New Pattern: Chervena

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So, after that last post from ages ago, all my dreams came true and I got to knit with Verb’s lovely new yarn, Clover (shout out to Big Sky, as well!). I also got married, but more on that later.

Clover was everything I hope for/expect from a Verb yarn. Soft, but not a pushover. Warm, but not stuffy. And it’s fascinating to see how wool/silk gives off a very slight sheen, and brings out new facets to Kristine’s natural dyes. Since blocking my new hooded cowl, Chervena, I’ve been wearing it pretty much constantly. In the lovely Bandana color, the cowl has the added advantage of making me more visible to Bulgarian taxi drivers when I cross the street.

R1011579If you want to see more photos of Chervena, my latest design, check out the guest post I wrote for Verb’s blog.

Verb and I are also giving away (like, for free) 20 copies of Chervena, to whoever buys Clover fast enough. But if you’re thinking about grabbing two skeins of Clover, you really should, because it’s absolutely lovely to knit with and wear.

Into It: Crochet Cowls (Plus Some Digressions)

teaching crochet to some lovely students
teaching crochet to some lovely students

A couple weeks ago, my friend Deni approached me with an amazing opportunity.

Deni works for UNHCR Bulgaria, which is unprecedentedly busy since Bulgaria became the ersatz home for thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. Many Bulgarians have responded to this recent influx of refugees admirably and with characteristic hospitality. Even still, the poorest country in the EU has had a tough time mustering up the facilities, infrastructure, and care that all these newcomers so desperately need. Continue reading

Quickies

A couple quick projects that brought me a lot of joy.

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Top: Cocoknits Slouchy Hat, knit with Quince & Co Osprey, some cashmere I bought at Knit/Purl, and (swoon) Sue Reuser’s California Cormo, which I got at Verb.

Bottom: A modified version of Elk Tooth, designed by the inimitable Caitlin Ffrench, also made of Cormo. This is Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0 in Wisteria (it’s all gone, you can’t have any, sorry).

If you’re disappointed there’s not more Bulgaria in this Blog-area, stay tuned. In the meantime, Lorenzo published an illustrated guide to Bulgarian hospitality. Check it out!

Before Casting On

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This is where I bought my yarn for the Fringe Association Amanda Knit-Along.

Since I started knitting for real, around ten years ago, I’ve been a sporadic and unfocused member of the “knitting community,” vacillating between working in yarn stores, making as many friends as I can, and falling off the face of the Earth. In that time, I’ve also moved to Bulgaria twice, most recently seven months ago.

Bulgaria doesn’t have a knitting community any more than it has a bathroom-tiling community or a red-pepper-drying community. Knitting is simply a skill that people know (especially older female people). Nearly every woman I meet can knit, most can crochet. When I knit in public, I don’t get any amazed reactions of “OMG you’re so talented!” like in the States. Instead, I get comments of, “My mom does that,” or “My grandma does that,” or “I used to do that, before I got so busy.” Almost everyone has a few pairs of hand-knit slippers on hand for winter.

I’ve shared some memorable knitting sessions with friends here in Bulgaria, most of them older women. Still, the idea of a knitting circle, or getting together in a yarn shop or cafe to knit with people, is a bit too commercial and American to have made it here yet. Knitting is still done at home, between bigger, more urgent chores. A friend of mine lived with an older woman in the mountains who wouldn’t touch knitting needles for several months of the year, too busy with chickens, vegetables, and firewood. Towards the end January, at an extreme low point in the year’s chore load, she sat down with some wool and knit him an entire cabled sweater, completely improvised, in ten days.

I’ve learned a lot from Bulgarian knitters, both in the concrete and abstract sense. Bulgarians have sat me down and showed me patterns, passed down to them from their mothers. And I’ve learned about what knitting means to different cultures, and what it means to me.

After spending 18 months back in the USA, I’ve missed my vibrant, creative circle of friends there. I lucked out and got a job in an amazing fiber arts shop and dye studio, and had a built-in community of awesome creative minds. I loved the knitting group especially, and how one common interest brought people of different ages, vocations and backgrounds together. Joining some KAL’s, and starting this blog, is a way to stay connected and hopefully bridge these two different knitting cultures that I’m lucky to be part of.

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Which brought me to this little storefront, in Sofia’s wonderful but quickly disappearing women’s bazaar. On the same street as this wool shop is my boy’s barber and our favorite Turkish restaurant. Behind the heavy woven blankets and the kitschy folk placemats is a shelf stuffed with wool. I had two un-dyed colors to choose from; I chose the lighter one.

As the store clerk weighed the hanks and bagged them up for me, she advised me to wash them in a little vinegar or shampoo before knitting, to soften the yarn and take some of the grease and dirt out. I’ve gotten this advice before and always ignored it, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

This project, however, I’m determined not to hurry through. I hunted for the perfect pattern, and the only ones I found that I liked were vintage patterns that had to be bought in British pounds and shipped from the UK. My paycheck is in Bulgarian leva, so paying for anything in pounds is pretty much out of the question. Luckily, Brooklyn Tweed came to the rescue, and published the perfect pattern.

Instead of casting on immediately, I tied my skeins with little figure eights to keep them from tangling, and put them in the bathtub. I used tepid water with a little vinegar in it, and after a few hours, the water was a convincing murky brown. I left the yarn to soak overnight, spun the excess water out of it in the washing machine, and hung the big skeins on the clothesline.

Emi, the princess in black and white, preferred the yarn before washing.
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September has hit me with all its usual manic nesting urges. I’ve got quite a few WIP’s on the needles (for me, at least), and maybe even some designs floating around in my head. I tend to work on one project at a time. By the time I near the end, I’m sometimes so sick of it that I’ll stay up all night knitting rather than face another day of working on it. I feel much more organized and at peace when I keep my WIP’s to a minimum. Still, I’m going to take my time with this one, get it right, and take plenty of breaks to work on other stuff. Who knows, I might even make a swatch.

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