Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo and Iceland, Part 0

Leif Ericsson and Hallgrimmskirkja

So I semi-recently got back from a vacation in Iceland! There seem to be a lot of knitting retreats and such going there next year, but I booked my tickets before I heard of them. (Excuse me while I adjust my hipster glasses. There, that’s better.) I’ve always kind of wanted to go–not for any particularly deep reason, I admit.

Ritsuka’s thought process:

  • Public baths!
  • Cheap flights!

Once I decided to actually go, some itinerary points solidified immediately in my mind.

  • Eat horse again!
  • Eat whale (for the first time!)
  • Eat puffin (also for the first time!)

What can I say, I’m a travel eater.

But in part because there seems to be an uptick in interest in traveling in Iceland and in part because I bullied some friends (Little Red Bicycle, YarnExploder, and Mes Tricots) into doing NaBloPoMo1 with me, I’m going to be writing up a small guide to vacationing in Iceland. Some caveats:

  • This is not a comprehensive or even a professional guide. I’m just reminiscing about cool things I did in Reykjavik.
  • You could probably pack a lot more stuff in to your trip to Iceland than I did, but I like to eat good food, see cool things, buy yarn, and relax on my vacations.
  • I stayed mostly in the metro Reykjavik area. Iceland is full of natural beauty, but renting cars is expensive and I am not an outdoorsy kind of vacationgoer. We did have a car for two days to do the Golden Circle, drive outside the city and see the Northern Lights, and to visit a cashmere goat farm (THE. BEST. Go visit Iceland!)

If that sounds good to you, please stay tuned!

For now, enjoy this photo of a knitter laughing alone with Icelandic sweaters.

Knitter laughing alone with Icelandic Sweaters

1: National Blog Post Month, aka 30 days of blogposts. Anyone else doing this with us?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | October 31, 2011

Delightful Thing: How Ink Is Made

Take an eight-minute break from your day and check out this dreamy mini-documentary on how printing ink is made, by PrintingInkCompany on Youtube.

I love the patient, sweet, meditative quality that this video has—they really capture the joy that comes from making beautiful things. This hands-on, hard-working, involved caring reminds me of the way I feel about knitting and spinning.

(via mwrites)

Posted by: ritsukurimono | October 29, 2011

Knitty Deep Fall 2011



Damn, Knitty Deep Fall 2011, starting out with a bang! Takoma isn’t in my usual vein at all—no waist shaping, totally rectangular, positive ease, bulky gauge—but I love it. I’ve never even been that into Cowichan sweaters; I always think of the ones with, like, bison on the front and while they are exceedingly handsome and an important cultural tradition of the Coast Salish First Nations peoples, it’s just really…not me. But Takoma is making me go back and reevaluate that entire look.

It’s the colors that do it, you see. Shapewise, Takoma is nothing new under the sun. It’s the colors in conjunction with the choice of colorwork motif (and some smart styling) that take this sweater from “eh” to “wow.”

Takoma color palette

I think I’m pretty good at color pairing, but this colorway isn’t one I would have ever picked–and yet it’s amazing. Colorful without being gaudy, earthy but opulent, rustic but not too old-fashioned. Gorgeous for fall and winter. The motifs are bold the way that Cowichan motifs should be bold, but they’re mitigated by some smart color choice and blocking—the olive green and tan are both receding colors, so the visual weight of their busyness is pretty much equal to plain wine-colored stripes.

The styling is pretty genius, too. There’s a reason this design was picked to be the front page of the issue; everything about this photo works together to construct this slightly romanticized image of a no-nonsense (oversized worsted sweater, flat boots, tumble-down hair, sensible skirt), competent (purposeful posture, gorgeous handknit sweater) woman. She’s figuratively tied to the earth with the blade of straw that she’s holding (and how exquisitely does that pale gold cut through the rich, heavy colors of the sweater?) but she’s literally Going Places on that winding path, and god help anybody who gets in her way. Well done everybody who had a hand in that photoshoot.


Of course, there’s a downside to everything. It’s a beautiful unshaped sweater, but it is a totally unshaped sweater, and it can make you look barnlike if you’re not careful. I don’t like that much positive ease even in my actual coats.

But since this is knit flat and seamed anyway, it shouldn’t be any harder to add some shaping while you’re knitting it if you want to. How stunning would it be to knit Takoma in a shape more like this Curling Jacket by Eddie Bauer? It’ll probably cost you less than $130 in yarn, too.

Eddie Bauer Curling Jacket, $130

When Samson Met Lila

When Samson Met Lila

When Samson Met Lila is my hands-down favorite design of this issue. I’m totally biased, though, because I can hardly imagine a design that would be more squarely up my alley. Slim-fitting, sophisticated color choice, puffed sleeves, a little retro, and both cowl- and scoopneck at once? Those are all design elements that suit my style sensibilities and the particular strengths and weaknesses of my figure (oh, small bust, I love you, but you make things difficult sometimes.)

When Samson Met Lila

I have to give props to the sample knitter, because that sweater fits the model like a glove.

Lila's back

The designer also made a host of good decisions, but I want to particularly highlight the way the stockinette lets the natural luster and halo of Wensleydale really shine (see what I did there?) I love it when yarn choice informs design and vice versa like this to create a harmonious final product.

On a nerdy and fannish note, I think Samson+Lila would make excellent House sweaters. Think about it—House colors, maybe a double stripe instead of single at the hems and cuffs, an iron-on Hogwarts crest? Pretty much the very definition of geek chic. It would also be cute if you made the base sweater without the contrast collar and cuffs and wore it over a half-sleeve button-down shirt.


The model’s tiptilty nose is really cute!

The Candles

The Candles

Okay, let’s address the giant elephant in the room: the designer can talk about Moby Dick and St. Elmo’s Fire all she likes. That’s where she drew her inspiration from? A+! I love a good literary reference. But no one else in the entire world will recognize it, because those aren’t candles. Those are arrows pointing up your ass.

They just are. And there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. There’s something pleasantly Mod and graphic about this coat, and it’s definitely a striking garment. However, the Candles suffers from some other design issues that I don’t think it fully overcomes, though.

The Candles

First of all, the waist shaping is accomplished via stranded knitting.

The waist shaping of this cardigan is accomplished through stranded knitting. The naturally tighter fabric created by stranded knitting pulls in the fabric at the waist, creating a smaller circumference without changing the number of stitches.

For women whose figures run more towards the Joan Holloway than the Alex Wek, that’s just not going to work. Your colorwork gauge is simply not tight enough to decrease away the amount of fabric you need to get rid of.

The Candles

Secondly, it’s hard to hit a gauge that’s tight enough to achieve the necessary shaping but not so tight as to make an uneven fabric. You can see in the photos that the sample sweater is a little lumpy in the waist (compare it to the photos of the Takoma sample, if you like.) Maybe that’s what the designer is going for? I’m not sure. It’s up to you, the knitter, to decide whether you like it or not.

The Candles

Thirdly, even if you have the figure for this coat and if you’re technically able to execute it well, the colorwork is totally in the wrong place for waist shaping. It’s definitely hitting the model’s hips and not her natural waist, which is around 4-6 inches to the north, there.

The Candles

The other awkward design element is the double-breasted front. I know it’s supposed to keep the nautical theme and hearken back to sailors’ peacoats, but like, come on. This is at best a one-and-a-fifth breast. It’s practically the smallest double breast I’ve ever seen. I can kind of understand, because proper double breasting tends to not work well on knit garments and often goes hand in hand with grotesquely pulling button bands, one of my pet peeves. (Come on, you know exactly what I mean.) But in that case, just make it single-breasted. It’s fine! I get the feeling that this is a situation where the story that the designer wanted to tell overwhelmed the actual design. Seriously, if the concept is getting too off base, just let the concept go and make an attractive, functional garment first.

The Candles

I actually think that this coat would be much cuter with just a single column of larger buttons running down the front.

Tenney Park

Tenney Park

I think lots of people will compare this to the Apothecary Raglan from the WS 07/08 Knitscene, and they certainly riff off of the same general idea.

Apothecary Raglan

But when Apothecary came out, I thought of it as one of those patterns where there’s an idea there, a kernel of something innovative and good, but there were also a bunch of missteps that took the design a little off course. I think Tenney Park fixes a lot of the issues that Apothecary had to emerge as a more successful design overall.

Tenney Park

The most important of those fixes is, of course that Tenney Park uses a solid for the main color. Not only do Apothecary’s stripes clash with the entrelac panel, they clash with each other. It looks really odd when the left chest has skinny stripes and the right has wide bands of color. But Tenney Park neatly sidesteps the issue by using that rich plum, which is a great choice to set off the warm 70s colors of the entrelac panel (Mini Mochi looks really great in this application, by the way. I like its smooth transitions and rich, homogenous colors more than I do Noro’s, which tends in my experience to be kind of speckly and have that one bizarro color per ball. But I digress.) The other two awkward things about Apothecary are both related to proportion. The way that the entrelac inset stops suddenly midchest makes it look biblike, and the long sleeves, turtleneck, and heavy quilted-looking front conspire to give a very claustrophobic, swaddled feeling. Tenney Park’s scoopneck and 3/4 sleeves expose just enough skin to avoid that stifled look, and the full column of entrelac makes a strong vertical visual statement that’s flattering on many different body types.

Tenney Park

This photo shoot is another great example of how to use styling to help tell a story? The body-skimming shape of the sweater is deliciously retro-40s sweater girl, but the color choice, jewellery, and beret take forward thirty years like a 70s girl thrift shopping for sweaters from the 40s. But the pairing of the sweater with jeans and a layering tee feels pretty modern, making it a woman in 2011 knitting a sweater that looks like a 70s girl found it in her mother’s closet from the 40s. Needless to say, I LOVE IT.

Tenney Park

This is another sample knit that fits perfectly.

Friendly Grey

Friendly Grey

I honestly just do not understand this sweater. Where would you wear it? Why is there a…shoelace? Ribbon? Threaded through the one side? Why does knitting with a yarn that’s been “drenched with lavender oil” (but is unscented) “make all the difference”?

Frankly speaking, you could find this weirdly textured, bulky, oversized, drop-sleeved, high-necked sweater in any free knit-your-first-sweater pattern booklet from 1985. It’s just not very attractive or current.



First of all: alpaca blown into a mesh tube of silk? Oh my god, don’t mind if I do. I’m curious as to how well the yarn wears, and whether the alpaca settles over time or not. So cool!

But as for the actual design of the sweater…I don’t think it’s very strong. Cropped length, dolman sleeves, oversized fit, and bracelet length sleeves? The sleeves and the hem sit at the same place on your body, so this sweater is just an enormous bag of fabric that sits on your body until it abruptly cuts you in half all the way across. It looks weird.

When it comes to sack dresses and oversized sweaters, I feel like you just have to go for it. None of this “if you’re between sizes, size up” stuff. Size up. Two or three or four sizes. You want to come down on the right side of the fine line between ‘look how tiny I look in this ENORMOUS SACK!’ and ‘look how I kind of…fill out this ENORMOUS SACK!’


On a personal level, I wouldn’t want a snuggly oversized sweater to have bracelet sleeves. I want the cuffs long enough to pull over my wrists as I cuddle my mug of hot chocolate, dammit. Takoma up there does this more to my satisfaction.



How lovely! I have a weakness for classic, wearable cardigans with nice detailing. Will this retro-inspired little cutie set the fashion world on fire? Well, no. Is it kind of the same as Emelie, Amelia, Miette, or Velynda? Yeah, pretty much. But it has great finishing and an interesting construction (the button band is knit first, then you turn a mitered corner and pick up your body stitches from along its length), it’s office-appropriate, and it’ll make you look good. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. I understand if you find it boring, though.


Personally, I’m actually not a fan of bell sleeves, even ones as small as these, so I would probably just keep the sleeves going straight in pattern at the cuffs.


Those red floral buttons are perfect for the milky aqua of the sweater. And check out how precise that mitered bottom corner is. Delicious.


Dear Reader, I beg you to imagine my face as I read the little piece of doggerel in the designer’s note of this pattern. I think my personality comes across in this blog well enough for you to get some inkling of how much I hate incompetency. NO GODAWFUL, SELF-INDULGENT POETRY IN YOUR NOTES, IF YOU PLEASE, DESIGNERS. Not even when you admit to its awfulness in your other designer’s note. You have been put on notice.


It’s somewhat surprising, therefore, that the pattern itself is actually a really handsome and classically wearable henley, styled beautifully by the designer. I know a ton of guys who would wear that sweater–maybe in a different color, but the essential design is absolutely solid. Interesting enough for you to knit, basic enough for him to wear, stylish enough to make both of you feel good about it. What more can you ask of a men’s sweater pattern? If you’re a speedy and dedicated knitter, you could even produce one in time for the holidays.


Dress it up with khakis and a tie (that TIE. GUH.)


Ditch the tie, pop the first couple of buttons, and dress it down with some torn jeans. Perfect.

Yeah, it’s like $200 for the smallest size in the recommended yarn, but shit, we all know how to substitute yarns, don’t we? As long as they’re not recommending that I knit a ten-foot long scarf in superbulky single-ply pure cashmere for $400, I won’t rag on designers too much for sample knitting in expensive yarns.



This hits the geeky sweet spot for me. Unlike The Candles, it’s referential enough that people may get the joke on their own without having to be told. Unlike Morse Code from Knitty First Fall 2011, it has a basic aesthetic value beyond just its geekiness.


If you find that short-row heels are consistently too shallow for your foot, this pattern also throws an extra couple of rounds in there to accomodate you, which is cool. I like how the computer chip colorwork updates traditional Nordic patterns in an abstract and asymmetric way.



Has anyone been keeping track of my pet peeves? I have a lot, okay, I’m sorry.

Unfortunately, Dayflower Lace is one of my biggest. Is it because it’s leaf lace? Is it the size of the leaves relative to the size of the motif repeat? Is it the fact that it’s in the Walker Treasuries, and thus, everywhere? Is it something else? Who knows? Dayflower’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.

So sorry, Glomerata, it’s not you, it’s me. I also dislike the wavy top cuff; I think it looks a little callow.

Paper Moon

Paper Moon

Well, they’re nice socks. I don’t know if there’s really that much else I can say about them; they’re classic, I like the use of garter stitch in the round, and they look good. They would make nice gifts.



I think this pattern is pretty neat, without necessarily finding it to be a pattern that I want to knit. Honestly, I don’t find the finished object to be all that attractive; it’s bulky in the way that suggests stiffness instead of snuggliness. But the stitch itself is interesting! I think the combination of wrapped stitches and slipped stitches would make a great scrubby or dishcloth—that’s not a slam, honestly. I just moved into an apartment without a dishwasher. I understand the necessity of scrubbies.


If you do wind up making a cowl, I agree with the pattern’s wearing recommendations–rolling it into a shawl collar shows off the reverse side in an interesting way.



Someday, there may be a pattern that makes me appreciate geometric eyelet lace; this is not that pattern. I just always think it looks lazy.

Apis Dorsata

Apis Dorsata

So I guess bees are in right now, huh? My pet peeve with this design is that the lattice just isn’t hexagonal enough for me. REGULAR HEXAGONS ON MY BEE-THEMED DESIGNS OR BUST. Otherwise, it’s fine, kind of nu-Jane Eyreish.

Apis Dorsata

I think it’s actually weakest in unfurled shawl form because it’s too literal; I prefer it kind of scrunched up as a scarf because then the honeycombs form a neutral textural element rather than being like BEES BEES BEES I LOVE HONEY MY NAME IS POOH BEAR.



Full disclosure: I love Diana Wynne Jones. Fire and Hemlock is my favorite book. Other people can fight over Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester all they like; Tom Lynn is hands-down the sexiest literary character for me. I’ve read Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin more times than I can count; I find the latter particularly endearing because it captures the thrill of learning perhaps better than any other book I’ve read.

So I’m certainly predisposed to like this pattern. It’s a little bit kitschy, maybe, but like Microprocessor, it hits the geeky sweet spot for me. The white chevrons and scalloped edge suggest barred wings without being literal or embarrassing about it, the way Lilah from Knitty Spring/Summer 2011 was maaaaaaybe kind of literal and embarrassing. Even if you don’t know the background and symbolism associated with the shawl, chevrons are always a really clean and graphic detail.


Wisely, the designer kept it quiet in the rest of the design with only some incidental texture to compete with the showy colorwork wingtips. Nicely done.


And of course, five stars for an impeccable blocking job! It’s so nice to see, and I really just don’t understand why people don’t bother to block their sample knits nicely.

However, I have to ding the styling of the photoshoot, which is just…let’s be frank, bad.

So…many outfits? It doesn’t look like the designer’s trying to show off how versatile Callette is the way Auguste‘s designer did; it just looks like the model is wearing multiple not-particularly-well-chosen outfits with Callette. That cool purple hat looks particularly out of place against the warm browns and rich autumnal reds of the backdrop there. These are small choices compared to actually designing a garment, but like blocking, they matter.

Oh, one last suggestion for a geek-chic colorway:


Awwww yeah, Totoro scarf!



There’s something off about this pattern, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The two-color chevrons and stripes are already so eye-dazzling that I think it’s overkill to combine them with eyelets in the same pattern. When you think about it, eyelet patterns add complexity in terms of texture, transparency, and color (whatever you’re wearing underneath). It’s just overwhelming.

You’re not a WWI era battleship, you don’t need dazzle camouflage.





That is a very pretty girl getting eaten alive by a sea anemone.

After the Rain

After the Rain

These mittens self-select really well in that you know already whether you’re dying to knit them or not. There is nothing in the world I could say to change your mind about them.

That said, yay Pride mittens!



These mittens, on the other hand, are unattractive. Pun unintended.



Pretty cute. I’m hearing a general consensus of “great for steampunk!” and I have to agree. Feather and fan can look pretty overplayed, but using it vertically here makes it look more elegant/less overdone and the buttons give so many possibilities for ornamentation. And really, aren’t we all sick of steampunky cuffs that look like Marylebone Gardens Cuffs and Mrs. Beeton and Tudor Rose?

Maybe that’s just me. (Bell cuffs, people. I’m not a fan.)


One last thing: for the love of God, I don’t care how cute your matching buttons are, don’t waste them on making these in strongly variegated, complementary-color yarn. NO LACE IN HEAVILY VARIEGATED YARN. STOP IT.



Lord, this is a very…tam-y tam. I tend to really not go for this shape of hat, since it makes my head look like a drunken barstool, but obviously your mileage may vary on that.


It’s really a gorgeous piece of colorwork, though. As expected from Jamieson, the Spindrift colors are rich and complex and lovely. It wouldn’t be hard to mod it into a slouchier shape to knit it for myself…decisions, decisions.

Weeping Willow


There’s certainly nothing particularly wrong with this hat, but I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps too busy, or too abstract? I feel like if you’re looking for an art deco hat in this general shape, Undergrowth from Knitty Winter 2011 is a more attractive option.


I do appreciate the neat way the decreases slope in at the crown, though. Thoughtful detailing will get points with me every time.



Oh, Bizarro Knitty. There’s always something, isn’t there? But this kiwi is more broadly appealing than the Hana Hou the ukulele case from Knitty First Fall 2011 and way less creepy than Chow the mouth model from Knitty Deep Fall 2010 .

Countdown until someone makes a knitted/papercrafted remake of that iconic kiwi animated short (warning: sad!).

The Surprises:

Oh dear. This issue’s surprises were…not good. It’s disappointing, since the rest of the Deep Fall 2011 was so strong! These two patterns seem like an afterthought.


There’s just nothing to this sock design. Allover lace design from every stitch dictionary ever + toe from here + heel from there? There’s nothing distinctive about it; I’m looking at the photo and can barely remember what it looks like.

Shapely Boyfriend

This pattern is also maddeningly generic. It looks like you bought it at Old Navy. I know I praised Vignette up there, and that’s not exactly at the forefront of knitting technology either, but Shapely Boyfriend is like a slice of Wonderbread. Sure, you can bake your own doughy lowest-common-denominator sandwich bread, but…why would you?

If I were looking to knit a basic cardigan for myself, I would make Delancey Cardigan or Mrs Darcy instead. If I wanted to make a boyfriend-type cardigan (which I think should be oversized, by the way) I’d go for Frankie.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | August 24, 2011

Are you fucking kidding me?

This just happened to me when I was trying to upload something to Tinypic:

What the fucking fuck?


Posted by: ritsukurimono | August 11, 2011

A Pinner’s Manifesto

Pinterest, we need to talk.

Look, it’s not you. You’re fantastic. You’re intuitive, and you’re elegant, and you’re full of beautiful things. It’s just that sometimes when I scroll down the Discussions page, I come across truly appalling bullshit.

Sometimes it’s slut-shaming bullshit.

Let me fix that for you.

There we go.

Sometimes it’s pro-ana bullshit.

Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it’s just asinine bullshit.

Life is too short to hate ourselves. Pin feminist things.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | February 24, 2011

WIP Shaming Wednesday!

I’ve decided that I have way too many projects lingering in an unfinished state. I need those needles (to start other projects on! 悪循環なんだかも…(笑)) So here we go on a safari through my WIP pile, in an attempt to shame me into finishing some of them in the near future.

Maevas in Lana Grossa Meilenweit Tweed.

Like I said in my review of Knitty Deep Winter 2011, this pattern makes delightful “just-the-good-parts” anklets. They look involved, but once you set up the instep, the stitch pattern is extremely logical and made these perfect commute knitting. It’s been so long since I made socks one at a time that these seemed to go really fast. They’re actually already off the needles, with the ends woven in and everything; they’re just waiting to be tossed into a bucket of water to relax and soften up a bit. I knit these on size 0s, and they’re…literally dense enough to stand up by themselves.

Kind of hilarious, really.

I wanted really hard-wearing socks out of this tweedy, rustic yarn, and I think they will be just perfect after blocking.

(Note for people contemplating knitting the pattern: Even knitting on 0s, my row gauge was a lot taller than that indicated in the pattern. No worries; I knit chart 2a as written and cut off chart 3a at row 24. They fit great.)

Both anklets together took just a skosh over a single ball of Meilenweit Tweed. I still have almost a full ball left over. Colorwork anklets, maybe?

Boscage Cowl in reclaimed forest green cashmere.

This…was a labor of love, I can’t lie. Should I not say that, since it’s my own pattern? I wrote it for bulky yarn and size 10.5 needles, though, and this is a version using fingering weight yarn on size 3s. To top it all off, I’m not even keeping this project. It’s a gift.

But my dad asked me to knit him a scarf. What could I do? I cast on 486 stitches and started knitting.

I will cut you. No really, I will.

The extra 6 stitches are because this will be my first steeked project! (My father is, unsurprisingly, not trendy enough to wear a cowl.) I’m planning on a machine-sewn steek, but I still haven’t decided on a method for finishing the cut edge. All the steek demonstrations I can find end with the cutting step. But what happens next? I know you pick up stitches behind the steek, but…rib? stockinette? Should I fringe or not fringe? So many questions.

Undergrowth in tan reclaimed wool/camel and KP Merino Style in Dusk.

I don’t even remember the last time I knit two things from the same issue of Knitty! It’s a minor miracle.

I love how this is turning out. I started it on size 3s, but it was turning out far too large so I ripped back to the Latvian braids and switched to 2s (that I bought at WEBS for LSGversary!) It’s knitting up really prettily now. I’m totally patting myself on the back over the color choice, the fabric is spongy and luscious, and watching the hat take shape row by row is addictive. Both yarns are leftover from other projects, too, which is giving me virtuous using-up-stash bonus vapors. The Merino Style is from a pair of gauntlets I knit way back before Ravelry even existed (gasp!) and the wool/camel is the same as the tan yarn in my Anemoi Mittens.

This project is making me so happy I think everyone should knit it. How is it not blowing up on Ravelry already? It only has 39 projects at the time of writing. Outrageous.

The super-sad part is, these aren’t even all of my WIPs, just the ones that I don’t feel too ashamed for not finishing. I have a DROPS jacket that needs to be frogged lying about somewhere, a Chauntecler dress that’s 5/7ths done, and some pink knee-highs whose saggy picot cuff needs to be unpicked and a new ribby cuff knit. I have to leave something for next WIP Shaming Wednesday, I suppose.

What WIPs do you have hanging around that need to be offered to the frog-or-finish gods?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | February 6, 2011

What I Did On My Vacation: An Annotated Photo Essay

It takes forever to get anywhere in California. This East Coast girl was not prepared to spend so much time in a car.
It takes forever to get anywhere in California. This East Coast girl was not prepared to spend so much time in a car.

My first visit to In-N-Out!
My first visit to In-N-Out!

The wreckage. Animal-style fries are Californian poutine.
The wreckage. Animal-style fries are Californian poutine.

The weather was GLORIOUS.
The weather was glorious.

This is the temple my grandfather came to this country to build.

The red tags are fortunes; you're supposed to write down your wish down and throw it up. If it catches in the tree, it's good luck. My sister's fell down...twice.
The red tags are fortunes; you’re supposed to write down your wish down and throw it up. If it catches in the tree, it’s good luck. My sister’s fell down…twice.

This is the temple my grandfather came to this country to build.

CLASSIC. Don’t ever change, Asian-dominated areas of CA.

ZZZzzzzZZZZz. I’m not one of those people who has any trouble at all sleeping in new places, but I had fun videochatting my LSG hoars from the hotel room. Didi makes the best Dramatic Chipmunk face!

SOUP BUNS! I think these are a Taiwanese (Shanghainese?) specialty. They’re steamed buns with a bit of broth inside the skin; you have to plop them down in your spoon, bite a hole into the dumpling wrapper, suck out the juice, and then eat the filling. Alternatively, you can poke a hole in the wrapper with your chopstick and drain out the juice into your spoon to slurp after you eat the bun itself. A touch of black vinegar and shredded ginger make them even more delicious.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | February 4, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Year of the Rabbit, you guys! I’m in California visiting family for the New Year–palm trees, 70F, and not a cloud in sight. God, it’s good!

I saw that the Interweave Spring 2011 previews came out today–yikes. Why are spring issues always such a mess? I’ll get to the review after my vacation, but what are your first impressions?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | February 1, 2011

Knitty Winter 2011 Review


Gosh, this model is gorgeous. She reminds me of Sharbat Gula, the famous Afghan refugee girl from the cover of National Geographic. The cowl itself is, you know, okay. The stitch pattern is simple enough to work with the uneveneness of handspun yarn instead of working against it.

I don’t like the stiffness of the bulky/small version–this is not the middle ages; you don’t need a gorget. It’s already knit on size 17 needles, though, so instead of bumping up the needle size to get a drapier fabric, I would try knitting the large size so that the cowl’s own weight could stretch it out a bit.

In fact, just knit the larger size in general. It’s much more attractive.


Again, gorgeous model with crazy beautiful eyes. I love her motorcycle gloves and love what I can see of her bubble-hem coat. It’s such a shame about the shawl.

I’ve said this in reviews before, but bad sample knit blocking (especially for lace shawls) is a huge pet peeve of mine. If you know everyone who reads a knit publication is going to see your work, why would you not take the time to block it perfectly? I can’t even fathom why anyone would choose this photo of all the photos obtained from a photoshoot with an amazingly photogenic model to include in the pattern. Those drooping, uneven points on the right are killing me.

I also just don’t think that this is a great combination of yarn and pattern elements. I don’t like the combination of bold vertical chevron stripes and the horizontal trangular edging; they clash with each other. Neither do I like the effect of changing between chart B, chart C, MC yarn, and CC yarn all at random. Furthermore, it’s a lacy stole, but the Zauberball drapes about as well as cardboard. It’s a mess.


Well, it’s reversible, and that’s kind of neat, but if I’d wanted to knit something that looks like a Candle Flame Shawl, I’d have knit a Candle Flame Shawl. Ten years ago.

This is an excellent photo to demonstrate the reversability, though. I like the Holmesian checked trench too.


This is basically Caireen from Knitty Deep Fall 2010, by the same designer, updated with softer cables and open-gauge alpaca yarn. I do think Gweneira solves some of the problems that its earlier incarnation had, but do we really need both these patterns in consecutive issues of Knitty?


Extraspicy patterns in Knitty? I feel like I should support this on principle. The “cartouche” motif is very pretty.

But holy fuck, this shawl is TOO BIG. You should not have to move the point of your shawl out from under your ass every time you sit down. There’s also a problem of scale between small, fine twisted-stitch motifs and the HUGE ACREAGE of the shawl. It’s visually monotonous. The only thing that draws the eye is that eyelet spine arrowing down towards your ass like a racing stripe. If you’re going to knit this, even if you don’t play around with the scaling issue, at least use a less-incongruous double center increase.

Strangely, I think perhaps that doubling Cartouche to make it a square shawl would fix many of its issues. Instead of being a comically huge triangular shawl, it could just be a typically-enormous square shawl with a sort of Victorian-by-way-of-Bavaria-to-Japan feel. Part of the problem with allover motif field is that doesn’t feel very youthful or in tune with current knitwear design trends. But by making this a square shawl, I think that you can totally embrace that 19th century aesthetic in an ultimately more successful way.


Dear Reader, I have a confession to make.

I hate art yarns.

I think that the finished objects they make are hideous.

At the end of the day, I’m a product knitter, and if I don’t wind up with a beautiful, wearable, useful FO, then what was the point? I loathe sari silk and freeform crochet for the same reason.

So really, this pattern is a no-go from the start for me (“artful moments?” What is this, the Rachel Zoe project?) If I wanted to knit a keyhole scarf that maximized yardage, I would knit Urbana by Stephen West instead (mustaavillaa made a particularly beautiful one, ravelled here.)

Turn of the Glass

I feel conflicted about this sweater. It’s all right, you know? But only all right, and I can’t quite put my finger on why that’s so. It’s a cute concept–using cables to draw in the waist to naturally define it. I support that! But when you look at this sweater from afar, that’s not what you notice. All you wind up seeing is that seed stitch border, which is really assertive .

The cardigan also looks really short-waisted, which is great in this case because the model also happens to be short-waisted and it fits her well. If you’re not shaped like that and you knit this cardigan, you might need to adjust the cable placement to suit you.

I think the very busy midsection (seed stitch + cables + shawl pin) might be making the model appear more short-waisted than she actually is, though? I’m not entirely certain. Short-waisted readers, is this the sort of shape that works on your body? Educate me, please.

I think that this would look better with the cuffs done in that cable pattern. That would orphan the buttonband/hem, but if I were knitting it, I would change that anyway, so it would be a win/win decision all around.

Lady Lovelace

If I told you that this was a sweater from Hip Sweaters to Knit in No Time Flat, published in 2000, you would believe me, wouldn’t you? I think that’s basically all I need to say.

Wait, no, I have more.

The view from behind is undoubtedly the most flattering. The ribbing at the top of the caplet is really neatly done, and from this angle the chunky lace looks a little Anthro-ish in its rusticity. But it’s not enough to save anybody from looking like this:

I am a fan of layering, but if you have a foot of shirttail hanging out of your jacket, then it’s time to look at your life and look at your choices. You’re doing it wrong.

That buckle, I can’t even.

Also, holy intro essay, Teva Durham. I got weird secondhand embarrassment from reading that.


From cuddly-warm to daring-hot in just an instant: Button it up and you will have a cowly collar keeping the cold wind away under your coat. Leave it open to show some shoulder when you arrive at the bar.

…for real? You’re trying to assert that this is a sexy knit to wear to the bar?

Completely regardless of the (quite pretty!) model, there seems to be a mismatch between expectations and reality here. Joan Holloway wouldn’t be caught dead in a sweater that boxed out her hourglass figure. Would a single soul among you actually wear this sweater while trying to pull?

It’s a cozy, slouchy sweater with an interesting neck closure. You’ll wear this to drink coffee and do the crossword puzzle on a Sunday morning. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t need to be anything it isn’t.

Broad-shouldered women, this will probably make you look more broad-shouldered than you are.


This is cute! I like the saddle shoulder top-down construction that makes it easy to fit, even for a cape. But isn’t it funny how different the seed stitch in Constantine and Turn of the Glass look? It pops heavily and boldly (too boldly?) in Turn of the Glass, but here as an allover stitch it recedes in a harmonious fashion. The downside to this being, of course, that it’s allover seed stitch. I don’t even hate knitting it like some people do, but I’m not sure if I can face knitting that much of it, even if I have been looking to knit something like this.

Minor concerns: See how this is riding up a little in the back? Depending on your personal shape, you may want to add short rows in the back or front in order to get more even coverage.

And okay, this is a design that can look a little bathrobe-y. I’m not 100% sure how to best combat that–part of it, I think, is that the icord bindoff is too slight for the robustness of this garment. I think it would look better with a deeper folded hem. And maybe you could tighten up the gauge for a more structured, less floppy knit? This is Cascade Ecowool knit up at 14st/4″, which is pretty middle of the road. You could go a little tighter.

But yeah, my overall impression is that it’s really cute! I also like that it gives the knitter a lot of leeway to make it her own–if I were knitting it i would use a scarf or a necktie (too 2002?) instead of the knit belt because I don’t like them (bathrobey) and knit a HUGE FLOPPY COWLY TURTLENECK since it looks good with a higher neckline on the model.


Another pretty attractive sweater. I think the buttons are a great match stylewise and the raglan shaping is both beautiful and beautifully done.

The collar is a nice touch too. I think it looks best in the asymmetric configuration; otherwise this heads past Jackie O and lands at Judy Jetson, which is 60’s all right, but probably not really where you want to go with this.

Two notes: This sweater needs a little more positive ease to stop the buttonband from pulling like that. And I don’t really get the styling. The cardigan says casual chic, but the hair says just-came-back-from-the-gym. Perplexing!


Block your sample knits, or I will cry.


I don’t feel that there’s much I can say about this either. It’s exactly what it says on the tin–a bulky, easy mitten pattern in multiple sizes that you can whip out for the whole family. If you need to fill that niche, then these are perfect. If you don’t, then you probably won’t knit these.


This photograph makes me so happy. Like the Tulip Mittens photoshoot from Fall IK 2010, the photograph sets a complete mood. That cloche and that scarf are both perfect (and I covet them both!) The photograph makes me like the mittens more than I would otherwise, because I’m torn about them.

There are parts that I like very much–the chrysanthemum flower itself is lovely, and I love a thumb detail on a mitten (but what is it? I don’t think the designer mentioned it. It reminds me of nothing more than the piranha plants from Mario. )

But it seems strange to have this explosively beautiful chrysanthemum blossom perched on such a spindly twig of a stem. The leaves don’t match, either–too long, too bladelike. It looks like a lollipop stuck into a tuft of grass.

So I would redesign that portion of the hand–maybe something a little more Art Deco-inspired? It’s a beautiful pattern otherwise.


Quite a handsome unisex sock. The relatively quiet stitch pattern lets the unusual arch shaping really shine, and the yarn choice is perfect. And the coffee beans–I kind of rolled my eyes, but I also totally chuckled. That was a nice corny-sweet touch.

Only one thing:

What is a medicine ball doing in this shot? Clear your backdrop before you take sample pictures.


I don’t have any real use for light-worsted weight socks, but they look like they would knit up quickly and it’s a good opportunity to do an afterthought heel if you’ve never done one before.

HOWEVER! I am issuing a challenge. Want to learn or practice your intarsia in the round? Cast the fuck on, because where Nikol Lohr sees sweet hearts, I see…


I will give a prize (some hoot loot, if you will) to the first person who does this and links me to their finished project. I’m not kidding. Let me know if you take up my challenge.


Well, these are nice too. Alternative gussets are really becoming a knitting meme, aren’t they? And I do love a good toe-up sock.

The fact that these are knit toe-up is especially nice because you can really easily make a “just-the-good-parts” (thank you, Princess Bride) anklet-height pair. While those ribbed legs are good design, balancing out the intricate instep, they also look like a totally soporific knit.

S. Lights

Do these earflaps look too triangular to you? Being interested in neither earflap hats, pompoms, nor fun, this is not the hat for me.

Rock Creek

Once seen, it can never be unseen.


Art Deco meets Art Nouveau! I’m not really a toque kind of girl (I like them slouchy, okay? I’m sorry for being picky ;_;) but this is absolutely gorgeous and I have to knit one. This hat has everything going for it–it’s beautifully designed (check out the crown decreases), beautifully knit, beautifully finished, and beautifully styled. Impeccable, Mandy Powers. Good job.


I really wish I had the right hair length/bone structure to really pull off a cloche, because this is one of the cuter ones out there. It’s a little coy without being full-on I-can’t-see-unless-I-tilt-my-head-back. The button’s not quite right, though. I would either ditch the notion entirely or pin on an awesome vintage brooch instead.

I have a weird complex about honeycomb stitch patterns. Ballband dishcloth, Ysolda’s Cairn, this Quest variation–they all put my teeth on edge. Blurgh.

So in conclusion, this wasn’t a bad issue of Knitty at all! A definite improvement over Deep Fall 2010. I’ll definitely be knitting Undergrowth, but probably not anything else. What about you guys?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | December 26, 2010

Interweave Knits Fall 2010 Review

Interweave Knits Fall 2010

For obvious reasons, fall issues of knitting magazines tend to be the strongest, and Interweave fulfilled expectations with this pretty engaging and innovative publication. There were a couple of missteps, but I’d like to highlight the Check and Stripe section of the magazine for being the most delightfully cohesive mini-story that I can remember ever seeing in Interweave. The different sections of Interweave often have a color story, a costumey gimmick, or a logical similarity of construction that ties them together intellectually, but this is the first time I can recall a section having a real emotional consonance. It looks and feels like a collection of garments. Good job, editors, producers, and designers!

Alpen Socken

A pretty and delicate twisted-stitch sock and a nice way to kick off the issue. I like the picot cuff ad the twining cables up the gusset and side of the sock; they remind me of Tsock Tsarina’s Nine Tailors Sock. I have this thing against cables that stay “on top” of the design without wrapping, though, so the front motif is not my favorite.

I wish the detail shots for these socks were a little more “detail” and not as much “scenery”–I feel like socks, of all the garments or accessories, need the least styling. For a complex design like this, I would have traded some of the midrange Mary Jane shots for another like the detail shot of the rear of the sock.

Also, is it a trick of web encoding, or is this photo actually out of focus?

The Proverbial Cap

This hat is all right, but the design elements feel mismatched to me. Both the clover cross motif and the DNA double helix have a lot of visual space around them–a wide purl field behind the DNA motif, the desolate stretches of twisted rib between the clovers. The vertical repeat is pretty tall for both stitch patterns.

The mock cable is incredibly tightly wound by comparison. It has so much perceptional momentum! It’s also situated in a dense prison of twisted rib–no free space around it. It doesn’t fit in with the other two motifs, and I find that really strange and jarring. I also wish that there were more ribbing around the brim of the hat; I don’t like it when design elements go straight to the edge like that. And the styling for this photograph makes no sense.

The crown of the Proverbial Cap comes together very neatly, though.

Bavarian Tulip Mittens

Not much to say about this; they’re cute mittens. They look a little thin (I prefer my gloves thin and my mittens chunkier, because that seems thermally logical to me) but I suppose might be all right for a fall issue of a knitting magazine. There’s something a little off about the motif-to-background ratio–the mittens look a little sparse–but it’s not too bad.

I will now pretty much directly contravene my complaint about the detail shots for the Alpen Socken, because this photograph is beautiful. Can you tell a lot about the finer details of the pattern? Absolutely not. But the mittens pop against the violet and indigo backdrop. Even the grey housepaint is nearly lavender; her eyes pick up all those blue tones and her complexion just glows. You can almost smell the frost in the air, even though this photoshoot must have taken place in the spring. It’s beautifully well staged.

Leitmotif Cardigan

This is absolutely my favorite design of the issue. How graceful and well-proportioned is this garment? It’s a great wardrobe segue from the Whisper Cardigans and Geodesic Cardigans of the world.

The open front of the sweater leaves a slimming, lengthening column of color down your front and gives you the opportunity to nip it closed with a pretty shawl pin (or, if you’re L and utilitarian like me, an aluminum paper clip). The braided band around the hem is a nice, cohesive touch, but the plain cuffs keep Leitmotif sophisticated instead of matchy-matchy. Nice editing, Carol Feller!

I love the combination of the oatmeal color and the slubby texture of the yarn; these aren’t wheat-ear cables, but the overall effect is harvestlike without being too blatant.

Hawthorn Pullover

This is an unremarkable, classic sweater. It’s nice for slouching around the house or maybe wearing to the office on casual Friday, but a bit plain. The niche in my queue for a fall classic-casual sweater is already preferentially filled by Beatnik. More on that in some other post, though.

Plein Air Tote

This is nuts. Look at how huge it is! But I kind of love it; I mean, if you want to go big, then you should go big or go home, right? It would make a great cushion cover.

If that dog were any smaller, it could fit inside the tote bag.

Point Gammon Pullover

Eh, sort of boring, but I doubt it’s boring enough for very many men to favor it as a gift option. That diamond motif on the front is kind of a boner-killer.

Inversion Gansey

I’m not a fan of this sweater, sadly; I don’t like how it’s sectioned off into so many unflattering parts. The front/sleeve/hem lace stitches are all different, which is strange, and the twist columns are too widely spaced. And I hate how the garter stitch waistband cuts her in half.

God, her hips look huge, and they’re not. Who has time for clothes that aren’t on your side? Omit the garter band waist, continue the vertical motifs, and add a couple more evenly spaced twist columns to break up some of the stockinette real estate of the sweater, and then maybe we can talk.

Cloisonne Jacket

It’s not always easy to mix colorwork and lace in the same garment, but I think Cloisonne pretty much manages to pull it off. It helps that the colorwork pattern and the colors chosen for the sample knit are quirky in that Anthropologie sort of way; it makes it fall on the “statement sweater” side of the statement-monstrosity divide.

It’s not perfect, by any means–Cloisonne desperately needs some form of closure and it’s pretty boxy. The collar’s a little to minimalist to balance out the unabashed extravagance of the rest of the sweater. But I think those problems are fixable. I wonder if you could pick up and knit a contrast-color facing for the collar? And perhaps you could cast on a few extra stitches of lace to start and knit a buttonband in the main color concurrently with the colorwork section. I think that would look Anthro-cute and whimsical.

Leyfi Pullover

It’s not unattractive, but I’m not really a fan. The boxy, leafy lace stitch, the rolled edge treatment, and the basic pullover shape combine to make it look pretty My First Vogue Stitchionary.

Running-Stitch Skirt

I usually steer clear of knitted skirts, but this one has some really nice points. I love the paneling and the interesting contrast stitching between panels; it’s knit side-to-side to reduce sagging. The only design elements I’m dubious about are the edge finishes. A drawstring waist and a rolling hem give the skirt a sort of simple, homespun charm that’s very Japanese, but not really my style. I would try to pick up & knit a hem for the piece, and maybe add some elastic at the waist instead of the drawstring.

How utterly perfect is that blouse, not only for this skirt, but also in general? I covet it desperately. I’m even willing to forgive the stylist their use of jeggings in this shoot.

JEGGINGS, people. That blouse is fucking magical.

Sea and Sky Shrug

The shrug is rather boring, but the dress the model’s wearing under it is beautiful.

Breacan Swing Coat

This entire section is really strong, but this coat in particular is fantastic. I love the use of two yarns held together to make that tweedy deconstructed plaid pattern.

I love the squishy moss stitch cuffs and the perfect huge buttons. I love that the designer stuck with the loose swing coat silhouette without trying to force knitted fabric to behave and be tailored like woven fabric. (Pet peeve! Knitted and woven fabric are different, and that’s okay. Please stop trying to design double-breasted peacoats that pull so much the entire button band distorts in lumps, knit designers. ACCEPT THE STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS OF YOUR MATERIAL, or if you want to push the boundaries, at least be aware of them. Er. Where were we?) The warm lighting, the homey staging, the red drop earrings–it’s all spectacular.

George Street Pullover and Cowl

I’m kind of iffy about sweaters that come with detachable cowls, but I admit that George Street looks good both with and without the cowlneck.

The eyelet rows strike a good visual balance, the finishing on the sweater is impeccable, and in general it’s interesting without being WTF-kooky, which is impressive given that this is a relatively conceptual design (Eyelet plaid? It’s not Norah Gaughan, but it’s not the simplest thing to pull off well, either.) But George Street is not only pretty nice at first glance, it improves upon further study. Well done, Amy Christoffers!

Elementary Vest

Probably the weakest garment in this section, but still not bad. The silhouette and plaid/check colorwork combine to make Elementary too prim for my taste.

Also, it requires extensive embroidery (the blue stitches) during finishing, which seems really tedious to me. Still, it’s not a bad garment.

Peavy Jacket

What a fantastic counterpart to the Breacan Swing Coat. I love how nearly everything is handled differently in this men’s version of the oversized sweater coat, but the end result is so delightfully complementary. The colorwork is true colorwork with long floats, the cuff and collar are garter rib, and it just exudes an aura of classic country farmhouse cool. I know a lot of men who would love to wear this garment.

Chiral Cardigan

What a letdown after the classic, attractive garments presented in the plaid and check section. This garment is way too twee for a grown-ass woman. Ruching, flower buttons, and a ruffle? Are you for real? Not to mention the fact that the sweater chops off abruptly just before reaching the widest part of the model’s hips, which is never flattering.

But most of my problem lies with the thickness of the fabric itself. You might be able to play with ruching the front like that if you’re working with a lighter fabric (like Audrey’s Cardigan from Interweave Spring 2010), but Chiral is knit in a worsted weight alpaca/wool/nylon blend.

1) I have fleece jackets and felted sweaters that are less bulky/lofty than that fabric.

Williamsburg Cardigan

I actually don’t like this sweater very much from the front or back. it’s just too oversized for me; the sweater actually elongates the model too much. It’s practically a duster sweater. However, a huge however, this sweater has a really interesting construction along the side seams–it includes a knit facing that’s turned under during finishing to make in-seam pockets. Isn’t that awesome? Even if you don’t knit the sweater, the pattern is worth a read.

The model is selling the hell out of this 3/4 shot. Well done, madam.

Unrelatedly, while my sister and I were cleaning out her closet at our childhood home this weekend, we found a floor length knit sweatercoat. It had no fastenings to close it and no belt loops to cinch it shut. It was just a floor length red acrylic sweatercoat. What the hell, 2003?

Hoarfrost Mobius

Like I said earlier, the model is doing a marvelous job during this shoot. I love the steely Marlene Dietrich aura she’s bringing to this photograph. This headscarf has a very retro glamour, but the use of stainless steel yarn modernizes it nicely.

I also love how Hoarfrost is thin enough that it barely dims the gloss on the model’s hair. (A wonderfuly apt name, isn’t it?) Can you imagine how gorgeous a green Hoarfrost would be on a lady with flaming red hair? It would be a perfect updated Joan Holloway look.

The styling in this issue has been pretty consistently good, but here it hits an unexpectedly clunky note. That plum-colored jacket is not right for this ensemble at all. It doesn’t fit the model and the ruffly floral embellishment looks so fussy and heavy against the ethereal mobius. I like the color by itself. I even like how it complements the brick wall she’s standing in front of. But I dislike the periwinkle/plum color combination intensely.

Arching Cables Jacket

And sadly, this is the note we end on. That belt . Why would you do that? I understand the impulse to try it out, because it’s sort of interesting conceptually, but I think at some point you have to step back, take a look at your garment, and have the editing eye to say “Oh god, I’ve created a monster.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is our monster:

Let’s go back to our trusty Photoshop Clone Tool, shall we?

Here is the Arching Cables Jacket as it appeared in Interweave.

Here, I’ve crudely Photoshopped away the part of the waist cable that is making me cry and keeping me up nights. It’s not perfect, but isn’t that so very much better?

And here, I continued with my chop and stamp job to extend the stockinette bands bordering the front edges down over the waist cable, while keeping the braid going around the sides and back of the sweater. That’s a nice second option, I think.

I do quite like the back view of the sweater; I think the triangle near the nape of the neck is really interesting and cleanly done.

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