Sunday, December 25, 2011

Black and White and Color

 Here's some of what I've been working on the last month. I guess I was mistaken in thinking that I wasn't getting anything done. (Mantra for 2012: the glass is half full...) First up, a modification of the clever Toast Wrap by Madeline Bourque (adapted from a cowl in the English catalog/shop Toast).
 Knit in Rowan Pure Wool DK on a size 4 needle. I cast on 126 stitches and worked 3 1/2 repeats of the pattern. And instead of grafting the two ends together, I worked a 2x2 rib on each end. One side is black, the other is white, so that I could use up the yarn that I had left.

Next, catnip mice. This is the best way to dry them after felting: on chopsticks stuck into the glass that usually holds the toothbrush and toothpaste. Festive, no? The one on the counter (in Jo Sharp DK Wool, color Owl) looks a bit too lifelike - I'm not sure whether I'll ever want to sew him up into the finished toy.
 The pattern is Felted Mouse by Jo Chandler. I knit these in Noro Kureyon on size 7 dpns, and could get 6 or 7 mice from one skein. Modifications: I worked 10 rows instead of 2 1/2 inches after completing the increases, so that I would get a nice, chubby mouse and one not so lifelike. Also, I decreased to 3 stitches for the tail and worked the I-cord until the tail was longer than the body. I made little packets of catnip on the sewing machine, stuffed them, and seamed up the opening. Oh, and I didn't bother to sew up the mice for felting, and things came out fine. Very cute.
 And Belle likes hers. I am keeping the catnip packets and finished mice in a ziplock plastic bag to deter extra partaking of the catnip.

And not a homemade, but my daughter thought to send a present to Parker for Hanukah, and he loves it. He has been sleeping with it tucked under his arm (leg?). Do you think he sees it as his baby?

 And one more: tiny socks knit out of Jamieson and Smith two-ply, then strung on a cord. The pattern is Sockology Roll-Top Sock Bookmark. (The title is longer than the sock.)
My fellow weavers in my guild study group, who saw me finishing these at our last meeting and starting what was going to be a tiny steeked Fair Isle vest, suggested that I do a different miniature piece of clothing for each night of Hanukah. I loved the idea, but instead have been knitting up mittens for a shop model. No picture; the pattern is Ann Norling's Mittens on 4 needles. I can turn out a mitten in about 3 hours - a world's record for me - and am lured instead to knit mittens. Knit, wear, appreciate the warmth and beauty. Isn't that what making things by hand should be about?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some Holiday Cheer

A list, in no particular order, of some things that have made me happy:
  • Shaun the Sheep. Best part: his strange sideways baaaa out of the corner of his mouth, his red underpants, and his dance segment at the end of each episode, especially all the sheep doing Riverdance.
  • uncooked batter from cupcakes or cookies or cakes
  • seeing The Muppets Movie on Thanksgiving, then Being Elmo the following Sunday. It was almost an all-Muppets Thanksgiving Weekend.
  • knitting mittens
  • wearing hand-knit mittens
  • Netflix Streaming: Breaking Bad (yikes, about to start Season Three); SportsNight; some (ahem) reality television, old movies (though most of the best are not available by streaming).
  • visiting with my sister, who came through Chicago for the day
  • meeting with my weaving study group. None of us have been working on the Certificate of Excellence, but, on the other hand, we are all productively weaving, and in a better manner than we were two years ago, before starting our study of the COE. We had a great meeting, and decided that this year's theme for our presentation to the guild will be something like What I've Learned from the COE, even though I've been weaving for myself and not towards the requirements...aka It's All About Me. We are known for giving honest, informative, visually-interesting (one member does a Power Point with pictures of all the samples being discussed, so that people can see what we're talking about), and funny yearly sum-ups of our work. 
  • Soup, any soup, from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soups cookbook. The mushroom-barley...incredible. Yesterday, leek soup with potato gnocchi...pretty darn good, too. Tonight I need to cook up a batch of lentil soup. There are two of us working at the knitting shop, and we decided to bring lunch and enjoy the day.

Happy holidays and lots of light to all.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fair Isle on my Mind

I've had Fair Isle on my mind lately. We've started carrying Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift at the store, and colorwork is luring my attention. And I'm not usually interested in working at such a fine gauge -- 24 to 26 stitches to 4 inches on a size 1 or 2 needle. But I keep thinking of the black-and-white pieces in the fall Debbie Bliss magazine, and in the Fall Vogue. And of how much black and grey I wear all winter.

So far, I'm working some of my cravings out in my weaving. I'm still weaving off the extremely long grey cotton warp on the loom, but experimenting with reds and blacks and greys and whites in the twill patterns. Faux Fair Isle?
Yesterday we went to Pilsen to see the Day of the Dead  (Dios de los Muertos) exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. On the way from the car to the museum, I realized that I was hungry, and thought - churro! Not that I've ever eaten one, but a friend told me a story recently about eating at Rick Bayless' XOCO right after it opened, and being served the most amazing churros right from the kitchen with a cup of good, hot coffee. Then, what did we find, but a man selling churros outside the museum? We bought a bag, leaned up against the wall, and ate them - cinnamony, warm, sugary. The museum was good, too, especially an exhibit called Chioroscuro with paintings by Munoz. And the La Cantrina figures - tall, languid skeleton ladies with big, My Fair Lady Hats and long fingers holding cigarette holders.

Afterward, we strolled the neighborhood, found a bakery, asked the check-out person what was her favorite taqueria, and then went to Los Comales #3. Great grilled onions, avocado tostita, refried beans, horchata. You can eat in or do take-out. Then, strolling some more, and I found a black-and-white Fair Isle sweater at Knee Deep, a vintage store:

 I'm pretty sure that it's machine-made, but what the heck: it cost way less than what it would take to knit, and it's ready to wear. And machine-knit or not, the yarn looks like Jamieson's:
 A colleague told me that seams that are overcast are indications of machine-knitting:
And my knitting into and out of the city: the Toast Wrap from Ravelry, which is a copy of a pattern from the Fall 2011 Toast catalog (a UK store). Not bad, but I think that if you want to impact of Fair Isle, you need to use the tiny yarn and the tiny needles. (This is the Rowan Pure Wool DK on a size 4 needle).
Just waiting for the pie to come out of the oven and then we're taking our annual Thanksgiving Day hike. Happy holiday to all - and take some time to lie on the sofa and sleep today!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where I've Been

Halloween. My pumpkin is the little guy on the left. I really like him: wicked yet bemused. And lit up: 
 My favorite trick-or-treater was a little guy in a clown costume with an emormous day-glo afro-style wig. When I admired his costume he looked me in the eye, placed one finger on his red clown nose, beeped it once, and went on his way. That kid has a future.

Shopping at my favorite store, the Goodwill. A Fair Isle sweater for my husband: $4.99.
 A Banana Republic turtleneck for me: $4.99. And a black wrap sweater with satin ribbon ties, not pictured: $4.99. The place was jam-packed: everyone is shopping at the Goodwill these days.
 Weaving. I put on my longest warp ever (200") and am weaving off handtowels in a Finnish Twill pattern from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book. 8/2 cotton from Webs, sett at 20 epi.
 Catnip mice out of Noro Kureyon. R=These are fast and easy and have great noses and ears; I almost have the pattern memorized, and they make great car knitting. Still need to be stuffed.
 Tiny sock for a bookmark. After-thought heel; honestly.
 Sock One and Sock Two. The first has an acutal gusset and short-row heel. It's been so long since I've knit socks that I thought the purple would be just the heel, instead of going across the instep. I love miniature things.
That's the update. Day (sort of) off until I teach this evening. Hoping to do a lot of weaving and finish reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Komi Mitten 4

Mitten 4 from Charlene Schurch's Mostly Mittens. Cascade Pastaza (still my top favorite for mitten knitting). Corrugated ribbed cuff and stranded colorwork. These started out with the specifications for a child's mitten knit in a smaller gauge; I blew them up to a bulkier yarn and knit them on a size 4 needle.The llama-wool blend makes them warm, and the dense, tightly-knit fabric makes them Super Warm.

Some of the modifications that I made included casting on 38 stitches for the ribbing and increasing to 48 for the hand portion; starting the decreases for the top of the mitten on row 38; increasing the thumb gusset to only 17 stitches; and starting the decreases for the thumb about 6 or 8 rows before what the pattern calls for.

Full disclosure: I ripped out the top of the mittens, after they were completely finished, because they were huge - much too long, even for someone with more normal-sized adults hands. And I did the same thing with one of the thumbs (but not the other, I couldn't find the end of the yarn and I was just ready to  stop knitting these mittens.) As often happens, blocking places enough time and space between knitter and product for you to be able to fall in love with the end result and forget all the trials. Once they were completely dry, I thought, now that's a good mitten!

I'm happy with these and may keep them, as they are still a bit wee for most adults. I'm starting a new pair (this is my new knit-in-the-car project) with 44 stitches cast on for the ribbing, increasing to 48 for the mitten, and working all but the ribbing on a size 5 needle. I'm hoping that it makes the mitten just a bit larger and decreases the effort of working it on a smaller needle.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Dear Knitting Gods:

Why is my knitting so wonky of late? Since summer, I've been having severe gauge issues, misread patterns, mittens that are much too short or tight or loose or long. How can something that is supposed to be enjoyable be so difficult?

I know. I shouldn't have started on a complicated Fair Isle sweater when I'm having these problems. But working in a knitting store is akin to being crew member on Odysseus' boat as it passes the Sirens: every day, the yarn calls at me, buy me. So, I'm trying to save that project for moments when my attention is fully upon my knitting.

But all the other half-dones? The Mitered Square Blanket that I started to sew up on Thursday at the hairdresser's, and then put aside out of boredom and discontent over the look of the seam? And the mittens that I'm trying to knit for my sister? I'm on pair number four, with the previous three being Bella's Mittens (too short the first time, too short, again, the second time) and a pair of Komi Mittens (too wide and too long). Well, really pair number five: because number four are the Komi Mittens in Cascade Pastaza. One mitten completed. Beautiful. Great colors. Showed off at the store and the response? That's a really Big Mitten. Now ripped back to do the decrease again.

I feel like I'm breathing and sleeping and eating knitting. But not getting anywhere. Even super simple fingerless gloves in Blue Sky Brushed Suri? On the first finished glove, I neglected to notice that I needed to work 10 more rounds before placing the thumb stitches aside. And now I'm on the second, and almost out of yarn.

Still, I keep plugging away. The tide's gotta turn, right?

Wish me luck.


PS with apologies to H. for borrowing her template for this post!

PS2 - Could it all come down to not reading directions? Clearly, I'm just not paying attention? I posted this by accident on my weaving study group blog before noticing that I was doing a new post in the wrong blog.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Instant Gratification (Birthday) Crafts

Yesterday was my birthday, and in celebration, I had lunch the other day with a friend. We have been making a ritual of birthday lunches for several years. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do after lunch, except that I felt like doing something craft-y and fabric-y and colorful.

My first idea was to make a fabric bunting or garland. I've been taking a look at Offbeat Bride (I think of it as Martha Stewart for a new, sometimes tattoed, always stylish generation) occasionally and love the happiness and crafted-ness and color that brides are using these days for weddings that look fun. I also like to get a fix of color and beautiful craft at Purl Bee (the sister shop to Purl Soho, the knitting store in New York City. Aren't these happy? And then, I lurked around and found these amazing vintage book garlands.

We bought some Kaffee Fassett fabric at the quilt store after lunch. But then we came home, and in less than fifteen minutes, my friend, who didn't feel like sitting at the machine while we sewed many small pieces of fabric end-to-end, had cut the fabric for pillows that I've been meaning to work on for the last three months. She sewed them up on the machine, then I stuffed the down-feather pillows in, whipstitched the end close, and eh voila, instant, happy birthday craft.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesdays with Dorrie

I love the idea of baking my way through a cookbook, and sharing it with other bakers.

I discovered Tuesdays with Dorrie too late. But maybe I'll make myself an ad hoc member, and bake away with them, anyway? Starting with World Peace Cookies. And if anyone knows of something similar, can you let me know?

I can tell that the season of Needing Chocolate and Light is upon me. I'm home from the Cape, and already missing the water and the sun and the beach.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blue and a New Use for an Old Phone Booth

A repurposed phone booth at the local market: ATM instead of rotary telephone.

What I'm reading:
I'm a big fan of this series, which fuses optimism and pessimism onto every page. The books, set in Quebec in a town that is a fairytale kind of place, looks at the dark and light in all situations, have a lot of nuances in the characterization, and a ton of characters who are artists: poets, painters, cooks, lovers of horses. And I am always intrigued by the author's forewords, which seem to suggest some sadness and struggle, despite the amazing mysteries that she writes.

The Komi mitten that I am knitting; seems to be a blue theme going on.
This is Mitten 18 from Charlene Schurch's Mostly Mittens. The yarn is Cascade 220 Sport. You get a ton of yardage (175 yds) for about $4, and it is reminiscent of Jamieson's DK-weight Shetland yarn. In the skein, it feels smooth, but once you start working with it, it takes on a slightly more wooly, crunchy feel.

Here's how I'm keeping track of pattern rows.
Gauge? No idea. I'm trying to commit to knitting a pair, with no modifications from the directions for Adult's medium, and then seeing where I end up. I do know that my tension has changed a great deal from beginning of the colorwork to where I am now, with the knitting getting tighter and more even. Below, a view of the variations in tension from very loose to more regular:
I'm feeling some pressure to put this aside and try to crank out some mittens in Malabrigo for a show that I'll be in come November. On the other hand, my fall resolution is to try to finish something before starting something else....
And more blue: Parker surveying his kingdom. The best time of day at the beach is between 4 and 6 pm.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cape Cod

The boardwalk from the dunes to our beach. And below, a view from the walk down onto the beach: my husband, the dog, and my nephew, who came to stay overnight with his fiancee. It felt a bit quieter than August at the Jersey shore, where we had 12 of us around the table, but still very nice. We're thinking that September at Cape Cod should become Beach Tradition #2 of the year.
Parker. This is his first time at the beach, and he loves the ocean and the piles of seaweed along the dunes and galloping into the waves for a stick and swimming back to shore with it in his jaws. And especially, the seagulls. I quickly learned yesterday that there is no calling him back when he is running a gigantic loop after some birds.
Stones on the beach. Very different from what you see at the shore in New Jersey. Lots of this white stone - is it quartz? And smooth, small river-rock kinds of pebbles. Not many sea shells. And a few claw shells from crabs, though no critters sighted.
 Another view of Parker, after a swim.
And another difference from New Jersey: many more bird sounds, and frogs and crickets last night (including a very loud one inside the house), and a beautiful night sky that had a bit of what seemed like Northern Lights to me -- there were wide swaths of lighter-colored sky, and a very full moon, and a distinctly-moving light that my husband thinks may have been a view of the space station.

Friday, September 09, 2011

gauge monsters

We're driving to the Cape. Tonight we're in Massachusetts. Yesterday in Brookville, Pennsylvania (a very nice historic downtown).

No significant problems with Hurricane Lee, though any place that there is a body of water, from the Meander Reservoir in Ohio to the Hudson River in New York (my most favorite landscape - I never fail to be amazed at how beautiful the Hudson River Valley is), the water level is very high.

We have the dog with us. He's behaving pretty well, but we believe that he can recognize the blue highway signs for the rest stops, because he starts fussing whenever we pass one. We have compromised by stopping every second or third stop, which has worked out fine, as we get out, all stretch our legs, make appropriate rest stops, and then get going for the next bout of driving.

The only problem has been the continuing frustration of mitten-knitting, strange gauge problems, and a lot of unproductive work. In the last two weeks, I've knit Bella Mittens too small. Bella Mittens too large. Komi Mittens too large. Basic Mitten Pattern from Ann Budd's book too big, The last, I'm dead-on with gauge and knitting my size - 7 1/2 - and the first mitten fits my husband's hand. If I strung together all of this knitting in stitches and time, I probably have at least a sweater's worth of work.

Tomorrow, we should make it to Cape Cod. And maybe I'll have a mitten to show off.

Monday, September 05, 2011

My (First) Free Pattern: Gee's Bend Baby Blanket

Introducing the Gee's Bend Baby Blanket.

Can I have an Oscar moment? I have posted my first free pattern on Ravelry! And I am listed as a designer. How crazy and wonderful is that?

And I do love this pattern. I love the colors. I love the yarn: Be Sweet Bambino and Bambino Taffy. I love the odd meetings of colors and shapes, and the way that it is both asymmetrical and balanced at the same time - just like the incredible quilts of Gee's Bend.

The goal was to design a blanket that was quick to knit but not boring; machine-washable; and provided color interest without the effort of stranding or intarsia. The excitement comes from working two squares from the outside of the self-striping colorway of Bambino Taffy and two squares from the inside, so that the pinks and greens and yellows echo, but don't match up shape for shape.

Another Oscar moment (who knows when or if I'll have another pattern on Ravelry? Though I have an idea for a project that will incorporate words embroidered onto a knitted object): thank you to not only the Gee's Bend artists, but also Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne of Mason-Dixon Knitting. Queens of the mitered square, inspiration for all knitters and admirers of beauty in the everyday world.

The pattern provides line-by-line directions for the mitered squares. And in the Notes, I have deciphered two rules for making mitered squares, for those of you who like a sense of the architecture within the mitered-sqaure decrease.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Shape of Beauty

...yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall/
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in...

Monday, August 22, 2011


Here's Vivian, on a dress form at the store. Doesn't match the outfit, but I wanted to show what it looks like on, instead of lying flat.

(The skirt is a crocheted skirt from Interweave Crochet. And the t-shirt: a limited edition tee for the Chicago Yarn Crawl. I love commemorative t-shirts, and my boss was kind enough to give each of the staff a tee. Yeah!)

And the back view:
I had some panicky moments while blocking the sweater. Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran grows a LOT when wet, and the sweater looked to have increased at least two or three sizes. After a day of worry, I threw it in the dryer on low gentle. (There was no way it could be worn, except by a giant, so I thought, why not?) As you can see, the sleeves are still long enough for a gorilla. Ah, well. I do like long sleeves on sweaters, so that I can tuck my hands up into the sweater in winter.

Next up, sewing in an Oriental Blue zipper from Joann's. There were no oranges that matched this shade of yarn, so I decided to go with Anthropologie-influenced complete color contrast.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie cupcakes, from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.
(You can download some of the recipes from the book at this link.),

In our family, one of the traditions is to choose your birthday cake. These were my husband's choice. In past years, I've made a traditional-sized Boston Cream Pie from the Betty Crocker cookbook. These are much better. The cake is just the right amount of vanilla and pound cake-ishness, and much to my surprise, we (meaning my daughter, whose beautiful hands are icing the cupcakes in the above photo) were able to slice them in half without the cake falling apart.

The center is a vanilla pastry cream, and instead of the chcocolate ganache glaze from the cookbook, I did the old standby of a butter cream icing.

The recipe makes enough to fill one cupcake tin, plus enough left over to make an entire small cake. So now we have tiny Boston Cream Pies to finish, and then enough pastry cream and icing to make another cake. Phew. How to resist? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If It Doesn't Move, I'm Kitchenering It

At this point with Vivian, I'm Kitchenering the heck out of every stitch in sight.

The reason is that I modified the original pattern, which calls for working the sleeves in the round and then attaching them as you work from the bottom toward the neckline of the sweater. On Version 1 and 2 of the sleeves, I was dissatisfied with (as many Raveler posters have noted), how fitted, well, just too tight the sleeves were. So, on Version 3 (or perhaps 4), I decided to work the sleeves down from the shoulder, after adding the held stitches into the body. Another dead end: working a sleeve in the round when attached to a bulky, heavy cabled sweater is not fun.

Version 4, or 5, and the ultimate choice: I worked the sleeves flat, used the stitch count from the size Large instead of my size Small, and worked the sleeves from cuff toward shoulder.

And because I was over the sleeve question, I put this all on the back burner while I tried to finish the body and hood of the sweater. This meant that I need to create a little faux top of the sleeve (about six rows) to add in when the pattern called for adding the sleeves to the body.

Time, then, to connect the sleeves. I decided to Kitchener stitch them to the little cap sleeve I'd created. Oh, and did I mention that I ran out of yarn (again)? Saved by another fellow poster on Ravelry, who sent me two skeins of the no-longer-available Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, after I'd eked out every inch left of the tiny odds-and-ends at the bottom of the knitting bag.
The result is not bad. There's a slight seam line that's visible, and I'm not sure that it isn't going to hit my upper arm instead of shoulder.

Live and learn, right? I'm now pushing along to complete the second sleeve seam, work in multitudinous ends, and sew in (yikes) a zipper. This is one orange sweater, two years in the working, with end, hopefully, in sight. I am stupified by knitters who've posted on this sweater and have completed it in a few weeks. Do they do nothing but knit? Please, share your secrets with me! And does this mean that taking on Sylvi next might be a bad choice?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Reading

Highly recommended:
  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. The Amazon Jungle. The pharmeceutical industry and a tree bark that prolongs fertility into women's elder years. A strong-minded, autocratic, opinionated, manipulative mentor. Her student, who gave medicine up after a delivery-gone-wrong and turned to drug research.. Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with a true heart. (Here's a review, but be warned that it gives away much of the plot.) 
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly. Another high point in one of my favroite genres: feisty young girls who are smart, clever, a bit difficult to get along with, and ready to take on the world. In this case, the world of Darwin and science and the natural world, with the mentorship of her grandfather. Set in Texas in 1899, and also a nice look into post-Civil War culture and relations between servants and family in those years. I'm wishing for a sequel.
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. Come on, people! I think that this book is supposed to be funny. The author writes, with a great deal of self-reflective irony, about her efforts to raise her daughters in the Chinese way. The tone is reminiscent of the best novels with unreliable narrators (Tristram Shandy) and women's voices that are so overly confident that you are able to peek behind the curtain of authorial confidence to see the flaws in their arguments (the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters). I found it to be well-written, highly entertaining, and, in the end, clearly demonstrative of a mother who loves and wants the best for her daughters, even when it requires them teaching her to be the mother that they need.
Hope that you are making time to sit still and read. Even better, beside an ocean or lake.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Without Camera but Somewhat Productive,all the same

It doesn't seem like a blog post without a photo, and my little Nikon Coolpix has given up the ghost (Lens Error - over $100 to repair, which is exactly the cost of a new one - why is repairing technology so costly and aimed at you throwing something out instead of fixing it?). So, no pictures.

And so, a post of words.

I'm trying to focus on finishing knitting projects that have been hanging about and causing anxiety. So far, done with the shop model of the Summer Flies shawl. Great pattern. Easy, except for the Open Eyelet section at the end. Tip: On the purl rows, you want to work every stitch, including the two inside the passed over stitch on the previous row.

And yesterday, as we drove into and back out from lunch at Lula Cafe (my favorite restaurant in Chicago), I took out and then started to redo the front of my Liesl dress. I'm substituting Tahki Ripple for the Euroflax in the original pattern. Not sure if it was the best call, but all that's left to do is seam the front straps to the back and stitch up the pockets.

In the train on Saturday evening (back and forth to Grant Park for a concert), I took out the 5 leaves from the edging on my Cedar Leaf Shawlette, did a few rows of garter stitch, and cast off. Now I need to look at a Nicky Epstein book for an alternate edging. The leaves were going sooo slowly, and I was afraid that I would run out of yarn about halfway through. I'm using a Madeline Tosh Pashmina which I bought in Pittsburgh, and there's little chance of finding another skein, if I ran out halfway across.

Next up, forcing myself to try to finish a sweater whose name I can't even recall at the moment. That's how long it's been since I worked on it. It's an Ysolda Teague pattern from Twist Collective, with a hood and tons of cables and seed stitches. (Ah, here it is: Vivian.) All that is left is working down one sleeve from shoulder to wrist (I modified the pattern), the second sleeve, and then adding a zipper as closure. This one will be a chore, but I'd love to be able to put it behind me, after two years or more of on-and-off knitting.

And my Mitered Square Blanket. About 20 balls of the Tahki Cotton Classic left. Then seaming. I was amused to notice the exact same blanket in a Kaffe Fassett book (Glorious Color? Glorious Knitting?) It's in the background of a photo, and I thought, hmm, that's interesting. I'd always connected this pattern with other designers. Still beautiful. Still fun to work. And closure at mini-levels: finishing one square, seaming up two squares, seaming up an entire block.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Juneberries Update

I'm a forager! When I walk from the garage to the back door, I go up a set of stairs that goes right past the serviceberry tree. Each time, I pull a few berries off the tree and eat them on my way into the house.

So, I'm revising my previous take on the berries on this tree. Almond and cherry, just like the book said. Maybe this year's crop is better than last year's?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I've been reading Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw.

And noticing possibly edible plants around the neighborhood. Tiny strawberries growing amongst the grass. Are these edible? They look like the strawberries that I ate years ago in Italy: miniscule, sweet, over ice cream. But these seem not ripe yet, though the color is red. (I tasted one. Then hoped they weren't poisonous.)

And I do have two serviceberry trees in the backyard, which means that I have what this blog calls Juneberries. I'm sceptical, a bit. Last year I did pick quite a few, and they were sourish, but perhaps they were not at the cherries and almonds ripe stage?

I'm looking for a blog or a guide to foraging in Chicago, so I can eyeball some good photos and then feel safe in harvesting and eating what I forage.

(The camera's on the blink, so no photos for a bit.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


We had a crazy wind storm last night. Probably a tornado, but we never heard sirens. At one point, I tried to shut the front door against the rain, and the wind was pushing back so strongly that I could hardly close it.

Today, many, many trees with limbs blown off, trunks split down to the ground by the force, even an entire tree uprooted and lying on its side at the elementary school near us.

Luckily, no apparent damage to people or pets or houses. Which is making me wonder why the wind blew the trees down, but didn't disturb houses or roofs or cars?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Time Change

I will never make this mistake again.

We drove from Chicago to Michigan today for the wedding of an amazing young woman who once worked for me, and stayed in our house and wrangled a very energetic dog while we were in India.  That's not the mistake.

We arrived at 3:45 pm for the 4 o'clock wedding. That's not the mistake.

Actually, we arrived at 4:45 pm...because there is a one-hour time change between Chicago and Michigan. That is the mistake.

We saw where the ceremony had been. We saw everyone sitting down to the post-wedding festivities. If there had been anyone milling about, we might have gone in, but everyone in the place was already seated.

We got back in the car, drove home to Chicago, and I've written an apology which I hope they will accept. The subject line: So Sorry. I am an Idiot.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Knitting TV

Looking for something as good as Damages on Netflix Instant. Ideas welcome.

(Also done with Wedded to Perfection, which is about as far away as one can get from Damages, but still highly satisfactory.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Summer and Winter Ripples

My summer and winter fabric for a guild exhibit at a weaving conference. I do love this fabric: a 10/2 mercerized warp, sett 24 e.p.i., and a 10/2 tabby weft with a 2/8 wool pattern weft (this is Jaegerspun's Maine Line, I believe.) The pattern is Summer and Winter Ripples from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book.

I've finished the cloth, but am 1) afraid to cut into it and 2) not sure what to make. The project is due next Tuesday, June 14th, 2011. I have this convoluted idea for a piece - a muff or capelet - that relates to an eighteenth-century astronomer and has writing inside the garment, but I haven't mastered how to do the writing, and it has been a very long time since I've sewn with handwoven fabrics.

If you have a tip on how to use the sewing machine to embroider/sew words, please clue me in. I've been looking at free-motion quilitng, but here again, nada experience.

Anyway, I'm enjoying just contemplating the cloth. Maybe I could hang it over a dowel rod and call it a table runner?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mitered Square Blanket Update

This is an old picture, but the camera is fishing in Canada with my husband.

I've made much progress on the blanket in the last week, after letting it hibernate for, oh, has it been a year? My goal is to use up all of the Tahki Cotton Classic that I currently own (with allowance to add a skein if I run out of a color that I need to finish off a square.) Once I've worked through the ten or so skeins that are left, I'll lay all of the squares out and see how much of my bed is covered.

This rule will produce some Ugly Squares. Right now, I'm working on an orange and dark red square, to work back to the orange and teal square that I knit last go-around with the blanket. I have no idea what I was thinking. But the thing is, even the Ugly Squares look good, once they are seamed together and the stripes make this geometric order amidst all of the crazy color. My favorites are still the purple/green squares, especially the ones with dark, royal purple and chartreuse.

It's nice to be knitting something where size and gauge are not such an issue. And these squares are my version of sock knitting: I can stuff an in-progress square into my purse for killing-time knitting. Or even better, work on seaming in between things, which gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes the finishing a bit more interesting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Best, new knitting-while-watching television: Damages with Glenn Close and Rose Byrne.

I didn't think that Season 1 could be followed by anything nearly equal in twisted characters, upended good-guys who are bad and bad-guys who have a flaw that makes them momentarily sympathetic, and a great, strange theme song.

But so far, Season 2 is measuring up.

And it's on Netflix Instant. Which I love very much, because you can go from Damages to Futurama to Downton Abbey. All with no commercials.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rose Lace Stole

 It's been a long time since I've knitted lace. This is the Rose Lace Stole by Susanna IC from Interweave Knits Spring 2011.

I'm working with Araucania Chaiten, a silk fiber that has been hand-dyed. It has a dry hand, not much bounce, and a lovely, rough texture. I've been on a purple kick for much of the past year, so it's nice to see a little bit of turquoise creeping in.

The pattern is very straight-forward for most of the shawl: columns of stockinette interrupted by a line of eyelets. But the lace edging is making me cross-eyed. Not the fault of the designer: this is a very well-written pattern. Just that I'm spoiled by  symmetrical charts with a center stitch to orient me. This shawl is rectangular, and I'm having a hrad time getting my bearings in each row. (And I'd rather not use stitch markers, which always mess up my stitch count when I get the yarn-overs caught around them.)

And in the top picture: the best project bag ever: Blue Sky Alapaca's Pretty Cheep Bag (honest, that's what it's called). Perfect for stuffing a small project into your purse or backpack. I'd love to buy all six designs and frame them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Buntings and Hello Again

For those who have asked, so sorry to have gone so long long without posting. All is fine here, except that I am trying to relearn how to balance work and home, which I haven't had to do much for the last few years.

Now I am teaching yoga, working part-time at the local knitting store, mentoring students, knitting, participating in my weaving guild, reading, exercising, and keeping up with email. All of which I greatly enjoy (except the email, which seems to grow in direct relation to my desire to spend less time on it. Ah well, drag me kicking into the 21st century. I now have a digital television, but neither a smart phone nor an Ipad nor a Kindle.)

At the same time, I yearn for some long, uninterrupted spans of time, which I can lie on the couch and finish reading a book, or finish a project, or do nothing. (Working at a knitting store does not mean sitting and knitting. Which is difficult, because you are surrounded by yarn and patterns and knitters. I've been wishing that I could figure out how to knit in my mind: I could get so much more done.) Which is what I hope to do, meaning the finishing one thing, not the mind-knitting, for the next few days, when I have given myself some time off from teaching and working.

Here's a bit of what I've been working on: Buntings from Sunday Knits. 
It's a cardigan in the 5-ply Edens, a merino yarn from Italy with a soft feel and a slightly dry finish. The main color is Prune, which is between a dark brown and a slightly purplish brown. The intarsia details are in Carol Sunday's 3-ply Edens, double-stranded to give a blurred, painterly effect. (Also, highly prone to static electricity, so that the strands literally would fly away from my hands as I worked them in the dryness of winter.) Here's a bird from the front of the sweater, worked in Tomato, Berry, and something else that I can't recall:
You can see little glimpses of the intarsia colors through the prune, where I tried to work my ends in at the same time as I knit the main color. It's a great technique from Brandon Mably that I learned in a class this winter, but I still need some practice to get it right. (I come from a family which places as much emphasis on the back being beautiful as the side that is visible.)

What is distinctive, about Carol Sunday's designs, are the little details that contribute to a beautiful whole. Below are the cable decreases that create the neckline. Instead of a lumpy edge, you get a slowly arcing neckline with tiny slanting details:

So, plans for today: take a hike with the dog, finish the neckline and hopefully the embroidered details on Buntings, read the NY Times, lay on the couch. Have a good holiday, whatever you celebrate!