Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks for Knitting

We went to the Oregon Coast for Thanksgiving and spent a good part of the week knitting while watching the waves roll in. The weather had been horribly stormy the week before we went, in fact we came skating in on the heels of the last storm--the power came back on an hour before we arrived. Very glad we decided to go on Sunday, not Saturday!

While I had just a smidgen of my Autumn Shawl left to finish, I packed up a big bag of kitchen cotton, a couple of dishcloth patterns and settled in to knit a pile for Christmas gifts. I have to admit, dishcloth knitting isn't my favorite, but I really do like having them in the kitchen and they make good gifts, so I left myself no choice but to knit them by only bringing them to work on.

Of course there is my go-to pattern, the Ballband dishcloth, that is easy to do and is a workhorse in the kitchen when you put it through its paces. I did this one in a variety of colors including a few in Christmas colors. I really love this one, with the blue/green variegated and the pretty lime green. I got so I was knitting these on remote.

Then I went on to try a new pattern that I had been dying to give a knit. This one is from the Purl Bee, which always has such cute patterns and crafty ideas. Taking a cue from the quilters, they came up with this Log Cabin wash cloths. I love that you can take four small skeins of kitchen cotton and come up with four really neat dishcloths.

These things are like popcorn, you just keep casting on and knitting without any thought until you realize all the yarn is used up and then you start scrounging around for more combinations. Hence this one, which I think I will keep as it isn't all that cute.

At the last minute, I had also thrown in the Twined hat I've been knitting. This is another one just like my green one, that I wear every morning to walk Matthew to school. I knew I should probably make another one before I start being referred to as that "green-hat lady who never takes it off."

You never know, but it could happen. So I decided to mix things up a little with this pink one. Yeah, I know, it isn't much different--but this Lisa Ellis design is the best hat pattern and the warmest hat you will ever own.

Now back to throwing projects in the car at the last minute is that you don't think it through. I started doing the decreases and realized I'd forgotten the dpns for when the stitch count gets to small for the circs. And while, yes, I know I could have bought another set, (because I did go to Custom Threads in Astoria and took a quick dash through Fred Meyer in Warrenton for some tax free Christmas shopping) I just couldn't do it when I have a perfectly good set at home. So this is where I stopped, which coincided with us stopping at Starbucks on the way down and switching who was driving.

Note to self: remember the dpns and when husband says he doesn't want a coffee, order him one anyway so he doesn't drink yours.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Addicted to Entrelac

Walked into A Good Yarn Shop and found myself faced with a sample of this Autumn Shawl by Jojoland. It was like putting a leftover bowl of Halloween Butterfingers in front of me.

Ever since I took the entrelac class last summer, I haven't been able to shake the bug. It is a knitting addiction. Just one more little rectangle, I tell myself. I'll just finish this row. Then it becomes, I'll just finish this skein and see where the next one takes me.

I was right in the middle of this hat for a friend who is going through chemo for ovarian cancer, so I had a very good reason to get the hat done, but the allure of entrelac was too much and I cast on the moment I got home. After two of days of knitting like a madwoman, I bundled it all up, packed it under the bed and told myself I couldn't get it out until I finished the chemo cap. Voila! A finished hat.

Amazing how fast you can finish something when there is entrelac under the bed.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dog Gone

I have had Jill Eaton's Bow Wow Sweater pattern in my pattern collection for years. I've had yarn to knit the pattern for nearly as long. But as the years passed, I never got around to knitting it. As a mom with two sons, there is really no excuse for not having knit this quintessential boy sweater.

So when my cousin's son's wife had a baby boy (is that a long strung out line of relations or what?!) I knew I had to knit this sweater. My boys are almost too big for it, and I thought that I would give it a try in a smaller size before I knit in the larger sizes for my growing pair of lads.

What I love about this sweater is the color. That yellow just screams little boy. It also screams, "I'll be able to spot you across a crowded playground like no one's business." So I dug out the skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease that I had stashed and cast on for Wyatt. It is really an easy sweater to knit, and super simple: Here it is already to sew up the side seams:

You can't tell by my washed out pictures, but the color is really a good goldenrod, and not this faded yellow. Here it is all sewn up:

Isn't that just adorable? And if Wyatt is half the trouble his grandfather was (my cousin) his poor parents will need that bright color to keep tabs on him.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Because I Promised

I saw my aunts recently and they both read my blog. And of course they were on me for not updating it more often. But with summer on, the kids at home and just everything happening, having the time to settle in and share has been short at best. So a little craft round-up.

Last spring after spending way too much time lurking about the Lady Eleanor page on Ravelry, I swore that this fall I would take a class on Entrelac. Entrelac is crazy easy, but when you read the instructions it is hard to just have faith that it will work. It is rather like Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. Just knit it as the instructions tell you to, and don't sweat anything past your current row of knitting.

Then joyfully and triumphantly watch it all come together.

But for some reason I couldn't take that leap of faith with entrelac and resorted to taking a class at Renaissance Yarns in Kent. Yeah, I could have probably found a bunch of tutorials on YouTube, or done it by digging in and knitting it, but I thought taking a class would do the trick quickly--immerse me in the technique and learn the tricks.

And I boy did I love it! I was hooked by the second tier. This is my working sample done in Wisdom Yarns Poem.

I was also spurred on to learn entrelac by a one skein project I saw at Seattle Yarn, the Simply Lovely Little Clutch. Before I even took the class, I'd picked up a skein of the Noro Tidiori that the pattern calls for.

So I took the class, fell in love, and then the next day, we went off on vacation. I had the clutch pattern and one skein of Tidiori, and knit the clutch up the first day--falling hopelessly and helplessly in love with entrelac and this fun pattern.

When folded for the clutch, it looks like this:

or this, depending on the side. That is the joy of this yarn, both sides are unique.

So the next morning I jumped online to find more yarn, imagine my horror when I discovered that this particular Noro yarn has been discontinued. So I got online and hunted down as many skeins as I could find--between eBay and Ravelry I had enough to feed the obsession.

Since then, I've been knitting Simply Lovely Clutches for everyone. I've done eight of them so far. I made myself quit this weekend, before I forget how to knit anything else.

I plan on finishing them with i-cord borders and line them with a bright and fun silk fabric. They close with the magnetic snap. And voila!

So what am I going to do with 8 clutches? Christmas gifts, folks. Teacher presents, friends, but not aunts. I've got other plans for them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monkeying Around

I saw a book in Crafter's Choice recently that made me laugh. It was about repurposing old pillowcases. Ya, wha-a-at? So I ordered Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase from the library and much to my surprise and chagrin, it is actually a really fun book.

So much so, that Friday night, I dug out some funny monkey fabric I'd picked up for some long forgotten project and made a groovy little project bag in about 45 minutes. It was fast, fun and now I have a nice sized, summery monkeyshines bag to haul around my latest WIP.

Which as it turns out, fits my latest project in the "Wrestling WIPs" challenge, My Lacy Stole. The yarn is Sundara's Basil over Buttercup, which I think is currently part of her July month of color. The hues and sparkle to this yarn is wonderful and it is lovely to knit with. And best of all, I have only 11 more pattern repeats and then I am done.

The pattern is free from Lion Brand and easy to do, if you cheat like I do--using stitch markers to remind me where every repeat is, and an excel chart of the stitch pattern that I check off on each row, so it is never an issue which row I am on.

Oddly enough, I haven't had the least urge to cast on any new projects--there has been a real delight in picking up these old, nagging WIPs and just getting them done. I think that is because I know that next month I am going to dive head first into Christmas knitting. I have three projects I want to cast on and finish over the month, and then I will be well ahead in my usual Fall panic over "what the heck to knit for Christmas???!!"

Am I jumping the gun? Are you knitting for Christmas yet?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wrestling Socks

I joined the WIPs Wrestlemanis 2009 group on Ravelry, (Team: Burning Down the Stash) with the much needed goal of spending the month of July cleaning out the old works in progress that need to be, well, finished. And I dug out a few:

  • Six pairs of socks
  • 1 Lace Stole
  • 1 Lace scarf
  • 1 cardigan

So I attacked the socks first, going after all my cast-on craziness that I'd done during May and June while I was stuck at home. I've been devouring Cat Bordhi's book New Pathways for Sock Knitters, and pulling from the stash to make her wonderful examples.

These are the socks I started at Madrona last February in Cat's class on Sock Architecture. Knit on 0 dpns, and using the Riverbed architecture, they were a great learning sock. I even finished them with this cuff, which I find I like better than your usual K2P2.

I also had these socks on the needles, but I didn't like the plain heel that I had done on the first one:

So I frogged it back and did a reinforced heel. Then I noticed that there isn't a single heel in Cat's book that isn't done with anything other than a reinforced heel. Now I know why, especially when you see the difference:

I've one more pair of socks off the needles and just in need of few finishing touches then it is onto my Lacy Stole which has languished for far too long.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Goodness, Time Flies

When you have pneumonia. Sorry for the long absence, but shortly after the last post, I got pneumonia and my Spring disappeared from me and now here it is Summer. At least I could see my peonies from the window and enjoy their splendor this year. We really had an awful winter, but the payback was a glorious load of peonies.

As for the pneumonia, it hit fast, hard and kept me down. You know you are really, truly, see-the-light-sick when you don't even feel like knitting for several weeks. Yeah, that sick.

But once I got to the point where I could knit, my Dad had come to stay with us and help take care of me. I was knitting this pair of socks at the time:

And he would take the kids to school or run out to get groceries and all that other stuff I couldn't do, and when he got back, he would check for progress to make sure I had stayed on the couch and wasn't getting up and doing stuff. Like I really I wanted to. He made me laugh as he counted rows and nagged at me to take care of myself. Yes, Dad! He was so good to come up from Southern Oregon to spend a week with us. We really didn't want him to go.

BTW, the socks are from Cat Bordhi's book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters, using the Riverbed architecture. Which, come to look at them, I did wrong. But here is the joy and beauty of Cat's sock philosophy--they still worked out just fine.

Being housebound, I've been forced to knit from the stash, but I've found a real joy in using what I have. Odd as it might sound, getting this sick has turned out to be a blessing in many ways. It brought a lot of things into focus, including giving me back a real joy in using what I have.

My mom had been with us the week earlier when I couldn't knit, and she brought with her some knitting (she likes to make premie hats to go with the quilts she makes and donates) and I accused her of taunting me with knitting. She laughed and kept on knitting. But huge props go out to both my folks for jumping in with both feet without even having to be asked. That's why Terry and I love them so much. That and they both are great cooks and good company. What more would you want when you are sick? Or well, for that matter!

Not to be outdone by Mom's charitable endeavors, I worked on my Warm for Winter hats. I felt the need to give thanks for feeling better, and what better way is there than some charity knitting. I like to knit at least 12 hats each year for this wonderful endeavor, and so I knit these two:

This is Elizabeth Zimmerman's A Very Warm Hat. I love it because it is fun to knit, a great way to use up leftover stash and makes, just as the title implies, a very warm hat for someone who has to be outside all day. I also make sure to always do these in wool, since wool stays warm even when it is wet, and in Seattle in the winter, it is hard to stay dry, let alone warm.

This hat, the Swirled Ski Cap, from Knitting for Peace, is also from leftovers and was intended to go with a baby present, but the hat is more large toddler sized, so it is going into the Warm for Winter pile, since sadly, kids end up out there as well.

Seems funny to talk about knitting for winter in the middle of summer, but I find I like knitting these sort of smaller projects this time of year.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Stops and Starts

I've been knitting. Really I have. Just not as much as I would like. Or rather not on the things I want to be knitting on.

That is my own fault. I went on a test knitting jag, and knit two different items for people developing patterns. One is already available on Ravelry as a download pattern and it was fun to make, mostly because I knew Matthew would love it. Here he is modeling Baxterknits' Aegean Vest. I do like this pattern and it is a great way to use up leftovers.

I decided to do this test knit because Matthew loves wearing vests. Go figure. The kid who usually wears only pajamas, adores putting on a vest. If he's going anywhere special or just wants to "look handsome" he pulls on his vest. So I knew he'd love have another one.

The two disadvantages of test knitting are being a deadline and having to stop whatever else you are knitting. Like this post heading, I've been knitting in stops and starts on two pairs of socks. I love socks for travel because I can tuck them in this fancy pencil bag I got last fall at Target. Fits in the purse and sits happily on the tray table so the yarn doesn't end up rolling down the aisle.

On this last journey (to Wichita) I ended up having a hellish trip back--what was supposed to be about six hours of travel turned in 17 hours of airport delays. And I worked on my socks, read a little Georgette Heyer, and worked on my book which has a May 1st deadline. I really like airplane knitting cause it does make me a calmer and less obsessed about the flight. But when you are in the middle seat it is darn hard to try on the sock you are knitting to see if you've got it right.

I think on my next flight, I'll just make sure I am at the heel turns so I don't have much to try on. Which if you are wondering is Seattle to Orlando. So I could probably do several pairs of heel turns over the course of that 5 hour flight. Well, let's hope it only takes 5 hours. I've seen quite enough of airports lately, thank you very much.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If Spring is here, Why am I still wearing Wool?

So today is the first day of spring and I can't wait to leave this winter behind, but instead of daffodils blooming in my yard and my primroses blooming happily in my gardens, the yard is much as it has been all winter.

So I continue with the Winter Knitting. I've been working through some projects and UFOs per my desire to get some things off the needles this month. And first up is my Harmonia's Rings, a cowl/shoulder wrap Cat Bordhi and the designer, Sivia Harding were wearing at Madrona--not at the same time, they each had their own--which was tempting to just corner one of them, rip it off their shoulders and run. But then again, I can knit my own. And I did.

I used two skeins of See Jayne Knit's hand dyed merino in the colorway Chocolate Truffle Berry. Okay, she had me at "chocolate." The yarn is wonderfully soft and cozy and I've been wearing this constantly.

Sivia's pattern for Harmonia's Cowl gave me two challenges, knitting a moebius for the first time and doing a moebius cast on. Thank goodness for Cat Bordhi's excellent youTube video, I was up and running in no time and it is really addictive knitting.

The pattern repeat is easy, but lately I've found that I can't follow a chart or even simple row repeats to save my life--just way too much life filling up the bandwidth and remembering what row I am on seems impossible--so I've come up with a solution. My own sort of cheat sheet that I make for each project using Excel, and making a small chart with the rows and repeats and just check it off at the end of each row. Then when I come back to it, or forget halfway through the round where I am, I can just glance over figure it out without doing a bunch of frogging back. This is the chart I used for my Veste Everest.

I hadn't planned on doing the beaded picot bind off around the neck, but then as I was looking for something else, I found a tube of beads I'd bought years ago for something else and never used, so the beaded edge it was.

I loved knitting this so much I plan on making two more for Christmas presents, I have the yarn for one, and am keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect yarn for a second one, though I may just use some stash yarn.

The other project that found its way onto my needles after Madrona was a pair of Toast. Again at the Cat Bordhi class (that was just a day of inspiration in so many ways) I was sitting next to Kari, who also spins for her Etsy shop, Mud.Creek, and she had knit a pair on the plane up from Arizona. I was immediately enamored and when I got home, cast on. I know some people don't "get" fingerless gloves, but I adore them. My hands get too hot in gloves or mittens but fingerless? Oh, they are perfectly toasty without getting too hot.

These are modeled by one of the boys, so they are a little large on him. Again I used a skein from See Jayne Knit, a handspun silk and merino blend in Watermelon. I have another skein in another colorway, which will probably get used for yet another Christmas present.

I also finished up a small shawl on the plane to Chicago this week, which I'll get blocked this weekend. Then it might be a bit before I finish anything more because I had to sign books for two days straight, now it is my wrists who are toast and I have to take a few days off of knitting to rehab them. Stinks, but I knew that would happen. Instead I'll keep enjoying my new FOs, and dreaming of Spring.

And Spring knitting . . .

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I've been starting and stopping projects for the last two weeks and can't say that I have anything to show for it. I'm nearly finished on two projects inspired by some wonderful items I saw at Madrona, but not quite done.

With so much going on around here--I've had five books I had to read for my working life, two test knit projects I'm working on, a book due next month, two books coming out in the next two months, and more travel over a three month period than I have done in like the last three years. I've been to Madrona, then last weekend went to a romance reader's conference in Portland, Or. Next weekend I am off to Chicago to sign books at the warehouse. Which means NO KNITTING for like three or four days. I need my wrist in top form to sign about 8,000 copies of my next book, CONFESSIONS OF A LITTLE BLACK GOWN and be able to keep typing on the book that is due. Yes, you read that correctly. 8K. Sigh. The glamorous life. Two days in a warehouse signing books. Actually, it is kinda fun, a sort of marathon adventure but the no knitting part stinks.

Then off to Wichita for the Midwest Plains Librarian Association conference, where I speak and do a booksigning at Barnes & Noble. Then it is off to Disneyland for spring break -- which neither of the kids have on the same week, so we are going the week in between when they both have school. We figured two wrongs make it all right. Then I get a breather for like three weeks and then I am off to Orlando for the Florida Librarians Association where I speak again and sign again, this time at the Borders in Clearwater, FL.

I was invited to another conference the week after, back again in Orlando, but twice across the country in two weeks? Uh, no. Because in July I go to Washington DC for a week for a big writer's conference. Then the Sock Summit is lurking on the horizon. I actually have a hotel scoped out, and my escape plans for that one in sort of a sketchy, hazy outline. Really, honey, I know I've been gone a lot, but this is a very important knitting event . . .

So with all this on the horizon I can't really get excited about knitting something big, like I did in February with the Vest-uary KAL. I got my Veste Everest done, which I've been wearing daily. But right now, I don't have the bandwidth to cast on a big project. So it is small, packable, easy on the wrists projects for the foreseeable future. And hopefully I can get some of my UFOs out of the stash and into the world being useful before some new wonderful can't resist, time-consuming project hits the radar.

So here is the critical question for all of you. Because when you travel you need one key piece of advice: What are the good knit shops in Wichita, Orlando, or Washington DC? Anyone?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Dye Class

I told someone I went to a class on dyeing last week and they became alarmed that I was sick. Non-knitters! Whatever are we to do with them? But I have to say the most fun class I took at Madrona was Judith MacKenzie McCuin's Just Dyeing for Socks.

Nothing like being given a room protected in industrial strength plastic and being let loose with a boggling range of color possibilities and told to "have fun." Here are the advantages of dyeing at Madrona:

1) Not in my kitchen.
2) I don't have to prep it all.
3) I don't have to clean it up.
4) And best of all, I don't have to clean it up.

So I repeated the last ones, but come on, those need to be repeated. Special hurrahs to Judith and her pair of helpers who did all the grunt work so the rest of us could play.

We started out with skeins of Worsted/Mohair mix. Mine turned into a clownish mess, but that is how it is supposed to be your first time out. I listened to other students worry over not getting it perfect, but for me, it was the lessons of doing it all wrong in the first skein that helped me with my next two: a sock blank and a skein of merino/silk blend.

Isn't this silk blend beautiful? I just love how the greens and blues and yellows blended. I'm thinking of making a lacy little scarf with this skein. The clown yarn will probably get knit into something to felt, but I have to decide whether or not I want to risk hives over knitting with mohair.

After all the painting, the skeins went into ziploc bags and then into the pot to cook. Oh, yum, Mom! What's for dinner?

Now the only downside of all this, is that we also dyed sock blanks, but mine somehow went missing. They were left on tables in the back of the classroom over the next few days for all of us to pick up, and mine got lost in the shuffle or someone just picked up the wrong one. But even if I hadn't come home with anything, I would rate this class an A+ for fun. Like being allowed to color on the walls and outside the lines all at once.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Coming Down

I'm back from the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat. I've been back since Sunday night, but I couldn't type yesterday to save my life. Now I could go on and on about the classes and what I learned, and all the cool knitters I met, but I think everyone prefers seeing what you get when go to a knitting conference. So, since my brain is still mush, I give you my own personal Madrona yarn crawl. And just a warning, I do have my firewall up, so no trying to sneak over and steal my precious'es:

First up, I hit the Toots Le Blanc booth. I haven't knit up the last yarn I bought there, but that didn't stop me from stocking up, 'cause you know, it's 50% Alpaca, 50% Jacob, in a DK weight that I think will be lover-ly in the Honeycomb Vest.

After Cat Bordhi's class, I'd spotted some sock yarn in a linen/merino blend, by Tactile, that was so bright and pretty, I had to have some . . . because well, I am now an enthusiastic sock knitter. Yes, I am.

Yeah, that pink will wake up the feet. Though I may be doing something else with it. Not sure.

Then it was onto The Fiber Gallery booth were she had the Fiber Trends Leaf Lace shawl hanging in the booth. I'd been having shawl envy since I walked into the conference and there it was, taunting me. "Knit me, knit me," it whispered from across the aisle. "I won't drive you to drink crazy, I promise. . . " Now we all know me and lace knitting. But ahem, I also mean to give this a try. So I bought the pattern and these two skeins of Handmaiden Sea Silk:

I was shopping with my new friend and great designer, Lisa Ellis and she and I went back and forth over which skeins worked best with my colors, and we had a lot of help picking them out. Isn't that great when you have lots of people to help you buy yarn?

Now I didn't need any help when I got to the Blue Moon booth. Despite having knit the World's Ugliest Socks out of one of their skeins, I still can't resist their yarns. The names and the colors just knock me over. And so I got two skeins of:

Jabberywocky in the Lightweight version. I thought if the shawl project is a success then I will try another one, and if not, well, then socks! And since I know of about four babies about to make their way into the world, I got this wonderful skein of Mediumweight STR in Grimm's Willow Wren:

Which is going to make the coolest, sweetest Baby Surprise Jacket (like this one) for some little wee pumpkin. And then I went back in the market at the last hour and probably shouldn't have, but found the colorway of Taos I've been looking for and bought it:

Okay, I bought all of it. But I was tired. And not thinking straight. And it will make the coolest . . . something.

Next, I will share all the great patterns and knits I saw, so check back! And if you went, what did you get that you can't wait to knit?