Desert Knitting

We are still enjoying a holiday in the American southwest, soaking up the hot desert sun.  In my last post, we were touring through the Joshua Tree National Forest in California, which is the southernmost stretch of the Mojave Desert.  A few days later, we were driving the Apache Trail in Arizona.  The Apache Trail is an amazing unpaved road, that twists and turns with hairpin curves through the Tonto National Forest, which is in the northern reaches of the Sonoran desert.  It has some of the most spectacular desert scenery imaginable.  How is this for a knitting spot?

The Apache Trail was built in the early part of the 20th century to allow access for the vehicles and labour trucked in to build the Roosevelt Dam.  The dam resulted in a string of finger lakes that cut through the high, dry mountainous desert.  Teddy Roosevelt said the following about the Apache Trail:

The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the Glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have.  To me, it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature has ever created.

I have to say that Teddy wasn’t exaggerating.  This trip is really special.

Since finishing Brick, I have been working steadily on a new sweater for Leah.  It is knit in Madelinetosh pashmina in the colour Flashdance, a lovely mix of purples and blues, with streaks of greys and pinks.  Leah wanted a close-fitting short-sleeved pullover with a deep, square neckline.  We spent weeks searching through the Ravelry databanks for a pattern we liked.  We settled on the Backwards Cabled Pullover by Wendy Bernard, from her book Custom Knits.  I already owned the book, having previously made the Ingenue sweater from the book, also for Leah.

The sweater pattern calls for a plunging back, and has a high neck in front, like this:

Leah requested we flip it around, and have the deep square-cut neck in the front.  Any knitter with some experience can alter patterns to suit their own needs, thus using the pattern more as a template than an exact blueprint.  One of the nice things about Wendy’s book is that she anticipates this, and gives lots of suggestions for ways to alter the patterns, as well as encouragement to knitters who haven’t done much in the way of alterations.

I have spent the week knitting my Flash of Purple sweater in many desert locales: on the Apache Trail, in the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, while driving through the Saguaro National Forest, in the Desert Museum in Tucson (a wonderful spot).  Just to demonstrate a little knitting craziness, here is a photo of me knitting on a bench in the Desert Museum.  Why is this crazy?  It was 95F (35C) at the time.  (Man, do I love the desert!  Especially since I couldn’t help but notice that it was about 10C and raining in England all week.)

Besides flipping the sweater from front to back, I have been reworking all of the math.  This is for two reasons: first, because the Pashmina has a tighter gauge than the specified yarn, and second, because I always have to rework the math in top-down raglans (or any raglan for that matter).  This is because I can never, ever get the specified row gauge.  My stitches are shorter than most, I guess, because if I am on target with the stitch gauge, I am always off on the row gauge.  As an example, if the gauge is 20 stitches and 30 rows, I will invariable hit 20 stitches and 34-36 rows.  This can be death to a raglan; thus, a lot of fiddling with the math ensues.

With this particular sweater, I fiddled it wrong the first time.  I had it knit to about 4 inches below where I separated off for the sleeves, when I had Leah try it on and discovered that the sleeve openings were too tight and too high.  So, yesterday morning I ripped back (sigh) and then spent a lovely day, sitting on the front porch of a friend’s house in the Tucson foothills, staring out at the desert, and reknitting.  I am almost back to where I was before ripping.

Just because I can’t resist, here are a couple more photos of Joshua Tree (sans Brick).

And lest you think that we have been ignoring our blog while on holiday, I will let you in on a secret.  Emma has been busy photographing like mad the entire trip, for an upcoming series of posts on the blog featuring knits made by my mother and grandmother in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  Be sure to stay tuned, as the Southwestern theme continues!  And remember folks:

4 thoughts on “Desert Knitting

  1. Your Brick is wonderful, you have every right to be proud, and to photograph it a thousand times over! Sounds like you are having a wonderful vacation!

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