Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Birds do it, bees do it...

Well, actually, they don't. But now I can say that I do...

Steek, that is! Yep, I knit for years and yet managed to avoid steeking -- the "cutting of the cloth" that many knitters dread. I didn't actively avoid it, and never really thought of it as something scary. I simply never steeked, because the patterns I used didn't call for it.

But, in March, Meghan, the genius behind the addictive Stitch It! Podcast (if you don't already listen, you should!), issued a challenge to all her listeners and Ravelry group members...kind of a contest, which you entered by cutting a piece of knitting -- a sweater, scarf, or swatch. As long as you could show "before and after" photos.

So I grabbed a swatch I made from the Cottage Craft yarn I mentioned in my last post. It's very rustic and "grabby," so I didn't worry about crocheting or sewing to hold the steeked part together.

In fact, I just cut it in half -- liberating! -- took a picture, then wadded it up and threw it in my sewing box. And it's still in perfect shape, not at all unraveled.

The moral of the story? If there's something knitting-related (or related to anything you like to do) that you've put off doing -- don't put it off any longer! It really, really feels good to try something new.

Now, on to that cardigan I've been planning...Maybe I'll just knit it in the round and steek it!!!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cold Cottage Socks

A few weeks ago we spent a wonderful weekend with my mother- and father-in-law. Since their beautiful home is about three hours north of us, I just had to pack some special knitting for the car ride there and back -- you know, Vacation Knitting.

Most of the items on my needles right now require that I: (A) look at them (e.g. cabled socks) or (B) think about them (e.g. designs I'm working on). The problem? Well, I get really car sick if I have to look down...reading maps, working little cables, etc. The other problem? Sometimes knitting stuff I have to think about makes me tired.

Enter the Cold Cottage Socks -- easy to do without looking down or missing out on the latest family news. And working without a pattern kept me interested enough that I never felt the need to break out one of the other three projects I brought along ;-)

I've been wanting to make these for Chris for quite a while. The body is Peace Fleece DK-weight, and the blue-purple yarn is from Cottage Craft (a Canadian company whose yarns I love). Both yarns feel rustic before washing, then soften up quite nicely.

Peace Fleece has a goodly amount of mohair in it, which means it's strong and durable. Great for a man's boot sock. But because my husband wears out the back of the heel on all his socks, I decided to double up on color to make them twice as strong (also, it's more visually interesting than just working the heel stitch in white).

So there you have it: A pair of socks on the needles, pretty much half done now, which will keep my honey's feet toasty next time the temperature drops. And in our beloved, little-old house--with its cold, drafty floors--that will probably happen sooner rather than later.

PS. Check out this awesome deal on Cottage Craft sweater kits!!!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Anniv-irthday!

Six years ago today, I married the one-and-only love of my life...

At the US F1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis

...today is also his birthday!

In the Freer Gallery's courtyard

Happy Birthday, you cute little thing!
I love you!!!


Monday, March 23, 2009

When the Fancy Strikes...

The other day I walked into my studio, coffee in hand, and suddenly realized I felt like knitting something small. Something quick. Something that might do good for a little one on the other side of the world. In other words, something for the Afghans for Afghans (current) campaign for kids.

So I grabbed some discontinued, worsted-weight alpaca/wool yarn that's been stuffed in the bottom of my stash for too long, and cast on some little socks. Working two at a time on one circular needle really made them fly.

In one day, they were done. And the whole time I made them, I kept thinking of the cute little toes that, someday, might wiggle in these socks, all nice and toasty.

The next day I cast on for a little kid's hat (to keep the other end warm). I'll make it big enough to grow with him or her, and keep the design unisex so it can easily be handed down from sister to brother (or vice versa).

Interested in helping out? Check out the Afghans for Afghans Web site for more information.

Otherwise, I've been cranking out a few washcloths/dishcloths during the evenings. After many loads of dishes in the Knit*Six Test Kitchen (ha!), I can honestly say I like the crocheted variety better. The texture is thick, strong, and scrubby.

Don't get me wrong: Knitted cloths are fine, too! And they often look nicer than the crocheted cloths -- at least the ones I turn out. To each his own, as they say.

Either way, though, there is something satisfying about working with soft, thick, bright cotton yarn (Peaches & Creme or Sugar & Cream), working mindlessly while you watch a favorite show (Entourage, anyone? It's my current favorite), and finishing a project in a few hours.

And then, you toss this brightly-colored, hand-knit or crocheted beauty into a sink of dirty dishes and soap it, scrub with it, wring it, throw it in the washer and dryer -- just use and abuse it. Because that's how it wants to be treated.

Yep, a rare occasion indeed. And, I think, a refreshing change from handling our usual delicate, gem-like, hand-knit lace shawls/scarves, socks, and sweaters.

Feels good, doesn't it?


Saturday, March 21, 2009

El Bandito

Having a little "photo shoot" with a seven-month-old, overgrown Kitten (with a capital K) in the room can be...um...challenging.

For instance, what do you think I said when this:

Note the head movement...

Turned into this:

El Bandito strikes again!

Well, I don't want to offend anyone, so I'll just let you imagine my "exclamation of surprise."

Don't get me wrong, though. Watching him stalk my knitting and/or yarn, and then snag it and take off running, is kind of funny...The spoiled little brat definitely has a sense of humor!


In other news, guess what I saw when I looked out my studio window? You have to look close, down by the soil...

See them? BUDS!!! Little green leaves! Holy crap, I think spring is coming! (If you can't see them, just click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Looking out in the other direction, you can see some daffodils getting ready to bloom near the fence and, next to "Mr. Volvo," a smattering of sunshine-yellow forsythia...Yay!

Spring is the season of inspiration for me. I keep hoping to feel as enthusiastic about fall and winter, but even after 20-something years on the East Coast, I must admit that I dislike them pretty intensely. I'll take the San Francisco-Bay Area's eternal spring/summer over frozen, dark, and damp any day!


And, finally, remember the before photo from my yarn reorganization? Well, here's the after photo I promised:

The result of my work: A nice, clean studio, with every piece of knitting well protected against the yarn-napping prowess of El Bandito.

Have a wonderful weekend's worth of knitting, spinning, crocheting, gardening, or whatever you love to do!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Roll Over

Rollover Gloves, in Socks that Rock Medium Weight (Colorway: Philosopher's Stone)

I've been working on a few things lately, in between long spells of "resting up" and trying to up my energy level. I'm excited about two designs I've done for two terrific sock clubs. And there's always more in the works...

In terms of "my own designs," or designs I came up with for no one in particular, these fingerless gloves sum up my primary goal over the past several weeks: Seek warmth! Our house is on the old side, and gets drafty and chilly when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

Sometimes, though, I just don't feel like bundling up in bulky clothes. Enter the wrist warmers/fingerless gloves. They really do keep you warm! And, importantly, this pair allows enough finger and thumb dexterity to let you knit/crochet/spin your little heart out.

Wear 'em while you knit!

The semi-random cable pattern and little details like the purl rounds at the fingers make this a quick-to-knit project with enough interest to keep you awake, but not so much that it interferes with your enjoyment of Entourage reruns.

This pattern will be available soon, with some thumb and finger options. That way you can make one pair to wear when you're snuggling up indoors on cold days, and another pair with more coverage to wear when you run out to your LYS for more yarn.


Speaking of which: Please shop at your LYS as often as you can. Michael's and AC Moore don't need your business to stay alive. Your LYS does. Let's all pitch in and help the little guys!

Need the new issue of Interweave Knits or Spin Off? Head to your LYS.
Need an invigorating shot of new yarn in your stash? Head to your LYS.
Just want a little company while you knit? By all means, head to your LYS...then consider picking up a tiny, little gizmo, gadget, or gewgaw while you're there.

After all, wouldn't it suck to live in a world without independent yarn stores? Yes, it would.


And now, to thank you for enabling me to get on my soapbox for a few lines, I'll share a little treat I threw together a while ago:

Gorgeous hot pads from Karin Birch:: Sewn (Check out her Etsy shop!)

After a quiche-making session, I found myself with an extra (refrigerated) crust. One evening (one? hah!) my sweet tooth was acting up. So I grabbed a couple of reasonably-tasty apples that had been languishing in a bowl on my table, and chopped them up into one-inch cubes. Then I rolled the crust into circles and mounded the apples on top.

A couple of tablespoons of sugar (both white and brown), some cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and numerous "dots" of butter rounded out the filling. I folded the edges in, poked some holes in them with a fork, and baked them at 350 until the apples were tender.

The result: Pretty little apple pockets.
The verdict: Very tasty...especially with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. Yum.

Happy knitting!


Monday, March 09, 2009


Progress on the Groundhog Day Scarf

The daffodils and crocuses (croci?) are poking their little heads up now, which warms my summer-loving heart. I even saw some cute little wild violets along the highway today. A sure sign that this cold winter really won't last forever.

The other day I had to pack up my "loose stash" into some plastic crates, because a certain someone has taken to rooting around in bags, baggies, and even my purse, in search of yarn and/or knitting.

Once he gets his little teeth on it, off he shoots, like a bullet, with yarn or project streaming behind him. Bastardo! I yell, and run after him, so he won't swallow any and mess up his little insides.


Packing up showed me two things: (1) My stash is bigger than I thought...though with many single skeins, and (2) my studio had become a real disaster over the course of the winter. So it felt good to organize (to the extent that tossing yarn in one bin and fiber in another can be called "organizing").

In the midst of all this, I heard a rustling behind me. Out of habit, I ignored it. But when it continued and began shaking the door, I turned around to see what mayhem He was cooking up. Not behind the door, not under a chair, not in one of the bins, not in the kitchen...Where was he? Then I saw him...Here:

Charley, just hangin' around

To be honest, the little bugger can be really annoying. For example, when he feels he's not getting enough attention, he swipes objects off any and all flat surfaces onto the floor (remote controls, glasses full of water, library books...).

But most of the time he does silly stuff like this, making me laugh out loud (which is good for you, you know). And that's totally worth the occasional -- well, OK, continual -- naughtiness!

PS. Did you notice I studiously avoided any "cat out of the bag" references?


Sunday, March 01, 2009


When I set out to create a capelet, I knew exactly what I wanted...

  • Softness
  • Simplicity
  • Structure
  • Style
Shenandoah--a name inspired by the currents that tease the surface of the beautiful river flowing through Virginia and West Virginia--embodies all of these elements. It's simply constructed, sensuously soft, decidedly stylish. And it's machine washable (great for new moms and moms-to-be!).

Missy Bulky is a delight to work with...plump and round, velvety and voluptuous. It shows off stitch patterns with a crisp definition, but never appears harsh. The pure Australian Merino is next-to-the-skin soft, and, because its a bulky weight, the capelet knits up quickly on large needles.

While the cable pattern may appear complicated, it's actually quite easy to work. If you've knitted cables before, you may even find that you don't need a cable needle (talk about speeding things up!). Once you get going, the repeats are easily memorized, and begin to flow from your needles like the blue waters of its namesake.

Speaking of rippling waters, I love how the cables look on the top and bottom edges, where they create a scalloped edge with plenty of texture. Shenandoah's shaping and structure are also unique. I wanted the cables to run horizontally around the capelet, but also wanted the top to pull in enough to hug the shoulders.

Unwilling to knit two long pieces and seam them together, I decided to use two different sized needles: a smaller one for the stitches at the top edge, and a larger one for the bottom portion. This gives a gentle slope to the garment, while leaving plenty of elbow room so you can actually do things while you're wearing it!

Shenandoah is seamed closed at the end, to make it easier to wear. Three cables sweep off the bound-off edge, forming i-cords which are then twisted and sewn into place to "secure" the closure. Buttons, slipped through these i-cord rings, give a polished look, as well as an opportunity to add your own personal touch to the capelet.

This pattern is available through Shalimar Yarns and Eleganza Yarns.

The vitals:
- Yarn: Shalimar Yarns "Missy Bulky," (100% Australian Merino Superwash Wool), 600 - 1500 yards, in Blueberry Stonewash
- Needles: US # 11 and 13 circular needles, cable needle
- Gauge: 16 stitches and 20 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch
- Notions: Three large-ish decorative buttons
- Sizes available: XS/S, M/L, 1X/2X, 3X/4X