Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New pattern! Berkeley, CA shawl

A shawl I love, inspired by a place I love:

Really, what else is there to say?  I could wax poetic about meeting my husband, my cobloggers, so many friends in Berkeley; the food, the hills, the weather, and the food; the life of the mind and the wacky politics; and did I mention the food?  But, really, this shawl was named after Berkeley because it is knit from the craziest, most colorful yarn I could find -- "Flamboyant Cuttlefish" from Cephalopod Yarns.

Though"Gamut" from Another Crafty Girl (pictured above) is also a contender for that title, and was paired with a black yarn to amazing effect by my test knitter.

Anyhow -- this shawl makes me crazy happy.  I hope you like it too!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Portsmouth promotional yarn coupon!~!

Here's a different view of my latest design, the Portsmouth NH scarf:

(Don't tell anyone, but that's Lake Michigan pretending to be the Atlantic Ocean in this photo.)

The scarf is knit from two skeins of Traveller, a yarn sold by Verdant Gryphon, which I think might be my favorite yarn ever. So I'm thrilled that VG is excited about this pattern -- and they're offering a promotion on yarn for it!  Get $5 off any two skeins of Traveller through the long weekend (ending at Midnight EDT on Sunday July 7).  Use the coupon code 'Portsmouth' when you check out.  Happy knitting!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New pattern! Portsmouth, NH scarf and shawl.

I have a new pattern out!  Two, actually:  the Portsmouth, NH scarf and the Portsmouth, NH shawl.  I'm kind of in love with both of them -- thank goodness that it's 60 degrees here in Chicago (in July!) and I can wear the shawl everywhere.

You can see that they're very similar patterns, knit in different weights of yarn (for a rather different effect).  The idea that inspired this design was to break down the false dichotomy between scarves and shawls.  Why should't scarves have interesting (ie, non-rectangular) shapes and fun details?  Why shouldn't shawls be as easy to wear as scarves?

So, what's with the name?  Portsmouth NH is a city on the eastern seaboard of the US that I (almost) lived in for a year.  (Technically, I live in Durham, NH.  Durham is kind of boring, though, so I spent a lot of time in Portsmouth).  It's a marvelously funky place, combining historic New England charm, NH individualism, and that international feel lots of port towns have.  It's also pretty cold in the winter.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Going overboard

I found out at Christmastime last year that I'm going to be an aunt. My husband's eldest younger brother (get that?) and his wife are having a little boy due in July. Basically as soon as I had established my mailing address in Indiana, some yarn was in the mail to me, for the shower gift. I thought I would do something modest and practical, since my sister-in-law was flying to Chicago, her hometown, for the shower, and she'd have to schlep everything back home. Washcloths, I said.

So I knit two.


And then two more.


And then a lion washcloth (the nursery is Lion King-themed).


And another lion.


And then five more washcloths I forgot to photograph before giving away, but they're very cute and shaped like leaves. So yes, that's eleven washcloths if you weren't keeping count.

I brought these to the baby shower, and I also heeded the request to buy the baby a book rather than buy a card to go with the gift. So I also bought a book! Except I bought five books...

That's good, I thought, I can make the baby a dapper little sweater or something for the holidays this year, and that will be super cute.

Except then I was browsing my friend activity on Ravelry, and someone had queued the cutest baby blanket that was green and leafy and looked perfect for a Lion King nursery (assuming it's more like the jungle portion of the movie than the savanna).

I thought to myself, I've made so many baby blankets for friends over the years (I actually cuddled under the one I made for fellow blogger Emily the very weekend of the baby shower!). How could I not make one for my own nephew? Even if he is going to be born in Texas in July?


Well, let's hope the air conditioning is aggressive in his surroundings. This is Madelinetosh DK in Jade, and it's an absolute dream to knit with.

Honestly, if I can't go overboard for my first ever nephew, when can I?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2013

The concept of timeshares has always seemed weird to me, like why would you always want to go to the same place on vacation? The world is so big! But maybe I'm starting to understand a little bit, because there is something so comforting about returning to Maryland Sheep and Wool-- waving to the Boy Scouts who direct you to your parking spot, the familiar voice of the announcer coming over the PA system to remind you to drop some money in the proverbial hat, waiting in line for ribbon chips.

But even in that familiar setting, there are always fun new surprises. New outfits and new ornery sheep at the Shepherds Lead pageant.
New skeins and finished objects in the exhibition hall.
There's a felted nudibranch, my favorite mollusk. And that pattern is called Insomnia, if you feel like devoting the rest of your life to making a beaded double knit tiger scarf. And that last one's art yarn spun around Christmas lights. I'm so tempted to do something like this, even if it may be even more of a fire hazard than just regular Christmas lights already are...

Fellow blogger Jenny Jo and I took in lots of competitions, demonstrations, and shows. Sheep shearing, sheep dogs, wood turning, the kids' spinning competition. I know one of my favorite parts of the weekend was listening to this band play "Sugar in the Corn" while this man and some kids were clogging joyfully.
I've said this before, but really and truly, the live music at MDSW is always a highlight for me. This is in stark contrast to Rhinebeck, where the interminable and unavoidable panflutes inspire nothing but murderous rage.

There's never a shortage of animals to love on at MDSW.
And always beautiful wares to ogle (This is Cephalopod.)
I must say, Jenny Jo and I shopped with a vengeance this year, and I am quite confident that we're both thrilled with our purchases.

I'd been patiently waiting for the perfect yarn bowl to come my way. Less for yarn than for holding balls of handspun singles waiting to be plied. My patience was rewarded with this one from Claymonster Pottery which I love more than I could have guessed. Plus it's food safe and I can eat ice cream out of it if I want to.
I also broke my rule of not buying buttons unless I actually had made a thing that needed them, but honestly. Look at this one from Jennie the Potter.
I picked up a Bosworth spindle I had pre-ordered. And it brought a friend. A friend made of moose antler!
The rest? Spinning fiber galore. This will keep me very busy for a while. No fleece this time; maybe Rhinebeck...
That's Into the Whirled, Loop, Hobbledehoy, and Solitude Wool.
Last but not least. What will make a festival like MDSW different every time is the people you get to spend time with. It's always awesome to spend time with a fellow Elegant Yarniversian now that we are so scattered, and although I didn't get pictures, there were some other great people I met up with as well-- in particular Dana and Brittany of the Just One More Row podcast, and Leslie and Laura of The Knit Girllls. I tried to convince anyone who would listen to try spinning on the Golding travel wheel, not that that was hard. That's Jenny Jo à la René Magritte and Cleo, who I was thrilled to meet up with now that we're no longer sort-of neighbors. That wheel: what a remarkable machine. It really has me rethinking what wheel I want to save up for.
I even met up with my in-laws for dinner on Saturday at the fantastic Double T Diner where we all watched my $2 bet on the Kentucky Derby go down the tubes like usual. So now I'm back in Indiana basking in the warm fuzzy afterglow of my two recent yarntastic weekends and trying to figure out what to work on next!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Knitting Pipeline Retreat Recap

(note: All photos but my sock in progress photo were taken by Joanna of Knit Spin Farm. Thanks to her for being such a good photographer and letting me use her photos!)

I did it! I spent my weekend knitting/spinning with a bunch of strangers. It was MAGICAL.

First of all, my carpool. There was one other person coming from Bloomington: Liby, who does the Multicraftual podcast. We drove to Indianapolis-ish to meet the rest of our carpool: JoAnna, who does the Knit Spin Farm podcast, and Amy Beth, who does the Fat Squirrel Speaks podcast. Indeed, I was the only person in the car who does not have a podcast.

As we were driving toward Washington, IL, we saw the most amazing thing in the sky. As you may imagine, this photo just gives you a hint as to its awesomeness.

You know what's amazing about the internet? You google "horizontal cloud rainbow" and it tells you what you really mean is circumhorizontal arc. Gotta love that. I also love that the Knitting Pipeline podcast has a "Nature Notes" section, and we experienced some really unique nature on our way to the retreat.

We stopped at a Klose Knit in Urbana, which had some beautiful yarn (I continue my mission to be like a Pokemon trainer but for Opal sock yarn) and where we had a fantastic realization that we had crossed a time zone and were no longer running late. I do this literally every time I drive to Illinois, and I do hope that someday I learn to take this into account.

We also stopped at Heritage Hills, a farm that had Leicester Longwool sheep, which are a fascinating breed and make adorable lambs. Now I suppose I should say that the day I married my husband was the happiest moment of my life, but honestly, look at me here.

I do believe this lamb felt loved (or terrified).

Now onto the retreat! It was low key, mostly a lot of just hanging out and chatting working on projects. I did some spinning on my charkha and attracted a little attention.

Sitting next to me is Susan B. Anderson, a fabulous knit designer, and standing is Rose who sells amazing yarn at Cakewalk, as well as our host Paula of the Knitting Pipeline. I went to some informal workshops on things like the Leicester Longwool breed, a show and tell about shawls, and one of the big hits of the retreat: the bellydance workshop taught by Liby.

My entire carpool, thrifty as we were, decided to camp out on the floor of the church that was hosting the event.

Paula is also a bagpiper and treated us to an amazing performance with two of her fellow pipers. There's something deeply moving about the sound of live bagpipes, and it's tough to explain, but it resonates with some emotional thing in my brain . When they performed Amazing Grace, I was actually fighting back tears.

We really had a fabulous time. I even got some knitting done. Here's the beginning of a pair of husband socks, made from Opal sock yarn and looking like a bear snout.


I can now very heartily recommend going to a retreat. I met lots of really interesting people, learned a bunch of things (including hip shimmies), and expanded my knitting queue even further. What was especially great was that I didn't have to put in a lot of effort to meet people. There were plenty of people more extroverted than me who introduced themselves. At meals it was really easy to sit with a group of people whether you knew some of them or not. And of course, it's easy to strike up conversation about what someone is wearing or working on.

Here's my carpool on our way home from the event. I say "carpool" but that seems so impersonal. This was a car full of seriously fun, smart, sassy, beautiful women. Amazing to think they were all strangers to me Friday morning!

Now onto another sure to be fabulous weekend: Maryland Sheep and Wool. Will I get another fleece? What other goodies are coming home with me? Will I eat ribbon chips? The answer to that last one is yes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Talking to strangers

This weekend I'm doing something new: going to a knitting retreat! I've been to festivals, I've taken classes, I've done demonstrations, I've gone to plenty of knitting groups, but I've never gone somewhere away from home for the express purpose of just hanging out and knitting with strangers.

What'll it be like? Who knows? I'll report back!

The one that I'm going to is organized by Paula of the podcast The Knitting Pipeline, which is one of my very favorite knitting-related podcasts. She's always throwing some interesting non-knitting content in there-- nature and Celtic music, among other things. It's very well produced and presented, and she seems like she's going to be a fun person to know. Plus she used to correspond by letter with Elizabeth Zimmerman, so if there's a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-but-for-knitting I'll clearly be doing pretty well. She's also the designer of one of my recent finished objects, the Piper's Journey shawl. This is made of handspun, and I love it.


I totally picked out an outfit to bring to the retreat so I can debut the shawl there. You bet I'm that dorky.

I know I've written about this before, but I love podcasts. I listen to many of them, both knitting related ones and all sorts of other things. I like to listen to the knitting ones during times I can't knit-- usually when I'm using a form of transit where it would be quease-inducing or unsafe to knit. Also sometimes while I'm eating. When I'm actually knitting, I tend to listen to other ones. When I spin, I love listening to audiobooks.

I've found a great group of knitters here in my new hometown that are a hoot to knit (and bowl, and watch movies, etc) with, but knitting podcasts are the next best thing, especially if you ever have introverted days where you're happy to listen and not contribute to the conversation. I do have lots of introverted days, but this weekend I'm wearing my extrovert hat (or shawl, as it were). Hope y'all have a fun weekend!

Monday, April 15, 2013

pros and cons

I admit it, one of the cons of moving back to Chicago was that it's hard to imagine the midwest doing sheep and wool festivals as well as new england does them.  So it is with great cheer that I report that YarnCon ("Chicago's indie fiber fair") was awesome, despite its lack of sheep, alpacas, barns, and deep-fried pickles.  

For one thing, the vendors were all in a single (gym-sized) room, which meant that despite only having a couple hours to shop, I managed to see almost everything.  And my haul was pretty impressive, considering how little time I had, and the fact that I'm trying desperately not to buy more yarn that I need this year:

From left to right, we have some manly yarn from the Michigan Yarn Company; a future baby sweater from Knit Circus; a future toddler sweater from Magic and Moonshine, and a not-so-far-in-the-future hat from the Wool Dispensary.

I was really impressed by the quality of yarns being sold by all the dyers there.  Ending up with "only" five new skeins took some serious willpower.  More than a week later, I still can't stop thinking about the Wool Dispensary.  Everything they had was *awesome*. They had a limited selection of colors, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I loved every single one of them.  It was really hard for me to choose two colors, and I don't want to say I'm doubting my choice, because I love these together; so instead, we'll say I'm already plotting future orders.  I've already balled the acid green and teal and am happily knitting away; the yarn seems sturdy and I hope it wears well, because that would justify me buying a sweater's worth, right?  

Thursday, April 11, 2013


So here's the tough thing about spinning some large portion of a fleece-- in my case it's half of this Merino fleece Jenny Jo and I split at Maryland Sheep and Wool last year. It is a whole lot of the same color. And although it's a lovely natural color, it sure does have me wishing Emma the sheep had been born teal or fuchsia.

I divided it all up by weight into what I thought would be one third of a bobbinsworth (boy was I wrong) and put them in this fun container.


That's alotta brown/grey.

But my best hope for actually getting all the fleece spun was to power through. I spun to the exclusion of all my other spinning devices, rocking out to audiobooks and podcasts, and just getting it done.

Here's when I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


And here's what I ended up with. It's a traditional 3 ply except for the tiny skein which is chain-plied from leftovers.


Now here's the interesting part. I noticed, as soon as I pulled the yarn of the niddy-noddy, that it shrank up to much less than the two yard hank the tool is designed to measure. So after the yarn was all spun and plied, I washed them, doing an alternating soapy hot/clear cold/vigorous agitation treatment to full the yarn a little, since it honestly doesn't seem like the most stable yarn I've ever spun.

Once it had dried I remeasured the distance around the skein, counted the strands, and calculated a true yardage. I got about 1,228 yds of a DK-ish weight yarn. Pretty good! Had the yarn not sprung back so dramatically? It would have been 1,842 yards. WHOA.

I lost over 600 yards to SPROIOIOIOINNNNG!

I have a few projects I am trying to finish up first, but getting started on this yarn is my next priority. I'm aiming for an honest to goodness Rhinebeck sweater this year, and given how long it takes me to finish sweaters, 6 months lead time sounds about right.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cheat your way to the top (part 1).

Is this you?

You have yarn.  Say, for the sake of the argument, amazing yarn.  You have a pattern.  Which your amazing yarn is perfect for.  You've even swatched!  Unbelievably, the pattern looks *better* in this yarn than you thought it would.  The fabric has a marvelous texture.  The stars are aligned, you win at knitting, you have EVERYTHING.

… Except gauge.

Is this you?  It's totally me, at least once year.  And I am here to tell you:  all is not lost!  With a little creativity, we'll be just fine.  All we have to do is change the number of repeats.  

If you're thinking to yourself that this is a total n00b tip, you'd be right except for one thing:  I'm suggesting we change the number of repeats by a non-integer amount.  

Let me give you a few examples:

This hat appears at first to be totally integral.  It's got a 6-stitch repeat and 126 stitches around the brim.  Ah, but 126/6=21.  And 21 is problematic from the point of view of decreasing: 21=3*7 and neither 3 nor 7 is 4 or 5.  And to keep the decreases "in pattern", I would really like the crown of this hat to consist of 4 or 5 triangles like this coming together:

So, what did I do?  Well, 21 is reasonable close to 20.  So I grouped my stitches into five groups:  24, 24, 24, 24 and 30. For the first four groups, I worked the decreases as shown; for the last group, I worked the same decreases at the edges and had an extra column of pattern (ie 6 more stitches) in the middle.  I ended up with 4, 4, 4, 4, and 10 stitches.  At which point I worked 13 k2togs, then threaded the end of the yarn through the remaining 13 stitches, and called it a day.

Here's another hat, which required a little more finesse:

Can I start by saying how much I love this pattern?  It reminds me (in the best possible way) of funky old wallpaper.  But because the fundamental unit of the design is so large, it has a lot less room for fudge; at my gauge, three repeats was going to be positively pinheaded and four was going to be huuge.  So, I knit three and a half repeats.   

There's one insight that makes this trick work, and that is to switch the way you think about the fundamental unit.  It's not a rectangle with a triangle on top; it's a rectangle with a triangle cut out of the top.

If you do an integer number of repeats, it doesn't matter which way you think about the fundamental units.  But, if you do a non-integer number of repeats, your non-integral repeat needs to be a skinny rectangle missing a small triangle instead of a skinny rectangle with a small triangle on top:

See the difference?  The first one is going to fit great, because the crown decreasing starts off at 6 decreases/round, and changes to 8 decreases/round close to the end.  The second one will do the opposite (start at 8 decreases/round, then switch to 6 decreases/round).  I guess you might do this if you wanted to knit a hat which had a dedicated pony tail cozy, but for the rest of us, the first one is going to fit better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Necessity is the mother of invention

Who knew that if you lived on the first floor, and if you had hardwood floors, and if there's a basement underneath you, that the floors would be COLD? Where I live now is the first such place I've ever lived in my whole life!


It doesn't bother me much, because I have--get this-- a pair of faux chinchilla slippers, along with a veritable army of wool socks. But the husband? He has taken to complaining about the COLD FLOORS. I'm slowly learning that in my life, both professional and personal, that sometimes people tell you their problems because they want you to solve them, and other times they just want their feelings to be validated. I'm kind of wired to be a solution person, so this is one of those things that has taken me a really long time to learn, even longer than what I think is the hardest thing I've learned so far in my life, which is that you can't actually make anyone do anything.

So I don't know whether he's telling me about the COLD FLOORS because he wants validation or a solution, but honestly, this one is in my wheelhouse, solution-wise.


I learned to thrum! That's the name for the technique in which you knit individual stitches with unspun wool, leaving the ends on the inside of the object for extra warmth. These puppies are WARM, let me tell you. However, they are a little less than anatomical and also involve a hideous looking seam in the back there, so I'm thinking up a new pattern already.

The kicker? I finished these while the husband is away for a couple weeks for work. When he gets back spring will surely have sprung. I suppose the floors will still be cold next winter...

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Knitworthy

I applaud selfish knitters. I think, as a woman and moreover as a knitter, generosity is expected to be abundant and in my nature, and that can be tiresome. When I knit in public, the question that follows "what are you making" is almost always "who is that for," and I've been met with some strange looks when I say it's for me. Also, sometimes people are surprised to learn that not everyone knits for babies 100% of the time. I don't even.

But I am not a selfish knitter. It's probably a good thing, because I already have a goodly number of handknit socks, with no sign of stopping, so it's a good thing I can offload 2/3 of them to either my husband or my mom.

The big sticking point for me and non-selfish knitting is color. I love wild, bright colors, and some of the knitworthy in my life have a... more specific and defined relationship to particular colors. Take my BFF Ryan, who as it turns out, went to high school with fellow blogger Jenny Jo's husband. He's knitworthy (I've made him not one but TWO afghans), and a neutral color sort of guy. I guess I can make that work.


That's him and one of his roosters, and he's sporting a Thorpe hat and some garter stitch mittens. He picked out the yarn himself, and although it's a bit of a struggle for me to work with a marled neutral, I dealt. It was worth it. The whole weekend after I delivered these, he would. not. take. them. off. Well that's not true. He dropped the hat in the arena when we went to the barn where he keeps his horses. He picked it up, dusted it off, and said it had now been christened by the barn. Later he set it on a baby's head to see how cute she'd be in it. He set it on the radiator in his house so it'd be nice and warm when he went out to do the farm chores in the morning. This guy will continue to be knitworthy.

And a bonus? There were enough leftovers to make a second Thorpe for a husband who also found the yarn acceptable to his color palette.


p.s. The penguin enclosure at the St. Louis Zoo is one of my all time happy (though stinky) places.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I have a confession to make. Here it is: I loooove starting new projects. Finishing? Not so much. All the gals in my knitting group are impressed because I always seem to be working on a new project. They think I'm just flying through huge shawls and ambitious colorwork projects. So, this post is by way of a confession: I am much more of a starter than a finisher. Let's take a tour of my UFO drawer, shall we?

Above, you see what I think of as my "tier one" projects. These are project that I'm actively working on and will probably finish before I die. We'll go clockwise from the bottom left. First, you see the lovely shawl, Rendezvous, by Lily Go. I'm knitting this in Waterfalls, a three-ply laceweight yarn from Creatively Dyed. It's a testament to the stimulating nature of this pattern that I've gotten as far as I have despite the first step being "cast on 450 stitches". I mostly work on this project at my knitting group, so progress is slow but steady.

Next around the circle are a pair of handspun socks made from Abstract Fibers BFL. This project got stalled when I started thinking about designing some kind of charted pattern for the leg. I'm still thinking about that, but probably I will just give up and finish in plain stockinette.

Third is the Knitpicks "East Meets West" satchel. I'm not totally sure what I was thinking starting this, but the kit was on super sale and I couldn't say no. I'm about 75% finished with the strap piece. I think the bag will be a present for my mom, if I can finish it by May. Bonus: I now have like thirty balls of Knit Picks Palette, and there are definitely going to be leftovers, so I can make another bag or some crazy mittens or who knows what.

Fourth is a plain triangular shawl of handspun silk 3-ply. I started it mainly because this yarn was burning a hole in my pocket. Honestly, this project has been inactive for a while and may be slipping into tier 2.

Tier 2 mainly consists of glorified swatches, and pretty much exemplifies my relationship with Kauni Effektgarn: I find it hypnotically beautiful, but I just can't seem to find the right project for it. Anyway, Thing One here is a mosaic cuff in Malabrigo Rios, left over from my Octopus Mittens. Is it a sock? Is it a mitten? Who knows. It's not really clear that I have enough yarn to make a pair of anything, which explains why this project is stalled. Thing Two is about my fifth attempt to do something with that ball of rainbow Effektgarn. I think I intend it to be a baktus-style shawl, but the colorwork pattern combined with the edge increases is incredibly fiddly to knit, so I stopped. Thing Three is a mosaic sock, again with Kauni...not sure about this one at all. And Thing Four is...hexapuffs! So many hexapuffs. I am tired of hexapuffs. Screw you, hexapuffs.

And, lastly, tier 3. Tier 3 is about mistakes and bad choices. In the upper left, you see a handspun Shipwreck shawl. I got through the center medallion all right, but the outer section sapped my will remarkably quickly. So many problems: a bad interaction between yarn and beads, plus the fact that the beads are supposed to be placed "randomly" (making every stitch a decision point), plus the fact that knitting "k2tog, yo" ad nauseum is incredibly dull...yeah, I stopped after about three rows.

Next is my attempt at Tiling Fish, in the very odd Noro Nobori yarn. I didn't have much of this yarn and...yeah, I'm not sure where I was going with this.

Then comes Alchemist Socks. I skipped the gauge swatch, and that was a dumb idea. I discovered they were too small when I got to the heel. I've stolen the needles for another project, so...these are probably dead meat.

Last but not least is a Lutzling baby sweater in Abstract Fibers Miro. It looks OK, doesn't it? But unfortunately I discovered when I went to add the button band that I had somehow dropped a stitch on the very front edge, which dropped to form a series of sloppy loops in a very bad spot. I suppose it might be fixable, sort of, but...I dunno, the baby got born, and that was that.

So, that's only, what, twelve things? Not too bad. How many skeletons do you have in your closet?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bad idea bears

If you've ever seen the musical Avenue Q, you are familiar with the bad idea bears. They are adorable little creatures, who fill your head with bad ideas, like so.

My husband and I have used the term "bad idea bears" ever since we saw the musical back when it was on Broadway. You'd be surprised how often it comes up, or maybe you wouldn't. Lots of people have bad ideas, myself included. I feel like they've been following me the last few weeks, in fact. I've been doing lots of smaller projects recently-- hats, mittens, washcloths, and you know what the bad idea bears have been telling me?



Why have I been listening??? I think I need to get a bag of M&Ms or something to incentivize fixing this mess.