, but rest assured it is going to happen soon.

Thanks again to Guido for his advocacy, and to my lovely wife Amanda for putting up with my pattern-work while I should have been helping more with wedding stuff.

The Victorian Raffia Scarf is half done!

Victorian Raffia Scarf
Victorian Raffia Scarf

Many folks who follow the double-knitting group on Ravelry — or who attend knitting groups with me — will have seen me working on this scarf. I generally put a couple of rows in while commuting to work (not in traffic — I take the train!) and as such the scarf is taking its time. I’m sure it won’t be done this winter but it’s still fun to watch the Kauni change colors as I go. This is largely an exercise — the pattern is not my own, it’s modified from a pattern by a fellow named Kieran Foley — in decorative increasing and decreasing in double-knitting. Believe it or not, counting both knit and purl-side decreases, there are 12 different types of increase and decrease to keep track of — and in some rows, 10 of those are used in the space of 57 stitches.

But as I said, it’s just an exercise, to become proficient in all of these decorative elements so that my next design (a hat, I’m sure — surprise, surprise) will be able to incorporate some of these techniques.

I call it the Victorian Raffia Scarf because the flower element makes me think of Victorian patterns, whereas my knots and crosses modification of Kieran Foley’s pattern makes me think of African raffia cloth patterns. I’m probably off, culturally speaking, on both counts, but I like the name and I’m sticking with it. Check out another view.

And before you ask, yes, I plan on blocking it when it’s done. It definitely needs it.

The wedding is over, I have no more excuses …

Sunflower ring pillow
Sunflower ring pillow

Did you hear I got married? Amanda and I were married a month ago today. Tonight, I’m taking her to the North End for dinner, but before I dress up and head out, I’m posting one knitting-related wedding item. Our wedding was as DIY as we could get away with, and everyone we’ve talked to had a great time. We stressed out like any other couple in the months leading up to it, and like any other couple we were glad when it was over. We’re still waiting on most of the photos, but some friends and family have gotten some to us. This is a ring pillow I designed, based on the sunflower center from Lesley Stanfield’s book. I didn’t like the petals, so I did my own, as well as the back, and stuffed it to make it more pillow-ish. See this photo at higher res here and some ringless detail here and here

Fallingblox: the reincarnation

I’ve decided to use the publishing of my “Four Winds” pattern in Twist Collective as an opportunity to re-start my blog from scratch. All my old content is still on http://fallingblog.double-knitting.com/antiblog but I will be adding new content only here. Thanks for visiting. You can also find me as fallingblox on Twitter, although I’m not actively using it yet.