Sunday, November 30, 2008

Project Update and darn it, I just like yarn.

The chenille scarf found a home, and the purse is on track for the next class. I started some more contract knitting. It is Jeanne Abel's Turn Again Tote that is two bags knitted in one, with the stitches of each interlaced to form pockets all the way around. Very cool. I'm finding that I like test and sample knitting. Sometimes I don't want to make it up as I go and really enjoy knitting other designs, especially if they are really good designs. So, I'm hopeful that more of that will come my way.

Class went well on Tuesday, with 8 students in attendance and everyone game for the challenge of the first bit of the pattern. It is knit in the round and is one of those shifting patterns. Those patterns are challenging the first time around because they are so counter-intuitive.

This week, with some time off school and a break in the routine, I pulled out an entire closet full of yarn and projects. Oh. My. It was tempting to just give up, acknowledge that perhaps I'm mentally ill, and box it all up for the Salvation Army. Then I started looking through it and fell in love all over again. I just really like yarn, okay? In the end, what I did was give away about two smallish boxes worth (they'll head to the prison project in SD) and got rid of a whole bunch of bags. More yarn will fit on the shelves without the bags there taking up space. I felt very clever when I figured that out. So, I fit everything back in, made it beautiful to look at, and in the end felt quite sane, and even virtuous, thank you very much. My yarn is much prettier than any old coin collection, any day of the week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Week of Projects

The stash is mocking me, even as I get new yarn as gifts and actually buy stuff at Stitches. What is up with me??? It's time to get busy. So here we have one quick finished project and two in process, all with a story.

Circular Mistake Stitch Cowl
This is made from gorgeous mystery yarn purchased for me by Chris in Argentina a couple of years ago. It is silky and has a wonderful halo, like mohair, but has a thin binder thread that could be cotton or tightly spun wool. It feels good on the skin and was a very quick knit. I used 7 mm needles and got about 3 sts to the inch.

Mistake Stitch is one of my favorites. When knitted flat, it has the elegance of only one pattern row: Cast on a multiple of 4+1. (Knit 2, purl 2) across, end knit 1. Repeat. It morphs from plain jane 2x2 ribbing into a wonderfully squishy single rib with seed stitch panels in between. Yummy.
I read somewhere (that I can't remember) that it can't be done circularly. Well, not with one pattern round, but of course it can be done in two. The way I do it, I cast on an even multiple of 4 and work the following two rounds. First: (Knit 2, purl 2) around, then the second: Purl 1, (knit 2, purl 2) around, end purl 1. It looks and acts exactly the same unless you look very closely and notice there is a bit of confusion at the beginning and end of the round.

It ended up about 15 inches long with the one, precious skein that I had, and I've already worn it a couple of times under my winter coat. It was a wonderful foil to the highs of 30 and 40 degrees we've been having this week. If I were to do it over, I'd make it with less circumference and more length so I could also use it as a hood. It will go up onto my head, but there is not enough collar left round the neck to be warm. I can flip it up to cover my ears though and it looks quite nice. I used a long tail cast on and my unvented version of the sewn bind-off:

Kellie's Sewn Bind-off
1. Cut a tail about 3 times the length of edge to be bound off.
2. Thread tail onto tapestry needle
3. Go into second stitch on left needle knitwise, making sure to go only through one stitch and to the back, not through two.
4. Go into first stitch on left needle purlwise and take it off. (If working in the round, on this first stitch ONLY, place it on the right needle so you'll work into it again at the end, fusing your edge into an endless circle. )

Repeat steps 3 and 4, ignoring the parenthetical note from here on out.

I know, I need to put up some photos. I would have while the above was in process, but the yarn and needles did not lend themselves to clear demonstration.

Next we have...
The Double Take Sac in Williamsburg Wool

This is for class on Tuesday, so I don't have to have it all done, but I've gotten through the first two charts in good time. Actually I had started this months ago, when the class was first proposed, and now that the class actually looms, it's time to get serious. The yarn was purchased two years ago in Williamsburg and comes from those charming sheep that wander around the grounds down there. They have it commercially spun and it is quite nice. A bit hairy and hard to go next to the skin unless one is living in Revolutionary times, but I think it will make a nice purse. I'll line it to offset the stretchiness of the wool, but knitted on size 2's, it is actually quite nice and firm. The pattern is from the Spring 2001 Interweave knits and sadly, is not up as a pattern to purchase yet, because naturally that issue is sold out. It is a great study in textured stitches and bag architecture. The designer is Mary Nickol. Interweave couldn't find her when I contacted them for permission to use the pattern, so if you know her, let me know-I'd love to get in touch with her.

Lastly, we have...

Blue Heron Chunky Chenille Scarf
Not much explanation needed here-my dead simple, next to the bed project, going quite quickly in seed stitch on size 7 needles and 31 sts. I'll have plenty of length when I'm done. Several friends have exclaimed over it when they've seen me working on it in public, so I think it is destined to be gifted to one of its admirers. This is yummy yarn in yummy colors-pure knitting for its own sake for a tactile person like me. I have several other scarves in this same yarn and they are favorites.

Monday, October 20, 2008

From Gnome-Garden-Crochet Your Next President

From my darling, fun friend, comes this bit of political activism I can get my hooks into. Budump bah!
Hold Your Own Debate
With Presidential Finger Puppets

These are serious times and we have a serious choice to make, but that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun! Who do yarn lovers choose for president? Tell us who your presidential pick is and we'll publish the results! Click here to vote!

Make one or both of the candidates and make someone smile!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Secret of Roan Inish

I have a real, important knitting deadline (test knitting for a soon-to-be-published book), so I've been queuing up movies to watch and audio books to listen to while I race to get something done quickly and in a focused manner (not my usual method). Yesterday at the library I picked up this old favorite. It combines so many things that I love: Ireland, mythology, music, magic and, of course, the sea. Ah, it's a lovely story and a lovely film. I spent a cozy afternoon knitting and watching with a cup of cocoa nearby and I'll probably watch it again tomorrow. I'm such a sap. Well, and after all, I do have that deadline.

Cross-posted to

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Best Things About Stitches List

I got back from Stitches Midwest on Sunday night, just missing a real fun time in the Chicago airport, apparently. It was a great weekend and here is what made me smile:
  • Rooming with Debbie Radtke. She's just awesome.
  • My classes all went really well, or at least I felt good about them.
  • Teaching my Thursday class in Nirvana and my Sunday class in Epiphany (those are the whimsical room names at the Renaissance Schaumburg. It was cool.
  • I got to spend time with and get to know better Sarah and Margaret. They are super-talented yet down to earth and so very nice.
  • I still get star-struck when I meet designers whose work I really admire (and have made their designs) like Jolene Treace.
  • Dinner at Sam and Harry's with a whole bunch of lovely people
  • Helping a table full of cute young girls from the Chicago area learn to knit. They were eager and beautiful.
  • Room Service breakfast on my birthday. It was actually fun to be there on my birthday. I got sung to twice. Can't beat that.
  • Working backstage at the fashion show. I love seeing the garments close-up.
  • Seeing Gwen and Beth.
  • Helping Gwen finish her amazing sweater. We team knitted until 15 minutes before the banquet started on Saturday night.
  • The market, of course. People always ask if I still knit for pleasure and if the market still dazzles me. Definitely yes to the first, and to the second, while it doesn't dazzle me like it used to, it still inspires me and I still feel the urge to possess the beautiful yarns and tools.
  • The fact that I'm even THERE! At at national venue! Doing what I love!
I'm so grateful for this gig and I hope it lasts a long time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Finding My Muse

I've always been a creative person. I can solve problems, come up with original ideas, make just about anything, plan stuff, and lots of other things. I've tried just about every craft out there and frankly, enjoyed them all. I often turn back to old friends like quilting and sewing as a foil to knitting and photography. So why am I a bit stuck right now?

One of my students, in describing herself, expressed an aspect of my own personality so succinctly and perfectly that it caused me to catch my breath. So here it is:

I am more curious than ambitious.

Why is that significant you ask? WHY???

Because curiosity is what gets a person to try something. Ambition is what gets them to finish it. Curiosity is the path to vision. Ambition is the path to productivity. I have vision. I love to start things. After that, there is nothing pulling me strongly to make what I like to do into a product. There is nothing urging me to get the word out to the whole world and get published and make money. I'm really happy helping one person at a time learn something that to the world seems small. I'm okay living in my small corner of the world.

But the question nags at me:

Should I desire MORE???
Should I WANT to be a businesswoman and have a real, professional website from which folks can buy my patterns? Should I WANT to work full-time at all this creative stuff and publish books? Or have 10 photo shoots a month and be a "real" photographer?
Is it OKAY to just enjoy the process?

I submit as my answer, Yes. Why in small type instead of screaming it out in big, bold letters? Because I think that is the answer but I worry that it's not. I worry that I'm somehow living below my abilities or being selfish or something. I want yes to be the answer though. I want to not feel stuck because I'm satisfied with my life. I want to free myself from comparisons to other women who have made their creative skills into businesses or parlayed it into a kind of niche-y fame.

Here is one bit of advice from someone that I admire as an artist that gives me some confidence that my path is correct. For. Me. Alone. I read this often to remind myself that art is not for the people, in the end it is for the artist. I like thinking of all this stuff I do in that way. It frees me from the perfectionism that plagues me and in the end, I think it is what will free me to learn to trust the process and let it lead me to be successful in whatever way I eventually want to be.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Back to Knitting

I've been on a bit of a knitting hiatus. I have several instructional posts half-written, but I'll get to them later. As for "hiatus," that really means I have 2 projects in active rotation-an original sock and a baby sweater. My hands have started being more sensitive to my knitting and my thumbs get numb after just a few minutes, no matter what style or hand position I use. Maybe it's time to get to the doctor. Anyway, I've been quite inspired looking through my stash for bits to send to the prison project in So. Dakota, and am on my way to finishing a bright little baby sweater in just a few days. 3 since I started, to be exact. I'm gearing up to do some test knitting and I want to get my daily knitting habits back in place. I'm also gearing up for the intensity of two Stitches Expo events only about 8 weeks apart as well as the fall teaching schedule.

It has been a good thing to rediscover how soothing it all is: in, around, out and off. Lovely. Photography feeds a different part of my soul I guess.

I'm glad to discover that I still love knitting more than just about anything I do, even when I need the occasional break from it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why I Knit. (or one of the main reasons, anyway)

I love yarn. Sometimes more than knitting. Should I have said that in a whisper?? Oh well, it's true.
Really, I don't have to say anything more than that, but I will tell you about it.

These are the three colorways of Fleece Artist's Bluefaced Leicester from Little Knits, which I, like the knitting sheep that I am, obediently ordered after clicking on the link next to the Knitty Spring Surprise. I mean really. How was I supposed to resist pressure like that? One of my favorite fibers, a new shop to try (fabulous by the way-great customer service) and a fun design to inspire me. I won't be making Tempest, lovely as it is, because the idea of horizontal stripes on my thickish torso just makes me laugh out loud, but I will be doing something with it. I've been doing a lot of fair isle with handpaints against a solid, so that's what I have these slated for. They'll go together if I don't mind a little harmonic color disappearance (they share a shade of green) or they'll go beautifully with one of the hundred hanks of Harrisville Shetland style that I have.

The Maryland Sheep and Wool festival was really fun this year. I always enjoy that. I got to do a bit of work with Leslye Solomon and found her to be a really lovely woman. I taught my usual duo of knitting and crochet for kids, which, in only an hour time with up to 10 kids, really amount to a try-it class with a plea to the parents at the end to find them another teacher with more time and less kids. But, they go on, everyone seems to enjoy them and I like doing it.

In other news, Cloverhill is officially in the hands of Jolene Mosley and I'm very excited about it. She is already bringing in some wonderful boutique yarn lines. Yummy stuff. I will be getting back to teaching there this summer and fall, albeit on a limited basis just because the family wheel continues to need at least one hub to rotate around, that hub being me. So, watch for a few classes this summer and fall, and we'll see where things go from there.

Tomorrow I teach up at Schweitzer's Countryside (her website is still pending, but it is a great little shop) in Seven Valleys, PA. Beyond that, not much till Stitches Midwest in August. In the meantime, I'm always available for the odd private lesson, so don't hesitate to drop me a line at and we'll set something up.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Okay, so I suck at blogging about knitting.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee I ain't, but that's okay because I love her and wouldn't want another one like her. I just don't always know what to blog about, plus I have the added challenge of not giving away too much so I'll still have stuff to actually teach. In addition, I really don't want my designs to be influenced too much by existing knitwear patterns, so I've kind of put myself in design quarantine-thus I don't read too many other knitting blogs. I look at other things for inspiration, but I don't want to just be recycling things. Obviously, there are other designers that I like, and sometimes I just want to knit without having to work it all out first. On the other hand, I do, however, want to balance those considerations against the principles of good karma and my belief in idea of Creative Commons where information can and should be shared as freely as possible, but then what is left for folks to make a living off of, eh? So, sometimes I hesitate too much to write about this passion of mine, which is too bad, because I have a lot to say. In the interest of making yet another go, which is such a boring thing to read (yet again) here are some photographs and words about a couple of projects.

The first photos are Sam in his vest, the process of which was chronicled here. I am really happy with how it turned out, and he wears it often. I think it will get too hot for him pretty soon, so I'm already considering a version in a lighter gauge and maybe in cotton.

These two are of my wonderful collaboration with one of my students-The Patch Jacket concept. She has some hand mobility and usage issues, and one solution she has found to continue knitting is to make many small pieces, then build them into a sweater. She likes to make them one by one then sew them together creatively using blanket stitch or something else textural. On this one, she added just a hint of pink in the buttons and running stitch trim to really make it perfect. I have loved this process of working with her to make a completely unique, personal piece of art that so exactly expresses who she is and what she is about. This is why I teach. There is nothing better than helping someone create what is already inside them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Scarves, Scarves and more Scarves

I have been heading up a charity project for our women's group at church, and we are up to 25 completed scarves. I am really very happy with the results. According to my records, I've taught 4 people how to knit, 2 or 3 how to crochet, and managed to find uses for quite a lot of my yarn. Several knitters have made up to 8 scarves. The scarves are simple garter stitch in many different textured yarns and they will go into gift bags for mastectomy patients. They are bright and beautiful for certain, even if they are not everyone's cup of knitting tea. This is where I toss any yarn snobbery that I might be guilty of out the window and go with the spirit of the project. The scarves are intended to be bright and cheerful and to give a woman who has just experienced a trauma a way to express some hope. They are not intended to show off knitting skills, be advertisements for knitting yarns or anything else. The cause of comfort and rebuilding confidence far outstrips any other consideration. So, bring on the Fun Fur, the extreme textures, the glitz! God bless these brave women who are continuing on, and here's to hoping one of our scarves might give one of them something to smile about.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Stitches, etc.

Last weekend was Stitches West. It was my eighth time teaching at stitches and I am starting to feel like I know what I'm doing. I still just LOVE interacting with the students. One of my favorite moments is when I go round and ask what students want to get out of a particular class and I know I can help them. I really enjoy the friends I've made and feel really fortunate to have met the people I've met.

The weekend began as it has for the last 2 years, with a stop at my brother's home near Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA. They live about 70 miles from Santa Clara, but a visit to family is always worth the trip. They are always good to ask about and be genuinely interested in and supportive of my career as a professional knitter. I still get the occasional odd look when I tell people what I am and what I do, but then the skepticism usually gives way to appreciation that such a knitting community exists.

Vickie Howell, of Knitty Gritty fame, was there and I heard her speak at the fashion show. She spoke of the strength of the knitting community, and I agree with her. I love that I've been able to meet people from literally every walk of life, every political and religious persuasion, and yet we are all able to find that common (yes, I'm going to say it) thread. I especially enjoy, with my students, the sense of healing, peace and comfort that so many of them find in knitting. In this wild world, I am truly grateful for something that builds community instead of breaking it down.

My classes went well, if one pays attention to evaluations, in-class comments and participation. I certainly enjoyed myself. I liked the intensity and variety of the 8 market sessions that I taught and instead of feeling burned out, I left each class looking forward to the next one and what I could do to tweak and improve and streamline for the one-hour format.

I am coming more and more to the conclusion that teaching is my art as much as knitting. I was once talking to another teacher who is really well-known, greatly admired and has a long and distinguished list of great designs. She has given up design almost entirely to focus on teaching. I am tending toward that end myself. I like designing to solve very specific problems, to illustrate a teaching point and to create something that can be used to build skills. Designing to sell patterns holds little appeal for me. It is a good thing to come to that point and to feel like I can continue to make a lasting place in the knitting world instead of only trying to make a name for myself. (There is a LOT LESS pressure this way!) Rather than being known for being good at something in the knitting world and having the sole end be attention on me, I'd rather be good for the knitting world and make it a better place. Perhaps that sounds corny, or perhaps naive, but I hope that people like me and some of my more passionate and talented teaching friends can make sure is a pathway lit for the knitters who will come after us, and not just a large ouvre of best-selling designs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Too Long

So, I can't believe it's been over a month since I've posted here. If you are one of my 5 readers and have been checking back, I'm sorry to leave you hanging. Life has been a little bit thick lately. Things have calmed down but I'm right in the middle of two charity projects at church: a project Linus blanket to teach the teen girls to knit and a scarf project for cancer patients with the women's group. It has been fun and satisfying, but add to the mix a disabled friend moving to a new assisted living facility after multiple hospitalizations and getting ready for then attending Stitches West, and you get the picture. I had an absolutely fabulous time in every way, but I am glad to be home. XRX puts on a good show and they are great to work with. I am really grateful for the opportunities I've had because of their confidence in me. Plus, I'm trying to learn my way around Ravelry, so that has taken some of my blogging time. Over the next couple of days, I will report on my Stitches experience. Anyhow, I'm back...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Shop

I went up to PA to teach at Heather Sweitzer's wonderful new shop, Sweitzer's Countryside Fibers and Gifts. It was great fun. I met 5 lovely knitters who did a great job in the classes. In spite of being "on leave of absence" from Cloverhill, I seem to be teaching plenty, with daytime private lessons and pro-bono opportunities at church. I'm helping with a Project Linus blanket with the teen-aged girls and scarves for cancer patients with the women. It is typical for me-if I have time I will fill it up. It has been good to be home when I need to though. That has been the big change. I can tell Eric is calmer knowing that I won't be gone on Wednesday nights and then again on Saturday. It seems like a big sacrifice, but considering he has never pressured me to bring home a real paycheck and he pretty much supports my every move on the planet-both wise and whimsical, it pretty much evens out. He works hard to support our family, and I feel like our roles are completely complementary and equal. I am just grateful that knitting fits in around it all so I can stay sane, be creative and have an ambition for the future, when I will no longer be at the center my kids' universe.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Knit on with confidence and hope...

So I've recently met A. who lives in an assisted living home. She is a member of my church, and we are pretty active about taking care of each other, so I get to watch over her. I already love her to pieces. She likes visits pretty much every day. I was stressing about this, thinking that I just really didn't have the time. I love old people. I love looking in their eyes and seeing them look out at me through years of living. The other folks in the lobby of the facility are starting to know me, and it is a very good place to be. But every day??? For crying out loud. I have way too much to do, I thought. A. is anxious and worried about everything, but just having someone there brings her a little security that she hasn't had before. Her life has had a lot of pain, so I determined that I would be a safety net for her. Today it clicked. Today I grabbed my knitting to take with me (don't know why I didn't think of this a month ago) and after we did a little word searching in her Giant Puzzle book, she said, "Now I want to watch you knit." I knitted, uninterrupted, for an hour. She listened to the volunteer piano player, dozed and asked about the vest. She was calm, happy and resting. It was like magic. It reminds me of the days when, after I would sing them lullabies, my kids would ask me to get my knitting and just sit outside their door for a little while longer. In this crazy world, if someone can just sit there and knit, then things can't be too bad, right?

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I finished a PhD. gift for a friend and it turned out really well. It is a beanie in UMD colors with a secret message of congratulations knitted into the lining. Many people are nervous about wool these days, that I've taken to lining a lot of things I give away. This was done in Knitpicks Palette, so it is a fine gauge-about 7 sts per inch. I used white and yellow from the Palette line and some red Satakielli from Schoolhouse Press. I used Rowan Cotton Glace for the lining and it came together nicely. I know a cotton lining is not ideal from a technical, wicking standpoint, but it feels pretty comfortable. I wore it around last night while it was drying, and my head was quite cozy and warm. It has the heft and feel of an expensive beanie from the sporting goods store. It is a teeny tiny big big on me, so I'm hoping that means it will fit my friend Clint really well. I'll try to talk him into a photo with it on once I give it to him.

Sam's vest is ready for the armhole steeks. I'm excited to move on and get this done. I love the cable pattern. It is a twisted stitch pattern, which means all the knit stitches in the cable panels are knitted through the back loops. That makes them stand up a bit more and look more embossed from the reverse stockinette background. It is a great design and I am knitting it pretty much per Meg Swansen's specifications, except I'm using Galway instead of the Berrocco Alpaca blend.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hold Bag

So, I looked through my hold bag at Cloverhill and it has easily 300 bucks worth of stuff in there. Holy Cow! I wasn't inclined to put much of it back though, just a few patterns. So, I will endeavor to bring a bit of it home every paycheck until it is gone. I just wish I could get tired of yarn. Hasn't happened yet.
Also, the new cycle of classes has begun and it is very strange not to be a part of it. Though I feel it is the right thing to do, and I am still doing plenty of teaching in spite of being on a "leave of absence," I feel the void of not being part of the camaraderie of the staff of the shop. I love working with those gals.