After Labor Day, we get into the wind-down of gardening, and back into major knitting season again. Too many knitting projects—some half-done, some just sketches--that were on the boards were put aside in a busy summer.
On socks: the best introduction to knitting in the round
While I’ve been working on gardening and canning all summer, I’ve been thinking about the current mania for socks, which I’m glad to see back in the knitting repertoire after many years, but on which it seems to me that many people have gone overboard.
Still, learning to knit socks has given many knitters a fine introduction to knitting in the round, which has been a little out of fashion for a long time, but is the classic old way of knitting, the way that works best for all kinds of jacquard work that is so difficult with flat knitting. I think this may give many of us the confidence to move on from socks to other garments—hats, mittens and gloves, and especially sweaters. With modern double-point and circular needles, knitting in the round is much easier than it was in the days of tiny yarns and long, slender double-points—as many as eight for a sweater! Socks were also, traditionally, the medium in which knitters sampled new patterns for other garments—quick to work, useful, and, if successful, a great way to sample a new pattern.
But for those just beginning to move into sweaters, the emphasis has to be not just on the technique, but on choosing a becoming pattern, measuring ourselves accurately, altering a basic pattern for our own custom fit. Accordingly, I’ve put together a Tips & Tricks of some of the best fitting information from the internet, mostly from Jenna Wilson’s series on the subject from knitty.com I’d suggest that, if you’re moving into sweaters, or if you haven’t been able to get a perfect fit working straight from patterns, you spend some time with this.
It may also be time to look at Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’s and Deborah Ransom’s inspiring Knitting in the Old Way, and Mary Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Knitting Ganseys, which together constitute a full course in the techniques of knitting sweaters in the round.
What I did with the summer…
July crawled by with a long series of 90+ degree days, hot and dry until the end of the month, but in August, a series of good thunderstorms rolled in over the Rockies to signal what is called here “monsoon season.” One wiped out the hollyhocks, which went from beautiful to bedraggled overnight and had to be cut down, but the extra rain brought in fine crops of raspberries (which are planted in a watering trough, to keep the runners out of what I refer to as “the lawn,” which is not exactly a showpiece to start with).
By then, it was getting to be canning season, some of it from my own garden, some from the Saturday morning Green Market, which is full of beautiful local produce, especially the Western Slope peaches and plums from around Grand Junction.
I’d just finished putting up 10 pints of my own tomato ketchup—a product so unlike the commercial one that they bear no resemblance to one another—and cleaning up my tiny kitchen from what looked like a battle scene, when my friend Terry called and asked if I’d help him pick his plum tree on a Saturday afternoon. Sure, I said, and put my heavy picking ladder and extension claw and a couple of peck baskets in the truck. Not enough!
Pick? We stripped the lower branches first, then we each mounted a ladder, and picked by hand until our aging backs were aching and our aging legs were wobbling. More than a bushel of small, slightly unripe plums went in the truck.
Saturday evening, confronted with all this bounty, I began cooking in relays, in deep kettles on top of the stove, at very low temperature, ladling it out, pushing the pulp through a sieve, adding honey, sugar, allspice, a bit of clove, and cinnamon sticks before slowly reducing what was going to become plum butter in two big pots in the oven. This went on through Sunday through Wednesday, for a net of almost four gallons of the stuff, in pints and half pints. As early as Monday, looking ahead to running out of room in the basement pantry, I was desperately traveling the neighborhood with freshly labeled jars, redolent of fruit and spices, and giving them away.
And that doesn’t even contemplate the second of his plum trees, or my apple crop, the first in three years, for which I invited friends and neighbors, rented a cider mill and press, and had a couple of days of strenuous cidering, with lots of help from Terry, returning the favor. We wore our most disposable clothes, drank almost as much as we bottled, and sent all the guests home with bottles and jugs of wonderful cider. All told, even though the top of the tree is too high to pick, we ended up with about 15 gallons.
On top of that, I’ve washed, dried, and am carding Terry’s stash of collie wool—lovely and very soft stuff that filled the entire bathtub, and took two rinsings, before I picked it over, fluffed it all up by picking it to align the fibers, dried it, and began carding. I’m not sure what to do with it if I get it done, and I’m a novice and unskilled spinner, but it is fascinating.
But for now, back to the needles, and on to knitting for cold weather!