mamanSeeing Louise Bourgeois’ mother-spider on the banks of the Thames put me in a right webby mood.

I used to be terrified of spiders. Most people have a mild phobia but mine was paralyzing, sometimes literally. I would have nightmares about them and wake up screaming.

And then one day I was sleeping in an old apartment in Vienna and I was bitten. The bite was a spreading necrosis– truly awful. I got medical care in Austria which saved my leg and perhaps my life. It was only when I got back to America and had the wound cared for again that I was told it was most likely a brown recluse that had hidden in the suitcase of a past traveler.

Strangely, after that I no longer had the nightmares about spiders. I could not only be in the same room with them, but I also became fascinated with them. They were not so alien after all, but a part of me.

knitted spiderBarbara Walker has written many books on women’s myths and mysteries and fairy tales. I had no idea she had also written books on knitting. Most seem out of print or unavailable in the UK. Someone on ravelry tipped me off to this charted spider of twisted stitches from Charted Knitting Designs: A 3rd Treasury. I looked in vain for an affordable copy of the book from a UK seller and then I started asking around.

From the Walker book:

Here’s Arachne herself, the great-grandmother of all the world’s spinners and weavers, and still one of the best among them. Who of us can match her skill?

What’s that? You don’t think she is very pretty? Well, never mind. The pattern techniques to make her in yarn (as well as all her busy, real-life children in your garden) have much to teach you.

I plan to knit her as part of my Samhain meditations.

Guess who had the book and shared this pattern with me? My mother.


My Vortex Street Pullover, from Nora Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, is completed. I recently returned from a trip to the (freezing cold) Orkneys and this sweater kept me warm and dry. Though it’s a bit longer than I would like, it still works. My aran cables aren’t as bold as the ones in the book, but I’m still happy with it. Excuse the rumpled look of the sweater– I was hiking in it.

I used Peruvian Highland Wool from– and I changed my needles from a 7 to a 6 because I was starting to knit rather loosely. I changed the armholes so that they are shallower than called for in the pattern. I also omitted the roll neck.

This is the Vortex Street Pullover from Nora Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, being blocked.

Now, I’ll have you know, I’m not a blocking kind of girl. I confess I rarely block anything I knit. All those pictures in “How to Knit” books with a perfectly knitted piece pinned to an ironing board covered in graph paper? Well, just the idea of that gives me the creeps. And I don’t own an ironing board. I might have an iron, somewhere–

I realized while knitting this sweater I would have to block it. Despite all the mindless knitting or maybe because of this, there was something very seat-of-the-pants about this pattern. My gauge was all over the place and because of the design, things had to line up. I tried changing needles sizes, tried adjusting my tension but it was all pointless. My gauge still varied bizarrely. I knew blocking would be the answer.

When I have blocked things, I usually spray them with water, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough for this. The stockinette was curling, big time. I wet the whole thing in the tub and watched it stretch out to my dismay.

Once I got it on the towel it was wet, long, disastrous. I got out my tape measure and for the first time in my life “blocked pieces to measurements” as the pattern suggested. (Hey, I rarely use patterns because I’m crap at following them.) I was amazed that I was able to actually mold a 23″ sleeve back into a 19″ rectangle, and I was able to match up the size panels with the central aran panel, which was my major concern.

I don’t think I’ll be pinning any knitting to graph paper anytime soon but I’m beginning to see this whole “blocking” thing as less of an anal-retentive mythology and more as a tool. Now if I can only get used to the smell of wet wool.

vortex street pullover panel, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

This is the middle panel. It is extremely long. It’s going to be more like a dress than a sweater. My gauge got really lose as I knit it. I had to go down two needle sizes and it was still really long.

I confess. Baubles freak me out. I love aran knitting, but I don’t do much of it because of the damn baubles.

This particular example on the right is from Alice Starmore’s Knitting from the British Isles. I’m fascinated by Starmore’s olympic patterns but they all seem to be a lot of work for something that is often unwearable. This is just one example. I mean, here we’re talking intarsia baubles. On trousers. *shudder* I suppose if you are attempting a burryman look for your child, this is a suitable approach.

Right now I’m knitting the Vortex Street Pullover from Knitting Nature. The art-nouveau like aran curls terminate in baubles. Six baubles. I keep telling myself I can handle half-dozen baubles.

But knitting them– distending the stitch, back and forth– back and forth– (which way is the stitch supposed to go when you pass it back? Never mind, just get the thing over with.) Once done, it hangs temporarily from the work like a massive skin tag, a carbuncle, a tumor.

And on the way back in the next row, it falls to the back and you have to push it through the work, like a pimple that needs lancing.

Once it’s tightened up on the next right side row I find myself pulling and twisting and fussing with it neurotically– can I make it look less lesion-like?

I’ve knitted two– I have four more to go. Wish me luck.

And here are a few more things I’ll not be knitting anytime soon:

bfn4.jpgbu3.jpg Sorry to pick on Teva Durham, but her designs are unwearable. I’m all for the daring and strange, but can you imagine anyone wearing these designs? On her website she recommends wearing them with pleather pants.

Finally, she makes something for me., originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Moet really hates the clothes she came in. (Lounging Lovely stock). She has stared at me for years now, pleading with me to outfit her.

After finding WoollyRocker’s patterns online, I decided to have a go at a tiny aran shell for her. Its a modified version of the Classic Kozy Roller.  So I’m doing a sleeveless version because it’s summer after all. I’m using size one needles (should probably have zeros) and lightweight vintage Reynolds wool which my mother mailed to me. I think it must be from the 1950’s.

When I was a girl, I made miniatures for my dollhouse. I used to glue beads on halved toothpicks and knit with them. This feels really similar, using the size one needles and tiny stitches.

I’m loving the absurdity of it– and all kinds of ideas for seamless Blythe jumpers and dresses are coming to me. Next, I’ll try a dress or a big 80’s oversized jumper for her. She likes that last idea.

So Liza dubbed her bolero the “Shrug of Destiny”– and sticking with the hyperbolic shrug-fest– here is my Infinity. Named because the recycled cashmere seemed to come from an infinite cone (I knit an aran sweater for M from it, and there was still enough to make the shrug). Too bad the wool from Texere is now discontinued, as it’s lovely.

I was messing around with Lavold’s motifs in her Viking Knits, eventually becoming obsessed with the figure 8.

I also enjoyed knitting these vulvic eyes on the sleeves.

I constructed this using the basic top-down raglan formula, omitting the neck increases. After I reached the end of the armholes, I knit the sleeves, I picked up around the sides and back neck, increasing in rib every inch at the same points where I had increased for the shoulders. After I got Stephanie Japel’s Fitted Knits I realized that it was quite similar to her shrug pattern. If something in the stash matches that, I will be knitting it next.