Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm in Yarnival! (and so is my husband...)

I woke up to the nicest surprise today: Cara wrote to tell me that Knit*Six appears in the November issue of Yarnival! AND my husband, Chris, was named "Hunk of the Month."

He's had quite a good month in terms of fame: He played with Brooks Tegler at Blues Alley (a world-famous jazz club in Georgetown), played AND did all the vocals at Brooks' Glenn Miller Tribute in Wye Mills, MD, and appeared in a photo in Jazz Times. And now this: Yarnival's Hunk of the Month. I don't know how much more of this I can handle...pretty soon he'll be running from screaming mobs of fans ;-)

But he deserves it, for putting up with this:

(The huge stash I just realized I've accumulated...I never knew I was hording so much!)

And this:

(The pile of yarn on the stereo behind "my chair.")

And this:

(The pile of yarn and mountain of needles and other knitting paraphernalia under the table between our chairs.)

Anyway, thanks, Cara, for featuring my blog! And welcome to anyone who comes browsing from (I'm addicted to her blog...from knitting to social commentary, she rocks!). There's a link to it at right...

So, we spent a week in Cape May, NJ, which was absolutely wonderful and relaxing. Obviously, since this is only my second post this first one in two weeks...I'm having trouble getting back in the swing of things. For example, I had a pile of editing to do (freelance writing and editing is my bread and butter), but spent the morning rooting around in my mountain of fiber and taking the pictures above. I also took this's the "eat in" area in our kitchen:

Notice how there's no place to "eat in"? It's been usurped, and now I call it my studio. Thank God for windows. I couldn't have done that in our old apartment, an "English Basement" in Georgetown (think: damp, mold, ant infestations, and noisy upstairs neighbors who stomped around like elephants and used TONS of electricity and gas -- we had to pay 25% of the utilities for the house, and it was SO expensive). Jeez...thank God for more than windows, huh?

If you look in the photo above, you'll notice the umbrella swift and skeins of gorgeous yarn hanging over a drying rack. You might also glimpse and peek of the fabulous raspberry colored sock yarn on the table, next to the bag of batting. Those are all Neighborhood Fiber Company yarns: Victorian Bulky, Duplex (50% mohair/50% merino), Studio Sport and Studio Sock).

This particular batch was headed for a special customer who's starting her own knitting business in D.C. But there's plenty more where that came from. And we also sell drop spindle kits and offer spinning wheel rentals in the District. Check out our new and improved Web site!

Well, the Hunk is home from work, so I'll wrap it up for the day. It's been a long one, and I'm rambling. And, after all, tomorrow is another day...(What the Hell does that mean? Of COURSE it's another day. It's not TODAY is it? No, it's tomorrow!)

Ah. Bon soir, mes amis.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We're back - in body, if not in spirit...

Once again, Cape May was wonderful. I love the shore during the off-season's lovely and melancholy, and more peaceful than any other place I can imagine.

Now I'm returning to the daily "grind" (that's a bit of an overstatement), trying to catch up and get back into the swing of things. So until I can post "for real" (I'm a perfectionist and refuse to put up a half-assed blog entry), I'll leave you with this...


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cape May, Here We Come!

After 10 days of dealing with the cold from Hell (it's going around D.C.), followed by two days of rushing around to finish everything we couldn't do while we were sick, Chris and I are finally getting ready to leave for our annual trek to Cape May, where we always stay at the WONDERFUL Albert Stevens Inn...

I'll be gone for a week, and won't have computer access. But you can rest assured I'll be knitting and knitting and knitting (socks, of course, since it's Socktoberfest) time. Doing lots of reading (I'm into Elizabeth George these days). And, of course, buying yarn!

Oh, and we'll be EATING! Lenanne cooks up the most amazing breakfasts in the world...we're always stuffed until dinner time, at which point her husband, Jim, gives us the low-down on all the best restaurants in town, from good cheap eats to pricey gourmet chow :-)

When I come back, I'll post some more pictures on my flickr page (to see last year's photos, click here).

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Socktoberfest 2006: You got questions...I got answers

So here, a little late (better than never, right) are my answers to Lolly's Socktoberfest questions:

When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?
I started making socks in 2005. I taught myself, with the help of Knitty's sock-knitting tutorials. Now that Neighborhood Fiber Company is up and running, I hope to design lots of sock patterns to support our yarn!

What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
My first pair...I think I ripped out a few. Finally (FINALLY!) I finished the blue socks that I wrote about last week. Pitiful that it took me so long to finish them, but I had a lot of other projects going. And for some reason, the "sock-knitting bug" didn't bite me the way it bites other knitters. Not a life-altering experience. But I liked making them.

What would you have done differently?
I would have started knitting socks sooner! For some reason, I was terrified of double-pointed needles until last year. Suddenly I gained courage, and they started to make sense. Now I love them...LOVE them! I almost cried when I broke a US #1 ebony needle while knitting some gloves for my husband.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
I've used Dale Sisik, Koigu, Karabella 8, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, and a few others. I love the feel of Sisik and Karabella 8 for "indoor socks." Neighborhood Fiber Company--the hand-painted yarn company Karida and I launched this year--also makes sock yarn...lush as Koigu, with gorgeous saturated colors. I'll post some photos of socks made with our yarn one of these days...

Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
I love DPNs, but for convenience I've been using the Magic Loop (one circular). Doing the gussets on one circ is a real pain, though. I might end up using two circs for "traveling socks," and DPNs for the ones I make at home. I'm not a big fan of crocheted socks (or crocheted clothing, for that matter...sorry!)

Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
I like a nicely turned heel with a flap. I like the design possibilities. Short row heels leave me a bit cold, but they're great for quick knitting and toe-up patterns.

How many pairs have you made?
Oh, I don't know. A few? Several? I didn't keep count. Like I said, I tend to rip things out if I'm not happy with the way the yarn's working, if I realize I don't like the pattern after all, or if I get bored with them. Since I stopped using other people's patterns, I've found sock knitting much more energizing. I've completed two pairs in the past two months...along with the million and one other knitting projects I have going.


Love, Knitting, and One Skein of Blue Sky Cotton

I am so lucky. My husband Chris can speak the language of knitting and spinning. I can talk to him about cables, increases, decreases, knitting in the round vs. knitting flat (why?). He knows what I mean when I talk about preparing fibers to spin, about draw, about plying. And he's my best knitting "audience."

I can even wake him up in the middle of the night to show him what I finished and KNOW he'll be enthusiastic, not grumpy. Yep...he's my true love. (And not just because he can listen to me talk about knitting and really seem to care--he's pretty wonderful all 'round.)

(Here we are, at the US Grand Prix last June, in Indy.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I know this is all very annoying and schmoopy, but I hope the fact that I truly appreciate him every day helps assuage the fact that I'm bragging a little.

So, when you love someone, you want to keep them warm and safe, right? Well, Leigh Radford came to the rescue. Her scarf designs from One Skein are terrific. Easy, easy knits. Quick knits. And the finished objects are beautiful. Thank you, Leigh.

I made this one in Blue Sky Cotton in Khaki, on US #9 Addi Turbo needles from Stitch DC (my LYS). Chris loved it, and I was more than pleased!

This photo is a bit blurry, but I liked the way the shadows highlighted the cables...

As you might have guessed, Chris now has quite a bit of winter wear. In the near future, he'll also receive a Cricket Jumper (for now, buying that much yarn is more than our budget can bear). But meanwhile, his neck and hands will be warm...

And soon, so will his feet! Socks are on their way...


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Warm Toes = Happy Husband (knitting cozy socks)

My husband always knows when the temperature drops below 75...he's visited by my frigid little toes, wiggling their way under (or pressed against) his furnace-like legs. He generates heat. I don't. Really, that HAS to be a male/female thing, from my observations and eavesdroppings. Women seem to get cold hands and feet more often. Must be our warm hearts. spare him (and me) the shock of icy toes, I've been knitting some cozy socks to wear around the house. There are several requirements of a cozy house sock:
1) It must be soft and thick
2) It must be slouchy, not tight
3) It must be aesthetically pleasing, in one way or another
4) It must be dark colored, so as not to show floor grime after just one wearing
5) It must be warm (duh)

My first pair, pictured above, is knit in Sisik, from Dale Yarns (a tweedy, wool/mohair blend with a little bit of synthetic fiber). They're simple, just 48 stitches on US #2 double pointed needles (or did I use size 3?). I knit a 2 x 2 rib cuff, then switched to 3 x 1 ribbing for the rest of the sock. Nothing fancy, though I did use a heel stitch (slip 1, knit 1, purl back) on the heel flap. They're warm, fuzzy, slouchy, soft, and dark, in a pretty tweedy indigo color. I love them.

This week, I'm completing a second pair of cozy socks, knit from Karabella 8 in a rich eggplant color. I can't imagine a knitter being unfamiliar with Karabella 8, but for those few unconverted, it's a soft-as-can-be 100% Merino yarn that anyone could wear next to the skin without a single itch. I've been working these on two circular needles, though I did switch to just one circ (magic loop method) for the second's just easier for me. I don't like dangling needle ends.

I wanted these to be a bit shorter, more like ankle socks. So I did a 2 x 2 cuff, then worked a mini cable five times before starting the heel flap. Again, nothing fancy about the heel or toe.

The completed sock feels amazing...the yarn's natural cushiness and springiness were not lost in the knitting. They fit like a dream, hugging my feet like they're old friends.

And I really do like the length--though next time I might work only four pattern repeats before doing the heel flap.

Yesterday and today, we've had a great taste of "Indian Summer" in D.C. But it's supposed to be back in the 60s by tomorrow. The second pair should be done by then...

No more cold toes for Chris to warm. Now, that's got to be good for a marriage.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Neighborhood Fiber Company: We ARE Crafty Bastards!

Yesterday was Neighborhood Fiber Company's grand debut, as Karida and I sold our first batch of yarn via the Stitch DC table at the Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair in DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood. Here's a sample...

That's Duplex, a 50/50 merino/kid mohair blend, in our "LeDroit Park" colorway. It's lofty, and soft as silk. The pattern is "Tiara," a simple elongated-stitch scarf pattern that can be knitted up as a cravat-style keyhole scarf or as a longer scarf without the keyhole. The pattern will be available shortly! Here's another peek:

Meanwhile, back at Crafty Bastards, our friends reported that they overheard knitters "squealing" over the colorways and snapping up our yarns. I have one thing to say to this: YAY!

Karida and I, we ARE crafty bastards, aren't we?



Remember me? I was mentioned in one of Hannah's first blog entries. Well, I've been living in "the library" (aka: hallway) for quite a while now. They sure do have a lot of books. And monkeys. Lots of monkeys.


Monday, September 18, 2006


...poor Shapely Tank. I knitted you. I blocked you. I wore you. I unraveled you.

In what incarnation will you appear next, lovely, drapey Rowan Luxury Cotton? Whisper what you want to be in my ear, and I will knit you up again. This time in a smaller size. After all, you ARE mostly cotton.

Meanwhile, I've finished Soleil in Rowan Calmer (it fits wonderfully!), and one pair of cozy winter in-the-house socks, in navy blue Dale Sisik. (FTR: I love Sisik. It's fluffy and warm. Just a little itchy, though. Hopefully a nice bath will soften it up a bit. Maybe with a tiny bit of conditioner...Unless I get my hands on some Eucalan. I really need a bottle of that, and a nice bag of dried lavender. I worry about my woolens--especially the ones I've worked so hard to create!)

I've also made several ball-band dishcloths for myself and for family and friends. AND I've been swatching the yarn Karida and I dyed a few weeks ago, to see how they look when knitted.

We've both been happy with what we've done. In fact, after batch #1, Karida moved forward and dyed some final colorways--Neighborhood Fiber Company's first offerings. They'll soon be on the market! Exciting...

- Clapotis: Blue Sky Alpaca & Silk (a luscious, juicy violet)
- Short ribbed socks (my own design): Aurora 8 (rich eggplant)
- Argyle Tea Cozy (adapted from the one in Sally Melville's "The Knit Stitch": Blue Sky Sport Weight Alpaca (dusky merlot, pesto green, and a dash of mustard yellow)
- Tubular Scarf (from AlterKnits): Rowan Kidsilk Haze (in a bright raspberry color to cheer me up in winter) THIS IS NOT AN EXCITING KNIT, AND IT TAKES FOREVER! (Oh, but it will be worth the wait...)
- Linen Hand Towel (Mason-Dixon style, but with a different stitch pattern): Louet-Sales Euroflax (champagne and willow)

So why do I feel like I'm in a knitting funk? Some kind of ennui descended upon me last week. So on top of being exhausted most of the time, I also feel less than enthused about most of what I'm working on (knitting-wise). I'm sure it will pass...The cure might be starting to work in earnest on the Master Hand Knitter Program, which has suffered back-burner status recently.

Onward. The honey-colored light of autumn beckons...the days of knitting in the sun are once again upon us!


Friday, September 15, 2006

Shapely Tank. Shapely? Hmmm...

Shapely Tank, huh?

I finished this in July, and wore it twice.

I'm obviously uncomfortable having my photo taken, unlike some of the really gorgeous bloggers out there...

Anyway, the first time, it looked a bit big, but kind of OK. The second time, I had to wear a tank top UNDER my shapely tank...and NOT because I'm one of those people who has to layer everything (I think layering t-shirts and tanks is a bit "done," but that's just my opinion).

The Shapely Tank had morphed into The Unshapely Tunic!!!

Rowan's Luxury Cotton DK was only slightly different from the yarn the pattern called for, and my gauge was right on target. I know because I checked it obsessively from bottom to top.

My stitches were even, lined up like little soldiers. The short rows were perfect. And I am the queen of compulsive finishing techniques...decreases lined up at the seams, trim neckline, and (my own touch) a three-needle bind off at the shoulders, with the seam on the outside, mimicking the neck and armhole edging.

But alas, it was not to be.

My advice to anyone making the Shapely Tank? Go for the negative ease. Really negative. I'd go four inches smaller than your regular size. And decrease more at the shoulders--the straps were wide, more "corporate shell" than "sexy summer top." Or just go for Sizzle instead.

Live and learn.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I'm tired. I have a headache. Two Excedrin and some knitting will probably help, though.

So....Which of these piles of fiber should I spin first?

Hmmm. Tough choice. They're both so fluffy and soft. I'd like to make a cozy little nest with them, curl up, and hibernate...

...But I guess I'll work on the one that's not looking at me. Kind of like dinner...I don't like to consume products with faces.

Once I comb enough Katja (which I am saving in ziplock bags), I'll combine her fur with some Merino and try spinning it. She feels like an angora rabbit, so why not?


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Handspun & Formula One

First, my Formula One rant-of-the-day:

Fernando Alonso was right when he criticized F1's decision to penalize him in Monza this weekend. Obviously, with Schumi retiring, the Powers That Be decided he should go out in a blaze of glory. They tend to "see red" quite often. Alonso is in good company.

Two years ago, Juan Pablo Montoya (now soaking up the rays in Miami and getting ready for--sob!--NASCAR) was heading down the final stretch to the world championship.

But in one of the final races--the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis--he was handed a penalty that would end his hopes. The penalty was unfair, and unduly harsh. JPM fans were sick and angry. But Michael got his all-important 7th world championship, and that was what F1 deemed important. Sorry if I sound bitter, but injustice does that to me...

Now Michael Schumacher is retiring. We will miss his elegant driving, his eloquent post-race interviews, and his droll sense of humor. But now that the Great One (and he really IS great) is leaving, perhaps the rest of us will be able to enjoy F1 as a sport once again, instead of paying hundreds of dollars to see obviously-engineered "sports entertainment."

Now, on to the important stuff.


Two weeks ago, Karida and I dyed a batch of yarn and roving--it was Neighborhood Fiber Company's first batch. The yarns were striking, and the roving was utterly gorgeous:

I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could spin it, though, because of the horrific (to a knitter, anyway) finger injury. But yesterday I couldn't wait any longer. I predrafted and predrafted some more, and then I sat down to our Louet S10 (a great, intuitive wheel) and started spinning. There's some funky stuff going on on the bobbin, which I'll rewind today, but the wondrous colors slipping through my fingers were amazing:

Tender pinks and mauves, twilight blue, dusky violet, all wrapping around each other like the penny-candy sticks we used to buy as kids. Even unplied, the yarn glistens, it's glossy beauty tempting me: I want to EAT IT, like the perfect tiny petit fours it reminds me of...

Soon, this will be available for sale, through Neighborhood Fiber Company. Meanwhile, though, our hand-painted yarns are set for production...sleek sock yarn, puffy thick-and-thin, and an ever-so-soft mohair/wool blend. Coming soon to a store near you...


Friday, September 08, 2006

Grand Prix Knitting & Circle K Alpacas

The U.S. Formula One Grand Prix took place at the beginning of July this year. It was hot. I mean HOT. But I still managed to get lots of knitting done..(When we came back to D.C., of course, we realized once again (as we do every summer) what hot REALLY means.)

BTW: That yellow thing I'm wearing is a Colombian flag t-shirt I customized, in honor of Juan Pablo Montoya (now sadly departed to...ugh...NASCAR, thus breaking my F1-loving heart).

Anyway, yesterday, Chris, Karida, and I drove down into the depths of Virginia to check out Circle K Alpacas. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see their "guard llama" on alert in the background. She's been known to run BEARS off the pasture!

I'll never forget how cute the young males looked as they came running out of their barn when Barbara clapped her hands. What sweet animals! The barns even SMELLED sweet--like fresh-cut hay. Alpacas are so clean, fun, and good natured. What an idyllic life it seemed...Almost enough to make me want to move out of the city and buy a few acres...


Doing Wheelies

My very first wheel-spun yarn...Not bad, if I do say so myself.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Knitter's Hell

What's the worst thing that can happen to a knitter/spinner? A right-index-finger ligament injury, that's what! Ugly metal splint and only slight use of finger for several weeks.

Oh, well. Time to catch up on my reading, designing, and one-handed spinning!

Once healed, I promise to start blogging regularly. Promise. Really.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Spinning My Wheels (But not the kind you think...)

Knitting? Spinning? Crocheting? Hah!

When I was on vacation (US Grand Prix in Indianapolis) I was a knitting fiend. I flew through most of a somewhat complicated sock (though I had to rip it out due to a post-vacation mistake) and finished two dishcloths, all in the course of five days. (That's a lot considering all the running around we were doing.)

Then I came home and took a hand spinning class at Springwater Fiber Workshop... Wonderful! I felt consumed by fiber.

But one week later, I am back in the midst of my regular routine, running around, trying to get "work" done, spinning my wheels. And, to make matters worse, this poor blog is almost as neglected as QuotableCat! No photos...No new posts.

Well, this will have to end. I hope that someone reads this now and then...whoever you are, you can hold me to this: I am going to get myself on a regular blogging schedule AND clear more time for knitting and spinning. That's the important stuff!


Friday, June 23, 2006

Jo Sharp "Eclectic"

Hey, if anyone out there has a copy of Jo's "Eclectic" book that you want to get rid of, please let me know! I've been trying to get my hands on it for months. Thanks! Hannah


Summer Knitting: Too HOT to Knit??? NEVER!!!

OK, so it's hot. Is that any reason not to knit??? Of course not! But I would say that--obsessive as I am.

Enrollment in classes at Stitch DC and at the Capital Hill Arts Workshop has been slow to nonexistent. For some reason, people don't want to think about knitting and wool in the summer.

What they don't realize, though, is that this is the perfect time to:

A) Start knitting that killer sweater you want to wear when the cool weather returns. If you don't start now, it won't be done until next spring!

B) Knit yourself a cool tank top, bikini, headband, or sarong. There are so many gorgeous and inspiring patterns out there for summer clothes. Look at Nora Gaughan's Octagonal Tank in Knitting Nature, for example. Pretty, fun, and looks great!

C) Work on small projects. Socks, mittens, wrist warmers, or even a lacy shawl would make a perfect summer project. And they're small enough to take on vacation with you. And speaking of vacation...

D) Start a project to take with you on the plane or in the car when you head out of town for vacation or business. Nothing makes a flight more enjoyable! Time seems to fly. And even I--who get carsick at the drop of a hat--find that I can knit in the car. Especially when I'm working on something I don't need to look at all the time.

So stop complaining about the weather being "too hot to knit." Use cotton or silk or linen or hemp or bamboo, for God's sake! Make 12" cotton squares and join them into a bath mat. Or design some cool pieces you can later join into an afghan.

You just might find that knitting summer-size projects is so fun you'll want to work on them all year 'round.

Happy knitting!


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ribbed Tank -- My own design!

After all this time I finally succumbed to designing my own pattern... I was going to make SWTC's Bamboo Tank (it's a free-with-purchase pattern), but as I read through I found myself thinking:
"Why should I sew seams--this should be knit in the round!"
"Why does the designer want me to begin with a bulky hem? I don't need THAT around my hips!"
"Wow. That neckline, which looks so nice in the photo, is really just a straight bind off with no shaping at all. Hmmm..."

So little by little, after a few minutes of complaining about the pattern's silly instructions, I worked out my own version of a ribbed tank.

To start, I casted on XXX stitches (it's a secret, but more than 100) IN PATTERN, using the longtail cast on method (I taught myself the purl version...). My pattern is K3, P1, all the way around. After 4 inches of this I will switch to a smaller needle, instead of breaking up the ribbing with decreases for waist shaping. The neckline will be basically square, but with a very shallow V, which will give it a "sweetheart neckline" appearance (I hope!).

I am about 4 inches in, and I have to say it's not exciting knitting. But I'm using Rowan Calmer (in Khaki, a light, sagey green), so the nice feel of the yarn running through my fingers offsets the boring stretches of K3, P1 ribbing.

No photos right now, but I will post a picture soon. Wish me luck!


Friday, May 26, 2006

Exciting News: Teaching Classes at Stitch DC!

I'm so excited about teaching classes at Stitch DC! The Shapely Tank class will be especially fun--the only problem is that I need to finish mine ASAP!!! I've been dallying around knitting other projects so the front took me WAY longer than it should have.

Now I'm on a roll (and a mission), so the back will be done soon. I've also decided to do a three needle bind off on the shoulders so the seams are exposed. And I'll tone down the four-row garter stitch edges around the neck and armholes, too.

Check out the Stitch DC Web site for classes--they have some really fun ones coming up. And you can e-mail me if you want to know when I'm teaching.

Meanwhile, my mom is here from California, and my sister is coming from Seattle in a week. This will be the first time the three of us are together in one place in 15 years!!! I will take lots of pictures, and will post them here...

Well, must get back to the work that pays for my knitting. By the way, here's what I'm knitting:

1) Shapely Tank--this is an amazing pattern! I love it. And if you don't fiddle around with five projects at once, like I do, it's also a quick knit.
2) Kitty Kozy(a garter stitch square of Lion Brand Home Spun). I started making one for Hugs for Homeless Animals, but my cats took over. Since we have two cats, I'm making a second one. Then I can cast on for the little homeless Fur People.
3) Leigh Radford's Multi-Layered Tube Shawl from Alterknits--the one that, when you're done, you slide chiffon through so it hangs out the ends. This is a long term project, slow going, good for times when you need mindless knitting.
4) Leigh Radford's Two-Cable scarf from One Skein (nice, simple pattern that I'm going to adapt for a Christmas present for a family member to be named later)

Well, back to writing and, later, some time with my mom (I can't wait to take her to some yarn stores!) and my adorable husband. Here we are in Cape May, NJ:

And, hey, let's hear it: Yay for three-day weekends!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Report


Yesterday Chris and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival,
where I think I touched every skein of yarn and bundle of fiber in
every single display (it was held at a lovely country-ish fairgrounds).
I spent most of the day running around by myself, lusting over amazing
yarns, gadgets, and bags/piles of unspun fiber. Every hour or two we
met up for a break.

At the end of the day, after I gushed about everything, Chris said:
"Aren't you going to ask me how my day was?" So I did, and this is a
summary of what he told me: Chris spent the day eating every type of
lamb he could find (I don't know where he puts it.) He had a lamb
burger, lamb chili, lamb stew, and to top it off, a leg of lamb
sandwich. We also bought two large eclairs, which we had for "dinner"
with some coffee later that night, as we watched Poirot on DVD. There
was a lot of fairgrounds Food (I didn't get a corn dog...), and every
kind of cooked lamb you could imagine. Plus the ubiquitous fudge and
baked goods, which are seldom found in the city.

The temperature was about 80 degrees, the sky clear and blue, and the
people were was so much fun! Many people, of course, were
wearing hand made creations. One woman had on a sweater of some kind
and the most amazing coat--long, knit with fine yarn in all kinds of
muted jewel shades, which was actually made up of what must have been
over a hundred 2-inch "mitered squares." (You'll have to google that
one if you don't know what it means...too hard to explain.) Another
woman, who I've met at a yarn store in Alexandria and who recently
published a knitting book called "Wendy Knits," was amidst a noisy
gang of young-ish knitting women on a hillside (obviously online and
in-person knitting groups meeting up for the afternoon). She was
wearing a lovely mauve knitted short sleeved top that--had I not known
who she was--would have made me wonder if she'd knit it or bought it.
So talented!

Of course, I came home with some great finds, including a drop spindle
that really WANTS to spin and spin. One of these days I'll find a used
spinning wheel and bring it home, but for now I'm content with
spinning "by hand." In fact, we saw the most outrageously gorgeous
throw made out of fine, lacy octagons--and the yarn had all been spun
by hand on a drop spindle. I love "antique" connects me to
my ancestors :-)

I also found amazing wool--enough for a sweater--for $8 a skein (475
yards)! To give you an idea of what a great buy that was, your typical
"yarn store" skeins are about 100 yards and cost about $11 to
start--going up well over $30 each. (There was plenty of the expensive
stuff around, too.) The best yarns (and prices) were obviously from
the small "spinneries" and sheep feels good to support
them, too. The big corporations don't really need much help.

Another of my finds were skeins of pure alpaca in a glossy chocolate
brown--each tagged with a photo of the alpaca the wool came from! They
have VERY cute faces...sweet and shy. And some silk/wool yarn in a
variegated rose/mauve/brown/plum colorway from a Texas farm (another
great buy). It's a "test product" (most of their other yarns are
merino wool and mohair blends), so the owner told me to e-mail him and
tell him if I like the yarn, what I like, and what I don't like. That
kind of attention to quality sets the small vendors apart, in my

We spent the whole day out in the country with wool, dust, hay, and
who-knows-what blowing in our faces, and we each only had one
coughing-allergy attack. But when we got out of our car in the city we
were immediately assaulted by the DC pollen and were wheezing when we
reached our door. Hopefully city planners will soon learn how to plant
trees and shrubs in a more natural way, instead of choosing the male
plants only (which produce far more allergens). Out in the country
things are in balance...fewer people have allergies there. It's
interesting to see that played out in a physical way.

Well, that's the Sheep and Wool report...Great craic, as the Irish
say! (Look it up...)


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Knitting: Spirituality or Art? (or "Why Knitters Knit")

Why do knitters knit? Why do we spend hours looping fibers around needles or relentlessly searching out THE pattern, THE yarn, THE needles? Because it's there? No, there's more to it than that.

On the other hand, the current "knitting as a form of spirituality" trend is slightly off track. To me, and most of the other knitters I know, knitting is an art form. For some, it's a craft or hobby. And for people around the world, it's a necessity. No socks, no sweaters, no mittens, no blankets = no survival. Lucky me, in comparison. I'm grateful for being able to spend my time passionately involved in something I love but don't HAVE to do.

Yes, knitting is meditative, and I can honestly say I've learned patience and acceptance (of all manner of things) through practicing this slow, detailed art form. I derive immense joy from caressing the yarns at Stitch DC (and, on occasion, other local yarn stores). The rich colors and amazing textures available to us now fill me with joy and inspire me to create. But is this a "spiritual" experience? To me, the answer is no. It's an artistic experience, and I believe they are different.

Not all knitters enjoy the entire process, from choosing yarn, to swatching for tension, to finishing and blocking. That's OK. Different strokes, as "they" say... What IS important is that they enjoy what they do, that they find creative fulfillment in it, that it satisfies their appetites in a way food, drink, work, drugs, or other excesses never could. Knitting calms, enriches, builds confidence.

After all, how could anyone finish a months-long project and hold the luscious finished item in his or her hands without a sense of achievement, pride, and fulfillment. "I created this from virtually nothing," the brain realizes. Buoyancy and lightness result. Self-esteem rises a notch or two. And, shortly, the knitter's fingers begin to itch for a new project, another creative "fix."

Looking back to when I first started knitting, I often smile at the image of my first "project." My trusty knitting book, a Leisure Arts publication I picked up in Joann Fabrics, guided me through the initial steps of casting on, knitting, and purling. When I achieved a bit of mastery over these concepts, the author told me it was time to knit a slipper. A simple pattern followed, a garter stitch "bootie" that wasn't meant to fit most regular-sized feet. But when I finished, that Pepto-Bismol pink bootie looked (to me) like the most amazing thing in the world! I showed if off with pride--"Look what I taught myself to do!"--and mailed it to my mother.

Now, I'm not a total fool. I knew then--as I do now--that the slipper was less than attractive, and that it was also quite funny. In fact, it's become a bit of a joke between my husband and me, comparing my current work to "The Pink Bootie." But beneath all the jokes and semi-jaded attitude, I feel a tenderness toward that crazy little article of un-usable footwear. I made it, with my own two hands, after teaching myself to knit.

It's that sense of accomplishment that draws new knitters into the fold. And from that point--whether a knitter moves slowly and cautiously through the stages of learning about the craft or immediately jumps into designing her own patterns--the sky's the limit.

So...why do I knit? I knit because I am compelled. Because I feel an obsessive longing to strand crisp cotton, supple silk, ticklish mohair, sweet alpaca, and lustrous wool through my fingers. Because I adore the sublime simplicity of a well-crafted knitting needle, beautiful, balanced just right, circular or straight, wood or metal. Because, when I'm knitting, I'm continually learning. Not just about the art, but about myself. Knitting touches me inside AND out at the same time, satisfying my senses and my craving for knowledge and understanding.

Does this make it a spiritual or religious experience? Maybe for some people. But for me, knitting is knitting. It's an art and an end in itself. How could I ask for anything more?


Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Mason-Dixon Knitting" is Yummy!

I bought Mason Dixon Knitting last night. Oh, it's so much fun. Yummy patterns and the kind of writing that makes you forget you're reading a knitting book.

But Ann and Kay REALLY hooked me with their Rowan obsession. Anyone who calls Rowan's knitting magazines "knitters' porn" wins my loyalty forever. It's a winner. I'll give it a thorough review once I'm done gawking and can emerge from the pages...


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Hannah Knits (From Freelance Writer to Full-Time Fiber Addict)

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! Between my consulting work and chronic fatigue syndrome, I've been feeling pretty run down and uninspired. But even though I haven't been writing (my own stuff...I do plenty of writing for others), I've been knitting a lot! And when I'm not knitting, I can usually be found reading about knitting, talking about knitting, buying yarn/needles/books for knitting, designing ideas for future knitting projects, or (lately) learning to spin on a drop spindle.

It's a strange thing, having CFIDS/FM and longing to knit all of the time. For one thing, it's a lesson in patience and self-control, because when I knit too much my wrists and hands start to hurt quite a bit. People with CFIDS/FM are very prone to carpal tunnel syndrome (or repetitive stress syndrome). Nevertheless, I reach for my needles as often as I can, using any and all methods for preventing hand and wrist pain. What IS it about this particular fiber arts technique that so easily turns into an obsession?

Well, there's the shopping, of course, which appeals to material girls and capitalists. I guess I fall into those categories from time to time. I sure intend to fall into them during the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year! But there's more to knitting than hoarding yarn and pattern books/magazines.

For me, it started with the ugliest pink yarn and some Boye aluminum 14" U.S.10 needles. And a pretty good little "teach yourself how to knit" booklet--all of which I bought at Joann Fabrics by Coventry Mall near Pottstown, Pa. I had just left one of the best jobs I ever had, working as a reporter on the police beat.

I covered three counties with more than a dozen police departments. God, it was fun! Murders, drug raids, and the like. And running around with CMERT (Chester and Montgomery Emergency Response Team, the tri-county region's "SWAT" unit). The cops were so incredibly nice to me, and I enjoyed every minute I spent working with them, talking with them, and writing their amazing stories.

But nothing lasts forever. I fell in love and lost my "edge" and became less interested in running out into the darkness where who-knew-what might happen. Suddenly I really cared about being alive and well, much more than I had before I met my one -and-only. Also, my health started to suffer, probably from the continual adrenaline generated by my job and by some other icky stuff going on in my life at the time. I had surgery to remove my gall bladder, developed an ulcer, and just generally felt horrible all the time. Of course, no one in that area is likely to diagnose patients with CFIDS/FM--it's too out of the ordinary. I needed a fabulous D.C. physician (Dr. Alan Pocinki) to finally, and definitively, do that.

Another paper offered me a job, making about 30% more money, so I accepted it and left my beloved beat (which has suffered at the hands of questionable successors ever since, in my opinion). But I hated working at the new paper, with its silent newsroom and surly staff. And even more, I HATED working a municipal beat. It was awful and boring. Every time the scanner started to buzz, I'd long to run out and cover the police beat, but it wasn't mine to cover. After two weeks of long commutes and depressing workdays, I thankfully quit.

So here I was, a writer out of work. Chris, my husband, suggested I finally move into full-time freelancing, which we'd both talked about doing. At first it was hard, building structure into my days, trying to find work and develop stories. On one of my earliest assignments I managed to total my pickup truck while crossing an icy bridge, injuring my previously injured neck. This left me not only out of work, but without transportation, as well. Dark times.

One day, though, Chris told me to take his car. He never let anyone drive it--it was almost brand new at the time. But he urged me to take it and go out, to have some fun... So I did. And then I did it again, and again. Until, one day, I found myself in Joann Fabrics (I've always loved textiles) holding some pink yarn, cold needles, and a knitting book. I had about $10 that day--enough to cover my purchases.

I took them home and, about two days later, began teaching myself how to knit. At first it was hard... all of my fingers felt like left thumbs, the needles seemed to fight back, and the yarn wouldn't stay where I needed it to stay. But I managed to cast on and to knit a few rows of garter stitch. After that, the bag of knitting stuff sat untouched for about two months.

My freelancing started to pick up and I did a lot of reading in my spare time. This was fine for a while, but as the weeks wore on I started to realize that my whole life was about words. Reading words, writing words, talking words. It was depressing. I knew I needed to do something that was the polar opposite of writing (I already worked out for more than an hour every day, so I was looking for something less strenuous). After a few crying spells I found myself reaching for the knitting bag again, determined to give it another try.

With the book opened to the page where I'd left off, I picked up the needles and continued knitting my garter stitch strip. But something wasn't right... when I did what the book said, my stitches looked strange, not like before. I studied the stitches and the photos and suddenly it dawned on me--I had instinctively picked up the yarn in my left hand instead of my right. Since I've always been pretty ambidextrous, it wasn't a shock. Actually, it was more of a revelation: I was a Continental Knitter!

That was it. I was off and knitting and never really looked back. Of course there were times when I did more and times when I did less, but I was well and truly hooked, despite the fact that the only yarn available in the area came from WalMart and Joann's. But I made the best of it, and churned out "Lion Brand Homespun" scarves with the best of 'em. It wasn't until we moved to D.C. that I finally got to shop in a real live yarn store...

(Story to be continued another day.)

To get the image of that original skein of pink acrylic yarn out of my head, I'll post some pictures of two of my favorite, long-finished knitting projects. These are among the very few I've actually kept for myself and worn (and worn, and worn)...

This is Katja (and Maggie in the background), wearing a scarf I knit out of the most beautiful variegated shade of Bunny, from Tahki/Stacy Charles:

And here is my first pair of fingerless gloves (one of my favorite items to make). The pattern was in Vogue Knitting's K.1 magazine. They recommended Lion Brand Microspun, which actually IS nice and soft and drapey, but I made these in a really luscious eggplant color from Karabella 8:

So, there you have it. A new post. And another one due sooner than you might think... Thanks for reading, and for passing along word of this blog to other knitters and fiber lovers! And, hey, feel free to comment! It's pretty quiet, writing here all by myself...


Sunday, February 19, 2006

My First Fulled (felted) Bag: Mag-Knits Sophie purse in Unikat yarn

I never really "got" the whole fulling/felting thing.

Some people say they knitted and felted one item and were absolutely hooked, couldn't stop felting everything they made, or making things that called for felting. The fact that it was becoming the "in" thing to do, bordering on a fad, is what made me hesitate to try a fulled-purse (or anything) pattern. But a friend's cute red bag changed my mind, and I finally gave in.

Well, I have to say I love this bag. And I LOVE the Unikat yarn, both to work with and in terms of the colors they offer. MagKnits' "Sophie" purse pattern is wonderful... chic without being too complicated or overdone.

And in the end, isn't that what chic really means? Some people say, "It's all in the details." And that may be true. But I like to keep details to a minimum and let the design and the yarn speak for themselves.

Here's how it turned out, after felting and blocking (shown, of course, with Maggie, who almost never plays with my yarn while I'm knitting!):

So in the end, I think my opinion on fulling (felting is actually what you do to unspun fibers) is that it's lovely for certain patterns. I can imagine the fulled vest in Sally Melville's Purl Stitch book, for example, would be cozy and would look great on my husband. And who knows, I may come across (or design) another pattern for something that needs to be fulled.

In other words, I like it. Fulling is fun, and the results look great. But I'm not likely to become a fulling fiend, throwing all of my hand knits into the washing machine. Unless I make something with a hideous mistake (like a hole) that needs to be covered up!


Hand-made Knitting Bag (photo!)

In my first posting, I wrote about a knitting bag I made that had received a lot of compliments. Here's a picture of the bag, with Maggie alongside...

And here's a close-up shot of the inside of the bag; you can see how I created the buttoned yarn-feeder...

Since I made this bag, I've bought pounds of different fabrics, so I can make more. That way I can have my knitting with me all the time without looking like a bag lady...


Sunday, February 12, 2006

And here they are!

Here's a picture of the gloves I knit for my sister, from AlterKnits... I think they turned out really well! (In fact, I'd like to keep them... but I've mentioned that before, haven't I?)


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wrist warmers and AlterKnits gloves (I'm still hanging on to them)

For those of us in cold-but-not-Arctic climates, can anything beat the wrist warmer? I mean really, you feel warm because your pulse points are covered, AND you can knit, to boot. Also...

I really do have to say that I LOVE the AlterKnits lace-up gloves... the ones in Manos del Uruguay with the Hanna Silk ribbon ties? The pair I made for my sister is STILL sitting in my kitchen waiting to be mailed out to her (for Christmas--hah!). But they're so pretty that I want to keep them. And they feel all nice and scrunchy. Yum. This is a great pattern.

Next I'm going to try the Irish Hiking Wrist Warmers that I found on "Wine and Needles" ( Fun blog (from a fellow Californian) and a VERY nice pattern, but I want to alter it so I can knit in the round (I detest seaming...), so I'll let you know how that goes and what changes I needed to make, if any.

Photos are coming soon. Really. (We just moved and I haven't unearthed my camera yet.) Then you'll see how gorgeous those AlterKnits gloves are! (And can "ooh and aah" over my handmade "boudoir" knitting bag. I'd love to design more and sell these online--I know other knitters would like them, since I use mine all the time and get tons of compliments on it).

Until later... time to wake up the napping husband and feed the circling cats. THEN I am going to work on a design for a throw rug knitted out of twine I got at the hardware store...I found some that came in natural AND a great forest green. If it works out, I'll post the pattern here.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Knitting Podcasts, AlterKnits Gloves, and Knitted (British) Monkeys

I love to knit. And I love to read about knitting. But unfortunately I can't do both at the same time. That's why I was so excited to find knitting podcasts (and, because I'm not always up on techno-stuff) to realize I could listen to them on my laptop.

My first foray into podcast land was Knitcast. Marie Irshad's production is smooth and professional. Her interviews are well thought out and insightful, and it's clear she loves doing what she does. My only question is: Marie, where do you get the time and money to travel around talking to all these cool people?

Soon after, I listened to Knitting Newscast. It's a little on the rough side... I know she's new at this and am sure she'll improve over time. In fact, if you listen to Episode 1 and compare it with the latest episode, you can see it's getting a little better. My best advice for Rhonda: Please start the show when the show starts, instead of introducing the show and then going on and on about "other stuff" before you get to the point. People are tuning in to hear about knitting. So don't be afraid to get more in-depth and BE the Expert! (Marie's great at that part...)

I've listened to a few others, too. Some good, some so-so, some pretty bad. But almost all of them beat knitting in silence. And since we swore off of Comcast (their D.C. packages are CRAP!) when we moved last month, my choices are limited radio channels, our incredible jazz collection (now on the external hard drive, thanks to my husband's efforts!), silence (sometimes it really IS golden), or knitting podcasts. So when I feel in need of knitting company, I choose the podcasts and knit "among friends."

So here's a warm "Thank you!" to everyone putting in the time and effort to entertain us as we knit/crochet. Hopefully, if I figure out how to do it, I'll join you one day.


I finished the lace-up gloves from AlterKnits! They're a gift for my sister, Sarah (Christmas... "Late" is a family tradition). I'll try to upload a photo of them soon. I love these gloves! And they were fun to knit. It will be hard to part with them, but I know Sarah will love them.

I also started, and almost finished, the MagKnits Sophie bag. I'm using Unikat yarn, which I picked up in Cape May, NJ. Wonderful colors! Like a Turkish rug. I don't know if I'll actually carry this as a purse or use it as a knitting bag. Probably the latter, since I'm not prone to carrying striped purses. But if I like how it looks once it's felted, I may knit one up in a solid. However, it's almost Spring... Can you carry a knitted bag in Spring/Summer? Or is that like wearing white after Labor Day? Hmmm.

Since I ripped out part of my AlterKnits tubular scarf and then regretted it, I cast another one on. This time I used size 9 needles, though. I like the "hole-ier" fabric. Instead of lavender I used a yummy raspberry shade (Rowan Kidsilk Haze).

AND--it was a busy knitting weekend--I also swatched the cute Monkey from Simply Knitting magazine (from the UK). He was in one of the first few issues, and my monkey-loving husband decided he wanted one. I usually don't like knitted toys, but this one really IS cute, so he'll be done as soon as my Sophie bag is felted.

Well, I'm off to figure out once and for all how to post photos to my blog. How sad is that?


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcome to Knit*Six

When I picked up my first pair of knitting needles and a skein of pink yarn the color of cotton candy (at the time, when I lived far, far away from real yarn stores, that harsh acrylic stuff didn't seem so bad...), I never dreamed I'd become so completely obsessed with textiles. I'd always thought of myself as "a writer." That was my art. But lately--perhaps because I write for a living--I've found myself getting my writing out of the way so I can get back to my real passion.

Textiles have always delighted me. And while sewing never drew me in the way knitting has, I often find myself drooling over bolts of yummy woolens and silks in fabric stores and drawing on my sewing abilities to enhance my knitting. For example, I can't imagine knitting a bag and not lining it... What would happen to my pen, or to a stray hair pin that I might happen to slip into the bag when I let my hair down (!)? So, no matter how tightly knitted or crocheted, I will always line my bags. I also happen to like zippers (for the same reasons), which makes having at least a semi-skillful sewing ability essential.

Just a few weeks ago, I dropped into my local yarn store (Stitch DC in Georgetown), and bought a little KnowKnits bag to hold my small knitting project (a VERY conservative navy-blue fisherman's cap my husband requested).

Here's Chris, wearing the cap, next to Maggie--it's a Karabella pattern:

So, anyway... Nothing can fall out of the KnowKnits bag (a little lime-green parachute cloth bundle) once the drawstring was closed, and it's lightweight and easy to carry. Not only that, it has a yarn-guide inside, which helps feel the yarn directly from the ball and through the bag's opening. I loved it. But somewhere in my mind, I started to realize how simple it could be to make something equally as useful, but prettier.

Several days later, a knitter showed me her Lantern Moon silk project bag. It was literally a lunchbag with handles--no drawstring, no lining...just a simple little bag that could almost hold a bottle of wine. Within a few seconds I'd memorized the construction.

So, that night, I went to work. Out came some Asian-inspired pink brocade (not real silk, unfortunately) and some slippery black lining material. I hacked the fabric into strips on my lap and started sewing, adding seam-binding tape when the fabric began to fray. I also used the binding tape to create a little button-down loop that serves as a yarn guide. Finally, wondering if and how to close the bag, I came across some spare yards of mint green satin ribbon I'd saved from Amazon's wrapping job on a birthday gift I'd received. A few stitches and some thin black ribbon later, the bag was done.

(You can also check out the new photos I posted on 2/19.)

So far, every knitter who sees my this bag loves it (I don't know why, but it reminds me of lingerie and feathered-mule slippers). The yarn guide works perfectly. The seams are smooth. The closure protects what's inside. And, best of all, it looks like a pricey little purse when I carry it on my wrist. The conservative hat lived in the bag until it was finished. Then a lace-weight mohair wrap. (See "This is your brain on mohair...") Now, the bag houses a pair of gloves I'm knitting as a (belated) Christmas present for my sister.

But best of all... One day I happened to carry the lime-green parachute bag I'd bought into my LYS. (Of course, since I was nearby, I had to stop in and "browse.") After only a couple of minutes, the person who'd sold me the green bag noticed I wasn't carrying the one I'd made, and exclaimed: "Oh, no! You're carrying the wrong one!" No compliment could have been sweeter.