Building a Book Tree

Deborah Cooke's Book TreeA couple of years ago, I built a book tree for Christmas in our dining room and decorated it for the holidays. There were some questions about how to do it, so this year, I took pictures of the tree in progress.

You can read that old post right here.

That’s the tree from two years ago on the right. I built the new one in the same spot.

Book Tree Base, built by Deborah Cooke 2017

I started with eight books in a circle on the floor. Because book trees tend to be a little tippy near the top, you want the base to be as stable as possible. (A book tree might not be a good plan if you have acrobatic cats.) Choose books of similar or even the same thickness, and start with big books at the bottom.

I apologize for the picture quality. I started to build the book tree at night and the lighting in the dining room was…atmospheric.

We have a lot of coffee table books, and they found their way into the tree this year. These two cookbooks are exactly the same format as well as large, heavy books. The circle is about three and a half feet wide at the outside edges and I built it on a piece of carpeting. (The rug we used last year is now at a window where the New Girl keeps an eye on the world.) The red books are Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders, which is a good foundation for many things. 🙂

The book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017Then you start building. Angle the next layer over the gaps, so each book on round two rests halfway on one book in the first level and halfway on the adjacent one. Again, keep an eye on the book thickness and use hard covers for best results.

Here’s the tree after about four rounds. Inevitably, books end up being of differing thicknesses and sizes, so it all starts to get less mathematical. Angle the books over the gaps, stack books to make up the thickness of their neighbors—and when you do stack books, twist them at slightly different angles.

After four or five layers, it’s good to check that things are lining up. Get down on the floor so the base of the tree is at eye level. Check that things are lining up vertically. You don’t want to be drifting to one side or the other!

Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017In this shot, you can see that the tree is rising vertically on each side and just starting to cant inward a little bit. This is a good point to start making the diameter of the tree smaller. You can also see where I’ve stacked three books to make up the height of a big fat one, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. I also checked this from the other side to make sure those sides were rising vertically. If you don’t build yours against a wall like mine, walk around it. When I get about this far, and have books stacked all over the dining room table to sort them, Mr. Math usually shows up and starts reading. 🙂

Completed book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017From this point, there’s just a lot of stacking to be done. Gradually, change to smaller books because that will make it easier to taper the tree to a point. I always top my tree with some small leatherbound editions of classics (Dickens is there) and a leatherbound copy of Grimms Fairy Tales at the summit. On top is the little tree my SIL made for my husband’s apartment many years ago.

Here’s my finished book tree for this year. Just a little picture because it’s not as sharp as would be ideal—plus you really want to see it tarted up. I think it’s about a foot taller than last year’s version.

To decorate it, I used two strands of Ikea LED snowflake lights again. The lights are easy to add: you just push the wire between two books to hold it in place. Round and round, from bottom to top. It works out perfectly each time.

Once the lights were in place, I added lot of ribbons, berries and flowers in red and gold. (My book tree has a palette. Ha.) Maybe you’re like me and have a box of shiny trinkets from Christmas packages or floral arrangements that are shiny and festive so you save them, but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them. (I even have three glittery pomegranates, although I’m not sure why.) The book tree is a great destination. Tuck those ribbons and berries into the gaps between the books. There’s some gold bead garland in my box of tricks, too, and it goes on this tree.

Here’s this year’s finished book tree:
Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017It looks even more sparkly and festive in real life. I’m pleased with it. 🙂

Have you built a book tree yet? Are you going to?

A Thousand Miles of Stockinette

I’ve been knitting on my Earth Stripe Wrap, which feels like it’s at least a thousand miles of stockinette.

In reality, it’s a lot less than that.

Let’s do some knitter geek math. According to Ravelry, the completed wrap takes about 3206 yards of Kidsilk Haze. There are 1760 yards in a mile, so that’s 1.82 miles BUT the yarn is used double. It’s not even one mile of stockinette stitch. It sounds a little better in metric—2932m is almost three kilometers. Divided in half for the doubled yarn, that’s 1.5 klicks. That seems to diminish what might be an endless project. Let’s try this: there are 115 stitches in each row and 186 rows in the stripe repeat. I’ve knit two repeats, for a grand total of 42,780 stitches. That sounds impressive!

Here’s what the wrap looks like now:

Earth Stripe Wrap knit by Deborah Cooke

It was just shy of finishing the second repeat yesterday when I took the picture. I finished that repeat last night. Right now, it’s not quite 60″ long. (148cm) I’m hoping to knit a third repeat—depending on how far my yarn goes. Ha. That’ll be another 21,390 stitches if I make it. I know I’ll run out of Majestic very close to the end of the repeat, but one of the other colours might run out sooner. We’ll see.

It’s quite a pile of fuzzy warmth to have in my lap when I knit. I stopped working on it in September when we had a warm spell, but now it’s perfectly cozy.

Whenever I knit a bit project like this, I need a little interim encouragement and usually take breaks to knit some quick projects. Quick projects are all about instant gratification. They usually take only one ball of yarn, and they knit up in an evening or two. Here are some of my recent ones:

Two Mobius cowls knit by Deborah Cooke

These two mobius cowls each used a single ball of Isaac Mizrahi Sutton. I liked the colors and the feel of it, so bought a couple of balls when they were on sale. The pattern is a free one: Bulky Mobius Cowl.  It’s easy, but I always have to watch the Cat Bordhi video to cast on a moebius. (There’s a link in the pattern.) I wanted to use a smaller needle, 8mm instead of 10, so I cast on 50 stitches. For the yellow and brown one, I followed the pattern until I ran out of yarn. For the purple one, I alternated two rows knit and two rows purl until I ran out of yarn. They fit snugly around my throat, which was exactly what I wanted.

Serpentine Hat knit by Deborah Cooke

I saw the yarn for this hat on sale and liked it. (It has alpaca fibre. How could this be bad? It’s purple. Likewise.) There was a picture of this hat with a cowl on the label, but the pattern wasn’t on the label. I had to go to their website to download it when I got home. (It’s here.) This was a little irksome because, in the store, I wasn’t sure how many balls of yarn I needed and had to guess. (No, I don’t shop with my phone in hand.) I bought three and only needed two for the hat and cowl. I could make mitts with the third, but that seems a bit matchy-matchy to me. I’ll make a second hat and give it away.

What have you been creating lately?

 

Socks and a Scarf

I’ve been travelling a bit lately so we haven’t had a Fibre Friday. Today’s the day!

First up, I finished a pair of very bright socks, knit in Patons Kroy Stripes. The colourway is Sunburst Stripes. I used two balls and just barely got the pair out of that – I thought I’d have to buy a third ball for the toes!
Socks knit by Deborah Cooke in Patons Kroy Stripes

They’re brighter than what I usually wear, but they’re socks – and they’ll be cheerful in the winter.

I’ve also finished a scarf knit without a pattern. I had this thick-and-thin yarn in my stash – I found it in the mill ends at Spinrite, which means there’s no label. I liked the colours, though, and thought there was enough for a scarf. It’s more like a cowl, but I really like how it knit up in garter stitch.

Scarf knit in mystery thick-and-thin yarn by Deborah Cooke

I knit it diagonally. Where you can see the end at the bottom, I cast on three stitches. I increased once stitch at each edge on every right side row (and knit every wrong side row) until I thought the point was wide enough. After that, I increased on the lead edge of every right side row, and finished each right side row with K2tog, K1. I continued to knit the wrong side rows. In this picture, I’m just at the point of starting the decreases for the other end.

In this picture, I’m just at the point of starting the decreases for the other end.  (Yes, I weighed the first point, then knit until the remaining wool weighed just a few grams more than that.) From here, I decrease at both ends of each right side row until there are just three stitches left, then cast off. I haven’t decided whether to leave it as a short scarf that I can wrap across the front of my throat, or I should join it into a cowl – either by grafting the ends together or adding some loops and buttons. What do you think?

Earth Stripe Wrap Update

I’ve finishing one repeat of the 186-row stripe pattern of the Earth Stripe wrap. Since it’s Fibre Friday, this is the perfect opportunity to show you the work in progress.

Earth Stripe wrap knit by Deborah Cooke

I was a bit worried about “wasting” that handpainted green yarn, because I thought its variations would be lost when it was knit with another colour. It’s not, though. First of all, it shimmers a bit more than the other KSH, so you can pick out where that yarn has been used. And secondly, the variation is visible. Look at this detail:

Earth Stripe wrap detail, knit by Deborah Cooke

The variation is really visible in the band where the handpainted green is knit with the dark brown KSH (Bark).

I didn’t worry much gauge for this project, and it turns out that I don’t have gauge. Gauge on the pattern on 4mm needles is 24 stitches and 28 rows to four inches. My gauge on those needles is 20 sts to 4 inches and 30 rows. I’m not sure what I would have done to achieve gauge, actually—if I went down a needle size to get the stitch gauge (probably 3.5mm needles would have done it) I would have put the row gauge even further out of whack. It probably would have increased to 32 or even 34 rows in four inches. It doesn’t really matter with a garment like this—what’s important is that I like the fabric being created. I wouldn’t want it to be any more dense than it is.

Different gauge, though, does affect the finished size. My wrap is 57cm wide instead of the 49cm width expected by the pattern. This is fine by me, but also means I’m using more yarn per repeat than the test knitter did.

The first complete repeat of my wrap measures 65 cm or 25.5 inches in length. This means that to get the finished length of 149 cm or 58.5 inches specified by the pattern, I’ll need to knit one more full repeat plus a little extra. Since I’m leaving off the fringe, I think I’ll plan for three complete repeats. That will make it close to 80 inches long. I will have to buy more yarn, though, to do that. Before finishing the first repeat of the stripe pattern, I had to begin the second ball of Majestic. I have three, so to finish three repeats, I’ll need a bit of a fourth ball. I’ll wait until I finish the second repeat before I buy that ball, though, in case I need other colours, too.

I really like the beads, because they both shimmer and play a little bit of hide-and-seek.

What do you think?

Road Trip to the Koigu Tent Sale

Koigu YarnsAlmost two weeks ago, we took a day trip to the Koigu Tent Sale. I promised last week to show you my acquisitions, and here they are!

Koigu is famous for their handpainted yarns in beautiful colourways. Their base yarn is called KPPPM, which means Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino. The first thing I bought was a beautiful shade of KPPPM:

Koigu KPPPM 446

Here’s a detail shot of the colour, but it doesn’t begin to do it justice. There are so many subtle variations of blue, green and purple in this yarn. It’s amazing.Koigu KPPPM 446

The second thing I bought was kind of a kit. There were ten skeins of KPPPM in a similar colourway along with the book Wrapped in Colour. I had a peek through the book and liked several of the shawls—the two I like each take 5 skeins. Looks like someone planned that out! Again, the picture doesn’t do the colours justice. I’m having fun just putting them in different order to knit gradations: the three at the top left obviously go together, but the other combinations are less obvious.  Koigu KPPPM pruples

I’m determined to finish my Earth Stripe shawl before I cake up this Koigu and cast on another shawl.

What do you think of my choices?

Update on the Earth Stripe Wrap

Last week, I showed you the beginning of my Earth Stripe wrap. Well, I got a little further and made a choice, so this week, you get a progress report!

Here’s where I was when I decided there was an issue. The whole thing looked too brown to me.Earth Stripe Wrap in process, knit by Deborah Cooke

I went back to the original colours and reconsidered my substitution for Meadow. I used the Aloe at the bottom right in this picture. The top call is KSH in Jelly, which is also one of the colours in the shawl. Meadow was a pale silvery green, so I dug into the stash and found the yarn at the bottom left. It’s not KSH but another kid mohair and silk blend of similar proportions and a handpainted yarn from Capistrano Fiber Art Studio in a colourway called Irish Moss. I decided to use it instead of the Aloe. (I bought this yarn in New York at Habu Textiles on one of my trips to Manhattan.)

shades of green

The needle in the first picture shows how far I needed to frog back the shawl. I actually had to go a little further, since the first dark brown stripe is also knitted with the yarn I was changing out.

Kidsilk Haze isn’t the nightmare to frog that many knitters think it is – you just have to take your time. When I have to unravel KSH, I think of it as unknitting, not as ripping or frogging. Slowly, slowly, and all will go well. 🙂

Here’s a shot of the reknit shawl, up to the same point – of course, the needle wanted to curl:

Earth Stripe Warp take 2, knit by Deborah Cooke

Can you see the difference? There isn’t a lot of colourway F in this section, so the difference is subtle, but I’m much happier with it. Let’s take a couple of slices and line them up:

Earth stripe shawl detail - v1 knit by Deborah Cooke   Earth stripe shawl detail - v2 knit by Deborah Cooke

Where are the differences? Starting at the bottom, the first dark brown stripe is knit with Bark and F – on the left, F is Aloe and on the right, it’s Irish Moss. Continue up to the second difference – it’s the greyish band above the needle on the left picture. In the right picture, you can see a brighter green with the grey in that band. You have to look way up to find the next use of F – it’s above the 3R blue band near the top. There’s a row with dark blue and turquoise, followed by two rows of dark blue with grey, followed by two rows of bronze with grey. Above that are four rows of grey and F, then a row with the two greens knit together. This is the section that prompted me to make the change. Everything above the blue looked brown to me on the first version, so that new silvery-green stripe makes me happier.

The beads are more interesting than I’d expected. They’re the Rowan beads made by Swarovski and are particularly sparkly. The holes aren’t just silvered. They seem to be faceted inside. In real life, they’re adding a wonderful glimmer to the sides of this shawl.

And onward I go! I’ll show you the shawl again when I’ve completed one entire repeat.

Last week, I went to the annual tent sale at Koigu Yarns at their studio near Owen Sound, Ontario. I’ll share a bit about that next week on Fibre Friday.

The Earth Stripe Wrap

Earth Stripe Wrap by Kaffe Fassett in Rowan 42, image Copyright Rowan Yarns The Earth Stripe Wrap is striped shawl designed by Kaffe Fassett and knit in ten shades of Rowan Kidsilk Haze. It was published in Rowan magazine #42 (Autumn/Winter 2007/2008). The image to the right is from the original magazine – I found it online but the copyright on the image belongs to Rowan.

Given my love for KSH and my admiration for Fassett’s use of colour, I’ve always wanted to knit this piece. This week, I finally cast on.

The biggest challenge with this piece is that some of the colours of KSH specified in the pattern have been discontinued and are no longer available. (Whenever a knitter is DISO (desperately in search of) KSH in Jacob, you can make a good guess that he or she plans to knit the Earth Stripe Wrap.) Rowan has published an updated version of it as a free download on their website, which substitutes new colours, but I wasn’t that crazy about all of their changes. Let’s have a closer look.

The original pattern specifies the following colours:
A – Hurricane #632 – available
B – Jacob #631 – discontinued
C – Elegance #577 – discontinued
D – Drab #588 – discontinued
E – Candygirl #606 – available
F – Meadow #581 – discontinued
G – Majestic #589 – available
H – Trance #582 – available
I – Jelly #597 – available
J – Blushes #583 – available

This wrap is knit with two colours held together in a stripe pattern that repeats over 186 rows. The way the colours are combined changes the appearance of each colour in each stripe, which is part of Kaffe’s magic.

The discontinued colours aren’t shown on the Rowan website anymore, and here’s where Ravelry completely rocks. Knitters photograph their stash yarns and post the pictures to Ravelry. Even given the inevitable differences in lighting, over 50 images of the same yarn, you can get a good idea of its colour. You’ll need to log in to Ravelry to follow these links, but it’s free to set up a Ravelry account. Here’s the Rav link for stashes of Meadow, for example, which proves to be a pale silvery green. (There are 600 pix, but you don’t need to look at them all!) Three of the discontinued colours – Jacob, Elegance and Drab – are muddy browns or greens. Elegance might be called bronze. Drab is a medium greyed brown. Jacob is a bit elusive, as it seems to be particularly changeable in various lighting. (That’s probably what KF liked about it.) It’s similar to Drab but also a greyed brown, maybe a little warmer in tone.

Updated version of the Earth Stripe Wrap by Rowan yarns, copyright Rowan Yarns 2017In the new version of the pattern, Rowan has made these substitutions:
B – Anthracite #639, which is a medium cool grey
C – Bark #674, a medium to dark brown
D – Drab #611 (apparently reintroduced with a new shade number, which suggests that the colour is slightly different. I don’t actually know.)
F – Ghost #642, which is a pale silver.

You can see the current shades of Kidsilk Haze on the Rowan site, right here.

Anthracite and Ghost are unexpected suggestions, to my thinking. To use cool greys instead of a mucky warm brown and a green is going to change the overall hue of the wrap. The newly photographed version does look more cool in colour. It’s still pretty, but it doesn’t have that “moors in the mist” look of the original to my eye.

So, I dug in the stash.

It turns out that I had some Elegance in my stash, which was a complete bonus. I didn’t have any Drab, but I had some Putty, which looks pretty similar to me. I couldn’t quite envision the green of Meadow with the other colours, so I used another company’s silk/mohair blend: Elann’s Silken Kydd in Aloe, which is a silvery green but more green than silver. I had a chat with a yarn store owner about Jacob and she remembered it well, suggesting Bark as the closest substitute.

So, my colour combination is:
A – Hurricane
B – Bark
C – Elegance
D – Putty
E – Candygirl
F – Aloe
G – Majestic
H – Trance
I – Jelly
J – Blushes

A quick peek through the projects on Ravelry also revealed that many people needed an additional ball of Majestic, using three balls instead of the specified two. Since I had to buy this colour, that was good to know in advance.

I put each colour of yarn in its own ziplock with one corner snipped off the bottom and the end of the yarn fed through that gap. Each ziplock is labelled with the letter of the colour, so I don’t have to try and figure out which mucky brown I should be using. In bright light, I can see the differences, but I often knit in the evening, so this works better. I think it’s imperative with a project like this to have a system for dealing with ends as you go. Weaving them all in at the end would be a nightmare (and for me, a job that just wouldn’t happen). I’m weaving mine in as I go, but some Ravellers used Russian Joins as they went. I find that a join makes KSH a bit stiff, so would rather weave them in as the soft fluidity of the finished piece is part of what I like so much about knitting with KSH. That’s a personal choice.

Deborah Cooke's prep for Earth Stripe Wrap

The wrap is designed to be knit entirely in stockinette stitch, then a round of double crochet is worked all around the perimeter. This is probably to keep it from curling. There’s also a lavish fringe added to each end. I’m not much for fringes and don’t want to do the crochet round. I decided instead to work the first three rows in moss stitch, as well as the first three and last three stitches on each row. And to give the shawl edges some weight, I’m adding beads. These are Rowan/Swarovski beads in the turquoise that matches Trance.

Here’s my progress so far.

Earth Stripe Wrap in progress, knitted by Deborah Cooke

What’s fun here is that you can see the blending that results from using two colours at once. The lowest pink stripe is Blushes with Majestic, a rose with the blue-grey. The next pink stripe has two combinations – there’s one row of the bright pink, Candygirl, with the dark brown, Bark, then three rows of Blushes with Bark. The two three-row bands with Blushes are different pinks, because of the second colour used with it. It’s fascinating. There are two combinations with Jelly, which is a vivid apple green – in the lowest one, it’s knit with Trance for a single row, which is a light teal (right above a single row with Trance and Hurricane, a darker blue). Right below the needles, Jelly is knit with Elegance for two rows–that’s one of those golden browns. Again, we get two very different shades of green. I’m finding this an addictive knit because it’s so fascinating to watch the colour combinations develop.

What do you think?

Wingspan Shawls

Earlier this week, I promised to show you the Wingspan shawl that Josée gave me at Romancing the Capital on the weekend. Here it is, and the pin she made for it:

Wingspan shawl crocheted by Josée Giroux 2017

Isn’t it lovely?

Here’s the Dragons panel at RTC, with all of us wearing the shawls Josée made for us. From the left, Coreene Callahan, Eve Langlais, myself and Milly Taiden.

The panel discussion on dragons at RTC2017 with Coreen Callahan, Eve Langlais, Deborah Cooke and Milly Taiden

What’s really interesting is that her shawl is Tunisian crochet. I’ve also made this pattern, but I’ve knit it. I used Noro Silk Garden Sock for mine and here it is:
Thanks again to Josée for the beautiful shawl!

A Pretty Little Shawl

I’m switching around my Thursday and Friday posts, since there’s a link for the other post that’s taking a bit to populate. Let’s have Fibre Friday on Thursday this week!

Last year, at the readers’ conference Romancing the Capital, Carol gave me some of her beautiful merino handspun. She’d dyed it, too, and I spent a lot of time looking at the (very soft!) yarn, trying to figure out how to show it off.

Handspun marl

I finally decided on a pattern called Daybreak by Stephen West. It’s written for fingering weight yarn and this was heavier, so I just winged it. I started with the purple, then striped in the turquoise. When I ran out of purple, I switched to the pink, then did the edging in pink when the turquoise was gone.  I’m very happy with how it came out:

Daybreak shawl knit by Dborah CookeIt’s just the perfect size to sit over the shoulders and falls to my elbows. I love shawls of this size as they keep my back warm but stay out the way.

The pattern was great and I’ll definitely knit another.

I’m heading to RTC again next week, and I’m going to wear the shawl. I’m hoping that Carol will be there.

What do you think?

Waiting for Rain Shawl

This week, I finished knitting a shawl. These are unusual colours for me, but I really like the result.

The pattern is called Waiting for Rain (that’s a Ravelry link) and it features lace inserts in a garter stitch crescent-shaped shawl. The construction is really interesting, plus it’s easy to play with the colours and the design.

I knit mine in Madeline Tosh Dandelion, which has 10% flax. It’s interesting because the different fibers take the color in different ways. I used two skeins of Chickory and one of Whiskey Barrel. I decided to do the lace inserts in Whiskey Barrel, as well as some extra stripes and the bind-off. This yarn is discontinued so it’s gone from the MadTosh website, but here’s a Ravelry link.

This meant that I had too much yarn – the pattern calls for 700 to 800 yds, and I had over 900 – but I wanted to use it up. The pattern has three lace inserts. Once I’d followed the directions, I continued in a similar way and added two more lace inserts, then knit in garter stitch until the Chickory was gone. I liked the yarn. It’s smooth and cool, and I like the colour gradations in each colourway. There were long fibres, presumably of flax, and it was tempting to tug them out but I knitted them in. The pattern was well-written and clear. I bought the collection and will knit another shawl from it.

Here’s a detail shot, showing off the yarn:

Waiting for Rain shawl, knit by Deborah Cooke in Madeline Tosh Dandelion

There are stripes in the Whiskey Barrel, but the Chickory has some of the same greyed brown tone in it so it’s hard to tell which yarn is where. I like that! If you’re curious though, all the garter stitch below the lowest lace insert is in Chickory, then the bind-off is in Whiskey Barrel. You can just barely see it. Also, the garter stitch is all Chicory down to the first lace insert. (The shawl is knit from the top of the picture.)

My only disappointment is that I wasn’t sure how much Whiskey Barrel to leave for the cast-off, and I left too much. 😦 That means leftovers for the stash, about 8g. It turns out that I could have knit a couple of rows of garter stitch in the contrasting colour before casting off, but that’s how it is and that’s how it will stay. There’s no need to frog back a 500 stitch cast-off!

Here’s the complete shawl:

Waiting for Rain shawl, knit by Deborah Cooke in Madeline Tosh Dandelion

I was debating whether to block this shawl. I don’t usually block garter stitch shawls because I like the squishy texture they have right off the needles. It’ll get bigger if it’s blocked, though, and I was thinking it’s just a nice size. While taking the pictures, though, I can see that the ripple on the increasing edge is too much. I’ll give it a good block it this weekend.

What do you think?